THE FOUNDING OF THE FIRST
The two events to which this chapter is to be devoted are closely linked. The artistic impulse described in the last chapter, and especially the presentation of the four Mystery Dramas, made the members vividly aware of the need for them to possess a theatre of their own where the dramas could be worthily staged; while the growing divergence of views between the German Section and the central leadership of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, India, made it increasingly clear that those members who chose to follow Rudolf Steiner would soon either be forced, with him, out of the Theosophical Society, or would have to secede from it. If therefore there was to be a new society separate from the Theosophical Society, what more natural than that it should have a center of its own, or even a community centered around a new assembly hall, in which lectures could be given and where artistic performances could be presented?
As we have seen in Chapter 6, the separation of the German Section from the rest of the Theosophical Society appears now to have been inevitable, and it could have been predicted from at least as early as 1907. But members of the Section, including Rudolf Steiner himself, were by no means resigned to the inevitable at such an early date, and it seemed to them that the two branches of the movement could easily have continued to share a common roof, if the principle of tolerance subscribed to by all members of the Theosophical Society had continued to be observed. It was the decision of Annie Besant to support the establishment of the Order of The Star of the East, with the express purpose of welcoming the reincarnation of Christ in the person of a Hindu youth called Krishnamurti, that precipitated the separation, since it was quite impossible for Steiner to do anything but oppose such a plan. But even so, he was unwilling to take the initiative of separating from the Theosophical Society, contenting himself with expressing his opposition to the Krishnamurti venture, and in other respects continuing to cooperate with Adyar. It is interesting to note that Adyar also was still anxious not to break off relations altogether, since it awarded Steiner a prize for the best book on Theosophy to appear during the year. This was Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Attained?, published in book form in 1909. At the Budapest Theosophical Congress held in May, 1909, all was still outwardly friendly and tolerant, and Rudolf Steiner had several meetings with Annie Besant. But later in the same year she finally decided to throw her support to Charles Leadbeater, who had been guarding the young Alcyone, later to be called Krishnamurti, and had been anxious to proclaim him as the reincarnated Christ. The Order of the Star of the East, however, did not begin its official existence until January 11, 1911. A British chapter of the Order was founded in May of the same year.
Now began in earnest the intrigues against Rudolf Steiner within his own Section. As we have seen in Chapter 6, Steiner was always vulnerable to attacks from traditional theosophists because of his insistence on the unique position of the Christ in world evolution, and there was always domestic opposition to his leadership of the German Section because of the very slight attention he gave to the work of other theosophists, including even H.P. Blavatsky. Nevertheless, even among loyal followers of Annie Besant who were willing to follow her leadership in the establishment of the Star of the East there were still some who held fast to the official position taken by the Theosophical Society that every Section was entitled to full autonomy. So frontal attacks on Steiner as leader of the German Section never became the proclaimed policy of the Society, though he did continue to be criticized because he was willing to accept so many foreign theosophists into his Section. Such a willingness was held to be disloyal to the Society as a whole, since ordinarily new members became part of their own national Section. It must certainly have appeared to the Society leaders in Adyar that Steiner was making a bid for leadership of the whole Society when he encouraged membership in his Section by foreign nationals who had wished to join the German Section solely because of his own teachings, which were so often at variance with those of other well known and respected theosophists.
Although he was not attacked officially, even in Germany, indirect attacks increased in number and virulence after the founding of the Star of the East. Steiner was accused of being a Jesuit, or at the very least of having been educated by them, whereupon he included in a lecture cycle given in 1911 (From Jesus to Christ) a long passage in which he criticized the Jesuits for their attachment to Jesus and consequent neglect of the Christ. In the same cycle he criticized the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola the founder of the Jesuit Order, on the ground that they were unsuitable for the present time and led to serious aberrations. Steiner was also accused by theosophists of having intrigued in such a way that the Theosophical Congress of 1911, scheduled to have been held in Genoa, had to be cancelled—though it seems evident that it was Annie Besant herself who instigated the moves that led to the cancellation.
Whether or not it was her intention to drive Rudolf Steiner out of the Theosophical Society, her actions and those of her followers certainly had this effect. It was never at any time Steiner’s policy to reply publicly to attacks on him. His policy was rather to take up any points that had been made by the opposition, and refute them, without ever counterattacking. In this difficult period from early 1911 to the exclusion of the German Section from the Theosophical Society in January 1913 he scrupulously observed this policy, although Mrs. Besant was continually trying to blame him for the impending split. In a letter sent to Lady Lutyens, the president of the British chapter of the Star of the East, later published in Lady Lutyens’ autobiographical account of her experiences in the Order, Mrs. Besant wrote: ”There is a hail of attack on me from Germany by Dr. Rudolf Steiner and his followers. They are evidently playing for separation and want to throw the blame on me.” This letter was dated May 10, 1912, by which time the split was certainly inevitable, but it was more than a little disingenuous to throw the blame for the split on the victim of her own attacks, and attacks by her followers.
By the beginning of 1912 Steiner was fully aware that there would have to be a separation, but he was still averse to making the decision himself, preferring to let destiny decide when the time was ripe. The right moment arrived following the performance of The Guardian of the Threshold at Munich in August, 1912, a performance attended by numerous members of other Sections as well as by foreign members of the German Section. Instead of dispersing to their homes, a large number of members met together for a week at the beginning of September, and decided that they wished to form another Society entirely distinct from the Theosophical Society. They then asked Rudolf Steiner if he was in agreement with their decision, and if so, if he would give the new Society a name. Steiner gave his agreement and proposed the name of the Anthroposophical Society, a name which was of course accepted. In December of the same year the executive of the German Section, which did not include Rudolf Steiner himself, decided that membership of the Star of the East was incompatible with membership in the Section led by Rudolf Steiner, and called upon all members to choose. With few exceptions all chose to abandon their membership in the Star of the East, thus virtually cutting themselves off from the leadership of the Theosophical Society based at Adyar. The same executive then sent a telegram to Annie Besant at Adyar, calling upon her to resign as president, to which she replied by cancelling the charter of the German Section, thereby automatically withdrawing recognition of Rudolf Steiner as its General Secretary. The regular annual meeting of the Section nevertheless took place on schedule in January, 1913, but Steiner informed the members present that it could no longer hold a legal annual meeting, whereupon they constituted themselves the Anthroposophical Society. A month later the new Society held its own annual meeting. All those who preferred to continue as members of the Theosophical Society were free to do so, in which case they would not be members of the new Anthroposophical Society. All the property of the former German Section was legally transferred to the new body, to which Rudolf Steiner did not belong. He was granted the title of Honorary President of the Anthroposophical Society, but never became a member of it, preferring to stay on as teacher and guide.
