In Memory of Rudolf Steiner
by Marie Steiner
We are commemorating this month the thirtieth anniversary of the day on which it was Rudolf Steiner's destiny to take upon himself the burden of the leadership of a Society; to assume, in addition to his work in Spiritual Science, the care of educating free personalities up to a high moral ideal, to a living understanding and grasp of Art and to a more comprehensive consciousness of what is meant by human duty and human service. Through many tempests and rocks had the ship of a society to be steered, whose aim was to be the bearer of a Theosophy adapted to the present and to the future development of mankind; one comprehending the tasks and aims of the West with as alert an understanding of the sublimity of the ancient wisdom, and one in which a recognition could arise of the central significance of the Christian impulse. Years of tireless building up of such an understanding followed this day of inauguration. For the activities of the orientalising Theosophical Society had not awakened a feeling for the task of the present and the coming times. One contented oneself with a wondering gaze into the past, without reckoning with the forces of the present and the changes which humanity has undergone since then and which have had to contribute to its progress. The dogmatic clinging to the Ancient Wisdom newly proclaimed by Blavatsky, but not sufficiently understood, was the reason in the first place for Rudolf Steiner taking up an attitude of reserve. It was not until certain seekers in the Theosophical sphere, who could not on that path find by themselves the solution of the riddles crowding upon them, formulated the precise question as to whether East and West and Christianity did not meet in Theosophy in such a way that an organic development, a chain of cause and effect resulted as consequence, and the deed of Christ be thereby illuminated in a way that satisfied the deeper knowledge of the heart — it was not till then that Rudolf Steiner saw the possibility of acceding to the invitation of such persons and of working with them. This desire, this longing, had first to be brought to him. That made possible for him the task which he formulated in a definite way as the impulse which Western Christian Esotericism had to give to orientalising Theosophy. It would be infinitely enriched by this impulse. Nevertheless, many people, as we know, are not pleased by an enrichment of knowledge.
The less pretentious name of “Anthroposophy” was chosen for this uniting in knowledge of East and West and of Microcosm and Macrocosm, for this path to Ego-consciousness. It was dictated by a feeling of modesty and chosen because the path of knowledge from man to the godhead leads from self knowledge to cosmic knowledge, and it gave a definite characterisation to the new impulse. “Anthroposophy is a way of knowledge which can lead the spiritual in man to the spiritual in the universe.”
The immeasurable richness of thought, the superabundance of spiritual wealth which have been bestowed upon us by Rudolf Steiner in his lectures often make it difficult to bring series of lectures into a single category and to frame them into a narrow definition. They are concentrated sources of energy from which the sparks scatter in all directions, lighting up near and far, plunging into primal beginnings, deeper even than time and space, then again lifting out precise details which sometimes may appear insignificant and yet have symptomatic importance and the power of a new light. From the whole accumulated dynamic force of such details something arises like the stern law of fate, pregnant with storm, yet with purifying fire. We recognise the deeper sense in the play of forces which preceded our present troubled times and which discharged itself in the world-war and after it in unheard of disturbances, that will continue to do so in the near future. We understand why it had to come, what faults must be atoned for, which is demanded of us. An historical picture of immense impressiveness rises up before us from this precise configuration of details otherwise overlooked and from the mighty cosmic-human background against which human happenings stand out in relief.
