The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:11 am

The Anthroposophic Movement
by Rudolf Steiner
Eight lectures given in Dornach 10-17 June 1923
Translated by Christian von Arnim
Abridged by Richard Seddon
Edited by Joan M. Thompson
© 1993 Rudolf Steiner Press




The content of the lectures which are published here can be taken as complementing the material which Rudolf Steiner included in his autobiography The Course of my Life.

They were delivered in a lively, informal and conversational tone, and as such were not conceived of in book form. But because of their exceedingly important content and historical context, their significance should not be underestimated. This is true not only insofar as it applies to anthroposophists, who will find illuminated the background of the movement to which they belong and who will thus acquire a firm standpoint through their insight into the necessity of events which need no justification.

These eight lectures are the entire lecture series entitled, The History and Significance of the Anthroposophical Movement to the Anthroposophical Society, published in German as, Die Geschichte und die Bedingungen Anthroposophischen Bewegung Im Verhaeltnis zur Anthroposophischen Geselschaft. Eine Anregung zur Selbstbesinnung. They are based on transcripts which remained unrevised by the lecturer. They are reproduced with permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

Translated by Christian von Arnim, abridged by Richard Seddon and edited by Joan M. Thompson. Diagrams in the text by Assia Turgenieff are based on blackboard drawings by Rudolf Steiner. From Bn 258, GA 258, CW 258.

Table of Contents:

From the Foreword to the First Edition (1931)
Editorial Preface

June 10, 1923
Characterization of the anthroposophical movement. Souls who can make themselves at home on earth and homeless souls. The cult of Richard Wagner as a cultural phenomenon for homeless souls. Rudolf Steiner's observations in these circles: “I never lost my connection with the spiritual world.” His acquaintance with theosophists of Blavatsky's persuasion. He himself used Goethe's Fairy-tale as a way to speak about the spiritual world. Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine; Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism; Herman Grimm's novel Unüberwindliche Mächte. Rudolf Steiner's lectures in Berlin on mysticism.

June 11, 1923
The homeless souls of the nineteenth century inclined towards spiritualism, the writings of Ralph Waldo Trine and the Theosophical Society. The corporate cohesion and self-awareness of the Theosophical Society. Ideal of the Anthroposophical Society: Wisdom can only be found in truth. On the central ideas of The Philosophy of Freedom and the endeavour to find a link with contemporary civilization in order to speak about a spiritual realm which is justified on its own terms. The philosophies of Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Solger, Robert Zimmermann. Rudolf Steiner took the name of Zimmermann's Anthroposophy. Topinard. Lecturing activity in the Die Kommenden group. The founding of the German Section of the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky's writings, Schelling and Lawrence Oliphant; Jakob Boehme.

June 12, 1923
An assessment of the phenomenon of ‘Blavatsky’ requires real powers of judgement. About the lack of judgement of our time as exemplified through Ohm, Reis, Stifter, Julius Robert Mayer, all of whom were denied official recognition for a long time. The effect of Blavatsky's writings on the secret societies. Jungian psychoanalysis and anthroposophical research in relation to Blavatsky. Jakob Boehme. Increasing hardening of the human brain so that the inner revelations cannot penetrate to the surface. Personal illustration of the inability of our time to make a true judgement: lecture by Rudolf Steiner to the Giordano Bruno Federation about Thomas Aquinas.

June 13, 1923
Blavatsky and her effect. Her spiritual but exceedingly antichristian perspective, similar to Nietzsche's. The reasons for this anti-christian attitude. Up to the close of the Middle Ages the spiritual world was sought in ritual images, including musical and mantric forms. The development of intellectualism from the fifteenth century onwards introduced a more critical attitude. Many souls contain a yearning for the spirit as a consequence of earlier lives on earth. The urge among modern human beings to follow up their dreams as a consequence of pre-earthly experiences. The social order of earlier periods coincided with the wisdom of the Mysteries. Todays social order drives people to search for something beyond physical existence. Blavatsky revealed the wisdom of the ancient heathen religions. From the start, anthroposophy took the path from heathen to Christian wisdom.

June 14, 1923
Anti-christianism and, how to cure it. Necessity of a new esoteric path to come to terms with the Mystery of Golgotha. Guiding forces of the first two periods. Until 1907 every step made by anthroposophy had to be taken in opposition to the traditions of the Theosophical Society. Example: the concept of time in relation to kamaloca and the book Theosophy. The Munich congress of 1907. Indian influences on Blavatsky and Annie Besant and the culturally egoistical attempt to defeat the West spiritually through the East. The Order of the Star of the East and the exclusion of the anthroposophical movement from the Theosophical Society. The developmental periods of the anthroposophical movement.

June 15, 1923
First period: the development of the basic content of the science of the spirit. View of natural science. The journal Luzifer-Gnosis. The second period: exploration of the Gospels, Genesis, the Christian tradition. Expansion of the anthroposophical understanding of Christianity as such. The spread of anthroposophy into the artistic field through performance of the Mystery Dramas in Munich. Reasons which led to the expulsion from the Theosophical Society.

June 16, 1923
Summary of the first two phases. The opposition which grew in strength after construction of the Goetheanum began. Development of eurythmy. The booklet Thoughts in Time of War and the inner opposition which it provoked within the society. The being of Anthroposophia. The third phase: fertilization and renewal of the sciences and social relationships. The conditions governing the existence of the Anthroposophical Society. A more open-hearted form had to be found for the three objects of the society: fraternity, comparative study of religions and the study of the spiritual world.

June 17, 1923
Review of the previous seven lectures. The spiritual substance of anthroposophy comes from sources other than Blavatsky, but the terminology is the same in order to promote understanding. Rudolf Steiner's The Philosophy of Freedom and Goethe's world conception. Anthroposophy was able to build on Goethe's scientific writings and his Fairy-tale. In Egypt the human being was the focus of the world order, social conditions were regulated according to the stars and the moral impulses also came from there; in science today the human being and the divine are excluded. Rudolf Steiner's analysis of Nietzsche and Haeckel. Julius Robert Mayer, Paracelsus and van Helmont. The twenty-one year rhythm and the danger of sinking into a state of latency; the necessity of responsibility and self-reflection.

Chronology of Rudolf Steiner's Life
Back Cover
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Re: The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:12 am

by Marie Steiner

The content of the lectures which are published here can be taken as complementing the material which Rudolf Steiner included in his autobiography The Course of my Life. They were delivered in a lively, informal and conversational tone, and as such were not conceived of in book form. But because of their exceedingly important content and historical context, their significance should not be underestimated. This is true not only insofar as it applies to anthroposophists, who will find illuminated the background of the movement to which they belong and who will thus acquire a firm standpoint through their insight into the necessity of events which need no justification. It also applies to those who have only come across superficial descriptions by others, or in dictionaries. They might well be thankful for the opportunity to gain real insight into the facts. After all, there will be increasing numbers of souls who will want to grasp the opportunities which allow them to see that there are answers to the questions which they inwardly perceive as riddles, and that they can be shown the ways to find these answers ... This book will provide the relevant information to those who are interested in the historical development of the movement; it also provides the necessary and simple explanation for a situation which arose as a natural consequence of the given circumstances: namely, the original co-operation with the Theosophical Society, which was looking for an initiated teacher.

If a person is summoned, and the conditions he lays down are accepted, why should he not respond and help? A request went to Rudolf Steiner and at no time did he hesitate to point out what the consequences of his work with the Theosophical Society would be: the re-learning process, the need to awaken to the requirements of the time, the sensitivity to progressing events and to the tasks of the West. In such a situation why should he, who was certain of his path, not seek to help those who were searching without a guide and show them how to find their divine helper and their individual freedom? ...

Although Rudolf Steiner says in the present lectures that the legacy of the Theosophical Society had been overcome by the end of the second phase of the anthroposophical movement, it is nevertheless true that certain less happy symptoms keep reappearing in our Society because of the influx of new generations and many theosophical members; symptoms which it was his great concern that they should not be allowed to fester.... It is our duty to reflect on what we are doing. Let us not make ourselves out to be better than we are. We do not need to be coy about our mistakes, but we must allow the light of self-reflection to arise powerfully out of their darkness. Communal awareness is difficult. We can only develop a strong communal I to the extent that we can rouse ourselves, are willing to work for knowledge, and have the courage to face the truth. That cannot be won in secrecy; it has to be fought for communally. Honest struggle will do us no harm and will earn us the respect of everyone with good will. Those who are ill-disposed towards us should think back to what the Church has suffered as a community despite the strong outer discipline which it imposes, the extent to which its ideals had to suffer from flaws and contradictions. They will then see that the leader who gives a movement its impulse cannot be held responsible for the mistakes of those who follow his teachings, but that it is human beings as a species who cannot avoid the many detours, the climbing and back-sliding, the renewed scrambling upwards before they reach their goal.

Anthroposophy is a path of schooling. The Anthroposophical Society is certainly no paragon of how to live anthroposophical ideals. It might even be true to say that in certain respects it is an infirmary which is not surprising in a time of human sickness. All those in need of help, all those who have been crushed by the need of our time flock towards it. But why should there only be infirmaries for the physically ill? Is there not a duty to have places where people can recover their spiritual equilibrium? That is what has happened here in the widest sense. There have been a great many letters and words of gratitude in which people testified that it was only anthroposophy and its teacher who made life worth living for them once again. But in order for them to find anthroposophy there had to be a society in which such work was done.

Thus the Anthroposophical Society was a workshop in which an immense amount of work took place. Anthroposophy had a fertilizing influence in all areas of life, in the arts, the sciences, and also in practical endeavours. At the time of severe economic crisis, anthroposophists were frequently unable to realize the ideals which stood before them, but they were struggling against twice the odds. The people, however, who flocked to the Society and began to represent it to the outside when it was already established in the world in a representative way, were people moulded by our time rather than by corresponding to any ideal of anthroposophy, and thus many of them fell prey to the temptations and habits of the age. The young people, who were disappointed by what they experienced and failed to find in the organized youth movements, here discovered the answers to the questions which were puzzling them, and sought to realize their endeavours in the new community of Anthroposophia; but they also brought their habits into the Society, including some things which should have been overcome by them if they wanted to make a new start in anthroposophy. Thus the Anthroposophical Society cannot yet be a model institution; it remains a place of education. Do we not, however, need such places of schooling, in the wider context of mankind also, if we are to make progress towards a better future?

Whichever way we look at it, the Society is a necessity. It has to school itself and it has to provide the opportunity to be a place of education for mankind. The vital forces with which it has been imbued can achieve that if strong, capable and devoted people gather together within it who know that it is necessary to join together in order communally to serve mankind in the wider sense; that one must not isolate oneself for the sake of self-indulgence; who know that it would be ingratitude simply to accept passively the lifeline which has been thrown; who know that with it comes the obligation to pass it on to those others whose ship of life is in danger.
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Re: The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:12 am


The present lectures for members given in Dornach in June 1923 are based on the attempt by Rudolf Steiner to encourage the Anthroposophical Society to reconsider the real foundations of anthroposophy and the inner requirements for tackling the tasks of the age. After the First World War, the Society had increasingly splintered into a variety of external initiatives and practical projects. Although Rudolf Steiner had spoken warning words from 1921 onwards, and at the end of 1922 had called on leading members to make proposals for its reconsolidation, a real rethink did not take place until New Year's Eve 1922, when the destruction by fire of the first Goetheanum provided the catalyst. As a consequence, regional societies were founded in a number of countries in 1923. On 10 June, immediately preceding the first lecture in this volume, the General Meeting of the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland decided, on the basis of a motion from the Society in Great Britain, to call a meeting of delegates from all countries for the end of July to decide the measures for the reconstruction of the Goetheanum. This international delegate meeting further decided to combine the individual regional societies into an International Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum at Christmas 1923. Its leadership was to be assumed by a General Secretary to be elected at that time, but shortly before Christmas Rudolf Steiner decided to take over the chairmanship himself.

Textual basis: These lectures were taken down in shorthand by Helene Finckh. Her own transcription of these notes forms the basis for this volume.

The first edition was published by Marie Steiner in 1931 with a Foreword by her. The second edition was undertaken by H.W. Zbinden. The third edition in 1981 included an expanded Contents and additional Notes.

Works by Rudolf Steiner which have not been translated and which have appeared as part of the Complete Edition (Gesamtausgabe = GA) are referred to in the Notes by their bibliographical number.
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Re: The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:13 am

Dornach, 10 June 1923

LECTURE ONE: The Homeless Souls

The reflections which we are beginning today are intended to encourage all those who have found their way to anthroposophy to think about their current position. They will present an opportunity for contemplation, for self-reflection, through a characterization of the anthroposophical movement and its relationship to the Anthroposophical Society. And in this context may I begin by speaking about the people who are central to such self-reflection: yourselves. There are those who found this path through an inner necessity of the soul, of the heart; others, perhaps, found it through the search for knowledge. There are many, however, who entered the anthroposophical movement for more or less mundane reasons; but through a deepening of the soul they have subsequently perhaps encountered more within it than they at first anticipated. But there is something which all those who end up in the anthroposophical movement have in common. And that is that they are initially driven by their inner destiny, their karma, to leave the ordinary highway of civilization on which the majority of mankind at present progresses, to search for their own path.

Let us think for a moment about the conditions in which most people now grow up. They are born to parents who are French or German, Catholic or Protestant or Jewish, or who belong to some other faith, and may hold a variety of beliefs. But among parents is the almost unquestioned assumption, which remains unspoken and sometimes unthought, that their children will, of course, grow up like themselves. These kinds of feelings naturally engender a social ambience, indeed social pressures, which more or less consciously push children into the kind of life which has been mapped out by these more or less clearly defined beliefs. The life of a child then follows its natural course of education and schooling. And during this time parents once again have all kinds of beliefs which exert a decisive influence on their children's lives. The belief, for instance, that my son will, of course, enter the secure employment of the civil service, or that he will inherit the parental business, or that my daughter will marry the man next door. It simply lies in the nature of social circumstances that they are governed by impulses which arise in this way. People have no choice in the matter because that is the effect of the beliefs which govern life. It may not always be obvious to parents, but schooling and all the other circumstances of childhood and youth imprison the human being and determine his position in life. The institutions of state and religion make the adult.

If the majority of people were asked to explain how they got where they are today, they would not be able to do so, because there would be something unbearable about having to think deeply about such matters. This unbearable element tends to be driven underground into subconscious or unconscious areas of our soul life. At best, it will be dredged up by a psychiatrist when it behaves in a particularly recalcitrant manner down there in those unknown provinces of the soul. But mostly one's own personality, the Self, is simply not strong enough to assert itself against what one has grown into in this way.

Occasionally people have the urge to rebel when their situation as a trainee, or even following qualification, unexpectedly dawns on them. You might clench your fist in your pocket, or, if you are a woman, create a scene at home because of such disappointed life expectations. These are reactions against what people are forced to become. We also frequently seek to anaesthetize ourselves by concentrating on the pleasant things in life. We go to dances and follow this with a long lie-in, don't we? Time is then filled up in one way or another. Or someone might join a thoroughly patriotic party because his professional position demands that he belong to something which will reflect his values. We have already been enveloped by the state and our religion; now that must be supplemented by surrounding what one has unconsciously grown into with a sort of aura. Well, there is no need for me to go into further detail. That is roughly the way in which the people who move in the mainstream of life have grown into their existence.

But those who find it difficult to accept this end up on many possible and impossible byways. And anthroposophy is precisely one of these paths on which human beings are seeking to realize themselves; on which they want to live with such an understanding of themselves in a more conscious manner, to experience something which is under their control to a certain extent at least. Anthroposophists are for the most part people who do not walk along the highways of life. If we investigate further why that should be, we find that this is linked with the spiritual world.

Having relived the course of their lives in the spiritual world after death human beings enter a region where they become increasingly assimilated into the spiritual world, where their lives consist of working together with the beings of the higher hierarchies, where all their acts are related to this world of substantive spirit. But a time arrives when they begin to turn their attention to earth again. For a long time in advance of their birth, human beings unite on a soul level with the generations at the end of which stand the parents who give birth to them — not only as far back as their great-great-grandparents, but much further down the line of preceding generations. The majority of souls nowadays look down, as it were, to earth from the spiritual world and display a lively interest in what is happening to their ancestors. Such souls move in the mainstream of contemporary life.

In contrast, there are a number of souls, particularly at present, whose interest is concentrated less on worldly happenings as they approach a new life on earth than on the question of how they can develop maturity in the spiritual world. Their interest lies in the spiritual world right up to the moment before they find their way to earth. As a consequence, when they incarnate they arrive with a consciousness which has its origins in spiritual impulses. With their spiritual ambitions they outgrow their environment, and are thus predestined and prepared to go their own way.

Thus the souls who descend from pre-earthly to earthly existence can be divided into two groups. One group, to which the majority of people today still belong, comprises those souls who can make themselves remarkably at home on earth; who feel thoroughly comfortable in their warm nest, which so fascinated them long before they came down to earth, even if it does occasionally appear unpleasant — but that is only appearance, maya.

Other souls, who may pass patiently through childhood — appearance is not always the decisive thing — are less able to make themselves at home, are homeless souls, and grow beyond the warmth of the nest much more than they grow into it. This latter group includes those who are subsequently attracted to the anthroposophical movement. It is therefore clearly predetermined in a certain sense whether or not one is led to anthroposophy.

The things which are being sought by these souls on the byways of life, away from the major highways, manifest themselves in many ways. If the others did not find it so agreeable to take the well-trodden paths and did not put such obstacles in the way of homeless souls, the numbers of the latter would be much more obvious to their contemporaries. But it is widely apparent today how many souls have a hint of such homelessness about them.

The tendency to such homelessness could be anticipated: the rapidly growing evidence of a longing in homeless souls for an attitude to life which was not laid out in advance; a longing for the spirit in the chaos of contemporary spiritual life. In sketching an outline of this gradual development, you can find in it, if you reflect, a little something of what I would like to describe as the anthroposophical origins of each one of you.

By way of introduction today I will do no more than pick out in outline some characteristic features. If you look back at the last decades of the nineteenth century — we could take any number of fields, but let us take a very characteristic one the cult of Richard Wagner began to take a hold. It is certainly true that much of this cult consisted of a cultural flirtation with new ideas, sensationalism and so on. But all kinds of people gathered in Bayreuth. One could see people who thought of the long journey to Bayreuth as a kind of modern pilgrimage. But even among the less fashionable there were those who were also homeless souls.

Now the essential effect of Wagnerianism on people — I speak not only about the musical element but about the movement as a cultural phenomenon — was to offer them something which went beyond all the usual offerings of a materialistic age. This gave people a feeling that here there was a gateway to a more spiritual world, a world differing from their normal environment. What went on in Bayreuth led to a great longing for more profound spiritual aspirations.

It was, of course, difficult at first to understand Richard Wagner's characters and dramatic compositions. But many people felt that they were created from a source very different from the crude materialism of the time. And the homeless souls who were driven in this particular direction were prompted into all kinds of dark, instinctive intuitions through what I might call the suggestive power of Wagnerian drama and specifically through the way of life that it introduced into our culture. Indeed, it is true to say that subsequent interpretations by theosophists of Hamlet or other works of art are very strongly reminiscent of certain essays which were written by Hans von Wolzogen, who was not a theosophist but a trained Wagnerian, in the Bayreuther Blätter. [ Note 1 ]

Thus one can say that Wagnerianism was the reason why many people, possessed of a homeless soul, became acquainted with a way of looking at the world which led away from crude materialism towards something spiritual; and all those who became part of such a current, not because of a superficial flirtation with the idea but because of an inner compulsion of the soul, wanted to develop their experience of a spiritual world because they felt this kind of inner longing. They were no longer concerned with the certain evidence which underpinned the materialistic world view. That was true irrespective of their position in life, whether they were lawyers or artists, cabinet ministers, officials, parliamentarians or whatever — even scientists.

As I said, such homeless souls can be found everywhere. But Wagnerianism provides a particularly characteristic example of the presence of very many such souls.

I then encountered several of those people, whose first spiritual taste had been the Wagnerian experience, in Vienna [ Note 2 ] in the late 1880s, in a group which consisted entirely of such homeless souls. People no longer really appreciate the way in which that homelessness was visible for anyone to see even then, because many of the things which at that time required a great deal of inner courage have today become commonplace.

For example, I do not believe that many people today could imagine the following. I was sitting in a circle of such homeless souls and all kinds of things had already been discussed. One person started to speak about Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov, [ Note 3 ] and spoke in such a manner that the group felt as if struck by lightning. A new world opened up: it was like suddenly finding oneself on a new planet. That is how these souls felt.

