The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century
11 October 1915, Dornach
On this occasion I should like to be allowed to include certain personal references among matters of objective history, because what must be added to the subject dealt with in the lecture yesterday is necessary for our study today and after careful consideration I believe it is right to include more details.
I want, first of all, to speak of a particular experience connected with our Movement. You know that outwardly we began by linking ourselves — but outwardly only — with the Theosophical Society and that we founded the so-called German Section of that Society in the autumn of 1902, in Berlin. In the course of the year 1904 we were visited in various towns of Germany by prominent members of the Theosophical Society, and the episode from which I want to start occurred during one of these visits. The first edition of my book Theosophy had just been published — in the spring of 1904 — and the periodical Lucifer-Gnosis was appearing. In that periodical I had published articles dealing with the problem of Atlantis and the character of the Atlantean epoch. These articles were afterwards published as a separate volume entitled Unsere atlantischen Vorfahren (Our Atlantean Forefathers). 1Dr. Steiner's articles in Lucifer-Gnosis are collected in the book entitled Aus der Akasha-Kronik. The book was published in English translation by Rudolf Steiner Publications Inc., New York, 1959, with the title Cosmic Memory. The articles contained a number of communications about the Atlantean world and the earlier, so-called Lemurian epoch. Several articles of this kind had therefore already appeared, and just at the time when the members of the Theosophical Society were visiting us a number of the periodical containing important communications was ready, and had been sent to subscribers. A member highly respected in the Theosophical Society had read these articles dealing with Atlantis, and asked me a question. And it is this question which I want to mention as a noteworthy experience in connection with what was said in the lecture yesterday.
This member of the Theosophical Society, who at the time of its founding by Blavatsky had taken part in most vital proceedings, a member, therefore, who had shared to the full in the activities of the Society, put the question: “By what means was this information about the world of Atlantis obtained?” — The question was very significant because until then this member was acquainted only with the methods by which such information was obtained in the Theosophical Society, namely, by means of a certain kind of mediumistic investigation. Information already published in the Theosophical Society at that time was based upon investigations connected in a certain respect with mediumship. That is to say, someone was put into a kind of mediumistic state—it could not be called a trance but was a mediumistic state — and conditions were established which made it possible for the person, although not in the state of ordinary consciousness, to communicate certain information; about matters beyond the reach of ordinary consciousness. That is how the communications had been made at that time and the member of the Theosophical Society in question who thought that information about prehistoric events could be gained only in this way, enquired what personality we had among us whom we could use as a medium for such investigations.
As I had naturally refused to adopt this method of research and had insisted from the outset upon strictly individual investigation, and as what I had discovered at that time was the result entirely of my own, personal research, the questioner did not understand me at all, did not understand that it was quite a different matter from anything that had been done hitherto in the Theosophical Society. The path I had appointed for myself, however, was this: To reject all earlier ways of investigation and — admittedly by means of super-sensible perception — to investigate by making use only of what can be revealed to the one who is himself the investigator.
In accordance with the position I have to take in the spiritual Movement, no other course is possible for me than to carry into strict effect those methods of investigation which are suitable for the modern world and for modern humanity. There is a very significant difference, you see, between the methods of investigation practised in Spiritual Science and those that were practised in the Theosophical Society. All communications received by that Society from the spiritual world — including for example, those given in Scott-Elliot's book on Atlantis — came entirely in the way described, because that alone was considered authoritative and objective. In this connection, the introduction of our spiritual-scientific direction of work was, from the very beginning something entirely new in the Theosophical Society. It took thorough account of modern scientific methods which needed to be elaborated and developed to make ascent to the spiritual realms possible.
This discussion was significant. It took place in the year 1904, and showed how great the difference was between what is pursued in Spiritual Science and what was being pursued by the rest of the Theosophical Society; it showed that what we have in Spiritual Science was unknown in the Theosophical Society at that time and that the Theosophical Society was continuing the methods which had been adopted as a compromise between the exotericists and the esotericists. Such was the inevitable result of the developments I described in the lecture yesterday. I said that seership gradually died away and that there remained only a few isolated seers in whom mediumistic states could be induced and from whom some information might be obtained. In this way, “Occult Orders”, as they were called, came into being, Orders in which there were, it is true, many who had been initiated, but no seers. Among the prevailing materialism these Orders were faced with the necessity of having to cultivate and elaborate methods which had long been in vogue, and instruments for research had to be sought among persons in whom mediumistic faculties — that is to say, atavistic clairvoyance — could still be developed and produce some result. In these circles there were far-reaching teachings and, in addition, symbols. Those, however, who wished to engage in actual research were obliged to rely on the help of persons possessed of atavistic clairvoyance. These methods were then continued in a certain way in the Theosophical Society, and the compromise of which I spoke yesterday really amounted to nothing else than that in the Lodges and Orders experiments were made whereby spiritual influences might be projected into the world. The desire was to demonstrate that influences from the spiritual world are exercised upon man.
