This study has been made with a view towards recapturing something of the bold and vibrant eclecticism that characterized the spiritual ambience of the Rosicrucian Fellowship during its first decade of existence.
While the study demonstrates many points of affinity between the teachings of Max Heindel and Rudolf Steiner, it is emphatically not our intention to try to make converts to Anthroposophy, the term Steiner later used to designate his body of teachings. Rather do we believe that Christ-emulating, self-forgetting service, an ideal and practice tirelessly stressed by Max Heindel, is the proper focus for the Western spiritual aspirant. The pursuit of knowledge is subsumed by and ordered to the practice of this service.
Nevertheless, in the application of supersensible truths to our daily affairs—in education, medicine, art, farming, and social organization, to name a few areas—Steiner’s science of spirit shows that Rosicrucian wisdom is eminently practical and ameliorative. Fellowship members can admit to considerable room for development in this direction; that is, we are called to make our higher knowledge fruitful for and directly serviceable to the needs of the four Kingdoms of nature evolving on this planet.
All organizations face the prospect of entropy, of becoming ingrown, increasingly conservative, tradition-bound, preoccupied with rules, dogmatic and rigid—until they are no longer able to respond to their founding impulse. The Rosicrucian Fellowship needs to remain sensitive and compliant to the creative impulses of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of living Truth.
Our earnest hope is that this study will help counter the tendency to organizational entropy by promoting a recovery of the open receptive conditions that prevailed at the time of the Fellowship’s inception.
If the reader can conclude, upon digesting the contents of this study, that indeed Fellowship members can benefit from an exposure to a wider range of esoteric disclosures (of which the Steiner opus is a notable example) that complement, amplify, and ground the body of original teachings vouchsafed by Max Heindel, disclosures that engage the intellectual and spiritual needs of the Christ-centered individual, then it shall have achieved its purpose.
This study has been prepared to enable the student of Rosicrucian Christianity to expand upon the range of wisdom resources that have been available to him through the work of Max Heindel. In doing so, we come, as it were, full circle, by once again encountering the name of Rudolf Steiner, whose voluminous public disclosures on the science of spirit and Rosicrucian Christianity once served as (at least) a collateral source for Max Heindel’s enlightening books, most notably The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. Many persons who are familiar with the Rosicrucian teachings as presented by Max Heindel have never heard of Rudolf Steiner. Some have passing awareness of the name and may even connect it with one or more of the movements and institutions Steiner initiated, including the Waldorf schools, Biodynamic farming, the Camphill movement, Anthroposophic medicine, and the art form of Eurythmy.
Particularly among Heindel “loyalists” one may encounter views about Steiner that are cited as grounds for rejecting any value his teachings may have for students of Rosicrucian esoteric Christianity, and thus, members of the Rosicrucian Fellowship. We sincerely hope to minimize the concern some Heindel devotees might feel in providing this material and advancing this connection by citing Heindel’s own deeply-held belief that Truth is one, but its manifestations and purveyors are manifold. It is not the messenger we seek but the message. So we hasten to say that Fellowship teachings are, for the most part, not from Max Heindel, but through him. Likewise, Rudolf Steiner is not sourcing or generating truths of spiritual science, but transmitting them. His achievement, as Max Heindel’s, is in attaining to the level where both can serve humanity in their respective and mutual capacities as self-conscious channels for the flow of esoteric truths from the higher worlds, albeit through the lens and language of their individual personalities.
It is this latter feature, the unique individuality, that largely accounts for the distinctive style and “vibration” of Heindel’s and Steiner’s presentations. Some students will have more affinity for one than the other. This is natural. But, as what follows will show, both trod the Rosicrucian path and both have contributed to our understanding it. From a collective point of view, we feel that the Rosicrucian Fellowship can greatly benefit from a rehabilitated Steiner, in whom it can recognize a kindred spirit whose bequest of Rosicrucian Christian wisdom can enrich our lives.
Let us get specific. We shall first review the claims of Steiner’s critics to see if they have a basis in fact.
(1) At the urging of a
close friend, Max Heindel went to
If this report by Heindel’s wife is true, how does one explain the similarity, and at times Congruence, between most of the text of The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception and Steiner’s books and lectures already in print by the time of Heindel’s visit? (The reader is directed to the collation of selected texts of both authors in Section 2, beginning on page 43.) If the above statement is true, why does Heindel dedicate the first edition of the Cosmo “To my valued friend, DR. RUDOLPH STEINER, in grateful recognition of much valuable information received”? (Capital letters and spelling of the first name are in the original.) Is the “valuable information” in the Cosmo? We need not merely wonder. Aside from Heindel’s implying that it is, a survey of the accompanying references shows a recurring parallelism and equivalence between Heindel texts and pre-existing Steiner material. One must take Heindel’s dedicatory statement at face value; otherwise, we must equally doubt the truth and accuracy of the Cosmo itself.
The Memoirs also allege (p. 3) that Max Heindel’s disappointment with Steiner’s teachings was “greatly resented” by the friend who had urged him to hear Steiner—and Heindel’s purported reaction “broke up the friendship between them.” Again, the facts tell another story, for Heindel co-dedicated the Cosmo’s first edition to this very person, “my friend, DR. ALMA VON BRANDIS, in heartfelt appreciation of the inestimable influence for soul-growth she has exercised in my life.”
(One might reasonably ask why the Cosmo was not dedicated to the Elder Brother if he was the source of the material. But nowhere in the book is this connection stated. Moreover, the first edition does not contain a description of the Rosicrucian Order, or its composition and division of labor; nor are the stages of Rosicrucian Initiation described. An addendum was inserted in later editions, including pages 515-518 and 520-530, to bring the book up to its present form. The specifically Rosicrucian Initiation will be considered later in this study.)
(2) The Memoirs also relate that “the candidate whom they [the Elder Brothers] had first chosen [to receive the Teachings], who had been under their instruction for several years...had failed to pass his test in 1905” (p. 4). What was this test? We are not told. Assuming the report is true, we would assume the test was similar to that given Heindel; namely, to always be “zealous in disseminating our teachings...that is the real condition of receiving the teachings” (Ancient and Modern Initiation, p. 102). But the teachings in the Cosmo had already been made public by Steiner, beginning in 1902. In fact, his entire life was dedicated to giving the world a reason-based exposition of the science of spirit.
Let Steiner speak for himself about giving the Teachings to the world:
“This book itself is personal instruction. In earlier times there were reasons for reserving such personal instruction for oral teaching; today we have reached a stage in the evolution of humanity in which spiritual scientific knowledge must become far more widely disseminated than formerly. It must be placed within the reach of everyone to a quite different extent from what was the case in older times. Hence the book replaces the former oral instruction.”—Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, 1904, p. 269
“And not a day passes when the Masters do not give a clear warning: ‘Be careful, think of the unprepared ness of your time. You have children before you and it is your destiny to reveal elevated secret teachings to children. Be aware that through your words you are raising wrongdoers.’ I can only say that had the Master not convinced me that, in spite of all this, theosophy is necessary for our age, I would only have written philosophical books and lectured on literature and philosophy even after 1901.”—Letter to Marie von Sivers (future Mrs. Steiner), January 9, 1905, Correspondence and Documents, p. 47.
“It [a recently published article] contains important things about the evolution of the etheric body. This, however, makes it deeply esoteric and some of it will be a bit of a surprise for those who have not progressed beyond enumerating various ‘bodies.’ But these things must be made public now.” Letter, April 17, 1905, ibid, p. 56.
“Thus from all directions I experienced this question: ‘How can a way be found whereby that which is inwardly beheld as true may be set forth in such forms of expression as can be understood by this age?”—The Course of My Life, p. 254. This is the title of Steiner’s autobiography, tracing the development of his soul and spirit, written during the last two years of his life to clear the air of many misconceptions and slanders he and his teachings encountered. His death in 1925 stopped the narrative at the year 1907. The above question pertains to the seer’s spiritual state in approximately 1895. Here follow quotes pertaining to the public disclosure of Steiner’s first-hand knowledge drawn from this same source and presented in the order of their narration.
“For a considerable time previously [before 1897] I had thought of presenting to the contemporary world, through a periodical, those spiritual impulses which I believed ought to be brought before the public of that time. I would not ‘become silent,’ but would say as much as it was possible to say.”—p. 256
“The thought then hovered before me that the turn of the century must bring a new spiritual light to humanity. It seemed to me that the exclusion of the spiritual from human thinking and willing had reached a climax. A change of direction in the process of human evolution seemed to me a matter of necessity. Many were speaking in this way. But they did not see that man will seek to direct his attention to a real world of spirit as he directs it through the senses to nature. They supposed only that the subjective spiritual temper of the mind would undergo a change. That a real, new objective world could be revealed [as Steiner soon began to do]—such a thought lay beyond the range of vision of that time.”—ibid, p. 277 (Bolding emphasis here and hereafter is added, unless otherwise noted.)
“If I was to develop a public activity on behalf of spiritual knowledge, I had to decide to break with this tradition [of secrecy]. I found myself confronted by the requirements of the contemporary spiritual life. In the presence of these, the practice of keeping things secret, which was a matter of course in ancient times, was an impossibility. We live in the age which demands publicity wherever any kind of knowledge appears. The point of view favoring the preservation of mysteries is an anachronism...Moreover, I was under no obligation to any one to guard mysteries, for I accepted nothing out of ‘ancient wisdom’; what I possess of spiritual knowledge is entirely the result of my own research....Thus, after a certain point of time , it was quite clear to me that in the public presentation of spiritual knowledge I should be doing the right thing.”—ibid, pp. 295-296.
“There was now  no longer any reason why I should not bring forward this spiritual knowledge in my own way before the Theosophical public, which was then the only audience that responded without restriction to a knowledge of the spirit. I subscribed to no sectarian dogmatics; I remained a person who uttered what he believed he was able to utter entirely according to what he himself experienced as the world of spirit.”—ibid, p. 300, italics in original.
Since one of the greatest criticisms of Rudolf Steiner is his alleged refusal to “go public” with the wisdom teachings the Elder Brothers wished to impart, we cite several more passages to show the frivolousness of such an allegation:
“The facts related above show that the intention to impart the content of the world of spirit had already become a necessity growing out of my state of soul....from 1897 to 1900...I passed through the most intense spiritual testing. I learned to know fundamentally where lie the forces of the time, striving away from the spirit, disintegrating and destructive of culture, and from this knowledge came a great access of the force that I later needed in order to work out of the spirit.”—ibid, p. 304
“[A] feeling of boundless responsibility [weighs on] those who, through a spiritual calling [literally], feel obliged to speak out about spiritual regions of existence.”—Theosophy of the Rosicrucian, 1907, p. 17
“For the modern human being, there is an infallible possibility of deciding what portion of the content of spiritual perception can be imparted to wider circles. This can be done with everything which the researcher can clothe in such ideas as are appropriate to the consciousness-soul [the I- or Ego-bearer] and also are prevalent, as to their character, in recognized science.”—ibid, p. 323
From an esoteric point of view, Steiner was marking time until he received authorization to proceed with the public promulgation of Rosicrucian Teachings. Even in the 1880’s and 90’s, he was fully cognizant of the higher worlds, but the time was not yet ripe for disclosure: “The spiritual forces standing behind me gave me only one piece of advice: ‘Everything in the guise of Idealistic philosophy.’”—Correspondence and Documents, p. 11
“Eventually, in harmony with the spiritual forces which stood behind me, I was able to say to myself: You have provided the philosophical foundation for a world conception [in the book The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity]...no one will be able to say: this esotericist speaks of the spiritual world because he is ignorant of the philosophical and scientific development of our time. By this time  I had also reached my fortieth year. Before this time no one must present themselves publicly as a teacher of esotericism in the sense of the Masters.” Correspondences and Documents, p. 14. It is clear that Steiner’s life’s mission was to “go public” with original esoteric teachings.
“Now that such communications [‘about events and beings of the higher worlds’] are actually being presented in [Steiner’s] literature and lectures...it has now  become possible to learn something of what formerly was communicated only in strictly guarded occult schools. As has been frequently mentioned, it is owing to the special conditions of our time that these things are and must be published.”—Stages of Higher Knowledge, 1904, p. 46
“A pledge of silence cannot be imposed on him who is not indebted to anyone else for his store of spiritual insight. That forms the basis for discriminating between this movement and other movements....Therefore I must emphasize repeatedly: I need remain silent only about those things that I know may not be divulged because the people of today are unripe to receive them. But there is nothing that I have to remain silent about because of a pledge or anything of that sort that I have made to anyone. Never has anything entered into this movement that has come from elsewhere. This movement has never been spiritually dependent on any other; the connections were only external.”—Lecture, Dornach, December 15, 1918, History and Contents, pp. 18-19,
“It is necessary for me to publish these occult-scientific writings that Luzifer [a magazine devoted to disseminating the early results of Steiner’s clairvoyant investigations] has produced lately. The responsibility of that alone weighs me down. And I have to test each line and every turn of phrase ten times over in order to reproduce the spiritual content, as it is my duty to do, which is imparted to me in quite a different form and language.”—Letter to Günter Wagner (a student receiving esoteric instruction), July 23, 1905, History and Contents, p. 97
“In the current phase of human development, occultism must be publicly spelled out—with, of course, all the limitations that are imposed on us by the sacred Masters; but one will have to speak from a truly occult point of view when imparting such instruction.”—Letter to Annie Besant, July, 1906, History and Contents, p. 271
“[M]y attitude toward those who trust me will never be other than what I can hold myself responsible for through my own knowledge toward those we call the Masters. Once more I emphasize: Whoever has no faith in me in these matters should pay no attention to me. I will impart the message to whomever I can, but I do not desire that anyone accept what I say in any way other than heartfelt conviction.”—Letter to “all those members of the German Section [of the T. S.] who look to me for esoteric training,” May 4, 1907, Hist. & Cont., p. 299
“My first lecturing activity  within the circles which had grown out of the Theosophical Movement had to be planned according to the temper of mind of these circles. Theosophical literature had been read there, and people were used to certain forms of expression for certain things. I had to hold to these if I wished to be understood. Only with the lapse of time and the progress of the work was I able gradually to pursue my own course also in the forms of expression used.”—ibid, p. 328
Steiner has been alleged to be a proponent of theosophical ideas as they are expounded by Madame Blavatsky and her successor Annie Besant. Consequently, so goes this line of argument, Steiner is tied in with Eastern religion, even negative clairvoyance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Again, let the source material speak for itself on these three points: Steiner’s relation to (a) Theosophy, (b) Eastern religion, and (c) the kind of clairvoyance he used to obtain his information.
Steiner became a member of the Theosophical Society on January 17, 1902 because “the leader at that time of the German Theosophical Society...suggested to me that I should join the Society—and at the same time that I should become Chairman. This created a situation whereby I did not join a society as an ordinary member but entered it to give what was not previously there, what it did not previously possess. I never made any kind of application to become a member of the Society, but I said, if it wants to have me it can have me. I took care—speaking of external matters as well—to free myself from all fees....The moment when I joined the T.S. was the conclusion for me of many years of inner development. I did not join until I knew that the spiritual forces whom I must serve were present in the T.S. And from that point on it was completely clear to me that I was to be a member of the T.S.”—Correspondence and Documents, pp. 270-271
Upon being approached in 1900 to give regular lectures before a branch of the T.S., Steiner “explained, however, that I could speak only about what I vitally experienced within myself as spiritual science. Indeed, I could speak of nothing else. For very little of the literature coming from the T.S. was known to me...What I knew otherwise of the literature was for the most part entirely uncongenial to me in method and approach; I had no possibility anywhere of connecting my expositions with this literature....No one was left in uncertainty of the fact that I would bring forward in the T.S. only the results of my own research through direct vision.”—Course of My Life, pp. 298-299, italics in the original, emphasis added.
