IN reading discussions of anthroposophy such as appear nowadays there
is something painful in having to meet again and again such thoughts,
for instance, as that the World War has been the cause of moods
in men's souls fitted to set up all sorts of mystical and similar
spiritual currents; and then to have anthroposophy included
among these currents.
Against this stands the fact that the anthroposophic movement was
founded at the beginning of the century, and that nothing essential
has been done within this movement since its foundation that has not
been derived from the inner life of the spirit. Twenty-five years ago
I had a content of spiritual impressions within me. I gave the
substance of these in lectures, treatises, and books. What I did was
done from spiritual impulses. In its essence every theme was drawn
from the spirit. During the war I discussed also topics which were
suggested by the events of the times. But in these there was nothing
basic due to any intention of taking advantage of the mood of the time
for propagation of anthroposophy. These discussions occurred because
men desired to have certain events illuminated by the knowledge which
comes from the spiritual world.
On behalf of anthroposophy no endeavour has ever been made for
anything except that it should take that course of development made
possible by its own inner force bestowed upon it from the spirit. It
is as far as possible out of harmony with anthroposophy to imagine
that it would desire to win something from the dark abysses of the
soul during the World War. That the number of those interested in
anthroposophy increased after the war, that the Anthroposophical
Society increased in its membership these things are true; only one
ought to note that all these facts have never changed anything in the
development of the anthroposophical reality in the sense in which this
took its full form at the beginning of the century.
The form which was to be given to anthroposophy from inner spiritual
being had at first to struggle against all sorts of opposition from
the theosophists in Germany.
There was, first of all, the justification of spiritual knowledge
before the scientific mode of thought of the time. That
this justification is necessary I have stated frequently in this story
of my life. I took that mode of thought which rightly passes as
scientific in natural knowledge and extended this into
spiritual knowledge. Through this means, the mode of knowledge of
nature became, to be sure, something different for the observation of
spirit from what it is for the observation of nature, but the
character which causes it to be looked upon as scientific
For this mode of scientific shaping of spiritual knowledge, those
persons who considered themselves representatives of the theosophical
movement at the beginning of the century never had any feeling or
These were the persons grouped about Dr. Hübbe-Schleiden He, as a
personal friend of H. P. Blavatsky, had established a theosophical
society as early as the 'eighties, beginning at Elberfeld. In this
foundation H. P. Blavatsky herself participated. Dr. Hübbe-Schleiden
then published a journal, Die Sphinx, in which the theosophical
world-conception should be upheld. The whole movement failed; and,
when the German section of the Theosophical Society was founded, there
was nothing existing except a number of persons, who looked upon me,
however, as a sort of trespasser in their territory. These persons
awaited the scientific founding of theosophy by Dr.
Hübbe-Schleiden. They held the opinion that, until this should occur,
nothing was to be done in this matter within German territory. What I
began to do appeared to them as a disturbance of their
waiting, as something utterly blameworthy. Yet they did
not at once withdraw; for theosophy was their affair, and, if anything
should happen in this, they did not wish to be absent.
What did they understand of the science that Dr.
Hübbe-Schleiden was to establish, whereby theosophy would be
proven? To anthroposophy they conceded nothing.
They understood by this term the atomistic bases of natural scientific
theorizing. The phenomena of nature were explained when
one conceived the primal parts of the world-substance as
grouping into atoms and these into molecules. A substance was there by
reason of the fact that it represented a certain structure of atoms in
This mode of thought was supposed to be figurative. Complicated
molecules were constructed which were also to be the basis for
spiritual effects. Chemical processes were supposed to be the results
of processes within the molecular structure; for spiritual processes
something similar must be found.
For me this atomic theory, in the significance given to it in natural
science, was something quite impossible even within that science; to
wish to carry this over into the spiritual seemed to me a confusion of
thought that one could not even seriously discuss.
In this field there have always been difficulties for my way of
establishing anthroposophy. People have been assured from certain
sides for a long time that materialism was overcome. To those who
incline to this view, anthroposophy seems to be attacking windmills
when it discusses materialism in science. To me, on the contrary, it
was always clear that what people call a way of overcoming materialism
is just the way unconsciously to maintain it.
It was never a matter of moment to me that atoms should be conceived
either in a purely mechanical or other activity in connection with
processes in matter. What was important to me was that the thoughtful
consideration of the atom the smallest image of the world should
go forward and seek for an issue into the organic, into the spiritual.
