In Steins; Gate, the title of the show and Okabe’s ability “Seeing Steiner” both borrow their name from Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher of the early twentieth century. With Okabe’s penchant for choosing names from Norse mythology, the use of Steiner’s name appears to take a special significance.
Steiner developed a system of philosophy called Anthrosophy, a new artistic movement form called eurythmy, and an entire system of education— and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. See the Wikipedia article for the full details.
But Steiner’s biggest contribution to Stein’s; Gate is his philosophy, so I’m going to focus on that here. The main idea of Anthrosophy is that there is a spiritual world, which can be intellectually understood, and can be experience directly by developing the inner senses. I read through Steiner’s essay Mysticism at the Dawn of a Modern Age to get some idea of his thoughts and how they fit into Stein’s; Gate. You can read the entirety of the essay here, but be warned, it’s extremely dense and Steiner doesn’t appear to believe in paragraphs. All of the quotations I’ve taken are from this essay. (I glanced at a few of his other works as well, and some are more out there than others. Although that particular essay may help to explain that odd scene with Mayushii from millions of years ago.)
Steiner places a heavy emphasis on the idea of “seeing”. This passage provided the clearest explanation of his views for me:
Now Weigel says to himself, If the perception flowed from the counterpart (thing) into the eye, then, of one and the same thing, the same complete perception would of necessity have to arise in all eyes. But this is not the case; rather, everyone sees according to his eyes. Only the eyes, not the counterpart, can be responsible for the fact that many different conceptions of one and the same thing are possible. In order to make the matter clear, Weigel compares seeing with reading. If the book did not exist of course I could not read it; but it could be there, and I would still not be able to read anything in it if I did not know the art of reading. Thus the book must be there, but of itself it cannot give me anything at all; everything that I read I must bring forth out of myself. That is also the nature of natural (sensory) perception. Color exists as a “counterpart;” but out of itself it cannot give the eye anything. On its own, the eye must perceive what color is. The color is no more in the eye than the content of the book is in the reader. If the content of the book were in the reader, he would not have to read it. Nevertheless, in reading, this content does not flow out of the book, but out of the reader. It is the same with the sensory object. What this sensory object is outside, does not flow into man from the outside, but rather from the inside. — On the basis of these ideas one could say, If all perception flows from man into the object, then one does not perceive what is in the object, but only what is in man himself… Weigel says to himself, Although perception flows from man yet it is only the nature of the counterpart which emerges from the latter by way of man. As it is the content of the book which I discover by reading and not my own, so it is the color of the counterpart which I discover through the eye, not the color which is in the eye, or in me. On his own path Weigel thus comes to a conclusion which we have already encountered in the thinking of Nicolas of Cusa. In his way Weigel has elucidated the nature of sensory perception for himself. He has attained the conviction that everything external things have to tell us can only flow out from within ourselves. Man cannot remain passive if he wants to perceive the things of the senses, and be content with letting them act upon him; he must be active, and bring this perception out of himself. The counterpart alone awakens the perception in the spirit. Man ascends to higher cognition when the spirit becomes its own object. In considering sensory perception, one can see that no cognition can flow into man from the outside. Therefore the higher cognition cannot come from the outside, but can only be awakened within man. Hence there can be no external revelation, but only an inner awakening. And as the external counterpart waits until man confronts it, in whom it can express its nature, so must man wait, when he wants to be his own counterpart, until the cognition of his nature is awakened in him. While in the sensory perception man must be active in order to present the counterpart with its nature, in the higher cognition he must remain passive, because now he is the counterpart. He must receive his nature within himself. Because of this the cognition of the spirit appears to him as an illumination from on high. In contrast with the sensory perception, Weigel therefore calls the higher cognition the “light of grace.” This “light of grace” is in reality nothing but the self-cognition of the spirit in man, or the rebirth of knowledge on the higher level of seeing.
One of the central ideas here is that “everything external things have to tell us can only flow out from within ourselves.” This sounds confusing, but actually makes a lot of sense from the reading example. It is our brain’s interpretation which internally allows us to “see” and to read books. Okabe’s Seeing Steiner is likewise an internal sense which allows him to experience other timelines. It is simply another thing he perceives, a sense that comes from within himself.
