This book is not an apologia but an account of a theologian's experience of Rudolf Steiner. One more point, however, may be mentioned. Karma and reincarnation - the laws of destiny and rebirth They are exactly contrary to the Christian experience of Grace and the biblical Gospel of salvation - so it is said. Over against this let it be stated with all emphasis that in our time both these truths, although they are not found in the Bible, can be recognised as Christian truths. For me they are not so much scientific results of spiritual research with which Christianity has to come to terms - although they are that too - but far rather actual demands of Christianity when it is rightly understood.
Think of it for a moment: a man passes into the higher world. How will it be with him? For a time he may rejoice to find himself free of the earth and all her misery. But then, if he is allowed a prayer - what will it be? He will surely wish again to meet all those human beings whom he wronged in earthly life, and he will crave for the opportunity to do good to those whom he wronged on earth. "Grace" will lie precisely in this, that he asks if this may be granted him. The law of Karma may have appeared in the East as irrevocable world-necessity - in the light of Christ it becomes an act of Grace, our own free wish. But that act of Grace - the only one of which we usually hear mention - namely that a man has been seized by the reality of Christ, that act of Grace must have gone before in order to make such a wish possible at all.
And now suppose the man in the other world is allowed a second request - what will he wish? He will wish that he may help the Christ where His task is heaviest and most menaced, where Christ Himself suffers and has to fight most bitterly. This wish, if it were fulfilled, would lead the man back again to the earth.
It is not Christian to long for rest and blessedness far from the miseries of earth. It is Christian to bear within one the consciousness which once brought Christ from Heaven to earth to find one's joy in being like unto Him and to work with Him, wherever He may need us. The whole truth of the Christian doctrine of Resurrection remains intact - as could be shown in a theological treatise - indeed increases in clarity and grandeur.
The Christian Community, in the service of which I now live, has no dogmas - most certainly not reincarnation. Everyone can live in the Christian Community who is at one with us in devotion to Christ, even if he says: I reject all these things. But those who leave others freedom have also the right to claim freedom for themselves. And in the name of this same freedom let it be said: The truth of reincarnation is a word of Christ to our time. It comes at the right hour, just when the path to the christianising of the East is to be made free.
All these things form part of a theologian's experience of Rudolf Steiner.
And now all the grand old truths by which Christianity has been nourished through the centuries - the Trinity, Divine Sonship, the Divine Death, Resurrection, the Last Judgment, World-Renewal - lit up again like the everlasting stars. But not as if they had been taken from some divine decree and driven home by dialectic. They were now revealed as the deepest realities of the world - which, after all, are only fully known to those who are willing to unite their whole being with them in a human sense. How often had I not said in earlier years, in contrast to many other "modern theologians": There is truth in all these "dogmas", more truth indeed than dialectics and ethics distil out of them to-day. But we cannot honestly claim to possess them; we must wait until they come to us on our path in a new form. - This waiting was now fulfilled. One could possess these truths again fully and sincerely even if one's attitude to the scientific conscience of the time was not merely negative, even if one recognised its relative validity. For the scientific conscience of our time also has its divine right. Scientific thought was not brushed aside as "naturalistic", pagan, "unchristian". One was not being redeemed by scientific thought; no, scientific thought itself was being redeemed. That is the difference. Christ entered into the thinking, not only into the feeling and willing of man.
The great stars which once shone forth in the Mysteries, but in a different form, appeared again - not as dogmas, nor yet as articles of faith, but as divine realities, uniting with other truths in one great spirit-harmony, and they shone down upon a world made new.
When will Christian theologians in great number realise that here alone is the salvation of Christianity to be found, that if it is ignored Christianity will either go forward to its ruin as the result of clouded thinking or relapse into orthodoxy, and from thence into Catholicism as the result of half-thinking?
Even to-day I do not say: accept - but: take it seriously. Test it without prejudice and test it thoroughly. - And then the battle is won.
