GROWTH OF AND OPPOSITION
IN THE EXTERNAL WORLD: 1919-1922
A very brief reference was made in Chapter 4 to a turning point in history that occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the specific date of 1879 was mentioned. We may now return to this date, since it had great significance for Rudolf Steiner, and was never very far from his thoughts, especially in the last years of his life. He tells us that the spiritual being known as the Archangel Michael took over the leadership of humanity in that year, replacing as guiding spirit of the time the Archangel Gabriel.
Gabriel had taken over the leadership of mankind soon after humanity had entered the age of the consciousness soul, and it had been his principal task to lead men to an understanding of the material aspects of the external world. The result of his work had been the rise of materialistic science, based on what Steiner calls passive thinking, a thinking that is conditioned by the facts of the world as they are perceived by men, and which needs no creative effort on man’s part. This kind of thinking is admirably equipped to grasp the world of minerals, but a more active, living thinking is needed in order to understand the world of the living, the world of the plants and animals, and above all of man. This active thinking is made possible for us by the work of Michael. In the new age guided by Michael as time-spirit it is no longer sufficient for us simply to perceive the world (passively) by means of the five senses with which we have been endowed at birth, but we must learn by active work on ourselves to perceive how the world, including man, is made up of visible matter and invisible spirit. Such a change has now, especially since the end of Kali Yuga, the Dark Age, in 1899, become urgently necessary because, according to Steiner, we have come to the end of everything that can be understood by the old forms of consciousness. To use his own words in his lectures on the Mission of Michael given in November, 1919, ”everything that could have been solved by means of ancient forms of consciousness has been solved; today’s demands can be met only by human beings with a new attitude of soul.”
It was because the attempt was being made to solve social problems with old forms of thought that, according to Steiner, the war had come about, and no way of building a lasting peace was possible under these old forms. Abstract notions such as the League of Nations would solve nothing, he said, and the problems would continue to grow worse, and ever worse conflagrations would be the result.
This cycle of November, 1919, just referred to, may be thought of as the beginning of the last phase of his life work, in which he made the stupendous attempt to put to practical use all the knowledge of spirit that he had acquired during his life hitherto, while at the same time trying to deepen the essential anthroposophical knowledge which his followers and eventual successors had acquired from him, and were trying to make fruitful within themselves. In this cycle he spoke of the work that had to be accomplished by mankind during the epoch guided by Michael, and in particular he stressed the importance of following what he called the Michael path—”to recognize the supersensible in the immediate sense world, that is, in the world of man, animal and plant, and . . . to find in the world which we ourselves recognize as supersensible, the Christ impulse.” In all spheres of activity, therefore, it has become man’s task to try to perceive the supersensible at all times behind the material appearance, and to take this supersensible element into account even when men are not yet able to perceive it for themselves. Steiner’s work therefore was to give all possible and useful indications regarding this super¬sensible element, and to encourage his followers to work with it, and through inner effort and inner development to acquire living thinking for themselves, so that they could in due time carry on what he had begun with them.
In Steiner’s view, as we have seen in the last two chapters, the Threefold Social Order was willed by the spirit, and was not simply a better form of society, which could be brought into existence by a series of practical measures. The three ”domains” of society were not arbitrarily conceived, but were realities, just as much as are the three interlocking ”systems” of the human organism. Thus it required spiritual knowledge to perceive these social realities, but ordinary people who possessed no direct spiritual knowledge could work to bring the new order into being. By November, 1919, Steiner certainly must have known that the Threefold Order would not come to realization during these immediate postwar years, as he had perhaps thought possible when he launched the movement in April 1919, before the signing of the peace treaties. But for him a new social order based on spiritual understanding was the highest priority for mankind, and he continued to work for it tirelessly, as long as there was any hope that a substantial number of persons would come to believe in it, and would make the effort to bring at least some elements of it to realization on the physical plane. In the end, as we have seen, only the first Waldorf School (and the entire educational movement that stemmed from it) survived as an achievement of the Movement for the Threefold Commonwealth, and many, though not all, present-day Waldorf Schools, have been careful to preserve as part of their internal organization the separate three domains of which Steiner first spoke just after the First World War. If this Threefold movement was, as it has been called, one of the great ”prematurities” of history, all the other efforts made by Rudolf Steiner to make use of his spiritual knowledge to transform human thinking in every realm bore some fruit—and in all those realms in which his surviving followers and successors are still working, the admonition repeated so many times in these lectures always to be aware of the spiritual or supersensible within the material, and thus to think in a Michaelic way, is expected to be at the center of their work, and of their understanding of what they are doing.
Although it was now seven years since the laying of the foundation stone of the Goetheanum, by 1920 the building was by no means finished. Money for its completion remained in short supply, and relatively few persons were available for necessary work on the sculpture and painting. During the course of the war many of the men who had at first worked on the building were called up or had to return to Germany or some other warring country. Most of the remaining workers were therefore women. Nevertheless by 1920 the exterior of the Goetheanum was finished, and the stage was usable, even though all the seats in the auditorium were not yet in place. The great workshop adjoining the Goetheanum, the so-called Schreinerei, was the real center for anthoposophical work at the time, Rudolf Steiner having his own studio here, where, with the help of Edith Maryon, he used to work on the Group sculpture whenever he had a spare moment. One part of the Schreinerei was also used temporarily for lectures and for rehearsals, where Marie Steiner worked untiringly with the eurythmists or in preparing various scenes from Faust. Around the Goetheanum everything else was in a more or less unfinished state, and the building itself was still part of the countryside, surrounded by pasture land and orchards.
Some anthroposophists had erected houses or were planning to erect houses close to the Goetheanum, as might indeed have been expected. As might also have been expected, some difficulties arose because of the excessive ”individualism” of the members when it was a question of constructing homes for themselves, in an area which was to become a center for spiritual activity, and with a building like the Goetheanum as its focus. As early as January 19, 1914, Rudolf Steiner felt it necessary to warn members that it would not be feasible for ”friends who want to become colonists” to follow their own wishes without thought for the whole complex. Their homes must ”together with the Goetheanum and its subsidiary buildings form a connected whole.” Members should not even construct too quickly just because they wanted to play an active part in the creation of the Goetheanum, but ”should have the patience to wait until the moment arises when it could prove possible to find a good solution for a given dwelling.” ”Individual colonists should not all go their several ways, but what gets done should be done in harmony.” ”If, inasmuch as we are colonists, we really manage to carry out our intention and show that a number of us can be filled with a common will and purpose and can guide this will in the direction marked out by our anthroposophical approach, then we will create something exemplary in Dornach.”49
Lastly, Steiner warned once more that ”we do not want to be a sect, some community or other, which asserts this or the other dogma.”
In general it must be conceded that his words about the architecture of the area were well heeded, and mistakes that were originally made were in due course rectified. To most people the present area does indeed give the impression of overall harmony that Rudolf Steiner was hoping for and would probably have approved—even if today the famous boiler-house designed by Rudolf Steiner himself and erected in his lifetime still surprises an unwary visitor by its shape which, to quote Steiner again ”has not arisen according to utilitarian architecture as conceived hitherto!”
By 1920 the Goetheanum had become usable, but members were becoming impatient to know when Dornach and the Goetheanum would become the real center of anthroposophical work. It was therefore a considerable event when Rudolf Steiner gave his consent to the use of the Goetheanum for a great conference which would last for about three weeks, beginning with Michaelmas, 1920. The consent was given on the understanding that the event would not be regarded as the formal opening of the building; nor should it be thought of as completed and ready for use just because of the holding of this conference. Indeed, the conference was officially known as a ”collegiate” course, and hundreds of non-anthroposophists were to be invited to take part in it, especially university students, not only from Germany but from all Western Europe. Rudolf Steiner would personally open and play an active part in it. But the responsibility for the organization of the conference, and decisions on whom to invite, would rest with his assistants and with those who had asked for it, including several of the Waldorf teachers. Lectures would be given by other participants, and discussions would also be led by non-anthroposophists as well as by members. The first public performances of the new art of eurythmy to be given at the Goetheanum would be presented at the conference, under the direction of Marie Steiner.
