A few more words about my conversations with Dr. Steiner on the subject of reincarnation may not be out of place. Most cultured people to-day still think, in spite of Lessing and Goethe, that to assume the truth of reincarnation is semi-lunacy, and the statement that it is possible to know anything of previous incarnations seems to them wilder still. Although the most personal details in this domain do not belong to the realm of publicity, and the narrative must for that reason be somewhat lacking in vividness and concreteness, yet for all that the way in which Rudolf Steiner spoke of reincarnation is such a rich legacy for mankind that it must not be withheld. Not by the faintest breath did he pander to personal vanity. On the contrary, one saw him deliberately taking the greatest pains to efface anything that might have stimulated this vanity. He was equally impervious to questions prompted by mere curiosity. I saw him many times when others were asking him questions. Like an absolutely reliable guardian of the things of the spirit, and without much effort, he evaded all attempts, direct or indirect, to "get something out of him". He pointed to the objective connections and firmly resisted all personal sensationalism. Just as the very least sensitiveness to the situation made it impossible to ask: "Who was I in a previous incarnation?" - so it would most certainly have been out of the question to ask: "Who were you?" The result of that would have been that Rudolf Steiner would have cold-shouldered the questioner for a very long time to come. His attitude in the Krishnamurti affair shows that he regarded it as the greatest occult sin to claim authority for anyone on the ground of previous incarnations. In the age of the "Consciousness Soul" everyone must appeal with his teaching simply and solely to men's own objective sense of truth, and convince them purely on the basis of reason. Historically, Rudolf Steiner's position was all the more difficult because he held that the time has now come when individual human beings, too, must know more of their origin and true place in life. Before very long it will be impossible for man to cope with existence if he does not realise that the guiding threads of his life lead out far beyond the limits of his present existence. But Rudolf Steiner regarded any even half unconscious flippancy about earlier incarnations as a pest. Indeed he used this very expression on more than one occasion. That is why everyone who has passed through his training is so horrified to hear it stated in the theosophical "Liberal Catholic Church" that the places of the Apostles and medieval Saints are already assigned. Indeed very few are left vacant! - And then the whole matter is openly discussed in the newspapers!
I once asked Dr. Steiner why it was that people were so prone to imagine themselves as the incarnations of significant personalities, and whether there was any reason for this, apart from the factor of human vanity. He said that one has a clearer picture of those with whom one has lived than of oneself and that this is so even in the present life. In the group of people around him he suppressed everything that tended to self-satisfaction and sensationalism - and with good effect. I was often surprised to find how little talk went on in the Society during Dr. Steiner's life-time about the details of reincarnation - much less, indeed, than one would have expected in view of human egotism. But it would have brought down a torrent of wrath from him, and everyone knew it. On the other hand, what he did was to stimulate individuals to inner activity in this domain: "Try to get at it for yourself." "Read about that epoch and see what impressions you have." "We will speak about it again later on." To me, one of the most remarkable things about him was the number of secrets which he consciously carried about locked up within him, taking them finally through death without revealing them to a single soul. Not once would he let himself be enticed into giving even a hint. It might well have happened that conclusions could have been drawn from some chance remark or other. But this was never the case with Rudolf Steiner. He only said what would help, and avoided everything that might do harm, even in the future. If only people could have seen how he spoke of these matters in personal conversation! His great dark eyes became even more alert. With a consciousness of responsibility than which nothing greater or purer could be imagined, he spoke every word with hesitation. It was as if, all unseen, he had passed into a temple where he was acting before the eyes of higher powers. One could have wished that all the sensitive minds of humanity had been present to witness such a spectacle. If the teaching of reincarnation were to be renewed in a Christian sense it could not have been entrusted to a more scrupulous mind. Quite apart from my own opinion about reincarnation, I often said to myself, when I listened to Dr. Steiner speaking about this question: "If I were Providence itself and seeking for a man of sufficient moral greatness to be entrusted with knowledge of these things and speak of them, a man who is big enough to cope with the dangers to himself and others, choice could fall on no one better." - But be that as it may: Rudolf Steiner's way of treating this realm of life is like a sacred legacy, bequeathed not only to the Anthroposophical Society but to all mankind.
* * * * *
Again there was a period of six months of quiet study and concrete examination of Anthroposophy before I saw Dr. Steiner in Stuttgart on my return from a journey to Switzerland. What stands out in my memory is a conversation about the Gospel of St. John. I said something to the effect that the revelational character of this Gospel seemed to me to be strongly indicated by the fact that in the passages on death spoken by Christ before His Departure, the word "Father" occurs where one would have expected the word "Death". Rudolf Steiner looked at me with interest. "So you have discovered that? I had to travel a much longer occult path before I discovered it. Of course one sees it then from a rather different point of view. But it is certainly possible also to get at such truths purely by the path of religion." Then of his own accord he began to speak of the pamphlet I had written in collaboration with my friend Dr. Geyer and had sent him to read. Its title was: "Why do we remain in the Church?" - "I read it," he said, "but I do not think that is the way to get on." At that point I ought to have asked: "Why not?" - but I was much too deeply bound up with the struggles and hopes of the Church at that moment. I was still hoping to fight my own way in the Church, just as I was. And so I let the opportunity slip. An unconscious sense of fear that further conversation on this subject might lead to unwelcome consequences for me, and the more conscious impulse that I did not want my outer life to be influenced by Rudolf Steiner before I was inwardly clear about his world, indeed I wanted my outer life to be determined wholly by my own inner promptings - all this induced me to make an evasive reply. "Perhaps our innermost wishes are better than our reasoning powers," I said. Dr. Steiner understood at once and, as always in such cases, let the subject drop quite naturally and passed on to speak of other things.
Another six months went by. I had realised for a long time now that destiny might demand that I should openly declare myself in support of Anthroposophy. I wanted to be prepared for that hour, for a whole life-time was at stake, possibly involving the sacrifice of what had hitherto been my calling. It is one thing for a man to whom a large following in Germany was looking, and another for a young man who throws himself enthusiastically into something that has gripped his mind and heart. I saw the people around me. They trusted me and I felt a deep responsibility to them. Many, indeed most of them, would not be able to go with me and would be disappointed. For when I first began to speak about these things in public, I had a period of many years' study already behind me and could not now take the people through all the stages of my investigations. I could not think of publicly ranging myself on the side of this new body of teaching until I was absolutely sure of my own ground. But then it would be a shattering blow to my congregation. It was not, as opponents like to put it, a case of someone in whom a lack of independent judgment or bodily exhaustion had one day made him the victim of a subtle hypnotist. For nearly five years I had devoted practically all the spare time I had from my profession to the theoretical and, above all, the practical study of Anthroposophy. My object was to take stock of my responsibility to humanity and then have the right to speak with authority. Is there anyone among the opponents who has applied anything like the same amount of time and earnest investigation before writing against Anthroposophy? And above all, is there any one of them who has really tested it in his own experience? More than once I have found that men with a name and a position in public life asked for anthroposophical literature on the naive pretext that they were proposing to write or speak about the subject in the near future. And it was a very near future indeed! Conversations with those who really knew their subject were not sought for, and sometimes deliberately avoided. There was one outstanding case where the person in question did not even wait to receive books which could have served as a real introduction to Anthroposophy. From my own personal experience I know that many of the writings which were afterwards taken seriously by the public originated in this way.
