The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Anthroposophic Movement (1938)
GA 258


The lectures here published make in their substance a supplement to what Rudolf Steiner has given us in his book, ‘The Story of My Life’, and may be felt as forming a whole with it. Delivered with all the living flow of spoken word and narrative, they were not designed for a book; but the exceedingly important matter they contain, and the whole historic context, makes them a document of inestimable value, and not only for the Anthroposophist. He indeed learns to see in full light the conditions and circumstances of that movement to which he has attached himself; and so gains firm ground under his feet, through learning to recognize in these events a necessity that supersedes any sort of justificatory argument. But those people too, who otherwise know no more than the shallow judgments they hear uttered, or find printed in some reference book, may also be grateful for this occasion to acquire a real insight into the facts. Surely there must be an ever increasing number of human souls, who will eagerly seize such an opportunity to learn from personal experience that an answer can be found to those questions, which stand like sphinx-riddles before the inner eye, and that the way to the answer can be actually shown them.

No ground any longer exists for the eternal re-iteration in every paper and pamphlet, that the one salvation in mankind's desperate plight would he the appearance of a universal genius, one who should master all the multifarious branches of life and knowledge, co-ordinate and combine them, balance one with another, and thence new-create a civilization; — and that the only escape from uncertainty would be some breaking-through of the boundaries of knowledge, — but that this is impossible!

For this genius has been here amongst us; he has broken through the boundaries of knowledge. His work lies before us, and bears testimony that he has done so. No word of his, however intimately uttered, need shun the light; it can be thrown open to one and all. The moral power, the transcendent altitude of his whole life and. being shine forth from this work as luminously as the calm certainty of his all-embracing knowledge.

Why was it then that they shrank from no means to block and bar his way, to render him impotent by calumny, when mere silence no longer sufficed?

Why? — Because this age will not endure superiority, and hates it. Because it concedes no right of life to any-thing that transcends the common, — and thereby plays into the hands of those powerful organizations, whose interest it is to let nothing come to light which they themselves are not willing to give to mankind. The idol of the present day, materialistic science, is in their eyes more preferable. Those words still keep their truth, which Goethe dedicated to the Masters of Knowledge:

‘... What you call Knowing!’
‘Why, who dare give the child its proper name?
‘The few who had some knowledge of these things,
‘And, fool-like, set no guard on their full hearts,
‘Revealed their feelings, visions, to the herd,
‘— These from of old they crucified and burnt.’

No further explanation is needed for this hatred. It is the hatred that the world turns upon whatever is higher than itself. This hatred displays the face and works the works of the World's Adversary.

But now, when, the excesses of this hatred can scarcely be further surpassed; when the great messenger of human liberation is dead; when the base and selfish motives of the warfare on him have manifested themselves only too plainly, — there must now ever more and more come souls, who will desire to see further, to penetrate through all the rubbish and trace the process of the spiritual events, discover the source whence they emanated, and the first steps on the road. Those who are interested in the historic development of the movement will find in these pages the information they need, and will at the same time learn the self-evident explanation and very simple reason of what arose as a matter of course out of the existing circumstances: namely, the original association with that German society of theosophists who were looking about for a teacher possessed of knowledge. When someone is appealed to, and the accompanying conditions are accepted, why should he not go to the aid of those who call upon him? When he is solicited for guidance on the road, and when he never for a moment hesitates to make plain what this will mean for those who go along with him, — that it will mean completely changing old habits of mind, awaking to the demands of the times, developing a sense for the progress of evolution and for the mission of the Western World; — why then should one, who is secure of his own road, not take compassion on those who are groping leaderless, and point them the way to the Divine Leader and to their own liberation?

If Mrs. Besant, at the most critical moment of her life, when the ground failed beneath her feet, had not been blinded, all might yet have turned to good, and she might have found the missing bridge to the Christ, without needing to manufacture as substitute the little sham god who has now slipped through her hands. And with her, thousands in the Theosophical Society might have trod the road of inner deliverance.

On the Blavatsky question and its riddles, Rudolf Steiner alone has thrown light. For him, she meant no kind of stumbling block; for he saw the positive element in her work and influence, and knew how to direct this positive element into channels where, freed from all its aberrations, delusions and clogs, it could remain a fruitful factor of knowledge, without working harm. And thus Blavatsky, in her progress as an individuality, received her due meed of thanks, and had her Karma lightened. Her own inner self, — all that she was as honest soul and sturdy force, — will figure greater in history thus, than if she remained involved with the spiritualistic phenomena that represent the heavier weighted side of her Karma. It was difficult to make one's way to what one felt must be the true, inner core of her being, when one heard all the marvellous tales told about her by her intimate, as well as by her distant friends; — and so the present writer found in those days. Yet one received the impression of a quite peculiar power and big-ness from merely reading a few pages of Isis Unveiled or The Secret Doctrine, which were quite of a different calibre from anything in the whole collection of the Theosophical Society's writings. The key to this intricate character was given us by Rudolf Steiner; and although the reports of the year 1915 are very defective (for at that time we possessed no professional stenographer in Dornach), his lectures on this subject — despite their mutilations — will have to be published, in order to throw light on these puzzling phenomena.