It will have been realized from the description of the First Goetheanum given in Chapter 8 that this unique building would be likely to present unique problems to those who worked in it, both artists and lecturers. The organic forms, the beautiful lightfilled windows of the interior, including the stage and auditorium, would seem appropriate only if what was spoken from the rostrum and what was presented on the stage were in harmony with the forms. It seems clear from all accounts of this first public conference at the Goetheanum that this harmony was only rarely achieved. Most of the participants brought with them the ordinary materialistic views of their everyday life, and the critical spirit that was natural to them in their work at the universities. The Goetheanum was not hospitable to speeches made for the sake of expressing disagreement, still less for the purpose of showing off the speakers’ erudition: and this incongruity between the building itself and so many of the speakers was experienced by older anthroposophists as uneasiness. By contrast, when Rudolf Steiner himself spoke, it was not solely their reverence for him that made them think his words to be acceptable to and in harmony with the building. The eurythmy and music, including the newly installed organ, also belonged there; and this indeed could scarcely have been otherwise since the building was, in part, designed as it was, in order that the art of declamation so devotedly fostered by Marie Steiner, according to indications by Rudolf Steiner, could be presented fittingly in it. Marie Steiner herself was so sensitive to these matters that sometimes she would not permit the whole eurythmy performance that she had rehearsed to be presented in the Goetheanum. Some of the eurythmy numbers she insisted on presenting in the Schreinerei, where they had been rehearsed.
It may well be that the building also kindled among some of those present—more than a thousand persons attended the conference—an opposition to Rudolf Steiner’s work of which they had not been conscious before. They felt a kind of hostility to themselves in the very forms of the building, and reacted with hostility to the man who had created it, and to the lofty spirits who stood behind him—as a realization of one’s own unworthiness can so easily turn to hatred of those who exemplify the opposite. Steiner himself several years before had spoken of how everything in the Goetheanum should be a ”spontaneous affirmation” of what was shown and spoken there. Conversely, what was spoken and shown there ought to have been ”spontaneously affirmed” by the forms, and manifestly this was not true of that first public conference, or ”collegiate course,” in spite of the moving opening address given by Rudolf Steiner himself, and of a poetic last lecture couched in beautiful language by the Swiss poet Albert Steffen, who was ultimately to succeed Rudolf Steiner as president of the General Anthroposophical Society. Only a few of the other lectures came at all close to the standard set by these two leaders.
What became apparent in this conference and in the entire history of the Anthroposophical Movement during these postwar years was that the Movement, even with Rudolf Steiner leading it, was not truly strong enough to spread the new impulse and the new knowledge into an uncaring and largely unprepared world. It did not have within it the inner forces necessary to storm the bastions of religious conservatism and entrenched materialism, especially now that new forces of evil had been let loose in the world by the war. Rudolf Steiner was of course entirely aware of the weaknesses in the movement he led. But there was nothing he could do except what he did; recognizing himself as the servant of Michael and the Christ, he had to try to accomplish Michael’s work in the world, to plant the seeds, even if in his lifetime he could not expect to see anything more than a somewhat meager harvest. In the future, near or distant, more healthy fruits might appear and grow ripe. Meanwhile it remained his own task to give out that knowledge that he alone possessed as yet, knowledge that could be used in the external world by his collaborators and successors.
Hitherto Anthroposophy had kindled the spirits and warmed the souls of a few. But in these immediate postwar years there were many who were looking for something new, especially in defeated Germany where conditions were going from bad to worse. Recovery in Germany began only when the currency was stabilized with the help of American loans after the problem of war debts and reparations had been temporarily solved. In Germany, especially, young people were looking for something new, something that would warm their hearts and answer their unspoken questions; and it seemed to many, and not only among the young, that Steiner had the answers for which they were looking. For a few years they flocked to his banner, for a short time swamping the older members who had carried it for so long, some of whom had over the years succeeded in making Anthroposophy truly their own. The newer members were in a hurry. Many of them were distinguished in their own right and had already taken up their careers; others were still studying in colleges and universities, and were increasingly dissatisfied with what they learned. Without having ever embarked on a career, they wished to try something unconventional and different, something responding to their ideals. For every thousand who in despair heeded the call of Adolf Hitler, perhaps one or two turned in hope to Rudolf Steiner. For a time the proportion was much higher than that, when he was filling some of the largest lecture halls in Germany, and crowds thronged outside unable to get in.
Those who joined the Society in these years were often impatient to do something themselves, and it was not uncommon for them to resent the apparent inactivity of the more entrenched and settled members who may have cultivated their inner life, but did not show much interest in doing anything positive in the ”outside” world. Thus there were many opportunities for misunderstanding. On the one hand the newer members often lacked knowledge of the core teachings of Anthroposophy, and did not feel the need to acquire it by hard work and persistence. Such persons were content to study what Rudolf Steiner had taught about the particular subject in which they were interested, for example natural science, economics, medicine or even pedagogy. They looked to Steiner to give them new insights into these subjects, and with these they often tried to convert the ”outside” world, sometimes in the process covering themselves with ridicule, as when one doctor member tried to convert the entire medical corps of Vienna to anthroposophical medicine, and was howled down by the assembled members. Incapable of answering any questions in depth for lack of profound study of Anthroposophy, they sometimes brought the whole movement into disrepute, to the chagrin of Rudolf Steiner, who had never authorized them to speak on behalf of Anthroposophy. Presenting a strong contrast to these newer members were the numerous older members who did nothing to spread Anthroposophy and were quite content simply to absorb it, never even troubling to defend Steiner against the many attacks made on him during these years of public activity.
With neither side could Rudolf Steiner feel himself in full sympathy. He needed active support, and without supporters the Movement could not survive his death. But if these supporters either could not or would not enter profoundly into the substance of Anthroposophy, Anthroposophy itself could not be preserved by them. The various anthroposophical activities might continue for a time, but if they were to be effective they would have to be nourished constantly from the source. Steiner therefore insisted on the necessity for study and work with the central ideas of Anthroposophy, and for cultivating the inner life, and he warned against severing anthroposophical work in the outside world from all that he had been teaching for so many years as the basic truths of Anthroposophy. So, while he gave out much new knowledge in these postwar years, and provided more information on the basis of which new anthroposophical activities were started, he also tried by every means in his power to deepen the understanding of these basic truths among the members, and especially his lectures on Christianity became ever more esoteric as the years went by. Fortunately for the future of the Movement, at least some gifted collaborators were provided for him by destiny; and it is these men and women and their pupils and successors who have maintained the Anthroposophical Movement in being since that time. In the next chapter we shall consider also the institutional framework given to the Society itself in 1923, a framework that has survived to this day in the form of the General Anthroposophical Society, with its center at the rebuilt Goetheanum in Dornach.
Before coming to the specific details of the work done during these years, some consideration will be given here to Rudolf Steiner as a public figure, which he became at this time. None of his work had, of course, ever been secret, but with the building of the Goetheanum, and especially with his leadership of the Threefold Social Order and the founding of the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, his activities were for the first time reported by the press, and he was widely regarded as a coming leader on a national, even an international scale. He had in no way sought publicity for himself and his work, but it was impossible for him to avoid it, especially at a time when leaders of renown were scarce, and when millions of people were ready to follow anyone who offered them a way out of the misery of the postwar world. Probably very few people ever fully understood his social ideas, but for a time many thousands wanted to hear about them, and they filled the halls in Germany where he spoke—about the Threefold Social Order, or about other aspects of Anthroposophy. A leading agency, Sachs and Wolff, requested permission to arrange lecture tours for him, and for a time they rented the biggest halls, and filled them with listeners, some of whom, perhaps most, were deeply disappointed by what they heard.
For Rudolf Steiner never at any time made concessions to the desires and expectations of his public audiences. He continued to speak as he had always done, whether he was giving a lecture with the title of The Essence of the Social Question or Anthroposophy and the Riddle of the Soul, or some other title. Now that he was faced by large public audiences, most of their members hearing him for the first time, he felt that it was his principal task simply to awaken their interest rather than to make new revelations from the spiritual world. Everything that he said he had said many times before in a different form and to different audiences. But each time it had to be brought forth from his inner being, and nothing was ever exactly the same as before. It was far from impossible that members of the audience who had never heard him and knew him only by reputation looked upon him as a kind of latter-day magician, who knew the answers to every question, and who might pull out of his hat some wonderful panacea for all their ills; and because he never gave them one, many no doubt went away disappointed. What he actually did in these public lectures was to speak very seriously and with the utmost clarity about the reality of the spiritual world, and how men might come to know it consciously, as at one time they had known it in a dim primeval clairvoyance. He told them perhaps how to develop their own higher faculties, always making it abundantly clear that the path was a difficult one, that the science of spirit was indeed a science, a knowledge that did not contradict the natural science of the day but complemented it.
