Anthroposophic Movement (1938)
II. The Theosophical Society: A Common Body with a Conscious Self. Blavatsky Phenomenon
Dornach, 11 June, 1923
In giving an account of the history of Anthroposophy in relation to the Anthroposophical Society, and of the life-conditions that determined it, there will be two questions from which one must set out, and which arise naturally out of the history itself. These two questions I may perhaps formulate in the following manner: — First, why was it necessary to connect the anthroposophic movement on to the theosophic movement in the way that was done? And secondly, — why does it happen, — on merely external grounds, as a rule, — that Anthroposophy down to this day is confounded by malevolent opponents with Theosophy, and the Anthroposophical Society with the Theosophical Society?
The answers to these two questions can only really grow out of the course of the history itself. As I said yesterday, when one talks of an anthroposophic society, the first point for consideration is, what kind of people they are, who feel an impulse to pursue their search along the path of an anthroposophic movement. And I endeavoured yesterday to describe how the souls, who thus turn to Anthroposophy to find satisfaction for their spiritual needs, are, in a certain sort of way, homeless souls. Now at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, these homeless souls in actual fact were there. Many more of them were there than people are usually inclined to suppose. For many people were seeking, by many and various roads, to bring to development in some form the underlying man within them.
One need only recall — quite apart from the attempts which proceeded from the new-age materialism and led into all the varieties of spiritualism, — how, quite apart from all this, numbers of souls found a kind of inner contentment through the perusal of writings such as those of Ralph Waldo Trine and others.
What was it, then, that such souls were seeking, who at that period had recourse to writings like those of Ralph Waldo Trine? — They were trying, I might say, to fill up the human gap in them with something, — something for which they longed, which they desired to feel and realize in their inner lives, but which was not to be found upon the paved roads of modern civilization, — something which for these people was not to be found, either in the popular profane literature, or profane art, nor yet which they were able to find by means of the traditional religious faiths.
I must begin first by giving you a few facts to-day, and leave it to the next lectures to draw the connecting lines between the facts. The first thing needed is to bring certain facts in the right form before the soul.
Amongst all the many people who were seeking, whether along spiritistic roads or through Ralph Waldo Trine or others, amongst all these were the people who attached themselves to the various branches, then in existence, of the Theosophical Society. And if one puts to oneself the question: Was there any peculiar, distinctive feature in those people who more particularly attached themselves in some form to the Theosophical Society! some quality by which they were distinguished from the others, who became spiritualists, for instance, or who sought to find in Ralph Waldo Trine an inner mine of wealth? — was there any difference between them? — then one must certainly reply: Yes, there was a most distinctive difference. It was unmistakably a special variety, as I might say, of human search, which was going on in those persons, who were more particularly impelled in some form towards the Theosophical Society.
As we know from the actual course of the Theosophical Society, it seemed probable, that what had to be sought as Anthroposophy at the beginning of this century would be most likely to find understanding amongst those circles which joined together at that time to pursue Theosophy. Rut to have the requisite light upon this, we must first place the facts properly before our souls.
Now I should like, before going further, to devote a little while to describing the persons themselves, who came together in this way, and to give you some picture of what, was then, in those days, to be understood by Theosophical Society, — that theosophic association which, as you know, found its most marked and prominent expression in the English ‘Theosophical Society’. And this was the society, as you know, on to which was then joined what afterwards came forth as Anthroposophy, — or indeed, more truly speaking, it came forth at once as Anthroposophy.
Looking at the ‘Theosophical Society’ and the whole intention of it, as actually presented before our eyes so to speak in a group of people, we must first look a little into the minds of these people, we must look into these people's souls and see what kind of consciousness these particular people had. — In a way, these people certainly lived out what was in their mind's consciousness. They came together, and held ‘meetings’, where they delivered lectures and carried on discussions. They met together also at other times, besides the ‘meetings.’ A great deal of conversation indeed went on amongst them in more private circles. It was not usual at General Meetings, for instance, for the time to be so filled up, as it was with us yesterday; they always found an opportunity to have a meal together, to drink tea, and so forth. Between times, indeed, they even found opportunities for changing their dresses, and things of that kind. There was always, at any rate, some sort of gleam from the outer world of what I might call social behaviour. All that, of course, is not so much what interests us. What is of interest for us is the mental consciousness of these people. And here the first thing at once to strike one strongly was that, between the different personalities, there were forces at play which were in remarkable contradiction to the personalities themselves.
