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Souls of the Nations

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

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

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Souls of the Nations

Souls of Nations: Foreword


This little guide to study was written for a special purpose and it will help the reader, where and whensoever he may use it, if this is explained. For the autumn term of 1938, various working groups of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain — notably the group meeting week by week in Rudolf Steiner House in London — had resolved to study the psychology of nations and the character of lands and peoples — the spiritual realities that underlie them. The lecture-course referred to in our sub-title, wherein the founder of modern Spiritual Science, Rudolf Steiner, primarily deals with this great subject, is not an easy one. I therefore undertook to write this guide to study, which is now being printed so as to make it available to all who may need it, whether now or in the future.

It is therefore essentially a piece of working material of the kind often required in a University or School where systematic study is going on. In such a publication one will look to find accepted forms of expression, technical terms at least a few, and references to special literature; in a word, all things belonging to the life and practice of the school in question. The references in this booklet are of this character, and it is written in the style and context with which students in the spiritual school arising out of Rudolf Steiner's work are familiar.

The lecture-cycles of Rudolf Steiner — shorthand reports of his spoken word — are in themselves working material of this kind, and in their publication he insisted that this should be made clear. In reading them we should have in mind the time and situation — the audience to which they were spoken. They contain many things indispensable to students — things not contained, at least not explicitly, in Dr. Steiner's actual writings. Yet they cannot be read quite in the same way as we should read a written book. We have to call the spoken word to life and in a way transplant what it contains into the living present. Whether we read them individually or in working groups together, we must endeavour to renew by our own spiritual work some of the magic touch, the immediate presence of the Spirit which was felt when they were given. For this reason too it may be good that the result of work upon them by one individual student — 28 years after, so it happens — should circulate among other students. It is in intercourse that these things prosper.

While I have followed, in a free way but fairly closely, the main line of Dr. Steiner's exposition, I have not hesitated to insert explanations of my own or references to his other works, notably the lecture-cycles of those years. Many of these are better known to students, and such relationships — they could of course be multiplied — will help in making thoroughly intelligible what this particular cycle contains.

This booklet is what is said in the sub-title: help in the study of another, the essential work. I always had in mind while writing, that those using it — individuals or study-groups — would have Rudolf Steiner's lectures before them, in the original or in the English version, even as I had. Readers familiar with certain elements, at least, of Anthroposophy may indeed find in it an introduction to this spiritual science of the Nation-Souls, but it will scarcely satisfy unless it leads them on to the actual lecture-cycle, the contents of which it indicates rather than summarizes. For those on the other hand who already know the lectures, it may be of value as a brief reminder of the extraordinarily rich and varied contents of this course, and of how the subject is developed.


Michaelmas, 1938.

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