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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Secrets of the Threshold
GA 147

Words of Welcome

24 August 1913, Munich

You have heard, my dear friends, that our Drama Festival had to begin this year with a cancellation. To my great regret we have not been able to give the performance we had intended of The Soul Guardian (La Soeur Gardienne) by our dear friend Edouard Schuré. Even though there were many good reasons for this postponement, it was especially unfortunate in that just at this time, just in this place, the important message in our friend's work should have been brought before our hearts and souls. This dramatic presentation of the undercurrents and fluctuations in human evolution could have given us a better understanding of the tempestuous happenings of our own day as they come and go. The ordinary intelligence of western Europe, schooled nowadays only at the physical level, is unable to throw light on the deeper substrata of these events.

If you look carefully and ponder the events in eastern Europe, you will find significant issues agitating what one can call the folk souls there. What is happening can only be explained by studying the currents surging below the surface of the physical world into the lives of the peoples.30Two short wars in the Balkan, 1912 – 1913, which prepared the way for World War I in 1914. It is odd how little understanding of heart and soul the western Europeans—with all their intelligence—bring to the roots deep beneath these convulsive movements.

Because of these immediate happenings, therefore, it would seem to be a hint of destiny to see a drama that brings to the surface such national antagonisms. It would have been fascinating not only as an artistic creation but also as a stimulus to our understanding of present-day happenings. It would have brought before our soul vision two contrasting groups of characters: in one, the impulse from the ancient Celtic folk soul still to be found in western Europe; in the other, the genuine Franco-Roman element. We would have been able to see the waves surging out of occult depths playing into our human world and revealing themselves outwardly in the life of the senses. In Schuré's drama, in fact, we are shown that through certain happenings a falsehood is spreading abroad in the physical world, in such a way that relationships among the characters give expression to this untruth. Then—as if from unfathomed depths of soul life (in this case, from what is alive in the secrets of the blood)—a certain amount of truth pours into the false relationships of the sense world. The drama would have brought all this before our inner eye. It is indeed important in our time to let such things work on our hearts, for the force of national feelings lying below the surface is erupting before us right now here in Europe, and these feelings and forces cannot be understood unless we turn our soul vision upon them.

There is little difference, basically, in these outer happenings today from those that were agitating the hearts and minds of the peoples of eastern and southeastern Europe many centuries ago and are even now erupting fatefully into external life. One can say that destiny is being carried out imperceptibly for the outside world, a destiny connected with something that is only a symptom on the physical plane and can be expressed in four syllables. The seeds for what is now manifesting itself so fatefully were sown when that famous, much disputed filioque controversy, inflaming the emotions of the European peoples, divided them into a separate East and West. How can our modern mentality nowadays understand the contention that led to the division of eastern and western Europe: whether what is known as the Holy Spirit originates from the Father God above, as the Eastern church has it, or originates from both Father and Son (filio), as the West maintains?

There were valid reasons for the West at that time to add filioque to the origin of the Holy Spirit from the Father; involved in this were all the forces of culture and civilization developing for the future of Europe. The theological quarrels arising out of this Credo need not concern us here. Of importance are the soul events expressing themselves once upon a time in such a way that the former unified faith was divided between those who said that the Spirit comes from the Father and the Son, while others believed that the Spirit originates only from the Father.

That statement expresses what is working into our own time, bubbling and boiling under the surface, something that can be understood only when you venture a little way into the mysterious activity in the occult depths of the folk souls. At the moment that the dogma of the Spirit emanating from both the Father and the Son was enforced by the Carolingian sword—for it was not the papal church but the imperial power that was effective—at that moment the ground was laid within European culture for all those powerful, emotional waves we see surging upward today.

If we could have immersed ourselves in Schuré's drama, quite a few rays of light would have illuminated present happenings. The reason for postponing it was the otherwise happy circumstance that so many applications came in for The Guardian of the Threshold and The Soul's Awakening, the title of our latest play, that many friends would have had to be turned away if we had kept to the original program. It might have been possible to keep to it; everything was ready: the scenery was all finished, every costume was made—so that if the situation just described had not arisen, this third play could have been performed. But then a number of our friends would have had to be turned away from the festival, and it is naturally more fitting to postpone one of the dramas than to exclude from the events any of those who wish to be present.

