THE PLAY, dedicated to Shelley, was inspired by the same motif as impelled the latter to write his Prometheus Unbound, and the imagery came from the same source (see Shelley’s Preface). Their heroes are akin. Schuré wrote his Play in 1900. In 1906 he first met Rudolf Steiner and a close friendship ensued. In 1909, a translation into German by Fräulein von Sivers, later Frau Marie Steiner, was produced as a Play at Munich by Rudolf Steiner, and formed a prelude to his Course of Lectures Occident and Orient, or the Children of Lucifer and the Brethren of Christ. These lectures are translated into English and published by Messrs Putnams under the title of The East in the Light of the West (see pp. 9-12 herein). This Play served also as an introduction to Rudolf Steiner’s own Mystery Plays which he initiated at Munich the following year and which are now given at Dornach, Switzerland, in the stupendous Goetheanum erected by him for the purpose.
Rudolf Steiner and Eduard Schuré
Eduard Schuré (1841-1929) died on the 8th of April in his 88th year. In his memoirs published a year ago (Le Rêve d’une Vie, Confession d’un Poète) he quotes Rudolf Steiner incidentally only, devoting no part of the memoir to him. As he himself had repeatedly said that he had Rudolf Steiner to thank that he could achieve the greater part of his later work, and for the certainty of having described in his works real facts out of the spiritual worlds, and that ”Dr. Steiner had played an important role in his life,” I asked him on one of my frequent visits to his country house, near Barr in Alsace, whether he would not like his meetings with Rudolf Steiner to be recorded. He told me that he was working on a book: The Occult Streams of the Twentieth Century, Anecdotes and Recollections, and that he intended to devote a chapter or more to Rudolf Steiner and the Christian Esotericism. Yet although the work was begun he had no surety that his health would allow him to finish it, therefore he would like to pass on to me by word of mouth what was not yet written of these meetings, and what might be of some significance to us younger people.
Together with some Anthroposophist friends of the Alsace-Lotharingian Youth Group (a number, which by Schuré’s wish was limited in consideration for his health) I betook myself in October, 1928, to Barr in order to receive Schuré’s communications concerning our teacher.
The country house ”Les Bouleaux” lies at the foot of the ruins of the castle Anlau near the town of Barr in Alsace. Schuré sat on the verandah, facing towards the Rebberge. Autumn brooded over the land. Birches which ”because of their souls” Schuré clearly loved, grew near by, leaning towards us. This is the house where Rudolf Steiner had twice visited Schuré. The first time he had addressed a gathering of friends from Alsace, invited by Schuré, in the room next to the one to which we presently retired. The other time Rudolf Steiner went with him and Marie von Sivers up to the Odilienberg, which rose above us where the valley steeply mounted.
Hearing our approach Schuré tore himself away from his writing stand (he habitually stood to write), passing his hand over his forehead as if to brush away his dreams and visions for a moment, and came quickly forward with hands outstretched as if to greet old friends.
The bushy hair fell over the temples on either side of his high and still smooth forehead. A habit of moving his eyebrows gave animation to his speech. His face shone with pleasure and his eyes lighted up as he spoke of Margherita Albana, the woman who had ”led him by the hand into the world of the great Initiates.”
”These are the young people who would like to hear me speak of their teacher Rudolf Steiner? You have all seen Rudolf Steiner, no doubt?”
”No, very few of us knew him; that is why we are so anxious to hear about him from a man so highly esteemed by our master, and a man whom he himself called a great Preparer of the Way, and the ‘Banner-bearer of the esoteric band of the Western peoples.’”
Schuré settled himself in his armchair in the middle of the great workroom. He grouped us around him at a little distance in a half circle as if he wished to feel himself in the circle of memory. Again his hand wandered over his forehead.
”You bring a spirit of youth to my old age. I wish I could stand before you as Rudolf Steiner stood before young people. He looked deep into their souls and spoke always of ways down which he had himself travelled.”
”Oh, yes,” some of us began, but Schuré had begun his narrative.
”The first time I saw Rudolf Steiner was in April, 1906. Formerly I had only heard of him from our mutual friend Marie von Sivers. In 1906 I had published my drama The Children of Lucifer, and Marie von Sivers had asked my permission to translate the play into German, for she found in it things she thought of worth, which should have a great significance of our times.
