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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Anthroposophic Movement
GA 258

From the Foreword to the First Edition (1931)

by Marie Steiner

The content of the lectures which are published here can be taken as complementing the material which Rudolf Steiner included in his autobiography The Course of my Life. They were delivered in a lively, informal and conversational tone, and as such were not conceived of in book form. But because of their exceedingly important content and historical context, their significance should not be underestimated. This is true not only insofar as it applies to anthroposophists, who will find illuminated the background of the movement to which they belong and who will thus acquire a firm standpoint through their insight into the necessity of events which need no justification. It also applies to those who have only come across superficial descriptions by others, or in dictionaries. They might well be thankful for the opportunity to gain real insight into the facts. After all, there will be increasing numbers of souls who will want to grasp the opportunities which allow them to see that there are answers to the questions which they inwardly perceive as riddles, and that they can be shown the ways to find these answers ... This book will provide the relevant information to those who are interested in the historical development of the movement; it also provides the necessary and simple explanation for a situation which arose as a natural consequence of the given circumstances: namely, the original co-operation with the Theosophical Society, which was looking for an initiated teacher.

If a person is summoned, and the conditions he lays down are accepted, why should he not respond and help? A request went to Rudolf Steiner and at no time did he hesitate to point out what the consequences of his work with the Theosophical Society would be: the re-learning process, the need to awaken to the requirements of the time, the sensitivity to progressing events and to the tasks of the West. In such a situation why should he, who was certain of his path, not seek to help those who were searching without a guide and show them how to find their divine helper and their individual freedom? ...

Although Rudolf Steiner says in the present lectures that the legacy of the Theosophical Society had been overcome by the end of the second phase of the anthroposophical movement, it is nevertheless true that certain less happy symptoms keep reappearing in our Society because of the influx of new generations and many theosophical members; symptoms which it was his great concern that they should not be allowed to fester.... It is our duty to reflect on what we are doing. Let us not make ourselves out to be better than we are. We do not need to be coy about our mistakes, but we must allow the light of self-reflection to arise powerfully out of their darkness. Communal awareness is difficult. We can only develop a strong communal I to the extent that we can rouse ourselves, are willing to work for knowledge, and have the courage to face the truth. That cannot be won in secrecy; it has to be fought for communally. Honest struggle will do us no harm and will earn us the respect of everyone with good will. Those who are ill-disposed towards us should think back to what the Church has suffered as a community despite the strong outer discipline which it imposes, the extent to which its ideals had to suffer from flaws and contradictions. They will then see that the leader who gives a movement its impulse cannot be held responsible for the mistakes of those who follow his teachings, but that it is human beings as a species who cannot avoid the many detours, the climbing and back-sliding, the renewed scrambling upwards before they reach their goal.

Anthroposophy is a path of schooling. The Anthroposophical Society is certainly no paragon of how to live anthroposophical ideals. It might even be true to say that in certain respects it is an infirmary which is not surprising in a time of human sickness. All those in need of help, all those who have been crushed by the need of our time flock towards it. But why should there only be infirmaries for the physically ill? Is there not a duty to have places where people can recover their spiritual equilibrium? That is what has happened here in the widest sense. There have been a great many letters and words of gratitude in which people testified that it was only anthroposophy and its teacher who made life worth living for them once again. But in order for them to find anthroposophy there had to be a society in which such work was done.

Thus the Anthroposophical Society was a workshop in which an immense amount of work took place. Anthroposophy had a fertilizing influence in all areas of life, in the arts, the sciences, and also in practical endeavours. At the time of severe economic crisis, anthroposophists were frequently unable to realize the ideals which stood before them, but they were struggling against twice the odds. The people, however, who flocked to the Society and began to represent it to the outside when it was already established in the world in a representative way, were people moulded by our time rather than by corresponding to any ideal of anthroposophy, and thus many of them fell prey to the temptations and habits of the age. The young people, who were disappointed by what they experienced and failed to find in the organized youth movements, here discovered the answers to the questions which were puzzling them, and sought to realize their endeavours in the new community of Anthroposophia; but they also brought their habits into the Society, including some things which should have been overcome by them if they wanted to make a new start in anthroposophy. Thus the Anthroposophical Society cannot yet be a model institution; it remains a place of education. Do we not, however, need such places of schooling, in the wider context of mankind also, if we are to make progress towards a better future?

Whichever way we look at it, the Society is a necessity. It has to school itself and it has to provide the opportunity to be a place of education for mankind. The vital forces with which it has been imbued can achieve that if strong, capable and devoted people gather together within it who know that it is necessary to join together in order communally to serve mankind in the wider sense; that one must not isolate oneself for the sake of self-indulgence; who know that it would be ingratitude simply to accept passively the lifeline which has been thrown; who know that with it comes the obligation to pass it on to those others whose ship of life is in danger.