The relative ease with which the old German Section was converted into a new independent Society demonstrates clearly that the time was indeed ripe for the change; and remarkably few members were lost during the transition. From very small beginnings in 1902 the membership of the Section had grown steadily but not spectacularly, until at the beginning of 1913 it stood at a little over 2500. Among these members there was a small core of very active and enterprising members, who had not only long ago recognized the need for an independent Society, but were very anxious to give it a physical home on earth, especially a building in which the Mystery Dramas could be performed in a worthy setting. Indeed, some of this small core of members were themselves amateur performers in the dramas, even though they were as a rule also fully occupied in their own professions.
The Bavarian capital of Munich, already the most important art center in Germany, where the Mystery Dramas were staged, was naturally regarded as the most suitable city by the Munich members, but Anthroposophy was at least as strong in two other major German cities, Stuttgart and the capital of the German Empire, Berlin. Weimar also was proposed by one influential member. At this time there were more than fifty theosophical groups attached to the German Section. Stuttgart seems to have boasted the largest number of members, and it was there that the first building entirely devoted to theosophical/anthroposophical activities was acquired and opened formally by Rudolf Steiner in October, 1911. But unlike Munich, Stuttgart was not an important art center, and so was not taken quite as seriously as Munich as the possible site for the new theatre where the Mystery Dramas would be performed.
Immediately after the presentation of the first Mystery Drama in Munich in 1910, many members recognized that a theatre of their own would soon become a necessity. The question was therefore raised at the annual meeting of the German Section held the following October. Rudolf Steiner did not as yet favor the project, in part on the grounds that the German Section was not a suitable legal entity for the acquiring of property. However, the proponents of the project did not give up, and after the second drama had been performed the following year opinion was much more favorable. Already tentative plans had been made, money had been contributed, and in September, 1911 the legal position was clarified by the founding of a company with the purpose of bringing the building plans to realization. A piece of property was acquired in Munich, and all other possible sites were abandoned. Architectural plans were drawn up, and Rudolf Steiner himself designed the central building for the project. The plans were then submitted to the municipal authorities for approval, and the authorities asked a number of artists and architects for their opinion before making their decision.
Such, then, was the situation at the beginning of September, 1912. The decision of the Munich authorities was expected any time; much money had been collected and enthusiasm generated. The last steps leading to the separation of the German Section from the Theosophical Society had been taken, and Rudolf Steiner had proposed the name of the new Society that would soon come into existence. The first three Mystery Dramas had just been performed, preceded, for the last time, by the Sacred Drama of Eleusis by Edouard Schuré. Never had enthusiasm been higher when Rudolf Steiner undertook the lecture tour that took him to Basel for the cycle he was to give on the Gospel of St. Mark. The moment had also arrived, as we have seen, for the beginning of eurythmy, and Steiner gave Lory Smits her first lessons during the intervals between the St. Mark lectures in Basel. Also during this cycle Steiner was invited by Dr. Grossheintz, an enthusiastic member of the Section, to visit a property he and his wife and a friend had acquired not far from Basel which they wished to be used for some anthroposophical purpose. It was thus that Rudolf Steiner and Marie von Sievers for the first time saw the hill at Dornach, where now stands the second Goetheanum.
After Steiner’s death his widow described how she and Rudolf Steiner visited the Grossheintz in their own home, and how delighted she had been with the area with its cherry trees and its vineyards in the bright autumn coloring, expecting the same enthusiasm from Steiner. But the morning after their arrival his mood was inexplicably gloomy, and for once this unaccustomed mood did not quickly disappear. As a rule he could change his moods almost in the twinkling of an eye, so controlled was his life of feeling. In time the mood gave place to one of pleasure and delight which he was able to share with Frl. von Sievers. But she always believed that he had experienced what in other people would have been a simple foreboding, but with him was a definite experience of what was to happen later on this very site when the irreplaceable first Goetheanum, on which so much love, labor, and treasure had been expended was burned to the ground in a single night. If Steiner had indeed known in advance the fate of the building which undoubtedly hastened his own premature end, one may legitimately ask the question, could he not have taken some action to forestall it?
According to the laws of the spiritual world, as others as well as Steiner have explained them, no initiate may ever take any action in the personal realm, least of all an action from which he may draw profit, as the result of such a vision. Everything hitherto planned must be carried out exactly as if there had been no prevision. It can scarcely be doubted, as will be discussed later, that Rudolf Steiner foresaw the Great War, and even knew a long time in advance exactly when it would break out. Yet he and Marie von Sievers and a group of friends paid a visit to Bayreuth to see Parsifal just before the War, and only by remarkably good luck was the whole party able to return to Switzerland without trouble at the frontier. Steiner also must have known that a fifth Mystery Drama scheduled for 1914 would never be presented. Yet the theatre had been booked for it as soon as it was known that the building in Dornach could not possibly be ready in time.
Frau Grossheintz in a memoir published some years later was to describe how to everyone’s surprise Rudolf Steiner stayed on in Dornach for some time after he had first seen the site and examined the entire area, including even the underground grottos to be found in the neighborhood of Arlesheim. Then he went to see the Grossheintz in Basel and asked them what they proposed to do with the land they had acquired. When they expressed some uncertainty Steiner began to talk about the possibility of a ”Bayreuth,” and told his hosts of the difficulties being experienced in Munich as a result of the attitude of the municipal authorities. Dr. Grossheintz then told him that no building regulations were in force at Dornach, and offered him the land if he wanted it. Thus when the Munich authorities finally gave the verdict against the building as it had been proposed, an alternative was available and it seems certain that Rudolf Steiner had already made his own decision and he knew that the Dornach hill would be the site chosen.
Much pressure had been put on the municipal authorities in Munich to persuade them to refuse the permit. Neither theosophists, nor anthroposophists, as they were just beginning to be called, were regarded very highly by representatives of Munich culture, nor were either the Catholic or Protestant Churches at all favorably disposed toward them. When anything was known about them at all, they were supposed to be opponents of orthodox religion, or even regarded as a new sect. An important Protestant church was close to the site they had bought, and the pastor did not fancy them as his neighbors. The artists whose opinion had been sought, as well as others who wished their opinion to be taken into account were almost all against the project as it had been presented. Even though the plan was not too unconventional, and had been designed to fit in with its surroundings, it was still not in full harmony with them, including as it did, a building whose external architectural form was relatively conventional, but an interior which would have been in accordance with Steiner’s own architectural ideas. The building would not have been visible from a distance since it would have been surrounded by dwelling houses and workshops. Nevertheless in an art-conscious city like Munich, which had been built up as an art center by its nineteenth century monarchs, permission could certainly not be taken for granted, and it was not too much of a surprise when in February, 1913, it was finally refused by the municipality on the ground that it did not fit in with its surroundings.
