FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE AND RUDOLF STEINER
have known the writings of Friedrich
Nietzsche in English for somewhat less than fifty years. The first
translations of Nietzsche's works began appearing in this country shortly
after the turn of the century. Since then, almost without interruption
American publishers' lists have included collections of his writings,
selections from his letters, extracts from his journals, commentaries
on his works, and, above all, numerous descriptions of his tragic
life story; and American interest in Nietzsche continues today.
In view of this it seems
particularly fitting that the present book, with its profound insight
into Nietzsche's creative activity, brilliant analysis of his character,
and clear evaluation of his significance should be published for the
first time in English translation as the second volume of the Centennial
Edition of the Major Writings of Rudolf Steiner.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom,
Rudolf Steiner presents an unforgettable portrait of the man whose writings
continue to exercise an important influence in shaping the world in which we
live today, and which our children will inherit tomorrow.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
was born in the little village of Röcken near Leipzig on October
15, 1844. As he wrote later, “I was born on the battlefield of
Lützen, and the first name I heard was that of Gustavus Adolphus.”
The Protestant element was in his very blood, for Lutheran clergymen
were among his forebearers on both his paternal and maternal sides,
while his father was the pastor of Röcken. A tradition that his
ancestors were Polish noblemen of the Niëzky family was recorded
by Nietzsche himself, as was the statement that his grandmother belonged
to the Goethe-Schiller circle of Weimar.
The parsonage life during Nietzsche's early childhood was typical of
most of the country clergy-houses of the time. The atmosphere was that
of “plain living and high thinking,” and the family combined
honor and piety with a social life of happiness and cheer, in which
a love of music, books and friendships played a role.
When the boy was nearly five, in the summer of 1849, Pastor Nietzsche
sustained a severe fall, in consequence of which he died. The widow
took her children to Naumberg some months later, and they made their
home with the paternal grandparents.
At first Friedrich was
enrolled in the municipal school in Naumberg, but shortly afterward
he was transferred to a private school in the same town. In October
1858, in response to the offer of a scholarship, the boy was enrolled
in the Landes-Schule at Pforta. This famous institution had been founded
as a Cistercian Abbey in the middle of the twelfth century; at the time
of the Reformation it became a secular school. Klopstock, Fichte, Schlegel
and Ranke are among the names of those who studied there. In the nineteenth
century the Landes-Schule at Pforta was frequently referred to as “the
German Eton” because of its excellence in classical studies and
as a preparatory school.
Friedrich Nietzsche found
a second home in the Landes-Schule; he thoroughly enjoyed his studies
— languages, literature and history in particular. In the summer of
1860 he conceived the idea of organizing a literary-artistic club among
the students, and this met with a ready response from his schoolmates.
Soon the Germania Club, as it came to be called, was organized, and
Nietzsche contributed a number of essays on literary and historical
themes to the club paper. Many happy hours were spent with his friends
at the Germania Club in active discussions about Greek and Latin classics,
the works of current German and English authors, and similar subjects.
Nietzsche's favorite writers at this time included Emerson, Shakespeare,
Tacitus, Aristophanes, Plato and Aeschylus. About Tristram Shandy he
wrote his sister Elizabeth, “I read it over and over again.”
While Friedrich Nietzsche
was a student at the Landes-Schule, Rudolf Steiner was born on February
27, 1861 in the little town of Kraljevec on the frontier between Hungary
and Croatia. His father was a station master in the service of the South
Austrian Railway, and the boy's earliest recollections were connected
with the activities of the railroad. From his second through his eighth
year his impressions were those of the quiet country village of Pottsach,
situated in a beautiful green valley at the foot of the magnificent
Styrian Alps. The infrequent arrival and departure of the train, the
daily activities of the village people, the services at the little church,
the colorful peasants and foresters, the life at the local mill, and
always and ever the mysterious wonder and beauty of the surrounding
nature: all this was a part of the child's world. He attended school
in the village for a time; afterward his father undertook to teach him
the rudiments of elementary education.
