The first private lecture I heard from Dr. Steiner after I had moved to Berlin, was on the subject of Christ. The impression it made was one of the most vivid experiences of my life. Rudolf Steiner stood on the rostrum in the small, beautifully decorated premises of the Anthroposophical Society in the Gaisbergstrasse and spoke. - I realised then how a man in the very Presence of Christ speaks of Christ. There was something more than devotional reverence in the words. In freedom and reverence a man was looking up to Christ Whose Presence was quite near, and in that Presence his being changed of itself into an embodiment of noble prayer. The lecture had nothing of the style of a sermon or a prayer. It was a spiritual-scientific communication of facts of a higher world as they had revealed themselves to research, and could then be applied with perfect freedom. Mightier still was the impression of how the Real Presence itself leads man into the mood of adoration which for the first time gives him his true dignity. Not a priest nor a prophet, but a knower of reality stood there before us and let us gaze at this reality in and through him. Only a warped nature could fail to perceive that here one was standing in the very light of truth. The man before us was telling of a world in which he himself was living. The many hundreds of sermons I had heard about Christ came up in the background of my mind. They faded into shadows. "We speak of that which we do know and testify of that which we have seen." - A new proclamation of Christ was there. A new Christ-era was dawning - as yet in the first faint rays of the promised morning. The lecture itself spoke of this - spoke without the least trace of selfish longing for what has yet to come, proclaiming simply what is and would like to bestow itself upon us. Anyone who witnessed this could doubt no longer but that a fully authorised servant of Christ was standing before him.
* * * * *
There now followed two winter seasons - 1916-17 and 1917-18 - when each week I was able to hear a lecture from Dr. Steiner, and sometimes two, three and four. Apart from this it was possible to go to him with questions from time to time, although consideration for him and for others demanded that one should not make selfish use of such opportunities. But after nearly every lecture I was able to talk to him for a short time in the Group room of the Anthroposophical Society. After he had satisfied other questioners and had finished conversations, he would usually come and stand or sit down for a time, chatting in a friendly, human way in the now emptied room. It was in these hours that the most direct idea of his personality grew up. He listened to everything with the greatest human interest, and was communicative himself in the most human way.
But to me these hours had at times something dispiriting about them. Now and then one felt so clearly that Dr. Steiner would have liked to say something more about the contents of his lecture. Sometimes, indeed, he would begin to do so. But a quick and intelligent response to these remarks was often lacking. One feared that an unintelligent word might pain him more than silence. It did not seem possible to orientate oneself quickly and surely enough in the new world of thought. And so not unfrequently these attempts at conversation proved painfully meagre. One sensed the tragic loneliness of a great man - and yet could not help him. Dr. Steiner never showed any sign of disappointment, and bore such clumsiness with kindly patience. One can well imagine what effect his kindness had when one was conscious of these feelings of shame. On one occasion, when he had announced that during the next few months he would not be able to give private interviews, he came up directly after the lecture and said: "What I have just said does not apply to intimate friends." This put me to such shame that I might have given the impression of not having heard. And then he repeated the words with a slight emphasis, looking at me attentively until I was able to indicate that I had understood.
* * * * *
Certain episodes of more general interest shall now be narrated from those years, in their more objective frame-work.
The attention of the public was not as yet directed to Dr. Steiner. He had written works of the greatest significance, and they were read in circles far wider than that of the Anthroposophical Society. But not a single man whose word would have had weight with the public had said a syllable about them. His work seemed to be condemned to death by silence. Christian Morgenstern, who, as a poet, frankly and emphatically avowed his adherence to Rudolf Steiner, was still but little known and he, moreover, enjoyed a poet's freedom in not being taken seriously enough in the domain of philosophy. As a matter of fact Dr. Steiner had deliberately avoided all the business of publishers' advertisements. No review copies were issued, no reviews set on foot, no lists published. He took the chance of a work being recognised in the world on its own merits. The pure sincerity of his knowledge that his duty was to the spirit and the spirit alone, is exactly the reverse of the touting methods of which his opponents accuse him. Whatever faults were made by his friends during the days when the Threefold Commonwealth idea was being mooted - and the pressing need of the times explains a great deal here - Rudolf Steiner himself was blameless. As one who had direct experience, I can say that nobody could possibly have trusted more courageously and resolutely in the spirit than he. Evidence to the contrary has yet to be brought forward - if indeed it was ever there.
In this state of affairs it was clear to me that one had to raise one's voice if there was any hope of it being heard, at any rate by a certain section of the public. What was the good of all the attention one had succeeded in attracting if one could not throw a word into the scales at an important turning-point of the spiritual history of man?
And so, after my visit to Dornach in 1915, I had written a first article in the periodical, Christentum und Gegenwart, of which I had been one of the founders. The article bore the title Dornach und Elmau. For twenty years, from 1895 to 1915, I had followed Johannes Müller in spirit along his path of destiny. Before any Consistory or Faculty of Theology took him seriously, I had been one of his supporters. I do not deny that in those days, and for a long time, I had greater hopes of him than he was afterwards able to fulfil. His experience of the higher "Self" in man, his intimation of a higher "Reality", and the "Organ" whereby it might be perceived, gave me a premonition that the dawn of a new era of religion was breaking. But it was just because I had hoped too much of Johannes Müller that I was so cautious, to begin with, in regard to Rudolf Steiner. After my experiences in Dornach I felt an impulse to go to Johannes Müller in Elmau in order to draw living comparisons, reliable guiding-lines in the spirit, and to bring my thoughts to clarity. But this first article about Johannes Müller and Rudolf Steiner was only intended as a whetting of the pen.
The magazine Kunstwart seemed to me a suitable channel by which to reach the public. Shorter writings on the subject of religion had won for me a. certain right of authorship. The only thing I cared about was that Anthroposophy should some day attract the notice of the public and be taken seriously. Dr. Steiner first heard of my intention when I asked if I might read the article to him beforehand in order to avoid inaccuracies. During the reading, to which he willingly consented, I kept throwing glances at him so that no indication of feeling should escape me. He sat in front of me listening with cool impartiality, and appeared not to be applying more mental exertion and interest than were absolutely essential. The article concluded with a picture which was intended to be an irresistible challenge to the citadel of silence: ". . . When Nietzsche had lost his mental faculties and was living in Weimar, there came to his house a young man with whom Nietzsche himself could no longer make conscious acquaintance. With his calm, wide-open eyes Nietzsche may have gazed through him into the void. Towards what was he gazing? Was he on the quest of his superman? Perchance a later generation will speak of this meeting as a remarkable symbol of human history."