The news of the refusal was conveyed to Rudolf Steiner at a moment when he was engaged in a lecture tour, and Frau Grossheintz happened to be present. The architect who brought the news proposed to appeal the decision, and Rudolf Steiner did not prevent him, though he believed it was a waste of time. He therefore turned at once to Frau Grossheintz, and told her that he was now ready to accept her offer and build at Dornach. The decision of the Munich authorities, however much it was resented by the anthroposophists at the time, must surely in the light of what has happened since be regarded as most providential. Unending complications would surely have resulted from Germany’s involvement in the war. The building could never have been completed by August, 1914, and only German and Austrian nationals could have worked on it thereafter. In the postwar world, especially in the city which saw Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, the building might have survived for an even shorter time than did the first Goetheanum in Dornach. Lastly, in Munich the Johannes-Bau, as it was then called, could never have become the international center that the Goetheanum in Dornach became, built as it was by citizens of so many different nations, while the War was raging abroad.
In May, 1913 Steiner again visited the site in Dornach, and within the space of a few minutes he had drawn up in his mind the entire plan for the development of the area, including the main building, the subsidiary buildings as he envisaged them and the connecting roads. It was at once clear to him that on a hill which dominated the entire area, with the city of Basel lying below him in the distance, a hill from which France and Germany as well as Switzerland could be seen, the external architecture must now be given far more importance than had been intended at Munich, since it could now be seen from every direction. Here there would be no question of permission being refused for the building since, as Dr. Grossheintz had already advised him, the cantonal authorities did not control building in the countryside and the site was far from any city.
The disappointment of the German members is understandable, but most of them gave the new project their loyal support, especially since there was at first no intention of making Dornach the main center for anthroposophical activity. Rudolf Steiner at once began to make two models for the building, and these were completed in January, 1914. Meanwhile the fourth Mystery Drama, The Soul’s Awakening, had been performed for the first time at the summer festival at Munich, and a few days later the first eurythmy performance was given. Amid the enthusiasm engendered by these events, and after considerable sums of money had been collected or pledged, Rudolf Steiner on September 20th, 1913 went to Dornach for the solemn festival of the Laying of the Foundation Stone for the new building, not yet named the Goetheanum.
It is impossible here to do more than give a faint idea of the words spoken by Rudolf Steiner, as the Foundation Stone, composed of a double pentagonal dodecahedron, made of copper and soldered together on one side, was placed in the earth. This ”stone,” to use Rudolf Steiner’s words, represented ”the striving human soul immersed as a microcosm in the macrocosm,” and the address was rendered even more solemn because the very elements seemed to conspire against this human effort in the year preceding the outbreak of war to achieve something truly spiritual by constructing this unique building. Since only three days advance notice could be given only about forty persons could be present and braved the equinoctial storm that broke on them after sunset on that evening of 20th September, 1913, just as the ceremony was beginning. Torrents of rain fell, and a gale howled around them as Rudolf Steiner’s powerful voice sounded out above the noise of the elements. The night had fallen prematurely, but the few members present snatched vine stakes that had been piled nearby and lighted them. These improvised torches provided all the illumination for the ceremony, as Rudolf Steiner called upon the hierarchies to help and protect the undertaking. Then he spoke of the increasing power and malignity of ”dark Ahriman clouding vision, who means to spread the darkness of chaos over fully awakened spiritual sight,” and how the human soul, symbolized in the Foundation Stone, must find the strength, in spite of the fear of the spirit induced in mankind by Ahriman, to undertake its spiritual task.
As he brought his address to an end he twice entoned, for the first time, the ancient prayer that had once echoed in the soul of the young Jesus when in his early manhood he witnessed the celebration of an ancient Mystery rite long fallen into decadence. This prayer, which Steiner was soon afterwards to incorporate into his lectures on the Fifth Gospel, alluded to in Chapter 6, included as its essential element the recognition of man’s falling away from the Divine at the beginning of human evolution. It was at that moment that Jesus of Nazareth for the first time himself experienced the Fall of Man, and the experience had a profound effect on him. But, not having as yet received the Christ into himself as was to happen later at the Baptism in the Jordan, he had to bear within himself all the sorrow that resulted for man from the Fall. Only the Christ could give man the possibility of returning to the heights from which he had fallen, and, according to Steiner, the Lord’s Prayer, as given to mankind by the Christ, was in fact the metamorphosis of this ancient prayer. Steiner who conceived it to be his own task to bring to man that true knowledge of the Christ without which there could be no ascent, believed that through this ancient prayer men, or at least some men, could as a first step come to a full recognition of the darkness in which they were enwrapped, and it was for this reason that he gave it to them after he himself had experienced it in 1913. Sounding out on that hill in the torchlight amid the raging elements the ceremony and address must have been almost unbearably impressive, necessarily more so than the explanation given by Steiner a couple of days later to the members assembled in Basel. There he described the circumstances in which the ceremony had taken place, but emphasized with the utmost conviction the necessity to carry the enterprise through to completion, as part of the ‘mission of the earth itself.’ In so doing he warned that there would be every kind of opposition, saying that the ”stone, which for us is a symbol of knowledge, love, and strong courage, will of necessity be for our enemies a stumbling-block and will arouse their anger. We are only at the beginning of our difficulties . . . but let us go forward with a firm confidence in the ultimate victory of the spirit.”40
The Foundation Stone, having been cemented in, is still there in the earth under the second Goetheanum, though after the fire, at the re-founding of the Anthroposophical Society at Christmas, 1923, Steiner gave another ”Foundation-Stone” in the form of a uniquely powerful meditation, which will be discussed in a later chapter.