Procedures adopted in esoteric schools had therefore been brought into action. This attempt was a fiasco, for whereas it had been expected that through the mediums genuine spiritual laws prevailing in the surrounding world would be brought to light, the only result was that nearly all the mediums fell into the error of supposing that everything emanated from the dead, and they embellished it into communications alleged to have been made to them by the dead. This led to a very definite consequence. — If the older members among you will think back to the earliest period of the Theosophical Society and study the literature produced under its aegis, you will find that the astral world — that is to say, the life immediately after death — was described in books by Mrs. Besant which merely reproduced what is contained in Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine or was to be read in books by Leadbeater. This was also the origin of everything that was given out concerning man's life between death and a new birth.
If you compare what is said in my book Theosophy about the Soul-world and the Spirit-world — to begin with, people were always trying to refute it but I think that today a sufficient number are able to think objectively on the subject — you will find very considerable differences, precisely because in regard to these domains too the methods of investigation were different. For all the methods of research employed in the Theosophical Society, even including those used for investigating the life of the dead, originated from the procedures of which I have spoken.
So you see, what the Theosophical Society had to offer the world to begin with was in a certain respect a continuation of the attempt made by the occultists previously. In what other respect this was not the case we shall hear in a moment. Taken as a whole, however, it was a continuation of the attempt which, since the middle of the nineteenth century, had been the outcome of the compromise made between the exotericists and the esotericists, except that later on things were made rather more esoteric by the Theosophical Society. Whereas the previous attempt had been to present the mediums to the world, the members of the Theosophical Society preferred to work in their inner circle only and to give out merely the results. That was an important difference, for there people were going back to a method of investigation established as a universal custom by the various Orders before the middle of the nineteenth century. I bring this forward because I must sharply emphasise the fact that with the advent of our Spiritual Science an entirely new method, one which takes full account of the work and attitude of modern science, was introduced into the occult Movement.
Now as I told you, the compromise reached between the exotericists and the esotericists to convince the materialistic world through mediums of all types that a spiritual world exists, had been a fiasco, a fiasco inasmuch as the mediums always spoke of a world which under the existing conditions simply could not be accessible to them, namely, the world of the dead. The mediums spoke of inspirations alleged to have been received from a world in which the dead are living. The situation was that the attempt made by the exotericists and the esotericists had not achieved the result they had really desired.
How had such a state of affairs come about? What was the outcome of the remarkable attempt that had been made as a result of the compromise? The outcome was that initiates of a certain kind had wrested the power from the hands of those who had made the compromise. The initiates of the extreme left-wing had taken possession of the proceedings which had been countenanced in the way described. They acquired great influence, because what was obtained through the mediums did not spring from the realm of the dead at all, but from the realm of the living—from initiates who had put themselves either in distant or close rapport with the mediums. Because everything was brought about through these initiates and through the mediums, it was coloured by the theories of those who wished to get the mediums under their control. The desire of those among the exotericists and esotericists who had made the compromise was to bring home to men that there is indeed a spiritual world. That is what they wanted to impress. But when those who thought themselves capable of holding the guiding reins let them slip, the occultists of the extreme left-wing took possession of them and endeavoured by means of the mediums — if I may use this tautology — to communicate their theories and their views to the world.
For those who had made the compromise for the good of humanity, the position was disastrous, because they felt more and more strongly that false teachings about the super-sensible were being brought into the world. — Such was the position in the development of occultism in the forties, fifties and even in the sixties of the nineteenth century.
As long as deliberation still continued in the circles of honest occultists, the situation was sinister. For the further the occultists inclined to the left, the less were they concerned to promote that which alone is justifiable, namely, the universal-human. In occultism a man belongs to the “left” when he tries to achieve some ultimate goal with the help of what he knows in the way of occult teaching. A man belongs to the “right” in occultism when he desires that goal purely for its own sake. The middle party were in favour of making exoteric the esoteric knowledge needed in our time to promote the interests of humanity universal. But those who belong to the extreme “left” are those who combine special aims of their own with what they promulgate as occult teaching. A man is on the “left” to the extent to which he pursues special aims, leads people to the spiritual world, gives them all kinds of demonstrations of it, and instils into them in an illicit way, promptings that simply help to bring these special aims to fulfilment. The leading circle of modern initiates was faced with this situation. It was realised that the control had fallen into the hands of people who were pursuing their own special aims. — Such was the state of affairs confronting the esotericists and the exotericists who had made the compromise referred to.
Then it was “heard”— the expression may not be quite exact but absolutely exact words cannot be found because one is dependent on external language and intercourse among occultists is different from anything that external language is capable of describing — it was “heard” that an event of importance for the further continuation of spiritual development on the Earth must be at hand. I can describe this event only in the following way. — In the research carried on by the individual Orders, they had preferred for a long time to make less use of female mediums. In the strict Orders, where it was desired to take the right standpoint, no female mediums were ever used for obtaining revelations from the spiritual worlds.
