THEOSOPHY AND THE BEGINNING
OF THE PUBLIC MISSION
CHRISTIANITY VERSUS ORIENTALISM
When Rudolf Steiner decided to become the first General Secretary of the newly formed German Section of the Theosophical Society, thus abandoning all his former scientific pursuits, almost all his friends and associates were unable to understand why such a distinguished scholar should join a semi-religious, pseudo-philosophical group, with few if any pretensions to intellectual respectability. Steiner had never shown any apparent interest in Theosophy before this time, and his relationship with leading theosophists, even while he was leader of the German section, was always a somewhat uneasy one. It therefore becomes necessary at this stage to give some attention to the aims and purposes of the Theosophical Society and consider why Dr. Steiner thought it was possible to work with it, as well as why in the end he could not continue his association with it. Even today there is still much misunderstanding about the relationship between the Anthroposophical Society and the Theosophical Society; while those who are most familiar with the serious practical work that has stemmed from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, and understand both the Christian orientation of the Anthroposophical Movement and how different it is from any movement based on Oriental teachings, find it difficult to understand how Rudolf Steiner could ever have become associated with the Theosophical Society and Movement.
In a series of lectures given in October, 1915, to members of the Anthroposophical Society in Dornach, Rudolf Steiner went into considerable detail in explaining the historical context in which Theosophy appeared, and the role played in the Theosophical Movement by its founder Madame Helena Blavatsky. It is scarcely necessary here to go into much detail on the growth of materialistic ideas in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, nor on the role of science in this period and the gradual disappearance of any true insight into religion, which became so largely, for Christians, simply a matter of observing Sunday and behaving in a conventionally moral manner. Since the work of Darwin and Marx, in particular, man had come to be regarded as a kind of thinking animal, primarily influenced by his animal needs, while the world of spirit was simply denied, since it could not be perceived by the ”five” senses. Today, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, scientists are seldom regarded with such awe that their opinions on subjects other than their own specialty are listened to with the respect that was accorded them in the last century, and even scientists themselves are not regarded by their colleagues as idiots if they should happen to believe in some of the teachings of religion, whether Western or Oriental.
Even while science was becoming a kind of substitute religion for Western intellectuals, beneath the surface of Western culture occultists and occult movements were active, as they had always been, even though few people were aware of their existence. They did not communicate their knowledge except to a few chosen pupils and successors. Rudolf Steiner does not seem to have been a member of any occult circle during the years covered in earlier chapters, but, as we have tried to show, he possessed much ”occult” knowledge acquired through his own supersensible faculties. These he had developed for himself in such a way that he could actually see into the spiritual worlds concealed from almost all the rest of us. So, when he lectured in 1915 on the subject of the occult movements in the nineteenth century, he was not divulging anything that he had acquired from others, whether legitimately or illegitimately, but all his comments stemmed from his own insights into the work done by the nineteenth century occultists.
In these lectures he explained that many leading occultists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had become extremely disturbed by the increasing materialism of the age. Vast numbers of men and women had lost all belief in the spiritual worlds, with the result that the enemy of mankind whom we called Ahriman in the last chapter was carrying all before him. The occultists had been loath to divulge what they themselves knew about the spiritual worlds, but they did think that mankind ought to know at least that the spiritual worlds do exist, as men had always known in the past. The decision was then made by a group of occultists that what later came to be called ”spiritualism” should be introduced to mankind, with the sole intention of providing in this way a kind of proof that human beings do continue their existence after death and can communicate with the living. Through these efforts men did indeed come to believe that the dead can converse with the living through mediums, men and women who were able to slip out of their ordinary waking consciousness, thus supposedly allowing access to the dead; and as a result there grew up a vogue for spiritualistic ”séances,” in which the dead were supposed to speak through the mediums and answer questions. At these séances other apparently supersensible phenomena took place, including the ”materialization” of actual physical objects. Thus the spiritual world was itself materialized in keeping with the spirit of the time, and it appeared to be only another ”dimension” of the earthly world. Scientists like the Englishman Sir Oliver Lodge became deeply interested in spiritualism and tried to investigate it by scientific means, offering various explanations for the often remarkably accurate information divulged by mediums during their séances.
The unexpected result of their efforts led to great disappointment among the occultists who had been responsible for introducing spiritualism to mankind, but hope revived when they heard of the existence of a kind of ”super-medium” who possessed faculties that had not been seen in the West for centuries. This was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, usually known to her followers simply as HPB, a half German, half Russian woman, who was born in 1831, and after an early marriage travelled widely in many countries of the world, including India and America. The occultists found it extraordinary that HPB, who claimed to have acquired her own knowledge first hand from Masters who were not living on the earth, should have possessed such accurate knowledge of what they themselves had received from others, and had kept as closely guarded secrets. It was therefore natural that the various occult orders in different parts of the world should have wished to control her and use her for their ends. However, none of these efforts were successful for very long, and eventually Madame Blavatsky started her own movement, which was formally founded in 1875 as the Theosophical Society. Her principal associate in this enterprise was an American, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, a first rate organizer, who became president of the Society on the death of HPB in 1891, and was still president when the German section of the Society was formed in 1902, with Rudolf Steiner as General Secretary.
Blavatsky throughout her life continued to make numerous revelations, which were incorporated in several books. The most important of these was Isis Unveiled, published in 1877, and a huge collection published after her death under the title of The Secret Doctrine. Rudolf Steiner on many occasions spoke about the occult gifts of Madame Blavatsky, explaining that she received her information from those she called the ”Masters” when she was in a condition of trance, and she could not actually see into higher worlds herself while fully conscious. But, unlike most mediums, she was fully aware afterwards, when she had returned to normal consciousness, of all that had been conveyed through her during her trances. According to Steiner, much of what she received was correct, but she could not check it, nor was she capable of criticizing any of it. As a result many things she wrote down were partly true, and very little was wholly false, but the ideas poured out of her without any logical connection between them. Unlike Steiner, Blavatsky had no claims to be a thinker. Nevertheless a large part of what she gave out was at the time known to no occultist alive, and by whatever means she arrived at her knowledge, it could not be disregarded. In an age which craved for knowledge that went beyond all that the scientists of the day could provide, an age when there was a real longing for something less arid than the materialistic view of the world held as a virtual dogma by the intellectual élite of the world, the revelations of Blavatsky fell on most fertile ground, and after 1875 Theosophical Society branches sprang up everywhere. Other theosophists besides HPB began to write books on Theosophy, some of them clearly the result of a certain degree of clairvoyance, no more under control than Blavatsky’s had been and no more conscious, but interesting enough, and often sensational enough to command readers and win new adherents for Theosophy. It was estimated that by the time of HPB’s death in 1891 there were at least 100,000 members of the Society throughout the world.
Although HPB herself had spent much of her time in the West, she was strongly attracted by India, and her revelations were much more in accord with what was known in the East than what was publicly known in the West. From the beginning therefore, in spite of the fact that Olcott was an American and the Society was strong in America, most people regarded Theosophy as primarily an Oriental movement, and such religious ideas as it possesses are far closer to those of Buddhism than of either Islam or Christianity. Steiner indeed explains that Blavatsky through her own configuration of soul was herself antagonistic to both Judaism and Christianity; and this was usual in her followers, who often entered the Theosophical Society precisely because of this antagonism to the established religions of the West. After Blavatsky’s death in 1891 Colonel Olcott remained head of the Society for the next sixteen years. But the real leader was an Englishwoman, a former freethinker named Annie Besant, who was always a thoroughgoing Orientalist, much more interested in Oriental teachings than in anything that stemmed from the West. She was as opposed to Christianity as HPB had been; and it was through her influence that the world headquarters of the Theosophical Society was moved to Adyar, India. Nevertheless for many years Annie Besant remained tolerant to ideas other than her own, and she respected the fact that the Society she headed from 1907 onwards was not only world wide in scope but stated in its statutes that one of its tasks was to further the brotherhood of man, and another recognized the absolute equality of all religions.
There had been theosophists in Germany from the 1870’s onwards, and many ”lodges” had been formed, perhaps as many as 400 by the turn of the century. But there was no organized national society, which by the statutes of the Theosophical Society was known as a ”section.” The lodges were made up of individuals who wished to associate together for study, and in Colonel Olcott’s opinion there was no need in Germany for anything larger and more formal. It was his view that the Germans with their sceptical and materialistic spirit would never take kindly to Theosophy. Mrs. Besant, who was a gifted and dynamic organizer, was far from being as defeatist as the Colonel, and it was she who welcomed Rudolf Steiner as a possible founder of a German section, and she was willing to agree to the terms he proposed, much though she may have regretted it later. An Italian section had been founded only a year previously, and she was willing to make the necessary concessions when a gifted scholar like Steiner who was already fairly well known became available as leader for a new German section.
Steiner had been familiar with Theosophy since his student days in Vienna, and when a German translation appeared in the early 1880’s of a book by A.P. Sinnett, an English theosophist, called Esoteric Buddhism, he was one of its first purchasers. In later years he criticized this book severely as a medley of bits and pieces put together from many occult sources, and he was not otherwise much attracted by what he saw of theosophists. He regarded Theosophy as a ”dilettante” pseudo-occult movement, and many of its members irritated him by trying to fit their occult beliefs into the ordinary scientific ideas of the time, without having any profound notions either of the occult or of science. The first book of Blavatsky’s to be published in 1877, Isis Unveiled, Steiner was likewise ready to criticize as a compilation of occult teachings, but The Secret Doctrine, published only after her death, fell into a different category. According to Steiner, there was more occult knowledge in this book than was possessed by all the occultists in the world who drew their knowledge from traditional occult sources, even if they had pooled their knowledge. This fact was recognized by the occultists themselves. For this reason those who regarded themselves as the custodians of the ancient wisdom were seriously worried by Blavatsky’s ”unauthorized” revelations. But by this time there was nothing they could do about them.
