FROM the spiritual sphere new light on the evolution of humanity
sought to break through in the knowledge acquired during the last
third of the nineteenth century. But the spiritual sleep in which this
acquired knowledge was given its materialistic interpretation
prevented even a notion of the new light, much less any proper
attention to it.
So that time arrived which ought by its own nature to have evolved in
the direction of the spirit, but which belied its own being the time
wherein it began to be impossible for life to make itself real.
I wish to set down here certain sentences taken from articles which I
wrote in March 1898 for the Dramaturgische Blätter
(which had become a supplement of the Magazine at the
beginning of 1898). Referring to the art of lecturing, I said:
In this field more than in any other is the learner left wholly
to himself and to chance ... Because of the form which our public life
has taken on, almost everybody nowadays has frequent need to speak in
public ... The elevation of ordinary speech to a work of art is a
rarity. We lack almost wholly the feeling for the beauty of speaking,
and still more for speaking that is characteristic ... To no one
devoid of all knowledge of correct singing would the right be granted
to discuss a singer ... In the case of dramatic art the requirements
imposed are far slighter ... Persons who know whether or not a verse
is properly spoken become steadily scarcer ... People nowadays often
look upon artistic speaking as ineffective idealism. We could never
have come to this had we been more aware of the educative
possibilities of speech ...
What then hovered before me could come to a form of realization only
much later, within the Anthroposophical Society. Marie von Sievers
(Marie Steiner), who was enthusiastic on behalf of the art of speech,
first dedicated herself to genuinely artistic speaking; and then for
the first time it became possible with her help to work for the
elevation of speech to a true art by means of courses in speaking and
I venture to introduce this subject just here in order to show how
certain ideals have sought their unfolding all through my life, though
many persons have tried to find contradictions in my evolution.
To this period belongs my friendship with the young poet, now dead,
Ludwig Jacobowski. He was a personality whose dominant mood of soul
breathed the breath of inner tragedy. It was hard for him to bear the
fate that made him a Jew. He represented a bureau which, under the
guidance of a liberal deputy, directed the union Defence against
Anti-Semitism and published its organ. An excessive burden in
connection with this work rested upon Ludwig Jacobowski. And a sort of
work which renewed every day a burning pain; for it brought home to
him daily the realization of the feeling against his people which
caused him so much suffering.
Along with this he developed a fruitful activity in the field of
folk-lore. He collected everything obtainable as the basis for a work
on the evolution of the peoples from primitive times. Individual
papers of his, based upon his rich fund of knowledge in this field,
are very interesting. They were at first written in the materialistic
spirit of the time; but, had Jacobowski lived longer, he would
certainly have been open to a spiritualizing of his research.
Out of this activity streamed the poetry of Ludwig Jacobowski. Not
wholly original; and yet born of deeply human feeling and filled with
an experience of the powers of the soul.
he called his lyrical poems. These, when the mood
bestowed them upon him, were in his life-tragedy really something that
affected him like days of spiritual sunlight. Besides, he wrote
Werther der Jude(2)
there lived all the inner tragedy of Ludwig Jacobowski.
Loki, Roman eines Gottes(3),
he produced a work
born of German mythology. The soulful quality which speaks from this
novel is a beautiful reflection of the poet's love of the mythological
element in a folk.
A survey of what Ludwig Jacobowski achieved leaves one astonished at
its fulness in the most divers fields. Yet he associated with many
persons and enjoyed social life. More over, he was then editing the monthly
which meant for him an
enormous burden of work. He had a consuming passion for life, whose
essence he craved to know in order that he might mould this into
He founded a society,
consisting of writers, artists, scientists, and persons interested in the arts.
The meetings there were weekly. Poets read their poems; lectures were
given in the most divers fields of knowledge and life. The evening
ended in an informal social gathering. Ludwig Jacobowski was the
central point of his ever growing circle. Everybody was attached to
the lovable personality, so full of ideas, who, moreover, developed in
this club a fine and noble sense of humour.