Now the female organism is adapted by nature to preserve atavistic clairvoyance longer than the male organism. Whereas male mediums were becoming almost unknown, female mediums were still to be found and a great number were used while the compromise still held. But now there came into the occultists' field of observation a personality who possessed mediumistic faculties in the very highest degree. This was Madame H. P. Blavatsky, a personality very specially adapted through certain subconscious parts of her organism to draw a great deal, a very great deal, from the spiritual world. And now think of what possibilities this opened up for the world! At one of the most crucial points in the development of occultism, a personality appeared who through the peculiar nature of her organism was able to draw many, many things from the spiritual world by means of her subconscious faculties.
An occultist who at that time was alert to the signs of the times could not but say to himself: Now, at the right moment, a personality has appeared who through her peculiar organic constitution can produce the very strongest evidence of ancient, traditional teaching existing among us in the form of symbols only. It was emphatically the case that here was a personality who simply because of her organic make-up afforded the possibility of again demonstrating many things which for a long time had been known only through tradition. This was the fact confronting the occultists just after the fiasco which had led to a veritable impasse. Let us be quite clear on the point: Blavatsky was regarded as a personality from whom, as out of an electrically-charged Leyden jar, the electric sparks — occult truths — could be produced.
It would lead too far if I were to tell you of all the intermediate links, but certain matters of importance must be mentioned. A really crucial moment had arrived which I can indicate in the following way; although expressed somewhat symbolically, it is in strict accordance with the facts. — The occultists of the right-wing, who in conjunction with the middle party had agreed to the compromise, could say to themselves: It may well be that something very significant can be forthcoming from this personality. But those belonging to the left-wing could also say with assurance: It is possible to achieve something extremely effective in the world with the help of this personality! — And now a veritable battle was waged around her, on the one side with the honest purpose of having much of what the initiates knew, substantiated; on the other side, for the sake of far-reaching, special aims.
I have often referred to the early periods in the life of H. P. Blavatsky, and have shown that, to begin with, attempts were made to get a great deal of knowledge from her. But in a comparatively short time the situation rapidly changed, owing to the fact that she soon came into the sphere of those who belonged, as it were, to the left. And although H. P. Blavatsky was very well aware of what she herself was able to see — for she was especially significant in that she was not simply a passive medium, but had a colossal memory for everything that revealed itself to her from the higher worlds — nevertheless she was inevitably under the influence of certain personalities when she wanted to evoke manifestations from the spiritual world. And so she always made reference to what ought really to have been left aside—she always referred to the “Mahatmas”. They may be there in the background but this is not a factor when it is a question of furthering the interests of humanity.
And so it was not long before H. P. Blavatsky was having to face a decision. A hint came to her from a quarter belonging to the side of the left that she was a personality of key importance. She knew very well what it was that she saw, but she was not aware of how significant she was as a personality. This was first disclosed to her by the left-wing. But she was fundamentally honest by nature and after this hint had been given her from a quarter of which, at the beginning, she could hardly have approved, because of her fundamental honesty, she tried on her side to reach a kind of compromise with an occult Brotherhood in Europe. Something very fine might have resulted from this, because through her great gift of mediumship she would have been able to furnish confirmations of really phenomenal importance in connection with what was known to the initiates from theories and symbolism. But she was not only thoroughly honest, she was also what is called in German a “Frechdachs” — a “cheeky creature”. And that she certainly was! She had in her nature a certain trait that is particularly common in those inclined to mediumship, namely, a lack of consistency in external behaviour. Thus there were moments when she could be very audacious and in one of these fits of audacity she imposed on the occult Brotherhood which had decided to make the experiment with her, terms which could not be fulfilled. But as she knew that a great deal could be achieved through her instrumentality, she decided to take up the matter with other Brotherhoods. And so she approached an American Brotherhood. This American Brotherhood was one where the majority had always wavered between the right and the left, but at all events had the prospect of discovering things of tremendous significance concerning the spiritual worlds.
Now this was the period when intense interest was being taken in H. P. Blavatsky by other Brothers of the left. Already at that time these left-wing Brothers had their own special interests. At the moment I do not propose to speak about these interests. If it were necessary, I could do so at some future time. For the present it is enough to say that they were Brothers who had their special interests, above all, interests of a strongly political character; they envisaged the possibility of achieving something of a political nature in America by means of persons who had first been put through an occult preparation. The consequence was that at a moment when H. P. Blavatsky had already acquired an untold amount of occult knowledge through having worked with the American Lodge, she had to be expelled from it, because it was discovered that there was something political in the background. So things couldn't continue.
The situation was now extremely difficult, tremendously difficult. For what had been undertaken in order to call the world's attention to the existence of a spiritual world, had in a certain respect to be withdrawn by the serious occultists because it had been a fiasco. It was necessary to show that no reliance could be placed on what was being presented by Spiritualism, in spite of the fact that it had many adherents. It was only materialistic, it was sheer dilettantism. The only scholarly persons who concerned themselves with it were those who wanted to get information in an external, materialistic way about a spiritual world. In addition, H. P. Blavatsky had made it clear to the American Lodge on her departure that she had no intention whatever of withholding from the world what she knew. And she knew a great deal, for she was able to remember afterwards what had been conveyed through her. She had any amount of audacity!
