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David W. Wood

The Johannine Question: From Fichte to Steiner


John the Evangelist

Part I. The Raising of Lazarus

And one evening, as he opened up again the Gospel of John,
he believed he genuinely understood it for the very first time.

– Christian Morgenstern.1

Introduction: Plaidoyer for a Close Textual Reading

One of the central concerns of the following text is to stimulate further reflections on how to make the field of Steiner studies more scientific.2 In an essay from two years ago I put forward a plaidoyer for a genuine historical-critical approach to the work of Rudolf Steiner.3 That is to say, I defended an approach to Steiner research that is not merely historical and critical in some kind of vague theory, but one that actively strives to adhere to this approach in practice, by taking into account the relevant historical documents and critically examining all the respective arguments. The present text is a companion piece to that essay: it is a plaidoyer for a close textual reading of Rudolf Steiner’s works in practice too. In contemporary Steiner research one far too often encounters highly selective interpretations based on a narrow or unrepresentative choice of texts. Here central writings of Steiner are frequently omitted or not even cited – presumably because they might weaken or contradict the researcher’s interpretation. Just as serious and problematic: key judgements and summaries are sometimes made with no or highly tenuous textual support, or researchers rely too heavily on suspect secondary literature, failing to return to the original sources in order to independently verify Steiner’s texts for themselves.

This essay seeks to underscore the importance of close textual readings for Steiner research by means of an examination of the so-called ‘Johannine Question’ – the problem of the authorship of the texts traditionally ascribed to John the Evangelist – as can be found in the primary works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Rudolf Steiner. In so doing it hopes to re-open the more general debate on how to treat in an accurate, scholarly and balanced manner the frequently misunderstood issue of an author’s originality, especially the question of the originality of J.G. Fichte and R. Steiner.4

Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life

In a letter from Weimar dated 30 November 1890 the 29 year-old Rudolf Steiner quoted to his correspondent Richard Specht the following words by the philosopher J. G. Fichte: “life is love, and the entire form and force of life consists in love and arises from love. – What I have just said expresses one of the deepest principles of knowledge [].5 This excerpt is from the opening pages of Fichte’s The Way to the Blessed Life (1806).6 After citing this passage Steiner then briefly outlined his own philosophical conception of freedom, writing how he drew his inspiration not only from J. G. Fichte, but from J. W. von Goethe as well:

Whoever does not merely understand this [passage in The Way to the Blessed Life] with the dead intellect but is able to grasp it in a living manner, such a person lives a wholly independent life. And only he who is capable of doing this can understand the freedom that I would so dearly like to make into the pivotal and unified point of my entire philosophizing. It is wholly remarkable to me how Fichte and Goethe work their way in from two sides and meet together at the summit in perfection. I believe I understand my epoch very well when I say: the idealism of Fichte and Goethe must bear its final fruit in a kind of freedom philosophy. Because ‘freedom’ is the correlative of that concept for both of them. 7

What exactly is this book by the philosopher Fichte that gave rise to these remarkable words from Steiner? The text, The Way to the Blessed Life, or also the Doctrine of Religion through Johann Gottlieb Fichte, was originally a series of eleven lectures given by Fichte to a Berlin public in early 1806 and published the same year.8 It is his primary text on the philosophy of religion, and as the title suggests, it is a practical book for guiding the interested reader into a more spiritual and philosophical life.

Though often described as a popular work, Fichte considered The Way to the Blessed Life to be the “summit and brightest point of light” of thirteen years of meditation on the fundamentals of his philosophical system, the Wissenschaftslehre.9 Among others, the text contains the essence of Fichte’s own philosophy of freedom and understands itself to be following in the Platonic tradition. Moreover, the book presents a philosophical conception of Christianity that Fichte considered to be in perfect accord with the Gospel of John: “It is not as though our doctrine is new in itself or paradoxical. Among the Greeks, Plato was on this path. The Johannine Christ says entirely the same as what we teach and prove; and even says it in the same terms that we have used here; and even in these decades, in our nation, our two greatest poets, have also uttered this in the most manifold ways and expressions.”10 As one can see, in this work Fichte claims to be connecting onto a number of venerable and more recent cultural and spiritual traditions: on the one hand he situates his work within the older philosophical stream of Platonism and the logos tradition of Johannine Christianity, as well as relating it to the poetical conceptions of his contemporaries, Goethe and Schiller.