But side by side with this world, the child knew another world, a
spiritual world, which was just as real and tangible to him as were
the forests, fields and mountains surrounding him. This spiritual world
was filled with objects and beings, just as the world about him contained
stones and plants and animals and people. Even before he was eight,
the child could distinguish between these two worlds, and the one was
as clear and immediate to him as the other.
Many children have experiences similar to this of Rudolf Steiner. However,
generally speaking, with the passing of the years of childhood, these
experiences also vanish little by little, until in the retrospect of
later years they seem like “the gentle fabric of a dream.”
But in the instance of Rudolf Steiner, the reality and immediacy of
the spiritual world did not fade away; it broadened and deepened into
a clear, conscious perception of beings and events of that world.
In the wondering eyes of
this quiet boy there were many questions. He knew, however, that these
were questions he could ask of no one around him. More than this, he
could speak with no one about the “other” world which was
as close and as real to him as were the houses and fields of Pottsach.
So he remained silent, and the questions remained alive within him.
And, although he shared the daily activities of the children around
him, and entered fully into the life of his family, he was unhappy.
More than this, he was lonely ...
In September 1864, Nietzsche left the Landes-Schule with excellent marks,
particularly in languages and literature. He entered the University
of Bonn a short time later, enrolled as a student of theology and philology.
However, he had not been long in the university when his friendship
with his professor of philology, Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschel, caused
him to drop his theological studies in favor of philology. This action
caused great grief to his mother and the other members of his family,
who had looked to him to continue the clerical tradition of his father.
A year after he had entered the University of Bonn, Nietzsche withdrew
in order to accompany Ritschel, who had been transferred to the faculty
of the University of Leipzig. Here he continued his philological studies,
and here also two very important events of his life took place. He met
Richard Wagner in the home of Professor Brockhaus at Leipzig for the
first time; his other meeting happened in a somewhat unusual way.
One day while he was browsing
in Rohm's second-hand bookstore in Leipzig, “as if by accident”
Nietzsche picked up a copy of Schopenhauer's
Welt als Wille und Vorstellung,
The World as Will and Idea.
Without stopping to so
much as open the book, he paid for it, and rushed to his lodgings. There
he threw himself down on his bed and began to read avidly. As he relates
in his journal, “I don't know what daemon told me to take the book
home with me. ... From every line I read I heard a cry of renunciation,
denial, resignation. In the book I saw a mirror of the world; life and
my own soul were reflected with dreadful faithfulness. The dull, disinterested
eye of art looked at me. I saw illness and healing, banishment and restoration,
hell and heaven.”
Thus, at the age of twenty-one,
his reading of Schopenhauer's book — the first part of which had been
sold as waste paper shortly after publication because there was no sale
for it — changed Nietzsche's outlook upon life. In Shopenhauer he felt
he had found his teacher in the fullest, most ideal sense.
After a brief interval
spent in military service, during which he sustained a serious chest
injury as the result of a fall from a horse, Nietzsche returned to Leipzig
to continue his studies in the autumn of 1868. Meanwhile, a series of
articles he had contributed to the periodical, the
had been read by the authorities of the University of Basel, where a
position as professor of classical philology was vacant. A letter was
addressed to Ritschel, asking details about Nietzsche, and indicating
that the chair at the university might be offered to the young student.
Ritschel's reply was unequivocal: “Nietzsche is a genius, and can
do whatever he puts his mind to.”
This sweeping endorsement
must have impressed the authorities at Basel, for they appointed Nietzsche
to the post, despite the fact that he had not yet obtained his doctor's
degree. One member of the board, however, was slightly dubious of the
appointment, for he said, “If the candidate proposed is actually
such a genius, perhaps we had better not appoint him, for he would be
certain to remain only a short while at such a little university as
When word of the appointment
reached Leipzig, the authorities of the university at once conferred
a doctorate upon Nietzsche, without requiring him to undergo further
examination. Accordingly, on May 28, 1869, Nietzsche delivered his Inaugural
Address at the University of Basel on
Homer and Classical Philology.