Good advice is costly, as the saying goes. What was to be done? And now something happened to which I have referred on various occasions, for parts of what I am saying today in this connection I have said in other places. Something that is called in occultism “Occult imprisonment” was brought about. 2See inter alia: Man in the Light of Occultism, Theosophy and Philosophy, lecture 7 and lecture 10; Earthly and Cosmic Man, lecture 1; Earthly and Cosmic Man, lecture 1; The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, lecture 4; Things of the present and past in the Spirit of Man, lecture 5. (The last two lecture-courses are not yet printed but are available in translation as typescripts.) See also Notes at end of Lecture Five. H. P. Blavatsky was put into occult imprisonment. Through acts of a kind that can be performed only by certain Brothers — and are performed, moreover, only by Brotherhoods who allow themselves to engage in illicit arts — through certain acts and machinations they succeeded in compelling H. P. Blavatsky to live for a time in a world in which all her occult knowledge was driven inwards. Think of it in this way. — The occult knowledge was in her aura; as the result of certain processes that were set in operation, it came about that for a long time everything in this aura was thrown back into her soul. That is to say, all the occult knowledge she possessed was to be imprisoned; she was to be isolated as far as the outer world and her occultism were concerned.
This happened at the time when H. P. Blavatsky might have become really dangerous through the spreading of teachings which are among the most interesting of all within the horizon of the Occult Movement. Certain Indian occultists now came to know of the affair, occultists who on their part tended strongly towards the left, and whose prime interest it was to turn the occultism which could be given to the world through H. P. Blavatsky in a direction where it could influence the world in line with their special aims. Through the efforts of these Indian occultists who were versed in the appropriate practices, she was released from this imprisonment within her aura; she was free once again and could now use her spiritual faculties in the right way.
From this you can get an idea of what had taken place in this soul, and of what combination of factors all that came into the world through H. P. Blavatsky, was composed. But because certain Indian occultists had gained the merit of freeing her from her imprisonment, they had her in their power in a certain respect. And there was simply no possibility of preventing them from using her to send out into the world that part of occultism which suited their purposes. And so something very remarkable was “arranged”— if I may use a clumsy word. What was arranged can be expressed approximately as follows. — The Indian occultists wanted to assert their own special aims in opposition to those of the others, and for this purpose they made use of H. P. Blavatsky. She was given instructions to place herself under a certain influence, for in her case the mediumistic state had always to be induced from outside — and this also made it possible to bring all kinds of things into the world through her.
About this time she came to be associated with a person who from the beginning had really no directly theosophical interests but a splendid talent for organisation, namely, Colonel Olcott. I cannot say for certain, but I surmise that there had already been some kind of association at the time when Blavatsky belonged to the American Lodge. Then, under the mask, as it were, of an earlier individuality, there appeared in the field of Blavatsky's spiritual vision a personality who was essentially the vehicle of what it was desired from India to launch into the world. Some of you may know that in his book People from the Other World, Colonel Olcott has written a great deal about this individuality who now appeared in H. P. B.'s field of vision under the mask of an earlier individuality designated as Mahatma Kut-Humi. You know, perhaps, that Colonel Olcott has written a very great deal about this Mahatma Kut-Humi, among other things that in the year 1874 this Mahatma Kut-Humi had declared what individuality was living in him. He had indicated that this individuality was John King by name, a powerful sea-pirate of the seventeenth century. This is to be read in Olcott's book People from the Other World.
In the Mahatma Kut-Humi, therefore, we have to do with the spirit of a bold sea-pirate of the seventeenth century who then, in the nineteenth century, was involved in significant manifestations made with the help of H. P. Blavatsky and others too. He brought tea-cups from some distance away, he let all kinds of records be produced from the coffin of H. P. B.'s father, 3Note by translator. Presumably by means of the process known in spiritualism as “precipitation”. and so forth. From Colonel Olcott's account, therefore, it must be assumed that these were deeds of the bold pirate of the seventeenth century.
Now Colonel Olcott speaks in a remarkable way about this John King. He says that perhaps here one had to do, not with the spirit of this pirate but possibly with the creation of an Order which, while depending for its results upon unseen agents, has its existence among physical men. According to this account, Kut-Humi might have been a member of an Order which engaged in practices such as I have described and the results of which were to be communicated to the world through H. P. Blavatsky but bound up with all kinds of special interests. These were that a specifically Indian teaching should be spread in the world.
This was approximately the situation in the seventies of the nineteenth century. We therefore have evidence of very significant happenings which must be seen in a single framework when we are considering the whole course of events in the Occult Movement. It was this same John King who, by means of “precipitation”, produced Sinnett's books, the first one, Letters about the Occult World and, especially, Esoteric Buddhism.