In all these observations of life which I am recounting by way of an introduction to the history of the anthroposophical movement, I never lost my connection with the spiritual world. It was always there. I mention this because it is the background against which I speak: the spiritual world accepted as self-evident, and human beings on earth perceived as images of their real existence as spiritual beings within the spiritual world. I was involved and came to know these people, not in order to observe them, but because that is how things naturally developed.

Having passed through their Wagnerian metamorphosis, they were involved in a second process of change. For example, there were among them three good acquaintances, intimate friends even, of H. P. Blavatsky, [ Note 4 ] who were keen theosophists in the way that theosophists were when Blavatsky was still alive. But a peculiar quality adhered to theosophists at that time, the period following the appearance of Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. They all had a desire to be extremely esoteric. They had nothing but contempt for their normal life, including, of course, their work. The exoteric life, however, was not something which could be avoided. That was accepted. But everything else was esoteric. In that setting you spoke only to fellow initiates, only within a small group. And those who were not considered worthy of talking to about such things were seen as people with whom one spoke about the ordinary things in life. It was with the former that you discussed esoteric matters. They were people who, although they might be engineers from the moment they stepped into practical life, would avidly read a book like Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism. [ Note 5 ] These people possessed a certain urge — partly still as a result of their Wagnerian past — to explain from an esoteric perspective everything which existed as legend and myth.

But as more and more of these homeless souls began to appear at the end of the nineteenth century, it was possible to see how the most interesting among them were not those who studied the writings of Sinnett and Blavatsky — with at most a nine-tenths honest mind — but those who did not wish to read for themselves because there were still great inhibitions about such things at that time, and who listened with gaping mouths when those who had been reading expounded on these things. And it was most interesting to observe how the listeners, who were sometimes more honest than the narrators, grasped these ideas with their homeless souls as essential spiritual nourishment; spiritual nourishment which they were able to transform into something more honest through the greater honesty of their souls, despite the relative dishonesty with which it was being presented to them. One could see in them the yearning to hear something completely different from what was offered in the ordinary mainstream of civilization. How they devoured what they heard! It was most interesting to observe how on the one hand the tentacles of mainstream life kept drawing people in, and how on the other they would appear at one of the meeting places — often a coffee house — and would listen with great yearning. The point is that the honest souls, the ones who had been subject to the vagaries of life, were there too.

The way in which souls unwilling to admit to their homelessness were unable to find their bearings was particularly evident towards the latter part of the nineteenth century. A person might, for instance, listen with profound interest to an explanation of the physical, etheric and astral bodies, kama manas, manas, buddhi and so on. At the same time he was obliged to write the article his newspaper expected, including all the usual goodies. It really became clear how difficult it was for some people to leave the mainstream of life. For there were several among them who behaved as if they wanted to slink away, and would prefer that no one knew where they had gone when they wished to attend what was most important and interesting to them in life. It was indeed interesting how spiritual life, spiritual activity, the yearning for a spiritual world began particularly to establish itself in European civilization.

Now you have to remember that circumstances in the late 1880s were really much more difficult than today. Even if it was less harmful, it was nevertheless more difficult then to admit to the existence of a spiritual world, because the physical world of the senses with all its magnificent laws was proven of course! There was no way of getting round that! All the proofs were there in the physics laboratories and the hospitals; all the evidence declared in favour of a world for which there was proof. But the world which could be proven was so unsatisfactory for many homeless souls, was useless to the inner soul, to such an extent that many crept away from it. And at the same time as this great contemporary culture was on offer to them by the sackful — no, by the ton, in giant quantities — they took what nips they could from what has to be seen as the flow of the spiritual world into modern civilization. It was not at all easy to speak about the spiritual world; a suitable point of entry had to be found.

If I may once again introduce a personal note. I had to find a suitable opportunity on which to build. One could not simply crash in on our civilization with the spiritual world. Especially in the late 1880s, I linked the points I had to make about the spiritual world, about its more intimate aspects, in many places with Goethe's Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. [ Note 6 ] If one used something which had been created by no less a person than Goethe, and when it was as obvious as it is in the Fairy Tale that spiritual impulses had flowed into it, that was a suitable basis. I certainly could not use what was then being peddled as theosophy, what had been garnered from Blavatsky, from Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism and similar books by a group of people who were undeniably hard-working. For someone who wanted to preserve his scientifically schooled thinking in the spiritual world this was simply impossible.

Neither was it easy in another respect. Why? Well, Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism was soon recognized as the work of a spiritual dilettante, a compendium of old, badly understood esoteric bits and pieces. But it was less easy to find access to a phenomenon of the period such as Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine. For this work did at least reveal in many places that much of its content had its origins in real, powerful impulses from the spiritual world. The book expressed a large number of ancient truths which had been gained through atavistic clairvoyance in distant ages of mankind. People thus encountered in the outside world, not from within themselves, something which could be described as an uncovering of a tremendous wealth of wisdom which mankind had once possessed as something exceptionally illuminating. This was interspersed with unbelievable passages which never ceased to amaze, because the book is a sloppy and dilettantish piece of work as regards any sort of methodology, and includes superstitious nonsense and much more. In short, Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine is a peculiar book: great truths side by side with terrible rubbish. One might almost say that it sums up very well the spiritual phenomena to which those who developed into the homeless souls of the modern age were subjected.

In the following period in Weimar [ Note 7 ] I was, of course, occupied intensively with other things, although even then there were numerous opportunities to observe such searching souls. For particularly during this time all kinds of people came to the town to visit the Goethe and Schiller archive. It was possible to become acquainted with the good and bad sides of their souls in a remarkable way. I got to know some strange people, as well as those who were highly cultivated, refined and distinguished. My description of meeting Herman Grimm, [ Note 8 ] for instance, appeared recently in Das Goetheanum. [ Note 9 ] One had a better understanding of Weimar when Herman Grimm was there.

We need only think of his novel Unütberwindliche Mächte [ Note 10 ] to see how Grimm also exhibited a strong drive for spiritual matters. If you read the end of his novel you can see how the spiritual world intermingles with the physical through the soul of a dying person. It is very moving, very magnificent. I have spoken about this in previous lectures. [ Note 11 ]

Of course some strange people also passed through Weimar. There was a Russian state councillor, for example. No one could discover quite what he was looking for: it was something or other in the second part of Goethe's Faust. Exactly how he hoped to achieve that through the Goethe archive was impossible to elicit. It was also hard to know what to do to help him. In the end he was simply left to continue his search. Next to him was a very intelligent American, who loved to sit on the floor with his legs crossed — a very peculiar sight. It was possible to see such cameos of contemporary life in their most real form.

When subsequently I went to Berlin, destiny once again introduced me to a group of homeless souls, and I became involved to such an extent that this group asked me to hold the lectures which have now been published in my Eleven European Mystics. [ Note 12 ] They were people who found their way into the Theosophical Society at a somewhat later date than my Viennese acquaintances. Only a few of them studied Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine. But these people were well-versed in what Blavatsky's successor, Annie Besant, [ Note 13 ] proclaimed as the theosophical ideas of the time.

So I found myself once again in a similar situation to the one in Vienna in the late 1880s, in which it was possible to observe such homeless souls. And anthroposophy at first grew up, one might say, together with — not in, but together with — homeless souls who had initially sought a new home in theosophy.

Tomorrow I will try to lead you further in this process of self-reflection which we have hardly begun today.



1. Bayreuther Blatter: official organ of the Wagner Association, founded in 1878.
2. cf. Rudolf Steiner. The Course of My Life. Translated by O. D. Wannamaker. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1970. Also Briefe I. (Dornach, 1955).
3. Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, 1821–1881, leading Russian novelist. cf. also lecture of 13 February 1915 in GA 174b. Rudolf Steiner speaks in some detail about Dostoevsky's book The Brothers Karamazov in the lecture of 13 February 1916 in GA 167; typescript (C42) in Rudolf Steiner House library, London.
4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, 1831–1891. Her main works are Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. Together with Col. H. S. Olcott, Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society on 17 November 1875 in New York, which soon thereafter moved its headquarters to India.
5. Alfred Percy Sinnett, 1840–1921. Esoteric Buddhism.
6. J. W. von Goethe. Fairy-tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. Floris Books, Edinburgh, 1979. cf. Rudolf Steiner,Goethes Geistesart in ihrer Offenbarung durch seinen Faust und durch das Marchen von der Schlange und der Lilie(1918), GA 22. Also The Course of My Life, The Course of My Life, Chapter XXX.
7. From 1890 to 1896/7 Rudolf Steiner was employed at the Goethe-Schiller Archive to edit Goethe's scientific writings within the Weimar edition of Goethe's works. cf. Rudolf Steiner. The Course of My Life. Chapters XIII-XXIII. The Course of My Life, Chapter XIII–Chapter XXIII. Also Briefe I, idem.
8. Hermann Grimm, 1828–1901. cf. The Course of My Life, p.150ff.
9. The article referred to is “Eine vielleicht zeitgemsse persnliche Erinnerung” in the periodical Das Goetheanum, Vol. 2, no. 43 of 3 June 1923. Reproduced in GA 36.
10. Herman Grimm. Unüberruindliche Machte. Berlin 1867.
11. In detail on 16 January 1913 in GA 62 (not translated). Also on 6 February 1915 in GA 161; typescript (Z140) in Rudolf Steiner House library, London.
12. In the winter of 1900/1901, Rudolf Steiner delivered 27 evening lectures in the Theosophical Library of Count and Countess Brockdorff. They were published as a collection in 1901 (GA 7) and appeared in English as Mysticism and Modern Thought. Revised edition:Eleven European Mystics. Translated by Karl Zimmer. Rudolf Steiner Publications, New York, 1971. cf. also The Course of My Life,Chapter XXX.
13. Annie Besant, 1847–1933. Was elected in May 1907 to succeed H. S. Olcott as President of the Theosophical Society.
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Re: The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

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Dornach, 11 June 1923

LECTURE TWO: The Unveiling of Spiritual Truths

When we discuss the history and position of anthroposophy in relation to the Anthroposophical Society, any such reflections have to take into account two questions. First, why was it necessary to link the anthroposophical movement to the theosophical movement in the way they were connected? And second, why is it that malicious opponents still equate the Anthroposophical Society with the Theosophical Society? The answers to these questions will only become clear from a historical perspective. Yesterday I said that when we talk about the Anthroposophical Society, the first thing of relevance is that of the people who feel the need to pursue their path through an anthroposophical movement. I have tried to describe the sense in which the souls who come into contact with anthroposophy in order to satisfy their spiritual yearning are homeless souls in a certain respect. There were more of them about than is normally suspected, because there were many people who in one way or another tried by various means to develop their more profound human qualities.

Quite apart from the reaction to modern materialism, which subsequently led to various forms of spiritualism, many souls sought to fulfil certain inner needs by reading the work of people like Ralph Waldo Trine [ Note 1 ] and similar writers. They tried, one might say, to compensate for something missing in their human nature; something which they wanted to feel and experience inwardly, but which they could not find on the well-trodden paths of modern civilization: neither in the popular literature or art of a secular age, nor in the traditional religious faiths.

Today, then, I will place before you a number of facts, and will have to leave it to the following lectures to create the links between them.

Those who were engaged in such a search also included human beings who joined the various branches of the Theosophical Society. And if we ask whether there was something which distinguished those who joined the Theosophical Society from others, the answer has to be yes. There was what I might call a special sort of endeavour present. We know from the way in which the Theosophical Society developed that it was not unreasonable to assume that the something which people were looking for at the start of our century as anthroposophy was most likely to be understood within the circles then united by theosophy. But we will only be able to throw some light on that if the facts are properly presented.

I would like to draw a pen picture of what the Theosophical Society, which found its most potent expression in the English Theosophical Society, represented at the time. Indeed, the latter was then joined by what emerged immediately as anthroposophy.

If we look at the character of the English Theosophical Society as expressed in its members, we have to to look into their souls in order to understand their thinking. After all, they gave expression to their consciousness in the way they went about things. They assembled, held meetings, lectures and discussions. They also met and talked a great deal in smaller groups: at general meetings, for instance, there was always time to have a meal together, or a cup of tea and so on. People even found time to change dress in the intervals. It was really what might be described as a reflection of the kind of social behaviour one might find in daily life. In the consciousness of those people it was particularly noticeable that there were highly conflicting forces at play.

To anyone who was not a dyed-in-the-wool theosophist it was evident that they sought to have two conceptions of every person. The first one was the direct impression on meeting someone. But the other was the conception which everyone else had of each individual. This was based on very generalized ideas about the nature of human beings, about universal human love, about being advanced — as they called it — or not, about the seriousness of one's inclinations in order to prove worthy of receiving the doctrines of theosophy, and so on. These were pretty theoretical considerations. And everyone thought that something of all this had to be present in people walking around in flesh and blood. The naive impressions of individuals, were not really alive in the members, but each one had an image of all the others which was based on theoretical ideas about human beings and human behaviour.

In fact no one saw anyone else as they really were, but rather as a kind of spectre. And thus it was necessary on meeting Mr Smith, for example, and forming a naive impression of him, to form a spectral idea of him by visualizing what someone else thought of Mr Smith. Thus it was necessary to have two images of each person. However, most of the members dispensed with the image of the real person and merely absorbed the image of the spectre, so that in reality members always perceived one another in spectral form. The consciousness of the members was filled with spectres. An interest in psychology was necessary to understand this.

Real interest required a certain generosity and lack of preconception. It was, after all, very interesting to be involved in what existed there as a kind of spectral society. Its leaders were perceived by the others in a very peculiar manner. Reference might be made to a leading individual — let us call him X. During the night his astral form went from house to house — only members' houses, of course — as an invisible helper. All kinds of things emanated from him. The spectral ideas about leading individuals were in part extraordinarily beautiful. Often, it was a considerable contrast to meet these leading personalities in the flesh. But the general ethos then ensured that as far as possible only the spectral conception was allowed to exist and the real conception was not permitted to intrude.

A certain view of things, a doctrine, was definitely required for this. Since not everyone was clairvoyant, although there were many people at the time who at least pretended to be, certain theories were necessary to give form to these spectres. These theories had something exceedingly archaic about them. It was hard to avoid the impression that these spectral human constructs were assembled according to old, rehashed theories. In many cases it was easy to find the ancient writings which provided the source material.

Thus on top of their ghostly nature these human spectres were not of the present time. They were from earlier incarnations; they gave the impression of having clambered out of Egyptian, Persian or ancient Indian graves. In a certain sense any feeling of the here and now had been lost.

These ancient doctrines were difficult to understand, even when clothed in relatively modern terminology. The etheric body was borrowed from medieval concepts, as was perhaps the astral body. But then we move on to manas, kama manas and suchlike, which everybody talked about but no one really understood. How could they, when they approached them with very modern, materialistic ideas? These teachings were meant to be seen in a cosmic context; they contained cosmic concepts and ideas which made it easy to feel that souls were talking in a language not of centuries, but of millennia past.

This process spread far and wide. Books were written in such an idiom. But there was another side to all this. It had its beautiful aspect, because despite the superficial use of words, despite the lack of understanding, something did rub off on people. One might almost say that, even if it did not enter their souls, an extraordinary amount adhered to the outer garment of their souls. They went about not exactly with an awareness of the etheric body or kama manas, but they had an awareness that they were enveloped in layers of coats: one of them the etheric body, another kama manas and so on. They were proud of these coats, of this dressing of the soul, and that provided a strong element of cohesion among them.

This was something which forged the Theosophical Society into a single entity in an exceptionally intense manner, which created a tremendous communal spirit in which every single person felt himself to be a representative of the Theosophical Society. Beyond each individual member, the Society itself had what might be described as an awareness of itself. This identity was so strong that even when the absurdities of its leaders eventually came to light in a rather bizarre manner, the members held together with an iron grip because they felt it was akin to treachery if people did not stick together, even when the Society's leaders had committed grave mistakes.

Anyone who has gained an insight into the struggles which later went on within certain members of the Theosophical Society long after the Anthroposophical Society had separated itself, when people repeatedly realized the terrible things their leaders were doing but failed to see that as a sufficient reason to leave — anyone who saw the struggle will have developed a certain respect for this self-awareness of the Society as a whole.

And that leads us to ask whether the conditions which surrounded the birth of the Anthroposophical Society might not allow a similar self-awareness to develop.

From the beginning the Anthroposophical Society [ Note 2 ] had to manage without the often very questionable means by which the Theosophical Society established its strong cohesion and self-awareness. The Anthroposophical Society had to be guided by the ideal: wisdom can only be found in truth. [ Note 3 ] But this is something which has remained little more than an ideal. In this area in particular the Anthroposophical Society leaves a lot to be desired, having barely begun to address the development of a communal spirit, an identity of its own.

The Anthroposophical Society is a collection of people who strive very hard as individual human beings. But as a society it hardly exists, precisely because this feeling of a common bond is not there, as only the smallest number of members of the Anthroposophical Society feel themselves to be representatives of the Society. Everyone feels that he is an individual, and forgets altogether that there is supposed to be an Anthroposophical Society as well.

Having characterized the people attracted to anthroposophy, what has been the response of anthroposophy to their endeavours? Anyone with sufficient interest can find the principles of anthroposophy in my The Philosophy of Freedom. [ Note 4 ] I wish to emphasize that this refers with inner logic to a spiritual realm which is, for example, the source of our moral impulses. The existence of a spiritual realm takes concrete form when human beings develop an awareness that their innermost being is not connected to the sensory world but to the spiritual world. These are the two basic points made in The Philosophy of Freedom: first, that there is a spiritual realm and, second, that the innermost part of a person's being is connected to this spiritual realm.

Inevitably the question arose as to whether it is possible to make public in this way what was to be revealed to contemporary mankind as a kind of message about the spiritual world. After all, one could not simply stand up and and talk into the void — which, incidentally, does not exclude a number of odd proposals having been put to me recently. When I was in Vienna in 1918, for instance, I was summoned, by telegram no less, to go to the Rax Alp on the northern boundary of Styria, stand up on that mountain and there deliver a lecture for the Alps! I need hardly add that I did not respond to it. One must create a link with something which already exists in contemporary civilization. And basically there were few opportunities like that around, even at the turn of the century. At that time peoples' search led them to the Theosophical Society, and they, finally, were the ones to whom one could talk about such things.

But a feeling of responsibility towards the people whom we were addressing was not enough; a feeling of responsibility towards the spiritual world was also required, and in particular towards the form in which it appeared at that time. And here I might draw attention to the way in which what was to become anthroposophy gradually emerged from those endeavours which I did not yet publicly call anthroposophy.

In the 1880s I could see, above all, a kind of mirage; something which looked quite natural in the physical world but which, nevertheless, took on a deeper significance in a certain sense, even when taken as an insubstantial mirage, a play of the light. If one opened oneself in a contemporary way to the world views of that time, one was liable to encounter something very peculiar. If we think about Central Europe, in the first instance, the philosophy of Idealism from the first half of the nineteenth century presented a world-shattering philosophy whose aim was to provide a complete metaphysical conception of the world. In the 1880s there were echoes of, let us say, Fichte, Hegel and Solgers philosophies, [ Note 5 ] which meant as much to some of their adherents as anthroposophy can ever mean to people today. But they were basically a sum of abstract concepts.

Take a look at the first of the three parts of Hegel's Encyclopedia of Philosophy [ Note 6 ] and you will find a series of concepts which are developed one from the other: the concepts of being, not-being, becoming and existence, ending with the idea of purpose. It consists only of abstract thoughts and ideas. And yet this abstraction is what Hegel describes as God before the creation of the world. So if one asks what God was before the Creation, the answer lies in a system of abstract concepts and abstract ideas.

Now when I was young there lived in Vienna a Herbartian philosopher called Robert Zimmermann. [ Note 7 ] He said we should no longer be permitted to think in the Hegelian mode, or that of Solger or similar philosophers. According to Zimmermann these men thought as if they themselves were God. That was almost as if someone from the Theosophical Society had spoken, for there was a leading member of the Theosophical Society, Franz Hartmann, [ Note 8 ] who said in all his lectures something to the effect that you had to become aware of the God within yourself, and when that God began to speak you were speaking theosophy. But Hegel, when in Zimmermann's view he allowed the God within himself to speak, said: Being, negation of being, becoming, existence; and then the world was first of all logically put in a state of turbulence, whereupon it flipped over into its otherness, and nature was there.

Robert Zimmermann, however, said: We must not allow the God in human beings to speak, for that leads to a theocentric perspective. Such a view is not possible unless one behaves rather like Icarus. And you know what happened to him: you slip up somewhere in the cosmos and take a fall! You have to remain firmly grounded in the human perspective. And thus Robert Zimmermann wrote his Anthroposophy to counter the theosophy of Hegel, Schelling, Solger and others, whom he also treats as theosophists in his History of Aesthetics. [ Note 9 ] It is from the title of this book, Anthroposophy, that I later took the name. I found it exceedingly interesting then as a phenomenon of the time. The trouble is that it consists of the most horribly abstract concepts.