“[A] large part of the members were fanatical followers of individual heads of the T.S. They swore by the dogmas given out by these heads, who acted in a strongly sectarian spirit. This way of working of the T.S. repelled me by the triviality and dilettantism inherent in it....I could never have worked in the way these Theosophists worked. But I considered what existed among them as a spiritual center with which a worthy connection could be formed if the spread of spiritual knowledge in the deepest sense was taken seriously. Thus it was not the membership united in the T.S. upon which Marie von Sivers and I counted, but those persons in general who shared with heart and mind when knowledge of the spirit in a serious sense was fostered....I made it clear that this [German] section would never conduct itself as the representative of set dogmas, but as a place for independent spiritual research.”—ibid, pp. 313, 315
“I took that way of thinking which rightly passes as ‘scientific’ in the knowledge of nature and developed this for knowledge of the spirit....For just this way of giving scientific form to knowledge of the spirit those persons who considered themselves the bearers of the Theosophical Movement at the beginning of the century had neither understanding nor interest.”—ibid, p. 317
“[N]ot by reason of any kind of special measures taken by me, but as a matter of inner necessity, the Theosophical element dried up and the Anthroposophical element unfolded in an evolution determined by inner conditions....If I gave any attention to the teachings customary in the Society, when I composed my own writings on spiritual knowledge, it was only for the purpose of dealing correctively with one thing or another which I considered erroneous in these teachings”—ibid, pp. 320-1
“[T]he connection [between the esoteric school which Steiner founded in 1903 and the esoteric school of Mrs. Besant] consisted solely in the arrangements and not in what I imparted from the world of spirit...and in 1907...even the external connection came altogether to an end between Mrs. Besant and me. That I could have learned anything special in the Esoteric School of Mrs Besant is beyond the bounds of possibility, since from the beginning I never participated in the exercises of this school except in a few instances in which my participation was for the purpose of informing myself as to what took place there.”—ibid, p. 324
When Steiner used the term “Theosophy” to describe his own teachings, he did so in the same sense as characterized by Max Heindel in his answer to Question No. 178 in Rosicrucian Philosophy in Questions and Answers, Volume 1, (pp. 358-60): “If we take Theosophy as meaning Theo Sophia (Divine Wisdom), then, of course, the Rosicrucian Philosophy is only part of that Divine Wisdom.” Thus Steiner emphatically reiterated the distinction between the Theosophical Movement, a purely spiritual impulse, and the Theosophical Society, a strictly human endeavor:
“When one talks about the outward Theosophical Society, one must never, however, even mention the occult personalities who stood over its inception. The powers who live on the higher planes and who live for the sake of mankind’s evolution, outside of the physical body, never interfere in these affairs. They never impart anything but impulses....When it concerns the propagation of occult life, it is the Masters who speak. When it only concerns the organization of the Society, then they leave it to those who are living on the physical plane.”—Lecture, “The Relationship of Occultism to the Theosophical Movement,” Berlin, October 22, 1905, from The Temple Legend, twenty lectures given in Berlin between 1904 and 1906, p. 230
It is noteworthy that Max Heindel makes a statement comparable to the above with respect to the relation between the Elder Brothers and the Rosicrucian Fellowship, a statement that contradicts a popular assumption: “The Rosicrucian Fellowship is not backed by these teachers or inspired by them....let people obtain this teaching anywhere they please.”—1 Q & A, pp. 362-63
“So we have two modern currents. The one has brought the old into
the present and seeks to check progress with all its might. The other has
surrounded the old Cross with roses. It has grafted a new shoot—the Cross
entwined with roses. These two currents run parallel with each other, the one
order having a Cross without roses, and the other, which reveres the roses on a
new Cross, which must come. These are the Rosicrucians. The theosophical
movement grew out of this current; it springs from the newly flourishing scion
of the rose, which must mature in the future.”—The
“[T]he Theosophical Society is merely an outer instrument...it has
been built up, as all human institutions have been, on human weakness and human
judgment. Even the greatest of the Masters...cannot concern themselves with the
outward founding of societies....it is not the framework but the spirit needed
by people.”—Lecture, “The Masters: Inspirers of the Theosophical Movement,”
“Thus the endeavor of Theosophy is no less than the endeavor to become conscious of the creative soul-spirit-beings of the universe....Thus, from our own hearts and the layers of our soul we can extract the primal enigma and its solution to how the world itself originated.”—ibid, p. 342
“We will only fully comprehend Theosophy—the idea of
brotherhood—when we can sit together amiably in a group where there is the
greatest variety of thoughts....That is
just the strong point of theosophists—to remain on a basis of fellowship, even
when they hold different opinions.”—Lecture, “The Original Impulse Behind
the Theosophical Movement: the Brotherhood Idea,”
“Theosophy should not be a dogma, but an expression of love.
People should help each other—that is, put
love before opinions—and that will introduce a common spirit into human
evolution. That is a practical side of what must be developed in the
theosophical movement.”—Lecture, “Why is There a Theosophical Movement Today?”,
Steiner’s use of the word “theosophy” for his own purposes is clear in the following quotes:
“Properly understood, it must be the task of theosophy, or of
spiritual science in general, to show that the Christian religion calls for
penetration into the deepest Wisdom teachings. Theosophy is not a religion, but
an instrument for understanding the religions....Its sources are not in ancient documents, nor do they rest upon
tradition; they lie in the reality of the spiritual worlds. It is there that
they must be found and grasped by the development of a man’s own spiritual
powers.”—Guidance in Esoteric
Training, p. 13, lecture given in
“What, in effect, is Theology? A knowledge of God imposed from
without under the form of dogma, as a kind of supernatural logic. And what is
Theosophy? A knowledge of God which blossoms like a flower in the depths of the
individual soul.”—An Esoteric Cosmology,
eighteen lectures given in
Steiner’s most negative characterization of that form of theosophy
which was introduced by Blavatsky and built up around her several books, was
made in a long lecture given in
Heindel loyalists, perhaps fearful that his stature will be compromised if his Western orientation is not clearly established, are quick to look upon Steiner’s theosophical associations as somehow invalidating his relevance to their spiritual interests. But they best tread lightly here, for while, by his own words, Steiner never subscribed to the theosophical teachings as disseminated by Helena Blavatsky, and exclusively taught the results of his own spiritual research, which could be characterized from the outset (1902) as Rosicrucian Christianity, Max Heindel, to the end of his life, was highly praising of Blavatsky’s work. In his early book, Blavatsky and the Secret Doctrine, Heindel describes the Russian-born clairvoyant as “a worthy messenger of the Masters,” whose Secret Doctrine “is one of the most remarkable books in the world” (pp. 33, 34). In the Cosmo Heindel sought to show how “two such valuable works” as The Secret Doctrine and Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism could be reconciled (p. 270 ff). But surely this is not a concern of the Elder Brother, for both these works pertain to Eastern occultism. Nor, as certainly, did the Elder Brother praise these works for Heindel’s edification and promotion.
Steiner is under no illusions regarding these two Eastern-oriented books: “Rosicrucian-Christian [esotericism]...has sprung out of the Western way of life, and to lose this would be for humankind to deny the sense and destiny of Earth. Only in this kind of esotericism can the harmony between Science and Religion come to fruition, whereas any other kind of amalgam of Western Knowledge with the Eastern esotericism produces only such unfruitful bastard products as Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism....Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism and Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine are examples of...the wrong solution [because, as two diagrams attending this statement make clear, the teachings in these books do not take account of the transformative impact of Christ on humanity and world evolution].”—Confidential statement to esoteric members, May, 1907, History and Contents, pp. 330-33.
While Steiner admired Blavatsky’s courage and fortitude, and was fascinated by her atavistic clairvoyance, he regarded her books as gravely flawed and skewed toward an Atlantean wisdom acquired in a state of dream-consciousness. Our question to the Occidental purists is, who is more thoroughly defending their turf and protecting it from Eastern influence? We hasten to add that we think such concerns for exclusivity have become excessive. They tend to stultify open-minded inquiry, creating a divisiveness inimical to shared understanding, enforcing an effect of withering dogma, which says: stay within these defined bounds or you are courting heresy. Did Max Heindel subscribe to this point of view? Max Heindel, a Son of Cain and a Mason at heart?
That Steiner was in direct touch with the spiritual sources
feeding into the Theosophical, and later Anthroposophical, Movement (as
distinguished from the Societies of each) is indicated in numerous texts. In
this instance, it occurs in a letter to Anna R. Minsloff in 1908: “The powers who watch over our spiritual
movement indicate that it is the theosophical mission that has to commence its
activities with you at a later date. For in
“Theosophy is the
knowledge of the divine Self in humankind; but many believe themselves to be
theosophists who regard their own small ego as divine.”—uncompleted draft to be
delivered to the
“Its [the T. S.] main task
is to bring healing to humankind, not to enable one or another person to
acquire knowledge of this or that fact. To know that reincarnation and karma
are facts—I mean, to merely know this—is not the essential thing; the essential
thing is that these thoughts become one with our blood and life, a part of our
inner spiritual being, for they are healthful things....There is only one proof
of the teachings of Spiritual Science, and that is life itself. Spiritual-scientific doctrines will show
themselves to be true if a healthy life grows up under their influence.”—
It is clear that Steiner often used interchangeably the terms theosophy, science of spirit, Rosicrucianism, and later (beginning around 1906), anthroposophy. When defined and elaborated in their individual contexts, the underlying unitary meaning of these terms remained constant and consistent throughout his life.
Steiner takes a definite stance with respect to Eastern wisdom, a position which is implied in some of the foregoing quotes. A full treatment of this subject must necessarily include a consideration of Christianity and the distinction between positive and negative clairvoyance.
“Its [the T.S.] continued fruitful development in western countries is dependent completely on the extent to which it shows itself capable of assimilating the principle of western initiation among its influences. For the eastern initiations must of necessity leave untouched the Christ as the central cosmic factor of evolution. But without this principle the theosophical movement will have no decisive influence on western cultures, which trace their beginnings back to Christ’s life on Earth. If taken on their own, the revelations of oriental initiation would have to stand aside from the living culture in the West in a sectarian manner. They could only hope for success within evolution if the principle of Christianity were to be eradicated from western culture. But this would be the same as eradicating the essential meaning of the Earth, which lies in the recognition and realization of the intentions of the living Christ. To reveal these intentions in the form of complete wisdom, beauty and activity is, however, the deepest aim of Rosicrucianism....it should be understood that the introduction of a correct esotericism in the West can only be of the Rosicrucian-Christian type, because this latter gave birth to western life and because by its loss mankind would deny the meaning and the destiny of the Earth. The harmonious relationship between science and religion can flower only in this esotericism.” Letter to Edouard Schuré, author of The Great Initiates, September, 1907, Correspondence and Documents, p. 18, italics in the original, emphasis added unless otherwise indicated.
“The way I propagate Theosophy...has actually very little to do
with what we call the Theosophical Society....[When Fraulein von Sivers, the
future Mrs. Steiner] asked me [in 1902] why I did not join the Society...I
answered her...‘It will always be impossible for me to belong to a Society
where one is engaged in the kind of Theosophy permeated everywhere with
misunderstood Eastern mysticism, which is the case in the Theosophical Society;
for my business would be to recognize that more important occult impulses
currently exist, and that it would be impossible to concede that the West has
anything to learn from this Eastern mysticism.’”—
“There are three different kinds of initiation, all of which lead to the same goal. There are three paths, the choice of one of which depends upon a man’s individuality. One initiation is that of wisdom; it is the fitting goal for Indian and Oriental training. This path is fraught with great dangers for European and Western bodies and is therefore not the right one. The second initiation is based upon the life of feeling; it is the fundamentally Christian path. Only few individuals can still take this path because it demands a strong power of devotion and piety. The third path of initiation is the Rosicrucian training, the path of the initiation of thinking and of will. It leads to union with the forces of the other paths.
“What is right for the Indian people is not right for
“For today’s European it is as senseless to seek that path [of
ancient India] as it would be to first walk to the opposite side of the
mountain and use the path there rather than the path available where one
stands. The nature of today’s European is completely different from that of the
“[T]he old Yoga exercises are unsuitable today.”—Guidance in Esoteric Training, p. 143, Lecture, “Modern and Ancient Spiritual Exercises,” Dornach, May 27, 1922
“This absolute surrender of one’s own self suits the Indian
character; but there is no place for it in European culture.”—At the Gates of Spiritual Science, 14
lectures given in
“Eastern Initiation takes place while man is in a state of sleep;
Western Initiation must be achieved in a state of wakefulness....In Western Initiation the neophyte is free;
the master simply plays the role of an awakener.”—An Esoteric Cosmology, eighteen lectures given in
“If we want to introduce the Eastern wisdom here and follow the
Eastern teachings, this would indicate the decline of the West. We need the
Western teachings given to us by these two Masters [Jesus and Christian Rose
Cross].—Lecture to Esoteric Section, “On Eastern and Western Occultism,”
“One should become aware
that an Eastern view can never take root in European soil.”—Lecture in
“It will always be impossible for me to belong to a society where
one is engaged in the kind of Theosophy permeated everywhere with misunderstood
Eastern mysticism, which is the case in the Theosophical Society...it would be
impossible to concede that the West has anything to learn from this Eastern
mysticism....I did not join a Society [the T. S.] but entered the Society to
impart to it something not previously present within it.”—Address to the German
Section of the Theosophical Society,
How about Steiner’s mode of obtaining knowledge of the spirit? Is he a positive, or voluntary, clairvoyant, and does he advocate the development of positive clairvoyance? Let him tell us.
“The present task of spiritual knowledge is to bring the experience of ideas, in full clarity of mind, into connection with the spiritual world by means of the will to knowledge. The cognizing human being then has a content of mind which is experienced like that of mathematics. He thinks like a mathematician. But he does not think in numbers or in geometrical figures. He thinks in pictures of the world of spirit. In contrast to the ancient waking-dream cognizing of the spirit, it is a fully conscious standing-within the spiritual world. Within the Theosophical Society, it was impossible to gain a true relation with this cognizing of the spirit. Distrust was aroused as soon as full consciousness sought to enter into relation with the spiritual world. Full consciousness was known only for the sense-world. No true feeling existed for the development of this up to the point of experiencing the spirit. What was aimed at was really to return to the ancient dream-consciousness, with the suppression of full consciousness.”—The Course of My Life, p. 326
“For me the years from 1901 to 1907 or 1908, approximately, were a time when I stood with all the forces of the soul under the impression of the facts and Beings of the spiritual world that were drawing near to me. Out of the experience of the spiritual world in general developed specific details of knowledge. Much is experienced in composing such a book as Theosophy. At every step my endeavor was to remain by all means in connection with scientific thinking.”—ibid, p. 328
To develop certain organs in the desire body requires “complete mastery of the whole personality by means of self-consciousness, so that body, soul, and spirit make but one harmony. The functions of the body, the inclinations and passions of the soul, the thoughts and ideas of the spirit must be brought into complete union with each other. The body must be so refined and purified that its organs assimilate nothing which may not be of service to the soul and spirit. The sou..l must assimilate nothing through the body, whether of passion or desire, which is antagonistic to pure and noble thoughts. The spirit must not dominate the soul with laws and obligations like a slave-owner, but rather must the soul learn to follow by inclination and free choice these laws and duties.”—Initiation and Its Results, 1904, pp. 48-48.
“The clairvoyant must not become a mere enthusiast; he must retain his footing upon firm earth.”—ibid, p. 60
“No one who does not live and think healthily in the physical world can give birth to a sound spiritual self. Natural and rational life is the basis of all true spiritual evolution.”—ibid, p. 80
“In occult science, Intuition is nothing vague and uncertain, but a lofty mode of cognition, full of the most luminous clarity and the most indubitable certainty.”—The Stages of Higher Knowledge, four essays written in book form in 1904, p. 47
“Whoever takes no care in ordinary life to think sharply and clearly will fall a victim to all possible illusions on his ascent into higher worlds.”—ibid, p. 49
“Only those who renounce completely all personal influence are
really worthy of working in the realm of occultism. The highest ideal of
occultists who want to accomplish anything worthwhile is the absolute avoidance
of achievement via their own personalities and as far as possible, the
elimination of personal sympathies and antipathies from everything attempted.”—The Effects of Esoteric Development, ten
lectures delivered in
“If we bring personal interest and aspirations into areas of clairvoyant observation where only human and universal interests should claim our attention, it acts like poison. We do not come to the truth in that way, but become the victim of false imaginations that are simply the reflections of our personal interest and aspiration.”—ibid, pp. 181-82
“I know that all fantasizing lies as far away from me as
possible...Believe me, dear Frau and Herr Doctor, that what I say, I experience
with all the strictness that mathematicians impose on themselves. And before
venturing along the road to Theosophy, I turned all my attention toward
ensuring that no kind of fantasizing in daily life could lead me astray. My
whole life has been directed to that end for many years.”—Letter to Doris and
Franz Paulus, August 11, 1904, From the History
and Contents of the First Section of the
“The only thing that I can lay to my credit is that I have undergone a strict training to guard myself against any fantasizing. This has been my precept. For in this way what I experience in spiritual realms is free of all fabrication, of all deception, of all superstition.”—Letter to Eliza von Moltke, July 20, 1904, ibid, p. 77
Steiner takes great pains to insure that the occult student adequately prepares himself for self-conscious entry into the worlds of spirit. “He must acquire the power of regulating and controlling the movement of his spiritual organs independently and with complete consciousness; otherwise he would become a plaything for external forces and powers.”—Knowledge of Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, 1904, p. 162
As to the qualifications a teacher of esoteric students must possess, Steiner is clear and emphatic: “It will also be evident beyond doubt that directions for the development of supersensible faculties can only be the concern of those who have themselves experienced everything which they propose to awaken in others, and who are unquestionably in a position to know whether the directions they give lead to the exact results desired”—ibid, p. 166
“Thus it cannot be too often repeated that the only safe entrance into the higher worlds is at the end of a path leading through a genuine knowledge and estimate of one’s own nature.”—ibid, p. 182. The aspirant to first-hand knowledge “never for a moment loses his firm footing in the physical world, or feels estranged from it. If the student is to avoid becoming a fantastic visionary he must not impoverish his life through his higher consciousness, but, on the contrary, enrich it.”—ibid, p. 195. Are these the words of one who is in doubt of what he is doing, or who leaves anything to “chance”?
“The experiences of the visionary and the phenomena produced by the medium owe their existence to the fact that a person while thus experiencing and producing is, with his soul, less independent of his body than in ordinary perception and willing. In the experience of the supersensible as indicated in this book, the development of soul-life proceeds in just the opposite direction from that taken by the visionary and the medium. The soul acquires a progressively greater independence of the body than is the case in perceiving and willing....The moment the soul sinks below the level of clear consciousness existing in thought, the soul is on the wrong path as far as true knowledge of the supersensible world is concerned—ibid, p. 265
“By true occultism all experimenting in the dark is very strongly discouraged. He who will not undergo with open eyes the period of schooling, may become a medium, but all such efforts cannot bring him to clairvoyance as it is understood by the occultist.”—Initiation and Its Results, pp. 15-16
“It is of supreme importance that the student should be a sensible and clear-thinking person, and of equal importance that he should practice the greatest clarity of speech. People who begin to have some presentiment of superphysical things are apt to become talkative about such things. In that way they retard their development.”—ibid, p. 32
“Those spiritual movements of modern times which lead to a
perception of the spiritual world in clear day- consciousness—not in trance or
under hypnosis—are the o.nes which lead to an understanding....For we humans
are not confined to a dull, dreamy, semi-existence, we are destined to develop
a free, fully conscious unfolding of our whole being.”—The
Steiner’s clairvoyant faculty was entirely subject to his control. Yet some may doubt that he obtained his knowledge of higher worlds first hand. Perhaps, one might argue, Steiner obtained his material as Heindel reports he received most of the content of the Cosmo—by thought transference. The following quotes give abundant evidence that Steiner himself directly envisaged spiritual realities and then gave form to his supersensible cognitions.