This contradictory play of forces struck one particularly, when the people held their meetings. They met together; but of every person there, — if one were not a theosophist sworn and signed, — of each single person, one kept trying to form two conceptions. That was the curious thing, that when one came amongst the ‘Theosophical Society’ it was simply unavoidable to have two conceptions of each person. First, there was the conception one formed from how he was as one actually met with him. Rut the other, was the conception which the rest had of each amongst them. This was the outcome of general views, views of a quite general and of a very theoretic character, — notions about Man in general, about universal love of mankind, — about the stage one had reached: being ‘advanced’, as they called it, or ‘not advanced.’, — about the kind of way in which one's mind must be seriously disposed, if one were to prove worthy to receive the doctrines of theosophy, — and so on. They were notions of a highly theoretic kind. And there must be something, they thought, of all this, existing in the people actually walking about before them in flesh and blood. So that what was really living amongst them, were not those conceptions I spoke of at first: the conceptions, namely, that one forms quite naively of the other person, — these conceptions had really no living existence amongst the members; but what lived in each of them was a picture of all the others, — a picture that was really born of theoretic notions about human beings and human conduct.
In reality, no one saw the other as he actually was; he saw a sort of ghost. And so it was inevitable, when one met, say, with a Mr. Miller and naively formed for oneself a picture of Mr. Miller, and one then called to mind the sort of conception any other person might have of this same Mr. Miller, that one then raised a kind of ghost-conception; for the real conception of him did not exist amongst any of the rest, but each had in mind a ghost, theoretically constructed. And in this way one could not help having two conceptions of each person. Only, most of the members dispensed with the conception of the actual person, and admitted only the conception of the ghost. So that in reality, between the individual members there dwelt constantly their ghostly conceptions of one another. One met in the minds of the ‘members’, so to speak, with nothing but ghosts. — One required, in fact, to have an interest in psychology.
One required, too, a certain largeness of mind and heart in order to enter into it all with real interest. And then, indeed, it was extremely interesting to enter into what went on, rightly speaking, as a kind of ghost-society. For, to the extent which I have just said, it was a society of ghosts that went on there. This was more especially forced upon one's eyes in the case of the leading personalities. The leading personalities lived quite a peculiar kind of life amongst the others.
The talk, for instance, would be about some particular leading personality, — say X: — she went about at night as an astral form from house to house, — only to members' houses, of course! — as an Invisible Aid. And she emanated all sorts of things too. — They were, in part, uncommonly fine ghostly conceptions that existed of the leading personalities.
And often then it was a striking contrast when one came to meet the same person afterwards in actual reality. But then the generally prevailing tone of mind took care that, as far as possible, only the ghost-conceptions should have a chance to live, and the real conceptions not be all too lively.
Well, for this sort of thing, you see, it was undoubtedly necessary to have views and doctrines. For it is not so easy a matter, seeing that not everybody is clairvoyant, — though in those days there were an extraordinary number of people who gave themselves out at least to be clairvoyant (with what truth is a question into which we won't for the moment enter), — but since not all of them, at any rate, were clairvoyant, it was necessary to have certain theories, from which to put together these ghosts that were constructed.
Now these theories all had about them something remarkably antique; so that one could not but have the impression of old, warmed-up theories, that were being used to put together these ghost-constructions of people. In many cases, too, it was easy to find in ancient writings the patterns from which these ghostly figures of men were traced.
So, in addition to the ghostliness, there was also the fact that the people, whom one had as ghosts before one, were by no means people of the present day. They were really people of earlier incarnations, people who seemed to have risen out of the graves of Egypt or Persia, or from the graves of ancient India. The impression of the present time vanished, in a sense, altogether from one.
But, added to this, there was something else, quite different. — These ancient teachings, even when wrapped in comparatively modern terminology, were very little to be understood. Now these ancient doctrines, very largely, were talked about in abstract forms of speech. Physical body, indeed, was still called ‘physical body’. ‘etheric body’ was taken from the form of the Middle Ages, and ‘astral body’, too, perhaps. But then at once came things like manas, kama-manas, and so forth, — things which were in everybody's mouths, but of which nobody exactly knew what they purported.
And all this was clothed again in quite modern, materialistic conceptions. But within, contained in these teachings, there were whole chains of worlds and world-concepts and world-ideas; till one had the feeling: The souls are speak-ing as they did in far by-gone, earlier ages, — not hundreds, but thousands of years ago.
This was carried very far. Whole books were written in this style of speech. These books were translated; and so everything was carried on further in the same form.
There was, however, another side to it also. It had its beautiful side too. For all this, existing though it often did as mere words only, and not understood, left, nevertheless, something of its colouring upon the people. And if not in the souls themselves, yet one might say that in the soul-costumes of the people there was an immense amount of it all, — in their soul-costumes. The people went about really, as I might say, not exactly with a consciousness of aether bodies, or of kama-manas, but with a sort of consciousness of being robed in a series of mantles: one mantle is the aether-body, another Lama-manas, and so on. They attached some importance, too, to this set of mantles, this soul-costume. And this gave the people a sort of cement that held them together.