An address of the kind given by Steiner in 1913 at the Laying of the Foundation Stone, could be given only because of the kind of building that was now envisaged, no longer just a theatre or assembly hall in which the Mystery Dramas would be presented, and where other anthroposophical activities take place. An entirely new kind of building had been designed by Rudolf Steiner, truly unlike anything that has ever been erected either before or since, a building that can properly be described as ”organic,” made up of forms that appear to be living because they were created in the same way that nature creates, using the apparently dead substances of earth to create the living. An extraordinary sentence of Steiner’s given in a lecture on the Goetheanum bears thinking about for a long time, whether one agrees with it or not. At all events it does describe what Steiner believed himself to be doing. ”If one is able,” he said, ”to realize how the human body on the one hand is an instrument for thinking and on the other for willing and that both these faculties are held together by the power of feeling; if one understands the whole human structure, the formation of the head, limbs and trunk, with the heart system as center, then one is able to construct organic forms oneself also. The Goetheanum is such an organic form.”41
It has already been noted that Rudolf Steiner first made models of the interior and exterior of the building as he conceived it. It seems certain that it was in this work of modelling that he experienced just how the spiritual could be incorporated into matter, and it was these models that had to be used by the architects with whom he worked, presenting them with numerous problems, some of which appeared at first to be insoluble. Nevertheless, in the end all were solved, in part because of Steiner’s insistence that a solution must be possible. Though neither an architect nor an engineer, he had, as we have seen, studied geometry intensively in his youth, and he had a good working knowledge of other branches of mathematics. But it was not as an amateur architect, still less as an engineer, that he won the esteem of so many contemporary and subsequent architects, including, in our own day, some talented Japanese, who are now beginning to use in their own buildings ideas that are taken from both the Goetheanums, and who are even giving lectures in their schools on the work of Steiner the architect! His designs for both the first and second Goetheanums, and the models that he made for them, constitute his real claim to fame in this domain, and without the ideas for the buildings that he drew from the spiritual worlds neither building would have come into existence.
The major problem in the construction of the First Goetheanum was how to construct two intersecting domes of different dimensions, one of which was larger than the dome of St. Peter’s, Rome, and still have a structurally sound building. The incomplete domes could not be supported, like complete domes, with hidden chains, as were the domes of the cathedral of Florence and St. Peter’s in Rome, or with complete ”tension rings,” such as are used to support modern domes. If tension rings are cut into, they can no longer support the domes, which will necessarily splay. Steiner’s architects could not themselves solve the problem which, as Steiner expressed it, was to ”construct both domes in one.” Indeed the principal architect said the problem was insoluble. Nevertheless they suggested that Steiner take the problem to the leading firm of engineers in Switzerland which happened to be in Basel. Nothing loath, he took his plans to the firm himself, and was sent to discuss his problem with a young Norwegian engineer employed by it. This young genius did indeed solve the problem, not by ”constructing both domes in one,” as Steiner had suggested, but by designing two structural bands, which thus constituted in effect one single overall tension-ring embracing both domes, with two lateral wings going outwards from the domes to give extra support to the bands, in a manner not unlike the use of flying buttresses used by Gothic architects to support the pointed arches of their cathedrals. Without Steiner’s persistence and belief that the problem was soluble, it might never had been solved at all. Left to themselves, even the gifted architects who worked on the Goetheanum might have felt themselves compelled to settle for a different design.
It is, of course, possible to study the First Goetheanum now only through photographs and more or less subjective descriptions, as written down by those who knew it personally. It is also possible to study Steiner’s intentions when he designed it, in so far as he explained them. To understand these intentions, however, at least a working knowledge of the main principles of Anthroposophy is necessary, and the remarks that follow should not be regarded as an attempt to provide an adequate explanation. They constitute only an introduction to the subject, which could be fleshed out by any student who wishes to undertake for himself the necessary detailed study.
It will be readily appreciated that the members who had been present at the Munich performance of the Mystery Dramas felt very deeply the appalling inadequacies of the theatres in which they had been presented, and large numbers of them were ready to contribute money so that a better one could be built and that Anthroposophy could have a real earthly home. Steiner sympathized with this feeling and shared it. But if he had been merely ready to support the fund-raising and take charge of the project, the next step would have been to call in professional architects and have them design a multi-purpose building and subsidiary buildings as needed, so that full advantage could be taken of the magnificent site. But Steiner did not do this, nor did he even contemplate doing such a thing. For him it was of the utmost importance that the new building should be suitable for the age of the consciousness soul, as virtually no buildings were in 1913. There could be no question of imitating Greek or Roman architecture or any other of the favored contemporary styles.
However, this was by no means all. The architecture of the new building must, in his opinion, be an earthly expression of the science of spirit, since everything in it would be done in accordance with its teachings. Everything in the building, its exterior as well as its interior, must be in conformity with the laws of the spirit, the ”hidden laws,” in Goethe’s phrase, that he as an artist must discover, and bring to realization on earth. The form he chose for the building was not the only one possible. It was one of the many possible forms that would be in conformity with these spiritual laws. The second Goetheanum, which was quite different from the First—extraordinarily different, considering the same ”architect” was responsible for both—was another such form; and if Steiner had lived to see the Second through to completion it would doubtless have been in conformity in all its parts with spiritual laws, as the first one was, which was supervised in its entirety by him.
We have said that Steiner thought of the Goetheanum as an ”organic,” that is to say, living form. Now obviously no building can be actually alive, as a plant or animal is alive. But both plant and animals, as well, of course, as man, are moulded, as far as their physical body is concerned, by etheric, form-building invisible forces. A stag, for example, or an autumn crocus, do not possess their particular forms by pure chance. They are as they are because forces invisible to human sight have moulded them. A stag without antlers would be no true stag, nor would an autumn crocus be truly itself it it did not secrete certain forces within itself that make it poisonous. Or, to use Steiner’s own example, the kernel of a particular nut requires that its shell shall be exactly what it is. A walnut shell could not house a hazel nut or a peanut. It must therefore follow that the science of spirit, being living thought, and not a series of arbitrarily chosen concepts, must have as its earthly dwelling place a building that was not only in conformity with this living thought, but was organically related to it. In addition the building must naturally be in accordance with its purpose, namely to provide a thoroughly suitable setting for the presentation of the Mystery Dramas, eurythmy, and such lectures, concerts and other anthroposophical activities as would be desired. This aspect was usually stressed, especially when Steiner was addressing the general public, which could scarcely be expected to understand the true esoteric reason why he designed the building as he did.
For example, in a public lecture given in Liestal, near Basel, on January 11, 1916, he told his audience that ”we have striven to make the whole building the right framework for what is to be carried on within it,” though he also said that ”it is intended to be nothing else but an artistic putting into form of that which is aroused in our perceptions and feelings when we have received into our souls the living essence of spiritual science or Anthroposophy . . . It is a matter of course that it is necessary to live quite in the current of spiritual science in order to understand its art, just as it is necessary to be in the midst of Christianity in order to understand the Sistine Madonna.” On other occasions Steiner often used to point out how the Greek temples were designed in order to provide an earthly resting place, when the god to whom it was dedicated wished to descend into it, whereas the Gothic churches expressed the human soul’s aspiration toward a transcendent God. For this reason the Greek temple was kept empty, while the Gothic church was only truly itself when it was filled with a congregation singing praises to God. Both required a particular kind of consciousness, which was the consciousness of their age. So also Steiner intended that the Goetheanum should be something altogether new, and suited for the consciousness of the twentieth, and perhaps the twenty-first centuries.