But we are only in the year 1913. When Dr. Steiner came to Nuremberg, at the beginning of the winter, I had a great many questions to ask him. The course of the conversations was always the same. - For an hour or so I would ask question after question, as I had formulated them to myself beforehand. He was always ready to answer. The store of knowledge from which he drew astonished me more and more. What surprised me most of all was that he had never tried to impress this upon me. He gave just what was needed for answering the particular question, no more. On very rare occasions would come the reply: "I have not yet looked into that." - "May I ask you something, Herr Doctor," I would often begin. "Ask whatever you like." And then the question was given back again, and the problem was whether one could ask it at all and what one was going to ask. How deeply I have regretted that I was not more intelligent in my questions! An incredible store of interesting facts would have come to light and could then have been pondered upon in freedom. For Dr. Steiner never asked for agreement. He simply told and left it to produce its own effect. Sometimes it may have happened that, astonished by the assurance in his answers, I asked him: "Have you really never been mistaken in your investigations and been obliged to correct them afterwards?" - "I have never spoken of what I wasn't quite sure of," he said. Still I was not satisfied. - "I mean, have you not on closer scrutiny had to correct your first impressions and results of research?" - "Yes, but then there is always an obvious reason for it. For instance, if I meet you in a fog and do not recognise you, the fog itself is a factor which must then be taken into account." Still I would not give way. "Has it never happened that you had to admit afterwards: 'I was wrong there?'" He thought quietly for a minute or two. "Well, yes," he said, "in human beings I have sometimes been deceived. But after all, with people, something from outer life will often creep in that one cannot foresee."
Occasionally we came to a point in the conversation where I asked in surprise: "If this is so, why do you not tell it to the world?" "Because the world to-day is not yet capable of receiving such truths." He spoke these words quietly and objectively, without any facetiousness or tragic pose. And they were, as a matter of fact, truths which obviously require a lengthy education on the part of humanity before men can freely put them to the test. My own impression - and it grew stronger as the years went by - is that Rudolf Steiner had a store of world-knowledge of which, to his dying day, not a single one of his intimates heard a word. He spoke as an educator, never as a mere revealer. Anything else was out of the question. He entrusted very much to mankind, without regard to the counterblasts it would bring him, but he was absolutely relentless in saying only what was necessary and could be borne at the given moment.
At the end of that meeting with Dr. Steiner he asked me once more: "Would you like to come to my private lecture to Members of the Society this evening?" He added, out of kindness and in order to make it easier for me to agree: "I am going to speak of certain things from the history of the early years of Jesus which are not found in the Gospels." "What, you really venture that?" I asked. "Do you think one would venture if it were not a necessity?" was the rejoinder. "It is the will of the spiritual world that in this age men shall be told more about these things. Time will show why."
The evening that followed will remain in my memory, far beyond the bournes of this life, as one of the most wonderful in my experience. A hundred or so people had gathered in the narrow premises where the Theosophical Society, as it then was, held its meetings. The audience which had gathered in this catacomb-like room in the Sulzbache Strasse to hear such extraordinary things, consisted of the small, sincere group of people who had collected around Michael Bauer, and a few Members from near and far who used to travel from town to town where Dr. Steiner was lecturing. Michael Bauer's group would not have been thought much of in academic circles, and although his lectures were of such a high spiritual standard, deeply fascinating and abounding in all the human qualities, very few from the society and educated circles of Nuremberg had been attracted by them. - Such, then, was the audience. Rudolf Steiner stood before us and spoke of the boyhood of Jesus. From my seat in the front row I was able to watch every expression. He seemed to be looking away from and beyond the audience, gazing intently at pictures before him. With the greatest delicacy of touch and a most, striking alertness and caution, he proceeded to describe these pictures. Occasionally there would be an interpolation of such phrases as: "I cannot say precisely if the sequence here is correct, but this is how it seems to me." Or: "With all my efforts I have not been able to discover the name of the place. The fact that the name has been obliterated must have some significance." He spoke with a reverence in which there was no suggestion of servility, and stood there resolute and firm in the presence of the miraculous. An atmosphere of pure spirituality pervaded the room. It was an atmosphere purged of all feelings not born directly of the spirit - which was there in its power. He told how the divine revelations contained in the Old Testament had dawned in all their greatness upon the soul of the boy Jesus during the years immediately following His return to Nazareth after the event in the Temple at Jerusalem, how His sorrow grew more and more intense as He realised that any true understanding of the greatness of this former revelation of the Divine was lacking among His contemporaries, how this sorrow lived within Him, unexpressed and not understood by those in His environment - "a sorrow in itself far greater than all other sorrows I have known among mankind." - But just because this sorrow was destined to dwell wholly in the inner being of the boy Jesus, He was able to ennoble it beyond all telling. . .
This is not the place to repeat what Rudolf Steiner told us evening after evening out of the "Fifth Gospel" - the Gospel which has remained imperishable in that delicate spiritual record of all the past which even to-day can still be deciphered by one who is fully awake in the spirit. Indelible in my memory are the eyes into which we were able to look on those occasions, and how they were gazing into the past. His living spirituality radiated such purity, such convincing integrity and humility that one felt oneself in the presence of a supreme event in human history. Sometimes the eyes seemed to moisten quite gently from within, and to gleam with liquid gold. Suddenly it struck me that all my life I had been thinking: When I pass into the higher worlds after death I desire nothing else during the first years than to be able for a long space of time to contemplate the life of Jesus with spiritual eyes. - Again and again I tried to be fully conscious of the unprecedented nature of the whole situation. Outside, electric trams were clanking by, one after the other, with shrill hootings. Within stood a man who claimed to have the past in pictures before him and spoke of them with natural assurance. - "Whoever are you?" I kept asking myself. Every test the human mind could make, provided it was an unprejudiced one, came out in favour of the miraculous. Healthy-mindedness? It could have no more convincing form than this. Any suggestion of mental abnormality - and as a clergyman I had a great many cases of this kind to deal with - would have been given the lie by the very atmosphere. Moral purity? We were living and breathing in it. Selflessness? - If one asked oneself: What must a freely bestowed gift of the Gods be like? - it could not be different from this. But, then, what was it all? The beginning of human majesty as yet undreamed of? A message from a higher world sent at the right hour? Those born in after centuries will hardly be able to realise the feelings of those of us who had been living in materialism and witnessed events like this. Already to-day we see before us a growing generation who seem to find no difficulty in what seemed to us to be mighty hammer-blows against the world-edifice in which we were living. On this particular occasion I did not get beyond the point of realising inwardly: Even if it does not all prove to be true, it is, at any rate, the most interesting story of Jesus I have ever heard and in spite of many incomprehensible points, honestly the most probable. I can only be grateful to have had the experience, for apart from the need of further thought, it is at all events full of living and healthy suggestions.
Even if I succeeded to some extent in not being entirely bowled over by this overwhelming first impression, I did somewhat lose balance at what happened afterwards. Rudolf Steiner walked slowly away from the rostrum, came up to me and said: "I do not know what effect this has had upon you." There was a kindly questioning in his eyes. The pure humility with which he spoke was so unexpected after such extraordinary spiritual claims that I could only reply clumsily, to the effect that I must first think it all over, or something of that kind. And yet at that moment I myself ought to have spoken a word or two as it were in the name of mankind. I was so ashamed that during the night I wrote a letter to Rudolf Steiner asking him to bear with me if, to begin with, I was not able to make up my mind about it all. But I had felt one thing very deeply: If he were right, we were being offered a precious gift, and special gratitude was due to him for the spirit in which he had given it.