* * * * *
If I were asked to-day: Why are you an Anthroposophist? - I would answer: Not because I have been able through my own investigations to test everything Rudolf Steiner has said - of that there can be no question - but because in the little that I have been able to test I have found more and more astounding confirmation. Not because I have been able to accept the results of spiritual-scientific research en bloc and in complete faith, but because they shed convincing light in many domains where there was no other light to be found. Not because a new kind of pope was issuing dogmas, but because one in the advance guard of humanity saw realities, which turned out to be genuine even if one merely accepted and lived with them as possibilities. Not because I had known no other spiritually significant men in my life, but because I simply saw how Rudolf Steiner excelled them all. Not because I thought that apart from Rudolf Steiner nobody else in the world had anything that was worth doing or saying, but because I recognised that at a critical point the ramparts of the spirit were broken through and, as a result of this, great and mighty tasks set before mankind for a long time to come. Not because I had previously dreamed or always conceived that in actual life a leader of humanity who points to the future would be exactly as Rudolf Steiner was, but because I saw more and more clearly that he was one of these leaders of mankind, and because such leaders must be accepted as they come to us, and because it became more and more apparent that Rudolf Steiner's genius was equal to his world-historic mission. Not because all difficulties in regard to the results of his research are for me now at an end, but because many are already at an end, and because one must be able to take things as they are, not as one might wish them to be, and let them rest until one understands them. Above all: because here is a picture of the world with which Christianity can live and go forward into the future and because without such a picture of the world Christianity cannot in the higher sense go on leading an honest existence on the earth. Not because I do not know or cannot sympathise with the shocks which Anthroposophy may have in store for those who have come from the cradle of older Christianity, but because I consider such shocks to be without sufficient foundation, and at bottom unintelligent. To me, Anthroposophy is an achievement which finally leads the way out of materialism, a work of spiritual redemption which, springing from Middle Europe, will lay hold of all mankind, a salvation of Christendom born of the purified scientific spirit of the times, a living word of Christ to the present age - the word that was needed if humanity were not to go forward to its ruin.
Look where I will - I find nothing so great, so conclusive. Especially in theology, even in the newest, I see no salvation. Why hesitate, then, when the help is there, just because its appearance is not what one expected?
* * * * *
Another deep test was in store for me at that time. At the end of 1919 I fell ill. All strenuous mental work was out of the question, and took its revenge in the customary digestive disturbances. What was the trouble? Had my strenuous efforts for occult development led to harmful results after all? What was Dr. Steiner saying? Others wrote to him about me, though I myself did not. There was no reply. I had told numbers of people how reliable his diagnoses were and how unerring was his help. Those around me in Berlin were saying: What about your Dr. Steiner now? Does he not know? Is he not able to do anything? See how he is treating you now!
Not for six months did it turn out that Dr. Steiner had given instructions for a letter to be sent, but that it had been overlooked.
Finally, the ninth doctor, a world-famous nerve specialist, hit upon the right diagnosis: after-effects of a fall, affecting the delicate membranes of the brain. He prescribed a treatment which would bring about a slow improvement. After I had been lying ill for six months, and for a special reason, I approached Dr. Steiner once again, through an acquaintance. This time a detailed letter came from him. Diagnosis: After effects of a fall, affecting the delicate membranes of the brain, added to a life of soul which had passed through much in the last few years. Therapy: The same as that prescribed by the specialist only more rhythmical and more delicately adjusted to the particular organism. Rudolf Steiner had not seen me during this whole period. Even in the unlikely event of his having heard about the specialist's diagnosis and treatment, his own indications were in any case so much more precise and fundamental that there could be no question of a mere repeating. I have more than once experienced similar cases of correct diagnosis and treatment which were given by Dr. Steiner from far away. But on this subject the doctors working with him can be heard. I once asked one of these doctors who had worked with him for a period of twelve years, to tell me quite frankly and in confidence, how often Dr. Steiner had been mistaken. He thought a little and then replied: "I do not remember a single case." - Experiences like this which crowded in upon one in the vicinity of Rudolf Steiner could not but increase one's faith in his higher faculties.
In his letter, Dr. Steiner wrote that the illness would require at the very least six more months of complete rest . . . It lasted nine months but, as a matter of fact, I wanted to finish the book on his life-work which I had already begun.
