753

Esoteric Lessons for the First Class

of the Free School for Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum

by Rudolf Steiner

Lesson One in Prague

From stenographic records not revised by the speaker. The original stenographic records for the two lessons in Prague were not preserved, nor were the blackboard drawings.

Translated by Frank Thomas Smith
Prague, April 3, 1924

My dear Friends,

Since the Anthroposophical Society has been re-founded in a new form during the Christmas Conference, what had been given in the old Anthroposophical Society as esoteric instruction in various groups shall now stream into the School for Spiritual Science, which shall be a kind of center for the whole anthroposophical movement within the Anthroposophical Society. Naturally, according to the nature of its activities, this School will be centered at the Goetheanum in Dornach; and there we will strive more and more and will finally achieve the form which is sought: that it be expanded to reach all the friends who belong to the anthroposophical movement the world over who cannot come to Dornach. And what I will tell you today in this lesson and in the next esoteric class, my dear friends, will be spoken within this School for Spiritual Science. As an introduction I wish to inform you about its constitution.

Those who decide, after having been members of the Anthroposophical Society for two years, to become members of this School, acquire certain obligations in a spiritual sense. And the leadership of the School will always endeavor, when issuing the membership cards, to ascertain whether the persons involved are able to take on such spiritual obligations.

When someone enters the Anthroposophical Society he or she at first presumes – and rightly so – that they will learn and experience Anthroposophy. They wish at first to become acquainted with Anthroposophy. And therefore since the Christmas Conference complete openness is the rule; also that the members of the Anthroposophical Society are not subject to obligations of any kind.

Nevertheless, whoever becomes a member of the Free School for Spiritual Science must keep in mind that this School for Spiritual Science is to be the source of anthroposophical life in the present and in the immediate future. Anthroposophical life is founded on what has always been called “secret knowledge” or “occult science”. This is not meant to imply that the world “occult” is to be understood as meaning that a small circle of people is doing things that the rest of the world may not know; rather it has always meant that what is taught in the Esoteric Universities has its source in the deepest hidden inner core of the human being, as opposed to what belongs to the outer world, in a certain sense outside the human body. And that has always been called “secret” or “occult” as opposed to “public”. Occult means that the knowledge designated as such is manifested in the deepest, occult inner being of the human being; and it must not lose its rightful place, its rightful appreciation, even its rightful image if it is profaned when it is made publicly accessible, as always happens when things are made widely accessible to the public, for we can then assume that these things are not received with the necessary earnestness and the necessary esteem.

The first thing that must be required of the person who undertakes this esoteric training is that he or she does so with the deepest earnestness. And the School for Spiritual Science also has this requirement. And it demands of its members that they be true representatives of the anthroposophical worldwide movement in all walks of life. So that this School, or its leadership, most be responsible for saying to anyone it does not consider to be a true representative that they can no longer be members of the School.

This is not a tyrannical regulation, my dear friends, it is rather one based on the principle: freedom for freedom. If the leadership of the School wishes to lead it in the proper way, then it must be able to say with whom it forms the School's content. And for this reason we must indicate the earnestness with which the person who wishes to approach the School grasps Anthroposophy as a worldwide movement.

In order the satisfy the needs of all those who come to it under the present conditions of civilization in order to enhance their spiritual life, the School has been divided into Sections. The indications I will give during this and the next lesson are meant to be within the General Anthroposophical Section, which I myself will lead, along with the Pedagogical Section.

Within the School for Spiritual Science we will also have a Section for the Arts of Speech and music, under the leadership of Marie Steiner; a Medical Section under the leadership of Dr. Ita Wegman; a Section of the Sculptural Arts under the leadership of Miss Maryon; we will also have a section dedicated to the fine arts – something practically ignored today to the detriment of civilization – under the leadership of Albert Steffen; then an Astronomical section led by Dr. Vreede; and a section for Natural Science led by Dr. Wachsmuth.

We have also recently established, due to necessity, something about which nothing can yet be said because it is in such ferment, but one which the School in the Goetheanum has the honest intention to deal with: a Youth Section has been founded based on what the youth of today is striving for, although young people can only express themselves unclearly about what they are seeking. Objectively considered, this is something quite new – to clarify, to make conscious what is cloaked in obscure feelings of lacking something. To raise all this to clear consciousness is what the Section – which I may now call the Section for Youth-Wisdom – is striving for.

The Free School for Spiritual Science wishes to offer esoteric life as an extension of what can be found in today's external culture – what the world longs for in the strongest way – without realizing that what is striven for is just what should live in the esoteric activity of our School for Spiritual Science.

