`
[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib



Highlight Words

Anthroposophic Movement (1938)

Schmidt Number: S-5315

On-line since: 30th September, 2015

VI

THE TWO FIRST PERIODS OF THE ANTHROPOSOPHIC MOVEMENT:

1. — Exposition of the first principles of spiritual science. — Spiritual science versus natural science.

2. — Exposition of relations to the Christian tradition: the Gospels and Genesis. Development of the anthroposophical understanding of Christianity.

I have briefly indicated what were the directing forces during the two first periods of the anthroposophic movement; and before going on to describe the third period and what took place in it, I should like, as a basis, to enter more closely into certain features of the first and second periods. For as a matter of fact, in spite of all that has been said by way of explanation, it is still possible to raise the question: What grounds were there for the anthroposophic movement finding itself involved in a connection, — a tolerably external connection it is true — with the theosophic movement?

This question in particular, being a very intricate one, can only find its answer if we examine certain distinctive features in the evolution of the anthroposophic movement.

Taking, to begin with, the first period, which lasted down to about 1907, I might characterize as more or less its distinctive feature, that it was engaged in gradually laying the fundament' for a substantive science of the spirit.

Anyone who tries to look back into those days with the aid of the actual documents, will see, that during that time, bit by bit, in lectures, or lecture-cycles, — and also in what those who assisted worked out further for themselves, — the material was gradually brought to light, — the substantive basic material of spiritual science, and the lines on which it must anthroposophically be conceived. — This period ends, (such things are, of course, only approximate; but that is the case with the historic evolution of everything) — it ends approximately, I might say, with the publication of my Occult Science. The book Occult Science actually appeared in print some year and a half later; but the essential sub-stance of it, the delivery of the essential substance contained in it, belongs altogether to this first period of anthroposophic effort.

Throughout this period, down to the year 1905 or 1906, there was every justification for a quite definite hope: the hope, namely, that the anthroposophic substance might gradually come to form altogether the life-substance of the Theosophical Society. Down to the years 1905, 1906, it was impossible to say that, gradually, in the course of a quite natural evolution, the theosophic society might not develop into an anthroposophic one. — It was possible to hope so, for the reason, that during these years, in all matters of outward activity, one of the most influential personages in the Theosophical Society, Mrs. Annie Besant, exhibited a certain tolerance, and unmistakably aimed at allowing tendencies of various directions to work alongside one another. That was unmistakably the case, down to about 1905 or 1906.

Now, during this period, one certainly — if one indulged in no illusions — could not fail to see, that such a very leading personage in the Theosophical Society, as Mrs. Annie Besant, had very primitive notions of modern scientific method. Her notions were primitive. But, nevertheless, despite all the marks of amateurishness that were thus introduced into her books, yet, all the same, from the fact that in course of time the theosophic society came, as Theosophical Society, to have its centre in London, and that this Theosophical Society had in course of time become nurtured, one might say, with the wisdom of the East, there was, from all this, a whole assortment of wisdom piled. up in the people who belonged to the society, — undigested wisdom for the most part, and which very often, indeed, existed in the form of most curious notions. But, — putting aside the fact that these notions often went so far as to bear no vestige of re-semblance to their origin and true meaning, — nevertheless, through books such as Mrs. Besant's Ancient Wisdom, or more particularly The Perfecting of Man, or even her Esoteric Christianity, there did flow something which, — traditional as the manner of conveying it was, — yet had its source in ancient fountainhead of wisdom, — even though the channels were not always unexceptionable, through which this stream of ancient wisdom had descended until it came into these books and lectures. Such, then, was the state of things at that time.