Friedrich Rittelmeyer, whose book Rudolf Steiner Enters my Life has already been quoted, was present at one of the lectures arranged for Rudolf Steiner by Sachs and Wolff and given in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall early in 1922 before several thousand persons.
”I was present,” he reports, ”at the gathering in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall—the large auditorium filled to the last seat. Outside people were snatching tickets away from each other and were paying anything up to a hundred marks for them. The hall was full of tense expectation. Unconsciously the people were waiting for the prophet of the age. Rudolf Steiner appeared and spoke for more than an hour to the breathlessly listening mass of three thousand, relentlessly and fundamentally, of Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. Again and again I asked myself: Has ever a man let an opportunity for impressing a crowd so absolutely slip by? An officer of higher rank, a respected member of the Wagner circle, was sitting by me in the box. I myself had interested him in Dr. Steiner. He sat there attentively and sympathetically, trying hard to understand. Gradually he lost hope and leant back. Then he shook his head irritably and had disappeared long before the end of the lecture.
”Did Rudolf Steiner know what he was doing—that he was boring this unusual gathering of people who were waiting, openmouthed, for sensationalism? Nobody who knew Rudolf Steiner could doubt that he was fully conscious of what he was doing. Embarrassment before the huge crowd? Inability to speak to the masses? None of this could occur for an instant to those who knew how Rudolf Steiner’s speaking could make one tremble with its thunder. For whom was he really speaking? During the lecture I reckoned out how many of the audience were able and willing in some measure to follow it. Apart from anthroposophists, I estimated five to ten. He was speaking to them, quite consciously. Everything that might have made him the sensation of the hour was pitilessly suppressed. Not the faintest breath of a will-to-impress flickered over the assembly. He hoped to awaken interest in spiritual things in those ten or possibly twenty individuals by the essential earnestness and detailed thoroughness with which he spoke of regions utterly foreign to the majority of men.
”I had once heard Johannes Muller say that one must not only be able to ‘talk a hall full’ but also to ‘talk it empty’ again. On that particular occasion Rudolf Steiner did this to perfection. Shortly afterwards, when he was again asked to go on a lecturing tour through Germany, the halls were half empty, and the meeting in Munich, where he was threatened with bodily injury and his life endangered as the result of the action of a band of hooligans at the instigation of a newspaper, brought the short period when he was in vogue to a close.”50
Whether or not Dr. Rittelmeyer was right in his estimate of the reasons for the kind of lecture Steiner gave on this occasion, it is certain that he was following his invariable practice of speaking as he felt the occasion demanded. At this time the Movement for the Threefold Social Order had been virtually abandoned, and he had no wish to arouse the enthusiasm of his audience for any immediate purpose. He could not speak to a public audience, haphazardly assembled through the publicity of a concert agency, of deeply esoteric matters, as he could speak to a small group of members familiar with Anthroposophy. All he could hope to do was to persuade a few members of the audience to take Anthroposophy seriously and perhaps look into it for themselves. Steiner always insisted that, at least in his own time Anthroposophy could never become a mass movement without totally changing its character. He had no wish to attract adherents who enlisted under his banner ready to follow wherever he led them. He was not a leader of this kind.
By 1922 there was already in existence an immense corpus of spiritual knowledge, the content of a dozen or so difficult books and of thousands of lectures delivered to different audiences over a period of twenty-one years. Those men and women who thirsted for this knowledge must necessarily be few in number. But some of them might be in any of his public audiences, and thus for the first time were hearing about Anthroposophy from its founder and teacher. So he spoke to these men and women and these alone; and if members of the audience, like Rittelmayer’s friend, left before the end, why then the lecture was not intended for them, but for those in whom a spark of inner recognition was struck by what he said.
In view of the limited nature of his appeal, it may be cause for surprise that Rudolf Steiner excited so much virulent hatred, a word that is by no means too strong for the opposition that he aroused from so many sides. Steiner was an honest man, a man with the courage of a lion, with a vitality and endurance that were almost superhuman, with a personal charm and a never failing sense of humor, and above all an endless patience and love for his fellow-men. Are then these virtues, which are attested to by all who knew him and have never been questioned, such as to excite hatred rather than respect? That Steiner could also be stern when circumstances demanded it, this too is well attested, but it happened rarely, and very seldom indeed was his sternness directed against those who might be thought of as his enemies—only at friends and supporters who were falling short of what he expected of them. Yet it is certain that he was hated, as few men have been hated, and the unique building that he designed, into which for almost ten years he poured his life forces, was burned by, or at the instigation of his enemies. After the fire had done its work, even after he lay prostrate on what was to prove to be his deathbed, the attacks and calumnies persisted. Surely such a hatred deserves an attempt at an explanation, inadequate though such an attempt must be in the absence of any direct knowledge of the hidden forces behind the burning desire to destroy him and discredit his work? It seems to me that the attempt must begin with a listing of those persons and organized groups who felt themselves threatened by his work, as well as those who, for one reason or another, were fundamentally opposed to it. We shall then pass to a discussion of the weapons they had at their disposal and how they used them.
The earliest opponents of his work we have already discussed in earlier chapters. These were the theosophists who stayed with the Theosophical Society, and regarded Steiner as a renegade who had used their Society as a springboard for his own ambitions. He had used pressure on members of his section to persuade them to join his own breakaway movement. Many of these theosophists followed H.P. Blavatsky and Annie Besant in their anti-Christian orientation, and disapproved of the way Steiner placed the Christ at the center of earthly evolution, as a divine being who once and for all incarnated in a human body, whereas traditional Theosophy thought of Christ as at best an Adept or Master, even of a very high rank, but still a human being. Well before the war some theosophists were spreading the calumny that Steiner had been educated by Jesuits, perhaps even now was a secret Jesuit—a charge he had no difficulty in refuting, though it continued to be voiced by his opponents.
Both branches of organized Christianity opposed his teachings, and numerous priests and clergymen continued to preach against his ideas to the end of his life. It must be admitted that almost everything he taught about Christianity seemed to conflict with the dogmas to which these men adhered, though it is quite another matter whether they conflict with the Bible when interpreted correctly. The distinction Steiner made between Jesus and Christ, for example, the information given in The Fifth Gospel taken from the Akasha Chronicle, his interpretations of the Incarnation, death and Resurrection of Christ—all these things were totally unacceptable to most traditional clergymen. Reincarnation was equally contrary to Christian dogma, especially if one did not study Steiner’s teaching about it in depth. It seemed to contradict the doctrine of the Redemption, at the very least. Worst of all, if what Steiner taught were true, there seemed little need for the Church itself, which in any event had no part to play in ”salvation”; while the commonly held belief that souls redeemed by Christ would soon pass into a heaven in which they would live forever was given no support by Anthroposophy. In view of the long history of religious fanaticism, which we have no reason to suppose has come to an end, it is not difficult to imagine that some of Steiner’s most determined enemies felt it to be their religious duty to discredit him and his work, and prevent it from taking root in human souls. When the Movement for Religious Renewal, to be discussed later in this chapter, was endowed with a renewed Christian ritual through the help of Rudolf Steiner, it takes no great effort to imagine the fury in traditional religious circles, nor how easy it must have been to arouse fanatical hatred against him.
The opposition to Steiner from individual occultists as well as various esoteric groups should neither be overlooked nor underestimated. On the one hand many traditional occultists felt very strongly that the kind of information given out by Steiner, especially to public audiences, should never have been revealed. Some thought that he had revealed truths that he had acquired from traditional occult sources without admitting their origin, and that he was thus ”betraying the Mysteries”—a crime in ancient times punishable by death; others recognized that he personally had developed higher faculties. The knowledge he acquired was therefore his own, but the occultists were of the opinion that the world was not yet ready for it. Among these occultists some were certainly theosophists. Both these occult groups, however much they may have admired Steiner, wished him at the very least to exercise more discretion when he spoke; whether they would also have taken overt action to silence him must remain an open question. On the other hand it is certain that the evil secret brotherhoods to which Steiner had devoted three lectures in November, 1917 (The Right and Wrong Use of Esoteric Knowledge), and which practiced black magic in the service of the enemies of mankind, would have opposed Steiner on every possible occasion, and it may be taken for granted that some of the numerous lies and slanders which he had to endure spread from such sources as these.
