Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

From Beetroot to Buddhism
GA 353

The truly remarkable lectures — or, more accurately, question and answer sessions — contained in this book, form part of a series (published in eight volumes in the original German) dating from August 1922 to September 1924. This series features talks given to men involved in various kinds of building work on Rudolf Steiner's architectural masterpieces, the first and second Goetheanums. (The destruction by fire of the first Goetheanum necessitated the building of a replacement.) A vivid description of the different types of workers present, as well as the context and atmosphere of these talks, is given by a witness in the Appendix to this volume.

The sessions arose out of explanatory tours of the Goetheanum which one of Steiner's pupils, Dr Roman Boos, had offered. When this came to an end, and the workers still wished to know more about the 'temple' they were involved with and the philosophy behind it, Dr Steiner agreed to take part in question and answer sessions himself. These took place during the working day, after the mid-morning break. Apart from the workmen, only a few other people were present: those working in the building office, and some of Steiner's closest co-workers. The subject-matter of the talks was chosen by the workers at the encouragement of Rudolf Steiner, who took their questions and usually gave immediate answers.

Translated by A.R. Meuss FIL, MTA

I. Effect of cemetery atmosphere on people. How the ancient Indians, Egyptians, Babylonians and Jews saw life March 1, 1924
Lime and walnut trees balance out harmful effects of a cemetery. Constructive forces greater in people who live in forests, destructive forces in people living near cemeteries. Tendency to be accurate in one's thinking. Dead bodies as a harmful element in cemeteries. Craftiness of country folk increased by cemetery atmosphere. Atmosphere of grape vine another balancing factor. Scent of lime blossom and of walnut trees essentially vitalizes astral body, atmosphere of vine the I. Cemeteries outside towns. The water in an area acts particularly strongly on the ether body. Carbonated water balances out contaminated water from cemetery. Funeral rites. Gandhi. Baghdad railway. Indian caste system. Egypt ruled by priests. Secret of ancient Indian wisdom. Indians saw physical body in spiritual terms. Egyptian control of nature. Osiris, Typhon and Isis. Egyptians discovered the ether body as a spiritual entity. Egyptian mummies. Babylonian astrosophy. Babylonians discovered the astral body as a spiritual entity. The Jews wanted one invisible God only. They discovered the I as a spiritual entity, calling it Yahveh.
II. Aspects of human life that are not physical. Greek culture and Christianity March 5, 1924
Original significance of Shrovetide carnival and what has become of it. Non-physical aspects of fermenting wine; radio telegraphy and twins. Animals as prophets of natural disasters. Premonitions of dying. Influence one person has on another. Greek view of the natural world. Image of the human being in ancient civilizations. Mystery of Golgotha and its Graeco-Roman environment. Human beings come from the world of the spirit and return to it when they die. Jesus and the Christ. Ritual and teaching bound up with one another in the ancient mysteries. 'Fathers' and 'children', sons of gods and sons of man. What the Christ has brought into the world. Hidden similarities between languages.
III. Christianity coming into the world of antiquity and the mysteries March 8, 1924
Greek civilization in lower Italy. Romulus and the Roman robber state. Etruscans. Tacitus on Christ Jesus. Originally a feeling of freedom in Christianity. Christianity of the catacombs. Christianity combining with temporal rule and world rule. The mysteries with their seven stages of initiation: Raven, Occultist, Defender, Sphinx, Soul of a Nation, Sun Person and Father. The most important thing about Christ Jesus is that he is the sun truth and teaches the sun word. The death of the Christ was a repetition of something that had always been part of the mystery rites, but now shown before the whole world. Idea of the Sun Person and idea of the Father.
IV. Star wisdom, moon and sun religions March 12, 1924
Earth events depend on the whole world in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha. Ancient Jewish religion. Moon influences on human beings. The particular thinking of the Jews. Christ Jesus, twice-born, with sun nature, the Christ, entering into Jesus as a second individual. The monstrance. Jesus of Nazareth the last human being to gain the sun influence. Christianity as sun religion. The tremendous revolution of Christ Jesus who made manifest to all the world what had previously been under cover in the mysteries. Julian the Apostate. Henry II and his aim to have a non-Roman Catholic Church. The Crusades. About true Christianity. About monastic life not being popular with the old Church. The greatest idea in the Christian faith is that the sun's power has come to earth.