All this was something, which welded the ‘Theosophical Society’ together in an extraordinarily solid manner into a whole, and which was really effective in establishing an immense feeling of corporate fellowship, that made each one feel himself a representative of the ‘Theosophical Society.’ This ‘Society’ was a thing in itself; beside the fact of the individuals in it, the Society itself was some-thing. It had, one might really say, a ‘Self-consciousness’ of its own. It had its own ‘I’. And this ‘I’ of the Society was so strong that, even when the absurdities of the leading personages came to the surface in an un-mistakably queer fashion, the people had so come to feel themselves a corporate body, that they held together with iron pertinacity, and had a sort of feeling that it was like treachery not to hold together, whatever the failings of the personages at the head.
Anyone who has had opportunity to see something of the inner struggles that went on in some of the adherents of the Theosophic Society later on, long after the Anthroposophic Society was separated from it, what struggles went on in them, when again and again they recognized: ‘The things that the leaders are doing are quite monstrous; and yet, all the same, one can't separate from them!’ ... if one has watched these struggles that went on in the individual souls, then, although there was much about it which one can only condemn as excessively bad, — yet, on the other hand, one acquires a certain respect for this ‘I’-consciousness of the whole Society.
And here arises the question whether it were not possible, even under the conditions under which the Anthroposophic Society was bound to enter the world, — whether, even under these conditions it were not possible for some such associated consciousness to grow up?
In founding the anthroposophic society, all those, often very dubious methods had to be dispensed with, by means of which, in the theosophic society, the ‘I’-consciousness of the society had been obtained, and the strong tie through-out the whole. The ideal that was to hover before the anthroposophic society must be: Whom lies only in Truth. — These, however, are things, which have remained down to this day ideals. In this field especially, the anthroposophic society still leaves much to be desired; inasmuch as, until now, in respect to developing a corporate body, an associate ‘I’, it has not made even the first beginnings.
The Anthroposophical Society is an association of persons, who, as individual human beings, may be very full of zeal; but as a society they do not as yet, truly speaking, exist; because there is lacking just this sense of ‘belonging together’; because only very, very few of the members of the Anthroposophical Society feel themselves representative of this society. Each feels himself a private individual, and quite forgets that an Anthroposophical Society is supposed to exist.
And now that I have given a brief description of the public (which I will fill in more fully in these coming days), I should like to describe the matter now on its other side. — In what way, then, amidst this whole quest of the age, — for so I must call it, — did Anthroposophy now take its place?
The fundamental principles of Anthroposophy are to be found already, by anyone who chooses, in my Philosophy of Freedom. There is only one I wish more especially to pick out to-day, which is, that this Philosophy of Freedom everywhere points in the first place and by inner necessity to a domain of Spirit; a domain of Spirit from which, for example, the moral impulses are drawn. So that, following the Philosophy of Freedom, it is not possible to stop short at the sense-world; one is obliged to go on further, to a spiritual domain grounded in itself.
And this general existence of a spiritual domain takes further the very special and concrete form, that Man in his own innermost being, when he becomes conscient of his own innermost being, is connected, not with the world of Sense, but is connected in this, his innermost being, with the world of Spirit.
These two things: first that there is a spiritual domain; and, secondly, that Man, with the innermost ‘I’ of his being, is connected with this spiritual domain, — these are the two fundamental points of the Philosophy of Freedom. And a time could not but come, when the question arose: Is it possible for that which has now to be proclaimed as a sort of message to the men of the new age from the spiritual world, — is it possible for one to proclaim it in this way? Is there here an opportunity for connecting it onto some-thing? For naturally, one could not just stand up and talk into the air. — Although indeed, in these days, all sorts of strange proposals are made to one. I once, — it was in the year 1918, during my stay in Vienna — received an invitation, by telegram indeed, to travel from Vienna to the Rax Alp, on the northern boundary of Styria, and there to plant my-self on the Rax Alp, and deliver a lecture to the mountains. The proposal was actually made to me at the time, and by telegram. I need hardly say, that I did not respond to the proposal. — However, one can't talk to the mountains or the air; one must find something existing in the civilization of the day, onto which one can connect. And there was, on the whole, even at the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth century, still uncommonly little there. People were there, whose search namely, at that time, was leading them into the Theosophical Society. These were, after all, the people to whom it was possible to speak of these things.
But here, too, one required, not only to have a feeling of responsibility towards these people, as a public; one required on the other hand also to have a feeling of one's responsibility towards the spiritual world, — and, in particular, towards that form of the spiritual world which had come to expression at that particular time. And here I may perhaps be allowed to show you the way in which, out of this endeavour on my part, which as yet did not outwardly bear the name of Anthroposophy, there gradually grew up what became afterwards Anthroposophy. I want to-day merely to put forward a few facts, and leave it to the following days to trace you the connecting threads between them.
To begin with, I could discern in the 'eighties of last century what I might call a kind of fata morgana: some-thing which wore quite a natural appearance in the physical world, but which, though only as an airy fata morgana, as a light-phenomenon, had yet, in a sense, a deeper significance.
