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Edith Stein: a proponent of human community and a voice for social change.

KNOWN FOR HER PHILOSOPHICAL WRITINGS and association with Edmund Husserl, founder of phenomenology, as well as for her conversion to Christianity and subsequent death at Auschwitz, Edith Stein may not typically be thought of as a social reformer. Yet, she describes herself in her autobiography as having "an extraordinarily strong social conscience" with a "feeling for the solidarity" of all humankind as well as smaller social groups, and states that her love for history was closely tied to "a passionate participation" in current events. (1) This article contends that, taken together, Stein's writings and life do indeed substantiate her interest and involvement in promoting both wholesome human community and societal reform. In fact, Stein demonstrates the blending of both theory and praxis in this regard. And while she does not employ the now familiar phrase, "social justice," Stein would easily find a home in contemporary Catholic social teaching.

Stein never saw her philosophical and other scholarly investigations as mere intellectual exercises, but, rather, as a realist, she understood them to be descriptive of human reality and the foundation needed for productive action. While it is impossible to briefly summarize Stein's penetrating philosophical thought, I will begin by highlighting some pertinent aspects of her theory on the individual, community, and the state. Following her conversion, many of her insights concerning the human community easily flowed over into reflections on the Mystical Body of Christ and the importance of community in order for the individual to attain union with God. I will next present a few of Stein's practical concerns regarding the need for children and youth to be formed for incorporation and participation in society and in the Mystical Body. Finally, several examples will illustrate various ways that Stein herself moved beyond theory and actively pursued social change throughout her life. These examples range from her early involvement in promoting women's suffrage and opposing sexual discrimination in university hiring, to her efforts at educational reform and her request for a papal encyclical opposing the evils of National Socialism. Marked by her own unique style, Stein emerges as both a scholar of the theoretical and practical foundations of societal relationships and an active participant in the human community.

Stein's Understanding of the Individual, Community, and the State

Stein had a lifelong interest in the study of the spiritual being and life of the human being, (2) which she pursued from the lens of phenomenology, philosophical and theological anthropology, and ontology throughout the course of her life. From Stein's phenomenological perspective, the human being is constituted as a unity of body-soul-spirit and becomes aware of himself or herself as a conscious self--as an "I." The pure "I" is the subject of conscious experience, "the quality-less point of radiation" of experience. (3) The "I" is what "lives into the future out of the past," experiences "new life bursting out of itself every moment," and carries a "trail of bygones with itself." (4) Consistently holistic in her overall thinking, Stein pays careful attention to interconnections and relationships, and I believe that her view of the human being can be aptly labeled body-soul holism. (5)

Despite her interest in the individual, Stein is always very clear that consideration of the isolated human being is merely an abstraction, for the structure of the human being includes existence in the world and life in a community. (6) Her conviction in this regard is apparent in many of her works, beginning with her dissertation, On the Problem of Empathy. Phenomenologically, empathy concerns the process by which a human being perceives or experiences the experience of another. The actual experience of empathy can be as simple as saying "ouch" when someone else cuts his finger, or feeling the exhilaration of an Olympic snowboarder as one watches her doing twists in mid-air. Empathy enables me to distinguish between my "I" (my conscious self) and the "I" of another. Thus, empathy is at the root of intersubjectivity and community living, and also plays an important role in self-knowledge. (7) Her foundational work on empathy sharpened Stein's awareness of human relationships and individual growth.

Stein devotes a full treatise on the topic of the "Individual and Community." Here she draws attention to the distinction between community and association as recognized by the sociology of her day. Association exists "where one person approaches another as subject to object, examines her, 'deals with' her methodically on the basis of the knowledge obtained, and coaxes the intended reactions out of her." (8) In short, one individual uses others for her own purposes. In contrast, community is marked by a mutual acceptance of the other as subject, a "living with" rather than a "confronting of " the other, as well as an openness toward being influenced by the other's life (130). While aloneness typifies association, solidarity characterizes community. However, in actual life, groups are usually combinations of these two types, and, in fact, association is not possible without community (132). Stein points out that one would first need to accept another as a subject before making the subject into an object. She uses the example that even a demagogue who wants to make others subservient to him, needs to have an experiential understanding of the other as subject to be able to take advantage of him. In order to know how to make "an impression upon the crowd" one needs "the kind of intimacy with their inner life that's achieved only in artless yielding [to it]" (131).

