Our bookstore is now open. Shop today →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Turning Points Spiritual History
GA 60

Translator's Preface

The six lectures, translated from the German, which appear in this volume, formed part of a series of discourses delivered by Rudolf Steiner in Berlin, during the years 1911 and 1912. Their object was to draw special attention to certain outstanding periods in Spiritual History, epochs which have been of profound significance in the progress and development of mankind, and to throw the light of Spiritual Science upon various questions associated with these so-called 'Turning-Points'. Further, to contrast and compare the results of external investigation with the knowledge born of the spiritual scientific method. The reader will find that this most interesting series of lectures opens up new avenues of thought, and brings a great illumination to bear upon many obscure points occurring in the Bible, and in connection with certain religious concepts.

It is essential, in order to realize the significance and import of the text, to have an understanding of what is implied by the term Spiritual Science, and to know that its methods are true and have been proved of actual positive value, sometimes leading to results which have been found to harmonize with those of subsequent external scientific research. Spiritual Science is not some new fantastic concept, but a logical mode of probing and penetrating the deep secrets of the cosmos and the Spirit-World, and Rudolf Steiner has shown how its methods may be employed to obtain inner illumination and guidance in the conduct of life.

At the commencement of a volume entitled Investigations in Occultism, by Rudolf Steiner, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, will be found an introduction by H. Collison, the editor of the English translations of Steiner's works. In this introduction the editor sets forth clearly and concisely the main features of Steiner's philosophy and the principles underlying Spiritual Science. Upon this source of information the following brief statement concerning the latter is based.

Rudolf Steiner defined 'Anthroposophy' or 'Spiritual Science' (the terms are synonymous) as 'Knowledge produced by the higher self in man'. The word Anthroposophy is derived from the Greek -- ànthrôpos, man, and sophia, wisdom. In virtue of his great spiritual gifts and profound understanding of the ancient occult teachings, Steiner was enabled to devise and evolve certain methods, whereby it is possible for man, if he will but of his own effort raise the latent powers of his soul and overcome all earthly passions and desires, to enter upon a state in which he experiences simultaneous association with two planes of existence, the material and the spiritual, and while still retaining complete consciousness of all things pertaining to the external world, his eyes are opened and his inner vision reveals to him the presence and the activities of the spirit realms. During this clairvoyant condition, which is unlike that of the customary mediumistic trance familiar to spiritualists, man finds himself in actual contact with things divine; the finer vehicles of his being, namely, the Soul or Astral Body, and the Ego or Body of Consciousness, leave for a time the Etheric and Physical Bodies (see footnote, page 190). The two former, however, still maintain, what might be termed, conscious union with the latter and it is the quality and power of the conscious union which determines the difference between this truly clairvoyant state, and that of mere sleep or ordinary trance. Throughout the whole period of such limited separation, although the soul and Ego have entered and become associated with the Spirit-World, nevertheless actual individual consciousness prevails, the personality remaining in touch with the etheric and physical bodily elements, while conscious of that life which lies beyond man's normal awareness and material vision.

When through the exaltation of the soul's powers this condition has been attained, man finds himself in a new world, the World of Spirit, and he can apprehend its reality and penetrate its secrets; that knowledge and wisdom which comes to him endures, and through it he may bring back comfort and enlightenment to aid and to benefit humanity. During such time as the Ego is directly associated with the spirit realms, man acquires a veritable understanding of truth and illusion, of good and of evil; and by having thus raised himself to the level of the departed, he is enabled to commune with them, not as does the spiritualist by bidding them descend to him, but through exalting himself to that higher sphere of life in which they abide.

Thus Steiner has shown that it is possible for mankind, even in these modern times, to have more than a mere fleeting contact with the Spirit-World, and thereby to gain knowledge and understanding, not alone of spiritual things, but also of matters of moment connected with the proper conduct of man's life in the material world. But the power and the quality necessary to this end, come alone through earnest and unceasing endeavour, so that all feeling, thinking, and willing, may be directed toward spiritual unfoldment, and an ethical development of man's inner being through the uplifting of the soul -- this discipline is essential.

The methods of Spiritual Science, by which the soul may be raised, and man's Ego truly enter upon and apprehend the reality and the activities of the spiritual realms, are known as meditation or concentration exercises. These are described in great detail by Rudolf Steiner in certain of his books, entitled: The Threshold of the Spiritual World, A Road to Self-Knowledge and The Way of Initiation -- the latter is now known as Knowledge of Higher Worlds; all are published by G. P. Putnam's Sons. Further information is obtainable from the various Anthroposophical Centres. The chief object of the exercises is to strengthen and harmonize the three principal components of man's being, namely, body, soul and spirit, in order to bring about close touch and sympathy with those glorious regions wherein lies the source of Divine power, and through the enlightenment thus gained, a clearer understanding of the material world.

The above is a brief outline of the Methods of Spiritual Science, through which Rudolf Steiner acquired his great spiritual discernment and his outstanding intellectual power. Steiner felt that it was his mission and his duty, to expound and develop a Christian interpretation of the Gospels and of the Trinity, and to bring forward a proper and reasonable means of communication between the living and the dead. Further, he was ever ready to utilize the knowledge born of his spiritual experiences for the benefit of humanity, by giving a new impulse in any direction which he deemed worthy, and of real import in the development of mankind.

The inspiring introduction to this volume, by Marie Steiner, is indeed a fitting foreword to the beauty and the spirituality of the remarkable and impressive lectures which follow.

The works of Rudolf Steiner will live on, and as time passes, he will ever be regarded as one of those who has accomplished a great and glorious mission.

The Translator