These lectures on the biblical Book of Revelation comprise the fifth and last course given by Rudolf Steiner for priests, or those moving towards the priesthood, in the ‘movement for religious renewal’—The Christian Community. They were attended by 57 priests and also members of the Executive of the Anthroposophical Society. In an article in the Newsletter for members of the Anthroposophical Society (see Appendix), Rudolf Steiner confirmed that attendance at the lectures was ‘strictly limited’, and that he could not report on ‘what by its very nature can only be intended for the circle of priests’.
Although no official stenographer was present at the lectures, notes taken by a number of participants were gathered together at the end of the course and given to a group of them who had the responsibility of compiling a single copy. The texts created in this way were immediately duplicated. It is not known what became of the original notes.
Since 1924, this text (in a somewhat revised form) has been in private circulation among the priests of The Christian Community. For many years the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, the literary estate of Rudolf Steiner—a fully independent organization which holds the literary copyright to his work—has not ventured to publish its copy of the notes, respecting Steiner’s original intention that they were intended only for the circle of priests. In 1995, however, the decision was taken—without the support of The Christian Community—to publish a version of the texts. This publication appeared through the estate’s publishing arm, Rudolf Steiner Verlag, as volume 346 in Rudolf Steiner’s collected works in the original German.
Since the publication of volume 346, Apokalypse und Priesterwirken, Vol. 5 in the series Vorträge und Kurse über christlich-religiöses Wirken, the contents of this course have been in the public domain. Unauthorized English translations appeared almost immediately, often of very poor quality, and have been in wide circulation. The book is quoted freely in German, and extensive quotations have also appeared in English publications. In this context, Rudolf Steiner Press decided that it would be sensible to publish an official, authorized translation. This, we felt, would be the only practical response to the given situation.
It should be noted, however, that despite the excellent editorial work on the part of the Swiss publishers, the text is still something of a compromise, and cannot necessarily be regarded as an authentic record of the lectures. (Readers are directed to the full report by the editors of the original German edition on p.264.)
During September 1924—the last month of his lecturing work—Rudolf Steiner was giving four to six lectures daily, with several courses running concurrently. The course of lectures on drama was the central event at Dornach at the time. It had been intended for actors and speech artists, but so many people wished to attend that the restriction had to be waived, and the lectures were heard by an audience of over 700. From 8 to 18 September Steiner lectured to physicians and priests on pastoral medicine, and to members of the Anthroposophical Society on the karmic relationships between individuals. The sessions for members of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science—an esoteric school within the Society, open to members who feel a full commitment to the spiritual stream of Anthroposophy—continued, and Steiner also spoke separately to the workers at the Goetheanum.
Marie Steiner later wrote of this period—September 1924—as ‘a final glorious blaze of his spirit ... An unimaginable abundance of spiritual gifts was lavished upon us. It was like a confluence, a concentration of all he had done over four decades to bring an awakening to humanity: a ripe fruit and a concentrated seed force for the future that will provide spiritual fruition for ages yet to come.’
The present lectures began in the lecture room of the carpentry workshop next to the remains of the first Goetheanum (burnt down by suspected arson on New Year’s Eve 1922) in Dornach, Switzerland. They continued in Haus Brodbeck, now Rudolf-Steiner-Halde, and were finally moved to a larger room in the building office housed near the carpentry shop in a wooden building that no longer exists.
The Christian Community was established in 1922 through the ‘mediation’ of Rudolf Steiner.1 Although Steiner cooperated fully with its founding (undertaken principally by the respected Lutheran preacher Friedrich Rittelmeyer)2 and, significantly, conveyed ‘the cultus and the teachings on which he cultus is based’, nevertheless he was emphatic that the movement was ‘entirely independent’ of the Anthroposophical Society. In his anthroposophical work Rudolf Steiner sought to found a modern science of the spirit. The Christian Community, on the other hand, has the task of ‘religious renewal’.3 However, Anthroposophy could fully support this movement, ‘even though the anthroposophical movement had to regard its own task as lying in the cultivation of spiritual life from other angles’.
A note on the translation:
In The Christian Community, the communion service is known as ‘the Act of Consecration of Man’, in German die Menschenweihehandlung. In the lectures contained in the present volume, Rudolf Steiner used this term both when speaking about the service of The Christian Community and when describing religious rites throughout the ages that involved the mystery of the Transubstantiation. For the purposes of this translation the term is used with upper case initials to denote the service of The Christian Community and with lower case initials when the lecturer was obviously speaking about past ages. He occasionally used the term Weihehandlung, which has been rendered ‘act of consecration’.
The hierarchy of The Christian Community consists of an Erzoberlenker, two Oberlenkers, and four Lenkers. Together they constitute the Circle of Seven. There are also additional Lenkers with responsibility for particular countries or regions of a country. Priests in individual communities are responsible to their appointed Lenker. Although comparisons could be drawn with the positions of archbishop, bishop etc., the fact remains that The Christian Community is a unique church and the above terms are not adequately translatable into English.
A note on the illustrations:
The original blackboard illustrations are extant as they were drawn on black paper pinned to the board. All of them are reproduced in this volume either in the section of colour plates or as separate (black and white) illustrations within the text.
SG, London, July 1998
The Book of Revelation Main Page