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The Relation of the Movement for Religious Renewal to the Anthroposophical Movement

The Spiritual Communion of Mankind

By Rudolf Steiner

GA 219

A lecture delivered in Dornach, Switzerland, on December 30th, 1922. Authorized translation from the German of Notes unrevised by the lecturer.

Lecture 11 of 12 from the lecture series: The Relationship of the Starry World to Humans and of Humans to the Starry World, also known as: Man and the World of Stars, and The Spiritual Communion of Mankind. Published in German as: Die Verhaeltnis der Sternenwelt zum Menschen und des Menschen zur Sternenwelt. Die Geistige Kommunion des Menschheit. GA# 219.

Copyright © 1963
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The Spiritual Communion of Mankind
Published in Man and the World of the Stars 1963

Lecture IV

The Relation of the Movement for Religious Renewal to the Anthroposophical Movement.

Dornach, December 30, 1922

I HAVE often said in this place that in more ancient times in the evolution of humanity, science, art, and religion formed a harmonious unity. Anyone who is able in one way or another to gain knowledge of the nature of the ancient Mysteries knows that within these Mysteries, knowledge was sought as a revelation of the Spiritual in picture form, in the way that was possible in those times. That way can no longer be ours, although in this age we must again advance to a knowledge of the spiritual nature of the world. A pictorial knowledge of the Spiritual lay at the foundation of all ancient conceptions of the world. This knowledge came to direct expression, not merely by being communicated in words, but through forms which have gradually become those of our arts — bodily, plastic presentation in the plastic arts and presentation by means of tone and word in the arts of music and speech. But this second stage was followed by the third stage, that of the revelation of the nature of the world in religious cult or ritual, a revelation through which the whole man felt himself uplifted to the divine-spiritual ground of the world, not merely in thought, nor merely in feeling as happens through art, but in such a way that thoughts, feelings and also the inmost impulses of the will surrendered themselves in reverent devotion to this divine-spiritual principle. And the sacred acts and rites were the means whereby the external actions of man’s will were to be filled with spirit. Men felt the living unity in science (as it was then conceived), art, and religion. The ideal of the spiritual life of the present day must be, once more to gain knowledge that can bring to realization what Goethe already divined: a knowledge that raises itself to art, not symbolical or allegorical art, but true art — which means creative, formative activity in tones and in words — an art which also deepens into direct religious experience.

Only when anthroposophical Spiritual Science is seen to contain this impulse within it, is its true being understood. Obviously humanity will have to take many steps in spiritual development before such an ideal can be realized. But it is just the patient devotion to the taking of these steps which must bring blessing to the Anthroposophical Movement.

Now I should like, in the series of lectures now being given, to speak from one particular aspect on this impulse in the Anthroposophical Movement to which reference has just been made. Perhaps, my dear friends, at the close of what I have to say, you will understand what is really the deeper cause of my words. Let me say in the first place that already for a long time now the Anthroposophical Movement has not coincided with the Anthroposophical Society, but that the Anthroposophical Society, if it would fulfill its task, must really carry the whole impulse of the Anthroposophical Movement. The Anthroposophical Movement has laid hold of wider circles than merely the Anthroposophical Society. Hence it has come about that in more recent years the way of working had necessarily to be different for the Anthroposophical Movement from what it was when the Anthroposophical Movement was essentially contained within the Anthroposophical Society. But the Anthroposophical Society can only fulfill its real nature when it feels itself as the kernel of the Anthroposophical Movement.

Now in order not to speak merely theoretically but to make what I have just said really intelligible, I must tell you a little about something that has recently taken place in connection with a Movement that is distinct from the Anthroposophical Movement, because, if I did not do this, misunderstanding might easily arise.

I will therefore narrate briefly the manner in which a certain Movement having a religious, cultic character has arisen, a Movement which indeed has much to do with the Anthroposophical Movement, but should not be confused with it: it is the religious movement which calls itself ‘Movement for Religious Renewal,’ [This Movement was the beginning of The Christian Community as it has since been called.] for the renewal of Christianity. The position of this Movement with respect to the Anthroposophical Movement will become clear if we take our start from the forms in which this Movement for Religious Renewal has developed.