It was not until Midsummer, 1921, nearly two years later that I saw Dr. Steiner again in Dornach. Trivial details of this visit shall also be told because they belong to the whole picture. Dr. Steiner had sent a motor to the station and, as I had apparently missed the connection, a second one to meet the later train. He went with me to my lodging and saw to everything - whether the water supply was working, and whether there was a woman to clean the boots. In the evening, after his lecture, he cane up and said to me: "After all, I have forgotten to see about a charwoman for you. But I will do it now. She will be there early to-morrow morning." Two days later, when I was leaving again, I was surprised to see him coming up the Dornach hill to meet me. He noticed that I was carrying our hand-trunks. "Oh! I forgot to send someone to carry your luggage." He looked around and beckoned to a young Anthroposophist, waving my protest aside: "He is very glad to do it." Then he went with us into the canteen and sat down with us to breakfast, ordering the food himself from the serving table, and then once again when he realised that we needed provisions for the journey, After that he walked down the hill right to the station, chatting in the most friendly and interested way about various men, but also about protuberances on the sun. At the station he stood by the booking-office window - I can still see that delicately built man standing there next a corpulent monk - and stayed, still talking, until the train left. He was evidently anxious that as a poor German victim of inflation-sickness, I should have no expenses, but he did not make it in the least obvious. I said to myself at the time: This is really nothing to do with you as an individual. He would like to do the same to everyone. But that is impossible, and so he takes an opportunity like this to show what he would like to do for everyone. There are some who will think such details quite unimportant. But be that as it may: it is up to somebody to tell what Rudolf Steiner was like as a man in everyday life.
Our conversations at that time varied from the telling of harmless jokes - and Dr. Steiner had all the unrestrained delight of youth in humour - to the most earnest discussions about the future of mankind.
Six months later I saw him in quite a different setting. A Berlin agency had undertaken to arrange a big lecturing tour for him. At that time Rudolf Steiner could have been the man of the day - if he had so wished. But things turned out differently. I was present at the gathering in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall - the large auditorium filled to the last seat. Outside people were snatching tickets away from each other and were paying anything up to a hundred marks for them. The hall was full of tense expectation. Unconsciously the people were waiting for the prophet of the age. Rudolf Steiner appeared and spoke for more than an hour to the breathlessly listening mass of three thousand, relentlessly and fundamentally, of Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition. Again and again I asked myself: Has ever a man let an opportunity for impressing a crowd so absolutely slip by? An officer of higher rank, a respected member of the Wagner circle, was sitting by me in the box. I myself had interested him in Dr. Steiner. He sat there attentively and sympathetically, trying hard to understand. Gradually he lost hope and leant back. Then he shook his head irritably and had disappeared long before the end of the lecture.
Did Rudolf Steiner know what he was doing - that he was boring this unusual gathering of people who were waiting, open-mouthed, for sensationalism? Nobody who knew Rudolf Steiner could doubt that he was fully conscious of what he was doing. Embarrassment before the huge crowd? Inability to speak to the masses? None of this could occur for an instant to those who knew how Rudolf Steiner's speaking could make one tremble with its thunder. For whom was he really speaking? During the lecture I reckoned out how many of the audience were able and willing in some measure to follow it. Apart from Anthroposophists, I estimated five to ten. He was speaking to them, quite consciously. Everything that might have made him the sensation of the hour was pitilessly suppressed. Not the faintest breath of a will-to-impress flickered over the assembly. He hoped to awaken interest in spiritual things in those ten or possibly twenty individuals by the essential earnestness and detailed thoroughness with which he spoke of regions utterly foreign to the majority of men.
I had once heard Johannes Müller say that one must not only be able to "talk a hall full" but also to "talk it empty" again. On that particular occasion Rudolf Steiner did this to perfection. Shortly afterwards, when he was again asked to go on a lecturing tour through Germany, the halls were half empty, and the meeting in Munich, where he was threatened with bodily injury and his life endangered as the result of the action of a band of hooligans at the instigation of a newspaper, brought the short period when he was in vogue to a close.
Only a few really saw what was happening. There were few who recognised the greatness of a man and the epoch-making deed. I can only express it with a certain reserve, by using biblical language: One whom the people desired to crown king, left them in supreme contempt and withdrew to a mountain, waiting for whosoever should follow him there. He was the "effect-monger", the man who "lusted for power".
Similar situations, only not of this importance, have come to my knowledge many times. It really took some doing for outsiders not to let themselves be deceived by appearances. But then, even clever and apparently open-minded men were outwitted.