Away from all this he was snatched by an early death, when he had just
reached thirty years. He was taken off by an inflammation of the
brain, caused by his unceasing labours.
There remained to me only the duty of giving the funeral address for
my friend and editing his literary remains. A beautiful memorial of
him was made by his friend, Marie Stona, in the form of a book
consisting of papers by friends of his. Everything about Ludwig
Jacobowski was lovable: his inner tragedy, his striving outward from
this to his luminous days, his absorption in the life of
movement. I keep always alive in my heart thoughts of our friendship,
and look back upon our brief association with an inner devotion to my
Another friend with whom I came to be associated at that time was
Martha Asmers, a woman philosophically thoughtful but strongly
inclined to materialism. This tendency, however, was modified through
the fact that Martha Asmers kept intensely alive the memory of her
brother Paul Asmers, who had died early, and who was a decided
During the last third of the nineteenth century Paul Asmers had lived,
like a philosophical hermit, in the idealism of the time of Hegel. He
wrote a paper on the ego, and a similar one on the Indo-Germanic
religion both characteristically Hegelian in form, but both
This interesting personality, who had then long been dead, was brought
really close to me through the sister Martha Asmers. It seemed to me
that in him the spirit-tending philosophy of the beginning of the
century flamed forth like a meteor toward its end.
Less intimate, but of constant significance for a long time
thereafter, were the relationships which came about between the
Friedrich Hageners Bruno Wille and Wilhelm Bölsche and
myself. Bruno Wille is the author of a work entitled
Philosophie der Befreiung* durch das reine Mittel(6).
Only the title coincides with my Philosophie der Freiheit. The content
moves in an entirely different sphere. Bruno Wille became very widely
known through his important
Offenbarungen des Wachholderbaumes(7),
a philosophical book written out of the most beautiful
feeling for nature, permeated by the conviction that spirit speaks
from every material existence. Wilhelm Bölsche is known through
numerous popular writings on the natural sciences which are
extraordinarily popular among the widest circles of readers. From this
side came the founding of a Free Higher Institute, into which I was
drawn. I was entrusted with the teaching of history. Bruno Wille took
charge of philosophy, Bölsche of natural sciences, and Theodor
Kappstein, a liberally minded theologian, the science of religion. A
second foundation was the Giordano Bruno Union. In this the idea was
to bring together such persons as were sympathetic toward a
spiritual-monistic philosophy. Emphasis was placed upon the idea that
there are not two world-principles matter and spirit but that
spirit constitutes the sole principle of all existence. Bruno Wille
inaugurated the Union with a very brilliant lecture based upon the
saying of Goethe: Never matter without spirit.
Unfortunately a slight misunderstanding arose between Wille and me
after this lecture. My words following the lecture that long after
Goethe had coined this beautiful expression, he had supplemented it in
impressive fashion, in that he had seen polarity and ascent as the
concrete spiritual shapings in the actual spiritual activity in
existence, and that in this way the general saying first received its
full content this remark of mine was interpreted as a reflection
upon Wille's lecture, which, however, I had fully accepted in the
sense he himself intended.
But I brought upon myself the direct opposition of the leadership of
the Giordano Bruno Union when I read a paper on monism. In this I laid
stress upon the fact that the crude dualistic conception, matter
and spirit, is really a creation of the most recent times, and
that likewise only during the most recent centuries were spirit and
nature brought into the opposition which the Giordano Bruno Union
would oppose. Then I indicated how this dualism is opposed by
scholastic monism. Even though scholasticism withdrew from human
knowledge a part of existence and assigned this part to
faith, yet scholasticism set up a world-system marked by a
unified (monistic) constitution, from the Godhead and the divine all
the way to the details of nature. I thus set even scholasticism higher
This paper of mine aroused the greatest excitement. It was supposed
that I wished to open the road for Catholicism into the Union. Of the
leading personalities, only Wolfgang Kirchbach and Martha Asmers stood
by me. The rest could form no notion as to what I really meant to do
with the misunderstood scholasticism. In any case, they
were convinced that I was likely to bring the greatest confusion into
the Giordano Bruno Union.
