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Community Life, Inner Development, Sexuality and the Spiritual Teacher

Schmidt Number: S-3097

On-line since: 29th February, 2016

II

Address by Rudolf Steiner

August 21, 1915
Dornach

MY ADDRESS this evening represents a break in our current series; its subject is quite different from yesterday's. [ Note 1 ] This morning I received a letter, and I feel compelled, even obligated, to bring it to the attention of each individual member of the Anthroposophical Society. I will explain my reasons after I read you the letter.

Letter from Heinrich and Gertrud Goesch to Rudolf Steiner

Dornach
August 19, 1915

Dear Dr. Steiner:

Alongside the work dedicated to the good within your activity in our spiritual movement, I have noticed certain behaviors that serve evil purposes. On the good side, I am grateful for the esoteric knowledge and teachings you have imparted to us, for the mystery dramas you have given us, for the introduction of eurythmy, and for the art of the Johannesbau. In these contexts, I continue to recognize you as an envoy of the great white lodge and am filled with profound gratitude to you and to anything you do that is devoted to the good.

However, I perceive the way you cultivate relationships between yourself and other members of our spiritual movement as serving evil purposes, and I see this behavior as gravely endangering our movement. The relationships you create between yourself and other members turn the others into merely parts of yourself rather than independent spiritual entities alongside you. You only appear to act as a human being among equals. In actuality, you scorn any truly human connection and presume to intervene in the lives of others in a way that belongs only to the gods and not to any modern human being.

In this way, you create an anti-Christian relationship between yourself and the other members of our spiritual movement. These people have readied themselves to meet great spiritual teachings in our time, but you are making them poorer than the poorest materialists out there, who in spite of their distorted Christianity that has turned into its exact opposite are still able to develop a strong I. If it goes on like this, however, your followers will eventually fall prey to black magic as a result of the constant weakening of their I through how you behave toward them.

There have already been instances of highly respected members substituting a reliance on your word for reliance on the truth; they cut off any criticism of any part of your work, objecting that your critics would be placing themselves above you. They feel that putting oneself above you is such an act of wanton temerity as to be out of the question, and that with their objection the issue is resolved once and for all. The members are not to blame for erroneous ideas like this — you are. In your concern to promulgate ever more of your teachings, you have neglected to cultivate the attitude among your pupils that as Christians, individuals must put themselves not only below any other person, but also above any other; not only are the least of our fellow human beings of irreplaceable value to us in their most profound depths of being, but also the least of us carry responsibility for the most advanced and must oppose their errors. Your own teachings have strengthened me in this conviction. In real life, however, you apply a number of means that work counter to this Christian ideal of human community.

I will now discuss two of these means in detail so that the thrust of my contentions becomes clearer.

It is a fact that you have developed the habit of making promises and not keeping them. No one will maintain that you do not have a sufficiently clear view of the future, or that you are too weak to carry out your original intentions, either of which would constitute a certain justification for failing to keep promises. No, this is a case of deliberately causing disappointment. Since the promises were unsolicited and made at your own initiative, it is also a case of deliberate intervention into someone else's life in order do something that is by rights reserved for destiny. A disappointment that comes to us through karma has a direct and beneficial effect on our development. In contrast, a disappointment deliberately arranged for us by another person is at the very least a heavy blow, and if our confidence in the person delivering the blow is not shaken, it also constitutes a weakening of our I. The difference is the same as the difference between meeting an accidental death in a burning building and death by burning at the stake, premeditated by others.

Because of their trust in you, recipients of such a promise who are waiting for it to be kept get into a state of tension and uncertainty; meanwhile you are able to calmly survey their gradually increasing disappointment. Once the people in question have realized that the promise is not going to be kept, they will not take your word seriously in the future and thus will distance themselves from you, at least to some extent. However, since on the whole they continue to put their trust in you, they will lose all standards for the sanctity of giving one's word, and may perhaps begin to act as you do. As a result, they are dependent on you in a humanly unworthy fashion and will try to affect others in the same way you do.

Alternatively, people may respond in one of the three following ways: First, because of the confidence they have in you, they may assume that there must be a deep occult meaning behind the way you act. They will conclude that there can be profound occult reasons that permit or even obligate someone to make promises without intending to keep them. Occasionally we even meet people whose emotions are so confused that they admire that kind of behavior and take it as a sign of something superhuman. It is evident, however, that nothing in this world can authorize a modern human being to make promises without intending to keep them. Causing disappointment is something reserved for the gods who direct our karma.

