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An Esoteric Cosmology

On-line since: 15th January, 2001


The present cycle of lectures was given in 1906 in Paris and the report of it by Edouard Schuré now published in English in its entirety for the first time marks the beginning of a new phase in the life of Rudolf Steiner. Accompanied by Marie von Sievers (later Marie Steiner), Rudolf Steiner had been invited, by the famous French author and dramatist Edouard Schuré, to address a group consisting mainly of Russians in a small villa on the outskirts of Paris. Among them were writers of note such as Dimitri Merejkowski, his wife Zinaida Hippius, a poetess in her own right, and S. Minski. Originally it had been planned that the course be held on Russian soil but the revolution of 1905 had made that impossible.

At this time Edouard Schuré (1841–1929), a man of 65, stood at the height of his career. He had written more than a dozen major works including The Great Initiates (1889), A History of the German Lied, A Collection of Celtic Legends, two important works on Richard Wagner, and a number of dramas striving to recapture the lost ritualistic element of the ancient mysteries on the stage. He felt powerfully drawn not only to Richard Wagner the composer, but also to the man. He had met the maestro on three occasions and was present in Munich at the dramatic opening of Tristan and Isolde.

Schuré's interest in the occult was profound. He had written The Great Initiates (1889) as a result of his deep connection over a period of many years with Margherita Albana-Mignaty, who continued to inspire him even after her death. Rudolf Steiner often referred to the importance of this book and although it was written ten years before the end of Kali-Yuga (the Age of Darkness), he spoke of this work as a herald of the new Age of Light, when human beings would again seek for their spiritual connection with the great initiates of the past. For some time before their first meeting in Paris, Marie von Sievers and Schuré had corresponded. An unusual set of circumstances led to the fact that indirectly it was Schuré who had brought about the meeting between Marie von Sievers and Rudolf Steiner which was to prove so fruitful for the growth of the Anthroposophical movement. Unable to reply to a specific question related to the occult, Schuré advised the young Marie von Sievers to turn to Rudolf Steiner in Berlin. A little later Marie von Sievers wrote so enthusiastically to Schuré (in excellent French) of her meeting that he, too, wished to become acquainted with Steiner personally. This was to happen six years later in Paris on the occasion of these lectures. The recognition must have been immediate. Schuré, twenty years Steiner's senior, never tired of recounting this significant meeting: for the first time, he felt himself to be in the presence of an initiate. “Here is a genuine Master who will play a crucial part in your life.” Schuré recognized Steiner as one who stood fully in the world of today and yet could also behold in clear consciousness the boundless vistas of the super-sensible. A warm friendship quickly developed between the two men: vacations spent together in Barr (1906–1907) in Schuré's summer house in the Alsace; long walks over the Odilienberg, and an active correspondence (mostly on the part of Marie Steiner, who translated several of Schuré's dramas into German). The substance of a number of intimate conversations has been recorded by Rudolf Steiner in the “Document of Barr.” [The “Document of Barr,” dated Sept. 9, 1907 and printed in English translation in the Golden Blade, 1966.] In 1907 Schuré's Sacred Drama of Eleusis was produced under the direction of Rudolf Steiner at the great Munich Congress of the Theosophical Society. It was on this occasion that Rudolf Steiner said that from this time on, art and occultism should always remain connected. In 1909 the first performance of Schuré's drama, The Children of Lucifer, was given using a German translation of the French text by Marie Steiner. The deeper connection now becomes obvious: Schuré the poet, a Celtic-Greek soul, devoted to the renewal of the ancient mysteries, and one of the first Frenchmen to recognize Richard Wagner's impulse towards the “Gesamtkunstwerk” (a total ritualistic experience embracing all the art forms), now whole-heartedly supported Rudolf Steiner in the great Munich endeavors (1907–1913). This period saw the birth of the mystery dramas and the first performances of Eurythmy. It was also in Munich that plans had been made for the building of the First Goetheanum (the House of The Word) which was later erected on the Dornach hill near Basel in Switzerland.

The war years (1914–1918) brought an unfortunate clouding over of their friendship due to Schuré's stubborn chauvinism which nevertheless did not interfere with his continued championing of Richard Wagner. But with Rudolf Steiner, he broke his connection. A few years after the war the friendship was renewed and it must have been an amazing sight to have seen the old, still robust, white-haired Schuré in animated conversation with Steiner as they walked up and down on the terrace of the First Goetheanum in Dornach. Years later, Schuré would still speak of his profound indebtedness to Rudolf Steiner both for the personal help he had received from him and for his having brought the new mysteries clearly to expression in an age of materialism.

These lectures were given on the fringe of the International Theosophical Congress held in Paris and attended by delegates from many countries. Rudolf Steiner himself attached a distinct importance to this course in Paris where he formulated a basic view of Esoteric Christianity which a few years later was to separate him radically from the Theosophical Society. In the 37th chapter of Rudolf Steiner, The Story of My Life [Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., London and New York, 1928.] (written in 1924–25 shortly before his death) we find the following passage:

In the Paris cycle of lectures I brought forward a perception which had required a long process of “ripening” in my mind. After I had explained how the members of the human being — physical body; etheric body, as mediator of the phenomena of life; and the “bearer of the ego” — are in general related to one another, I imparted the fact that the etheric body of a man is female, and the etheric body of a woman is male. Through this a light was cast within the Anthroposophical Society upon one of the basic questions of existence which just at that time had been much discussed. One need only remember the book of the unfortunate Weininger, “Geschlecht und Charakter,” (Sex and Character), and the contemporary poetry.

But the question was carried into the depths of the being of man. In his physical body man is bound up with the cosmos quite otherwise than in his etheric body. Through his physical body man stands within the forces of the earth; through his etheric body within the forces of the outer cosmos. The male and female elements were carried into connection with the mysteries of the cosmos.

This knowledge was something belonging to the most profoundly moving inner experiences of my soul; for I felt ever anew how one must approach a spiritual perception by patient waiting and how, when one has experienced the “ripeness of consciousness,” one must lay hold by means of ideas in order to place the perception within the sphere of human knowledge.

It is perhaps not without significance that it was in Paris, where Thomas Aquinas had elaborated some seven centuries earlier his Christ-oriented Scholasticism, that Rudolf Steiner gave his first course on an Esoteric Christian Cosmology appropriate to the dawn of the new Age of Light. Schuré's notes in French of the 18 lectures, published in French in 1928, constitute the only record of this course. They now appear for the first time in English translation in their entirety in book form, readily available to the modern student of the Science of the Spirit.

R. M. Querido

Last Modified: 29-Aug-2017
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