“What is communicated in Cosmic Memory [occult history of Lemuria and Atlantis written in 1904] cannot at first be discovered without Inspiration [vision in the World of Concrete Thought].”—The Stages of Higher Knowledge, p. 44
“Today my task is to show how the spiritual investigator must
regard the Christ Jesus Event....The statements of the spiritual investigator
come from clairvoyant experiences of the soul as it lives independently of the
body in the spiritual world. In this condition the soul can survey the whole
course of mankind’s evolution.”—Jesus and Christ, lecture in
“What I sought to show [in Christianity as Mystical Fact, a book published 1902] was that the Christ impulse, the entrance of Christianity into mankind’s development, can be comprehended only by perceiving how the supersensible plays into the development ordinarily described in history. As these facts are accessible only to spiritual vision, they can be called mystical.”—ibid, p. 17
“[W]e learn continually to meet the spiritual beings who approach us from the other side of the cosmos, as it were, and who come toward us from the future to grant us with wisdom. The experience of receiving such wisdom can be attained only when we have progressed esoterically, or occultly, in such a way that we have developed a feeling that prepares the soul to meet all future contingencies...”—The Effects of Esoteric Development, p. 97
“And when we come face to face with the Guardian of the Threshold, we feel (and this is a truly shattering experience) as though we are restrained, or transfixed. This is because all of the magnetic forces that limit us to personal interests now have the strongest influence. Only when we have progressed enough—when we have learned from this icy solitude that we have the capacity to make universal interests our own—may we pass the Guardian of the Threshold....We can now acknowledge, Yes, I may pursue my own interests, because they are now cosmic interests, the interests of all human beings....Through such experiences, we may come to understand (and thus take seriously) the fact that personal interests must be transformed into universal interests if we want to see the true reality of the spiritual world.”—ibid, p. 155. First-hand experience definitely seems to be speaking here.
Regarding Mani, the founder of Manicheism, Steiner shows himself privy to this Individuality’s intentions: “Mani will not incarnate during this century, but intends to do so in the next century, if he can find a suitable body....He will act from the power of the Grail Mysteries, and he will instruct humankind so that they may decide even about good and evil.”—Recorded by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer from his conversations with Steiner between 1919 and 1921, History and Contents, p. 227
“Until now it has been my principle not to divulge anything within the theosophical movement that cannot be corroborated by my own knowledge. This must still remain my principle. Having said this, I do not mean that others should not teach what they have received in good faith. I specifically emphasize that they have the right to do so. The above principle applies only for me. It is this principle alone that allows me to feel justified in thus addressing theosophists esoterically and in taking up the attitude I do toward people in general.”—Confidential communication to “all those members of the German Section [of the T.S.] who look to me for esoteric training.” May 4, 1907, History and Contents, p. 298
With respect to the criterion for personal corroboration that governed all of Steiner’s public disclosures we may juxtapose Heindel’s statement appended to “A Word to the Wise” four years after that text was written: “[T]he writer’s understanding of what was given by the Elder Brothers has received some corroboration and seems to have been substantially correct.”—p. 10 (italics added)
“[T]he present writer—adhering firmly to the opinion that, after all, higher wisdom is simply the emanation of more highly developed spiritual individualities—would never impart anything through his teachings for which he could not take responsibility in relation to those individualities.”—Article from Lucifer-Gnosis, No. 33, 1907, in History and Contents, pp. 301-02
“[O]nce a fact of the spiritual world has been discovered by an investigator or occult group, one can never investigate it a second time without being aware that it has already been researched....It is impossible to enter any [spiritual] realm whatsoever without first uniting oneself with what has already been probed and looked into by the elders of humankind.”—ibid, p. 334
“Divine beings only fructify a human soul once for its first faculty of insight; if this unique virginal fertilization has taken place, then it becomes necessary for others to direct their attention to what this first soul has achieved, in order to acquire the right to a similar achievement, and to see what the first soul has seen. This rule establishes a universal brotherhood in the innermost depths, a truly human brotherliness.”—ibid, p. 335
“I never advanced into the spiritual realm in a mystical-emotional way, but chose always to go by way of crystal-clear concepts. Experiencing of concepts, of ideas, led me out of the realm of ideas into the spiritual-real.”—The Course of My Life, p. 305
Steiner directed his teachings towards “the cognizing human being who seeks the spiritual world, not in a mystically blurred form, but in a form clear to the mind.”—ibid, p. 307
“If any one begins to represent the world of spirit as a mystic, it is justifiable to say: ‘You are speaking of your personal experiences. What you are describing is subjective.’ To travel such a spiritual road was not assigned to me as my task from the spiritual world. This task consisted in creating a foundation for Anthroposophy just as objective as that of scientific thinking.”—ibid, p. 311
“First of all came the problem of vindicating knowledge of the spirit before the ‘scientific’ mode of thought of the time. That this vindication is necessary I have stated frequently in this ‘course of my life.’ I took that way of thinking which rightly passes as ‘scientific’ in knowledge of nature and developed this for knowledge of the spirit.”—ibid, p. 317
“I saw into an ancient spiritual knowledge of humanity. It was dreamlike in character. The human being beheld in pictures through which the spiritual world was revealed. But these pictures were not developed by the will to knowledge in full clarity of mind....The ancient spiritual knowledge vanished in the Middle Ages. Man came into possession of the consciousness-soul. He no longer has dream knowledge. He summons ideas into the mind in full clarity through his will to knowledge....[which] reaches its climax in natural science. The present task of spiritual knowledge is to bring the experience of ideas, in full clarity of mind, into connection with the spiritual world by means of the will to knowledge. The cognizing human being....thinks in pictures of the world of spirit. In contrast to the ancient waking-dream cognizing of the spirit, it is a fully conscious standing-within the spiritual world.”—ibid, p. 325
“Since in this, as in every sphere of Anthroposophical work, everything was excluded which lies beyond the borders of clear consciousness, there could be no thought of unjustified magic, or suggestive influences and the like.”—ibid, p. 343
In view of the foregoing references, the impartial student of esoteric teachings may provisionally conclude that Steiner teaches and practices positive clairvoyance, and that he seems to be able to exercise it to gain first-hand knowledge of the spiritual worlds. Can we be more certain of this assumption—that what he teaches is the result of his first-hand, fully-conscious and voluntary supersensible investigations? Consider his following statements:
“For anyone who does not stand in living reality within the world of spirit, as I do, such a submergence into a certain trend of thinking signifies a mere activity of thought. For one who experiences the world of spirit, it signifies something essentially different. He is brought into contact with Beings in the world of spirit who desire to make such a trend of [materialistic] thinking the sole prevailing one; there one-sidedness in thinking does not lead merely to abstract error; there spiritually living intercourse with Beings is what in the human world constitutes error. I spoke later [in his life] of Ahrimanic Beings when I desired to point in this direction. For these, it is absolute truth that the world must be a machine. They live in a world that borders directly upon the sense world....He who seeks for knowledge of spirit must experience these worlds [of ‘demonic Powers’]; for him a mere theoretical thinking about them does not suffice. At that time I had to save my spiritual perception by inner battles. These battles were the background of my outer experience.”—The Course of My Life, p. 275
“I possessed, of course, a fully developed standing-within the world of spirit; but about the year 1902, and in succeeding years also as regards many things, I had imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions [expressions roughly designating, respectively, supersensible vision, understanding the meaning of that spiritual vision, and being within the Other as its Self].”—ibid, p. 327
“A genuinely occult view of such a matter [tracing the whole tribe
of the Semites back to their common ancestor Shem] is always based upon deeper
truths. Those who are able to carry on occult research into such things [to
wit, Steiner] know the following facts concerning Shem...”—Lecture,
“Christianity in Human Evolution,”
“What is achieved of the knowledge of spirit in Christianity as Mystical Fact is brought directly out of the world of spirit itself....nothing existing in these [cited historical] documents have I inserted into the content unless I had first confronted this in the spirit.”—The Course of My Life, p. 276
“What I possess of spiritual knowledge is entirely the result of my own research. Only, when an item of knowledge has come to me, I then introduce whatever of the ‘ancient knowledge' has already been made public from some direction or other, in order to point to the harmony between the two and, at the same time, the advance which is possible to [Steiner’s] contemporary research.”—ibid, p. 296
“No one was left in uncertainty of the fact that I would bring forward in the Theosophical Society only the results of my own research through direct vision.”—ibid, p. 299, italics in the original
“[F]rom 1897 to 1900...I passed through my most intense spiritual testing. I learned to know fundamentally where lie the forces of the time, striving away from the spirit, disintegrating and destructive of culture, and from this knowledge came a great access of the force that I later needed in order to work out of the spirit.”—ibid, p. 304
“The true evolution of the organic from primeval times to the present confronted my imagination for the first time after the composition of Conceptions of the World and of Life .”—ibid, p. 305, italics in the original
“At every step taken in this book [Theosophy], spiritual perception stands in the background. Nothing is said which is not derived from spiritual perception.”—ibid, p. 311
“Two and a half decades ago  I bore a content of spiritual impressions within me. I gave form to these in lectures, articles, and books. What I did was done out of spiritual impulses. In its essence every theme was drawn from the spirit.”—ibid, p. 316
“Since among the other leaders of the Theosophical Society also [including Annie Besant] there existed this aversion to fully conscious knowledge of the spirit, I could never feel at home in mind with respect to the spiritual in the Society....For this reason I was also disinclined in my lectures at Congresses of the Society to speak out of my own experience of the spirit.”—ibid, p. 326
“It was in the very time of my life I am now describing  that I succeeded in attaining to definite perceptions of the repeated earth lives of man.”—ibid, pp. 99-100
“All of them [Steiner’s books] I can assert to have been personally experienced in the truest sense of the word.”—ibid, 235
“[I]t became at this time [about 1890] the most intense soul experience, filling the hours in which knowledge sought in meditation to look upon the foundations of the world....[T]he being and becoming of the world [are] nothing truly existing unless in their continued life they become the content of knowledge. Having reached this insight, I said on every appropriate occasion that man is not a being who creates for himself the content of knowledge, but that he provides in his soul the stage on which for the first time the world experiences in part its existence and its becoming. Were it not for knowledge, the world would remain incomplete....[Thus man] actually partakes in the creation of the world.”—ibid, pp. 240-241, italics in original
Another claim of those who dismiss or deprecate the value of
Steiner’s clairvoyant investigations is that he continued to subscribe to the
Eastern guru concept. There is no basis in fact for this claim. The contrary is
the case. While initially Steiner referred to the Teacher as Guru and Master,
since these were terms familiar to his first public, the theosophists, he
emphasized that in the West “the Guru is
only the friend and adviser of the pupil, for by training his reason the pupil
will be training the best Guru for himself.”—At the Gates of Spiritual Science, fourteen lectures given in
“The Rosicrucian lets the facts in the cosmos speak, for that is the most impersonal kind of teaching. It is a matter of indifference who stands before you; you must not be affected by a personality, but by what he tells you of the facts of world-becoming. Thus in the Rosicrucian training that direct veneration for the teacher is struck out, he does not claim it nor require it.—Theosophy of the Rosicrucian, fourteen lectures, Munich, 1907, p. 161
“The process of Western Initiation is quite different [from
Eastern Initiation]....In Western
Initiation the neophyte is free; the master simply plays the role of an
awakener. He does not try to dominate or convert; he simply recounts what
he has seen.—And how ought we to listen? There are three ways of listening: to
accept the words as infallible authority; to be skeptical and fight against
what is heard; to pay heed to what is said without servile, blind credulity and
without systematic opposition, allowing the ideas to work upon us and observing
their effects. This latter is the attitude which the pupil should adapt towards
his master in Western Initiation.”—An
Esoteric Cosmology, eighteen lectures,
“[T]he so-called Masters are great inspirers—nothing more than
that—great inspirers on the spiritual level....They do not, however, demand
belief in any kind of authority, or in any dogma. They only make a demand on
the individual’s human understanding and give instruction, through certain
methods for developing the powers and attributes dormant in every human being,
which lead upward to the higher domains of existence.”—
“Mr. Leadbeater's occult methods....are no longer appropriate to the current stage of Western humanity ....Western people can be led to the stage of psychic development where Leadbeater stood only if the part of their guidance that can no longer proceed from the guru is replaced by a mental development that has reached a certain stage. And Mr. Leadbeater lacks this stage of development. In this case I do not refer merely to an intellectual philosophical training, but to the development of a stage of consciousness that consists of inwardly contemplative insight, which simply demands the stage of brain development that must be the prerequisite of the Westerner....Had I been on my own, I would have never recommended the writings of Mr. Leadbeater as suitable theosophical reading material.”—Letter to Annie Besant, July, 1906, H & C, pp. 269-70
“I am aware of the service that other spiritual movements render
to the world. Not a word of opposition should come from a true theosophist
against them. There is no question about this. But whoever seeks the spirit in the highest sense must search for it
through self-knowledge. We all carry the spirit within ourselves and
basically it is of no use to look for spiritual insight in the world around us
if we are not willing, in the true sense of the word, to acknowledge the most
accessible spirit of all—that is, the spirit within ourselves.”—
“Rudolf Steiner tried to lead us to freedom...through esoteric training in life; this was intended to transform gradually our old dependence on the teacher into an impulse for freedom and responsibility toward the spirit.”—Forward to Marie Steiner’s book An Impulse for the Future, 1947, History and Contents, p. 398
“For one seeking spiritual schooling in accord with present spiritual conditions an absolutely direct relation to the objective spiritual world is of far greater importance than a relation to the personality of a teacher. The latter will gradually become merely the helper; he will assume the same position in spiritual schooling as a teacher occupies, in conformity with modern views, in any other field of knowledge. I believe I have sufficiently stressed the fact that the teacher’s authority and the pupil’s faith in him should play no greater part in spiritual schooling than in any other branch of knowledge or life.”—Preface to fifth edition of Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, 1914, pp. xiii-xiv
“As long as there remains in thee a trace of fear of becoming thyself the guide of thine own destiny, just so long will this Threshold lack what still remains to be built into it...”—Words spoken by the Guardian of the Threshold to the aspirant seeking to enter into the spirit world, ibid, p. 235
“Step not across my Threshold until thou dost clearly realize that thou wilt thyself illumine the darkness ahead of thee; take not a single step forward until thou art positive that thou hast sufficient oil in thine own lamp. The lamps of the guides whom thou hast hitherto followed will now no longer be available to thee.”—Further words of the Guardian of the Threshold, ibid, p, 243
“The statement that the student needs personal instruction should be understood in the sense that this book itself is personal instruction. In earlier times there were reasons for reserving such personal instruction for oral teaching; today we have reached a stage in the evolution of humanity in which spiritual scientific knowledge must become far more widely disseminated than formerly. It must be placed within the reach of everyone to a quite different extent from what was the case in older times. Hence the book replaces the former oral instruction. It is only to a limited extent correct to say that further personal instruction is necessary beyond that contained in this book. No doubt someone may need assistance, and it may be of importance for him or her; but it would be false to believe that there are any cardinal points not mentioned in this book. These can be found by anyone who reads correctly, and, above all, completely.”—Appendix to Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, pp. 268-69
Max Heindel emphasizes service as a certain and secure path to initiation. What was Rudolf Steiner’s position on this subject, if any? As has been our practice, we shall quote him directly.
