Enter Empathy

“For every step in spiritual development, three steps are to be taken in moral development.” – Rudolf Steiner 

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.


In man’s struggle with good and evil, enjoining them in his every battle, he has reaped the reward of finding the key to all but unlimited power in the material realm. But this will be of no profit to him unless he also achieves self-dominion and self-control such as will prohibit his doing evil, or himself reaping its destructive force – and he must achieve this in such a way that he, himself, does not become mere “vegetable,” living a life that has lost its spice, satisfactions, and meaning.

So how is this to be done? How will mankind as a species find self-dominion, self-control; how will we find our way? In what way is our moral sense developed? Preston Harold continues with an answer:

Does controlled fusion of nuclei cast a clue – which is to say, is there a word to describe a psychological reaction in which passion is both loosened and controlled? Consider the word empathy. Ludwig Binswanger sees that it depends upon the possibility or impossibility of understanding – that it costs more, means more, than sympathy – that it is as yet beyond definition:

In the case of “empathy”…we would have to examine to what degree it is a phenomenon of warmth…or a vocal or sound phenomenon, as when the poet Hoelderlin writes to his mother that there could not be a sound alive in her soul with which his soul would not chime in; or a phenomenon of touch, as when we say, “your sorrow, your joy touches me”: or a phenomenon of sharing, as expressed by Diotima in Hoelderlin’s Hyperion – “He who understands you must share your greatness and your desperation”: or a phenomenon of participation, as in the saying, “I partake of your grief”: or lastly, a phenomenon of “identification,” as when we say, “I would have done the same in your place”….All these modes of expression refer to certain phenomenal, intentional, and preintentional modes of being-together…and co-being…which would have first to be analyzed before the total phenomenon of empathy could be made comprehensive and clarifiable.


Empathy; that ability to put ourselves in another’s place, to “walk a mile in their shoes.” In our next post we will begin to analyze the meaning of empathy and how it is the fulcrum on which turns the proper, intentional development our species. Until then, peace.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s