Indeed, in The Way to the Blessed Life Fichte asserts he is employing exactly the same language and images as can be found in the fourth gospel, but that he will also attempt to develop further some of the philosophical seeds in it. Interestingly, in terms of historical traditions, Fichte states that his presentation of Johannine Christianity belongs to an unbroken and oftentimes hidden or ‘secret’ stream that has been frequently misunderstood by the official church:

Despite for the most part being misunderstood and persecuted by the established church, we assert that this knowledge, in all its integrity and purity, and which we are incapable of surpassing, has in every age and since the origin of Christianity still been able to prevail and flourish in secret here and there […] though this doctrine may appear new and unprecedented in the present epoch, it is actually as old as the world, and it is especially the doctrine of Christianity that can be found in the most genuine and purest ancient document, in the Gospel of John, which up until this moment is present before our eyes; and this doctrine is even expounded there using exactly the same images and expressions that we employ.11

Thus, an essential aspect of Fichte’s philosophical approach is to firstly link onto older or newer philosophical, artistic or cultural traditions. One of his further endeavours is then to try and transform these traditions, to build further on them in an original, independent and scientific manner.

Logos as Reason and Wisdom

Fichte could argue for the exact agreement of his thought with the Gospel of John and yet still claim an independence for his philosophy because he saw both in harmony with pure reason and ultimately with wisdom itself, which for him were two essential aspects of the Word, of the logos in Greek or the Verbum in Latin. This is Fichte’s translation, as it were, of the celebrated opening words of the Prologue to the Gospel of John:

In the Beginning was the Word (Wort), the logos in the original text: which could have been translated as ‘reason’ (Vernunft), or as it is designated in the wisdom literature using almost the same concept, as ‘wisdom’ (Weisheit): however, the expression ‘Word’ (Wort) is also employed, which most aptly translates it in our view and occurs in the most ancient Latin translations, a tradition which arose without doubt through the Johannine disciples.12

How does The Way to the Blessed Life differ from the Gospel of John? Fichte maintains that the results and formulation of his conception were not arrived at through a mode of religious revelation but through “pure thinking” (reines Denken), because: “only the highest flights of thought can approach the Godhead, and it cannot be grasped by any other sense.”13 – In other words, a modern philosophical and systematic presentation is the distinguishing feature of Fichte’s work and constitutes its principal innovation; it is a reflective exposition of “the path of a consistent, systematic and scientifically clear derivation.”14 Fichte was conscious that any inventiveness in his text was not so much with respect to the images or topics that it shared in common with the fourth gospel, but his rigorous philosophical approach, which: “had not previously been present in the world; and next to the guidance of the spirit of our great predecessor, it is for the most part our work. Thus, this scientific-philosophical insight had not been present earlier”.15 Consequently, his genetic scientific presentation does not state doctrines that cannot be independently grasped and verified, but rather: “out of a world full of error, it allows the truth to arise and be generated before our eyes.”16 Notwithstanding, Fichte realised that his book would still be labelled as “mysticism” and unoriginal by his conservative critics, for they would only see the links to the ancient images, documents and letters, and not make the necessary intellectual effort to discern its modern scientific form and philosophical spirit.17

Fichte’s view of the scientific unity of the logos, reason and wisdom not only holds for his philosophical conception of religion in this 1806 text, but is actually implicit in his system of philosophy as a whole. He had already brought his philosophy into connection with the Gospel of John in his lectures on history from 1804/05.18 In another text from around the same time, Fichte specifically designated the Wissenschaftslehre as a “Logologia”. That is to say, his Wissenschaftslehre – a theory or doctrine reflecting on the nature of science, rationality and knowledge – should also be considered as a higher form of reflection on the essence of the logos itself: “I call this oneness ‘reason’, ó logos, as in John’s Gospel, or ‘knowing’, so one will not confuse it with ‘consciousness’, which is a lower disjunctive term that is only found in opposition to being. Therefore, [I call] this system ‘Wissenschaftslehre’ or ‘logologia’.”19 In his final published text on the foundations of his philosophy in 1810 Fichte explained how the Wissenschaftslehre was to ultimately culminate in a Weisheitslehre – a theory or doctrine of wisdom: “Thus, the Wissenschaftslehre, whose content is the carrying out of the absolute ability of intelligible thinking described above, terminates with the knowledge of its self […] in a doctrine of wisdom (Weisheitslehre)”.20

