Address by Rudolf Steiner
August 21, 1915
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
Letter from Heinrich and Gertrud Goesch to Rudolf
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
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.
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
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
Riddles of Philosophy,
[ 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
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
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!
* * *
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
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
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
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
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
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.