The First World War was entering into its fourth year when Rudolf Steiner gave these lectures in Dornach near Basle in Switzerland. Within sound of the battle front and sight of the flashes of cannon Eire at night, people from different countries, including the combatant nations, were working together in Dornach to build the First Goetheanum. These lectures clearly show the Spirit of the movement which was to be given a home in that building.
1917 was also the year of the Russian Revolution. The configuration which the world was to have for the next seventy years or more was beginning to emerge. Steiner, and others who were working with him, had made tremendous efforts to present his ideas of a threefold social order to leading politicians in Germany and Austria, in the hope that their realization would bring positive developments for the future. These efforts failed.
Having worked and lectured in Dornach in January of that year, Steiner went to continue his work in Germany, returning to Dornach on 28 September to resume his lecturing activity with the first of the lectures in this volume on 29 September. This was also the time when he worked with Edith Maryon on the large sculpture showing the Representative of Man between the Opposing Powers. At the same time he was working on the further development of eurythmy, on productions of Parts 1 and 2 of Faust at the Goetheanum, and from November on the ceiling painting in the building's small dorre.
1917 was also the year when Steiner formulated the idea of the threefold nature of the human organism which is fundamental to anthroposophy.
The lectures in this volume give insight into the factors which had brought the catastrophe of war on humanity, factors which evidently are still in Operation today, three-quarters of a century later. We are shown a way ahead and encouraged, whoever and wherever we may be, to take up the challenge which continues to face humanity. Steiner had stern words to say on occasion, and his obedience to the need for truthfulness shines through everything he had to say. In several of the lectures, he spoke of the desperate need for a new approach to education, going into the subject in some detail. Two years later, in response to The Driving Forces Behind Europe's requests made to him, he was to initiate Waldorf education, which has since become a world-wide movement.