He remained in the position for the next ten years, his final retirement
being due solely to reasons of health. The foreboding of the official
who felt he might “remain only a short while” proved to be
His residence at Basel
gave Nietzsche opportunity to follow up his friendship with Richard
and Cosima Wagner, and he was often a guest at their Triebschen estate
on the Lake of Lucerne, under the shadow of Mount Pilatus. At the same
time, he made friends with Jacob Burckhardt, “the hermit-like,
secluded thinker,” as Nietzsche described him. Burckhardt had recently
completed his well-known
Geschichte der Renaissance in Italien,
History of the Renaissance in Italy, 1867,
and was famous as the author
of a series of critical historical writings on Italian painting, sculpture,
and architecture. In addition he occupied the chair of professor of
history at the University of Basel.
1869 was a year of importance in the life of Rudolf Steiner, now a boy
of eight years. Surrounded by the beauties and wonders of nature, puzzling
over the intricacies of such mechanical contrivances as the telegraph
equipment in the railway station and the machinery in the local mill,
the boy's questions moved to a still broader plane. How could he reconcile
his direct experience of the spiritual world with the world of sense
which surrounded him? Was there a connection between the two? How could
one find a bridge between the experiences of the outer and the inner?
The answer came in a most
Among the books of his
school teacher in the little Hungarian village of Neudörfl where
he now lived with his family, the boy found a textbook on geometry.
This volume opened a new world for Rudolf Steiner. In the study of geometry
he found answers to his questions. Perhaps even more important, he says,
“I learned to know happiness for the first time.” His satisfaction
was complete, for he had discovered that “one can live within
the mind in the shaping of forms perceived only within oneself.”
He had found that an inner joy came to him as he learned through his
study of geometry to “lay hold upon something in the spirit alone
In the vicinity of his
home in Neudörfl was a monastery of the Order of the Most Holy
Redeemer. As the boy often met the silent monks on his walks, they aroused
solemn feelings in him and he very much wished that they would speak
with him. But they never did.
In October 1870, Rudolf Steiner,
now eleven, entered the Realschule at Wiener-Neustadt in Austria,
traveling backward and forward daily from his home in Neudörfl,
which was over the border in Hungary. Along with his intimate contacts
with nature which were still an important part of his daily life, the
boy now began to find interest in such scientific matters as space and
time, attraction and repulsion, atoms and their relation to natural
phenomena, and many other subjects. With intense interest his mind turned
to science and mathematics, and his teachers in the Realschule
were of great help to him in these studies.
The Franco-Prussian War
of 1870 found Nietzsche active as an ambulance attendant in the medical
corps, because his health would not permit him to take part in more
active combat. However, even these duties proved too much for his strength,
and he contracted diphtheria as a result. He returned to his work at
the University of Basel, and in 1872, when he was twenty-eight, Nietzsche
published his first major work, the result of his friendship with Wagner
and Burkhardt, and the feelings they had evoked in him. This was his
Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik,
The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music.
The aesthetic passages attracted
musicians to the book, but Nietzsche's colleagues in the philological
field greeted it with a bitter attack which was led by Wilamowitz-Moellendorf.
The result was that despite efforts on the part of Ritschel and Burckhardt
to defend him, Nietzsche had no pupils at all in his philology classes
in the winter term of 1872 – 3.
The aftermath of the
German victory in the War of 1870 was the eruption
of a nationalistic spirit which had been gathering since the previous
successes of 1864 and 1866. Nietzsche felt that this was the time to
issue a fiery call to the intellectuals of Germany to abandon what he
considered a highly dangerous and unworthy chauvinistic spirit, and
to return to their work in the service of true German culture. Richard
Wagner joined him in this effort to arouse the German youth to a recognition
of the responsibilities their victorious destiny had placed upon them.
