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Central Europe between East and West
GA 174a

18 March 1916, Munich

Translated by Anna Meuss and Johanna Collis

Originally published in the 1991 edition of the Golden Blade.

On many occasions when I have spoken of human evolution I have pointed out that during the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, in which we live, the task is to develop the consciousness soul out of the general human potential. During the sixth post-Atlantean epoch the Spirit Self will have to evolve. I have pointed out that if the sixth post-Atlantean epoch is to come into its own in that evolution, a major role will have to be played by specific human faculties that are to be found in the Eastern part of Europe, in the Russian people, though at present these still lie dormant. That evolution will depend on certain qualities that need to be so deeply rooted in the Russian folk soul that the souls of individual members of that nation—unless led astray by their ‘intelligentsia’—are profoundly illumined by these qualities. We should take note of those qualities. The Russian folk soul has something almost feminine about it, a compliance, something that makes it easy to accept what the process of civilisation brings with it.

One aspect of this is that in the course of their evolution the Russian people have always been receptive to Byzantine religious elements with their more oriental flavour, elements that have come to be part of their culture. Until now the Russian folk soul has been neither productive nor inwardly creative, but it has been enormously receptive. That is also why the Russian Orthodox faith cannot really be said to have shown progressive development in the centuries during which this Russian faith with its Byzantine orientation has been alive among the Russian people. When you attend one of the ceremonies of the Russian church—even if only briefly—you can sense the strong oriental aura present in those ceremonies; something of an auric element is tangibly brought right into the present time.

That is one aspect. Another is that the nature of the Russian folk soul is such that individual Russians have little feeling for the thought forms that in Western and Central Europe have become a necessity in order to structure social life and develop it further. One of those necessities has been to make strictly legal thinking part of the social order in Europe. Russians, however, have little understanding for a social life that owes its inner structure to thought forms. They would feel that this interfered with their freedom to live out their destinies both with and through their feelings. They do not wish to be side-tracked by thought forms of any kind that are woven into the outer social structure.

A third element is intimately bound up with what we may call the Russian folk soul. This trait is one of peacefulness and non-aggression in the life of the spirit, a passive nature that is more inclined to yield. Aggressive protagonism of any kind of dogma is alien to Russian folk nature. This, then, is their third trait.

It is of course possible for such character traits to change into their opposites if circumstances arise that make this happen—that is inevitable considering the complexity of human life. Thanks to those who are now leading the people astray, the three traits have almost completely turned into their absolute opposites, something that should not surprise anyone who is working out of the science of the spirit.

We see, therefore—and we’d see very much more if we were able to study in more detail what can only be given in brief outline here—that the East provides material that as it were has to come together with the fruits of a much more active development in the West of Europe, where we find character traits that are practically the opposite. I have shown what the West has been able to achieve for humanity up to our fifth post-Atlantean era because there has been a certain active development. I have also indicated the things that still have to be achieved for humanity and can be achieved if people do not fail to wake up to things such as I mentioned in yesterday’s lecture, when I gave an example of a note that had been struck in the life of the spirit in Germany but had then been allowed to fade away.

The driving forces within the life of the spirit have to be perceived in an unbiased way even where they appear in the most dreadful distortions and as absolute caricatures in outer physical reality. Those who can do this will know that because of a certain fact it will be necessary for the element that is to be found in the life of the spirit in Central Europe to enter into a form of marriage with the element that comes from the natural traits of the Russian people. The fruits that can be generated through the special nature, of the life in the spirit in Central Europe need to work together with the receptivity that is possible thanks to those purely natural charac-teristics of people in the East of Europe.