Although Steiner acknowledged the truth of so many of Blavatsky’s revelations, he never ceased criticizing the manner in which they had been presented in The Secret Doctrine, and he deplored the absence of critical spirit among her followers. But after the book’s publication he was ready to admit that Theosophy was a genuine occult movement, and from its reception he knew that there were indeed many souls who were truly searching for this kind of knowledge, even though most of it was hitherto derived from Oriental sources and contained Oriental wisdom, neglecting the Western occult tradition. It was reasonable for him to hope that it would be among the theosophists that he might well find his eventual audience, though he certainly had no expectation before the turn of the century of ever becoming a theosophist, much less the head of the movement in Germany. But he did, so to speak, keep an eye on what theosophists were doing. Looking back on the history of the Anthroposophical Society from the vantage point of 1923 Steiner spoke to its members at considerable length on the subject of the Theosophical Society and his work within it, as well as about leading personalities who belonged to the Theosophical Movement at the beginning of the century. In these lectures he spoke of how he had recognized that so many people who were searching for spiritual knowledge had gravitated toward the Theosophical Society and its many lodges precisely because there was nothing else capable of attracting their hungry and thirsty souls.33 These people he called ”homeless” ones, searchers, for whom no home on earth existed. Many of them had left the security of their homes and families and all their accustomed associations in order to seek what they needed.
Such men and women had been greatly attracted by Blavatsky’s books and those of other theosophists because of their occult and religious content, so different from anything then being offered by traditional churches and traditional philosophies. Rudolf Steiner knew that he had more to offer them when at last he would be permitted to speak. What he had to give would include a true understanding of Christianity that was notably missing from Theosophy. To use his own word for it, what he had to teach he called Geisteswissenschaft, an untranslatable word that we shall here be calling ”science of spirit,” instead of the more usual older term ”spiritual science,” which seems to many people to be a contradiction in terms. The entire content of this science of spirit was derived from his own spiritual knowledge and research, and owed nothing at all to any previous occult writings—though of course it could not contradict such writings if they were true.
The opportunity to speak for the first time to a theosophical audience was offered to Steiner through an unexpected set of circumstances. When his time as editor of the Magazine for Literature was drawing to a close, he wrote an article for the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Goethe’s birth, to which he gave the title of Goethe’s Secret Revelation. In this article he offered an interpretation of the little known fairy story by Goethe entitled ”The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily,” which formed a part of his novel Stories of German Emigrants. This story has as its theme the building of a bridge between the earthly and spiritual world by the Green Snake, who sacrifices herself to create the bridge. Clearly the story is an esoteric one, but the esoteric side of Goethe was not very well known at the time, and Steiner’s readers were apparently not at all excited by his interpretation, which, as he said, was only slightly esoteric. He does refer in the article to the ”supersensible” world and takes it for granted that it exists, and that Goethe also was well aware of it. The very detailed interpretation given by Steiner therefore was largely disregarded by the subscribers to the Magazine, who were scarcely the ”homeless ones” for whom he was searching.
In spite of this general lack of interest, one reader did become not only interested but excited, and since he was a member of the Berlin Lodge of the Theosophical Society he suggested to the leaders of the Lodge that Steiner be asked to lecture to it. It was evident to this young man that Steiner was able to talk on esoteric matters. The suggestion was taken up by Countess Brockdorff, the secretary of the Lodge, and as a result Steiner gave his first lecture to the theosophists in the library belonging to the Lodge on August 22, 1900. The lecture on the subject of Nietzsche, who had recently died, was well received and he was asked to give another on a subject of his choice. The occasion provided him with the opportunity to meet a theosophical audience for the first time, and he tells us in his autobiography that he was able to recognize that there was a genuine interest in the world of spirit among these theosophists.
For his second lecture he chose again to discuss the Goethe fairy tale. But whereas his article in the Magazine for Literature had been, as he says, ”only slightly esoteric” this lecture contained much esoteric material and was greatly appreciated by his audience, confirming Steiner in his original impression that it was among the theosophists that he would find his destined audience for the spiritual knowledge he was now ready to give. Indeed, he tells us in his autobiography that it was an important experience for him to be able for the first time to speak directly out of the spirit. From this time onwards he gave lectures regularly to the theosophists, soon afterwards beginning a series on medieval mysticism later published in English under the title Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age. In the six months from 1900 to 1901 he gave twenty-seven lectures to the Lodge.
In the same way that he had insisted when lecturing to the Workingmen’s College in Berlin that he should be permitted absolute freedom to say what he wished, he demanded a similar freedom from the theosophists. He told them that he proposed to speak entirely from his own spiritual insight, and recognized no right on the part of anyone else to censor anything he wished to say. On one occasion, for example, he was told by a member of the audience that what he was saying was not in accord with what Annie Besant was saying and writing in her books at the time. Steiner replied drily in words that simply said, in effect, Is that so? and paid no attention to the comment. At that time the Theosophical Society, the only Society of its kind that existed anywhere, was entirely free, and local Lodges could invite anyone they wanted and were accustomed to listen to anyone who had anything of a spiritual nature to impart. It is evident that some members of his audiences recognized at once that Rudolf Steiner spoke in a different way from other lecturers, and that his material was drawn from a different source. So it was natural for him to attract personal followers, even though he made no special effort to do so.
In autumn 1900 a young woman began to attend Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on mysticism at the Theosophical Lodge in Berlin. She continued to attend regularly and became a member of the Lodge. Both Steiner and Count and Countess Brockdorff remarked on the presence of this new recruit, who was destined to share Rudolf Steiner’s life and played an incalculably important part in his work. Marie von Sievers, whose ancestry on her father’s side was either Danish or Swedish, had a German mother, and had been born and brought up in Russia. Her conventional family looked upon her wish to study dramatic art with great distaste, but after her education in Russia, she insisted on being allowed to go to Paris. While studying dramatic art there she met Edouard Schuré, a distinguished French writer on esoteric subjects, who had recently become interested in Theosophy. It was he who first suggested to Fraulein von Sievers that she look into Theosophy, but she did nothing about it at the time, and had to return to St. Petersburg at the insistence of her mother who was unalterably opposed to a public career as an actress. Soon afterwards she went to Berlin to take part in further discussions about her future, and it was while there that she heard of Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on Theosophy. In his first conversation with her, in answer to a question by him as to her future career, she told him of her feeling about the living nature of speech, with which he was in profound sympathy.
Early in 1901 Marie von Sievers was asked to go to Italy to help in the founding of a Theosophical Section there, and she was working in Bologna when Dr. Steiner was asked to become first General Secretary of the German Section which the Theosophical Society leaders proposed to found if Steiner would head it. He made two conditions, the first that he should be allowed to speak as he wished, and the second that Marie von Sievers should be invited to return to Germany and become his assistant. So began the fruitful working relationship between these two powerful and determined personalities that ended only with Steiner’s death, Marie Steiner, as she had become, continuing the work with the same devotion until her own death in 1948.
On several occasions throughout his life Steiner spoke of an occult law, as he called it, under which no new initiative in occult matters should come from the occultist, or initiate himself. All such initiatives ought to come in response to questions and suggestions put by others, to which the occultist is then in a position to respond. In the series of lectures given in 1915 on The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century, to which reference was made earlier in this chapter, Steiner describes how the initiative for the work that was to be called Anthroposophy actually came into existence following a question by Marie von Sievers. She asked him if it was not necessary, urgently necessary, to call into being a ”spiritual- scientific” movement in Europe. Steiner reported himself as having answered, ”Certainly it is necessary to call such a movement to life. But I will ally myself only with a movement that is connected exclusively with Western occultism and cultivates its development . . . And I also said that such a movement must link on to Plato, to Goethe and so forth. I indicated the whole programme which was then actually carried out.”34
It is clear enough from the published documents that Steiner at all times made it obvious that he would follow his own path, and he continued to give lectures to other groups than the Theosophical Society. For example, while he was giving his lectures on mysticism to the Theosophical Lodge in Berlin in 1901 he started a series of lectures entitled From Buddha to Christ which he gave to Die Kommenden, a society that had been founded by Jacobowski, as narrated in the last chapter, a group that was more receptive to his teachings than the Giordano Bruno Bund had been. The full title of the lectures given to Die Kommenden was ”The History of Mankind’s Evolution, as shown in the World Conceptions from the Earliest Oriental Ages down to the Present Time: Or Anthroposophy.” The word anthroposophy, later to be applied to the whole movement that he founded, was thus used by him for the first time. Curiously enough, at the very moment when he was being installed as head of the new German Section of the Theosophical Society, he had to leave early in order to speak to Die Kommenden on a very Christian subject about which more will be said later—the Raising of Lazarus.
