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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Esoteric Instructions
GA 270

First Lesson in Prague

3 April 1924, Prague

My dear Friends! The Anthroposophical Society having been founded in a new form during the recent Christmas Conference in Dornach, the teachings given in various groups of the former Anthroposophical Society are now intended to flow into what has since become the actual School of Spiritual Science. The school is intended to become a kind of center for the whole of the anthroposophical movement which is at work within the Anthroposophical Society. This School of Spiritual Science, due to the interrelationships of its most essential working groups, will certainly have its central point at the Goetheanum in Dornach, and efforts will be made naturally to seek and find ever-better formats not only within the Goetheanum, but also in extension for the friends of the anthroposophical movement all over the world who only occasionally can show up in person in Dornach. What I have to say to you during this lesson, as well as in the next esoteric lesson, must be considered to have been spoken to you, my dear friends, within the School of Spiritual Science. I want to begin, however, by mentioning a few matters concerning the constitution of the school.

Those who decide to become members of this School, after having been members of the Anthroposophical Society for two years, enter into an obliga¬tion, in the spiritual sense. When issuing a membership card for the School of Spiritual Science, the leadership of the school will always endeavor to ascertain whether the person in question is capable of taking on a spiritual obligation of this kind.

When a person becomes a member of the Anthroposophical Society, that person rightly expects to become acquainted with and to experience Anthroposophy. In a certain way they will get to know Anthroposophy. This is the very thing that has been made possible by the Christmas Foundation Conference at Dornach, for there is to be complete openness in this matter, and no particular obligations whatever will devolve upon members of the Anthroposophical Society.

Whoever enters the School of Spiritual Science as a member, however, must from then on keep in mind that the central aspect of this School of Spiritual Science is to be the source of anthroposophical life now and for some time in the future. Anthroposophical life is founded certainly on what for all times has been known as secret inner knowing or secret science. But the word secret was never intended to describe all kinds of goings on in secret circles that must not be made known to the world. Specifically, it was meant to describe what belongs not to the external surrounding world, not to what is outside the human body, but rather this use of the word secret has really always been used to explain that the content expressed in esoteric schools has its source and origin in the deeply hidden inner being of man himself. Therefore, in contradistinction, it has been called secret instead of public. Secret certainly has the meaning of the actuality of inner knowing, and it is counted as secret since it is the actuality of inner knowing in one’s profound depths, in a person’s secret inner being, which comes to the fore as revelation. What basically comes from one’s deepest inner nature loses its proper significance, its proper appreciation, indeed its proper proprietary nature, when it is profaned, when it is in some fashion bandied about in public. What always happens on the broad stage of public disclosure, you can be sure, is that these things will not be taken up with the necessary sincerity, with the necessary dignity.

It is, indeed, the first requirement laid upon those who approach esoteric schooling that they bring to it the deepest, the very deepest seriousness. This is how the School of Spiritual Science must be taken up, and this is why it requires its members to be truly genuine representatives of the anthroposophical world movement in every situation of their lives. This is the case to such an extent that the leadership of the school is obliged to exclude a member if in its opinion that member is not a representative in the right way.

This is not intended to be a tyrannical regulation, my dear friends. It is merely a regulation that arises out of the principle that freedom must be met with freedom. If the leadership of the school is to administer it in the proper manner it must be allowed to stipulate with whom it wishes to conduct the affairs and carry the content of the school. That is why it is necessary to emphasize the seriousness with which those approaching the school must truly grasp Anthroposophy as a world movement.

The school has been divided into Sections in order to meet the needs of those coming towards it, under the present circumstances of civilization, with the intention of carrying on their spiritual life within it. The teaching that I shall give during this session and the next should be seen as coming within the scope of the General Anthroposophical Section which, as well as the Education Section, I myself shall lead.

The School of Spiritual Science will then also have a section for the spoken arts with music and eurythmy which will be led by Frau Dr. Steiner, a section for medicine under the leadership of Frau Dr. Ita Wegman, and a section for the sculptural arts under the leadership of Miss Maryon. Further there will be a section for something to which scarcely any attention is paid these days, to the detriment of our whole civilization, and that is the section for the fine arts under the leadership of Herr Albert Steffen. There will also be a section for astronomy and everything connected with it under the leadership of Fraulein Dr. Vreede, and also a section for the natural sciences under the leadership of Dr. Wachsmuth.