* * * * *
In the year 1921, a number of young men went to Dr. Steiner and asked what advice he could give for religious work, not in the sense of the Churches hitherto in existence, but of a new spiritual teaching. At their Universities they had not found what they were seeking and now came with confidence and hope to Anthroposophy After brief deliberation Dr. Steiner entered willingly and actively into their wishes. He had always emphasised that the Anthroposophical Society is not a Church and could have no desire to found a new Church. Anthroposophy leaves everyone perfect freedom to cultivate his religious life in his own way. And so the impulse to activity in the religious sphere and the responsibility for instituting something new must rest elsewhere. But then he could help. He could not ignore a request made to him on grounds like these. And he forthwith proceeded to give most effective help, and enabled good-will to become deed.
Practically from the very beginning these young men had been in touch with me, and we had had intercourse together. I knew most of them personally. But now I was faced with a serious question: Shall I throw in my lot with them? - On the one hand I had my big work in Berlin with twenty-five years of preparation behind it. This work was in its prime, and could have satisfied me to the last day of my life. For it was carried on under the freest conditions that could possibly be desired. On the other hand, I saw that with the methods of the old Churches only a very few could succeed in producing any effect, that new times were coming and demanding an entirely new form of religious activity, that the need of the age was calling out for help with increasing urgency. Where was I to hope for help, if not from Anthroposophy? - "Your task is religion" - these words of Dr. Steiner agreed with my own feeling. I admit that it would not have been easy for me to absent myself from the new work which had begun under the auspices of Anthroposophy. - That was the frame of mind in which I lived during those months. On the other hand, it was clear to me that only the fullest conviction that this was right and necessary could have justified the decision such as I saw it. Nor was it possible to come to a definite conclusion until Dr. Steiner had expressed everything in his mind. It is one thing if a young man filled with enthusiasm puts his services at the disposal of an undertaking which appeals to him, and another if a man of fifty gives up everything in order to begin something new. And so I had to wait for the two courses of lectures given by Dr. Steiner on the possibilities of a religious renewal in the Summer and Autumn of 1921. For reasons of health, however, I could not myself attend them.
When the whole content of these many lectures and discussion hours lay before me, I was again astounded at Dr. Steiner. In spite of all that I had already experienced, I had not expected to find him such a king even in the realm of theology, that not only on the Bible and biblical science but also on Church History, denominational differences, the spiritual and moral depths of Christianity, he had new and magnificent teaching to give. It was teaching that pointed to the future with a hand of compelling power. What was particularly instructive and significant to me was the concreteness, assurance and deliberation with which he tackled the question of religious practice. All this was exceedingly stimulating. But the final issue was still in the balance. The text of the Act of Consecration of Man (the Menschenweihehandlung, the rite of the new Communion Service) was sent to me. I began at once to study it from every side and to meditate upon it. When a few trivial difficulties in the language had been overcome, the purity and sublimity of the Act of Consecration of Man impressed me very strongly. It dawned upon me that here was the possibility of creating a divine service in which all true Christians could be united, which could be regarded as the central point of a truly Christian communal life, around which a new, manifold, ever-growing religious life unfolds. Slowly it was borne in upon me: This may not be withheld from mankind! You yourself dare not fail now if you do not want to sin against humanity and the divine revelation! And if it is impossible to bring this to men in the existing forms of the Church, then something new must be ventured! Let it be expressly stated here that Dr. Steiner had been asking for a long time whether it was not possible to do something within the existing organisation of the Church and that apart from the younger ones, it was I myself who had said emphatically: It cannot be done, if the new is not to be smothered by the old!
But for me the really decisive factor came unexpectedly and from a different quarter. It was the realisation that in the Hallowed Bread, the living Christ actually comes to men. His Presence was there in indescribable purity and brilliance. It was an impression from the spirit itself - one which came, not in the Protestant service of Holy Communion, often as I had celebrated that with a tangible experience of the nearness of the divine world, but in meditation on the Act of Consecration of Man. It was an impression so strong and sure that a whole life could have been founded upon it. I will try to describe what it seemed to say: Now it is good-bye to your work in the Protestant Church! If what you have found here is truth, it must stand in quite a different sense at the central point of religious life, of thought and of the promulgation of religion than is possible in the Protestant Church as that Church has now become! For if the new impulse is true, it contains the seeds of a new divine worship, a new communion, a new Christ impulse, a new Gospel of Christ. Hitherto I have not spoken of this to anyone, not even to my closest friends in the priesthood. For after all, the point is not what I myself have experienced, but what is actually there, and can be recognised more or less clearly by each and all in their own way. From that moment onwards it was clear to me that I must give myself to the service of the reality which had been revealed to me, without the hindrance of other ties. So I came to the new Christian Community from the very innermost core of things. And I am glad that I can say this. The final word was spoken, not by Dr. Steiner but by One higher than he.
