RUDOLF STEINER ENTERS MY LIFE
THIS book would find its way to those who are interested in the question: What was Rudolf Steiner like as a personality? - and who would rather listen to an eye-witness than to strangers and opponents. They will be told how a man grounded in modern Protestant theology came to Rudolf Steiner, and what he experienced in connection with him. The account has its limitations: intimate and personal affairs do not belong to the realm of publicity, although it is often precisely these experiences which have brought the strongest conviction; things occult and spiritual cannot always be broadcast, albeit they may have given rise to the deepest experiences of all. Within these limitations, however, I propose to say what I feel it is in any way possible to say.
I did not keep written accounts of my meetings with Rudolf Steiner. There seemed to be something unnatural about going to every conversation with the conscious purpose of afterwards writing it all down. I felt that this would endanger the freedom and verve of the direct intercourse and final intimacy. And so I do not repeat Dr. Steiner's words literally, as they were actually spoken, although inverted commas have been used for the sake of distinction. I give them as they live in my memory and take responsibility for their substance and meaning, but not for their literal exactitude.
From first to last I did not think of myself so much as an isolated personality in the conversations I was able to have with Rudolf Steiner. I said to myself: Only a very few can have the opportunity of coming into close contact with such a man. But those few have an obligation to all mankind, both in what they ask and investigate, and in the answers and information vouchsafed to them. It seemed that Rudolf Steiner himself understood and approved of my attitude, and he told me a great deal. He knew that I should not regard it as my own possession but give it again to mankind at the right time.
If this book is to be what it desires to be - the story of how a man came from present-day Christianity to Rudolf Steiner - it is permissible to introduce even subordinate features and conversations which were not full of weighty substance, when they are part of the whole picture. The paths to Rudolf Steiner are manifold. And associated with this book is a hope that men from quite different spheres of life - doctors, teachers, artists, politicians - will also tell how they came to Rudolf Steiner. For not until the story is enlarged and supplemented in this way can a true and complete picture of him come into being.
THERE are moments in a man's life when he seems to be aware of the delicate chiming of a bell. A new hour of destiny is dawning. It is as though the gaze of higher spirits was being directed upon him. Much depends - both for himself and for others, upon the action he now takes.
One of these moments came at the end of the year 1910, when I received a request from a large town in the North of Germany to give a public lecture on the religious strivings of the present time. I was deeply interested in the current urge towards a revival of religion, and now, when it was a question of giving a general survey, it occurred to me that a pronounced lack of sympathy had always made me ignore a certain phenomenon of the times, namely "Theosophy".*
* Note by Translator. - For those readers who are not familiar with the history of the Theosophical Society and Rudolf Steiner's earlier connection with it, it is well to add a brief note in explanation of certain passages in this book. Rudolf Steiner was for some years at the beginning of the century General Secretary to the German Section of the Theosophical Society, always, however, working on entirely free and independent lines. From the very beginning, his teachings - especially on the subject of Christianity - differed fundamentally from those of Annie Besant and other acknowledged leaders in the Theosophical Society. If it is said that the Anthroposophical Movement began within the framework of the Theosophical Society, it must also be remembered that it always represented an absolutely independent stream of thought, and that ultimate separation was inevitable. Rudolf Steiner could not countenance the teaching given in the Theosophical Society from the year 1910 onwards concerning the incarnation of the Christ in the body of a Hindu boy, and in 1912 the Charter of the German Section was cancelled by Mrs. Besant. The Anthroposophical Society was then founded as a separate body, receiving a new constitution and form at Christmas 1923. [D.S.O.]
If I undertook the lecture, it was my duty to go into the fundamental principles of this current of thought as well. Up to that time I knew very little about it. A decided antagonism stood in the way. It seemed to me a mass of unfounded statements, an inquisitive and ill-considered prying into the spiritual background of the universe, wearisome and soulless, a veritable jumble of Oriental thought and Christianity, falling short of all serious spiritual demands, intolerable to all true religious feeling, audacious, cold, sensation-mongering..
But after all - it was only right to see what was valuable in the eyes of these people. The sacrifices they made were worthy of respect and they found unmistakable satisfaction in life. Anyone who feels that attention at least is due to the religious life of his contemporaries, ought at some time or other to probe more deeply into this domain.
So I wrote to the representatives of the different theosophical institutions in Nuremberg, where I was then working as a Protestant Minister, asking if I might visit them to make inquiries about their Movement and borrow their literature. Soon afterwards, my future friend Michael Bauer was sitting in my study. The impression he made upon me was unexpected and quite unusual. I suddenly saw before me a man of rare spirituality, one who was seeking for the very highest ideals in life. Coming from a simple peasant family in Upper Franconia, by profession "just a Secondary School Teacher," Michael Bauer had scoured every domain of modern spiritual thought in his quest for truth. In his earlier years a free thinker in the school of Ernst Haeckel, he had applied himself to natural science, above all to physics and chemistry. An insistent urge for higher self-development had led him to the writings of the Swabian occultist Kerning, and he had resolutely devoted himself to the practice of his "exercises". Michael Bauer had traversed many domains of German philosophy, always on the track of ultimate principles.
Hegel, of whom he had fundamental knowledge, had become his favourite philosopher. He had tried to master foreign languages, not only French and English, but also Latin, Greek and even Sanscrit, in order to drink at original sources. At that time he had just reached the end of his fortieth year. This tall, thin figure, with the dark beard and long, strikingly spiritual face, might have been taken for that of an Indian "Master" wandering through the cities of Europe. I have heard of people to whom the very sight of Michael Bauer moving among the flowers in his garden had been an outstanding event in their lives. But it was his eyes that impressed one most strongly. There was no suggestion here of any Indian element; the light of Christ was shining out into the world through those eyes. With the single exception of Rudolf Steiner himself I have never seen such golden light in the depths of human eyes. A wisdom-filled kindliness radiated from him and filled his whole surroundings. He was always ready to appreciate every human being, be he the most immature; and never ready to let himself be overpowered by any man, be he the greatest. Even to Rudolf Steiner his attitude was one of admirable freedom. A child's capacity for reverence had lived on unabated into the mature years of a man who had been brought to the brink of the grave by heavy strokes of fate and ruthless overstrain. But this pure power of reverence, the like of which I had never seen before in a grown man, was combined, in his case, with a firm self-assurance and sense of self. This union of reverence and freedom in a human being gave rise to an atmosphere of nobility which could be felt whenever one talked to him. A particularly kind Providence had led precisely this man across my path when I was beginning to ask about Theosophy. If he had not been there, my lot would probably have been that of hundreds of others of my generation. I might have gone to hear Rudolf Steiner lecture in order to "know something of him". I should have read one or another of his books in a critical spirit in order to "form an opinion". But I should have passed by the greatest man of my time without an inkling of who had come my way.
