Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib
The Karma of Vocation
Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document
[ Notes: Karma Vocation ]
The Karma of Vocation
On-line since: 15th September, 2012
of Rudolf Steiner that have appeared as part of the Complete
Edition (CE) are listed with their bibliography number and with
the year of the last published edition. See also the summary at
the end of this volume.
These words are spoken by Faust's student Wagner in
Faust, Part I, lines 570–573. The German text reads as
Verzeiht: Es ist ein gross Ergotzen
The German word "Ergötzen" connotes a passive and fleeting
delight and is a contrast to the activating joy (“Erquickung“)
Faust experienced in line 568. Wagner's conclusion in line 573
symbolizes the shallow optimism of the materialistic Enlightenment.
Wagner himself is incapable of true spiritual perception.
Sich in den Geist der Zeiten zu versetzen
zu schauen, wie vor uns ein weiser Mann gedacht,
und wie wir's dann so herrlich weit gebracht.
Svante Arrhenius (1859–1927), Swedish physicist, chemist, and
astronomer, was the author of Die Vorstellungen vom
Weltgebdude im Wandel der Zeiten [Conceptions of the
Structure of the World in the Changing Course of the Ages]
(Leipzig, 1908). The foreword of this book contains the quote
See Goethe's Poetry and Truth, IV.
Johann Christoph Gottsched (1700–1766) was a writer and a
Professor of Literature in Leipzig. He is best known for his
efforts to reform the German theater and for having established
rules for drama that conformed to French models.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781) was the foremost poet and
critic of the German Enlightenment.
Christian Fiirchtegott Gellert (1715–1769) was a Prussian poet
of the German Enlightenment.
Faust, Part I, lines 1-3. Faust reviews his past
education and questions his knowledge.
The translation is from Walter Kaufmann, Goethe's Faust
(Anchor Books: 1963), p. 95. This pronouncement in the third
scene of Part I, lines 382–383, reveals Faust's search for a
cohesive spiritual force that holds the universe together.
Later in the poem he admits that he has been seeking this
knowledge through alchemy.
Lines 384–385 in Faust, Part I; cf. footnotes 8 and 35.
The German word “Samen“ [seed] refers to a term used in
alchemy, but it is not certain that the word “Wirkungskraft“
[working force] does. Some scholars think Goethe invented the
Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) was a famous German
theologian and cultural philosopher.
Baruch Spinoza (1632–77) was a Dutch philosopher, a
rationalist, and a monist. His Ethics, published
posthumously in 1677, exerted a profound influence on
In the introduction to Goethe's Scientific Writings I
(1883), pp. LV-LVIII, Rudolf Steiner depicts Goethe's
relationship to Spinoza. Fritz Jacobi helped to deepen Goethe's
knowledge of Spinoza's philosophy in the summer of 1774. After
Goethe and Herder had renewed their friendship in Weimar, the
two men and Frau von Stein studied Spinoza together. Goethe
the Scientist (New York, Anthroposophic Press, 1950).
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).
Pierre Corneille (1606–1684) established a theory of French
tragedy. Jean Baptiste Racine (1639–1699) was a famous writer
of French classical tragedy.
Heinrich Jung-Stilling (1740–1817) was a German physician and
Emanuel von Swedenborg (1688–1772) was a Swedish natural
scientist and theosopher.
Paracelsus, Theophrastus von Hohenheim (1493–1541) was a Swiss
physician, natural scientist and alchemist.
The reference is to Goethe's relationship with the pastor's
daughter, Friederike Brion (1752–1813).
Goethe received the degree of “Licentiate of Law,“ a title
which in Germany was regarded as being equal to the doctorate.
From then on, Goethe used the title, “Doctor juris.“
Götz von Berlichingen (1480–1562) came from an old Swabian
family. He became the leader of the peasant uprising in 1525,
fought against the Turks in 1542, and against France in 1544.
His autobiography was published in 1731.
The reference is to Faust, Part I, line 584: “mit
trefflichen Maximen.“ Faust, in lines 575–585, replies to
Wagner's remarks (cf. footnote 1):
My friend, the times that antecede
The translation of these lines is by Walter Kaufman (cf. footnote 8); he
renders “pragmatic maxims“ with “edifying quips.“
Our own are books safely protected
by seven seals. What spirit of the time you call
Is but the scholar's spirit, after all,
In which times past are now reflected.