If you were to take an even closer look at the Central European life of the spirit, and in particular the trait to which I have just drawn attention in my public lecture, you would see that while it is not yet spiritual science as such, it does have something which is the seed of spiritual science. Fichte1Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), German philosopher. In the introductory lectures in "Die Wissenschaftslehre" (Berlin 1813). spoke of a ‘higher sense’, Goethe2Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), German poet, dramatist and scientist. Goethe’s essay on the subject was first published in vol. 1 no.2 of "Die Morphologie". It is in vol. 1 of Goethe’s scientific writings edited by Rudolf Steiner. of ‘the power of intuitive judgement’. Schelling,3Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775–1854), German philosopher. Schelling discussed his ‘intellectual intuition’ in a number of works, e.g. his "Transcendental Idealism" (1800) and in the posthumously published "Fernere Darstellungen aus dem System der Philosophie, ch. 2. Philosophie der Mythologie und Philosophie der Offenbarung", two of the works Steiner mentions in this lecture, were edited by Schelling’s son and published in 1856-61. "Cher die Gouheiten von Samothrake" first appeared in 1915. on the other hand, said that the soul had to attain to a higher level of ‘intellectual intuition’ if it was to gain true insight into the secrets of life. To understand this more clearly we have to take note of the great achievements of Schelling’s old age, when he wrote two extremely profound works—"The Philosophy of Mythology" and "The Philosophy of Revelation". These reveal a profound appreciation of Christianity and are far from understood even today. The world is seen in terms of the spirit in works such as "The Gods of Samothrace", where Schelling seeks to penetrate the mysteries of the Samothracian Cabeiri or Kabiri. Nowhere else in recent philosophy does one find such a marked awareness of the fact that the Christian faith is not a collection of dogmatic statements, that such dogma as there is really only has secondary importance and that the heart of the matter is that the Christ event, the mystery of Golgotha, did occur. Nowhere else is this more strongly represented than in Schelling’s "Philosophy of Revelation". All this is capable of further development and must lead to the development that I have frequently outlined, a necessary development that reveals itself when we reflect on the tasks to be achieved specifically in Central Europe during the fifth post-Atlantean epoch.

And now we come to Western Europe. In considering Western Europe the first thing to be clearly understood is that it is riddled with historical occultism passed on by tradition, an occultism that can never arise from the living reality of outer exoteric life and be as alive and organic as the spiritual stream of which Goethe, Schelling, Hegel4Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), German idealist philosopher. and so on are part. The occultism of the West has little connection with exoteric science. Thus it would be impossible, for example, to find there the kind of relationship between occult science and exoteric science and philosophy that is to be found in German idealist philosophy. One cannot imagine that outwardly utterly English elements such as Bacon’s5Francis, Baron Verulam of Verulam, Viscount of St Albans (1561–1626), English philosopher and statesman. or Spencer’s6Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), English evolutionary philosopher. philosophies, Darwinism with its English flavour or the more recent school of pragmatism7In philosophy, pragmatism represents aversion of empiricism developed mainly in the USA by C. S. Pierce (1839–1914), William James (1842-1910) and John Dewey (1859–1952); according to it, knowledge has meaning and significance only in so far as it is of practical value. could establish the kind of relationship to what lives in the different secret societies of the West as has been the case in German idealism. The stream that lives in those secret societies has to shut itself off from the world and cannot build any real bridge to exoteric worldly science.

On the other hand those Western societies,8See also Rudolf Steiner’s "The Karma of Untruthfulness", vol. 1 (GA 173), tr. J. Collis; lecture given in Dornach on 4th December 1916. and particularly certain secret societies where they have higher degrees, have a traditional historical knowledge that is acquired by every member. They have some perception, I would say, of the European political situation, the main secret of which is the very fact I have just described—that on the one hand the East of Europe is destined, out of the blood, as it were, to be receptive and on the other hand the regions that lie to the west of the East of Europe are destined to evolve something that is to be received by the East. The leaders of those Western secret societies undoubtedly have this knowledge and they certainly speak of it when they present the basic concept of their occult work and influence.

