Original Impulses for the Science of the Spirit
Working with this volume involves a journey in both time and space, for the Berlin of 1906-7 is something far removed for many English-speaking readers. Yet for anyone interested in the life and work of Rudolf Steiner the journey brings worth-while insights and discoveries.
Taking the lectures published in this volume and in GA 97 (The Christian Mystery. Tr. A. R. Meuss. Gympie, Australia: Completion Press 2000) together, we get some idea of Rudolf Steiner’s work in those years. The lectures in GA 97 were given in various locations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In between his travels Rudolf Steiner would return to Berlin, where he then lived, and continued his lectures for a group of theosophists. These Berlin lectures cover a fairly wide range of subjects, from health and education, volcanic eruptions (in response to an eruption of Vesuvius at that time), to planetary evolution, the Rosicrucian way of initiation, the modem science of the spirit, the Lord’s Prayer, the blood that flowed on Golgotha, and karmic law.
The lectures were given to people with considerable knowledge of theosophical ideas and terminology, and anyone who is new to spiritual science may find it helpful to read one or two of the basic works first.
Echoes come up in these pages of the works Rudolf Steiner had published by that time, especially his Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, but one keynote that comes through most strongly is that he was bringing a completely new approach to the science of the spirit. Theosophy was at that time mainly concerned with cultivating the old wisdom. If one reads Emil Bock’s studies of that period in Steiner’s life and work, 1Bock E. Rudolf Steiner. Studien zu seinem Lebensgang und Lebenswerk. Stuttgart: Freies Geistesleben 1967. it is evident that these were themes that must have taken people aback a bit in circles where much devotion had been given to cultivation of the past. Mrs Besant understood this very well and did not consider it a problem, as may be seen from a letter she wrote to Dr Hübbe- Schleiden, the president of the Theosophical Society in Germany:
Dear Dr Hiibbe-Schleiden,
Dr Steiner’s occult training is very different from
ours. He does not know the eastern way, so cannot,
of course, teach it. He teaches the Xtian &
Rosicrucian way, and this is very helpful to some, but
is different from ours. I regard him as a very fine
teacher on his own lines, & as a man of real
knowledge. He & I work in thorough friendship &
harmony, but along different lines.
Yours ever sincerely,
Annie Besant 2Facsimile facing page 196 of the above.
In one of the two lectures on karmic law published in this volume, Rudolf Steiner struck that keynote, truly a clarion call as he pointed to the future:
Karmic law must above all throw fight on our future. We should not think so much of the past, but more of the future. ... For when an individual makes himself more perfect, this will also have an effect on the organism of nation and race in the future.
Berlin, 15 October 1906
At the back of this volume are some notes giving details of the origin of these texts, which are based on notes taken by members of the audience.
Rudolf Steiner always avoided getting too fixed in his choice of words as well as in his approach to a subject. At the level of words, this is apparent, for example, from variation between ‘ether body’ and ‘etheric body’. I have followed this exactly in the translation. The variation between ‘buddhi’ and ‘budhi’ is probably due to the fact that the notes were taken by different people. The German editors left it in, and I have done the same.
Biblical quotes have been taken from the King James' Version where Rudolf Steiner quoted from the Luther translation of the Old Testament, and from Kalmia Bittleston's translations of the gospels (Edinburgh: Floris Books), as appropriate. The publishers were able to allow me plenty of time, and this made it possible to read the translated lectures in our Surbiton study group over several months. It is helpful for a translator to hear the translation read aloud by individuals who have not seen it before, for one hears the rhythms (and the stumbles) and is able to make final adjustments.
Most of the lectures have also been very kindly read through for me by a friend who is an Anglican priest and not an anthroposophist. She was able to make some truly helpful suggestions. Other lectures were proof-read for me by Pat Hague, an Australian living in London. She is an anthroposophist and I am most grateful to her for her careful work.
Anna R. Meuss