The community person, on the other hand, behaves "'ingenuously,' without calculating the effects of his demeanor, and artlessly receives impressions without initiating surveillance" (131). Although written in 1919, Stein's depiction of the observer of community as opposed to the actual participant, uncannily characterizes the exploitive policies of National Socialism. She writes, "The observer rationally takes advantage of what community life offers him. He passes over from spontaneous experiencing into a wary posture, he makes everybody else's inwardness into an object instead of immediately 'reacting' to it, and he exploits the knowledge [of it] for the purposes of his transactions." (9)

Following her phenomenological studies on empathy, the individual, and the community, Stein pursued a study of the state in her publication, An Investigation Concerning the State. This work was written in 1921, during a time when Germany suffered from economic depression and a housing crisis. From a phenomenological point of view, Stein is concerned with the question of what is essential to a state. She understands the state to be "a social pattern into which free persons are inserted in such a way that one or several of them ... govern the others in the name of the whole pattern." (10) Her theoretical approach is driven by the conviction that such an understanding is fundamental for addressing practical problems, for she maintains that false theories lead to malformed political organizations. (11) Stein's work on the state was published in 1925, the same year as Hitler's Mein Kampf. Marianne Sawicki notes that while both authors examine many of the same questions, the two writings are diametrically opposed. (12) One illustration of this concerns the question of race. Stein understands race as "a principle of cultural productivity and of openness among human beings, not of separation or alienation. The universal capacity for empathy ensures that this will be so." (13) Various racial groups recognize and "actualize unique values," which become available to other races or ethnic groups via this universal capacity for empathy. Such a perspective is entirely opposed to the Nazi doctrine, which limited race to genetic traits and recognized empathy and cultural understanding as possible only among those with the same racial identity. (14)

Stein presents yet another facet of community in her philosophical anthropology, The Structure of the Human Person. Here she submits "that the living form active in the first organism of a species can be thought of as the form of the totality of all individuals of the species which works towards the goal of its completion until the species dies out." (15) She correlates this with Scripture's portrayal of humanity, "which in Adam is created as a whole." (16) She further articulates this stance in her ontology, Finite and Eternal Being, where she perceives humanity as one great individual whereby human beings "inhere as 'members of one another.'" (17) In fact, it belongs to the essence of the human being to be a member of the human race and to develop as a whole therein. (18) Being a whole human being implies allowing the image of God to unfold in oneself, enabling the gifts that God has given oneself to blossom, letting the will be guided by knowledge, and ensuring that the lower faculties are guided by knowledge and will. (19) The unrepeatable singularity of each human being is a recurring theme in Stein's work, and each person is called to render God's image "in a wholly personal manner." (20)

For Stein, salvation history is only understandable from the standpoint of recognizing humanity as one great individual. (21) Furthermore, each member has a unique place and role in "the one great development of humanity," and the unfolding of the whole is dependent on the unfolding of each individual member. (22) While Stein does not draw out the moral relevance of her thought, reflection on the interconnectedness of all human beings and the importance of the full unfolding of each human being for the good of the whole underscores the value of every human life. If the fulfillment of the human race depends on the fulfillment of each individual human being, then each and every individual life is significant. (23)

Understanding humanity as a whole, as well as one's subsequent obligations to it, requires the mature development of the individual. Stein sketches the steps of such development as follows. Persons first find themselves as members of smaller communities, such as the family, or other cultural or educational groupings. To grasp the vital unity of these smaller communities, an individual must experience how these differ from similar yet diverse communities. But in order to comprehend humankind in its totality as that which encompasses and sustains us, one needs to experience the common bond that links us with persons of every age and place, despite our differences. It also requires us to become aware of how we are enriched and perfected through our contacts with those who are unlike us. Such experiences are fragmentary and, when misinterpreted or misunderstood, lead to biased "exaggerations of nationalist and internationalist ideologies." (24)