And, on the other hand, one must always keep in sight the fact that, outside these particular circles, there was no interest what ever to be found in the world of the day for real spiritual research. There remained simply the one fact: that amongst those who had, so to speak, strayed into this particular group of people, a possibility might be awarded for awakening an interest in genuine, modern spiritual science

In this first period especially, however, there were all sorts of things to contend with. I won't weary you with all the numerous societies which simply borrowed the name of theosophy, — societies which at bottom had uncommonly little to do with any serious spiritual strivings. Striving the people were certainly, many of them; but it was a striving that in part was a very egoistic, in part, an un-commonly trifling one. Trifling side-streams of this sort, however, frequently assumed the name of ‘theosophical societies’. I need only remind you of the so-called theosophic groups which were fairly widespread, namely, in Central Europe, in Germany and Austria, and also in Switzerland, and which gave themselves the name of ‘branches’, though all they really had in common with the Theosophical Society was in an extremely watered-down form, and. saturated again with every conceivable kind of often very foolish occultism.

A person who played a considerable part in the societies of this sort, and one who will be well known to you too still by name — or at least to many of you, — was Franz Hartmann. The depth of ‘spirit’, however, and the depth of ‘earnestness’, so-termed, which existed in these trifling societies, will be apparent merely from an illustration I may give you of the cynical character of the leading personage, whose name I have just mentioned. This gentleman was talking once in company with just a few people, but where I too was present, and said ... (these things have a real psychologic interest also, for one sees from them the kind of thing to which the human soul can come!): — ‘Oh,’ — said he, — ‘there was that quarrel once in the Theosophical Society about that man, Judge, in America.’ — (I won't go into the quarrel except to say that the dispute turned upon whether certain messages sent out by Judge had emanated from real initiate sources, namely, from higher personages called. ‘Masters’). — ‘Well,’ — said Franz Hartmann,’ — that affair with Judge; I know all about that! He sent out those “Masters' Letters” in America; he came over to India at the time. We were in India, at headquarters; and he wanted to make himself an authority in America, and be able to say that he was commissioned by the Higher Initiates; and so he wanted to have Masters' Letters. Thereupon I said to him: — '(so Franz Hartmann told the story) ‘Oh, Masters' Letters, — I'll write some for you. — To which Judge answered: Well, but that won't do; for then I can't state that they are Letters from the Masters; for letters of that sort come flying down upon one out of the air; they take shape magically, and flutter down on one's head; and I must he able to say so.’ — Whereupon Franz Hartmann said to Judge, — the story is of his own telling! — ‘That's easy to manage! — Judge was quite a little fellow, and I said to him,’ (so he told us), — ‘You stand on the floor, and I'll get up on a chair and let the letter drop down on your head. — And then he could say with a good conscience that the letters he sent out had come flying down on his head out of the air!’

Well, that is only an extreme instance of this kind of thing, which is by no means so very rare in the world. But, as I said, I won't weary you with an account of these trifling-societies; I merely want to point out that, during the first period especially, the fact that the anthroposophic movement ran alongside the theosophic one, made it in a way necessary to defend one's position before modern scientific thought.

I don't know whether those who joined the anthroposophic movement later on, and who studied Anthroposophy then as scientists from a scientific aspect in this, its more developed third period, ... I don't know whether these people have taken due note of the fact, that a struggle with the modern scientific way of thinking, and one of a quite peculiar kind, took place precisely during the first period of the anthroposophic movement. I will give you two or three instances. They are instances only of what went on in all kinds of matters, but they will show you that, at that time more particularly, the theosophic movement was strongly affected by what I described two or three days ago as a special feature of modern education, — namely, deference to so-called scientific authority.

This deference to scientific authority had made its way into the Theosophical Society above all. One could see, for instance, how Mrs. Besant, in particular, attempted in her books to bring in all sorts of references to the science of the day, — things which had no bearing whatever upon spiritual science; such, for instance, as Weissmann's Theory of Heredity; — they were brought into her books as being confirmations.