When I had read this I looked as attentively as possible at Rudolf Steiner. To my astonishment, he asked, almost with curiosity: "And who was the young man?" "Why you yourself, Herr Doctor!" "Oh yes," he replied, "but that was in Naumburg, not in Weimar." It was extra-ordinarily interesting to me to see how the geographical error should have made him fail to understand that the reference was quite obviously to himself, and how after the explanation he admitted with such natural assurance the historic importance with which the article invested him. Only pure disinterestedness and at the same time perfect self-confidence could have made such an attitude possible. One who participates second by second in scenes like this, watching the very play of the eyelids, can most certainly have something to say about what is really in a man. It was as if a chorus of spirits whispered: What you say is true! And the one of whom you say it, he also is true! - With the same natural simplicity and freedom with which Rudolf Steiner consented to being thus placed on the stage of history, he passed on to speak of other matters. For a moment his thoughts dwelt upon the article as a whole. His pallid face, which often gave one the impression that in the veins behind the dark skin white blood was streaming, brightened by a scarcely perceptible shade. Then he said thoughtfully: "The article is an achievement - it is really an achievement! It will give offence. But - surely it will not be accepted?" As a matter of fact it was accepted by the editors of the magazine on the condition that the whole of the beginning should be deleted. But even in this mutilated form it was, as I chanced to hear afterwards, a means of introducing several people to Anthroposophy.
Soon after this I began to work at an article for the Christliche Welt, a periodical with which I had continued my connection. I asked Dr. Steiner if I might question him about certain things in his life in order to be well-informed. "Yes, come sometime and I will tell you in detail," was his reply. When I arrived he said: "Do you mind if I bring Frau Doctor Steiner in?" - And so I was able to listen for longer than an hour, interrupting him with queries as seldom as possible. Faculties of seership were already awakened in his earliest youth when he became aware of the death of a female relative before the news came from outside. But, after all, his autobiography* has now been published and contains everything he himself was willing to communicate to the public.
*The Story of My Life. Anthroposophical Publishing Company, London. Anthroposophic Press, New York.
And for Anthroposophists there is also available in manuscript his Fragment out of My Life, which narrates more or less what I heard at that time, only in more intimate and personal detail. What impressed me most was the way he spoke of the great teachers who had crossed his path. Men of extraordinary spirituality, entirely unknown in public life, were there at the right moment, helping him in critical years to understand and develop his faculties, standing like sponsors at the dawn of his life's mission. Without Rudolf Steiner having spoken of it, one's impression was that long preparation is made for a life like this, that at the right moment the necessary helpers are sent, and that everything leads up to an undertaking which, with wisdom-filled knowledge, is to make an incision in human history. The outer world has not the slightest inkling of it. The life of a leader of mankind with a lofty mission is a work of art in which angels and humans collaborate. It was wonderful to hear in such direct detail of the actual existence of such spiritual leaders of mankind, beings who in the protection of concealment rule behind the veil of human history as foreseers and guides. Those who recall the intervention by one called "The Unknown" in the life of Jacob Boehme, the appearance of the "Friend of God" in the life of Tauler, can get an idea of the things of which Rudolf Steiner spoke on that occasion. The only difference was that here the guidance of these sublime leaders towards a great earthly mission was more consciously and clearly recognised. Strange as this sounded, when one thought of the everyday world, one felt no strangeness about it when Rudolf Steiner was speaking. Nor shall I ever forget the expression on his face when he said of one of these two men: "That was a most significant personality!" His eyes seemed to be steeped in contemplation of him. They were filled with the reverence paid by one great knower to another. Later on he told me that he had once been suddenly saved by a "Master" when he was on the point of doing something which would have meant death. To my question as to whether either of these two men were still living, and if he ever saw him, he answered: "There is no need." He felt able at any time to establish a spiritual contact without the outer presence. Once, later on, something made me ask: "Where are the 'Initiates' now, when a life-work like yours is at stake?" He replied: "Spiritual truths have now to be grasped by human thought. If you were to meet these Initiates to-day you might not find in them anything of what you are seeking. They had their tasks more in earlier incarnations. To-day the thinking of man must be spiritualised." "Do you not feel utterly alone in your task?" I asked, mindful of the distance which separated him from the rest of us. "I do not feel lonely," was the quiet reply. - This much may be told from hours during which one was permitted to look into the background of such a life.
* * * * *
To my article in the Christliche Welt, "Von der Theosophie Rudolf Steiners," Dr. Steiner had suggested the addition of a note in appreciation of Ludwig Laistner, who was on the track of similar ideas. When the article appeared he said to me: "If there are only five who can come forward with the pen as you have done, then we shall forge ahead!" There was joy in these words. He was pleased with the restrained tone of the article, which asked of people no more than serious consideration and investigation. But I saw him really distressed when, in answer to my article, there appeared one from the pen of Johannes Müller, in which he gave an emotional and urgent warning in regard to Anthroposophy. "At last something has appeared in public in favour of Anthroposophy, and now here comes this man and undoes all the good again!" "I will write another article against him," I said. "Will you really?" He did not appear to think that much good would come of this. One counter-article after another are absolutely thankless things. Nobody can wade through them any longer. That too was my experience in connection with this article.
There remains as a living memory of those weeks the way in which Dr. Steiner treated me as if I had advanced in rank. His approval was expressed not so much in words as in confidence. "Now that you have done so well with the article I give you permission to use your own discretion, and bring anyone you like to my private lectures. You need not ask leave any longer." And so I was able to smooth the path to Anthroposophy for a number of friends in Berlin - men like Rudolf von Koschutzki, Emil Bock, Eberhard Kurras. Others could not find a point of contact. I was struck with the clarity with which Dr. Steiner saw and expressed this beforehand. "I do not think he will come. His intellectualism will prevent him." - To my astonishment, in one of his public lectures, Dr. Steiner suddenly mentioned my article in the Christliche Welt which, as I look back at it now, seemed unassuming in the extreme. After the lecture he came up to me and said: "Did you have any objection to my having mentioned you by name? It must be so now if we are to work together." Even in a simple matter of course which could only be an honour so far as I was concerned, he asked for consent.