The Mystical Body of Christ

In her post-conversion years, Stein readily relates her understanding of the single organism of humanity to the Mystical Body of Christ. From her perspective, every human being is meant to be a member of the Body of Christ, for the doctrines of creation and redemption envision the goal of humanity's development to be its union with the Divine Head in the Mystical Body. (25) If other human communities are more than simply an association of single individuals, all the more so is Christ's Body because of the binding of the soul with Christ. Through Baptism, and strengthened by the other sacraments, the person is rooted and grows in Christ. However, becoming one with Christ also entails becoming one with all the other members of the Body. The Mystical Body is a living body that is enlivened by Christ's Spirit that flows from the Head to all the members. (26)

In an address to Catholic teachers, she states that formation work that strives toward a perfected humanity must include as its goal incorporation into the Mystical Body. The salvific work of Christ attains for human beings a return to the God-child relationship, the expectation of the beatific vision, and the full restoration of nature. (27) Christ, the Head, has an independent existence apart from this body, and as free, rational beings, the members also have their own being. The body grows through the love of Christ and the free subordination of the members. The Divine Head bestows graces of both body and spirit on each member, enabling their growth, and also provides each member with graces to benefit the entire organism. The goal of the entire organism is that each member attains to the fullness of salvation and the God-child relationship, and in his or her own way, glorifies God in the communion of saints. (28) From Stein's perspective, ultimate union with God is the underlying vocation for all human beings. Living one's daily life in communion with God prepares one for this vocation to eternal life with God. (29) In addition to this universal vocation, Stein writes that God calls "every individual to something to which he/she is quite personally called." (30) Each person has their unique place and role in the Mystical Body.

Forming Individuals for Community

Between 1926 and 1933 Stein presented a series of lectures and radio addresses throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland on various topics pertaining to education, formation, and women's issues, many of which were published at the time. Through these presentations she became known as an advocate of educational reform and a leader in the Catholic Women's Movement, fostering change in the education and formation of children and youth. Included in her concern for holistic formation is the belief that individuals need to be formed to become members of the broader community. This topic is the theme of a 1930 lecture titled, "The Theoretical Foundations of Social Formation Work," which was presented to a Catholic teachers' group. This talk summarizes several of Stein's main thoughts concerning the individual and community, elucidates a few of the social ills of her day, and suggests some antidotes.

Stein holds that without community, social life, and a formation that helps to enable individuals to become community members, "the final goal of the human being is not attainable." (31) As already stated, for Stein, the final goal of all human beings is union with God. (32) Once again she emphasizes that it belongs to the nature of the human being to be a member of community. Moreover, if humankind was merely an aggregate of separated individuals, rather than "a body with head and members," original sin and salvation would have no meaning. (33) Referring to the Trinity as "community in the fullest sense of the word," (34) Stein concludes that, if made in the image of God, the human being is also both an individual and a member. She is quick to point out, however, that unlike the persons of theTrinity, the human being, as an imperfect image of God, is not an individual and member in one. Rather, being an individual and a member exist, so to speak, alongside each other (18). Also, another distinction that needs to be made in reference to the persons of the Trinity is that each human being has something specifically his or her own--what Stein calls one's own particular singularity--that cannot be completely shared with others (19).

In this same lecture, Stein underscores what she views to be two opposing errors of her day arising from one-sided theories; namely, individualism and socialism. Noting that no specific standpoint of any particular party is intended, she clarifies that the socialism characteristic of the socialist parties of her day fails to be pure socialism because the parties developed out of liberalism and were marked with individualistic tendencies. Her remarks center on individualism and socialism in their pure forms. She writes, "Individualism alone emphasizes the right of the individual to free unfolding; it knows no original, natural community, but only social groups which serve the needs of the individual and are founded by them by free choice for their ends and are again just as well freely dissolved" (22). A characteristic of the modern age, individualism has led to the dissolution of the organic communities that were dominant in antiquity and the Middle Ages. Included here are the decline of the family, divisions in the Church, and the shattering of nations (22).

The opposite view, socialism, completely orders and subordinates the individual to the whole. It does not recognize individuality but only the one common human nature, and does not allow for life outside of the community that does not result in some communal benefit. Stein observes the consequences of socialism in "the lack of strong and independent personalities, the lack of great and original achievements, [and] the predominance of manufactured articles and stereotypes" (22). What is particularly interesting is that she sees the latter, not only as characteristic of commodities, but also of the people shaped by such a system to be as though they were mass-produced, "empty and insincere, without their own stamp, without soul" (23).

