NOTES BY THE EDITOR OF THE GERMAN EDITION
The lectures assembled in this series form part of the teaching of Rudolf Steiner's Esoteric School in so far as in them a form of esoteric training was to have been prepared.
The Esoteric School itself was in existence from 1904 until the outbreak of the First World War in the summer of 1914 and consisted of three sections or classes. (It was reformed in 1924 as the Free High School for Spiritual Science.) Constructed on the basis of anthroposophical knowledge in the form of ideas, a teaching was to have been imparted about the higher stages of knowledge through imagination, inspiration and intuition, as later elaborated still further by Rudolf Steiner in his published writings (cf. Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Achieved?, Occult Science, etc.). At the same time members were to be given a real understanding that as members of the School they should regard themselves as responsible participants in anthroposophical affairs and in the dissemination of anthroposophical knowledge.
The main contents of the instructions of the first section are already published in the book, Guidance in Esoteric Training, Rudolf Steiner Press 1972.
Preparation was made for the second and third sections through an elucidation of the esoteric content of the picture language of myths, sagas and legends. In particular, with regard to the Temple Legend and the Legend of the True Cross (usually referred to by Rudolf Steiner as the Golden Legend) a basis was to have been created for the fostering of a kind of cult symbolism. Everything in the nature of a cult, ‘but not merely the outward form of the cult, but the understanding of the world through pictures’, meditation in pictures, can lead to a true understanding of oneself and the world (from a lecture given in Dornach, 27.4.1924 Karmic Relationships, Volume 2). For everything is created in picture form for imaginative thinking. ‘Pictures are the true origin of things, pictures underlie all that surrounds us, it is these pictures that are meant by all who speak of spiritual causes’ (Lecture given in Berlin, 6.7.1915). These pictures were clothed in myth and legend by the sages of old. For modern consciousness the right effect depends upon permeating the picture language with a conceptual content.
As the pictures belonging to the Temple Legend and the Golden Legend form an integral part of the section dealing with cult and symbolism, the present series of lectures deal mainly with their interpretation. Rudolf Steiner regarded it as a necessary preliminary to working with pictures — that is, with symbols — that one should first become acquainted with their esoteric content. That entailed the Rosicrucian training as given by him, of which the first step is study and only the second is imaginative thinking.
Concerning the remarks about Freemasonry, one thing is to be especially noted: Rudolf Steiner was at that time about to inaugurate the second section of his Esoteric School, dealing with cult and symbolism. As a new form of the ‘Royal Art’, created out of his own spiritual investigation, was to have been presented in the School, the preparatory lectures were concerned with clarifying its history and nature, and pointing out that mankind is standing at the threshold of a new phase of evolution, indicating what its future content would be.
When in later years he spoke in some of his lectures about what happened in connection with Freemasonry, it is because he always rigorously condemned the mixing of occultism and a striving after power, wherever it occurred. (Cf. e.g. The Karma of Human Vocation, Dornach, 4th to 27th November 1916, The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century, Dornach, 10th to 25th October 1915, The Challenge of the Times, Dornach, 29th November to 8th December 1918, How can Mankind find the Christ Again?, Dornach, 25th to 29th December 1918.)
The outbreak of the First World War had proved to him that ‘certain pieces of knowledge’ had been misused by particular occult brotherhoods of the West ‘to stir up the necessary political atmosphere conducive to bringing about the world catastrophe and influencing world events.’ Thus Rudolf Steiner saw himself obliged to draw attention to the fact that an originally good and necessary thing, which was intended to serve ‘the whole of mankind without distinction of race or personal interests’, must necessarily turn to something bad when used ‘as a means of power in the hands of isolated groups of people’ (from an unsigned foreword to Karl Heise's Entente-Freimaurerei und Weltkrieg, Basle 1918).
Regarding the connection which Rudolf Steiner made in a quite definite external form with the Symbolic-Cultic Section of the Misraim-Memphis-Freemasonry of John Yarker, often deliberately misconstrued by his enemies, see Rudolf Steiner, An Autobiography, chapter 36, as also a forthcoming publication on the history of the Esoteric School, containing letters, circulars and other documents.
As Rudolf Steiner still taught within the Theosophical Society when these lectures were given, he made use of the customary terminology of that time. For historical reasons we have forborne substituting the expression ‘theosophy’ for ‘anthroposophy’, as was usually done at the specific request of Rudolf Steiner after the German Section of the Theosophical Society had re-formed under the title Anthroposophical Society. The reader must be aware, however, that the theosophy taught by Rudolf Steiner — as represented in his fundamental book, Theosophy, an Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World Theosophy, an Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man — has always been identical with what he later only referred to as ‘anthroposophy’ or ‘anthroposophically-orientated spiritual science.’
Concerning the texts, it must be stressed that, in common with most of the early transcripts, where professional stenographers were not employed, they are noticeably incomplete, sometimes only existing in the form of notes. Stylistic and logical imperfections must not, therefore, be laid at Rudolf Steiner's door. But even though we are not always dealing with a word for word transcript, the contents as they have been conveyed to us form a unique and indispensable part of the complete works of Rudolf Steiner. In order to guarantee as far as possible a text which is free from mistakes, all sources have been tested and compared, and where shorthand notes exist these too have been used in checking. In the notes at the end of the book the sources have been given for each lecture separately. Words and phrases in the text enclosed in square brackets are the insertions of the editor, (And in a few cases by the translator of the English edition.) whereas those enclosed in ordinary brackets are original to the text. The copious notes are intended to compensate as far as possible for the deficiencies of the text. Pertinent books from Rudolf Steiner's own library were the chief source material used.