Something else has also been established recently in response to a need, something about which little can be said as yet because it has been plunged into ferment, a fermenting element which the school intends to ensure will link itself in all honesty with the intentions of the Goetheanum. This is the section for promoting the spiritual life of young people, the section for the universal striving of today's youth, which is a part of the historical process. When observed objectively, it is perfectly clear that something new is coming into being here, although at present young people can only talk very unclearly about what it is they actually mean. To bring into clear consciousness what is for the moment still only expressed in all kinds of indeterminate feelings and the sense of something lacking, to gain a clear view of all this will be the aim of the section that I may call the section for the wisdom of youth.

In this way the School of Spiritual Science seeks to bring esoteric life to each individual as something that is an extension of today's external culture. It is something for which the world has the profoundest longing, without actually realizing that what it is seeking is the very thing that is to live in the esoteric life of our School of Spiritual Science.

We have absolutely no intention of imitating ordinary universities in any way by doing what they do in a somewhat different form. This was attempted during the period when various opinions, over which I exercised no influence, were given a free rein. It has been tried in Dornach, but from the beginning I regarded it as not being quite the correct way to go about things. Nevertheless, there is an obligation in this realm not to hinder whatever might want to break through into the light of day. But now that there has been a trial run, and people have realized that the goal cannot be reached along this route, there is no longer any need for our school in Dornach to give the impression that it wants to compete with what goes on at ordinary universities. Now our school can aim to give to humanity the very thing that ordinary education is unable to achieve; it can now become some¬thing for which human beings cannot help having the most profound longing.

This is how the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach intends to be the real esoteric center for what ought to live in the anthroposophical movement.

When I say that this school must be regarded with utmost seriousness, I immediately have to add that this very statement itself can never be taken seriously enough. So I want it to lead the way as we set out with our considerations. Those who regard the esoteric life flowing through this school merely as something that flows alongside their own life cannot be its members in the right and proper sense. Only those can be proper members of this school who are filled with truth in such a way that their life becomes intimately bound up with this spiritual life so that their whole life cannot but become intimately bound up with the esoteric teaching that flows to them from this school.

My dear friends, your assessment of this school will not be correct if you regard it as a product of arbitrary human intention. This school has been instituted by the spiritual world. It came into being through listening to what the spiritual powers who guide the world consider to be the right thing for human beings in our time.

So rather than regarding our school as a human institution, let us see in it an institution that has arisen totally out of the will of those spiritual beings who are close to the earth and who work for the welfare of mankind.

If you accept it as the earthly image of a spiritual institution you will be looking at it in the right way. Your feeling for it will be right if you take every word that is spoken within this school as being spoken by someone who is responsible to none but the spiritual powers who guide the anthroposophical movement. This school is an understanding between those spiritual powers whose authority is appropriate for the phase of evolution mankind has reached today and those human beings who seek to become members of the school.

It could be said, my dear friends, that you come face to face with the spiritual world when you become a member of this school. The more profoundly and intensely you grasp this, the more you will carry in you what the school must be, which is alone what gives it its true meaning. Those who know that the spirit itself speaks through this school will surely achieve the seriousness necessary for following with deep earnestness all that is carried on within the school.

What today we can only do in Dornach within this school will gradually be sent by suitable means to all those who have become members of the school, but meanwhile, we cannot take the fifth step after the third, but only after the fourth. As time goes on, step-by-step, intimate contact will be established between all the members, wherever they may be, and what flows through the school in Dornach.


As a beginning, my dear friends, let us turn to the very first thing that comes to meet someone who seriously sets out on the path to real inner awareness. Real inner awareness, my dear friends! We must be quite clear about the fact that the external world with which we are faced contains within it the task we have to fulfill during our physical life on earth between birth and death. We would be misunderstanding ourselves and also the gods entirely if we were to believe that we ought to bear contempt towards what comes to meet us as a task during our journey on earth between birth and death. Human beings must enter fully into the activity and work of the physical world. But what do they find there? They find beauty, magnitude, and majesty in all the wonderful formations of the mineral kingdom that also form the grounds we need in order to be capable of fulfilling our tasks on earth. They find majesty in the plant kingdom; they find what they need in the animal kingdom; and they find what is closest to them in the kingdom of physical human beings. They find all the things in the kingdoms of nature raised to a higher plane when they lift up their eyes to the clouds, to the blue sky or out to the stars, to the sun and the moon. Not to recognize beauty, magnitude, and majesty in all these things would cause human beings to stray from their true path in life.