The opposition to Steiner on the part of organized political groups is, up to a point, sufficiently well established. We have spoken of the objections voiced by the labor unions and the political parties of the left to his ideas on the Threefold Social Order, which, if brought to practical realization, would have made their own existence unnecessary. However, these groups were never in any serious danger from him, since it was clear even before the end of 1919 that the Threefold Order at best was postponed until a scarcely foreseeable future. They did not stand to lose much if a limited number of non-unionized workers preferred living in harmony with their more or less enlightened employers to joining a union and accepting the necessity of class struggle. It is true that Steiner minced no words in attacking Bolshevism and its Russian leaders, but this was certainly no novelty, and it is doubtful if an antagonist such as Rudolf Steiner would make them shake in their shoes. Certainly Marxists would disapprove of Steiner’s emphasis on human freedom, and no doubt if they had ever come to power they would have suppressed the Waldorf Schools, just as the Nazis did. But the Communists had more important enemies of their own to cope with, in the form of the right wing groups that sprang up everywhere in Germany after the war, and these were armed and militantly anti-Communist—thus far more dangerous to them than Steiner could have been, even if he had won a large popular following.
Immediately after the war, as we have seen, various uncoordinated revolutions broke out in different parts of Germany, at first aided, as had been true in Russia in 1917, by mutinous elements of the army. But Russian history did not repeat itself in Germany, largely because the moderate Socialist leaders preferred a relatively conservative republic and ”law and order” to a Bolshevik-style revolution such as the Communists hoped for. They therefore joined forces with the non-revolutionary elements in the army to suppress the various efforts at revolution led by the Communists. Such successes as the latter won were all short-lived, and the repression visited on them by the military with the acquiescence of the moderate Socialists was merciless. The military had no particular sympathy for the Socialists, but they regarded them as at least good patriots who had supported the war, and they were now willing to tolerate them and use them for their own purposes.
However, the traditional military leaders were by no means always in full control of their troops. Relatively junior officers, when they received orders to demobilize, often refused to do so, and formed their troops into independent bands calling themselves Free Corps. Such men refused to accept the Treaty of Versailles, under which the German army was reduced to a fraction of its peacetime strength. They were totally unwilling to join the hordes of unemployed which seemed to be the only future awaiting them. The paramilitary units and the regular army began to claim that the Germans had never been defeated in the war, but had been ”stabbed in the back” by Socialists and Communists, in spite of the fact that the Socialist government resigned rather than take responsibility for signing the treaty. Friedrich Ebert, the Socialist president of the new Republic nevertheless accepted the treaty and had to accept that responsibility since without his signature the Allies refused to call off their blockade. When it became known that the Germans had been made to accept entire responsibility for the war, and to pay what seemed to be an astronomical sum as ”reparations,” a marvellous opportunity was presented to agitators to arouse feelings against the treaty, and against those ”enemies” at home who could be made the target of their wrath in the absence of any foreign enemies, who were safely out of reach. When the attempt to pay reparations led to an ever increasing inflation and later an invasion of the Ruhr by French and Belgian armies in the attempt to collect what was due, it is obvious that those who were losing all they had would turn against those who appeared to be the beneficiaries of the inflation, especially the Jews. It was in these circumstances that a new leader appeared, an ex-corporal named Adolf Hitler who slowly but surely built his German Workers Party into a powerful organization. In this he was supported by other disgruntled veterans, as well as by a number of industrialists who secretly supplied him with money, either as insurance or in hopes of profiting from the movement. Some high ranking officers also cast benevolent eyes upon the rising party, which in time changed its name to the National Socialist Workers’ Party, Hitler regarding this title as sufficient protective coloration for his right wing movement.
It is scarcely surprising that Rudolf Steiner became a target for attacks from this quarter, once he had taken the lead in a movement such as that for the Threefold Social Order. Even if he had continued merely to lecture in Germany, as he had always done, and even if neither he nor his pupils had made any effort to demand social changes in the postwar world, it is probable that those among the Nazis who were really informed about his teachings and activities would have considered him a threat to their aims. The Nazi movement was above all anti-Semitic and rabidly nationalistic, owing much to the pan-Germanic movement of prewar days. Though Steiner was regarded as a German nationalist, as we have seen, by British and French anthroposophists, at least for a time, rabid German nationalists would certainly have thought him too lukewarm, even though he did go out of his way to praise the true German spirit. But when he began to proclaim the Threefold Social Order, and attracted large crowds to his speeches, the Nazis and other nationalist groups would surely have noted that he had nothing to say in favor of nationalism, and regarded it indeed as an outmoded concept; that he spoke strongly for the free human being; and that his Waldorf School in Stuttgart sought above all to educate men and women for freedom.
Steiner was an Austrian, but was he a true German? Had he not exiled himself to Switzerland during the war and set up his headquarters there, offering hospitality, work, and safety to men and women from so many different nations, including from those which were fighting against Germany? The Goetheanum was certainly called after a famous German, but Goethe was scarcely a German nationalist. Could Steiner, perhaps, even be a Jew? It was known in some German circles that he had had an interview with General Helmut von Moltke during the first weeks of the war, and that a week or two later the Germans had been defeated at the battle of the Marne. Could Steiner have instilled defeatism into von Moltke? In any event a man who could fill the largest halls in Germany when he spoke was worth watching, and it was certain that he was doing nothing to help the nationalist cause. Lastly it was said by German nationalists that eurythmy was un-German. It was not a ”German” form of dancing, like the dancing of the idol of the day, Mary Wigman (whose dancing in fact owed much to the Orient). It was very easy, even a pleasure, to hoot and jeer at serious performances like those of the eurythmists; and, as for creating disturbances when Rudolf Steiner spoke, that too was fun for ruffians of whom the Nazi party was never in short supply, even in its early years. In these postwar years also there was no shortage of assassins among the reactionary right. Kurt Eisner, the Socialist leader of Bavaria, Matthias Erzberger who had received the Armistice terms from Marshal Foch, and Walther Rathenau, foreign minister and industrialist, all fell victims to assassins, and these were only three of the more distinguished victims. Rathenau was the only one of the three who was also a Jew. It had been he who had negotiated the treaty of Rapallo with the Bolsheviks shortly before his death. Though approved of by the German General Staff, to the reactionary right this treaty was a despicable deal with the enemy.
In an introduction to the published version of a lecture Steiner had given in Liestal, near Basel in 1916, Steiner wrote some words which could have been written at almost any time in his life, since at all times he had the same kind of opposition to contend with. ”These objections to Anthroposophy”, he wrote, ”often arise in a very peculiar way. They do not consist in first considering what Spiritual Science asserts, and then attacking it, but they consist in setting up a caricature of what Spiritual Science is supposed to say, and then attacking that. In this way we are frequently assailed, not because of the actual objects we had in view, but because of their very opposite, which we never had in mind. This type of opposition usually has no serious intention of really learning to understand what it condemns. In the face of such attacks as these, there is hardly anything to do save continually to strive to present from various angles the actual methods and aims of Spiritual Science in an anthroposophical setting.”51
It will be readily recognized from what has been said in this book, especially in Chapter 6, that anthroposophical teachings are not easy to grasp, and that the diligent student of Anthroposophy may have to read many times over the difficult sections in Steiner’s books and lectures, before he can pretend to have understood them. Anthroposophy is, indeed, a lifetime’s study, and with the best will in the world—which is seldom enough present—it is difficult for beginners to make sense of the teachings, certainly to make sense enough to be able to write an objective report on them. It is peculiarly painful, in particular, for journalists, whose employers expect them to be able to make summaries of the most complex world situations in a few well chosen paragraphs, to try to discuss rationally in a similar manner a body of knowledge such as Anthroposophy. Even today, articles about Anthroposophy, in quite respectable encyclopedias, written no doubt, by competent professionals, often go hopelessly astray. It is much easier for a journalist faced with a deadline to pick out a few items that he may (or may not) have heard in a lecture by Steiner and try to write entertainingly about them than it is to write seriously about them. To write seriously about Anthroposophy it is necessary to do some serious homework, and even then it is far from easy to understand enough to be able to write intelligently about it. It is likely to be better for a journalist’s reputation if he makes fun of Anthroposophy, especially since anthroposophists are not so powerful that it is dangerous in any way to offend them. Similarly with eurythmy, an offshoot of Anthroposophy. It did not fit into any known category of art. Even if Rudolf or Marie Steiner opened the presentation with a short explanation of what was being attempted on the stage, it was difficult for a journalist who had never seen anything of the kind before to appreciate what he was seeing. The relationship between Marie Steiner as speaker and the movements made on the stage by eurythmists was not so easily grasped, and it was much simpler in this field also to be amusing about the new art, ridiculing it or, at best, damning it with a little faint praise, or perhaps comparing it unfavorably with modern dance which it ought to resemble even if it did not. So neither eurythmy nor Rudolf Steiner’s own public lectures usually won for themselves a good press, however much the audience itself may have approved of both.
