Re: Comparative Study in Michael Thinking, Two Parts, Part II
Rudolf Steiners' Life-Path as the Way of the Christian Initiate.
Yesterday we considered the exercises which were given by Rudolf Steiner and their spiritual and moral background. Today we do not intend to remain within the limits of seeking to understand what depths lay hidden behind that which Rudolf Steiner taught, but rather to seek to understand the depths which came to expression through the life experiences of Rudolf Steiner himself.
We will consider the course of Rudolf Steiners' life, not as it appeared outwardly, but from within, where it is revealed as a path that leads through definite stages. These are the stages with which we have already concerned ourselves. I should like to say also that it is extremely difficult to speak about the course of Rudolf Steiners' life. Because these happenings took place a relatively short time ago, one is compelled often and painfully to touch upon various matters still of 'human' interest, since the lapse of time which would be necessary for an impersonal interest in the subject is hardly present. Nevertheless, in what I will have to say, it might appear that certain statements are intended as a reproach towards someone. I would want you to know that this was not so intended. No criticism or reproach of anyone is meant; it is only a question of considering the course of Rudolf Steiners' life from its moral, spiritual aspect.
It is a remarkable and profound fact that the childhood of a great personality often foreshadows in abbreviated form what lies before him in the way of personal destiny; so that, in concentric circles, there comes to expression in a small circle what later appears in a large circle. With the help of a drawing (not included) we can illustrate this. If you imagine the experience of childhood contained here (small inner circle), you then have a small picture of what later reappears (larger outer circle). These concentric circles manifest themselves repeatedly throughout life.
For this reason we will briefly consider the childhood of Rudolf Steiner as a way of insight into his life - the key-note of which he himself brings to expression in his autobiography The Course of My Life *(Anthroposophic Press 1951) There he speaks of his parents, but one can see how things were in relation to himself. Rudolf Steiner says "My father was of the utmost goodwill, but of a temper - especially while he was still young - which could be passionately aroused. The work of a railway employee was to him a matter of duty; he had no love for it. While I was still a boy, he would sometimes have to remain on duty for three days and three nights continuously. Then he would be relieved for twenty-four hours. Thus life bore for him, no bright colors; all was dull grey. He liked to keep up with political developments; in these he took the liveliest interest.. My mother, since our worldly goods were not plentiful, had to devote herself to household duties. Her days were filled with loving care for her children and of the little home."*ibid. p.2.
There you see the colors of the childhood of Rudolf Steiner. The father, who experiences nothing colorful in his life, only greyness, for whom the highest interest in life are political questions; the mother must absorb herself in housekeeping as no gifts of good fortune are available. Such was Rudolf Steiners' soul and physical environment.
On the other hand, the surroundings were such that one side of his life was filled with the railway and its traffic, the other side, filled with nature. Rudolf Steiner says further on, "It seems to me that passing my childhood in such an environment had a certain significance for my life. For my interest was strongly attracted by everything about me of a mechanical character; and I know that this interest tended constantly to overshadow in my childish soul the affection which went out to that charming and yet mighty nature into which the railway train, in spite of being subjected to this mechanism, yet always disappeared in the distance."* ibid.p.3.
Thus the mechanical things tended , in the life of the small child, always to darken the life of the heart which yearned for nature.
When Rudolf Steiner went to the village school, it happened that on account of an injustice, there was no room for him there. He had been accused of doing something naughty which he had not done. His father was indignant. "My father was furious when I reported this matter at home. The next time the teacher and his wife came to our house, he told them with the utmost bluntness that the friendship between us was ended, and declared: "My boy shall never set foot in your school again." Now my father took over the task of teaching me: and so I would sit beside him in his little office by the hour and was supposed to read and write while he at the same time attended to the duties of his office."*ibid p.6.
So he was taken out of the school surroundings, away from other children and had to learn to read and write in his own fathers' office.