I saw the necessity of proceeding from the whole. Atoms, or atomic
structure, can only be the results of spiritual action or organic
action. From the perceived primal phenomena, and not from an
intellectual construction, would I take the way leading out into the
spirit of Goethe's view of nature. Profoundly impressive to me was the
meaning of Goethe's words that the factual is in itself theoretical,
and that one should seek for nothing behind this.
But this demands that one must receive in the presence of nature that
which the senses give, and must employ thought solely in order to go
past the complicated derivative phenomena (appearances), which cannot
be surveyed, and arrive at the simple, the primal phenomena. Then it
will be noted that in nature one has to do with colour and other
sense-qualities within which spirit is actually at work; but one does
not arrive at an atomic world behind the sense-world.
That in this direction progress has occurred in the conception of
nature the anthroposophic mode of thinking cannot admit. What appears
in such views as those of Mach, or what has recently appeared in this
sphere, is really the beginning of an abandonment of the atomic and
molecular constructions; yet all this shows that this construction is
so deeply rooted in the mode of thought that abandoning it means
losing all reality. Mach has spoken now of concepts only as if they
were economical generalizations of sense-perceptions, not something
which lives in a spiritual reality; and it is the same with recent
Therefore what now appears as a battle within theoretical materialism
is no less remote from the spiritual being in which anthroposophy
lives than from the materialism of the last third of the nineteenth
century. What has been brought forward, therefore, by anthroposophy
against the customary thinking of the physical sciences holds good
to-day, not in lesser but in greater measure.
The setting forth of these things may appear to be theoretical
obtrusions in this story of my life. To me they are not; for what is
contained in these analyses was for me an experience, the strongest
sort of experience, far more significant even than what came to me
Immediately upon the foundation of the German section of the
Theosophical Society, it seemed to me a matter of necessity to have a
publication of our own. So Marie von Sievers and I established the
monthly Luzifer. The name was naturally in no way associated at that
time with the spiritual Power whom I later designated as
Lucifer, the opposite of Ahriman. The content of anthroposophy
had not then been developed to such an extent that these Powers could
have been discussed. The name was intended to signify only The
Although it was at first my intention to work in harmony with the
leadership of the Theosophical Society, yet from the beginning I had
the feeling that something must originate in anthroposophy which
evolves out of its own germ without making itself in any way dependent
upon what theosophy causes to be taught. This I could accomplish only
by means of such a publication. And what anthroposophy is to-day has
really grown out of what I then wrote in that monthly.
It was thus that the German section was established under the
patronage and in the presence of Mrs. Besant. At that time Mrs. Besant
delivered a lecture in Berlin on the goal and the principles of
theosophy. Somewhat later we requested her to deliver Lectures in a
number of German cities. Such was the case in Hamburg, Berlin, Weimar,
Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne. In spite of all this and not by reason
of any measures taken by me, but because of the inner necessities of
the thing theosophy failed, and anthroposophy went through an
evolution determined by inner requirements.
Marie von Sievers made all this possible, not only because she made
material sacrifices according to her ability, but because she devoted
her entire effort to anthroposophy. At first we had to work under
conditions truly the most primitive. I wrote the greater part of
Luzifer. Marie von Sievers carried on the correspondence. When
an issue was ready, we ourselves attended to the wrapping, addressing,
stamping, and personally carried the copies to the post office in a
Very soon Luzifer had so far increased its circulation that a
Herr Rappaport, of Vienna, who published a journal called
Gnosis, made an agreement with me to combine this with mine
into a single publication. Then Luzifer appeared under the
title Luzifer-Gnosis. For a long time also Herr Rappaport had a
share in the undertaking.
Luzifer-Gnosis made the most satisfactory progress. The
publication increased its circulation in a highly satisfactory
fashion. Numbers which had been exhausted had to be printed a second
time. Nor did it fail. But the spread of anthroposophy in
a relatively short time took such a form that I was called upon to
deliver lectures in many cities. From the single lectures there grew
in many cases cycles of lectures. At first I tried to maintain the
editorship of Luzifer-Gnosis along with this lecturing; but the
numbers could not be issued any longer at the right time often
coming out months later. And so there came about the remarkable fact
that a periodical which was gaining new subscribers with every number
could no longer be published, solely because of the overburdening of
In Lucifer-Gnosis I was able for the first time to publish what
became the foundation of anthroposophic work. There first appeared
what I had to say about the strivings that the human mind must make in
order to attain to its own perceptual grasp upon spiritual knowledge.
Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten(1)?
came out in serial form from number to number. In the same way was the
basis laid for anthroposophic cosmology in serial articles entitled
Aus der Akasha-Chronik(2).