I must call attention to this paper because it belongs to a time
during which, according to the later views of many persons, I was a
materialist. But at that time this materialist passed with many
persons as the one who would swear afresh by medieval scholasticism.
In spite of all this I was able later to deliver before the Giordano
Bruno Union my basic anthroposophic lecture, which became the point of
departure for my anthroposophic activity.
In imparting to the public that which anthroposophy contains as
knowledge of the spiritual world, decisions are necessary which are
not altogether easy. The character of these decisions can best be
understood if one glances at a single historical fact.
In accordance with the quite differently constituted temper of mind of
an earlier humanity, there has always been a knowledge of the
spiritual world up to the beginning of the modern age, approximately
until the fourteenth century. This knowledge, however, was quite
different from anthroposophy, which is adapted to the conditions of
cognition characterizing the present day.
After the period mentioned, humanity could at first bring forth no
knowledge of the spiritual world. Men could only confirm the
ancient knowledge, which the mind had beheld in the form
of pictures, and which was also available later only in
This ancient knowledge was practised in remote times only
within the mysteries. It was imparted to those who had
first been made ripe for it, the initiates. It was not to
reach the public because there the tendency was too strong to use it
in an unworthy manner. This practice has been maintained only by those
later personalities who received the lore of the ancient
knowledge and continued to foster it. They did this in the most
restricted circles with men whom they had previously prepared. And
thus it has continued even to the present time. Of the persons
maintaining such a position in relation to spiritual knowledge whom I
have encountered, I may select one who was active within the Viennese
circle of Frau Lang to which I have referred but whom I met also in
other circles with which I was associated in Vienna. This was
Friedrich Eckstein, the distinguished expert in the ancient
While I was associated with Friedrich Eckstein, he had not written
much. But what he did write was filled with the spirit. No one,
however, sensed from his essays the intimate expert in the
ancient knowledge. This was active in the background of
his spiritual work. Long after life had removed me from this friend
also, I read in a collection of his writings a very significant paper
on the Bohemian Brothers.
Friedrich Eckstein represented the earnest conviction that esoteric
spiritual knowledge should not be publicly propagated like ordinary
knowledge. He was not alone in this conviction; it was and is that of
almost all experts in the ancient wisdom. To what extent
this conviction of the guardians of the ancient wisdom,
strongly enforced as a rule, was broken through in the Theosophical
Society founded by H. P. Blavatsky of this I shall have occasion to
Friedrich Eckstein wished that, as initiate in the ancient
knowledge, one should clothe what one treats publicly in the
force which comes from this initiation, but that one
should separate the exoteric strictly from the esoteric, which should
remain within the most restricted circles of those who fully
understood how to honour it.
If I was to develop a public activity on behalf of spiritual
knowledge, I had to determine to break with this tradition. I found
myself faced by the requirements of the contemporary intellectual
life. In the presence of these the preservation of mysteries such as
were inevitable in ancient times was an impossibility. We live in the
time which demands publicity wherever any sort of knowledge appears.
The point of view favouring the preservation of mysteries is an
anachronism. The sole and only possibility is that persons should be
taught spiritual knowledge by stages, and that no one should be
admitted to a stage at which the higher portions of this knowledge are
to be imparted until he knows the lower. This, indeed, corresponds
with the practice in lower and higher schools even of an ordinary
Moreover, I was under no obligation to anyone to guard mysteries, for
I received nothing from the ancient wisdom; what I possess
of spiritual knowledge is entirely
the result of my own researches. When any knowledge has come to me,
only then I set beside it whatever of the ancient
knowledge has already been made public from any side, in order
to point out the harmony in mood and, at the same time, the advance
which is possible to contemporary research.
So, after a certain point of time, it was quite clear to me that in
coming before the public with spiritual knowledge I should be doing
the right thing.
- Luminous Days.
- Werther the Jew.
- Loki, the Romance of a God.
- The Coming Ones.
- Philosophy of Freedom through the Pure Means.
- Revelations of the Juniper Tree.