Then came another experience. "Once something happened at the station that was "shocking". A freight train rumbled up. My father stood looking at it. One of the rear cars was on fire. The crew had not noticed this at all. The train arrived at our station in flames. All that occurred as a result of this made a deep impression on me. Fire had started in the car by reason of some highly inflammable material. For a long time I was absorbed in the question how such a thing could occur. What those around me said to me about this was, as in many other cases, not to my satisfaction. I was filled with questions, and I had to carry these about with me unanswered. It was thus that I reached my eighth year."*ibid.p.7
In those first seven years of life, which had there conclusion in the fire on the railway train and the deep impression which it made upon him, we have the first small concentric circle. We have the fact that Rudolf Steiner had to live in an environment, and in conditions of material discomfort. The surroundings were grey and gifts of good fortune were not granted. His whole life was lived through under that sign.
Further, there was the fact of living between two worlds; that is to say, living between that which was alive in the heart and that which was signified by outer mechanistic culture and the corresponding behaviour of men. Heart on the one side; mechanical, material activity on the other.
The thrid note was struck by the happening in the village school: there was no room for him in the culture of the time. Everywhere he was crowded out. He had to make room for himself - he was always a superfluous man in life. Every place was occupied. Thus it began in his youth: he had to leave school and learn in his fathers' office.
A prophetic foreshadowing of the future of his work were the flames of fire which made such a deep impression on him, and the question which lived on in his soul: how is it possible that a fire breaks out from insignificant causes, and that the train travels on in flames while men do not notice? That is to say, the Goetheanum which went up in flames was the expression in the large circle of life of what he experienced as a child in the railway station when the train was in flames. Thus were the fundamental motifs foreshadowed in these first events of his childhood.
Then when Rudolf Steiner grew older and entered into the first friendships of his youth, the peculiar fact was that he participated very intensely in the interests of his friends, while that which inwardly preoccupied him could find no sympathy, no understanding. Rudolf Steiner said in one place for example: "My youthful friendships in the time of which I'm speaking had a peculiar relation to the course of my life. They forced me into a sort of double life of the soul. The struggle with the riddles of knowledge which then filled my mind more than anything else aroused in my friends always, to be sure, a strong interest, but very little active participation. In the experience of these riddles, I remained rather lonely. On the other hand, I shared completely in whatever arose in the existence of my friends. Thus there flowed along in me two parallel currents of life: one that I followed like a lone wanderer, and one that I shared in vital companionship with persons bound to me by ties of affection. But the experiences of the second kind were also in many instances of profound and lasting significance in my development."*ibid.p.57.
So it continued throughout his life; that is to say, he took it upon himself to visit the most varied centres of thought and endeavour but was himself visited by no one. He left the domain of his inner life, of his problems, of his own work in order to busy himself with the problems of other men and afterwards returned to his loneliness. This situation continued right through his life, both with the Theosophical Society and with the Anthroposophical Society. It was always thus: that he descended from his momentousness of his own struggles and entered into the circle of interests of other men. In this way arose the different achievements of his life; anthroposophical medicine, Eurythmy, Speech Formation came into being. He left his own inner life in order to concern himself with the circle of interests of other men and create something that they needed.
The fundamental attitude of Rudolf Steiner was the Washing of the Feet. This persisted as a basic attitude through the whole course of his life. From his earliest youth onwards, he always benevolently gave his attention to strivings and conceptions which were on a lower level of development than that of his own inner activity. The greatest part of his energy and time was spent in giving his help on a lower level. This Washing of the Feet continued on throughout his entire life.
Yet another attitude is adopted in his life, an attitude which we can understand from the following incident in The Course of My Life. Rudolf Steiner says that when he was a student, he was chosen to be head of the students assembly room: "Later I was chosen president of the Reading Hall. This for me however was a burdensome office. For I was confronted by the most diverse party view-points and I saw in all of these their relative justification. Yet the adherents of the various parties would come to me, and each would seek to convince me that his party alone was right. At the time when I was elected, every party had voted for me. For until then they had only heard that in the assemblies I had taken the part of what was justified. After I had been president for a half-year, all voted against me. They had then found that I could not decide as positively for any party as that party desired."*ibid.p.61.