All this should, in fairness, be recognized; and it is quite possible that a very large proportion of the criticisms that Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner had to endure were not malevolent, nor part of a purposeful intent to discredit them and their work. Nevertheless, even if one subtracts all those attacks in the press that stemmed from ignorance, or from a wish by their writers to show off how much more clever they were than the benighted audiences who seemed to be taken in by the speaker, there remains a hard core of determined and intentional desire to discredit and destroy him and his work. When Steiner was speaking in various cities in Germany in 1921 and 1922 there were without any doubt organized attempts to break up his meetings. Some younger anthroposophists undertook to be present at all meetings, prepared to defend Steiner if necessary; and on at least one occasion in Munich they did succeed in foiling an armed attempt on his life. Usually Steiner continued to speak, and Marie Steiner continued to recite until the end, refusing to be either intimidated or driven off the stage. But his opponents were able to set fire to the Goetheanum and destroy it, and that was not the work simply of uncomprehending critics of his work or even, one would think, of reactionary nationalists, but, more probably, of persons who understood very well the spiritual significance of the Goetheanum and who wished to prevent it from fulfilling its purpose.
Guenther Wachsmuth, in his book The Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner, refers in several places to the scurrilous pamphlets and brochures directed against Steiner, pointing out how contradictory the charges against him so often were. According to him, ”the falsehoods were constantly spread by many opponents solely because of the endeavor to injure with any means whatever that which he represented. . . . One group of opponents asserted that he was a monistic materialist; others that he was a one-sided spiritualist; one that he was a Jesuit; others that he was an anti-Jesuit; one that he was antichristian, others that he was Christo-centric. One said that he was a Jew, others that he was anti-Semitic; one that he was non-German, others that he was a Pan-Germanist; one that his teaching came from ancient India, others that it was anti-Indian and purely Occidental; one that he preached a ”mystical egoism,” others that his striving was for the ”conscious complete abandonment of the personality”; one that he had ”stripped from the conception of reincarnation its moral seriousness,” others that: ”It is clear that the decisive motives in this idea of reincarnation are moral.” Some said that he had not ”himself exercised the perception of higher worlds”; others ”that Steiner is a seer,” a ”clairvoyant, an intuitive knower, a person possessing supersensible vision.”52
Some of these criticisms, such as they were, could certainly have been made in good faith; and the contradictions at least in some instances demonstrate clearly enough the difficulty of Steiner’s teachings. No such excuse can be made for a passage quoted by Wachsmuth from a ”so-called astrological magazine,” in which the writer spoke of ”spiritual sparks hissing,” against the Goetheanum, and that ”Steiner will have need of some of his cleverness, will need to work in a pacifying way, if a real spark of fire is not one day to bring about an end to the magnificence of Dornach.” (!) Nor can any excuse be made for an English pamphlet referred to by Rudolf Steiner himself in 1923, entitled The Secret Machinery of Revolution. In a lecture given in Dornach on June 16th of that year, less than six months after the burning of the Goetheanum, Steiner quoted a passage from this document which speaks for itself.
”At this stage of my inquiry, I may refer briefly to the existence of an offshoot of the Theosophical Society, known as the Anthroposophical Society. This was formed as the result of a schism in the ranks of the Theosophists by a man of Jewish birth who was connected with one of the modern branches of the Carbonari [an Italian secret society of the early nineteenth century, which worked for Italian independence]. Not only so, but in association with another Theosophist he is engaged in certain singular commercial undertakings not unconnected with Communist propaganda; almost precisely in the manner in which ”Count St. Germain” organized his dyeworks and other commercial ventures with a like purpose. And this queer business group has its connections with the Irish Republican movement . . . and also with another mysterious group which was founded by Jewish ”Intellectuals” in France about four years ago, and which includes in its membership many well-known politicians, scientists, university professors, and literary men in France, Germany, America and England. It is a secret society, but some of its real aims may be gathered from the fact that it sponsored the ”Ligue des Anciens Combattants,” whose aim appears to be to undermine the discipline of the armies in the Allied countries. Although nominally a ”Right Wing” society, it is in direct touch with members of the Soviet government of Russia; in Britain it is also connected with certain Fabians and with the Union of Democratic Control, which opposes ”secret diplomacy.”53
After reading out this passage, which he translated into German, Steiner pointed out that he was planning a tour in England for two months later, and that the pamphlet demonstrated that the opposition was well organized. It was not enough to say that such a clumsy tissue of lies could not possibly be believed by anyone. As Hitler was later to point out in Mein Kampf big and clumsy lies are often believed, more often indeed than more subtle ones, and almost any calumny is believed by some people. As a rule Steiner said very little about such attacks, and he firmly pursued the goals he had set himself, not allowing himself to be diverted from them by any lies or calumnies. But on occasion he did draw them to the attention of the members of the Anthroposophical Society, so that they could be aware of what was going on; and it is certain that he suffered deeply from the many slanders directed against him, which could never be compensated by any amount of praise and approval from better intentioned and better informed persons. He believed always that in the end his work would survive and the attacks that he had to sustain in his lifetime would be forgotten. In the end, indeed, he lost the First Goetheanum, but the Second Goetheanum which replaced it has thus far survived; and his work has not been forgotten.
After the first so-called ”collegiate course” given at the Goetheanum at Michaelmas, 1920, others were given there regularly as long as the Goetheanum existed. Steiner spoke there regularly, as did other anthroposophical lecturers who gradually became accustomed to the building, and eurythmy performances under the direction of Marie Steiner were a constant feature of the Goetheanum programs. Much attention was now paid to the sciences. Steiner gave a number of public lectures on scientific subjects to various public audiences, and as his contribution to the second collegiate course given in Dornach in 1921 he gave five lectures on the theme ”Anthroposophy and the Special Sciences.” In July of the same year he was invited to Darmstadt in Germany to give another collegiate course on Anthroposophy and Science. Here he gave several lectures and led numerous discussions with the participants.
It was even more important, from his point of view, that the teachers in the Waldorf School should be able to teach the sciences from an anthroposophical point of view. He therefore gave several lectures and courses at Stuttgart on such subjects as physics, mathematics and astronomy in the light of Anthroposophy. At the same time he gave to the Dornach members more esoteric lectures on such subjects as man and his relation to the cosmos and higher beings, on the true nature of the human senses, and similar topics. It is evident that at this time Steiner was deeply interested in making clear to all his audiences the spiritual background behind all earthly phenomena, thus attempting to train his hearers to think Michaelically, in the sense indicated at the beginning of this chapter. The emphasis on natural science was in his view especially necessary in a scientific and materialistic age when scientists still had much prestige. He could not ignore also the fact that his pupils would soon be trying to persuade outside scientific experts to take the science of spirit seriously, and this they could not do without much deeper knowledge of the subject than they possessed. Steiner himself could often take on these experts—after all he had studied in his student days at Vienna—but this was not often true of his pupils. In the discussions at Darmstadt Steiner was especially scintillating in his answers to questions, according to responsible accounts of the course.