I can remember, too, how in Munich, when we had got so far as founding a sort of centre for the anthroposophic movement there, ... as you know, centres gradually came to be founded for the movement: the one in Berlin, and in Munich, Stuttgart, Cassel, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Hamburg, in Hanover, in Leipzig, and in Austria, the Vienna centre, and in a way, too, the one at Prague. In short, various centres came to be formed; and at the time when the centre was being formed in Munich, there were a great number there of these homeless souls, who were already organized in a sort of way; they already belonged to some society or other. Well, putting quite aside now the trifling-societies of the Hartmann stamp, I was going to tell you that when we were founding the branch at . Munich, we had all the time to deal with these various big and little groups which existed there.

There was one group, the Ketterl. The Ketterl consisted of regular men of learning. The business of these people in the Ketterl was, when anything whatever was stated in the field of spiritual science, to supply natural science proofs of it. Their aim, so to speak, was to start with just the natural science views of the day, and thence simply mount up higher to the things, say, that Anthroposophy describes. If Anthroposophy talked of an ether-body, they would say to themselves: Natural science has succeeded in determining some particular form of structure for the atoms or molecules. And now one must set to work and find out how this structure might become partly more complex, but partly also thinner in its combinations; and so gradually proceed from the molecular structure of physical bodies to the molecular structure of the ether. And then one would be able to apply the same kind of calculations to the processes of the ether, as one applies to the pro-cesses of the physical world. And nothing was, strictly speaking, allowed to ‘go through’ in the Ketterl except what bore a natural science visum on its anthroposophic pass.

The treatises written by the members of the Ketterl, for they wrote treatises as well, — did not really dier much from the scientific treatises of the theoretic physicists of that period; only that with them the formula and definitions, etc., did not stand for processes in the spectrum, or in the electro-magnetic field, but for processes in the etheric field, or the astral field.

There was nothing to be done: the whole connection dissolved in mutual satisfaction, or dissatisfaction; and in the end one lost all contact with these protagonists of the natural science standpoint.

Not so very different, however, from these Ketterl performances were the labours of a man who played a great part in the Theosophical Society and had been an intimate friend, too, of Blavatsky, — a man who was invariably present whenever such things came under discussion. This was Dr. Huebbe-Schleiden; the same who for a long while issued the Sphinx. He, too, was altogether ‘out’ to bring a natural science way of thinking to the proof of what his feelings recognized as theosophy. — I still remember how he fetched me from the station, the first time in Hanover, when I had to give a lecture there. — It was the first anthroposophic lecture that I gave in Hanover, and was an ex-position of Goethe's Story of the Green Serpent and the Lovely Lily. Then he took me out with him; he lived a little way outside the town, and there was a ride of about half an hour in the tram. He began at once, with immense enthusiasm, to explain to me that anything like positive spiritual knowledge could not possibly maintain itself before the more intelligent spirits of mankind, unless the things were proved in the same way as one is accustomed to have them proved in text-books of physics or other sciences. Then he brought his two forefingers into play; and so it went on for the whole half-hour, he all the while describing movements with the tips of his forefingers, to represent the supposed motions of the atoms: ‘Look; that must go so, and then so; and then one can see: in the one incarnation the atoms are set in motion, and then the wave-current travels on through the spiritual worlds; and now then, one must calculate how the wave-current travels through the spiritual worlds; and then it all becomes changed, and you have the next incarnation.’ — Till really one felt oneself back again in the lecture-halls, with the lecturer explaining to one the various wave-currents for red and yellow and blue and green; it was all of a piece with these wave-currents for the transit of the souls through their various incarnation'.

He had a friend, — who afterwards, however, became an exceedingly good, sensible, faithful member of the Anthroposophic Society, — to whom he used always to send his ex-positions, and who possessed, amongst other qualities, that of greatly valuing these expositions. But every now and then the humour of it tickled him, and he once told me that he had again just received half a cwt. of wisdom for-warded to Munich from Dr. Huebbe-Schleiden. They were always very bulky letters that were dispatched from Hanover to Munich!