The building that Steiner planned might well not be in accord with the taste of the members who had asked for it, and indeed many of them might never become accustomed to it, any more than the non-members who lived in the vicinity of Dornach. But the members, at least, possessed an unlimited confidence in him, and as the building began to take shape on its wonderful site most of them grew truly enthusiastic. A considerable number of them found it possible to work on it themselves, as we shall see, and the full cost of construction was met by contributions, with no debt having to be incurred. Nevertheless, it was the unconventional nature of the building that drew so much attention to it, and to some extent to Rudolf Steiner himself. It is, indeed, quite possible that if a conventional building had been constructed simply as a functionally satisfying headquarters for the Anthroposophical Society, its enemies would never have troubled to set fire to it.
Since it would obviously take us too far to attempt any adequate description of the Goetheanum, we shall confine ourselves here to mentioning a few of its more important features. From a distance, as an English architect expressed it, the two domes of unequal size resting on their concrete base gave a ”gentle and serene aspect” to the whole area, as distinct from the ”rugged defiance” of the present Goetheanum which replaced it after the fire. The wooden domes were roofed with a special slate from Norway that had caught Rudolf Steiner’s attention during a visit to that country. This ”Vossian” slate was chosen by him because of its unusual capacity for reflecting the light of the Jura landscape. Beneath the domes was the auditorium with seating space for about a thousand persons, and the stage. As might have been expected it was in the interior that the organic nature of the building was most apparent. For example, the seven pillars on each side of the auditorium, each made from a different wood—hornbeam, ash, cherry, oak, elm, maple and birch—had carved capitals, which subtly changed from one pillar to the next, from the simple to the complex and then back again to the simple, though this last simple was quite different from the first. This process had been described by Goethe in his book on the metamorphosis of plants. Indeed, it had been his own discovery, the only one for which he is usually given credit by scientists, that plants do grow through a process of metamorphosis, and all the forms of a plant are in fact metamorphoses of the leaf. Steiner did not, of course, take Goethe’s idea of the metamorphosis of plants and then apply it to his capitals. But the plants described by Goethe and Steiner’s capitals were both organic forms, following the same principle of metamorphosis. The principle was, indeed, used throughout the First Goetheanum, but more sparingly in the Second because the material was unsuited for it. Steiner had, indeed, chosen wood as the material for the First Goetheanum because more than any other material its form, as he expressed it, could be revealed from within. Form did not have to be imposed on it from without, as is necessary when a mineral substance is carved, even one like marble, which was alive in the not so distant past.
It should be noted that in the entire building there was nothing that could be called symbolic, although critics have often asserted that, for example, the capitals were symbolic. Modern symbolism is, as a rule, a product of modern intellectualism; the symbols are thought out. This was not true of the Goetheanum. The forms taken by the capitals were the result of Steiner’s perception of metamorphosis. Figures that were painted in the cupolas were likewise not symbolic, but real to spiritual sight, as was true also of those beings, half animal, half human, that were actually clairvoyantly perceived by the ancient Egyptians and portrayed by them in their art. Everything in the Goetheanum was itself, and not symbolic of anything else. Even Ahriman, as pictured in the smaller cupola, was not a symbol of evil, but an evil being who, according to Steiner really exists in the supersensible world.
The Goetheanum windows were made of a translucent glass made in sheets by Baccarat, and they were engraved by a process that was known before, but had never previously been used for this purpose. The engraving, as adapted for the Goetheanum by Steiner, made it possible for the light from outside to illuminate the engraved picture, and indeed flood the auditorium with colored light. The engravings were made by a number of artists who worked from some rudimentary sketches made by Steiner, and in a building that still exists today (the glass-house) designed by him. However, he himself was never satisfied fully with these windows. Another artist, Assya Turgenieff, who had worked as a painter and woodcarver in the Goetheanum, was interested in the windows once they were in place, to such an extent that she asked permission from Rudolf Steiner to reproduce one of them in an engraving of her own. Encouraged by him to engrave them all, she first prepared sketches, which she showed to him, whereupon he corrected and simplified them, as well as writing inscriptions for them. It is these sketches that were used to make the much improved windows in the Second Goetheanum, which are the unaided work of Assya Turgenieff, who spent several years in perfecting them.
The cupolas were also painted in accordance with designs made by Steiner. These designs were so unusual, representing spiritual realities, as they did, that few of the artists working on them were able completely to understand his intentions, nor were any of them accustomed to working in the medium used; also their ideas on color, especially those of the professionals, were quite different from those of Rudolf Steiner. One result of their inexperience was that much of the small cupola was in the end painted by Steiner himself, although he did not pretend to be a painter. According to the testimony of those who worked with him, he was, even in this field, a master-teacher, and they learned much from him; and he used to make suggestions in such a way that they knew at once that he had unerringly pointed to what was wrong in their own work, and how it could be changed to produce the effect he desired. Only Steiner, after all, had a complete picture in his imagination of how the finished cupola should look. Margarita Woloschin, who worked on the painting with him for several years, tells of how she discovered that her painting of an angel would impinge on the painting of a fellow-worker, who was working next to her. When she pointed this out to him, Rudolf Steiner told her that it was of no importance. ”In the spiritual world things do not stand side by side; they interpenetrate each other. In painting the forms can interweave.” Any scholastic philosopher could have told her that!
For Steiner the coloring was of very great importance, and indeed he devoted many lectures from this time onward to his new theories on color which were brought to expression in the Goetheanum. From his youth he had been interested in Goethe’s theory of color, how color arises when light mingles with darkness, how each color gives rise to definite moral perceptions, the active and passive nature of colors. Steiner, however, took the theory much further, speaking of ”lustre” and ”image” colors, and enlarging on Goethe’s perceptions of the moods of the various colors. His theory and practice were at variance with every recognized school of painting in his day. He detested the linear perspective that was the great discovery of the age of the consciousness soul; like the British painter Turner in his last years, he developed a color perspective. But for the kind of painting he wanted, a new technique was necessary. Only with water-colors were his effects possible; and these water-colors were best obtained directly from plants. Such paints derived from plants have a luminosity entirely missing from mineral paints. So there was nothing for it but to start making paints from plants according to Rudolf Steiner’s directions, and a group of helpers occupied themselves with this work throughout the building and decorating of the Goetheanum. Colors are still produced by Steiner’s methods in Dornach, and have found a ready market. They are sold under the trade name of Anthea.