She concludes that if false theories lead to corroded illnesses of society, then the remedy requires a good theory that leads to recovery. For Stein, such a theory proceeds from a reflection upon the eternal foundations of being concerning the individual and community. From her standpoint, both the individual and community are willed by God and founded in God. Both are harmed if one of the two is taken advantage of at the expense of the other. She states, "The community builds itself out of individuals as one organism from its diversely formed members. Whoever damages one member, harms the entire organism. And removed from community, a member cannot exist" (23). Thus it is imperative that those who are involved in formation work take into consideration both the individual and community.

But more than requiring a correct view of what the individual and community are in general, Stein acknowledges the need to gain knowledge of the particular individuals and communities that one deals with at any one time. Even those who hold a good sociological theory can still cause harm in practice if they misjudge the nature of specific individuals and the needs of specific communities. As a case in point, she proposes the situation of educators and those responsible for the formation of youth who wish to cultivate powerful leaders for the nation. "Now, if they presuppose something in an average student which is only to be found in rare, exceptional people, they cultivate arrogance and presumptuousness, people who offer big words and great gestures instead of simple deeds" (23). Overall, a good theoretical foundation for forming individuals for community includes insight into the nature of the individual and community, clarity about the different types of community, good judgment regarding the abilities of the concrete individuals with whom one is involved, and knowledge of the means that can facilitate their incorporation into the community (24).

In a perfect world where human nature existed as it came from God's hands, and where human life followed rational laws, Stein holds that the ordering of individuals in the community would proceed problem-free. In accordance with the knowledge of their individuality and their own gifts, all would recognize and eagerly occupy their place in community; and others, by their corresponding recognition, would equally grant it to them. But Stein realizes that this scenario seldom occurs and wonders which is more lacking--personal self-knowledge or the knowledge of other people. Human beings continually strive for offices and positions for which they are unsuited by nature, or where they are unable to comply with the demands placed on them by others. In this way, many spend themselves struggling for an unrealizable goal and "are at odds with themselves" and their community. "The human being takes refuge in illusions and self-deception, because he does not want to see the truth which contradicts his wishes" (25). Repeated failure in finding one's place in community can result in the individual's cutting oneself off from all others, including those who could help. Stein states, "Struggle on all sides, lonely travelers gone astray without a road to follow, driven off course away from their own destination and of no use to anyone--those are the images of social life as we can daily observe them" (25).

Stein provides further insight into her day (and ours) when she considers several communities that play a special role in the work of social formation. Two of these are the family and school. The family readily portrays the organic character of community. As separate and independent individuals, husband and wife become one, functioning "as a single organism." The couple cares for the new life of the individuals they bring into the world until they can care for themselves. Married life is intended to be a means of holiness for the couple who, in turn, ought to guide their children along the way of holiness. However, Stein contrasts that scenario with the average picture of the family of her time. She states that for some, marriage is like a business proposition, which one calls off if it proves unprofitable. For others, it is an arrangement whereby one can legally satisfy one's drives. Often, one spouse uses the other for his or her end and casts the other aside if the end is no longer reached. In such arrangements, children are viewed as an unfortunate accident. For the business type of arrangement, it is a matter of calculating whether one can allow children and how many. Both types have lost the meaning of marriage and family and are a degeneration (27).

In considering the school, Stein maintains that it is the teacher's role to help each student develop their gifts and talents and find their own place in the community of the classroom where they can also discover how they can contribute to this community. This clearly ties in with Stein's remarks noted earlier concerning the many who never seem to find their place in the broader community. A teacher who shows love and respect for her students engenders the same in them and creates an atmosphere where a student grows in confidence in her own gifts and learns to treasure the gifts of others. Since social formation also entails the recognition that community both leads to God and is founded in God (32-33), the teacher can lead her students to an attitude of "a loving community with all people in God" (34). Stein proposes that the teacher is better placed than any other authorities, reform writers, or reform preachers who seek to gain influence over families and national life. Teachers who practice their vocation in the above manner pave the way for the recovery of family and nation. However, she adds, "should it be too late for that, then in any case, [the teacher] works for the Communion of Saints" (34). Her added remarks reveal a rather bleak, yet insightful, view of her society of 1930.

