An attempt is made here to establish a relationship to the sources and basic philosophical ideas that lay at the foundation of R. Steiner's work, to open him up for literary discussion, something hitherto not possible due to the intuition-hypothesis. Steiner came to Theosophy with a doctorate in philosophy, and a first step therefore would be to approach his work from that viewpoint. Steiner involved himself in his pre-theosophical period, from 1881 till 1901 as he describes in his biography, with a study of Goethe. He separated himself from critical philosophy and instead via Goethe [1] and German Idealism, aligned himself with a Monism of a platonic and neoplatonic nature. Especially Giordano Bruno [2] and Spinosa [3], were as Steiner stated important in that context, and is exemplified by a description of his worldview given at the end of his life in his self-biography [4]. We have detailed descriptions of Goethe's library and archives where Steiner worked many years, as the archivist. Goethe biographer R.C. Zimmerman [5] points out that in the various hermetic books in Goethe's library of the 17th and 18th century we find glimpses of Goethe's "private religion". Among others were found here literature of the "Gold and Rosenkreuzer" of the "Asiatic Brethern" also called "Fratres Lucis," (who according to Introvigne [6] influenced Cagliostro's Egyptian rite). Steiner admired on the Rosicrucians of the 17th and 18th century that they developed Natural Science in a hermetic context, without becoming materialistic. In his theosophical period Steiner's developed an evolutionary concept that is similarly not materialistic, based on a monistic, Body- Soul- Spirit concept.

By 1902 Steiner had found entrance to theosophical circles and as the newly formed Society with as President Dr. Heubbe Schleiden needed a General Secretary, Steiner accepted this as his new profession [7]. R. Steiner stated [8] that: "I will only be available for an organization ("movement") that connects to western occultism, and only that". As he did not find sufficient welcome ears with his Monism in the Giordano Bruno Bund [9], he did so in the Theosophical Society. After all, there were indeed similarities between the Monism represented by H.P.B. and that of Steiner, both saw the world and the Universe as one living organism. And by referring to H.P.B., Steiner could expand his own Monism in relation to Cosmology, History, and esoteric training. In a letter to his later wife Marie von Sivers, he writes in 1904: "I joined the theosophical movement because it has been in my blood and soul forever. And I know that only with Theosophy did I find my right place" [10]. A pattern thus emerges, where H.P.B. wrote "Isis unveiled" based on Hermetism, Steiner took on this topic in his book "Theosophy." In "The Secret Doctrine" H.P.B. developed a Cosmology, Anthropology, and historical presentation, a topic that Steiner took on in his "Occult (in German "Secret") Science ". H.P.B. published in the 3. part of the Secret Doctrine suggestions for an esoteric training, and Steiner commented on this in his "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds." Steiner's later lectures were a commentary based on these three basic works. In his autobiography Steiner writes that he duplicated H.P.B's writings in his own way [11]. Steiner was familiar with the German edition of H.P.B.'s works edited by Froebe, who included a list of many of the sources used by H.P.B.

And in accordance to his being a University trained philosopher, he apparently looked up many of these sources, and started as it appears a reconstruction of H.P.B.'s writings. One can recognize in his "Theosophy" and "Occult Science " the same elements contained in the "Corpus Hermeticum" and "Trismegistos Poimandros." The "higher reflects itself in the lower ", that is according to Steiner the soul reflects itself in what becomes the lower and by (re)uniting with it, develops higher states of being counting seven levels of Man/consciousness. After death the soul travels through the different spheres and returns to its origin. Steiner places the ideas of new-platonic psychology (Nous, psyche, Hype) in a larger hierarchical structure as a "Microcosm-Macrocosm" analogy and extensive Cosmology. In this he follows the hellenistic example, only its ultimate form and vocabulary (German), was his own. This hierarchical structure differentiated somewhat from the one used by H.P.B. and is however identical with that of Robert Fludd, who also used the term "Theosophy and Anthroposophie" before Steiner did.

Steiner utilized many (directly or indirectly) cabbalistic elements, that were available through the translations of Knorr von Rosenroth (later popularized in Golden Dawn circles) and the works of 17th/18th century Rosicrucians. Where by sources like Isaac Luria and Gikatilla already, contained elements like "cosmic cycles, the Guardian of the threshold, ancient worlds, "and so on, only framed in a different vocabulary. The Kabbala had entered the Renaissance stage at almost the same time the rediscovered hermetic writings were gaining wide dissemination in Europe.

