WHILE anthroposophic knowledge was brought into the Society in the way
that results in part from the privately printed matter, Marie von
Sievers and I through our united efforts fostered the artistic element
especially, which was indeed destined by fate to become a life-giving
part of the Anthroposophical Movement.
On one side there was the element of recitation, looking toward
dramatic art, and constituting the objective of the work that must be
done if the Anthroposophical Movement was to receive the right
On the other hand, I had the opportunity, during the journeys that had
to be made on behalf of anthroposophy, to go more deeply into the
evolution of architecture, the plastic arts, and painting.
In various passages of this life-story I have spoken of the importance
of art to a person who enters in experience into the spiritual world.
But up to the time of my anthroposophic work I had been able to study
most of the works of human art only in copies. Of the originals only
those in Vienna, Berlin, and a few other places in Germany had been
accessible to me.
When the journeys on behalf of anthroposophy were made, together with
Marie von Sievers, I came face to face with the treasures of the
museums throughout the whole of Europe. In this way I pursued an
advanced course in the study of art from the beginning of the century
and therefore during the fifth decade of my life, and together with
this I had a perception of the spiritual evolution of humanity.
Everywhere by my side was Marie von Sievers, who, while entering with
her fine and full appreciation into all that I was privileged to
experience of perception in art and culture, also shared and
supplemented all this experience in a beautiful way. She understood
how these experiences flowed into all that gave movement to the ideas
of anthroposophy; for all the impressions of art which became an
experience of my soul penetrated into what I had to make effective in
lectures. In the actual seeing of the masterpieces of art there came
before our minds the world out of which another configuration of soul
speaks from the ancient times to the new age. We were able to submerge
our souls in the spirituality of art which still speaks from Cimabue.
But we could also plunge through the perception of art into the
spiritual battle which Thomas Aquinas waged against Arabianism.
Of special importance for me was the observation of the evolution of
architecture. In the silent vision of the shaping of styles there grew
in my soul that which I was able to stamp upon the forms of the
Standing before Leonardo's Last Supper in Milan and before the
creations of Raphael and Michelangelo in Rome, and the subsequent
conversations with Marie von Sievers, must, I think, be felt with
gratitude to have been the dispensation of destiny just then when
these came before my soul for the first time at a mature age. But I
should have to write a volume of considerable size if I should wish to
describe even briefly what I experienced in the manner indicated.
Even when the spiritual perception remains in abeyance, one sees very
far into the evolution of humanity through the gaze which loses itself
in reflection in the School of Athens or the Disputa.
And if one advances from the observation of Cimabue to Giotto and to
Raphael, one is in the presence of the gradual dimming of an ancient
spiritual perception of humanity down to the modern, more
naturalistic. That which came to me through spiritual perception as
the law of human evolution appeared in clear revelation before my mind
in the process of art.
I had always the deepest satisfaction when I could see how the
anthroposophical movement received ever renewed life through this
prolonged submergence in the artistic. In order to comprehend the
elements of being in the spiritual world and to shape these as ideas,
one requires mobility in ideal activity. Filling the mind with the
artistic gives this mobility.
And it was necessary constantly to guard the Society against the
entrance of all those inner untruths associated with false
sentimentality. A spiritual movement is always exposed to these
perils. If one gives life to the informative lectures by means of
those mobile ideas which one derives from living in the artistic, then
the inner untruths derived from sentimentality which remain fixed in
the hearers will be expelled. The artistic which is truly charged with
experience and emotion, but which strives toward luminous clarity in
shaping and in perception, can afford the most effective counterpoise
against false sentimentality.
And here I feel that it has been a peculiarly fortunate destiny for
the Anthroposophical Society that I received in Marie von Sievers a
fellow-worker assigned by destiny who understood fully how to nourish
from the depths of her nature this artistic, emotionally charged, but
A lasting activity was needed against this inwardly untrue sentimental
element; for it penetrates again and again into a spiritual movement.
It can by no means be simply repulsed or ignored. For persons who at
first yield themselves to this element are in many cases none the less
seekers in the utmost depths of their souls. But it is at first hard
for them to gain a firm relation to the information imparted from the
spiritual world. They seek unconsciously in sentimentality a form of
deafness. They wish to experience quite special truths, esoteric
truths. They develop an impulse to separate themselves on the basis of
these truths into sectarian groups.
The important thing is to make the right the sole directive force of
the Society, so that those erring on one side or the other may always
see again and again how those work who may call themselves the central
representatives of the Society because they are its founders. Positive
work for the content of anthroposophy, not opposition against
outgrowths which appeared this was what Marie von Sievers and I
accepted as the essential thing. Naturally there were exceptional
cases when opposition was also necessary.
At first the time up to my Paris cycle of lectures was to me something
in the form of a closed evolutionary process within the soul. I
delivered these lectures in 1906 during the theosophical congress.
Individual participants in the congress had expressed the wish to hear
these lectures in connection with the exercises of the congress. I had
at that time in Paris made the personal acquaintance of Edouard
Schuré, together with Marie von Sievers, who had already corresponded
with him for a long time, and who had been engaged in translating his
works. He was among my listeners. I had also the joy of having
frequently in the audience Mereschkowski and Minsky and other Russian
In this cycle of lectures I gave what I felt to be ripe within me in
regard to the leading forms of spiritual knowledge for the human
This feeling for the ripeness of forms of knowledge is an
essential thing in investigating the spiritual world. In order to have
this feeling one must have experienced a perception as it rises at
first in the mind. At first one feels it as something non-luminous, as
lacking sharpness of contour. One must let it sink again into the
depths of the soul to ripen. Consciousness has not yet
gone far enough to grasp the spiritual content of the perception. The
soul in its spiritual depths must remain together with this content,
undisturbed by consciousness.
In external natural science one does not assert knowledge until one
has completed all necessary experiments and observations, and until
the requisite calculations are free from bias. In spiritual science is
needed no less methodical conscientiousness and disciplined knowledge.
Only one goes by somewhat different roads. One must test one's
consciousness in its relationship to the truth that is coming to be
known. One must be able to wait in patience, endurance,
and conscientiousness until the consciousness has undergone this
testing. It must have grown to be strong enough in its capacity for
ideas in a certain sphere for this capacity for concepts to take over
the perception with which it has to deal. In the Paris cycle of
lectures I brought forward a perception which had required a long
process of ripening in my mind.
After I had explained how the members of the human being physical
body; etheric body, as mediator of the phenomena of life; and the
bearer of the ego are in general related to one another,
I imparted the fact that the etheric body of a man is female, and the
etheric body of a woman is male. Through this a light was cast within
the Anthroposophical Society upon one of the basic questions of
existence which just at that time had been much discussed. One need
only remember the book of the unfortunate Weininger,
Geschlecht und Charakter(1),
and the contemporary poetry.
But the question was carried into the depths of the being of man. In
his physical body man is bound up with the cosmos quite otherwise than
in his etheric body. Through his physical body man stands within the
forces of the earth; through his etheric body within the forces of the
outer cosmos. The male and female elements were carried into
connection with the mysteries of the cosmos.
This knowledge was something belonging to the most profoundly moving
inner experiences of my soul; for I felt ever anew how one must
approach a spiritual perception by patient waiting and how, when one
has experienced the ripeness of consciousness, one must
lay hold by means of ideas in order to place the perception within the
sphere of human knowledge.