Other things too, of course, had been a preparation for this hour of destiny. A short time previously I had lectured at the Convention of the Freunde der Christlichen Welt in South Germany. This was a body of people who fully recognised the results of modern scientific research and were fighting for freedom and truth in the religious life of the future. I felt myself more spiritually akin to them than to any other body in the world of theology at that time. But the title I chose for my lecture - What does modern Theology lack? - is an indication of what I felt my own position to be. This was the only lecture I gave to a large gathering of theologians. Nor indeed was I ever asked for another. In the discussion after the lecture, Ernst Troeltsch - who later on became Professor of Philosophy at the University of Berlin - got up to speak. His remarks about the lecture were not altogether unfriendly but he said: "Again we have been listening to someone who is trying to get outside his skin; and that is something man simply cannot do." This angered me, and in the final speech I retorted: "You are one of those who paralyse young theologians with your eternal doctrine of relativity; and when you say man cannot get outside his skin, my answer to you is that he ought to. I, for one, am striving in this direction, and I shall succeed!" Troeltsch gave a forbearing smile, and others with him. But later on it seemed to me as if good spirits had heard my wish, and from then onwards guided my steps to a path along which man actually learns to "get outside his skin".
One more detail may be mentioned here because it was not without significance. For years I had been saying to myself: If I wish one thing of destiny it is that I may not pass by the greatest spiritual phenomenon of my day. Least of all would I share the lot of Frederick the Great, who was a contemporary of Goethe but did not recognise him. What are these wishes when they arise in a man? Are they premonitions of what is to come? Are they dim remembrances of a charge whispered by our angel when we were relinquished to the earthly world? But precisely this feeling of mine was misinterpreted by well-meaning friends. "Why will you always point to another? What about you yourself!" To many of the outstanding men among our contemporaries this wish to be "somebody" has been the obstacle which prevented them from even approaching Rudolf Steiner. The ultimate will-to-truth - I say it with all emphasis - was not in them. They also lacked the assured sense of self which is never lost if it finds its right place in the universe. And they lacked that realisation of responsibility which, without the fever of ambition, knows that the freely-given help of all good and active men is due to one who is the greater worker of them all.
- So there was Michael Bauer, sitting in front of me. In a tone of smiling superiority I tried to introduce the conversation with the question: "And so you believe in reincarnation?" But I saw immediately that I would have to drop this tone once and for always. A shadow passed over that open, spiritual face. Not unkindly, but in a tone indicating an unmistakable defensive, came the answer: "I cannot do otherwise." And then, in this and subsequent conversations, he proceeded to tell me how his innermost strivings had always been directed to Christ. The fact that he could reverently bear Christ within him as the veritable Son of God, while maintaining a firm, impartial position in the modern world of science and research - this he owed to "Theosophy". Even if everything else that it had given him were taken away, this supreme realisation could never be lost. The best evidence of the truth of his words was the man himself. Here was a Christhood different even from that of men like Friedrich von Bodelschwingh or Christoph Blumhardt, with whom I had also sat and talked. In such men Christ was living in the depths of the heart and in the feeling of the reality of a higher world. In this man, Christ was living in the light of a pristine spirit, in the holy-of-holies of a free Ego. And this was something higher. Blumhardt especially was a splendid product of Protestant belief - a man worthy of all admiration. Michael Bauer was an unlooked-for herald of a Christianity to come. Christhood as the apotheosis of a full and complete alertness to the world, of an all-pervading clarity of spirit and of the highest Ego freedom - that was what I glimpsed at the time.
Once later on, during a meeting in Berlin, the words were flung at me: "We have Christ! What do we want with Rudolf Steiner?" My retort to that was that I should be surprised if there were not some among us who would have to admit that without Rudolf Steiner they would not have found Christ. And four or five men in the gathering spoke warmly in the same sense.
Michael Bauer also told me of his efforts in the domain of spiritual healing. After some successful cases he had abandoned this way of working because people were apt to become too dependent upon him, and the new evil seemed to him worse than the first. These experiences were described in an atmosphere of the greatest purity and humility, and when he spoke of human frailties his eyes shone with the light of genuine, human sympathy. He also let me hear of his experiences with the dead. The healthy atmosphere and calm, mental alertness which pervaded his account of these experiences, made me see this domain in a new light, and I could not adopt the attitude of mere denial. But above all, it was significant that Michael Bauer was the man through whom I first got a picture of Rudolf Steiner. He told me how, during a train-journey by night, he had spoken to Dr. Steiner of his experiences in connection with Kerning's "exercises", how he immediately found himself in the presence of a superior knowledge, and how, as the result of Dr. Steiner's advice, he had quickly escaped from undesirable byways and been guided to a path of sure and healthy spiritual development. And so we spoke of worlds which are to-day still foreign to the majority of human beings. The intervening period, of course, has brought very much clearer evidence that these worlds do indeed enter into the life of mankind. There was absolutely no need for me there and then to adopt any "attitude" to what was being said or to "form a judgment" based on knowledge hitherto acquired. I simply let myself be told many things.
* * * * *
All at once I had a pile of "theosophical" literature in my house, including the books issued by Catherine Tingley's American organisation. They had been sent by the representative of this branch of Theosophy who also happened to be living and working in Nuremberg. But after a cursory glance I laid them aside without misgiving. I should have felt myself put to scorn by Hegel and Fichte if I had been able to take such childishness seriously. Knowledge of the world was being neatly served out in medieval vessels, and people were basking in pleasurable emotions. Nor had I any misgivings about Annie Besant and her colleagues. The spirit, as presented by them, was a mixture of ancient tradition and subjective emotionalism. All kinds of unhealthy elements, yearnings and a greed for happiness rose from these writings like a cloud.
The only one who interested me was Rudolf Steiner. But - surely he must have come from some other planet! How can a man say such amazing things, one after the other, unendingly new, and make such astounding statements with the air of a prosaic recorder? At that time I had no idea that Rudolf Sterner had already made a name for himself by philosophical works of historic and fundamental value before he came forward as a spiritual investigator, nor had I the slightest inkling that he was thoroughly at home in the various branches of scientific research. I simply felt: Here is a man who must be taken seriously. The quality of what he said was such that one no longer felt ashamed at the thought of Hegel and Fichte.