One could say that this is a simple case, but it points to something larger that runs throughout the course of his life: his position was always such that he stood, as it were, 'between two positions'. Rudolf Steiner had an inner attitude toward opposite human strivings out of which he could see and express what was relatively justified on either side. But always when he had a decision to make, or when he was in a position where he could act, he lost the position because he satisfied neither the one side nor the other.
Thus one can really say that Rudolf Steiner behaved in a neutral manner towards contending opposites; that is, as one who had to represent the third element. And this, to give one example, expressed itself when he had to give up the position of a lecturer in a workers' school in Berlin, because he could not represent the Marxist system.
Such events occurred within the Theosophical Society as well, and in the way he was inwardly excluded from much that happened in the Anthroposophical Society. He was unable to bring many things into realization because he was many times excluded from certain activities of the Anthroposophical Society. For his own initiatives there was no space. Basically this was because he inwardly held to the position of the Scourging; for the Scourging means to stand between two opposing streams to be swayed neither to the right nor the left, but to hold oneself in the middle - in spite of all attacks. Man is physically constituted that his left side is Luciferic, his right, Ahrimanic. There is no place in the body for the Christian element. So it is also with the whole of culture. It consisits of Luciferic and Ahrimanic elements. Everything is taken up by them leaving no place for the Christian element in the world. A place for the Christian element has constantly to be created and conquered and held against attacks that come from both sides.
Thus Rudolf Steiner stood in life as one constantly scourged, who had to endure attacks from religious and artistic, and also from scientific movements. He stood as one who had the power not only to have, but also to represent, so that the Christian element might be represented in the world, where otherwise there is no place for it. We can say that for the whole of his life, from earliest youth to his last breath, he was exposed to this destiny. He had to stand between right and left, open to visible and invisible attacks. The streams which constitute life were always dissatisfied with the position he took. This is the inner spiritual attitude towards life in which we can identify the Scourging of Rudolf Steiner.
We can understand this more deeply from the human point of view when we consider what it means for a man possessing open spiritual eyes and ears to stand in modern culture, surrounded by modern men. Inner seeing and hearing are things which are extraordinarily delicate and are accompanied by a refining of the inner life. Coarse outer culture, the materialistic way of thinking, is something from the purely human standpoint causes incessant blows upon a man who has constantly to represent the spiritual that lives in the soul.
If we now inquire into the other aspects of the life of Rudolf Steiner, we find that in the course of his life, there occurred a decisive spiritual event. This took place about the end of the nineteenth century. It then happened that finally Rudolf Steiner was confronted with the whole perspective of the actual situation of modern man. He had the task to decide: should he, in face of sleeping humanity - for with regard to what was of decisive importance, humanity was asleep - bring the truth in such a way, that for the consciousness of modern man, it would become both visible and audible. That is to say, Rudolf Steiner was faced with the decision whether to create publically a science of the spirit, whether to convey to humanity communications form the spiritual world. Being faced with this question really means much more than one may think, considering everything in the way of moral problems and other difficulties that arise when this decision has to be consciously made.
One must consider the situation. On the one hand there stands the picture of the sum of illusions in the world: the great illusion of social movements, for example, standing before the inner eye. On the other hand, certain life experiences make one quite aware that something spiritual, that a purely spiritual teaching, can never be popular. All those who have already become involved with illusions are not going to retreat; the powers of resistance already present are enormous and will be awakened more when words bearing knowledge of the spiritual world are spoken.