During that period I wrote another article on "Max Dessoir and Rudolf Steiner." In his book, Von Jenseits der Seele, the Berlin scholar had touched upon domains in which Rudolf Steiner was thoroughly at home. The article was written, but I could not think of any periodical likely to accept it. I now saw, for the first time, how much importance Dr. Steiner attached to the fact that Anthroposophy should be presented to the public in the right way. With the keenest interest he mentioned half a dozen periodicals in which it would be "a good thing" to write about the subject, above all the Prussian Yearbook. But my attempt there ended in pitiful failure. I was told that I had laid far too much stress on the difference between Max Dessoir and Rudolf Steiner. The public were more interested in knowing where the two men were in agreement, and, above all, what a mind like Dessoir had to say about Rudolf Steiner! If I would recast the article in this sense it would be gladly accepted. - Hopeless, then ! - The article was finally accepted and published in a number of the Suddeutsche Monatshefte. But then the editors closed their doors to the "Steinerite". The same man whose articles were never previously refused was now suddenly not allowed, let alone asked, to say a word or to write about Anthroposophy, a subject with which, after all, he would have been qualified to deal.
It is not possible, and moreover it would be of no interest, to give the details of all that happened in this connection, but I will quote the following characteristic experience: Friedrich Gogarten - who was at that time being hailed as the new prophet of Germany - had written an article about Rudolf Steiner in the Frankfurter Zeitung - an article utterly lacking in understanding, scornfully destructive in tone. My rejoinder was returned with the following statement: "We have now discussed the Steiner problem many times and will continue to do so, but we cannot agree to have it elucidated from a point of view that is contrary to our editorial policy. Tolerant of course we are, but we cannot allow our tolerance to come to the point of self-abnegation."
The flood of counter-articles broke in with all the greater force after the Threefold Commonwealth idea had stirred up the passions of the political and economic world against Rudolf Steiner. The verdict was "Boycott", and the ban was also put upon his friends. The invisible pope of public opinion had issued his decree.
This series of experiences shall conclude with a mention of the book Vom Lebenswerk Rudolf Steiners.* [*Published by Chr. Kaiser Verlag, Munich, 1921.] His words, "If there are only five . . ." had haunted me. I wanted to find those five, and if possible more of like mind, and unite them into a common action for Rudolf Steiner in public. His sixtieth birthday gave the outer opportunity for this. One portion of humanity's debt to him should be absolved that day. My own contribution to the book could only be dictated during a long illness. I did not know at the time whether I was going to recover, and I turned over in my mind the debt I myself owed humanity, in case my time was coming to depart. And so I wrote down my experience of Rudolf Steiner as a kind of testament. The following passage from a letter will show how he received this evidence of allegiance. It is practically the only time the book was mentioned between us:
". . . In the name of the Anthroposophical Movement let me thank you most cordially for your book. It is certainly put together in a way which reckons wisely in the circles in which it may have some effect. And if its actual contents were to come before the world without any relation to me, it could not help doing an incalculable amount of good. But there is no escaping it - the Gods have laid it upon me that I must be personally connected with all that is done through Anthroposophy. And I may not do other than I do. In our age, the right calls forth the most bitter enmity. Your essay on the judgments I expressed during the War could not have been more justified. Yet the effects of it are echoing on in many things that our opponents are now undertaking. Only they, of course, cannot say that. They must often say something quite different to themselves from what they say to others."
"And so it will be with many things that speak out of your book. It will annoy many people, but you must not let yourself be discouraged thereby. The book has sprung from the effort to form this judgment: How must a modern man of theological training and sincere religious feeling think about Anthroposophy? And this judgment speaks out of the book. Such is its will and intention, and the will is justified. That is my impression - One which has evolved in a time which was not particularly favourable - for since you sent the book to me, an act for which I am very grateful, I have had to get through a period of strenuous work. Everything in the Anthroposophical Movement is really only at the beginning, and one's chief concern is to develop it. This is constantly being borne in upon my soul. For instance, what I have been able to give in the course of lectures to doctors which has just come to an end - it is all so much a beginning. What I said in that course are only the very first rudiments, and what should further come out of it is something vastly greater. Tasks are there, and time is lacking for everything. This is only meant to be an objective statement of how things are; it cannot, of course, be otherwise. If my words seem like dismal sighing, this impression would not be correct. I say this because things must be done, not in order to complain that so much fails to be done. You, dear Dr. Rittelmeyer, have issued your book to the world at a time of great personal hardship. But so far as the book is concerned, your illness has really been the bringer of leisure, enabling you to do even better what you would in any case have done bravely and forcibly during a period of health which would have been overburdened with work. And so, in the name of the Movement, again warmest thanks and cordial greetings."
"Yours with affection,
To the joy of those who contributed to the book, Dr. Steiner said at a meeting three years later, that the book was the strongest gesture that had yet been made in the direction of bringing Anthroposophy to the notice of the public.
* * * * *
During the World War Rudolf Steiner was a wonderful experience to me. Never once in those years did I hear him give a private lecture without previously directing the thoughts of his hearers to those on the battlefields and to the fallen. He always spoke a longish verse, in which the power of helping thoughts was expressed. He had given meditations of this kind for those fighting on the battle-fields, those caring for the sick, those at home. And the words were pregnant with inner, strength-giving power.
His lectures during the first year of the War have already been mentioned. When I asked him, in the later years of the War, why his lectures were no longer like they were at the beginning, he replied: "Because now one would have to say many things which one may not say." - And so he tried to help in other ways. The inner participation with which he followed the events was vital in the extreme. From time to time he would speak of detailed happenings at the Front in a way that made one wonder whether he could have gleaned them from the newspapers or whether he had not, far more likely, seen them in direct vision. He spoke so concretely, and with such vital concern that one shared all the experiences of those at the Front. He was so permeated with the world-mission of the spirit of Middle Europe, and desired so intensely that it should be fulfilled, not merely chattered about. He loved the world-mission of Germany, but it was a love born of hope and of care. Spirit was there, not mere enthusiasm. Nor was an unjust or even antagonistic word about other nations ever uttered - naturally not. Dr. Steiner was no more a nationalist in the narrow sense than he was a pacifist in the shallow sense. He rightly said that the age of pacifism is the age of the Great War. He inaugurated the beginnings of future fellowship among the peoples, and in the land where the League of Nations holds its sessions there rose the Goetheanum - the Building at which members of more than twelve nations worked during the War.