I did not even tell Dr. Steiner any of this. One did not often speak to him of such experiences - at least I did not - and then only briefly and in a matter-of-fact way. And if one had got beyond the first stages, it was no longer necessary.
On the other hand I must mention another conversation. It consisted of just two sentences, but it contained an infinitude. It had dawned on me in meditation that -Christ can actually be received into the very body and blood, without the Bread and the Wine. A personal characteristic which for decades had caused me great difficulties, namely, that impressions from the spirit and soul invariably worked very strongly on the body, was now explained in a most wonderful way, giving one an inkling of how the destinies of men are guided. This was the preparation which enabled me to realise so vividly that if His Presence is real, Christ works down into body and blood, giving man out of Himself a new body and new blood and to know and experience this is the actual, essential conquest of the materialism of the age. In this conversation with Rudolf Steiner I asked: "Is it not possible to receive the Body and Blood of Christ without the Bread and the Wine, purely in meditation?" He answered: "It is possible. From the back of the tongue onwards it is exactly the same." I admit that the incredibly concrete reality expressed in these words still came as somewhat of a shock to me. But it was often so in conversations with Rudolf Steiner He at once gave something higher to those who spoke to him, something from which they had then to learn for a long time. But to-day I know that he was right, and that Christ is the "Bread of Life" in a much more real and powerful sense than the vast majority of Christians even dimly surmise.
This was now the question before me: Very well, it is possible to enter so directly into Christ; but how many human beings will be capable of it? Is it not essential for the far greater majority to have a form of worship in which they come to this experience in their own way and are thus led to the Reality of Christ?
It is at this point that the relation between the Anthroposophical Movement and the Christian Community becomes clear. If a ritual had been given for the Anthroposophical Society it could have been based to a far greater extent on the details of the new conception of the world brought forward by Anthroposophy. But this new conception of the world has yet to fight its way through in every domain, and has heavy enough difficulties in front of it. Humanity as a whole cannot wait for this. Moreover, there are men in abundance who have no immediate interest in the struggle in which a new conception of the world is involved. For all such men there can be a form of worship which is in full accord with the spiritual knowledge existing in Anthroposophy and which indeed without Anthroposophy could not be there, but which does not teach or presuppose this knowledge and which, as a direct channel, gives men what will unite them with the highest reality.
What the Christian Community has to impart to man is of the Highest: the living Christ, in His full Reality and Power. There is nothing more sublime. But it is there at a definite time and for a definite need in humanity.
If the Christian Community were composed only of Anthroposophists Dr. Steiner would have regarded its mission as having failed. The Anthroposophical Society has its own great tasks as a movement in civilisation - a movement which is all essential in this age of intellectualistic materialism, and it has to fight strenuously enough to make its way. For these, and also for financial reasons, it simply could not carry the weight of a new community. But apart from this, Dr. Steiner also wished to educate men who will in future increase in number. Such men seek for spiritual communion, and through what Dr. Steiner has given can come in their way to the same sublime goal as is brought, in its way, by the Christian Community. For the goal of the Anthroposophical Movement, too, is communion with Christ in body and blood. This communion can be experienced, although it may remain unconscious, in meditation and in ritual alike.
When Dr. Steiner was asked: What is the difference between the Anthroposophical Movement and the Christian Community? - he answered: "The Anthroposophical Movement addresses itself to man's need for knowledge and brings knowledge; the Christian Community addresses itself to man's need for resurrection and brings Christ." We have already shown the sense in which knowledge, too, in itself can lead to Christ.
He who lives within the Christian Community may feel himself during the ritual in the immediate presence of Christ. He has nourishment for his soul and help for his life - help as strong and powerful as he could possibly wish. He need not trouble himself about the details of anthroposophical knowledge, but he shares in the highest goal to which anthroposophical knowledge can aspire. If the demand for the knowledge is there, we who lead the Christian Community and who have received such wealth from Anthroposophy, can give him, out of Anthroposophy, the help he needs. For our aim is to keep pace with the conception of the world that is coming into being, and not to remain with the one that is passing away. But in all these things the individual is left the fullest freedom - priest and member of the community alike. No anthroposophical teaching is a dogma of the Christian Community. What welds the Christian Community are the great basic truths of Christianity, viewed, of course, in the light of a new spiritual teaching - and the history of modern times shows that they could be lost without this - but given in such a form that they express what leads to the actual salvation of man. The Anthroposophical Society is a movement in civilisation which embraces all domains of culture. The Christian Community is a Church of Salvation which can embrace all people.