We have no intention of imitating what today's external universities do in a different way. That happened when certain opinions – not influenced by me – were tried out in Dornach. I saw them from the beginning as not quite correct. But in these things we are obliged to accept what is striving for the light of day. So now that the trial has been made and it has become obvious that the objective cannot be reached in that way, the School should no longer give the impression that it is competing with what is done in typical universities, but that it give to humanity what it is not possible to receive in typical educational institutes; it should be something which humanity profoundly desires.

In this way, the Free School for Spiritual Science is meant to be a true center for what is experienced in the anthroposophical movement.

When I say that this School should be taken with the utmost earnestness, I would like to indicate at the same time that these words themselves are not taken seriously enough. Therefore I should like to emphasize it again. Not the person who considers the esoteric life that is to flow through this School as something that lives alongside his life, so to speak; not that person will be a member of this School in the right way, but only the person whose life is completely permeated with the truth that an internal connection between his life and the esoteric teaching that flows from this School must exist, will be a member in the right and proper sense.

Because, my dear friends, you will not judge this School correctly if you consider it to be the result of human arbitrariness. This School is a spiritual determination; it arose by listening to what the spiritual powers that guide the world consider to be what is correct for humanity in our times.

Do not therefore consider this School to be a human enterprise. Consider it, rather, as the institution which derives from the will of the spiritual beings who are near to the earth and who work for the welfare of humanity.

If you consider it to be the earthly reflection of a spiritual institution, then you understand it in the right way. And when you realize that he who speaks every word within this School feels responsible to none other than the spiritual powers who lead the anthroposophical movement, then will you feel correctly in this sense. So this School is an understanding between the spiritual powers responsible for the present evolutionary phase of humanity and those who seek membership in this School.

You stand so to speak, my dear friends, directly before the spiritual world when you become a member of this School. And the more intensively you comprehend this, the more you will carry within you what this School must be, what alone gives it a real meaning. Whoever knows that the spirit itself speaks through the School will surely find the necessary earnestness to follow what is happening here.

All that we do in Dornach in the School by and by – one cannot take the fifth step before the third one, but only by and by after the fourth – will be sent in the corresponding notifications to all the members of the School. So that over time by and by an inner contact will be established between each individual member, no matter where he may be, and what flows from this School in Dornach.

*

Our first consideration, my dear friends, will be directed to what the person meets who earnestly sets out on the path to esoteric knowledge.

Real knowledge, my dear friends! We must clearly realize that what we meet in the outer world are the tasks to fulfill in the physical earthly life between birth and death. And we would misunderstand ourselves and the gods if we disdained what we meet in the physical world between birth and death. Human beings should dedicate themselves to their tasks in the physical world. But what do we find in this physical world? We finds beauty, greatness, grandeur in all that we see in the wonderful formations of the mineral kingdom, which also forms the ground which we need in order to accomplish our earthly tasks. We find wonderful majesty in the vegetable kingdom; we find what we need in the animal kingdom, what is our own in the physical human kingdom. We find these things in the kingdoms of nature elevated to the sublime when we lift our gaze to the clouds, to the blue sky or to the stars, to the sun and the moon. To not find beauty, greatness and grandeur in all this would lead us along the wrong path in life.

To enter the esoteric does not mean denying all this beauty, greatness and grandeur which meets us. But no matter how far we go into the mineral world with its wonderfully formed crystal shapes, no matter how far we go into colorful world of vegetation from which the sunlight reflects on to us, no matter how far we also go in observing at what magically emanates in the animal word from the depths of nature's being, and how we admire the way in which the secrets of the world unite within this physical human form, what we feel in our profound inner being we do not find in all those kingdoms of form and color and life in this world. And finally the individual stands within this world and may say: I feel the greatness, the beauty and the grandeur of everything that unfolds out there in forms and in colors; but what I myself am must originate in another world.

It it just when one strongly feels the beauty, greatness and grandeur of the physical, sensory world and feels that he cannot find there what the best part of what he himself is, the more is he urged to where all esoteric teaching begins: he is urged towards the abyss beyond which lies the human being's true origin. He is urged towards that abyss from where he must see the frontier between the sensory world and the spiritual world; he is urged to a place at the abyss where he is shown a kind of bridge which leads over to a completely different world, at the entrance of which lies the threshold to knowledge and to the spiritual world.

And what I am to tell you now, my dear friends, are the messages from the figure which has always been called the Guardian of the Threshold in esoteric circles.

It stands there, that lofty figure – those who achieve initiation learn to recognize it – a being who is truly no less real than a physical human being on earth, who in its reality towers far above the physical person on earth.

But the person who at first receives the esoteric messages in the form of concepts and feelings in an unprejudiced way, must feel how this Guardian of the Threshold stands there reminding the seeker for knowledge what he must experience if he really wishes to enter the field of knowledge.