Well, the peculiar stamp; I was going to say, of this way of thinking, might be seen in the discussions that for a long time were carried on in the Theosophical Society over the so-called Permanent Atom. This Permanent Atom was an appalling thing! But it was taken uncommonly seriously. For the people, you see, who felt the authoritativeness of modern science, could not in the least understand why something, at any rate, that in words at least sounds the same as modern science, shouldn't be introduced into spiritual science. So they said: Take a man who is living in one incarnation and then passes on to the next; his physical body certainly falls to pieces; one single atom only remains, and that goes on through the time between death and new birth; and this one atom then makes its appearance in the new incarnation. That is the Permanent Atom, and goes on through the whole of the incarnations.

Such a thing seems like a joke to you to-day; but you can have no idea with what solemn earnestness these things were carried on during the first period especially, when Anthroposophy was in its beginnings, and how exceedingly difficult it was to meet the argument: — Why, what's the use of all theosophy if it can't be scientifically proved! Not a human being will have anything to say to it unless one can prove it scientifically! — Indeed, during this conversation in the tram, it was laid down as a maxim, that one's expositions must be in such a style that an ordinary sixth form schoolboy can understand theosophy just in the same way as he understands logic. That was what my escort demanded.

Then I arrived at his house; and he took me up into the loft. — And now I will ask those who now, in the latest period of the anthroposophic movement, are endeavouring to combat the Atomic doctrine, to guess what I found at that time in the loft of Dr. Huebbe-Schleiden's house in Hanover? — We went up a narrow stairs and there, above, in the loft, ... But in telling the story one can't of course say often enough that he was a most kind and charming, and really quite sensible, altogether nice old gentleman! ... up there, lying in the loft, were monster models of Atoms! They were made of wire, however, — very complicated. One model in each case represented the atom of some physical substance: Hydrogen or Oxygen; and the next model, which was again more complicated, represented the atom as an etheric substance; and the third model, which was more complicated still, was the atom of the astral substance. And if you take up certain books by one of the leaders of the Theosophical Society, — Leadbeater's books, — you will find in them magnificent diagrams of models such as these. It is a fact which I wish just to mention, for the consideration more particularly of those amongst us who are making war on the Atomic doctrine, that this same Atomic doctrine was never anywhere in such high bloom as amongst those who, so to speak, came into our ranks out of the Theosophical Society. And when the younger members, such as Dr. Kolisko and the others in our Stuttgart laboratories, wage war to-day upon the Atom, one would like just to remind them that, in those days, there were people with whom one really wouldn't have known how possibly to get from one incarnation to the next, if one hadn't had at least one permanent atom.

This is just an illustration of the very strong authority exercised by so-called scientific thought in these particular circles. Scientific thought, of the natural science kind, these people were quite capable of! They simply couldn't think that anything could possibly have any value unless it were conceived on the lines of natural science thought. — And so on this side too, again, there was no real under-standing. It was only as the second period of the anthroposophic movement began to draw on, that there came to be, in the circles at least that had entered our ranks, a gradual decline in this pursuit of the Atom; and the people passed on, little by little, to those things that continued further to be cultivated in the anthroposophic movement. — On the other hand it must be said, that the people who did not trouble very much about this pursuit of the Atom, and to whom modern science was after all a matter of more or less indifference, who had only, as homeless souls, found a stimulus in the theosophic movement, — that these people were decidedly more open-minded. And every time, for instance, that I stayed in Munich, I was able to deliver a lecture of a more intimate character in a circle that gathered round Frau von Schewitsch, a lady who had formerly been a great friend of Blavatsky's, and was then living in Munich. There it was certainly easier; for there one found a real striving of the soul.

I don't wish to uphold the one circle nor to disparage the other; I only wish to instance the various things on one side and another with which the anthroposophic movement had to deal.