Some time ago a few enthusiastic young theological students came to me. They were about to conclude their theological studies and enter upon the practical duties of ministers of religion. What they said to me was to the following effect: When at the present time a student receives with a really devoted Christian heart the theology offered to him at the universities, he feels at last as if he had no firm ground under his feet for the practical work of a minister that is before him. The theology and religion of our time has gradually assumed forms that do not really enable it to instil into its ministers for their practical work and their care of souls the impulse that must proceed as a living power from the Mystery of Golgotha, from the consciousness that the Christ Being Who formerly lived in spiritual worlds, has since united Himself with human life on earth and now works on further in that life. — I perceived that in the souls of those who came to me there was the feeling that if Christianity is to be kept alive, a renewal of the entire theological impulse and of the entire religious impulse is necessary; otherwise Christianity cannot be the really vital force for our whole spiritual life. And it is indeed clear that the religious impulse only assumes its true significance and meaning when it lays hold of a man so deeply that it pervades everything he brings forth out of his thinking, feeling, and will. I remarked first of all to those who came to me in this way for help in what they were seeking and could only find where anthroposophical Spiritual Science is making its way into the world today — I pointed out to them that one cannot work from the enthusiasm of a few single individuals, but that it is a question of gathering together, as it were, similar strivings in wider circles, even though the striving may be more or less unconscious. I said to these people that theirs was obviously not an isolated striving; rather was it the case that they were feeling in their hearts — perhaps more intensely than others — what countless human beings of the present day are also feeling; and I showed them that if it is a question of religious renewal, one must start from a broad basis whereon can be found a large number of persons out of whose hearts springs the impulse to strive for that renewal.

After a while the people in question came to me again. They had fully accepted what I had said to them and now they were able to tell me that they had been joined by a considerable number of other young theological students who were in the same position, that is to say, who were dissatisfied with the present theological and religious aims at the universities and yet were about to enter upon the practical duties of ministers of the church; and there seemed every prospect of the circle being increased.

I said: It is quite obvious first of all that it is not only a question of having a band of preachers and ministers, but into such a movement for religious renewal should be drawn not only those who can teach and perform the duties of pastors, but above all those — and they are very numerous — who possess more or less dimly in their hearts a strong religious impulse, a specifically Christian impulse, which, in view of the way in which theological religion has developed, cannot be satisfied. I pointed out, therefore, that there are circles of people in the population who are not within the Anthroposophical Movement, and who, from the whole tenor of their mind and heart, do not immediately find their way to the Anthroposophical Movement.

I remarked further, that for the Anthroposophical Movement it is ultimately a case of seeing clearly and distinctly that we are living in an age when, simply through the world’s evolution, a number of spiritual truths, truths regarding the actual spiritual content of the world, can be found by men when they become spiritual researchers. And if men do not become spiritual researchers but strive after the truth in the way in which it must disclose itself to man when he is conscious of his human dignity, then the truths discovered by spiritual researchers can be understood by such persons by means of their ordinary, sound human intellect — provided it is really sound.

I went on to say that the Anthroposophical Movement is founded upon the principle that he who finds his way into it knows that what is important above all is that the spiritual truths now accessible to humanity should lay hold of men’s hearts and minds as knowledge. The essential thing is that knowledge should enter the spiritual life of man. It is of course not the case that one who is in the Anthroposophical Movement need be versed in the various sciences. One may be in the Anthroposophical Movement without possessing any impulse or any inclination towards natural science, for the truths of Anthroposophy are perfectly comprehensible to the human intellect if only it is healthy and unclouded by prejudice. If already at the present time a sufficiently large number of persons out of the natural tendencies of their heart and mind were to find their way to the Anthroposophical Movement, then all that is necessary for religious aims and religious ideals would also gradually develop together with anthroposophical knowledge out of the Anthroposophical Movement. But there are, as I have already said, a great number of people who have the above-mentioned urge towards a renewal of religion, that is to say towards a renewal of Christian religion, and who, simply through being in certain circles of the cultural life, cannot find their way into the Anthroposophical Movement. What is necessary for these people at the present time is that a path suited to them should be found, leading to the spiritual life appropriate to the humanity of the present day.

I pointed out that it was a matter of forming communities; that what is to be reached in Anthroposophy can be attained first of all in the single individual, but that, out of the knowledge thus gained in an individual way, there must flow by an absolute inner necessity the ethical and religious social activity that is requisite for the future of humanity.