From the very beginning I had been allowed access to the private lecture-courses - the so-called "Cycles". So I set to work chiefly upon those points which the theologian in me felt bound to challenge. I covered many a sheet of paper with notes of passages where I considered Rudolf Steiner's explanation of the Bible impossible. I was utterly perplexed about these "spiritual investigations" and tried to find a point where I could have said definitely: "Here is a flagrant mistake which casts suspicion on all the rest!" But has any theologian found a mistake of this kind? I at any rate found none. Certainly, a great deal was unintelligible to me and seemed in the highest degree improbable. The feeling of alienation - not unmixed with apprehension - which many things aroused in me, could hardly have been greater. But when I did not give way to this impression, and went on thinking impartially, new possibilities emerged. At all events the speaker's audience and the imperfections of a shorthand report must be taken into account. But after all, that was simply a matter of ordinary fair play. And so I usually finished by saying to myself: "Oh well, he may be right!" And side by side with the few bafflingly obscure passages, there was such a wealth of amazing illumination that one grew cautious and humble - more and more eager for knowledge. As a theologian, what interested me above all was the unprecedented assurance with which the Bible was expounded, and in an entirely new spirit. There was only one alternative: Either this man has no inkling of what we theologians think of the Bible, or he has something absolutely new to give. - Later on I often went to Rudolf Steiner with a list of debatable interpretations of biblical passages in my pocket, but when I was talking to him other things seemed of far greater importance. The list remained in my pocket, unessential as compared with what I was able to ask and experience. Now and again I convinced myself by means of a brief question that there were significant backgrounds to these interpretations of the Bible. The spirit of Rudolf Steiner had said to me: "Just think of all that is trying to speak to you! Try for once to enter this world with good-will! When you understand more of the whole, many things that now weigh heavily will clear up. And if they do not - Is that after all so very important? Can new spiritual teaching be anything but an offence to old, well-worn beliefs? Is it fair to allow unintelligible passages to prey upon you and then base your judgment of the whole upon them? Should not your conception of the whole be determined by its own life and being?"
Rudolf Steiner's Outline of Occult Science was lying on my table at that time. I can still see it there. It upset me, for I simply could not wade through it. If I read for any length of time a feeling of nausea came over me. All this mass of knowledge weighed like undigested food, and I had to read cautiously, never more than two or three pages at a time if I were not to get sick of it. And so it was quite a year before I knew what the book really contained. At that time I had not realised how one ought to assimilate such writings. To-day I know that people must be capable of reading in quite a new way if works like this are to convey what they really are. Here, in my opinion, is one of the great obstacles which hinders nearly everyone belonging to the older generation from getting anywhere near Rudolf Steiner. One must be able to read freely, with much more open-mindedness than is required with different kinds of writing, in order to avoid precipitate acceptance on the one hand and over-hasty denial on the other. One must let things rest as they are, with very great inner tranquillity, and wait without being scared at the realisation that well-worn tradition is beginning to totter. One must read such books with inner activity, constantly putting what is read to the test of life, and life to the test of what is read, so that one's own firm stand in life is fortified against the flood of new statements. And furthermore, one must be able to read meditatively, with constant and fairly long pauses, building up what has been read again within oneself and listening with calmness and unimpeded freedom to what one's own spirit and experience has to say to it. If a man does not do this, it will be left to future generations to discover the spirit and living essence of such books, and to him they will remain so much abstruse literature. How often in those years did I not feel: Whatever does this awful Saturn-evolution matter to me? Is it not all a temptation of the devil to divert man from the immediately pressing tasks of his life and hurl him into a morass of riddles out of which he will never find his way? In that first year I experienced all the feelings of contradiction and resistance which I encountered later on among those worthy fellow-theologians of mine. The only thing to my credit was - that these feelings did not bring me to a standstill. Something within me said: If you turn away now, you will not be acting fairly towards the unknown. The question you must ask above all others is: What is true? It is not for you hurriedly to decide what kind of truth you want for yourself or consider useful to the world! You must learn slowly to think out a new world and yet not leave your immediate tasks undone. You must have patience, waiting to see how all this develops in the spirit and the soul! - Only very gradually did I begin to realise that by delving into world-evolution in the remote past, a man's character and spiritual freedom can be strengthened in regard to the problems of every day life as well, and that only by this means will he become truly conscious of his origin and his manhood. All I could do at that time was to say to myself: "Well, after all, in three hundred years man's conception of the world will be quite different from ours to-day; and even if the only way in which this Theosophy helps is by drawing your attention, in its own strange and unfamiliar jargon, to current conceptions which otherwise would have passed you by, then it has rendered you a service which it will not be easy for anything else to render - at any rate in such a fundamental sense. Very well then, I will quite honestly let this wholly different picture of the world work upon me." - That was the only decision I could bring myself to make.
One thing was soon clear to me: I could not give my lecture. Or at any rate I could only do so if I said quite frankly: "Here is something we do not yet understand. - For if this contains truth, the whole of modern spirituality presents a different aspect." I had reached the most important turning-point. When I was reading Rudolf Steiner's works, a faint voice would often whisper within me, but only gradually did I become attentive to it. It said: "If this man is right, you - with all your knowledge - are just a pigmy! You may as well begin all over again, and even then you will never get to the point of proving these things for yourself with these higher organs that are promised! And so, if you let any of this teaching get into you, you will start as a pupil again and remain one for the rest of your life. You will have to build up your spiritual outlook from its very foundations, at the moment when you thought you were standing as a teacher before men, and when, moreover, they were looking for and needing you. And in any case you will never get very far in this new sphere." Those who have had actual experience of this inner voice hear it speaking in others - who do not themselves hear it. Here is an example: A man writes a learned book in which he shows that humanity does not need all this new wisdom, that it is already contained in religion "if men will only take it seriously"; or he proves that for everything "new" there are analogies in history which he has known for a long time. Or he may prove that "since Kant" nothing more can be known of the "thing-in-itself"; or he may prove that this new knowledge is not so important, that it simply diverts attention from "God", - which is the most essential thing of all, and so forth. - But he whose ears are more delicately attuned, often becomes aware of the voice which speaks of the "pigmy". He discerns it in the feeling of annoyance which makes him loth to embark upon a genuine examination of the new according to its own laws, but also in the attitude of false superiority which he adopts to the new in order to conceal his own inadequacies. Especially when I heard theologians say that what they found lacking in Anthroposophy was the proper "realisation of sin" and the "call to repentance". I always wanted to ask: Perhaps the reason is that you do not want to "repent"? For there are many forms of repentance. Should not perhaps that kind of repentance which makes a man honest and brave enough to realise his own smallness in the presence of a new body of knowledge be laid upon an intellectual age and a generation proud in spirit? Here indeed, is the test of our attitude to the spirit. Here too, maybe, the test of our age. Where are the men who say: "This is all still too new to us, we must thoroughly ponder over it"? I did, however, come across a few, and among them University scholars, who said right out: "I simply cannot bring myself to study it, at all events not deeply enough. I should not be content to do anything else. But I have neither the time nor the energy. - It must be left to a younger generation. Not having put it to the test, however, I, at any rate, will not speak against it." That at least was honest, although not the reply which one might have hoped for from an avowed seeker after truth.