Only just consider, though! that, at that time, the first demand we met with, and amongst our own ranks too, was that everything taught in Anthroposophy should be justified by the aid and methods of the natural science thought of those days! — And yet that was mild, com-pared with what is demanded of one by the outside world nowadays! My dear friends, a good number of you have to-day heard a lecture from Dr. Bluemel; and I think you will have been well able to understand his clear expositions, and have carried away a certain impression. Rut suppose there had been someone sitting there who said: ‘Oh, those explanations of his! What do I care about all that! I don't believe in it; I don't accept any of it; I won't examine the proofs of it!’ — And another person were to say: ‘Well, but just look and see whether the things are true; test them with your common sense and the faculties of your own soul!’ — ‘That, I am not prepared to do,’ answers the other. ‘I can't trouble for the moment about that! It may be right or it may be wrong: I won't go into that question; but I call upon Dr. Bluemel to betake him to a psychological laboratory; and there I will test him with my psychological apparatus and see whether he is a mathematician or not.’ — That is, of course, rubbish, and very thin rubbish too; but it is exactly the same as the demand made by the outer world of to-day, that an investigator of anthroposophic truths should let himself be tested in a psychologic laboratory in order to determine whether he has a right to state the results of his research and to expound them. It is exactly the same.

To-day one may make the most nonsensical statements, one may talk sheer nonsense, and people don't see it. Even those people who are indignant don't see that it is sheer nonsense; they think it is just deliberate malice, or something of the kind. For they simply can't conceive that the state of society could possibly permit of one's being an official representative of science, and talking in reality utter nonsense. The people can't conceive such a thing. So chaotic, in fact, is the spiritual life of our day.

The things, therefore, which it will be necessary to take into consideration when discussing the life-conditions of the anthroposophic movement will be altogether examples drawn from the phenomena and from the actuating forces of civilized life at the present day. Things of the kind, such as I am here describing, must be understood by every person who wishes to be acquainted with the life-conditions of the anthroposophic movement.

Well, undeterred by all these conflicting things, the work of the first period, as I was saying, was to set forth the principal human truths, the principal cosmic truths. And my Occult Science represents a sort of compendium of all that had been taught in the anthroposophic movement down to that time. As to the way the work was accomplished, it went I might say as well as it went, simply for the reason that there was never an abstract, but always a concrete will behind it, — because one never aimed, so to speak, at more than just what the course of circumstances gave one to aim at.

For example, let me give you a case like this. — We started in those days, as you know, a paper, quite at the beginning of the anthroposophical movement: the Lucifer-Gnosis. It was called Lucifer to begin with, and then, after five or six numbers had appeared, a Vienna periodical called enosis wanted to amalgamate with it. As another little fact, I may mention that I wanted simply to express the external union of the two papers by entitling the sub-sequent paper Lucifer cum Gnosis. Well, that, for in-stance, was a 'thing to which Huebbe-Schleiden simply wouldn't consent. He thought it would imply a sort of unnatural marriage bond between Lucifer and Gnosis. Lucifer cum enosis: one couldn't possibly say such a thing! Well, I didn't care; and so we called it Lucifer-Gnosis, and hyphenated them. — They were sharp enough in those days when it came to keeping an eye on us!

Well, this paper, Lucifer-Gnosis was started. We began, of course, with quite a small number of subscribers; but the list grew with comparatively great rapidity; and we never had really a deficit, for we only printed as many copies as we were about able to sell; and as for distribution, the office-apparatus was as follows: — When one number of the paper had been written and printed, the printed copies were returned to me at my house in big packets, and ‘Frau Doctor’ and I ourselves stuck on the labels; I wrote the addresses myself; and then we each took a clothes-basket and. carried the things to the post. We found it worked very well. My business was to write the things and to give the lectures. ‘Frau Doctor’ did all the organization of the society, but without any secretary; for if she had had a secretary she would. only have had to work for him too. So we did it quite alone, and never aimed at more than could be aimed at, — quite concretely. One went just as many steps forward as the actual circumstances put before one. For instance, the clothes-baskets we carried were not bigger than so that we just didn't quite collapse under them ... only nearly; we simply had to make the journey oftener, as the subscribers' list got bigger.