You see, human beings want a philosophical framework which will satisfy their inner selves, which will give them the ability to say that they are connected with a divine-spiritual realm, that they possess something which is eternal. Zimmermann was seeking an answer to the question: When human beings go beyond mere sensory existence, when they become truly aware of their spiritual nature, what can they know? They know logical ideas. According to Zimmermann, if it is not God in human beings who is thinking, but human beings themselves, then five logical ideas emerge. First, there is logical necessity; second, the equivalence of concepts; third, the combination of concepts; fourth, the differentiation of concepts; and fifth, the law of contradiction, that something can only be itself or something else. That is the sum total of the things which human beings can know when they draw on their soul and spirit.

If this anthroposophy were the only thing available, the unavoidable conclusion would be that everything connected with the various religions, with religious practice and so on, is a thing of the past, Christianity is a thing of the past, because these are things which require a historical basis. When a person thinks only of what he can know as anthropos, what he can know when he makes his soul independent of sensory impressions, of worldly history, it is the following: I know that I am subject to logical necessity, to the equivalence of concepts, the combination of concepts, differentiation, and the law of contradiction. That, whatever name it is given, is all there is.

It can then be supplemented by aesthetic ideas. Five ideas once again, including perfection, consonance and harmony, conflict and reconciliation. Third, five ethical ideas — ethical perfection, benevolence, justice, antagonism and the resolution of antagonism — form the basis for human action. As you can see, that has all been put in an exceedingly abstract form. And it is preceded by the title: Anthroposophy — An Outline. The dedication shows clearly that this was intended to be a major project.

You can see that it was very remarkable, in the way that a mirage is. Zimmermann transformed theosophy into anthroposophy, as he understood the word. But I do not believe that if I had lectured on his kind of anthroposophy we would ever have had an anthroposophical movement. The name, however, was very well chosen. And I took on the name when, for fundamental reasons which will become clear in the course of these lectures, I had to start dealing with particular subjects, starting with the spiritual fact — a certainty for everyone with access to the spiritual world — of repeated lives on earth.

But if I wanted to deal with such things with a degree of spiritual responsibility, they had to be put in a context. It is no exaggeration to say that it was not easy at the turn of the century to put the idea of repeated lives on earth into a context which would have been understood. But there were points where such a link could be established. And before going any further I want to tell you how I myself sought to make use of such points of contact.

Topinard [ Note 10 ] wrote a very interesting synopsis of anthropological facts, facts which lead to the conclusion, acceptable of course to everyone who subscribed to modern thinking at that time, that all animal species had evolved one from the other. Topinard quotes his facts and writes, after having presented, I think, twenty-two points, that the twenty-third point is what he argues to be the transformation of animal species. But then we face the problem of the human being. He does not provide an answer to this. So what happens there?

Now, by taking the biological theory of evolution seriously, it is possible to build on such an author. If we continue, and add point twenty-three we reach the conclusion that the animal species always repeat themselves at a higher level. In the human being we progress to the individual. When the individual begins to be repeated we have reincarnation. As you can see, I tried to make use of what was available to me, and in that form attempted to make something comprehensible which is, in any case, present before the soul as a spiritual fact. But in order to provide a point of access for people in general, something had to be used which was already in existence but which did not come to an end with a full stop, but with a dash. I simply continued beyond the dash where natural science left off. I delivered that lecture [ Note 11 ] to the group which I mentioned yesterday. It was not well received because it was not felt necessary to reflect on the issues raised by the sciences, and of course it seemed superfluous to that group that the things in which they believed should, in any case, need to be supported by evidence.

The second thing is that at the beginning of the century I delivered a lecture cycle entitled “From Buddha to Christ” to a group which called itself Die Kommenden. [ Note 12 ] In these lectures I tried to depict the line of development from Buddha to Christ and to present Christ as the culmination of what had existed previously. The lecture cycle concluded with the interpretation of the Gospel of St. John which starts with the raising of Lazarus. Thus the Lazarus issue, as represented in my Christianity As Mystical Fact, [ Note 13 ] forms the conclusion of the lecture cycle “From Buddha to Christ”.

This coincided roughly with the lectures published in my book Eleven European Mystics and the task of addressing theosophists on matters which I both needed and wanted to speak about. That occurred at the same time as the endeavour to establish a German Section of the Theosophical Society. [ Note 14 ] And before I had even become a member, or indeed shown the slightest inclination to become a member, I was called upon to become the General Secretary of this German Section of the Theosophical Society.

At the inauguration of the German Section I delivered a cycle of lectures which were attended by, I think, only two or three theosophists, and otherwise by members of the circle to which I had addressed the lectures “From Buddha to Christ”. [ Note 15 ] To give the lecture cycle its full title: “Anthroposophy or the evolution of mankind as exemplified by world conceptions from ancient oriental times to the present.” This lecture cycle — I have to keep mentioning this — was given by me at the same time as the German Section of the Theosophical Society was being established. I even left the meeting, and while everyone else was continuing their discussion and talking about theosophy I was delivering my lecture cycle on anthroposophy.

One of the theosophists who later became a good anthroposophist said to me afterwards that what I had said did not accord at all with what Mrs Besant was saying and what Blavatsky was saying. I replied that this is how it was. In other words, someone with a good knowledge of all the dogmas of theosophy had discovered correctly that something was wrong. Even at that time it was possible to say that it was wrong, that something else applied.

I now want to put to you another apparently completely unconnected fact which I referred to yesterday. Consider Blavastky's books: Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. There really was no reason to be terribly enthusiastic about the kind of people who took what was written in these books as holy dogma. But one could see Blavatsky herself as an exceedingly interesting phenomenon, if only from a deeper psychological point of view. Why? Well, there is a tremendous difference between the two books. This difference will become most clearly apparent to you if I tell you how those familiar with similar things judged them.

Traditions have been preserved which have their origins in the most ancient Mysteries and which were then safeguarded by a number of so-called secret societies. Certain secret societies also bestowed degrees on their members, who advanced from the first degree to the second and the third and so on. As they did so they were told certain things on the basis of those traditions. At the lower degrees people did not understand this knowledge but accepted it as holy dogma. In fact they did not understand it at the higher degrees either, but the members of the lower degrees firmly believed that the members of the higher degrees understood everything.

Nevertheless, a pure form of knowledge had been preserved. A great deal was known if we simply take the texts. You need do no more than pick up things which have been printed, and revitalize it with what you know from anthroposophy — for you cannot revitalize it in any other way — and you will see that these traditions contain great, ancient and majestic knowledge. Sometimes the words sound completely wrong, but everyone who has any insight is aware that they have their origin in ancient wisdom. But the real distinguishing mark of the activity in these secret societies was that people had a general feeling that there were human beings in earlier times who were initiates, and who were able to speak about the world, the cosmos and the spiritual realm on the basis of an ancient wisdom. There were many people who knew how to string a sentence together and who were able to expound on what was handed down.

Then Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled appeared. The people who were particularly shocked by its publication were those who held traditional knowledge through their attainment of lower or higher degrees in the secret societies. They usually justified their reaction by saying that the time was not yet ripe to make available through publication to mankind in general the things which were being kept hidden in the secret societies. It was, furthermore, their honest opinion. But there were a number of people who had another reason. And this reason can really be understood only if I draw your attention to another set of facts.

In the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, specifically in the nineteenth century, all knowledge was transformed into abstract concepts and ideas. In Central Europe one of those who began with such abstract ideas was the philosopher Schelling. [ Note 16 ] At a time when these ideas could still enthuse others because they contained inner human emotional force, Schelling was among those who taught them. A few years later Schelling no longer found any satisfaction in this mode of thought and began to immerse himself in mysticism, specifically in Jakob Boehme, [ Note 17 ] allowing himself to be influenced by Boehme's thinking and extracting from it something which immediately took on a more real quality. But what he said was no longer really understood, for no one could make sense of what Schelling wrote. In the 1820s, following a lengthy reclusive period, Schelling began to speak in a curious manner. There is a small booklet by him, called Die Weltalter. You may feel that it is still rather nebulous and abstract, but a curious feeling remains: Why is it that Schelling does not advance to the stage where he can talk about what was later discussed on an anthroposophical basis as the truths about Atlantis, for instance, but only reaches the point at which he almost, rather clumsily, hints at them? It is quite interesting.

In 1841 he was appointed by to teach at the University in Berlin. That is when Schelling began to lecture on his Philosophy of Revelation. Even that is still terribly abstract. He talks about three potentialities A1, A2, A3. But he follows this line until he achieves some kind of grasp of the old Mysteries, until he achieves some kind of grasp of Christianity. Nevertheless, his is not really the appropriate way to come to terms with the ideas which he briefly puts forward here. Schelling was never properly understood, but that is not really surprising because his method was a dubious one. All the same, there was something in the general awareness of the time and we can take the above as evidence for this, too which led people like Schelling to conclude that a spiritual world needed to be investigated.

This feeling took a different form in England. It is exceedingly interesting to read the writings of Lawrence Oliphant. [ Note 18 ] Of course Oliphant presents his conclusions about the primeval periods of human development on earth in quite a different way, because the English approach is quite distinct from the German one; it is much more physical, down-to-earth, material. The two approaches are in a certain sense, taking into account differing national characteristics, parallel phenomena: Schelling in the early part of the nineteenth century with his idealism, Oliphant with his realism, both of them displaying a strong drive to understand the world which is revealed by the spirit. These two men grew into the culture of their time; they did not stop until they had taken the philosophical ideas of their time about human beings, the cosmos and so on to their ultimate conclusion.

Now, you know from my anthroposophical explanations that human beings develop in early life in a way which makes physical development concomitant with soul development. That ceases later on. As I told you, the Greeks continued to develop into their thirties in a way which involved real parallel development of the physical and spiritual. With Schelling and Oliphant something different happened from the average person of today. One may work on a concept and develop it further, but Schelling and Oliphant went beyond this, and as they grew older their souls suddenly became filled with the vitality of previous lives on earth; they began to remember ancient things from earlier incarnations. Distant memories, unclear memories, arose in a natural way. Suddenly that struck people like a flash. Both Oliphant and Schelling are now suddenly seen in a different light.

Both establish themselves and begin by becoming ordinary philosophers, each in their own country. Then in their later years they begin to recall knowledge which they have known in earlier lives on earth, only now it is like a misty memory. At this point Schelling and Oliphant begin to speak about the spiritual world. Even if these are unclear memories they are, nevertheless, something to be feared by those who have only been through the old style, traditional development of the societies, to the extent that they might spread and gain the upper hand. These people lived in terrible fear that human beings could be born with the facility to remember what they had experienced in the past and speak about it. Furthermore, it also called into question all their principles of secrecy. Here we are, they thought, making members of the first, second, third grades and so on swear holy oaths of secrecy, but what remains of our secrecy if human beings are now being born who can recall personally what we have preserved and kept under lock and key?

Then Isis Unveiled appeared! The notable thing about it was that it brought openly on to the book-market a whole lot of things which were being kept hidden in secret societies. The great problem with which the societies had to come to terms was how Blavatsky obtained the knowledge which they had kept locked away and for which people had sworn holy oaths. It was those who were particularly shocked by this who paid a great deal of attention to Isis Unveiled.

Then The Secret Doctrine appeared. That only made things worse. The Secret Doctrine presented a whole category of knowledge which was the preserve of the highest grades in the secret societies. Those who were shocked by the first book, and even more so by the second one, used all kinds of expressions to describe them both, because Blavatsky as a phenomenon had a terribly unsettling effect, particularly on the so-called initiates. Isis Unveiled was less frightening because Blavatsky was a chaotic personality who continuously interspersed material which contained deep wisdom with all kinds of stuff and nonsense. So the frightened, so-called initiates could still say about Isis Unveiled that in it what was true was not new and what was new was not true! The disagreeable fact for them was that things had been revealed. After all, the book was called Isis Unveiled. They reassured themselves by saying that the event was an infringement of their rights.

But when The Secret Doctrine appeared, containing a whole lot of material which even the highest grades did not know, they could no longer say: What is true is not new and what is new is not true. For it contained a large body of knowledge which had not been preserved by tradition.

Thus in a rather strange and, indeed, confusing way, this woman represented what had been feared since Schelling and Oliphant. That is why I said that her personality is psychologically even more interesting than her books. Blavatsky was an important and notable phenomenon of the spiritual life of the late nineteenth century.

This is the extent to which I wanted to present the facts.



1. Ralph Waldo Trine, 1866–1958. American author of philosophical books. Pupil of R. W. Emerson. His best known work is In Tune with the Infinite (New York, 1897).
2. The German Section of the Theosophical Society unanimously rejected the absurd theories here referred to, which began to circulate in the Society from 1910/11 (see also Lecture Six). The Section's rejection led to a decision by the General Council in Adyar on 7 March 1913 to expel the German Section. Since such a move was not totally unexpected, the Anthroposophical Society had been founded on 28 December 1912 with an executive committee comprising Dr. Carl Unger, Michael Bauer and Marie von Sivers (Marie Steiner).
3. This principle, enunciated by Goethe, was chosen by Rudolf Steiner as the motto for the constitution which he gave to the Anthroposophical Society in 1912. From: Sprüche in Prosa; Goethes naturwissenschaftliche Schriften, edited by Rudolf Steiner. Dornach, 1975. Vol. V, p.360.
4. Rudolf Steiner, Philosophy of Spiritual Activity: A philosophy of freedom. Translated by Rita Stebbing. Rudolf Steiner Press, Bristol, 1992.
5. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 1762–1814, philosopher. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, 1770–1831, philosopher. Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Solger, 1780–1819, philosopher and aesthetician.
6. 1817. Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Philosophical Library, New York, 1959. Part One: Logic.
7. Robert Zimmermann, 1824–1912. Philosopher and aesthetician. From 1861 to 1895 Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vienna. One of the leading representatives of Herbartian philosophy. cf. Rudolf Steiner, The Course of My Life, Chapter III.
8. Franz Hartmann, 1838–1912. Doctor and theosophist. Founder of a separate school within the Theosophical Society. cf. Rudolf Steiner,The Course of My Life, Chapter IX.
Also Briefe I.
9. Geschichte der Aesthetik als philosophische Wissenschaft. Vienna, 1858. Anthroposophie im Umriss-Entwurf eines Systems idealer Weltansicht auf realistischer Grundlage. Vienna, 1882. The text of the dedication referred to is as follows: To Harriet. It was your strength of soul, when night threatened to blanket my eyes, which made me resolve to use the long and involuntary leisure in my dark room to bring an ordered conclusion to a stream of thoughts long maturing in isolation, for which a willing hand kindly lent itself to write them down. Thus is the origin of this book of whose content no one will be able to dispute that, like the light, it was born in the dark. Who else but you could lay claim to the same?
10. Paul Topinard, 1830–1911. French anthropologist. A German translation of his Anthropology appeared in 1888.
11. The date and title could not be established.
12. The name Die Kommenden was used by a society founded in Berlin by the poet Ludwig Jacobowski which consisted of literary figures, artists, scientists and others, with an interest in the arts. Rudolf Steiner delivered 24 lectures from October 1901 to March 1902. cf. also Rudolf Steiner, The Course of My Life, Chapter XXX and Chapter XXX.
13. In the same winter, from October 1901 to April 1902, Rudolf Steiner again delivered a series of lectures in the Theosophical Library (see Lecture One, Note 12) which provided a comprehensive expansion of the subject treated in the previous year (mysticism). In 1902 these lectures were published as Christianity As Mystical Fact. Translated by C. Davy and A. Bittleston. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1972.
14. cf. Rudolf Steiner, Eine historische Antwort. From an address on 14 December 1911, reprinted in Aus dem Leben von Marie Steiner-von Sivers. Dornach, 1956. See also Briefe II.
15. The reference is to the second major lecture cycle of 27 lectures from October 1902 to April 1903 which was given to the society Die Kommenden under the title From Zarathustra to Nietzsche. The inaugural meeting of the German Section of the Theosophical Society took place on 20 October 1902 in the presence of Annie Besant. cf. also The Course of My Life, Chapter XXX.
16. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, 1775–1854. Die Weltalter, a fragment from his unpublished works; English translation The Ages of the World. Columbia University Press, New York, 1942. Philosophie der Offenbarung. 2 vols. Stuttgart/Augsburg, 1858. cf. the chapter “The Classics of World and Life Conceptions” in Rudolf Steiner, Riddles of Philosophy (1914). Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1973. pp. 151–164. cf. also the lecture in Dornach on 16 September 1924, in Karmic Relationships, Vol. 4. Translated by D. S. Osmond and C. Davy. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1983.
17. See Lecture Three, Note 10.
18. Lawrence Oliphant, 1829–1888. His two most important books are Sympneumata and Scientific Religion. London, 1888. cf. Rudolf Steiner's lecture in London on 24 August 1924, in Karmic Relationships, Vol. 6. Translated by D. S. Osmond. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1975.
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Re: The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:14 am

Dornach, 12 June 1923

LECTURE THREE: The Opposition to Spiritual Revelations

In wishing to describe the development of groupings which have a certain connection with the Anthroposophical Society, I yesterday had to make reference to the impact of H.P. Blavatsky, because Blavatsky's works at the end of the nineteenth century prompted the coming together of those whom I described as homeless souls.

Blavatsky's works have very little to do with anthroposophy. I do not, however, want simply to describe the history of the anthroposophical movement, but also to characterize those of its aspects which relate to the Society. And that requires the kind of background which I have given you.

Now it is of course quite easy — if we want to be critical — to dismiss everything that can be said about Blavatsky by pointing to the questionable nature of some of the episodes in her life.

I could give you any number of examples. I could tell you how, within the Society which took its cue from Blavatsky and her spiritual life, the view gained ground that certain insights about the spiritual world became known because physical letters came from a source which did not lie within the physical world. Such documents were called the Mahatma Letters. [ Note 1 ] It then became a rather sensational affair, when evidence of all kinds of sleight of hand with sliding doors was produced. And there are other such examples.

But let us for the moment take another view, namely to ignore in the first instance everything which took place outwardly, and simply examine her writings. Then you will come to the conclusion that Blavatsky's works consist to a large degree of dilettantish, muddled stuff, but that despite this they contain material which, if it is examined in the right way, can be understood as reproducing far-reaching insights into the spiritual world or from the spiritual world — however they were acquired. That simply cannot be denied, in spite of all the objections which are raised.

This, I believe, leads to an issue of extraordinary importance and significance in the spiritual history of civilization. Why is it that at the end of the nineteenth century revelations from a spiritual world became accessible which merit detailed attention, even from the objective standpoint of spiritual science, if only as the basis for further investigation; revelations which say more about the fundamental forces of the world than anything which has been discovered about its secrets through modern philosophy or other currents of thought? That does seem a significant question.

It contrasts with another cultural-historical phenomenon which must not be forgotten, namely that people's ability to discriminate, their surety of judgement, has suffered greatly and regressed in our time.

It is easy to be deceived about this by the enormous progress which has been made. But it is precisely because individual human beings participate in the spiritual life as discerning individuals that we get some idea of the capacity which our age possesses to deal with phenomena which require the application of judgement.

Many examples could be quoted. Let me ask those, for example, who concern themselves with, say, electrical engineering, about the significance of Ohm's Law. The answer will be, of course, that Ohm's Law constitutes one of the basic rules for the development of the whole field of electrical engineering. When Ohm [ Note 2 ] completed the initial work which was to prove fundamental for the later formulation of Ohm's Law his work was rejected as useless by an important university's philosophical faculty. If this faculty had had its way, there would be no electrical engineering today.

Take another example: the important role which the telephone plays in modern civilization. When Reis, [ Note 3 ] who was not part of the official scientific establishment, initially wrote down the idea of the telephone and submitted his manuscript to one of the most famous journals of the time, the Poggendorffschen Annalen, his work was rejected as unusable. That is the power of judgement in our time! One simply has to face up to these things in a fully objective manner.

Or there are occasional fine examples which characterize the judicial competence of the trendsetters among those who are responsible for administering, say, our cultural life. And the general public moving along the broad highway is completely spellbound by what is deemed acceptable by these standards today. No country is better or worse than any other.

