During the re-founding of the Anthroposophical Society at Christmas 1923, Rudolf Steiner also reconstituted the “Esoteric School” which had originally functioned in Germany from 1904 until 1914, when the outset of the First World War made its continuance impossible.
However, the original school was only for a relatively few selected individuals, whereas the new school was incorporated into the School for Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.
Rudolf Steiner was only able to give nineteen lessons — plus seven “recapitulation” lessons — for the First Class before his illness and death. His intention had been to develop three classes. After his death, the Anthroposophical Society's Executive Council was faced with the dilemma of what to do about the Esoteric School — to try to continue it without Rudolf Steiner, or not. He had not designated a successor. And what to do with the stenographic records of the Class lectures.
Rudolf Steiner had always insisted that the lectures were not to be published. In fact, the members of the School were only permitted to copy the mantra — and not the text of the lectures — for their own personal contemplation. The dilemma was further complicated by the dispute between Marie Steiner — Rudolf Steiner's legal heir — and the rest of the Executive council, which claimed all of Steiner's lectures for the Society. (The dispute was eventually settled by the Swiss courts in favor of Mrs. Steiner.)
The Anthroposophical Society was permitted to hand out manuscripts of the lectures to its so-called designated “readers,” who read each lecture to the members of the school in their particular area or country. This system is still practiced.
Marie Steiner wrote:
“How can we preserve the treasure with which we have been entrusted? Not by hiding it away, thereby simply giving our enemies the opportunity to do with it what they will, but by trusting in the good spiritual powers and thereby giving new generations the possibility of receiving a stimulus in their souls that will kindle the spiritual light slumbering there, a light that will awaken in their souls what the powers of destiny have sown in them.”
Marie Steiner, letter of January 4, 1948
The lectures were published in German in manuscript book form in 1977 by the Rudolf Steiner Estate (Nachlassverwaltung — Marie Steiner's legal successor) in a limited edition and sold only upon written request to anthroposophists.
However, pirated editions containing errors and falsifications occurred to the extent that the Rudolf Steiner Estate decided to make the printed volumes in German generally available in 1992.
The Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain published the lectures in English translation in 1994.
Frank Thomas Smith — Editor, Southern Cross Review