Nietzsche devoted parts
of his lectures in the university to this subject, and finally, in 1873
he issued the first of a series of pamphlets under the general title,
Thoughts Out of Season,
which he called
dealing with the Philistinism of the period. The second, which was
published in the following year, was
Von Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben,
The Use and Abuse of History in Life,
a sharp attack on the exaggerations of the current “popular
historians” of Germany. The third pamphlet was titled,
Schopenhauer als Erzieher,
Schopenhauer as Educator,
and appeared in the same year as the second. The last in the series was
Richard Wagner in Bayreuth,
and was published in 1876 when Nietzsche was thirty-two years of age.
Late in August, the first
complete performance of Richard Wagner's opera cycle,
Der Ring des Niebelungen
took place in the newly constructed Bayreuth Festival
Theatre under the direction of Hans Richter. People flocked to Bayreuth
from many countries to attend this cultural event of the first magnitude.
Among the spectators was Friedrich Nietzsche who, however, did not share
the general enthusiasm for what he saw depicted on the stage.
The well-known French author
and critic, Edouard Schuré was also present at the Bayreuth Festival
and wrote an account of his meeting with Nietzsche, including a keen
appraisal of the latter's character. Schuré's article appeared
some years later in the Paris
Revue des Deux Mondes (1895):
“I met Nietzsche in
1876 when the
Ring of the Niebelungs
had its premiere in Bayreuth.
As I spoke with him I was impressed by the high caliber of his mind
and by his strange countenance. His forehead was large, his short hair
combed well back, and his prominent cheekbones were those of a Slav.
His thick mustache and courageous bearing gave him the look of a cavalry
officer, at first glance. However, this was tempered by a certain mixture
of arrogance and nervousness difficult to describe.
“The music of his
voice and the slowness of his speech expressed his artistic feelings.
His circumspect, thoughtful bearing pointed to the philosopher in him.
But nothing could have been more misleading than the seeming tranquility
of his expression. The fixed gaze revealed the unhappy task of the thinker;
his look combined sharp perception with fanaticism. This double quality
made his eye appear uneasy, particularly since it always seemed to be
fastened upon a single point. When he spoke for any period of time his
face took on the appearance of poetic gentleness, but it was not long
before it resumed its antagonistic character.
“When we left (the
theatre) together, he spoke no word of censure or disapproval; his face
expressed only the sorrowful resignation of a defeated man. ...”
The year ended badly for
Nietzsche. As the months progressed, his health began to fail steadily,
and toward the end of the year his symptoms of eye disease were augmented
by those of a still graver sort. He withdrew from his university teaching,
and was given sick leave.
He passed the winter in
Sorrento in company with his friends, Baroness Meysenberg and Dr. Paul
Rée, with whom he was to travel considerably in the next years.
Despite his illness, he somehow found strength to begin another of his
important writings, which would occupy him periodically over the next
four years. This was his
Human, All Too Human.
The three years that followed were a time of increasing illness and
loneliness. Finally, Nietzsche resigned his position at the University
of Basel in 1879 and was given a retirement pension on which he lived
for the rest of his life.
The physical and mental suffering he experienced in the year 1879 alone,
is described by him: “I have had two hundred days of anguish in
this year. ... My pulse is as slow as that of Napoleon I. ...”
The years between 1873
and 1879 were most important in the development of Rudolf Steiner. He
then passed his twelfth through eighteenth years. As Nietzsche had discovered
Schopenhauer's book in Leipzig, Steiner now saw Kant's
Kritik der reinen Vernunft,
Critique of Pure Reason,
in a bookstore window,
and eventually came into possession of the volume. From the eager study
of this book, to which he devoted every spare moment he could find,
often reading single pages “more than twenty times in succession,”
he hoped to find that which would enable him to understand his own thinking.