Why does the Guardian of the Threshold stand there? He stands there because true knowledge can only be achieved if we seek it with the correct, positive preparation and attitude. True striving for knowledge is not theoretical. True striving for knowledge is only achieved when the soul rises above what the sensory world offers.

He who approaches this knowledge too early and unprepared, without the correct attitude, will not achieve it in the right way. He will cause harmful effects to himself and to the world. Achievement of true striving for knowledge is to a large extent the case for those who seek the right path to the spiritual world as it will be taught in the three Classes of the School for Spiritual Science. This is also the case, although more in an inner soul sense, for those who wish to merely accept information about the spiritual world. [“soul” is meant here as a lower level of knowledge than the “spiritual” level. Trans.] There must be at least an echo, however, of what the candidate for initiation experiences during his encounter with the Guardian of the Threshold.

It is this experience we are going to talk about now. For whoever receives these informative messages and allows them to work on him with the appropriate earnestness in the right way by practice and feeling, finds in them the path leading over the Threshold and into the spiritual world.

So, my dear friends, let our souls experience now what the Guardian of the Threshold brings to our attention if we wish to advance from the apparent-knowledge on this side of the world to the true knowledge on the other side.

There he stands with his admonishing gaze. He speaks about how the world of the senses is beautiful and great and sublime. But he also speaks about how the human being cannot find in this beautiful and great and sublime world what he considers the most meaningful, the most essential part of him. He points, this Guardian of the Threshold, over the abyss which extends to the left and to the right of the Threshold, he points to another region, to the region of the spirit. There, however, deepest darkness reigns at first. And it must occur to the human being that in the deepest darkness in him caused by the sensory world's impressions lies the source, the origin of his own being.

And when translated from the spiritual language that the Guardian of the Threshold speaks, this is approximately what he says when the person approaches his earnest gaze:

Where on earthly ground, color on color
Life is manifest in creation;
Where from earthly matter, form on form,
The lifeless is given shape;
Where sentient Beings, strong in will
Warm themselves in joy of existence;
Where you, O man, your bodily being
derive from earth and air and light.

There your true being enters
Deep, night-cloaked, cold darkness;
You ask in the dark sweeping expanse
No longer, who you are and were and will be.
For your own being the day grows dimly
To the soul's night, to spirit-darkness;
And you turn with angst of soul
Toward the light that from darkness streams.

And from out the darkness you appear,
– you in image shape revealed –
Yet also a parable of you,
Earnest spirit-words in cosmic ether
Heard by your heart, imparting strength,

The Spirit-Messenger, who alone
Can light for you the way;
Before him the fields of sense widen,
Behind him yawn the abyss-depths.

And before his dark spirit-fields,
Hard by the yawning abyss of being,
Resounds his anciently potent creative words:
Behold, I am the only gate to knowledge.

My dear friends, When the Guardian of the Threshold draws attention to the enormous contrast that exists between what can be seen by the senses before contact with the Guardian of the Threshold and what can be deduced from the darkness that lies beyond the Threshold, and when the seeker begins trying to investigate the origin and source of his own being, then he is allowed to anticipate what awaits him – what awaits him when he becomes capable of living in that light which must first appear from out of the darkness on the other side of the abyss. And then the Guardian of the Threshold continues, his words resounding (I will bring these words written on a piece of paper the next time) the second time the Guardian indicates what the person may expect when he crosses over the Threshold and has developed the organ within his own illuminated interior in order to leave the darkness behind and approach what the Guardian of the Threshold now speaks:

From the distant beings in space
Who experience existence in light,
From the stages of the course of time,
Which finds expression in creating,
From the depths of heart-felt feeling
Where in the Self the world is fathomed:

They resound in the speech of the soul,
They gleam in the spirit-thoughts,
From divine curative powers,
In the cosmic formative forces
The undulating existential words:
O man, know thyself.

Thus the Guardian points to the spaces of existence where being is experienced in light, and those other spaces of existence where in the march of time the creative powers work from epoch to epoch; the depths of the human heart's feeling are pointed to, where the whole world presents itself as though in a mirror. In that these three worlds are pointed out – the world of space, the world of time, the world of heart-felt depths – the eternal existential words can resound from the world-creating powers: “O man, know thyself!”

Then the human being's inside aspect must be shown. But this aspect is not only in the human interior, but also in the entire world. What we bear inside us immediately goes forth and shapes itself in the exterior cosmic ether. Oh, the secret thoughts, the secret feelings and the desires and willing – they immediately go forth and take shape in the cosmic ether. So that in the outer world in the form of such shapes we see ourselves as we really are.

