Rudolf Steiner was born in 1861 in Lower Austria, being the son of a railway stationmaster near the Hungarian frontier. After a brilliant career at Vienna University he took his Doctor's degree at Rostock, and attracted attention by a book now translated into English under the title of The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. The very name of this book gives the keynote to his work and character.
While still young he was appointed officially to the State Library at Weimar, in order to edit the scientific works of Goethe. He is an acknowledged expert on the writings of that great man, and in later years built the first Goetheanum at Dornach, near Basle in Switzerland, a marvellous structure which he named in honour of Goethe. The building was destroyed by fire and later replaced by a second.
From the summer of 1922 until the early autumn of 1924, Dr. Steiner spoke regularly — often several times a week — to the workmen employed at this first Goetheanum. He encouraged them to bring questions to him on any subject they liked and the Lectures to Workmen, as they are called, consist largely of the answers he gave. On these occasions Dr. Steiner spoke very informally to his listeners, with a simple directness which it is almost impossible to recapture in another language. Nevertheless in view of the wealth of information contained in these lectures on so many different, fascinating subjects, translations of a certain number of them are being attempted, in order that they may be available for English readers exactly in the form in which they were delivered.
The series of lectures chosen for publication (the present volume being the second) deal with the religious life and ideas of ancient peoples and the significance of the new impulse given by Christianity. Lecture on other subjects will follow.
Rudolf Steiner died early in 1925, and in the last ten years of his life he did much to show the application of Spiritual Science in spheres of practical life. To his teaching he gave the name Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science; he himself defined it as “a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in Man to the spiritual in the Universe.”