While he was giving lectures and courses on scientific subjects, new anthroposophical sciences were coming into being as the result of indications given by him, which were followed up by some of his more gifted pupils. Guenther Wachsmuth and Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, two enthusiastic young men who had come to Dornach to be close to Rudolf Steiner, in the summer of 1921 expressed their wish to study intensively the etheric formative forces of which he had often spoken. Imperceptible to men’s ordinary senses, they are everywhere present in the world, and the young men thought it ought to be possible to demonstrate their activity in it. Steiner offered them the basement of the ”glass-house” for their experiments, and gave them numerous suggestions on how to proceed. Thus came into existence the first anthroposophical ”research laboratory,” which had neither scientific facilities nor equipment, nothing except gas and running water; also the young men lacked money. Nevertheless this first effort was the beginning of several new scientific ventures. Wachsmuth even before Rudolf Steiner’s death had produced, with much help from Steiner himself, a comprehensive book on the etheric formative forces, which remains the best single book on the subject (The Etheric Formative Forces in Cosmos, Earth and Man). Pfeiffer occupied himself more with experiments than did Wachsmuth, and was able to demonstrate how the forces may be perceived and interpreted in the crystallization process. These experiments eventually led to a new method of diagnosing disease at an early stage, while it is still in the etheric body and cannot yet be perceived in the physical. Pfeiffer was also one of the most active pioneers in biodynamic farming, as will be discussed in Chapter 13.
Rudolf Steiner also entrusted to a young woman research worker in Stuttgart the task of demonstrating the working of ”the smallest entities,” that is, the activity of the formative forces in very highly diluted substances. The method devised by Elisabeth (Lili) Kolisko for this purpose is called capillary dynamolysis, and it also is used in the early diagnosis of disease. Greatly interested in the working of moon and planets in earthly substances and with the potentizing of different medicaments used in anthroposophical medicine, she wrote several monographs in this area, and a larger work entitled Spirit in Matter. After giving his Agriculture course at Koberwitz in 1924, to be discussed in Chapter 13, Steiner entrusted Lili Kolisko with the task of testing the different preparations that he proposed for use in agriculture. On this subject she and her husband Dr. Eugen Kolisko, a noted physician in the field of anthroposophical medicine who died prematurely in 1939, compiled a huge book called Agriculture of Tomorrow, recently republished in English, which is a mine of information and includes hundreds of photographs demonstrating conclusively enough the working of the unseen forces in earthly substances.
These three scientists have been mentioned by name because they were three of the most important pioneers in the work of demonstrating the correctness of Steiner’s scientific predictions based not on any experiments done by him, but solely from his spiritual insights. These scientists were succeeded by many others too numerous to list, and today two distinct scientific sections of the School for the Science of Spirit exist at the Goetheanum. Both still engage in research on the basis of Steiner’s indications. They have better equipped but still far from sumptuous laboratories, and are headed by two distinguished scientists. The sections are concerned with mathematics and astronomy, and with biology in the widest sense.
Parallel to this work in the natural sciences has been the work in medicine and pharmacy. As long ago as 1911 Steiner gave a cycle in Prague under the title of Occult Physiology, which he prefaced by saying that ”I myself have only now reached the point where I can at last speak upon this theme as the result of mature reflection covering a long period of time.” It will be recalled that when Steiner in 1917 spoke for the first time of the threefold nature of the human being, he also explained that he had been aware of the fact as far back as thirty years before, but not before 1917 had he felt able to speak of it in detail because the perception had not yet matured within him. It was, of course, widely known among anthroposophists that Steiner had very much to give to physicians from the supersensible realms, but he himself was not a medical doctor, and if his knowledge were to become fruitful in the earthly realm qualified physicians would have to take the initiative to make it so. It was not until the spring of 1920 that the opportunity presented itself to give a series of twenty lectures to a group of physicians and medical students who had asked for them, and had, in particular, presented him with lists of questions on which they would like his opinions. This cycle, entitled Spiritual Science and Medicine, contains a mass of information and constitutes the fundamental course on anthroposophical medicine. It was followed in later years by several other courses on the subject, culminating at the end of his lecturing life in a course on so-called ”Pastoral Medicine,” given jointly to physicians and clergymen. In the field of therapy Steiner also gave certain indications for the use of colors in healing, and in 1921 he gave the first course in curative eurythmy, in which the art of eurythmy was modified in such a way that it too could be used for healing. Curative eurythmy is perhaps most in use in the various homes for handicapped children, which will be discussed in Chapter 13. It should not, however, be thought that Steiner’s formal lectures represent the sum total of his contributions to the art of medicine. The physicians with whom he worked and who had established clinics for the practice of anthroposophical medicine (especially the clinics in Stuttgart and Arlesheim, close to Dornach) constantly asked him for advice and posed numerous questions, to all of which he replied, thus creating a corpus of medical obiter dicta that were then passed on to other physicians and their successors.
Ita Wegman, the woman physician who became the first head of the medical section of the General Anthroposophical Society founded by Steiner in 1923, was also Steiner’s personal physician, and together with Dr. Ludwig Noll attended and nursed him during his long illness which ended with his death in March, 1925. Dr. Wegman and Rudolf Steiner worked on a short but uniquely important joint work published just before Steiner’s death, entitled Fundamentals of Therapy. Dr. Wegman was a Dutch woman born in the Netherlands East Indies, who came to Europe in the early part of the twentieth century, anxious to devote her life, as she put it herself, to the services of mankind. At first she had no intention of studying medicine but took up Swedish massage, followed by hydrotherapy. It was while she was studying the latter that she met Rudolf Steiner in Berlin, where he had recently become the first General Secretary of the German Section of the Theosophical Society. He encouraged her to study medicine, and for this purpose she went to Zurich in Switzerland, where she qualified as a medical doctor in 1911, thereafter working for a few years as assistant and then opening a small private clinic of her own. There seems little doubt that as early as 1907 Rudolf Steiner had spoken to her about the possibility of intimate collaboration with him in the realm of medicine, but she worked on her own until the cycle of Spiritual Science and Medicine in 1920 which she attended. Immediately afterwards she made the decision to move her clinic from Zurich to Basel, then, with the aid of a handful of other physicians interested in anthroposophical medicine, she opened a clinic in Arlesheim, soon to be known as the Clinical-Therapeutical Institute. In order to practice anthroposophical medicine effectively it was necessary to have specially prepared and potentized remedies, and with Dr. Wegman’s support a laboratory was established, also in Arlesheim, which was later given the name of Weleda after a legendary Celtic goddess of healing. Parallel events took place also in Stuttgart, where a clinic was opened, led by Dr. Otto Palmer, and in a suburb of Stuttgart (Schwäbisch-Gmünd) another Weleda manufacturing center was established. Both are still active and flourishing today, as are also both clinics. The Arlesheim clinic now has attached to it a Research Institute for the study of cancer (Hiscia Institute) and a small hospital for cancer patients (the Lukas Clinic). Both make use of and engage in research on one of the preparations suggested by Rudolf Steiner for cancer therapy, the mistletoe or viscum album, sold under the trade name of Iscador by all branches of the Weleda Company.
It would take us too far to go into any detail regarding anthroposophical medicine, which is discussed in my book Man and World in the Light of Anthroposophy, Chapter 13. It is enough to say that it takes full account of the threefold and fourfold nature of man, that it makes use of a very wide range of medicaments not used in the ordinary pharmacopoeia, and makes use of them in special potencies according to the nature of the sickness and its location within the human organism. It also takes account of the unseen etheric and astral forces as they are perceived to work in the human being; and the attempt is made to heal the patient, to help him recover fully from his illness, rather than simply treating his symptoms, which is almost invariably all that is attempted in orthodox medicine. Healing with medicaments used in very high dilution always requires much longer than the customary suppression of symptoms.
Steiner always recognized the advances made in orthodox medicine, and he never contemplated for a moment the idea of creating a competitive medicine. Anyone who wished to practice anthroposophic medicine he insisted must first know all about orthodox medicine and obtain the usual degree. But he wished to contribute to this medicine from his own supersensible knowledge. In a public lecture given in Arnhem, Holland in July 1924, he made his personal attitude abundantly clear: ”I do not mean to say,” he told his audience, ”that medicine has not in recent times made immense progress. Anthroposophy recognizes this progress in medicine to the full. Neither have we any wish to exclude what modern medical science has accomplished; on the contrary we honor it. But when we examine what has been brought out in the way of remedies in recent times we find that they have been arrived at only by way of lengthy experimentation. Anthroposophy supplies a penetrating knowledge which by its survey of human nature has fully proved itself in those spheres where medicine has already been so happily successful. But, in addition to this, Anthroposophy offers a whole series of new remedies also, a fact which is made possible by the same insight applied to both Nature and Man.”54
It should be added that the anthroposophical diagnosis of disease and knowledge of the right kind of remedies to use necessitate a degree of living and imaginative thinking that is not acquired by the ordinary medical student or practitioner without much hard work upon himself. Dr. Wegman was, through her destiny as well as her own efforts, especially gifted in this respect—surely second only to Rudolf Steiner himself— and in all the work that stems from her pioneer activity in Switzerland and elsewhere, this necessity for self-development is still stressed. Anthroposophical medicine, however, progresses quite slowly, and not necessarily even surely. Today’s paternalistic and authoritarian state, laudably anxious to protect the health of its subjects, takes it for granted that modern materialistic medicine is on the right track, and too often makes it ever more difficult for alternative medicines to survive, by sponsoring legislation regarding the practice of medicine and the use of medicaments. So anthroposophical medicine survives, but sometimes has to submit to leonine regulations drawn up for the state by orthodox medical practitioners who continue, in spite of all its deficiencies, to have confidence only in their own form of practicing medicine, and only in the drugs, usually in synthetic form, manufactured by the great pharmaceutical corporations.