It is best to explain in Steiner’s own words how he looked upon the world of color. The explanation which follows was given by him in 1921 in a lecture at Berne illustrated by slides of the Goetheanum, including the engravings in the windows and the paintings on the cupola. ”We have tried,” he said, ”to realize in a certain degree ... that form must arise out of the interplay of colors; that is to say, that one must really rouse oneself to experience the world of color for itself. If you contemplate the color world, you will see that it is really a sort of totality, a world in itself; and if you in a living way feel yourself in the color-world, then, I might say, red, blue and yellow, speak to one another. You find something fully alive inside the color world, and at the same time get to know the world of color as a world of being. At this point drawing ceases, and you feel that drawing is something ultimately untrue. What is, after all, the line of the horizon? If I draw it with a pencil, I am really drawing an untruth. Below is the green expanse of the sea, above is the blue expanse of the vault of heaven, and when I put on some color, then form results—the line as boundary of the color.
”And so out of color we can create really everything we want put on canvas. We must not be deluded because there are motifs, all kinds of figures, even cultural-historical figures there. In painting the small cupola I did not try to draw this or that motif on the wall; what I was aiming at was, for example, that here there should be some orange of different shades; out of these shades of color resulted the form of a child. And here I thought that blue should border it; there resulted the figure you will see in a minute. Throughout, the form, the essential, is brought entirely out of color. Here then, there is a flying child in shades of orange; here would be the division between the large and the small cupolas, and this is the first painting in the small cupola. But as you look at this motif you will experience it best if you say to yourselves: There I can really see nothing, I must see it in color. Because it is really experienced and conceived and painted entirely out of color.”42
After the laying of the Foundation Stone of the Goetheanum in September 1913, work began on the building, but by the following winter relatively little had been accomplished, and it was clear that the money thus far contributed would not be enough. Steiner had always planned to have the building completed by August, 1914, hoping to present a fifth Mystery Drama in the auditorium in that month or the next. Now it became clear that even if the necessary money could be collected something spectacular would have to be done if the building were to be completed by the desired date, and it might never be finished at all if he himself were not present to supervise the work and stimulate the workers. Yet he could not give up everything else he was doing in order to devote himself exclusively to it.
So he undertook a series of lectures to the members, explaining how important the building was, not only for the Anthroposophical Movement but for the progress of spiritual life on the earth. As a result he not only raised enough money to enable work to be continued without any modification of the plans, but he also instilled a new spirit of enterprise into many of the members, so that they now began to regard the building as a communal enterprise in which everyone had his part to play. Professional people ceased to practice their professions for several months, others gave up their paid employment to go to Dornach, many of them camping out on the site. All the householders in the neighborhood were pressed into accepting paying guests. In the end several hundred members took part in the work at considerable cost to themselves, almost all of it being done by workers who had never used a mallet or chisel before. These worked side by side with the few professionals and the skilled paid workmen. A communal canteen was organized, and as early as April, 1914, the framework of the building was in place, and the sheathing of the two wooden domes was ready for the final roofing with the Norwegian slate. According to Swiss custom, when a building had reached this stage a ceremonial celebration was required. A photograph is extant showing the domes covered with their wooden sheathing, and hundreds of workers posing on the scaffolding. Two months later the glass-house, likewise with two domes and designed by Steiner, was ready for occupation, and work began on the windows.
Assya Turgenieff, who was one of the painters on the first Goetheanum as well as engraving the windows for the second, has left us a vivid word-picture of the moment when Steiner first began to carve in the auditorium of the Goetheanum.
”From the network of scaffolding which indicated the outlines of the future building on the hills could be heard the joyful sound of distant hammer-blows. The person seemingly met with most often on this hill was Dr. Steiner, covered with mud. Wearing a working smock and high boots, he hurried from one workshop to another, a model or a sketchbook in his hand; he stopped one on the way with a friendly word or a handshake. . . . In the concrete basement from which the planks had already been removed, workers glued the beautiful wood into colossal blocks. Greenish-bright hornbeam, goldenly shimmering ash, reddish cherry, then warmly brown oak and elm and again the brighter colors of maple and birch. Each wood had its own smell; each felt different under the hand. It was the beginning of March when the carving—at first on the capitals in this room—had to be taken in hand. Dr. Steiner himself began this work. We gathered in a circle around him. Standing high up on two boxes with chisel and mallet in hand, he slowly struck one chip after another from the massive wood, which indicated in its general outlines the motif of a capital. He was completely absorbed in his work, as if he studied inwardly the movements of his hands, as if he would listen to something whispered out of the wood. And so it went on, hour after hour, restfully, uninterrupted. One was already weary from standing; went away; came back . . . He continued to work. And gradually the mass of wood was peeled away from a plastic form . . . The next day all plunged into the work. Everyone received chisel and mallet—but how hard and obstinate the wood was! After half an hour, the hands were utterly sore, and without visible result. It looked as if a mouse had been gnawing at the wood. And still Dr. Steiner had worked yesterday for the first time so many hours and accomplished so much. ...It took time before the hands learnt to substitute rhythm for force, to make the wood compliant, and most of all until one found the way into the model room in order to study its motif and to measure. . . .
”A few items of advice from Dr. Steiner to those carving: ‘In the left hand: the feeling—feel the form with the chisel. In the right: the strength. What matters in this is the work of the two. . . . Your whole feeling must be given consciously to the movement of the surfaces. They must become ensouled. Soul must be in the surfaces. How will the edge between two surfaces come about? That you must not determine beforehand— you must await it with curiosity.... Why do you wish symmetrical form? Your nose also is not symmetrical. Just look at the whirl of your hair . . . But in this way inner life comes to expression!
”Thus did he pass from one group to another, encouraging, jesting; yet more and more anxious appeared the expression of the eyes. Much work remained to be done—the carving of the outer wall, motifs over the windows and portals.”
A few weeks later the same artist reported on progress as follows: ”Still in a crude condition, uncompleted, yet at last the architraves were placed above the columns, and above these the inner dome was arched, and the place was freed from scaffolding. And thus we stood together with Dr. Steiner for the first time inside the Goetheanum. What we had labored at for many months as single fragments we suddenly saw before us blended into a whole, as a space that had never been there before. An impression which will remain forever inextinguishable, overwhelming in spite of everything that was unfinished and defective. And there were plenty of defects.
”And thus we listened to Dr. Steiner’s praise and blame—praise which awoke a profound sense of shame in the heart, blame which sounded so hearty and humorous, so encouraging. We listened to him.... But just as important was it to look. The expression of his face, his gestures, the movement of his whole body rendered visible and supplemented what had not been expressed. The umbrella helped in the tracing of the movement of the form; and when it became more complicated, the soft felt hat was bent and twisted in order to clarify a plastic curve.”43
In Steiner’s absence Edith Maryon, a professional English sculptress, supervised the work. When he was present Steiner often spent the whole day carving, occasionally stopping work to pay visits to other workshops, especially the largest of all, the building that is always known by its German name, the Schreinerei. Here Steiner gave lectures in the evenings as often as he was able, including his fundamental lecture cycle on architecture, known as Ways to a New Style in Architecture, given in June and July, 1914. The Schreinerei was the only large building to survive the disastrous fire on New Year’s Eve, 1922-23, and for many years it had to be used as the lecture hall, as well as providing a stage for such dramatic and eurythmy performances as could still be given.