Something quite specific arises in connection with those basic concepts in the West. We can perceive it most easily if we consider these things where they appear most rigid and set in their ways, which is in the British secret societies. People who have been initiated to certain higher degrees—higher degrees of initiation that they then know as history, but into which they are not really initiated in a living way—have the notion that the Anglo-Saxon folk element should give rise to something that can unite with the Russian folk element in a kind of spiritual and cultural marriage. The people who are part of Anglo-Saxon occultism in the way I have just described consider it to be the role of this occultism to take the place of the deepest occult driving forces of Greek and Roman origin. To their way of thinking, civilisation was shaped by elements that arose from Graeco-Roman culture, including occult elements, during the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, and must be replaced by the Anglo-Saxon element during the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. They see this as a positive necessity that has to be brought to realisation. This dogma, that in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch civilisation has to have an Anglo-Saxon physiognomy and bear the mark of Anglo-Saxon culture, also has a will element to it, and anyone who has made this dogma his own also has a certain image of what the future Europe should look like. The image these people have is that any life of the spirit existing in Central Europe absolutely has to be suppressed and prevented from influencing the future of the human race. To their mind it should be ignored as something of no significance.

This dogma is consciously or to some extent unconsciously followed in all Anglo-Saxon secret societies and consequently also in all secret societies that have any connection with the Grand Orient in France,9French Grand Lodge of the Scottish Grand Order of Freemasonry. for example, and all the secret societies of Western Europe. Thus we have the basic dogma—consciously or more or less unconsciously adhered to—that Central European knowledge cannot and indeed must not be allowed to play a role in fifth post-Atlantean civilisation. Things have to be organised in such a way that the fifth post-Atlantean civilisation has an Anglo-Saxon physiognomy. This calls for a kind of marriage between Western and Eastern Europe, leaving out anything that Central Europe may have to offer.

The war that is now being fought in Europe has been discussed for many, many years in those secret societies, and believe me, it was no less terrible in their imagination than it has now become in reality. It is naive to think that this war came unexpectedly and has not been foreseen and indeed talked about by many, many people. It has been discussed a great deal! You’ll find that the subject of the great European war that was to come has been mentioned and discussed everywhere, repeatedly so, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon secret societies.10See lecture referred to in Note 7. Again and again there have been indications that such a major European conflict was inevitable. And then the future Europe is envisaged. They know that the qualities, the blood qualities, I’d say, of the Russian people have something to do with the sixth post-Atlantean civilisation which in Anglo-Saxon terminology is called, somewhat materialistically, the sixth sub-race, and that the Western European and the Russian elements should therefore be brought together. These things have to be seen quite clearly, otherwise we are asleep in the occult movement of the present time.

Let me mention something to you in this connection, something I have never been able to forget. When Mrs Besant visited us in Europe for the first time11Mrs Annie Besant, née Wood (1847—1933), British theosophist born in London of Irish parents, initially a follower of Bradlaugh’s secularism, went over to theosophy in 1889. Following an invitation from Rudolf Steiner she visited Germany in 1904, giving lectures in a number of German cities. a meeting was organised in Hamburg at which she gave a lecture. On that occasion I put the following question to her "We are now intending to start a Central European occult movement; yet surely significant beginnings of a specifically Central European spiritual life showed themselves earlier, at the beginning of the 19th century, that is, at the turn of the century?". Mrs Besant’s answer was—and there was of course little comprehension of what lay behind it all: "At that time something of an abstract, conceptual form of spiritual knowledge did show itself in Germany; but humanity had no use for it and it had to be developed in a purer, higher and true form later on in English spiritual circles". Some people find it distasteful that I cannot and will not forget characteristic statements of this kind, but I can assure you that they will not be forgotten.

During the last third of the 19th century a particular phenomenon arose that holds very special significance for occult development in Europe and indeed also in America. This phenomenon—outwardly presenting itself in the form of an individual human being—had much greater significance than we are generally inclined to believe. It presented itself in the individual known as Helena Petrovna Blavatsky12Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, née Hahn (1831–91), Russian theosophist. The outer fact—but this extraordinary fact has a deep inner spiritual background—is that Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was born as a Russian and had all the qualities of that nation, but out of this developed tremendous spiritual qualities of a mediumistic nature and above all psychic powers of the highest degree.

