AN IMPULSE FOR THE FUTURE
This lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner when endowing a Society for Theosophy and Theosophical Art in December of 1911. No complete stenographic record exists of this address, but only notes made by various attendees. For the manuscript version published by Marie Steiner in 1947, only stenographic notes by Bertha Reebstein-Lehmann were available. For the new printing in 1984 additions and corrections could be included based of the notes by Meita Pyle-Waller and Elisabeth Vreede. Mieta Pyle-Waller's notes were reviewed and corrected by Rudolf Steiner.
15 December 1911, Berlin
Translated by Frank Thomas Smith
Introduction by Marie Steiner
Considering the difficulties of the times and what is left of life, it seems an urgent duty to rescue what is possible to rescue of Dr. Steiner's impulses and words. To these also belong many things said in intimate circles at certain decisive moments about the future tasks and objectives of the movement he inaugurated. Records exist, but they are neither entire or complete. Even when gaps are apparent and many finer nuances are absent, nevertheless one can well sense how diverse the tasks are which the words express, and a light may be felt which must be half veiled, because words are not sufficient.
A light veil through which the impulses which point to the future can work through. He continually placed indications for later activity in our souls, seeds for the future which, after the soul's sleep has been overcome can unfold with life; through the hectic every-day life they are often spoiled, or grasped and then swept away by the mix of events. Among the souls [people] who could accept these seeds of the future, surely there were some who were able to find new life because of them; but also there were those who – like the hard ground in the Gospel parable – could not benefit from them.
Not only nature, but also souls are determined by organic laws. Some of them, upon which the spirit falls, harden or become corrupt, others show that they are strong and develop new forms of being. Passing through death and the submergence in chaos with its jumbled whirlpool of rummaging forces provides the guarantee for a later resurrection of the spiritual impact through metamorphosing to higher forms of being. In the microcosm as in the macrocosm, in the earthly as in planetary being, the law of development to new forms of being rules.
To follow this path and presenting and describing it pictorially according to race and nation, the religions have climbed to ever higher stages of knowledge, worldwide and according to the times shining light into hidden depths. When a certain peak had been reached and at the same time the danger of philosophical abstraction entered, and the old images and signs were no longer sufficient to capture the newly pulsing life, the Christian impulse took place along with the great turning point [of history]. However, as this emerged from the catacombs into the outer world, the danger of solidifying into dogma was present, and the vital forces sought new ways.
They found them in the secret societies, which refused to bow down to the Church princes and Council decisions; they were therefore persecuted as heretics. The contents lived anew in signs and symbols protected from the outer world. They gave art a new impulse, which at first appeared through the works of Gothic architecture.1Translator note: The meaning of "Organic growth of the plant – integrated into the stone" or organisches Wachstum der Pflanze — dem Steine eingegliedert is unclear.
New life also flowed into the names, which contained what the soul needed as strength in order to develop in a healthy way before reaching independence. But the education of humanity to independence, in which the newly awoken I-force was to pour in, demanded first the transition through abstract intellectualism, which separated the soul for a while from its spiritual ur-source, so that by going through the coldness of isolation, grasping the higher I, could find itself again in the spirit.
Rudolf Steiner's life work can give answers to this seeking and asking. He mastered today's exact science; he can reveal to us the spirit which strives hidden behind it and was once concealed in the old names. Through him we are able to divine the impulsing forces behind the names. Rescue planks for the unavoidable sinking of the ship were offered to us, but we were not mature enough to hold and use them. The souls were not awake enough, were still caught up in the old ideas. The attempts at social renewal were met with the hardest opposition from the outer world. A great pain can engulf us when we see how little we were able to take advantage of what was offered and to be the appropriate instruments for the fire-spirit of the helper sent in the time of need.
Standing now in the ruins of a battered world, we must try to bring to consciousness the preserved and not sufficiently understood words from the remaining documents; through individual striving raising it to the human I. Rudolf Steiner tried, not only by means of philosophy and science, to lead us to freedom, but also through teaching within esoteric life, so that the old relation of dependence on the teacher would gradually develop into the impulse for freedom and responsibility to the spirit.