These perspectives, plunging into cosmic archetypal history and the hoary antiquity of human history, but which illumine our present time with brightest light, appear with special force in those lectures spoken to members of the Anthroposophical Society which with certain interruptions but in constantly recurring rhythms, were held in the places where Rudolf Steiner had his permanent home, in Berlin and Dornach, although broken into by many journeys. The consciousness of at least a small group of persons had to be awakened through these lectures to the immense significance of the moment in which we lived before the outbreak of the world-war and are still now living. Earnest, impressive and linking up all the details of life in his proofs, Rudolf Steiner spoke to us as .the voice of destiny itself, as the newly aroused human conscience. And then, when from without, all the supports believed to be so firm tottered before the eyes of the multitude, when unfettered instincts recoiled upon one another in elemental force, he it was who ever sought to form saving, upbuilding thoughts without which chaos cannot be overcome. Although humanity was too unripe to hear his voice, nevertheless as far as was possible, a light had to be carried into the chaos, even though by a small — unripe to be sure — but willing group of people. And the attempt had to be ventured of penetrating here and there into practical affairs. The self-styled practical realities of to-day scornfully repulsed with all their merciless weapons of sabotage anything that to them seemed strange and that spoke of spiritual worlds. Nevertheless, as we know, living thought has the power to outlast the moment and to rise again in new forms. It is its duty to work even without expectation of results; the question at issue is the rescue of mankind. In its purity it must find a way to the souls gradually awakening in the course of time through tests and trials. Out of the very practice of life and understanding from which his spiritual vision never desired to withdraw, Rudolf Steiner created a science of knowledge which comprehended all domains of life and with energetic, creative impulses can penetrate the most varied realms of science and art, of world-concept and religious activity.
To participate in all this was, and still is, a feeling of higher life, a breathing of a strengthening, healing air, purified by snow and vivified by the rays of the sun. One draws a deep breath when one enters this region of higher reality, of cosmically conditioned actualities which pour into human life, lending it meaning and even now shaping the future image of man's destiny by the strengthening of a consciousness which makes him able to grasp in thought ever higher and higher spheres of being.
We have been bequeathed spiritual treasures whose light affrights us and by which we can see how the dark age, the Kaliyuga, has been broken in its power and overcome through their existence. We have indeed the darkness still within us, yet the light is there. And it dare not be withheld, even from a darkened humanity.
The light given to us by Rudolf Steiner in the new revelation of the Christ Impulse, this light, for which a new form of human consciousness had to be moulded and into which it can pour itself, will bring to mankind the spiritual re-awakening by which alone salvation will be possible.
No longer do the forces of the Sentient Soul suffice for the overcoming of those obstacles which the age of rationalism has brought, nor yet the most ardent, the most holy glow of feeling known to the Middle Ages, such as the saints and mystics have experienced who trod the path of Christian Initiation.
But wise Providence and the leaders of mankind opened, even before the beginning of the new age, a second path of Christian Initiation which was gradually to prepare souls for the demands of a later future.
This path, the Christian-Rosicrucian, makes a call above all on the forces of the Consciousness Soul. It was therefore also its task to strengthen man within his personality, to let him feel fully the significance of the one life. Through study, through Imagination and Contemplation it led men out into the Macrocosm, which they discovered again in themselves as reflection.
But the full meaning of the forces of the personality, which could gradually lead the Ego to the conscious grasp of the spirit, made it necessary to conceal for a time the knowledge of repeated earth lives from that portion of humanity which had to develop the forces of personality.
What is needed by the new age opening at this time is not the return of the past through taking up again the path of Yoga, nor yet the Christian-Gnostic or Rosicrucian paths in the form they bore when ministering to the development of those of a bygone time. In conformity with the demands of a new age a new impulse must be given to the Rosicrucian, the sternest path of knowledge, which in its true nature has nothing to do with all the charlatanry which has usurped its name. And that impulse is the unveiling of the great truths of Reincarnation and Karma.
Rosicrucianism has deliberately concealed these truths. It has maintained silence about them up to the time when Rudolf Steiner assumed the task of proclaiming them. But it has worked so that in the course of centuries these truths lit up the consciousness of European minds as the result of severe trains of thought, as a consequence of keen intellectual thinking. It is a matter of deep concern to the whole of humanity, one through which the history of human development acquires its true sense and meaning. It is no more the affair of a single being whose aim is the deliverance from the wheel of rebirth, as in Buddhism. For this we need only point to Goethe and Lessing.
The rescue of the individuality, progressing through repeated earth lives and perfected by them, the rebirth of the divine Ego in man is the deed of the Christ, and this deed Rudolf Steiner has ever and again brought before our gaze with the stupendous powers of knowledge that stood at his command.
