In connection with the Congress held by the “Federation of European Sections of the Theosophical Society” in Budapest in the year 1909, Dr. Steiner gave a Lecture-Course entitled: “Theosophy and Occultism of the Rosicrucians.” The Mystery of Golgotha is there indicated as the great turning-point between the old, now already fading Mystery-wisdom and the wisdom in its new form of revelation wherein account is taken of the faculty of thought possessed by a maturer humanity and of the advance of culture and civilisation. Theosophia, the Divine Wisdom, could not, as in earlier times, flow as inner illumination into the hardened constitution of man. Intellect, the more recent faculty of the soul, was directed to the world of sense and its phenomena. Theosophy was rejected by the scholars with a shrug of the shoulders and the very word brought a supercilious smile from the monists. Dr. Steiner, however, was trying to restore to this word its whole weight and spiritual significance and to show how the roots of all later knowledge lie in Theosophy, how it unites East and West, how in it all the creeds are integral parts of one great harmony.
This had also been the fundamental conception of the Founder of the Theosophical Society but she understood nothing of the essence of Christianity and disputed its unique significance. Her tendency to place too much reliance upon spiritualistic communications drew her into the net of an oriental stream only too ready to use this instrument for its own ends — to begin with under the cloak of Neo-Buddhism then represented in the person of Charles Leadbeater, a former priest of the Anglican Church. Annie Besant, a pupil of Charles Bradlaugh, a free-thinker and the most brilliant orator of the day in the field of political and social reform, had also been so deeply influenced by spiritualistic communications that on the advice of William Stead she went to Madame Blavatsky towards the end of the latter's life and became her ardent follower. Stead's spiritualistic circle was influential and the Theosophical Society, with its much purer spiritual foundations, had here a dangerous rival.
Dr. Steiner brought light to bear upon all these developments, upon their aims and aberrations, and raised Theosophy to heights far transcending the narrow sphere of the Theosophical Society. Alarmed by this, the Indian inspirers behind the Adyar Society, with their nationalistic aims, took their own measures. — The imminence of a return of Christ was announced and the assertion made that he would incarnate in an Indian boy. A newly founded Order, the “Star in the East,” using the widespread organisation of the Theosophical Society, was expected to achieve the aim that had met with failure in Palestine.
Not very long after the Budapest Congress, these developments began to be felt in the sphere of Dr. Steiner's lecturing activities. Disquieted by the beginnings of the propaganda for the Star in the East, Groups begged Dr. Steiner to speak about these matters. This caused alarm to the organisers of the Genoa Congress, who thought that the scientific as well as the esoteric discussions with Dr. Steiner would be too dangerous a ground, and for extremely threadbare reasons the Congress was cancelled at the last moment. Many of those taking part were already on their way — we too. A number of Groups in Switzerland took advantage of this opportunity to ask Dr. Steiner for lectures. They wanted to understand the meaning and significance of the Michael Impulse which denotes the turning-point in the historic evolution of the Mystery-wisdom. The Intelligence ruled over in the spiritual world by the hierarchy of Michael had now come down to humanity. It was for men to receive this Intelligence consciously into their impulses of will and thenceforward to play their part in shaping a future wherein the human “I” will achieve union with the Divine “I.” For this goal of the future men must be prepared, a transformation wrought in their souls; they must “change their hearts and minds.” To bring this about was the task of Rudolf Steiner. The moment had arrived for treading the path which liberates the Spirit from the grip of the material powers. The first healthy step to be taken along this path by the pupil of spiritual knowledge, is study.
As the theme chosen for Genoa had been “From Buddha to Christ,” it was natural that the lectures now given in Switzerland should shed the light of Spiritual Science not only upon the earlier connections between the Buddha and Christ Jesus but also upon the lasting connections indicated by the Essene wisdom contained in the Gospels. This is the theme which gives these studies their special character — which could only be brought out by outlining the historical development of the Mystery-wisdom. The ancient revelations of the Mysteries had shed light into many forms of culture, but were now spent; symptoms of decay and increasing sterility of thought were everywhere in evidence. Then, from heights of Spirit, the Michael Impulse came down to the Earth — in order gradually to stir and flame through the hearts of men. The intellect was pervaded by spiritual fire, the lower human “I” lifted nearer to the ideal of times to come: union with the Divine “I.” To awaken understanding of these goals, to establish them firmly on the ground of their spiritual origins and to place them in living pictures before the souls of men — such was the task of Rudolf Steiner.
This brought the inevitable counterblow from the opposing powers; into this they knew they must drive their wedge. The development of the human being in freedom, this gift bestowed by Michael, must be checked and the hearts and minds of men incited to resistance. In his Four Mystery Plays, Rudolf Steiner has given us living pictures of this: the human being between Lucifer and Ahriman — now succumbing to their promptings, now overcoming them, but nevertheless bearing them in the soul like a poison that may at any time begin to work. We too shall continue to bear this picture and its substance in our souls.
The full content of the lectures, however, has not been preserved, for we possess no good transcriptions. The fact that no really reliable and expert stenographist was available at the time seems like a counterblow from the opposing powers. Besides the abbreviated reports of the Cassel lectures, we have in some cases only fragments, in others, scattered notes strung together. But the essential threads have been preserved and an attempt at compilation has been made. The attempt does not always succeed from the point of view of convincing style, but the impetus for effort in thought and study will be all the stronger.
The activities of the Star in the East led, finally, to the exclusion of the German section from the Theosophical Society; this, however, had been preceded by the forming of a Union which included people in other countries who opposed this piece of Adyar sectarianism and led to the foundation of the Anthroposophical Society. For a time, care was necessary to prevent confusion as between the two Societies and so for the Movement associated with him, Rudolf Steiner chose the name Anthroposophy — the Divine Wisdom finding its fulfilment in man. Theosophy and Anthroposophy are one, provided the soul has cast away its dress. And Rudolf Steiner showed us how this can be done.
The new Indian Messiah soon cast off the shackles of the renown that had been forced upon him and retired to private life in California. Annie Besant was obliged to renounce her cherished dream and died at a very great age. It is rumoured that the question of the dissolution of the Adyar Society was considered but that this proved impossible owing to the extensive material possessions. Jinarajadasa, my good friend from the days of the founding of the Italian Section, succeeded Annie Besant as President. The branch of the Theosophical Society which had seceded at the time of the Judge conflict and to which Madame Blavatsky's niece belonged, had found in Mrs. Catharine Tingley a leader of energy and initiative, but she too had died.
The old conditions have now faded away. Those grotesque edifices of phantasy can no longer be associated with the Anthroposophical, formerly Theosophical, Movement, for they have crumbled to pieces. We can allow the word Theosophy again to come to its own, as did Rudolf Steiner when he was trying to restore to this word its primary and true significance.
Besides laying emphasis on the essential character of Spiritual Science in the post-Christian era, the aim of the lectures given in 1911 and 1912 was to explain karma as the flow of destiny and to point to its intimate workings. The lines of development running through the lectures have survived only as pictures of memory; the transcriptions often failed to catch the threads of the logical sequence and the notes or headings jotted down and collected here and there are really no more than indications. But the direction of the spiritual impulses given by Dr. Steiner has been preserved, and justifies, maybe, the attempt at compilation. Through meditative study these impulses will be able to work in us and deepen our souls.