Several times later on I asked Dr. Steiner if he would not continue these narrations from the Akashic Record. I was sure that it would be a most powerful impulse to mankind if the pictures of the life of Christ which arose in such wealth before his clear spiritual vision were placed by the side of the Gospels. During the War, Dr. Steiner's answer to me was that the "astral world" - the whole spiritual atmosphere around the earth - was now too troubled for him to be able to make investigations of this kind. After the War he said that other work was more pressing for humanity at the moment. He saw the coming economic calamities and began to expound his ideas of a world-economy. He saw the approach of sheer famine, and laid the basis for a new agricultural science. He saw the spiritual starvation caused by the scientific materialism of the day, and introduced his pupils to a new and spiritualised natural science. He saw the needs of youth and devoted himself to the development of a new art of education. He saw the helplessness of modern medicine, especially in the domain of internal and mental diseases, and gave the foundations of a spiritual-scientific therapy, full of new and splendid conceptions. He saw the confusion in the world of religion and morality and helped those who sought his counsel to sure and effective religious activity. - And he went from us before we had received more than a few fragmentary pictures of the life of Christ which shone radiant and clear before the eyes of his spirit. But, after all, what had a generation of men deserved who received those first gifts of his with the great question they contained, in such a way that it was possible for a frightful caricature of him to appear in the illustrated papers with the inscription "The Fifth Evangelist!" And not one of the recognized leaders of religion was even willing to hear about or examine the gift this man had to give from the divine world.
Later on, Rudolf Steiner told me more as man to man about his investigations in the Akashic Record, and it was then that I first got to know of the searching tests he applied to his own faculties in order to make sure of his results. He said, for example, that by a strange fate he had never known of the events connected with the Resurrection from the Bible before his own investigations led him to them. As a boy he had been sent to school across the boundary of Austria and Hungary, and his father, a "Free Thinker," who was not interested in his son's religious instruction allowed it to suffer thereby. And so he was able to make the experiments and ascertain in the first place by spiritual investigation what happened after the death of Christ. Then, when he read the Bible, he found that the Gospel records agreed in every detail with the pictures which had been revealed to him, except for the fact that on account of a lack of understanding a vein of materialism has crept into the Gospels as they are to-day. He said that this vein of materialism is also apparent, for example, in the way in which Christ's words about the Second Coming are recorded. In many domains Rudolf Steiner had apparently carried on his researches for years, before he said a single word about them. Details which he could not find for a long time were often missing. His research was in many instances a request addressed to the spiritual world and the request was not always answered.
These things, of course, are not narrated with the idea of proving anything. They are simply intended as the communication of facts which throw light on the spirit of this kind of research. It could never be in line with true spiritual research if, in the place of a dogmatically accepted New Testament, an equally dogmatically accepted Akashic Record were to arise which would primarily depend on the spiritual gifts of a single individual. Here, too, foresight has seen to it that with all the faculties at their disposal men can freely test what is communicated from higher sources. The only thing that is expected of them is that they do not reject it out of prejudice, self-satisfaction, fear or convenience. To-day they still defend themselves with the primitive method of ignoring or denying what has been given. Many things in this spiritual research may be left undecided for a long time, or forever - but others that help and enlighten will assuredly be found. Having listened to the opinions of Protestant theologians, orthodox and liberal for twenty years, I could trust myself to judge whether or not the teachings of Rudolf Steiner - who did not come from any school - were to be taken seriously. "It is the will of the spiritual world that in this age men shall be told more about these things. Time will show why." - Whenever I read the increasingly barren and inadequate descriptions given by theologians of the life of Jesus and compare them with Rudolf Steiner's, I perceive something of this "will of the spiritual world." But theology goes on its own way just the same, as if nothing had happened.
* * * * *
If I now tell of the effect which these new spiritual teachings had in my whole life of soul, it is chiefly for the reason that an actual realisation of certain spiritual laws dawned within me myself. Sources of error became clear. The narration may, therefore, be the means of helping others in their turn. During those years I once dreamt that I asked Dr. Steiner: "Who were you in your previous incarnations?" He answered: "Pythagoras and Menander." When I woke up, the experience remained vividly with me. I asked myself if there could be any truth in it. Pythagoras - yes, that might be a possibility, although up to that moment the idea had never consciously occurred to me. But Menander - who was he? I looked in the encyclopædia and found two Menanders, one a poet and writer of comedies and the other a rhetorician. But they both lived so near to the time of Pythagoras that it was not easy to reconcile the suggestion with other anthroposophical views on the subject. Was it perhaps King Milinda who had the remarkable discourse with Buddha? - A few weeks later I was able to speak to Dr. Steiner and I told him about the dream experience. He first asked when it had happened and I told him almost exactly. "It has nothing to do with my incarnations," he said. "But that night I was deeply occupied with the study of Pythagoras and Menander, not only in a scientific sense." "Which Menander was it?" I asked, curious as to whether Dr. Steiner knew of the two of whose existence I had only learnt from the encyclopædia. "It was the rhetorician. I was working at a problem connected with speech, and tried to get into contact with him." Incidents like this give food for thought in many directions. To me the main significance was that I saw clearly how easily errors creep into spiritual experiences of this kind. For on the face of it, the actual spiritual impression was: Steiner, Pythagoras, Menander. But immediately the question about earlier incarnations cropped up. This came from a half-unconscious curiosity-complex within me. And yet it was through this complex that the experience became strong enough to be reflected by the consciousness. When I was thinking about the experience afterwards I could clearly distinguish the different spiritual character of the two regions - that of interest mixed with curiosity and that of objective fact. And so I had the first basic standards for discriminating between true and false spiritual experiences. It was borne in upon me how right Dr. Steiner was when he indicated. that nobody can receive reliable impressions from the world of spirit who has not passed the "Guardian of the Threshold," and has not learnt so completely to scrutinise his whole inner life that he can recognise the elements shooting in from the personal side of his being. Fundamentally speaking, the two "Guardians of the Threshold" - figures which seem so extraordinary to many people - are simply presentations, but at a very high spiritual level, of the Christian experiences of "Repentance" and "Faith".
Another incident may serve to indicate the language of this domain. Rudolf Steiner stood before me in a dream and said with emphasis: "Say A!" When I asked him about it afterwards, it appeared that he had been wanting me to learn to take delicate spiritual impressions more positively. "In such circumstances the sound A (ah) rings out in the spiritual world," he said by way of explanation. Nothing was known at that time of the anthroposophical teaching in regard to the sounds of speech. I had become aware of a reality but had not understood its language. How many important hints to be gleaned from true dreams are lost to us when we do not understand the language of the world to which they belong! - "But why did you look in the dream as if you were fair?" I asked. "You got that from your own fairness," was the answer. "Your forces were not quite strong enough to lead you on to the true perception." In little things and great things every answer seemed to be given with knowledge and assurance. Here spoke one who was at home in these experiences. That was the impression one always had.