In truth, it is often pathetic,
And when one sees it, one would run away:
A garbage pail, perhaps a storage attic
At best a pompous moralistic play
With wonderfully edifying quips,
Most suitable to come from puppets' lips.
Faust, Part I, lines 1972–1975, trans. by Walter
Kaufmann. Mephisto says to the freshman student:
The laws and statutes of a nation
Are an inherited disease,
From generation unto generation
And place to place they drag on by degrees.
Siegwart, a sentimental novel by Johann Martin Miller, was
published 1776, two years after Goethe's Werther, and
immediately became a best seller.
The reference is to Goethe's letter from Frankfurt to Countess
Auguste von Stollberg-Stollberg, dated February 13, 1775.
Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther was published in
1774. One year later, Goethe received Duke Kark August's
invitation to Weimar and arrived there on November 7, 1775.
Frederick the Great in De la litterature alemande
Karl August, Duke of Weimar (1757–1828), son of Duchess Anna
Charlotte Freifrau von Stein (1742–1827).
This treatise was written in 1784 and was published in Jena in
Goethe's letter from Rome, dated January 28, 1787.
Goethe's letter from Rome, dated September 6, 1787.
The Robbers had been published in 1781. In his
Glückliches Ereignis [Happy Event] (1817), Goethe
writes: “After my return from Italy, where I had endeavored to
educate myself to a more definite and pure understanding of all
branches of the arts and where I did not care what in those
days was going on in Germany, I discovered that some recent, as
well as some older, poetic works were in high repute and had
widespread appeal. Unfortunately, they included some works that
I found extremely disgusting such as Heinse's
Ardinghello and Schiller's The Robbers.“
Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805) was a dramatist, poet and
historian and is regarded as one of the greatest German
Hermann Grimm in the 21st “Goethe“ lecture: “When two
superbly gifted men combine in common endeavors, their strength is not
doubled but multiplied fourfold. Each one has the other
invisibly next to himself. The formula would not read G + S,
but (G + S) + (S + G). The strength of one accrues to the
strength of the other.“
Faust, Part I, lines 384–385. The German text reads as
Schau alle Wirkungskraft und Samen
The Kaufman translation (cf. footnote 9) of this passage, although
preferable as a whole, leaves “Wirkungskraft und Samen“ [vital
power and embryo seed] untranslated and renders the two lines
Und to nicht mehr in Worten kramen.
Envisage the creative blazes
To do justice to Steiner's remarks, I have here used Ann Swanwick's
translation of these two lines. (P.M.)
Instead of rummaging in phrases.
Emil Du Bois-Reymond (1818–96) was a physiologist in
Cf. footnote 35.
Francois de Théas, Comte de Thoranc (1719–94).
Vom Menschenrätsel, Bibl.-No. 20, CE (Dornach, 1957), p. 155.
Julien Offroy de la Mettrie (1709–51) was a French physician
and materialist philosopher who wrote L'homme machine
(1748) and who was a friend of Frederick the Great of Prussia.
Honore-Gabriel Comte de Mirabeau (1749–91) was a Jacobin
revolutionary leader and a celebrated orator.
Georges Jaques Danton (1759–94) was one of the leading figures
of the French Revolution.
Maximilien de Robespierre (1758–94) was the French
revolutionary whose name is usually associated with the
infamous Reign of Terror.
Goethe left Karlsbad on September 3, 1786, arrived in Rome on
October 29, 1786, left Rome on April 23, 1788 and arrived back
in Weimar on June 18, 1788.
The friendship between the two men lasted from the summer of
1794 to the death of Schiller on May 9, 1805.
Cf. Rudolf Steiner's remarks in “Der pädagogische Wert der
Menschenerkenntnis und der Kulturwert der Pädogogik“ [The
Pedagogical Value of the Knowledge of Human Beings and the
Cultural Value of Pedagogy], Second Lecture of July 18, 1924,
Bibl.- No. 310, CE (Dornach, 1965).
Goethe arrived in Leipzig on October 3, 1765 and left the city
on August 28, 1768. His illness began the end of July, 1768.
Susanna von Klettenberg (1723–74), a well known Pietist, became
Goethe's prototype of “die schöne Seele,“ [the beautiful
soul] in his novel Wilhelm Meister.
Goethe left for Strassburg on April 1, 1770, and returned from
that city to Frankfurt on August 14, 1771.
Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem (1747–72) was secretary of the Brunswick
Legation in the city of Wetzlar. He committed suicide on
October 30, 1772, with a pistol borrowed from J. C. Kestner,
who was also a friend of Goethe. The tragedy is generally
believed to have prompted Goethe to write his Werther,
as if he wanted to vindicate his friend's action. Werther, too,
borrowed a pistol from a friend to kill himself.
Cf. footnote 18.
Poetry and Truth, XI: “I perceived, not with the eyes of
the body but of the mind, how I approached myself on horseback,
yet wearing clothes -- pike-grey with a little gold -- that I
had never worn before. As soon as I shook myself loose from
this dream, the apparition had disappeared. The strange thing
is that after eight years from this incident when I was
travelling on the same road to pay a visit to Friederike, I was
wearing the very same clothes I had dreamt about -- not by
choice but by coincident.“ The later visit to Friederike Brion
took place on September 25, 1779, during Goethe's second
journey to Switzerland.
This lecture was preceded by a presentation of the scene in
Faust's study (Earth Spirit, Faust, and Wagner).
Ann Swanwick's translation of Faust, Part I, lines
575–579, with Faust speaking to Wagner. Kaufmann's rendering of
lines 575–585 is given in footnote 21.
Sophocles (496–406 B.C.) wrote 130 plays,
seven of which are extant: Ajax, Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonos,
Antigone, Electra, The Trachiniae, Philoctetes. Recently, fragments
of a satyr play, Ichneutae or The Trackers, were also found.
Cf. footnote 1.
The scene was written in March, 1788.
Faust, Part I, “Wood and Cave,“ lines 3217–3234. The
translation is by Walter Kaufmann.
The philosopher and physician Gustav Carus (1789–1869) wrote
the book Vergleichende Psychologie oder Geischichte der
Seele in der Reihenfolge der Tierwelt [Comparative
Psychology or History of the Soul in the Order of the Animal
World] (Vienna, 1866).
Cams concludes the passage with a note: “Horses have been
observed to accomplish similar feats; in fact, I have seen
canaries do the same thing, although not quite as
Herman Bahr (1863–1934) was a Viennese writer.
Oskar Pfungst, Das Pferd des Herrn von Osten [Mr. von
Osten's Horse] (Leipzig, 1907).
Poetry and Truth, IV, 107.
Hans Sachs (1494–1576) was a shoemaker who became known as the
foremost “Meistersinger“ in Nürnberg.
Jakob Böhme (1575–1624), a shoemaker in Görlitz,
Silesia, is regarded to have been one of the most profound
mystics in Germany.
Steiner lectured in Görlitz on December 3, 1908.
Kaufmann's translation. See footnote 21.
I Corinthians, 1:20:
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?“
Rudolf Steiner says in the third lecture of “Weltwesen und
Ichheit“ [The Essence of the World and Selfness], Bibl.-No.
169, CE (1963) that the American Keely invented such a motor in
the 19th century.
Oskar Hertwig (1849–1922) was an anatomist who served as the
director of the Anatomical-Biological Institute in Berlin from
1888 through 1921. His book Das Werden der Organismen. Eine
Widerlegung von Darwins Zufallstheorie [The Development of
Organisms. A Refutation of Darwin's Theory of Chance] appeared
Solfatara is the vulcanic sulfurgas well near Pozzuoli.
Friedrich Theodor Vischer (1807–87) spelled his last name with
a V, not an F, and Steiner stresses that fact in his lecture.
Franza Feilbogen, F. Th. Vischer's “Auch Einer“
Max von Eyth (1836–1906) was an engineer and author of the book
Hinter Pflug und Schraubstock (Behind Plough and
Bench-Vice]. He introduced the steam-plough that was developed
by John Fowler to Egypt, America, and Germany.
The “Ludolf number“ was named after the mathematician Ludwig
van Ceulen (1540–1610).
Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907).
Dr. Max Burckhard (1854–1912). The description is based on
Hermann Bahr's Erinnerung an Burckhard [In Memory of
Burckhard] (Berlin, 1913). Cf. Rudolf Steiner, “Gesammelte
Aufsätze zur Dramaturgie“ [Collected Essays on
Dramaturgy], Bibl.-No. 29, CE (Dornach, 1960), p. 60 ff. (“The
Crisis of the Vienna Burg-theater“).