One can only earnestly advise those who want to see Rudolf Steiner in a true light to pay heed to the voice which speaks of the pigmy and not allow it to be hidden behind the cloak of erudition or piety. If the voice were not there, the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, for example, would have had a very different reception. In that book Rudolf Steiner says quite clearly how he arrived at his results. But it was killed by silence. Nobody came forward with the statement: "I, too, have had these experiences, but they are illusion." Nobody said: "I, too, have developed these higher organs, but they have led me to different results." People are sharp enough to evade the decisive issue, or else they take refuge in scorn. - And now, what of this book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds? I procured a copy at once, because, as a "cultured man," I wanted to know something about the methods of investigation by which these results were obtained. But woe betide! The beginning of the book was splendid. The ethical precepts simply won my heart. But oh ! - those "lotus-flowers". Two-petalled, sixteen-petalled, ten-petalled "higher spiritual organs" were revolving in the book! But in me nothing would revolve - not with the best will in the world! A great mill-wheel seemed to grind away in my brain, and a sense of hopelessness weighed upon my soul.
I should hardly have got any further if life had not led me to the new world from another side. And this was really the outcome of an inner preparation of destiny. In my early twenties I had sketched out a kind of plan for my life which was, for a period of some twenty years, to think and write about those who had opposed and championed Jesus, but side by side with this work, to contemplate and speak about His words in order to write a comprehensive book about Him when I had reached the age of about forty. What should then ensue was left an open question. I hoped that it would emerge as an outcome of the book. Although I had not rigidly bound myself to keep to this plan of my youth, it happened that, at the age of thirty-eight, I already had behind me the preparatory work for the lectures which I then proposed to incorporate in the book on Jesus. But there was something strange about the work itself. It went on more unconsciously, not really admitted by myself and only later entered the region of clear consciousness.
When I tried to form a conception of the personality of Jesus from His words and acts, linking it up with the results of modern theological study, I kept coming across an incomprehensible mystery. A voice was always whispering: "This Jesus is not Jesus. - Even with the most cautious and critical attitude of mind it is impossible to get at the essence of the words spoken by this Leader of mankind, if all that one has to rely upon is the mode of thought and experience current in the modern age. A great riddle is there, gazing at us again and again with unfathomable eyes. Neither dogma nor higher criticism can help us. What is the real truth about this Jesus? As men of the modern age can we not get to the reality which there confronts us? In what way must we think differently, learn differently, in order the better to understand this reality?" The whole impotence of current scientific theology revealed itself to me in face of the mystery of Christ. It was in this mood, when I was still quite sceptical, that I said to Michael Bauer, who had in the meantime become a friend of mine: "Ask your theosophical high priest to come some day in the Winter after I have given my lectures on Jesus and say what he has to say. I promise that I will listen without prejudice, as if I had to learn everything from the very beginning." In December, 1911, Rudolf Steiner actually came to the town and gave a lecture entitled "From Jesus to Christ". A little later on, when my lectures on Jesus had been published, I sent them to Rudolf Steiner and asked what he thought of them. He said that the picture of Jesus was correct and had pleased him, but that it was a picture of Jesus, not of Christ. On that subject a great deal more was to be said, and it would be a good thing if I were sometime to present a picture of Christ as I had done of Jesus. - Many years later in Berlin, after hearing a lecture by Rudolf Steiner in which the picture of Jesus presented by modern theology came in for severe criticism, I said to him: "If this is your opinion of Weinel's picture of Jesus, surely my book is subject to the same criticism?" "Oh no," was the reply, "there is a great difference; the successor of Weinel is Arthur Drews; in your book there are elements which lead over to Anthroposophy."
From the historical point of view these things seem to me worth mentioning. To-day it is still more apparent that "modern theology" at that time was actually standing at a parting of the ways. It was a question of turning to barren, unreliable history and rapidly losing all trace of real Christianity - or of discovering new methods of research which were better fitted to grapple with the realities of a higher world - or this theology was doomed to relapse into Catholicism, which is undeniably beginning to be the case to-day. My meeting with Rudolf Steiner took place in the setting of a great background of spiritual history.
* * * * *
It was on August 28th, 1911, the anniversary of Goethe's birthday, that I saw Rudolf Steiner for the first time. I had to go on a short journey and I managed to attend the Theosophical Summer Conference at Munich on the Sunday. For six months, practically all my spare time had been devoted to reading Dr. Steiner's works, but I still had no thought as yet of joining the Society. In spite of this, I was allowed to attend all the meetings without any kind of obligation.
When I went into the room I was surprised at the atmosphere I found there. The audience, for the most part, gave one an impression of strangeness. A certain type of passive, sensation-mongering mentality troubled me. Especially when I saw men with long hair, my impulse was to run away. Later on, all these things changed decidedly for the better, when the "theosophical" shells were laid aside and Rudolf Steiner began to attract more and more men of a scientific turn of mind. He certainly suffered a great deal in those earlier years, but out of respect for personal freedom he did not on principle enter into external trivialities of this kind and tried gradually to educate the people from within.
What pleased me was the evidence of a mood of festive devotion. It was not difficult to see that this was a festival of man. These people were filled with joy that they were in the presence of one whom they felt to be quite out of the common, a leader worthy of all respect, and who yet went about among them as a man among other men. Although I felt an outsider, and was repelled by many things I saw, I was interested to find how genuinely and sincerely a man was being regarded as an "event" in humanity. Everything breathed in honour of manhood, for these people felt themselves in the presence of a great figure of the human race. Something of this kind must have been experienced before one can realise the silent effect which a single individual can have upon those around him. This was particularly in evidence during the dramatic performances. Those who took part were not presenting their art with an eye to Press and public, but as if they felt a higher being looking through them, and they were therefore striving without personal vanity to offer their sacrifices in the revealed presence of a Divine world. Quite a new conception of art as worship arose within me.