These examples may suffice. But while we are speaking of dreams which are more than dreams, one other experience shall be related, in view of subsequent events. Seven years before the founding of "The Christian Community," I saw myself in a dream climbing a high mountain. I stopped for a moment in the ascent and saw to the left, a settlement of people. It was the Johannes Müller Fellowship. The path had led me near by, but not actually into the settlement, for it continued up the mountain side. I knew that I must go to the right and from a somewhat higher point in the ascent I looked down upon the settlement with sympathetic interest. At the summit of the mountain - I still see it there before me - stood a church with a steeple rising sheer to the heavens. The church had been built by Rudolf Steiner. The path was not easy and yet not too difficult. After a brief glance I set out calmly to make the ascent. - How remarkable that a dream like this should not only have reflected the reality of the moment, which in my waking consciousness I should never have expressed in such a form, but that a remote future of which one could have known nothing should also have shone into it!
* * * * *
More than a year went by before I saw Dr. Steiner again. The Great War had begun, and everyone had his own immediate duties. The conversation I had with him early in the year 1915 at the Deutscher Hof, in Nuremberg, was particularly significant. Dr. Steiner began at once to speak of the War. "I have been glad to find that you have had the same idea of world-events as I have," he said. "In what sense do you mean that?" I asked, rather hesitatingly. "I do not know what you have been saying about the War." "No," he said, "and I do not mean it like that. But you have a great inner sensitiveness to what is really going on." The appreciation implicit in these words embarrassed me a little, and I went on: "Herr Doctor, I would be glad to know from you where you think that my activity now during the War is not on the right lines." This was the first, rather explosive challenge on the subject of current affairs, to a knowledge that transcended ordinary knowledge. For my work among my Nuremberg congregation was carried on far away from the local Anthroposophists - as they were now, after the final separation from the Theosophical Society - and it was highly improbable that Rudolf Steiner had heard anything at all about it. He took up the challenge at once. "It is not a good thing to tell people that they ought not to hate England," he said. "That only excites and does not help them. It is better to say: 'You do not really hate England at all if you are true Germans.' When the German fights he never hates the person, he hates the cause." This was, as a matter of fact, the weak point in my work at that time. People were not at all satisfied with my lack of hatred. Naturally they expressed it quite differently, and said I had not enough living sympathy. But, as a matter of fact, I was not succeeding in giving them ideals great and worthy enough to take the place of all-too-human feelings.
This was the weak point among all the spiritual leaders in Germany during the War. They were not capable of inculcating spiritual substance into the life-struggle of the German people. This helped me to understand what Rudolf Steiner had been trying to do in the lectures he had given in Berlin during the early years of the War. In connection with the greatest figures of Germany's spiritual history - Goethe, Schiller, Fichte, Hegel - he had tried to fill the hearts of men with a realisation of the spiritual mission of Germany. Those lectures richly deserve to be published by themselves. The effect they had on me personally was that they contained something which could have filled the hearts of the young in Germany with the inspiration for which they were longing, something which, without a single, false note, could have inculcated moral stability and have kindled the greatness of spirit from which alone the true power of Germans can be born. Not a word needs to be taken back to-day. The noble inspiration kindled by the lectures, both the public ones, and, to an even greater extent, those delivered to a more intimate group, was one of the fairest gifts of Rudolf Steiner. A wisdom-filled vision of the real place of Germany among the nations and of the higher Will behind this, here became a pure and vital force, radiant with light but also with sacrifice. But Germans were listening to Chamberlain* and Traub and had no ears for Rudolf Steiner.
* The German philosopher and essayist.
One thinks wistfully what might not have happened if his ideas, transmitted to the nation in their dire conflict by a sufficient number of well-informed and deeply feeling interpreters, had been the basis of a true patriotic instruction.
I never heard Rudolf Steiner speak a single word about having been ignored. His love for German culture, clear-eyed and born of the spirit, remained absolutely steadfast, without a trace of personal pique. But opponents have managed to spread abroad the statement that Rudolf Steiner was the man who was chiefly to be blamed for the loss of the battle of the Marne and defeat in the War. In passing through Coblenz, he had had a brief personal conversation as man to man with Von Moltke, the Chief of the General Staff. Von Moltke was not a member of the Anthroposophical Society, and had only heard an occasional lecture from Rudolf Steiner. That is all that ever happened. Military affairs were never once mentioned in the conversation. Which would have been the better leader for Germany: a spirit capable of making such accusations or the spirit speaking in Rudolf Steiner's lectures? - About that posterity will have the last word to say.
Another subject of my conversation with Dr. Steiner that spring was his relation to the recognised science of the day. Very soon after I had met him, a feeling of responsibility had arisen in me. - "I at least will do what I can to see that Rudolf Steiner does not remain unknown to those who are entrusted to-day with the investigation of the various branches of science." Life had brought me into touch with many University Professors. I thought about them all, and hit upon Oswald Külpe, with whom I had a close tie of friendship. Those who were acquainted with Oswald Külpe know that in the whole of Germany at that time it would have been hard to find a Professor more deeply schooled in philosophy and psychology, or a man of greater candour, purity of character and freedom from prejudice. The humane nobility of Külpe was something that remained as an unforgettable, almost sacred experience in all those who came into close contact with him. Once before I had asked Rudolf Steiner if he would ever be willing to go with me to see Külpe and allow himself to be questioned by him, if I undertook to arrange the meeting. I was not thinking of any kind of psychological experiment in the ordinary sense. My idea was rather to try to bring one of the most unbiased men in modern science face to face with Rudolf Steiner's extraordinary faculties and get him quite freely to discuss methods whereby science might be convinced on her own lines, without giving up her ground - but also without unfairness to the unusual character of the phenomena. I was imbued with the feeling: Rudolf Steiner must not die without this one attempt having been made; if modern science could come to terms with newly emerging human faculties, this must surely be of immeasurable importance for the whole of mankind. Rudolf Steiner, on his side, raised no difficulty. He only said: "I warn you beforehand that the thing is very complicated. The thought of a devotional man, for instance, appears blue, but that of a banker given up to his money also blue." "In what does the difference consist, then?" I asked him. "In the whole configuration."
These words show that in a certain sense Rudolf Steiner was even ready to submit to an experiment. Only it was not to turn into an occasion where some scientist put him through an "examination" in an institute, treating him for all the world as if he were a criminal to be unmasked. Far rather must it be an occasion for a man with an open mind on the matter to put his questions and try to come to an understanding as to how scientific research could find an approach to the phenomena.
In Nuremberg at that time Dr. Steiner told me definitely that he was willing to go with me to Külpe. He said: "At your request I have looked again at his Introduction to Philosophy, and I hardly think that with his realism he will be really open to receive these things. The aura is too colourless. But I will communicate with you when I am next in Munich, and then we will make the attempt." Thereupon I went to see Külpe, who was then Professor of Philosophy in the Munich University, told him of my personal experiences with Rudolf Steiner, gave him the most essential books, and asked him to look into the matter in the interests of science and Anthroposophy. He replied in a kindly way: "If I had not heard all this personally from you, I would not have bothered with it. But now I will have a look at the books." About six months afterwards came a letter from Rudolf Steiner saying that he was in Munich and ready for the interview. But when I tried to fix a day and time with Külpe, he wrote to excuse himself. The books had made him realise that a superficial study would achieve nothing. One would have to go into the subject fundamentally. But that would mean breaking into other tasks, and the books had not given him the impression of being significant enough to warrant this. It therefore seemed to him that the probability of anything coming of the interview was too remote. - So there was no other course than for me to put Dr. Steiner off. It was the only attempt which I thought might have had a chance of success. But it was not Rudolf Steiner who drew back in this case.