When Rudolf Steiner after long hesitation had decided to accede to the petition of the German Theosophists and become the leader of their work, he could do so because the Theosophical Society regarded it as its task to enter the world as advocate of the doctrine of Reincarnation and Karma. The lectures by reason of which he was invited to become the leader of this movement in Germany were those upon “Mystics of the Renaissance and their relation to the modern World-Concept,” and upon “Christianity as a Mystical Fact.” The impulse which he had to bring to the movement was thus clearly denoted and an absolute freedom of teaching was secured to him. He himself acted in the spirit of the true occultists of all times who link on to the existing spiritual endowment in order to keep it alive and carry it further in the line of progress. He could still hope through the new impulse to rescue the Theosophical Society from dogmatic rigidness, to bring it fresh forces and awaken the understanding which was lacking for the mysteries of Christianity.
Without haste, adding slowly building-stone to building-stone, he worked at the foundations for this understanding. A consciousness which considered and pondered and put to the test was to be developed in the hearers. Therefore he began by using their accustomed terminology, gradually widening the understanding of things and making ideas living until those designations could be used that were adapted to a more active form of consciousness and to the modern spirit. When the basis had been formed, wider perspectives could be opened from which a new light broke forth, making clear in words never heard before the mission of the earth and our task as humanity.
Each one of the lecture series given by Rudolf Steiner is of immense importance for those coming newly into Spiritual Science, especially when taken in their chronological sequence, for only then can they fully experience the living organic power of his thought. And even remarks here and there upon the daily events of those times, which already lie far behind, are of such a high moral force and educational value as to give them an abiding significance. A strong attitude of dissent had to be taken against the policy of clouding objective truth and the undermining of the Theosophical Society through party diplomacy and the play of personal ambitions. Perhaps the present day reader does not always understand what is meant by such remarks. In the main it points to the deplorable action, perpetrated by the setting up of a World-Saviour appearing in the flesh, to whom was even given the name of the Christ. The Indian boy Krishnamurti, was chosen for this role, the “Star of the East” was founded with enormous publicity and the Theosophical Society was supposed to serve the hidden aims of this policy. With such coarse methods it was hoped to win the souls who had opened themselves to the interpretation of Christian, esotericism through Rudolf Steiner. An attack with all the weapons of calumny was meanwhile opened against him. The International Theosophical Congress, which was to have been held in Genoa in 1911, and for which two lectures from Rudolf Steiner upon “Buddha in the Twentieth Century” and “Christ in the Twentieth Century” had been announced, were cancelled at the last minute without sufficient reason, but with the evident hope of hindering the effect of Rudolf Steiner's words. These events, too — quite incomprehensible to many people — had several times to be referred to in the lectures of that year.
It had become necessary to emphasise with great earnestness that one could have nothing to do with methods that dragged down the level of the Theosophical Society in so regrettable a manner. Words to this effect were uttered by Dr. Steiner with intense pain but great energy; and deeply moved, putting his whole heart into the words, he reiterated as the desire of his life that the Society led by him might not fall into the common failing into which occult bodies so easily fall, when they let themselves be diverted from the demands of strict truth and are enticed into the byways of vanity and ambition.
Such words can live as purifying fire in the hearts of those who represent his work and be continuously set before the soul as a warning memory.
The lectures held in Berlin in the year 1912 refer many times to the struggle which Rudolf Steiner had to undergo in order to save the purity of the spirit of a movement for spiritual science, which is always exposed to concealed attacks. The decay of the Theosophical Society now brought forth as a consequence the independence of the Mid-European Anthroposophical work, in its outward form as well, by the official constitution of the “Anthroposophical Union” in the last days of December, 1912.
The passing years with their rhythms cause such days to rise again before the memory with particular intensity.
Thirty years ago, on the 20th October, 1902, Rudolf Steiner held in Berlin his first lecture on Anthroposophy, and on 21st October he recapitulated the theosophical lecture of Annie Besant, who at that time was not yet under the unwholesome influences that worked on her later. Twenty years ago Rudolf Steiner had to protect the spirit of the anthroposophically orientated spiritual movement inaugurated by him from the sudden assault of an occult policy from Adyar and utter the words which sound to us as a legacy and are now published anew in memory of those days.