Furthermore, one must consider that such a decision also bears within it a certain overcoming of inner compassion, inner pity, which can be quite intense and call forth the strong inclination not to take mens' illusions away from them, because then they would begin to doubt what they still have. They are hurt and wounded if their illusions are taken away from them. Thus it is a conscious act when in the service of truth, much pain is caused to other people, for a 'hardness' is required in making the decision to place the truth before men who have accustomed themselves to various illusions that give them support and comfort.
There is a good deal more to Rudolf Steiners' decision to come forward within spiritual science in spite of everything. This was the hour when he placed the Crown of Thorns on his head; when he became the representative of the spiritual world in the dark materialistic world. He then stood before the eyes of the world, before eyes that looked upon him as a remarkable curiosity of the twentieth century. Others looked upon him as one who ought to be unmasked. A third group, however, looked upon him in such a way that they believed they had received a final and complete revelation from him so that independent research and work would become superfluous. Instead of becoming Anthroposophists, they became Steinerites.
Thus many eyes looked upon him wanting shamelessly to tear off his raiment: some were intent on finding what was imperfect in him; others, upon following him blindly and passively, thus setting the seal on the future of his work - to bring it about that it would not be carried further. This Crowning with Thorns, which happened at the beginning of the twentieth century, lasted until the end of his life, as did the Washing of the Feet and the Scourging. Furthermore, Rudolf Steiner found in the movement, which was then known throughout the whole world as the Theosophical Movement, a group of dillettantish but honest people who interested themselves in his work in a superficial but honest way. He took upon himself the Cross of taking charge of this community. He made the decision "to be his brothers' keeper" - we have already spoken of the meaning of these words and do not need to dwell on it further. I wanted only to say that he took charge of this community in which lived much that was 'unprofitable'. He wanted to bring them so far that in their development they would one day be in the position to represent spiritual science. One must say that this Carrying of the Cross, which began when he linked himself to this group, was something that from the human point of view, can appear quite differently than from a birds-eye perspective. For there developed in this community always a certain ponderousness, a certain weight which was consciously laid on him. Increasingly it happened that people came forward who would with awareness, indeed willfully, lay their burdens upon Rudolf Steiner - not only their personal burdens, but also those of the community. This found expression in the formula that still lives on: " The Doctor has said". With that formula all independent endeavour was finished - a full stop was placed in front of all questioning and striving. Rudolf Steiner, who always said it was a bad thing for authority to become decisive, became an authority in this community; not as a great, impulse giving, moral example of inward depth that one should follow, but as an authority in the fruits of knowledge, in his words. Thus all his words were crucified; nailed down with the formula, "The Doctor has said". That was something more painful to Rudolf Steiner than one might realise. He did not speak about it personally, only in general; what he had to bear, he alone knew. And one must say that for Rudolf Steiner, for whom the spiritual work which he had to do in the world, was the most important thing in his life, this attitude was something that could give rise to hopelessness.
So it was that the World War broke out in 1914 which really ought not to have happened if the Anthroposophical Society had risen to its tasks. For within the Anthroposophical Society were representatives of all the karmic streams of humanity, and there should have been peace between these streams. If the Society had then risen to the challenges, which through Rudolf Steiner were placed before it, events would not have come to a world war. 1914 was a year of great despair for those who awaited from the Society the fulfillment of its mission.
In spite of all this, even during the World War, Rudolf Steiner continued to carry on with his work - though indeed under conditions quite different than before. During the war, he was completely alone, and I mean alone not only in the human sense, but also in the spiritual sense. For in those times, Rudolf Steiner sacrificed the possibility of spiritual vision, of a claivoyant connection with the spiritual world. During the period of the war he, as it were, sacrificed the last and highest thing that he possessed: his spiritual vision; and he took upon himself the shattering spiritual task of being a representative of mankind with ordinary human consciousness. He did not want to be an exception. He wanted his karmic situation to be such that, during the events of the war, he would bring to expression a purely human knowledge and conscience. He wanted to demonstrate the worth of a purely human heroic deed and faithfulness to the spirit; and this deed could then be placed upon the scales of the karma of all of humanity.