It is a strange chapter, this behaviour on the part of orthodox science. Thick volumes were being written on the Mystics of the past; people were journeying to India in search of Yogis in order to converse with them. But they did not see that in the very heart of European civilisation there was something far greater, something that would have given them the most living understanding of the Mystics of the past and the Yogis in far-off India. Eyes were being strained down microscopes and telescopes; every beetle and every comet examined. But scientists did not trouble about the rarest phenomenon of all and yet so near to hand, in the shape of one who could have shed such many-sided light on what is more significant than anything else - the nature and being of man. Never once in Rudolf Steiner's life, so far as I know, did it happen that a recognised scientist went to him saying: You write such remarkable things. May I ask you about them? - Nothing that he wrote was taken seriously. Men would not let themselves be attracted by his other work nor be compromised by contact with something unfamiliar and unrecognised. At most they expected Rudolf Steiner to come forward on his own account and ask for investigation and recognition. But the request for the former was clearly enough stated in his books. When that had no effect, every other step would have been beneath him.
So all that was left to science was to concern itself with old-fashioned seeresses or automatic painters. But all such phenomena only lead into the dim, unconscious regions of the life of soul, and in any case the right methods of investigation are not there. With Rudolf Steiner there was simply no question of trance. One looked there into a super-consciousness, not into a dark, dreamy subconsciousness. It was a difference as between the uncanny flashing of rockets by night and the bright sunlight of day.
For the rest, let me say here that I myself seemed to observe indications of a certain development on the part of Rudolf Steiner himself. In earlier years it seemed to me that when he was giving advice to people he liked to sit where he would not be obliged to look against the light. When he began to use his faculties of spiritual sight one noticed a certain deliberate adjustment of his being, often accompanied by a lowering of the eyes. One remembered then what he says in his books, namely, that the physical body of a man must be wiped out before the "higher members" can be perceived. As the years went on I noticed this less and less, and finally not at all. He seemed to pass without effort into the higher state of consciousness; or rather it was as if both states of consciousness, that of sense perception and of spiritual perception, were there for him freely and naturally, one beside the other. In the same way, on several occasions in earlier years I thought I often noticed that at the beginning of a conversation it was not easy for him to find the right words. One said to oneself then that he had surely been occupied with his spiritual investigations and needed a few seconds for the transition to the world of purely physical existence. He tried to find the appropriate words, missed it, and stopped. A brief effort - and the difficulty was overcome. This, too, I noticed less and less frequently as time went on. In the early years there were sometimes moments in a lecture when one would have the impression - now he is occupied with some intervening spiritual observation. At such moments he would speak hesitatingly, letting the sentence slowly finish itself, and sometimes even padding it. Later on, one often saw from his very look - which could change with bewildering rapidity as the result of mighty spiritual impulses - that extraordinary things were going on within him, far more extraordinary than were actually said. And yet the two aspects did not seem separate but rather to be livingly united. When I thought about the development which Rudolf Steiner himself manifested - in so far as I was able to perceive it - it seemed to me amazingly rapid, and to put the others of us to shame. - It is not fair to the world to withhold these observations. But I myself would not like them to be regarded as authoritative unless they are compared with those made by others as well.
The unexpected and premature death of Külpe occurred soon after this episode. In an intimate conversation Rudolf Steiner told me that he had never yet seen anyone who tried so hard after his death to get away from his old way of thinking. Külpe's refusal to meet him had in no way prevented him from taking a kindly interest in the fate of this man in the other world.
A third conversation, which took place early in the year 1915, shall here be mentioned. In my meditations upon the words of Christ I had become aware that these words had a strong effect on the body. It was as though they were saying: If we are to live within your being, we must first transform it. - One grew conscious of the delicate, spiritual corporeality lying behind the physical body as its spiritual architect. Changes in this finer body could be perceived. Meditation upon the words of Christ could intensify into potent bodily sensations, even into acute physical pain. The aftermath was a consciousness of a wonderful healing which, for the first time, gave one an inkling of what true health of the whole being really is. These experiences led me to wonder whether meditation upon the words of Christ might not be able to tell one something about His actual appearance. At certain points of one's own bodily form, one would then have to observe wherein Christ must have been different from oneself. The words of Christ revealed more or less distinctly how the body must look in which these words could really live. I am convinced too that the words of other great men among humanity could be so strongly meditated upon that similar experiences, even if less vivid, might well arise.
Without saying anything in detail about these observations, I asked Rudolf Steiner: "Is it really possible, simply by meditation upon the words of Christ, to come to the point of being able to say anything at all about His actual appearance?" "And what do you think He looked like?" came the quiet counter-question. When I began to say certain things, Rudolf Steiner took up my description and led it - I can only say - to clarity. It was the same picture which he afterwards gave in his lectures: A brow unlike that of a modern thinker, but one upon which reverence for the deep mysteries of existence was written; eyes that did not gaze upon men as though in observation but penetrated their very being in the fire of self-sacrifice; a mouth - "When I saw it for the first time I had this impression: this mouth has never taken food, but has been proclaiming divine truths from all eternity." In astonishment I asked: "Yes, but if you know what Christ was really like, is it not right to make this picture of Him in some way accessible to mankind?" "Yes, indeed," was his answer. "And that is why I have told an artist in Dornach to make a model of Christ according to my indications."
At that moment I made up my mind that my next free time would be spent in Dornach in order to let this model of Christ work upon me from nearer at hand. I did not yet think of joining the Anthroposophical Society. Rudolf Steiner never gave me the least hint in this direction. He invariably gave me the unlimited freedom of a guest. But he knew, too, that I was not being held back by trivial motives.
* * * * *
At Midsummer, in the year 1915, with the thunder of the cannons rumbling from neighbouring Alsace, and the searchlights playing over the countryside by night, I sat before the image of the Christ in Dornach. At that time there was only a half-figure in plasticine modelled by Rudolf Steiner himself. He had told the artist working there to allow me access to the studio at anytime, and let me sit quietly in front of the model. I availed myself of this permission to the extent to which I thought it would not disturb the artist's work. And so I was able to steep myself in the Gospels with this Christ figure in front of me. Now I compared the model with the Gospels and now the Gospels with the model. There were also opportunities of speaking to Rudolf Steiner about the figure. "But I do not consider the type at all Semitic," Herr Doctor, I said to him. "Well, the part around the mouth and chin is Semitic. The upper part of the head is Aryan," was his answer. "Then Chamberlain and others are right when they say that there are Aryan elements in Christ?" - "Certainly. Both elements are there." What Dr. Steiner had said in lectures, namely, that in a far remote past two streams of peoples went out, one of which is found in the more Aryan peoples who were destined to seek for the revelation of the Divine mainly in the outer world, and the other in the more southerly, Semitic peoples who were wont to seek the Divine in the world of inner being, until finally both streams united in Christianity - all this was impressively reflected in the head of this statue. "For a long time now I have been studying this model," I said, "and I can well imagine that this was how the Christ of the Gospels appeared. But there is something I miss: the element of loving kindness." "There you are quite right," Dr. Steiner answered. "I tried to catch His expression at the moment of the Temptation. But one cannot get a statue to portray the element of loving kindness, because the eyes are not there. That is why I have tried to express it in the gesture of the raised left hand. If it is successful, it should help to make people understand that, under the influence of this loving kindness, Lucifer hurls himself voluntarily into the depths." And then Dr. Steiner went on to speak of the efforts it had cost him to come to the decision that even the Christ of Michelangelo had something Luciferian about it and that a new presentation of Christ must be ventured upon, more nearly corresponding to the reality revealed by the spirit.