Souls which consider themselves anchored in spirit, must pass a trial. Such a self-desired trial always calls forth an accelerated karma; also what is gladly hidden from the self must be revealed. On such trials often fail the attempts of spiritual powers which are brought from the most profound cosmic ground and the objective of which is to raise human development to a higher stage. Thus was it with the French Revolution and also the world wars of our century.
First Rudolf Steiner spoke about such future tasks to a very small circle of his students, trying to guide their souls to the meaning of those more distant tasks which must grow from a human will which has become free of selfishness. He repeated these words to a larger circle on the occasion of the General Meeting on December 15, 1911. This was not done as part of the General Meeting itself; he clarified that it was outside the program.
He began the talk in an especially solemn and impressive manner. This is perhaps the reason for the first part of the talk being noted down, but not in his words. He stressed that the content of this lecture be completely independent of all those he had previously given. It was, so to speak, a direct message from the spiritual world. It was a call delivered to humanity – followed by waiting to see what echo resulted.
Such a call happens as a rule three times. If the call also remains unheard the third time, it is taken back to the spiritual world for a long time. This call was already sent to humanity once, unfortunately it found no echo. This was the second time. It concerns purely spiritual things. With every futile attempt the conditions and relations become more difficult. “My dear friends” is how he began according to the notes.
It is incumbent upon me at this moment to inform this larger circle of an intention from the narrower circle of those who already know about it. But allow me to say a few words beforehand. It should be specified that what is said now has nothing to do with what occurred at this General Meeting or what is otherwise related to previous actions – which however does not exclude the possibility to consider them later should it be so desired.
When we look around in the world today we must say to ourselves: the contemporary world is full of ideals – and when we ask ourselves: Is the representation of these ideals by those who believe in them and are in the service of them sincere and honest? In many cases we will find the answer is: Yes, that is the case. It is the case with respect to the belief and dedication the individuals are capable of. When we then ask: How much is generally demanded when such a representation of ideals is brought to life, whether by an individual or a society? From an observation of life we will find the answer to be that in most cases all is demanded; but what is mostly demanded is that the asserted ideal finds an absolute, unconditional recognition. And the basis for such an assertion of the ideal is that an absolute agreement is demanded. And usually a lack of agreement is expressed in some kind of derogatory criticism. Those words characterize how the principle of an association of people has occurred in a natural way during the course of human development and the justification of such a principle is not meant to be doubted in any way.
But above all the possibility I wish to present is this: one was always convinced that opinions were never authoritative in respect to the realities of what went on within the societies; whatever a person might think, in the moment he uttered it, by the very fact of uttering it he entered into a contradiction with the reality. Much must be said in this moment which is not in agreement with much that is valid in the world. Thus it must be said: the avowal to a thing may not be true when this avowal is spoken of. I would like to give a simple example from which you can see that the danger can exist of being untruthful simply by pronouncing it. And I would like that this simple truth be understood as being in agreement with Rosicrucian principles.
Let's assume that someone expresses his agreement using the words: “I am silent“, which cannot be true. When someone says: “I say nothing“ and wants to describe a present condition, what he says is not true. The possibility exists that by verbally avowing a thing he denies it. From this simple example: “I say nothing”, you can see that it is applicable to innumerable instances in the world and can happen again and again.
What is the consequence of such a fact? The consequence is that the people who want to associate in order to represent such and such a thing find themselves in a most difficult position if the reasons for associating are not those of the sense world but the super-sensible world.
And when we understand what we have been able to receive from the new occultism in the course of time, then we will perceive that it is absolutely necessary in the immediate future to represent certain aspects of this occultism before the world. Therefore the attempt must be made against all the principles of occult societies and their heretofore possible organizations with something completely new, something born from the spirit of that new occultism about which we have often spoken in our circle.
This can only be done, however, if we turn our view only towards something positive, only toward something which exists in the world as a reality and which can be cultivated as such a reality. Realities in our sense are only the things which primarily belong to the super-sensual world. Therefore the attempt will for once be made to realize something that comes from the super-sensible world: an attempt not to found a community of people, but to endow it.