To enter into the esoteric does not mean a repudiation of the beauty, greatness, and majesty of all that presents itself to us in life. But however far we enter into the mineral kingdom with all its wonderfully formed crystal shapes, however far we enter into the plant kingdom with all its sparkling colors from which the sunlight shines towards us out of nature, however far we go in contemplating the enchantment conjured up out of the depths of nature in the lively kingdom of the animals, and however much we marvel at the way the secrets of the world all meet in the physical human shape and form, nevertheless, all that we experience in the depths of our inner being we do not find in these realms of form and color, nor do we find it in these kingdoms of the world in all their sparkling, bubbling life. In the end the human being stands in this world and says, “I sense the magnitude, the beauty, and the majesty of all the forms taking shape and the colors unfolding out there, but whatever it is that I myself am must have its origin in another world.”

When the human being feels the beauty, magnitude, and majesty of the physical-sensory world and feels that he cannot find there the best of what he himself is, then he will be drawn more and more toward that place, where specifically all esoteric insight must come from. He will be drawn toward that abyss, only on the other side of which lies what a person can have of his ancient stand, his ancient source, his ancient wellspring. 1seinen Urstand, Ursprung, Urquell He will be drawn to that abyss, where he certainly must gaze on the boundary between the sensory world and the spiritual world; he will be drawn to that abyss, to what is meant for him as a bridge for crossing over into a wholly other world, to the exit point, to the threshold of inner awareness, and only to where the spiritual world lies.

Moreover, specifically what I have to impart to you my dear friends, are the communications of the gestalt that in the esoteric has always been identified as the Guardian of the Threshold. There stands this exalted gestalt, a being, you will learn, from whom entry is obtained, a being that certainly is not less real than a physical person upon the earth, but who far surpasses the reality of the physical human being on earth.

But whoever initially merely in grappling with and feeling into the esoteric, with human nature unencumbered by prejudice, allows the communications to come forth, such a person must then feel how this Guardian of the Threshold stands there, exhorting, admonishing concerning what the seeker after actual inner awareness should experience, when he really does step into the actuality of inner awareness.

Why does the Guardian of the Threshold stand there? He stands there because true awareness can only be achieved when we approach rightfully and well-prepared, with a fully internalized open-minded demeanor and a true striving for the actuality of inner awareness. There is nothing theoretical about truly striving for actually awareness. A true striving for actually knowing is only achieved if the soul raises itself above everything offered by the sense-perceptible world.

Those who approach this actuality of knowing too soon, unprepared and without the proper demeanor, will not achieve it in the right manner. They will harm both themselves and the world. A true striving for actual knowing is present to a high degree in those who seek a real path into the spiritual world, such as that which will gradually be opened up by the three classes of the School of Spiritual Science. This is also the case, though more on the level of the soul, for those who merely want to receive information about the spiritual world. There must be at least a glimmer of what the initiate experiences on meeting the Guardian of the Threshold.

It is about this experience that we will now speak. Those who receive these impartations and allow them to work on their souls with fitting earnestness will find, by again and again going over and practicing what they hear, by inwardly experiencing what they hear, the path that in reality leads them across this threshold and into the spiritual world. So now, my dear friends, let us bring before our souls what it is that the voice of the earnest Guardian of the Threshold makes us aware of, if we would jump over from the semblance of knowledge on this side of the world to the true inner knowing on the other side.

There he stands with his admonishing gaze. There he speaks about the world of the senses’ beauty and grandeur and sublimity. There he also speaks about the person not being able to find in this beautiful, this grand, this majestic world what he recognizes as his fullest worth, his unique individuality. There this Guardian of the Threshold draws our attention across over the abyss looming to the left and to the right of the Threshold, there he draws our attention across into another realm, into the realm of spirit. There however deepest darkness rules initially. The person must acquire the notion that what there bestirs itself in him only as deepest darkness through the impressions of the sensory world, that there lies the ancient wellspring, the ancient source, and the ancient stance of his own intrinsic essence.