By underscoring the unity of his system with the rationality of the logos tradition, the Wissenschaftslehre may be designated as a Johannine system of philosophy. Some contemporaries only saw folly and arrogance in Fichte’s assertion of a philosophical harmony with the Gospel of John. In an 1809 letter to the writer Ludwig Tieck, the literary critic August Wilhelm Schlegel remarked: “What is more ridiculous, indeed blasphemous, than his [Fichte’s] conceit of trying to restore Christianity, and to be the first to understand it since John the Evangelist?”21 On the contrary, others at the time, such as Zacharias Werner, viewed Fichte as a modern apparition of the fourth gospel writer:

Fichte is one of the most remarkable manifestations of a healthy abundance of strength. Devoted to the Johannine system, he himself is a John, a forerunner of the time …22

On the Sources of Steiner’s Christianity as Mystical Fact

Almost a century after Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life, Rudolf Steiner published his text Christianity as Mystical Fact (Das Christentum als mystische Tatsache) in the year 1902.23 In Steiner’s book Christianity is viewed as a cultural, historical and scientific fact and the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish prophets and the mystery cultures of antiquity: “Something, which was therefore a mystery process in the development of ancient wisdom: this is to be interpreted as historical fact through Christianity. In this way Christianity becomes the fulfillment not only of what the Jewish prophets had foretold, but also the fulfillment of what the mysteries had prefigured.”24 The book is furthermore an investigation into the logos tradition of the Platonic, Philonic and Johannine streams, and contains two central chapters specifically devoted to the Johannine writings: a chapter on the raising of Lazarus described in chapter 11 of the fourth gospel, as well as a modern interpretation of the Apocalypse of John.25 Just as there are similarities and differences between the Gospel of John and Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life, it is only natural to inquire into possible connections, similarities and differences between the two books of Fichte and Steiner, particularly if one knows the importance that Fichte’s text held for Steiner already in 1890.

In the year 2011 the Fichte expert Hartmut Traub published a 1,000-page scholarly monograph on Steiner’s philosophical writings entitled: Philosophie und Anthroposophie: Die philosophische Weltanschauung Rudolf Steiners – Grundlegung und Kritik (Philosophy and Anthroposophy: The Philosophical Worldview of Rudolf Steiner – Foundation and Critique).26 With regard to the Fichte-Steiner relationship, it is the merit of Traub’s book to have demonstrated that the most fruitful philosophical tradition in which to locate Steiner’s Christianity as Mystical Fact is the stream of German idealism, especially J.G. Fichte’s systematic logos presentation in The Way to the Blessed Life.27 Because of Steiner’s early and later extensive engagement with the logos tradition of the Gospel of John, one can therefore agree to a certain extent with Hartmut Traub when he says: “there is above all one philosophical work that significantly and fundamentally influenced Steiner’s early ‘anthroposophical and theosophical’ thought, indeed, his thought on the whole. It is J.G. Fichte’s Doctrine of Religion, The Way to the Blessed Life.28 Notwithstanding the many merits of Traub’s book – which I have acknowledged at length on several occasions29 – one must disagree with some of his other conclusions regarding the Fichte-Steiner relationship. According to Traub, Steiner has not really furnished any original or new insights on the Gospel of John, but has done nothing more than just “seamlessly incorporate” many central doctrines from Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life into in his Christianity as Mystical Fact; or again, Steiner has simply “borrowed from it the decisive termini, topics and methodological approaches and structures for his own philosophical worldview.30 Concerning their respective readings of the Gospel of John, Traub argues that Fichte is the chief source for Steiner’s conceptions, and repeatedly speaks of Steiner’s “exact adoption of Fichte’s wholly unconventional exegesis”31, maintaining that both the central exoteric and esoteric Fichtean doctrines views are taken over by Steiner “without modification”.32

At the beginning of his lengthy monograph Traub states that his judgments are based on a close textual reading of the original writings, for he: “seriously takes into account what Steiner actually wrote in accordance with the letter and course of his thought. […] The consequence of this approach is a painstaking textual study that extends to both Steiner’s own reflections and his comprehensive critique of other philosophical positions as well as to the examination and evaluation of this critique.”33 This is a statement of Traub’s intentions in theory, but does he carry out what he says in practice?