What we would have gained from a performance of The Soul Guardian lies in the fact that it is the work of our highly esteemed friend, Edouard Schuré. When we hear this name, we should realize that through Schuré's book The Great Initiates (Les Grands Inities) and his other work, he has been in a sense the first standard-bearer of the western esotericism to which we have resolved to devote ourselves. Again and again, we should remember the influence that Edouard Schuré has had on our present-day culture and for the future of human development. Therefore not only do I wish from the depths of my heart but also from the hearts of all those friends assembled here to express our great joy in having Edouard Schuré here among us again for this Munich lecture and drama festival. He will be present at the morning lectures as well as on those occasions when we are all together; you will happily find yourselves then in the presence of the man whose lofty spirit, whose insight into esoteric relationships led him from inner conviction to place himself at our side again during the battle we have recently been saddled with,31Struggles in the Theosophical Society. as you all know, a battle that we did not seek but that was thrust upon us. The close bond with Edouard Schuré was shown us, too, by his frank letter,32To Charles Bleck, President of the Theosophical Society in France, March 1, 1913, announcing Schure's resignation from the Society which had offered him honorary membership in 1907. which has been frequently printed also in our “Mittellungen” and in our friend Eugene Levy's excellent booklet Mrs. Annie Besant and the Crisis in the Theosophical Society. He stood with us in the struggle that has thrown significant rays of light on where the truth and where an enmity against the truth (for it must be called this) are to be found in connection with our endeavors.

It is altogether typical of the other side that after all this time they have decided to withdraw their senseless accusations of my being a Jesuit, but you can't help noticing their deep-seated reluctance and their desire to draw a veil over this admission. They couldn't accomplish this, however, without adding what one can well call an insulting disparagement of the contents of Edouard Schuré's public letter, written out of his earnest sense for truth. The difficulties of bringing about this Munich Festival, never in any case an easy task, have been increased by the strife thrust upon us (which we will not go into any further), strife that has cost us so much labor and thought and which was truly unnecessary, just as it is unnecessary to continue it.

It would be important now to note briefly for our friends what has been done to bring out the truth. Besides the letter just mentioned and our friend Levy's excellent book that can now be had also in German, I will mention the brochures by Dr. Unger, Frau Wolfram, Herr Walther, to be available with other books at the book table, writing truly wrung from our friends who undoubtedly had something better to do than to enter into an unnecessary battle for the truth. Therefore, for their sake, it is important for the pamphlets not only to be written but also to be read. The time will come, too, when those of our friends who are serious about the truth will have to know what has been happening, un-edifying as the knowledge may be. It is clear that all this has been holding up our work in Munich very badly.

When I come now to speak about this work—as I should like to do again this year—the following must be said: for the people carrying out backstage all the difficult, nerve-racking jobs for this festival, the canceling of one of the dramas did not make their tasks a whit easier. Since the organization as a whole had to be overturned, the work not only was not lessened but was decidedly increased. Therefore please don't assume that with the omission of one of the plays, the burden of the preparations will have been made lighter, for just this main part of the organization, under Fraulein Stinde and Grafin Kalkreuth and their assistants, was considerably more difficult.

This year too I feel the need to point wholeheartedly to the devoted, selfless way in which such a large group of our friends has dedicated itself to bringing about this Munich gathering of ours. It could never take place without the dedication of so many of our friends. This year, as in the past, preparations had to begin in June. Our crew of artists, the gentlemen Linde, Hass and Volckert, had again to devote an enormous amount of time to the work, which they delivered, as mentioned before, completely finished; with them, a whole troop of faithful individuals were busy, working quietly behind the scenes even before the scenery came into being. It is wonderful indeed and will ever and again be a wonder to encounter so much self-sacrifice in this work. To mention a typical example: one of our friends who was asked to undertake two important parts, one in The Guardian of the Threshold and The Soul's Awakening, the other in the Schuré drama, didn't really know whether his strength would hold out through the many necessary rehearsals of the three plays and yet he cheerfully took on the task. All these things bear witness to the selfless dedication that has been growing in a wide circle of friends in our Anthroposophical Society. All those who had to begin their tasks so early, the artist-painters, also Fraulein von Eckhardtstein in charge of the costumes, have been at it since June. The people taking part in the performances are at work the whole day, so that they can hardly undertake anything else. They will forgive me for not naming them all, for they are well known to our friends in the Anthroposophical Society. In view of the long, long list that I would have to read off, they will not be offended if this year again I speak in general about those who have contributed their help. I must say that my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude to them, as are the hearts of each one of you, I am sure, who have been able to enjoy what our friends have prepared for this Munich festival.

Even though to some extent our enemies are springing up on every side, we can also see how our work and our efforts are received ever more widely. Many friends have been attracted by what one can call a new branch of our endeavors, consisting of expressive gesture, expressive movement carried out with beauty and dignity, something one has usually termed art of the dance. A few of you have had the chance to discover what has been shown here as eurythmy and there will be a further opportunity, for at one of our social gatherings this week we want to show our friends something more of this branch of our activity.33See Rudolf Steiner, An Introduction to Eurythmy (Spring Valley, Anthroposophic Press, 1984).

This, dear friends, is in substance what I had to say in a personal way before beginning our lecture cycle.