Another central idea is that man, through these internal acts of seeing, rises above the natural world, and that the “universal soul… tears down the barrier between the outer world and the inner world… and embraces both.” Could this barrier be what the title of Steins; Gate refers to?
Man is entangled in the world of the senses and in the laws of nature, by which the world of the senses is dominated. He himself is a result of this world. He lives because its forces and substances are active in him, and he perceives and judges this world of the senses in accordance with the laws by which it. and he are constructed. When he directs his eye upon an object, not only does the object appear to him as a sum of interacting forces dominated by the laws of nature, but the eye itself is already constructed according to such laws and forces, and the act of seeing takes place in harmony with these laws and forces. If we had attained the utmost limits of natural science, in all likelihood we could pursue this play of natural forces in accordance with natural laws into the highest regions of the formation of thought. — But in doing this we already rise above this play. Do we not stand above all mere conformity to natural laws when we survey how we ourselves are integrated into nature? We see with our eye in accordance with the laws of nature. But we also understand the laws in accordance with which we see. We can stand on a higher elevation and survey simultaneously the external world and ourselves in interplay. Is not then a nature active within us which is higher than the sensory-organic personality which acts according to natural laws and with natural laws? In such activity is there still a partition between our inner world and the external world? That which judges here, which gathers insights, is no longer our individual personality; rather it is the universal essence of the world, which has torn down the barrier between inner world and outer world, and which now embraces both. As it is true that I still remain the same individual in external appearance when I have thus torn down the barrier, so it is true that in essence I am no longer this individual. In me now lives the feeling that the universal nature speaks in my soul, the nature which embraces me and the whole world.
Okabe certainly stands on a higher plane, observing the external world and himself from afar, in perhaps a more literal sense than Steiner intended. With his ability to experience multiple universes, he has become an outside observer of the external world, observing the external world and himself in interplay across the vast expanse of the multiverse. In essence, Okabe is no longer the same individual he once was, as now the universal nature (his multiple selves) speaks in his soul.
Another thing we may be able to glean from Steiner’s ideas here is why Ruka and Feyris are able to remember their lives in the other universes. We can surmise that Ruka and Feyris have managed to tear down the barriers between themselves, Okabe and the different timelines in order to unite with the universal soul and connect with their experiences in parallel universes.
Here are a few more excerpts related to “seeing” that I enjoyed, you can decide for yourself how (or if) they relate to Steins; Gate.
Man finds himself to be an individual being, a creature of nature. And no science can reveal anything more to him about this life than that he is such a creature of nature. As a creature of nature he cannot go beyond the state appropriate to a creature of nature. He must remain within it. And yet his inner life leads him beyond it. He must have confidence in something no science of external nature can give and show him. If he calls this nature the existing, he must be able to advance to the view which acknowledges the non-existing as the higher. Tauler does not seek a God who exists in the sense of a natural force; he does not seek a God who has created the world in the sense of human creations. In him lives the recognition that even the concept of creation of the teachers of the Church is only an idealized human creating. It is clear to him that God is not found in the same manner as science finds natural processes and natural laws. Tauler is conscious that we cannot simply add God to nature in our thoughts. He knows that one who thinks God in his sense, does not have any other content in his thoughts than one who has grasped nature in thought. Therefore Tauler does not want to think God; he wants to think divinely. The knowledge of nature is not enriched by knowing God; it is transformed. The knower of God does not know something different from the knower of nature: he knows differently. The knower of God cannot add a single letter to the knowledge of nature, but through his whole knowledge of nature a new light shines.
“We are to be united with God essentially; we are to be united with God as one; we are to be united with God altogether. How are we to be united with God essentially? This is to be accomplished by a seeing and not by a being. His being cannot be our being, but is to be our life.” Not an already existing life — a being (Wesung) — is to be understood in the logical sense; but the higher understanding — the seeing — is itself to become life; the spiritual, that which belongs to the idea, is to be experienced by the seeing man in the same way as the individual human nature experiences ordinary, everyday life.