At the beginning of 1917, when Woodrow Wilson launched his Fourteen Points on the world, there began for Dr. Steiner a new period of activity in connection with the War. "A word of the spirit must now go forth from Middle Europe. If this does not happen we shall succumb to this Wilson programme. It is having a much stronger effect than Germany realises." . . . "Middle Europe cannot exist under Wilson's Fourteen Points. But they must be answered from out of a spirit which is the right and true spirit for Middle Europe. Otherwise they will gain the day." About a year later, before the last offensive, a friend of mine heard him say: "Wilson will bring great misfortune to Middle Europe and achieve nothing he wishes to achieve." Now that this spirit had spoken in the West, Rudolf Steiner thought that the spirit on this side too should speak. Herein he felt his call. It was then, at the beginning of 1917, that he once spoke after a lecture of the occult methods which were being used with such power in Western countries. I replied: "If false occultism is so active nowadays, should not true occultism be able to bring something about?" "Yes," he said, "and that is why I am trying to do something now." - "What ought to happen?" I asked. "Two things. First, the publication of a clear and documentary statement of what was going on at the outbreak of war - hour by hour. Bethmann's declarations are no use at all. One can believe them or not. But if everything that happened then is ruthlessly told, the world will see that Germany was not so cunning and much less to blame than people think. But that is only one side of it. A word must be spoken about a future régime in Middle Europe which corresponds truly to the historical position, and in which it will be possible to live." He said that if this were done, one would see the Statesmen of the Entente, while saying little officially, immediately beginning to change their tactics. They would realise the existence in Germany of a spiritual power not so lightly to be brushed aside, and they would fear that their own people might pay heed to what was going on and want to get it for themselves too. One must now act resolutely and on a broad scale. The people of Austria would then say to themselves: "If that can really be carried through among us, we have no interest in allying ourselves with Russia." The working classes in Germany would also be able to win back confidence in a State that goes forward with a true kind of freedom. And among the peoples of the Entente, the feeling would arise: We have been mistaken. There in Middle Europe a coming age is actually speaking. We must come to terms with it. - Only so was there now any possibility of a favourable outcome of the War.
Shortly after this Dr. Steiner gave me a copy of the manuscript he was trying to bring before leading statesmen in Germany and Austria through the intermediary of friends. Nothing was more remote from him than personal ambition. But had he any right to remain silent when he knew how to help? When I asked him what I could do in this matter, he answered: "Articles are no use these days; the only thing to do is to get at the men at the top. One must be alert to opportunities that may offer themselves in this direction." In company with other Anthroposophists at that time, and especially later on, I wrote letters to leading men asking them to take the thing seriously. But alas! it was all in vain. I often saw Rudolf Steiner come back exhausted from conversations with leading men. One of them said to him: "You may he right, but I am not your man." - "You must be the man, because you have the position," was the answer. Another said to him: "What you propose - the publication of an account of what happened at the outbreak of war - would lead to the abdication of the Emperor." "Then that is better now than later," answered Dr. Steiner. During those months I once met him with a newspaper in his hand. He was deeply perturbed. "Here is Bethmann-Hollweg making another idiotic speech. It will scare peace away for another six months. Not a single concrete utterance about Belgium! It does not help at all in the long run. It merely helps party politics."
Deeply engraved in my memory is a conversation I had with Dr. Steiner in his room, during the first six months of 1917. Hindenburg's famous retreat had come about. All Germany was rejoicing at the unerring strategy of the new Chief. - What was Dr. Steiner's opinion of the position? "It is really a piece of good luck that we now have Hindenburg and Ludendorff," I began. I looked at an unmoved face. "Well," he said slowly, "Hindenburg is an old man who pulled off the affair up there. (He was referring to the Mazurian Lakes.) But of course you know that the main work is being done by the Chief of the General Staff." I certainly did not know this at the time, but went on with my questions: "So the bright spot for Germany is now Ludendorff?" I was already uncertain. Dr. Steiner looked at me thoughtfully and seriously. "It is not in the interest of Germany to have such Generals!" came from his lips. "What do you mean?" I asked, in astonishment. "Well, the two of them have managed to pull off this retreat with all the devastations. Anyone who can estimate what that means for the future of Germany, can only say that it is not in her interest to have such Generals." It was a shock to me. When I look back to-day, I ask: Who was there in Germany at that time who saw things with this clarity of perception? Every week I had conversations with men from University circles who were regarded as leaders of thought. But what blindness they had in comparison with Rudolf Steiner when one had just talked with him! Even from the military point of view he was not to be impressed. So far as the highest Army Command was concerned he thought nothing of what was being achieved in the way of leadership. He also considered that this war of materials and mass did not offer, as earlier wars had done, any opportunity for really fine strategy. And political interference on the part of the Supreme Command! In justice, he said: "One really must not be too hard on them. They at least are doing something, the others nothing at all."
A singularly interesting experience during those months shall be recorded here for historical reasons. It was at Midsummer, 1917. Kühlmann had resigned. Dr. Steiner said one day: "You are always keen on knowing things that are confirmed afterwards. Now I will tell you something. I have discovered that Moltke (not the Chief of the General Staff, but his uncle, the Field Marshal) is now trying to work for peace from the spiritual world. And now read Kühlmann's speech. Again and again he quotes the old Moltke. It was agreed that he should say nothing about peace in his speech. The others - I will not mention names - went to Kühlmann afterwards and reproached him for having broken his agreement. Kühlmann told them that he did not know himself what made him do such a thing." And then Dr. Steiner gave a poignant description of Kühlmann's bodily condition that particular morning which resulted in a somewhat lowered consciousness. This made him particularly susceptible to supersensible influences, and they flowed into him under the most unfortunate conditions.