You need to have an idea as to what the appearance of such a phenomenon signifies in the occult evolution of humanity if you are to fully appreciate what I am going to say next, for instance. Lively activity developed in the Anglo-Saxon or Western secret societies, etc. when it became known that such a unique individual existed, someone who was capable of distilling qualities belonging to the future of human evolution out of a quite specifically Russian background, producing outstanding psychic powers and a quite unique mediumistic talent. Things were astir everywhere. Life burst forth in those Anglo-Saxon secret societies, posing urgent questions. The vital urgency that arose may be described as follows—though it will be necessary to limit ourselves to certain outlines. The people who are the actual guardians of this Anglo-Saxon Western movement said to themselves: It means something that such an individual comes to life at this moment out of the people in the East; this is something to be taken into account we have to decide what our attitude to it should be. The question now arose as to how this phenomenon, which out of tremendous psychic powers was capable of making certain deep secrets known to the world, could be channelled in a direction where the Russian element relating to the future could be united with the Anglo-Saxon element. The aim was then to channel the gifts of Madame Blavatsky so that they flowed into the Anglo-Saxon element. If nothing else, they hoped to use Madame Blavatsky’s psychic powers in such a way that they revealed to the world primarily the occult dogmas that the Western secret societies wanted to present to the world. The aim was to show that a certain science of the future based on occultism had to come. People’s minds, that are so easily led, were to be guided to advance from the fifth to the sixth epoch, but in such a way that initially they would be filled with the drives that originate in Anglo-Saxon occultism and its dogmas. The psychic personality of Madame Blavatsky was to be used to inculcate the historical, traditional articles of faith of Western occultism.

We could say that at first things went the way they were meant to. Madame Blavatsky was certainly starting to familiarise herself with the occult aspects of the spiritual life of Central Europe. We can get a perfectly clear idea of what this means if we take a closer look at this life of the spirit in Central Europe and its occult elements. The spiritual life of Central Europe has always brought occult elements to the surface, and these can actually be perceived in a particular, even if exoteric, form of literature. It was alive in the 15th, 16th, 17th and even 18th century, until the Jesuits came and outwardly—but only outwardly—ruined everything. It certainly was alive at that time. When we speak today of the way in which a deeper quest was evident in a certain purely ideal form at the time of Goethe, Schelling and Fichte, we have to realise that this deeper quest had its roots in Central European occultism, in a Central European occult development.13Elsewhere referred to as Rosicrucianism by Steiner. Initially, then, things went in the right direction, with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky entering into this stream of Central European occult development, so that to begin with the element which, if I may put it like this, rose up into her psychic life through the subterranean channels of this human personality, received into it the occultism that lived in Central Europe during late Medieval times.

But something else had happened to this Central European occultism at an earlier time. Western occultists are of course far from stupid; in fact, when it comes to what may be perceived as outer intelligence they are extraordinarily intelligent. I won’t include Grey14Edward, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon (1862–1933), British statesman, Secretary for Foreign Affairs 1905–16. and Asquith15Herbert Henry, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith (1852–1928), British Liberal statesman, Home Secretary 1892–95, Chancellor of the Exchequer 1905–08, Premier 1908–16. among the intelligent, though; I do not want it to be thought that I consider the English statesmen of today intelligent. But there certainly have been truly important individuals particularly within the secret societies, people who above all had great intelligence; thanks to that intelligence it happened that practically everything that it was possible to adopt from Central European occultism has indeed been adopted in England and come to life again in that country in a fairly extensive though exoteric literature.

