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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Awareness - Life - Form
GA 89

About this volume

The texts presented in this volume go back to the years from 1903 to 1906. They represent Rudolf’s preliminary work on the history of human and world evolution which was to be published under the title Occult Science, an Outline in 1910. This had from the beginning been said to be a continuation of Theosophy. An introduction to Supersensible Determination of the World and the Understanding of Man, published in June 1904. Originally, that is, in 1903, when Theosophy was being writtenaTwo other cosmosophy texts were written in those years. See [in German] Rudolf Steiner had intended the cosmology to be the last chapter in this work. He referred to this in his preface to the 1925 edition of Occult Science, dated 10 January 1925. That original intention must soon have changed, however, as it was then planned to produce a separate volume. In the lecture given in Berlin on 9 June 1904 he said: ‘A second volume of my Theosophy, which is due to appear soon, will also be on cosmology.’ It may be assumed that he had already started to write it, for on 5 December 1904 he had a discussion with publisher Max Altmann from Leipzig. Mr Altmann then wrote on 9 December 1904, enclosing a publisher’s contract [in this volume] based on the discussion. The fragment of a manuscript, published for the first time in this volume, bears witness that the plan was to publish a volume on cosmology.

Independently of this, spiritual-scientific cosmology was published in a series of essays in the journal Luzifer-Gnosis from July 1904,bCosmic Memory. Atlantis and Lemuria, GA 11, tr. K. E. Zimmer. New York: Rudolf Steiner Publications 1971. continuing until the journal had to cease publication in 1908 when Rudolf Steiner had too much other work to do.*Two other cosmosophy texts were written in those years. See [in German] Zur Geschichte und aus den Inhalten der erkenntniskultischen Abteilung der Esoterischen Schule 1904–1914, GA 265, S. 250 ff und S. 372 ff. The collected essays were available as special editions at the time, organized in chapters with headings, like those on Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. The Knowledge of the Higher Worlds essays were published in book form in 1909—the preface is dated Berlin, 12 October 1909—but not the Cosmic Memory essays. Evidently because work on the main volume on cosmology, Occult Science, which had been announced a long time before, had come to a conclusion. The preface to this was ‘Written in December 1909’.

Rudolf Steiner gave his reasons why the plan made in 1903/04 was not brought to realization at the time in the above-mentioned Preface to the 1925 edition, dated 10 January 1925:

At the time when Theosophy was written, the subject matter of the present volume could not be brought into an equally finished form. In my inner visions I perceived the spiritual nature of the individual human being, and I was able to put this in words. The cosmic evolution which is now presented in this volume was not then apparent to me at the same level. Individual details were available, but not the whole picture. I therefore decided to publish Theosophy, with the essential nature in the life of an individual which I had been able to perceive, and to continue my work on Occult Science at a steady pace in the immediate future.

It cannot have been so much the actual content which was the problem but rather the way in which the subject might be presented in a form he felt was right for publication. This is evident from the sentence which follows in the preface: ‘The way I felt at the time was that the contents of this book should be presented in thoughts which were a further development, suitable for referring to things of the spirit, of the thoughts used in natural science.’ Looking back to the writing of Theosophy in his autobiography,cRudolf Steiner, An Autobiography, GA 28, chapter 33; tr. R. Stebbing. New York: Rudolf Steiner Publications 1997. he wrote: ‘At every step I sought to stay firmly connected with the scientific way of thinking.dSee also the lecture given in Torquay on 20 August 1924 in True and False Paths in Spiritual Investigation, GA 243; tr. A. H. Parker; London: Anthroposophical Publishing Co. 1927.

In spite of this, Rudolf Steiner also started to speak of cosmic evolution in his lectures from 1903 onwards. The question arises as to how the presentation given in the 1903/04 fragment and in the lectures given in those early years relates to that used in Occult Science. The answer is found if we distinguish between presentation in form of ideas and that in form of visions, seeing each image as a different aspect of a subject which is extremely difficult to present.

The idea aspect clearly applied in those early years. It is the ‘outline of cosmic evolution’ aspect of which he said on 27 June 1908 in the lectures on the Revelation of St JohnePubl. as The Apocalypse of St John, GA 104; tr. J. Collis; London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1977 that it followed specific numerical relationships. This outline aspect is closely bound up with the ‘seven great secrets’, especially the second of them, the secret of numbers. This is clearly evident in the texts in this volume. The secret of numbers was always one of the most important in occult schools, for in original wisdom everything was based on numberfSee lectures given in Dornach on 21 November 1907, in GA 100 and on 15 Nov. 1919, in GA 191 [both in German]. For the occultist’s investigations take him into the spirituality of the outside world. There one finds an infinite variety of entities and situations. It needs Ariadne’s clew to find one’s way back again. Number is this clew, the silver thread.gSee lecture given in Copenhagen 4 June 1910 [in German] in GA 125. The world has thus been ordered by number from time immemorial—number in terms of spiritual science also meaning category, archetypal ideas, cosmic thoughts.

It would thus be quite wrong to rate a presentation of cosmic evolution in categories less significant than one in images gained through vision. At the end of his work as a lecturer, Rudolf Steiner himself spoke of these categories as the alphabet of the cosmic script through which he gained his insights in spiritual research (see also Special Note in this volume).

Hella Wiesberger