A grotesque happening may reveal Rudolf Steiner from another side. One day in Dornach I was visited by a shrewd Swiss theologian who also took an interest in Anthroposophy and had a wish to talk to Rudolf Steiner. "He can come with you to the studio and I will also show him the model." When Rudolf Steiner had received us and had taken off the wrapping from the mould, the new guest, after a moment of silence, broke into speech: "I see a resemblance to the German Crown Prince," he said affably. Heavens above! I thought to myself. How will Dr. Steiner take that? With an unconcern and forbearance that touched one's very heart, he said: "Oh really! You think so? Where do you see the resemblance?" In quite a calm and friendly way the conversation went on to its natural conclusion. At such moments, when it seemed that further conversation would serve no purpose, Rudolf Steiner could assume something like a cowl. Outwardly, his kindly presence was there, but his real being was living in hidden places into which one could not enter. The theologian certainly thought that with his comparison he was saying something that would please Germans. I never spoke to Dr. Steiner about what had happened. But he, on his part, never asked me again about that man.
It was wonderful to be able to contemplate the Christ thus objectively and spiritually in the company of Rudolf Steiner. A certain strangeness which, to begin with, I myself felt in connection with the Christ statue, had to be overcome. But then one began to realise more and more clearly that it was simply impossible to have any different conception of the Christ. In its sublime purity this form was far and away superior to all others. Suddenly it struck me that I had often wished: If only I knew how Christ really looked! That would surely make the impression of His words stronger. Why is this denied us? - Another wish which the angels heard. When I thought about how I had struggled with the words of Christ, the experience in Dornach seemed to me a wonderful and veritably divine reward for much quiet effort. And when I thought of the present age: - Is it of no significance that this Christ figure has come precisely at this time? Was there not in my own wish for a Christ image something of the yearning of a generation which loves and has particular gifts for understanding the visible world - a generation which is seeking and reaching out for full and complete manhood? Was there not in the Dornach experience a kind of consummation of the longings of an age wherein men are seeking the spirit, and can now understand the spirit in a new way in spite of their material existence? Was there not here an element of the promise: I will come again and abide with you? Before that bust of Christ in Dornach my own year-long searchings met the help which Anthroposophy was able to offer.
The talks I had with Dr. Steiner in Dornach at that time naturally bore upon quite other matters as well - above all, for example, upon the World War. "Can one really know how the War is going to end?" I asked. "Certainly it would be possible," was his reply. "But then one would have to retire from all participation in events. It would not do to investigate these things by occult means and then allow the knowledge so gained to colour ones own actions." With the care with which he always did such things he drew a map on paper. Belgium and the North coast of France were marked out as areas under English influence, also the Eastern part of the Mediterranean and the Bosphorus. "They say now that they are fighting for Russia, but that, of course, is illusion." Germany was cut down in the East and deprived of Alsace-Lorraine in the West. It was more or less the map of Europe as it actually became after the War, except that Germany and German-Austria were joined. "I can prove that this map was in existence in England in the early 'nineties. It may be older still, but I have not gone into that yet. This is what is to happen if things turn out as Germany's enemies wish." Nevertheless, my impression was that at that time Rudolf Steiner was anticipating a more favourable conclusion of the War for Germany. When the War was over he once said to me: "Things need not have turned out as they have. But - what has come to pass was, after all, inevitable." Six months after our conversation in Dornach, about the month of March, 1916, I asked Dr. Steiner about the many prophecies that were going round. The laundress of a General in Munich had again foretold peace in the month of May. "Yes, these people do see something," he said. "Spiritual conditions are such that peace is really possible during the next few months. But they do not see all the opposing influences that are at work. That is why their prophecies do not come true."
The conversations in Dornach were also concerned with many quite personal matters. Once again Rudolf Steiner told me something amazingly correct about myself. "It is really wonderful that you can see this!" broke from me. The words were spoken in the impulse of the moment, but at the same time I was quite conscious of wanting to see how he would react to such a remark. "Wonderful?" he said, with kindly and yet unmistakable repudiation. "You should not think of it like that. One may or may not see such things. But - that I know what Christianity needs to-day - yes, that is Grace." The whole impulse of soul contained in these words came out so simply, so freely and with such natural assurance that I can imagine nothing more beautiful. Scenes like this will help people to feel how one was constantly being carried off one's feet by Rudolf Steiner's extraordinary faculties, and how his human simplicity would again and again bring one to earth again. There may well have been an inner connection between these remarks and the fact that he said in the course of the same conversation: "When one looks more deeply into one's inner being, one discovers things of which one does not like to speak." The tone in which he said especially the last few words would alone turn anyone who heard it into a righteous and humble man. Not a trace of sentimentality nor secret self-complacency. "A man in the presence of God" - might well have been said. Here was a man gazing at his own being in the clear light of consciousness, without losing his sense of self. Such a scene embodies everything that has made Protestantism great: self-knowledge and the experience of Grace. - But these things
were only the basic tenor, giving rise to a mighty life of full revelation. It was not because I sat before him as a Protestant theologian that Rudolf Steiner said things to please me. In the very depths of his consciousness he felt his mission to be service to Christianity and this he felt as grace. But with his deep humility he never said this more often than was absolutely necessary.
"Did you always think of Christ as you think to-day, even in your scientific days?" I asked him. "I remember that in a conversation in the middle of my twenties I spoke of Christ like this," he answered. "But then of course it fell temporarily into the background. I had to pass through all those other phases. It was a karmic necessity." "Why was it that in spite of all you must have known even in those early years, you were so completely silent about occult matters until your fortieth year?" I asked. "I had to make a certain position for myself in the world first. People may say nowadays that my writings are mad, but my earlier work is also there, and they cannot wholly ignore it. And, moreover, I had to bring things to a certain clarity in myself, to a point where I could give them form, before it was possible to talk about them. That was not so very easy. And then - I admit it frankly - it needs courage to speak openly about such things. I had first to acquire this courage."
"Do you really think that Anthroposophy will succeed in becoming more than a strong impulse in our civilisation? Do you think it can really strike through as new culture?" - He became amazingly serious. "If humanity does not accept what is now being offered, it will have to wait for another hundred years," he said. He seemed to be deeply moved. It was not merely emotion, but something like the thunder of the Judgment. He said no more. Never before or since have I seen how the soul of a whole age can tremble in one man.