This book Esoteric Buddhism came into my hands very shortly after publication — a few weeks in fact — and I could see from it that efforts were being made, especially from a certain quarter, to give an entirely materialistic form to the spiritual teachings. If you were to study Esoteric Buddhism with the insight you have acquired in the course of time, you would be astonished at the materialistic forms in which facts are there presented. It is materialism in its very worst forms. The spiritual world is presented in an entirely materialistic way. No one who gets hold of this book can shake himself free from materialism. The subject-matter is very subtle but in Sinnett's book one cannot get away from materialism, however lofty the heights to which it purports to carry one. And so those who were now H. P. B.'s spiritual “bread-givers” — forgive the materialistic analogy — not only had special aims connected with Indian interests, but they also made trenchant concessions to the materialistic spirit of the age. And the influence which Sinnett's book had upon very large numbers of people shows how correctly they had speculated. 4See notes at the end of Lecture Five. I have met scientists who were delighted with this book because everything fitted in with their stock-intrade and yet they were able to conceive of the existence of a spiritual world. The book satisfied all the demands of materialism and yet made it possible to meet the need for a spiritual world and to acknowledge its existence.
Now you know that in the further development of these happenings, H. P. Blavatsky wrote The Secret Doctrine in the eighties of the nineteenth century, and in 1891 she died. The Secret Doctrine is written in the same style as Esoteric Buddhism, except that it puts right certain gross errors which any occultist could at once have corrected. I have often spoken about the peculiar features of Blavatsky's book and need not go into the matter again now. Then, on the basis of what had come about in this way, the Theosophical Society was founded and, fundamentally speaking, retained its Indian trend. Although no longer with the intensity that had prevailed under the influence of John King, the Indian trend persisted. What I have now described to you was, as it were, a new path which made great concessions to the materialism of the age, but was nevertheless intended to show humanity that a spiritual world as well as the outer, material world must be taken into account.
Many details would have to be added to what I have now said, but time is too short. I will go on at once to show you how our spiritual-scientific Movement took its place in the Movement which was already in existence.
You know that we founded the German Section of the Theosophical Society in October, 1902. In the winters of both 1900 and 1901 I had already given lectures in Berlin which may be called “theosophical” lectures, for they were held in the circle and at the invitation of the Berlin Theosophists. The first lectures were those which ultimately became the book entitled, Die Mystik im Aufgange des neuzeitlichen Geisteslebens (translated into English with the title, Mysticism and Modern Thought). These lectures were given to a circle of Members of the Theosophical Society, of which I myself was not then a member. It must be borne in mind at the outset that one had to do with teaching that was already widespread and had led numbers of people to turn their minds to the spiritual world. Thus all over the world there were people who to a certain extent were prepared and who wanted to know something about the spiritual world. Of the things I have told you today they knew nothing, had not the slightest inkling of them. But they had a genuine longing for the spiritual world, and for that reason had attached themselves to the Movement in which this longing could be satisfied. And so in this Movement there were to be found persons whose hearts were longing for knowledge of the spiritual world.
You know that in a grotesque and ludicrous way I was taxed with having made a sudden turn-about from an entirely different world-view which had been presented in my book Welt- and Lebensanschauungen im neunzehnten Jahrhundert. 5The content of this book is included in Die Rätsel der Philosophie. The first part had appeared in February 1900, and the second part in the following October. I was taxed with having suddenly changed sides and having gone over to Theosophy. Now I have often told you that not only had Sinnett's book, for example, come into my hands immediately after its publication, but that I had also had close associations with the young Theosophical Society in Vienna. It is right that you should understand what the circumstances were at the time, and I want also to give you a very brief; objective view of the antecedents of the German Section. There were people in the Theosophical Society who longed to know of the spiritual world, and I had given lectures in their circle. These were the lectures on Mysticism and the Mystics which I gave in a small room in the house of Count Brockdorff. At that time I was not myself a member. The preface to the printed volume containing these lectures is dated September 1901. In the summer of 1901 I had collected the lectures given the previous winter, into the book published in September 1901 under the title Die Mystik im Aufgange des neuzeitlichin Geistlebens. 6Translated with the title, Mysticism and Modern Thought. (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., London and Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1925.)
I will read the first lines of the preface to this book:
“What is stated in this work formed the content of lectures given by me last winter in the Theosophical Library in Berlin. I was invited by Count and Countess Brockdorff to speak on mysticism to an audience seriously interested in the subject. Ten years earlier I should not have ventured to comply with such a request. Not that the world of ideas which I am now bringing to expression was not already within me. This world of ideas is presented in my The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, published by Emil Felber, Berlin, 1894. — But to express this world of ideas as I am doing today and so to make it the basis of study as in this present book, requires something quite different from a mere firm conviction of its intellectual truth. It requires intimate communion with this world of ideas such as can be achieved only after many years. Only now, after this intimate communion has been vouchsafed to me, do I venture to speak in the way that will be apparent in this book.”