In several other talks, Stein addresses more specifically the idea of Christian formation, which entails being formed in Christ's image--becoming "another Christ." (35) She views Christ as the image of perfected humanity and holds that the more we come to know Christ, the more this image of God penetrates us and awakens love in us, making us more sensitized to any deviations from this image in ourselves and others. Our eyes are opened to true knowledge of human beings, free from any glossing over. Surrendered to Christ, one seeks the image of God in all human beings and is attentive to others' needs. (36) Indeed, Stein often emphasizes the inclusivity of love of neighbor that must accompany love of God. She writes that "genuine religious formation includes the spirit of an apostle. ... Fundamentally, there is no separation between self-sanctification and apostolate. Whoever strives towards perfection for God's sake, seeks it not only for oneself, but for everyone." (37) Also, a right relationship with God facilitates a correct knowledge and treatment of all creation. (38) Ultimately, the goal of religious formation work is to guide the young person to one's particular place in the Mystical Body. (39)

Stein's Involvement in Social Reform

In this last section, I wish to include a sampling of Stein's social involvements to show that she was no mere theorist but was actively involved in the practical side of contributing to community life and social change. When we consider Stein's views on social formation and her belief that all persons are called to play their specific role in community, we can trace various ways that Stein found her own place in community where she could contribute by using her particular gifts and talents.

In her autobiography, Stein tells us that she rejected the Darwinistic nationalism popular in Germany at the time and, instead, upheld the importance of various states, peoples, and nations. This stance is reflected in An Investigation Concerning the State and elsewhere. While she grew up with liberal political ideas, she found herself moving to a more conservative perspective on the state. She understood her student benefits, such as reduced theater and concert prices, to be owing to the benevolence of the state, and was disconcerted by the indifference shown by many of her fellow students toward current events. One of her first political involvements was membership in the Prussian Society for Women's Right to Vote, which supported women's "full political equality," which was attained in 1919. Here she had first-hand contact with socialists who comprised the majority of this organization. During her years at the University of Breslau, she belonged to the Leagues for School Reform and, as a member of the Academic Branch of the Humboldt Society for Adult Education, voluntarily taught classes to adult members of the working class. But even more commendable, while still a university student, Stein volunteered as a nurse's aide at a Red Cross hospital for infectious disease during World War I. (40)

After the imperial government collapsed in November 1918, Stein joined the German Democratic Party and "immersed herself in political affairs." (41) She was involved in "organizing the youth, building coalitions with other leaders, and hammering out positions on issues such as women's suffrage." (42) By the end of the next month, she wrote to Roman Ingarden that she totally lacked what political involvement requires: "a tough conscience and a thick hide." She added, "I feel completely uprooted and homeless among the people I've got to deal with." (43) Remaining actively involved only until the election of the National Assembly, which would draw up the constitution for the German Republic, Stein left her political activism and returned to an area to which she was more suited--writing and research (44) In that very same year she produced her works, "Sentient Causality" and "Individual and Community." These were followed during the next few years by An Investigation Concerning the State.

Beginning her university studies only a decade after women were permitted to attend university, Stein and her sister were among the first women of their day to pursue higher academic studies. However, when it came to applying for a university teaching position in philosophy, she encountered resistance toward the habilitation of women. Having been denied a position at both Gottingen and Freiburg, Stein wrote a letter to the Minister for Science, Art, and Public Education requesting a decision based on principle. Although it had no effect on Stein's own situation (and she knew that it would not), the Minister supported Stein's position that gender ought not to prevent a woman from attaining habilitation. Copies of the Minister's decision were sent to various universities. Stein saw this outcome as merely a "rap on the knuckles" of the gentlemen at Gottingen. (45)

As mentioned earlier, Stein's written research eventually became supplemented by numerous speaking engagements and radio talks between 1926 and 1933. Her research, publications, lectures, and teaching were the niche she found for making her contribution to the broader community. Notably, indicative of her interest in both women's issues and the broader community, the first of her public lectures was titled, "The Significance of Woman's Intrinsic Value in National Life."