This sort of conceptual confusion is all the more dangerous for a student of esotericism because modern spiritual science appeals to our healthy capacity for discernment, which is undermined by things like this. In a most unfortunate fashion, your word displaces the truth; the thought “I must not place myself above him” displaces the realization that you have done something evil. The human dignity of these people crumbles away bit by bit, and they turn into spiritually dependent tools in your hands.

The second possibility for those whose trust has been betrayed is that in order to be able to maintain their confidence in you, the people in question never let themselves become fully conscious of the fact that you never had any intention of keeping the promises you made to them. As a way out, they take your not keeping promises as a new revelation of a being they do not experience as really human and cannot hold responsible as they would a human being. This point of view is in fact already represented within the Society and is leading to your becoming ever more shadowlike as a human being.

The third and final possibility is that some people will choose the radical way out, forgetting the fact that a promise of some kind was ever made. This, too, robs people of a bit of their I. As a result, your coworkers in our spiritual movement will be shadows whose I is weakened, rather than independent individuals. You yourself, however, are the one to blame for all this.

A second example of the evil nature of your behavior is your refusal to accept any criticism of people working in our movement. On occasion, you have implied that any such criticism stems from negative emotions. This is a false assumption. I am not talking about malicious or destructive criticism. Many of our members, out of their sincere sense of responsibility, are capable of constructive criticism, and that is what I am talking about. The only possible reason for avoiding such criticism would be knowing that people in positions of responsibility are unfit for their jobs. In our modern age, people are meant to come together out of their own free will and freely create the kind of hierarchy and order necessary for us to accomplish what we have to do, and a certain amount of constructive mutual criticism is our only guarantee of success. In fact, the only way a true, natural, and appropriate hierarchical order can come about nowadays is if this kind of criticism is allowed to work.

If people who have been criticized do not choose to take action on justified accusations — and in fact they are morally obliged to actively seek criticism — they must give up their positions in the hierarchy so that the truth can triumph. Their superiors should not protect people like that by acting as if everything were going fine. This is what our modern age requires. However, if at any level in the hierarchical order mistakes are not criticized but tolerated and allowed to persist, we are only creating a false hierarchy that is based, not on real human capabilities and relationships, but on fiction — a fiction that is maintained only through further wrongdoing. Once again, the result is a lack of humanity and Christianity in our relationships in general, and once again you are to blame. In the organization of our Society as it has gradually developed under your guidance, the strengths of the members are usurped to the advantage of yourself and perhaps of certain other people prominent in this false hierarchy. Meanwhile, the Society's affairs are being mismanaged.

Personal oversensitivity on the part of those being criticized is something that needs to be eliminated; you might give a lecture about this sometime. As a general rule, especially if it comes at the right moment, criticism can take a stimulating and gratifying form and be free of any personal bitterness, so that its thorns are removed and the recipient can be glad to receive help in resolving the issue. The nervousness and animosity so prevalent among the critics spring in part from the justified feeling that even the most objective criticism will not be heeded, but will be looked at askance and disregarded. A truly superior person has no reason to fear criticism; true superiority can stand the test of even the most pointed criticism. In the event that people attempt to offer criticism out of a sense of responsibility but are not really able to grasp the facts of the case, those people can usually be made to see their misunderstanding sooner or later without any undue waste of time.

At the moment, I am not talking about a case like this one, where the criticism has already developed into a well-founded rejection of an entire self-contained system confronting me. In this case, no amount of postponement would make any difference. If in a specific instance, however, a person I myself recognize as superior — not simply someone who, for some unknown reason, is my superior in a false hierarchy—points out that I do not yet fully understand the case in question, I will gladly defer my criticism until the case can be considered closed. Under your influence, however, the principle at work in our spiritual movement is that any such criticism should be withheld indefinitely — until the facts of the case have been forgotten. And this principle applies not only to certain specific cases, but to all such instances. This is not only wrong and harmful to everyone, it also undermines our discernment, on which so much depends.

Once again, I have to point out the inherent contradiction between spiritual science's appeal to people's healthy power of judgment and the fact that in most instances in our movement, this power of judgment must be subordinated to incomprehensible reasons for measures being taken. You must admit, however, that at this point in time, two thousand years after Christ, people possess certain standards that all individuals can apply and must also allow to be applied to themselves, if they are not to be utterly lost. There are certainly a sufficient number of closed cases that really are subject to our judgment. The mere fact that a person feels compelled to think about a particular case usually suggests that he or she is capable of achieving some clarity in the matter, though not necessarily without help.