Yet what he read in Kant was sharply opposed to his own inner conclusion,
which he was to describe with the words, “Thinking can be developed
to a faculty which really grasps the objects and events of the world.”
In this period Steiner
deepened his knowledge of mathematics and German literature, in addition
to the prescribed courses of study in the Realschule. From
his fifteenth year onward he spent considerable time tutoring other
pupils, thus inaugurating an educational activity that was to accompany
him through the coming years. He found that a knowledge of practical
psychology was indispensable for this task, and from his experience
as a tutor he learned many valuable things about the problems involved
in the training of the human mind.
Early in the summer of
1879 Steiner completed his studies at the Realschule, and was
entered as a student at the Technische Hochschule in Vienna
for the term to begin in the fall. He spent the summer entirely in the
study of philosophy, working his way with utmost care and diligence
through the writings of Kant and the principal works of Fichte. He was
enrolled for the study of mathematics, natural history, and chemistry.
The years from 1879 to
1889 are generally regarded as Nietzsche's time of mature productivity.
When one takes into account the suffering he experienced, the restless
traveling, his constant loneliness, one is astonished at the amount
of creative work he was able to produce during this period. In Italy,
the French Riviera, the Swiss Engadine, the urge to write drove him
In July 1881, his
was published. Although it received a cold reception, it is of
importance, for it marks a turning point in Nietzesche's creative development.
His previous writings had been largely negative and critical in tone.
This book marks the appearance of a positive, constructive tendency,
which increased in the works which followed.
Although his letters and journals give the impression that the autumn
of this year was one of the happiest times of his life, he described
the winter as a time “of unbelievable suffering.”
The next summer while Nietzsche
was at Tautenberg in Thuringia, Dr. Rée and Baroness Meysenberg
introduced him to Miss Andreas Salomé. Out of this and subsequent
meetings with Nietzsche, Miss Andreas Salomé later wrote what
has been described as “the most unreliable book about Nietzsche
which has ever appeared in print.”
In July the first performances
of Richard Wagner's music drama,
were given at Bayreuth under the composer's direction. Nietzsche chose
this occasion to send Wagner a presentation copy of his
Human, All Too Human.
Curiously enough, at exactly the same time, Wagner
sent Nietzsche an inscribed copy of his
The two packages crossed in the mail. No word of acknowledgment from either
recipient was ever forthcoming; the break between Nietzsche and Wagner was
complete, although the public was not to become aware of it until six more
years had passed. In the meanwhile, Wagner had died suddenly in Venice early
The high point in Nietzsche's
creative life came in May 1883 with the birth of his
Also Sprach Zarathustra,
Thus Spoke Zarathustra,
the work which he and many others considered to be his masterpiece. The
first part in twenty-three chapters took just ten days to write, as did
each of the other parts with the exception of the fourth and last which
was completed in 1885. In a letter he said of the writing of his
“All of it was conceived in the course of rapid walks ... absolute
certainty, as though each sentence were shouted at one. While writing this
book, the greatest physical elasticity and sense of power ...”
In addition to his studies
at the Technische Hochschule, Rudolf Steiner attended lectures
at the University of Vienna. He particularly appreciated the courses
given by the celebrated Karl Julius Schröer on German literature,
especially on Schiller and Goethe. As a result, Steiner read Goethe's
for the first time at the age of nineteen. Later, he
enjoyed a personal friendship with Schröer, under whose guidance
he came to a deep awareness of the importance of Goethe's contribution
to natural science as well as to literature.
Out of his interest in
philosophical studies, Steiner attended lectures by the philosophers
Robert Zimmerman and Franz Brentano. He studied writings by Ernst Haeckel
on morphology, and by Friedrich Theodor Vischer on aesthetics. The writings
of Eduard von Hartmann, “the philosopher of the unconscious,”
interested him deeply, and the day was to come when he would meet this
man face to face in Berlin; eventually Steiner would dedicate his book,
Wahrheit und Wissenschaft,
Truth and Science,
to him “in warm admiration.”