”While it was being translated we kept up our contact by correspondence. Once before Marie von Sivers had begged my opinion on the present day Societies for Spiritual Science to which one might with profit belong. I answered that I myself belonged to the Theosophical Society, and this up to the present I considered the best, although it did not completely satisfy me in that the significance of the Christ was continually weakened,—especially through Annie Besant, since her work on The Ancient Wisdom took this direction.”
In 1905 Marie von Sivers wrote for the first time of Rudolf Steiner, of the man whose knowledge surpassed ”everything which until then had been deemed esoteric by men.”
In 1906 Rudolf Steiner came with Marie von Sivers to Paris to lecture there. Here I quote Schuré’s own words:
—”I had indeed expected a man, who, from all I had heard from Marie von Sivers and had read from other sources, might be a fellow-traveller with the same goal in view as myself; but I was somewhat indifferent (the times were indeed uninspiring) as Rudolf Steiner approached me.
”Then,—as he stood in the doorway and looked at me with eyes which were eloquent of heights and depths of development, with his almost ascetic countenance, expressing goodness and unlimited trust, and also inspiring it,—he made a tremendous impression upon me (une impression foudroyante), such as I had experienced only twice before in my life, and then less strong in some ways (from Richard Wagner, and from Margherita Albana von Mignaty). Two things became immediately clear to me, before he had even spoken. For the very first time I was certain that I had an Initiate before me. I had long lived in spirit with Initiates whose history and development I had ventured to describe. And here at last one stood before me on the physical plane.
”And another thing became clear to me at this moment, that we mutually forgot everything around us and became immersed in each other; I was certain that this man who then stood before me was to play a great role in my life. . . .”
Rudolf Steiner gave a course, at that time in Paris, of eighteen lectures, of which Schuré said that it was as if everything that so clearly and unequivocally treated of spiritual facts was said to him, Schuré, alone; ”for to every question which I had secretly brooded over the lecturer before us gave the clearest and most precise answers. So intimately had our souls immediately found each other on the way through spiritual worlds that we could answer each other on spiritual matters beyond time and space.
”As for what these lectures themselves treated of it became clear to me what an abyss separated the Indian teaching which absorbed all too great a part of Theosophy, from that which Rudolf Steiner here taught. One had heard the suggestion that he was simply trying to Europeanise the Indian religion. What I then for the first time recognised and became increasingly convinced of in my own seekings and recognitions was that what Steiner gave in Anthroposophy had as its centre only the Christ, and that he gave what one might and did call the Christian Theosophy of that time (1906) while the rest of Theosophy was indeed only Oriental.”
Schuré told us that after that impressive first meeting with Rudolf Steiner in Paris he asked himself who, beyond the guides of his early boyhood, could have been on the physical plane Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual guide. He promised he would tell us more of this.
Schuré spoke of the time in which, as he said, ”he was enabled to work with Rudolf Steiner, and with those who surrounded him in all devotion to him and his work.”
In 1907 the first performance of the Mystery of Eleusis as Schuré saw it and represented it, was given in Munich under Rudolf Steiner’s management. ”What I had unconsciously seen and represented,” said Schuré, ”Rudolf Steiner recognised and confirmed my reproduction of it as a true one. He saw in this Mystery of Eleusis the starting point of the true dramatic art, as I demonstrated later in my Theatre of Initiation, and saw in it what one must ever and again comprehend in order to reach the source whence real experience in the spiritual world can be substantiated into the demonstrable. In the Mystery Rudolf Steiner confirmed not only the form, but also the treatment and the words. I can hardly express what inner satisfaction I felt when Rudolf Steiner made this clear to me, and further what encouragement I got to continue the work I had until then been doing. For it is one of those very cherished moments in the creative life of the artist when he meets someone whom he recognises and of whom he knows that he is drawing what he says from the whole of the spiritual vision, who confirms the truth of that creation which was first produced from dim creative urge. . . .”
Of the production of this drama Schuré had a good deal to relate. He remarked amongst other things that to-day it was quite clear to him when his Theatre of the Soul had taken shape, that that play depended upon spiritual vision and on very few documents. He continued:
”In the year 1909 the first performance of The Children of Lucifer took place, preceded by a series of lectures by Rudolf Steiner, in which he treated of the drama and the spiritual relationships considered therein. Seven years earlier, before he was personally acquainted with me, Rudolf Steiner had spoken of this play, and had made it a starting point with smaller circles of his friends of those times. We had known each other several years; and we were then only seven friends. What already struck me at that time was that Rudolf Steiner found it necessary to repeat again and again that everything in The Great Initiates was perfectly true. And in these lectures in the Prinzen Hall in Munich and to an audience of 600 he reminded us of it once more.”