As things stand at the moment, our members are constantly expending a considerable portion of their spiritual energy on the useless task of seeking out hidden wisdom-filled motives for the evil behavior of yourself and your highest colleagues, while you stand by, calmly observing this waste of effort. Or, in order not to lose faith in you, these people have to decide to repress these truth-seeking forces in themselves and thus fall prey to partial stupefaction. What happens with these forces then? What a horrible thought to pursue! In any case, you represent a great focal point of forces of which individuals are merely the instruments, to be used as you choose for incomprehensible ends. There is no question in our movement of real interaction taking place between complete human beings, interaction in which each one is allowed to contribute his or her best. You are not a friend to all the members; your whole attitude rejects lively friendly relationships. In truth, for many people, you are the greatest enemy they have ever encountered.

All these things I have described are not only objectively evil, they also directly contradict the teachings you promulgate. It is from you that I learned the reasons that lead me to reject the way you act. As time goes on, you give an ever stronger impression of acting on your connection to the Christ impulse only in your lectures; outside the lectures, you embrace impulses that are quite the opposite. In parts, it already seems to me as if your teaching has been somewhat influenced by what you practice in real life — not the content of your teachings, but their formal structure. In their structure, certain sentences make promises that are then not kept and can only serve the purpose of subjecting the reader to fruitless thought and work. (See “Gedanken wahrend der Zeit des Krieges.”) [ Note 2 ] If people try to explain this by saying that you, like any other human being, may have changed your mind over the course of time, you reject this as irksome criticism (Preface to Riddles of Philosophy, last paragraph). [ Note 3 ] Both these passages, by the way, clearly show a change in style verging on the incomprehensible.

The kind of interpersonal attitude you create not only contradicts your teachings; your behavior also contradicts what you yourself demand of spiritual teachers in the modern age. Such teachers should appeal only to people's consciousness. Their self-chosen obligation toward their students is to never exercise any magical influence on the students' subconscious that the latter have not consented to or cannot control. You, however, are doing this incessantly through the behavior I described and through other occult means. For you, every handshake, every friendly conversation becomes a means of cultivating these false relationships. The bliss that fills the members after meeting with you is not the bliss of the communion of saints, but a merely Luciferic-Ahrimanic one. You, not the members themselves, are to blame for this. You even try to use these handshakes and friendly conversations to pull members back into the fold against their will once they have recognized the falsity of the relationships you try to create. I have perceived with certainty that you exercise undue influence on your followers in this way.

In the modern age, when any uncontrollable influence on the subconscious of others must be avoided, it is not enough to simply give lectures or introduce new spirituality. In addition, the life you lead together with the other members of our movement must be governed by Christian impulses; your relationships with your followers must become like those of Benedictus, so beautifully portrayed in your fourth mystery drama. In fact, now that we have received so much in the way of teachings, developing such relationships is the much more urgent obligation.

When I ask myself how it can possibly be that you whose task it was to proclaim these teachings can act in ways directly counter to them, I can conceive of two possible answers. On the one hand, I can guess at the reasons why the great white lodge might have had to choose a person who is not yet completely Christianized for this task, and in your capacity as teacher I still accept you as the envoy of the lodge. On the other hand, it seems to me that your most profound motivation is by no means actively evil, although what I have had to say might be erroneously interpreted to imply that. No, it is simply a too one-sided interest in renewing these teachings in a way appropriate to our times, and above all a fear of real life. By avoiding and obstructing real life and by creating substitutes for it, however, you allow an evil force to develop. In this, I see the greatest danger to our spiritual movement and to yourself.

Fully Christian occultists can never rest content with simply passing on teachings; they must also enter into a life partnership with their students. True relationships from person to person in the Christian sense require each one of us to be an open book to all others to the extent their individual strength permits. All people should give themselves completely to their fellows to whatever extent the latter can receive them. This should be the basis of any modern hierarchy. Those higher up in the hierarchy must turn to those beneath them with whatever they have to give. What you practice, however, is anti-Christian and just the opposite. Whenever possible you arrange things so that intentions are kept in the dark and events are treated as if they had not happened. It is not enough to confess that like anyone else, you too can have a weak moment. Whenever we meet any other person (a person who in the Christian sense is just as necessary as ourselves), we do so as people who are imperfect in some way and still need to learn. This fact must not only be admitted, it must be constantly confirmed in our actions as human beings. It is truly necessary to seek out this interaction with our fellows, no matter how much an occultist of the old school may dread it. It is not enough to simply protest against blind admiration; we must also seek out objective criticism.

