Introductory remarks by the Editor.
In his autobiography
‘The Course of My Life,’
Rudolf Steiner describes
how at the turn of the century he was requested to hold theosophical
lectures for what at that time was a very small theosophical circle in
Berlin. He said he was willing to do so, but emphasised that he would
only be able to speak about what lived within him as Spiritual
Science. His first course of lectures given during the winter of
1900/01 was published at the request of the circle, compressed into
book form, under the title
‘Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age’.
Because the results of his own spiritual knowledge contained within it
were accepted in the General Theosophical Society, there was no
longer any reason to refrain from bringing this spiritual knowledge
in my own way before the theosophical public, which was at that
time the only one which entered eagerly into these spiritual matters.
I was not bound by any sectarian dogmatism; I remained someone who
spoke out freely what he believed himself able to speak out entirely
in accordance with what he himself experienced as the world of
During the next winter 1901/02 there followed a second
series of lectures which was published in the summer of 1902 in
Christianity as Mystical Fact.
afterwards the German Section of the Theosophical Society was founded
with Rudolf Steiner as General Secretary. Here I was able to unfold
my anthroposophical activity before an ever-increasing public.
Nobody remained in any doubt about the fact that in the
Theosophical Society I would only bring forward the results of what I
beheld in my own spiritual research.
This was the beginning of an ever-increasingly intensive activity in
the sphere of spiritual-scientific lectures. In June 1903 appeared the
first number of Lucifer (later Lucifer-Gnosis),
Magazine for Soul-life and Spiritual-culture Theosophy. In
the Spring of 1904 appeared the fundamental work
Theosophy An introduction to Supersensible World-Knowledge and Human Destiny.
There immediately followed in Lucifer the description of the path
of schooling in the articles,
How to attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds
and the presentation of a spiritual-scientific cosmology in the articles,
From the Akasha Chronicle.
Thus the German Section of the Theosophical Society was gradually
built up by Rudolf Steiner and his closest coworker Marie von Sivers,
later Marie Steiner, into a far-reaching, Central European,
spiritual-scientific movement. From the beginning it was this
anthroposophical teaching represented by Rudolf Steiner which
later, owing to internal difficulties, took on independent existence
as the Anthroposophical Society.
At the time when Rudolf Steiner gave the lecture-course entitled
Foundations of Esotericism
now for the first time appearing in
book-form, the work was still in the initial stage of its development.
Rudolf Steiner therefore always still made use of the expressions
theosophy and theosophical and for the description of planetary
evolution, of the members of man's being and so on, the Indian
terminology usual in theosophical literature, to which at that time
his audiences were accustomed. He makes special mention of the value
of this terminology in the 15th lecture of this course. In his
articles at that time and in his book,
he nevertheless makes use of expressions about which in 1903 he said in the
magazine Lucifer, that for certain reasons he borrowed these
expressions from an occult language which, in its terminology, deviates
slightly from that in the published theosophical writings, but with which in
essence it is naturally in complete agreement. Later he replaced
these theosophical expressions ever more and note by those adapted to
our European culture. The explanations necessary for this course are
to be found at the end of the volume.
In the lectures the frequently recurring use of names taken from the
writings of H.P. Blavatsky is to be explained by the fact that the
audiences at this time were intensively occupied with the teachings of
the founder of the Theosophical Society and, because of the difficulty
of understanding their meaning, they often brought their questions to
Rudolf Steiner. So again and again he explained Blavatsky's
indications from her principal work The Secret Doctrine, in
particular those in the third volume dealing with esotericism.
The entire course was in fact private verbal instruction, thus not
intended for the general circle of members, but only for a few active
members who were personally invited to take part. It was intended to
provide a certain basis for their own group work. For this reason
there is no complete shorthand report, but only notes which certain of
his hearers made for their personal use. These notes have a strongly
aphoristic character which should be borne in mind if, owing to their
shortened and condensed content, or also as a result of gaps in the
text, they are not always entirely comprehensible. If today these
notes appear in the Complete Edition it is because on the whole they
are certainly reliable, and also because they provide us with valuable
aspects of human and cosmic considerations, which are not to be found
in this form in Rudolf Steiner's later lectures. For the clarification
and further understanding of many points, particularly those of a
cosmological character, one should refer to the words written at about
the same time, i.e.