Take the case of Adalbert Stifter, [ Note 4 ] a significant writer. He wanted to become a grammar school teacher. Unfortunately he was thought to be totally unsuitable, not talented enough for such a post. Coincidentally a certain Baroness Mink, who had nothing to do with judging the ability of grammar school teachers, heard about Adalbert Stifter as a writer, acquainted herself with the material he had produced so far — which he himself did not think was particularly good — and prevailed upon him to have it published. That caused a great stir. The authorities suddenly took the view that there was no one better equipped to become the schools inspector for the whole country. And thus a person who a short while before had been thought too incompetent to become a teacher was suddenly appointed to supervise the work of every other teacher!

It would be an exceedingly interesting exercise to examine these things in all areas of our intellectual life, finishing with someone like, for instance, Julius Robert Mayer. [ Note 5 ] As you know, I have called into question the application under certain circumstances of the law of conservation of energy, which attaches to his name. But contemporary physics defends this law unconditionally as one of its pillars. When he went to Tubingen University, he was advised one fine day to leave, because of his performance. The university can certainly take no credit for the discoveries he made, because it wanted to send him down before he sat the exams which enabled him to become a doctor.

If all this material were seen in context, it would reveal an exceedingly important element in contemporary cultural history; an element through which it would be possible to demonstrate the weakness of this age of materialistic progress in recognizing the significance of spiritual events.

Such things have to be taken into account when taking full stock of the hostile forces opposing the intervention of spiritual movements. It is necessary to be aware of the general level of judgement which is applied in our time, an age which is excessively arrogant, precisely about its non-existent capacity to reach the right conclusions.

It was, after all, a very characteristic event that many of the things traditionally preserved by secret societies, which were at pains to prevent them reaching the public, should suddenly be published by a woman, Blavatsky, in a book called Isis Unveiled. Of course people were shocked when they realized that this book contained a great deal of the material which they had always kept under lock and key. And these societies, I might add, were considerably more concerned about their locks and keys than is our present Anthroposophical Society.

It was certainly not the intention of the Anthroposophical Society to secrete away everything contained in the lecture cycles. At a certain point I was requested to make the material, which I otherwise discuss verbally, accessible to a larger circle. And since there was no time to revise the lectures they were printed as manuscripts in a form in which they would otherwise not have been published — not because I did not want to publish the material, but because I did not want to publish it in this form and, furthermore, because there was concern that it should be read by people who have the necessary preparation in order to prevent misunderstanding. Even so, it is now possible to acquire every lecture cycle, even for the purpose of attacking us.

The societies which kept specific knowledge under lock and key and made people swear oaths that they would not reveal any of it, made a better job of protecting these things. They knew that something special must have occurred when a book suddenly appeared which revealed something of significance in the sense that we have discussed. As for the insignificant material — well, you need only go to one of the side-streets in Paris and you can buy the writings of the secret societies by the lorry load. As a rule these publications are worthless.

But Isis Unveiled was not worthless. Its content was substantive enough to identify the knowledge which it presented as something original, through which was revealed the ancient wisdom which had been carefully guarded until that moment.

As I said, those who reacted with shock imagined that someone must have betrayed them. I have discussed this repeatedly from a variety of angles in previous lectures. [ Note 6 ] But I now want rather to characterize the judgement of the world, because that is particularly relevant to the history of the movement. After all, it was not difficult to understand that someone who had come into the possession of traditional knowledge might have suggested it to Blavatsky for whatever reason, and it need not have been a particularly laudable one. It would not be far from the truth to state that the betrayal occurred in one or a number of secret societies and that Blavatsky was chosen to publish the material.

There was a good reason to make use of her, however. And here we come to a chapter in tracing our cultural history which is really rather peculiar. At the time there was very little talk of a subject which today is on everyone's lips: psychoanalysis. But Blavatsky enabled the people of sound judgement who came into contact with this peculiar development to experience something in a living way which made what has been written so far by the various leading authorities in the psychoanalytic field appear amateurish in the extreme. For what is it that psychoanalysis wishes to demonstrate?

Where psychoanalysis is correct in a certain sense is in its demonstration that there is something in the depths of human nature which, in whatever form it exists there, can be raised into consciousness; that there is something present in the body which, when it is raised to consciousness, appears as something spiritual. It is, of course, an extremely primitive action for a psychoanalyst to raise what remains of past experience from the depths of the human psyche in this way; past experience which has not been assimilated intensively enough to satisfy the emotional needs of a person, so that it sinks to the bottom, as it were, and settles there as sediment, creating an unstable rather than a stable equilibrium. But once brought into consciousness it is possible to come to terms with such experiences, thus liberating the human being from their unhealthy presence.

Jung [ Note 7 ] is particularly interesting. It occurred to him that somewhere in the depths — of course there is some difficulty in defining where — there are all the experiences with which the human being has failed to come to terms since birth; that embedded in the individual psyche there are all kinds of ancestral and cultural experiences stretching far back. And today some poor soul goes to his therapist who psychoanalyses him and discovers something so deep-seated in the psyche that it did not originate in his present life, but came through his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on, until we arrive at the ancient Greeks who experienced the Oedipus problem. It passed down through the blood and today, when these Oedipal feelings make their presence felt in the human psyche, they can be psychoanalysed away. Furthermore, people believe that they have discovered some very interesting connections through their ability to psychoanalyse away what lies in the far distant past of ones civilization.

The only problem is that these are thoroughly unscientific research methods. You need only have a basic knowledge of anthroposophy to know that all kinds of things can be extracted from the depths of the human psyche. First there is our life before birth, the things which the human being has experienced before he descended into the physical world, and then there are those things which he has experienced in earlier lives on earth. That takes you from a dilettantish approach to reality! But one also learns to recognize how the human psyche contains in condensed form, as it were, the secrets of the cosmos. Indeed, that was the view of past ages. That is why the human being was described as a microcosm.

What we encounter as psychoanalysis today really is dilettantish in the extreme. On the one hand it is psychologically amateurish because it does not recognize that at certain levels physical and spiritual life become one. It considers the superficial life of the soul in abstract terms, and does not advance to the level where this soul life weaves creatively in the blood and in the breathing — in other words, where it is united with our so-called material functions. But the physical life is also amateurishly conceived, because it is observed purely in its outer physical aspects and there is no understanding that the spiritual is present everywhere in physical life, and above all in the human organism. When these two amateurish views are brought together in such a way that the one is supposed to illuminate the other, as in psychoanalysis, then we are simply left with dilettantism.

Well, the manifestation of this kind of amateurism may be seen with Blavatsky from a psychological perspective. A stimulus may have come from somewhere, through some betrayal. This stimulus had the same effect as if a wise and invisible psychiatrist had triggered within her a great amount of knowledge which originated in her own personality rather than from ancient writings.

Up to the fifteenth century or thereabouts it was not an infrequent occurrence for visions of cosmic secrets to be triggered within human beings by some particularly characteristic physical happening. Later this became seen as an extremely mystical event. The tale told about Jakob Boehme, [ Note 8 ] who had a magnificent vision as he looked at a pewter bowl, is admired because people do not know that up to the fifteenth century it was very common for an apparently minor stimulus to provoke in human beings tremendous visions of cosmic secrets.

But it became increasingly rare, due to the increasing dominance of the intellect. Intellectualism is connected with a specific development of the brain. The brain calcifies, as it were, and becomes hardened. This cannot, of course, be demonstrated anatomically and physiologically, but it can be shown spiritually. This hardened brain simply does not permit the inner vision of human beings to rise to the surface of consciousness.

And now I have to say something extremely paradoxical, which is nevertheless true. A greater hardening of the brain took place in men, ignoring exceptions which, of course, exist both in men and women — which is not to say that this is a particular reason for female brains to celebrate, for at the end of the nineteenth century they became hard enough too. But it was nevertheless men who were ahead in terms of a more pronounced intellectualism and hardening of the brain. And that is connected with their inability to form judgements.

This was exactly the same time at which the secrecy surrounding the knowledge of ancient times was still very pronounced. It became obvious that this knowledge had little effect on men. They learnt it by rote as they rose through the degrees. They were not really affected by it and kept it under lock and key. But if someone wished to make this ancient wisdom flower once more, there was a special experiment he could try, and that was to make a small dose of this knowledge, which he need not even necessarily have understood himself, available to a woman whose brain might have been prepared in a special way — for Blavatsky's brain was something quite different from the brains of other nineteenth-century women. Thus, material which was otherwise dried-up old knowledge was able to ignite, in a manner of speaking, in these female brains through the contrast with what was otherwise available as culture; was able to stimulate Blavatsky in the same way that the psychiatrist stimulates the human psyche. By this means she was able to find within herself what had been forgotten altogether by that section of mankind which did not belong to the secret societies, and had been kept carefully under lock and key and not understood by those who did belong. In this way what I might describe as a cultural escape valve was created which allowed this knowledge to emerge.

But at the same time there was no basis on which it could have been dealt with in a sensible manner. For Madame Blavatsky was certainly no logician. While she was able to use her personality to reveal cosmic secrets, she was not capable of presenting these things in a form which could be justified before the modern scientific conscience.

Now just ask yourselves how, given the paucity of judgement with which spiritual phenomena were received, was there any chance of correctly assessing their re-emergence only twenty years later in a very basic and dilettantish form in psychoanalysis? How was proper account to be taken of something which had the potential to become an overwhelming experience, but to which psychoanalysis can only aspire once it has been cleansed and clarified and stands on a firm basis; when it is no longer founded on the blood which has flowed down the generations, but encompasses a true understanding of cosmic relationships? How was such experience, which presents a magnificent uncaricatured counter-image to today's impaired psychoanalytical research, to be assimilated adequately within a wider context in an age in which the ability to form true judgements was such as I have described? In this respect there were some interesting experiences to be had.

Let me illustrate this with an example of how difficult it is in our modern age to make oneself understood if one wants to appeal to wider, more generous powers of judgement; you will see from the remainder of the lectures how necessary it is that I deal with these apparently purely personal matters.

There was a period at the turn of the century in Berlin during which a number of Giordano Bruno societies were being established, including a Giordano Bruno League. Its membership included some really excellent people who had a thorough interest in everything contemporary which merited the concentration of ones ideas, feelings and will. And in the abstract way in which these things happen in our age, the Giordano Bruno League also referred to the spirit. A well-known figure [ Note 9 ] who belonged to this League titled his inaugural lecture “No Matter without Spirit”. But all this lacked real perspective, because the spirit and the ideas which were being pursued there were fundamentally so abstract that they could not approach the reality of the world. What annoyed me particularly was that these people introduced the concept of monism at every available opportunity. This was always followed with the remark that the modern age had escaped from the dualism of the Middle Ages. I was annoyed by the waffle about monism and the amateurish rejection of dualism. I was annoyed by the vague, pantheistic reference to the spirit: spirit which is present, well, simply everywhere. The word became devoid of content. I found all that pretty hard to take. Actually I came into conflict with the speaker immediately after that first lecture on “No Matter without Spirit”, which did not go down well at all. But then all that monistic carry-on became more and more upsetting, so I decided to tackle these people in the hope that I could at least inject some life into their powers of discernment. And since a whole series of lectures had already been devoted to tirades against the obscurantism of the Middle Ages, to the terrible dualism of scholasticism, I decided to do something to shake up their powers of judgement. I am currently accused of having been a rabid disciple of Haeckel at that time.

I gave a lecture on Thomas Aquinas [ Note 10 ] and said, in brief, that there was no justification to refer to the Middle Ages as obscurantist, specifically in respect of the dualism of Thomism and scholasticism. As monism was being used as a catchword, I intended to show that Thomas Aquinas had been a thorough monist. It was wrong to interpret monism solely in its present materialistic sense; everyone had to be considered a monist who saw the underlying principle of the world as a whole, as the monon. So I said that Thomas Aquinas had certainly done that, because he had naturally seen the monon in the divine unity underlying creation. One had to be clear that Thomas Aquinas had intended on the one hand to investigate the world through physical research and intellectual knowledge but, on the other hand, that he had wanted to supplement this intellectual knowledge with the truths of revelation. But he had done that precisely to gain access to the unifying principle of the world. He had simply used two approaches. The worst thing for the present age would be if it could not develop sufficiently broad concepts to embrace some sort of historical perspective.

In short, I wanted to inject some fluidity into their dried-out brains. But it was in vain and had a quite extraordinary effect. To begin with, it had not the slightest meaning to the members of the Giordano Bruno League. They were all Lutheran protestants. It is appalling, they said; we make every attempt to deal Catholicism a mortal blow, and now a member of this self-same Giordano Bruno League comes along to defend it! They had not the slightest idea what to make of it. And yet they were among the most enlightened people of their time. But it is through this kind of thing that one learns about powers of discrimination; specifically, the willingness to take a broadly based view of something which, above all, did not rely on theoretical formulations, but aimed to make real progress on the path to the spirit, to gain real access to the spiritual world.

Because whether or not we gain access to the spiritual world does not depend on whether we have this or that theory about the spirit or matter, but whether we are in a position to achieve a real experience of the spiritual world. Spiritualists believe very firmly that all their actions are grounded in the spirit, but their theories are completely devoid of it. They most certainly do not lead human beings to the spirit. One can be a materialist, no less, and possess a great deal of spirit. It, too, is real spirit, even if it has lost its way. Of course this lost spirit need not be presented as something very valuable. But having got lost, deluding itself that it considers matter to be the only reality, it is still filled with more spirit than the kind of unimaginative absence of anything spiritual at all which seeks the spirit by material means because it cannot find any trace of spirit within itself.

When you look back, therefore, at the beginnings you have, to understand the great difficulty with which the revelations of the spiritual world entered the physical world in the last third of the nineteenth century. Those beginnings have to be properly understood if the whole meaning and the circumstances governing the existence of the movement are to make sense. You need to understand, above all, how serious was the intention in certain circles not to allow anything which would truly lead to the spirit to enter the public domain. There can be no doubt that the appearance of Blavatsky was likely to jolt very many people who were not to be taken lightly. And that is indeed what happened. Those people who still preserved some powers of discrimination reached the conclusion that here there was something which had its source within itself. One need only apply some healthy common sense and it spoke for itself. But there were nevertheless many people whose interests would not be served by allowing this kind of stimulus to flow into the world.

But it had arrived in the form of Blavatsky who, in a sense, handled her own inner revelation in a naive and helpless manner. That is already evident in the style of her writings and was influenced by much that was happening around her. Indeed, do not believe that there was any difficulty — particularly with H.P. Blavatsky — for those who wanted to ensure that the world should not accept anything of a spiritual nature, to attach themselves to her entourage. In a sense she was gullible because of her naive and helpless attitude to her own inner revelations. Take the affair with the sliding doors through which the Mahatma Letters were apparently inserted, when in fact they had been written and pushed in by someone outside. The person who pushed them in deceived Blavatsky and the world. Then, of course, it was very easy to tell the world that she was a fraud. But do you not understand that Blavatsky herself could have been deceived? For she was prone to an extraordinary gullibility precisely because of the special lack of hardness, as I would describe it, of her brain.

The problem is an exceedingly complicated one and demands, like everything of a true spiritual nature which enters the world in our time, a quality of discernment, a healthy common sense. It is not exactly evidence of healthy common sense to judge Adalbert Stifter incapable of becoming a teacher and subsequently, when the nod came — in this case it was again due to a woman, and probably one with a less sclerotic brain than all those officials — to find him suitable to inspect all those he had not been allowed to join.

A healthy common sense is required to understand what is right. But there are some peculiar views about this healthy common sense. Last year I said that what anthroposophy had to say from the spiritual world could be tested by healthy common sense. One of my critics came to the conclusion that it was a wild-goose chase to talk about healthy common sense, because everyone with a scientific education knew that reason which was healthy understood next to nothing, and anybody who claimed to understand anything was not healthy. That is the stage we have reached in our receptivity to things spiritual.

These examples show you how contemporary attitudes have affected the whole movement. For it is almost inevitable — particularly given someone as difficult to understand as Blavatsky — that such an atmosphere should lead to a variation of the one message: any clever person today, anyone with healthy common sense, will say ignorabimus; [ Note 11 ] anyone who does not say ignorabimus must be either mad or a swindler.

If we really want to understand our times in order to gain some insight into the conditions governing the existence of the anthroposophical movement, then this must not be seen purely as the malicious intent of a few individuals. It has to be seen as something which in all countries, in contemporary mankind, belongs to the flavour of our times. Then, however, we will be able to imbue the strong and courageous stand we should adopt with something which, if one looks at our age from an anthroposophical point of view, should not be omitted — despite the decisive, spiritually decisive, rejection of our opponents' position — compassion. It is necessary to have compassion in spite of everything, because the clarity of judgement in our times has been obscured.



1. These are the so-called Mahatma Letters which were printed in A. P. Sinnett's The Occult World, London, 1881. They are linked with the so-called Coulomb affair of a later date, which is what Rudolf Steiner is referring to when he speaks about the rather sensational affair, and all kinds of sleight of hand with sliding doors.
2. Simon Ohm, 1787–1854. Famous physicist.
3. Philipp Reis, 1834–1874. Teacher and physicist.
4. Adalbert Stifter, 1805–1868. Writer and painter. The episode concerning his discovery as a writer by Baroness Mink in 1840 and his later appointment as schools inspector in 1849/50 is recounted in every biography.
5. Julius Robert Mayer, 1814–1878. Doctor and physicist.
6. cf. Dornach, 11 October 1915 in The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century. Translated by D. S. Osmond. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1973. Berlin, 23 October, 1911 in Earthly and Cosmic Man. Translated by D. S. Osmond. Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., London, 1948. Address in Helsingfors, 11 April, 1912, in GA 158; typescript (Z409) in Rudolf Steiner House library, London.
7. Carl Gustav Jung, 1875–1961. Leading proponent of psychoanalysis. cf. also Rudolf Steiner's lectures of 10 and 11 November 1917 inPsychoanalysis in the Light of Anthroposophy. Translated by M. Laird-Brown. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, and Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1946 as well as the question-and-answer session related to the lecture of 28 April 1920 in The Renewal of Education. Rudolf Steiner Schools Fellowship, 1981.
8. Jakob Boehme, 1575–1624. Cf. Rudolf Steiner, Eleven European Mystics. pp. 123ff.
9. Dr. Bruno Wille, author of Offenbarungen des Wacholderbaums (Novel of a Seer). Leipzig, 1901. cf. Rudolf Steiner's detailed review reprinted in GA 34. Also The Course of My Life, Chapter XXIX, and Briefe II.
10. The reference is to the lecture “Monismus und Theosophie” of 8 October 1902. cf. also The Course of My Life, Chapter XXIX, andBriefe II.
11. Ignoramus et ignorabimus (we do not know and we will never know). Phrase coined by the Berlin physiologist Emil Du Bois-Reymond (1818–1896) in his speech “ber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens”, which passed into common usage.
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Re: The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:15 am

Dornach, 13 June 1923

LECTURE FOUR: Spiritual Truths and the Physical World

If we look at a phenomenon such as H.P. Blavatsky from the perspective which will have become clear to you, we need to be concerned first with her personality as such. The other aspect is the impact she had on a large number of people. Now it is true, of course, that this impact was in part quite negative. Those who had a philosophical, psychological, literary, scientific — let us say a well-educated — bent were glad to be rid of this phenomenon in one way or another. They could achieve this simply by saying that she had engaged in dishonest practices and that there was no need to spend time on something where there was evidence of that sort of thing.

Then there were those who were in possession of ancient, traditional wisdom, members of one or another secret society. One must never forget that numerous events in the world are linked to actions from such secret societies. They were concerned above all to find a way to prevent such a depiction of the spiritual world having a wider impact. Because, as we saw, these things could be read and promulgated, and in this way the secret societies had been deprived of a good deal of the power which they wanted to preserve for themselves. That is why it is members of such societies who are behind the accusations that Blavatsky engaged in dishonest practices.

More important for our present purpose, however, is that Blavatsky's writings and everything else connected with her personality made a certain impression on a large number of people. That led to the establishment of movements which describe themselves in one way or another as theosophical.

I would like you to remember that in these discussions I always try to present my material in such a way that it should correspond to the facts. This becomes impossible nowadays in many circles, simply because of the terminology one has to use. What happens today is that when a person encounters a word it is very tempting for him to seek a dictionary definition in order to avoid having to look at the issue itself. When such literary people hear of theosophy they open a dictionary — which may well be a dictionary in their minds — and look up the word. Or they might go as far as to study all kinds of literature in which a word like theosophy occurs, and then use that as the basis for their judgement. You have to be aware how much actually depends on this kind of procedure.