Between the performances Dr. Steiner gave a short address. I cannot honestly say that it made any particular impression upon me. The ears for what might have been significant were, of course, not yet open, and many outer stumbling-blocks had still to be overcome. The rather round-about and involved style of many of Dr. Steiner's phrases was explained, as I gathered in a later conversation, by the fact that he was taking stock of the particular make-up of his listeners. I sat in a far corner of the hall, determined under no circumstances to allow myself to be carried away by mass suggestion, but also fully open to every impression. Again and again I asked myself: What would you take this man to be if you met him in the street? - Most probably a Catholic priest, I said to myself. But then I should only have been looking at the black coat, for which as a clergyman I had a peculiar dislike, and not the face. I was glad to be able to investigate without any disturbance, under the protection of complete detachment. As one who had suffered much from living among fashionable preachers, I had a very sharp eye for evidence of human weaknesses which cast their shadows over what a greatly revered man had to teach. With absolute assurance I say that stories which accuse Rudolf Steiner of vanity or a desire for effect, are absolutely false. They were based upon fleeting, untried first impressions, and they fell utterly to the ground in his actual presence. If ever there has been an embodiment of the reverse of personal vanity, it was Rudolf Steiner. And as for striving after effect - he was not only much too sincere but much too able for that.
And so my first impression was that every possibility was still open. After the lecture I saw, not without amusement, that he became the centre of an admiring circle. He could hardly take a single step without treading on the toes of one or another of his adherents. This state of things, too, improved as the years went by and people began to realise more what they owed him. On that occasion, however, I did not let myself be deterred from going up to him, eager as to what the result would be. Having had a hint from Michael Bauer, I went up to thank Rudolf Steiner for the privilege of having been admitted as a guest, asking if I might come again in the evening. He looked at me for one fleeting moment and his eyes fell to the ground. It seemed to me as if this was his way of getting a picture of the spiritual being of a man in a flash before him. Then he said dryly: "If you were present this morning, you can come this evening as well" - and passed on. Those were the first words I had with him.
In the evening there was a special lecture (not part of the course which was being given), in memory of Goethe. The Goethe presented in this lecture was a new experience to me. This was not the poet Goethe, nor the man Goethe, but Goethe the world-thinker. The independence, assurance and power with which he spoke of Goethe raised Rudolf Steiner in my eyes to a high spiritual rank. I felt much more confident that his message was suited to the needs of his time. One learnt to look into Nature in her freedom through Goethe's all-seeing eyes. When I listened to theologians speaking of Goethe, they were always wont to drag out, from every conceivable corner, utterances that savoured in any way of religion. When they referred to the sciences, they would flirt with them for a while, finally abandon them to their own limitations and set up their "God" in haunts impenetrable to the light of scientific research. Not so Rudolf Steiner. He let Goethe be Goethe. He himself was looking into the world with Goethe's eyes. But he brought greater power into those eyes, and a richer, more spiritual world in which there was room for all the Gods of men - above all the God of the Christians. Here, in very truth, was a kingly mind in the realms of knowledge, far-seeing and mighty in its freedom. He let a science of Nature come to flower around us, a wisdom far more stimulating than the dead knowledge of the day and a science in which religion could breathe anew. With a joyful premonition that greatness in the truly religious sense is compatible with the utmost clarity of thought and the freest spirit of investigation, I went home.
Three months later found me on my way to hear Rudolf Steiner lecture in Nuremberg on the theme: "From Jesus to Christ." I had also persuaded certain friends, among them one or two doctors, to go to the lecture. - "We will listen without bias and see whether this man may not have more to say about Christ than I myself would be capable of saying." The lecture was a disappointment. Even outer details irritated me: the fur coat in which he came, the glasses through which he eyed his audience, the conspicuous black tie. And yet I said to a neighbour with whom I had made friends: "Just look at this man. If anyone in this age is a superman, there he is!" After the lecture I thought sorrowfully: Now I know that here is another man who can say nothing about Christ to satisfy me. I must give up all hope of finding anything that will help in my own sphere of religion. - I did not like the prosaic way of speaking about physical processes in the Christ - "salt-forming processes," processes of "combustion" and the like. I could not as yet bring Dr. Steiner's words to life within my own soul, and took them too literally in the sense of external science. Four years afterwards, at the end of a lecture during which I may have had the same feelings, Rudolf Steiner came straight up to me and said pointedly, although I had not said a word of what I was thinking: "I have a deliberate purpose in speaking of these things in this way. To speak differently would be too great a shock to people. Wait until these things have developed for another fifty years and then see how they will work themselves out in the life of feeling and will!" In that Nuremberg lecture only one impression was strong and positive: it was the extraordinary spiritual power and mobility of expression which played over Rudolf Steiner's face while he was speaking. At one moment he looked quite young, the next sallow with age; one moment he had the virility of a man, the next the fragile delicacy of a woman; one moment he was the dry teacher, the next an inspired Dionysus. I watched this interplay with growing interest, for I had never seen anything like it before. Compared with other speakers to whom I had listened, here, to say the least, was a power of change ten times greater, and an undreamed-of range of inner possibilities. Great superiority of the spirit over the body perhaps? A vast wealth of spiritual life? Perhaps after all a superman? - Or on the way to him? - After the lecture I asked Dr. Steiner if I might have a talk with him.
Now that I was on the point of meeting him personally, I said to Michael Bauer: "There is one thing that really makes me feel uneasy. Suppose he actually sees the aura?" A faint smile of satisfaction crept into Michael Bauer's eyes: "But after all - God knows it all," he said. And then came a burst of egotism: "What care I for what he sees? He can see what he likes." In front of the Hotel Maximilian, where Rudolf Steiner was staying at the time, this thought once again passed through my mind: You, yourself, have a large following, and this man a very small one; if he is right, in twenty years his will be large and yours small. But at any rate he has a right to meet human beings who do not ask that question.
Upstairs, Rudolf Steiner was standing in the half-opened door through which another visitor had just passed. He watched me closely as I walked slowly up the stairs. I have never seen anyone who could look at another so attentively. It was as if he let the being of the other man be built up before him in a subtle element of his own soul, while he himself remained immobile, in selfless surrender. It was not as if he were thinking about the other man, but there seemed to be a process of inner, spiritual reflecting in which his whole existence could be revealed. Not until much later did I understand the raison d'être of this observant gaze, when Dr. Steiner once said that the way a man walks can disclose a great deal about his earlier incarnations.
