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Foundations of Esotericism

Foundations of Esotericism: Notes


These lectures first appeared in 1942/43 in the German news sheet ‘Was in der anthroposophischen Gesellschaft vorgeht’ compiled from the notes of Mathilde Scholl. The text of the present edition has been improved by a comparison with the notes of Marie Steiner, with the exception of lectures 25 and 26 for which her notes are missing.

Some of the Rudolf Steiner lectures quoted only exist in English translations in the form of typescripts. These may be consulted for reference at the Rudolf Steiner Library, 35 Park Road, London. N.W.l.


  1. Kundalini fire. See glossary of theosophical terms.

  2. The giant Ymir. In the old Nordic germanic myth dealing with the beginning of the world the different parts of the world were created out of the body of the primaeval giant: from the flesh the earth, from the blood the water, from the bones the rocks, from the hair the forests, from the skull the sky, from the brain the clouds.

  3. Actually there are altogether twelve stages of consciousness. See: Cosmic Memory, chapter on Saturn, also lecture 27.1.1908, The Influence of Spiritual Beings upon Man. Lec. 2.

  4. Bees. See: Nine Lectures on Bees.

  5. Washing of the Feet. See: The Gospel of John in Relation to the other Three Gospels, Lecture 14. The Gospel of St. John. Notes on 3 lectures, Lecture 2. also: Festivals of the Seasons, second lecture on Easter.

  6. Kingdom of Good and Kingdom of Evil. See: The Apocalypse, lecture 12.

  7. Fish in the dark caves of Kentucky. Often quoted by Rudolf Steiner. See: Darwin, Origin of Species, Chapter 5.

  8. Guardian of the Threshold. See: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and the Third Mystery Play.

  9. Tolstoi's book ‘On Doing Nothing’ Published 1893. A detailed description of Tolstoi's ideas in contrast to Western ideas is to be found in Rudolf Steiner's lecture 3.11.1904. Theosophy and Tolstoy. (Typescript).

  10. Text of lecture 3. This is not complete and is somewhat obscure in parts.

  11. Original significance of the symbol of the cross. This is described in more detail in a lecture 22.11.1907. ‘The plant is drawn with its direction vertically towards the earth, the human being also vertically directed away from the earth, the animal horizontal.’ St. John, Notes on 8 lectures. Lecture 7. (Typescript).

  12. The World-Soul is stretched on the cross of the World-Body. Plato, Timaeus, Chapter 8.

  13. The Seeress of Prevost. Notes published by Justinus Kerner. Stuttgart 1828.

  14. The centre of consciousness sinks down from the head. This is more clearly dealt with in lecture 4.

  15. Astral consciousness, Kama-pranic consciousness, Kama-manasic consciousness. Described by H.P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 3.

  16. Ants. See further in lecture 4.

  17. The Saga of the Sphinx. The Sphinx (daughter of Chimaera and her son the hound Orthus) — a monster with the body of a hound, a woman's head, lion's claws, dragon's tail and wings — was sent to Thebes where she dealt out death and destruction by means of a riddle. She asked the unfortunate ones who confronted her: What creature goes on four legs in the morning, on two at midday and on three in the evening? Oedipus was the fortunate one who found the answer — man. Upon which she threw herself down from her rock. In the painting in the large cupola of the first Goetheanum the motif representing Greece also includes this Sphinx-Oedipus theme.

  18. Vulcan limped. (In Latin Vulcanus, in Greek Hephaistos.) The god of fire and the forger of metals. He limped because twice Zeus, in anger, threw him out of Olympus. According to the original myth his smithy was in Olympus, but in later versions in volcanic regions.

  19. Jobsiade. A comic epic poem by Karl Arnold Kortum, published in 1754.

  20. Carbon Process. See more details in The Study of Man, lecture 12.

  21. Separation of Thinking, Feeling and Willing. See: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds.

  22. Light on the Path by Mabel Collins.

  23. Goethe's Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, was first published in 1795. See: Rudolf Steiner's ‘Goethe's Standard of the Soul’.

  24. Bodhisattvas. See: The Christ Impulse and the Development of the Ego Consciousness, lecture 1, 25.10.1909 and From Buddha to Christ 21.9.1911.

  25. Aristotle speaks of the etheric part of the heart: Here Rudolf Steiner is presumably referring to the minor scientific writings (Parva naturalia) ‘On Youth and Age, Life and Death’.