In other opportunities I have already emphasized the difference between founding and endowing. It was many years ago. It was not understood then, and since then hardly anyone has thought about this difference. Therefore the spiritual powers which stand before you under the symbol of the Rose Cross have also overlooked bringing this difference to the world.
A renewed attempt must be now made, this time in an energetic way, not to found but to endow a community. If it is not successful, it will have failed for a certain amount of time.
Therefore I am announcing to you now that among the appropriate persons a method of working is endowed of which the individual, whom we have called Christian Rosenkreuz since western pre-history, is the originator.
What has been said today is preliminary. For what has happened until now refers only to a part of the endowment, which, if possible, should enter the world; it refers to the artistic representation of Rosicrucian occultism.
The first point I want to make is that a method of working shall enter the world as an endowment under the direct protectorate of that individual whom we designate by the name which he had for the outer world during two incarnations: Christian Rosenkreuz; and that this endowment shall be called by the provisional name: “Gesellschaft für theosphische Art und Kunst“ (“Society for the Theosophical Way and Art“)
This named is not definitive, but a definitive name will be introduced once the first preparations for bringing this work into the world have been accomplished. What is described as the “Theosophical Way” is in a beginning stage, for the preparations must still be made in order to understand what is meant.
But what is understood with the concept of theosophical art has already begun in many ways by the performances in Munich and above all the meaningful beginnings in Stuttgart; and an additional important advance for the understanding of these things is shown by the Johannes building [in Munich].
In a certain sense what has been tried provides the required sanction. Within this working group a purely spiritual task should develop, a task which is to result in a spiritual method of working and in its results.
Obviously no one can be a member of this working group who holds to a different viewpoint, but only if he has the will to dedicate his strength to the positive aspects.
Perhaps you may say that I am talking a lot of words that are not understandable. That must be so with things such as these – for they must be grasped directly in life. And what must happen within this endowment is that according to purely occult laws what is a very small circle at first is formed which sees its duty as cooperating on this project.
A very small circle has been created. It has been created in the sense of our stream for this endowment; thus in a certain sense a beginning has been made, to be detached from me and to have its own substance.
Thus this small circle that has been sanctioned stands before you, which has received its task with its own recognition of our spiritual stream, and thereby the sovereignty and the independence of all spiritual striving, which is an absolute necessity for the future to be introduced to humanity.
Therefore within the endowment I will only serve as interpreter of the basic principles, which as such only exist in the spiritual world – as interpreter of what is to be said about the intentions behind the thing itself. Therefore a curator will be named for the outer cultivation of the endowment. And with the positions which will be created only duties are associated, no honors, no laurels, so that it is impossible for rivalries or other misunderstandings to occur if it is correctly understood.
At first Miss von Sivers will be recognized by the endowment itself. This recognition is none other than what is interpreted from out of the endowment; there are no namings, only interpretations. It will be her task in the immediate future to do what can be done in the sense of the endowment, to gather a corresponding circle of members - not in the usual sense, but rather that they come on their own.
Furthermore within this branch of our endowment a number of associate branches will be created. And as the leading personalities of these associated branches – insofar as these already exist – several of the proven personalities from within our spiritual movement will be placed with the corresponding responsibilities.
This is also an interpretation: for each of these associate branches an archdeacon will interpret.
We will have an associate branch for general art; arch-deacon will be Miss von Eckhardstein – and that is a specific recognition for what this personality has done in recent years for this art.
Literature will be published: provisional Curator Miss von Sivers. Further architectural subjects: Dr. Felix Peipers; for Music: Mr. Adolf Arenson; for painting: Mr. Hermann Linde. The work to be done is essentially interior. What will appear in public will be what has been done in total freedom by these personalities.
A certain coordination of the personalities involved in this work will be necessary; this coordination will take place in a completely different way than is the case with normal organizations. The office of Conservator will be served by Miss Sophie Stinde, in charge of this coordination.
The way in which these personalities coordinate requires work very soon. In order for the organization to come into being a Keeper of the Keeper of the Seal will be necessary: Miss Sprengel, and the Secretary will be Dr Carl Unger.
At first this will be a tiny circle. Don't think of it as something which appears immodestly in the world and says: Here I am. Rather think of it as nothing more than a seed around which the thing itself will develop.