During the World War, Rudolf Steiner was like a pillar, in the moral-spiritual sense of the word, which stood connecting the spiritual world with the physical; not in clairvoyant vision, but in the wakefulness of the ordinary human faculties of conscience and of faithfulness in will. It was a presence. There were moments when this presence was the only link that connected the earth with the spiritual world.
There were moments, during the time of the war and after, when the earth was connected with the heavens only by the thread of Rudolf Steiners' being. This was made possible through an awakened conscience. Rudolf Steiner stood as the embodied conscience of mankind. And one must say that even during this time, it was not right in the eyes of everyone that he should stand thus, for the world was then divided into two parts which fought each other. He was hated in Germany, even despised as one who was unfaithful to his people. And abroad there were people (including Anthroposophists) who turned away from him, regarding him as one who had fallen victim to German nationalism.
Thus it went on for a while. I can tell you of a shattering example. When Bolshevism broke out in Russia, quite a few Anthroposophists were living there. Among them were a few leading personalities who were of the opinion that, in spite of its clumsy and distasteful forms, Bolshevism was the dawning of the sixth culture in Russia. Then a pencilled note arrived in Moscow on which was written: "Rudolf Steiner says that Lenin and Trotzsky are enemies of mankind." Within twenty four hours there followed a revolution in the minds of the Anthroposophists. That is something shattering: how things actually were with regard to cognitive knowledge which should have stood essentially independent, and how, impelled by a mere note, there came a change of mind that was superficial.
In this situation Rudolf Steiner was, I should say, an awakener of conscience. And you will have noticed that the tragic tone increasingly pervaded his lectures form 1915-18. Increasingly he spoke of the fact that men must awaken to what was urgently needed, but he continually knocked on closed doors. In spite of this, the Christmas Conference was inaugurated. All the inner powers that Rudolf Steiner had given up during the World War, returned to him in an even finer and higher form.
Furthermore, during the Christmas Conference, Rudolf Steiner took upon himself the task of becoming, externally speaking, President of the Anthroposophical Society - of which he had not previously been a member and which he previously led, so to speak, only from without. He became President, that is the external fact. Behind this fact there stands the reality that Rudolf Steiner had made a karmic resolution to connect himself with this karmic community of men even more closely than before. Through this deed he had uttered the words that Christ Jesus once spoke to his disciples: "I will remain with you always even until the end of the Earth".
This is the inner meaning of the Christmas Conference; that he remains with the stream of mankind which he had formerly born as a cross, and into which he has now entered. That is the Crucifixion.
Men experienced the Christmas Conference as a happy event. Men reported, filled with joy, the fact that Rudolf Steiner had again made it possible to set up a spiritual school, that he was now within the Society as President. In reality, however, it was the Crucifixion of Rudolf Steiner. This fact later manifested itself right into the physical realm. The illness which he had developed and which brought on his death, was such that he had to become motionless in his limbs - he could not walk. And here I must say something of which it is my human duty to speak.
Rudolf Steiner had to become motionless in all his limbs. However, that he could to the very last, write and take a persons' hand, this we owe to a human being who stood by him lovingly and who wrested the power of his hands from the illness. It was one woman who achieved this. She was the person who stood faithfully by his side until the moment of death, and prevented what was going to happen from coming about completely: that he would become completely motionless in all his limbs. The Crucifixion was to have been complete; that it did not go as far as this, we owe to human help.
And then came the time of his death. On the day after, 'lots' were cast for his 'garments'. People disputed over the dignities which he had left behind: what belonged to whom. This dispute over Rudolf Steiners' 'garments' lasted for a long time.