  26. Jehovah. Blavatsky calls Jehovah a Moon God. Secret Doctrine. Volume 11.

  27. In occultism the Moon is called the Cosmos of Wisdom. In notes of a lecture in Berlin in 1903 there appears the following: ‘In the overall picture of world evolution the Earthly Cosmos is called the Cosmos of Divine Love, the previous cosmos the Cosmos of Wisdom and the future one the Cosmos of Divine Fire ... the Cosmos preceeding the Moon Cosmos (is called) the Cosmos of Divine Omnipotcncc; this was preceeded by the Cosmos of Being’.

  28. While on the Old Moon ... The notes of the text here are inadequate and unreliable.

  29. Jesus said ... Elias has come again. Matthew, Chapter 17. 12 – 13

  30. about 2600 years. Later Rudolf Steiner indicated these epochs more precisely. According to this the point at which the sun rises on the vernal equinox moves backwards through the 12 constellations of the Zodiac in 12 x 2160 = 25,920 years — the Platonic World Year — generally speaking, re-embodiments are connected with these epochs of 2160 years (though there are exceptions). See: Theosophy of the Rosicrucian, Rhythms in the Cosmos and in the Human Being (Typescript)

  31. The Great Masters. According to Rudolf Steiner these are beings of great significance for the evolution of mankind. ‘These lofty beings have already left behind them the path that the rest of mankind has yet to tread. They work now as the great Teachers of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Feeling.’ (Letter to a member 2.1.1905.) See also lecture 13.10.1904.

  32. Trappists. Order founded in 1140 in the Cistercian monastery of La Trappe in France. The reform in 1665 imposed strict ascetic practices and silence.

  33. Augustine's teaching of predestination. The teaching of God's eternal decree which results in only a part of humanity being chosen for salvation while the other part is doomed to perdition. Compare lecture 7.10.1917 ‘The Crumbling of the Earth and the Souls and Bodies of Men’ Anthroposophical Quarterly Volume 19 No. 1.

  34. The Twelve Senses. See The Wisdom of man of the Soul and of the Spirit. The Twelve Senses and the Seven Life Processes (Golden Blade 1975).

  35. Descending ... and ascending curves. Theosophy teaches that all development proceeds in cycles, first on a descending curve from spiritual to material and then back on an ascending curve from material to spiritual. In a lecture to the same audience in Berlin 17.10.1904 Rudolf Steiner says ‘Theosophical writings have described certain evolutionary developments as ascending and descending ... during the descent development is slowed down while during the ascent it becomes ever faster. This accelerated development does not apply to the whole physical plane but only to individual beings.’ In a lecture in Berlin 27.1.1908 there is a further clarification: ‘... so that when we are at a particular moment of our development we can always say: Yes, there are certain forces there that draw into man and pass out of him, forces that descend and forces that rise. For every such force there is always a moment when it changes from a descending to an ascending force. All forces that become ascending forces have been at first descending. They descend down to man, so to speak, and in man they achieve the strength to rise’.
    In this sense ‘when the body is on the ascending curve the senses are on the descending curve’ should be understood as meaning that the physical body in general is on the rising curve because it has passed the deepest point of its material densification, while the senses are on the descending curve since there are two senses which still have to develop as physical senses.

  36. As now when man speaks ... Influence. For further clarification of this passage see lecture 12.6.1907 Occult Seals and Pillars (typescript).

  37. The Myth of Lohengrin. The Lohengrin figure first appears in Eschenbach's ‘Parzifal’ as a knight of the Grail and son of Parzifal. The saga was further developed in a poem in middle high German dating from the end of the 13th century. A simpler form is Conrad von Würzburg's Schwanenritter. See also Rudolf Steiner's lecture 29.3.1906 on Parzifal and Lohengrin (Typescript).

  38. Christian Rosenkreutz. See: The Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz lecture 1912-13.

  39. The Kundalini Light in out streaming feeling of warmth see lecture 18.10.1904 in History of the Middle Ages (Typescript)

  40. Undifferentiated mass like a jelly or a soft crystal. In Marie Steiner's notes: ‘formed out of an undifferentiated gelatinous mass like a mineral protoplasm’.

  41. The fish has remained half-way. Fish have a heart with two compartments consisting of atrium and ventricle.

  42. Dionysius the Areopagite. In the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 17 v.34 he is mentioned as a pupil of St. Paul. At the end of the 5th century there appeared in Syria under his name the following writings: The Celestial Hierarchies and On the Hierarchy of the Church which in the 9th century were translated from the Greek into Latin by Scotus Erigena.