For anyone who knows the real situation it is perfectly clear, on looking at anything by Wynn Westcott16William Wynn Westcott (d. 1919), member of English Grand Order of Freemasonry and author of works on occultism (pen name: Sapere aude). or by English occultists who do have some knowledge, and also when one takes a closer look at the writings of Laurence Oliphant,17Laurence Oliphant (1829–88), English travel writer and mystic. His two most significant works relating to mysticism are "Sympneumata" (1886) and "Scientific Religion" (1888). why this English occult literature was produced: the aim was to present in English, or Western European, garb the ideas evolved in Central Europe, where for the time being they had to give way to a more materialistic development. That is why I have felt saddened beyond hope over and over again on hearing some Germans talk who were never satisfied unless able to point out that all genuine occult endeavour should really be ‘English’ and that we should adopt as much as possible from there. They simply do not realise that occult material originating in Medieval German culture has been taken over to Britain and is now coming back in English garb. One might even do some relevant research work; some startling results would emerge, for example, if one were to translate English occult writings and then look at them side by side with what exists of Medieval German occultist literature, work that has much more depth and seriousness to it. Some of the results of such a comparison would be positively grotesque! One would find that in Central European evolution, highly spiritual elements are merely covered over with a kind of rubble, and that these same elements are now being brought back again in a form heavily imbued with British materialism, without people being aware of the fact that they originally went to Britain from Central Europe.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky initially took in the elements that had been part of Medieval occultism. She was never fully conscious of what was happening to her, for her psychic gifts were largely of a subconscious nature. Yet there was also this tremendous, urgent desire in the West of Europe to subordinate everything that held potential for the future to the Anglo-Saxon element, and in connection with this—I could of course give you all the details, but lean only give an outline here, time being short—Madame Blavatsky was at a certain moment induced to join a particular secret society in Paris.

Madame Blavatsky, on the one hand possessing Russian qualities deepened by occultism and on the other having taken in a considerable volume of genuine knowledge that had originated in Central Europe—Rosicrucian, if you like, or call it what you will—thus joined a secret society in Paris. She was now a member of this society. Her soul was tremendously powerful and presented what lived in it most forcefully; she certainly would not easily accept being regarded as simply a higher kind of medium, which would have suited those secret societies in Paris. Their particular problem was that Madame Blavatsky was able to present all her occult experiences to the world, if she felt so inclined, having taken them into a kind of higher psyche. If the situation had been different they could have said to the world: What we have to say is not merely based on theories; it presents itself via a supra-mediumistic channel, coming forth from a vigorous Russian soul, from the psyche of someone who is psychic to the highest degree. If that had been the intention, Madame Blavatsky would have had to have been a much less self-willed individual. But she certainly would not accept such a thing. In fact she made conditions when she was a member of that secret society in Paris—I’ll not say what these were now, but the time will come when these things should be discussed—and this arose from the powerful Blavatsky urge. She sensed that the people in the West wanted to further Western dominance—in so far as this can be furthered by occultism—and she did not want to have anything to do with this. For it was particularly during that time in Paris, when there were those strange goings-on in the Parisian secret society, that she was tremendously conscious of being a Russian and made conditions relating to her remaining a member—as I said, I am not going to tell you what they were—that could in no way be accepted if the society was to continue to deal with the outside world. She made conditions that would have been liable to turn the whole history of France upside down. As a result she was excluded from the society and the feeling was that this had happened in the nick of time, otherwise she would have come to know too many of the society’s secrets.

Various other things then happened, among them that she had now got a taste, as it were, for being involved in world affairs. She therefore got herself admitted to another society, this time an American one. Here she did not make the same conditions as in Paris, but she acted in such a way that it should have been possible to achieve by the American route what she had previously intended to achieve in Paris by openly making her conditions. Working together with Olcott,18Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (c. 1830–1907), established the Theosophical Society together with Madame Blavatsky in 1875, remaining its President until his death. who was far from satisfied with the situation in America at that time, she had great plans for America, plans apt to make Anglo-Saxon Western occultists feel extremely hot under the collar. Even Dr Faustus would not have felt that hot under the collar, nor even Richard III, as Goethe once put it when speaking out of a certain mood.19It has not been possible to trace this. Apart from this something else had now also happened, something that had not yet happened in Paris, and that was that Madame Blavatsky knew and understood too much of the underlying aims. Something had been done that certainly was not entirely justifiable if one went by the ancient and most sacred rules; yet it was something that had to happen in order to prevent what might have been a great disaster. A meeting of American and European occultists considered future plans and after all kinds of digressions the measures that were taken resulted in what in occult terms is called ‘occult imprisonment’. This meant that certain steps were taken to ensure that the aims of particular individuals, and specifically their occult aims, were imprisoned in a kind of sphere, with the result that the individuals concerned would keep seeing their own aims being directed back at them and would be unable to see beyond the limits of the sphere. Madame Blavatsky was put into such an occult sphere. Things were arranged in such a way that she was physically in Asia during her occult imprisonment.