In communities of this sort, spiritual teachers must renounce all the help available to them in pre-Christian times for making students receptive to their teachings. Above all, they must renounce the unapproachable authority of the teacher filled with divine wisdom, who taught students in whom the I had not yet been born. They must also do without the complete isolation of teachers and pupils from all human relationships. The problem I am pointing out here did not exist for pre-Christian initiators. The individual I had not yet been born, and the divine being working through the teachers had the authority to intervene in the destiny of the students in ways otherwise reserved for karma. But as Christians, we must see modern initiates first and foremost as human beings, and our confidence in them depends on them not exercising any superhuman influence on our destiny.

For someone who is directing all his energies toward the renewal of occult teachings for our times, the temptation is great to reject the difficult tasks of Christian community and to artificially make his teaching easier by any of the means appropriate in earlier times. However, these things have become evil in our times, and it would be better nowadays for the teacher to remain invisible except when promulgating the doctrine than it would be for him to relate to his students as you are doing. Maintaining and strengthening the I of each student is much more important than passing on the teachings — after all, the teachings are directed to the individual I. Any restriction of the ego's rights must also result in the teachings taking root within the individual in the wrong way. Any dulling of individual discernment represents a grave danger to those striving for the spirit.

I will admit that in one sense, this kind of right living is infinitely more difficult for you than for others. Christian occultists must take up a challenge that other people will face only in times to come; that is, to both live and be a seer. They are in constant danger of falsely confusing these different planes and the laws that govern them. But they cannot escape this danger by refusing the challenge; for without being able to orient themselves according to the Christ impulse, they would still get these two planes mixed up in unjustified ways. When this happens in a meeting with a pupil, the pupil will be the first to experience the disastrous results, although they will soon revert to the teacher.

The community of the Grail is perhaps the only place where this challenge has been met satisfactorily to any extent. You yourself admit that you are not totally satisfied with what you have been able to tell us about the Grail, and you have clearly described your own difficulties in researching the Grail mysteries, although you call the new initiates “initiates of the Grail.” Perhaps the Grail will grant us salvation in this difficult hour.

Through the events I have described, my wife and I find ourselves in a situation with regard to yourself that makes it impossible for us to encounter you again in the way my wife did for the last time on Sunday, July 25, in the Schreinerei, and I on Thursday, August 5, on the steps leading to the eurythmy room. We were both in possession of this knowledge already at that time, as you were well aware. Nevertheless, you shook our hands and drew us into conversation as if nothing had happened. Healthy tact would have made that kind of thing impossible for any non-clairvoyant, so in your case I have to recognize it as an attempt at impermissible intervention into my inner being. I will refrain from explaining this statement in greater detail at this point because that would lead us too far afield.

It is still possible for me to greet you from a distance with all due respect as the bearer of great teachings, as I attempted to do on that evening. But I cannot submit to exchanging handshakes and friendly conversations with you as if nothing had happened, and especially not since I have clearly seen that these very handshakes and conversations are one of your chief means of exercising impermissible influences on your pupils and since I cannot share the opinion of a certain respected member that these things exist for the purpose of testing one's own strength in the face of outside influences.

To inform you of the need to avoid further personal contact is the purpose of this letter inasmuch as it concerns the two of us personally.

With regard to yourself, my purpose in writing to you about this very serious matter is to see accomplished the little I can do as your fellow human being, namely, to confront you with the fact that a person on the physical plane and using physical means has been able to point out to you the evil in your actions. You would be condemned to a shadowy existence if no one would turn to you like this. I hope that the fact that at least a few people nowadays are capable of recognizing your errors as such, remembering them and taking a stand against them, will be of help to you in the now necessary process of restructuring life in our spiritual movement. There are a few other members whom I can expect to understand the matters under discussion here, and I shall inform them of the contents of this letter.

It is imperative, however, that you begin to thoroughly transform the relationship between yourself and other members of the movement, as I have indicated. The objective purpose of my writing to you is to express this in the hopes that our movement will continue to work in accordance with the intentions of evolution. What would be the consequence if you were to reject this challenge? At least in certain instances, you have already forfeited an activity that must have been assigned to you by the masters of the white lodge — the personal instruction of individuals. For as I have already said, a profound mistrust in your treatment of individual human destinies is all too justified. I can also not imagine how an esoteric lesson could take place under the prevailing circumstances.

