The six lectures collected in this volume were given by Rudolf Steiner to members of the Anthroposophical Society during his visits to England in the year 1922. He came three times, giving altogether about thirty lectures on educational, social and general anthroposophical subjects. Nine years had elapsed since his preceding visit in May 1919 when he had spoken so significantly of the new Michael Age and of Christ-event of the 20th Century. The intervening time was marked by the catastrophes of war and social revolution. Meanwhile the first Goetheanum had been built at Dornach, Switzerland, as a centre for the world-wide movement.
During the years of war, Rudolf Steiner had put forward his epoch-making conception of Threefold Man and of the Threefold Social Order, on which was based the attempt, in the years 191321, to give shape to the social events of the time out of a deeper spiritual understanding. It was in the midst of this attempt that many practical activities, notably educational and medical, evolved under Dr. Steiners guidance, bringing the truths of Initiation Science to bear on the concrete tasks of daily life. Thus in the year 1913 the Waldorf School had been founded at Stuttgart by Emil Molt, with Rudolf Steiner as its educational director. The quick development of the school attracted the attention of thoughtful men and women in England, many of whom had been impressed by Dr. Steiner's book on the social and international problems of the time, the first English edition of which. The Threefold State, had been published by Messrs. Allen and Unwin in 1920.
The sculptress Edith Maryon, one of Dr. Steiners closest and most trusted fellow-workers at the Goetheanum, had in the past been linked by ties of friendship and common spiritual endeavour with the distinguished educationist Professor Millicent Mackenzie. Arising out of their correspondence. Professor Mackenzie arranged for a party of English teachers and educationists to visit Dornach at Christmas and New Year, 192122. Here, in the famous Weisse Saal of the Goetheanum, where the fatal outbreak of fire was discovered a year later. Rudolf Steiner gave a course of sixteen lectures for the special benefit of the visitors from England. Among those present were Miss Margaret Cross of The Priory School, King's Langley, and also some of those who were to form, three years later, the College of Teachers of the newly founded school, now known as Michael Hall.
Miss Cross was a member of the New Ideals in Education Committee, whose annual conference for 1922 was to be devoted to the subject of Drama and Education, in connection with the Shakespeare Festival. At her suggestion it was decided to invite Dr. Steiner, both as educationist and as a distinguished Goethe scholar, to take an active part. So then in April 1922 he spoke at Stratford-on-Avon, side by side with eminent representatives of English life and letters — John Masefield and John Drinkwater among others, also Professor Cornford and Sir Henry Newbolt. The interest aroused is shewn by the fact that Dr. Steiner was invited to give a third lecture in addition to the two original planned.
It was decided to arrange a more extensive conference at Oxford during the long vacation, where Rudolf Steiner would have the opportunity to speak at greater length, both on the theory and method of the Waldorf School and on the Threefold Order. Through the kind hospitality of Principal L. P. Jacks, who found in The Threefold State ideas akin to his own, the Conference on Spiritual Values in Education and Social Life was held at Manchester College during the second half of August. The joint organizers were Professor Millicent Mackenzie and Mr. Arnold Freeman of the Sheffield Educational Settlement. Principal Jacks. was present at the beginning and gave the address of welcome. Among other well-known speakers who took part were Mr. A. Clutton Brock, Mr. C. Delisle Burns, Professor J. S. Mackenzie and Dr. Maxwell Garnett. During the morning sessions Dr. Steiner gave the course of nine lectures since published under the title The Spiritual Ground of Education and three further lectures on the social question. A group of Dornach artists gave Eurhythmy performances at Keble and there was also a small demonstration by children, to illustrate the part of Eurhythmy in education.
During his three visits to England in the year 1922 Dr. Steiner gave a number of other public and semi-public lectures — on the anthroposophical path of knowledge, on the knowledge of the Christ-Impulse, and on education. Some of these have since been printed. They include for example the memorable address on The Mystery of Golgotha given in Manchester College Chapel, Oxford, on Sunday evening, 27th August.
In the midst of these many activities, opportunities were also found for the members' lectures here reproduced. The different local groups which had been working side by side throughout the war were joining forces to create what afterwards became the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain. In the autumn of 1921 a small library-office and the use of a lecture-hall had been rented at Grosvenor Street from the Royal Asiatic Society, and it was here then that Dr. Steiner gave the first of these members' lectures. Meanwhile a more permanent headquarters was acquired at 46 (now 116) Gloucester Place. Save for the one at Oxford, the remaining lectures were given here. Dr. Steiner gave every encouragement to the efforts which were being made to enlarge the scope of the spiritual movement in this country, and to the practical activities arising from it.
We have translated freely, believing that a free translation will be most able to call forth an immediate impression of the words as Rudolf Steiner spoke them. It should be remembered that all the lectures to English audiences had to be interpreted as they were given; Dr. Steiner generally divided them into three sections, each of which was followed immediately by the interpretation. The resulting breaks are in most instances apparent. The present written translation is based on the full shorthand reports of the original. Though of outstanding excellence, these reports themselves are not free from occasional uncertainties.
The titles here chosen, for the series as a whole and for the single lectures, are not due to Dr. Steiner himself. All through the later years of his life he was lecturing frequently to the members of the Anthroposophical Society, at Dornach and wherever else he traveled, no special subject being indicated, as a rule, beforehand, except for conferences and other such occasions. We came to the lectures with unbounded expectation, knowing always that some fresh illumination would be given, some further insight awakened, concerning the spiritual world and its relation to human life.