In a 1932 talk addressing problems of modern education of young women, Stein delineates some ways that her society viewed women. She bemoans the thoughtless use of expressions such as the "weaker" or "fair sex," which are typically accompanied by a sympathetic or cynical smile that betray a lack of reflection on the accomplishments of women. She equally berates romanticists who idealize women and paint them as though needing to be protected from the harsh realities of life. More pointedly, she asserts that "this romantic view shows itself in a striking, contradictory connection with that brutal attitude held by the strongest political power group at present which values woman purely biologically." (46) This was a bold statement against the National Socialist philosophy. In addition to such romanticist ideology, Stein notes that racial breeding and the economic situation of the time were working against the development gained by women in the preceding decades. Moreover, women's role was being confined to the house and family. (47) In regard to the role of women delegates and civil servants, which became possible after the 1919 constitution, Stein again emphasizes the importance of education to prepare for taking on such positions. She equally voices the need for political and social preparation for civic responsibilities required by the entire German nation, which was flung into a democratic form of government while alarmingly unripe for it. (48)

In April 1933, Stein inquired about obtaining an audience with Pope Pius XI in order to express her growing concerns about National Socialism. When she learned that a private audience would not be possible, she wrote a letter that was hand delivered to the pope, asking him to speak out against National Socialism and warning that Nazi oppression against the Catholic Church would systematically follow. Stein received a blessing from the pope but not the action she desired. (49)

Later that same month, Stein was dismissed from her teaching position at the German Institute for Scientific Pedagogy in Munster because of legislation removing Jews from professional positions. Shortly afterwards, she began writing an autobiography covering the first twenty-five years of her life with the intention of providing a window into the experience of growing up in a Jewish family. Aptly titled, Life in a Jewish Family, Stein's goal was to inform non-Jews that life in a Jewish family had much in common with life in any other family. In the foreword to the autobiography, Stein refers to the Nazi propaganda as presenting "a horrendous caricature" of the Jews. She concedes the possibility that such a caricature may have been sketched with "honest conviction" and that certain traits might have been gleaned from actual persons. (50) However, she also notes that many people throughout Germany who had personally associated with Jewish families were "outraged" by their plight. Stein saw her autobiography as a testimony to those who lacked such personal experience with Jews, particularly the youth who never had such encounters but, rather, were being raised with racial hatred from early childhood. (51)

Stein had actually been asked to write such an autobiographical account of growing up in a Jewish family several years before by a priest friend, but her commitments did not allow her to do so. (52) Somewhat ironically, now that Nazism had taken a stronghold, Stein felt obliged to present her testimony even though she was certainly aware that her manuscript could not be published. In fact, when she fled to the Netherlands in 1938, she dared not carry the manuscript with her. Shortly after, it was taken across the border to her by a Mariannhill priest, Rhabanus Labanthal, CMM. Understandably, she later stipulated that the writing could not be published until after the death of her siblings. So what precisely was her purpose for the writing? Was it with regret that she had not done so sooner? Did she intend that later generations would get a glimpse of life in a Jewish family of her era? Was it equally a story of the importance of family or a description of life in Germany at the time? Did she think of thwarting the recurring history of anti-semitism? Or did the high value that Stein always placed on seeking truth influence her to decide that this piece of "truth" needed to be told? These questions remain unanswered, but it seems that, as with the letter to the pope, she was trying to actively participate in the events of her time in whatever way that she could.

One might argue that Stein's entrance into the Carmelite convent in 1934 was an escape from societal involvement. However, Stein saw her new lifestyle of prayer and sacrifice as precisely the right step for her to take to help counter the inhumanities of the oppressive Nazi regime. Even in the convent there are examples of her interest in social change. For example, when the nuns of her Cologne Carmel expressed the futility of voting in what they considered a fixed political election, Stein insisted on the importance of opposing the Nazi party, asking the sisters to vote against Hitler regardless of the consequences. (53)

Finally, it must be noted that long before the Second Vatican Council, Stein lived an ecumenical and interreligious stance. As mentioned above, she maintained that all human beings are created to be part of the Body of Christ and all have the vocation to union with God. Her many relationships throughout her lifetime with people of different faiths, or no faith, attest to her respect for, and openness toward others. Even though the time of her beatification and canonization spurred heated discussion, comment, and debate by both Catholics and Jews, I suggest that Stein might have been glad for the interchange. From her own experience, she was no stranger to the tension perceived by others--not by her--between her being a faithful Catholic proud of her Jewish heritage.