It is therefore a question of giving something to those people who are at first unable to set out directly along the path to the Anthroposophical Movement. The spiritual path for them must be sought by forming communities in which heart and soul and spirit work together — a path adapted to human evolution at its present stage.

What I then had to say out of the needs of our human evolution to those persons who came to me may be summed up approximately in the words: it is necessary for the evolution of humanity at the present time that the Anthroposophical Movement should grow more and more, in accordance with the conditions which underlie it, and which consist especially in this — that the spiritual truths which want to come to us from the spiritual world should first of all enter the hearts of men directly, so that men may be strengthened by these spiritual truths. They will then find the way, which will be on the one hand an artistic way, and on the other a religious, ethical, and social way. The Anthroposophical Movement has gone along this path since its inception, and for the Anthroposophical Movement no other path is necessary, if only this path be rightly understood. The need for another path arises for those who cannot directly take this one, but who through community-building and corporate endeavor within the community, must follow a different path, one which only later will join the anthroposophical path.

In this way the prospect was opened for two movements to travel side by side. There is the Anthroposophical Movement, which attains its true aims when it adheres with intelligence and vigor to the meaning and purpose originally contained in it and is not led astray by any special fields of work that are bound to open up as time goes on. Even the field of scientific work, for example, must not encroach upon the impulse of the general Anthroposophical Movement. We most clearly understand that it is the anthroposophical impulse which constitutes the Anthroposophical Movement, and although various fields of scientific work have recently been started within the Anthroposophical Movement it is absolutely necessary that the power and energy of the general anthroposophical impulse should not be weakened. In particular, the anthroposophical impulse must not he drawn into the forms of thinking and ideation prevailing in various fields of science — which ought actually to be vitalized by it — and be colored by them to such an extent that Anthroposophy becomes, let us say, chemical as Chemistry is today, physical as Physics is today, or biological as Biology is today. That must not happen on any account; it would strike at the very heart of the Anthroposophical Movement. What is essential is that the Anthroposophical Movement shall preserve its spiritual purity, but also its spiritual energy. To this end it must embody the essential nature of the anthroposophical spirituality, must live and move in it and bring forth out of the spiritual revelations of the present day everything that seeks to penetrate also into the life of science.

Side by side with this — so I said at that time — there might be such a movement for religious renewal, which of course has no significance for those who find the way into Anthroposophy, but is intended for those who, to begin with, cannot find this way. And as there are numbers of such people, a movement such as this is not only justified, but also necessary.

Taking for granted therefore that the Anthroposophical Movement will remain what it was and what it ought to be, I gave something, quite independently of the Anthroposophical Movement, to a number of persons who, from their own impulse, not mine, wished to work for the Movement for Religious Renewal; I gave what I was in a position to give in respect of what a future theology needs; and I also gave the contents of the ceremonial and ritual required by this new community.

What I have been able to give to these people out of the conditions pertaining to spiritual knowledge at the present time, I have given as a man to other men. What I have given them has nothing to do with the Anthroposophical Movement. I have given it to them as a private individual, and in such a way that I have emphasized with the necessary firmness that the Anthroposophical Movement must not have anything to do with this Movement for Religious Renewal; above all that I am not the founder of this Movement, and I rely upon this being made quite clear to the world; to individuals who wished to found this Movement for Religious Renewal I have given the necessary counsels — which are consonant with the practice of an authentic and inwardly vital cult, filled with spiritual content, to be celebrated in a right way with the forces out of the spiritual world. When I gave this advice I never performed a ritualistic act myself; I only showed, step by step, to those who wished to enact the ceremonies, how they have to be performed. That was necessary. And today it is also necessary that within the Anthroposophical Society this should be correctly understood.

The Movement for Religious Renewal, therefore, was founded independently of me, independently of the Anthroposophical Society. I only gave advice. The one who started it, the one who performed the very first ceremony in this Movement, performed it under my guidance, but I had no part whatever in the founding of this Movement. It is a Movement which originated of itself but received counsel from me because, when advice is justifiably asked in any particular sphere of work, it is a human duty, if one can give the advice, to do so.