Before the outbreak of war Steiner’s lecturing schedule was so charged that he could seldom find time to lecture in Dornach, unless he happened to be there for the purpose of working on the Goetheanum. During the period of dissociation from the Theosophical Society in 1912 and 1913 he gave several important cycles on the general theme of the difference between the Eastern and Western paths to the spirit. On the one hand he emphasized the greatness of the wisdom of the East while on the other he stressed the importance of the Western path for Westerners, showing that there really was a Western path, something that was often denied by theosophists. Two cycles were given on the great Indian religious epic the Bhagavad Gita, one of them in Helsingfors, the capital of Finland, to which several Russians came. Steiner stressed how St. Paul, as a man of will and force, put his whole being into what he was saying, by contrast with the calm serenity of the Gita. He explained this contrast by saying that St. Paul’s impulse was new and inspired by the Christ, and for this reason looked toward the future, whereas the Gita tells of a world that is mature and ripe, even over-ripe, and thus without a future. A similar theme ran through a cycle called The Mysteries of the East and of Christianity, given in Berlin in February, 1913.
Although he made seven journeys abroad during 1913, during all of which he gave lectures to the members who had transferred their allegiance to the new Anthroposophical Society, the bulk of his lectures continued to be given in the various German cities, above all Berlin, where he had been lecturing publicly every autumn and winter in the Architects’ House, never missing a single scheduled lecture between 1905 and 1917, even when he was ill, as he was in 1909. Perhaps the most important single cycle was given to Berlin members during the winter season of 1912 to 1913, much of the contents of which was repeated in other German, Austrian, and Swiss cities at the same period. Although he never spoke directly, even to those who were most intimate with him, of the imminence of the war, he suddenly began at this time to give lectures to members which included details of the spiritual world and life between death and rebirth in a manner quite different from hitherto. Contrary to his usual custom, he even explained to his first Berlin audience (Life Between Death and Rebirth in Relation to Cosmic Facts, November 5, 1912) that in the last months, that is in the summer and autumn of 1912, he had been specially engaged in spiritual research into the world after death, and he now wished ”to present an aspect of the subject which could not previously be dealt with.” ”It is,” he said, ”only possible now to consider certain matters which bring home the profound moral significance of the supersensible truths pertaining to this realm.” He then goes on to describe for the first time in detail (if one excepts two lectures given some ten days earlier in Milan on the same subject, and based on the same recent research) the planetary worlds through which the human ”I” passes after leaving kamaloca—kamaloca itself having been described in his book Theosophy, written in 1904. In this cycle he goes much further, explaining in particular how karma is formed in the life between death and rebirth. He discusses relations between the living and the dead, how the dead can influence us, and how in turn we can help the dead.
In view of the timing of this cycle and his repetition of much of its substance elsewhere, it seems virtually certain that he must have been purposely preparing the members for the imminent war, during which some of them and their friends would enter the spiritual worlds suddenly and unexpectedly. He wished to tell those whose destiny was to survive how they could continue to help their friends when they had passed over the threshold, and in turn how they themselves could receive inspiration from the dead. Although he gave another important lecture on the forming of destiny in Berlin at the end of 1915, the culminating cycle on the subject was given in Vienna shortly before the outbreak of the war. In this cycle entitled The Inner Life of Man and Life Between Death and Rebirth (April, 1914) Steiner summed up almost all he had been saying on the subject of the period between death and rebirth, right up to the point when the spirit germ descends at the moment of fecundation before the beginning of a new life on earth. As the war went on, Steiner ever and again reverted to the theme of the necessity for working with the dead. One of the most important cycles on this subject was given to the Berlin members after he had been absent for many months from the German imperial capital. This lecture cycle bears the title Earthly Death and Cosmic Life (January to March, 1918).
Nothing has as yet been said about one task that Rudolf Steiner took upon himself, and never until his last illness did he give it up. This was his interviews with individual members and even friends who wished to see him for a personal conversation and personal advice. Many of the meditations that were published after his death were originally given to members who were in need of them because of their personal life-situations. Nearly all the conversations were held at the request of the members concerned, and what he said naturally remained confidential. But there are dozens of statements from such members attesting that what Rudolf Steiner said to them on these occasions had a most profound effect on them, in many cases changing their entire life thereafter.
It remains true, however, that this tremendous activity took a heavy toll of his life forces, especially in the later years of his life. He kept a detailed appointment book in which were inscribed all the interviews to which he had agreed. If someone new appeared and asked to be allowed to see him privately, out would come the appointment book to see if any time were left. Sometimes when no advance appointment had been made he was able to spare a few minutes for an interview, but this was at the expense of the little time he had kept for himself. When he was asked to be a little easier on himself he would answer that this was one of his most important tasks while he was still on earth. Yet from some of the letters to Marie Steiner that have been published, there peeps out a reluctantly voiced wish that members would have a little more consideration for him. Not all the interviews they requested were truly necessary; in some cases they could have solved their problems without his personal spiritual guidance. As Steiner grew older and the life forces at his disposal became weaker, these interviews took ever greater toll of his strength, as we shall see in discussing the last year of his life. In the years covered by this chapter, the matter was not yet too serious. Fewer members attended his lectures, and fewer still were members of the Society—even if a higher percentage of them wished to have a personal discussion with the ”Doctor,” (as he was almost invariably called by the members). In any event, especially those who worked with him on the Goetheanum saw him often, and sometimes, even without being asked, he would give these co-workers valuable counsel for their personal lives.
There can be no doubt that when he was able and had the strength to talk privately with the members about their lives, he liked to do this, especially if he knew that what he said would be truly taken to heart. His natural goodness of heart, and what he always called himself his ”sociable disposition,” found here a perfect outlet. How far it must have seemed to him from the days in Vienna, and even in Weimar, when he had tried to talk on spiritual matters to his most intimate friends without striking any responsive chord! Now he was almost overwhelmed by the requests made to him to give answers from his spiritual insight. Quite possibly it was the memory of those days that made him in these years never refuse a request, not even when, as in 1924, his very life depended on his readiness to husband those forces which he was too lavishly and too willingly expending.