Shortly after Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938), Stein moved to the Carmel in Echt, the Netherlands, to avoid putting her Cologne Carmel in danger. Later, when the Nazis occupied the country, she declined an offer to go into hiding, choosing instead to seek legal means of emigrating. (54) However, she was taken to Auschwitz before emigration could become a reality.


Edith Stein was a gifted scholar and a keen observer of life, whose phenomenological leanings led her to delve deeply into topics such as the constitution of the human being, the community, and the state. Based on her theoretical foundations, she then strove to convey the practical applications that would enhance human life and bring about beneficial societal change. True to her self-description, Stein's life and writings confirm that she did indeed have a strong social conscience with a sense of solidarity with all humankind and passionately participated in current events. This is evident throughout her life, whether as a student, philosopher, writer, teacher, lecturer, or Carmelite nun. Stein, through both the written and spoken word, as well as by her example, was and remains a proponent of wholesome human community and a voice for the social change required for social justice. Finding her own role in the development of humanity and in the Mystical Body of Christ, she comes across with her own particular way of contributing to the human community. Using one of her own expressions to describe the particular singularity of every human being, Stein would likely describe her voice and her involvement as having her "own stamp."


(1.) Edith Stein, Life in a Jewish Family 1891-1916: An Autobiography, trans. Josephine Koeppel, The Collected Works of Edith Stein 1 (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1986), 190.

(2.) Edith Stein, The Science of the Cross, trans. Josephine Koeppel, CWES 6 (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2002), 5. It must be noted that geistige, translated as spiritual, does not solely or necessarily convey a religious meaning. For example, geistige can also be translated as "mental," and "die geistigeWelt" [the spiritual world] can convey "the world of culture, value, sentiment, and spirit." See Edith Stein, "Individual and Community," in Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, trans. Mary Catherine Baseheart and Marianne Sawicki, CWES 7 (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2000), 129 translator's note 2.

(3.) Stein, "Individual and Community," 135, 133, 309; see also Edith Stein, "Die Weltanschauliche Bedeutung der Phanomenologie," in Welt und Person: Beitrag zum Christlichen Wahrheitsstreben, Edith Stein Werke 6 (Louvain: E. Nauwelaerts, 1963), 12; Edith Stein, On the Problem of Empathy, trans. Waltraut Stein CWES 3 (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1989), 30.

(4.) Edith Stein, "Sentient Causality," in Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, trans. Mary Catherine Baseheart and Marianne Sawicki, CWES 7 (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2000), 13.

(5.) Marian Maskulak, Edith Stein and the Body-Soul-Spirit at the Center of Holistic Formation (New York: Peter Long, 2007), 7-10, 31.

(6.) Edith Stein, Der Aufbau der menschlichen Person: Vorlesungen zur philosophischen Anthropologie, newly revised by Beate Beckmann-Zoller, Edith Stein Gesamtausgabe 14 (Freiburg: Herder, 2004), 133-34; Maskulak, Body-Soul-Spirit, 116.

(7.) See Mette Lebech, On the Problem of Human Dignity: A Hermeneutical and Phenomenological Investigation, (Wurzburg: Konigshausen and Neumann, 2009), 322-23; Sarah Borden, Edith Stein (New York: Continuum, 2003), 29-30.

(8.) Stein, "Individual and Community," 130.

(9.) Ibid.; see note 10.

(10.) Edith Stein, An Investigation Concerning the State, trans. Marianne Sawicki, CWES 10 (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2006), 99.

(11.) Borden, Edith Stein, 56.

(12.) Marianne Sawicki, Introduction to An Investigation Concerning the State, by Edith Stein (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2006), xvi n. 3.

(13.) Ibid., xxv.

(14.) Ibid.

(15.) Maskulak, Body-Soul-Spirit, 116; Stein, Aufbau der menschlichen Person, 64.

(16.) Stein, Aufbau der menschlichen Person, 64.

(17.) Edith Stein, Finite and Eternal Being: An Attempt at an Ascent to the Meaning of Being, trans. Kurt F. Reinhardt, CWES 9 (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2002), 507.

(18.) Ibid., 510.

(19.) Edith Stein, "Der Eigenwert der Frau in seiner Bedeutung fur das Leben desVolkes," in Die Frau, ESGA 13 (Freiburg: Herder, 2000), 4.