The Guardian of the Threshold says something like this, translated from the spirit language he speaks, when a person approaches his earnest countenance:

Where on grounds of earth, color upon color,
Life stirring reveals itself,
Where out of stuff of earth, form on form,
All without life takes shape,
Where feeling creatures, strong in will,
Delight in the warm glow of their existence,
Where you yourself, O Man, derive
Bodily existence from earth and air and light:

There you enter your own being’s
Deep, night-bedecked, cold inner darkness;
You’d ask within the dark expanse
Never, who you are, and were, and will become.
For your true existence, the day dims
To the night of the soul, to darkness of spirit;
And you turn yourself, soul-searching,
Unto the light, that from darknesses strengthens,

And from darknesses clarifies itself
(Revealing you in counterpart,
Yet also portraying you as parable,
Earnest spirit-word in ethereal realm,
Audible to your heart, forcefully effective),

The bringer of spirit-premonitions to you,
He who alone can illuminate your way;
Before him spread the sensory fields,
Behind him yawns the deep abyss.
And from his fields spirit dark,
Hard by the yawning chasm of existence,
Rings forth the ancient might of his creator-word:
See, I am the only door to inner knowing.

My dear friends, after the Guardian of the Threshold has drawn the seeker's attention to the tremendous contrast that exists between what our eyes can see in the realm of the senses before we encounter the Guardian, and what we can surmise from the dark recesses that lie on the other side of the threshold, in which the source and origin of our own being can be sought, he then allows the seeker to glimpse what awaits him when he makes himself capable of living within the light that must first brighten up and clarify itself out of the darknesses from that side of the abyss.

Then a second word resounds from the Guardian of the Threshold, which I will write down and bring with me next time. This second word now indicates what the seeker must expect when he has crossed the threshold and formed within his own inner being, now lit up, an organ with which he can leave the darkness and approach what the Guardian of the Threshold says at this moment:

From the wide expanse of the beings of space
Who in the light experience existence,
From the onward tread of the course of time
Which in creating finds itself expressed,
From the depths of the feeling heart,
Where in one's self the world is born anew:

There sounds in speech filled with soul,
There shines in thoughts filled with spirit,
The from godly healing forces
In world shaping powers
Welling working word of existence-awareness:
O Man, know yourself!

The Guardian draws attention to the wide expanse of existence-awareness where being is experienced in light, and to another expanse of existence-awareness, where in time's onward march, the powers of creation hold sway from epoch to epoch. Then attention is drawn to the depths of the intrinsically human heart-sensitivity, where the whole world is revealed as though in a mirror. By drawing attention to these three worlds, the world of space, the world of time, and the world of the heart's depths, there can resound from the world shaping powers the eternal admonishing word of existence-awareness, “O man, know yourself!” 2O, du Mensch, erkenne dich selbst. This is in the second person singular familiar, spoken as to a close and dearly-loved family member. Mensch here translates as adult individual responsible human being. The word Mann is a perfectly good German word, but is not used here.

After this the person must be shown his inner nature. But the inner nature of a person is not only within the person’s inner nature; the human inner nature in all the world. What we carry in our inner nature directly comes forth and takes shape in the external world ether. Oh, the most secret thoughts, most secrete feelings and desires and stirrings of will, they come forth at the same time in the world ether and take on fully-formed shapes, so that in the external world we see in the shapes, in fully-formed creatures, just what we most certainly are.

Also added to the observation of what we really are, there resounds then the voice of the Guardian of the Threshold, making clear to us in this manner who we are. Why is the abyss really there, this abyss that stretches between the sensory world and the spirit world? The abyss is there that out of it rise those forces of our inner nature that will not allow us to cross over the threshold. Such forces are there in our inner nature. They would stop us, hold us back, not allow us to come to true inner awareness across the Threshold. Such forces are there in our thinking; such forces are there in our feeling; such forces are there in our willing.

When we merely have an inkling of them, they are formless. 3hindernden und hemmenden When we observe them, behold them, these hindering and hemming-in powers in our thinking, feeling, and willing that register themselves in the world-ether, then they appear as malformed animals. And certainly, nobody knows himself who cannot observe them in this significant form as malformed animals, which the person out of his own inner nature draws out and sees as hinderances, impediments for transitioning across the Threshold. The moment eventually must come in life, in which the person places before his eyes the images that live as hindering powers in his thinking, feeling, and willing. We must not allow ourselves to give in to any illusions about this. In ordinary consciousness one is not normally aware of what a person is, and one does not take seriously what a person is. In picture-form, in truthful-form the Guardian of the Threshold brings this to the person’s awareness.