One day in the summer of 1917 I again met Dr. Steiner with a newspaper near by. He always made a point of reading a number of papers of varied persuasions. "Have you yet read about the Pope's gesture for peace? Woe betide us if we had to accept peace from the hand of the Pope!" "Do you think it is coming to that?" I asked. "And what do you think about it?" "I think," I replied, "that this new gesture for peace will simply increase the universal war-weariness. That is all that will happen." "There you are placing far too low an estimate on the influence of the Pope," was the answer. In all the things Dr. Steiner said to me during the War, this was the point where he proved to be not entirely correct. At all events his words seemed to suggest more hope than was afterwards fulfilled. But nowadays one knows that fundamentally he was right. It is now known how real were the possibilities of peace at that time. If the Reichstag had been correctly informed everything might have turned out quite differently:
Michaelis was made Imperial Chancellor in those days, and at the very beginning I expressed the view - which was contrary to prevailing opinion - that, once again, he was not the right man for the position. "He is not," Dr. Steiner said. "The best thing one can say about him is that for the time being he is keeping the position away from someone still less suitable." "And who is that?" I asked with some curiosity. "Hertling," was the reply. And when, in spite of everything, Hertling became Chancellor, Dr. Steiner said: "It is simply outrageous that there should be such a Chancellor!"
Kerensky's régime was overthrown. "Surely we shall have peace with Russia now?" I asked. Rudolf Steiner shook his head. "Peace with Russia would have had to be made at the latest by August, 1917. It is now too late." At the turn of the year 1917-18 Dr. Steiner grew more and more sorrowful and hopeless. "Peace ought to have been made in the year 1916. In 1917, with a widely conceived spiritual plan, it was still a possibility. In 1918 it is no longer possible. Of course I do not mean that an outer ending of the war is impossible. But it will not be peace as peace has previously been made. The war will go on merely in a different guise." I remembered something Dr. Steiner had said in the early days of the war: "In the year 1916 the war will essentially be at an end." His words had come true in a sense other than I had understood at the time.
Dr. Steiner took an extraordinarily grave view of the menace of Bolshevism. I never saw a more serious expression on his face than when he said: "If Bolshevism were to come it would be worse than the whole of the war. When they carry Bolshevism over to Russia and conduct leaders in closed carriages through Germany, these Statesmen seem to imagine that Bolshevism will hereafter stop at the boundaries of their own country!"
The deepest disquietude I ever saw him manifest was after the peace of Brest-Litovsk. I met him in the street on the way to his lecture. "What do you think of this Peace Treaty?" he asked me. "I do not like it at all," I said, "but at least we have now a breathing-space in the East. And perhaps it will be possible, after general peace has been made, to atone for the acts of military violence." "It is terrible, simply terrible!" Dr. Steiner said. "You should see what effect it is having on the dead, especially on those who are connected with us and who have themselves been taking part in these events. It is like an explosion; it simply hurls them back. - Oh! it is awful!" From then onwards he seemed to have lost all hope of a bearable termination of the war. "Now things are heading straight into chaos!"
The offensive in the spring of 1918 awakened new hope in many Germans, myself included. Dr. Steiner never had it for a moment. "What do you mean," I asked him, don't you think we shall get to Calais?" "Well, we may," he replied. "But I cannot see how that will help us. That is not the way to end the war." His words about Calais were the other small inaccuracy I heard from his lips. I do not withhold it, and in any case it is of no significance compared with the amazing clarity with which he perceived hundreds of things of which others were hardly even aware. Nothing essential is omitted from this narrative and nothing glossed over. It is for everyone to judge for himself whether Dr. Steiner's knowledge has stood the test of the subsequent years.
When I look back on these experiences to-day: Wilson's Fourteen Points, the needs of the German position, the possibilities of peace, the personalities of the leaders, the significance of single events, the happenings in Russia - compared with Rudolf Steiner's political insight, everyone else with whom I spoke, even the highly-placed, seemed to be mere dreamers. Here there was real vision, real action, and everything else - I know of no exception - seemed, in comparison with it, a blind stumbling through events. In those early months of the year 1917, when Rudolf Sterner came upon the scenes, the historical picture was remarkable in the extreme. Out of unknown obscurity appears a man. He goes to the Statesmen of Middle Europe and shows them the way to salvation. To-day it can be clearly seen that this indeed would have been the only way. The Statesmen listened to him with interest and partial agreement, but not one of them had the strength and the courage to act. Dr. Steiner had no personal ambitions whatever. He would have been quite content to remain in the background and give help to those who were responsible in the world of affairs. But before help can be given, two are necessary: one who helps and another who allows himself to be helped. Men of a religious turn of mind might say: It was as though prayers had been heard from a thousand hearts: the helper appeared - but his help was not accepted.
It is easy to imagine the feelings of those who had experienced such things during the war, when, after its conclusion, Rudolf Steiner made one more effort to help. To the public this will seem like the exaggerated, inept words of a "Steinerite". But the public does not realise how things looked to those who said to themselves: "He was not listened to the first time. Nor will he be listened to the second time. And then for many years, perhaps for decades, it will be too late."
When the collapse came I was not near Rudolf Steiner, for I did not see him between the end of July, 1918, and September, 1919. What he was saying and doing during that period is preserved in many lectures and in the memories of others. In this book I am only recounting what I myself experienced. At that time he was waging a superhuman fight for two things: to save the workers of Germany from the menace of Bolshevism and the German nation from the Treaty dictated to them at Versailles.
In September, 1919, when I saw Dr. Steiner again in Berlin, he told me that great offence had been caused in educated circles by his appearance at "Workers'" Meetings. - He could only say that if he had spoken as these people wished, the workers would simply not have understood him. In a discussion with workmen in Berlin at that time, I saw Rudolf Steiner from a new angle - amazingly quick and alert as always, but at the same time imposingly active and energetic. His counter-arguments poured down with devastating force on those who were opposing him. One of the lesser leaders, a man not without some knowledge of his own, but who made a conceited little speech, was so flattened by Rudolf Steiner that he left the hall and wept in the vestibule. "It would not be exactly a pleasure to come up against him here," I thought to myself. "But to see him like this is a real joy!"