  43. These teachings however could not find general understanding. For detailed descriptions of the spiritual hierarchies see Rudolf Steiner: The Spiritual Hierarchies and their Reflection in the Physical World, Zodiac, Planets, Cosmos, and The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature.

  44. Novalis. See The Christian Mystery, Novalis the Seer lecture 22.12.1908 in the Anthroposophical Quarterly 1967.

  45. The Dukhobors. Knights of the Spirit or Fighters for the Spirit. They also called themselves ‘Christians of the Spirit’ and believed essentially in inner revelation. The sect arose in the middle of the 18th century and was later dispatched to Trans-Caucasia. Towards the end of the 19th century many of them emigrated to Cyprus and Canada. Tolstoi, who had a strong inner link with them, wrote about them in Followers of Christ in Russia in the year 1895.

  46. The Manichaeans. Founded by Mani (215 or 216 – 276 A.D) originating in Asia Minor. ‘A powerful spiritual stream to which belonged the Albigenses, Waldenses, and Cathars of the Middle Ages. More distantly connected were the Templars and, through a remarkable interweaving of connections, the Freemasons. This is where the Freemasons actually belong although they had allied themselves with the Rosicrucians.’ Thus run the notes of a lecture by Rudolf Steiner on the Manichacans given in Berlin 11.11.1904. See also Albert Steffen: Mani.

  47. Subba Row. His teachings appeared published as Esoteric Writings.

  48. The number 666. See Rudolf Steiner The Apocalypse of St. John lecture 11 (1908).

  49. The Eighth Sphere. More details in The Occult Movement in the 19th century and its relationship to World Culture (1915).

  50. Theologia deutsch. Written by a priest at the Deutschenherrenhaus at Sachsenhausen near Frankfurt am Main in 1497. Published by Luther in 1518. See also Rudolf Steiner Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age.

  51. Creation out of Nothing. This spiritual-scientific concept of Rudolf Steiner is also to be found in the lecture Evolution, Involution and Creation out of Nothing 17.6.1909 (also contained in The Being of Man and his Future Evolution). See also lecture 15.9.1907 in Occult Signs and Symbols.

  52. First ... Second Logos. Compare Rudolf Steiner's notes for Edouard Schuré May 1906. Zeichnen und Entwicklung der drei Logoi in der Menschheit published in No. 14 of Nachrichten der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung Michaelmas 1965.

  53. Human passions are related occultly to higher forces of spiritual beings who have preceded us. See lecture 24.10.1915 in The Occult Movement in the 19th Century ...

  54. When man destroys life ... Compare with Rudolf Steiner's comments on Mabel Collins novel Flita in Luzifer-Gnosis (not translated).

  55. Light on the Path by Mabel Collins.

  56. The medium in question refers to a booklet by Georg von Langsdorff, Freiburg i. Br. known as a translator and publiciser of spiritualistic material. Rudolf Steiner also refers to the matter in the lecture 24.8.1906 in At the Gates of Spiritual Science.

  57. ... learnt from outside what one knew inwardly ... Notes differ and are not clear at this point.

  58. Goethe — Metamorphoses Of Plants. See Rudolf Steiner's comments in Goethe the Scientist.

  59. First Theosophical Principle. The first principle of the Theosophical Society founded by H.P. Blavatsky in 1875 runs: ‘To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour’.

  60. Text of this portion is very incomplete and cannot be considered as literal.

  61. Involution — Evolution. See note 51.

  62. The first Arhats ... given as explanation of the 7th Stanza of Dyzan in Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine.

  63. The Prometheus Saga. See lecture 7.10.1904 in Greek and Germanic Mythology (Typescript).

  64. The Bhagavad Gita. In 1912 – 13 Rudolf Steiner gave two lecture cycles on this subject: ‘The Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul’ and ‘The Occult Significance of the Bhagavad Gita’.

  65. Zarathustra. This refers to the actual or first Zarathustra. In the public lecture on ‘Zarathustra’ 19.1.1911 Turning Points in Spiritual History, Rudolf Steiner says: ‘Greek historians have frequently pointed out that the period ascribed to Zarathustra must be placed very far back, between 5000 to 6000 years before the Trojan War’.

  66. 25th Lecture. There are no notes of Marie Steiner for this lecture. The text of the second half is but fragmentary, especially about the three elemental kingdoms. Compare with lecture 4.12.1907. The Elemental Kingdoms. (Typescript) Also in the Anthroposophic News Sheet Vol. IV Nos. 13 – 16.
    26th Lecture — There are no notes of Marie Steiner for this lecture either.