“To live in the sense of these great cosmogonies [given by ‘great initiates’ for the development of man’s finer nature] means to work for the attainment of personal spiritual perfection. Only by so doing can man become a servant of the world and of humanity. Self-perfection is by no means self-seeking, for the imperfect man is an imperfect servant of the world and of humanity. The more perfect a man is, the better does he serve the world. ‘If the rose adorns itself, it adorns the garden.’”—Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, p. 175
“Man must become a partaker of the spirit in order to carry its revelations into the physical world. He transforms the earth by implanting in it what he has ascertained in the spiritual world. That is his task. It is only because the physical world is dependent upon the spiritual, and because man can work upon earth, in a true sense, only if he is a participator in those worlds in which the creative forces lie concealed— only for these reasons should he have the desire to ascend to the higher worlds.”—ibid, p. 220
Service, for the Initiate, is the only path—unless one chooses the Luciferic path of egoism and black magic. Such are the words of the second or Greater Guardian of the Threshold, Who speaks in the following terms, as related by Steiner:
“Thou wilt some day be able to unite with me [the Greater
Guardian], but I cannot be blessed so
long as others remain unredeemed. As a separate freed being, thou wouldst
fain enter at once the kingdom of the supersensible; yet thou wouldst be forced
to look down on the still unredeemed beings in the physical world, having
sundered thy destiny from theirs, although thou and they are inseparably
united....To separate thyself from thy fellows would mean to abuse those very
powers which thou couldst not have developed save in their company....Thou must
now share with thy fellows the powers which, together with them, thou didst
acquire. I shall therefore bar thine
entry into the higher regions of the supersensible world so long as thou hast
not applied all the powers thou hast acquired to the liberation of thy
companions. With the powers already at thy disposal thou mayst sojourn in
the lower regions of the supersensible world; but I stand before the portal of
the higher regions as the Cherub with the fiery sword before
“Lucifer brought love into connection with the self, and self-love
was added to self-consciousness....Man would never have obtained a warm
self-consciousness without Lucifer. Thinking and wisdom now entered into the
service of the self and there was a choice between good and evil. Love must turn to the self only in order
to set the self in the service of the world. The rose may adorn herself
only in order to adorn the garden. That must be inscribed deeply into the soul
in a higher occult development....Good could have been realized without
Lucifer, but not freedom. In order to be able to choose good man must also have
the bad before him; it must dwell within him as the force of self-love. But self-love must become love of all. Then
evil will be overcome.”—Lecture, “The Origin of Evil,”
“It has never been the aim of occult science to inculcate into man
a dim feeling of survival, but to impart a clear, fully conscious knowledge of
onflowing life in the spiritual world. And there is a certain great law which
governs the progressive development of consciousness in all future stages of
life. Namely, it is what man works at to
help others attain such consciousness
which contributes the most to its development.”—The
“[W]hen we allow others
to exist as completely autonomous and value their interests over our own, only
then are we mature enough to rise to higher knowledge. We cannot recognize a being of the hierarchy of the angels unless
we have reached the state when we are more interested in the inner being of the
angels than in our own being....We must first open ourselves to universal
interests, and then to interests that go even farther, and then we may consider
them more important than ourselves.”—The
Effects of Esoteric Development, ten lectures at
If the Initiate “resolves to fulfill the demands of that luminous form [the Greater Guardian, ‘whose beauty it is quite impossible to describe in human language’], he becomes one of those [like Steiner and Heindel] who lead humanity to freedom. He brings his gifts to the altar of mankind. But if he prefers his own premature elevation into the superphysical world, then will he be submerged in the stream of evolution. After his liberation from the world of sense he can win no new powers. If he places his work at the disposal of the world, he must renounce the prospect of acquiring anything further for himself....The occultist has not the smallest interest in the beatification of the individual. Each can attain that for himself. It is not the task of the white occultist to accelerate it. He is only concerned with the evolution and liberation of all those beings who are human or akin to the human. Therefore they give instructions only as to how one may use one’s powers in co-operation with that work. Consequently, they place before all other attributes those of selfless devotion and self-sacrifice.”—Initiation and its Results, pp. 173-179
However lofty the Rosicrucian Teachings, it is their practicality, their usefulness that commend them to us. But they can only be useful when they are fleshed out in our lives, permeating our actions and demeanor: “Rosicrucian wisdom must not stream only into the head, nor only into the heart, but into the hand, into our manual capacities, into our daily actions. It does not take effect as sentimental sympathy, it is the acquisition by strenuous effort, of faculties enabling us to work for the well-being of humanity.”—T.R., p. 13
The preceding passage alone should suffice to both answer the question, “Was Steiner an Initiate?” and to render foolish the opinion of the few who maintain that he was not an Initiate. A section to follow on Steiner’s Rosicrucianism will further confirm his high spiritual status. Here we would call attention to the fact that most of Steiner’s lectures and writings are directed toward promoting initiation in others. How could he presume to engage in this quarter-century endeavor if he were not encouraging and assisting others in the direction of his own attainments? Unless we assume, contrary to his statements (see p. 12), that he was giving second-hand information, the very titles of his books and many lectures give witness to spiritual achievements, be it the just-quoted book, the four Rosicrucian mystery dramas (The Portal of Initiation, The Soul’s Probation, The Guardian of the Threshold, The Souls’ Awakening); The Effects of Spiritual Development (op. cit.); Knowledge of the Higher World and Its Attainment (op. cit.); The Stages of Higher Knowledge (op. cit.); Initiation, Eternity, and the Passing Moment (7 lectures, 1912); Learning to See into the Spiritual World (4 lectures, 1923); Old and New Methods of Initiation (14 lectures, 1922); Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation (6 lectures, 1924); The Driving Force of Spiritual Powers in World History (7 lectures, 1923); Initiation, Eternity, and the Passing Moment (7 lectures, Munich, 1912); Occult Reading and Occult Hearing (4 lectures, 1914); An Outline of Occult Science (as close as Steiner gets to “textbook” format, 1910—subjects include cosmogenesis, anthropogenesis, and initiation). We will not further belabor the point.
Only unfamiliarity with the work of Steiner could give rise to the erroneous notion that he was not an Initiate of high degree. Why is this significant? In one sense it’s not. We judge the merit of a man and the truth of his words by what our own discernment and inner sense tell us. But those who insist on qualifications extrinsic to the thing itself, who do not fully trust to their own inner sense of truth, require additional authority. Yet Heindel tells us that only an Initiate knows another Initiate. So what would be the use of ranking a person’s spiritual level but to appeal to a subtle form of sensationalism, to provide a frisson of starstruckness and thereby enfeeble one’s own rational, common sense faculties? However, we will cite, in this context, several passages that give additional insight into Steiner’s high degree of spiritual development.
“Initiation is the highest stage in an esoteric training concerning which it is possible to give some indications in a book intended for the general public. Whatever lies beyond forms a subject difficult to understand, yet the way to it can be found by all who have passed through preparation, enlightenment, and initiation as far as the lesser mysteries.”—Knowledge of the Higher World and Its Attainment, p. 78. An attentive reading of this text strongly supports the contention that Steiner achieved at least the first of the four Greater Initiations, making him an Adept. There is strong evidence to support the contention that he had attained the Venus Initiation.
“[E]verything to be found in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky is determined by her association with the Moon sphere [Period] and her relationship with Initiates who elected to stay behind in this Moon sphere as an act of sacrifice. I can assure you that I have come to know many of these Initiates and how such spirits penetrate into the Moon sphere but are indifferent to man’s desire to develop further. When I wrote my book Occult Science—an Outline....I traced the Earth incarnation as far back as the Saturn incarnation, whereas all the Initiates who spoke of these matters concluded their account between Moon and Sun...Any suggestion that they should look back to still earlier incarnations of the Earth was met with indifference, sometimes even with a sense of disquiet. They declared this to be impossible, for the path was blocked by an insuperable barrier.
“It was, of course, most important and not without interest to
understand the reason for this. It soon became apparent on closer acquaintance
that these Initiates had an aversion, an antipathy to the modern scientific
outlook....In short, one could not appeal to the Initiates with such ideas. And
it was in the years 1906 to 1909 when I first steeped myself in modern
scientific ideas in order to impregnate them with Imaginations that I found it
possible to penetrate to the Sun and Saturn spheres....In writing my Occult
Science I attempted to imbue with inner meaning the fully conscious scientific
outlook of Huxley and others, which normally is only associated with the
external world, and to impregnate the Imaginative world with it. Then it was
possible to understand this whole sequence of Saturn, Sun and Moon and to
investigate on Earth the old Initiate-knowledge.”—True and False Paths in Spiritual Investigation, eleven lectures
In the Cosmo (p. 525), Max Heindel writes that “the [nine] Lesser Mysteries deal only with [knowledge of] the evolution of mankind during the Earth Period.” In light of this fact, and in view of Steiner’s above-cited ability to “penetrate to the Sun and Saturn spheres,” such knowledge must be gained in the four Greater Mysteries and through their corresponding Initiations. When we apply the general occult scheme of septenary development to the seven Periods of Earth manifestation, the last (Vulcan) recapitulates and adds to the first (Saturn), the sixth (Venus) correlates with the second (Sun), and the fifth (Jupiter) correlates with the third (Moon). Steiner’s An Outline of Occult History (1909) is presented from the point of the positive clairvoyant who experiences creation from the Saturn Period onward: “My knowledge of things of the spirit is a direct result of my own perceptions.” “The content of what is spiritually perceived can only be reproduced in pictures (imaginations) [spiritual forms] through which inspirations [spiritual meaning as thought-world content] speak, which have their origin in spiritual entity intuitively [in intuitions the knower identifies with spiritual Beings in the unifying World of Life Spirit] perceived.” Let the reader draw his own conclusions.
Max Heindel writes in the Cosmo that he “knows of none but the Rosicrucians who have anything to say of the three Periods which preceded the Earth Period, save the bare statement that there were such Periods.” (p.503). On the basis of a criterion provided by the Rosicrucian Fellowship’s founder, Rudolf Steiner is a Rosicrucian, for he has much to say about the three Periods before the Earth Period.
By his own avowal, Steiner imparted only spiritual facts which he himself had obtained directly from supersensible worlds, or personally confirmed in these worlds the occult facts advanced by others. What we read, therefore, invites our credence, particularly when nothing in our souls or from other quarters convincingly contradicts his disclosures. While he usually avoids personal narrative (except, obviously in his autobiography) and writes in the third person singular, thus masking authentic first-hand experience, when he does employ the personal form, his words carry additional weight. The following passage mixes the objective and the subjective voice:
“This experience which is described as the ‘arrival at the gate of death,’ is a shattering one. For it comes to us at this moment as a pure inner experience, and from this moment onwards, when we have reached this point, we know through inner experience what it means to exercise an activity which is no longer exercised by means of the instrument, the tool of the physical body. We know that from this moment onwards we can weave and live with spirit-soul experiences in something which has become detached from the physical body, which actually appears to be separated from the physical body of man.”—Results of Spiritual Investigation, p. 17
“Among the most important experiences of the Initiate is that which occurs when he first learns to know and to cherish the visible world at its true value; and this knowledge comes to him by his very insight into the superphysical world. He who cannot see there and who consequently imagines that the superphysical worlds are infinitely the more valuable, is likely to under-estimate the worth of the phenomenal world. He, however, who has had that insight into the superphysical worlds well knows that without his experiences in the visible he would be totally powerless in the invisible.”—Initiation and Its Results, p. 164
Max Heindel writes that the “reason so few have anything to say about the earth’s constitution” is due to the fact that such knowledge presumes Initiation—“Such penetration is the Path of Initiation.”—Letters to Students, p. 82. Elsewhere in this study we indicate that Steiner had described in detail the ten-fold constitution of the earth’s occult interior, at least as early as 1906. (See An Esoteric Cosmology pp. 109-115). Therefore, according to Heindel himself, Steiner’s possession of this information indicates that he is an Initiate.
Corinne Heline, Max Heindel’s gifted pupil, who was urged by him to write her seven-volume New Age Bible Interpretation, frequently refers to Steiner in her numerous books, particularly Occult Anatomy and the Bible. Her words have her mentor’s sanction. Therefore, when she refers to “the eminent occultist,” “Dr. Rudolf Steiner, Rosicrucian Initiate,” the “eminent occult scientist,” the “eminent Rosicrucian occultist,” and “with Initiate wisdom, Rudolf Steiner writes”—when such honorifics are used to characterize this “illumined” occultist, we have further grounds for believing that Steiner is both an Initiate and a Rosicrucian, for, as the saying goes, it takes one to know one.
On the basis of the foregoing statements, it is clear that Rudolf Steiner described a Western Initiation in which the aspirant alone is responsible for what he may achieve, and that the Teacher encourages, indeed, insists upon the student’s freedom, independence, and self-mastery. The Teacher is but a catalyst and pointer of the way to the higher world.
The persevering critic of Steiner may yet have some misgivings. For instance, there may be some lingering doubts about Steiner’s religious status. Was he a hard-core occultist, all will-to-master with no reverence or devotion? How Christian was he? The answer to these questions would depend on whose understanding of Christianity one is referring to. An entirely sufficient answer, however, can be given simply by perusing the extensive list of books, articles, and lectures (see pages 90-91) devoted wholly, or largely to a consideration of the meaning and value of the Being and activity of the Christ, as detailed by Steiner over a twenty-five-year period.
Only a few indications of the wealth of profound disclosures relating to the Christ Being can be given here, but they should explain why, toward the end of his earthly mission, Steiner was approached by several prominent Protestant ministers requesting he provide them with a Christian liturgy, based on Steiner’s living Christosophy, that they could use in a regenerate Christian service. The Christian Community was the result of this request. Today this Community has many churches, or ecclesia, whose focus is the Act of the Consecration of Man, the liturgy of the Christian Eucharist, informed by wisdom gleaned from supersensible research. The totality of Steiner’s opus is permeated with Christian spirit and is patently Christ-centered. A few passages bearing on Steiner’s Christian focus are herewith noted.
“True Christianity is the
summation of all stages of Initiation. The Initiation of antiquity was the
prophetic announcement, the preparation. Slowly and gradually the man of later
times emancipated himself from his Initiator, his Guru....Initiation came forth
from the darkness enshrouding the Mysteries into the clearest light of day. In
a great and mighty Personality, the Bearer of the highest unifying Principle,
of the Word—of Him who is the expression and manifestation of the hidden
Father, and who taking on human form became the Son of Man and thereby the
Representative of all mankind, the Bond uniting all I’s—in Christos, the Life-Spirit, the Eternal Unifier, the Initiation of
mankind as a whole was accomplished....So potent was this Event that in
every individual who modeled his life on it, its power could continue to
work—right into the physical, expressing itself even in the appearance of the
stigmata and in the most piercing pains....In
the Initiation on the Cross of Divine Love, the sacrifice of the ‘I’ for All
had taken place. The blood, the physical expression of the ‘I’, had flowed
in love for mankind, and the effect was such that thousands pressed forward to
this Initiation, to this Death, letting their blood flow in love and devotion
for mankind. That blood untold was poured out in this way has never been
sufficiently emphasized....The waves of ardor which in this streaming blood
flowed down, and then ascended, have fulfilled their task. They have become the
wellsprings of powerful impulses. They have made mankind ripe for the
Initiation of the Will. And this is the legacy of Christ.”—Guidance in Esoteric Training, p. 15-16, from a lecture given in
“If Christ will find His abode in men’s earthly souls, then the
Christ power will stream back from the earth’s aura into the worlds that He
forsook for the salvation of mankind, and the whole cosmos will be permeated
through and through by Him.”—Lecture, “The Four Sacrifices of Christ,”
“What is this greatest deed of freedom? It is that the creative
and wise Word of our solar system Himself resolved to enter into a human body
and to take part in Earth evolution through a deed unconnected with any
previous karma....[Christ] undertook to do it as a free deed entirely based
upon foreseeing mankind’s future evolution.”—The Being of Man and His Future Evolution, nine lectures given in
“I am instructed [by one of the Masters of Wisdom and the Harmony of Feelings] to nurture the Christian element.” Letter to Günther Wagner, explaining Steiner’s refusal to translate a lecture delivered by Annie Besant from English to German because it did not promote “the Christian element.”—September 14, 1904,
“The appearance of Christ Jesus was thus prepared by a line of religious founders—Zarathustra, Hermes, Moses, Orpheus, and Pythagoras. All of their teachings followed the same aim: to allow wisdom to flow into humanity in the particular form best suited to the various peoples. Thus, what Christ said is not new. What is new in the appearance and teachings of Christ Jesus is that the power resided in Him to bring to life what was formerly only teaching. Through Christianity and the independent recognition of Christ Jesus’ authority, humankind has gained the power to unite in the greatest amount of individuation; through a belief in Him, in His appearance, and in His divinity, people can join together in brotherhood.”—Lecture, “Initiation Schools of the Past: the Mysteries of the Spirit, the Son, and the Father,” Düsseldorf, March 7, 1907. History and Contents, p. 372
“[I]n Munich, 1907, Annie Besant admitted before a witness (Marie
von Sivers), who would be ready to so testify at any time, that she was not competent
with regard to Christianity. And because of that she, as it were, transferred
the [Theosophical] movement to me inasmuch as Christianity should flow into
it.”—Address given at the General Meeting of the German Section of the
“[W]hen we look up to what is still felt by a great part of modern
humanity as the highest fact of all
historical evolution; when we look up to the Event which divides our
chronology into two parts—to the Redemption through Christ Jesus—then it can
strike us that one of the greatest upliftings, one of the greatest upbuildings
and hopes of victory which has ever taken root in the heart of man has sprung
from the world historic sight of suffering. The greatly significant feelings,
cutting deep into the human heart, of the Christian world-conception, these
feelings which for so many are the hope and strength of life, give the
assurance that there is an eternity, a victory over death.”—Lecture, “The
Origin of Suffering,”
Keeping in mind the fact that Steiner spoke and wrote of nothing
which he had not himself verified by occult investigation, consider the
following to gain an idea of his supersensible capabilities: “Christ, as He is
in His own peculiar nature, is in no way restricted to the limits of a three
years’ sojourn in the body of Jesus of Nazareth; He is also the Guide and
Leader of all the beings of the upper hierarchies. He is an all-embracing,
universal, and cosmic Being, and, as He entered human evolution through the
Mystery of Golgotha, so did great events also come to pass through Him among
the Beings of the upper hierarchies; that is to say: The Christ wrought changes
also in those higher worlds as time went on....We see therefore that for the
Beings of these four hierarchies, for men, but also for Angels, Archangels, and
for Archai, the Mystery of Golgotha—the
Event of Christ—comprises the fact of supremest importance which has ever taken
place in our cosmic evolution.”—Wonders
of the World, Trials of the Soul, and Revelations of the Spirit, ten
In light of the immediately preceding comment that all Steiner’s
teachings are based on personal investigation, consider the degree of spiritual
attainment suggested by the following passages: “The Christ presented in the
Gospel of St. John is, in Himself, a Being of the utmost sublimity, but in His
works He draws upon the powers pertaining to the realm of the wisdom-filled
Cherubim....He worked at those sublime heights which are the realm of the
Seraphim. The fiery love of the Seraphim streams through the universe, and is
conveyed to our earth through Christ-Jesus...He worked in the realm of the
Thrones, the realm whence all Strength and Power flow into the world, to the
end that Wisdom and Love may be led to fulfillment.”—Deeper Secrets of Human History in the Light of the Gospel of St.