(20.) Stein, Finite and Eternal Being, 504; Edith Stein, "Probleme der neueren Madchenbildung," in Die Frau, ESGA 13 (Freiburg: Herder, 2000), 161, 164, 179-80; Maskulak, Body-Soul-Spirit, 115-16.

(21.) Stein, Finite and Eternal Being, 510.

(22.) Stein, "Probleme der neueren Madchenbildung," 168; Stein, Finite and Eternal Being, 525-26.

(23.) Maskulak, Body-Soul-Spirit, 118.

(24.) Stein, Finite and Eternal Being, 510, 612 n. 54.

(25.) Ibid., 526, 510; See also 527: Stein goes beyond Aquinas's inclusion of the angels in the Mystical Body and suggests that all of creation may be included in the Mystical Body.

(26.) Edith Stein, "Aufgabe der Frau als Fuhrerin der Jugend zur Kirche," in Die Frau, ESGA 13 (Freiburg: Herder, 2000), 210.

(27.) Stein, "Probleme der neueren Madchenbildung," 174.

(28.) Edith Stein, "Beruf des Mannes und der Frau nach Natur- und Gnadenordnung," in Die Frau, ESGA 13 (Freiburg: Herder, 2000), 64.

(29.) Edith Stein, "Sendung der katholischen Akademikerin," in Die Frau, ESGA 13 (Freiburg: Herder, 2000), 224; Stein, Finite and Eternal Being, 504.

(30.) Stein, "Beruf des Mannes und der Frau," 57.

(31.) Edith Stein, "Die Theoretischen Grundlagen der sozialen Bildungsarbeit," in Bildung und Entfaltung der Individualitat: Beitrage zum christlichen Erziehungsauftrag, ESGA 16(Freiburg: Herder, 2001), 16.

(32.) Stein, Finite and Eternal Being, 504.

(33.) Stein, "Die Theoretischen Grundlagen der sozialen Bildungsarbeit," 18; Stein, Finite and Eternal Being, 510; see also Edith Stein, "Das Weihnachtsgeheimnis," in Geistliche Texte I, ESGA 19 (Freiburg: Herder, 2009), 7.

(34.) Stein, "Die Theoretischen Grundlagen der sozialen Bildungsarbeit," 18.

(35.) Edith Stein, "Die Mitwirkung der klosterlichen Bildungsanstalten an der religiosen Bildung der Jugend," in Bildung und Entfaltung der Individualitat: Beitrage zum christlichen Erziehungsauftrag, ESGA16 (Freiburg: Herder, 2001), 51.

(36.) Stein, "Der Eigenwert der Frau," 6-7; see also Maskulak, Body-Soul-Spirit, 120-24.

(37.) Stein, "Mitwirkung der klosterlichen Bildungsanstalten," 62; see also Stein, Finite and Eternal Being, 446, and Stein, "Das Weihnachtsgeheimnis," 8.

(38.) Edith Stein, "Grundlagen der Frauenbildung," in Die Frau, ESGA 13 (Freiburg: Herder, 2000), 39.

(39.) Stein, "Aufgabe der Frau," 209-10.

(40.) Stein, Life in a Jewish Family, 190-92, 202-04, 318-19.

(41.) Sawicki, Introduction to An Investigation Concerning the State, xv; Edith Stein, Selbstbildnis in Briefen III, ESGA 4 (Freiburg: Herder, 2001), Letter 60.

(42.) Sawicki, Introduction to An Investigation Concerning the State, xv.

(43.) Ibid.

(44.) Ibid.

(45.) Josephine Koeppel, Edith Stein: Philosopher and Mystic (Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press, 2007), 58-60; Edith Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters, trans. Josephine Koeppel, CWES 5 (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1993), Letter 36.

(46.) Stein, "Probleme der neueren Madchenbildung," 136.

(47.) Ibid., 137.

(48.) Ibid., 138.

(49.) Edith Stein, "How I Came to the Cologne Carmel," in Edith Stein: Selected Writings, trans. Susanne M. Batzdorff (Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, 1990), 16-17.

(50.) Stein, Life in a Jewish Family, 23.

(51.) Ibid., 24.

(52.) Ibid., 23.

(53.) Teresia Renata Posselt, Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2005), 182; Koeppel, Philosopher and Mystic, 86.

(54.) Koeppel, Philosopher and Mystic, 157.
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Author:Maskulak, Marian
Publication:Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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