Among the lectures in his
scientific courses, those of Edmund Reitlinger on the mechanical theory
of heat and on the history of physics made a deep impression on Rudolf
At this time Steiner was
engaged as tutor in a family where there were four boys, the youngest
of whom was a retarded child. The three older boys were no particular
problem for him, and their studies went forward without difficulty under
his direction. However, the retarded child was a great challenge. That
Steiner met this challenge is clear from the fact that in two years
the child was able to complete his work in the elementary school and
enter the Gymnasium. Eventually he entered the School of Medicine
and finally graduated as a physician. The experience with this child
was reflected in methods for the treatment and care of retarded children
which Rudolf Steiner gave some forty years later, thus laying the foundation
for a system of Curative Education which is successfully practiced in
both Europe and America today.
In 1884 Professor Schröer
recommended Steiner to the position of editor and commentator on Goethe's
natural scientific writings which the publisher, Joseph Kürschner,
wished to include in his series of volumes on German literature. In
recalling the nature of this task years later, Steiner wrote, “I
saw in Goethe a personality who, because of the particular spiritual
relation in which he placed man in regard to the world, could also fit
the science of nature into the entire realm of human creative activity
in the right manner ... To me, Goethe was the founder of a science
of organics ... applicable to what is alive.”
From this time onward,
Steiner was occupied with Goethe's investigations in such areas of natural
science as metamorphosis, the archetypal plant, the world of animals
and minerals, and so on. And out of this study in the light of Goethe's
investigations and comments, Steiner came to recognize that if one wishes
to understand Goethe as a natural scientist this can be done only on
the basis of learning how one must perceive in order to enter
into the phenomena of life.
Finally he realized that
no theory of knowledge then extant explained Goethe's particular form
of knowledge. Therefore, as a part of his preparatory work before setting
about to edit and write commentry on Goethe's natural scientific writings
for Kürschner, Steiner drafted a short study of Goethe's theory
of knowledge. This was completed in 1886, when Steiner was twenty-five,
and is clear proof of his comprehensive grasp of Goethe's way of thinking.
The book is titled,
Erkenntnistheorie der Goetheschen Weltanschauung,
Theory of Knowledge in Goethe's Conception of the World,
and is one of the most basic of Rudolf Steiner's major writings.
In 1886 Nietzsche, now
in his forty-second year, wrote his
Jenseits van Gut und Böse,
Beyond Good and Evil,
a large part of which was composed during his
residence in Italy. This was his first attempt to deal with the subject
of the origin of morals. The reaction to the book was generally unfavorable,
although Jacob Burckhardt in Basel and Hyppolyte Taine in Paris wrote
appreciatively of it.
On July 8th Nietzsche wrote
his sister, “My health is actually quite normal, but my soul is
very sensitive and is filled with longing for good friends of my own
kind. Get me a small circle of men who will listen to me and understand
me, and I shall be cured. ...” No words could better express
the poignancy of the pathetic struggle for health and the longing for human
beings who “understand.”
In 1887 came his
Zur Genealogie der Moral,
The Genealogy of Morals,
a further development of the subject which had occupied his mind for
Finally, in 1888 came
the publicizing of his break with Richard Wagner upon the appearance
of Neitzsche's book,
Der Fall Wagner,
The Case of Wagner.
The volume produced a sensation. It was the first of Nietzsche's works to
be reviewed by the public press, and for the first time Nietzsche attracted
widespread attention as an author.
Not long before this, Nietzsche
had written, “I am the author of fifteen books, and never yet have
I seen an honest German review of any of them.” Even though this
may have been the case, nevertheless Nietzsche had had devoted and entirely
capable readers during all his productive years. Among these were Jacob
Burckhardt, the Swiss historian, and Hyppolite Taine, the French critic,
as we have seen, and also August Strindberg, the Swedish dramatist,
and Georg Brandes, the Danish literary historian. It was Brandes who
wrote his famous essay about Nietzsche in 1888, thus making his name
known in leading intellectual circles throughout Europe. Nietzsche's
books began to sell widely. Fame had come at last. ...