We have referred once or twice in this biography to the Movement for Religious Renewal, which later became the Christian Community and still exists under that name today. Since this movement was given formal existence in 1922 we shall discuss it here in greater detail. This is especially necessary since it is not unusual for it to be said that Rudolf Steiner founded a religion, whereas his true relationship to the Christian Community was always that of an adviser. The actual responsibility for the founding of the Christian Community rests with the group of clergymen who asked Steiner for help, and received the ritual from him. Emil Bock, who was later to succeed Dr. Rittelmeyer as head of the Christian Community, has published a clear account of its beginnings. While still in the army and only twenty-one years of age he met Rudolf Steiner at Easter, 1917, having met Rittelmeyer the previous year.
Rittelmeyer was at that time a man of 44, well established as a minister of the Protestant Evangelical Church, and a popular preacher who had only recently been called to an important charge in Berlin. He had been deeply influenced by Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy, having indeed found that Steiner’s actual knowledge of Christianity was in all points superior to his own. After long consideration he became a member of the Anthroposophical Society in 1916, but as yet he had no thought of leaving the Evangelical Church, nor did Steiner then or later ever encourage him to do so. The actual initiative which led to the Movement for Religious Renewal in fact came from Bock, who had remained close to Rittelmeyer, and from a number of other young clergymen and theological students, who felt very strongly after the war that some new impulse should be brought into traditional Protestantism. At first they too had no thought of starting their own Movement, but believed that if there should be an influx of young and enthusiastic theologians into the Church, and if these theologians were deeply imbued with Anthroposophy, the Church itself might be reformed from within. Rudolf Steiner also seems at first to have encouraged this hope, and still believed it possible when he gave his first course to theologians at Stuttgart in June, 1921. There were eighteen persons at these lectures, of whom the oldest was only thirty. Rittelmeyer himself was unable to be present either at this course or the other one given in 1921 because of illness, though he studied carefully the transcripts of what Steiner had said.
At the close of this first course Rudolf Steiner promised to give another course later in the year, and this would be given at the Goetheanum. The eighteen theologians then scattered throughout Germany trying to persuade all the young Protestant ministers whom they believed sympathetic to their cause to come to Dornach for the course. As a result about 110 persons were present when the course opened at the end of September, 1921. Steiner eventually gave 29 lectures. At first they were followed by discussions which proved to be similar to those held at the first collegiate course for scientists held at Michaelmas the previous year. The discussions were often led by older theologians and took an intellectual turn which irritated the younger participants. However, before the conference ended Steiner began to speak not only on the theological questions, but on the need for a renewal of the sacraments in a form suitable for Christian worship in the age of the consciousness soul. From this time onwards it became increasingly clear that the religious renewal so much desired by the younger members could not be brought about within the existing Protestant Church, and it would be necessary to form another movement.
For Friedrich Rittelmeyer this decision was necessarily a difficult one. In Berlin in his ministry he was left entirely free to speak and act as he wished. But he also recognized a commitment to Anthroposophy. So he studied with the utmost care the two courses that Steiner had given that he had been unable to attend; and in due course he also received the text for the Act of Consecration of Man, which deeply impressed him. This is the central sacrament of the Christian Community, and it is best to describe Rittelmeyer’s reaction to it in his own words.
”I began at once to study it from every side and to meditate on it. When a few trivial difficulties in the language had been overcome, the purity and sublimity of the Act of Consecration of Man impressed me very strongly. It dawned upon me that here was the possibility of creating a divine service in which all true Christians could be united, which could be regarded as the central point of a truly Christian communal life, around which a new, manifold, ever-growing religious life unfolds. Slowly it was borne in on me: This may not be withheld from mankind! You yourself dare not fail now if you do not want to sin against humanity and the divine revelation! And if it is impossible to bring this to men in the existing forms of the Church, then something new must be ventured! Let it be expressly stated here that Dr. Steiner had been asking for a long time whether it was not possible to do something within the existing organization of the Church, and that, apart from the younger ones, it was I myself who had said emphatically: It cannot be done, if the new is not to be smothered by the old!
”But for me the really decisive factor came unexpectedly and from a different quarter. It was the realization that in the Hallowed Bread, the living Christ actually comes to men. His Presence was there in indescribable purity and brilliance. It was an impression from the spirit itself—one which came, not in the Protestant service of Holy Communion, often as I had celebrated that with a tangible experience of the nearness of the divine world, but in meditation on the Act of Consecration of Man. It was an impression so strong and sure that a whole life could have been founded on it. I will try to describe what it seemed to say: Now it is good-bye to your work in the Protestant Church! If what you have found here is truth, it must stand in quite a different sense at the central point of religious life, of thought and of the promulgation of religion than is possible in the Protestant Church as that Church has now become! For if the new impulse is true, it contains the seeds of new divine worship, a new communion, a new Christ impulse, a new Gospel of Christ. . . . From that moment onwards it was clear to me that I must give myself to the service of the reality which had been revealed to me, without the hindrance of other ties. So I came to the new Christian Community from the very innermost core of things. And I am glad I can say this. The final word was spoken, not by Dr. Steiner but by One higher than he.”56
Another year passed during which the young theologians had many interviews with Rudolf Steiner, and had the opportunity to ask all the questions they wished. At last, in September, 1922, the first Act of Consecration of Man was celebrated in the White Room of the Goetheanum, just under the roof. Rudolf Steiner was present, but Dr. Rittelmeyer celebrated. As Steiner reported it in the Goetheanum Weekly, a periodical founded the previous year and edited by Albert Steffen until his death in 1963, in the issue of March 18th, 1923: ”What I experienced in September, 1922, with those theologians, in the small room in the south wing, where later the fire was first discovered, I must reckon among the festivals of my life.”
Present at the ceremony was the entire priests’ circle of the time, which was composed of forty-five persons, including three women. Thus from the beginning women have been accepted as priests in the Christian Community, and today there are many women priests enjoying complete equality in all respects with the men. Steiner continued to display a deep interest in everything done in the Christian Community, and to give it further rituals as they were revealed to him from the spiritual world. In 1924 among the last lectures of his lifetime were included important lectures to the priests, as we shall see.
By an unfortunate chance two unauthorized persons were also privileged to witness the first celebration of the Act of Consecration of Man in October, 1922. Two workmen happened to be repairing the roof of the Goetheanum, and there is no doubt that they were able to see into the White Room, though whether they understood what was going on is an open question. Their story may well have added to the antagonism of traditional Christian leaders to all that took place at the Goetheanum.
Some members of the Anthroposophical Society also misunderstood Steiner’s action in providing the Christian Community with a ritual, supposing that since he had given it he was thereby founding an anthroposophical religion, and that the Christian Community was, in effect, an anthroposophical Church. As a consequence Steiner felt obliged to give a very pointed lecture to members on the subject on December 30th, 1922, returning to the subject again a few days later after the fire. In it he explained that both the Christian Community and Anthroposophy were of course derived from the same source, but that the Christian Community was not an activity of the Society. Members of the Society could naturally feel free to support the Christian Community as they thought fit, but should not for this reason diminish their support for the Anthroposophical Society. In any event, he insisted, all true anthroposophists could and should find their own relation directly to the Christ through their Anthroposophy. At his death in 1925 there was never any question but that the funeral service would be celebrated according to the ritual he had given, and in view of the special beauty of this ritual numerous anthroposophists in the years since have followed this example. In general they show the utmost friendliness to the Christian Community, but it remains a serious misunderstanding of Steiner’s intentions if they join the Christian Community only because they think of it as the religious branch of Anthroposophy. Indeed, on December 31, 1922, in the last lecture he was ever to give in the First Goetheanum, he made his meaning abundantly clear when he said that ”Spiritual knowledge is a real communion, the beginning of a cult suited to the human being of the present time.”