The initial impetus for study of Kaballa as a Christian Science and for ist integration with Hermeticism came from Pico Della Mirandola (l463-94). And continued with Agrippa Von Nettesheim, John Dee, Reuchlin, Knorr von Rosenroth. And as we have seen transferred to the teachings of Rosicrucians and Theosophical Illuminates of the 17th/18th century and French masonry, where they were especially promoted in the l9th century by Eliphas Levi and Papus. H.P.B. during her visit to Paris in the l850's probably studied these occult systems. It is from a mix of neuplatonic hermetic ideas, and Luria's Kaballa that the idea of reincarnation especially during the l4th and l7th century found entrance into European culture, long before similar teachings arrived directly from India. Steiner's ideas of reincarnation appear to have derived from these hermetic sources, and fits in with his "Western" orientation. In his attempt to "re-write", Steiner in many instances duplicated H.P.B., evidenced by errors in H.P.B.'s much earlier writings, that reappeared uncorrected in Steiners work. For example both H.P.B. and Steiner place the Corpus Hermetic in early Pharaoh times instead of during the Hellenistic period. Both place the Kabbala of the middle ages in Rabbinistic time periods. Both assumed that the Greek mysteries had similar contents as the cabbalist- neuplatonic ideas. Both assumed that all religions derived from one archetypal religion. Steiner therefore, in contrast to what is claimed in recent [12]criticisms was not so much interested in Gnosticism as he was in Hermetism, because for him, based on H.P.B.'s work, Gnosis derived from Hermetism, whereby today we know it is the other way around. It is at this juncture however that an important difference emerged in how the further development of this archetypal, "one" religion was seen by both Steiner and H.P.B. Steiner in his stanch Catholic upbringing stood in contrast to the decidedly anti-Catholic, and some would argue, partly anti-Christian, stanch of H.P.B. that Steiner attempted to "correct" in his version of Theosophy [13]. And it is in this context not surprising that Steiner followed the conservative Christian two phase model of revelation, started with Augustin and the other church fathers at the time and led to a strict separating Christianity from the old mysteries, projected in the writings of Lukas and the words of Paulus. Again, this background has not been understood even in the analysis of Steiner [14] and is due to other elements in Steiner's points of view that derive from occult 19th century sources. Definitely Steiner did not belong to the Ordo Templi Orientis. An rumour first started in Francis King "History of Ritual Magic in England", based on a German correspondent that claimed Steiner to be a member of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. And still leaving unanswered certain remarks of Steiner indicating affiliations of an esoteric nature other then the Theosophical Society (see insert) and would have to be the subject of a separate study.

We can characterize, Steiner's Theosophy-Anthroposophy in philosophical terms by observing that he states: The world/Universe forms a spiritual physical whole. He uses a Microcosm-Macrocosm analogy, he sees Man as a first member of cosmic evolution, and not as its last (like the materialistic monists do). A human being duplicate in his biographical development the history of the world/Universe. In conclusion we can therefore observe a clear pattern emerging from Steiner's early philosophical period till the end of his theosophical-antroposophical period and there is not, a hitherto assumed "break" as of 1902. Instead both periods were marked by his particular form of Monism worded in a different way.

 Rudolf Steiner’s "mystery plays"
 

[1] Steiner, Rudolf: Einleitungen zu Goethes Naturwisschaftlichen Schriften, Lizenzausgabe Freiburg, 1949, S116f. "So geht dann freilich der Ausbau meiner Ansichten seit Jahren parallel mit dem Studium Goethes und ich habe nie einen prinzipiellen Gegensatz zwischen meinen Grundansichten und der Goetheschen wissenschaftlichen Tätigkeit gefunden."

[2] Steiner, Rudolf: Einleitungen zu Goethes Naturwissenschaftlichen Schriften, S 199. Goethe "erhält von ihm (Bruno) einen so tiefen Eindruck, dass wir ihn in jenen Teilen des Faust, die, der Konzeption nach, aus der Zeit um 1770 stammen, (...), sprachliche Anklänge an Sätze von Bruno finden."

[3] Steiner, Rudolf: Einleitungen zu Goethes Naturwissenschaftlichen Schriften, S 68. "Die Wirkung dieses Philosophen auf Goethe war nun eine ungeheure": "Der Gott Spinozas ist der Ideengehalt der Welt, das treibende, alles stützende und alles tragende Prinzip."

[4] Steiner, Rudolf: "Mein Lebensgang," S 268. "Dem, was dem Menschen als Geist erscheint, und der Natur, liegt etwas zugrunde, das weder Geist, noch Natur ist, sondern die vollkommene Einheit beider. Diese Einheit: schaffender Geist, der den Stoff in seinem Schaffen zum Dasein bringt und dadurch zugleich Stoff ist, der ganz als Geist sich darstellt: Diese Einheit wird durch eine Idee begriffen, die den damaligen Denkgewohnheiten (er meint zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts) so fern wie möglich lag. Von einer solchen Idee aber hätte gesprochen werden müssen, wenn ( ... ) die heute noch im Menschen selbst tätigen geistig-stofflichen Mächte hätten dargestellt werden sollen, die auf der einen Seite seinen Körper bilden, auf der anderen das lebendige Geistige aus sich hervorgehen lassen, durch das er die Kultur schafft."

[5] Zimmermann, Rolf Christian: Das Weltbild des jungen Goethe, Studien zur hermetischen Tradition des deutschen 18. Jahrhunderts, 2 Bdd., München, 1969, Ge 69/7928(a).

[6] Introvigne: "Arcan Arcanorum," Szyzygy, 1992.

[7] Steiner, Rudolf: "Briefe 1890 - 1925", Bd. 2, GA 39, S. 434.

[8] Hg. Hella Wiesberger, Dornach. 1988, p.116.

[9] Steiner, Rudolf: "Mein Lebensgang," S 227.

[10] Steiner, Rudolf: "Briefe 1890 - 1925", Bd. 2, GA 39, S 434.

[11] Steiner, Rudolf: "Mein Lebensgang," S 389.

[12] Jan Badewien, Anthroposophie - Eine kritische Darstellung, Konstanz, 1985 S125f.

[13] Steiner, Rudolf: Die Geschichte und die Bedingungen der anthroposophischen Bewegung im Verhältnis zur Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft, GA 258, S106. Aber "alle diese Mysterien (des Altertums, welche Blavatsky wiederbeleben wollte), können nur das begreifen, was Vorbereitung für den Christus ist."

[14] In einer ausführlichen Analyse der Steinerschen Theologie hat der evangelische Theologe Gassmann, den augenblicklichen Forschungsstand zusammenfassend, feststellen müssen, daß sich Steiners Aussagen mit einem Verständnis der modernen Bibelexegese nicht vereinbaren lassen: Gassmann, Lothar: Das anthroposophische Bibelverständnis, Wuppertal/Zürich 1993.



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