Matthew, three lectures,
“Christ [is]...the central cosmic factor of evolution...[T]he essential meaning of the Earth...lies in the recognition and realization of the intentions of the living Christ.”—Communication to Edouard Schuré in September, 1907, Correspondence and Documents, p. 18, italics in the original
“[T]he true substance of
Christianity began germinally to unfold within me as an inner phenomenon of
knowledge. About the turn of the century, the germ
unfolded more and more. Before this turn of the century came the testing of
soul I have described. The unfolding of
my soul rested upon the fact that I had stood in spirit before the Mystery of
“In these expositions [lectures given in 1902, which appeared in book form under the title >From Buddha to Christ] I sought to show what a mighty advance the Mystery of Golgotha signifies in comparison with the Buddha Event, and how the evolution of humanity, as it strives toward the Christ Event, approaches its culmination.”—ibid, p 300
It should be noted that Steiner coined the term “Mystery of
Golgotha” in those early lectures which were published under the title Christianity as Mystical Fact in 1902,
years before Heindel used the term. That this Mystery was crucial for mankind’s
spiritual development was noted in Steiner’s lecture in
In the latter half of this century’s first decade a requirement was placed upon Steiner by those who sought his teachings to expound the deeper significance of the holy Scripture. He was enlisted to serve their esoteric yearning: “to meet fully whatever became manifest in the membership as the needs of their minds and the cravings of their spirits. Strongest of all was the inclination to hear the Gospels and the content of the Biblical writings in general placed in what had appeared as the Anthroposophical light....I listen to the pulsations in the soul-life of the membership, and out of my sharing in what I thus hear the form of the lecture course is determined.”—The Course of My Life, p. 338
We arrive at what may be the crucial part of our study. Steiner critics may persist: “Even if, in light of the marshaled evidence, we consent to the truth of the foregoing, The Rosicrucian Fellowship is Rosicrucian. Its teachings bear, through an Elder Brother of the Rosicrucian Order, the imprimatur of that Brotherhood and its wisdom [assuming the authenticity of the transmission]. And Steiner—he was a theosophist [as was Heindel], and then an anthroposophist. You can’t mix apples and oranges. His teachings conflict with Max Heindel’s.” Do they? Numerous pages of comparative quotes have been provided in this study (see Section 2, beginning on p. 43) to show the equivalence between the teachings disseminated by these two individuals. And a substantial portion of Steiner’s teachings were publicly in place several years before Heindel published his Cosmo, which is comprised mostly of those very teachings. So we might recall the line from Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? A rose is as fair by any name.” The substance of Steiner’s teaching is Rosicrucian; it must be if the very material he made public appears later in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception— or is that book “theosophy,” in the universal sense of being the wisdom of Divinity? Or is it anthroposophical, in that it treats of the wisdom of Man (Anthropos), Man who has the entire Cosmos factored in him, as the name “Son of Man,” designating Christ Jesus, indicates? Heindel has affirmed that the teachings from the Elder brother “corroborated the teachings of Dr. S. along main lines” (see pages 98-99).
Not only was Steiner’s wisdom teaching Rosicrucian, until the time of his death his path was Rosicrucian. Moreover, he was in direct and frequent contact with the eminent Individuality whose name denominates the esoteric Christian path of spiritual development. One can only surmise why Steiner chose not to consistently use the term “Rosicrucian” to identify his science of spirit. Surely one of the reasons was that the word has a history. It carries cultural baggage; it is freighted with misunderstandings and misassociations that militate against an impartial reception. For some the term conjures visions of gold-making and other occult shenanigans by eccentrics and impostors. We know that the true Rosicrucians were in pursuit of self-transformation, but their public profile is somewhat less exalted and pristine.
Steiner has a direct statement bearing on his desire to avoid all naming or typing: “Today numerous attempts have been made to give to this or that spiritual movement this or that ancient historical name. To many, only then does it appear of value. The question, however, may be asked: What have the expositions of this book [the author is writing in the preface to the Fourth Edition of his primary textbook on occult cosmology, An Outline of Occult Science (recently retitled An Outline of Esoteric Science), published in 1909, the scope of which invites comparisons with Heindel’s Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception] to gain by designating them “Rosicrucian” [which they are!] or the like? The important point is that here, with the means that are possible and adequate for the soul in this present period of evolution, an insight is attempted into supersensible worlds, and from this point of view the riddles of human destiny and of human existence beyond the limits of birth and death are observed. It is not the question of a striving bearing this or that ancient name, but of a striving for truth.” Steiner wanted the truth of his disclosures to declare themselves, to stand on their own, not to depend on the cachet of some term to give them an extrinsic authority.
As elsewhere documented in this study (see page 25), Steiner
routinely assigned the Rose Cross meditation as a “main exercise” to his
esoteric students, as early as 1904. This was often given in conjunction with a
meditation on the five primary energy centers of the vital body of the standing
human form, which traces a dynamic star or pentagram (see Guidance in Esoteric Training from the
While on the topic of words acquiring unfortunate connotations, the word “occult” was eliminated from the Cosmo’s subtitle after the second edition, presumably for this very reason. Originally the full title was The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception or Christian Occult Science. Since the third edition “Mystic Christianity” has replaced “Christian Occult Science.” This is an ironic twist because Heindel made a clear distinction in his earlier writings between the mystic and the occult paths (the path of faith and the path of works), assigning Catholicism to the former and Rosicrucianism and Masonry to the latter. Along parallel lines, Steiner said: “The Papacy can be regarded as the last out-flowing of Eastern responsibility (for human spiritual life).”—Commentaries in Esoteric Classes, 1912, History and Content, p. 321
Although not a Mason, Heindel said he was “a Mason at heart, and therefore frankly opposed to Catholicism” (Freemasonry and Catholicism, pp. 5-6). And “Christian Rosenkreutz was given charge of the Sons of Cain who seek the light of knowledge” (F & C, pp. 97-98). Heindel concluded that Rosicrucian initiations “endeavor to blend the mystic with the occult....[while] a little more stress is perhaps laid on the mystic side” (Rosicrucian Philosophy in Questions and Answers, Volume 2, p. 229). Steiner is more emphatic: “Thoughts such as these [of thankfulness] must come naturally to all who seek esoteric training, for if the latter do not feel inclined to entertain them, they will be incapable of developing within themselves that all-embracing love which is necessary for the attainment of higher knowledge. Nothing can reveal itself to us which we do not love. And every revelation must fill us with thankfulness, for we ourselves are the richer for it.”—Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, 1904, p. 124
To Clara Smits Steiner wrote, “Every living being that you bestow your love upon reveals itself to you; lack of love is a veil overlying the things of the world and shrouding them from view. Inasmuch as you send out love you will receive knowledge in like measure.”—Letter, December 28, 1903
In the following quoted material we clearly see not only that Steiner was a Rosicrucian, but that Christian Rose Cross Himself imparted spiritual impulses through Steiner. In these passages, all the reservations and misgivings that Steiner adversaries cite are collectively answered and corrected, including: his profoundly Christian outlook; his possession of a high degree of positive clairvoyance; his indubitable Initiate status; his commitment to world- and Christ-service; his emphatic distinction between Eastern and Western paths of spiritual development; and his intimate contact with the Individualities who give primary impulses for the spiritual evolution of humanity, particularly those situated in the Western world.
That Steiner spoke at times as an intermediary for high Initiates, who he called the “Masters of Wisdom and the Harmony of Sensation and Feeling,” is well documented. These beings “stand in direct relationship to the forces of the higher hierarchies” (lecture given in Düsseldorf, June 15, 1915) and, as we shall see, included Jesus and Christian Rose Cross. Of the rules for esoteric development given in Steiner’s 1904 publication Knowledge of Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, he says, “the Masters [Steiner used this term only occasionally after 1910] have given permission for the publication of such rules” (Berlin, December 15, 1904, History and Contents, p. 38).
Addressing two of his esoteric students Steiner sought to assure
them: “For you may be certain that in esoteric matters every instruction, every piece of advice, is given in the most careful
manner and under the guidance of the great spiritual leaders of humanity.
Do not doubt that, sooner or later, you yourselves will find the way to these
leaders through the work of meditation. Whoever has experienced what I have
experienced is entitled to speak in this manner....In the next days I shall interpret these ‘Seven Voices,’
under authorization, and you will receive one of the first copies. It will
then be of much more value to you than if I were to have given it to you a
fortnight ago without this full authorization. For my esoteric work [working privately with individuals seeking
special instruction and exercises for occult development] has only just received its final blessing during the last few days.”—Letter
And who is doing the “blessing” referred to in the preceding passage? And the “authorizing”? The same beings who Max Heindel said gave the exercises of nightly retrospection and morning concentration to humanity for its advancement. In Letters to Students Heindel writes that the Teacher gave him the exercise of retrospection to disseminate (pp. 98-99). Did they give these exercises to Steiner to convey to his pupils? That he knew of them and routinely prescribed them to all his esoteric students, beginning as early as 1903, is a matter of record. “Now man himself forms these higher [occult] senses through the exercises indicated by spiritual science. The latter include concentration, in which the attention is directed to certain definite ideas and concepts connected with the secrets of the universe; and meditation, which is a life in such ideas, a complete submersion in them, in the right way. By concentration and meditation the student works upon his soul and develops within it the soul-organs of perception.”—Knowledge of Higher Worlds, 1904, p. 210
What about retrospection,
what Heindel calls “the greatest teaching ever known: The Secret of Soul
Growth” (Letters to Students, p. 48)? Steiner counsels the practice of nightly
retrospection in hundreds of personal letters to students who applied to him
for esoteric training. Here is a typical example: “spend 4-5 minutes looking
backward over the events of the day. So I would ask you to let these events of
the day pass quickly before your mind’s eye, and make yourself aware of what
your attitude is toward them. In this way one observes oneself and asks if and
to what extent one is satisfied with what one has done, what experiences should
have been made and what could have been done better...We should not regard the
past with regret—there is plenty of time during the rest of the day for
that—but we should courageously make use of the past for the future. Then we
learn something for our own present life and we learn, above all, for that time
lying beyond death. After completing the retrospect of the day in this way, one
then goes to sleep with thoughts about the people one loves or would like to
help.”—August 2, 1904. Perhaps the reader here recalls the prayer spoken in the
The same student who is addressed in the above letter is also instructed to take up in the morning “a sentence from Thomas à Kempis’ The [sic] Imitation of Christ every day....Then fill your consciousness with this sentence for the stated 6-8 minutes...Every other thought must be excluded from your mind. Through this we can absorb such a spiritually alive thought into our whole being. We let it penetrate us, and it then radiates its strength over all that we do and are.” The reader will recall that Max Heindel recommends that students read this book “to accelerate their devotional nature” (2 Q & A, pp. 266-267).
Elsewhere Steiner gives the following general instructions on “The Retrospect”:
“In the evening, before going to sleep, we should prepare ourselves to enter the spiritual worlds, yet not by egotistic petitions for happiness and so on, but by a mood of gratitude that we shall again be taken into the bosom of the Spiritual Beings. Here the practice of retrospection plays a great role. The day is to come again before us in picture form, yet in the reverse order of its events, that is, in a backward direction. And with each experience that we had in the day we must ask ourselves: Did I do that right, could I not have done it still better? It is very important to learn to look on ourselves as a stranger, as if we observed and criticized ourselves from outside. We must try to get as clear a picture as possible of the day’s events. It is far more important to be able to remember little details than striking events....These details require a great effort, but that is just what strengthens the forces of the soul....This retrospection is the means by which spiritual pictures are created and taken over with us into the spiritual world. That it must be taken in the backward direction is connected with the passage of time in the spiritual world which moves in a direction opposite to the order in the physical world. By our usual thinking forward, we set ourselves, as it were, against the spiritual worlds and repulse them.”—Advice given in 1905, Guidance in Esoteric Training, pp. 155-56
Instructions are also given for filling out and mailing the status reports that document performance of the student’s exercises: “Every fourteen days a short report should be given to the Arch-Warden to confirm that the daily exercises have been accomplished and, in cases where this has not happened, to state the reasons.”—Letter to Amalie Wagner, August 2, 1904, H&C, p. 137.
These esoteric exercise reports were to be filed at twice the frequency practiced by Fellowship Probationers. In fact, the “confidential” instructions in 1904 to the entire esoteric school under Steiner’s direction were to “note—quite briefly—that meditation had been taken up, and, should this have been neglected, to state the reason why. A progress report should be made every fourteen days to the leader of the Group concerned. Negligent members will be excluded from the Group after being warned three times and they will be required to return their papers.”—H&C, p. 139
“The Hearer should remind himself daily that he is setting before himself as his immediate object in life the entering on the Probationary Path. To this end he aims at gaining control of his mind and purifying his life....Meditation: sit cross-legged on the floor, or sit on a low chair with two hands palms downward on the two knees.” 1904, H & C, p 135. “Palms down” guards the meditator against the incursion of negative entities.
During the first decade of esoteric instruction Steiner tailored the exercises of retrospection, concentration and meditation to individual needs. Meditation on the rose cross was basic to the student’s prescribed routine. One form of this visualization-meditation was
The sevenfold weaving of the spirit
In the seven rose-stars
Of life’s dark pathways
In the Cross’s blackened wood
I am in all this
For a while Steiner adapted the text of the Rose Cross meditation to suit the individual student’s needs. Upon picturing the Rose Cross, the student meditated on the following and other variations:
What through this emblem
The Spirit of the World
Is speaking into my heart—
May it imbue my soul
At all times,
In all contingencies,
With Light and Love and Life.
Be in my Spirit,
Be in my Heart,
Nearness to God.
Soul of the World,
impart to me
Pure warmth of Love.
Spirit of the World, reveal to me
Wisdom in the Spirit,
Love in the Soul, Strength in the Will: These shall guide me, These shall hold me.
In them I trust.
To them I give my life
Elsewhere reference is made to the Rosicrucian emblem for meditation: “The Rose Cross Seal; blue background-black cross.”—Letter, 1908, History and Contents, p 124. This specific emblem was first introduced at the Munich Congress on Pentecost, 1907. The figure of the Seven Roses on the Cross had been given earlier.
Many Fellowship students know that both the original cross planted on Founder’s Day (October 28, 1911) in Mt. Ecclesia’s Rose Cross Circle and the cross in the emblem on a flag displayed on top of the original Administration Building were black. Public misinterpretation of this black cross necessitated changing its color to white.
Pentagram and hexagram exercises were also given by Steiner (1905) for the development of the vital body and desire body, respectively. Also, from the very beginning of esoteric training in 1903, Steiner assigned the first five verses, or the first fourteen verses, of the prologue to the Gospel of St. John for meditation—a practice subsequently recommended by Max Heindel. We recall that the Individuality known as John the Beloved, and John the Evangelist, in a later embodiment took the name of Christian Rosenkreutz—therefore, we can better appreciate the particular pertinence of this Gospel for Rosicrucian meditation.
The three-part morning exercises Steiner assigned esoteric students included concentration. Here is an example instruction: “The emptying of the mind of everything that belongs to daily life....Then we allow a sentence from an inspired writing to enter this empty space in consciousness, and we surrender entirely to the impression it makes on us. We do not speculate about the sentence; we live with it, as we would live with a child that we love.”—Letter, 1904, History and Contents, p 74
“The last part of the [morning] meditation consists of the creation of a mood of devotion within ourselves toward all that we consider to be the highest, what is divine....It depends on the feeling of devotion, not on the concept that one creates of the Divine.”—ibid., p 74
Another esoteric student received the following suggestions for retrospection and meditation: “In the evenings: backward review of the deeds and experiences of the day. In reverse order, from evening to morning....If one falls asleep during the exercise it does not matter. It is not a matter of completeness, but of developing a disposition to learn from life. In the morning, however, one must be fully awake while engaged in meditation.”—Letter, 1906, History and Contents, p 113, italics in the original.
Reference has been previously made to the exercises Steiner
conveyed to Edouard Schuré in 1906. We recur to them here for their relevance
to our current topic. Steiner informed Schuré that the exercises “are in harmony with the Rosicrucian wisdom.”—History and Contents, p. 112.
Incidentally, Schuré records his first meeting with Steiner: “It was borne in
upon me that for the first time in my life I was face to face with one of those
supreme seers who have direct vision of the great Beyond. Intuitively and
poetically, I had described such seers in The Great Initiates, but I had never
hoped to meet one in this world. The impression was instantaneous,
irresistible—of the unexpected as well as of the already known. Even before he opened
his lips, an inner voice said to me: Here is a true master, one who will play
an all-important part in your life.”—Schuré’s Forward to An Esoteric Cosmology, eighteen lectures given by Steiner in
If Steiner was a Rosicrucian, as distinct from being a student of Rosicrucian teachings, one would expect that he knew exactly who the Rosicrucians were (and are); when and how their Order was formed, and by Whom; what their purpose is; how they work in the world; and how an aspirant to higher knowledge knows if he is to commit to the Rosicrucian path. Concerning these and other issues Steiner has a great deal to say. It is not our task to provide a synopsis of this material but simply to state the fact that a wealth of information on the genesis of Rosicrucianism and the identity of its Founder is available to the inquiring seeker.
While numerous references to Rosicrucianism and Christian Rosenkreutz are to be found in the total Steiner opus of over six thousand lectures and more than twenty books, we cite here but four primary texts: Theosophy of the Rosicrucian, a course of fourteen lectures given in Munich between May 22 and June 6, 1907, which is a condensed survey of much of the material that appears in the Cosmo; Rosicrucian Esotericism, a course of ten lectures given in Budapest between June 3 and June 10, 1909; Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz, thirteen lectures given in various European cities during the years 1911 and 1912; and Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation, six lectures given in Dornach, Switzerland, January 4-13, 1924.