The fact was, that when one reflected upon the evolution in world-conceptions then taking place in the civilized world, as it struck one in what I may call its then-modern form (few people paid any heed to this evolution; but it was there), one might come upon something very curious. There, — if we confine our reflections for the moment to Central Europe only, — there was that great, I might say world-shaking philosophy, which aspired to be everything else as well, which aspired to being an entire world-conception: the idealist philosophy of the first half of the nineteenth century. There were the after-echoes still of the philosophy of Hegel, say, of Fichte, of Solger; philosophies, which, at the time they were founded, meant really to many persons who became their disciples, quite as much as ever Anthroposophy can be to someone to-day. And yet, in the main, it was all abstract conceptions, a pile of abstract conceptions.
Take a look into Hegel's Encyclopaedia of the Philosophic Sciences, the first of the four parts, and you will find a string of concepts, developed one out of the other. It starts with Real Being (Sein); then comes Nothing (Nichts); then comes Becoming (Werden); then comes Objective Existence (Dasein). ... Well, I can't, of course, give you an account now of the whole of Hegel's Logic, for it is a fat book, and it goes on in concepts like these. Finally, at the end, comes Purpose (Zweck). It never in fact gets further than abstract thoughts and abstract ideas. —
Real Being; Nothing; Becoming; Objective Existence; Purpose. — And. yet Hegel called it: ‘God before the Creation of the World.’ So that one could only suppose that, if one asked the question: What was God like before the creation of the world? the answer was a system of abstract concepts and abstract ideas.
Now there was living in Vienna, just at the time when I was young, — and that's long ago, — a philosopher of the Herbart school, Robert Zimmermann. And Robert Zimmermann said: ‘That is not permissible for us any longer to-day.’ (By ‘to-day’ he meant the last third of the nineteenth century.) ‘We cannot to-day think as Hegel and Solger and all those people thought.’ — In what way, then did such people think?
Zimmermann, you see, said to himself: ‘These people thought in the kind of way, as though they themselves were God.’ Zimmermann thought in a very curious way really for a philosopher, but very characteristically; he said: ‘Hegel thought in the same way, as though he himself were God.’ — That might almost, as it was spoken, have come from the Theosophical Society of the period; for there was a member a leading member indeed, of the Theosophical Society, Franz Hartmann; and his lectures, which he used to hold, were all to this effect: — One must become aware of the God within oneself; every man has within him as it were a divine man, a God; and when this divine man begins to talk, then one talks Theosophy.
Well, Franz Hartmann, when he let his divine man talk, said all sorts of things, about which I wish at the moment to express no opinion. But Hegel, when — according to Zimmermann's view — he let the God within him speak, said Real Being; Nothing; Becoming; Objective Existence; and then, — then the world began logically to hum; and then, it twisted over into its Other-State-of-Being, and lo! the natural world!
Now Robert Zimmermann said: ‘There must be an end of that; for that is Theosophy! We can't have Theosophy any more in these days,’ said Robert Zimmermann in the 'eighties. ‘It is impossible for us in these days to accept the Theosophy of a Schelling, a Solger, a Hegel. We must not let the God in Man speak: that makes a theocentric standpoint, to which one can only aspire, if one is prepared to be like Icarus; — and you know what that means; one skids off the track in the Cosmos, and. comes tumbling down! — We must keep to a human standpoint.’ — And so, in opposition to the ‘Theosophy’ of Hegel, Schelling, Solger and the rest, (whom he treats as ‘theosophists’ also in his History of Aesthetics), Robert Zimmermann wrote his book Anthroposophy. And from this Anthroposophy I afterwards took the name. It appeared at the time to me an unusually interesting book, as a sign of the times.
Only ... this Anthroposophy of Zimmermann's ... it is made up of the most horribly abstract concepts. It is composed in three parts, too; and then there are subordinate chapters: 1, Logical Ideas; 2. Aesthetic Ideas; 3. Ethical Ideas.
One looks, you see, as a human being, — putting aside for the moment the part on aesthetics, which deals with Art, and the Ethical Ideas, which deal with human conduct, — one naturally looks to find, in what is there presented to one as a conceptual view of the world, something from which a human being must draw inner satisfaction, something which enables him to say to himself, that he is connected with a divine, spiritual existence, that within him there is some-thing eternal. Robert Zimmermann set out to answer the question: When Man ceases to be merely a man of the senses, when he really wakes to conscious knowledge of his spiritual manhood, what does he then know? — He knows the logical ideas. Hegel wrote at least a whole book, full of such logical ideas; but then those are ideas such as only a God can think. But when it is not a god thinking in the man, but the man himself who is thinking, then the result is five logical ideas, — at least, with Robert Zimmermann. First idea, the Absoluteness of Thought; second, the Equivalence of two Concepts; third, the Synthesis of Concepts; fourth, the Analysis of Concepts; and fifth, the Law of Contradiction, — that is, a thing can only be some-thing-in-itself, or else another thing; a third alternative is not possible.