Now you can conceive why I had allowed the contents of lectures given in very different circles to find a place in an occult movement. In the first edition of the book Welt-and Lebensanschauungen im neunzehnten Jahrhundert, the following is contained in the chapter about Schelling I quote from the first edition, which was dedicated to Ernst Haeckel and was published in February, 1900. I will read a few passages from the book of which people have said that it sprang from a world-view quite different from that presented in the book on Mysticism.—
“Now there are two possible ways of describing a being which is at the same time Spirit and Nature. The one is: I exhibit the laws of nature which are active in Reality. Or, I show how the spirit acts in order to come to these natural laws. One and the same thing guides me in both cases. The one shows me conformity to law as it is active in nature; the other shows me what the spirit does in order to represent to itself this same conformity to law. In the one case I pursue natural science, in the other spiritual science. How these two are connected, Schelling describes in an interesting way. He says: ‘The necessary tendency of all natural science is to ascend from nature to intelligence. This and nothing else underlies the endeavour to bring theory into natural phenomena. The highest perfection of natural science would be the complete spiritualisation of all natural laws into laws of observation and thought. Phenomena (the material) must completely vanish, and laws alone (the formal )remain. Hence it happens that the more conformity to law is brought into nature herself the more the veils vanish, phenomena themselves become more spiritual and finally disappear altogether. Optical phenomena are nothing more than a geometry whose lines are drawn by light, and the light itself is already an ambiguous materiality. In the phenomena of magnetism all traces of matter are lost, and in those of gravity, which even the natural scientist is only able to accept as a direct spiritual operation — an effect at a distance — nothing remains but its laws, whose transactions are in the vastness of the mechanism of the celestial movements. The perfect theory of nature would be that by virtue of which nature as a whole is resolved into an intelligence. The lifeless and unconscious products of nature are only nature's abortive attempts to reflect herself; so-called lifeless nature is, however, an unripe intelligence, hence in its phenomena the intelligent character still peeps through, but without consciousness. Nature only reaches her highest aim — to become herself wholly object — in her highest and final reflection, which is none other than Man, or more generally, what we call Reason, through which nature first completely returns into herself, and by which it becomes manifest that she, nature, is originally identical with what is known in us as intelligence and consciousness.’ ”
And referring further to Schelling, I say a little later:
“To Schelling, with his progressive thought, the study of the world was the study of God, or Theosophy. He already stood completely on this ground when, in 1809, he brought out his Philosophic Enquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom and allied Matters. All questions concerning conceptions of the world now come to him in a new light. If all things are divine, how comes it that there is evil in the world, since God can only be perfect Goodness? If the soul of man is in God, how comes it that she follows her own self-seeking interests? And if it is God who acts in me, how can I, who therefore in no wise act as an independent being, yet be called free?”
This view of the world is not put aside. — And I say further:
“With such views, Schelling proved himself to be the boldest, most courageous of those philosophers who allowed themselves to be stimulated by Kant into adopting an idealistic view of the world. Under the influence of this stimulus, man has relinquished philosophising about things lying beyond what the human senses alone and the thought concerning such observations, utter. Men try to rest content with what lies within the field of observation and thought. But whereas Kant drew from this the inevitable conclusion that man can know nothing of things ‘beyond’, his successors declared: As observation and thought indicate nothing divine in that ‘beyond’, they are themselves the divine. Among those who declared this, Schelling was the most forceful. Fichte gathered everything into selfhood; Schelling extended selfhood over everything. He did not, like Fichte, wish to show that selfhood is everything, but, on the contrary, that everything is selfhood. And Schelling had the courage to declare not only the ego's content of ideas to be divine, but the whole human spirit-personality. He not only made the human Reason divine, but the content of human life a divine, personal entity. One calls an explanation of the world Anthropomorphism which, starting from man, imagines that underlying the whole course of the world there is a being who guides that course as man guides his own actions. Those, too, who postulate a general cosmic Intelligence as the basis of events, they too explain the world in the anthropomorphic sense. For this cosmic Intelligence is none other than the human Reason which has been made general and universal. When Goethe says: ‘Man never realises how anthropomorphic he is’, his mind is engrossed with the thought that concealed anthropomorphisms are contained in the simplest utterances we make about nature. When we say, ‘a body rolls further because another has struck it’, we form such an idea from out of our ego. We strike a body and it rolls on. If we see that a ball moves towards another and this other rolls on further, we think of the striking of the second by the first as analogous to the striking effect which we ourselves exercise. Ernst Haeckel spoke the anthropomorphic dogma: ‘divine world-creation and divine world-government resemble the mechanical productions of an ingenious technician or engineer and the State-administration of a wise ruler. The Lord God as Creator, Sustainer and Ruler of the Cosmos is here conceived as thoroughly human in his thinking and acting.’ Schelling had the courage to lead anthropomorphism to its ultimate consequences. He declared man and his whole life-content to be divine; and as not only the rational belongs to this life-content, but also the irrational, he was able also to explain the existence of irrationality in the world. To this end he had to extend the rational views of the reasoning mind by adding another, whose origin does not lie in thinking. This — in his opinion — higher view, he calls ‘Positive Philosophy’. ‘This’, he says, ‘is the really free philosophy; anyone who does not desire it may leave it alone; I leave everyone free; I say only that if anyone desires, for instance, to ascertain the actual course of things, to have a free world-creation and so forth, he can succeed only along the path of a philosophy such as this. If rationalistic philosophy satisfies him and he desires nothing further, let him content himself with that, but he must give up trying to find in rationalistic philosophy what unfortunately it cannot have within it, namely, the real God and the reality underlying the course of things, and a free relationship of God to the world.’ Negative philosophy will ‘remain pre-eminently the philosophy for the schools, Positive philosophy, the philosophy for life. Only through both together will there come the consecration that man may expect from philosophy. It is well known that the Eleusinian Initiates distinguished the Lesser and the Greater Mysteries; the Lesser were a preparation for the Greater. ... Positive philosophy is the necessary consequence of Negative philosophy when this is rightly understood. It may therefore be said: In Negative philosophy the Lesser Mysteries are celebrated, in Positive philosophy the Greater.’
