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The Karma of Vocation

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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The Karma of Vocation

On-line since: 15th September, 2012


Works 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.

  1. These words are spoken by Faust's student Wagner in Faust, Part I, lines 570–573. The German text reads as follows:
    Verzeiht: Es ist ein gross Ergotzen
    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.
    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.
  2. 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 from Faust.
  3. See Goethe's Poetry and Truth, IV.
  4. 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.
  5. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781) was the foremost poet and critic of the German Enlightenment.
  6. Christian Fiirchtegott Gellert (1715–1769) was a Prussian poet of the German Enlightenment.
  7. Faust, Part I, lines 1-3. Faust reviews his past education and questions his knowledge.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 word.
  10. Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) was a famous German theologian and cultural philosopher.
  11. Baruch Spinoza (1632–77) was a Dutch philosopher, a rationalist, and a monist. His Ethics, published posthumously in 1677, exerted a profound influence on Goethe.
  12. 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).
  13. William Shakespeare (1564–1616).
  14. Pierre Corneille (1606–1684) established a theory of French tragedy. Jean Baptiste Racine (1639–1699) was a famous writer of French classical tragedy.
  15. Heinrich Jung-Stilling (1740–1817) was a German physician and writer.
  16. Emanuel von Swedenborg (1688–1772) was a Swedish natural scientist and theosopher.
  17. Paracelsus, Theophrastus von Hohenheim (1493–1541) was a Swiss physician, natural scientist and alchemist.
  18. The reference is to Goethe's relationship with the pastor's daughter, Friederike Brion (1752–1813).
  19. 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.“
  20. 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.
  21. 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
    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.
    The translation of these lines is by Walter Kaufman (cf. footnote 8); he renders “pragmatic maxims“ with “edifying quips.“
  22. 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.
  23. Siegwart, a sentimental novel by Johann Martin Miller, was published 1776, two years after Goethe's Werther, and immediately became a best seller.
  24. The reference is to Goethe's letter from Frankfurt to Countess Auguste von Stollberg-Stollberg, dated February 13, 1775.
  25. 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.
  26. Frederick the Great in De la litterature alemande (1780).
  27. Karl August, Duke of Weimar (1757–1828), son of Duchess Anna Amalia.
  28. Charlotte Freifrau von Stein (1742–1827).
  29. This treatise was written in 1784 and was published in Jena in 1786.
  30. Goethe's letter from Rome, dated January 28, 1787.
  31. Goethe's letter from Rome, dated September 6, 1787.
  32. 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.“
  33. Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805) was a dramatist, poet and historian and is regarded as one of the greatest German literary figures.
  34. 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.“
  35. Faust, Part I, lines 384–385. The German text reads as follows:
    Schau alle Wirkungskraft und Samen
    Und to nicht mehr in Worten kramen.
    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 as follows:
    Envisage the creative blazes
    Instead of rummaging in phrases.
    To do justice to Steiner's remarks, I have here used Ann Swanwick's translation of these two lines. (P.M.)
  36. Emil Du Bois-Reymond (1818–96) was a physiologist in Berlin.
  37. Cf. footnote 35.
  38. Francois de Théas, Comte de Thoranc (1719–94).
  39. Vom Menschenrätsel, Bibl.-No. 20, CE (Dornach, 1957), p. 155.
  40. 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.
  41. Honore-Gabriel Comte de Mirabeau (1749–91) was a Jacobin revolutionary leader and a celebrated orator.
  42. Georges Jaques Danton (1759–94) was one of the leading figures of the French Revolution.
  43. Maximilien de Robespierre (1758–94) was the French revolutionary whose name is usually associated with the infamous Reign of Terror.
  44. 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.
  45. The friendship between the two men lasted from the summer of 1794 to the death of Schiller on May 9, 1805.
  46. 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).
  47. Goethe arrived in Leipzig on October 3, 1765 and left the city on August 28, 1768. His illness began the end of July, 1768.
  48. 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.
  49. Goethe left for Strassburg on April 1, 1770, and returned from that city to Frankfurt on August 14, 1771.
  50. 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.
  51. Cf. footnote 18.
  52. 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.
  53. This lecture was preceded by a presentation of the scene in Faust's study (Earth Spirit, Faust, and Wagner).
  54. 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.
  55. 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.
  56. Cf. footnote 1.
  57. The scene was written in March, 1788.
  58. Faust, Part I, “Wood and Cave,“ lines 3217–3234. The translation is by Walter Kaufmann.
  59. 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).
  60. 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 completely.“
  61. Herman Bahr (1863–1934) was a Viennese writer.
  62. Oskar Pfungst, Das Pferd des Herrn von Osten [Mr. von Osten's Horse] (Leipzig, 1907).
  63. Poetry and Truth, IV, 107.
  64. Hans Sachs (1494–1576) was a shoemaker who became known as the foremost “Meistersinger“ in Nürnberg.
  65. Jakob Böhme (1575–1624), a shoemaker in Görlitz, Silesia, is regarded to have been one of the most profound mystics in Germany.
  66. Steiner lectured in Görlitz on December 3, 1908.
  67. Kaufmann's translation. See footnote 21.
  68. I Corinthians, 1:20: “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?“