On his quoting this seven-year period I reminded Schuré of a passage in the Cycle XVIII, which he did not know:
”When I ventured to consider that the time had come to bring my spiritual strivings into connection with what one might call spiritual science or Theosophy, there was the door through which I sought to introduce into Theosophy a discussion which should link on with this dream The Children of Lucifer. And then we let pass a period of seven years’ development of the Theosophical work under consideration: but the seed which was then laid in our souls by the words spoken about the Children of Lucifer germinated meanwhile in a regular seven-year epoch in complete stillness. After the seven years we had reached a point when we could represent the drama The Children of Lucifer as an introduction to our undertakings in Munich.”
Schuré commemorated in warm words this presentation of his drama; he mentioned especially how Marie von Sivers worked on the play and in his opinion had so absorbed herself in the manner of it that he saw how very far our present-day actors would need to get in order to put his plays on the stage.
”After this performance, at which I was present,” Schuré continued, ”I was overwhelmed with questions. Rudolf Steiner was standing by. People asked where I had found this and that, why I had written this or that in such a way. And I well remember how Rudolf Steiner stood by my side and looked at the questioners as if he wished to help me out of the embarrassment. Really I could not say where I had got all this and why it was so and not otherwise. And no-one understood this better than Rudolf Steiner.”
”When we were at last alone, we spoke of the moment in which this drama emerged. Rudolf Steiner remarked that it had not, as I thought appeared untimely, but that the times had called it out, as he had been called by all the people who surrounded him and who counted amongst his near friends. We spoke of the threshold of the century and of the new generation which then came into being. Rudolf Steiner asserted what I myself have said of it: For humanity the year 1900 is of the nature of a climax. We were both convinced that the evolution of the West would be found to be at its critical turning point, a point from which the young would bear a fuller consciousness.”
We put the question to Schuré, whether he knew all the passages in Rudolf Steiner’s lectures in which our teacher spoke of his Mystery of Eleusis, his Theatre, and his work in general. He said he did not. Only a few passages were known to him; but he could well imagine that Rudolf Steiner had personally put the same thoughts to him beforehand.
At this point I may be allowed a remark. In a former conversation I had put a question of conscience to Schuré concerning the reproofs he had called down upon himself in consequence of his attitude to Rudolf Steiner during the war. He warmly welcomed the opportunity to explain. It is not possible here to go into the question fully. So much has even to be added to it. To begin with the contents of Schuré’s works concerning Alsace (l’Alsace Française, l’Alsace et les Pretensions Prussiennes, etc.) would have to be explained. One would need to know what was in the soul of the French at such special times as the war-time. (This is not something by way of excuse.) The writer of these lines who through his destiny as Alsatian is permitted this glimpse will try elsewhere and more completely not to excuse or to talk away its effects but to explain them.
In the year 1906 after the Paris lectures Schuré had a longer conversation with Rudolf Steiner over the Way of Initiation. The point of the discussion was the Spiritual Guide. But there came in for special mention by Rudolf Steiner the means, that is the special exercises, by which one attains to the conscious seeing through which man reaches the way of Initiation. Schuré related that in that moment the Rosicrucian way of Initiation stood so clearly before his eyes that he resolved that later he would write a drama upon it. ”But this work,” to quote in his own words, ”the master himself has fully carried out in his Rosicrucian Mystery Plays.” This was the moment, however, when I began to grasp the significance of the exercises Rudolf Steiner gave more clearly, and to attain not to the more conscious seeing, or to the imitation of Rudolf Steiner’s experiences (which was quite out of the question, and was indeed never demanded by him), but to the ability to see how individual the ways are which lead to initiation.
At one point I reminded Schuré of Dr. Ernst Barthel’s book Alsatian Spiritual Destiny (Alsace Publishing Company, Colmar). Schuré had read it. It treats of his connection with Steiner and their influence upon one another. Schuré said that Barthel, with his prejudiced ideas and his dogmatic philosophy, could not possibly comprehend either Steiner or himself, and much less was seership possible for him or even the acknowledgment of the existence of such a thing. ”Therefore,” he continued, ”it was sheer impudence to assert that Rudolf Steiner had obtained his ideas from my Great Initiates. At the time we met, Rudolf Steiner certainly had no need to. He was far further on than I. That the opposite was also not the case, Steiner himself said more than once. The happiest experience for us both was that while we were separated in space we both came to similar results, and they presented themselves to us in different forms only in so far that I call Rudolf Steiner the Master and myself the pupil, and in that I, in actual accomplishment, had not reached what he could give.”
