by Marie Steiner
The cycle of lectures now appearing in book form was given by Rudolf Steiner in 1908, and the following words of his might well serve as its motto: “The mission of our age is to bring forth not an ancient wisdom, but a new wisdom, one that points not only to the past but that works prophetically into the future.”
The previous year at the memorable congress of the General Theosophical Society at Munich, Doctor Steiner clearly indicated the direction that the revival of the Theosophical movement should take, for the movement was threatening at that time to degenerate into one-sidedness influenced by Oriental ideas which did not accommodate themselves to the mental and soul-life of the people of Europe.
As against the many grievous misunderstandings that had arisen, Rudolf Steiner gave out something positives teaching that was suited to the growth of humanity. He also gave for the first time on that occasion a fitting artistic setting to the spiritual teaching he had to offer. The colours of the walls, and the pictures of the Seals represented the Rosicrucian spiritual aims; the motive of the column-forms portrayed the future, and this was aided by the dramatic reproduction of “The Sacred Drama of Eleusis” by Edouard Schuré, which presented in a living way the Mysteries of ancient Greece. With these Rudolf Steiner connected the Mythology of northern Germany. He had something new to give which hitherto had not been offered to the blind followers of a submissive Anglo-Indian Theosophy.
The courage with which Rudolf Steiner trod new paths stirred up spiritual opposition among the leaders of the Theosophical Society, who sought constantly to hamper and fetter him. This opposition forced him to withdraw from the post he had held in the Society. The conditions under which he had undertaken office were: that he should be free to allow that which threw light on the mystery of Christ to flow into European culture, which since the Event of Christ had become western esotericism. When certain leading theosophical circles recognised the remarkable spiritual capacities and the knowledge that Rudolf Steiner was able to bring to bear on this problem, means were sought to hamper his activity. They considered that the best way to do this was to proclaim the coming of Christ again in the flesh, in the body of a Hindu boy, and the centre from which a few years later Krishnamurti was to appear as a future world teacher was cautiously prepared.
It was whispered that Rudolf Steiner would be compelled — by the appearance of Krishnamurti — to divulge Christian secrets concerning which he would ordinarily have been silent. This interfered with his quiet and steady aim in building up the system and organisation of his teachings. He considered it his task to instruct humanity in the methods of initiation suited to present conditions of consciousness. Beside the reverent pursuit of ancient wisdom, it was necessary to waken an understanding of the changed form in which this wisdom was now to be given, and to show how such forms are subject to a continual up-rising, maturing, and decay, in order that new life may spring ever and again from what is dead. An historical sense had to be aroused in men, not merely a wonder-filled contemplation of ancient manifestations. The mysterious connection of the great cosmic laws uniting one age of civilization with another had to be made known. No one had ever described in so powerful and sublime a fashion the primeval wisdom which streamed down to earth from spiritual heights as Rudolf Steiner had done. No one before him had been able to speak in terms of modern consciousness of the reflection of the great Cosmic Existence in individual man — the microcosm.
All this teaching culminated in the central event of human evolution: the descent of the Sun-Spirit into the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Rudolf Steiner showed how the sun forces were thereby able to penetrate and spiritualize the planet, summoning men to fit themselves for the task that was before them. By the death on Golgotha an incisive mystic fact was consummated; it could endure no repetition, otherwise it would have taken place in vain.
In order that these truths might be brought to humanity, fact by fact had to be introduced in gently balanced stages. The foundations had already been laid before Krishnamurti was presented to Europeans. In this cycle, in the year 1908, the path had already been entered, the logical sequence of events from civilization to civilization had been described, the great central event clearly illuminated. There are occasions when the time in which a truth is to be given out may be hastened; it may be necessary to confront certain challenges with facts which one would rather have allowed to speak for themselves. This does not mean that something was done which otherwise would not have been done; it had to be done because it was rooted in the deepest necessities of present evolution, both cosmic and human; and, with complete self-sacrifice, the responsibility was assumed as the task of a life-time. The Theosophical Society cut itself off from this influx of new wisdom, it rejected what would have infused new life into it, and to the admiring recognition of an ancient honoured wisdom would have given new meaning to historic events.
The Theosophical Society would have been led with ripened wisdom from India by way of Persia, Chaldea, and Egypt deeply into the mystery of the chosen people, and the reason for this choice would have been made intelligible to it; and thence it would have been led to the Mystery places of Asia Minor and southern Europe. Further, the soul-life of the expectant peoples of central and northern Europe would have been touched on, and the whole teaching would have culminated in the Event of Golgotha, by which the hidden mysteries which until now had been veiled stepped forth on to the plane of universal history.
The individual personality evolves within the general evolution of humanity, and must learn to find within itself the central point of its purpose, which is primarily in spiritual experience. The tragedy of the personality lies in its severance from the spiritual world; in its seeking, erring, and striving, through the approaching night of separation from what is spiritual, till finally it perceives in spiritual darkness its tragic fate.