But Nietzsche was fast wearing out; day by day he was fighting against
fearful odds. In a pitiful letter to Brandes late in the year, he said,
“I have resigned my professorship at the University; I am three
parts blind. ...”
Somehow he managed to
complete his Götzendämmerung, Twilight of Idols, before the
year came to a close.
With the dawn of New Year's
Day, 1889, the battle Nietzsche had waged so long was nearly over. For
four days he struggled against the gathering shadows, but finally the
light of his consciousness flickered out.
On the fourth of January
Nietzsche wrote his last letter in pencil on a scrap of paper torn from
a child's notebook. It was addressed to Georg Brandes from Turin: “To
the friend Georg: When once you had discovered me, it was easy enough
to find me; the difficulty now is to get rid of me.” The letter
was signed, “The Crucified One.”
Nietzsche was forty-five
years of age; the long night of spiritual darkness began. ...
While at work on Goethe's
natural scientific writings, Steiner was active in the literary and
artistic circles of Vienna in the last two years of the eighties. He
had many friends among writers, poets, musicians, architects, journalists,
scientists and the clergy. Before the Goethe Society of Vienna in 1888
he gave a lecture which reflected his keen interest in the question of
artistic beauty. This lecture was subsequently published under the title,
Goethe als Vater einer neuen ństhetik,
Goethe as Father of a New Aesthetics.
This year was marked by
Steiner's first journey into Germany. This was in response to a letter from
the administration of the Goethe-Schiller Archives at Weimar inviting him to
act as a collaborator on the famous Weimar Edition of Goethe's works then in
preparation under commission from the Archduchess Sophie of Saxony. Steiner
was well received at Weimar, and from there went to Berlin where he made the
acquaintance of Eduard von Hartmann, as we have already seen.
The reading of
Jenseits von Gut und Böse,
Beyond Good and Evil,
in 1889 was Steiner's first acquaintance with Nietzsche's writings. He said,
“I was fascinated ... yet repelled at the same time. I found it
difficult to discover a right attitude toward Nietzsche. I loved his style,
I loved his daring, but I did not love the way he spoke of most significant
matters without entering into them in ... full consciousness. But then I saw
that he said many things to which I was very closely related by my own
spiritual experience. I felt myself near to his struggle. To me Nietzsche
seemed to be one of the most tragic figures of the time.”
“I felt that Nietzsche
photographed the world from the point to which a deeply significant
personality was forced if he had to subsist on the spiritual substance
of that time alone, that is, if the vision of the spiritual world did
not penetrate into his consciousness ...
“This was the picture
of Nietzsche that appeared in my thought. It revealed to me the personality
who did not see the spirit, but in whom unconsciously the spirit fought
against the unspiritual views of the age ...”
Steiner's move from Vienna
to Weimar was the beginning of a new phase of his life. As a free collaborator
in the Goethe-Schiller Archives he could observe events from the vantage
point of one of the centers of the cultural life of his time. He came
to know many of the leading personalities of the day. He had conversation
with men like Hermann Grimm, the art historian and Goethe scholar, Ernst
Haeckel, the scientist and German interpreter of Darwin, Ludwig Laistner,
author and literary advisor to the internationally-known Cotta publishing
firm, and many others. Laistner invited Steiner to edit editions of
Schopenhauer and Jean Paul Richter, which were published by Cotta in
Library of World Literature.
Steiner fulfilled this task, including writing introductions to the
writings of both authors.
In 1891 Steiner received
his Ph.D. at the University of Rostock. His thesis dealt with the scientific
teaching of Fichte. In somewhat enlarged form this thesis appeared under
Wahrheit und Wissenchaft,
Truth and Science,
as the preface to Steiner's chief philosophical work,
Die Philosophie der Freiheit,
The Philosophy of Freedom, 1894.