I am of the opinion that scholarly Steiner research should not only critically examine the claims made in the primary literature, i.e. in Steiner’s or Fichte’s own writings, but likewise critically test the interpretations put forward in the secondary literature. Precisely in this regard one finds a number of serious textual problems with Hartmut Traub’s reading of the Fichte-Steiner relationship. As we saw, Traub argues that Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life is the chief philosophical source for Steiner’s Christianity as Mystical Fact. However, neither Johann Gottlieb Fichte himself, nor the text The Way to the Blessed Life, are ever mentioned or discussed in Steiner’s book Christianity as Mystical Fact. In addition, in contrast to Steiner’s work, Fichte’s text does not have as its primary focus a presentation of Christianity as the fulfilment of the mystery traditions of antiquity. Traub attempts to overcome some of these interpretative difficulties by claiming that the problems are not due to the weakness of his own interpretation, but that Steiner himself is at fault, arguing that the latter is someone who habitually “covered up his sources”, and therefore it is unsurprising that neither Fichte or his text can be found in Christianity as Mystical Fact.34 Now of course, it should be pointed out if authors cover up their sources. However, the opposite also occurs: researchers misuse this claim, and invoke it in order to “cover up” their own interpretative difficulties. I will demonstrate that Traub has misused this claim in this particular case. His manner of dealing with these textual problems is not new, and unfortunately it is a strategy encountered in many different fields of scholarship: if the original texts contradict a researcher’s reading, many see no need to modify their theories, and to admit error or ignorance of the primary sources on their part, but they simply – and rather conveniently – transfer the problem back onto the subject of their research.

An “Extensive, Esoteric Interpretation” of Lazarus in Fichte?

Let us try to make some of these problematic research tendencies clearer using the concrete example of Fichte’s and Steiner’s commentaries on the Gospel of John, particularly their respective treatments of the “Lazarus Wunder” (Lazarus miracle), the episode of the raising of Lazarus found in chapter 11 of this gospel. As stated above, one can partly agree with Traub concerning the philosophical importance of Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life for Steiner’s logos conception. Traub’s Philosophie und Anthroposophie rightly highlights the many affinities in the explanations of Fichte and Steiner of the fourth gospel in general: here both thinkers concentrate on the notions of death and rebirth, of spiritual love, and partaking in the eternal life of the logos etc.35 – But does Traub see any major differences in their two readings of the Lazarus event or find anything innovative in Steiner’s presentation? For Traub, all of Steiner’s central interpretative insights in Christianity as Mystical Fact concerning the raising of Lazarus are simply taken wholesale from Fichte’s text:

Steiner’s interpretation of the Lazarus miracle reveals itself in detail – and without any real original difference – to be the entire Logos-Word theology of the Way to the Blessed Life, the doctrine of eternal life and the possibility of an immediate participation in it.36

According to Traub, even Steiner’s apparently original interpretation that the awakening of Lazarus should be understood in terms of the language, images and traditions of initiation is not new, but can already be found in Fichte: “The love of Jesus for Lazarus is therefore not historical, but – as Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life explains at great length (ausführlich erörtert), it is above all a metaphysical and cosmological event. Then what transpired here in the love that Jesus had for Lazarus, as an initiation event that is borne by metaphysical love, is exactly what Fichte had written about in the Way to the Blessed Life concerning God love’s for his existence.”37 Traub does at times acknowledge the very slight possibility of something original in Steiner’s reading of Lazarus: “Virtually the only original accomplishment”38 (Die beinahe einzige originelle Leistung) is Steiner’s attempt to situate the Lazarus miracle in the long initiation and mythological tradition of the ‘teacher-student’ relationship. – Yet Traub also finds Steiner’s attempt here “questionable”, and ultimately not really that original, believing that one can already find this in Fichte too: “At any rate, Steiner’s tendencies here are also already to be encountered in Fichte.”39

Finally, in terms of esotericism, according to Traub, Steiner discovered an extensively developed esoteric treatment of the raising of Lazarus in Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life and simply drew upon it: “No, it had to be the miracle of Lazarus, whose extensive, esoteric interpretation (ausführliche, esoterische Interpretation) Steiner learned to know in 1890 in Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life. […] For what Steiner found in Fichte’s sixth lecture was in his sense a completely esoteric interpretation of the miracle of Bethany. […] in the exegesis of the miracle of Lazarus that is also extensively treated by Fichte”.40 What exactly is Traub’s main textual source for the claim that Steiner drew his interpretation of the raising of Lazarus from Fichte’s writings? As one can see, Traub himself above all draws attention to lecture six of the Way to the Blessed Life, where Fichte provides an exegesis of a number of different passages from the Gospel of John.41 Traub summarizes Fichte’s interpretation in this manner: “The miracle of the raising of Lazarus, which is recounted in chapter 11 of the Gospel of John, receives especial significance. The culmination of Fichte’s exegesis consists in understanding the awakening of Lazarus as a special example for the possibility of the union of every person with God, as the transition from a ‘life in death’ to a ‘true and illuminated life’.”42 It is revealing that Traub repeatedly states there is a detailed interpretation of the raising of Lazarus in the Way to the Blessed Life, yet he himself hardly ever gives us specific examples of it or directly quotes from Fichte’s original text to illustrate his point.

