The history presented in most modern textbooks is a collection of external facts, arranged chronologically, which seem to have occurred without rhyme or reason. Rudolf Steiner takes these facts fully into account in this work, but he also goes beyond them to describe the inner impulses at work which make the intense drama of human development understandable.
These lectures take us to ancient Greece to witness the struggle with the spirit of groundless fantasy, and to ancient Rome and the struggle against the forces of centralized political domination. We hear of how these two forces, opposed to humanity, threatened to reach a tragic climax in the bloody Aztec mysteries of ancient Mexico, until they were thwarted by the heroic efforts of a Mexican Sun-initiate.
Steiner also describes the effects of these ancient conflicts both physical and spiritual as reflected in European history. The Knights Templar and their persecution by Philip the Fair, the run-in between Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII, and the healing wisdom of the Rosicrucians and in the works of Goethe are all dealt with. It is thus possible, through these lectures, to concretely experience part of the on-going drama of human development.
During the last two decades of the nineteenth century the Austrian-born Rudolf Steiner (18611925) became a respected and well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, particularly known for his work on Goethe's scientific writings. After the turn of the century he began to develop his earlier philosophical principles into an approach to methodical research of psychological and spiritual phenomena.
His multi-faceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, science, education (Waldorf schools), special education, philosophy, religion, economics, agriculture (Bio-Dynamic method), architecture, drama, the new art of eurythmy, and other fields. In 1924 he founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world.