It was never at any time claimed by the theosophists that Rudolf Steiner took the initiative in becoming or asking to become general secretary of the new German Section. It was the theosophists who wanted Steiner because of his position, and Annie Besant was wholly in agreement with the move because she had long desired a Section in Germany, the most important European country in which no Section had as yet been formed. Steiner was thus provided with a forum to express his ideas as often as he wished, and he had no objection to being associated with theosophists at the beginning of the century. As yet there was no ”party line,” and there was no pressure on him from any quarter. This situation changed when Mrs. Besant wished to put forward an Indian youth as the reincarnated Christ—a plan that was wholly repugnant to Steiner and, according to his own interpretation of Christianity, impossible. In any event it seems unlikely that a single Society could hold two such different personalities as Rudolf Steiner and Annie Besant, and the ”marriage of convenience,” as it may reasonably be called, between the Orientalism of Annie Besant and the Christianity of Steiner, was likely to survive only for as long as Mrs. Besant, as president of the world-wide Theosophical Society, was prepared to let the German Section under Steiner’s leadership follow its own path undisturbed by her. She allowed it to go its own way for several years, during which the membership of the German Section increased with a notable regularity. Almost all its members were followers of Steiner by the time of the split with the Theosophical Society in 1912. Even so, in some German cities his audiences were small, while when he travelled to distant places in Europe to give lectures he might in the end speak to only a handful. But in his mind all the efforts were thoroughly worth while, since lectures even to pitifully small audiences were, as he said, heard by spiritual beings and the dead.
Among the theosophical leaders who were anxious for Steiner to take over the theosophical work and form a section were the Berlin leaders Count and Countess Brockdorff who wished for personal reasons to leave Berlin, but did not wish to abandon their work. They offered Marie von Sievers the apartment in which the Theosophical Library was housed and Rudolf Steiner then gave his consent to becoming General Secretary and permanent teacher of the Lodge. Immediately after these decisions had been made both Steiner and Marie von Sievers were invited to England to attend a Congress where they could meet Annie Besant. This Congress of July 1902 was the first that either of them had attended. Both on this occasion were guests, since the charter for the new Section had not yet been received from Colonel Olcott in Adyar.
The official report of the Theosophical Congress of 1902 includes an account of a speech made by Rudolf Steiner which was translated into English by Marie von Sievers, who was a gifted linguist and possessed a good command of several languages. In this speech Steiner told his audience that there was much latent good will toward Theosophy in Germany, and a strong desire to seek for spiritual knowledge. But as yet there was little knowledge of theosophical teachings, though within the movement there, many earnest workers. However, among the educated classes rationalistic philosophy had won a firm foothold, and it might prove very difficult to dislodge it. By contrast, within German idealistic philosophy there were several key thinkers who might well be thought of as true theosophists, as, for example, Leibnitz, Schelling, Fichte and Hegel, and Theosophy should now be brought within the framework of the thought of these men. Lastly, Steiner stressed that as General Secretary of the German Section he would always be opposed to the promulgation of any dogmas, and it would be his invariable aim to foster independent spiritual research.
As always when they visited important scientific and artistic centers in the different European cities, Rudolf Steiner and Marie von Sievers used every spare minute to visit museums, art exhibitions, and historical monuments. In most of these centers Marie von Sievers, who had received a very thorough artistic education, was able to be of great help to Rudolf Steiner, who, in turn, could from his own spiritual understanding give her further insights into what they viewed together. Although he scarcely saw Annie Besant during this initial English visit Steiner did make many other contacts within the English Section, and was very favorably impressed by the degree of culture and education of the English members, realizing at first hand why it was that the real center of the Theosophical work in the world was now in England. Many English members were deeply rooted in Western culture, and were not attracted so much by Oriental religions and philosophies as they were later. In his autobiography Steiner speaks very favorably of Bertram Keightley who later translated his lectures on Haeckel, and who had been intimately acquainted with Madame Blavatsky. Keightley shared reminiscences of her with Rudolf Steiner, making her ”come alive” for him, while he also became acquainted with G.R.S. Mead, a noted author of works on Gnosticism and Oriental religions. Mr. Leadbeater he did not meet though he heard him speak. Leadbeater ”made no special impression on me.”
On his return to Germany Steiner found that the members in the many different Lodges were by no means unanimous in their support of the new venture of founding a Section of the Theosophical Society, and there was much overt and covert opposition to him. But now that his decision had been taken and the charter applied for he did not waver, and when it finally arrived Mrs. Besant came over from England to present it to him and to inaugurate the new Section on behalf of the Theosophical Society. The inaugural meeting was held in Berlin on October 18th, 1902, just ten days after the disastrous lecture on Monism and Theosophy given to the Giordano Bruno Bund which was described at the end of the last chapter. During the course of this inauguration meeting Annie Besant gave a lecture in English on the purposes of Theosophy, of which Steiner gave a digest in German. She then visited several other towns in Germany where there were scattered members of the Theosophical Society and lectured there. But once Rudolf Steiner had become the leader of the German Section of the Society the vast majority of members tended to gravitate toward the Section, leaving only a few exceptionally persistent devotees of Oriental wisdom to continue on their old paths independently of him. A few of the old leaders also resented his leadership and preferred to remain in charge of their local Lodges. If there had been no break with the Theosophical Society over Mrs. Besant’s determination to put forward Krishnamurti as the reincarnated Christ, it might indeed have been possible, as Steiner was later to write in his autobiography, for Theosophy and Anthroposophy to have amalgamated in a peaceful and organic manner, at least in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria-Hungary for which countries he was responsible, and where he lectured tirelessly during the decade following the inauguration of the German Section.
Of crucial importance to this early work was the devotion shown by Marie von Sievers, who threw herself heart and soul into it, and made possible Rudolf Steiner’s single-minded devotion to what we shall already call Anthroposophy, although the word was not used as long as Steiner remained within the theosophical fold. When Theosophy is spoken of hereafter, the word will refer to the movement centered in Adyar, India, and headed after the death of Col. Olcott in 1907 by Annie Besant. Frl. von Sievers took care of the entire organization of the material needs of herself and Steiner, and when the magazine Luzifer, later Luzifer-Gnosis, was founded in order to publish Dr. Steiner’s teachings, she performed the work of organizing it, taking care of subscribers and the like. The Magazine for Literature had been handed over to more suitable owners and editors on September 29, 1900, and until the new magazine appeared in June, 1903, no Anthroposophical periodical was available.
A casualty of the new task that Steiner had undertaken was his wife Anna, formerly Anna Eunike. She had been able to enter into his previous life most comfortably, making a home for him, going on picnics with him, welcoming the students who visited them. But she had neither interest in, nor under-standing of his theosophical path. Hence, although she was present at the lecture to the Giordano Bruno Bund Rudolph describes her as ”strangely withdrawn and closed up, speaking very little.” The work with Anthroposophy that was to occupy her husband in the future could not be shared with her. And indeed, as we have seen, destiny had provided for Steiner an ideal co-worker, without whom he could not even have begun his public work, and whose question, as we have seen, had to be asked before Steiner felt free to begin his new work. In the spring of 1903 Steiner therefore moved out of the home he had shared with his wife in the Berlin suburb, and moved into a house which was to be the headquarters of the Theosophical Section in Berlin, where the new magazine was written and edited, and where Frl. von Sievers also set up her own working and living quarters. In this house, and working outwards from it into all parts of Germany and neighboring countries, the initial expansion of Anthroposophy took place, and during the course of the next few years all the fundamental anthroposophical books were written and published, Marie von Sievers opening her own publishing house when the need for it became obvious. When Steiner gave his lectures elsewhere than in Berlin, invariably Marie von Sievers made the arrangements and accompanied him, even though the audiences might be made up in the end of only five or six members, and the journey thus represented a serious financial loss. The lectures themselves, however, were usually taken down either in outline or verbatim, and form part today of the anthroposophical corpus of about 6000 lectures.
Interest in Theosophy in the Western world was, at least in part, an aspect of the increasing interest in Oriental art, philosophy and religion that accompanied the growth of scientific materialism in the West in the nineteenth century. Great numbers of men and women whose parents and grandparents had accepted Christianity as a matter of course suddenly began to think that a belief in the teachings of Christianity was no longer scientifically respectable. This attitude was characteristic of such groups as the Giordano Bruno Bund, which adopted Giordano Bruno as its hero because Giordano had been one of the last men to be put to death by the Inquisition because of his heretical (and scientific) views. Almost all Roman Catholic countries also harbored anticlerical movements. Above all it was extremely unfashionable at the end of the century to acknowledge one’s faith in Christianity.
However, this was not true of Oriental religions, including both Hinduism and Buddhism. These were exotic religions, not traditional ones, and Oriental philosophy, though not easily comprehensible in the West, was at least not based on something that freethinkers regarded as scientifically impossible, namely the Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven of its martyred founder. At most such men might be willing to accept the Incarnation of a very superior kind of human being who could in some respects perhaps be thought of as superhuman. By contrast such a religion as Buddhism in its purest form in no way strained human credulity. Buddha was not a god; even though some of his followers had deified him after his death, it was certainly not an essential part of the Buddhist religion that its founder should be regarded as a god. Hindu philosophical thought was of a very high order, and some Oriental religious practices could be regarded as beneficial, even for health. So it was not at all unnatural that Annie Besant, as a former freethinker, should have found Oriental philosophy, and even Oriental religion much more acceptable than the traditional Christianity that she had abandoned in her youth. Undoubtedly she, and many theosophists who followed her, regarded Oriental wisdom as truly more ”spiritual” than Western Christianity at the turn of the century, on which materialism had already laid its hand, and far less ”superstitious” than many of the dogmas supposedly believed by Western Christians.