This must always be juxtaposed with the question: How did the societies which base themselves on Blavatsky come to use the name Theosophical Society? One thing which did not happen, when it was founded at the end of the nineteenth century, was to found a Theosophical Society with the aim of propagating theosophy as defined in the dictionary. But a body of knowledge about the spiritual world existed through Blavatsky, which initially was simply there. Then it was found necessary to cultivate this knowledge through a society and a society requires a name. It is pure coincidence that the societies which are based on that called themselves the Theosophical Society. No one could think of a better name — it's as simple as that. This has to be clearly remembered. People who have learnt about the historical development of their given area of study are likely to have come across the term theosophy. But the term they have come across has nothing to do with what called itself the Theosophical Society.

Within the Anthroposophical Society, at any rate, such things ought to be taken very seriously. There should be a certain drive for accuracy, so that a proper feeling can develop for the unobjective scribblings to which these things have gradually given rise.

But there is one question which should particularly concern us: Why is it that a large number of our contemporaries have felt the urge to follow up these revelations? Because that will provide us with the bridge to something of a quite different nature: to the Anthroposophical Society.

In considering Blavatsky, it is important that her attitude was what might well be called an anti-christian one. In her Secret Doctrine she revealed in one large sweep the differing impulses and development of the many ancient religions. But everything which might have been expected as an objective depiction is clouded by her subjective judgement, the judgement of her feelings. It becomes abundantly clear that she had a deep sympathy for all religions in the world other than Judaism and Christianity, and that she had a deep antipathy towards Judaism and Christianity. Blavatsky depicts everything which comes from the latter as inferior to the great revelations of the various pagan religions: in other words, an expressly anti-christian perspective, but an expressly spiritual one.

She was able to speak of spiritual beings and spiritual processes in the same way that one normally speaks of the beings and processes of the physical world; she was able to discuss aspects of this spiritual world because she had the capacity to move among spiritual forces in the same way that contemporary people normally move among physical-sensory forces.

On that basis she was able to bring to the surface and clarify characteristic impulses of the various pantheistic religions.

Now we might be surprised by two things. First, that it is possible at all today for someone to appear who perceives the salvation of mankind in this anti-christian perspective. And second, we might be surprised about the decisive and profound influence exerted by such an anti-christian perspective specifically on people with a Christian outlook — less so perhaps on those with a Jewish background. These are two questions we must ponder when we speak about conditions governing the existence of the contemporary life of the spirit among the broader masses in general.

In respect of Blavatsky's anti-christian perspective, I want only to recall that someone who became much better known than she in Central Europe, among certain circles at least, had as much of an anti-christian perspective. That was Nietzsche. [ Note 1 ] It is difficult to be more anti-christian than the author of The Anti-Christ. It would be adopting a very superficial attitude not to enquire into the reason for the anti-christian outlook of these two personalities. But to find an answer one needs to dig a little bit deeper.

For we need to have a clear understanding that increasing numbers of people today are becoming divided in their spiritual life, something which they do not always acknowledge and which they try to paper over with a certain intellectual cowardice, but which is all the more active in the unconscious depths of their mind.

One needs to have a clear understanding of the way in which the European peoples and their American cousins have been influenced by the educational endeavours of the last three, four, five hundred years. One need only consider how great the difference really is between the content of today's secular education and the religious impulses of humanity. From the time people enter elementary school all thinking, their whole inner orientation, is directed toward this modern education. Then they are also provided with what is meant to satisfy their religious needs. A dreadful gap opens up between the two. People never really have the opportunity to deal inwardly with this chasm, preferring instead to submit to the most dreadful illusions in this respect.

This raises questions about the historical process which led to the creation of this yawning chasm. For this we have to look back to those centuries in which learning was the province of those few who were thoroughly prepared for it. You can be quite certain that a twelve-year-old schoolgirl today has a greater fund of worldly knowledge than any educated person of the eleventh, twelfth or thirteenth centuries. These things must not be overlooked. Education has come to rely on an extraordinarily intense feeling of authority, an almost invincible sense of authority. In the course of the centuries modern education has increasingly comprised only the knowledge of what can be demonstrated to the outer senses, or by calculation. By excluding everything else it became possible — because two times two equals four, and the five senses are so persuasive — for modern education to acquire its sense of authority. But that also increasingly gave rise to the feeling that everything which human beings believe, which they consider to be right, must be justified by the the knowledge of which modern learning is so certain. It was impossible to present in a corresponding fashion any truth from the realms where mathematics and the senses no longer apply.

How were these truths presented to humanity prior to the existence of modern learning? They were presented in ritual images. The essential element in the spread of religion over the centuries lay not in the sermons, for instance, but in ceremonial, in the rituals. Try to imagine for a moment what it was like in Christian countries in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. The important thing was for people to enter a world presented to them in mighty and grandiose images. All around, frescoes on the walls reminded them of the spiritual life. It was as if their earthly life could reach as high as the tallest mountain, but at that point, if one could climb just a little bit higher, the spiritual life began. The language of the spiritual world was depicted in images which stimulated the imagination, in the audible harmonies of music, or in the words of set forms such as mantras and prayers. These ages understood clearly that images, not concepts, were required for the spiritual world. People needed something vividly pictorial not something which could be debated. Something was required which would allow the spirit to speak through what was accessible to the senses. Christianity and its secrets, the Mystery of Golgotha and everything connected with it, were essentially spoken about in the form of images, even when words were used in story form. The dogmas were also still understood as something pictorial. And this Christian teaching remained unchallenged from any quarter prior to the existence of intellectual learning, and for as long as these things did not have to be justified by reason.

Now just look at historical processes in the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the urgency with which human beings begin to experience the drive to understand everything intellectually. This introduced a critical attitude of world-historical significance.

Thus, the majority of human beings today are introduced to religious life through Christianity but alongside that to modern learning also. As a consequence, the two — Christianity and modern learning — co-exist in each soul. And even if people do not admit it, it transpires that the results of intellectual education cannot be used to prove Christian truths. So from childhood people are now taught the fact that two times two equals four and that the five senses must only be used in such a context, and they also begin to understand that such absolutes are incompatible with Christianity.

Modern theologians who have tried to marry the two have lost Christ, are no longer able to speak to the broad spectrum of people about Christ; at most they speak about the personality of Jesus. Thus Christianity itself has been able to be preserved only in its old forms. But modern people are simply no longer willing to accept this in their souls, and they lose some of their inner security. Why?

Well, just look at the way Christianity has developed historically. It is extremely dishonest to use rationalism to put meaning into Christianity, the Mystery of Golgotha and everything connected with it. One has to talk about a spiritual world if one wants to speak about Christ. Modern human beings did not have the means in their innermost being to understand Christ on the basis of what they had been taught at school, for rationalism and intellectualism have robbed them of the spiritual world. Christ is still present in name and tradition, but the feeling for what that means is gone; the understanding of Christ as a spiritual being among spiritual beings in a spiritual world has disappeared. The world created by modern astronomy, biology and science is a world devoid of spirit.

Thus numerous souls grew up who, for these reasons, had quite specific needs. Time really does progress, and the people of today are not the same as people in earlier ages. You must have said to yourselves: Here I meet with a certain number of others in a society to cultivate spiritual truths. Why do you, each single one of you, do that? What drives you? Well, the thing which drives people to do this is usually so deeply embedded in the unconscious depths of their soul life that there is little clarity about it. But here, where we want to reflect on our position as anthroposophists, the question has to be asked.

If you look back to earlier times, it was self-evident that material things and processes were not the totality, but that spirits were everywhere. People perceived a spiritual world which surrounded them in their environment. And because they found a spiritual world they were able to understand Christ.

Modern intellectualism makes it impossible to discover a spiritual world, if one is honest, and as a consequence it is impossible to understand Christ properly. The people who try so hard to rediscover a spiritual life are very specific souls driven by two things. First, most souls who come together in the kind of societies we have been talking about start to experience a vague feeling within themselves which they cannot describe. And if this feeling is investigated with the means available in the spiritual world it turns out to be a feeling which stems from earlier lives on earth in which a spiritual environment still existed. Today, people are appearing in whose souls something from their previous lives on earth remains active. There would be neither theosophists nor anthroposophists if such people did not exist. They are to be found in all sections of society. They do not know that their feeling is the result of earlier lives on earth, but it is. And it makes them search for a very specific path, for very specific knowledge. Indeed, what continues to have an effect is the spiritual content of earlier lives on earth.

Human beings today are affected in two ways. They can have the feeling that there is something within them which affects them, which is simply there. But even though they might know a great deal about the physical world they cannot describe this feeling because nothing which was not of a spiritual nature has been carried over. If, however, in the present I am deprived of everything spiritual, then what has come over from a previous life remains dissatisfied. That is the one aspect.

The other effect which lives in human beings is a vague feeling that their dreams should really reveal more than the physical world. It is of course an error, an illusion. But what is the origin of this illusion, which has arisen in parallel with the development of modern learning? When people who have had the benefit of a modern education gather together in learned circles they have to show their cultural breeding. If someone starts to talk about spiritual effects in the world people adopt an air of ridicule, because that is what being cultured demands. It is not acceptable within our school education to talk about spiritual effects in the world. To do so implies superstition, lack of education.

Two groups will then often form in such circles. Frequently someone plucks up a little courage to talk about spiritual things. People then adopt an air of ridicule. The majority leave to play cards or indulge in some other worthy pursuit. But a few are intrigued. They go into a side-room and begin to talk about these things, they listen with open mouths and cannot get enough of it; but it has to be in a side-room because anything else shows a lack of education. The things which a modern person can learn there are mostly as incoherent and chaotic as dreaming, but people love it all the same. Those who have gone to play cards would also love it, except that their passion for cards is even stronger. At least that is what they tell themselves.

Why do human beings in our modern age feel the urge to investigate their dreams? Because they feel quite instinctively, without any clear understanding, that the content of their thoughts and what they see depicted in the physical world is all very nice, but it does not give them anything for their soul life. A secret thinking, feeling and willing lives in me when I am awake, they feel, which is as free as my dream life is free when I am sleeping. There is something in the depths of the soul which is dreamt even when I am awake. Modern people feel that, precisely because the spiritual element is missing from the physical world. They can only catch a glimpse of it when they are dreaming. In earlier lives on earth they saw it in everything around them.

And now those souls are being born who can feel working within themselves not only impulses from their previous lives on earth, but what took place in the spiritual world in their pre-earthly existence. This is related to their internal dreaming. It is an echo of life before birth.

But not only do the historical processes deny them the spirit; an educational system has been constructed which is hostile to the spirit, which proves the spirit out of existence.

If we ask how people found a common interest in such societies as we are describing here, it is through these two features of the soul; namely, that something is active both from their previous earth lives and from their pre-earthly existence. This is the case for most of you. You would not be sitting here if these two things were not active in you.

In very ancient times social institutions were determined by the Mysteries, and were in harmony with the content of their spiritual teaching. Take an Athenian for example. He revered the goddess Athene. He was part of a social community which he knew to be constituted according to Athene's intentions. The olive trees around Athens were planted by her. The laws of the state had been dictated by her. Human beings were part of a social community which was in total accord with their inner beliefs. Nothing the gods had given them had, as it were, been taken away.

Compare that with modern human beings. They are placed in a social context in which there is a huge gap between their inner experiences and the way they are integrated into society. It feels to them as if their souls are divorced from their bodies by social circumstances, only they are not aware of it; it is embedded in the subconscious. Through these impulses from earlier lives on earth and pre-earthly existence, people feel connected with a spiritual world. Their bodies have to behave in a way that will satisfy social institutions. It provokes a persistent subconscious fear that their physical bodies no longer really belong to them. Well, there are modern states in which one feels that your clothes no longer belong to you because the tax man is after them! But in a larger context ones physical body is no longer ones property either. It is claimed by society.

This is the fear which lives in modern human beings, the fear that every day they have to give up their bodies to something which is not connected with their souls. And thus they become seekers after something which does not belong to the earth, which belongs to the spiritual world of their pre-earthly existence.

All this takes its effect unconsciously, instinctively. And it has to be said that the Anthroposophical Society as it has developed had its origins in small beginnings. To begin with, it had to work in the most basic way with very small groups, and there is much to be said about the ways and means in which work took place in such small groups.

For example, in the first years in Berlin I had to lecture in a room in which beer glasses were clinking in the background. And once we were shown into something not unlike a stable. I lectured in a hall, parts of which had no floor, where one had to be careful not to tumble into a hole and break a leg. But that is where people gathered who felt these impulses. Indeed, this movement aimed to make itself accessible to everyone right from the beginning. Thus the satisfaction was just as great when the simplest mind turned up in such a location. At the same time it was no great worry when people came together in order to launch the anthroposophical movement in more aristocratic fashion, as happened in Munich, because that, too, was part of humanity. No aspect of humanity was excluded.

But the important point was that the souls who met in this way always had the qualities I have described. If such people had not existed, then someone like Blavatsky would not have engendered any interest, because it was among such people that she made her mark. What was most important to them and what corresponded to their feelings?

Well, the concept of reincarnation corresponded to the one thing which was active in their souls. Now they could see themselves straddling the ages as human beings, making them stronger than the forces which daily tried to rob them of their bodies. This deep-seated, almost will-like, inner feeling of human beings had to be met by the teaching of reincarnation.

And the dreamlike, out-of-body experience of the soul, which even the simplest country person can experience, could never be satisfied with knowledge which was based only on matter and its processes. That could only be met by making it clear to them that the most profound aspect of human nature exists as if it is woven out of dreams, if I may put it in this radical way. This element has a stronger reality, a stronger existence than dreams. We are like fish out of water if we are forced to live our soul life in the world which has been conjured up for people by modern education. In the same way that fish cannot exist in air and begin to gasp, so our souls live in the contemporary environment, gasping for what they need. They fail to find it, because it is spiritual in nature; because it is the echo of their experiences in life before birth in the spiritual world. They want to hear about the spirit, that the spirit exists, that the spirit is actually present among us.

You have to understand that the two most important concerns for a certain section of mankind were to learn that human beings live more than a single life on earth, and that among the natural things and processes there are beings in the world like themselves, spiritual beings. It was Blavatsky who initially presented this to the world. It was necessary to possess that knowledge before it was possible to understand Christ once again.

As far as Blavatsky was concerned, however — and in saying this we should emphasize her compassion for mankind — she realized that these people were gasping for knowledge of the spiritual world, and she thought that she would meet their spiritual needs by revealing the ancient pagan religions to them. That was her initial aim. It is quite clear that this had to result in a tremendously partisan anti-christian standpoint, just as it is clear that Nietzsche's observation of Christianity in its present form, which he had outgrown, led him to adopt such a strong anti-christian attitude.

This anti-christian outlook, and how it might be healed, is the topic I want to address in the next lectures. It remains only to emphasize that what appeared with Blavatsky as an anti-christian standpoint was absent right from the beginning in the anthroposophical movement, because the first lecture cycle which I gave was “From Buddha to Christ”. Thus the anthroposophical movement takes an independent position within all these spiritual movements in that, from the start, it pursued a path from the heathen religions to Christianity. But it is equally necessary to understand why others did not follow this path.



1. Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844–1900. The Anti-Christ. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth 1988. See Rudolf Steiner, Friedrich Nietzsche (1895). Translated by M. Ingram de Ris. Rudolf Steiner Publications, New Jersey, 1960.
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Re: The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:18 am

Dornach, 14 June 1923

LECTURE FIVE: The Decline of the Theosophical Society

It is important to be aware of the need which existed in the anthroposophical movement for Christianity to be asserted, specifically among those who were initially what might be described as ordinary listeners. For the theosophical movement under the guidance of H.P. Blavatsky had adopted an expressly anti-christian orientation. I wish to throw a little more light on this anti-christian attitude, a perspective which I also mentioned in connection with Friedrich Nietzsche.

It has to be understood that the Mystery of Golgotha occurred in the first instance simply as a fact in the development of mankind on earth. If you look at the way in which I have dealt with the subject in my book, Christianity As Mystical Fact, you will see that I attempted to come to an understanding of the impulses underlying the ancient Mysteries, and then to show how the various forces which were active in the individual mystery centres were harmonized and unified. Thus what was initially encountered by human beings in a hidden way could be presented openly as a historical fact. In this sense the historical reality of the Mystery of Golgotha represents the culmination of the ancient Mysteries. Remnants of the ancient mystery wisdom were present when the Mystery of Golgotha took place. With the aid of these remnants, which were incorporated into the Gospels, it was possible to find access to this event, which gave earth development its true meaning.

The impulses derived from ancient wisdom which were still directly experienced began to fade in the fourth century AD, so that the wisdom was preserved only in a more or less traditional form, allowing particular people in one place or another to revitalize these traditions. But the kind of continuous development which the Mysteries enjoyed in ancient times had disappeared, taking with it the means to understand the Mystery of Golgotha.

The tradition remained. The Gospels existed, kept secret at first by the communities of the church and then published in individual nations. The cults existed. As the western world developed it was possible to keep alive a memory of the Mystery of Golgotha. But the opportunity to maintain the memory came to an end in that moment in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch when intellectualism, with what I described yesterday as modern education, made its appearance. And with it a type of science of the natural world began, which pre-empted any understanding of the spiritual world as it developed the kind of methodology seen to date. This methodology needed to be expanded in the way that anthroposophy has sought to expand it. If one does not progress beyond the scientific method introduced by Copernicus, Galileo and so on, the Mystery of Golgotha has no place within the resultant view of nature.

Now consider the following. In none of the ancient religions was there any division between knowledge of the natural world and knowledge of God. It is a common feature of all pagan religions that there is a unity in the way in which they explain nature, and in how that understanding of nature then ascends to an understanding of the divine, the many-faceted divinity, which is active in nature.

The kind of abstract natural forces we are now aware of, unchallenged in their absoluteness, did not exist. What did exist were nature spirits which guided the various aspects of nature, and with which links could be established through the content of the human soul.

Now anthroposophy will never make the claim that it somehow wants to become a religion. However, although religion will always need to be an independent spiritual stream in mankind, it is a simple human desire for harmony to exist between cognition and the religious life. It must be possible to make the transition from cognition to religion and to return from religion to cognition without having to cross an abyss. That is impossible, given the structure of modern learning. It is impossible, above all, to discover the nature of Christ on this scientific basis. Modern science, in investigating the being of Christ ever more closely, has scattered and lost it.

If you bear this in mind, you will be able to understand what follows. Let me begin by talking about Nietzsche, whose father was a practising minister. He went through a modern grammar school education. But since he was not a bread-and-butter scholar but a thinker, his interest extended to everything which could be learnt through modern methods. So he consciously and in a radical way became aware of the dichotomy which in reality affects all modern minds, although people do not realize it and are prone to illusion because they draw a veil over it. Nietzsche says: Nowhere does modern education provide a direct link to an explanation of Jesus Christ without jumping over an abyss. His uncompromising conclusion is that if one wants to establish a relationship with modern science while preserving some sort of inner feeling for the traditional explanations of Christ, it is necessary to lie. And so he chose modern learning, and thus arrived at a radical indictment of what he knew about Christianity.

No one has been more cutting about Christianity than Nietzsche, the minister's son. And he experiences this with his whole being. One example is when he says — and it is not, of course, my standpoint — that what a modern theologian believes to be true is certainly false. And he finds that the whole of modern philosophy has too much theological blood flowing through its veins. As a result he formulates his tremendous indictment of Christianity, which is of course blasphemous, but which is an honest blasphemy and therefore worthy of greater attention than the hypocrisy which is so often found in this field today. It needs to be emphasized that a person like Nietzsche, who was serious about wanting to understand the Mystery of Golgotha, was not able to do so with the means at his disposal, including the Gospels in their present form.

Anthroposophy provides an interpretation of all four Gospels, [ Note 1 ] and these interpretations are rejected decisively by theologians of all denominations. But they were not available to Nietzsche. It is the most difficult thing for a scientific mind — and almost all people today have scientific minds in this sense, even if at a basic level — to come to terms with the Mystery of Golgotha, and what is precisely not the old Mysteries, but the discovery of a whole new mystery knowledge. The discovery of the spiritual world in a wholly new form is necessary.

Basically Blavatsky's inspiration also came from the ancient Mysteries. If one takes The Secret Doctrine as a whole, it really feels like nothing fundamentally new but the resurrection of that knowledge which was used in the ancient Mysteries to recognize the divine and the spiritual. But these Mysteries are only capable of explaining the events which happened in anticipation of Christ. Those who were familiar with the impulses of the ancient Mysteries when Christianity was still young were able to adopt a positive attitude to what happened at Golgotha. This applied into the fourth century. The real meaning of the Greek Church Fathers was still understood: how their roots stretched back to the ancient Mysteries, and how their words have quite a different tone from those of the later Latin Church Fathers.