My first remarks to Dr. Steiner cannot have been exactly pleasant for him. "I am not very interested in your occult teachings," I said. "My experiences lie in the sphere of religion, and I see endless tasks before me there. Moreover I have no gift for occultism and apart from that I am afraid of the effect it might have on the nerves. But I would like to ask you certain things about the further development of man." Rudolf Steiner listened to this patiently, and seemed to be quietly observing. He sat facing me with his back to the light. A considerable part of the small room was taken up by his travelling trunk, so that I could not see his face clearly. He did not move, but the leg which was crossed over the other gave evidence of his inner alertness. "Your occultism is not intelligible to me," I went on. "But you are always repeating that it can be understood by the healthy reasoning powers of man. I conclude from this that to you it is intelligible. But if you understand it and others do not, it may possibly be the unconscious outcome of thought and only give the appearance of having been discovered by clairvoyance." Evasively, but without a trace of irritation, Rudolf Steiner replied: "I can only say that thought alone would never have brought me to these results; it was not until afterwards that their truth was revealed to thought as well." But this again, I could not grasp. Is there any reason why a man cannot unconsciously bear two different faculties of thought within him, one which imagines itself to be thought and another which is really thought? Even to-day, this first objection of mine seems to me more intelligent than most of those put forward by opponents which I have read.
But it was quite obvious that Rudolf Steiner did not take it very seriously. He knew that the battle would be waged in another sphere. - We began to speak of the doctrine of reincarnation. I said that I had no doubt of man's continued existence and development after death but whether for that purpose he had to return to the earth seemed to me questionable, to say the least of it. Nor did I find any mention of it in the Bible. "No," replied Rudolf Steiner, "reincarnation is not a doctrine of Christianity. It is a fact that is revealed in occult investigation. That must be accepted, for such is the case." Again the same cool evasion.. Suddenly he began: "But why do you say that you have no gift for occultism? I wanted to say it before. You have quite a good gift for it." And then all at once he gave four suggestions for exercises in answer to my question about the further development of man. They struck me as curious in the extreme. "That seems strange to you. But nevertheless it is so."
When I was in the street again, I asked myself: What is this man really getting at? Did he make any attempt to win you as an adherent? I pondered and had to admit: No, not the very slightest. But - what about those exercises? Will they not lead into an unknown world? Are you not allowing yourself to become dependent on another? What about suggestion, magic? Perhaps this is the most insidious attempt of all to make you a follower!
For about a month I did not embark upon the exercises, but then a certain sense of duty prevailed. "You will never be able to form an opinion of these things if you know nothing about them," I said to myself. "And not so much for the sake of your own interests but for the sake of mankind and what mankind demands of you, you should not ignore them. Have you not wished for knowledge of your own about the further evolution of man? And did not Rudolf Steiner see at once that this was the only way in which you could be convinced? Are you not old enough to feel yourself secure, provided only that you proceed with caution? At any rate you will not venture upon a single step without fully realising what you are doing. Nor will you do any exercise unless you have discovered and understood its purport and necessity from your own life and have steeped it in your own thought. - Very well then, you will be assimilating it all in your own way. Again and again you will have to put yourself to the test to discover if you are treading this new path out of self-interest or in pursuit of selfless aims. You will have to make the resolution to stop instantly you find anything that is dubious from the ethical point of view, or unfathomable by the mind. If you proceed like this, nothing can happen to you and you can be confident that your life will be well and truly guided."
In this frame of mind I began the exercises and told Dr. Steiner at our next meeting that for me there could be no other way. I told him that I myself never meditated upon his words exactly as he had spoken them, but in the form in which they came to me when I followed the direction to which they seemed to point. He thoroughly approved of this method of mine, and indeed helped me by elaborating and expanding my own thoughts in a way with which I fully concurred. Only gradually did it begin to dawn on me that my safeguarding measures erred on the side of over-cautiousness, and that my own experiences were leading me to the conclusion that Dr. Steiner's phraseology was right.
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In view of the utterly false and dangerous notions that are spread abroad in regard to these "exercises", let me here speak in somewhat greater detail. It must not be imagined that by means of these exercises a man will quickly attain higher knowledge. In the vast majority of cases it will certainly not be so. Their effect is much more often experienced in wholly unexpected domains. In my own case, for example, the first effect was that I felt much more physically healthy. The exercises were like a healing bath or a refreshing bodily exercise, only more spiritual and life-giving. One's whole organism became more normal, more harmonised.*
* It is rather against the grain to go further into this point. But calumnies spread abroad by opponents to the effect that Rudolf Steiner's exercises made people ill, and that I myself am an example of this, must be put an end to. The truth is exactly the reverse. These exercises gave rise to a first real joy in life, and a comforting sense of health in an organism that from youth onwards had been far too sensitive. That is what actually happened. When later on this state of things altered for a time, again the cause was not due to Rudolf Steiner but to the after-effects of a fall in the mountains, which injured the membranes of the brain and made all mental exertion, and the exercises, impossible for many months. The exercises never did any harm, but, on the contrary, once more helped to bring about a cure. It is an obligation of gratitude to Rudolf Steiner to state this publicly in order to contradict rumours of another kind.
Lost instincts as to what was right for the body returned. Neurasthenic symptoms abated. In this way one began to realise that neurasthenia is not to be cured by relaxation and change, or by doing nothing, but by a healthy strengthening of inner activity as a counteraction to the exhaustion caused by outer life. Another result was an enhancement of the power of mental achievement. To begin with, perhaps, this was experienced in the fact that one became more observant of moments when the mind wandered, moments of unconscious dreaming and sleeping. After a few months I needed only about half the usual time for mental work. Another result was that one looked at flowers and plants and loved them in quite a different way, and had a much subtler observation of other human beings. Spiritual faculties were stimulated. Actual facts of higher knowledge were not yet there, except perhaps in the form of dim premonitions, but there was a comforting sense of assurance of having found the way to the spirit. I have never experienced any bodily ill-effects, with the exception of a very few which it was quite easy to avoid or correct, although I carried out the exercises with all the force of which I was capable. Everyone who has had exercises from Rudolf Steiner says the same. On closer scrutiny it is at once apparent that the few examples quoted by opponents in the contrary sense are untenable evidence. Let it be emphasised here that not one of these persons had received from Rudolf Steiner exercises leading to the actual development of higher organs. He only gave such exercises to a very few. In every other case the exercises were of a more general spiritual and moral character, verses of meditation and words from the Bible of which everyone who knows what they were will say that they simply could not lead to bodily harm. Nobody would wish to abolish drilling because under certain conditions a few isolated individuals have been harmed by it. Bearing this in mind as a comparison, one begins to realise how brilliantly Rudolf Steiner stood the test of a true spiritual teacher. He was also exceedingly cautious and conscientious when he was giving advice. To those who saw the pains he would take in such moments (I saw him many a time and observed with close attention), it was as though they were witnessing a conscientiousness so alert that it had no parallel anywhere. The very words and tones of voice indicated deliberation which had the delicate spiritual facts before it and yet expressed itself in the most human, kindly way. Just as one can learn to trust a doctor after watching him at a sick-bed, so did a profound trust in Rudolf Steiner grow up in those moments.