V. What did Europe look like at the time when Christianity spread? March 15, 1924
About the ancient Celtic population of Europe and the Asiatic tribes moving to the west. Tacitus and his Germania. The ancient Greeks saw the natural world, the people in the north the nature spirits; the Greeks built temples for their gods, the people in the north venerated their gods in the mountains and woods. Superficial Christianity spreading across Europe. Ulfila's Bible translation. The three main occupations of the ancient German tribes. The routes by which Christianity came to Europe and the form in which it was made known to the ancient German tribes. Origins of Romance and Germanic languages.
VI. The Trinity. Three forms of Christianity and Islam. The Crusades March 19, 1924
In eastern Christianity, which was the first form of Christianity, ritual was more important than teaching; Roman Christianity, the second form, retained the ritual but put more emphasis on teaching. Islam and its basic premise: There is only one God. The Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, with the Father God present everywhere in nature and the Son wherever human beings develop free will; the third figure being the Divine Spirit who hallows the will and makes it spiritual again. These three divine figures are one, however, and act as such in the human being. Fatalism of Islam. Charlemagne. Harun al-Rashid. The attitude of mind through which the ancient knowledge was preserved and developed came to Europe with Islam. Battles between Christians and Moslems. Pre-eminence of the Father God in eastern Christianity. The great division in the Church. Arab religion based on nature worship. The Turks' special way of looking at God became the Islamic view. The Crusades reflecting the struggle between Christianity and an Islam that had become Turkish. Ancient oriental knowledge brought back from the Crusades. The third form of Christianity, Protestantism, based on the impulse to know Christianity through the inner life. Luther and Huss. Getting to know the Gospels. True Christianity was no longer understood in any of the three forms it had taken.
VII. Past and more recent ideas of the Christ March 26, 1924
Christ the good shepherd. The man on the cross. The Christ as a spirit from beyond this world and the dogma of immaculate conception. Trichotomy as heresy in the Middle Ages. The Lamb of God. The monstrance. The Turkish half moon. Strife over the nature of the Eucharist. Thirty Years War. The principle of the spirit as the key element in the origin of Protestantism. Otfried's Gospel Harmony and the Heliand. Christianity before Christ. Materialism in the Churches.
VIII. Easter April 12, 1924
On reading with one's skin. Easter as a mobile feast. Metamorphosis of plants —three times expansion and contraction. Expansion under the influence of the sun, contraction under that of the moon. Easter originating in the ancient feast of Adonis which was celebrated in autumn. Efforts to get rid of the old truths. Constantine. Julian the Apostate. A more spiritual view of Easter. Dominion over human souls starting from Rome. All Souls as a day for the dead and Easter as the day of resurrection belong together. Easter, a festival to remember the resurrection and the immortality of the human soul. The earth as a living organism. Easter as victory of life over death.
IX. How scars develop. The mummy April 26, 1924
Healing of wounds and development of scars. It depends on the strength of the ether body whether a scar develops and remains. People who work in the open air have strong ether bodies. Blood poisoning due to weakness of the ether body. Smell of gall-nut ink. Using a typewriter. Poisoned air in tombs of mummies. About the time between two incarnations. Destructive powers brought to bear on old conditions of life. Why the Egyptians embalmed bodies. Tremendously many powers of destruction live in a mummy. Magic power of speech. Incantations said over the spices used in embalming and preparing the mummies. Mummies have properties hostile to life. Why it is so extraordinarily difficult to get at the tombs of the Pharaohs. The power of the Pharaohs of old.
X. Creating an astronomy based on the science of the spirit May 5, 1924