Upon a close reading of these texts, we must conclude that the individuality who has provided us with this information from his own scientific research in the spiritual world had direct access to the fountainhead of Rosicrucian wisdom. A confirmation of this conclusion is now our task. We begin by putting Steiner’s promulgation of Rosicrucian Teachings in context and by quoting extensively from one document, a letter to Edouard Schuré in 1907:
“In the early part of the fifteenth century Christian Rosenkreutz went to the East to find a balance between the initiations of the East and the West. One consequence of this, following his return, was the definitive establishment of the Rosicrucian stream in the West. In this form Rosicrucianism was intended to be a strictly secret school for the preparation of those things which would become the public task of esotericism at the turn of the 19th century, when material science would have found a provisional solution to certain problems.
These problems were described by Christian Rosenkreutz as:
1) The discovery of spectral analysis, which revealed the material constitution of the cosmos.
2) The introduction of material evolution into organic science.
3) The recognition of a differing state of consciousness from our normal one through the acceptance of hypnotism and suggestion.
Only when this material knowledge had reached fruition in science were certain Rosicrucian principles from esoteric science to be made public property.
Until that time, Christian-mystical initiation was given to the Occident in the form in which it passed through its founder, the “Unknown One from the Oberland [Jesus]...”—Correspondence and Documents, p. 16
The foregoing passage not only shows that Steiner was privy to restricted esoteric knowledge, he writes as if he had heard Christian Rosenkreutz speak the words he (Steiner) has recorded.
Also in the just-cited document, Steiner points to “the essential meaning of the Earth, which lies in the recognition and realization of the intentions of the living Christ.” He continues, “To reveal these intentions in the form of complete wisdom, beauty and activity is, however, the deepest aim of Rosicrucianism....[I]t should be understood that the introduction of a correct esotericism in the West can only be of the Rosicrucian-Christian type, because this latter gave birth to western life and because by its loss mankind would deny the meaning and destiny of the Earth.”—ibid, p.18
Rosicrucian teachings evolved from the increasing need of those “who felt within themselves the discord between faith and knowledge....It is only in quite recent times that this conflict has gradually developed. The Masters of Wisdom saw that this was bound to happen and that a new path would have to be found for those whose faith had been destroyed. For persons much occupied with science, the necessary path towards Initiation is the Rosicrucian, for the Rosicrucian method shows that the highest knowledge of mundane things is thoroughly compatible with the highest knowledge of spiritual truths. It is precisely through the Rosicrucian path that those who have been led away from Christian belief by what they take to be science can learn to understand Christianity truly for the first time. By this method anyone can come to a deeper grasp of truth of Christianity. Truth is one, but it can be reached along different paths, just as at the foot of a mountain there are various paths, but they all meet at the summit.”—At the Gates of Spiritual Science (1906), pp. 130-1
The reader familiar with Max Heindel’s writings may see in the foregoing passage an ancestor to those writings. In fact, this text is expanded upon in earlier lectures of the same cycle: “Rosicrucian training...gives primary attention to thinking, and for this purpose uses the means available on the physical plane....[T]he Christian way is best suited to those whose feelings are most strongly developed. Those who have more or less broken away from the Church and rely rather on science, but have been led by science into a doubting frame of mind, will do best with the Rosicrucian way.”— ibid, p. 115-116
More generally, Rosicrucian Christianity is, according to Steiner, the path for the fifth culture period of the Post-Atlantean Epoch, as mystic Christianity was the right path for the fourth culture period, and as Manichean Christianity will be the path of the sixth culture period (cf. Cosmo, p. 418).
“The Guardians of the secret knowledge...[knew that] these secrets must also be grasped by the general intelligence prevailing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries....He, Christian Rosenkreutz, spoke as follows. He said, ‘A far greater number of human beings who long for the primeval wisdom will come to us, and we could communicate it to them in the form in which we now possess it. But its acceptance demands belief in and recognition of our authority in a high degree—an attitude that will progressively disappear from mankind. The more men’s power of judgment increases, the less will be their belief in those who teach them.’” (Rosicrucian Esotericism, pp. 2-3) Again, Steiner tells us what Christian Rosenkreutz said. How does Steiner know this? Is he simply using a rhetorical device, speaking loosely and figuratively? Let the reader determine for himself.
A critical issue is addressed in the above passage. It lies at the heart of our inquiry. People continue to want the authoritative voice before they are willing to give assent to what is spoken. But Christian Rosenkreutz is saying that truth has its own voice, is its own authority, and only when we seek truth directly, ignoring, as it were, the claims to authority, be they bogus or just, are we really free and self-determining. In “Words to the Wise” Max Heindel reminds us that what he presents may be wrong (pp. 8-9). We ourselves must “prove all things.” That is our responsibility. To emphasize the importance of this responsibility he placed this very motto (Paul’s injunction to the Thessalonians—1:5:21) on the title page of the first and second editions of the Cosmo (see p. 98 for facsimile). Though it is absent from later editions, we need to be reminded of its relevance.
The Rosicrucian way to truth is not through creed or dogma; whoever or whatever be the authority, we subject all we hear and read to the same common-sense scrutiny and interior tribunal, else we walk the Seth path, the path of passive acceptance. In principle, we do not believe a statement true because Heindel or Steiner says it is true. Equally, we do not presumptively believe it false. We suspend judgment, listen, weigh, measure, compare, reflect, holding truth-decisions in abeyance until objective information can be interiorly confirmed.
The Rosicrucian path to truth is through direct experience in the physical world and through the suffering that experience necessarily entails. This path locates, strengthens, and confirms the primacy of the “inner tribunal,” the forum where truth is determined. This concept of the individual determination of truth lies behind what is often perceived as Steiner’s dry presentation of material. As much as possible, he has expunged the personal element from the supersensible facts so that the hearer’s or reader’s freedom and volition are not subtly infringed by the suasions and persuasions of the ardent voice and the impassioned language. This same principle accounts for the role of anonymity in areas where influence, by dint of position or attainment, might encroach on another’s free will.
In light of Steiner’s ability to function consciously in the higher worlds and to be able to draw down its content for our earth-bound comprehension, what do we make of the following statement: “It is impossible to penetrate into any domain of the spiritual world without a link having first been made with what has already been fathomed by the Elder Brothers of humanity.”? (ibid, p. 15) Is a link between Steiner and the Guardians of Truth here implied?
In a closed-circle address in Berlin, June 26, 1906, Steiner spoke of “the twelve Masters of the White Lodge who have all taken part in the whole Earth evolution....The Leader, the Teacher of the [Esoteric] School [which designates Steiner], holds no responsibility toward anyone other than the one [Master] in whose name he speaks or she speaks.” Masters involved in Post-Atlantean development include: Koot Hoomi, who helped effect the transition between the third (Egyptian/Sumerian) and fourth cultural epochs; Hilarion, inspirer of the fourth (Greek/Semitic) cultural epoch; Jesus of Nazareth, who guided the transition between the fourth and fifth cultural epochs; Christian Rosenkreutz, inspirer of the fifth (Celtic, Anglo-Germanic) cultural epoch; and Morya, inspirer of the sixth or Slavic cultural epoch. After the division of the Theosophical Society into Western and Eastern branches in the first decade of the twentieth century, the above-named Masters divided their primary spheres of influence, with Jesus and Christian Rosenkreutz taking charge of the spiritual affairs of the Western world.
That Steiner was in contact with and even spoke for most of these Masters is a matter of record. In a Berlin lecture on July 14, 1904, Steiner announced: “Today the Mahatmas [Eastern term for Master] will have something to say to us....Now the Master Morya will speak....The Masters can be regarded by us as Ideal. They have attained what we must attain in the future. We can therefore question them about our future development.”
In reference to the
In an oblique but startling admission contained in a letter to one of his esoteric pupils, Steiner writes, “Your question about the Masters I have only implicitly referred to by my indication that not I is meant when I say ‘I.’ I know that you understand me aright, for I value very highly the experience you have made during your lifetime, and I therefore spoke to you in full confidence.”—Letter, 1906, H & C, p114. To whom is Steiner referring in this passage? Obviously a Master; and, based on his other references, very possibly Christian Rosenkreutz.
In a previously-cited letter (1907) to Edouard Schuré, positive clairvoyant and author of The Great Initiates, Steiner confides: “I did not meet the M. [Master] immediately, but first an emissary who was completely initiated into the secrets of the plants and their effects, and into their connection with the cosmos and human nature.” Correspondence and Documents, p 10
Some persons may object to the use of the terms Master. The independent Western mind associates it with Eastern religions and the undue exercise of authority. At the beginning of the twentieth century such a construal was muted. After all, the Gospels refer to Jesus as “Master” (Rabboni) approximately forty times. Max Heindel as well refers to the work of “Master Jesus” during the so-called “Dark Ages” (Cosmo, p. 409). Steiner used this term with decreasing frequency when referring to the Brothers who guide Western development.
Steiner opened his Düsseldorf lecture, April 15, 1909, with these words: “Today we would like to bring to mind that, as in every esoteric lesson, what is revealed in these lessons emanates from the Masters of Wisdom and the Harmony of Sensations and Feelings.” In this lecture the Individuality of Zarathustra was traced through successive incarnations to the birth of Jesus. Foretelling the advent of Christ’s human embodiment, Zarathustra addressed his students in words repeated by Steiner. He says, “These are his [Zarathustra’s] words...” Is Steiner taking spiritual dictation, or merely “winging it”?
In a recorded conversation with Friedrich Rittelmeyer, the first priest-leader of the Christian Community, “Rudolf Steiner replied to a question concerning [the identity of] the Friend of God from the Highland, that he was the Master Jesus, who, since the Mystery of Golgotha, has incarnated during every century. To another question about whether he was currently incarnated, Steiner said that he was living at the time in the Carpathians, and indicated that they were in spiritual contact.”
Steiner was in spiritual
contact with Jesus! Upon an earlier occasion (Berlin, October
22, 1906), Steiner indicated that at the time Christ entered Jesus’ bodies, he
(Jesus) had taken the third of the four Greater Initiations. In response to a
question posed by Wilhelm Rath in
According to Steiner, the Young Man of Nain, the son of a widow, whom Christ Jesus raised from the dead, became Mani, the founder of Manicheism, in his following incarnation (from a recorded conversation with Christian Community priests Walter Klein and Emil Boch in 1924). “Mani will not incarnate during this century, but intends to do so in the next century, if he can find a suitable body” (from conversations with Steiner between 1919 and 1921, recorded by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer). Such privileged knowledge as Steiner possessed, enabling him to report on the plans and purposes of high spiritual beings as if he were their intimate associate, gives evidence of his own advanced spiritual status.—Both quotations from H & C, p. 227
In further elaborating the mission of Christian Rosenkreutz,
Steiner spoke as follows: “When human beings become aware of the fact that the
good and the moral can become something as clear and definite as a mathematical
formula, then they will have united on this level as a humanity that will bear
a very different physiognomy than the humanity of our day. To lead humankind to
a knowledge of such a moral order, to reveal its laws to human beings, so that
a group of people arise who consciously work toward these aims, that was the
object of...Christian Rosenkreutz....[He] and his seven pupils [in physical
manifestation] laid the foundation for the recognition of the moral law, so
that this would not continue to reverberate in what was given by the different
religions, but could be grasped as it was, and awaken to life in each
individual. The truth, with regard to morality and goodness, will arise within
people as something acknowledged and experienced.”—Lecture,
A passage quoted elsewhere is repeated here for its relevance to
our subject. The Theosophical Society’s
leader, Annie Besant, refers to Steiner in a letter to a
In an earlier letter to Annie Besant (July, 1906) Steiner firmly established his position as a teacher of the Rosicrucian Christian path: “With good foresight into the peculiarities of the fifth-cultural epoch, the Masters of the Rosicrucian School have elaborated the ‘path’ that is the only one appropriate for a Western person in the current cycle of development....In the current phase of human development, occultism must be publicly spelled out....In Middle Europe the direction of occult endeavor has been determined since the fourteenth century, and we, of strict necessity, are obliged to follow this direction....I am conscious of my devotion to the Masters in every word of this letter.”—H & C, pp. 270-72
Rosicrucianism teaches a future form of Christianity. “In the Rosicrucian sense, Christianity is at once the highest development of individual freedom and universal religion. There is a community of free souls. The tyranny of dogma is replaced by the radiance of divine Wisdom, embracing intelligence, love and action. The science which arises from this cannot be measured by its power of abstract reasoning but by its power to bring souls to flower and fruition. That is the difference between ‘Logia’ and ‘Sophia,’ between science and divine Wisdom, between Theology and Theosophy. In this sense, Christ is the center of esoteric evolution of the West.”—An Esoteric Cosmology, 1906, pp. 20-21
Steiner’s direct contact with the “Masters,” including, but not limited to Christian Rosenkreutz and Jesus, is again implied in his 1907 letter “to all members of the German [Theosophical] Section who look to me for esoteric instruction....[M]y attitude toward those who trust me will never be other than what I can hold myself responsible for through my own knowledge toward those we call the Masters....I will impart the message to whomever I can, but I do not desire that anyone accept what I say in any way other than heartfelt conviction.” In this letter Steiner informed his students of the need to “part ways with her [Annie Besant]” because she could not endorse the Christian Rosicrucian path that Steiner was compelled to teach.—H & C, p. 299
In an article in the magazine Lucifer-Gnosis (No. 33, 1907) Steiner further explained his actions. “Higher wisdom,” he writes, “is simply the emanation of more highly developed spiritual individualities—[and he] would never impart anything through his teachings for which he could not take responsibility in relation to those individualities.”—H & C, pp. 301-302. Again, Steiner’s intimate contact with Christian Rosenkreutz is implied because he is teaching the Rosicrucian path.
In the first lesson to members of his Esoteric School after the separation from Besant’s Eastern School (1907), Steiner goes into more detail about Rosicrucianism: “My dear Sisters and Brothers....A being that ought to belong to Jupiter or Venus [Periods] according to its stage of development must, nevertheless, make use of the physical bodies available to all humankind if it would live among us. But in spirit, it leads a life belonging to a far distant future, and through this it gradually carries this future down into us and enables us to attain it....The higher worlds represent future human conditions....The Rose-Cross...is the symbol for the new life that will blossom forth in spirit in the future....
“[I]t was necessary for the exalted culture of the East to receive
an impulse from our territories, to merge itself with the spiritual culture that
had grown up quietly in our lands. The exalted spiritual individuality who
recognized this fact was Christian Rosenkreutz. In the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries he took up the great task of uniting the Eastern and
Western cultures. He has always lived among us and he is still with us today as
the leader of the spiritual life. He brought the spiritual culture of the
East—revealed in its greatest blossoming in the Old and New Testaments—into
intimate harmony with the ancient wisdom of Atlantis. Thus he gave us the form
of Christianity that had already been prepared and introduced through that
mysterious ‘Unknown One from the
“[Eastern] occult brotherhoods actually succeeded in forcing her [H.P. Blavatsky] to present what she had to offer in her second work, The Secret Doctrine, in an Eastern guise. We are still accustomed to receiving most of our occult terminology in Eastern language. But this Eastern form of truth is not for us Western peoples. It can only restrict us and divert us from our goal....[A]n incisive change has occurred lately regarding the Esoteric Schools of the East and of the West....Now, however, the Western School has become independent....The Eastern School is being led by Mrs. Annie Besant, and those who feel more attracted to her in their hearts can no longer remain in our school....At the head of our Western School there are two Masters: the Master Jesus and the Master Christian Rosenkreutz. And they lead us along two paths: the Christian and the Christian-Rosicrucian way. The Great White Lodge leads all spiritual movements, and the Master Jesus and the Master Christian Rosenkreutz belong to this Lodge. We stand at the dawning of the Sixth Day of Creation. We have to develop the sixth and seventh cultural epochs out of ourselves. The future in its rising light is already present within us. Apprehending this, receive into yourselves what the Master Christian Rosenkreutz has spoken....”
The words that followed were not recorded, probably at Steiner’s request. But that Steiner was the designated voice for these words, that he was so spiritually disposed as to be the bearer of intentions meant to be conveyed to Christian Rosicrucian students by the Order’s Founder, designates Steiner as perhaps the most privileged exponent of the science of spirit in the modern era, as well as an authorized Rosicrucian spokesperson.
He continues, in the same presentation: “In 1459 Christian Rosenkreutz saw it was necessary for the wisdom of the Tau to unite with Christianity so that it could be led into the new evolution. He brought to the people of Middle Europe the wisdom of the Tau or Ros Crux that united the wisdom of the Old and New Testaments....The voice of the Western Masters is less clamorous than that of the Eastern Masters....If we want to introduce the Eastern wisdom here and follow the Eastern teachings, this would indicate the decline of the West. We need the Western teaching given to us by these two Masters....What is given through me by order of the Masters of the West goes alongside what is given through Mrs. Besant on the orders of the Masters of the East, quite independently of it.
“The Christian teaching and
the Christian-Rosicrucian teaching now exist in the West. The former educates
through feelings, the latter through understanding. The dying cultures of the
East still need the Eastern teachings. The Western teachings are for future
cultures.”—Above quotes all from Steiner’s first address to the Western
“Initiates have the duty to
instruct humanity; they, in their turn, have received their instruction from
the higher beings who have already progressed beyond human development—that
is, from the Masters of Wisdom and the Harmony of Sensations and Feelings, the
exalted beings who truly influence every spiritual current that exists on the
Earth, and who gradually infiltrate their wisdom little by little as human
beings rise higher in their development.”—Lecture,
In yet another instance of his direct contact with the beings who
guide human evolution, Steiner spoke the following words: “Because some things
have come to a standstill in the theosophical movement the Masters have given me the incentive to speak to you in this way.”—
“The Rosicrucian Brotherhood is actually the source, the origin,
of all other brotherhoods that have been absorbed into European culture....The
teachings and the work that was carried out in these brotherhoods enabled one to become aware of the eternal nucleus of
one’s being. It raised people to the level where they could find a connection
to the higher worlds, to the worlds that lie above us, where we can look toward
the leadership of our Elder Brothers,
those who live among us and have reached a stage all of you will one day
attain. We call these Elder Brothers, because anticipating the rest of evolution, they have attained this exalted
state at an earlier time; they have attained the assurance of the immortal
core of their being....These Elder Brothers, or Masters, [are] the great
leaders of humankind.”—Lecture, “The Original Impulse behind the Theosophical
Movement: The Brotherhood Idea,”
In response to a direct communication from the spiritual world, Steiner gave an address in which an invitation was extended to confer a society for “Theosophical Style and Art”:
“I have already emphasized on another occasion the difference between founding [done by humans] and conferring [a giving from above]; this was some time ago. It was not understood then, and hardly anyone has given it a thought since. For that reason those spiritual powers known to you under the sign of the Rose-Cross ceased to disseminate the knowledge of this difference. But the attempt must be made again....For this reason it is now announced that those who come forward in an appropriate manner will be entrusted with a way of working together that, in the way it is presented, can be directly attributed to the individuality we have known since earliest times in the West as Christian Rosenkreutz ....What could be imparted until now concerns one section, one branch of this endowment—specifically, the artistic representation of Rosicrucian occultism.