Alfred Freiherr von Berger (1853–1912) was a theater manager,
first in Hamburg and then in Vienna. On December 14, 1915,
Rudolf Steiner spoke in detail about the novella Hofrath
Eysenhardt in the fifth lecture of the cycle
“Schicksalsbildung und Leben nach dem Tode“ [The Formation of
Destiny and the Life after Death], Bibl.- No. 171, CE (Dornach,
Lecture of October 30, 1916, published in Innere
Entwicklungsimpulse der Menschheit [Inner Development
Impulses of Mankind], Bibl.-No. 171, CE (Dornach, 1964).
The archai are the spirits of the time. “Arché“ is the
singular of “archai.“
Printed in: Luzifer-Gnosis 1903–1908, Bibl.-No. 34, CE
(1960) and as a separate edition.
The lecture was given on October 16, 1916, and was entitled
“Das menschliche Leben vom Gesichtspunkte der
Geisteswissenschaft (Anthroposophie)“ [Human Life from the
Point of View of Spiritual Science (Anthroposophy)]. It is
Philosophie und Anthroposophie.
Gesammelte Aufsätze 1904–1918
[Philosophy and Anthroposophy.
Collected Essays 1904–1918], Bibl.-No. 35, CE (Dornach, 1965).
Cf. Lecture V of November 13, 1916.
The reference is to lectures on October 7 and October 14, 1916,
published in Innere Entwicklungsimpulse der Menschheit
[Inner Developmental Impulses of Mankind], Bibl.-No. 171, CE
Lecture of October 29, 1916, “Innere Entwicklungsimpulse der
Menschheit“ [Inner Developmental Impulses of Mankind], Bibl.-
No. 171, CE (Dornach, 1964).
John Stuart Mill (1806–73), British philosopher and economist,
espoused a modified humanitarian utilitarianism but is also
regarded by some as one of the founders of positivism.
Alexander Ivanovich Herzen (1812–70) was a Russian writer and
revolutionary. Steiner refers to Herzen's work
Last Things and First Things
(1864) and quotes from Dimitri S.
Der Anmarsch des Pöbels [The Advance of the Mob]
Dimitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky (1865–1941) was a renowned
Russian critic and novelist who spent nearly half of his life
in exile in Paris.
See footnote 82.
Helena Petrowna Blavatsky (1831–91). Together with Colonel
Henry Steel Olcott she founded the Theosophical Society in the
year 1875 in New York.
Steiner did this in detail in the lectures he gave in the fall
of 1915. Cf. “Die okkulte Bewegung im 19. Jahrhundert und ihre
Beziehung zur Weltkultur,“ Bibl.-No. 257, CE (Dornach, 1969).
The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century,
(London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973).
Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Este (1863–1914) was
assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.
The newspaper referred to was Paris-Midi. Cf. the
speeches by Jean Jaures published by Victor Schiff (Berlin, 1919).
Almanach de Mme de Thèbes [pseudonym of an alleged
Mme Anne Victoire de Savigny, died in 1917), “Conseils pour
etre heureux“ (Paris, 103 ff.).
Cf. “L'assassin,“ in Almanach de Mme de Thebes 1913 (Paris,
1912): “The one who is supposed to rule Austria (Franz
Ferdinand) is not going to rule but rather a young man who at
this time is not intended to be the ruler (Karl I).“
See “Més predications de l'an passé,“ Almanach de
Mme de Thebes 1914 (Paris, 1913): “The tragic event that I
predicted for the Austrian imperial family has not yet
occurred, but it will definitely take place before the first
half of the year has elapsed.“
The reference is to Dr. Friedrich Mahling, Hamburg. In his
lecture on October 26, 1916, in St. Gallen, Rudolf Steiner
quotes from Mahling's booklet Die Gedankenwelt der
Gebildeten [The World of Thought of the Educated]. Cf.
Die Verbindung zwischen den Lebenden und den Toten [The
Connection between the Living and the Dead], Bibl.-No. 168, CE
Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986) was proclaimed by the
Theosophical Society in 1909 as an incarnation of Maitreya, the
messianic Buddha. After a two-year tour of America and England
with Annie Besant, Krishnamurti renounced these claims in 1929.
Annie Besant (1847–1933) was elected President of the
Theosophical Society in May, 1907.
Rudolf Steiner had been secretary of the German branch of the
Theosophical Society since its founding on October 20, 1902.
Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949) was a Belgian writer.
Ku Hung-Ming, Der Geist des chinesischen Volkes und der
Ausweg aus dem Krieg [The Spirit of the Chinese People and
the Way out of the War] (1916).
pp. 168–169 in Ku Hung-Ming's book (cf. footnote 102):
“Therefore, the first task must be to find some way to give the
generals and politicians power, the power to make peace.
The nations now waging war in Europe can achieve this only by
tearing up their present Magna Cartas of Freedom and by
replacing them with a new Magna Carta of Loyalty, such
as we Chinese have it in our religion of the good citizen.“
Confucius, Chinese Kung Fu-tse (551–579?
a Chinese philosopher. Lao-tze (born approximately 604
was also a Chinese philosopher and the co-founder of Taoism. He was called
“the old master.“
This encyclical has become known as the so-called “Syllabus
Prior to this lecture, a scene from Faust, Part I, had
been performed: Mephisto and the freshman student.
Galileo Galilei (1564–1642). The letter is quoted from Angelo
de Gubernatis, “Galileo Galilei,“ Deutsche Revue
Cosimo I de'Medici (1519–74), Duke of Florence (1537–69) and
Grand Duke of Tuscany (1569–74).
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).
Alphonse Leblais, Matérialisme et Spiritualisme
Maximilian Lime (1801–81) was a philosopher, linguist, and
follower of the positivist Auguste Comte (1798–1857).
Albert Steffen (1884–1963), Swiss poet and writer, became
president of the Anthroposophical Society after the death of
Albert Steffen, Der rechte Liebhaber des Schicksals
[The True Lover of Destiny].
Grimm made this statement in the 23rd “Goethe“ lecture with
reference to the Laplace-Kant fantasy of the origin and past
destruction of the earth.
In 1711, the English inventor Thomas Newcomen (1663–1729),
together with this associate Cowley, succeeded in constructing
an atmospheric steam engine that could be used for practical
purposes in 1712.
The Scottish inventor James Watt (1736–1819) was at first
unable to utilize for his steam engine the already well known
mechanism of the crankshaft and connecting rod because it had
already been patented by someone else. However, he circumvented
the problem by utilizing the so-called solar and planetary
Von Jesus zu Christus (Karlsruhe, 1911), Bibl.-No. 131,
CE (Dornach, 1974).
From Jesus to Christ,
(London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973).
Cf. the lectures in Die okkulte Bewegung im 19. Jahrhundert
und ihre Beziehung zur Weltkultur, Bibl.-No. 257, CE
The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century,
(London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973).
Alfred Percy Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism (1883).
Rudolf Steiner, Vier Mysteriendramen [Four Mystery
Plays], Bibl.- No. 14, CE (Dornach, 1962).
Four Mystery Plays,
(Steiner Book Centre, Toronto, 1973).
Cf. Preface to: Goethe's Scientific Writings, II, Rudolf
Steiner, ed. (1887) in Kürchner's Deutsche
National-Litteratur. Photomechanic reprint, 5 vols.,
Bibl.-No. 1 a-e, CE (1975).
Goethe the Scientist,
(New York, Anthroposophic Press, 1950).
Hermann Bahr (1863–1934), a Viennese writer who was the author
of the book Expressionismus, 3rd edition (Munich, 1919)
and of the play Die Stimme [The Voice] (Berlin,
Eugene Levry, Rudolf Steiners Weltanschauung und ihre
Gegner [Rudolf Steiner's World View and its Opponents]
Wilhelm Oswald (1853–1932) was a chemist.
Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919) was a renowned zoologist.
The nineteenth sura of the Koran is entitled “Mary.“
Cf. footnote 99.
Charles Webster Leadbeater (1847–1934) was a prominent
personality in the Theosophical Society.
Otto Furst von Bismarck (1815–1898) was the Prussian Chancellor
who founded the Second German Empire in 1871.
Oliver Lodge (1851–1940) was an English physicist and a member
of the Royal Society.
Oliver Lodge, Raymond, or Life and Death (1916).
Frederic W. H. Meyers (1843–1901), a spiritist and friend of
Sir Oliver Lodge, was a co-founder of the Society for Psychical
Research in London.
Georg von Landsdorff was a physician who had previously lived
and worked in Freiburg i.Br.
Last Modified: 27-May-2020
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