And now events occurred
which finally brought Rudolf Steiner into the company of those around
Nietzsche, who was being cared for at the home of his mother in Naumberg.
In his autobiography Steiner
describes a significant meeting: “One day Nietzsche's sister, Elizabeth
Foerster-Nietzsche, visited the Goethe-Schiller Archives. She was about
to take the first step toward forming the Nietzsche Archives, and wanted
to know how the Goethe-Schiller Archives were managed. A short time
afterward the publisher of Nietzsche's works, Fritz Koegel, also appeared
in Weimar, and I came to know him. ...
“I am thankful to
Frau Foerster-Nietzsche that during the first of my many visits (to
Nietzsche's home), she led me into the room of Friedrich Nietzsche.
There on a couch he lay in spirit-night, with his marvelously beautiful
brow, that of artist and thinker in one. It was early in the afternoon.
Those eyes, which even in thir dimness gave the effect of soul penetration,
still took in a picture of the surrounding, but this had no entrance
into the soul. One stood there and Nietzsche was unaware of it. And
yet one could have believed that this spiritually illuminated countenance
expressed a soul which had formed thoughts within itself all morning,
and now wished to rest for a while. A deep inner shudder which siezed
my soul ... transformed itself into an understanding for the genius
whose look was directed toward me, but which did not meet mine ...
“And before my soul stood the soul of Nietzsche, as if floating
above his head, already boundless in its spirit light, freely surrendered
to the spirit world, for which it had longed before this darkened condition,
but did not find. ...
“Previously I had
read the Nietzsche who had written; now I saw the
Nietzsche who, from far distant spirit fields carried within his body
ideas which still shimmered in beauty, despite the fact that on the
way they had lost their original power of light. I saw a soul which
had brought rich gold of enlightenment from earlier earth lives, but
which it could not bring to full radiance in this life. I had admired
what Nietzsche had written, but now behind my admiration I glimpsed
a radiant picture.
“In my thoughts I
could only stammer about what I had seen, and that stammering is the
content of my book. ... It was the picture of Nietzsche which had
had asked that I arrange the Nietzsche library. Thus I was permitted
to spend several weeks in the Nietzsche Archives in Naumberg. It was
a beautiful task that brought before me books that Nietzsche had read.
His spirit lived in the impressions these volumes made. ... A book
by Emerson, covered with marginal notes, bore traces of the most devoted,
intense study. ...
“My relationship with
the Nietzsche Archives was a very stimulating episode in my life in
In 1897 Nietzsche's mother
died, and his sister took him into her home, where he passed his last
years. In this same year Rudolf Steiner wrote his
Goethe's Conception of the World,
a rich harvest from his work in Vienna
and Weimar in close study of Goethe's contribution to the knowledge
of man and nature. This book marked the end of Steiner's residence in
Weimar, for he now moved to Berlin to assume the editorship of
Das Magazin für Litteratur, a well-known literary periodical
which had been founded by Joseph Lehmann in 1832.
On the twenty-fifth of
August, 1900, Friedrich Nietzsche died. He was buried in the graveyard
at Röcken near the church where his father had preached, and the
parsonage where he had been born fifty-six years before.
In Berlin, two weeks after
Friedrich Nietzsche's death, Rudolf Steiner gave a Memorial Address
in his honor, the text of which is included in the present volume.
John Ruskin wrote, “Youth is properly a forming time — that in
which a man makes himself, or is made, what he is to be. Then comes
the time of labor, when, having become the best he can be, he does the
best he can do. Then the time of death, which, in happy lives, is very
short; but always a time. The ceasing to breathe is only the
end of death.”
For the Fighter for Freedom, the end of death had come at last.
PAUL MARSHALL ALLEN
Englewood, New Jersey