H. P. Blavatsky was born in 1881. The centenary of her birthday falls in the present year; and one may imagine that many festivals and celebrations in honour of her memory will -be held by the theosophists in all countries. Blavatsky was a child of nature, with a temperament of great native vigour. She had suffered much under the conventionalisms, so foreign to her nature, of Anglo-American society; and to its representatives in turn she was merely a phenomenon, a semi-barbarian, not under-stood by any, the medium through which the border-world knocked at the door of the fast-closed world of materialism. What is more, she did not understand herself, and suffered horribly each time on awaking from states that eluded her consciousness. Those will do her memory best service, who interpret her in the light and connection of one who was involved with the first attempts of the occultists to break through the enchanted circle of materialism. — Not to let fall whatever has been accomplished, accompanied though it may be by mistakes and errors; but to rescue what is positive, and preserve it for the future; — this is the constant duty of every occultist who is spiritually mature; and this too is the light in which one must always understand that first association on the road, when the Anthroposophical Society kept company for a while with the Theosophical Society, — down to the day when Mrs. Besant would no longer tolerate any thwarting of her own personal aims.

Although Rudolf Steiner tells us in these lectures, that by the end of its second stage the anthroposophical movement had outgrown everything which had come over as a legacy from the Theosophical Society, yet still the fact remains, that the influx of new generations and of many theosophical members into our society has brought a constant recurrence of many previously outgrown and not very pleasing symptoms, which in the past he had applied himself with all severity to cure. It shows that people to-day are of the same make and kind as those who went before them, and that accordingly they must be expected to go through the same mistakes and the same nursery-epidemics, — only, unfortunately, with ever increasing self-assertiveness and greater determination to live-out their own peculiar bent. What, after all, were the faults which Rudolf Steiner so sharply censures in these lectures, — the adulation of Max Seiling (a little local episode), or Bhagavan Das (a mere whim of the hour), — compared to many phenomena that have made their appearance in the last few years? But he picked out such things as symptoms, to point out whither they lead, to lay bare the causes of these ever recurring signs of decay, and to show how societies may be wrecked when such things make their way into the leading circles. Of this last, he thought in those days there could be no question amongst us. But he left us too soon alone; and amongst those who had come too young, too soon to leader-ship, the old faults — humanly all-too-human — flamed up with double force.

It behoves us to come to self-recollection. Let us make ourselves out no better than we are. There is no need for shame-faced concealment of our faults; on the contrary; out of their darkness we must evoke the light that brings self-knowledge. Communal consciousness is hard to be won. The common ‘I’ can only grow up strong and firm amongst us on a soil of vigorous wakefulness, of will to active knowledge, of courage for truth. These things are not to be achieved in solitude and secrecy; they must be fought for and won in community. Honest mutual struggles will do us no harm, will gain us the respect of all well-wishers. And ill-wishers may look back and reflect what the Church went through and displayed in its communal life, notwithstanding all the strict discipline imposed from without; and what imperfections, what contradictions to its own ideals had there to be worked out in life! It will then be seen, that it is not the leader, not he who gives the impulse to a movement, who must be held responsible for the faults in the disciples of his doctrine, but the Species Homo, which needs many round-about roads and much rising and falling and oft-renewed climbing, before it can attain at last to its goal.

Anthroposophy is a way of education. The Anthroposophical Society certainly presents no model institute for the living demonstration of anthroposophic ideals. One might even say that in many respects it is a nursing-home; as is of course very natural in an age of sick and sorry humanity. There flock to it the halt and maimed of life, those crippled under the burden of the age. May we only have nursing-homes for the physically diseased? Is it not right, that there should be places, where human-beings may spiritually get upon their feet again? And this came to pass here in abundance. Letters there were in more than plenty and words of overflowing gratitude from people testifying, that through Anthroposophy and its Teacher they first had learnt to find life again worth living. — For people to find Anthroposophy, however, there had to be a society, where the work was carried on.

And so the Anthroposophical Society was a workshop; and a vast amount of work was done in it. Anthroposophy found means to bring fruit into all the branches of life, artistic, scientific, and practical, too. During the worst times of economic crisis, anthroposophists were very largely unsuccessful in carrying out what they had as an ideal in sight; but they had doubly strong obstacles to contend with. One must remember, that the people who flocked into the Society, and started working outwardly when the Society already had a name and stood for some-thing in the world, were people as the modern age has made them, not as the ideal of Anthroposophy would have them be; and so there were many, unquestionably, who succumbed again to the temptations and the practices of the day.

The young people who had been disappointed with their experiences in the organized ‘Youth-Movements’ and by what they failed to find there, not Only found here an answer to the problems that perplexed them, and not only sought to satisfy their aspirations in this new community Anthroposophy, but they also brought their own habits into the Society, — including much that they might have left behind them, to start in Anthroposophy afresh.

And so the Anthroposophical Society cannot yet be a model institute; it remains a place of education. — But does not mankind need places of education too, in the wider human sense, if it is to move onwards to a better future?

Turn the question then which way we will, the Society is a necessity. It must educate itself; and it must afford the possibility of being a place of education for mankind. The life-forces that have been laid in it, have strength to per-form this work, if people come together in it who are strong and capable and devoted, — people who know, that they must join together to work as a community for mankind in a larger sense, not to shut themselves off and indulge only in self-culture, — who know, that it would be but a thankless return to take what is given as a saving anchor for oneself alone; who know, that one takes with it also the obligation to pass this anchor on to others whose life's ship is in distress.