It was from what was thus given, and not from anything borrowed from
the Theosophical Movement, that the Anthroposophical Movement had its
growth. If I gave any attention to the teachings carried on in the
Society when I composed my own writings on spiritual knowledge, it was
only for the purpose of correcting by a contrasting statement one
thing or another in those teachings which I considered erroneous.
In this connection I must mention something which is constantly
brought forward by our opponents, wrapped in a fog of
misunderstandings. I need say nothing whatever about this on any inner
ground, for it has had no influence whatever on my evolution or on my
public activities. As regards all that I have to describe here the
matter has remained a purely private affair. I refer to my
forming esoteric schools within the Theosophical Society.
The esoteric schools date back to H. P. Blavatsky.
She had created for a small inner circle of the Society a place in
which she gave out what she did not wish to say to the Society in
general. She, like others who know the spiritual world, did not
consider it possible to impart to the generality of persons certain
All this is bound up with the way in which H. P. Blavatsky came to
give her teachings. There has always been a tradition in regard to
such teachings which goes back to the ancient mysteries. This
tradition was cherished in all sorts of societies, which took strict
care to prevent any teaching from permeating outside each society.
But, for some reason or other, it was considered proper to impart such
teaching to H. P. Blavatsky. She then united what she had thus
received with revelations which came to her personally from within.
For she was a human personality in whom, by reason of a remarkable
atavism, the spiritual worked as it had once worked in the leaders of
the mysteries, in a state of consciousness which in contrast with
the modern state illuminated by the consciousness-soul was dreamlike
in character. Thus, in the human being, Blavatsky, was
renewed that which in primitive times was kept secret in the
For modern men there is an infallible method for deciding what portion
of the content of spiritual perception can be imparted to wider
circles. This can be done with everything which the investigator can
clothe in such ideas as are current both in the consciousness-soul
itself and also in appropriate form in acknowledged science.
Such is not the case when the spiritual knowledge does not live in the
mind, but in forces lying rather in the subconsciousness. These are
not sufficiently independent of the forces active in the body.
Therefore the imparting of such teachings drawn from the subconscious
may be dangerous; for such teachings can in like manner be taken in
only by the subconscious. Thus both teacher and learner are then
moving in a region where that which is wholesome for man and that
which is harmful must be handled with the utmost care.
All this, therefore, does not concern anthroposophy, because this
lifts all its teachings entirely above the subconscious.
The inner circle of Blavatsky continued to live in the esoteric
schools. I had set up my anthroposophic activity within the
Theosophical Society. I had therefore to be informed as to all that
occurred in the latter. For the sake of this information, and also
because I considered a smaller circle necessary for those advanced in
anthroposophical spiritual knowledge, I caused myself to be admitted
as a member into the esoteric school. My smaller circle
was, of course, to have a different meaning from this school. It was
to represent a higher participation, a higher class, for those who had
absorbed enough of the elementary knowledge of anthroposophy. Now I
intended everywhere to link up with what was already in existence,
with what history had already provided. Just as I did this in regard
to the Theosophical Society, I wished to do likewise in reference to
the esoteric school. For this reason my more restricted
circle arose at first in connection with this school. But the
connection consisted solely in the plan and not in that which I
imparted from the spiritual world. So in the first years I selected as
my more restricted circle a section of the esoteric school of Mrs.
Besant. Inwardly it was not by any means whatever the same as this.
And in 1907, when Mrs. Besant was with us at the theosophical congress
in Munich, even the external connection came to an end according to an
agreement between Mrs. Besant and myself.
That I could have learned anything special in the esoteric school of
Mrs. Besant is beyond the bounds of possibility, since from the
beginning I never participated in the exercises of this school except
in a few instances in which my participation was for the sole purpose
of informing myself as to what went on there.
There was at that time no other real content in the school except that
which was derived from H. P. Blavatsky and which was already in print.
In addition to these printed exercises, Mrs. Besant gave all sorts of
Indian exercises for progress in knowledge, to which I was opposed.