If you restricted yourself to disseminating ever more aspects of the teachings but let everything else continue as before, and if not enough members were able to work their way through to the necessary insights, the Society would degenerate into an exoteric association at best. There are already certain signs of this happening, alongside the tendencies to evil and to stupefaction. Either that or, if your followers become aware of their responsibility, they will have to bring about a complete separation between the teacher and what is taught, leaving you to discharge the duties of your holy office as a guilty and tormented Amfortas among hungry and sorrowful disciples.

I am now coming to the end of what I want to say at present. I have not been able to clothe these insights — which I achieved under the guidance of the Keeper of the Seal of the Society for Theosophical Art and Style, who is under the protection of Christian Rosenkreutz — in the ideal form I had envisioned. The obstacles were still too great for someone only recently released from your spell. But I have decided to send the letter anyway because the moment demands it.

When I wonder about the emotions with which you will receive this letter, the question of whether you will find your way to people with whom you can go through this experience and begin the necessary transformations weighs on me especially heavily. This is an area where, in this Christian age, the occultist as such is bound to fail and must be simply a human among humans, just as Christ Jesus had to experience things on Earth that he could not experience as a God. May you turn to this Spirit for help!

Heinrich Goesch
Gertrud Goesch

* * *

I have read you this letter, my friends, because it concerns each and every one of you just as much as it concerns me, and because it seems obvious to me that you must each decide for yourself to what extent you believe its claims correspond to actual practice within our Society. Otherwise people might think that I am afraid of this charge of contributing to the “stupefaction” of our members, and that I do not see you as sufficiently independent to leave it up to each one of you to judge the situation individually as you see fit.

However, you must realize that a letter like this cannot be seen in isolation; it is a symptom of what is going on in our Society. That is why I will take no part in discussing either this letter or anything that will need to be done as a result of it. It is clear that it must be left up to the members to decide what needs to be done and how to go about it, at least to begin with. In particular, I will refrain from saying anything about the passage claiming that promises have not been kept. If assessing this matter is left to individual discretion, each one of you will know how things stand, since each one of you must know what you have been promised and whether the promises were kept. However, I would expect and request the Society as such, or those members living in the neighborhood of the building in Dornach, to take a decided stand on this issue in the very near future.

I myself will not get involved in discussions on the matter at all. There are only a few things I want to tell you, and I ask you to take my remarks as what I have to say in connection with what I have just read, especially because it is obvious from other symptoms, not just from this letter, that many things I have said to members in lectures here in the course of the last few weeks and months have had no effect at all.

First of all, there is one thing I would like to emphasize. My friends, I cannot allow anyone to dictate how I conduct myself with members of the Society. It is up to me, and me alone, to decide how I find it necessary to relate to them. This is not to be taken as any kind of guideline for you; I am simply speaking for myself. I will not allow anyone to prescribe in any way how I should interact with members, inasmuch as this interaction has to do with the sins of omission I am supposed to have committed against them.

There is a very deep and weighty reason why this has to be the way it is. Not only this letter, but also many other things that have come up in the Society intermittently down through the years and with increasing frequency lately, show that many people simply do not make an effort to understand the kind of responsibility carried by someone communicating esoteric truths. It seems that many of our members don't want to try to understand what it sometimes takes to speak even a single sentence of that sort. With all the spiritual preparation it takes to give a lecture, it is simply not possible to sit with different little groups of members until two in the morning every night chatting about all kinds of useless and superfluous stuff. This fact is not sufficiently appreciated, nor are many other things that people seem to require of me and that then get counted as sins of omission. I need my time, and I need it in a totally different way than what people seem to want to understand. If I weren't using it the way I am, you would be hearing the same kind of stupid esoteric views from me that you can hear so much of in the rest of the world. So much for the sins of omission.

I also do not understand how the statement that my dealings with individual members and with groups of members are not Christian enough fits together with the complaint that I am exerting an undue influence over you by means of black magic whenever I take the liberty of shaking hands with one of you or involving you in conversation. I am certainly open to changing this practice if the Society will make its views on the subject known, because it is up to you, of course, whether you want to shake hands or get involved in a friendly conversation with me.