To recall: our principal concern in this essay is with a close textual reading of the original sources. Thus, in line with this approach, if one returns to lecture six of Fichte’s 1806 Way to the Blessed Life, to examine what Traub has characterised as Fichte’s “extensive, esoteric interpretation of the Lazarus miracle”, what does one find? Lecture six of Fichte’s book is indeed concerned with understanding the meaning of spiritual rebirth and resurrection in the Gospel of John, and Fichte quotes and examines in detail many verses from the contents of the entire fourth gospel. For instance, Fichte writes about the spiritual relationship between Jesus and his disciples: “Moreover, how does he [Jesus] talk about the relationship of his disciples to himself? The constant precondition is that in their current state they have not partaken of genuine existence […] as though an entirely new human being had to be born in their stead. […] Listen to the following decisive passages: chapter 6, 53 […]; And chapter 5, 24 […]; and chapter 8, 51”.43 In the context of this discussion in lecture six of his book Fichte also briefly refers to the religious beliefs of Martha of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus. Here we find the sole passage specifically referring to the raising of Lazarus in the Way to the Blessed Life. I will quote this passage of Fichte in full:

Or even more enlightening: Chapter 11, 23: - “Your brother will arise”. Martha, whose head was also filled up with Jewish notions, replied, I know full well that he will arise and be resurrected on the last day. No, said Jesus, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’ The union with me yields the union with the eternal God and with his life, and of the certainty of the same; and so, one fully has and possesses at every moment the whole of eternity, and does not require the attachment to any belief in the illusory phenomenon of a birth and a death in time, and hence does not require any other awakening than the deliverance from a death in which he does not believe.44

I believe the above reproduces the central and most relevant section of the Way to the Blessed Life specifically relating to the Lazarus miracle in chapter 11 of the fourth gospel. I encourage readers to return to the original text of Fichte and examine this passage in its entire context in order to decide for themselves if it contains an “extensive, esoteric interpretation” of the awakening of Lazarus. My own summary of this passage is as follows: Fichte’s only brief reference here to Lazarus occurs in the context of an extended explanation of the significance of the idea of “rebirth”, the spiritual nature of “resurrection”, and the attainment of eternal life. Fichte’s discussion in lecture six cites over a dozen references to this process of being spiritually reborn throughout the fourth gospel, including a brief reference to John, chapter 11, verse 23. However, as one can see: the episode itself of the raising of Lazarus is not treated in any detail in Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life. The reference to the brother of Martha of Bethany is significant for Fichte, yet his discussion here is very brief. Indeed, one could even classify it as an indirect reference, for Fichte’s principal focus is on Jesus’s interaction with Martha and her concept of resurrection, while Lazarus himself is never mentioned by name. In addition, there is no explanation of Lazarus’s death and awakening in terms of the Greek and Egyptian mysteries and their initiation rituals and related dramas, which is one of the most prominent and unusual features of Steiner’s book. – In other words, compared to Steiner’s detailed ten-page treatment of the raising of Lazarus as an open and dramatic initiation in Christianity as Mystical Fact in the tradition of the ancient mysteries, a close textual examination reveals Hartmut Traub’s claim that Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life contains an “extensive, esoteric exegesis of the raising of Lazarus” to be a gross exaggeration. This fact seriously undermines one of his principal theses that it was Fichte’s 1806 text which provided the key esoteric and textual source for Steiner’s interpretation of the Lazarus event. Consequently, Traub’s further claim that Steiner covered up his sources by failing to mention Fichte’s Way to the Blessed Life should be also considered as an unsupported and baseless charge, contradicted by the original texts themselves.