These are the words with which he clarifies how the forms are, how they come to be engraved in the etheric through the counter-striving forms in our willing, feeling, and thinking. A person must someday shudder before these forms that he inscribes in the world ether, and then he will begin to feel just what he has to overcome in order to penetrate to true inner awareness.

The Guardian of the Threshold speaks, clarifying the nature of the beasts that rise up as forms in human thinking, feeling, and willing:

Yet you must beware the abyss;
Lest your beasts within devour
You, if in heedless haste you pass me by;
They are in you throughout this age of man,
As foes of knowing placed within.

Behold the first beast, the crooked back,
The bone-locked head, the withered body,
Dull blunt blue is its skin;
Your fear of spirit-creator-being
Produced this monster in your willing;
Your courage of knowing alone overwhelms it.

Behold the second beast, it bares its teeth,
Contorts its face, and lies in scornful mockery,
Yellow with grayish cast is its body;
Your hatred of spirit-revelation
Produced this weakling in your feeling;
In your fire of knowing it must be tamed.

Behold the third beast, with long-split mouth,
Glazed eye, and slouching attitude,
Dirty red its form appears to you;
Your doubt in spirit-light-dominion
Produced this specter, this ghost in your thinking;
The work of knowing must weaken it.

Only when you subdue the three,
Will wings of your soul grow,
To soar across the deep abyss
That severs you from fields of knowing,
For which your yearning heart,
Healing-seeking, would hallow itself.

Only when a person in a shudder has beheld the images of the counter-striving powers in thinking, only then by beholding these negatives within, only then will a person acquire the strength to enter the true field of inner awareness. If a person does not have the will to observe in himself in the images of the three beasts, living there as the fear of knowing, as hatred of knowing, and as doubts about knowing, such a person will not come to inwardly knowing himself. He will not come to inwardly knowing the world, whoever hesitates there, shuddering in this manner to gaze upon himself.

So come into being by impressing once again the threefold beasts placed before you, before your souls, my brothers and sisters, as the Guardian speaks in clarification:

Yet you must beware the abyss;
Lest your beasts within devour
You, if in heedless haste you pass me by;
They are in you throughout this age of man,
As foes of knowing placed within.

Behold the first beast, the crooked back,
The bone-locked head, the withered body,
Dull blunt blue is its skin;
Your fear of spirit-creator-being
Produced this monster in your willing;
Your courage of knowing alone overwhelms it.

Behold the second beast, it bares its teeth,
Contorts its face, and lies in scornful mockery,
Yellow with grayish cast is its body;
Your hatred of spirit-revelation
Produced this weakling in your feeling;
In your fire of knowing it must be tamed.

Behold the third beast, with long-split mouth,
Glazed eye, and slouching attitude,
Dirty red its form appears to you;
Your doubt in spirit-light-dominion
Produced this specter, this ghost in your thinking;
The work of knowing must weaken it.

Only when you subdue the three,
Will wings of your soul grow,
To soar across the deep abyss
That severs you from fields of knowing,
For which your yearning heart,
Healing-seeking, would hallow itself.

How the person gets these wings, how the person finds the strength to subdue these three, will be the content of the next lesson, on Saturday at five o'clock.

When these words in such a descriptive-solemn way have been presented to the person concerning his awareness of himself, when they have rung forth, then once again will attention be drawn, as in a perspective, to what stands there expectantly, in order to fulfill the word, “O Man, know yourself!” The first part, however, can only be completed by observing the beast’s three forms, which is the additional content of the next lesson.

Then, once again, the Guardian of the Threshold calls out:

From the wide expanse of the beings of space
Who in the light experience existence,
From the onward tread of the course of time
Which in creating finds itself expressed,
From the depths of the feeling heart,
Where in one's self the world is born anew:

There sounds in speech filled with soul,
There shines in thoughts filled with spirit,
The from godly healing forces
In world shaping powers
Welling working word of existence-awareness:
O Man, know yourself!