In the second half of 1900 Rudolf Steiner had already given his series of lectures in the Brockdorff Library on eleven leading mystics of the early modern period, all of whom were Christians. In the course of these lectures he did introduce a little of the spiritual knowledge that only he possessed, and the orientation given to the lectures could scarcely have been given by anyone else at the time. Nevertheless the lectures, although they go deeply into the particular experiences of the mystics dealt with, and they are described with the greatest sympathy, do not reveal the Christian viewpoint of Steiner himself. As he dryly comments in one of his introductions to these lectures, he was accused of being a Haeckelian when he described Haeckel’s ideas with sympathy, and even of being a Nietzschean when he wrote his book on Nietzsche. When these lectures on mysticism were published in book form the following year many theosophists approved of their content, especially among the English members, and the publication of this book was one of the reasons for the invitation extended to him to visit the Theosophical Congress in London in 1902.
In the second half of 1901 Steiner again gave a series of lectures to the Theosophical Lodge in Berlin which was received favorably by most of the members, and this series was published the following year under the title Christianity as Mystical Fact. Here he revealed much esoteric knowledge, especially about the ancient Mysteries, his essential purpose being to show how the Incarnation of Christ Jesus was a fulfillment on the earthly plane of what had previously been enacted symbolically in the Mysteries. To this small private audience Steiner therefore revealed for the first time much that had never been spoken of publicly before. Indeed probably very few of the members possessed any knowledge at all of the Mysteries, of which Steiner was to say so much in the course of the years to come. The culminating moment of the lectures was his explanation of the so-called ”miracle” of the raising of Lazarus, which is described only in the John Gospel, as an actual initiation performed by Christ Jesus himself, and not, as is ordinarily supposed, the raising to life of a man who had died in the ordinary course of natural events. As a consequence of this initiation Lazarus was the first person truly to comprehend the new Mystery centered on Christ, called by Steiner the Mystery of Golgotha. It is also made clear from these lectures that Lazarus had been fundamentally changed by his initiation and that because of it he was later able to write the John Gospel. He alone among the Evangelists knew, through his initiation, that Christ was the Logos or Word, which was with God in the Beginning, as the Gospel puts it. Steiner later calls this Evangelist Lazarus-John, since he had received the name of John after his initiation. But he avoided making the matter quite clear in these lectures, so that the members of the audience did not perhaps as yet grasp the full meaning of what he was saying.
However, after these lectures nothing could have been more certain than that Rudolf Steiner had something new and revolutionary to say about Christianity, and that Christ Himself was its Center, a divine being who had indeed become man—as it was also clear from the many lectures he gave about Buddha that Buddha was a man, who through his enlightenment under the bo tree became a Buddha and thus escaped from the Wheel of Rebirth, and never again had to incarnate as a man. Steiner, indeed, always spoke of Buddha with the utmost respect, and in later years he told members of his deeds after death and how from the spiritual worlds he was present at the birth of Jesus on the earth. Buddha had a particular task to perform for mankind during his last incarnation on the earth and he performed it. After his death he passed on to other, purely spiritual tasks, performed from the spiritual world. The task of Christ Jesus was a different one, and it still is being performed today; and Rudolf Steiner undoubtedly regarded it as his principal task on earth to show to mankind the truth of the Deed of Christ and how Christ works on, as He Himself declared when He said: ”I am with you to the end of the world ages.”
This very brief introduction to Steiner’s mission as the inaugurator of Anthroposophy, which included a new Christology, necessarily brings up the question of how it was possible for Steiner to give such new ”revelations” to mankind, and whether he was claiming to be another prophet, with a message from God to be proclaimed to men. We have spoken in earlier chapters of his gift of clairvoyance, and how he was able to perceive beings in the world of spirit that are not ordinarily perceptible, and are in any event never perceptible by the five senses recognized by science. This gift he never lost, but he made every effort to acquire the fullest possible knowledge about the teachings of conventional science, while also making a systematic effort that was continued all through his life to put into conceptual form his actual perceptions in the world of spirit. By means of systematic exercises his capacity for perceiving in the spiritual world was enhanced. In a series of essays, first published in Luzifer-Gnosis, and later in book form under the title Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Attained? he tells his readers exactly how they can acquire this knowledge for themselves, through the processes he calls Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition, which constitute distinct stages on the path. At a certain stage along the path it becomes possible for the pupil to perceive into the spiritual worlds, and as he progresses, his perceptions can become ever clearer and fuller, above all more exact.
A sceptical reader might be willing to concede that higher powers latent in man can be developed by systematic effort along the lines proposed by Rudolf Steiner. But this is a very long way from conceding that all the knowledge given out by Steiner, including knowledge of what actually happened in Palestine in the time of Christ, could be acquired directly by any kind of spiritual vision, however systematically developed. If one is to be convinced that Steiner could in truth acquire such knowledge, and that the knowledge is in fact in accordance with truth, it seems to me that we have no option but to take it at least as a working hypothesis that Steiner was speaking the truth when he claimed that he had the ability to read what has always been called, in the East and West alike, the Akashic Record, or better, the Akasha Chronicle. There is no way of proving or disproving his claim, but at least Steiner supported it with as much evidence as he could. He stated exactly what the Akasha Chronicle is, and he explained, if in a somewhat guarded manner, how he gradually acquired the ability to read it and how others could follow in the same path and learn to read it themselves. He warned all those who heard him and read his writings that they must accept nothing he said or wrote on blind faith, but must test it in every possible way and especially whether what he said at different times was always internally consistent—a very difficult feat for a liar—as well as consistent with all that is truly known from other sources (which of course does not include temporary scientific hypotheses).
Everything that has ever happened on earth, Steiner tells us, and even events that have taken place in the spiritual worlds, are indelibly recorded, not by an earthly or even by a heavenly scribe, but imprinted, while they are happening, in what he calls the ”astral light.” Though few occultists are able to ”read” it, they have always been aware of the existence of this Akasha Chronicle, which we may imagine as a kind of infinitely wide memory. Our own memories are mysterious enough, even to ourselves, and we should recognize that they do not exist in space, only in time, and that they are in all respects immaterial. We can conceive that some other human being could ”read” in our memories because they are not spatially attached to us; and it should be fairly easy to conceive that their contents might well be able to survive long after our bodies have decayed and been forgotten. Indeed, some well-known mediumistic phenomena are perhaps best explained as resulting from the accessibility of our memories to beings other than ourselves. The sum total of all memories, not only our own, but those also of higher beings, constitutes the Akasha Chronicle, and Steiner tells us that at a certain stage of initiation it becomes possible for a man to ”read” it. This does not mean that he can necessarily understand what he ”sees”; the depth and profundity of a man’s vision into the Chronicle depends upon the degree of his development, while his ability to understand depends on many more factors that need not be entered into here.
Steiner tells us a little of his own development in Chapters 32 and 33 of his autobiography. ”While carrying out the plans together with Marie von Sievers for the external activity,” he writes, ”I elaborated the findings of my spiritual vision. On the one hand I stood within the spiritual world in full consciousness. About the year 1902 and in the years following I had imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions regarding many things. But only gradually were these combined into what I then gave out publicly in my writings. . . . During the years from 1901 to approximately 1907 or 1908 I stood with all the forces of my soul under the impression of the facts and Beings of the spiritual world that were drawing near to me. Out of the experience of the spiritual world in general developed specific details of knowledge.”
The rest of Chapter 33, which deserves careful study by those who doubt Rudolf Steiner’s gifts and capacities, is devoted to the struggle in which he engaged in order to be able to speak in a suitably scientific manner about the knowledge he had won of the spiritual worlds. It seems unthinkable that he should while on his deathbed have devoted some of the little strength that remained to him to a detailed account of the difficulties involved in translating his spiritual experiences into an acceptable scientific form, so that they could be communicated to mankind, if he had never had the experiences at all. That he could have invented all that he tells us from the Akasha Chronicle, seems equally unthinkable. His judgment may be doubted, as we may also have reasonable doubts about his understanding of all that he saw, and even his ability to remember it. The existence of the Akasha Chronicle, as we have said, is attested by all occultists before him who have spoken of the matter as well as by Rudolf Steiner himself. Whether Steiner’s own vision was blurred, or his understanding and judgment impaired, must be left to the discernment of those who read his books and lectures, to say nothing of his autobiography; and it is also legitimate to take into consideration the practical work inspired by his vision and understanding. In this book all that can be done is to assume that he was speaking the truth as he perceived it, and to report what he did as the result of his vision, leaving to those who read the book the task of judging his deeds, and the vision that inspired them.
During the first years of his work within the Theosophical Society Rudolf Steiner was able to teach and lecture more or less exactly as he wished, probably experiencing less opposition from any source than at any later time. His lecturing activity was enormous. He travelled widely, while Marie von Sievers spent her energies unstintingly in arranging for all the public work so that as little responsibility fell on Steiner himself as possible; at the same time she looked after his material needs. Around her also grew up a devoted band of workers, ready to undertake the multifarious duties concerned with the publication of his books as well as the recording or taking full notes on his lectures, at a period when tape machines had not yet been invented and everything had to be done without mechanical aids. Membership in the Section grew with regularity, including foreign members who asked to join the German Section because they believed that Steiner really had something to say that was not being said by other theosophists. Many accounts are extant telling of the impression he made on his audiences, even on those who were originally sceptical.
Nevertheless all opposition to him within Germany did not disappear. Steiner’s insistence on placing the Christ event at the center of all history, and his failure to emphasize what most theosophists had always regarded as the superiority of Oriental philosophy to anything that had come out of the West, offended many old members. Others also objected to the manner in which Steiner taught, ”as one having authority,” and to his neglect of the published theosophical literature—even though he did occasionally go out of his way to praise some newly published book by a theosophist, when the book merited such recognition.