In conversation he was all the more peaceable. On the way to a lecture he chatted pleasantly about India. I had asked him if it was possible, in order to save time, to carry through one or more spiritual tasks at the same time. He said that it certainly was. Occult investigations could be made while a conversation was actually going on. But one could not expect the same of a European body as of an Indian. Indians might be capable of sending their bodies into a town to do something and at the same time of remaining where they were, in deep meditation. He said that our European bodies were not suitable for such separations. At the same time, with his usual sympathy, he noticed that I had injured my foot, went on to speak of earlier incarnations - and the next minute was engaged in lightning-like spiritual battles.
At that time - the autumn of 1919 - he said in public: The Threefold Social Order is coming. In about fifteen to twenty years it will be there. But then it will come in the midst of many catastrophes.
Since all help in the political sphere was out of the question, he turned his attention to domains where it could be given, and where there were men willing to accept it: education of the young, agriculture, therapeutics. The unabated energy with which he did this, without a trace of embitterment, was in itself an evidence of world-historic greatness. But from then onwards, in the cultural-political world, the West-East problem stood in all its magnitude and many-sidedness before his spirit.
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In contrast to these experiences in the realm of political life, there were others quite different in character of which some account shall now be given.
At that time the Anthroposophical Society had among its members an officer of higher rank who was stationed in Berlin, and who held a position of respect both in military and society circles. He fell seriously ill. Dr. Steiner said one evening: "N.'s condition is very grave. Unless a miracle happens he will die to-morrow." In such cases an unusual and most impressive sorrow was invariably written on his face. "What is wrong with him, then?" I asked. "If I see rightly there is something at the pyloric end of the stomach which can be operated upon. But the doctors cannot be persuaded to operate. You can imagine what one feels when one sees that something could be done to help and the doctors cannot bring themselves to do it. I have told N.'s wife that she must jump at the slightest hint of an operation. That, of course, is all one can do." - On another occasion I saw Dr. Steiner, who always had the most living sympathy in cases of illness and death among the members, very grave and anxious. "When I arrived, death had already crept up to the throat. I fought with death all through the night - and have been defeated." "What, you mean to say that you fight with death even when you see that things have got to that point?" I asked him. "Can one do otherwise?"
In N.'s case death actually occurred the next morning. At the request of Dr. Steiner, who was full of concern for the wife in her loneliness, an Anthroposophist came to me and asked if I would go and see him about noon; he wanted to tell me something about the dead man in order that I might hold the funeral service. When I arrived Dr. Steiner said: "This morning, before I was up, N. came and said farewell. Twenty minutes afterwards a messenger came with the news of his death." For a moment I had to pull myself together, for he spoke so naturally and simply of meeting one who was dead. "What is it like when a dead man says farewell?" I asked him. "Oh, it is just as when a man comes into the room on some other occasion," he said with a smile. "He simply comes and says farewell. During the first hours after death it is quite easy to see such a thing. After that it becomes more difficult." Then he told me that he had suggested a post-mortem. "I did so in order also to check my own observation. The result was that, contrary to the diagnosis of the doctors, a tumour at the pit of the stomach had been the cause of death. "The doctors think, of course, that it would have been inoperable. This operation is only considered possible with children. They do not know that it is possible with children and also with men like N. who have meditated a great deal. My opinion has been confirmed by the post-mortem."
A few days later I held the funeral service in the large hall of a Berlin Lodge, and afterwards another in a Berlin cemetery. Dr. Steiner was one of the mourners. It was a strange spectacle to see him sitting there so simply among the others who had no idea of the man he was. When I went away from the grave to my carriage he came along the path and I walked a few steps with him. "Are the dead really there when one is giving their funeral oration?" I asked, and waited eagerly to see what he would reply to this unexpected question. "When you spoke of the words which had comforted him on his death-bed, he came and stayed there until Prince X. got up so abruptly and went away. Then I did not see him any more." Again I tried to realise the extraordinary situation. There among three hundred others was a man who had experienced this. But nobody could have guessed it. What kind of faces would they have pulled if they had suddenly seen what was happening? - "It must often be very unpleasant for the dead to be obliged to listen to these funeral orations!" I continued. Dr. Steiner replied: "I have never noticed that. If they have no inner relation to what is said they stay away." - In my student days I had once come across a book entitled Letters from Hell. There was a drastic description of how the Devil has a specially diabolical reception in store for those who have played a certain rôle in public life, namely that they must read the funeral speeches that are made over their corpse on earth. "Now our Father in Heaven has taken our beloved dead to His eternal mansions" . . . and so forth. I made a resolve at the time: "Never in my life will I give a burial speech to which the dead himself could not listen!" My speeches afterwards often seemed very inadequate to those who had been bereaved and were hungering for praise of the dead. But what Dr. Steiner had said struck a chord in harmony with my own endeavours.
Of course Dr. Steiner only spoke as unreservedly and as concretely as this to people whom he knew would not be shocked by it. But in such cases there was never anything uncanny. It was said quite humanly, in the most quiet and natural way - as though the walls of this earthly world had suddenly been broken through and the people from beyond appeared among the living. One felt in actual experience:
there is not a "this world" and a "world beyond". No, there is one world, with a visible and an invisible realm, and this "invisible" realm is actually there and can make itself perceptible at any minute - if there is a man who is sensitive to it.
Not in the very remotest degree did Dr. Steiner demand belief in what he said. He simply narrated, and let others make of it what they could.
The following experience may throw light on Rudolf Steiner's connection with the great domain of life in which the dead also play a part. The Director of an Institute in Berlin had asked me to go and look at a collection of pictures left by a young artist who had fallen in the War. The pictures seemed to suggest that all kinds of influences from the supersensible world had impelled him to artistic expression.
I asked Dr. Steiner if he would be able to go with me. "I will come and fetch you," was his reply. While he was sitting for a moment in my room, he looked round at everything attentively and said kindly: "That over there is beautiful." Then we walked with Frau Dr. Steiner through the streets of the inner city to the Institute. The pictures were studied in all leisureliness. What impressed me was the assurance and expert knowledge of art that was manifested in every sentence Dr. Steiner spoke. But I was even more impressed with the characteristically loving way in which he talked of every detail, always taking his start from what the artist had really set out to express. The only suggestion of criticism was when he showed how the will behind the pictures could have led more perfectly to the reality. This impelled me to ask: "Has the dead man been able to hear what you were saying?" "Certainly," was the answer. "I got into contact with him and spoke to him and tried to help." An entirely new conception of communion with the achievements of those no longer on the earth arose in me. While we were going home in the underground railway Dr. Steiner spoke of something quite different. "I would not mind getting a touch of influenza in order to study it." The next day he had it, and more than a touch! He gave his lecture just the same, in spite of many fits of coughing. Several years later, when he sat by my sick-bed and gave me advice and help for influenza, I could not help remembering this incident. I thought of Pettenkofer who studied bacilli by making experiments on himself. The many to whom Dr. Steiner's treatment of disease has proved a blessing will do well to realise that all the help he was able to give was bought at the cost of sacrifice.