This chapter of my book closed with the passage:
“If the inner life is declared to be divine, it seems inconsistent to confine ourselves to one part of it. Schelling did not fall into this inconsistency. When he said that to explain nature is to create nature, he indicated the direction of his own view of life. If the reflective study of nature is a repetition of her creation, the basic character of his creation must correspond to that of human action; it must be an act of free spiritual activity, not one like a geometrical necessity. But we cannot recognise a free creation through laws of Reason; it must reveal itself through different means.”
I was writing a history of world-views held in the nineteenth century. I could not go any further than this, for what prevailed at the time in advancing evolution were purely dilettante attempts which had no influence upon the progress of philosophical research. Such matters could not form part of this book. But Theosophy, in so far as it is carried into earnest thinking — that you find in the chapter on Schelling.
The second part of the book, which deals, firstly, with Hegel, is dated October, two. It was then that I had just begun to give the lectures referred to, and in September, 1901, the book on Mysticism had already been published. Truly it is not for the sake of emphasising personal matters but in order to help you to make an unprejudiced judgment that I should like to refer you to a criticism of the book Welt- und Lebensanschauungen im neunzehnten Jahrhundert which appeared on 15th December, 1901 in the journal of the German Freethinkers' Alliance, The Free-Thinker. Here, after an introduction and a remark to the effect that there had been no readable presentation of the development of thought in the nineteenth century, it continues:
“Especially in the domain of philosophy in which disputes can be carried on in appropriate words, many sins are committed in popular writings. The ‘Watchers of Zion’ and organisations of every kind, with their learned cliques to which unfortunately so many university tutors belong, are much to blame.”
Quotation of the folllowing extract is made only in order to point out the good-will with which the book was received at the time:
“So much the more must we welcome the fact that Dr. Rudolf Steiner, an author well known as a modern thinker and protagonist, has undertaken the task of giving the German public an objective presentation of the spiritual conflicts waged in Germany in the nineteenth century concerning views and conceptions of the world.”
Then, after an extract from the book, a remarkable statement follows and I must read it to you in full. The writer of this review regrets the absence of something in the book, and expresses this in the following words:
“Although the spiritualism of Du Prel and the anchoretic original Christianity of Tolstoi are useless for cultural activity based on the thought of evolution, yet symptomatically they have a value not to be overlooked. The same may be said of Neo-Buddhism (Theosophy), which has developed a terminology of its own, a sort of mystic jargon. A psychology of the modern belief in spirits by a man of the mental calibre of Steiner would be decidedly welcome. The language of his book is easy to comprehend. None of the yard-long passages of the academic philosopher disturbs the enjoyment of the reader.”
This was written in November 1901, shortly after I had begun to give the theosophical lectures in Berlin. It can truly be said that there was then a demand, a public demand, that I should speak about the aim and purpose of Theosophy. It was not a matter of arbitrary choice but, as the saying goes, a clear call of karma.
In the winter of 1900-1901, I gave the lectures on Mysticism, and in that of 1901-1902 those dealing with the Greek and Egyptian Mysteries in rather greater detail. These lectures were subsequently printed in the book Christianity as Mystical Fact 7Second English edition (revised) 1972. (Rudolf Steiner Press, London) (published in the summer of 1902).
The greater part of Mysticism and Modern Thought was at once translated into English, still before I was a member of the Theosophical Society. I could tell you a great deal of importance, but time does not permit of it now; it may be told another time. One thing, however, I must add.