And then began a sequence of events (this was already after his death - but the life path continues as an echo) which consisted in the fact that people little by little began to lay one portion after another of his work into the grave. His ashes are preserved in an urn in the New Goetheanum. Thither many people go every year. The building stands, and there his lectures are repeatedly read aloud. But what inwardly happens in reality is that Rudolf Steiner is relegated ever more into the past. People speak of what he was, quote what he said, tell that he ordained this and that; all rights that one had claim to and possess go back to him. Whether in the way of knowledge or of practical life, the threads are traced back into the past. And at present Rudolf Steiners' being is becoming paler and paler. He is set back further and further into the past.
At this time a human voice that would presume to bring to expression something of his living being would be the most superfluous and damaging of voices. At present Rudolf Steiner is compelled to be silent. Everything fundamental has been said, there is no need to know more; his voice has become superfluous. What, however, is necessary and significant is the building, the books, the ashes in the urn and the memory of the rights which he conferred upon different individuals. He is the source of the rights that people now have. What is happening is the Entombment. Inwardly one could say that one continually hears the blows of the hammer, pounding shut the grave of Rudolf Steiner. Nails are constantly being hammered into the coffin in order that it should stay shut, that Rudolf Steiner should not work on, that his teaching not become clear, and that men should not meet him as a living being. One hears inwardly the blows of the hammer on the coffin of Rudolf Steiner, and these blows are the words of the formula: "The Doctor has said." That means: he has already said everything, he has spoken therefore we need say nothing more. The hammer blows of death ring through the words: "The Doctor has said."
If we inwardly have this picture of the Entombment before us, then of necessity we must face the question which our soul raises about the Resurrection. At the present time there can be a hope of the Resurrection of Rudolf Steiner, the hope that men will give him the possibility of rising again, of being present, of doing deeds. This possibility will be given to him if men do not only look back upon the past, seeing it alone as the source of everything out of which it is possible to be creative. Monuments, not tombstones, should be erected to him. Tombstones put the seal upon a grave, a monument is a memorial, a definite sign that helps a connection to be made with the present. And there is hope that if there are individuals who are inwardly prepared to lead their lives in accord with Rudolf Steiners' monument - to erect monuments to him in their inner being - that then it will be possible for him to bring to fulfillment what he intended when, during the Christmas Conference he had completed his deed of entering the Society as President. Then the possibility will be given to him of fulfilling the deed which he silently undertook to carry out: "I will remain with you."
Rudolf Steiner was a follower and pupil of Christ Jesus. He portrayed Him in his carved statue because he had met Him. He went His way: he carried out the Washing of the Feet by interesting himself in others, while remaining alone in his own interests. He followed in the steps of the Master, in that he too, was a scourged one, crowned with thorns, who became the "keeper of his brother", who went through all these stages on his lifes' journey, who united the karmic current of the Anthroposophical Society, who was crucified, to pursue the path, to "remain with you until the end".
The being of Rudolf Steiner has not ascended into higher 'spheres'. He is here and knocks upon closed doors, closed because people look away, up the hill, to the archives, saying "The Doctor has said." One may hope that a reunion with the living Rudolf Steiner will be possible if at present people turn their gaze to the spiritual world in their entire endeavour; if people find in themselves the courage to link themselves directly with the world of spirit and to concern themselves with it; if people turn their gaze to the spiritual world as the source of answers to questions. If we do not keep a living connection with the world of spirit then the doors will remain closed! If, however we place ourselves in our inner moral consciousness, in a vertical alignment with the living spirit, each for himself, then there is hope that the seventh stage of the course of Rudolf Steiners' life, of his path-through-suffering, will also find its' realization. Indeed everyone, every Anthroposophist, ought to become a human monument to Rudolf Steiner - to him whose presence is in the present.
It is not yet possible to speak of these things in a worthy manner, but I have spoken out so far as has been possible for me to do at this time. I ask you once again to believe that I wish to criticize no one among those who belong to the Anthroposophical Movement, even if I seem to do so. I had only Rudolf Steiner in my minds' eye, and no one else.