Well, my dear friends, that is the total compass of what is given there, put together in the form of abstract ideas, as representing what a human being can know for certain, when he detaches himself from the world of sense, when he falls back upon his own mind and soul. If this ‘Anthroposophy’ were all and only what there was to offer to the human being, then one could but say: Everything must be regarded as superseded, whatever men once possessed in their different religious faiths, in their rites of worship and so forth; everything must be regarded as superseded, which is accepted as Christianity; since all these things again can only be deduced from history, etc. When man reflects on what he is able to know qu anthropos, on what he is able to know for certain, when he bestirs his own soul, independently of either sensible impressions or external history, it is this: ‘I can know for certain, that I am subject to the Absoluteness of Thought, to the Equivalence of Concepts, to the Synthesis of Concepts, to their Analysis, and to the Law of the Excluded Third (the third alternative that is self-excluded).’ With these, as people used to say, one must go to heaven.
Besides this, there were certainly the Aesthetic Ideas. These were the ideas of: Perfection, Accordance, Harmony ...; there are five again of these ideas, and, .similarly, five Ethical Ideas. — The Aesthetic Ideas included also the ideas of Discord and the Accordance of Discord.
Logical ideas: Absoluteness of Thought; Equivalence; Synthesis; Analysis; Law of Contradiction.
Aesthetic ideas: Perfection; Accordance; Harmony; Discord; Accordance of Discord. From these five ideas, through these five ideas, comes the life of all the arts.
Ethical ideas: And in the five ethical ideas: Ethical Perfection, Benevolence, Equity, Conflict, and Adjustment of Conflict, lies the life of all human transactions.
As you see, it is all reduced to the uttermost form of abstraction. At the beginning stands: Outline of Anthroposophy.
That a great deal was meant by it, you may see from the dedication with which it is prefaced. There are, I might really say, touching lines in this dedication. One reads in it, — I can't quote verbally, but something like this: To Harriet! — Thou it wast, who, when night began to darken round my eyes, didst lead me to gather the scattered thoughts, that long had lived within me, and bind them together in this book. And a willing hand was ready, too, to set on paper what my mind's eye had shown me in the dark-room. —
In short, it is indicated in very beautiful words, that the author had had an eye-disease, had been obliged to spend some time in the dark-room, where he had thought out these ideas, and that a willing hand had offered to write them down. These dedicatory lines conclude very beautifully with the words: — No one then can deny, that this book, like light itself, proceeded out of darkness.
It was just like a fata morgana, you see; most curious. Robert Zimmermann, out of Theosophy, brought forth an Anthroposophy, after his notions. But I don't think that, if I had lectured on this Anthroposophy, we should ever have had an anthroposophical movement. The name, however, was very well chosen. And this name I took over, when — for inherent reasons which will become apparent in the course of these lectures — I had, for inherent reasons, to begin by dealing with a variety of things; and in the first place, with the spiritual, and for every seer of the spiritual world clearly established fact, that there are recurrent earth-lives.
But when one is not light-minded in such matters, but has a sense of spiritual responsibility, one must first find a point of connection. And one may truly say, that at that period, — the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth century, — it was extremely hard to find any connection in the consciousness of the age for the recurrence of earth-lives. Points of connection, however, subsequently presented themselves. And I will begin by telling how I myself sought for these points of connection.
There is a very interesting Compendium of the Truths of Anthropology, by Topinard. In the concluding chapter of this book, — it was a book of which more mention was made ;it that period, than to-day; to-day it is already somewhat antiquated as regards details, but it is cleverly written; — in the concluding chapter there is a very neat summary. And there one could find, put together in Topinard, in a way which of course every modern-minded person of the time endorsed, a summary of all the different biologic facts which led up to the conception of the various species of animals as proceeding out of one another, — as proceeding, the one out of the other. Topinard had, set out in full in his book, all the material which could be quoted in support. And one could thus find everything which had led to the conception of a progressive transformation of the different animal species, one out of another. And Topinard stops short with the facts, and says, after adducing, I think, some twenty-two points, that the twenty-third he has then to adduce is this Transformation of the Animal Species. And now we stand directly before the problem of Man. — That, he leaves unanswered: How is it with Man?
Here, then, one might say, taking the evolution of the biologists seriously, quite seriously, and connecting onto an author, who is also really to be taken seriously: Here he leaves the question open. Let us go further; let us add to point twenty-two point twenty-three, and we get this: That the animals always repeat themselves on a higher grade in their species; with Man we must transfer this to the individual, and when the individual repeats himself, then we shall have repeated earth-lives. — I took as connection, you see, what I happened to have. That was altogether the form still at that time, in which I tried to make comprehensible to the whole world's understanding, what lies of course as a spiritual fact de facto before the soul. But to make it understandable to the surrounding world, one had to take what lay directly to hand, but which ended, not with a full stop, but with a dotted line. I simply connected on to the dotted line of natural-science.