I have spoken to a hundred people who had had advice from him. Again and again one was amazed at the number of human lives which had come before the eyes of his soul, how utterly he had surrendered himself, and with what reliable and penetrating insight he had guided them. Many a time when I heard of advice given by him I was astonished at the light it shed upon a man's being. Not one single soul has ever told me, even in the most intimate confidence, of any harm experienced as the outcome of Dr. Steiner's advice. All who had followed that advice spoke without exception in tones of deepest gratitude, saying that they had received immeasurable benefit, an unfailing stimulus, inner joy in life and illuminating spiritual knowledge. All of them, without exception, felt that they had set their feet on a trustworthy path to the spirit.
The world-historic hour is upon us when man must take his spiritual education more into his own hands. He will succumb to the overwhelming pressure of external life if he does not learn to be strong in the spirit. In our day, meditation is the true means for counteracting the neurasthenia that is breaking in upon us. The new ritual,* built up in accordance with the spirit, is also a strongly healing meditation.
* Dr. Rittelmeyer is here referring to the ritual of The Christian Community.
Humanity will simply go to its ruin if men do not learn to take into themselves the forces which can only flow with any permanency by way of meditation, that is to say, an inner life and development sustained by the power of the spirit. But working counter to this help - new both in style and in magnitude - there is ancient spiritual teaching, teaching which does not leave man free but harks back to the Middle Ages. And there is also an opposing will, too lethargic or too timid to set out upon the new paths. Out of this will rise sullen clouds of antagonism and poisoned hatred which keep man from seeing and receiving the new. But after all - are not human beings themselves guilty if they are more inclined to believe the often diabolical misrepresentations of opponents than the evidence of those who are actually treading these new paths?
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Nearly nine months had passed before I saw Rudolf Steiner again. It seemed to me right at that time that I should be carrying on my studies at a certain distance. It enabled me to make my own freedom the more secure. It was by my experiences in connection with the exercises, even more than the reading of anthroposophical literature, that the doors to the new world were being opened. Apart from the fact that I discovered a realm of health-giving spirituality - the rejection of which could only have been to my own great detriment - apart from a realisation that these teachings were undoubtedly in line with the healthy development of man and of mankind, it became more and more apparent that my fear of the "occult" was wholly without foundation. Although, to begin with, the impressions from the spiritual world were primitive in the extreme, there was nothing uncanny about them, nor anything that threatened the nerves, as I had anticipated. It was as though they came from a world of light, in which all fear ceased. My confidence was strengthened by the fact that I never experienced any of the things I had expected but, on the contrary, something quite different. Moreover, the conceptions I myself had formed on the basis of Dr. Steiner's descriptions proved themselves to be inadequate. His own statements, on the other hand, were often confirmed from quite unexpected quarters. I was simply incapable of exercising self-suggestion. There were exercises which I attempted practically every day over a period of many years but never perfected. All these things - which cannot, of course, be gone into in detail - gradually dispersed the suspicion of suggestion and auto-suggestion to which I tried to hold as long as possible, and gave a sense of security and independence. But what gave me the greatest confidence of all was the fact that the exercises were an unexpected source of help in my own particular sphere of life - that of religion. Impressions became purer, deeper, stronger. For this alone my deepest gratitude would have been due to Rudolf Steiner. And those for whom my calling made me responsible received the benefit of it, although they had no idea of its source.
When I went to visit Dr. Steiner in Munich in August, 1912, another "theosophical" festival was just over. Two days after the final meeting, at about eight o'clock in the evening, some ten or eleven people who wanted to speak to him were sitting in the waiting-room, full of deep but at the same time not repellent respect, and would take up his time until long past midnight. I was told that the whole day long he worked with these people, and by night wrote his Mystery Plays, which were then taken to the printer in the early morning, and immediately rehearsed on the stage. But Dr. Steiner was fresh and alert, without a trace of fatigue. People will have to face the astounding fact that he often spent many nights at a stretch with only about an hour's rest. Indeed without this faculty it is impossible to explain what he accomplished in his life, from the point of view of time. That alone is a phenomenon which the modern mind is incapable of grasping. Later on, in the year 1919, I felt a great wish for some means of understanding this enigma. I began by asking, in a matter-of-fact way, if it was possible in any way to cut down the hours of sleep, and so extend one's working hours. Dr. Steiner at once went into my question, and said in an equally matter-of-fact way. using the impersonal style he nearly always adopted on such occasions, what "one" would have to do. He was satisfied that I should not make any misuse of what he said, even as applied to myself. But as I do not know if he spoke about it to anyone else, I will only say briefly that there is an exercise in concentration which can be a substitute for sleep and reduce the need for rest to an eighth of the normal period. "But it must not be done always," he said. "In between there must be real sleep." So there is a means. The only pity of it is that people are incapable of applying it. I, myself, have never been able to do so, except for a few seconds. When Dr. Steiner spoke of matters like this, it was in an absolutely natural way, without the faintest breath of self-aggrandisement or conceit. Nobody on earth could have wrenched his secret from him if he did not wish to divulge it. By the telling of a fact like this, he confirmed his teachings and opened up a mighty vista into the future of mankind.
"Do not worry because there are people waiting," he said as he received me. "We will talk over everything we have to say quite quietly, to the end." Again my questions were mainly concerned with the higher development of man. In everything I said and asked I found myself in the presence of an unmistakable expert. There was nothing I could say that he did not seem already to know. Whereas in other conversations I had had with outstanding men I always refrained from speaking about certain experiences because one was accustomed to find no understanding, here I could touch upon whatever intimate and delicate subjects I liked and was always answered by genuine human kindliness and a superior power that could not but inspire every confidence. But I was by no means such an "obedient, humble servant," that I did not blurt out: "Are you really looking at my aura the whole time?" For years I always gave way to the impulse to put questions like this to Dr. Steiner when I was with him. Coming as something of a surprise, they seemed to offer good opportunity for observing the subtler emotions of a man. He did not seem to dislike it, and would sometimes allude to this habit of mine. On that particular occasion a barely perceptible smile flitted across his face. "I always have to adjust myself a little for that," he said kindly. "But in your case it is not so very difficult." Not wishing to be snubbed, however, I abstained from asking any further question on the subject. Three years later I again asked boldly about this question of the aura. I had come across several people endowed with mediumistic clairvoyance who had made definite statements. Two of them had agreed in what they said, but the third had said something quite different. I now put the question to Dr. Steiner without having told him of my other experiences. He agreed with the first two people. When I told him about the third he replied: "He will have been seeing the complementary colours. They sometimes shoot through a man without his being conscious of it." That this was correct was proved yet a second time: as before, two people agreed and a third said the opposite.