If all these things are clearly perceived and openly stated, and all-too-human feelings do not crop up here and there, everyone can know for himself where he belongs. What helps him most to become a helper of humanity and a fellow-labourer with Christ - that is the right thing for him.
This was the sense in which Rudolf Steiner became an "adviser and helper" in the founding of the Christian Community. Apart from Anthroposophy itself, his life's creation was the Anthroposophical Society. But it was right for a community to arise which helps all human beings to become Christians in the true sense and according to the needs of our modern age. The aim of Anthroposophy is to be an instrument whereby in purity and sublimity of spirit Christ can be brought to all men in this our age. Nevertheless, Anthroposophy, with its wealth of new knowledge, did not desire to be the substance of this community of men, but rather to wait and see if it were asked for - although indeed it is at the service too of those who do not ask.
Now that the true and healthy relationship between nature and spirit was recognised, one could gain access once again to sacrament and sacred action wherein alone a true community of Christians can unite and educate themselves upwards and on. Likewise one could find the way once more to proclaim the Christ with real power, revealing Him in His living action upon man and earth. Such a gospel alone is capable of taking its stand in a materialistic time.
All this, however, now stands there for itself and speaks for itself, and if it be related here it is not only because many people are asking for clear information, but also because Rudolf Steiner as a human being is revealed in all these things.
* * * * *
There now followed my resignation from active service in the Ministry. In common with the far greater majority of my friends I have not left the Church itself. Nor do we induce anyone to do so. We leave it to the Churches to repudiate and excommunicate us - Nothing more natural and matter-of-fact than my talks with Rudolf Steiner on the subject of this step in my life can be imagined. He never attempted to exercise the slightest influence. In the preparatory stage I told him that I still felt elastic enough to leave the position I had held hitherto; it depended on how I was going to be convinced by what he would say in his lectures. To this he answered that if I decided to come in, the leadership of the new movement would probably fall to me. I replied that from the point of view of bodily strength just then, I did not feel equal to the task. Later on he said again, entirely on his own account: "If you leave your position some fund must be there at the back of you." That was all that was ever said between us about the change from the old to the new. I do not know if he ever found out that no such fund existed. Sentimentality and self-convenience played no part in this atmosphere of purity.
* * * * *
The history of the founding of the Christian Community alone would fill a whole volume. The common experience of the original body of priests belongs to the holy-of-holies in a temple, not to the market-places of publicity. What can be told may some day be presented in its own setting. But the pictures that can be given here would not be complete without mention of two things. Rudolf Steiner stood there among us, answering our questions just as if he were a whole university in himself, but a university of quite a new order. And he moved among us as an emissary endowed with full powers who brings in its purity the gift of One higher than he. Nobody who was present could doubt but that we were in a holy place. To look at Dr. Steiner would have told him this, if not the voice of his own conscience.
During these last two years, conversations with Dr. Steiner were less frequent. The amount of his time one was justified in claiming was needed for the most pressing affairs in connection with the Christian Community. One also saw the Atlas-like burden that lay upon his shoulders day in and day out. If he came to Stuttgart where the Christian Community had opened its centre, the Waldorf School, the Kommende Tag,* the Clinic, the Institute for Scientific Research, the Publishing Company, the editorial boards of the magazines, the Youth Movement, the Anthroposophical Society - all stood begging at his doors, wanting to live on his advice. His was the master-mind in them all.
* The Kommende Tag was a great commercial undertaking, with a Joint Stock Company as its centre, which aimed at putting into practice the ideas of the Threefold Commonwealth.
When human shortcomings miscarried, he had always to put things right. What is the most pressing among all these pressing needs? - that was the one and only question. I remember an occasion when I would have liked to ask a personal question. But I looked into his eyes and saw pupils seared and burning as the result of many sleepless nights, and the words died on my lips. And moreover, I felt: We older men have really received a superabundance of personal riches; such time as he still has to bestow now belongs to the young, who ought to know him as we know him. And so a remark he made once was enough - that the relation between us was always the old one, although outer conditions did not permit of the same human intercourse as in earlier days.