That was the first thing. And this lecture I delivered in the circle of which I told you yesterday. They did not have much understanding for it; because they were not, there, interested in natural science. They did not feel, there, the necessity for paying any consideration to natural science; and it naturally seemed to the people waste of time, to set to work to prove what they already believed.
Well, what made the second thing, was, that, at the beginning of the century, I delivered a series of lectures in a circle which called themselves ‘The Coming Race’ (‘die Kommenden’), and where as a rule only literary themes were discussed. These lectures had for title From Buddha to Christ, and in them I tried to show the whole line of evolution from Buddha to Christ, and to sum up in Christ the total of all that lay in the previous aspects of conception. The series closed with that interpretation of the Gospel of John which sets out from the Waking of Lazarus. So that this Lazarus problem therefore, as it is found later in my Christianity as Mystical Fact, forms here the conclusion of this lecture-cycle From Buddha to Christ.
This occurred at about the time when, from the same circle of people who had invited me to hold the lectures that are contained in my book Mysticism at the Dawn of the New Age of Thought, I now received a request to speak to an audience of theosophists on the very subject it was my aim and wish to speak on. And this came together again with the efforts being made to found a German Section of the ‘Theosophical Society’. And I found myself called upon, — before really I was a member, before I had even given the least sign of becoming a member, — to become General Secretary in the German Section of the ‘Theosophical Society’.
At the time this German Section was being founded, I gave a lecture-cycle, at which there were, I think, only two or three theosophists present. The rest were mainly the same audience as in the circle in which I was holding the lectures From Buddha, to Christ.
It was a circle called the ‘Coming Race’ (‘die Kommenden’). The names seemed to stick to me: — there must be some law connected with it. ‘Anthroposophy’ stuck to me from Robert Zimmermann. The ‘Coming Race’ reappeared in the name of the ‘Coming Day’ (‘der Kommende Tag’). Names of this kind stick to one, — old names.
To this circle, — which, as I said, had been joined by two or three theosophists at most; and by these really out of curiosity, as you will see at once, for I spoke to this circle on the evolution of world-conceptions from the earliest Oriental times to the present day: or, Anthroposophy. This cycle of
1 Literally ‘Thought-dash’.
2 1901-2, in Berlin. — See too the ‘Story of my Life’ by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, Chap. XXX.
lectures, then, bore from the first as its proper title: ‘The history of mankind's evolution, as shown in its world-conceptions from the earliest Oriental ages down to the present times: or, Anthroposophy.’ — This lecture-cycle, as I must again mention, was held by me contemporaneously with the founding of the German Section of the Theosophical Society. I used to go away, indeed, out of the meeting, and whilst the others were continuing their conference and continuing to discourse Theosophy, I delivered my series of lectures on Anthroposophy.
One of the people, who afterwards, from theosophists became good anthroposophists, — one who became indeed a very good anthroposophist, — went out of curiosity at the time to these lectures, and said to me afterwards: ‘Yes, but what you have just been saying doesn't agree at all with what Mrs. Besant says and what Blavatsky says.’ To which I replied: ‘Well, no doubt that must be the case then.’ — He was a good connoisseur of Theosophy and all its dogmas, who discovered, quite rightly, that ‘It doesn't agree.’ — So even at that period, one could say: It is not in agreement; it is something different.
Well, these are facts, which for the moment I have just put before you. And now there is another fact I should like to mention, drawn apparently from another quarter altogether, and to which I have already alluded yesterday.
Take the books of Blavatsky, beginning with the principal books, first, the Isis Unveiled, and second, the Secret .Doc-trine. Now, one did not really need to have any very great weakness for the people who accepted everything in these books as sacred dogma; but all the same, if only for the reasons I mentioned yesterday, there was enough to make one find these books extraordinarily interesting, — above all, to find the phenomenon of Blavatsky herself an extraordinarily interesting one, — extraordinarily interesting, if only from a deeper psychologic standpoint. — And in what way?
Well, there is, after all, a big difference, you see, between these two books, the Isis Unveiled and Blavatsky's other book, the Secret Doctrine; — there is a very big difference indeed. And you will recognize this difference most forcibly, if I tell you how the two books were judged at the time by the people who were connoisseurs in such things. — What do I mean, when I speak of ‘connoisseurs in such things’?
My dear friends, there really exist traditions, which have come down from the very oldest mysteries and been pre-served since in various so-called Secret Societies. And the people too in certain secret societies had grades distributed to them accordingly. They moved up, from the first grade to the second, thence to the third, and so on. And, in these grades, such and such things were communicated to them always from the same traditions.