If this opinion becomes prevalent, it should be expressed, and then handshakes can, of course, be avoided in the future. For reasons I expressed earlier, I will not go into this any further, but there is still one thing I must mention because it is so very typical.

There is a passage in this letter that reads as follows: “Through the events I have described, my wife and I find ourselves in a situation with regard to yourself that makes it impossible for us to encounter you again in the way my wife did for the last time on Sunday, July 25, in the Schreinerei, and I on Thursday, August 5, on the steps leading to the eurythmy room. We were both in possession of this knowledge already at that time. Nevertheless, you shook our hands and drew us into conversation as if nothing had happened. Healthy tact would have made that kind of thing impossible for any non-clairvoyant, so in your case I have to recognize it as an attempt at impermissible intervention into my inner being.” Let me just mention that on the Friday before Sunday the 25th, a member of our Society approached me with an inquiry from Mrs. Goesch with regard to her child, who had fallen down and gotten hurt somehow. I responded by saying that if she wished, I could take a look at what was wrong with the child. Shortly thereafter that person returned, bringing Mrs. Goesch and the child to me. On the following Sunday, here in the Schreinerei, I intervened in the inner being of Mrs. Goesch by shaking her hand and asking her how the child was doing.

My encounter with Mr. Goesch on the stairs leading up to the eurythmy room on Thursday, August 5, consisted of my responding to Mr. Goesch, who had asked me whether it was all right for the child (whom I had just seen standing down by the door) to take part in eurythmy exercises again, by saying that of course that was entirely up to the parents, since what the parents wanted was the only thing to consider in whether or not the child should come to eurythmy again. At that point, I also made the mistake of extending my hand to Mr. Goesch. These are the two instances in which I intervened in someone else's inner being by means of black magic.

Let me still comment on one more passage from the end of this letter: “I am now coming to the end of what I want to say at present. I have not been able to clothe my insights — which I achieved through the guidance of the Keeper of the Seal of the Society for Theosophical Art and Style, who is under the protection of Christian Rosenkreutz—in the ideal form I had envisioned. The obstacles were still too great for someone only recently released from your spell.” I believe you all know who the so-called keeper of the seal is, and all I have to say about this is that the person in question has written a number of letters to both me and my wife in the past few months, including one Mrs. Steiner received only today. [ Note 4 ] I will not discuss the matter of the “keeper of the seal” any further today; I just want to point out that her letters started coming around Christmas, mysteriously enough.

It may well be that I shall have to say something about this at some point, but I really do not want to do it today. I want you to come to a conclusion without being influenced by me. It is certainly almost impossible to be aware of the mysterious connection between this letter and the “keeper of the seal” and say nothing further about it, but today may not be the right time for that.

However, I do still want to mention that some years ago in fall I announced that due to certain embarrassing symptoms that had appeared within our Society, it seemed necessary to found a society of a more restricted sort. [ Note 5 ] To begin with, I attempted to invest a number of long-term members close to me with certain offices, on the assumption that these people would become independently active in accordance with their new titles. At that time, I said that if anything came of it, the membership would hear about it by Epiphany. No one heard a thing, which means that the Society for Theosophical Art and Style does not exist. That is a perfectly justified assumption, since no one has heard anything to the contrary, and it is equally safe to assume that an announcement would have been made if my intentions had in fact been realized. The way my plans were received, however, made it impossible for this society to come about. It was simply an experiment.

My friends, I have often said that the Anthroposophical Society has to make sense as a society if it is to make sense at all. After all, other arrangements could be made for lecturing on esoteric teachings. I have also often pointed out that if certain signs and symptoms continue to appear in the Society, finding another form for it will become inevitable because the present form and present arrangements are not serving the purpose. I was trying to avoid certain things prevalent in the Theosophical Society when I founded the Anthroposophical Society, of which I do not want to be a member, since that is crucial to what I have to do for this spiritual movement.

Our Society also often comes under attack from outside, and of course these attacks are also directed at the Society's teacher and lecturer. This should lead our active members to take up the obligation to defend our cause, if they take the idea of our Society as seriously as they should. However, libelous pamphlets of the most despicable sort, containing the most unbelievable calumnies, have been appearing, and I leave it up to each one of you to judge whether everyone who could do something about them has taken the idea of the Society as seriously as would be necessary if the Society is to withstand these attacks from outside.