But as a compensation for this I learnt to know him from another, new side - as a leader of and a partaker in all the meetings which I now attended as a new member of the Committee of the Anthroposophical Society.
They were extraordinarily interesting meetings. Dr. Steiner often sat as if he were taking no active part in them supporting a weary head on his hand, and appearing to be dozing. He allowed the others to talk, and in his presence they spoke cautiously to begin with, and then with more and more animation. They were highly gifted men from the most varied domains of life. Dr. Steiner would sit there listening inscrutably, then, quite suddenly, begin to speak - whereupon the other speeches stood out in all their poverty. The superior power was so overwhelming that, spiritually, it was like a drama of the gods, personally, however, often a catastrophe. Every egotistical feeling in these splendid men passed through a crisis. In the many meetings which I had attended over some tens of years, I never saw anything to equal this example of the supremacy of one individual over others. Dr. Steiner spoke - and the many minds in the meeting were one; at all events the resistance did not count. Everyone was staring at - what he had not seen.
It was seldom possible for Dr. Steiner to praise. Although this, too, fell to my lot, I prefer to speak of the time when I encountered his displeasure, for this also is part of the story of a life's association. There is scarcely one among his nearest co-workers who had not at some time to undergo his strong criticism. For he expected a great deal, especially in the matter of ruthless objectivity and selflessness. If, in face of the colossal difficulty of the world-task, he were to get the most out of men who were all inadequate, he could not smooth over with kindnesses, defects and errors which he saw.
At that time - it was about a year after the founding of the Christian Community - I had written an article in defence of Dr. Steiner. It was too merciful with his opponents, and went much too far to meet them. True he said at the meeting again and again - no less than five times - that he did not blame me. But I could not help taking deeply to heart the way in which he reproached the editors and the Committee as a whole for having allowed the article to appear. As a matter of fact I was unaware of various conversations in which he had expressed his wishes in this direction. Not everything was humanly intelligible to me in these discussions, nor was it on some other occasions. But even in such delicate and difficult moments as these, nothing was ever said or done which modified the supreme opinion I held of Rudolf Steiner's qualities as a man.
I soon realised that I had not correctly estimated the effect of such articles. Perhaps not consciously, but certainly unconsciously, their influence is apt to be not what one desires, not only among non-anthroposophists but also, as Dr. Steiner once emphasised to me, among anthroposophists themselves.
One thing, above all, was clear to me, although not fully so until after Dr. Steiner's death. The fact that anthroposophists did not protect him as they should have done obviously caused him far greater suffering than we knew. Opponents covered him with derision and scorn, and anthroposophists let it pass all too easily, and went on enjoying his lectures. He was not concerned on account of himself as a person but on account of the effect which the disgraceful attacks would have on his work. He was fully aware that his opponents were dragging his personality in the mud in order to destroy his work. And he saw that anthroposophists did not see this. They retreated into their citadel and did not see that fire was being laid around its walls. I myself on one occasion said as much in the presence of Dr. Steiner, and he most heartily agreed. But in those years he could not say exactly what he felt about it; he had to wait for what should come from the insight and freedom of others if he was not to be forced into making a pathetic plea that after all surely someone might come forward in his defence! During those days he was "like one great open wound," as someone said to me later on. And from there one may turn to the translucent calm and kindly spirit in which he wrote The Story of My Life. Perhaps that book, too, will help finally to place Dr. Steiner before the public in the right light.
The very last months of his life held in store three delightful talks with him. It was he himself who suggested them. When I went to Dornach in May 1924, he came up to me after a lecture. He seemed like the spirit of kindness incarnate. When I want to realise what real kindness is, I think of the picture of how he stood there before me, radiant with kindness and the light of the spirit. As we talked I saw, to my surprise, that he was obviously glad to speak of certain matters in the Anthroposophical Society which were sorely troubling him. He seemed almost overwhelmed by the shortcomings of his followers. But then he entered into my personal affairs just as if nothing else in the world mattered. As I was not feeling physically well, he wanted me to speak in detail of what I had been going through. When I felt unwilling to do so even under pressure, because it seemed too unimportant at that moment, he understood everything from the slightest indications.