His greatest personal triumph in these years was surely his success in Paris in the summer of 1906. A Theosophical Congress lasting a few days was held in Paris, and Steiner attended and lectured, as was his custom and duty. But at the same time another conference took shape in a Parisian suburb (Passy), originally attended almost exclusively by Russians and Germans. It was indeed held on the initiative of several distinguished Russians including the poet Minski, and the novelist Merejkovsky, who had invited Steiner to lecture in Russia itself, a plan which had to be abandoned after the 1905 revolution and the subsequent continued unrest. So the Russians came to Paris instead, and a house was put at their disposal, in which everything was improvised, including a commissariat that was able to feed all the participants. Here Rudolf Steiner gave a course of eighteen introductory lectures, of which an outline has been preserved, written by Edouard Schuré, the distinguished French writer on esoteric subjects. His two major books The Great Initiates and The Genesis of Tragedy were widely read at the time and have still not lost their interest, while his outline of Rudolf Steiner’s lectures at Passy has remained in print in French under the title of L’esoterisme chrétien, and was recently published in English under the title of An Esoteric Cosmology. Schuré, who thus met Rudolf Steiner for the first time, was evidently tremendously impressed by him, publicly stating in the introduction to one of his books that now at last he had met with a real initiate in life—something he had never expected, though he had devoted so much of his own life to the study of long dead initiates of earlier times.
The lectures at Passy, attended at first by a couple of dozen persons, were later thronged by as many as could be squeezed into the house, until at last the French Section of the Theosophical Society, whose leaders resented Steiner’s extracurricular activities, was shamed into offering him an adequate hall where he finished the cycle. The French Section was largely made up of theosophical traditionalists, who regarded Steiner as an upstart German who was trying to steal the limelight by teaching his own brand of Theosophy, so different from what they had known hitherto. That he should have done this in Paris, the center of world culture, and impressed such a man as Edouard Schuré as well as the distinguished Russians who had come to Paris to hear him, and not to attend the Theosophical Congress, was a bitter pill for the traditionalists to swallow. Nevertheless there were other members who appreciated Steiner, and in later years when he visited Paris he was always assured of an appreciative if not very numerous audience.
It has been noted earlier that in 1903 Rudolf Steiner founded a new magazine as the organ of the German Section of the Theosophical Society. To this magazine he gave the title of Luzifer—the light bearer, to be distinguished from the supersensible being of that name—and the following year another magazine called Gnosis was acquired, the two amalgamating under the single title of Luzifer-Gnosis. Now at last Steiner had at his disposal a periodical which, unlike the Magazine for Literature, owed no allegiance to anyone else, and did not have to cater for a group of subscribers who expected something other than they received. The new magazine was a pronounced success from the beginning, and its list of subscribers grew by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately it had to be prepared by a tiny staff, and Rudolf Steiner was almost the sole contributor. He later recalled how he and Marie von Sievers would address all the wrappers themselves as soon as the issues arrived from the printers, and they then carried all the packages to the Post Office in one, and as time went on in several laundry baskets. In the end it was necessary to circulate the magazine through a commercial distributor. But by this time Steiner could not find the time to write the material because of his numerous other commitments, and the magazine began to appear only at very irregular intervals, to the despair of the unfortunate distributor. By 1909 it had to be abandoned altogether, but by this time Marie Steiner had founded her own publishing house in Berlin, which was to publish thereafter the bulk of Rudolf Steiner’s books. It was able to pay him a modest royalty, which then and thereafter constituted the sole reliable, and often the only source he had of personal income. This publishing house was transferred to Dornach during the German inflation, and soon afterwards it became the official publishing organization of the General Anthroposophical Society.
Luzifer-Gnosis published Steiner’s major book on self development in serial form in 1904 and 1905. When it appeared later as a book in 1909 under the title Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Attained? it was little changed. His first account of Atlantis and Lemuria was also published first in Luzifer-Gnosis under the title of From the Akasha Chronicle, but the material in this book was enlarged and in some respects modified when the knowledge had become, as Steiner admitted, more ”mature” in him. It was then incorporated in the many successive editions of An Outline of Occult Science (first edition 1910). The earlier book nevertheless remains in print in English under the title Cosmic Memory. An apparent sequel to Knowledge of the Higher Worlds also appeared in Luzifer-Gnosis, but this publication occurred during the period when the magazine was appearing irregularly, and the book, now published under the title Stages of Higher Knowledge (formerly The Gates of Knowledge) consists of some valuable information not in the earlier work, but does not constitute a systematic sequel.
It should be noted here that Rudolf Steiner did not write many books, and each book that he did write was checked with considerable care. Most of them were revised at least once during his lifetime. The Goethean books and The Philosophy of Freedom discussed in earlier chapters, together with the three books of a fundamental nature that will be discussed here, constitute the basic anthroposophic writings, to which perhaps should be added two shorter works on the path of knowledge, published under the titles A Road to Self-Knowledge (1912) and The Threshold of the Spiritual World (1913). Among Steiner’s other books are the Mystery Dramas, which will be discussed briefly in a later chapter, three important books published during the War, entitled The Riddles of Philosophy, The Riddle of Man, and Riddles of the Soul; his fundamental book on the social order, usually published in English under the title The Threefold Commonwealth (most recently translated as Towards Social Renewal), and the unfinished autobiography from which many extracts have been given, published in German under the title Mein Lebensgang, which in one English translation appeared as The Course of My Life, while the most recent translation was simply entitled Rudolf Steiner: an Autobiography. Almost all of his work that is now available in book form was originally given out as lectures, or cycles of lectures, on a single subject. Very few of these lectures were edited for publication by Steiner himself, since in his later life he lacked the time to do any editing or revision. A few of his earlier series of lectures, such as those published under the title of Christianity as Mystical Fact he did personally prepare for publication, and even published new editions during his lifetime. But such work became impossible for him while he was lecturing almost every day, sometimes giving more than one lecture within twenty-four hours. It therefore fell to his collaborators, and later his heirs, to publish his lectures which had been taken down more or less accurately, by stenographers. Some of them of an esoteric nature, that had been given originally only to members, were withheld from publication for many years. Then in 1923 with the founding of the General Anthroposophical Society with headquarters at the Goetheanum at Dornach, the decision was taken to make all the lectures public, with a note added by the publishers to the effect that a minimum of prior knowledge was needed before new readers could make up their minds on the subject matter of these lectures, and that criticisms not based on such knowledge would have to be disregarded.
In the present book which is written as a biography of Rudolf Steiner no attempt has been made to present Steiner’s writings and lectures in a systematic manner, and the reader is referred to the books and lectures by Steiner himself and by other writers, including a rather detailed study by the present author entitled Man and World in the Light of Anthroposophy. However in the present chapter there will be some exceptions to this general rule. During the period when Rudolf Steiner headed the German Section of the Theosophical Society he presented to the membership and to the general public almost all his fundamental teachings, and if his life work is to be understood as a whole, at least an effort should be made by the reader to study the content of the three books in which the greater part of these teachings was embodied. These books are: Theosophy (1904); Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Attained? (1904-1909), and An Outline of Occult Science (1910). A few pages will therefore be devoted to these books, with the warning that the summary treatment which is all that can be given can in no way do justice to them, and no digest of them can have any usefulness beyond indicating the nature and scope of the contents.
Theosophy, that is to say the book of this name, is concerned above all with man himself, his nature, his destiny, his experience between death and rebirth, and—more briefly—how he can win for himself knowledge of the higher worlds. In 1904 when the book was published, Rudolf Steiner was still in the process of inventing Western terms for concepts that were common currency in the East and were familiar enough to most theosophists. The Oriental concepts were therefore given in Sanskrit words, for which Rudolf Steiner substituted words of his own coining in later editions. Only a few Sanskrit words were retained in Steiner’s latest formulations, and his new terms had usually the advantage of greater precision, at least in German, though often enough they go only very reluctantly into English. In any event, in these fundamental books Steiner is careful to explain exactly what he means by the words he uses, but no one should pretend they are easy to understand, nor that they yield their secrets at the first attempt.
The first chapter of Theosophy, in particular, is extremely dense and undoubtedly requires concentrated study, perhaps for several years. Here man is first discussed as a threefold being, of body, soul, and spirit, as was believed by the Christian Church until the belief was declared heretical in the ninth century. However, to view the nature of man as threefold is by no means the only way of viewing him, and these three elements by no means exhaust his nature. He possesses three sheaths more or less attached to the earth, three higher principles which are present as yet only in embryo, and in the center he has the ”I,” the very core of his being, through which his lower three are being transformed into his higher three principles. From this point of view man is therefore a sevenfold being. Lastly he may be regarded as having already developed certain soul qualities as the result of the activity of his I. If one looks upon man from this point of view he becomes a ninefold being. The I as such disappears as a principle, to be substituted by the three differentiated souls, known as the sentient soul, the intellectual soul, and the consciousness soul, important concepts in Anthroposophy which will be mentioned occasionally in this book, but cannot be described further here.