* * * * *
At the turn of the year 1915-16 came the enquiry from Berlin as to whether I would be willing to let myself be nominated to the "Neue Kirche". But - was I not being called there under false suppositions? I wrote: "I am not the man you think. Of recent years I have been in close contact with the Anthroposophical Movement; and although I should not propose to preach unadulterated Anthroposophy, but Christianity, as the sermons sent herewith will show, I should have to reserve full freedom to declare myself openly on the side of Anthroposophy, for instance, freedom to become a member of the Anthroposophical Society. I, at any rate, am convinced that in the age now dawning it would be a very good thing if a minister thinking along anthroposophical lines were to have a pulpit in Berlin. But as you will probably think otherwise, I must state the position frankly." - The answer was: "Come as you are." I think it important to emphasise this. Later on, when people often said to me that they approved of the earlier Dr. Rittelmeyer but not of the later, they did not know that since the year 1912 they had been unconsciously partaking of Anthroposophy. Not so much in the detailed utterances as in the inner assurance with which the higher world was spoken of, in the increased power coming from an inner source of help, in the new relation to Christ - Anthroposophy was there.
For the first time now I was actually faced with the question as to whether I ought to join the Anthroposophical Society. For one thing was certain: if I did not join now, but later, my membership would look very much like "conversion", perhaps even a breach of faith to selectors and congregation. If joining had involved any dogmatic adherence to a single one of the results of spiritual science, it would have been an impossible step for me to take. I had already fought strenuously enough for my freedom against dogmatism in the Church. But, as later on the new constitution of the Anthroposophical Society at Christmas, 1923, clearly showed, membership simply implied that one acknowledged the right of existence and the importance of spiritual scientific research, and was uniting oneself with those who wished to pursue this along the lines indicated by Rudolf Steiner. One was not asked to avow the truths of spiritual science but simply to take them seriously and work them out for oneself. An act in acknowledgement of Rudolf Steiner himself, however, seemed to me pure duty to truth and decency, in view of the misunderstanding and calumny which were his lot.
* * * * *
There was now a specific inducement to put my whole relation to Anthroposophy to the test and bring this test to a definite conclusion.
How can one really discover whether a body of new spiritual teaching like this, with all its claims, is actually based on truth or whether it is all a colossal error? - That was the question. I personally felt that the natural thing to do was to form as accurate a judgment as possible of the man who was bringing the teaching. I did not let a single opportunity for judging Rudolf Steiner as a man slip by. It had been my privilege in life to come into contact with many outstanding personalities and, as a clergyman, with the destinies and characters of very many human beings. A good foundation for judging the worth of a man was therefore present.
It appeared to me highly probable that if there were a tendency to fantasy and self-deception in a man in regard to the domain of the supersensible, this must inevitably show itself at some point or other in ordinary intercourse and in contact with the affairs of practical life. Otherwise one would have to assume the existence either of a rare and improbable duality, in a form not found even in the most subtle cases of mental disease, or of diabolical roguery. How great was my astonishment when I saw more and more evidence of the certainty and clarity with which Rudolf Steiner perceived and was master of the most trivial details of life. His knowledge of human nature was simply amazing. So far as my experience goes, the only sense in which he might have been deceived, was that he hoped more of many people than they afterwards fulfilled. Dr. Steiner addressed himself to the best in other men, and the response too often came from what was less worthy in them. He had mighty tasks to distribute, but not the men to whom he could entrust them. So he chose the best he could find, hoped the best of them and then was probably only able to feel very moderately satisfied. But that was not mistaken judgment on the part of Rudolf Steiner; it was failure on the part of others.
Of one thing I was also convinced: If there is a trace of inner self-aggrandisement and will-to-power in a man, it cannot remain permanently hidden in the course of ordinary conversation. I had so often been disillusioned when an outstanding man let vanity suddenly peep out through some hole in his prophet's mantle, and had suddenly faced an abyss at a word or a hint or a tone which slipped out in regard to himself. Never once did I experience the least trace of this in Rudolf Steiner. One knows, of course, that in saying this to-day one only runs the risk of being accused of "sickly eulogism" or of blindness. Nevertheless, it is true that new ideas and conceptions of all the human virtues arose when one actually saw Rudolf Steiner. For he never "showed off", not even in the most personal and intimate conversation. On the contrary, he concealed himself where one might well have marvelled at him, and seemed to wish others to find out what he was for themselves.
A new conception of truth grew up when one saw the careful precision with which he answered, with deliberation in every word and tone, but without a trace of "diplomacy", with good-will to insignificant people who could not have risen to anything greater, but also without patronising "kindness". I never knew an instance where regard for outer benefit kept him from stating the bald truth, and doing something that might have been unpleasant. Men who were playing a part in the affairs of he world and could have been useful to him waited in vain for him to approach them or place himself beside them in the limelight. When I once saw with regret that he let a man who could have been valuable to the cause be snubbed, he said curtly and emphatically: "I do not want to win over any man."
Admiration from women spoils nearly every popular speaker. It gives rise to false undertones in speech, and false nuances in the estimation of one's own powers. Rudolf Steiner's attitude to his admirers was worthy of the very greatest respect. It was purity itself. He did not put an end to the admiration, for he knew that reverence is the mother-soil of much that is noble. He was also entirely free from hardness, but if he became aware of it he would not, from his side, suffer the faintest undertone of sickly emotion. As far as he was concerned, he managed to have people around him who honoured but did not rave about him.
And so I could go on, for a great many pages. But some do not need it and others will not stand it. At this point it is enough to say that the impression of Rudolf Steiner as a man was that confidence in his cause could only grow greater the more one got to know him. In many respects he was foreign to me, a man of quite a different order. But for that very reason I felt free of him and sure of my judgment.
Apart from the personality of Rudolf Steiner and confidence in it, one tried to be clear about Anthroposophy by putting oneself into line with Dr. Steiner's clairvoyant faculties in personal cases. It may not have been altogether easy to combine the tact that is due to another, possibly very great man, with a justified desire for knowledge and an unweakened scientific sense. Rudolf Steiner never seemed to dislike my attitude and never once, either directly or indirectly, repelled or corrected it. Obviously it is quite impossible to tell everything, but this much may be said. All doubt as to the truth of his higher faculties was banished more and more by what I experienced as the years went by. This, of course, is not proof of categorical accuracy, nor does it dispense with the necessity for testing every new piece of knowledge, but it does indicate that one's relation to the truths of spiritual science is not as it was at the stage when one was asking the first elementary questions. My slowly increasing faith in his clairvoyant faculties was never shaken by so much as a single unimportant incident.
A further struggle with Anthroposophy - and indeed the greatest - consisted in an attempt to get results myself by its methods. The Anthroposophical Movement is continually subject to the reproach: "There is only one man among you who sees all these things." - At least that is what is said by people who have got beyond the primitive objection that it is nothing but rehashed Gnosticism. "Show us a number of clairvoyants who agree with each other. Then we shall have something more to say!" I can only take this kind of talk to be another attempt to avoid real investigation. Of course there is only one man who saw all these things. And among those I know, there is nobody whose faculties of vision could be compared for a moment with Rudolf Steiner's. But, after all, is it so unusual and incredible in world-history that one man should be so far ahead of everyone else? Was there not an Aristotle, a St. Augustine, a Goethe? A great man cannot be rejected just because he stands alone. The fact that no one claims to have seen what Rudolf Steiner saw is an actual proof of how little suggestion played a part in Anthroposophy. It is the case, however, that there are many Anthroposophists who know from actual experience the first elements of things of which Rudolf Steiner speaks, and I myself was now one of their number. The faint beginnings of individual knowledge were there in regard to nearly every domain of which he spoke. But every step forward in one's own knowledge makes for freedom. From the freedom I myself had already acquired, I could observe Rudolf Steiner. But who was there who could tell me what happens at the later stages of what I knew myself in its rudiments: the higher members of man's being, Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition, heavenly Hierarchies? Certainly science could not. It had not the slightest inkling of such things. Indian teachings came either through the philologists, who had no experience in this domain, or through the theosophists, who gave them out in a form too remote from present-day consciousness. - And so there was only Rudolf Steiner. Every one of his utterances could be related to the beginnings of knowledge in oneself and tested by them.