The ancient wisdom which understood nature and spirit as one was contained in Blavatsky's revelations. That is the way, she thought, to find the divine and the spiritual, to make them accessible to human perception. And from that perspective she turned her attention to what present-day traditional thinking and the modern faiths were saying about Christ Jesus. She could not, of course, understand the Gospels in the way they are understood in anthroposophy, and the knowledge which came from elsewhere was not adequate to deal with the knowledge of the spirit which Blavatsky brought. That is the origin of her contempt for the way in which the Mystery of Golgotha was understood by the world. In her view, what people were saying about the Mystery of Golgotha was on a much lower level than all the majestic wisdom provided by the ancient Mysteries. In other words, the Christian god stands on a lower level than the content of the ancient Mysteries.

That was not the fault of the Christian god, but it was the result of interpretations of the Christian god. Blavatsky simply did not know the nature of the Mystery of Golgotha and was able to judge it only by what was being said about it. These things have to be seen in an objective light. As the power of the ancient Mysteries was drawing to a final close in the last remnants of Greek culture in the fourth century AD, Rome took possession of Christianity. The empirical attitude of Roman culture to learning was incapable of opening a real path to the spirit. Rome forced Christianity to adopt its outer trappings. It is this romanized Christianity alone which was known to Nietzsche and Blavatsky.

Thus these souls whom I described as homeless, whose earlier earth lives were lighting up within them, took the first thing on offer because their sole aim was to find access to the spiritual world, even at the risk of losing Christianity. These were the people who began by seeking a way into the Theosophical Society.

Now the position of anthroposophy in relation to these homeless souls has to be clearly understood. These were searching, questioning souls. And the first necessity was to find out what questions resided in their innermost selves. And if anthroposophy addressed these souls, it was because they had questions about things to which anthroposophy thought it had the answer. The other people among our contemporaries were not bothered by such questions.

Anthroposophy therefore considered what came into the world with Blavatsky to be an important fact. But its purpose was not to observe the knowledge which she presented, but essentially to understand those questions which people found perplexing.

How were the answers to be formulated? We need to look at the matter as positively and as factually as possible. Here we had these questioning souls. Their questions were clear. They believed they could find an answer to them in something like Annie Besant's book The Ancient Wisdom, [ Note 2 ] for instance. Obviously, it would have been stupid to tell people that this or that bit of The Ancient Wisdom was no longer relevant. The only possible course was to give real answers by ignoring The Ancient Wisdom at a time when this book was, as it were, dogma among these people, and by writing my book Theosophy, [ Note 3 ] which gave answers to questions which I knew were being asked. That was the positive answer. And there was no need to do more than that. People had to be left completely free to choose whether they wanted to continue to read The Ancient Wisdom or whether they wanted to use Theosophy.

In times of great historical change things are not decided in as rational and direct a manner as one likes to think. Thus I did not find it at all surprising that the theosophists who attended the lecture cycle on anthroposophy when the German Section was established, remarked that it did not agree in the slightest with what Mrs Besant was saying.

Of course it could not agree, because the answers had to be found in what the deepened consciousness of the present can provide. Until about 1907 each step taken by anthroposophy was a battle against the traditions of the Theosophical Society. At first the members of the Theosophical Society were the only people whom one could approach with these things. Every step had to be conquered. A polemical approach would have been useless; the only sensible course was hope, and making the right choices.

These things certainly did not happen without inner reservations. Everything had to be done at the right time and place, at least in my view. I believe that in my Theosophy I did not go one step beyond what it was possible to publish and for a certain number of people to accept at that time. The wide distribution of the book since then shows that this was an accurate assumption.

It was possible to go further among those who were engaged in a more intensive search, who had been caught up in the stream set in motion by Blavatsky. I will take only one instance. It was common in the Theosophical Society to describe how human beings went through what was called kamaloka after death. To begin with, the description given by its leaders could only be put in a proper context in my book Theosophy by avoiding the concept of time. But I wanted to deal with the correct concept of time within the Society.

G = birth T = death

As a result I gave lectures about life between death and a new birth within the then Dutch Section of the Theosophical Society. And there I pointed out, right at the start of my activity, that it is nonsense simply to say that we pass through kamaloka as if our consciousness is merely extended a little. (see diagram above). I showed that time has to be seen as moving backwards, and I described how our existence in kamaloka is life in reverse, stage by stage, only at three times the pace of the life we spend on earth. Nowadays, of course, people leading their physical lives have no idea that this backward movement is a reality in the spiritual realm, because time is imagined simply as a straight line.

Now the leaders of the Theosophical Society professed to renew the teachings of the old wisdom. All kinds of other writings appeared which were based on Blavatsky's book. But their content took a form which corresponded exactly to the way things are presented as a result of modern materialism. Why? Because new knowledge, not simply the renewal of old knowledge, had to be pursued if the right things were to be found. Buddha's wheel of birth and death and the old oriental wisdom was quoted on every occasion. That a wheel is something which has to be drawn as turning back on itself (see diagram) was ignored by people. There was no life in this rejuvenation of the old wisdom, because it did not spring from direct knowledge. In short, it was necessary through direct knowledge to create something which was also capable of illuminating the ancient wisdom.

Nevertheless, in the first seven years of my anthroposophical work there were people who denied that there was anything new in my material in relation to theosophy. But people never forgot the trouble I caused in the Dutch Section by filling my lectures with living material. When the congress took place in Munich in 1907 [ Note 4 ] the Dutch theosophists were seething that an alien influence, as they perceived it, was muscling in. They did not feel the living present standing against something which was based merely on tradition.

Something had to change. That is when the conversation between Mrs Besant and myself took place in Munich, [ Note 5 ] and it was clarified that the things which I had to represent as anthroposophy would work quite independently of other things active within the Theosophical Society. What I might describe as a modus vivendi was agreed.

On the other hand, even at that time the absurdities of the Theosophical Society which eventually led to its downfall began to be visible on the horizon. For it is clear today that it has been ruined as a society which is able to support a spiritual movement, however great its membership. What the Theosophical Society used to be is no longer alive today.

When anthroposophy began its work the Theosophical Society still contained a justified and full spirituality. The things which were brought into the world by Blavatsky were a reality, and people had a living relationship with them. But Blavatsky had already been dead for a decade. The mood within the Theosophical Society, the things which existed as a continuation of Blavatsky's work, had a solid historico-cultural foundation; they were quite capable of giving something to people. But even at that time they already contained the seeds of decay. The only question was whether these could be overcome, or whether they would inevitably lead to complete disharmony between anthroposophy and the old Theosophical Society.

It has to be said that a destructive element existed in the Theosophical Society even in Blavatsky's time. It is necessary to separate Blavatsky's spiritual contribution from the effect of the way in which she was prompted to make her revelations. We are dealing with a personality who, however she was prompted, nevertheless was creative and through herself gave wisdom to mankind, even if this wisdom was more like a memory of earlier lives on earth and restricted to the rejuvenation of ancient wisdom. The second fact, that Blavatsky was prompted to act in a particular way, introduced elements into the theosophical movement which were no longer appropriate if it was to become a purely spiritual movement.

For that it was not. The fact is that Blavatsky was prompted from a certain direction, and as a result of this she produced all the things which are written in Isis Unveiled. But by various machinations Blavatsky for a second time fell under outside influence, namely of eastern esoteric teachers propelled by cultural tendencies of an egoistic nature. From the beginning a biased policy lay at the basis of the things they wished to achieve through Blavatsky. It included the desire to create a kind of sphere of influence — first of a spiritual nature, but then in a more general sense — of the East over the West, by providing the West's spirituality, or lack of it if you like, with eastern wisdom. That is how the transformation took place from the thoroughly European nature of Isis Unveiled to the thoroughly eastern nature of Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine.

Various factors were at work, including the wish to link India with Asia in order to create an Indo-Asian sphere of influence with the help of the Russian Empire. In this way her teaching received its Indian content in order to win a spiritual victory over the West. It reflected a one-sidedly egoistic, nationally egoistic, influence. It was present right from the beginning and was striking in its symptomatic significance. The first lecture by Annie Besant which I attended dealt with theosophy and imperialism. [ Note 6 ] And if one questioned whether the fundamental impulse of the lecture was contained in the wish to continue in Blavatsky's spiritual direction or to continue what went alongside it, the answer had to be the latter.

Annie Besant frequently said things without fully understanding the implications. But if you read the lecture “Theosophy and Imperialism” attentively, with an awareness of the underlying implications, you will see that if someone wanted to separate India from England in a spiritual way, the first, apparently innocuous step could be taken in a lecture of this kind.

It has always spelled the beginning of the end for spiritual movements and societies when they have started to introduce partisan political elements into their activity. A spiritual movement can only develop in the world today if it embraces all humanity. Indeed, today it is one of the most essential conditions for a spiritual movement whose intention it is to give access to the real spirit that it should embrace all mankind. And anything which aims to split mankind in any way is, from the beginning, a destructive element.

Just consider the extent to which one reaches into the subconscious regions of the human psyche with such things. It is simply part of the conditions for spiritual movements, such as anthroposophy wants to be, that they honestly and seriously endeavour to distance themselves from all partisan human interests, and aspire to take account of the general interest of mankind. That was what made the theosophical movement so destructive, in so far as it contained divisive elements from its inception. And on occasion they also veered in their position; during the war there was a tendency to become very anglo-chauvinistic. But it is essential to understand very clearly that it is completely impossible to make a genuine spiritual movement flourish if it contains factional interests which people are unwilling to leave behind.

That is why one of the main dangers facing the anthroposophical movement today — in an age deteriorating everywhere into nationalist posturing — lies in the lack of courage among people to discard these tendencies.

But what is the root cause of this tendency? It arises when a society wants to accrue power by something other than spiritual revelation. At the beginning of the twentieth century there was still much that was positive in the way the Theosophical Society developed an awareness of its power, but that awareness had almost completely disappeared by 1906 and was replaced by a strong drive for power.

It is important to understand that anthroposophy grew out of the general interests of mankind, and to recognize that it had to find access to the Theosophical Society, because that is where the questioners were to be found. It would not have found accomodation anywhere else.

Indeed, as soon as the first period came to an end, the complete inappropriateness of the theosophical movement for western life became evident, particularly in its approach to the issues surrounding Christ. Where Blavatsky's contempt for Christianity was still basically theoretical, albeit with an emotional basis, the theosophical movement later turned this contempt into practice, to the extent that a boy was specially brought up with the intention of making him the vehicle for the resurrection of Christ. There is hardly anything more absurd. An Order [ Note 7 ] was established within the Theosophical Society with the aim of engineering the birth of Christ in a boy already alive here.

This soon descended into total farce. A congress of the Theosophical Society was to take place in Genoa in 1911, [ Note 8 ] and I felt it necessary to announce my lecture “From Buddha to Christ” for this congress. This should have resulted in a clear and concise debate by bringing into the open everything which was already in the air. But — surprise, surprise — the Genoa Congress was cancelled. It is, of course, easy to find excuses for something like that, and every word that was uttered sounded uncommonly like an excuse.

Thus we can say that the anthroposophical movement entered its second stage by pursuing its straightforward course, and it was introduced by a lecture which I delivered to a non-theosophical audience of which only one person — no more! — is still with us, although many people attended the original lecture. That first lecture, lecture cycle in fact, was entitled “From Buddha to Christ”. In 1911 I had wanted to deliver the same cycle. There was a direct connection! But the theosophical movement had become caught up in a hideous zig-zag course.

If the history of the anthroposophical movement fails to be taken seriously and these things are not properly identified, it is also impossible to give a proper answer to the superficial points which are continually raised about the relationship between anthroposophy and theosophy; points made by people who refuse absolutely to acknowledge that anthroposophy was something quite independent from the beginning, and that it was quite natural for anthroposophy to provide the answers it possessed to the questions which were being asked.

Thus we might say that the second period of the anthroposophical movement lasted until 1914. During that time nothing in particular happened, at least as far as I am concerned, to resolve its relationship with the theosophical movement. The Theosophical Society remedied that when it expelled the anthroposophists. [ Note 9 ] But it was not particularly relevant to be in the Theosophical Society and it was not particularly relevant to be excluded. We simply continued as before. Until 1914 everything which occurred was initiated by the Theosophical Society. I was invited to lecture there on the basis of the lectures which have been reprinted in my book Eleven European Mystics. I then proceeded to develop in various directions the material contained in it.

The Society, with its unchanged views, then proceeded to expel me — and, of course, my supporters. I was invited in for the same material which later caused my exclusion. That is how it was. The history of the anthroposophical movement will not be understood until the fundamental fact is recognized that it was irrelevant whether I was included in or excluded from the theosophical movement. That is something upon which I would ask you to concentrate in your self-reflection.

Today how many souls have a hint of such homelessness about them? That is revealed in incidents such as the following, which was reported very recently. A professor announced a course of university lectures on the development, as he called it, of mystic-occult perceptions from Pythagoras to Steiner. Following the announcement, so many people came to the first lecture that it could not be held in the usual lecture hall but had to be transferred to the Auditorium Maximum which is normally used only for big festive occasions.

Such occurrences demonstrate the way things are today, how the tendency to such homelessness has become an integral element in many souls. All of this could be anticipated: the rapidly growing evidence of a longing in homeless souls for an attitude to life which was not organized in advance, which was not laid out in advance; a longing for the spirit among them which was increasingly asserting itself, and asserting itself more strongly week by week.



1. Rudolf Steiner: The Gospel of St. John (Hamburg 1908). Translated by M. B. Monges. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1962. The Gospel of St. John and its Relation to the Other Gospels (Kassel 1909). Translated by S. and L. Lockwood, revised by M. St. Goar. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1982. The Gospel of St. Luke (Basel 1909). Translated by D. S. Osmond and O. Barfield. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1975. The Gospel of St. Matthew (Bern 1910). Translated by D. S. Osmond and M. Kirkcaldy. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1965. The Gospel of St. Mark (Basel 1912). Translated by C. Mainzer, edited by S. C. Easton. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1986. Background to the Gospel According to St. Mark (Berlin and other places 1910/11). Translated by E. H. Goddard and D. S. Osmond. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, and Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1968.
2. Published in 1897.
3. Theosophy: An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man (1904). Translated by M. Cotterell, revised by A. P. Shepherd. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1989.
4. From 18–21 May 1907 the fourth annual Congress of the Federation of European Sections of the Theosophical Society took place in Munich. Under Rudolf Steiner's guidance the attempt had been made to create a harmonious correlation between the spiritual activity in and the artistic arrangement of the conference room. In addition there was a performance of E. Schure's reconstruction of The Holy Drama of Eleusis. See The Course of My Life, Chapter XXXVIII.
Also GA 284/285.
5. In the lecture of 14 December 1911 Rudolf Steiner said: In front of a witness (Marie von Sivers) who is willing to testify to this at any time, Annie Besant said in Munich in 1907 that she was not qualified to deal with Christianity. And that is why she, as it were, handed the movement over to me, in so far as its Christian aspects were concerned. See Aus dem Leben von Marie Steiner-von Sivers, p.45f.
6. The lecture — Theosophy and Imperialism. A Lecture by Annie Besant. London (Theos. Publ. Soc.) 1902 — was delivered at the Theosophical Society Congress in London in July 1902. cf. Rudolf Steiner's lecture of 12 March 1916 in GA 174b (not yet translated).
7. See Lecture Two, Note 2.
8. See Aus dem Leben von Marie Steiner-von Sivers, p.70f.
9. See Lecture Two, Note 2.
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Re: The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:19 am

Dornach, 15 June 1923

LECTURE SIX: The Emergence of the Anthroposophic Movement

I have given you some idea of the forces which determined the first two periods of the anthroposophical movement. But in order to create a basis on which to deal with what happened in the third stage, I still wish to deal with a number of phenomena from the first two.

The first period, up until approximately 1907, can be described as being concerned with developing the fundamentals for a science of the spirit in lectures, lecture cycles and in subsequent work undertaken by others. This period concludes approximately with the publication of my Occult Science. [ Note 1 ]

Occult Science actually appeared in print some one and a half years later, but the publicizing of its essential content undoubtedly falls into this first period. Some hope was definitely justified in this period, up to 1905 or 1906, that the content of anthroposophy might become the purpose of the Theosophical Society's existence.

During this time it would have been an illusion not to recognize that leading personalities in the Theosophical Society, and Annie Besant in particular, had a very primitive understanding of modern scientific method. Nevertheless, despite the amateurish stamp which this gave to all her books, there was a certain sum of wisdom, mostly unprocessed, in the people who belonged to the Society. This became more marked as the focus of the Theosophical Society gradually moved to London and slowly began to feed, in a manner of speaking, on oriental wisdom. It sometimes led to the most peculiar ideas. But if we ignore the fact that such ideas were sometimes stretched so far that they lost all similarity to their original and true meaning, such books as Annie Besant's Ancient Wisdom, The Progress of Mankind, and even Christianity transmit something which, although passed down by traditional means, originated in ancient sources of wisdom.

On the other hand one must always be aware that in the modern world beyond these circles there was no interest whatsoever in real spiritual research. The reality was simply that the possibility of kindling an interest in a truly modern science of the spirit existed only among those who found their way into this group of people.

Yet within this first period in particular there was a great deal to overcome. Many people were working towards something, but it was in part a very egoistic and shallow striving. But even such superficial societies frequently called themselves theosophical. One need only think, for instance, of the theosophical branches spread widely throughout central Europe — in Germany, Austria and also Switzerland — which possessed only an exceedingly anaemic version of Theosophical Society tenets, impregnated with all kinds of foolish occult views.

One person who was very active in such societies was Franz Hartmann. [ Note 2 ] But the kind of profound spirit and deep seriousness which existed in these shallow societies will become obvious to you if I describe the cynical character of this particular leader. The Theosophical Society was at one time engaged in a dispute in connection with an American called Judge [ Note 3 ] about whether or not certain messages which had been distributed by Judge originated with persons who really had reached a higher stage of initiation, the so-called Masters. Judge had distributed these “Mahatma Letters” in America.

While they were both at the headquarters in India, Judge said he wanted some letters from the Masters in order to gain credibility in America, so that he could say he had been given a mission by initiates. Franz Harmann recounted how he had offered to write some Mahatma Letters for Judge, and the latter had replied that this would not permit him to claim their authenticity. They were supposed to fly towards you through the air; they originated in a magical way and then landed on your head, and that is what he had to be able to say. Judge was a very small fellow, Hartmann told us, and so he said to him “Stand on the floor and I will stand on a chair and then I will drop the letters on your head.” Then Judge could say with a clear conscience that he was distributing letters which had landed on his head clean out of the air!

That is an extreme example of things which are not at all rare in the world. I do not really want to waste your time with these shallow societies. I only want to point out that the close proximity of the anthroposophical to the theosophical movement made it necessary for the former to defend itself against modern scientific thinking during its first period.

I do not know whether those who joined the anthroposophical movement later as scientists, and observed anthroposophy during its more developed third stage, have gained sufficient insight into the fact that a critical assessment of modern scientific thinking took place in a very specific way during the first period of the anthroposophical movement. I only give instances, because this process occurred in a number of different areas. But these examples will show you how the theosophical movement was strongly influenced by the deference to so-called scientific authority which I described as particularly characteristic of modern education.

Annie Besant, for instance, tried to use in her books all kinds of quotes from contemporary science, such as Weismann's theory of heredity, [ Note 4 ] which bore no relevance to the science of the spirit. She used them as if they provided some sort of evidence. If you recall, at the time when we were in a position to start a centre for the anthroposophical movement in Munich many homeless souls were already organized in the sense that they belonged to various societies. Of course centres for the movement had begun to develop gradually in Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Kassel, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Hamburg, Hanover and Leipzig, and in Vienna as well as in Prague. When we were establishing the branch in Munich it became necessary to assess critically the various larger and smaller groups which were then in existence.

One group called the Ketterl, consisting of extremely scholarly people, was very much concerned with providing proofs from natural science for the claims which were made on behalf of the science of the spirit. If anthroposophy spoke about the etheric body, they would say that science has recognized this or that structure for atoms and molecules. Their formulae and definitions and so on were applied not to processes of the spectrum or electro-magnetism but to processes in the etheric or astral field. There was nothing we could do about that. The whole thing dissolved more or less amicably. In the end we no longer had any links with these investigations.

Not so very different were the efforts of a Dr. Hübbe-Schleiden, [ Note 5 ] who played an important role in the Theosophical Society. He was a close friend of Blavatsky, and was the editor of Sphinx for a long time. He, too, was obsessed with proving what he felt was theosophical subject matter by means of natural-scientific thinking. He took me to his home, a little way outside Hanover. It was perhaps half an hour by tram. He spent the entire half-hour describing the motion of atoms with his index fingers: Yes, it has to happen in this way and that way and then we have the answer. The atoms move in one incarnation and then the wave motion continues through the spiritual worlds; then it changes and that is the next incarnation. In the same way as modern physicists calculate light in terms of wave lengths, he calculated the passage of souls through various incarnations.