It will be organized so that by next Three-Kings Day (Epiphany) a number of members of the community will be interpreted [sic]. This means that by that time a number of members will have been given to understand that they may participate. So that for the beginning the most ample freedom in this direction must be assured in that the will to be a member should not come from anyone except the one who desires to be a member. And the fact that he is a member is brought about by his being recognized as a member. This will only be for the time between now and the next Three Kings' Day, January 6, 1912.
Thus we have before us something which because of its peculiarity reveals itself as something which flows from the spiritual world. Furthermore it will present itself as flowing from the spiritual world in that the membership will be always and exclusively concerned with spiritual interests and the recognition of spiritual interests – with the exclusion of everything personal.
This announcement constitutes a deviation from older occult principles, and this deviation consists in the fact of the announcement itself. Therewith no use is made of that assertion of the man who says: I say nothing.
The initiative will be announced; and in full consciousness that it will be announced, this should be the result. But as soon as someone indicates that he somehow does not agree with what is announced today, then he should of course not be expected to adhere to such a way of working. For nothing but complete free will for such a way of working is applicable. You will see though, if something like this should come into being – if our time with its peculiarities allows that it come into being – then really through recognition of the spiritual world work can be done, the principle that not only all nature and all history, but everything done in the world, all human deeds are based on the spiritual, super-sensible world.
You will see that it is impossible for someone to belong to such a community if he is not really in agreement with it. If you think that what I am saying is somewhat curious, then please understand it thus: that it happens in full consciousness that what is therewith preserved is everything which belongs to the eternal laws of being. And what also belongs is that the principles of becoming are taken into consideration.
At this moment one can sin against the spirit of what is to happen if he goes out into the world and says: this or that has been founded. Not only has nothing been founded, but the fact is also that to give a definition to what is to be done will never be possible – for everything is to be in continual becoming. And what is to happen because of what has been said today cannot be described. It is based on what happens, not on words, but on persons, and not even on persons, but on what the persons will do.
It will be in a living stream, a living becoming, and everything that is said about it will be untrue at the same moment. Thus also today the principle is none other than the first principle: Recognition of the spiritual world as the basic reality. All other principles are to be formed as the thing develops. As a tree in the next instant is no longer what it was, but has added something new, so should this be like a living tree. Never should what it is to become be compromised in any way by what it is.
Therefore if someone wanted to define outside in the world as a founding what has been described here as a beginning, then he would commit the same untruth as someone who says: I say nothing. Whoever uses in this way this or that word in order to characterize the matter, he says something incorrect. Therefore at the beginning it is a question of the people who want something like this coming together. Then the matter will progress. And it will profoundly differentiate itself from what the Theosophical Society is. For not one attribute described here today can pertain to the Theosophical Society.
I had to say these things for the simple reason that the matters which the endowment deals with are also publicly connected to the Theosophical Society. Because through this endowment – in the sense of intentions the contents of which do not lie in the physical world and have nothing to do with Ahriman – a spiritually ideal counterbalance to everything connected to a founding in the outer world must be created. Only in the context can a connection be seen with what already exists, that this branch of our endowment, the branch for Theosophical Art, should create a counterweight for what is connected to the Ahrimanic. It may be hoped that an excellent model will be created by the existence of this branch of our endowment. And the other branch will do its duty in the corresponding manner.
What figures as art in the movement for spiritual science must flow into our culture from the spiritual world. Spiritual life must be the basis for everything we do. It will be impossible to confound this ideal spiritual movement with any other, which also calls itself “Theosophical Movement” and will wish to participate.2Rudolf Steiner may be referring here to the strong differences which occurred during this time, the end of 1911, because Rudolf Steiner refused to allow the members of the order founded by Annie Besant, “The Star of the East“ to attend events of the German Section [of the Theosophical Society] led by him. Wherever we may be, the spiritual moment is our foundation. The example of the festival in Munich, the building in Stuttgart – at the limits of possibility at first, but it was everywhere attempted that the spirit be the most important, was the conditio sine qua non.3Translator Note: gaps in all three manuscripts Those who are already somewhat familiar with what this is all about will understand me. These words are spoken less for their content than that the guidelines be indicated.