  67. The Lodges of the Masters. See note 31.

  68. The Atoms of Jupiter. A few days before, on 21.10.1905 Rudolf Steiner spoke on this subject but only very scanty notes exist.

  69. Substances from Mars and Mercury. See further in lecture 15.2.1908 in The Influence of Spiritual Beings upon Man.

  70. Christ trod on the head of the Serpent, Luke Chapter 10 verse 19.

  71. Hercules Saga. See lecture 7.10.1904 in Greek and Germanic Mythology (Typescript).

  72. The Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age

        The Golden Age  – Krita Yuga       =    about 20,000 years
        The Silver Age  – Treta Yuga       =    about 15,000 years
        The Bronze Age  – Dvapara Yuga     =    about 10,000 years
        The Dark Age    – Kali Yuga        =    about  5,000 years
        Our Age comprises a future                          2,500 years
    Compare with the lectures The True Nature of the Second Coming 1910.

  73. Consciousness, Life and Form ... Creation out of Nothing ... Three Logoi. Rudolf Steiner had explained these concepts to a part of his audience in lectures of October/November 1904 especially 22.10.1904 in Notes on 13 Lectures (Typescript), and 25.10.1904 in History of the Middle Ages (Typescript). Similar presentations are to be found later in lectures 15.9.1907 Occult Signs and Symbols and 17.6.1909 Evolution, Involution and Creation out of Nothing (also contained in The Being of Man and his Future Evolution).

  74. Sixth and Seventh sense. Compare with lecture 9 and the development of the pineal and pituitary glands.

  75. Work as a commodity ... or as a gift. See Anthroposophy and the Social Question which appeared at about the same time in the periodical Luzifer-Gnosis.

  76. The Battle between the hosts of Michael and the hosts of Mammon. See later and more detailed presentations in for instance The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness. October 1917. (Typescript)

  77. As things in the East are spreading like a fire. Refers probably to the outbreak of the Russian revolution of 1905 following the end of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904/05. See lecture 12.10.1905 The Present Situation of the World. War, Peace and the Science of the Spirit (Anthroposophic News Sheet Volume 1 3, Nos. 35 – 40).

  78. Nutrition. Later Rudolf Steiner spoke on this subject from many different angles especially to the workmen engaged on the Goetheanum building. See Rudolf Steiner on Nutrition and Health and Illness.

  79. Physical healing powers ... for mental illnesses. These are the words according to Mathilde Scholl. Marie Steiner's notes, on the contrary, report that the old healers ‘call up in themselves psychic means of healing mainly for psychic illnesses’.

  80. Cain and Abel. Rudolf Steiner interpreted this allegory in different ways especially in lectures in 1904 and 1905 in connection with the Temple Legend. Die Tempel legende und die Goldene Legende. The only ones translated are Concerning the Temple Lost and Found 15, 22, 29 May, 5 June 1905, (Typescript).

  81. Haeckel's Riddle of the Universe. See lecture 5.10.1905 Three Essays on Haeckel and Karma.

  82. The various Zarathustras. Re the original Zarathustra see note 65. The historical Zarathustra lived in the 6th century BC and according to Alexander Polyhistor and Plutarch, was the teacher of Pythagoras. On the tradition in mystery schools of transmitting the name of the teacher with the teaching, compare Rudolf Steiner on Dionysius the Areopagite in lecture 13.

    1. Siegfried's father, see lecture 22.3.1906, Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods (Typescript).

    2. Achilles, Siegfried. Invulnerability denoted initiation. (See lecture 7 in the cycle on The Gospel of St Mark.)

  83. St. Boniface. In the 8th century St Boniface (actually Wynfrith) emissary from Rome, known as the apostle of the Germans, spread Christianity in Thuringia, Friesland and Hesse and was murdered in 754 by heathen Friesians.

  84. Tacitus found much in the Germanic peoples that was related ... His descriptions are to be found in Germany and its Tribes.

  85. Irmin ‘the Mighty’, divine ancestor of the Germanic tribes.

  86. Wodha-Bodha-Buddha. Rudolf Steiner has spoken in greater detail of this connection, for instance in Universe, Earth and Man lecture 10.

  87. Attila. Rudolf Steiner here refers to Attila's penetration into Italy in the year 452 when Aquileia was destroyed and the Roman bishop Leo I went out with his followers against Attila and was able to force him to retreat.

  88. The well-known traveler Peters. Traveled especially in Africa where he founded the East African German colonies and the German East African Company. Wrote among other things Das Goldene Ophir Salomos (1895) and Im Goldland des Altertums (1902).

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