A special version of this way of thinking was evident in the debate about the permanent atom, which took place in the Theosophical Society over a long period. This permanent atom was something awful, but was taken incredibly seriously. For the people who felt the full weight of modern science postulated that while of course the physical body decomposes, a single atom remains, passes through the time between death and a new birth, and appears in the new incarnation. That is the permanent atom which passes through incarnations.

This may appear funny to you today, but you simply cannot understand the seriousness with which these things were pursued, specifically in the first period, and the difficulty which existed in responding to the challenge: What is the point of theosophy if it cannot be proved scientifically! During that conversation in the tram the point was forcefully made that things have to be presented in a manner which will allow a matriculated schoolboy to understand theosophy in the same way that he understands logic. That was the thrust of my companion's argument. Then we arrived at his home and he took me into the loft, and up there — I have to repeat that he was an exceedingly kind, pleasant and intelligent man; in other words, a sympathetic old gentleman — were very complicated wire constructions. One of the models would represent the atom of a physical entity; the next model, which was even more complex, would represent the atom of something etheric; the third model, still more complex, was an astral atom.

If you pick up certain books by Leadbeater, [ Note 6 ] a leading figure in the Theosophical Society, you will find such models in grandiose form. Atomism flourished nowhere as greatly as among those who joined our ranks from the Theosophical Society. And when younger members such as Dr. Kolisko [ Note 7 ] and others are engaged in the fight against the atom in our research institute in Stuttgart, [ Note 8 ] we might well recall that certain people at that time would not have known how to get from one incarnation to the next without at least one permanent atom.

That is something of an image of the way in which the strong authority of so-called natural-scientific thinking exerted its influence in these circles. They were unable to conceive of any other valid way of thinking than the natural-scientific one. So there was no real understanding in this quarter either. Only as the anthroposophical movement entered its second stage did these atomistic endeavours gradually subside, and there was a gradual transition to the subject matter which continued to be cultivated in the anthroposophical movement. Every time I was in Munich, for instance, it was possible to give a lecture designed more for the group which gathered round a great friend of Blavatsky's. Things were easier there because a genuine inner striving existed.

Within our own ranks, too, there was a call at that time to justify the content of anthroposophy using the current natural-scientific approach. It was less radical, nevertheless, than the demands made by external critics today. A large number of you heard Dr. Blümel's [ Note 9 ] lecture today. Imagine if someone had responded by saying that everything Dr. Blümel spoke about was of no personal concern; that he did not believe it, did not recognize it and did not want to test it. Someone else might say: See whether it is accurate, examine it with your reason and your soul faculties. The first person says: It is no business of mine be it right or wrong, I do not want to become involved with that. But I call on Dr. Blümel to go to a psychological laboratory and there, using my psychological methods, I will examine whether or not he is a mathematician.

That is, of course, piffle of the first order. But it is exactly the demand made today by outside critics.

Sadly, it is quite possible today to talk pure nonsense that goes undetected. Even those who are upset by it fail to notice that it is pure nonsense. They believe that it is only maliciousness or something similar, because they cannot imagine the possibility of someone who talks pure nonsense acquiring the role of a scientific spokesman simply as a result of their social standing. That is the extent to which our spiritual life has become confused. The kind of things which I am explaining here must be understood by anyone who wants to grasp the position of the anthroposophical movement.

Well, undeterred by all that, the most important human truths, the most important cosmic truths, had to be made public during the first stage. My Occult Science represents a sort of compendium of everything which had been put forward in the anthroposophical movement until that point. Our intention was always a concrete and never an abstract one, because we never attempted to do more than could be achieved in the given circumstances.

Let me quote the following as evidence. We established a journal, Luzifer-Gnosis, [ Note 10 ] right at the outset of the anthroposophical movement. At first it was called Luzifer. Then a Viennese journal called Gnosis wanted to amalgamate with it. My sole intention in calling it Luzifer with Gnosis was to express the practical union of the two journals. Of course that was completely unacceptable to Hübbe-Schleiden, for instance, who thought that this would indicate an unnatural union. Well, I was not particularly bothered, so we called it Luzifer-Gnosis with a hyphen. People were very sharp-witted and they were keeping a close eye on us at that time!

Of course we started with a very small number of subscribers, but it began to grow at a very fast pace, relatively speaking, and we never really ran at a deficit because we only ever printed approximately as many copies as we were able to sell. Once an issue had been printed the copies were sent to my house in large parcels. Then my wife and I put the wrappers around them. I addressed them and then each of us took a washing basket and carried the whole lot to the post office. We found that this worked quite well. I wrote and held lectures while my wife organized the whole Anthroposophical Society, [ Note 11 ] but without a secretary. So we did that all on our own and never attempted more than could be managed on a practical level. We did not even, for example, take larger washing baskets than we could just manage. When the number of subscribers grew we simply made an extra journey.

When we had been engaged in this interesting activity for some time, Luzifer-Gnosis ceased publication — not because it had to, for it had many more subscribers than it needed, but because I no longer had the time to write. The demands of my lecturing activity and of the spiritual administration of the society in general began to take up a lot of time.

To cease publication was a natural consequence of never attempting more than could be managed on a practical level, one step at a time. This belongs to the conditions which govern the existence of a spiritual society. To build far-reaching ideals on phrases, setting up programmes, is the worst thing which can happen to a spiritual society. The work in this first period was such that between 1907 and 1909 the foundations of a science of the spirit appropriate to the modern age were put in place.

Then we come to the second phase, which essentially concluded our attempt to come to grips with natural science. The theologians had not yet made their presence felt. They were still seated so firmly in the saddle everywhere that they were simply not bothered.

When the issue of the natural sciences had been dealt with, we were able to approach our other task. This was the debate over the Gospels, over Genesis, the Christian tradition as a whole, Christianity as such.

The thread had already been laid out in Christianity As Mystical Fact, which appeared in 1902. But the elaboration, as it were, of an anthroposophical understanding of Christianity was essentially the task of the second stage up to approximately 1914. As a consequence I gave lecture cycles on the various parts of the Christian tradition in Hamburg, Kassel, Berlin, Basle, Berne, Munich and Stuttgart.

That was also when, for instance, The Spiritual Guidance of the Individual and Humanity [ Note 12 ] was drawn up. It was, then, essentially the time in which the Christian side of anthroposophy was worked out, following on from the historical tradition of Christianity.

This period also included what I might call the first expansion of anthroposophy into the artistic field, with performances of the mystery dramas in Munich. [ Note 13 ] That, too, took place against the background of never wanting to achieve more than circumstances allowed.

Also during this time those events occurred which led to the exclusion of anthroposophy from the Theosophical Society, a fact which was actually of no great significance to the former, given that it had followed its own path from the beginning. Those who wanted to come along were free to do so. From the outset anthroposophy did not concern itself with the spiritual content which came from the Theososphical Society. But practical co-existence became increasingly difficult as well.

At the beginning there was a definite hope that circumstances, some of which at least I have described, would allow the real theosophical movement which had come together in the Theosophical Society to become truly anthroposophical. The circumstances which made such a hope appear justified included the serious disappointment about the particular methods of investigation pursued by the Theosophical Society, specifically among those people who possessed a higher level of discrimination. And I have to say that when I arrived in London on both the first and second times, I experienced how its leaders were basically people who adopted a very sceptical attitude towards one another, who felt themselves to be on very insecure ground which, however, they did not want to leave because they did not know where to look for security.

There were many disappointed people who had great reservations, particularly among the leaders of the Theosophical Society. The peculiar change which took place in Annie Besant from, say, 1900 to 1907 is an important factor in the subsequent course of events in the Theosophical Society. She possessed a certain tolerance to begin with. I believe she never really understood the phenomenon of anthroposophy, but she accepted it and at the beginning even defended against the rigid dogmatists its right to exist. That is how we must describe it, for that is how it was.

But there is something I must say which I would also urge members of the Anthroposophical Society to consider very seriously. Certain personal aspirations, purely personal sympathies and antipathies, are absolutely irreconcilable with a spiritual society of this kind. Someone, for instance, begins to idolize someone else, for whatever underlying reasons within himself. He will not acknowledge whatever compulsion it is, and sometimes it can be an intellectual compulsion that drives him to do it. But he begins to weave an artificial astral aura around the individual whom he wants to idolize. The latter then becomes advanced. If he wants to make an especially telling remark he will say: “Oh, that individual is aware of three or four previous lives on earth and even spoke to me about my earlier earth lives. That person knows a lot!” And this is precisely what leads to a spiritual interpretation of something which is human, all too human, to use an expression of Nietzsche's.

It would be sufficient to say: “I will not deny that I like him.” Then everything would be fine, even in esoteric societies. Max Seiling, [ Note 14 ] for instance, was very amusing in certain ways, particularly when he played the piano in that effervescent way of his, and he was amusing to have tea with and so on. All would have been well if people had admitted: We like that. That would have been more sensible than idolizing him in the way the Munich group did.

You see, all these things are in direct contradiction to the conditions under which such a society should exist. And the prime example of someone who fell prey to this kind of thing is Annie Besant. For example — and I prefer to speak about these things by quoting facts — a name cropped up on one occasion. I did not bother much with the literature produced by the Theosophical Society, and so I became acquainted with Bhagavan Das's [ Note 15 ] name only when a thick typewritten manuscript arrived one day. The manuscript was arranged in two columns, with text on the left side and a blank on the right. A covering letter from Bhagavan Das said that he wanted to discuss with various people the subject matter which he intended to reveal to the world through the manuscript.

Well, the anthroposophical movement was already so widespread at that time that I did not manage to read the manuscript immediately. That Bhagavan Das was a very esoteric man, a person who drew his inspiration from profound spiritual sources — that was approximately the view which people associated with Annie Besant — spread about him. His name was on everyone's lips. So I decided to have a look at the thing. I was presented with a horrendously amateurish confusion of Fichtean philosophy, Hegelian philosophy, and Schopenhauer's philosophy; everything mixed up together without the slightest understanding. And the whole thing was held together by “self” and “not self”, like an endlessly repeated tune. The idolization of Bhagavan Das was based purely on personal considerations. Such things demonstrate how the personal element is introduced into impulses which should be objective. The first step on the slippery slope was taken with the appearance of this phenomenon, which became increasingly strong from about 1905 onwards. Everything else was basically a consequence of that.

Spiritual societies must avoid such courses of action, particularly by their leaders — otherwise they will, of necessity, slide down the slippery slope. That is, indeed, what happened. Then there was the absurd tale connected with Olcott's death, [ Note 16 ] referred to as the Masters' nomination, which really represented the beginning of the end for the Theosophical Society. That could still be smoothed over, at least, by saying that such foolishness was introduced into the Society by particular people, even if they were acting on the basis of certain principles. It was, however, followed by the Leadbeater affair, [ Note 17 ] the details of which I do not want to discuss just now. And then came the discovery of the boy who was to be brought up as Christ, or to become Christ, and so on. And when people who did not want to be involved in these absurd matters refused to accept them, they were simply expelled.

Well, the anthroposophical movement followed its set course throughout the whole of this business and our inner development was not affected by these events in any way. That has to be made absolutely clear. It was really a matter of supreme indifference — just as I was not especially surprised to hear recently that Leadbeater has become an Old Catholic bishop in his old age. There was no sense of direction and everything was going topsy turvy.

Indeed, there is no particular need to change one's personal relationship with these people. Two years ago a gentleman who had delivered a lecture at the Munich congress in 1907 [ Note 18 ] approached me with the old cordial spirit. He still looked the same, but in the meantime he had become an Old Catholic archbishop. He was not wearing the garments, but that is what he was!

It must not be forgotten that the stream which we have been describing also contained precisely those souls who were searching most intensively for a link between the human soul and the spiritual world. We are not being honest about the course of modern culture if these contrasts are not made absolutely clear. That is why I had to make these additional points today before going on to the actual conditions which underlie the existence of the Anthroposophical Society.



1. The appearance of Occult Science: An Outline (Translated by G. and M. Adams. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1969) had been announced in 1905 as a continuation of
2. Theosophy which was published in 1904. For technical reasons, however, it did not appear until 1910 (the preface is signed: written in December 1909). “Only the absolute necessity of uninterrupted lecturing activity by the author has delayed the publication of this book for so long. Now it is to be made available to the public whatever the cost.” (Rudolf Steiner in the journal Luzifer-Gnosis, No. 33 from 1907.)
3. See Lecture Two, Note 8.
4. William Quan Judge, 1851–1896. One of the co-founders of the Theosophical Society. In 1895 he split away from the Adyar-based society and became the leader of a secessionist movement in America.
5. August Weismann, 1834–1914. Medical doctor, zoologist. Disputed the heredity of acquired changes.
6. Dr. Wilhelm Hübbe-Schleiden, 1846–1916. From 1886–1896 edited the occultist monthly journal Sphinx. See Rudolf Steiner, The Course of My Life, Chapter XXXII, and Briefe II.
7. Charles Webster Leadbeater, 1847–1934. Prominent member of the Theosophical Society in England. See in this context the book Occult Chemistry by Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater, a series of clairvoyant observations about the chemical elements and atomic theory.
8. Dr. Eugen Kolisko, 1893–1939. Medical doctor and teacher at the Stuttgart Waldorf School.
9. The scientific research institute was one of the sections of Kommende Tag, a company set up for the promotion of economic and spiritual values, Stuttgart 1920–1925. The biology department (L. Kolisko) was transferred to the Goetheanum by Rudolf Steiner in 1924.
10. Dr. Ernst Blümel, 1884–1952. Mathematician and teacher, first in further education at the Goetheanum and subsequently (1927–1938) at the Waldorf School in Stuttgart.
11. The journal appeared from June 1903 to 1908. cf. The Course of My Life, Chapter XXXII. Rudolf Steiner's essays in Luzifer-Gnosishave been reprinted in the volume of the same name in GA 34.
12. See Aus dem Leben van Marie Steiner-von Sievers, pp.40ff.
13. Rudolf Steiner. The Spiritual Guidance of the Individual and Humanity (1911). Translated by H. B. Monges. Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, New York, 1992.
14. The Portal of Initiation (1910), The Soul's Probation (1911), The Guardian of the Threshold (1912), The Soul's Awakening(1913): Rudolf Steiner, The Four Mystery Plays. Translated by A. Bittleston. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1982.
15. Max Seiling: member of the Anthroposophical Society for a time. He turned against it when a book which he wanted to have published by Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag had to be turned down. See Rudolf Steiner's lecture of 11 May 1917 in GA 174b (not translated).
16. Bhagavan Das: prominent member of the Theosophical Society. Resigned his office as General Secretary of the Indian Section in 1912 because he disapproved of the goings-on within the Order of the Star of the East in connection with the Krishnamurti-Alcyone cult, and of the behaviour of the President of the Theosophical Society who approved of and encouraged these events unworthy of the society.
17. Henry Steel Olcott, 1832–1907. Founder President of the Theosophical Society. See Rudolf Steiner, “Henry Steel Olcott (Obituary)”, in the journal Luzifer-Gnosis, No. 33 (March/April 1907). Olcott had proposed Annie Besant as his successor. Some of the circumstances surrounding this nomination had become public, which is why Rudolf Steiner wrote in this issue:

“… The deceased President did not merely state that he nominated Mrs Besant as his successor, but he informed the General Secretaries through a variety of circulars — which then found their way into the theosophical press and, unfortunately, beyond — that the elevated individuals who are described as the Masters, and those in particular who are especially connected with theosophical affairs, had appeared at his death bed and had instructed him to nominate Mrs Besant as his successor.

… Now this addition to Mrs Besant's nomination could simply have been ignored. For whether or not one believes that the Masters genuinely appeared in this case, the source of Olcott's advice has no relevance to the members casting their vote in accordance with the Statutes. Whether he was advised by the Masters or by some ordinary mortals is his business alone. The voters have to adhere to the Statutes and solely ask themselves whether or not they consider Mrs Besant to be the right choice. An immediate difficulty arose, however, through the fact that Mrs Besant announced that she had been called upon by her Master to accept her nomination and that for this reason she would assume the burden; indeed, that she considered the order from the Masters as decisive in determining the outcome of the election. Objectively that is a disaster … There would have been no reason to write these lines if the affair were not being discussed so much outside Germany. But under the circumstances the readers of this journal can rightly demand that it should not keep silent about a matter which is the subject of so much debate elsewhere.”

18. C. W. Leadbeater (see Lecture 6, Note 6) left the Theosophical Society in 1906 after the emergence of serious differences between him and the Society. But in 1909 he was re-admitted by Annie Besant, despite her earlier condemnation of his methods.
19. The person concerned is James Ingall Wedgwood. See Emily Lutyens, Candles in the Sun. London 1957.
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Re: The Anthroposophic Movement, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:21 am

Dornach, 16 June 1923

LECTURE SEVEN: The Consolidation of the Anthroposophic Movement

Having talked about various outer circumstances as well as the more intimate aspects of modern spiritual movements, I will attempt today and tomorrow to provide an interpretation of the conditions which govern the existence of the Anthroposophical Society in particular. And I will do so by means of various events which have occurred during the third phase of the movement.

We have to understand clearly our position at the time when the second phase of the anthroposophical movement was coming to an end, around 1913 and 1914, and our position today. Let us look back at the progress which was achieved in the first and second phases by adhering essentially to the principle that progress should be made in line with actual circumstances, that the movement should move forward at the same speed as the inner life of anthroposophy expands.

I said that in the first phase — approximately up to 1907, 1908, 1909 — we gradually worked out the inner spiritual content of the movement. The foundations were laid for a truly modern science of the spirit with the consequences which that entailed in various directions. The journal Luzifer-Gnosis was produced until the end of the period. It regularly carried material by me and others which built up the content of anthroposophy in stages. When the second phase began, the science of the spirit came to grips, in lectures and lecture cycles, with those texts which are particularly significant for the spiritual development of the West, the Gospels and Genesis, a development which included the broader public in certain ways. Once again real progress was made.

We started with the Gospel of St. John, and moved from there to the other Gospels. They were used to demonstrate certain wisdom and truths. The spiritual content was built up with each step. The expansion of the Society was essentially linked with this inner development of its spiritual content.

Of course programmes and similar things had to be organized to take care of everyday business. But that was not the priority. The main thing was that positive spiritual work was undertaken at each stage and that these spiritual achievements could then be deepened esoterically in the appropriate way.

In this context it was particularly at the end of the second phase that anthroposophy spread more widely into general culture and civilization, as with the Munich performances of the mystery dramas. We reached the stage at the end of the second phase when we could begin to think about the construction of the building which has suffered such a misfortune here. This was an exceedingly important stage in the development of the Anthroposophical Society. The construction of such a building assumed that a considerable number of people had an interest in creating a home for the real substance of anthroposophy. But it also meant that the first significant step was being taken beyond the measured progress which had kept pace with the overall development of the Anthroposophical Society. Because it is obvious that a building like the Goetheanum, in contrast to everything that had gone before, would focus the attention of the world at large in quite a different way on what the Society had become.

We had our opponents in various camps before this point. They even went so far as to publish what they said about us. But they failed to draw people's attention. It was the construction of the building which first created the opportunity for our opponents to find an audience.

The opportunity to construct the building assumed that something existed which made it worthwhile to do that. It did exist. A larger number of people experienced its presence as something with a certain inner vitality. Indeed, we had gathered, valuable experience over a considerable period of time. Since a society existed, this experience could have been put to good use, could be put to good use today. Everything I have spoken about in the last few days was meant to point to certain events which can be taken as valuable experience.

Now this period has come to an end. The burning of the Goetheanum represents the shattering event which demonstrated that this period has run out. Remember that these lectures are also intended to allow for self-reflection among anthroposophists. That self-reflection should lead us to remember today how at that time we also had to anticipate, anticipate actively, that when anthroposophy stepped into the limelight the opposition would inevitably grow.

Now we are talking in the first instance about the start and the finish. The start is represented in the courage to begin the construction of the Goetheanum. Let us examine in what form the effect achieved by the Goetheanum, in that it exposed anthroposophy to the judgement of an unlimited number of people, is evident today.