Comprehension of such things is necessary if we are to understand ourselves. Into this night of darkness shines a light, the light of Christian esotericism which was kindled in Palestine and passed thence into Europe. It broke with wonderful clearness over the island of Hibernia, where, notwithstanding the repression of the monastic colonies by a Church, fettered by Roman Imperialism, its radiance endured in secret as a stream of spiritual force.
Through this there arose the spiritual orders of knighthood and the desire for religious communities. German mysticism appeared as a rich blossom of deep religious fervour. In order to keep pace with events, above all with the conquests of science, and in order that faith might stand firm in the darkness of a materialistic age, something further had to emerge. The power of Belief had to yield to the certainty of Science. This new force was the aim of the Rosicrucian schools. They concerned themselves with the newly evolving forces of consciousness in the coming age. Rosicrucian esotericism, with its earnest striving after the new forces of human knowledge, with the tragic fate and spiritual tests laid upon its followers, was yet able here and there, as Rudolf Steiner has shown us, to raise the veil of its mysteries. New forces of spiritual consciousness were born from it that were able to overcome materialism by cognition. In the hard struggle to recover the faculty of spiritual perception, once given to man and now lost, but which must be regained through the power of the ego, through the death and re-birth of the personality, the ego-being of striving humanity grows strong. When man consciously grasps this ego-being he can rise and unite himself once more with the Godhead. That this might come to pass the Divine Ego descended — once — to earth. The unique character of this event must be recognised as the decisive turning point of the earth's destiny. Rosicrucian teaching sums it up in the motto “In Christo Morimur”; in Christ we die to live above, to live upwards to the Spirit. “Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus”; through striving towards the Christ we gain true life, we become awake in the Spirit out of which we once were born.
The personality had to come into being, it had to comprehend itself, to take itself in hand and recognize itself as a centre, to confront and then overcome itself, to learn to die, that it might realize itself again as a free ego-being whose central point is the Divine Ego.
This is the path of western esotericism; the European cannot avoid it. Formerly his task was to complete the education of the personality, entangled as it was in egoism; his present task is to overcome egoism, to transmute it by liberating the divine-willing, strong ego-nature within him. This he can only do through controlling the forces of his consciousness through knowledge and cognition. He must be willing to recognise the smallest in the greatest. He cannot eliminate whole epochs of time with their tremendous significance for human development. Power will be given to him if today he desires knowledge and cognition of the Universe, Earth, and Man.
This knowledge is now called Anthroposophy. It gives its teaching and declares its creed quite openly; it hides nothing, for it knows the time has come when what was once nurtured in secret must step forth on to the plane of history.
In describing the descent of man from the Divine and his way back again to Divinity, Anthroposophy might have felt secure within genuine Theosophy, they are so far one and the same “Ex Deo Nascimur” — Out of God we are born to the Godhead we return when we have received the Christ unto us.
But men turn names to their own particular ends. Societies arise which no longer express their true nature — they may indeed become the very opposite of what they were at first. If one has such a contradiction before one, as for example the pseudo-Christian statement engineered by the Theosophical Society, one cannot strengthen it by means employed in the advocacy of truth.
From his sense of responsibility to truth Rudolf Steiner declared it impossible, in the lectures which under pressure from the members he was forced to print, to employ the term “Us Theosophists” any more. The Theosophical Society is fast stuck in Oriental dogma, and rejects the intellectual permeation of Christian truths to which a rightly guided Theosophical movement should necessarily have come. That which the Theosophical Society did not accept is now represented by those calling themselves Anthroposophists.
It has been necessary therefore in the publication of any cycles of lectures to employ the word Anthroposophy, or Spiritual Science, instead of Theosophy. The ancient holy name Theosophy has been caricatured and falsified, and especially to the outer world must we make clear the difference, especially in all this confusion between Societies bearing great and honourable names.
It is undoubtedly our duty in memory of Rudolf Steiner to throw light upon the conditions of that conflict which aimed at crippling his world-embracing activity in Christian esotericism. It is our duty to show how necessary his action was in separating from a Society which saw in Thibetism, Hinduism, and Buddhism the sum of all wisdom, but in the Mystery of Golgotha only the karmic fate of a noble personality not yet matured to ultimate perfection. The leaders of the Theosophical Society were determined to get control of the Society and run it in their own way.
With their pseudo-Christ, to whom in various circumstances they ascribed varying names as it appeared to suit, they hope to win adherents of other forms of belief and satisfy the longings of western hearts, and in this way gradually and gently to turn the tide of European thought back into the stream of pre-Christian spirituality.
Let us close these observations with words of Rudolf, Steiner which are directly connected with the above.
“We see a primeval wisdom preserved in the Mysteries of past epochs; but our wisdom must be an apocalyptic wisdom, of which we must plant the seeds. We have need once again of a principle of Initiation wherein the original connection with the Spiritual world can be reestablished.”
This is the task of the Anthroposophical world movement.