Another effort in connection with Anthroposophy was that I tried to discover its effects in actual life. In a purely hypothetical way I tried to live under the assumption that it might be right. In this way one entered into the realm of living spirit instead of lingering in abstraction. After all, one did not need to assimilate anything that did not suit one or rather one need only do so in the way that seemed fitting for oneself. But then the health-giving effect of Anthroposophy was quite unmistakable. For the first time one had the impression that here was the true relation between Spirit and Nature. One became "healthy" in the real sense, realising for the first time the utter poverty of the unspiritual materialism which has even laid hold of Christianity. And one became really "man". For man can only truly live if he feels himself a citizen of two worlds. When he has a great "over-world" above him - a world of which he can become a member with his own particular tasks - then and only then does he become fully conscious of the dignity of manhood.
A final effort in connection with Anthroposophy consisted in testing it at the tribunal of actuality and of thought, of all the knowledge and intellect otherwise at one's disposal, comparing Anthroposophy with other knowable reality and other knowable reality with Anthroposophy. And then it often appeared that, to begin with, one had taken Anthroposophy in far too abstract or too crude a sense, or that one was living in the world of reality full of prejudices. It is not our intention here to speak in detail of all the paths which had to be trodden. Am I going too far if I declare that not a single one of the opponents took a tenth of the pains I took with Anthroposophy before I joined the Movement? Real investigation on the part of opponents - such as it is - is shamefully amateurish, full of prejudices and fears. People always seem to imagine that they must accept what a clairvoyant says, without putting it to the test. Those who do not entirely rid themselves of this superstition will not even be able to come near it. - To accept nothing, but also to reject nothing that has not been put to the test, to let things rest, whatever their measure of probability, to admit free hypotheses in regard to realms about which others have nothing whatever to say and then to wait quietly for what will emerge from life and thought - if people could bring themselves to adopt this attitude, the possibility of ultimate clarity would be there. And the battle of Anthroposophy would, I believe, be won.
At all events it was then that I saw for the first time what a "conception of the world" really means. Surely nobody in their senses would take the blind naturalism of Ernst Haeckel, or the anæmic spirituality of Rudolf Eucken, to be a "conception of the world?" Even in the æsthetic sense, the vast world-picture embracing the realms of spirit and matter which is presented by Anthroposophy is staggering. A man who knows something of the spiritual history of humanity will have to ask himself: Where and when has mankind ever experienced anything like this? Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas - but here there was something more, something really like a sublimated union of both. The purity of spirit, the manifold confirmations in actual life, the illuminating explanation of hundreds of details, the magnificent interplay of the parts, the healthy way in which a place was assigned to the world of nature and its innate connection with the world of spirit, the living fulness of the spirit as creator of the natural world - when one considered all this and put it to the test of life, here indeed was a conception of the world with which one could really live! My own desire was to hold to what I knew of Christ in my inner being and to regard everything else as secondary. But my Christianity could live and breathe in this conception of the world, even if I still accepted it as a mere hypothesis. Indeed it increased in clarity and power. -
That was more or less my frame of mind when I faced the question as to whether I ought to become a member of the Anthroposophical Society.
Up to that time nobody had said a word to me on the subject, least of all Dr. Steiner. Michael Bauer had simply told me at the beginning that I could take part in everything without attaching myself to the Society. I now began myself to speak to Rudolf Steiner about it. I said that for my part I was now ready to join the Society; I would only refrain if he preferred to have men outside the Society who were its supporters. He replied: "It is immaterial whether you come in or stay outside; you will be attacked in either case." That was all that I ever said to him about the matter. It is a grievous tragedy in human history that a man in whose proximity one breathed the air of a freedom yet to come should live in the minds of the majority of his contemporaries as a perpetrator of sedition, a wizard with hypnotic power, a kind of semi-magic, semi-mystic Pied Piper. Certainly, many among his adherents felt their own inner self-assurance shaken by the overwhelming superiority of Rudolf Steiner's powers. There was also far too much easy chattering about anthroposophical truths and a great deal of blind following of the leader of Anthroposophy. Such is the tragedy that is bound up with greatness, a tragedy that will always be there when a great man appears. But Rudolf Steiner never failed to let it be known that the men he liked best were those who stood before him in freedom and self-assurance. Even wilfulness did not altogether displease him, although he could not regard it as a quality likely to promote the cause of Anthroposophy. The way in which he combined the pressing need of the cause with respect for personal freedom always called forth my unqualified admiration. If it were a matter of choosing, lie invariably put the freedom of a man before the needs of the cause. For he regarded the future temple of mankind as lost if it were built upon medieval foundations.
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In the middle of the year 1916 I gave my first - still provisional - sermon in Berlin. When I visited Dr. Steiner the next day I heard, to my astonishment, that he had been present. He spoke very kindly. "Of course I always do see something particular in cases like this. The organ music at the beginning - there was nothing in that. When you began to speak the people were all scattered individualities, but during the sermon everything drew together, and at the end there was one uniform ether-form. It was really beautiful, and I am glad to have seen it. I shall often come and see what the further development will be." His words contained a joy of participation which opened out a pleasant prospect in regard to my work in Berlin. But Dr. Steiner could not, after all, carry out his intention of coming. Very soon afterwards his efforts to bring about a spiritual solution of the world-crisis made superhuman claims on his time and energy. And so I only saw him twice, at funeral services which, at his suggestion, I held for members of the Anthroposophical Society. On each occasion I questioned him afterwards, because I was wondering about this "ether-form". In both cases my own impression had been that it was not possible to produce much inner effect upon the crowd of strange, personally indifferent participants. Something could be done by words in praise of the dead in these funeral "orations" but not by the actual truths of religion. Dr. Steiner said in the first case: "A few isolated ether-forms arose among the congregation, but nothing more than that." The second time he said: "You established a good contact with the actual mourners."
Apart from this I hardly had a word with Dr. Steiner about my calling in the Ministry. I wanted to forge my own path quite candidly and to let the anthroposophical impulses work freely. From the beginning of my work as a young theologian I had always been inwardly sure that any day might lead me out of the evangelical Ministry and I kept the resolve to be ready when that moment came, alive and alert in my consciousness. But on his side, Dr. Steiner never took advantage of this for the purpose of exercising influence, not even by indirect suggestion, against which my urge for freedom would have strongly reacted. It seemed to me that he supported me in my methods. I was often able to take what he said in the sense of encouragement, for instance, when he spoke of the "substance" or "good results of meditation" in the preaching. On one occasion - it must have been about the year 1917 - when I met him on the way to his lecture and accompanied him for a few steps, he said: "In my life-mission I must confine myself to the occult - otherwise I shall not succeed. Your task is religion." This too I took as an encouragement to continue on my path. But to-day as I look back, I realise that there again was a moment when I ought to have asked further.
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