As an example which tallies with this parallelism of their ways towards the same goal, but which happened under different forms, is their experience in regard to the figure of Odilia in Alsace, ”whose actual figure was the object of Rudolf Steiner’s search, while I hunted out the legend,” said Schuré.
”For many years I tried to trace out the evidences of the life and work of Odilia on the Hill, in the whole of Alsace and in the souls of the inhabitants; but Steiner sought for Odilia herself. We went from here up on to the Hill. There we sat for long on the Terrace. Fraulein von Sivers, afterwards Frau Dr. Steiner, was with us. For a long time Rudolf Steiner did not speak. He was deeply sunk in meditation, or rather in a search. It was Odilia’s self that he was seeking. Afterwards he said to me that he had not found her here, but that he had been able to find her much more clearly on her flight to Arlesheim in Switzerland. At every resting place in her flight she had reached a higher stage, corresponding to her Karma, of her spiritual development.”
These two ways of seeking an historical personality witnessed truly to the differences in the forms of reproduction of what was perceived by these two exalted persons, who proceeded on their way together, and from time to time held out a hand to one another.
Schuré described to us his impressions of the Goetheanum. It was naturally a question, at the moment, of the first Goetheanum. He had not seen the second, but only the picture I showed him. He went deeply into the differences between the Greek Temple, the Goetheanum, and the Gothic Cathedral.
He had been instructed by Rudolf Steiner himself over the aim, the name and what it was destined for. Schuré said of it, ”It was just this first building that made such an impression upon me, illustrating something so different from Gothic building such as the Strassburg Minster. That the Goetheanum was not to be considered a Temple was signified by Rudolf Steiner when he changed the name from Johannes Bau to Goetheanum. The man who achieved the Bau could naturally not build according to the prescriptions of science and technical knowledge, which he himself declared to be insufficient. Under the cupola of the Goetheanum I have known hours of beautiful experience.”
* * * * * *
Returning to the Mystery of Eleusis Schuré alluded to the lectures given by Rudolf Steiner with a short passage from which we will here close, a passage in which Schuré was put in the place in spiritual evolution which belonged to him:
”The author of The Children of Lucifer whom we had the pleasure of seeing at the performance last year, and again at the lectures last year and this year, in his Great Initiates has created a quality of ideas of which the effects on the mind and soul can only in the future be seen in their right light.
”It may strike you, my dear friends as extraordinary in many ways when the estimation in which the spiritual forces and works of one time or another in the past are compared with what ruled in the consciousness of the contemporaries of those times. We so easily mistake the way in which we ourselves think about Goethe, Shakespeare, Dante, with that in which the contemporaries were expert, who studied them and estimated them from spiritual forces which through such personalities were given body by the progressive spirit of man. And it is especially incumbent upon us as Theosophists to bring it to our consciousness that man in his own times least of all can measure the significance and force of spiritual productions for the soul lift of their contemporaries. When we consider how the judgment of the future will be quite different from that of the present, then we may say that the appearance of the Great Initiates will some time be seen as something of tremendous significance both because of its contents and for the spiritual deepening of our time. For from many souls belonging to the widest culture circles of our times there resound echoes of what will have become possible only because these ideas found entrance into the hearts of our contemporaries. . . . And for such these echoes are of great significance; for numberless folk they mean a certainty of life, and trust and hope in the most difficult moments of their lives. And only when we understand how to rejoice in the right way over such spiritual deeds of our time dare we assert that we have within our breasts a Theosophical perception and Theosophical frame of mind, of any worth. And out of those depths of soul from which the ideas of The Great Initiates streamed forth the figures of The Children of Lucifer also received their form and stamp. It brings a great period of mankind before the soul, a time in which the old and the new in the evolution of the world jostled each other. Theosophy must understand how in this play there is a two-fold stream; human life, human work, and human influences on the physical plane as it is presented to us through the figures which meet us in The Children of Lucifer. And in these works, into these influences, there shines what we may call illumination from the higher worlds.” (16th August, 1910, Munich.)
Children of Lucifer