When the next Three Kings Day passed and no further nominations had been made known, one of the people who had heard his address asked Dr. Steiner when that would happen, he replied: the fact that it didn't happened could be considered an answer. The year 1912/1913 was overburdened with the dispute with Annie Besant, her proclamation of the new messiah and her “Star of the East” being active also in Germany. The President [A. Besant] received from the adherents of the western spiritual movement inaugurated by Rudolf Steiner a demand for a precise statement about the agreements reached in Munich and Budapest, instead of her evasiveness, her hide-and-seek games and behind-the-scenes acting. These were the same people who together with members from many provinces founded the “Bund”, which was followed in 1913 by the founding of the Anthroposophical Society after the expulsion of the German section by the President of the Theosophical Society. Meanwhile work was undertaken in various areas through the nomination of the intimate circle: the Johannesbau-Verein [St. John Building Society], in the completion of Society's house in Stuttgart, the so-called “Art-and-People's-rooms” in Munich and Berlin, one of Miss von Eckardstein‘s initiatives. The most spiritually outstanding publication was the Calendar of the Soul, a result of Dr Steiner's cooperation with Miss von Eckardstein; here the wonderfully transparent nuances of speech allow spirit and soul to interact and become one with nature. Various other things sought a peaceful unfolding in the future. But the World War started and its associated commotions, which deeply affected the living conditions and relations between the members from various nations in Dornach. We tried to overcome such blood [national] ties, but every now and again commotion and disruption occurred. The most irritating crisis for Dornach was in the summer of 1915. A Dr. Gösch, a typical representative of psychoanalysis, stepped front and center. He convinced himself that the Keeper of the Seal had opened his eyes about promises that Dr. Steiner gave and didn't comply with. He published this according to psychoanalytical methodology in a brochure. At the same time he wrote a letter to Dr. Steiner in which he described his theories based on the “revelations” made to him by the Keeper of the Seal. The Keeper of the Seal could not have understood the task given her by this name other than in a most personal sense. She felt herself to be the inspiration for the spiritual teaching given to humanity by Dr. Steiner. And as she also played the role of Theodora in Rudolf Steiner's Mystery Dramas in Munich, she took all this as evidence of a symbolic promise of marriage, for the fulfillment of which she had waited “seven years”. The many complaining letters revolving around this point gave Dr. Gösch the opportunity for a psychological interpretation in Freudian sense for the illumination of her case. He had been for a long time himself in Freudian treatment for a nervous disorder, which had deeply infected his person. His open letter of complaint provided the opportunity for strictly carried out actions by which the membership was to obtain clarity about the case. Descriptions about the case exist and constituted the basis for the special number of the magazine „Anthroposophie“ [and] the book published in Stuttgart: Anthroposophie und Psychoanalyse. Here is only mentioned what has to do directly with the case Sprengel – alias Proserpina – alias Theodora – alias Keeper of the Seal, and what she experienced in such a mystical, personal way as megalomania. Of course symptoms existed of her conceit even before the war. Because of this unfortunate megalomania, the possibility of further nominations to the existing circle of eight personalities failed – caused by egoistical conceit on one hand and the absurdity of false mysticism on the other. The Keeper of the Seal “sprang” the seal in the most common human sense. The necessity of women being active participants in the cultural tasks of the future is non-negotiable and will be accomplished despite failures in individual cases. - That's what happened in the case of the Keeper of the Seal.
Dr. Steiner expressed himself in the following way about this affair in an address during the so-called crisis in 1915:
“It was announced in autumn that because certain impossible symptoms had become apparent in our Society it was necessary to found a certain smaller society whereby I had attempted to attribute certain titles to a number of close associates who have been a long time in the Society in that I required of them that they would act independently in the sense of these titles. I said at that time: If something happens, the members will be informed by Three Kings Day. Nothing was informed and it is therefore obvious that the Society for the Theosophical Way and Art does not exist. It is self-evident because nobody informed anything. It is self-evident that the information would have been sent if the thing had been realized. The manner in which it was conceived in a certain case made it impossible. It was an attempt.4lecture of August 1915 in Dornach – unpublished.