  69. 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.
  70. 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 in 1916.
  71. Solfatara is the vulcanic sulfurgas well near Pozzuoli.
  72. Friedrich Theodor Vischer (1807–87) spelled his last name with a V, not an F, and Steiner stresses that fact in his lecture.
  73. Franza Feilbogen, F. Th. Vischer's “Auch Einer“ (Zurich, 1916).
  74. 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.
  75. The “Ludolf number“ was named after the mathematician Ludwig van Ceulen (1540–1610).
  76. Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907).
  77. 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“).
  78. 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, 1964).
  79. Lecture of October 30, 1916, published in Innere Entwicklungsimpulse der Menschheit [Inner Development Impulses of Mankind], Bibl.-No. 171, CE (Dornach, 1964).
  80. The archai are the spirits of the time. “Arché“ is the singular of “archai.“
  81. Printed in: Luzifer-Gnosis 1903–1908, Bibl.-No. 34, CE (1960) and as a separate edition.
  82. 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 printed in: Philosophie und Anthroposophie. Gesammelte Aufsätze 1904–1918 [Philosophy and Anthroposophy. Collected Essays 1904–1918], Bibl.-No. 35, CE (Dornach, 1965).
  83. Cf. Lecture V of November 13, 1916.
  84. 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 (Dornach, 1964).
  85. Lecture of October 29, 1916, “Innere Entwicklungsimpulse der Menschheit“ [Inner Developmental Impulses of Mankind], Bibl.- No. 171, CE (Dornach, 1964).
  86. 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.
  87. 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. Merezhkovsky's book Der Anmarsch des Pöbels [The Advance of the Mob] (Munich, 1907).
  88. Dimitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky (1865–1941) was a renowned Russian critic and novelist who spent nearly half of his life in exile in Paris.
  89. See footnote 82.
  90. Helena Petrowna Blavatsky (1831–91). Together with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott she founded the Theosophical Society in the year 1875 in New York.
  91. 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).
  92. Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Este (1863–1914) was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.
  93. The newspaper referred to was Paris-Midi. Cf. the speeches by Jean Jaures published by Victor Schiff (Berlin, 1919).
  94. Almanach de Mme de Thèbes [pseudonym of an alleged Mme Anne Victoire de Savigny, died in 1917), “Conseils pour etre heureux“ (Paris, 103 ff.).
  95. 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).“
  96. 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.“
  97. 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 (Dornach, 1976).
  98. 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.
  99. Annie Besant (1847–1933) was elected President of the Theosophical Society in May, 1907.
  100. Rudolf Steiner had been secretary of the German branch of the Theosophical Society since its founding on October 20, 1902.
  101. Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949) was a Belgian writer.
  102. 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).
  103. 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.“
  104. Confucius, Chinese Kung Fu-tse (551–579? B.C.), a Chinese philosopher. Lao-tze (born approximately 604 B.C.) was also a Chinese philosopher and the co-founder of Taoism. He was called “the old master.“
  105. This encyclical has become known as the so-called “Syllabus Pius' IX.“
  106. Prior to this lecture, a scene from Faust, Part I, had been performed: Mephisto and the freshman student.
  107. Galileo Galilei (1564–1642). The letter is quoted from Angelo de Gubernatis, “Galileo Galilei,“ Deutsche Revue (March/April, 1909).
  108. Cosimo I de'Medici (1519–74), Duke of Florence (1537–69) and Grand Duke of Tuscany (1569–74).
  109. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).
  110. Alphonse Leblais, Matérialisme et Spiritualisme (Paris, 1865).
  111. Maximilian Lime (1801–81) was a philosopher, linguist, and follower of the positivist Auguste Comte (1798–1857).
  112. Albert Steffen (1884–1963), Swiss poet and writer, became president of the Anthroposophical Society after the death of Rudolf Steiner.
  113. Albert Steffen, Der rechte Liebhaber des Schicksals [The True Lover of Destiny].
  114. Matthew 18:20.
  115. 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.
  116. 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.
  117. 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 rotary motion.
  118. Von Jesus zu Christus (Karlsruhe, 1911), Bibl.-No. 131, CE (Dornach, 1974). From Jesus to Christ, (London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973).
  119. Matthew 25:40.
  120. Cf. the lectures in 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).
  121. Alfred Percy Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism (1883).
  122. Rudolf Steiner, Vier Mysteriendramen [Four Mystery Plays], Bibl.- No. 14, CE (Dornach, 1962). Four Mystery Plays, (Steiner Book Centre, Toronto, 1973).
  123. 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).
  124. 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, 1916).
  125. Eugene Levry, Rudolf Steiners Weltanschauung und ihre Gegner [Rudolf Steiner's World View and its Opponents] (Berlin, 1913).
  126. Wilhelm Oswald (1853–1932) was a chemist.
  127. Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919) was a renowned zoologist.
  128. The nineteenth sura of the Koran is entitled “Mary.“
  129. Cf. footnote 99.
  130. Charles Webster Leadbeater (1847–1934) was a prominent personality in the Theosophical Society.
  131. Otto Furst von Bismarck (1815–1898) was the Prussian Chancellor who founded the Second German Empire in 1871.
  132. Oliver Lodge (1851–1940) was an English physicist and a member of the Royal Society.
  133. Oliver Lodge, Raymond, or Life and Death (1916).
  134. 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.
  135. Georg von Landsdorff was a physician who had previously lived and worked in Freiburg i.Br.

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