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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The East in the Light of the West
GA 113

Preface to the First Edition, 1940

At Whitsuntide this year an international Congress of the Anthroposophical Movement was held at Vienna under the title of ‘East and West.’ Seventeen hundred people were present from all parts of Europe. It was an inspired gathering,—held in a city where Eastern and Western elements have met and mingled for many centuries. Dr. Steiner gave two courses of lectures on Anthroposophy and Knowledge, and Anthroposophy and Sociology. The problem of East and West, spiritually considered, was the main theme. The Viennese public felt the message and gave him a great ovation, a sign that his lectures, with all their intensity of thought, had been appreciated and their impulse understood.

The Congress opened boldly with the clear statement that the problems of today are to be solved neither on economic nor on political platforms, but only on the basis of a new spiritual understanding, a creation of fresh spiritual values and ideals. Dr. Steiner described the path of the soul to higher knowledge in ancient Eastern methods—for example, in the Yoga training and he described how the ancient spirituality of the East was led to Europe by the civilisation of ancient Greece. He showed how other elements of humanity in Northern and Western Europe, and later in America, had come into contact with this heritage from the ancient East and brought fresh faculties and impulses to bear on it. He claimed that Anthroposophy points to a deeper knowledge, born of new faculties of spiritual perception, and is the only power great enough to draw together the conflicting elements in Eastern and Western points of view. Convincingly he showed how these seeds of new spiritual faculties are ready to burst into life in Europe and in the West, and how in this alone lies the solution of the world's problems today. If the West develops these latent spiritual faculties and so permeates her industrial and economic civilisation with fresh spiritual values, the East will recognise her opportunity of a great spiritual revival and meet the West with understanding. Otherwise, despite all external appearances they will go on developing a latent hostility to our external Western civilisation.

Hence Dr. Steiner claims that the keynote of the most immediate and practical problems of the hour lies in an understanding of the esoteric evolution of humanity, and of the relationship of man in East, Middle and West, in Past, Present and Future to the spiritual worlds. The subject therefore that is dealt with esoterically in this book from a course of lectures given at private meetings of Anthroposophical students twelve years ago has now become the most urgent and practical problem before the world. For, again and again, Dr. Steiner has referred to the significant words of General Smuts, who said that the eyes of the world's statesmen must now be turned from the North Sea and the Atlantic to the Pacific, the immediate meeting-point of East and West.

Much will depend on a sufficient number of men and women realising and understanding these problems in the light of the deeper knowledge that is contained, for example, in the course of lectures which has now been revised and made public, with Dr. Steiner's permission, in this volume.

To assist those who seek the connection between the spiritual and practical side of this question, the Editor of Anthroposophy has kindly permitted me to print as the Introduction to this book a very able article in that journal from the pen of Mr. George Kaufmann.

The translation of these lectures has been done chiefly by Mr. S. M. K. Gandell, who has already assisted me so greatly in former translations, and by Miss D. Osmond. I take this opportunity of conveying to them my sincere thanks for their co-operation in a very difficult task.

September 1922.