To illustrate from actual life how Rudolf Steiner was required to handle this part of his activity, this chapter will close with a few extracts from a book written by Boris Bugayev, a distinguished Russian symbolist poet who wrote under the pen name of Andrei Belyi. His book on Rudolf Steiner was published long after his death in a German translation, but never has appeared in Russian, the language in which it was written in 1928. Belyi, who was married for a few years to Assya Turgenieff, spent four years in Germany from 1912 to 1916, during this time attending as many lectures of Steiner’s as he could. After the Russian Revolution he was able to return to the West on a temporary visa, but was required to return home in 1923. Perhaps fortunately for him, he died prematurely in 1934 before the worst of Stalin’s purges. Most of the quotations that follow are taken from the account of his first period in Germany, but the personal interview described here belongs to the 1923 period just before he returned home to the Soviet Union. At the time there had been a slight disagreement between Rudolf Steiner and him, which both were anxious to clear up.
”His apartment in Berlin . . . was like a command post . . . All the inmates of the house, above and below Steiner’s apartment, rushed in constant haste from one floor to another with papers and copies, clattered on typewriters and made telephone calls. My impression: Steiner’s home is always open; its effect is like that of a cell in a commune where no one places any value on comfort; every minute is already scheduled, and there are tasks, tasks, tasks. Here somebody is editing; there, admission tickets for a lecture are being distributed; here, books are being handed out . . . Past these involved, restless rooms, and keeping the breathless ladies from their work, there stream—stream and stream all those who have announced themselves for a consultation with Steiner; all of them people who are foreign to this bubbling life. But each comes with a question that is more important to him than anything else in the world. Some of them come for the first time; they arrive as one comes to confession in the greatest state of excitement. And most of them are surprised. Instead of the dignified atmosphere they expected, they are received by loud seething life that may offend their sense of propriety. They ring the doorbell with hearts a-flutter—but the door is open; they are not received by the housemaid; in fact there are no domestics at all. Instead they are received by someone who just happens to be there . . . They are ushered into a small waiting room where every upholstered piece is occupied by waiting people . . . One door leads into the hallway, the other into the corridor . . . directly in front of one’s nose a deep voice resounds behind it every so often.
”What, the Doctor is here right behind this wall? One pictures the personal meeting with the ”Teacher” within a certain ceremonial framework; but here simplicity rules and an atmosphere of intense everyday work where there is no room for ceremonials, hardly a fitting place for the teacher and the confessing pupil. In one of the back rooms there are probably some open, unpacked suitcases standing about. He returned yesterday from Switzerland and tomorrow he leaves for Hanover—and somebody is readying his luggage for a new journey. Then, suddenly, right in front of your nose, the door of this plain, mystery-filled room is opened, quick as lightning and with a total lack of mystery, and the Doctor appears—a little worn, with a tired pale face; and, the perfect gentleman, ushers a lady out charmingly like a man of the world . . . with his hand raised in greeting from the threshold of the room unless he accompanies her personally into the hallway, where he switches on the light, helps her into her coat and closes the door behind her with his own hands. And then he quickly crosses the corridor leading past the waiting room, pushes his head through the drapes with a smiling ‘One moment, please,’ and goes on into the dining room, perhaps in order to drink a cup of coffee. His visiting hours last for hours and hours. He gets no opportunity either to eat or drink . . . Sometimes he paces hurriedly through the waiting room even without looking up, with serious, sad, stern eyes, only to return immediately. ‘Who is next?’ and to withdraw with the next person, sometimes for a very long period, sometimes for five minutes . . . He wears a tight short jacket; a jacket that is no longer new. On occasion he wears slippers; his pince-nez dangle and dance on a little ribbon and sometimes become entangled in the drapes when he rushes through them. And then you find yourself in his reception room; a tiny room, black furniture, books, table, an easy chair, everything very modest. . . . When I enter here I immediately lose the ability to perceive anything except him, himself; how he sits down next to me, turning his ear in my direction (he hears less well with one ear). . . . Simplicity remains simplicity, kindness remains kindness, but in the simple interior of this room there occur such dramas of every kind, dreadful and joyous ones. . . But it is of no avail to talk about it. He was, after all, ‘Rudolf Steiner’ and he has the capacity to transform every situation into an unforgettable moment. . . .
”He had, as it were, a therapeutic smile; the countenance blossomed . . . one felt that one had nothing of the kind to give in return. He had the gift of the smile, the faculty of direct expression from the heart . . . His smile could have had a smothering effect had he not tempered it down when necessary. Many know his sunny smile; we spoke of it. One must speak about it, for not a single photograph of his reflects it. . . . Our last meeting went like this: a long line of persons ahead of me [this was in 1923] and behind me; the car was waiting—Steiner was scheduled to return to Dornach from Stuttgart. He greeted me and led me into the room. We sat down by a small desk. Steiner was pale as death; it isn’t easy to listen to such large numbers of people one after the other when each comes with his most urgent problem. His answers were always concrete, but they only unfolded their full nature in the course of the years. All this passed over my mind during our last meeting. He turned his over-tired face with the good-natured eagle nose in my direction with a smile difficult to describe, ‘We do not have much time, try to say briefly everything you have on your mind.’ This conversation of twenty minutes lives within me as if it had lasted many hours, not because I would have been capable of saying everything but because he replied to everything beyond any word. The answer grew out of the facts of the following years of my life. Only he was capable of replying like this, to recognize the leading thought of months and years behind the spoken words and to discern behind this thought the sum of experiences, and to see my will that was not even clear to myself at that time. . . . In his subdued, somewhat deep voice he explained to me in what respect and why I was wrong; and I felt how his atmosphere of warmth and fervor enveloped me too. Everything that I expressed was only three dimensional; but this atmosphere of glowing warmth that purified me from my sins and my pain could not be grasped; this comprehension only developed in the course of years as the best in me.
”A friend also described to me this warmth that seemed to emanate directly from the heart. She had arrived altogether unexpectedly, to leave again soon, and for a long time. She had the absolutely urgent desire to be received by Steiner, but the Doctor was overburdened; he couldn’t suppress the annoyed exclamation, ‘Why do you come during the conference? I don’t have a free minute!’ And my friend replied in the same vein, ‘We cannot come whenever we want to, only when we are able to!’ She turned around and walked away. She heard a voice calling her name and looked around. Doctor Steiner was running after her with outstretched arms; he took both her hands, was full of warmth. . . .
In his kindness, the demands he made upon himself were unending. ”Compassion has its limits,” Marie Steiner said to him, but he replied: ”No, compassion has no limits.” Of love he said: ”It is a giving faculty. The more one gives, the more one has to give.” Every true love, according to his words, has the quality of infinite extension.
He extended himself.”44
Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a New Epoch