Rousseau's story of the toads. Helmont's experience with monkshood. Moon influence on the growth of plant roots. Effect of beetroot on intestinal parasites. Root diet. Powers of moon influencing reproduction and growth. Inner animal forces depending on sun. Thinking and the whole of our inner life depending on Saturn. Moon has relationship to plant aspect in humans, sun to animal aspect and Saturn to the part of us that is wholly human. Star wisdom of ancient Babylonians and Assyrians. All minerals have once been plants. Metals and planets. Ancient knowledge eradicated between the fifth and the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Commodus an 'initiate'. Parchments of Constantinople and what has become of them. Copernicus the father of modem astronomy. Copernicus' three theses. Svedberg and alchemy. How can we understand Paracelsus? Misery of science of today. Star wisdom needs to be combined with human wisdom.
XI. The Sephiroth Tree May 10, 1924
What the ancient Jews meant by the Sephiroth Tree. Powers of the world influence human beings from all sides. Ten powers (sephiroth) act from outside. Three shape the human head: kether (the crown), chokniah (wisdom) and binah (intelligence); three others act more on the middle human being: chesed (freedom), geburah (strength) and tiphereth (beauty); three more act on the lower human being: netsah (overcoming), hod (empathy) and jesod (the fundament on which the human being stands), and the tenth is the outside world of the earth influencing the human being: malkuth (the field). The Jews represented the world of the spirit through the ten sephiroth, which are a spiritual alphabet. Raymond Lully and supersensible perception. Spiritualist seances. About the alphabet.
XII. Kant, Schopenhauer and Eduard von Hartmann May 14, 1924
Study of Kant in his youth. How Kant saw the world. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Kant's 'thing in itself'. Kant maintained, on the basis of thought, that the thing as such cannot be known, and our whole world is made up of the impressions we gain of things. Schopenhauer following Kant. Consequences of Kant's teaching. Kant's transcendental deduction of space and time and his proof that human beings have transcendental apperception. Kant's strange statement: 'I had to let knowledge go to make room for faith.' Kant's Critique of Practical Reason and his teaching concerning belief in God, freedom and immortality. Kant bringing sickness to knowledge.
XIII. Comets and the solar system, the zodiac and the rest of the fixed stars May 17, 1924
Planets and fixed stars. Shooting stars and comets. Astronomical systems of Ptolemy and Copernicus. No absolute decision can be made on systems of the universe. Comets responsible for irregularities in movement or rest throughout the planetary system. Origin and end of comets. The whole planetary system, with the sun, rushing towards Hercules constellation (relative to apex). Comets replace substance that has been eliminated as useless from the planetary system. Earth gets its substances from the universe. Disintegration of comets. Good and bad wine years. Orbit of sun and moon through twelve signs of the zodiac. Influence of these on human beings and how they are covered up by the moon. Sun an empty space. Sun the lightest body in the universe, moon the most material. Sun and moon influences on human beings.
XIV. Moses. Decadent Atlantean civilization in Tibet. Dalai Lama. How can Europe spread its culture in Asia? British and Germans as colonial powers May 20, 1924
Moses and the Red Sea. Ancient Atlantean civilization continuing in decadent form in Tibet. Earliest form of architecture. Ruler principle and power of priesthood in Tibet. The Dalai Lama. Chinese culture. Europeans have not done anything so far to spread real life of culture in Asia. Alexander the Great taking Greek culture to Asia. British and Germans as colonial powers. Basic rule when taking one's culture to others is to respect their culture. Rudolf Steiner's way of looking at Nietzsche and Haeckel. How Buddhism spread. Sense of reality and feeling for true culture. Asians want images. Spengler's Decline of the West. Europeans must first achieve true culture of their own.
XV. Nature of the sun. Origins of Freemasonry. Sign, handshake and word. Ku Klux Klan June 4, 1924
Origin of sunbeams. Freemasonry today a mere shadow of what it once was. Ancient mysteries combined the functions of school, art and religious centre. Handshake, sign and word. Sanskrit. The original language. Language and speech is something by which we can recognize the whole person. Ritual taken up into Freemasonry. Roman Catholic Church and Freemasonry as great opponents. Aims of Freemasons. Extremely nationalistic association known as the Ku Klux Klan.
XVI. Man and the hierarchies. Ancient wisdom lost. The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity June 25, 1924
Man has all the realms of nature in him. He extends into the spiritual realms above him, with his thinking into the third, his feeling into the second and his will into the first hierarchy. Decline of ancient wisdom as human beings developed independence. Materialism the price humanity paid to gain independence. Questions on chapter 2 in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Kant's greatest error.