An essay of mine on the work of Christ had appeared in a compendium entitled Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart. I had sent it to Dr. Steiner and I now asked him what, in his opinion, was incorrect in it. "There is nothing incorrect," he answered. "But see here," - and he tore a sheet of paper from a block and drew a small circle on it. "That is you." Then he carefully drew another circle near the first but not touching it. "That is Ernst Haeckel." And then a large circle was drawn around the other two. "And that is Spiritual Science." He might have said: "And that is I," but he avoided the word "I". On that occasion it was not for my own amusement to see this instructive picture in which he so unmistakably conveyed what I lacked, and at the same time the realisation of his own superiority. But the spirit in which he spoke was so pure and true that only a fool could fail to have been delighted with it.
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A few months later, when I saw Dr. Steiner in Nuremberg, I had thought out something along very definite lines. In the intervening period. the exercises had made me realise more and more clearly that something like a life-body (etheric body) actually exists. It has its own centres which do not exactly coincide with the physical organs, and are distinguished from these by a much more spiritual sense of life. This body also has its own currents of life which to a certain extent a man can learn to control. He can become aware of his own life-body and then clearly perceive where it is more highly and where it is less developed. I was burning to know if Dr. Steiner saw in a man the same things he can know out of himself. According to his writings, it must certainly be so. But perhaps he said what was true not as the outcome of direct perception but because he could in some way read what the human being in front of him was thinking and expecting, getting it from the consciousness of the other. And so I tried to safeguard myself against this. At home I fixed firmly in my mind my own impressions of what was still undeveloped and what showed signs of developing, and then I deliberately killed all these thoughts. As if by chance I then asked Dr. Steiner about the life-body and tried desperately to think about other matters. But it was almost frightening how he began to describe with the precision and assurance of a scientific investigator who has an object before him, things which I alone could have known. In spite of this my caution was not yet satisfied. A year later I repeated the experiment. The incentive was the greater because in the intervening period a great deal had changed in this "life-body", was indeed quite reversed. Again I fortified myself and began to ask questions. On this and all other occasions Dr. Steiner went into them willingly and without hesitation. Perhaps he would say now and then: "I know of course that you are asking out of a sincere interest in knowing the truth." On this particular occasion when I had put my question, he began at once with the words - "To my surprise, a great deal has changed; I had not expected this." . . . And again he described with the precision of a scientist, only making what I already knew still clearer to me. I know, of course, that a scientist of to-day cannot yet regard experiences of this kind as being "proof". On the other hand I know that a younger generation to whom spiritual truths come much more naturally will not quite understand why one felt it necessary to make such tests. Yet I am glad that I did not neglect them. And I have every reason for thinking that Rudolf Steiner was not annoyed at my attitude but, on the contrary, that he was glad to be met with cautious personal investigation. Experiences like this - which were repeated many times - gradually melted the feeling of mistrust which at the beginning one seemed bound to maintain. And although the same attitude of alertness and critical investigation was maintained on every subsequent occasion, there was quite sufficient inducement and indeed a sense of obligation to continue one's investigations along these paths.
If I am to describe what one experienced in the environment of Rudolf Steiner, I must not entirely refrain from speaking of the conversations on the subject of reincarnation. A present generation may make scandalous misuse of such narratives, but a coming generation has the right to know something of this from the personal side, and they will be grateful for it. As my studies of Spiritual Science proceeded, it dawned on me that even as a child, and again and again later on, up to the age of twenty-one, I had lived with the idea that I had existed more than once upon the earth. This thought lived a second life, as it were, side by side with the spiritual life I had as the son of a Protestant parsonage. I had never spoken of it to anyone. It was not so much a question of personalities in whom one believed oneself to have lived in the past, or at least this was so only at odd moments and without any conviction - but much more of times and groups of people with whom one felt an inner kinship. When I read a history of the world for the first time - it was at the age of eight - this feeling of kinship had arisen and since then had forced itself upon me again and again from different angles. It was only from my twenty-first year onwards, when I had passed quite consciously into the spirit of the times and found it impossible any longer to reconcile these inner impressions with modern conceptions, that the idea of reincarnation wholly faded away. As a matter of fact I had written an article in the Suddeutsche Monatshefte* [*An influential paper at the time published in Munich] in which I argued that the concrete idea of reincarnation (I was only acquainted with it then in its Indian-Theosophical form), was in its concreteness preferable in many respects to the Christian conception of the life beyond, but yet was irreconcilable with Christianity and merely in its implications expressed certain needs of the human soul to which regard must be paid. But now the fundamental question arose once again, and I had to confess that the objections of Christianity could not be sustained in face of the teaching of reincarnation as given by Rudolf Steiner. I was eager to know how far what he had to tell me personally in this connection bore out what I myself had thought. In answer to my question he at once mentioned the period, but added - "I would rather not say any more. Such impressions are apt, even with me, to become too rigid when I express them in words. I would rather make closer examination before saying anything else." I had asked him about the period, not about any particular personality. The spiritual tact which seemed to be born in Dr. Steiner's presence told me quite definitely that one could not ask about that. But still I did want to know something more, and I added: "Your teachings are so foreign to me that I do not think I can ever have come into contact with them in a former life." "You did not," was the answer. And then he directed my attention to Christianity, and to certain elements in my character which he saw more clearly than I did at that time, for instance, elements that bore on the choice of the texts of my first sermons, of which of course he knew absolutely nothing. At the end of this rich conversation when I had already got up to go, Dr. Steiner asked me if I would like to be a guest at the private lecture he was giving that evening to members of the Theosophical Society. He was right in thinking that I should have liked to say yes. But I did not want to take a single step which I myself did not feel to be absolutely necessary. And so I allowed an engagement, which was a genuine one although it might have been let slip, serve as an excuse. Here again there was an opportunity of getting to know Rudolf Steiner as a man. He did not interfere with my freedom with so much as a shadow of displeasure.
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