Thus it must be understood, in the strictest sense of the word, that alongside the Anthroposophical Movement another Movement has started, founded out of itself (not out of the Anthroposophical Movement), for the reason that outside the Anthroposophical Society there are numbers of people who cannot find their way into the Anthroposophical Movement itself, but who will be able to come to it later on. Therefore strict distinctions must be made between the Anthroposophical Movement, the Anthroposophical Society, and the Movement for Religious Renewal. And it is important that Anthroposophy should not be looked upon as the founder of this Movement for Religious Renewal.

This has nothing to do with the fact that the advice which makes this religious Movement into a real spiritual community in a form suited to the present stage of human evolution, was given in all love and also in all devotion to the spiritual Powers who are able to place such a Movement in the world today. So that this Movement has only originated in the right way when it considers what is within the Anthroposophical Movement as something that gives it a sure ground and when it puts its trust in the Anthroposophical Movement, and seeks help and counsel from those who are within the Anthroposophical Movement, and so on. Taking into account the fact that the opponents of the Anthroposophical Movement today consider every method of attack justifiable, points such as these must be made quite clear, and I must here declare that everyone who is honest and sincere with respect to the Anthroposophical Movement would be obliged to deny any statement to the effect that the Movement for Religious Renewal was founded at Dornach in the Goetheanum and by the Goetheanum. For that is not the case, the facts are as I have just presented them.

Thus in view of the way in which I myself have helped this Movement for Religious Renewal to find its feet, I have necessarily had to picture to myself that this Movement — which puts its trust in the Anthroposophical Movement and regards the Anthroposophical Movement as its forerunner — will look for adherents outside the Anthroposophical Society, and that it would consider it a grave mistake to carry into the Anthroposophical Society the work and aims which are indeed necessary outside that Society. For the Anthroposophical Society is not understood by one who belongs to it unless his attitude is that he can be a counsellor and helper of this religious Movement, but cannot directly immerse himself in it. If he were to do so, he would be working for two ends: firstly, for the ruin and destruction of the Anthroposophical Society; secondly, to make fruitless the Movement for Religious Renewal. All the movements which arise among humanity in a justifiable way must indeed work together as in one organic whole, but this working together must take place in the right way. In the human organism it is quite impossible for the blood system to become nervous system, or for the nervous system to become blood system. The several systems have to work in the human organism distinct and separate from one another; it is precisely then that they will work together in the right way. It is therefore necessary that the Anthroposophical Society, with its content Anthroposophy, shall remain unweakened in any way by the other Movement; and that one who understands what the Anthroposophical Movement is, should — not in any presumptuous, arrogant sense, but as one who reckons with the tasks of the age — be able to see that those who have once found their way into the Anthroposophical Society do not need a religious renewal. For what would the Anthroposophical Society be if it first needed religious renewal!

But religious renewal is needed in the world, and because it is needed, because it is a profound necessity, a hand was extended to aid in founding it. Matters will therefore go on in the right way if the Anthroposophical Society remains as it is, if those who wish to understand it grasp its essential nature and do not think that it is necessary for them to belong to another movement which has taken what it possesses from Anthroposophy — although it is true in a real sense that Anthroposophy has not founded this Movement for Religious Renewal but that it has founded itself.

Anyone therefore who does not clearly distinguish these things and keep them apart, is actually — by becoming lax as regards the essential impulse of the Anthroposophical Movement — working for the destruction of the Anthroposophical Movement and for the removal of the ground and backbone of the Movement for Religious Renewal. If anyone who stands on the ground of the Movement for Religious Renewal thinks he must extend this Movement to the Anthroposophical Movement, he removes the ground from under his own feet. For everything of the nature of cult and ritual is finally bound to dissolve away when the ‘backbone’ of knowledge is broken.

For the welfare of both Movements it is essential that they should be held clearly apart. Therefore in the beginning, since everything depends on our developing the strength to carry out what we have set our will to do, it is absolutely necessary in these early days that the Movement for Religious Renewal should work in all directions in circles outside the Anthroposophical Movement; that therefore, neither as regards the acquisition of material means — in order that the matter be clearly understood I must also speak about these things — should it encroach on sources which in any event only flow with great difficulty for the Anthroposophical Movement, nor, because it does not at once succeed in finding adherents among non-Anthroposophists, should it, for example, make proselytes within the ranks of the Anthroposophists. Were it to do so, it would be doing something that would inevitably lead to the destruction of both Movements. It is really not a matter today of going forward with a certain fanaticism, but of being conscious that we can do what is necessary for man only when we work out of the necessity of the thing itself.