However, things were also happening on the stage of human evolution. As I’ve said before, this story is not entirely accurate; that is to say, the details are accurate but lack of time makes it necessary to leave out some things that can perhaps be told at another time and that one may indeed wish to tell at another time. What happened was that leading occultists in India were seeking by occult methods to further the political aims of the Indian people, and the method used was to release Madame Blavatsky from her occult imprisonment. Then everything that had initially had a Central European flavour and had then been covered over with everything that Western European occultists had sought to inculcate into her now assumed an Indian flavour. Poor Madame Blavatsky had got herself caught up in a complex occult experience, as it were. The day came when she was out of her occult imprisonment; but all the occult elements in her soul had assumed an Indian quality. Added to this was the largely unconscious influence of Olcott, with the result that those occult elements with their Indian quality were made to serve Anglo-Saxon aims once again. The outcome was that Madame Blavatsky’s former guide was replaced by another, though she called him by the same name, Koot Hoomi. The second guide, however,—this is well known to those who are in the secret—was essentially nothing more than a wretch subservient to the Russians, someone pursuing quite different aims in everything communicated to Madame Blavatsky and her followers from the honest dissemination of occult knowledge; this individual was above all serving major political aims, as a kind of Russian spy, and sought to direct and channel the affair in such a way that the spiritual marriage between the Russian and the Anglo-Saxon element would be brought about from the other end.

Everything that is now such a ghastly corruption in many of the extraordinarily great truths, including those to be found in Madame Blavatsky’ s "Secret Doctrine", has its roots in the things I have touched on here. It should also be noted that the eminently Russian characteristic given to the whole Blavatsky movement by this later Koot Hoomi was afterall not to the taste of some high-ranking English occultists; certain occult groups in particular that were extraordinarily close to the high Anglican Church20C. G. Harrison, author of "The Transcendental Universe". did everything in their power to fight that Russian element. That is quite a story in itself.

Above all it must be clearly understood that Helena Blavatsky was an extraordinarily important psychic individual; all kinds of endeavours and currents were active in her out of the psyche. At that time, and particularly when she first came to prominence, there was a general tendency to pave the way for certain political developments by stunning the populace, as it were, with certain occult teachings. There is a class of occultists who know only too well that there is no better way of making people stupid—forgive me for using such a harsh term—than by presenting occult teachings in a certain way. Unless one has the will to be absolutely truthful, it is possible to lead the people, whom one has thus rendered stupid, in any desired direction. That is the inclination of occultists of the more or less black or grey kind. They often pursue distant political goals, preparing the way with great care and over a long period. It is not for nothing that in certain secret societies, mainly in Britain but also in France, people are, or at least were, taught over and over again what the future destiny of Poland was to be and what their attitudes should be to the various aims of the Polish people and the cultural and spiritual streams in that country. It is not for nothing that members were always taught that Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and the adjoining Balkan territories should be brought together and how preparations should be made to create certain political undercurrents in order to further those aims. There is tremendous political activity going on in the secret societies, particularly those of Western Europe.

Madame Blavatsky would never lend herself to occult promotion of purely Anglo-Saxon concerns; at the same time, being psychic, she came to be considered dangerous by, for instance, the high-ranking occultists who were particularly close to the high Anglican Church and whose sole and singular aim was the one I have already outlined. The individuals concerned had thought at first that they could work through people with minor talents who had not developed their thinking and therefore generally had little idea of what was really going on. They thought they could achieve particularly good results by guiding the steps of Mr Sinnett21Alfred Percy Sinnett whose main work, "Esoteric Buddhism", was first published in 1883. in a certain direction. In the circumstances I have outlined it is always possible to guide the steps of another person, unless one firmly bases oneself on the principle that in occultism nothing transcends the freedom and dignity of the individual. It is indeed necessary to remind occultists and those who are studying occultism over and over again that they need to keep a close watch on themselves particularly in this respect. Mrs Besant, too, has gradually come into these things without really understanding what is going on, but she also has a strong Anglo-Saxon trait, and that is why all those things could be brought about through her that have been brought about. If you consider the complexities of the stream in which she has been placed you will understand quite a few things, particularly in the case of Mrs Besant. One does of course have to make the effort to gain some insight into these things.