They are to be found in the last December lecture of that same year in Cologne where Rudolf Steiner speaking on “The Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul” made pure oriental wisdom to radiate before our eyes in the light of Christian knowledge in never dreamed of greatness. In his final words he ever and again earnestly besought the bearers of the movement which he had founded to exercise self-knowledge and to remain modest.
The powers of opposition did not slumber. Ten years ago on New Year's Eve, 1922, the Goetheanum stood in flames. Only the sculptured group in wood of the Representative of Humanity between the recoiling adversaries was saved. We hope that at Christmas a hall in the Goetheanum worthy of it will enclose this Group protectingly.
In lectures during 1912 a description of the Christ figure was given to us in artistic and picturesque intensity, at a time when even the thought of the possibility of its plastic realisation had not yet been conceived. What we can now look at in a work of art, was conjured up before us by the power of the words: “Yes, this outward plastic representation of the Christ — how He should be pictured outwardly is a question which has still to be solved.” Many feelings will have to flow through human souls before there can be added something new to the many attempts already made in the course of the ages, an attempt which will show in some measure what the Christ is, as the supersensible Impulse which is making itself one with this earthly development. Not even the first beginnings of such a representation of the Christ are to be found in what has been accomplished up till now. For there must appear, embodied in the growing outward form, the organic forces of the impulses of Wonder, of Compassion, and of Conscience gathered there.
The Christ-countenance must be so living that its very expression will say: Here in this representation, all that makes man an earth-man, all that has to do with sense desire, has been overcome by the Spirit shining through — by what has spiritualised this face. There must be sublime strength in the face, brought out by causing everything that one can think of as the highest unfolding of conscience to manifest itself in the peculiar form of the chin and mouth ; a mouth, it must be — when one stands before it, when the painter or the sculptor wishes to form it — which gives one the feeling that it is not there to eat with but for the purpose of expressing all that has ever been cultivated in humanity as morality and conscience; and that the whole bony system, the teeth, and the lower jaw, give expression to the same. All this will come to expression in such a countenance. There will be so mighty a force in the form of the lower part of the face that it streams forth, renders and tears to pieces the whole remaining human body, till this in time will become a new form and thereby certain ether forces will be overcome. Thus it will be quite impossible to give to the Christ, who reveals a mouth like this a bodily form in any way similar to that of the physical man of to-day.
On the other hand, one will have to give Him eyes out of which there will speak an almighty compassion, such as alone is capable of seeing inner Being and not eyes which are there to receive impressions, but rather in order to go out, with the whole soul into the joys and sufferings of others.
Moreover, this Christ will have a forehead which one could not imagine as harbouring thoughts on sense impressions of earth. It will be a brow that projects somewhat over the eyes, vaulting over that part of the brain; yet, at the same time, it will not be a “thinker's brow” that ponders over what already exists, but rather Wonder will have to express itself from this brow that projects above the eyes and gently arches back over the head, thus expressing what may be called Wonder over the Mysteries of the World. That must be a head such as man cannot meet with in physical humanity.
Every portrayal of the Christ should really be something like the Ideal of the Christ-figure. And the feeling which aspires towards this ideal whenever in the course of evolution man struggles to achieve it — in so far as humanity strives artistically to present this Highest Ideal, through the help of Spiritual Science, must there be this feeling: You may not look to something which already exists, if you wish to portray “the Christ”; rather, you must cause to become a power, active in yourself to permeate your whole being, everything that you can achieve through spiritual absorption in the spiritual course of the world, through the three momentous impulses — Wonder, Compassion, and Conscience.
Many admirers of that sculptured Group have desired to have reproductions of it. They will find them in the work which will appear before Christmas and which will contain in 105 reproductions the architectural and sculptural motives of the burnt building, the reproductions of the Christ Group and the cupola paintings.
Through the appearance of the lecture series of 1911–1912 — “Evolution from the Aspect of the Realities,” “Earthly and Cosmic Man,” “The Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul” — we have endeavoured to bring important yearly rhythms of Rudolf Steiner's activity into the life of to-day.