It was not possible for Dr. Steiner's living contact with the world of the dead to remain wholly unknown in Berlin. Now and then people whose thoughts were with their dead came to me with the request that I would introduce them to him. So far as I remember I only did this in one single instance. A man in Berlin, much respected and justly so, had entreated me, in circumstances which seemed healthy, to comply with his wish. Dr. Steiner interested himself in the case with great kindness and readiness to help. After a few weeks the man came to me and said: "Dr. Steiner is really a seer. He told me details that he could only have known through clairvoyance." But then he was again beset with doubt as to whether, after all, it was not possible for such truths to have been extracted from the working of his own subconscious mind.
Many cases made one realise how necessary it was for Dr. Steiner to be protected by a certain measure of concealment. Otherwise it would have been impossible for him to fulfil his life-tasks in face of the onslaught of those who came to him with their requests. For instance, a lady came to me on one occasion, saying: "I think you know Rudolf Steiner? Do you really believe that he can foretell the future?" "Why do you want to know?" I asked her. "Well, you see, I am unhappily married. As a matter of fact I have decided to let myself be divorced. But then I lose my whole fortune. If Dr. Steiner can tell me that my husband will die this year, I have decided to hold out just twelve months, but certainly no longer." In cases like this I refused to give Dr. Steiner's address, although it could have been found in any directory. Such examples showed me very clearly that the whole position was extraordinarily difficult for Dr. Steiner. He had his faculties, and could not wholly conceal them if he wished to help mankind. And on the other hand, he had to take care that what he had to say was accepted with common sense, and tested. Only with the greatest inner purity which quells even the slightest stirring of egotism, was it possible to do anything along these lines.
It is simply not possible to speak in detail of everything that helped me personally to form my judgment and strengthen my conviction. All that can be attempted is a general picture that will counteract false ideas and strengthen the reader's confidence in his own calm, objective investigation.
At the conclusion of this series of experiences, one more conversation shall be mentioned. After a lecture I once asked Dr. Steiner: "Have you ever come across my dead mother in the spiritual world?" He replied: "When you are listening to a lecture an individuality often comes whom I take to be your mother. She brings others with her. She is a little restless and moves to and fro. But she takes the deepest interest in your spiritual life." Then he turned to my wife, who was often present at such. talks, and said in a most kindly way: "On the other hand, I have not yet succeeded in getting into touch with your dead father."
What struck me as significant was the cautious expression: "An individuality whom I take to be . . ." But there was also the accurate description of my mother and the mention of the "others" - obviously my dead sisters, of whom I had never told him. And, not least, there was the kindly consideration for what my wife must have been feeling at that moment.
But now, as I look back, my thoughts carry me farther. - What experiences might Rudolf Steiner not have had during a single lecture! I heard of other examples of different supersensible impressions he had while he was lecturing, in connection with various individuals. There were occasions - so I gather from many statements I have heard - when his lecture would be addressed chiefly to one individual. But on the other hand his large public lectures were often veritable battles of spirits. In a dim way people sensed this. But as they only looked at Rudolf Steiner with physical eyes, they held him for a demon, whereas the truth was that he was waging war against the "demons". If they had paid heed to what he said at such times instead of letting themselves be carried away by superficial first impressions, they would have been able to recognise this.
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I also had talks with Dr. Steiner on science, but only occasionally. My limitations as a humanist prevented me from conducting the conversations at the level at which alone they would have been justified. On this subject it is for others to speak. My own experience in this domain was twofold. I used to send young scientists and doctors who were interested in Anthroposophy and who came to me, direct to Rudolf Steiner, saying: "Just begin to ask questions about the branch of which you know the most and see what you will find." When I inquired afterwards, it was always the same story: "Oh! yes, he was at home in that domain, too, and gave me important suggestions." Among several dozen younger and older scholars I did not find one who spoke in a different sense, or was able to feel himself superior to Dr, Steiner in the realm of Natural Science.
Apart from this, all I can say is that only now, when the light of Spiritual Science had been shed upon them, did the sciences really begin to interest me. It is impossible to describe the unutterable relief of a man whose life's interest had been centred in religion, to find his feet in the realm of a science of nature which did not stand cold and aloof, nay even hostile, by the side of religion, cognisant only of dead laws. This science of nature let the living spirit of God shine through all things, and brought to all the sciences the waters of spiritual baptism; in the depths of things were the same revelations of life as have been proclaimed in religion: sacrifice, death, resurrection. - What I had always prophesied many years before, namely that the laws of physics and chemistry would some day be revealed to a purified understanding as emanations from the same loving God Who revealed Himself in Christianity - this was suddenly there, in tangible form, before me. To-day, now that Anthroposophy is there, one can say to all investigators: Study everything that is of the earth profoundly, purely and spiritually enough, and there will be revealed to you the same shining countenance as we too see. At bottom there is only one truth, because there is only one reality.
Let me still add the following. - About the middle of the year 1918 I once said to Dr. Steiner: "Herr Doctor, when the War is over, a research institute ought to be founded where attempts could be made to investigate the results of Spiritual Science with such scientific means as lend themselves to this. I already have a few hundred marks and know one or two young scholars who would certainly be available for the work." Dr. Steiner put both his hands on my shoulders and said with a joy I seldom saw in him: "Yes, indeed, dear Dr. Rittelmeyer, we will do it!" At that moment one could see quite clearly what he really had at heart. The research institute actually came into being, although in a different form, not in Berlin but in Dornach and Stuttgart. And if millions of marks were available, and instead of a few scientists a large number of important co-workers, great blessing to humanity might be the result, in spite of the fact that Dr. Steiner himself is no longer here to direct the research.