It is most important, my friends, that our true, clear judgement, our ability to have a clear overview over the external situation, is not affected when we enter into occult studies; we have to use sound common sense in our assessment of the external situation and not let our minds be befogged by all kinds of occult teachings. We need a clear head to judge what goes on in life so that we do not get caught up in all kinds of murky occultistic charlatanism and above all in situations where under the influence of certain centres the aim is anything but the utter truth; instead, certain occult teachings are spread abroad just to make it possible to fish in murky waters and thus further specific aims and purposes. Another urgent necessity, also in our movement, is to make a clear distinction between honest seeking for truth, based on realisation of what has to come into the general spiritual development of humanity today, and all the things that are particularly at the present time making themselves felt in the world as occultism—where one should not even admit to taking a real interest in the relevant facts. Clear distinction must be made between sheer superstition that befalls those who ‘know’ -’know-’ in the worst sense of the word—and the spiritual movement that is to remain clear and bright within the stream to which we belong, and no one should ever be left in doubt as to which side we are definitely not on. That is absolutely essential, for otherwise a state of confusion arises that may have disastrous results. In future these things will be made known and discussed more from the materialistic point of view and undoubtedly made use of to harm all occult teaching... [a section of original has been omitted—Editor]

One has to look into the deeper connections that exist if one wants to form an opinion of what is going on in the world. And even if little can be said about these things at the present time, because we are blocked, as it were, and also because some dates are missing—the time will come when the role that those Western European secret societies have played in everything that led to the outbreak of war in Western Europe will be apparent, societies that are able to pull strings—and more than strings—in English ministries, Parisian ministries and so on. It will also be apparent that these Masonic organisations played a major role in Western Europe when the aim was to get Italy to join the ‘Entente’, as it was called. They were extremely busy and also well connected with certain organisations in Eastern Europe.

As to German masons of both lower and higher degree, they were of course members of a world-wide organisation, exchanging ‘fraternal greetings’ and stressing fraternal co-operation with the others; it can be said in their defence that they were too stupid to have any idea of the whole business they were involved in. The most outstanding characteristic of Central European masons is that they were duped right to the last moment, as were others who were not masons and who were in a position where possibly they should not have been duped... [a section of original has been omitted—Editor]

I have tried to give you at least an outline of what may be important to you and at the same time may sharpen awareness of a number of things that inevitably had to happen. It would no doubt also be good to reflect a little on the deeper background to the fact that our Central European spiritual movement dissociated itself from all the rubbish that finally got into the Besant connection and that is now given vent to in such a peculiar way, right down to out and out slander. That, surely, may be said, though let me repeat that it is not my intention to open up old disputes again. Thus one of the things Mrs Besant is now publishing in her English journal is the ridiculous tale that I had had ambitions to be elected president of the whole Theosophical Society so that I might go to India and oust her, Mrs Besant, from her sphere of work; she has said that the real reason for those ambitions of mine was that land the others who are with me were in fact agents of the German government and that our purpose had been nothing less than to use all kinds of occult machinations to put a kind of pan-Germanism in the place of the Anglo-Saxon stream and above all to work from India to oust the British government. These things are now put with even greater acrimony in Mrs Besant’s articles. She knows how to talk rubbish also on other topics, fit enough to go with the Alcyone22The Theosophical Society’s name for Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986), Indian theosophist declared the Messiah by Mrs. Besant in 1925. rubbish. The latest is, however, that Alcyone is to be deprived of the honour of being the future Christ-bearer. Well, others were deposed when the position was given to him, as you know. Changes have always been made as need arose. Certain esoteric groups even thought of making the Russian crown prince the Christ-bearer—young Alexei! The present incumbent would of course have to be deposed. There have been others before, sometimes even more than one at a time. Well, if you don’t allow one party to tell the other—always only hints given, a mysterious business, as you can see—it is possible to have more than one, thing at a time.