My friends, it is neither feasible nor possible for those who have an interest in the survival of the Anthroposophical Society to always first come to me to discuss what they ought to do in defense of me and our cause. That has to come to an end. If it does not, it would mean that it is actually true that people here are assigned their positions by me. I have to respect the independence of the members, even if that means, as it unfortunately does in many cases, that I have to deny them something. The fact of the matter is that the way things have been going, I could truly have done much more if I had not had to get involved in a lot of things that actually did not warrant my involvement. At least where the well-being of our Society is concerned, it is an absurdity to want to clear everything with me first. If what I want to do is to be accomplished on behalf of the Society, then please allow me the time to do it. The Society is wrongly conceived of if people are always turning to one individual; it must include taking personal initiative in what needs to be done on behalf of the Society.

For this reason, my friends, today's incident must be seen as an important and even crucial one. That is why I read you this letter, which is basically only an isolated symptom of something flaring up here, there, and everywhere. I will wait patiently to see what you, as members of the Society, will do about it. Meanwhile, I will continue to fulfill my obligations; the program will continue tomorrow as planned. But it goes without saying that how everything goes on after that will depend on the position the Society takes on what it has heard today. This is not something to be taken as an isolated case; it touches on many fundamental issues I have been pointing to for months in many discussions. [ Note 6 ]

* * *

When Rudolf Steiner had finished, a discussion took place; no stenographic record was kept. Some people must have spoken up in defense of the point of view expressed in Goesch's letter, because as one participant recollects, Rudolf Steiner left the room together with Marie Steiner, saying “I cannot have anything more to do with a society like this!” [ Note 7 ] The great majority of those present must have been ashamed of this state of affairs, and on that same evening they composed this expression of confidence:

Dornach
August 21, 1915

Dear Dr. Steiner:

As members of the Anthroposophical Society, we wish to express our righteous indignation and our feeling of shame that someone of mendacious and immoral outlook, as evident in Mr. Heinrich Goesch's letter, has dared to address you in a fashion dictated by the most despicable delusions of grandeur.

We must painfully reproach ourselves for not having understood how to prevent what has happened and for having proved unable thus far to create a circle of people in which the thoughts and feelings expressed in this letter could not have arisen.

We ask your forgiveness as our loved and respected teacher. We also ask that you not retract your confidence in us, or rather, that you trust in us again, because we are firmly resolved to better realize the ideal of the Anthroposophical Society and to be more aware of our responsibility in future.

It is a matter of course that, given the point of view they represent, we no longer wish to consider Miss Alice Sprengel, Mr. Heinrich Goesch, and Mrs. Gertrud Goesch as having a place in our midst.

We ask you, dear Dr. Steiner, to take our signatures as an assurance of our unconditional and constant trust and our sincerest gratitude.

signed by Michael Bauer and over 300 others [ Note 8]

* * *

 

This vote of confidence was a spontaneous and purely human expression of the signers' relationship to Rudolf Steiner. The facts of the case are addressed in Rudolf Steiner's own contributions. The professional comments of one Dr. Amann (Basel, September 14, 1915) shed some light on the difficulties the members faced in judging the situation:

Among the members, the prevailing opinion is still that Mr. Goesch is not mentally ill, he is only under a bad influence.

When someone has a fever or is drowsy, that is easy enough for anyone to diagnose. On the other hand, mental illness is extremely difficult for even an expert professional to diagnose except in extreme cases.

From people's comments, it is clear that they cannot understand that Mr. Goesch is mentally ill and that they have misconceptions about this type of illness. They believe the mentally ill are necessarily idiots who cannot write intelligently.

Idiots are feeble-minded; the sluggishness of their brain does not allow them to think at all. Unless some organic illness causes feeble-mindedness as a secondary condition, they are born retarded. Exactly the opposite is true of someone who is mentally ill; here, we are dealing with a melancholy frame of mind and clouded logic. This condition, in turn, must be distinguished from insanity — insane people are dangerous!

People who are mentally ill forfeit none of the quality of their intellect. Their intellectual capacity actually increases, because they are inexhaustible when it comes to intellectual work; in fact, they are intellectually active all day and all night. Their illness lies in the fact that they become obsessed and hypnotized with their own fixed trains of thought and are not susceptible to any criticism from outside. These people suffer in secret under the thoughts that plague them until they have carried them to term and can present them to the public. The urge to be visibly productive and important is constantly present in them.

Rudolf Steiner continued in the same vein on the following evening, August 22, 1915, discussing the case further.




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