Eugenie delle Grazie (1864–1931) is a significant figure
in Rudolf Steiner's life; so significant, in fact, that most of the
seventh chapter of his autobiography, The Course of My Life,
is devoted to a description of the circumstances surrounding this
young poetess and her circle.
in Weisskirchen, she traced her ancestry to the Alsace on her mother's
side and Venice — with strong Arabic connections — on her
father's side. She had a deep relationship with her father, who died
early in her life, soon after which her family moved to Vienna. Here
delle Grazie received a Catholic education and began composing her
first poems. At age eleven she wrote so well that her poems attracted
the notice of Laurenz Mullner, a Catholic priest who became a
surrogate “father,” teacher, mentor and life-long friend.
By the age of sixteen delle Grazie was considered by many to be a
poet of genius; by her eighteenth year she had assembled around her a
group of artists, writers, composers, and above all, brilliant
Catholic theologians and philosophers. It was here, especially, that
there was the most profound and lively concern with the figure of St.
was in the midst of this circle of delle Grazie and Mullner that Rudolf
Steiner worked before his twenty-eighth year. The Middle Ages and its
powerfully Roman Catholic Spirit still lived and breathed amidst this
group; and this Spirit afforded Dr. Steiner some of his deepest
insights at this time, especially in relation to destiny and freedom.
Even the anti-Goetheanism and pessimism that predominated — the
mood that Karl Julius Schroer called “the slag of burned-out
spirits” — became for Rudolf Steiner a window into the
world of beings, both progressive and retarding, that work into the
perceptible world. He writes in
The Course of My Life:
I felt that I was in a spiritual atmosphere which was of genuine benefit
to me. For this purpose I did not need agreement in ideas; I needed earnest
and striving humanity, susceptible to the spiritual.
soul mood of delle Grazie's poem Die Natur, at once despondent
and defiant, so revolutionary in its time (the 1880's) has in the course
of a century become the dominant mood of world culture. In our time it is
heard without end, reprinted in the most respected journals of
philosophy and literature, performed on the stages of sophisticated
theaters, recorded and amplified in the primitive rhythms and
despairing lyrics of popular songs. Marie Eugenie delle Grazie
herself stands as the prototype of the young person who reaches the
summit of her intellectual and artistic powers at about age eighteen,
but can sustain very little after age twenty-one — a type
unusual in her time, but increasingly common today.
Steiner perceived that delle Grazie's personality and poetry were
harbingers of such a future soul state. His short essay
“Nature and Our Ideals”
— written as a letter to the poetess, as a direct
appeal to her individuality — sketches a path of healing. For
the sake of the young Rudolf Steiner, the essay provides a means of
harmonizing delle Grazie's wild powers of darkness with his own
methodical mode of cognition: for the sake of the world, this essay
lays out an idealistic world view that finds its fullest treatment in
The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Delle Grazie was to write,
later in life:
My writings are manifestations of an activity that has its ultimate secrets
below the threshold of consciousness ... the real characteristic of my art
is enigmatic even to me. It belongs to dark and elementary powers ... There
is still something else — my conscious Ego!
“dark and elementary powers” are allowed to run rampant,
the result is all that passes for modern culture, especially in
painting, music and drama. When the “something else,” the
Conscious Ego, is sought, it must be striven for along the lines of
A Theory of Knowledge,
The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity
and the following letter,
Nature and Our Ideals.
* * * * *
for further Reading:
The Course of My Life,
Anthroposophic Press, Spring Valley, New York.
“Ephesus and the Castle of the Grail,”
Golden Blade, 1967
“Von Rudolf Steiners Jahren in Wien,”
Mitteilungen, Weihnachten, 1976.