“The first point I must mention to you is that under the direct protection of that
individuality—known to the outer world for two incarnations as Christian
Rosenkreutz—a style of working together will be conferred that, to begin
with, will be distinguished for a while by the provisional name, ‘Society for
Theosophical Style and Art’....I myself
will only act as the interpreter, within the movement in question, of the
principles that, as such, only exist in the spiritual world....It will continue
to show that it issues from the spiritual world insofar as the membership is
only based on the advocacy and acknowledgment of spiritual interests and
excludes everything of a personal nature....It would be possible at this point,
my dear friends, to sin against the spirit of what is to take place here, if
one now went out into the world and announced that one or another thing has
here been founded. Not only has nothing whatever been founded, but it is a fact
that it will never be possible to define what should occur, because everything must remain in a continual state
of becoming....Therefore, the only principle that will be laid down today
is this: acceptance of the spiritual world as a basic reality....What this thing is to become must never
prejudiced in any way by what it is now....[W]hat figures as art...has to
flow into our civilization from the spiritual worlds....It must happen that spiritual life is the basis of what we do
This impulse from the spiritual world was not embraced by those to whom it was directed, and did not materialize. The length of this quoted passage is warranted, we feel, on several counts. First, Steiner is clearly obeying and transmitting a spiritual intention coming from Christian Rosenkreutz, with whom he shows himself in obvious contact, if not communion. Second, it highlights the need, emphasized by Max Heindel, for the reintegration of art, science, and religion. Of the three wisdom branches of human expression, art is the most neglected, even though it may best represent and inspire vital understanding of spiritual truths. Thirdly, a point central to this study, the passage emphasizes the need for complete openness and flexibility if one is to receive and rightly construe spiritual truths. Fixity of mental outlook, unwillingness to change and grow, are absolutely antithetical to the spirit of Rosicrucian Christianity. “[T]he truth of the intellect applies to what has become, to what is manifest. And the manifested is only a part of Being. Every object in our surroundings is at the same time product (that is, become, manifested), and seed (becoming, unmanifested). Only when one thinks of an object as both become and becoming does one realize that it is a member of the one life, the life where time is not outside, but within it. Thus finite truth is only something that has become; it must be called to life by a truth that is becoming. The former comprehends, the latter heeds. All merely scientific truth belongs to the former kind. [Living truth belongs to the latter kind.]”—From “Exegesis to Light on the Path, by Mabel Collins,” written about 1905
“What was disseminated by Christian Rosenkreutz in the Temple
Legend [regarding Hiram Abiff, casting of the molten sea, etc.] through the
Brotherhood, the Rosicrucians have made into their task: to teach not merely
religious piety, but also science in an external way; not merely knowledge of
the outer world, but knowledge of spiritual forces.”—The Temple Legend, 20 lectures,
“The Rosicrucian method of
initiation is especially for modern people; it meets the needs of modern conditions.
Not only is it a Christian path, but it enables the striving human being to
recognize that spiritual research and its achievements are in complete harmony
with modern culture, and with modern humanity’s whole outlook. It will for long centuries to come be the
right method of initiation into spiritual life....[You] will find that
neither ambition nor selfishness motivates the Rosicrucian; he rather strives
wherever possible to improve aspects of the prevailing culture, while never
losing sight of the much loftier aims that link him with the central
Knowledge, 13 lectures,
It may come as a surprise to some of its members that the path of Rosicrucian initiation was not
definitely articulated by the Rosicrucian Fellowship’s founder, Max Heindel.
The “modern” initiation referred to in Max Heindel’s book Ancient and Modern Initiation is, in fact, the esoteric Christian
initiation, based on the life of Christ Jesus. As he writes at the end of this
book, the Christian mystic seeks Jesus, “whose life he has imitated with such
success and from whom he is thenceforth inseparable. Jesus is his Teacher and
his guide to the
Steiner distinguishes between these two paths, the occult and the mystic paths of attainment, in terms of the conditions he set for his public teachings: “In my presentation man surrenders himself and brings the external spiritual world itself to objective manifestation within him, whereas the mystic strengthens his own inner life and in this way effaces the true form of the objective spiritual world.”—The Course of My Life, p 127
What then is this Rosicrucian path? How is it characterized? This essay does not allow for an in-depth study of the Rosicrucian path of Initiation. Rudolf Steiner has described this path and we commend those interested in such knowledge to his expositions. However, since the Fellowship is Rosicrucian, the reader of this study may benefit from the following brief description of the seven stages of the Rosicrucian path of Initiation. (“The sequence in which the student passes through these preliminary stages of Rosicrucian training depends on the student’s personality.”):
“1. Study, in the Rosicrucian sense of the Word.” This first stage “requires the student to develop a thinking that is thoroughly sensible and logical....all inclination towards fantasy and illusion is overcome....Here we are concerned with thinking that has become sense-free....A person must be able to find himself in a world of pure thought when his attention is completely withdrawn from external reality. In spiritual science, and also in Rosicrucianism, this is known as self-created thinking”
“2. Acquisition of imaginative knowledge....[F]or the Rosicrucian, everything that takes place in nature is an expression of soul and spirit....When you begin to read in nature, when nature reveals its mysteries, and different plants convey to you the Earth-Spirit’s cheerfulness or sorrow, then you begin to understand imaginative knowledge....[Here follows an example] The pupil in the Rosicrucian school had repeatedly to bring the picture before his mind of the plant with its head downward and the reproductive organs stretching towards the beam of the sun. The sunbeam was called the ‘holy lance of love’ that must penetrate the plant to enable the seeds to mature and grow. The pupil was told: Contemplate man in relation to the plant; compare the substance of which man is composed with that of the plant. Man, the plant turned upside down, has permeated his substance, his flesh, with physical cravings, passion and sensuality. The plant stretches in purity and chastity the reproductive organs towards the fertilizing sacred lance of love. This stage will be reached by an individual when he has completely purified all cravings....That individual will stretch a lance of spiritual love, the completely spiritualized productive force, towards a calyx that opens as does that of the plant to the holy lance of love of the sunbeam.”
Should the reader find the above quote familiar, it is because a
variant of the text appears in Ancient
and Modern Initiation (pp. 51-52) and is also included in the text for the
New Moon service held in the Rosicrucian Fellowship’s
“3. Acquisition of the occult script....This is no ordinary writing, but one that is connected with nature’s secrets. [An example is the vortex. It is used to indicate the formative forces that pass over from the old to the new plant.] This dying and new coming-into-being of the plant is indicated by drawing two intertwining [nontouching] spirals....Many events take place, both physical and spiritual, that correspond to such a vortex,” including the transition from Atlantis to Aryana when the Sun was in the constellation Cancer, thus accounting for that sign’s double vortex symbol. “There exist hundreds and thousands of such signs that the pupil gradually learns. The signs are not arbitrary; they enable those who understand them to immerse themselves in things and directly experience their essence. While study [step 1] schools the faculty of reason, and imaginative knowledge [step 2] the life of feelings, knowledge of the occult script [step 3] takes hold of the will.”
4. “Preparation of the philosopher’s stone (the stone of the wise)....The regulation of the breath is connected with the discovery, or preparation of, the philosopher’s stone....The Rosicrucians introduce a certain rhythm into breath, detail of which can only be imparted directly by world of mouth....At some time in the future a person will be able to transform within his own being carbonic acid into oxygen. Thus, what today the plant does for human beings—transforming the carbonic acid in the carbon—will be done by man himself....Instead of exhaling carbon a person will use it in his own being...[to] build up his own body. Thus, the Rosicrucian pupil learns the alchemy that eventually will enable a person to transform the fluids and substances of the human body into carbon....[He] will learn to create ordinary coal—which is also what diamonds consist of....That is the alchemy that builds the philosopher’s stone. The human body itself is the retort....The indications given here have only recently reached the public from the School of the Rosicrucians; you will not find them in any books.” A few of Max Heindel's books, which appeared several years after this disclosure in 1906, make reference to this occult transformation: Rosicrucian Christianity Lectures, p. 290; Ancient and Modern Initiation, pp. 105-106
“5. Knowledge of the microcosm, that is, of man’s essential nature....The substances and forces within us are like a miniature recapitulation of what exists in the rest of nature...[U]nder certain instruction and guidance it is possible to enter deeply into the body, and investigate not only what pertains to the body, but to the spiritual realm, and also to the world of nature around us....This penetration down from the ‘I’ into the bodily nature... ought only to be undertaken after due preparation. Before a start is made the powers of intellect and reason must be strengthened. That is why in Rosicrucian schools the training of thinking is obligatory. Furthermore, the pupil must be inwardly morally strong; this is essential as he may otherwise easily stumble....Human beings will have direct knowledge of the macrocosm when they learn to recognize, through a Rosicrucian training, what it is in their own being that is created from the universe....An individual looks into the Akasha Chronicle [memory of nature] and is able to follow mankind’s evolution through millions of years....Genuine self-knowledge is neither reached by aimless brooding within oneself nor in believing, as is often taught nowadays, that by looking into oneself the inner god will speak. The power to recognize the great World-Self is attained by immersing oneself in the organs. It is true that down the ages the call has resounded: ‘Know thyself,’ but it is equally true that within one’s own being the higher self cannot be found. Rather, as Goethe pointed out, one’s spirit must widen until it encompasses the world.”
“6. Becoming one with the macrocosm or great world. Immersing oneself in one’s inner being is not a path of comfort. Here phrases and generalities do not suffice. It is in concrete reality that one must plunge into every being and phenomenon and lovingly accept it as part of oneself. It is a concrete and intimate knowledge, far removed from merely indulging in phrases like: ‘Being in harmony with the world...or ‘melt together with the world.’ Such phrases are simply valueless compared with a Rosicrucian training. Here the aim is to strengthen and invigorate human soul-forces, rather than chatter about being in tune with the infinite.”
“7. Attaining godliness....Knowledge now becomes feeling; what lives in the soul is transformed into spiritual perception. A person no longer feels that he lives only within himself. He begins to experience himself in all beings: in the stone, plant and animal, in everything into which he is immersed. They reveal to him their essential nature, not in words or concepts, but to his innermost feelings. A time begins when universal sympathy unites him with all beings; he feels with them and participates in their existence....[W]hen his being encompasses the whole universe so that he can say to it all: ‘Thou are that,’ then the words which Goethe, out of Rosicrucian knowledge, expresses in his poem The Mysteries will have meaning: ‘Who added to the cross the wreath of roses?’
“However, these words can be spoken not only from the highest point of view, but from the moment that ‘the cross wreathed in roses’—what this expresses—has become one’s ideal, one’s watchword. It stands as the symbol for a human being’s overcoming the lower self in which he merely broods, and his rising from it into the higher self that leads a person to the blissful experience of the life and being of all things. He will then understand Goethe’s words in the poem: West-East Divan
This dying and becoming,
Thou art but a troubled guest
O’er the dark earth roaming.
“Unless one can grasp what is meant by the overcoming of the lower, narrow self and the rising into the higher self, it is not possible to understand the cross as symbol of dying and becoming—the wood representing the withering of the lower self, and the blossoming roses the becoming of the higher self. Nor can the words be understood with which we shall close the subject of Rosicrucianism—words also expressed by Goethe, which as watchword belong above the cross wreathed in roses symbolizing sevenfold man:
The power that holds constrained all humankind,
The victor o’er himself no more can bind.
The foregoing outline of the path of Rosicrucian Initiation is drawn from lecture 11, “Who are the Rosicrucians?” contained in Supersensible Knowledge, thirteen lectures given in Berlin and Cologne, from October 1906 to April 1907. The reader will surely recognize all three Goethe quotes from their various appearances in Heindel books, particularly the last couplet, which, in a slightly modified version, the Rosicrucian Fellowship’s founder was fond of quoting.
It is ironic that the Elder Brother’s alleged first-choice “candidate” for disseminating the Rosicrucian Teachings, the same who reportedly failed to pass the test entitling him to receive these Teachings because he refused to give them out (assuming that was the condition for their disclosure)—it is ironic that this same person, Steiner, should be the one to describe the stages of the Rosicrucian Initiation, while the second candidate, who passed the test and received the Teachings, should omit any reference to this Initiation in the Cosmo’s first edition and add the following text in a later edition of the Cosmo: “It is, of course, impossible to describe in a book intended for the general public the stages of the Rosicrucian Initiation; to do so would be a breach of faith and it would also be impossible for lack of words to adequately express oneself. But it is permissible to give an outline and show the purpose of Initiation.”—p. 525
Steiner sought to permeate and leaven all areas of human endeavor and knowledge with a Rosicrucian impulse. Particularly did he stress the Rosicrucian character of his four-part drama The Portal of Initiation. As Adam Bittleston writes in a forward to the first of these four “mystery dramas”:
“Rosicrucian Christianity, in its original genuine form, was concerned not to turn away from the world of the senses, as did a great deal of medieval piety, but to discover in Nature the eternal signature of God, and to work for the redemption of all that has fallen away, both in Nature and in man, from the Divine purpose. While traditional Christianity has emphasized the effects of the Fall in human feelings and actions, the original Rosicrucians understood above all the urgent problem of redeeming human knowledge. They knew that in the centuries to come a form of knowledge would dominate humanity which would regard man as the product of external, natural forces, which would find no real place in its picture of the world for Christ, and would be content with rigid, lifeless thinking.
“As the essence of a knowledge inspired by Christ, transcending a science willing to remain external and untouched by the living spirit, the Rosicrucians received the words Ex Deo Nascimur, In Christo Morimur, Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus: ‘From God we are born, In Christ we die, Through the Holy Spirit we live anew’....‘Man can only understand the true reality in the external world when he has beheld this true reality within himself’—So Rudolf Steiner expressed one of the central discoveries of his life. The discovery by the most varied human beings of the living Spirit within them, which can lead them rightly and with all the powers of their soul toward the Spirit in the universe, is the theme of the [Rosicrucian] Mystery Plays.”—The Portal of Initiation, R.S. Publications, 1961, pp. 39-40
We will conclude this section of our presentation with several final observations. We have previously called the reader’s attention to the statement made by Augusta Foss Heindel, in the pamphlet “The Birth of the Rosicrucian Fellowship,” that “the candidate whom they [the Elder Brothers] had first chosen [to disseminate the Rosicrucian Teachings]...had been under their instruction for several years” (p. 4). This statement is curious indeed, since the Brother’s instruction, as we were so emphatically told in this same and other versions of the transmission story, was predicated on the candidate’s inflexible resolve, at whatever cost, to make these Teachings public. How then can it be said that this other “candidate” did not pass the test? The candidate who devoted a quarter of a century to indefatigably teaching the wisdom of Rosicrucian Christianity?
Moreover, this candidate, the same person who Max Heindel visited
and with whose teachings he was allegedly disappointed—“for this man had little
to give him, and...what he gave out was not new to him”—this same person,
Rudolf Steiner, is described on the title page of the Cosmo’s first edition (see p. 98 for facsimile) not only as Max
Heindel’s “valued friend,” but as
the source for “much valuable
information received.” And where is this information? In the Cosmo. How can we sure? It is clearly
demonstrated in the next section of this study, which shows the close
similarity, and in some cases virtual identity, between Steiner’s already-existing body of public information and the
contents of the Cosmo. The interested
reader’s further independent inquiry can only reinforce the perception of this
commonality. Steiner may well have been receiving some instruction from
Rosicrucian sources during the years prior to Max Heindel’s visit to
Additionally, regarding Steiner as their first choice (according to Mrs. Heindel), why would the Elder Brothers have chosen a person who didn’t know English and could not have delivered the Teachings to the American public, or, for that matter, the entire English-speaking world? Should Steiner have passed this alleged test, there would have been no English teachings from the Rosicrucian Brotherhood, at least not until Steiner’s books and lectures had been translated. Again, if Heindel was under the instruction of an Elder Brother for approximately one month (Birth, p. 5), and never again received such direct instruction (“The Elder Brother—whom I, perhaps mistakenly, speak of as Teacher—has never taught me directly since the first short period when that which is embodied in the Cosmo was given”—Letters to Students, p. 98, written in 1914), while Steiner was under instruction for “several years,” should not Steiner have received at least twenty-four times (two years minimum, we are being quite literal!) as much esoteric knowledge as was imparted to Heindel? But, of course, the inherent contradiction of this whole scenario calls its reliability into question, since the condition for receiving the instruction must first have been met—a condition Steiner allegedly failed after those several years of instruction. What entitled him to receive this instruction if he proved unworthy of it?