The second chapter of Theosophy was revised time and again by Rudolf Steiner as he tried to make ever more precise his teachings on reincarnation and karma, notions on which there was and is so much misunderstanding in the West. The Sanskrit word ”karma” Steiner retained throughout his life, never substituting a Western equivalent, for the excellent reason that the concept of karma has hitherto been foreign to Western thinking, and no Western language therefore includes a word for it. Reincarnation, as such, that is the notion that the same individuality returns to the earth in different epochs, is an idea that has been held by many eminent Westerners, including Goethe and Lessing. But the purpose behind reincarnation, its real significance, is generally unknown. What Steiner taught was that a human being brings with him into a subsequent life on earth a framework of destiny that has been determined by previous lives on earth. The human I after death gradually casts off its three bodily sheaths and then passes into the spiritual world, where, with the aid of higher beings, it elaborates for itself its karma for the next life on earth. Man is thus given the opportunity to compensate for his previous evil deeds, while at the same time any spiritual progress that he has made in his earlier incarnations will also be reflected in the karma that he brings with him to his new life on earth. In this new earthly life we do not, except in very rare cases, have any conscious knowledge of our karma, but it is always present in our subconscious, and while we are asleep. It is of course also known to those higher beings who guide us through life.
In the last year of his life Steiner gave several series of lectures on the successive incarnations of a number of individuals, most of whom are known to history in at least one of their incarnations. These lectures contributed immeasurably to the deepening of the concept of karma. But even if Steiner had been able to give out such information in 1904—as he was not—it would have been incomprehensible without the information contained in the earlier work. Indeed, nowhere else are his teachings on reincarnation and karma described as clearly and succinctly as in this second chapter of Theosophy.
In the third chapter the style of the book changes in a marked manner, as Steiner proceeds to describe the world after death. During the first stage between death and rebirth man passes through ”kamaloca,” (another Sanskrit word without an English equivalent), where he experiences within himself all that during his earthly life others have experienced through his deeds. The early Church was aware of this region through which the human soul passes after death, and gave it the name of purgatory, but, once it had lost the idea of reincarnation, purgatory became merely a place where the human being expiated his sins before continuing on to heaven. In Steiner’s teachings kamaloca provides man with knowledge essential for him if he is to make the resolution to compensate in his next life for the evil he has committed in this. After kamaloca man is no longer linked to the life he has just lived, and passes through various experiences in the realm of spirit which are described in detail in this third chapter of Theosophy.
The fourth and last chapter of Theosophy describes one of the paths of knowledge available to mankind in this present age. It differs in some respects from the paths given in his other two fundamental books. There is no contradiction between the paths, as each is treated from a different point of view.
Immediately after the publication of Theosophy, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Attained? began to appear in instalments in Lucifer-Gnosis, as noted earlier. This book, fundamental though it is, need not detain us long here. The first half consists of a somewhat informal, even conversational discussion of the nature of the path that leads to higher knowledge, with detailed instructions, given by one who has already followed the path to those who wish to follow in his footsteps. This half was originally published separately and entitled The Way of Initiation; the second half was called Initiation and its Results. These two titles still explain the actual content of the work better than any others. The second half describes the spiritual organs that are awakened and brought into action as the result of initiation, and how when they are active certain spiritual experiences follow, a description of which brings the book to a close.
During the years from 1903 to 1909 Rudolf Steiner began to reveal much from the Akasha Chronicle, as we have already explained. In particular he gave details on Atlantis and Lemuria, earlier prehistoric ages of our earth; and it then began to appear necessary to discuss previous embodiments of the Earth itself (known to occultists as Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon). During these periods of the scarcely thinkable remote past the germ was laid down by higher beings of what was later to become man. An understanding of these remote epochs therefore becomes necessary if man’s antecedents are to be understood, and by what stages he became man—finally on the Earth and during Earth evolution taking on a bodily form and becoming at last visible.
Over these years Steiner spoke much on the subject of human evolution from the time of Old Saturn to now, and he began to work systematically on a fundamental book which should contain all that he had been teaching piece-meal until then. In August, 1906, he began a series of lectures in Stuttgart, in which he gave out much of what was later to be incorporated into An Outline of Occult Science. This cycle, at present in print in English under the title At the Gates of Spiritual Science is still a good introduction to the subject, but it can scarcely take the place of An Outline of Occult Science, which was worked over for three more years before he would allow it to go forward to publication. Every few years after its original publication early in 1910 it was revised again by Steiner, who constantly tried to give it more precision. The first three chapters of the book describe man from a different point of view from that given in Theosophy, and the chapter ”Sleep and Death” is indeed quite different from anything in the earlier book. Chapters 5 onwards offer still a third path of knowledge different in many essentials from those given in the two earlier works. But the great originality of Occult Science consists in the immense Chapter 4 which gives a picture of evolution from Old Saturn to the present time, with its fulcrum the Mystery of Golgotha. Indeed, everything in the book makes clear the central importance of Christ and Christianity, which were not included at all in the earlier books. Nowhere else is all this information enclosed in so restricted a space, and yet the whole remains crystal clear, so that perhaps as many beginners in Anthroposophy start with this book as with any other. It remains absolutely indispensable for anyone wishing to enter Anthroposophy seriously. Even on his deathbed Steiner corrected proofs for the last German edition published in his lifetime, and this edition, like the others, continued to provide further explanations and clarifications.
Since it was Steiner’s teachings on Christianity that above all distinguished Anthroposophy from traditional Theosophy and played a major part in his separation from the Theosophical Society, it seems fitting to devote the rest of this chapter on the Theosophical period to a fairly detailed presentation of these teachings, even though this procedure will take us beyond the period of the separation, and on as far as the War. Anthroposophy itself is, of course, unthinkable without Christianity, if only for the reason that the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ Jesus (sometimes collectively called by Rudolf Steiner, the Mystery of Golgotha) alone made human evolution upwards possible on the earth. Up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha mankind was not only not yet free, but man did not even have as yet the possibility of winning freedom for himself. Having originally been directly aware of the existence of the divine spiritual worlds and of the gods as the result of a clairvoyance shared by everyone, men gradually lost this faculty, and in the course of time developed the capacity to think for themselves, while having no direct knowledge of the spiritual worlds nor of the divine beings above man. Until the Mystery of Golgotha men followed a path of involution, becoming ever more deeply incarnated in their bodies, and lacking the possibility of learning for themselves the truths of the spiritual worlds because they could no longer develop the necessary faculties. A direct intervention from the spiritual worlds had therefore become necessary if man was to evolve in accordance with the original divine plan. One divine being therefore chose through a deed of sacrifice to incarnate as man for a period of three years. This Being, the Christ, made it possible not only for man to set foot on the path of evolution but also for the Earth itself to be redeemed from the same hardening process that had up to this time, as a result of the Fall in Lemurian times, been man’s lot.
Theosophists had always held that there was no great difference between religions, and for this reason that the utmost tolerance should be observed toward all of them. According to them, every religion possessed its germ of truth, though some of them were more developed than others. It will be clear from even this inadequate description of Steiner’s teachings on Christianity that Christianity is quite different from any other religion. But this does not mean that anthroposophists are expected to be ”converted” to Christianity or to any of its branches. For Steiner Christianity was simply a fact, and in the far future it would indeed cease to be a religion at all. Or, as he put it in the title of one of his lectures given a few days before his cycle on the Gospel of St. John: ”Christianity began as a Religion but is Greater than all Religions.” Meanwhile each of the existing religions was appreciated by him on its own merits as a partial revelation of spiritual truths and characteristic of a particular historical epoch.
The lectures given to the Berlin lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1901 and published under the title Christianity as Mystical Fact are still one of the best introductions to Steiner’s teachings on Christianity. In them he makes clear how the deed of Christ was a fulfillment on the stage of the world of what had been enacted as a ritual in the ancient Mysteries, and its culmination was, as we have noted earlier, the initiation of Lazarus by Christ Himself. Thereafter Lazarus became John, ”the disciple whom Jesus loved,” as he is always called in the Gospel that he himself wrote. The first of the great cycles on the Gospels was given a full seven years later, at Hamburg, during the Whitsuntide season of 1908. Fittingly enough, this cycle, which included material already given in individual lectures to different audiences, was concerned with the Gospel of St. John, a Gospel that as we have noted, John was able to write only because of his initiation. As has always been recognized, in many respects this is the most profound of the four Gospels, and its first chapter, in particular, which is quite unique in all Christian literature, identifies Christ with the Logos or Word, which ”became flesh and dwelt among us.” Much of Steiner’s exposition is devoted to the elucidation of this great mystery of the Logos, while another striking section is concerned with the I Am sayings (”I Am the Light of the World”; ”I Am the true Vine”; ”I am the Resurrection and the Life,” and others). The whole cycle, although remaining incomplete for lack of a competent stenographer, remains one of the most inspiring ever given by Steiner, and numerous members of the Anthroposophical Society first came into the movement through reading it.
In later times Rudolf Steiner was to explain that none of the Gospels is written as an ordinary eye-witness account or from oral testimony collected by the Evangelists, least of all from historical documents because, as he says, they do not exist. It is true that some passages in the John Gospel bear the stamp of personal participation, as, for example when John personally asked Christ Jesus a question at the Last Supper and received an answer that only he could have heard. John’s account of the Crucifixion is clearly also first hand. By contrast, no human being could possibly have heard with his own ears Christ’s prayer to His Father (Chap. 17). Steiner tells us, in fact, that not only John but all the four Evangelists had been initiated, and as a result were able to write directly out of their inner perception of the events they record. This fact explains the presence of four living creatures who in early Christian art so often accompanied the Evangelists. The four creatures are the symbols for the kind of initiation each Evangelist had, the eagle in the case of St. John, the lion of St. Mark, the bull of St. Luke, and the angel man in the case of St. Matthew. The different accounts given of the same events by the different Evangelists are thus explained by their particular kind of perception resulting from their initiation. Friedrich Rittelmeyer reports in his book Rudolf Steiner Enters my Life (p. 122) that he himself (a theologian of note, and a pastor) asked Steiner why the Gospel accounts differed and received the answer ”The Evangelists were not, of course, giving a historical account. There are no historical records. They tell what was revealed to them as truth after deep contemplation of the events, even when they had not actually witnessed them. And so one word came to one [in connection with the words spoken on the Cross], another to another, each according to his particular preparation.” Each account therefore supplements rather than contradicts the others, except in certain cases when two different events are being described although they may appear to be so similar that commentators often suppose they are identical. We should, according to Steiner, usually try to grasp the different viewpoint of each writer, in preference to ascribing the apparent discrepancy to ignorance or error.