Well, after we had performed this interesting occupation for a while, Lucifer-Gnosis then passed over to Altmann's publishing firm in Leipzig. And then, Lucifer-Gnosis ceased to appear; not for the reason that it couldn't carry on any longer, for it had at the time many more subscribers than it needed; only I had no more time to write it. In fact, by then, the applications for lectures, and the whole spiritual administration altogether of the society, took up a great deal of time, — the whole thing, you know, slowly and gradually grew and developed; — and the consequence was that Lucifer-Gnosis failed to make its appearance. First, there were great gaps, — the January number appeared in December; and then from a year it came to a year and a half; and the subscribers made an awful fuss. Altmann, the publisher, got nothing but letters of com-plaint. So that I saw no way out except to tell him: ‘We simply must shut up altogether, and tell the sub-scribers that, however long they wait, they won't get any more!’

Well, that of course, too, was inherent in the course of the movement; one never aimed at more than the concrete advance brought with it. And that is one of the life-conditions of a spiritual society. To post up far-reaching ideals in so many words is the very worst thing for a spiritual society. Programme-making is the very worst thing for a spiritual society.

In this first period, then, the work was simply so carried on that, to begin with, by 1907 — 8 — 9, the groundwork was laid for a spiritual society suited to this modern age.

Then came the second period, in which the relations with natural science were in the main settled. — The theologians had not yet come on the field in any way. They were everywhere so tight-seated in their saddles that they didn't concern themselves about the thing at all.

The discussions with natural science being over, one could now turn to the other task before one. This was the discussion of relations with the Gospels with Genesis and the Christian tradition generally: with Christianity, as such.

The line was already sketched out in my book Christianity as Mystical Fact, which lies at the very start, for it had come out in 1902. But the elaboration, so to speak, of the anthroposophical understanding of Christianity, the building up of such an understanding was, in the main, the business of this second epoch, on to about the year 1914. It was the time when the lecture-cycles were held in Ham-burg, Cassel, Berlin, Basle, Berne, Munich, Stuttgart, on various portions of the Christian tradition. — For instance, at that time, too, there was worked out, amongst other things, what only exists so far on paper as a general sketch, in The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind.

It was the time, therefore, when in the main the Christian side of Anthroposophy was worked out with reference to the Christian tradition historically handed down.

And then, in this period, came what I might call the first extension of Anthroposophy towards the side of Art, with the performance of the Mystery-Dramas in Munich. All this, again, came strictly under the sign of not attempting more than arose out of actual circumstances. — And in this period there came then the incidents which led to what, for the Anthroposophists, was really a matter of indifference, namely, the exclusion from the Theosophical Society. For, as I said yesterday evening, to Anthroposophy it could be a matter of indifference whether she were included. or excluded; for she went her own road from the very first; — those who chose to go that same road could go with her. And Anthroposophy from the first had never troubled herself in any way internally, as regards her spiritual investigations, about what had been produced by the Theosophical Society. Only, even on the external road, it became ever more and more difficult to keep company.

At first there was undoubtedly a hope, from the circumstances, some of which I have indicated, — a hope namely, that the tide of theosophic movement as united in the Theosophical Society, might really become entirely anthroposophic. And amongst the other circumstances which seemed to justify such a hope, there was also this: — that, as a fact, the peculiar manner in which research was pursued in the Theosophical Society, led to severe disillusionments on the part, especially, of those persons whose judgmatic powers were at all of a higher order.

And here I am obliged to confess as my own experience, the first and second time when I went to London, that the behaviour of the leading personages was that of people who were extremely sceptical in their dealings with each other, who felt themselves on altogether insecure ground, but all the same wouldn't abandon this ground, because they did not know where else to look for security. — There were many disillusioned people, very plentifully filled with doubts, especially amongst the leaders of the Theosophical Society. And undoubtedly a momentous factor in the developments which took place in the Theosophical Society was the remarkable change which Mrs. Annie Besant underwent between the years 1900 and, say, 1907.