In the lower grades, the people did not understand the things, but they accepted them as sacred dogmas. They did not really understand the things in the higher grades either. But though neither the lower grades, nor yet the higher grades, understood the traditions, it was nevertheless a firm belief amongst those who belonged to the lower grades, that those who belonged to the higher ones understood everything. This was a quite fixed belief that existed among them; but all the same there did exist among them also a preserved store of genuine knowledge. Verbally, they knew a very great deal. And you need only take up anything ... to-day, when everything is printed and everything obtainable, these things too are easy to obtain you need only take up what is printed on the subject, and put life into it again from what Anthroposophy can teach you (for there is no other way of giving the things life), and you will then see, even in the mangled form in which they are usually printed to-day, that these traditions do contain within them a vast hoard of ancient, awe-inspiring knowledge. Often the words sound all wrong; but anyone who knows a little, knows what is implied, and that an ancient hoard of old-world knowledge lies behind. Rut still, however, the special feature of these secret societies and their proceedings is this: that the people have a general feeling that in earlier ages there existed persons who were initiates, and who possessed an ancient lore that enabled them to give information about the universe, — about the cosmos and the world of spirits. And they knew, too, how to put words together, they knew how to talk about these things that had been handed down to them. There were plenty of such people.
And now appeared the Unveiled Isis of Blavatsky. And the people, who had become possessed of the traditional knowledge through having attained to lower or higher grades in these secret societies, were the very people to have a terrible fright when the Unveiled Isis appeared. The reason of their fright was usually explained to be, that the times — they said — were not yet ripe, for these things, which had always been kept concealed in the secret societies, to be given out straightway to the mass of mankind through the press. That was what they thought. They were really indeed of this honest opinion, that the times were not ripe for these things to be communicated to the whole of mankind.
There was, however, for individuals amongst them, another reason besides. And this reason can only properly be under-stood, if I call your attention to certain other facts again. — You must consider, that during the fifth post-atlantean period, — namely, in the nineteenth century, — everything, really, had passed over into abstract concepts and ideas; so that finally, as we saw, one of the profoundest and most powerful minds couched his whole world-outlook in the abstract concepts: Real Being; Nothing; Becoming; Objective Existence, etc., down to Purpose. Everything in this modern age has turned to abstract concepts and ideas.
One of the first in Central Europe, who began with these abstract ideas, is the philosopher Schelling. At a time, when people were able to be enthused by such ideas, because they still had, latent in them, forces of human sentiment, and when, in Jena, Schlegel and Tieck were amongst the listeners when, with immense enthusiasm, such ideas were discussed, — at that time Schelling too had been one of those who taught these abstract ideas. Then, after a few years, Schelling no longer found any satisfaction in these abstract ideas, — plunged into all kinds of mysticism, more particularly into Jacob Boehme, — received from these ideas of Boehme's a new and fruitful impulse, and then, out of the ideas he had received from Jacob Boehme, produced some-thing, which now rang somewhat less abstracted and more substantial. No one can be said to have really any longer understood, — for it was not understood, — what Schelling had written in 1809, in his Human Freedom, and the Circumstances involved with it; but somewhere in the 'twenties, Schelling, who till then had been living for a long while in retirement, began to speak, and in a curious manner. You may find to-day in Reclam's Universal Library Series a little volume of Schelling's, called The Ages of the World. If you take up this little volume, you will get an odd feeling; you will say to yourself: ‘It's all quite hazy still, and abstract; and yet one has the strange feeling: How is it, that it doesn't occur to the man, to Schelling, to say what, for instance, has since been said on anthroposophic ground about the true facts concerning Atlantis; but that he almost, clumsily as it were, hints at them?’ — So far he gets; to clumsily hinting at them. It is a quite interesting little volume, this of Schelling's, in Reclam's Universal Library, on The Ages of the World.
And then, as you know, Friedrich Wilhelm IV appointed him in 1844 to the University of Berlin. There, accordingly, after Hegel had been dead for fourteen years, he became Hegel's successor. And there Schelling began to deliver his lectures on the Philosophy of Revelation.
This, too, is still fearfully abstract, He speaks of three potentials, A', A', A' ... fearfully abstract! Then, however, he carries it on further, as far as to a kind of comprehension of the ancient Mysteries — as far as to a kind of comprehension of Christianity. And again, when he launches into these ideas, we have almost the feeling: It is an attempt, though in a still quite primitive fashion, to find a way into a real spiritual world. Only one can't rightly do much with what Schelling gives here briefly in his lectures. — But the people, all the same, understood nothing of it. It is not, after all, so very easy to understand, since the way is a dubitable one.
In the mind of the age, however, — as this is a proof, — in the mind of the age, then, there did lie something which, like Schelling, hinted: We must search into a spiritual world.
In another form, the same thing happened in England. It is extremely interesting to read the writings of Laurence Oliphant. Oliphant describes — in another way naturally, for Englishmen describe otherwise than Germans, more tangibly, in terms of things and senses, — he describes the picture which had risen before his mind of earliest ages of Man's evolution upon earth. And in a certain sense, and taking into consideration the difference of national genus, they are parallel phenomena: Schelling, in the first half of the nineteenth century, more from the idealist side; and Laurence Oliphant, more from the realist side; in both, a powerful kind of striving after the spiritual world, of striving after a comprehension of the world as revealed to man's sight from the spirit.