Heindel tells us that the Elder Brothers are not merely Adepts, they
have passed the four Greater Initiations and voluntarily elect to remain with
Earth evolution to help their younger brothers. These Brothers then possess the
same ability to speak in any human language in order to make themselves
understood. Such an ability is a function of being invested by the Holy Spirit
and was demonstrated by the Apostles and disciples at the first Pentecost, as
well as by the Comte de St. Germain, a later embodiment of Christian Rose
Cross. This ability being taken for granted, why were not the Teachings given
to Heindel in English rather than German (2
Questions and Answers, p. 301), and in a form that would not have required
extensive reworking due to the “heavy psychic atmosphere of
Moreover, assuming that the Cosmo is essentially the work of the Elder Brother, is it not passing strange that it is not dedicated to him? But it is not. Nor is he or his confreres mentioned in the entire first edition of this exceptional work. But Steiner is! The reader surely understands why Steiner material warrants a closer look. Fidelity to the truth, taking seriously Heindel’s own conspicuously placed motto (on the title page of the Cosmo’s first edition—“Prove all things”), we must inquire into the curious tentativeness with which Heindel regards the very information that comes from the Elder Brother. Why should he apologize for it. Why is it not authoritative? since it is later attributed to the Elder Brother? Surely, if anything can be certain and authoritative, such information is. It was purportedly a direct transmission. Heindel was a scribe. And yet, consider the following statements in the writer’s preface to the Cosmo, “A Word to the Wise”:
· “There is no infallible revelation of this complicated subject.”—p 8
· “The writer of the present work does not pretend to give aught but the most elementary teachings of the Rosicrucians.”—p 8
· “The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception is far from being the last word on the subject.”—p 8
· “This book is not considered by the writer as the Alpha and Omega, the ultimate of occult knowledge.”—p 8
· If Heindel received the Teachings from a Rosicrucian Brother would he make such a statement?
· “It is not to be understood as a ‘faith once for all delivered.’”—p 8
· “It is emphatically stated that this work embodies only the writer’s understanding of the Rosicrucian teachings.”—p 8 We in turn ask, are these the Elder Brother’s Teachings or Max Heindel’s understanding of the Teachings? In principle, Max Heindel doesn’t have to thoroughly understand the last jot and tittle of the Teachings to receive them and to disseminate them. He, in this instance, is simply a channel. So why is he making disclaimers for the Elder Brother. Is this appropriate?
· “The responsibility upon one who wittingly or unwittingly leads others astray is clearly realized by the writer and he wishes to guard as far as possible against that contingency.”—p 9
· How can this be a concern if the Cosmo is essentially the work of the Elder Brother? Does this defensiveness inspire confidence on the part of the reader? On the contrary, should not the source of these teachings inspire the greatest confidence in their truth and validity?
· “[The writer] feels obliged [“compelled” in first edition] to guard also against the possibility of this work being taken as a verbatim [“an authoritative” in the first edition] statement of the Rosicrucian teachings. Neglect of this precaution might give undue weight to this work in the minds of some students.”—p 9
Max Heindel is known for his clarity of thought and the certitude and authority with which he usually speaks and writes. Should not the Cosmo, if it originated with the Elder Brother, carry the ringing endorsement and authoritative support of the Brother’s messenger? If the translation itself posed the major hurdle, surely the Brother, anticipating such a contingency, would have averted it by delivering the Teachings in English so they could be in their purest, truest form. But the Brother is not mentioned as the source of the Cosmo, in the Cosmo itself. It is implied, however—in fact, it is directly stated—that Steiner is a source for much of it (“much valuable information received”). If this be so, the material is more derivative, and questions about its veracity are more likely, since they could not all be immediately confirmed; under which circumstances the advice to readers not to give undue weight to the work would be in order.
Cosmo Material Which Is Not from the Brother
That the Cosmo contains considerable material that has been inserted by Heindel himself, at his own discretion, and from various sources, is evident. A short list of such material includes the anecdotal story about Mr. Roberts and his daughter (“A Remarkable Story”, pp. 172-174); the Table of (Electromagnetic) Vibrations (p. 254); much of the information contained in the section “The Science of Nutrition,” including the Table of Food Values (pp. 450-451) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the verse of Oliver Wendell Holmes (p. 159), Ella Wheeler Wilcox (pp. 163, 460), Goethe (pp. 119, 137, 249), Walt Whitman (p. 114), James Lowell (pp. 114-116), Richard Wagner (p. 389), Angelus Silesius (p. 389); references to the thought and works of Caspar Wolff and Haeckel and the concept of “epigenesis” (pp 338-339); the experiments of Starling and Bayliss (p. 238); the astrological anecdote referring to ripe destiny (pp. 161-163); Dr. McDougall’s experiments weighing the vital body (pp. 106-7); the fourfold classification of the animal kingdom (p. 416); the illustration showing the correlation between the periodic table of elements, the ascending lemniscate, and the caduceus, drawn from Professor Crookes' work (p. 410); the account of the prayer of the Danish pastor to bless his country’s military (pp. 386-87).
One may fairly ask what business a book devoted to transmitting the Teachings of an Elder Brother of the Rose Cross has with reporting scientifically inadmissable anecdotes (Mr. Roberts’ story), citing dubious materialistic experiments to weigh the soul (or vital body), or using data issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Does a work that purports to set forth high spiritual truths given to the writer compromise the integrity and purity of those Teachings by mixing them with such secular material? Which is the Elder Brother’s donation and which is the author’s own contribution? Which sources are supersensible and which are purely mundane? Does one want to put the U.S.D.A. and Dr. McDougall on the same level with the Elder Brother? Is the claim for the supersensible provenance of the Teachings sullied by such inclusions? We trust not. But we are encouraged to believe Heindel when he says that he also received “much valuable information” from Steiner, since his sources are manifold and heterogeneous.
Were we to ignore all of the forgoing information and give credence to the statement that Steiner failed the test given by the Elder Brothers, should we not, nevertheless, esteem this individual whom the Brothers instructed for “several years”? Should not the Elder Brothers “first choice” for disseminating the Teachings be deemed worthy of our serious consideration? Are the Elder Brothers not reliable judges of a person’s character and level of spiritual development? Is not Steiner at least as qualified to merit our attention as the hundreds of people, including this writer, whose opinions and thoughts have been featured in the Rays magazine, and The Rosicrucian Fellowship’s other, more enduring, publications (including Prentiss Tucker, Elman Bacher, Theodore Heline, Annet C. Rich, Robert Lewis, Esme Swainson, Corinne Heline, the many authors of Aquarian Age Stories for Children, the anonymous author of Etheric Vision and What It Reveals, the many authors of the New Age Vegetarian Cookbook)? A free-floating prejudice toward this eminent individual, this Initiate, has effectively sequestered his prodigious contribution to spiritual science by judging it as somehow heretical, tainted. Have the interests of the Fellowship and its members, presumed seekers after Truth, been well served by such a proscription, a proscription not confined merely to Rudolf Steiner?
Finally let us address the comment that some people find Steiner’s writing too abstract, too dry, or too involved. Heindel, on the other hand, wears his heart on his sleeve, personal warmth and sincerity radiate from his clear expositions. His fervor and earnestness permeate all he writes, and because he feels so strongly about certain issues, especially moral conduct and service, he has no qualms about urging students to adopt certain habits and to ground their spiritual principles in action. Heindel “speaks from the heart.” All this is true. Steiner, on the other hand, seems remote, sometimes academic, even pedantic. We would seem to be talking about matters of style, the medium that carries the message, on the basis of which we are inclined make judgments about character. As has been our practice, we will let Steiner explain why he adopts his particular mode of delivery:
“A rightly composed Anthroposophical [Rosicrucian] book should be an awakener of the life of the spirit in the reader, not a certain quantity of information imparted. The readings of it should not be mere reading; it should be an experiencing with inner shocks, tensions, and solutions....I am aware how far removed is that which I have given in books from calling forth by its inner forces such an experience in the mind of the reader. But I know also that with every page my inner battle has been to reach the utmost possible in this direction. In the matter of style, I do not so describe that my subjective feelings can be detected in the sentences. In writing I subdue to a dry, mathematical style what has come out of warm and profound feeling. But only such a style can be an awakener; for the reader must cause warmth and feeling to awaken in himself. He cannot simply allow these to flow into him from the one setting forth the truth, while the clarity of his own mind remains obscured.”—The Course of My Life, pp. 330-31
Inevitably, spiritual truth must be filtered through personalities until it is gained first-hand. This does not invalidate it. It is simply colored by passing through each person’s unique lens. That is why Steiner felt obliged to purge his writing of all possible subjectivity: “What I say I experience with all the strictness that mathematicians impose on themselves.”—Letter, 1907, History and Contents, p. 72.
“The attitude of the Rosicrucian is that what counts is knowledge able to take hold of and intervene effectively in life. Rosicrucian wisdom considers that repeated talk about pity and sympathy has an element of danger in it, for continual emphasis upon sympathy denotes a kind of astral sensuality. Sensuality on the physical plane is of the same nature on the astral plane. It is the attitude that is always only willing to feel and not to know. Knowledge that is capable of taking effect in practical life—not, of course in the materialistic sense, but because it is brought down from the spiritual worlds—this is what enables us to work efficaciously.”—Theosophy of the Rosicrucian, 1907, p. 14
“The Rosicrucian feels it a kind of impertinence to take people by storm with feelings. He leads them along the path of mankind’s evolution in the belief that feelings will then arise of themselves. He calls up before them the planet journeying in universal space, knowing that when the soul experiences this fact it will be powerfully gripped in feeling. It is only an empty phrase to say one should address oneself direct to the feelings, that is just indolence. Rosicrucian theosophy lets the facts speak, and if these thoughts flow into the feeling nature and overpower it, then that is the right way. Only what the human being feels of his own accord can fill him with bliss or blessedness. The Rosicrucian lets the facts in the cosmos speak, for that is the most impersonal kind of teaching. It is a matter of indifference who stands before you; you must not be affected by a personality, but by what he tells you of the facts of world-becoming. Thus in the Rosicrucian training that directs veneration for the teacher is struck out, he does not claim it nor require it.”—ibid, pp. 160-161
So deep runs Steiner’s respect for the inviolability of individual human will that not an iota of persuasion in the form of emotional fervor is permitted to intrude upon the cognizing consciousness. As nearly as possible, he strips the personal element from what he writes so that the “facts” can speak for themselves and the reader is completely free to make of them what he will. It is clear that more involvement by the reader is required to ensoul the content of teachings so imparted. For some this requirement is too burdensome. But having one’s soul fire lit by external means produces but a temporary effect and inclines one to be spiritually indolent and to neglect the need for complete self-reliance. Heindel is correct in stating that ultimately no books, be they his or others, can accomplish what only individual effort can attain.
We have addressed a variety of criticisms of Steiner and his work and found them, without exception, to have no merit. Quite to the contrary, the more we investigate the actual content of Steiner’s wisdom teachings, the more we confirm their relevance to and ratification of core precepts for spiritual development advanced by Max Heindel and gratefully espoused by the student of Rosicrucian Christianity. On the merit of this discovery it can only redound to our collective prospering if we resolve to take Max Heindel’s counsel to heart—that we open and keep open our truth-seeking minds and souls, that we may discern and then embody the truth we seek, the truth that will set us free:
“We ought at all times to have the open mind so that we may receive new truth...[for] there are still greater truths which we have not learned” (1 Q & A, p. 363).
However laudable good will and good intentions may be, in and of themselves they cannot assure right action, for which only real knowledge can be determinative. History is replete with events undertaken on behalf of “good causes” and righteous beliefs that have nevertheless caused incalculable damage and suffering to humanity and all life because they were not informed by the living truths on which creation is founded, maintained, and evolves. Ignorance is the only sin. Applied knowledge is the only salvation (Christianity Lectures, pp. 20, 236). As members of the Rosicrucian Fellowship we cannot, in all honesty, be sincere about the prospering of our mission, a mission for which Max Heindel shows his eminent qualifications and to which he was supremely committed, if we choke off or dam back a vital source for the Fellowship’s spiritual affluence. We are, even now, largely ignorant beneficiaries of this stream of Rosicrucian wisdom. Let us become conscious and grateful recipients of this wisdom vouchsafed us, that we may the better further our lofty cause.
To embargo further material available through Steiner’s trove of wisdom teachings is counter-productive to our cause and irrational. The Cosmo itself testifies to what we have benefited from—teachings directly from Steiner or from a source shared by both Initiates. If we refuse to open our eyes and minds to this vast storehouse of Rosicrucian Teachings, Teachings not currently known by most Fellowship members, we reject the assistance and wisdom proffered by Christian Rosenkreutz himself, for Rudolf Steiner was perhaps the most public and accomplished messenger and pupil of this lofty Individuality. Making such a statement does not detract from Max Heindel’s exceptional achievements or lessen the esteem we have for him. How can it? His light shines as brightly as ever. He knows, and he would want us to know, that he and Steiner, and other Christian esotericists are all servants of the same and one living Word, the Christ.
Who has the truth? Our “inner tribunal” (Letters to Students, p. 205) will tell us. It is the final authority in determining the truth of any statement. We do not, nor should we, appeal to any outer authority as the basis for our belief. As Steiner advises: “Do not believe anything on my authority, but just take what I say as an indication and then test it for yourselves....The less you take on authority, the more understanding you will have for Christian Rosenkreutz” (Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz, 13 lectures, given in various European cities in the years 1911 and 1912, p. 60). So, to the extent that one regards the Steiner-Heindel relationship as adversarial, to that degree the foolish factionalism decried by Paul in 1 Cor. 2 is in effect. There the squabble was over who was for Cephas, and who was for Apollos, and who was for Paul. To be so caught up in this childish strife and sectarianism shows the factionists to be carnal. What matters is the Christ, our Source and present Power, the Light of Earth, transforming Truth. The Heindel poem says it—here are your options: Creed or Christ. As Heindel states, the Cosmo is not a truth once and for all time delivered. It is but a preliminary excursus. That being so, let us get on with it.
Our fidelity to truth is a key to our spiritual progress. The following quote speaks to the heart of the matter: “The way you sit here beside one another as an Esoteric School would never previously have been possible in human history, and the powers that oppose the Masters of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Sensations and Feelings [Jesus and Christian Rosenkreutz]—luciferic and ahrimanic powers—go to great pains, of course, to tackle esotericists in their weak points....There are, however, sluggish souls who do not want to learn; of these the luciferic powers take control and suggest to them that, instead of studying, instead of seeking the direct path....they would rather wait for a world leader who will give to them with both hands, so that they do not have to exert themselves. So that we do not have to give in to such mistaken ideas we must always cultivate truth as our highest, most sacred possession, and never make concessions that are contrary to truth, for esotericists must never offend truth. It is a terrible thing and a grave offense for esotercists to twist the truth round out of brotherly considerations, to cloud the truth, even very slightly, in order not to give offense to someone, for that person will also be harmed thereby. And if we, with bleeding hearts, are forced to witness the way someone—perhaps someone we love—offends truth, we should, nevertheless, stick to what we know is right, regardless of the consequences for us....Though we may have to condemn what people do, we should never criticize the people themselves, but love them. Whether or not we really love them will be revealed to us in the moments of our meditation. To take nothing at all of our sympathies and antipathies and our little worries into the spiritual worlds with us—that will open up these worlds to us and enable us to enter into them in the right way.”—Commentaries in Esoteric Classes 1912, H & C, pp. 316-19
We can provide no more germane or eloquent argument for
disseminating additional Rosicrucian teachings through the the Rosicrucian
Fellowship’s auspices than that given by Steiner in the following passage.
Surely it would elicit Max Heindel’s ringing endorsement, since it echoes his
frequently expressed position: “Health can only be obtained when a person’s
deep inner being is filled with spirit and truth. [The aim of spiritual
science] is to bring healing to humankind, not to enable one or another person
to acquire knowledge of this or that fact....There is only one proof of the
teachings of spiritual science, and that is life itself. Spiritual-scientific
doctrines will show themselves to be true if a healthy life grows up under
their influence....You do not have to believe anything I say; it is not a
question of belief...listen, however, and take it in....We can enter the higher
world only if we can absorb some of its nature into ourselves....The
spiritualistic view of the world...tries to draw the spiritual down into the
physical, to place it in front of us as though it were something
material....Put yourself in the position you would be in if Christ Jesus were
to appear in the present day! How many people would there be, do you think, who
would accept him unreservedly? I would say there might be some who would run to
the police if someone appeared making the same claims Christ Jesus once
made....the mere knowledge that such a [spiritual] world exists does not, after
all, mean very much....That is the true unity, the true form of brotherhood,
that we do not demand from others that they should get along with us by holding
the same opinions we do, but because we allow everyone the right to their own
opinions....We only completely understand one another when we allow each other
complete freedom of self-assertion.”
The Rosicrucian Path is the path of the delving, thinking, mindful
Christian. We share our knowledge, first and second-hand, for the upliftment,
enlightenment, and healing of our fellows. This is not the Max Heindel
Fellowship, nor would he approve of the quarantine on spiritual truths that has
existed here. There was a veritable ferment of ideas existing at
That well of soul-quenching wisdom is fast running dry, notwithstanding the value of repetition. The constant recurrence of stock phrases and quotes becomes tiresome and rote, like the refrains in orthodox liturgies. This need not be. What do we really mean when we say, “let’s be faithful to the Brother’s teachings?” The Brother’s? Which Brother’s? As evidenced in what? Let’s rather be true to truth, as our highest, most vigilant sense of what is right and reasonable shall so determine—in the Light of Christ and His Holy Spirit. Then also will Christian Rosenkreutz be best served—and invoked. Then will the Christian aspirant who seeks esoteric truth through whole-minded and whole-hearted striving find illumination. Through this fearless commitment to living truth will the Rosicrucian Fellowship regenerate itself and fulfill its high destiny.