You see, however, if these things are taken too lightly we fall to take note of something like the following: In 1909, when the worst of the Leadbeater-Besant brouhaha was developing,23Charles Webster Leadbeater (1847–1934), well-known theosophical writer working with Mrs Besant in the Theosophical Society. The ‘Leadbeater case’ shook the whole of the Society to its foundations and resulted in Leadbeater’s exclusion in 1906, followed by reinstatement in 1909. All this was well known to Rudolf Steiner’s audience; for details see Eugene Levy, "Mrs Annie Besant and the Crisis in the Theosophical Society". the ‘first of the worst things’, a society was formed that was supposed to be international. Mr Keightley,24Bertram Keightley (1860–1949), General Secretary of the Indian Section of the Theosophical Society and at times also of the European Section. a long-time friend of Mrs Besant who used to revise her books for her to remove scientific errors, was then specially involved in plans for this international society that was to be established in opposition to Besant from India. I was asked by letter if I would be prepared to be president of this international society.25See lecture Rudolf Steiner gave in Berlin on 28th March 1916, in "Gegenwärtiges und Vergangenes", GA 167; translation by E. Goddard in manuscript at Rudolf Steiner House Library in London: Things of the present and of the past in the spirit of man; flashlights on the deeper impulses of history (Library code C 42). The offer came from India. 1909 was the year of the Budapest Congress. At the time I told Mrs Besant in front of witnesses that I had been offered the presidency. I did however only say this to a few people then, on the boat, and immediately afterwards told her: "Where the occult movement is concerned the only thing I can be is someone who within the German context represents that which he has to represent, and I shall never in any way hold an occult position outside the German context". And now she dares to say in a journal that I had had ambitions to become president by taking up the Indian offer. I have always spoken of objective untruths with reference to many things that Mrs Besant has said. But when this kind of thing happens, despite the fact that I had expressly told her that I never wished to be anything else in the Theosophical Society than at most the General Secretary of the German Section or something that makes up this Section, then one need no longer speak of objective untruth but may as well say: here we have not an objective untruth on the part of Mrs Besant but—just as in the case of the Jesuit allegation – a deliberate lie. And if people now wish to defend Mrs Besant they will have to take on board that someone who knows the situation tells them that they are defending a deliberate liar. And if you take the Jesuit allegation together with this business and the whole campaign that is now being waged against what we will to do here, waged out of English chauvinism, we may indeed speak of a systematic campaign of lies; that quite definitely exists.

If you think I am putting things too strongly, remember that I never say anything by way of attack and always speak out only when it has become defence. This should be noted especially by the people who keep saying that one needs to be fair to both sides. In our case, fairness has consisted in simply closing one’s eyes to the truth—at least after the event—even in our area. What has to be is that this present time, pregnant with destiny, takes us to the point where things are seen in truth, in their full, honest and true seriousness, and are acted on. For it is true after all, that all the sacrifices now being made, with hundreds upon hundreds dying, will have been for the salvation of humanity if they find souls here on earth who know how to think and feel the right way about the times. Something is preparing in the world of the spirit and if those who are able to understand see it in the right way, then it will turn into powers in future that souls who have understanding and occult feeling then transform into powers that take humanity onwards. If it is not understood, then the events of the present will in spiritual terms take a direction where the very powers that are now available in the world of the spirit as the outcome of hundreds upon hundreds of sacrificial deaths are given into the hands of Ahriman. That is why I have always said:26E.g. in conclusion of many of the lectures Rudolf Steiner gave in Berlin in 1914–15 (see "Destinies of Individuals and of Nations", tr. A.R. Meuss; London: Rudolf Steiner Press).

Out of courage shown in battle,
Out of the blood shed in war,
Out of the grief of those who are left,
Out of the people’s deeds of sacrifice
Fruit of spirit shall be won
If souls with knowledge of the spirit
Turn their mind to realm of spirit.