What I am now stating as consequences, were also equally the preliminary conditions for lending my assistance in the founding of the Movement for Religious Renewal, for only under these conditions could I assist it. If these preliminary conditions had not been there, the Movement for Religious Renewal would never have originated through my advice.

Therefore I beg you to understand that it is necessary for the Movement for Religious Renewal to know that it must adhere to its starting point, that it has promised to look for its adherents outside the sphere of the Anthroposophical Movements, for it is there that they can be found in the natural way, and there they must be sought.

What I have said to you has not been said because of any anxiety lest something might be dug away from the Anthroposophical Movement, and it has certainly not been said out of any personal motive, but solely out of the necessity of the case itself. And it is also important to understand in what way alone it is possible to work rightly in each of these spheres of activity. It is indeed necessary that with regard to important matters we should state quite clearly how the case stands, for there is at the present time far too great a tendency to blur things and not to see them clearly. But clarity is essential today in every sphere.

If therefore someone were to exclaim: The very one who himself put this Movement for Religious Renewal into the world now speaks like this!! ... well, my dear friends, the whole point is that if I had at any time spoken differently about these things, I should not have lent a hand towards founding this Movement for Religious Renewal. It must remain at its starting point. What I am now saying, I am of course saying merely in order that these things may be correctly understood in the Anthroposophical Society and so that it shall not be said (as is reported to have happened already): The Anthroposophical Movement did not get on very well, and so now they have founded the Movement for Religious Renewal as the right thing.

I am quite sure that the very excellent and outstanding individuals who have founded the Movement for Religious Renewal will oppose any such legend most vigorously, and will also sternly refuse to make proselytes within the Anthroposophical Movement. — But, as has been said, the matter must be rightly understood within the Anthroposophical Movement itself.

I know, my dear friends, that there are always some who find it unpleasant to hear explanations such as these — which are necessary from time to time, not in order to complain in one direction or another, nor for the sake of criticism, but solely in order to present something once and for all in its true light. I know there are always some who dislike it when clarity is substituted for nebulous obscurity. But this is absolutely essential for the welfare and growth of the Anthroposophical Movement as well as of the Movement for Religious Renewal. The Movement for Religious Renewal cannot flourish if it in any way damages the Anthroposophical Movement.

This must be thoroughly understood, especially by Anthroposophists, so that whenever it is necessary to stand up for the rights of the matter, they may really be able to do so. When, therefore, there is any question about an anthroposophist’s attitude towards religious renewal, he must be clear that his attitude can only be that of an adviser, that he gives what he can give in the way of spiritual possessions, and when it is a case of participating in the ceremonies, that he is conscious of doing so in order to help these ceremonies on their way. He alone can be a spiritual helper of the Movement for Religious Renewal who is himself first a good anthroposophist. But this Movement for Religious Renewal must be sustained, in every direction, by persons who, because of the particular configuration and tendencies of their spiritual life, cannot yet find their way into the Anthroposophical Society itself.

I hope that none of you will now go to someone who is doing active work in the Movement for Religious Renewal and say: This or that has been said against it in Dornach. — Nothing has been said against it. In love and in devotion to the spiritual world the Movement for Religious Renewal has been given counsel from out of the spiritual world, in order that it might rightly found itself. But the fact must be known by Anthroposophists that it has founded itself out of itself, that it has formed — not, it is true, the content of its ritual, but the fact of its ritual, out of its own force and its own initiative, and that the essential core of the Anthroposophical Movement has nothing to do with the Movement for Religious Renewal.

Certainly no wish could be stronger than mine that the Movement for Religious Renewal shall grow and flourish more and more, but always in adherence to the original intentions. Anthroposophical Groups must not be changed into communities for religious renewal, either in a material or in a spiritual sense.

I was obliged to say this today, for, as you know, counsel and advice had to be given for a Cult, a Cult whose growth in our present time is earnestly desired by me. In order that no misunderstanding should arise in regard to this Cult when I speak tomorrow of the conditions of the life of Cult in the spiritual world, I felt it necessary to insert these words today as an episode in our course of lectures.

(The following night the first Goetheanum was destroyed by fire.)




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