While seeing ourselves as we really are the Guardian of the Threshold resounds, explaining to a certain extent what we are. For why is the abyss there, dividing the sensory world from the spiritual world? It is there so that the forces arising within us may not accompany us over the Threshold. Such forces are within us which want to hold us back, not allow us to cross over the Threshold to true knowledge. There are such forces in our thinking; there are such forces in our feeling; there are such forces in our willing.

They are formless when we only have an idea of them. When we envision them though, these hindering, hampering powers which are in our thinking, feeling and willing – inscribed in the cosmic ether – then they appear as misshapen beasts. And whoever cannot see in this meaningful image of misshapen beasts what in his own inner self pulls him down, hindering the crossing the threshold, cannot truly know himself. The moment in life must come when we see before us the images of what lives in our thinking, feeling and willing as restraining forces. We may not have any illusions about this. With ordinary consciousness we usually do not know what we are like, and we do not take what we are seriously. The Guardian of the Threshold makes us conscious of this in the form of images, in the form of truth.

These are the words with which he explains the figures which will be engraved in the ether by the opposing forces in our will, feeling and thinking. The human being must stand horrified before these figures which he inscribes in the cosmic ether; and only then will he feel what he must overcome if he wants to progress toward true knowledge.

The Guardian of the Threshold speaks explaining the figures that rise up as figures in our thinking, feeling and willing:

Yes, you must beware of the abyss;
Otherwise its beasts will devour You
if you pass by me in haste.
Your cosmic age has placed them there
In you as enemies of knowledge.

Behold the first beast, the crooked back
The bony head, the scrawny body,
His skin is all a dullish blue;
Your fear of creative spiritual being
Begat the monster in your will;
Knowledge bravery alone will overcome it.

Behold the second beast, it bares
Its teeth in a warped face, scornfully it lies,
Yellow with gray spots is its body;
Your hate of spiritual revelation
Begat this weakling in your feeling;
Your flame for knowledge must subdue him.

Behold the third beast, with cloven muzzle,
Its eye is glassy, posture slouching,
Dirty-red its form appears to you;
Your doubts in the power of spiritual light
Begat this ghost within your thinking;
Your creative knowledge must make it yield.

Only when you've defeated the three
Will wings sprout upon your soul
To fly the abyss over,
Which separates you from the knowledge fields
To which your heart desires
To consecrate itself in healing.

Only when we have seen, shuddering, images of the opposing powers in our thinking, feeling and willing, does the strength arise from these negative forces enabling us to enter the true field of knowledge. And whoever does not want to see himself in the images of the three beasts which exist in human beings because he fears knowledge, hates knowledge and doubts knowledge, will never attain self-knowledge. Nor will he who hesitates, shuddering so to see himself, attain world knowledge.

Therefore, my sisters and brothers, these three beasts are placed once again before your souls as the Guardian speaks:

Yes, you must beware of the abyss;
Otherwise its beasts will devour You
if you pass by me in haste.
Your cosmic age has placed them there
In you as enemies of knowledge.

Behold the first beast, the crooked back
The bony head, the scrawny body,
His skin is all a dullish blue;
Your fear of creative spiritual being
Begat the monster in your will;
Knowledge bravery alone will overcome it.

Behold the second beast, it bares
Its teeth in a warped face, scornfully it lies,
Yellow with gray spots is its body;
Your hate of spiritual revelation
Begat this weakling in your feeling;
Your flame for knowledge must subdue him.

Behold the third beast, with cloven muzzle,
Its eye is glassy, posture slouching,
Dirty-red its form appears to you;
Your doubts in the power of spiritual light
Begat this ghost within your thinking;
Your creative knowledge must make it yield.

Only when you've defeated the three
Will wings sprout upon your soul
To fly the abyss over,
Which separates you from the knowledge fields
To which your heart desires
To consecrate itself in healing.

How the human being obtains the wings, how he finds the strength to defeat these three beasts, will be the subject of the next lesson, Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m.

And when these words in such a visibly horrible form have pointed toward our self-knowledge, when they have rung out, then once again – as if in perspective – what may be expected when the words “O man, know thyself!” are fulfilled. But only the first part can be given by observing the three beasts. The rest will be the subject of the next lesson.

Then the Guardian of the Threshold calls out once again:

From the distant beings in space
Who experience existence in light,
From the stages of the course of time,
Which finds expression in creating,
From the depths of heart-felt feeling
Where in the Self the world is fathomed:

They resound in the speech of the soul,
They gleam in the spirit-thoughts,
From divine curative powers,
In the cosmic formative forces
The undulating existential words:
O man, know thyself.




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