The latest evidence is contained in a pamphlet which has just appeared and which is entitled The Secret Machinery of Revolution. [ Note 1 ] On page 13 of this pamphlet you will find the following exposition:

At this stage of my inquiry I may refer briefly to the existence of an offshoot of the Theosophical Society, known as the Anthroposophical Society. This was formed as the result of a schism in the ranks of the Theosophists, by a man of Jewish birth who was connected with one of the modern branches of the Carbonari. Not only so, but in association with another Theosophist he is engaged in organizing certain singular commercial undertakings not unconnected with Communist propaganda; almost precisely in the manner in which Count St. Germain [ Note 2 ] organized his dyeworks and other commercial ventures with a like purpose. And this queer business group has its connections with the Irish Republican movement, with the German groups already mentioned, and also with another mysterious group which was founded by Jewish intellectuals in France about four years ago, and which includes in its membership many well-known politicians, scientists, university professors, and literary men in France, Germany, America, and England. It is a secret society, but some idea of its real aims may be gathered from the fact that it sponsored the Ligue des Anciens Combattants, whose aim appears to be to undermine the discipline of the armies in the Allied countries. Although nominally a Right Wing society, it is in direct touch with members of the Soviet Government of Russia; in Britain it is also connected with certain Fabians and with the Union of Democratic Control, which opposes secret diplomacy.

The only thing I need add is that my trip to London is planned for August, and you can see from this that our opponents are very well organized and know very well what they are doing. As you know, I have said for some time that one should never believe there is not always a worse surprise in store.

As you can see, we have our opponents today and that is the other point which marks the end of the third phase who are not afraid to make use of any lie and who know very well how to utilize it to best advantage. It is wrong to believe that it is somehow appropriate to pass over these things lightly with the argument that not only are they devoid of truth, but the lies are so crude no one will believe them. People who say that simply show that they are deeply unaware of the nature of contemporary western civilization, and do not recognize the powerful impulses to untruth which are accepted as true, I have to say, even by the best people, because it is convenient and they are only half awake.

For us it is particularly important to look at what lies between these two points. In 1914 the anthroposophical movement had undoubtedly reached the point at which it could have survived in the world on the strength of its own spiritual resources, its spiritual content. But conditions dictated that we should continue to work with vitality after 1914. The work since then consisted essentially of a spiritual deepening, and in that respect we took the direct path once again. We sought that spiritual deepening stage by stage, without concern for the external events of the world, because it was and still is the case that the spiritual content which needs to be revealed for mankind to progress has to be incorporated into our civilization initially in any form available. We can never do anything in speaking about or working on this material other than base our actions on these very spiritual resources.

In this respect anthroposophy was broadened in its third phase through the introduction of eurythmy. No one can ever claim that eurythmy is based on anything other than the sources of anthroposophy. Everything is taken from the sources of anthroposophy. After all, there are at present all kinds of dance forms which attempt in one way or another to achieve something which might superficially resemble eurythmy to a certain extent. But look at events from the point when Marie Steiner took charge of eurythmy. [ Note 3 ] During the war it was cultivated in what I might describe as internal circles, but then it became public and met with ever increasing interest. Look at everything which has contributed to eurythmy. Believe me, there were many people who insinuated that here or there something very similar existed which had to be taken into account or incorporated into eurythmy? The only way in which fruitful progress could be made was to look neither left nor right but simply work directly from the sources themselves. If there had been any compromise about eurythmy it would not have turned into what it has become. That is one of the conditions which govern the existence of such a movement; there must be an absolute certainty that the material required can be gathered directly from the sources in a continuous process of expansion.

Working from the centre like this, which was, of course, relatively easy until 1914 because it was self-evident, is the only way to make proper progress with anthroposophy.

This third period, from 1914 onwards, witnessed an all-encompassing phenomenon which naturally affected the anthroposophical movement as it affected everything else. Now it must be strongly emphasized that during the war, when countries were tearing each other apart, members of sixteen or seventeen nations were present here and working together; it must be emphasized that the Anthroposophical Society passed through this period without in any way forfeiting its essential nature. But neither must it be forgotten that all the feelings which passed through people's minds during this period, and thus also through the minds of anthroposophists, had a splintering effect on the Anthroposophical Society in many respects. This cannot be denied.

In talking about these things in an objective manner, I do not want to criticize or invalidate in any way the good characteristics which anthroposophists possess. We should take them for granted. It is true that within the Anthroposophical Society we managed to overcome to a certain extent the things which so divided people between 1914 and 1918. But anyone watching these things will have noticed that the Society could not avoid the ripple effect, even if it appeared in a somewhat different form from usual, and that in this context something came strongly to the surface which I have described before by saying that in this third phase we saw the beginnings of what I might call a certain inner opposition to the tasks I had to fulfil in the Anthroposophical Society.

Of course most people are surprised when I talk of this inner opposition, because many of them are unaware of it. But I have to say that this does not make it any better, because these feelings of inner opposition grew particularly strongly in the third phase. That was also evident in outer symptoms. When a movement like ours has passed through two phases in the way I have described, there is certainly no need for blind trust when certain actions are taken in the third phase given that the precedents already exist whose full ramifications are not immediately clear to everyone. But remember that these actions were undertaken in a context in which, while most certainly not everyone understood their full implications, many things had to be held together and it was of paramount importance that the anthroposophical movement itself should be defined in the right way. That is when we observed what might be described as such inner opposition.

I am aware, of course, that when I speak about these things, many people will say: But shouldn't we have our own opinions? One should certainly have one's own opinions about what one does, but when someone else does something with which one is connected it is also true that trust must play some role, particularly when such precedents exist as I have described.

Now at a certain point of the third phase during the war, I wrote the booklet Thoughts in Time of War. [ Note 4 ] This particular work elicited inner opposition which was especially noticeable. People told me that they thought anthroposophy never intervened in politics, as if that booklet involved itself with politics! And there was more of the same. Something had affected them which should not grow on the ground of anthroposophy although it sprouts in quite different soil. There were quite a few such objections to Thoughts in Time of War, but I am about to say something terribly arrogant, but true nevertheless; no one ever acknowledged that the whole thing was not really comprehensible to them at the time but if they waited until 1935 they might perhaps understand why that booklet was written.

And this is only one example among many which demonstrates clearly the strong intervention of something whose almost exclusive purpose was to undermine the freedom and self-determination within the Anthroposophical Society which we take for granted. It should have been self-evident that the writing of this publication was my business alone. Instead, an opinion began to form: If he wants to be the one with whom we build the Anthroposophical Society, then he is allowed to write only the things we approve of.

These things have to be stated in a direct manner, otherwise they will not be understood. They are symptomatic of a mood which arose in the Society and which ran counter to the conditions governing the existence of the anthroposophical movement!

But what has to play a particularly significant role in this third phase is the awareness of having created a Society which has taken the first steps along a road which a large part of mankind will later follow. Consider carefully that a relatively small society is set up which has taken upon itself the task of doing something which a large part of mankind is eventually supposed to follow.

Anthroposophists today must not think that they have only the same commitments which future anthroposophists will have when they exist by the million rather than the thousand. When limited numbers are active in the vanguard of a movement they have to show commitment of a much higher order. It means that they are obliged to show greater courage, greater energy, greater patience, greater tolerance and, above all, greater truthfulness in every respect. And in our present third stage a situation arose which specifically tested our truthfulness and seriousness. It related in a certain sense to the subject matter discussed at one point in the lectures to theologians. [ Note 5 ] Irrespective of the fact that individual anthroposophists exist, a feeling should have developed, and must develop, among them that Anthroposophia exists as a separate being, who moves about among us, as it were, towards whom we carry a responsibility in every moment of our lives. Anthroposophia is actually an invisible person who walks among visible people and towards whom we must show the greatest responsibility for as long as we are a small group. Anthroposophia is someone who must be understood as an invisible person, as someone with a real existence, who should be consulted in the individual actions of our lives.

Thus, if connections form between people — friendships, cliques and so on — at a time when the group of anthroposophists is still small, it is all the more necessary to consult and to be able to justify all one's actions before this invisible person.

This will, of course, apply less and less as anthroposophy spreads. But as long as it remains the property of a small group of people, it is necessary for every action to follow from consultation with the person Anthroposophia. That Anthroposophia should be seen as a living being is an essential condition of its existence. It will only be allowed to die when its group of supporters has expanded immeasurably. What we require, then, is a deeply serious commitment to the invisible person I have just spoken about. That commitment has to grow with every passing day. If it does so, there can be no doubt that everything we do will begin and proceed in the right way.

Let me emphasize the fact. While the second phase from 1907, 1908, 1909 to 1914 was essentially a period in which the feeling side, the religious knowledge of anthroposophy, was developed, something recurred in the third phase which was already present in the first, as I described yesterday. The relationship between anthroposophy and the sciences was again brought to the forefront.

It was already evident during the war that a number of scientists were beginning to lean towards anthroposophy. That meant that the Anthroposophical Society gained collaborators in the scientific field. At first they remained rather in the background. Until 1919 or 1920 the scientific work of the Society remained a hope rather than a reality, with the exception of the fruitful results which Dr. Unger [ Note 6 ] achieved on the basis of The Philosophy of Freedom and other writings from the pre-anthroposophical period. Otherwise, if we disregard the constructive epistemological work done in this respect, which provided an important and substantive basis for the future content of the movement, we have to say that at the start of the third phase the scientific aspect remained a hope. For scientific work became effective at this stage in a way exactly opposite to what had happened in the first phase. In the latter period people were concerned, as I explained yesterday, to justify anthroposophy to science; anthroposophy was to have its credentials checked by science. Since it did not achieve that, its scientific work slowly dried up. In the second phase it did not exist at all, and towards the end everything concentrated on the artistic side. General human interests took the upper hand.

Scientific aspirations emerged again in the third phase, but this time in the opposite way. Now they were not concerned, at least not primarily, with justifying anthroposophy to science, but rather sought to use anthroposophy to fertilize it. All kinds of people began to arrive who had reached the limits of their scientific work and were looking for something to fertilize their endeavours. Researchers were no longer looking for atomic structures, as they had done when physics and astronomy had led them to look for atomic theories to apply to the etheric and astral bodies. Now, when enough progress had been made to make a contribution to science, the exact opposite occurred.

This tendency, and I wish to discuss only its positive aspects today, will only be effective for the benefit of the anthroposophical movement if it can find a way of working purely from anthroposophical sources, rather in the way that eurythmy has done in the artistic field, and if it is accompanied by the commitment which I have mentioned. As long as so much of the present scientific mode of thinking is carried unconsciously into the anthroposophical movement it will not be able to make progress productively.

In particular, there will be a lack of progress as long as people believe that the current scientific establishment can be persuaded about anything without their first adopting a more positive attitude towards anthroposophy. Once they have done that, a dialogue can begin. Our task with regard to those who are fighting against anthroposophy today can only be to demonstrate clearly where they are not telling the truth. That is something which can be discussed. But of course there can be no dialogue about matters of substance, matters of content, with people who not only do not want to be convinced, but who cannot be convinced because they lack the necessary basic knowledge.

That, above all, is where the work needs to be done: to undertake basic research for ourselves in the various fields, but to do that from the core of anthroposophy.

When an attempt was made after the war to tackle practical issues in people's lives and the problems facing the world, that again had to be done on the basis of anthroposophy, and with the recognition that with these practical tasks in particular it was hardly possible to count on any sort of understanding. The only proper course we can pursue is to tell the world what we have found through anthroposophy itself, and then wait and see how many people are able to understand it. We certainly cannot approach the world with the core material of anthroposophy in the hope that there might be a party or a person who can be won over. That is impossible. That is contrary to the fundamental circumstances governing the existence of the anthroposophical movement. Take a women's movement or a social movemement, for instance, where it is possible to take the view that we should join and compromise our position because its members' views may incline towards anthroposophy in one way or another; that is absolutely impossible. What matters is to have enough inner security regarding anthroposophy to be able to advocate it under any circumstances.

Let me give you an amusing example of this. Whenever people are angry with me for having used the Theosophical Society for my work, I always reply that I will advocate anthroposophy wherever there is a demand. I have done it in places where it was only possible once, for the simple reason that people did not want to hear anything further from me a second time. But I never spoke in a way that, given their inner constitution, they could have been persuaded by superficial charm to listen to me a second time. That is something which has to be avoided. When people demand to hear something we have to present them with anthroposophy, pure anthroposophy, which is drawn with courage from its innermost core.

Let me say that these things have all happened before in the anthroposophical movement, as if to illustrate the point. For instance, we were invited to a spiritualist society in Berlin, [ Note 7 ] where I was to talk about anthroposophy. It did not occur to me to say no. Why should those people not have the right to hear something like that? I delivered my lecture and saw immediately afterwards that they were quite unsuited, that in reality this was not what they were seeking. For something happened which turned out to be quite funny. I was elected immediately and unanimously as the president of this society. Marie Steiner and her sister, who had accompanied me, were shocked. What should we do now, they asked? I had become president of this society: What should we do? I simply said: Stay away! That was perfectly obvious. By electing as their president someone they had heard speak on only one occasion, those people showed that they wanted something quite different from anthroposophy. They wanted to infuse anthroposophy with spiritualism and thought that they could achieve it by this means. We come across that kind of thing all the time.

We need not hold back from advocating anthroposophy before anyone. I was invited once to speak about anthroposophy to the Gottsched Society [ Note 8 ] in Berlin. Why should I not have done that? The important thing was not to compromise over the anthroposophical content.

That was particularly difficult after I had written the “Appeal to the German People and the Civilized World”, and after Towards Social Renewal: Basic Issues of the Social Question had been published. [ Note 9 ] The essential thing at that time was to advocate only what could be done on the basis of the sources underpinning these books, and then to wait and see who wanted to participate.

I am convinced that if we had done that, if we had simply adopted the positive position which was contained in the “Appeal” and in the book, without seeking links with any particular party — something which I was always against — we would not be stumbling today over obstacles which have been put in our way from this quarter, and would probably have been able to achieve one or two successes. Whereas now we have achieved no successes at all in this field.

It is part of the conditions governing the existence of a society like ours that opportunities must always be found to work out of the spirit itself. That should not, of course, lead to the stupid conclusion that we have to barge in everywhere like bulls in china shops or that we do not have to adjust to the conditions dictated by life, that we should become impractical people. Quite the contrary. It is necessary to inject some real practical life experience into the so-called practical life of today. Anyone who has some understanding of the conditions governing life itself will find it hard not to draw parallels between contemporary life and the life of really practical people, [ Note 10 ] who have such a practical attitude to life that they immediately fall over as soon as they try to stand on both feet at once. That is what many people today describe as practical life. If these people and their real life experience manage to penetrate a spiritual movement, things really begin to look bad for the latter.

As I said, today I would rather dwell on the positive side of the matter. We should not pursue a course so rigid that we run headlong into any obstacle in the way; of course we need to take avoiding action, make use of the things which will achieve practical progress. The important factor is that everything should contain the impulse which comes from the core.

If we could progress in this way the Anthroposophical Society would quickly shed the image — not in any superficial or conventional way, but justifiably — which still makes it appear sectarian to other people.

What is the use of telling people repeatedly that the Society is not a sect and then behave as if it were one? The one thing which needs to be understood by the members of the Anthroposophical Society is that of the general conditions which govern the existence of a society in our modern age. A society cannot be sectarian. That is why, if the Anthroposophical Society were standing on its proper ground, the we should never play a role. One repeatedly hears anthroposophists saying we, the Society, have this or that view in relation to the outside world: Something or other is happening to us. We want one thing or another. In ancient times it was possible for societies to face the world with such conformity. Now it is no longer possible. In our time each person who is a member of a society like this one has to be a really free human being. Views, thoughts, opinions are held only by individuals. The Society does not have an opinion. And that should be expressed in the way that individuals speak about the Society. The we should actually disappear.

There is something else connected with this. If this we disappears, people in the Society will not feel as if they are in a pool which supports them and which they can call on for support when it matters. But if a person has expressed his own views in the Society and has to represent himself, he will also feel fully responsible for what he says as an individual.

This feeling of responsibility is something which has to grow as long as the Society remains a small group of people. The way in which that has been put into practice so far has not succeeded in making the world at large understand the Anthroposophical Society as an eminently modern society, because this practice has repeatedly led to a situation in which the image which has been set before the public is we believe, we are of the opinion, it is our conception of the world. So today the world outside holds the view that the Society is a compacted mass which holds certain collective opinions to which one has to subscribe as a member. Of course this will deter any independently minded person.

Since this is the case, we have to consider a measure today which need not have been thought about, perhaps a year ago, because things had not progressed to a stage in which we are tarred with the same brush — with certain ulterior motives, of course — as the Carbonari, [ Note 11 ] the Soviet government and Irish republicanism. So now it seems necessary to think seriously about how the three objects [ Note 12 ] which are always being quoted as an issue might be put in context: fraternity without racial distinctions and so on, the comparative study of religions, and the study of the spiritual worlds and spiritual methodology. By concentrating on these three objects, the impression is given that one has to swear by them. A completely different form has to be found for them, above all a form which allows anyone who does not want to subscribe to a particular opinion, but who has an interest in the cultivation of the spiritual life, to feel that he need not commit himself body and soul to certain points of view. That is what we have to think about today, because it belongs to the conditions governing the existence of the Society in the particular circumstances of the third phase.

I have often been asked by people whether they would be able to join the Anthroposophical Society as they could not yet profess to the prescriptions of anthroposophy. I respond that it would be a sad state of affairs if a society in today's context recruited its members only from among those who profess what is prescribed there. That would be terrible. I always say that honest membership should involve only one thing: an interest in a society which in general terms seeks the path to the spiritual world. How that is done in specific terms is then the business of those who are members of the society, with individual contributions from all of them.

I can understand very well why someone would not want to be member of a society in which he had to subscribe to certain articles of faith. But if one says that anyone can be a member of this Society who has an interest in the cultivation of the spiritual life, then those who have such an interest will come. And the others, well, they will remain outside, but they will be led increasingly into the absurdities of life.

No account is taken of the circumstances of the Anthroposophical Society until one starts to think about conditions such as these which govern its life, until one stops shuffling along in the same old rut. Only when the Society achieves the ability to deal with these issues in a completely free way, without pettiness and with generosity, will it be possible for it to become what it should become through the fact that it contains the anthroposophical movement. For the anthroposophical movement connects in a positive way without compromise, but in a positive way to what exists in the present and what can act productively into the future.

It is necessary to develop a certain sensitivity to these points. And it is necessary for anthroposophists to develop this sensitivity in a matter of weeks. If that happens, the way forward will be found as a practical consequence.

But people will only be able to think in this direction if they radically discard the petty aspects of their character and truly begin to be understand the need to recognize Anthroposophia as an independent, invisible being.

I have had to consider the third phase in a different way, of course, to the two preceding ones. The latter are already history. The third, although we are nearing its end, is the present and everyone should be aware of its circumstances. We have to work our way towards guidelines concerning the smallest details. Such guidelines are not dogma, they are simply a natural consequence.



1. “The Secret Machinery of Revolution”, by G. G. London, 1923. (Reprinted from The Patriot. The relevant passage, with the sub-heading A Mystery League, appeared in No. 37, Vol. III, 19 October 1922, p.169. It is contained in Part VI of a series of articles entitled “The Anatomy of Revolution”.)
2. Died 27 February 1784. cf also the lecture by Rudolf Steiner of 4 November 1904 in Berlin in The Temple Legend. Translated by J. M. Wood. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1985.
3. Marie Steiner had been involved with eurythmy from its beginnings in 1912 and took over the practice and development of Rudolf Steiner's indications from 1914 onwards. See Aus dem Leben von Marie Steiner-von Sivers, pp.74ff.
4. Reprinted in GA 24.
5. The courses for theologians (Stuttgart, 12–16 June 1921; Dornach, 26 September — 10 October 1921; Dornach 6–22 September 1922) have not been published.
6. Carl Unger, 1878–1929. Engineer. One of the most effective advocates of anthroposophy in Germany. Member of the Executive Council of the Anthroposophical Society from 1912 to 1923. A few moments before he was due to deliver his public lecture “What is anthroposophy?” in Nuremberg, he was fatally shot by a mentally deranged person. See his book Die Grundlehren der Geisteswissenschaft. Dornach, 1929.
7. It has not been possible to establish when this incident took place.
8. On 17 October 1904. There is no transcript.
9. The Appeal was printed in Stuttgart in 1919 and distributed as a leaflet with the signatures of many well-known personalities from German-speaking culture. Rudolf Steiner further included it in his book Towards Social Renewal: Basic Issues of the Social Question(1919). Translated by F. T. Smith. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1977. See also GA 189.
10. Title of a poem from the Gallows Songs by Christian Morgenstern, which is often presented in eurythmy. []
11. Literally: charcoal burners. Name of a secret political society in Italy which was connected with Freemasonry and which also established a strong presence in France in the nineteenth century.
12. The reference is to the three objects of the Theosophical Society: 1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour. 2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science. 3. To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.
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