Steiner’s lecture cycles on the Gospels should never be regarded as systematic commentaries. He does not take each passage and comment on it after the manner of ordinary biblical critics. Indeed he does not even usually indicate the biblical passage he is dealing with until he has already given most of his lecture. His customary procedure was to discuss a particular subject from many angles, and from a profoundly esoteric point of view. Then suddenly he would read out to his audience the passage from the Gospel that deals with that particular topic, usually in a new translation. The passage is immediately flooded with a new light, and understood as it never could have been before.
The twelve-lecture cycle at Hamburg on the John Gospel was followed the next month by an extraordinary exposition of the Apocalypse (Revelation) of St. John, in a further twelve lectures given at Nürnberg. The explanations of the visions of St. John have little resemblance to any ever given by anyone else—taking account, as they do, of the most remote ages of the past and looking forward to the most remote ages of the future. In spite of the fact that John’s vision encompasses the whole future of mankind, even in future embodiments of the Earth, the cycle can nevertheless, however strange it may seem, be used as an introduction to Anthroposophy. Steiner of course in 1908 was working on his Outline of Occult Science, and much of what he was drawing forth from the Akasha Chronicle at the time was very much in the forefront of his consciousness. So, even in a cycle on the Apocalypse the entire evolution of mankind as it appears in that book was woven into his lectures, as it was again, in somewhat more detail, in his second Gospel cycle of fourteen lectures given at Cassel in June and July, 1909 and published under the title of The Gospel of St. John in Relation to the Other Gospels, Especially the Gospel of St. Luke.
Other cycles on the Gospels followed, St. Luke later in 1909, St. Matthew in 1910, and an extraordinary cycle in 1911 entitled From Jesus to Christ. Meanwhile he had given two background cycles on Matthew and Mark in preparation for the actual cycles. St. Mark was given in Basel in 1912, and in 1913 another totally new revelation was given to members in the form of a cycle called The Fifth Gospel, which will be described later. At the turn of the year 1913-14 he gave another deeply esoteric cycle, much of which was concerned with the pre-earthly deeds of Christ (Christ and the Spiritual World) and later in 1914 he gave a short but crucially important cycle at Norrköping in Sweden called Christ and the Human Soul. When Friedrich Rittelmeyer, a Berlin pastor who later became an anthroposophist and the founder of the Christian Community, asked him why he had given no further Gospel cycles Steiner replied that during the War the spiritual worlds were too deeply disturbed for it to have been possible to draw down material of the profoundly esoteric nature at that time. Then after the War he had had to occupy himself with tasks more directly important for humanity. However, it goes without saying that Christ and Christianity were always a part of the background of his teachings in the postwar period, and he always made the assumption that the members were familiar with his prewar cycles on the Gospels.
It would be out of place here to attempt to give even an outline of the astonishing wealth of information contained in these Gospel cycles. One crucial element in Steiner’s teaching about the Christ is, however, essential to grasp—the fundamental distinction he makes between Jesus of Nazareth, the most highly developed human individuality that ever walked the earth, and the Christ who is the highest spiritual Being who takes part in earth evolution. For such a Being to be able to incarnate in a human body, preparation had to be made in the spiritual world over a long period of time, and the Hebrew people had to be set aside and separated from all other peoples so that in the fullness of time as perfect a body as possible could be provided. This body was inhabited by Jesus of Nazareth until his thirtieth year when he yielded up his own ego so that the Ego of the Christ Being could enter it. Thereafter the Christ lived in this body with its three sheaths until the death on the Cross—though, as Rudolf Steiner explains, it was not His suffering nor His relatively short exposure on the Cross that were responsible for His death. The Christ Being after three years on earth had so penetrated the sheaths that they were almost destroyed. He should not have died so soon solely from what he had physically suffered, as seems to be suggested by two passages in the Mark Gospel. When, as he records, ”Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave up the ghost,” the Roman centurion who was supervising the Crucifixion was moved to say, ”Truly this was the Son of God,” while Pilate could not believe that He was dead already and sent to the centurion for confirmation (Mark 15: 39,44).
This and other mysteries, not all of which are usually regarded as such, were cleared up by Rudolf Steiner in these cycles. In particular he emphasizes the importance of the gift of wisdom bestowed on Jesus of Nazareth when he was twelve years old, as it had once been bestowed on the young Solomon (Luke 2: 41-51; I Kings 3:9-12); and he explains the words spoken from heaven at the time of the Baptism and recorded in one of the older manuscripts of the Luke Gospel: ”This is my beloved Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” In fact, according to Steiner’s account this was indeed the first appearance of the Christ upon earth, the moment of the Incarnation; and it should be clearly distinguished from the birth of Jesus thirty years before. The words just quoted here were quoted also by St. Paul, or the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews if the writer was not Paul (Heb. 1:5), but the editors of the Gospel texts, not understanding what had happened in the Jordan, not unnaturally preferred the reading usually translated into English as ”in Whom I am well pleased.”
With the great cycle on St Mark, a Gospel that, contrary to general belief, is an exceptionally profound one, dealing as it does only with the Christ after the Baptism leaving aside altogether Jesus of Nazareth, Steiner in 1912 completed his cycles on the four canonical Gospels that appear in the Bible. Late in 1913 he began to reveal the contents of a totally different ”Gospel,” to which he gave the name of the Fifth Gospel. The original cycle was given in the Norwegian capital of Christiania (now Oslo), but the same material was repeated in the following weeks to many different audiences in Germany. In this ”Gospel” Steiner filled in at least part of a gap that has always been missing in the canonical Gospels, though various uncanonical ”gospels” and legends contain material covering this period. He drew from the Akasha Chronicle a picture of Jesus of Nazareth in the period from his twelfth year to the Baptism in the Jordan, including details, in particular, of his last years before the Baptism. He spoke of Jesus’ wanderings over the whole Near East, and he described vividly his inner sufferings, especially when he witnessed the decadence of the ancient Mysteries, and saw how demons had taken the place of the divine beings who had once been active in the Mysteries. Members present at these lectures often spoke of how Steiner seemed to be living through the experiences himself even while he was speaking. Friedrich Rittelmeyer heard the lectures when they were given at Nürnberg, and the following description is drawn from his short biography of Rudolf Steiner entitled Rudolf Steiner Enters my Life.
”A hundred or so people had gathered in the narrow premises where the Theosophical Society, as it then was, held its meetings. . . . Rudolf Steiner stood before us and spoke of the boyhood of Jesus. From my seat in the front row I was able to watch every expression. He seemed to be looking away from and beyond the audience, gazing intently at pictures before him. With the greatest delicacy of touch and a most striking alertness and caution, he proceeded to describe these pictures. Occasionally there would be an interpolation of such phrases as: ‘I cannot say precisely if the sequence here is correct, but this is how it seems to me.’ Or: ‘With all my efforts I have not been able to discover the name of the place. The fact that the name itself has been obliterated must have some significance.’ He spoke with a reverence in which there was no suggestion of servility, and stood there resolute and firm in the presence of the miraculous. An atmosphere of pure spirituality pervaded the room. It was an atmosphere purged of all feelings not born directly of the spirit—which was there in all its power. He told how the divine revelations contained in the Old Testament had dawned in all their greatness upon the soul of the boy Jesus during the years immediately following his return to Nazareth after the event in the Temple at Jerusalem, how his sorrow grew more and more intense as he realized that any true understanding of the greatness of this former revelation of the Divine was lacking among his contemporaries, how this sorrow lived within him, unexpressed and not understood by those in his environment—’a sorrow in itself far greater than all other sorrows I have known among mankind.’ But just because this sorrow was destined to dwell wholly in the inner being of the boy Jesus, he was able to ennoble it beyond all telling . . . .
”Indelible in my memory are the eyes into which we were able to look on these occasions, and how they were gazing into the past. His living spirituality radiated such purity, such convincing integrity and humility that one felt oneself in the presence of a supreme event in human history . . . . I can only be grateful to have had the experience.”35
Two other important elements of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings on Christianity which differ from anything taught in any denomination of Christianity require a brief mention here. In 1910 Steiner gave a short series of lectures on the true nature of the Second Coming. According to him, ever since the Resurrection the Christ has dwelt in the etheric world, the world that is nearest to us of the invisible worlds. While he was on the road to Damascus St. Paul had seen Him there, and at once knew that Jesus had been the Christ, contrary to his belief up to that time, and that He had risen. Thereafter Paul had constantly preached the Resurrection. However, not until our own time has it been possible for men so to develop their supersensible faculties that they can perceive the Christ in the etheric world. As far as men are concerned the possibility has become open to them only since the end of Kali Yuga. But at the same time the Christ Himself has approached nearer to the earthly world than He was immediately after the Resurrection. This approach to our world is, according to Steiner, the Second Coming in the ”clouds of heaven,” and he interpreted the clouds of heaven as referring to the etheric world. In later years Steiner greatly enlarged this first revelation of the Second Coming, and he spoke about its effects in the earthly world and who would be able to see Him and why at certain times it would be difficult to do so. Perhaps the most important element in this teaching is that the Second Coming is not a once and for all happening, but a progressive revelation of the Being of Christ to men that lasts over a long period of time, during which men on their side learn to see Him, not all at once, but also over a longer or shorter period of time.