She had at first a certain tolerance. She never, I think, understood anything at all of this Anthroposophy which had come on the scenes. — I don't think she understood it at all. Rut she didn't interfere with it. She even, in the beginning, defended it against the hard-and-fast dogmatists, — that is to say, she defended its rights of existence. One can't say anything else: for that is the fact.

But now I have something to say, which I beg may be very carefully borne in mind in the Anthroposophical Society too. With any such spiritual society, — and such as the theosophical one was, too, at that time, — there is a certain sort of purely personal ambition, certain sympathies and antipathies of a purely personal tinge, which are absolutely incompatible with it. And yet there are such numbers of cases precisely of this kind, where someone really has his will set on some particular thing! He wills it from some ‘subter-ground’ of his being, — wills, for instance, to make an idol of a particular person. He wills it on some ground that lies in the under-regions of his being. What is impelling him, the emotional impulse, — it may be perhaps a brain-emotion, — is something that he won't admit to himself. But he begins now to weave an artificial astral aura round this person whom he is bent on idolizing: such a person is very ‘advanced’.1 And if one wants to say something very special in addition: ‘Oh, he, or she, knows three, not to say four, of their former earth-lives! in fact, they have talked to me about my own former earth-life! Ah, that person knows a very great deal!’ And then comes a most spiritual interpretation of what — to use Nietzsche's words — is ‘humanly all too human’. Were one to give it a humanly-all-too-human designation, one would simply say, ... well, perhaps not downright, ‘I am quite silly about that person!’ but, without going so far, one might, at any rate, say, ‘I find him, or her, attractive. There's no denying it: I certainly find him, or her, very attractive!’ And then all would be well, — even in an occult society. — Of course Max Seiling, for instance, was in a way extremely entertaining, especially when he skipped about so excitingly on the piano; it was pleasant to go to tea with him, and so forth. Well and good; and if people had confessed this to themselves it would have been wiser; if only they had confessed to themselves: ‘I like that sort of thing.’ — Wiser than extolling him to the skies, as they did in the Munich group.

All such things, you see, are in direct contradiction to the life-conditions of any society of this kind. Yet precisely a model example of how to fall into this sort of thing was Mrs. Annie Besant. For example, there turned up one day (I prefer to tell these things more through actual examples), there turned up one day a name. — I had never really troubled much about the literature of the ‘Theo-sophical Society’, in fact, I read next to nothing of this literature; and so my first acquaintance with the name,

1 English in the original.

Bhagavan Dâs, was when I one day received a thick, type-written manuscript. The manuscript was arranged thus: in two columns, the left column type-written, the right one left blank. Enclosed with it was a letter from Bhagavan Dâs (it was about the year 1905, I think), in which he wrote that he would like to enter into correspondence with various people about the contents of this manuscript which he proposed to reveal to the world. — Well, really, at that time the anthroposophic movement had already grown so extensive that I didn't find time at once to read this manuscript. He said one was to write any comments one had to make on the right-hand side, and then send it track to him. — I used to go about a bit in those days, and I found that there were other people as well to whom the manuscript had been sent. And then it dawned ever more and more clearly upon me, that this Bhagavan Dâs was, in fact ... in fact, that he was ... an altogether occult personage, one who drew from the very depths of all that was spiritual! This was pretty much the opinion circulated about Bhagavan Dâs by the people round Mrs. Besant. — Well, since the thing came from India, and he was closely in touch with Indian headquarters, and enjoyed such fame, — at the Amsterdam Congress, for instance, one heard everywhere: ‘Bhagavan Dâs’, ‘Bhagavan Dâs’; it was really as though it were a fountain gushing a perpetual flow of wisdom! And so I decided to look at the thing. A most appalling amateurish hotch-potch! Fichte-Philosophy, Hegel-Philosophy, Schopenbauer-Philosophy, everything conceivable jumbled up together without rhyme or reason! And through the whole there ran, like the endless burden of a song, Self and Not-Self. And then, again, there would come a disquisition on something from Fichte, and then again, Self and Not-Self. It was, in short, something appalling! I never troubled about the thing again; — I didn't write anything on the blank side. — Things, however, like this showed, you see, how things were gradually drifting into personal currents. For it was simply on purely personal grounds that this particular Bhagavan Das was so lauded to the skies. You can read his books still to-day, and you will find they bear out the truth of what I have just said. — For, of course, you know, he manufactured books. — Things like this showed how the personal element became introduced into what were ostensibly objective impulses. And once that had come in, — and it began to come in strongly about 1905, — then the slide inevitably went on downhill. All the rest was, in the main, simply a consequence.