If one examines what it is exactly that is so curious, in Schelling as well as in Oliphant (it is the same phenomenon really in both, only varied by country), one finds that it is this: These two people grew up, — the one in German, the other in English fashion, — into the civilization of their age, — struggled through till they reached a crowning perfection in the ideas, then held as the philosophic ideas of the age, about Man, about the Universe, and so forth.
Schelling in his fashion, as well as Oliphant in his fashion, struggled their way through. Now, as you know from the anthroposophic descriptions which I have given you, Man's evolution to-day takes place during the first part of his life in such a way, that the physical presents an accompanying phenomenon to the evolution of his soul. This ceases later on. — With the Greeks, as I told you, their evolution still went on until they were in the thirties, in such a way that there was an actual, progressive evolution of the two, a parallelism of the physical and the spiritual. — With Schelling and with Oliphant it was again somewhat different from what it is with the average person of the present day. With them, what took place was this: their evolution went on at first as it does with a normal human being, ... for of course to-day one can be a philosopher, and in every respect a quite normal human being, — perhaps, indeed, a sub-normal one; but that's by the way! ... One just develops one's notions a little further, you know, and then one stops short, if one is a normal human being. Schelling and Oliphant didn't stop short; but with increasing age their souls became all of a sudden as lively as they had been in a previous earth-life, and there rose up a memory of things which they had known long ago, in earlier incarnations, — rose up in a natural way: distant memories, hazy memories. And now, a light suddenly flashes on one; now one begins to see both Oliphant and Schelling in a different light.
They struggle their way through; become first normal philosophers, according to their different countries; then in their later years they acquire a memory of something they had known before in previous earth-lives, — now as a hazy memory. And then, they begin to talk about the spiritual world. It is a hazy, indistinct memory, that rises up in Schelling and in Laurence Oliphant; but still it was a thing of which there was a certain amount of fear amongst the people who had merely a traditional, old evolution, lest it might get the upper-hand, might spread. These people were horribly afraid lest men might come to be born, who would remember what they had lived through in times before, and would talk about it. ‘And then’ — thought they — ‘what will become of our principle of secrecy? We exact solemn oaths from the members of the first, second, third grades; but if people come to be born, in whom it all wakes up again as a living memory, what we've preserved so carefully and keep locked up, of what use then is all our secrecy!’
And now appeared Isis Unveiled. The curious phenomenon was this: This book brought a whole lot of what was kept secret in secret societies openly into the book-market. The great problem that now faced these people was: How have these things, which we have kept well locked up, and to which the people are sworn by solemn oaths, — how has Blavatsky got hold of them, and from what source? Amongst these people particularly, and all who were frightened, this book, Isis Unveiled, aroused great attention.
It certainly was, for those people who took a conscient share in the spiritual life going on around them at the end of the nineteenth century, — it certainly was a problem, what had appeared here, with this book of Blavatsky's.
And now there appeared the Secret Doctrine. Then the thing became really serious. — To-day, as I said, I am merely setting forward the bare facts. — A whole mass of the things, which properly in secret societies were reserved for the highest grades alone, were planted by this book before the world. And the people who had been scared already by the first book, and now in addition by this second one, coined various expressions for it at the time; for there was something terribly, especially for the so-styled Initiates, terribly upsetting in this Blavatsky phenomenon.
Well, with the Isis Unveiled, things were not yet quite so uncanny, — for Blavatsky was after all a chaotic personality, who, along with the really profound wisdom, was constantly mixing up, as I said yesterday, all sorts of stuff that is absolutely worthless. At any rate, about the Isis Unveiled the alarmed, so-styled Initiates could still say: It's a book which, where it's true it isn't new, and where it's new it isn't true. And that was the judgment passed on this book to begin with. The people recognized that the unpleasant thing about it for them was: the things have been disclosed. (The book itself was named Isis Unveiled!) But they calmed their uneasiness by thinking: ‘What must have happened is, that — from some quarter or other — there has been an infringement, strictly speaking, of our rights.’
And then, when the Secret Doctrine made its appearance, in which there was a whole heap of things, that were not known even to the highest grades, then the people could no longer say: What is true isn't new, and what's new isn't true; for there were a whole number of things said in it, which had not been preserved by tradition.
So that they were now faced in a most curious way with the very thing that they had been afraid of ever since Schelling and Laurence Oliphant, — coming now from a woman, and in a most strange and, moreover, perplexing fashion.
For this reason, as I said, the personality is, psychologically, even more interesting than the books. It was certainly a significant and remarkable phenomenon for the spiritual life of the departing nineteenth century, this phenomenon of Blavatsky.
This is the point down to which I wished to carry my facts.