The circle of nominees, as an internal matter, was shattered; outside the war raged; in Dornach the practical work continued no less intensively despite the external circumstances. Due to the recall to the fronts of so many artists and helpers, the burden of work fell heavily on the women. Few men were able to remain, Hermann Linde for one. From early morning on clanged the hammering and chiseling from wood which grew up out of the cement foundation to the curved domes. The outer and inner walls bore the organically moving forms, warmed and waved by the human hands grooving them. In the interior space the columns rose with their bases, capitals and architraves, until they reached the place where both domes merged into each other – a symbol of the soul's experience of how the cosmos separates and unites simultaneously.
The painters and their helpers were gathered around Hermann Linde. Dr. Steiner had drafted the motives for the painting of the domes, copies of which are preserved in Alinari's reproductions (Rudolf Steiner's drafts of the great dome in the first Goetheanum – realized by Alinari, Florence.) With diligence and zeal new priming methods were tried through which the effect of vegetable colors unfolded in glowing brilliance; plants were rubbed zealously by a group of helpers, from which the new colors for the dome paints derived. Weekly eurythmy performances provided the opportunity for the development of personal fantasy and to practice with the outlines Dr. Steiner had prepared.
In Germany a most capable replacement was soon found for the “sprung” Keeper of the Seal in the person of Miss Berta Meyer. During the months of the war years we spent in Germany, she often came from Bremen to Berlin to perfect her knowledge of jewelry art by means of Dr. Steiner's suggestions. A happy opportunity for new motivation was the return of a member from the orient with a collection of precious stones. Stones were selected whose inner substance and brilliance were especially appropriate. It was a peculiar experience to feel the cool ripple of the stones on one's hand and their penetration in one's etheric body. This grasp in the coolness of the stone kingdom and the almost exciting affecting glow of melting metal in fire, especially gold, brought the elements of nature's force clearly to consciousness. Dr. Steiner's drawing for the Mystery Dramas' seals provided the basis for the spiritual studies of this predestined [new] Keeper of the Seal, who left us so many excellent artistic works.5Kleinodienkunst. Die Dramasiegel. Nach himweisen und Entwerfen von Rudolf Steiner mitgeteilt und aussgearbeitet durch Beerta Meyer-Jabobs. Death tore her from us at the very moment that a place for her work, a Jewelry art school, could have been arranged in Dornach. The form forces of eurythmy, carried by etheric impulses and the musical art seeking new ways, which by experiencing the sharps and flats, over the fifth, to grasp the force of their origin in tone, to which they thanked their being, were also rehearsed with these seals. Thus feeling the way to lost words.
The new architectural style created by Dr. Steiner, which incorporated the plant movements and did not shut itself off from the outer world, but opened to the world, was also faithfully used in the glass windows. 6Die Goetheanum-Fenster-Motive Rudolf Steiners, Assja Turgenierff Floods of light had to stream into the space; differentiated according to the rainbow, but retaining the basic tones brought the hovering and weaving light colorings into the room. The delicateness of the nuances were intensified by the different thickness of the glass which acquired the motive during the grinding and etching; its spiritual content related to the path of initiation of humanity into the future. Whereas the motive of the larger and smaller domes followed the macrocosmic and microcosmic evolution of humanity leading to the fulfillment of his I.
The new art of black-white line drawing given by Dr. Steiner developed alongside the creative colors.7Die schöpferische Kraft der Farbe, Hilde Boos-Hamburger And all these, artistically created from the most varied elements, were brought to life in the art of the spoken word – speech formation8Sprachgestaltung – which divines the original forces of the lost “Word” and to a certain extent grasps it. Through the little that was achieved by hard work it was possible to partly fulfill what Dr. Steiner referred to as the mission of the spiritual movement inaugurated by him: to allow the forgotten spiritual stream around Goethe and Schiller to flow again into culture.
We have lived in the plenitude of his impulses. He was torn from us by death in 1925. He had to pay with death for the immeasurable richness of his gifts. We were enlivened and carried by his encouraging spiritual force.