Only after his death did it dawn upon me that the last personal talk with him was actually a "Farewell" in a deeper sense than was consciously realised at the time. He said a few words about me which seemed to express what he thought about our life's relation. They are too sacred for me to be able to tell them. I thanked him once again for having helped me from a distance with such effective advice in regard to my illness. He turned it off with an expression of infinite kindness: "No, dear Herr Doctor, I thank you for having given me the opportunity to help." Those were the last words he spoke to me on earth. No more significant or beautiful ending of my life's relation with him can possibly be imagined. It was like a colloquy with humanity itself as whose representative I might have been taken at that moment. Is humanity going to give him "opportunity to help" to a vast extent?
The dimensions which this life and activity now assumed simply took one's breath away. There were the two-and-a-half weeks during which, in spite of abdominal trouble lasting for months, he gave about seventy lectures: - one lecture every day to doctors and theologians, one to actors and artists, one to theologians alone, one to the assembled members of the Anthroposophical Society, and every second day a lecture to the workmen at the Goetheanum. All these lectures were given to people who were experts in their own line, and an unparalleled wealth of new teaching was given in all domains. It was as if one only needed to probe Dr. Steiner at some other point and a flood of super-human knowledge poured over the listeners. But after all, the shorthand reports of the lectures are available, and a future age will be able to judge of what was happening at that time. Every day at the Goetheanum was so full that it needed a whole period of study to itself. Again and again I asked myself: Where, in all the history of the world, has there been anything like this? Is it blind enthusiasm that makes one see it, or is it not far rather blind stupidity not to see it? Rudolf Steiner, who was often very weak when he arrived, obviously felt well while he was giving the lectures, and grew more and more refreshed as they went on. But the additional fact of having to get through two hundred interviews with people who came to him with requests, was more than his strength could bear. - (The doorkeeper counted the number of visits. Dr. Steiner himself never did so and never spoke of it.) And yet people went on using him relentlessly - I could give examples of it - for their own personal affairs.
Years before, in connection with my own much humbler work in the cure of souls, Dr. Steiner had once said to my wife: "He must cut out all these visits. What people say to him gets all stored up inside him and that makes him ill." Those who can guess how much inner sacrifice is required for really spiritual discernment and counsel - sacrifice that far transcends what is so commonly called "love" - will be able to gauge what was happening in those days. During his last illness Rudolf Steiner himself said that the finishing stroke had been the number of personal interviews, not the lectures. Certainly, once before, when a member of the Executive had asked anthroposophists to show their love for him by not making so many personal claims on him, Dr. Steiner had said: "The only love people can show me is to call me day and night when they need me." But the last words were not taken with a deep enough sense of responsibility. And so in the language of religion one can say: Dr. Steiner died at the hand of human "sins." Those outside and those inside worked together. His freely given help led him to death.
* * * * *
Six months later I was standing beside his coffin. None of us had expected that Rudolf Steiner would succumb to the illness. The mortal sheath, just abandoned by the spirit setting out on its far journey, was resting on the death-bed at the foot of the Christ statue which stood there almost completed. Those who looked at the face of the dead could see what the spirit can make of the body in the life of a truly great man on earth. The sublimity and purity of his features was equal to every test and unsurpassed. Perhaps the death mask, if it is ever reproduced as a picture, will be a means of convincing many. Again and again one's gaze turned from the forsaken earthly body to the great Christ figure which points with compelling gesture into the future. The disciple had fallen at the feet of the Master. It was as if Christ were taking the disciple to Himself with sheltering arms while He Himself went forward with unceasing step towards the future of the world. The disciple's mission was fulfilled. The Master's brow was radiant with the light of divine world-purposes.
When, at the wish of Frau Dr. Steiner, and in the solemnly decorated hall where Dr. Steiner had given most of his great lectures, I was performing the burial service according to the ritual of The Christian Community, a drop of the sprinkled water fell in the centre of the forehead and shone there through the whole service like a sparkling diamond. The light of many candles was reflected in this glittering star - even as the revelations of light from higher worlds had been reflected in his spirit. Thus adorned, the body sank into the coffin. To me it was as if higher Spirits had indicated in an earthly picture what it had been our lot to experience.
When the service was at an end, one impression lived mightily within my soul: "This work is now completed. Like a great question it stands there before mankind. If all who belong to that work dedicate their powers to it with single purpose, it will prevail!"
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