The other teaching to be discussed here is what the science of spirit has to say about the Redemption, a subject fraught with great difficulty for many earnest persons who would like to believe in Christianity but find the traditional doctrine in some degree repugnant to their sense of fairness and justice. The difficulty disappears when Steiner’s complete teachings on reincarnation and karma are incorporated into the Christian doctrine which holds that Christ is the Redeemer, redeeming men from their sins. Steiner explains the matter most clearly in the last of his Christian cycles given before the War, entitled Christ and the Human Soul (Norrköping, 1914). According to Steiner man does indeed suffer for his own sins (as the Church would put it) or, in anthroposophical terminology, man experiences the fruit of his own deeds after death in kamaloca. Then in the spiritual worlds he wills for himself a karma, as a result of which his former deeds will be compensated in a new life on earth. With the aid of higher beings he chooses his parents and a life-framework suited to fulfill this karma. If this is so, one may legitimately ask, where is there a role for Christ, who ”takes upon Himself the sins of the world?”
The science of spirit sees no contradiction if the matter is rightly understood. The religious intuition was a true one, but has hitherto not been understood by theologians for lack of the necessary knowledge. Man does indeed bear the consequences of his deeds, the good and the bad, and karma in subsequent lives will compensate for them. Man indeed ought not to wish it otherwise. A courageous human being will wish to make progress through learning from his faults and mistakes. If he never learns the consequences of his acts, a vital experience is missed, and these acts are left unredressed. The last thing in the world he ought to wish is that some divine being should act as a substitute for him, and simply ”forgive” his evil deeds without letting him have the chance to compensate for them from his own free will.
However, it is also true that the sins he has committed, the evil he has done, have disturbed the equilibrium of the universe, and delivered over a part of the world to Ahriman, the enemy of mankind, who is trying to take over the earth for himself. Objectively speaking, an evil deed has added to the sum of evil in the world, and the world would suffer from it for all eternity if Christ did not take upon Himself its consequences, thus wresting from Ahriman something that he would otherwise have retained for himself. Christ in this way has made it possible for man to continue to live on the earth, which would otherwise have been overwhelmed by the evil deeds of man. By themselves men, although by their good deeds they do help the earth in a limited way, are not strong enough to vanquish Ahriman, nor can they without divine aid prevent him from taking over the earth for himself. Only a Divine Being can do this, and Christ did indeed undertake to keep Ahriman from the victory by ”taking upon Himself the sins of the world.” Traditional teachings about the Redemption have always raised questions in the minds of thinking men and women who have felt that men should accept full responsibility for their acts, and that nothing less than this is consistent with man’s dignity. But it needed Rudolf Steiner’s initiate knowledge before the apparent contradiction could be resolved.
During these years when Rudolf Steiner was giving his many lectures on Christianity his relations with the Theosophical Society were seriously deteriorating. In Paris in 1906 he lectured to the Theosophical Congress on Theosophy throughout the ages, showing how the theosophical spirit had manifested itself in numerous thinkers of the past. This lecture no doubt surprised many members of the Society who associated the word Theosophy only with their particular movement. But as was noted earlier Steiner also gave a series of eighteen lectures on esoteric Christianity both during and after the Congress to an audience few of whose members were theosophists. The following year Germany played host to the Theosophical Congress, and numerous innovations were introduced for the first time at a Theosophical Congress, including the presentation of a play by Edouard Schuré and the decoration of the Congress auditorium with artistic motifs drawn from the Apocalypse, as will be discussed in the next chapter. At this Congress Annie Besant was still carefully tolerant of all the innovations, and she had a meeting with Rudolf Steiner in which it was agreed that their differences of opinion, especially on the subject of Christianity, need not lead to an open break.
To hindsight it seems that such a break was ultimately inevitable, but it was certainly precipitated by the decision of Mrs. Besant in 1909 to back an initiative of Charles Leadbeater, who had ”discovered” that an Indian boy named Alcyone, later to be known as Krishnamurti, was to be the reincarnated Christ. From that time onward she threw her influence behind the movement to proclaim the new Christ, and she encouraged the establishment of a new order within the Theosophical Society under the name of the Order of the Star of the East. This initiative will be discussed in more detail later in Chapter 8. There can be no doubt that as well as incurring the unalterable hostility of Rudolf Steiner to this movement it also brought the entire Theosophical Society into disrepute and even ridicule. But it may be that Annie Besant intended the movement to be a kind of answer to Steiner’s insistence on the Mystery of Golgotha as a unique event, never to be repeated, and that she not only wished to discredit him as a teacher but at the same time to restore the East to its rightful position of supremacy. She might never have undertaken such an initiative if Steiner’s teachings on the true nature of Christianity had not been seducing theosophists away from the eastern religions and philosophies that had hitherto been at the heart of Theosophy.
Many leading theosophists may well have doubted Annie Besant’s wisdom in thus promoting the Order of the Star of the East, but it was not open to doubt that Steiner’s teachings on Christianity contradicted a number of long held theosophical ideas, including some contained in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky. At the same time they were not disposed to believe that Steiner had direct access to the spiritual worlds, and was thus in a position to add to the truths of Christianity as well as providing new interpretations of it. Indeed, many of them regarded Steiner as unbearably presumptuous in making such claims for himself, or allowing his followers to make them for him. Ironically enough, other theosophists did not doubt Steiner’s access to spiritual knowledge, but objected to his revelations of deeply occult teachings in books intended for public sale. According to Steiner Annie Besant herself did have a certain grasp of spiritual realities, and when she spoke of the world of spirit, what she said was actually ”taken from that world.” However, not only was she unable to enter the spiritual world consciously, but she could not even imagine that this possiblity was open to others. So she was totally unable to understand Rudolf Steiner, and as time went on when he publicly opposed her on the subject of Krishnamurti, her former tolerance ceased to be in evidence, and a Theosophical Congress scheduled to be held in Genoa in September, 1911, at which Steiner was to give a lecture on the subject ”From Buddha to Christ,” was cancelled at her instigation. Clearly she preferred not to give him a platform for a lecture on such a subject.
The final break with the Theosophical Society and the founding of the Anthroposophical Society will be discussed in Chapter 8, and, as we shall see, most of the German members of his Section stayed with Steiner and became anthroposophists, as did virtually all the foreign members who had been accepted into the German Section, joining it simply because he was its head and it was him they wished to hear.
The formal change made very little practical difference, so independent had the work of the German Section always been. For several years before the break Steiner had been devoting his entire time and effort to this work, and, as he explains in his autobiography, from at least as early as 1907 he had virtually no private life at all. It is in the light of this truth that the sentence that begins the last chapter of his autobiography should surely be understood: ”In what is to follow, it will be difficult to separate the account of the course of my life from the history of the Anthroposophical Movement.” When he had finished writing this chapter, indeed, he knew that he had reached the end of his life also. This chapter alone is not followed by the words ”to be continued.” The unfinished autobiography in fact did not need to be finished; the purpose for which it had been started had now been fulfilled, and quite possibly nothing could have been added that would have been significant for posterity.
The autobiography had been started with the aim of explaining the thoughts that lay behind his actions. It had never been his intention to record all his important experiences, to make his life interesting. Up to the beginning of his public mission the varied experiences of his life, his human relationships, his contacts with distinguished personalities, all throw light on his personal development and above all the development of his thought and his spiritual and supersensible faculties. These had now matured in him. With the enormous pressure of work that burdened him after 1903 he could scarcely have had time to cultivate the friendships about which he writes so beautifully in the early part of his autobiography; and it may be wondered also whether he could even have thought as much about the work he was doing as he did in earlier years. What was now important for the world to know was what he had done, and these things were on the public record, and others could record them. Almost every moment of every day was spent exclusively on the fulfillment of what he regarded as his mission. This seems to have been literally true. When he was not lecturing or preparing lectures or reading or engaged in solitary thought and meditation he was giving advice to all those—and they were numerous—who requested private interviews in which they discussed their problems with him. He seems to have done nothing that was not in some way connected with the work that he had undertaken, and yet he was totally without fanaticism.
Although from time to time we shall offer glimpses of him as seen through the eyes of friends and pupils, the rest of this book cannot fail to be concerned more with his work, and less with his personal life, of which, indeed, we know little except by inference. The remaining chapters will therefore be largely topical, concerned with particular facets of his work. The first of these will deal with some of the new impulses that he gave in the field of art, beginning with the Theosophical Congress held in Munich in 1907, in which he surprised and shocked many of the theosophists who attended it, unaccustomed as they were to the intrusion of art into their religious and philosophical concerns. We shall then continue with a discussion of the beginnings of the new art of eurythmy inaugurated by Rudolf Steiner, and with the staging, also in Munich, of the Mystery Dramas which he wrote in the four years preceding the War. The separation from the Theosophical Society and the founding of the first Anthroposophical Society will then be taken up in Chapter 8, bringing the story to the beginning of World War I.
Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a New Epoch