You see clearly that nowhere in the course of things was there any kind of sudden jump; one thing led to the other quite naturally. At the beginning of the course of lectures on the Greek and Egyptian Mysteries — again held in Count Brockdorff's library — and indeed also at the time of the second series I had some opportunity of hearing about matters which were not so very serious at that time, but which eventually led to things which have been spoken of here as “mystical eccentricities”.
So in the year 1901-1902, I spoke on the Greek and Egyptian Mysteries and these lectures were attended by the present Frau Dr. Steiner. She had also heard the lecture I had given in the Theosophical Society during the winter of 1900 on Gustav Theodor Fechner. It was a special lecture, not forming part of the other series. Frau Dr. Steiner had therefore already been present at some of the lectures I gave during that time. It would be interesting to relate a few details here — but these may be omitted; they merely add a little colour to the incident. If necessary, they can be told on another occasion.
After having been away for a time, Frau Dr. Steiner returned to Berlin from Russia in the autumn, and with an acquaintance of Countess Brockdorff was present at the second course of lectures given in the winter of 1901–1902. After one of the lectures on the Greek Mysteries, this acquaintance came to me and said — well, something of the kind just alluded to! This lady subsequently became a more and more fanatical adherent of the Theosophical Society and was later given a high position in the Order founded to wait for the Second Coming of Christ. At the time of which I am speaking, she came to me after the lecture on the Greek Mysteries and, adopting the air of a really profound initiate of the Theosophical Society about to give evidence of her initiation, said: “You have spoken of Mysteries; but they are still in existence. There are still secret societies. Are you aware of that?”
After a subsequent lecture on the same subject, she came to me again and said: “One sees that you still remember quite well what you were taught when you were in the Greek Mysteries!” That is something which, carried a little farther, borders on the chapter deserving the title of “mystical eccentricities”.
In the autumn of 1901, this lady organised a tea-party. Frau Dr. Steiner always speaks of it as the “chrysanthemum tea” because there were so many of these flowers in the room. The invitation came from this acquaintance of Countess Brockdorff and I often thought that she wanted — well, I don't quite know what it was! The day chosen for the founding of the Theosophical Society was one of special importance for this lady. She may have wanted to enlist me as a co-worker on her own lines, for she put out feelers and was often very persistent — but nothing of any account came of it. I should like, however, just to relate a conversation that took place in the autumn of 1901 between the present Frau Dr. Steiner and myself on the occasion of that “chrysanthemum tea”, when she asked whether it was not urgently necessary to call to life a spiritual-scientific Movement in Europe. In the course of the conversation I said in unambiguous terms: “Certainly it is necessary to call such a Movement to life. But I will ally myself only with a Movement that is connected exclusively with Western occultism and cultivates its development.” And I also said that such a Movement must link on to Plato, to Goethe, and so forth. I indicated the whole programme which was then actually carried out.
In this programme there was no place for unhealthy activities, but naturally a few people with such tendencies came; they were people who were influenced by the Movement of which I have spoken. But from the conversation quoted at the beginning of this lecture, which I had with a member of the English Theosophical Society, you will see that a complete rejection of everything in the nature of mediumship and atavism was implicit in this programme.
The path we have been following for long years was adopted with full consciousness. Although elements of mediumistic and atavistic clairvoyance have not been absent, there has been no deviation from this path, and it has led to our present position.
I had, of course, to rely on finding within the Theosophical Movement people who desired and were able to recognise thoroughly healthy methods of work. The invariable procedure of those who did not desire a Movement in which a healthy and strict sense of scientific responsibility prevails, has been to misrepresent the aim we have been pursuing, in order to suit their own ends. The very history of our Movement affords abundant evidence that there has been no drawing back from penetrating into the highest spiritual worlds, to the extent to which they can now, by grace, be revealed to mankind; but that on the other hand, whatever cannot be attained along a healthy path, through the right methods for entering the spiritual worlds, has been strictly rejected. Those who recognise this and who follow the history of the Movement do not need to take it as a mere assurance, for it is evident from the whole nature of the work that has been going on for years. We have been able to go very, very much further in genuine investigation of the spiritual world than has ever been possible to the Theosophical Society. But we take the sure, not the unsure, paths. This may be said candidly and freely.
I have always refused to have anything to do with forms of antiquated occultism, with any Brotherhoods or Communities of that kind in the domain of esotericism. And it was only under the guarantee of complete independence that I worked for a time in a certain connection with the Theosophical Society and its esoteric procedures, but never in the direction towards which it was heading. Already by the year 1907 everything really esoteric had completely vanished from the Theosophical Society, and later happenings are sufficiently well known to you. It has also happened that Occult Brotherhoods made proposals to me of one kind or another. A certain highly-respected Occult Brotherhood suggested to me that I should participate in the spreading of a kind of occultism calling itself ‘Rosicrucian’, but I left the proposal unanswered, although it came from a much-respected Occult Movement. I say this in order to show that we ourselves are following an independent path, suited to the needs of the present age, and that unhealthy elements are inevitably regarded by us as being undesirable in the extreme.