Until 1907, then, my more restricted circle was connected, as to its
plan, with that which Mrs. Besant fostered as such a circle. But to
make of these facts what has been made of them by opponents is wholly
unjustifiable. Even the absurd idea that I was introduced to spiritual
knowledge entirely by the esoteric school of Mrs. Besant has been
In 1903 Marie von Sievers and I again took part in the theosophical
congress in London. Colonel Olcott, president of the Theosophical
Society, was also present, having come from India. A lovable
personality, as to whom, however, it was easy to see how he could
become the partner of Blavatsky in the founding, planning, and guiding
of the Theosophical Society. For within a brief time the Society had
in an external sense become a large body possessing an impressive
Marie von Sievers and I came closer to Mrs. Besant by reason of the
fact that she lived with Mrs. Bright in London and we also were
invited for our second London visit to this lovable home. Mrs. Bright
and her daughter, Miss Esther Bright, constituted the family; persons
who were like an embodiment of lovableness. I look back with inner joy
upon the time I was privileged to spend in this home. The Brights were
loyal friends of Mrs. Besant. Their endeavour was to knit a closer tie
between us and the latter. Since it was then impossible that I should
stand with Mrs. Besant in certain things of which some have already
been mentioned here this gave pain to the Brights, who were bound
with bands of steel utterly uncritical they were to the leader
of the Theosophical Society.
Mrs. Besant was an interesting person to me because of certain of her
characteristics. I observed that she had a certain right to speak from
her own inner experiences of the spiritual world. The inner entrance
of soul into the spiritual world she did possess. Only this was later
stifled by certain external objectives that she set herself.
To me a person who could speak of the spirit from the spirit was
necessarily interesting. But, on the other hand, I was strongly of the
opinion that in our age the insight into the spiritual world must live
within the consciousness-soul.
I looked into an ancient spiritual knowledge of humanity. It was
dreamlike in character. Men saw in pictures through which the
spiritual world revealed itself. But these pictures were not evolved
by the will-to-knowledge in full clarity of mind. They appeared in the
soul, given to it like dreams from the cosmos. This ancient spiritual
knowledge came to an end in the Middle Ages. Man came into possession
of the consciousness-soul. He no longer had dream-knowledge. He drew
ideas in full clarity of mind by his will-to-knowledge into the soul.
This capacity first became a living reality in the sense-world. It
reached its climax as sense-knowledge in natural science.
The present task of spirit-knowledge is to carry the experience of
ideas in full clarity of mind into the spiritual world by means of the
will-to-knowledge. The knower then has a content of mind which is
experienced like that of mathematics. One thinks like a mathematician;
but one does not think in numbers or in geometrical figures. One
thinks in pictures of the spiritual world. In contrast to the ancient
waking dream knowledge of the spirit, it is the fully conscious
standing within the spiritual world.
Within the Theosophical Society one could gain no true relationship to
this new knowledge of the spirit. One became suspicious as soon as
full consciousness sought to enter the spiritual world. One knew a
full consciousness solely for the sense-world. There was no true
feeling for the evolving of this to the point of experiencing the
spirit. The process was only to the point of a return to the ancient
dream consciousness with the suppression of full consciousness. And
this turning back was true of Mrs. Besant also. She has scarcely any
capacity for grasping the modern form of knowledge of the spirit. But
what she said of the world of spirit was, nevertheless, from that
world. So she was to me an interesting person.
Since among the other leaders of the Society also there was present
this opposition to fully conscious knowledge of the spirit, my mind
could never feel at home in the Society as regards the spiritual.
Socially I enjoyed being in these circles; but their temper of mind in
reference to the spiritual remained alien to me.
For this reason I was also hindered from founding my lectures upon my
own experience of the spirit. I delivered lectures which anyone could
have delivered even though he might have no perception of spirit. This
perception found expression in the lectures which I delivered, not at
the meetings of branches of the Society, but before those which grew
out of what Marie von Sievers and I arranged from Berlin.
Then arose the Berlin, Munich, and Stuttgart work. Other places
joined. Later the content of the Theosophical Society gradually
disappeared; and there came into existence that which was congenial to
the inner force living in anthroposophy.
While carrying out the plans together with Marie von Sievers, for the
external activities, I elaborated the results of my spiritual
perception. On the one hand I had, of course, a fully developed
standing within the spiritual world; but I had in about 1902 and
in the succeeding years also as regards many things
imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions. These
gradually shaped themselves into what I then gave out publicly in my
Through the activity developed by Marie von Sievers there came about
from a small beginning the philosophical anthroposophical publication
business. A small pamphlet based upon notes of a lecture I delivered
before the Berlin Free Higher Institute to which I have referred was
the first matter thus published. The necessity of getting possession
of my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity which could no longer
be distributed by the former publisher and of attending personally
to its distribution gave the second task. We bought the remaining
copies and the publisher's rights for this book.
All this was not easy for us. For we were without any considerable
means. But the work progressed, for the very reason that it could not
rely upon anything external but solely upon inner spiritual
- Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment.
The content of this book appeared in English at first
in two volumes: The Way of Initiation, and Initiation and
- From the Akashic Record.