By this I don't mean to say that in every kind of society, if one happens to write nonsense, the whole society is bound to go to grief. But spiritual societies are ruled by different laws, by laws of internal necessity; and there things of this kind must not be practised, especially not by the persons who are leaders. Or else, you see, the downhill slide inevitably takes place. And it did take place.

And then came the ridiculous business at Olcott's death, — the ridiculous business that went on then, and was even then the beginning of the end of the ‘Theosophical Society’, — what they called the ‘appointment by the Masters’. But that at least could in so far be smoothed over that one could say: Well, yes! there are one or two people, certainly, who undoubtedly act on peculiar principles of their own, and so bring ridiculous things into the society. — Then, however, came the affair with Leadbeater, which I don't care to discuss now. And then it came to picking out that boy who was to be educated, you know, as the Christ, or to become the Christ, and all the rest of it. And when that couldn't be accepted by people who refused to take part in such nonsense, then these people were excluded.

Well, the anthroposophic movement kept on its own straight course throughout all these things, without practically troubling itself very much about these things as a movement. For say, you know, that in 1911, on the 24th of March, one was engaged in studying the Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind; and on the 25th of March there came the ridiculous reports from Adyar or somewhere, from the ‘Theosophical Society’, one didn't on that account need, on the 25th of March, to alter the continuation of what one had done on the 24th. The internal course of things remained, therefore, in reality unaffected; — that is a fact to keep firm hold of. And one really didn't need, even at that time, to be greatly thrilled by what proceeded from this or that quarter amongst the leading personages in the ‘Theosophical Society’; any more than I was at all specially overcome with astonishment when it was reported lately that Leadbeater, — of whom you have heard a good many other things — has now, in his old days, become a bishop of the Old Catholics, and that one of his associates, who in those early days was also at the Munich Congress, has become actually an Old Catholic Archbishop. There is — you'll agree — no cause to be astonished at such things. For the line, by now, was not a straight one; it was all going crooked and queer; — so why shouldn't this happen, too?

One didn't even need to make any special change in one's personal relations with the people, — I mean, in actual intercourse with them. I gave a lecture afterwards (two years ago it was, I think), in Amsterdam; and at the end of the lecture one of the same gentlemen came up to me, quite in the old friendly way, who had delivered a lecture in Munich at the Congress of 1907. He looked exactly the same as he did then; only in the meantime he had become an Archbishop of the Old Catholics. He wasn't wearing archbishop's robes; but he was one.

Such were the things, in short, that went on in a certain field of modern culture; in which, on the other hand, these homeless souls, from internal necessity, found a very real attraction. One must not forget that it was in this stream of movement, nevertheless, — although one can characterize it in no other way, — that those souls were to be found who were the most earnestly striving after a link between the human soul and the spiritual world. And one simply is not presenting an honest picture of the course taken by the life of modern culture, unless one for once puts these con-trasts really plainly.

And so, before going on to-morrow to describe our latest period, and with it the life-conditions inherent in the nature of the Anthroposophical Society, I was obliged to-day, my dear friends, to add these few remarks for your attention.




Last Modified: 29-Apr-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]