Important though the founding of the Christian Community was in Rudolf Steiner’s eyes, it occupied relatively little of his time by comparison with all the other work being done in these years from 1920 to 1922. These were the only years during which the First Goetheanum could be used, since, as has been mentioned several times in this book, it was destroyed by fire in a few hours on New Year’s Eve, 1922. The building was never quite finished, though the organ had been installed, and artistic and musical programs were regularly presented. Rudolf Steiner gave his own lectures there during these years, as did several of his fellow lecturers. His lectures grew increasingly esoteric, even when he was speaking on various aspects of science and art.
In the years immediately following the war his lecture tours were mostly in the same countries as during the war. In February 1921 he resumed his lecturing in Holland and later in the year in the Scandinavian countries, these areas having remained neutral during the war. At the same time he took the opportunity to present for the first time in these countries several eurythmy programmes organized by Marie Steiner. But resumption of lectures in England had to wait until 1922 when, as we have seen, he was invited first to Stratford-on-Avon in the spring, and then to Oxford in late summer, both invitations resulting from his work in the field of education; and on both occasions he also gave esoteric lectures on Anthroposophy to members in London. The personal success and the generally favorable and courteous press reports of the public lectures in England provided a striking contrast with what was happening to him in the first half of 1922 in Germany, the country in which he had lived and worked for so long.
Although some opposition showed itself in countries other than Germany, it was in Germany that it reached its climax, especially when he was carrying out the program of lectures arranged for him by the Sachs and Wolff agency. For the first tour the halls were invariably packed, but efforts were constantly made to interrupt him. Marie Steiner in 1926 described the scene at the time of his last Berlin lecture entitled Anthroposophy and Spiritual Knowledge. The lecture had been scheduled for May 15, 1922.
”The crowd was enormous,” she wrote. ”A violent uproar ensued, against which no opposition could be ventured. . . . The Sachs and Wolff agency which had been making enquiries with a view to organizing further lectures to be delivered in Germany, stated that they could not hold themselves responsible for the proposed plans being carried through without personal danger. Thus it was that all in a moment twenty-one years of lecture activity were forcibly brought to an end.”57
Most of the press reports on Steiner’s public lectures in Germany were hostile, sometimes stridently so, and actual attempts on his life were made when he was speaking in Munich and Elberfeld. Thereafter his public lecturing in Germany came to an end for a time, and even his lectures to members were greatly curtailed. Only in Stuttgart, in south Germany, was he able to continue more or less as usual. A course given to young people in that city, usually known now as the Youth Course, is still today scarcely less relevant to the problems of present day youth. In it he showed how young persons must work to achieve their own freedom for themselves in the sense of his 1894 book The Philosophy of Freedom, to which he constantly drew their attention, and how they must try through their own enlivened thinking to help provide a ”chariot” for Michael himself to enter and work within that earthly world that has become his special concern since 1879.
Steiner’s most marked success in the German-speaking world, and perhaps the climax of all his public work, was the so-called East-West Congress held in June, 1922 in Vienna, the city where he had studied so long in his youth and with which he was so familiar. Many reports exist concerning this Congress, which was accompanied by the first really outstanding public success for the eurythmists who performed three times in the Vienna State Opera House. Vienna at this time was plagued more deeply by inflation than even Germany, which suffered a similar fate the following year. As a result there was at the time of the Congress an appalling contrast noted by everyone between the economic position of the native Austrians and the foreigners who thronged to the Congress from abroad. One English pound was valued at 60,000 krone, and for that sum one could rent the finest room in the best luxury hotel in Vienna, modest rooms in lesser hostelries costing a third of an English pound. Even the Swiss franc, not at that time such a desirable currency as now, was worth 3,000 krone. Foreigners also bought out the stocks of the best stores in Vienna, even Germans joining in the legal robbery. It was not surprising that native Austrians tended to present a shabby and down-at-heel appearance, and could not, save in rare cases, attend the State Opera, which presented such a work as The Legend of Joseph by Richard Strauss, a production in which no expense was spared for both setting and costumes, but which few Viennese could afford to attend—even if they had wished in the circumstances to do so.
In this atmosphere it was astonishing that Rudolf Steiner himself, a native Austrian but living and working in Switzerland, seems to have been greeted by the Viennese as one of their own, a long lost son, as well as being the center of attraction for the many anthroposophists who attended the twelve day Congress, in which Steiner gave all the evening lectures. Others were given by leading anthroposophists, and Dr. Rittelmeyer preached a sermon on Whitsunday on The Spirit of Pentecost and Religious Renewal. Every evening when Steiner entered the great hall of the Music Association of Vienna (where the Mass in F Minor of Anton Bruckner was performed during the Congress at Steiner’s special request), the entire audience rose and applauded, or so it seemed, and on each occasion that audience numbered more than two thousand. Perhaps the foreigners and Viennese, and even the German anthroposophists who were present, wished to show in this way their disapproval of what had happened to him in Germany, and to demonstrate as publicly as possible that Vienna was not in Germany. The first half of the program of lectures was devoted to Anthroposophy and the various sciences, and the second half to the question of how Anthroposophy could be brought to realization in social life. The lectures themselves were serious, even difficult, and in them Steiner appealed directly to the capacity of his auditors for thinking, pointing out to them a new path to the future out of the science of spirit. Though the press was no more favorable than usual, he held his audience, and if any interruptions had been planned, they never took place; while in the daytime when Steiner had no public responsibilities in the program, a constant stream of visitors called upon him in his hotel, bringing their personal and anthroposophical problems to him. Once they had been accorded an interview they received, as usual, his fullest attention.
After the Congress followed the successful journey to Oxford and London, and in September there came the founding of the Christian Community. Contemporary with the latter event Steiner gave an esoteric cycle of great importance entitled Cosmology, Philosophy and Religion, resuming a great deal of what he had, from other points of view, been teaching for many years. To be present at this cycle the French members, who had not yet received a postwar visit from Rudolf Steiner, were specially invited, so that the course is called the ”French Course.” However, it was in no way intended for the French members only, but for all members, and it provided an opportunity for a reconciliation between Steiner and the aged Edouard Schuré, now 81, who had been critical of Steiner’s supposed German nationalism during the war. Steiner afterwards spoke of this cycle as one particularly well suited for the kind of work intended to take place at the Goetheanum. His words take on a specially melancholy significance in the light of the events of the following New Year’s Eve. ”I went to each of my lectures,” he said, ”and also away from them with an innermost feeling of gratitude toward those who had rendered possible the building of the Goetheanum. For precisely in the case of these lectures, in which I had to lay hold upon an expansive area of knowledge from the anthroposophical point of view, I could sense deeply the benefit of being permitted to utter ideas which had been able to create an artistic framework for themselves in the building.”
At the end of the year Dornach was the scene of intensive work, including artistic performances, work on the carving of the Group, and two simultaneous lecture cycles by Rudolf Steiner, one on the origins of natural science and the other, which was given in two separate parts, entitled Man in Relation to the World of Stars, and The Spiritual Communion of Mankind. The last lecture of the latter course was given in the evening of New Year’s Eve, while the scientific course was not yet finished.
The members so recently assembled in the great auditorium of the Goetheanum had scarcely reached their homes when the fire was discovered in the White Room. Though the watchman gave the alarm promptly and firefighting began at once, it was already too late. Not all the efforts of the local fire brigade and the volunteers could save the highly inflammable wooden building, and by morning only the concrete substructure remained intact. The Schreinerei and other adjoining buildings were saved, as well as the unfinished Group sculpture which had not yet been installed in the Goetheanum. But everything else was lost except what could be carried outside by the devoted band of volunteers. A particularly macabre sight was the forms of elemental beings that were being prepared inside the Goetheanum for the Classical Walpurgis Night scene of Goethe’s Faust. These were rescued from the burning building, and lay around on the lawns surrounding the Goetheanum for the remainder of the night. They survived to be used again in the Second Goetheanum, when at last it was ready and the performances of both parts of Faust could be presented, as had been planned for the First Goetheanum.
The consequence of the fire will be discussed in the next chapter.
Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a New Epoch