As I had to limit the number of my questions, I kept for the most part to affairs of general human interest, to the specifically occult, historical and religious domains. It was certainly a new world for a Protestant theologian. Protestant theology, which had hitherto been my sphere, was in the deeper sense not taken really seriously - at all events it did not by any means play an important part. In the early years I often asked myself whether Dr. Steiner really knew of our work. - He knew right enough! It gradually emerged in our conversations that he had read Harnack, Troeltsch, Otto, Weinel, Heim. He knew Schleiermacher, too, and let him pass muster as a theologian but not as a philosopher. He once said: "The historical and critical research carried out by Protestantism is undoubtedly the most assiduous and keen-witted of recent centuries. In this sense it is on a par with, nay even excels, scientific research. But the tragedy is that the work is entirely on the wrong track, and completely misses what is really in the Bible." Deeply shaken to think that such might be the case, I went home.
With miscellaneous questions, too, I tried to find out what I could of the way things presented themselves to Dr. Steiner. "Do you not think that in the Gospel of St. John we have the words of Christ as they were reflected in a particular individuality, whereas the Synoptics present Christ's actual way of speaking?" "To me it is just the reverse," was the reply. "When I read St. John's Gospel I find my way immediately into the language Christ really spoke. With the Synoptic Gospels I must first adjust myself." One can realise how deeply such a statement conflicted with theology in general, but also what a relief it was to a man who had steeped himself in the John Gospel, and had from the very beginning tried to vindicate it from a deep inner consciousness. "And the farewell words of Christ? Were they spoken so?" "Certainly, they were; but many other words were spoken as well which have not been recorded." When Rudolf Steiner was speaking of such matters it was always with particular humility and reverence.
"And Christ's words on the Cross - were they actually spoken so?" "Certainly they were." "But why is it, then, that one Evangelist gives one account and another a different one?" I asked. "They were not, of course, giving an historical account. There are no historical records. The Evangelists tell what was revealed to them as truth after deep contemplation of the events, even when they had not actually witnessed them And so one word came to one, another to another, each according to his particular preparation." Naturally there will have to be a great deal of "unlearning" before theology will be able to accept a view like this. The sense in which it was meant only dawned on me later on, when I thought about the words which, in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke puts into the mouth of the dying Stephen. I realised how exactly the three words corresponded to the three words of the dying Christ recorded by Luke in his Gospel. One must assume, therefore, that Luke had often heard impressive accounts of the death of Stephen from the Apostle Paul,. and that this awakened his soul to the three words spoken from the Cross. A modern historian will most certainly draw quite different conclusions from this. But it is also certain that these conclusions need not necessarily be accepted as the last word and that there are still other possibilities to be investigated.
I remember so well the tone in which Rudolf Steiner once spoke of the Last Supper. It was only in memory that I became fully conscious of it. It was a tone that could not fail to call forth the greatest reverence in any sensitive man. Many a time, later on, I thought to myself that if one could always speak of the truths of religion in this spirit it could not fail to convince men, because they would simply be taken into the higher reality. But whether he was dealing with the burning of the Templars, or of the "Friend of God" from the Oberland, Dr. Steiner always spoke as if he needed no history books, but had himself been an actual witness of all these events.
And now - Luther? In the middle of the year 1917 I once had a meal with Dr. Steiner. He mentioned words of Hermann Grimm, I think it was, to the effect that Germans will always feel themselves united in the work of Luther, Frederick the Great, Goethe and Bismarck. "But the work of Frederick the Great and Bismarck is now destroyed," he said. "Goethe's real genius has not had its effect. And Luther has really had very little influence upon the German nation as a whole." I said a few words in the contrary sense. But on occasions like this I was much more concerned with getting to know Dr. Steiner's opinion than that he should hear mine. It seemed to me then that he had found little inducement to go more deeply into the question of Luther.
Let me here add something for those in the ranks of old-established Christianity who inquire, without any prejudice, about Anthroposophy.
At the time of the Reformation Jubilee, in 1917, Dr. Steiner unexpectedly gave two private lectures about Luther. Their interest to theologians can well be imagined. It was a question of showing the points of difference between Anthroposophy and Protestant Christianity - and these differences clearly transpired. Luther's aim: subjective salvation. Steiners aim: objective reality. Fundamentally different attitudes in the world! Dr. Steiner was interested in what Luther saw. For example, he regarded Luther's fights with the Devil as actual struggles with the approaching spirit of subsequent centuries, with the Spirit of materialistic intellectualism, known in Anthroposophy as Ahriman. He also held that Luther's much deplored coarseness was due to his "Imaginations", which did not, however, rise to the level of clear consciousness. "So when Luther writes against the 'crowned sow of Engel-land' he was seeing supersensible pictures of the being of King Henry before him?" I asked after the lecture, "Yes," was the reply. "None of the others around him understood, and for that reason Luther would not be interfered with. He knew that he saw more than the others." - So here was Luther being defended by an outsider in regard to what is apt to make out-and-out Lutherans despair, namely: his polemics and his "devil superstition". But Dr. Steiner explained that just because Luther lived at the turning-point of two epochs, and, in spite of medieval forces which were working in him, was nevertheless feeling his way into the future - just because of this, he was able to give Christianity a form which could live on provisionally through the coming centuries.
But - Sin and Grace? This was, after all, the most fundamental experience in Luther! "Rudolf Steiner has not understood that at all," - so say the theologians. He understood it so little that he spoke more profoundly and poignantly than all his contemporaries of the actuality and influence of Evil. He investigated the history of the Fall into Sin and perceived its consequences on the one hand in nature herself and on the other in thought, which has become abstract, vapid, dead, wherever one looks in theology. A later epoch will be faced with the remarkable phenomenon in history that the man who spoke as none other before him - not subjectively but objectively - of the terrible havoc wrought by Evil, should have had to put up with being reproached by theologians that he did not know the meaning of Sin.
And Grace? He understood it so little that, as none other before him, he taught the Christ-Deed - that act of Grace unmerited by us and far transcending all our thinking - as the all-decisive event in human history without which the whole of mankind would have been lost, but which they could not have brought to pass of themselves - an event so decisive that upon it rested the whole future of humanity and of each individual. He understood "so little" that he said: "The higher one rises, the more does everything become Grace." But he said little about it, and he did not speak in the language of the theologians.
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