Steiner Scholarship

It is of course highly encouraging that Steiner scholarship on the whole is becoming more and more scientific, and that many researchers are adopting critical, historical, and close textual readings. Thus, to be clear, my criticisms above do not at all relate to historical-critical studies, or to the approach of searching for similarities and influences in Steiner’s texts – for these are methodologies that are obviously valid and which I too fully deploy in my own work – but my criticisms are directed at certain troublesome practices in Steiner research, especially the basic and persistent failure to provide accurate presentations of the contents and arguments of the primary texts.

Investigations of the similarities between the writings of Fichte, Goethe, and Steiner etc., are indispensible – for it is precisely studies of these kinds that are able to demonstrate the correct historical and philosophical traditions into which their work should be placed. But the conclusions and judgments of the researcher should be supported by the primary literature and historical documents. Although Steiner later wrote that the presentations in the book Christianity as Mystical Fact were first arrived at through spiritual insight, he expressly stated that he had likewise consulted and employed in his book all the relevant literature and sources to allow others to historically, philosophically, philologically, and critically test the validity of his claims. Hence, there is no need for spiritual insight to understand them, but the researcher only needs critical and rational thought and a precise and comprehensive examination of the writings in question to confirm or reject Steiner’s interpretations.45

Moreover, in a balanced scientific study it would appear additionally necessary to bring to light any substantial divergences or possible new knowledge in the work of an author.46 I recently tried to address this topic in an outline of the radical differences between Annie Besant’s 1901 Esoteric Christianity and Steiner’s 1902 Christianity as Mystical Fact.47 Granted: scholars are not obliged to accurately present the arguments in the original textual sources, or to consider differences and possible new contributions in an author, they are free to leave these considerations un-investigated if they wish. In this case these researchers should simply be aware that their failure to take into account differences and possible innovations precludes them from making any convincing or objective pronouncements on the topic of an author’s originality. Why? Because the fundamental prerequisite for a scientific analysis of originality not only involves noting the similarities between two particular authors, but also accurately presenting any significant differences. We will examine this frequently misunderstood question of originality in Part II of our essay.

PART II

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1 Christian Morgenstern, Stufen (Munich: Piper, 1918), p. 4. – Morgenstern had this epiphany with the Gospel of John in the winter of 1905/06. See C. Morgenstern, Aphorismen, Werke und Briefe kommentierte Ausgabe, vol. 5, ed. Reinhardt Habel (Stuttgart: Urachhaus, 1987), pp. 11, 466. Unless otherwise stated, all translations from the original German texts are my own.

2 This essay first appeared in issue 4.2 (28 January 2015) pp. 6-18 of the journal Deepening Anthroposophy (editor Thomas O’Keefe: deepening@use.startmail.com).

3 David W. Wood, “Plaidoyer for Historical-Critical Steiner Research”, published in the online journal: RoSE: Research on Steiner Education, Volume 3, Number 2, March 2013, pp. 17-27.

4 The present text is an updated and greatly expanded treatment of a topic that I touched on in an earlier article. See pages 195-197 of: “On the Spirit and Letter of Rudolf Steiner’s Philosophy: A Critical Reading of Hartmut Traub’s Philosophie und Anthroposophie” in: RoSE: Research on Steiner Education, Volume 4, Number 1, 2013, pp. 181-201.

5 Rudolf Steiner to Richard Specht, 30 November 1890, in: Briefe Band II: 1890-1925, volume 39 of Gesamusgabe (Dornach/Switzerland: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 2nd ed., 1987), henceforth GA, p. 37.

6 Cf. J.G. Fichte, Die Anweisung zum seeligen Leben (1806), p. 2. In the J.G. Fichte Gesamtausgabe (henceforth FGA) this text can be found in volume I, 9, eds. R. Lauth, E. Fuchs et al. (Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt: frommann-holzboog, 1995), pp. 47-212 (for the quote here cf. FGA I, 9: 55-56).

7 Rudolf Steiner to Richard Specht, 30 November 1890, Briefe Band II (GA 39), pp. 37-38.

8 The lectures were held in Berlin from 12 January–30 March 1806. The full original German title of the publication is: Die Anweisung zum seeligen Leben, oder auch die Religionslehre. Durch Johann Gottlieb Fichte (Berlin: Im Verlag der Realschulbuchhandlung, 1806). With the unusual spelling of the word ‘seeligen’, the title plays on the word ‘soul’ (Seele) and ‘blessed’ (selig). The only existing translation into English of Fichte’s text is a readable but somewhat dated one from 1849: The Way towards the Blessed Life, or The Doctrine of Religion, trans. W. Smith (London: John Chapman, 1849). The author of the present article is preparing a new English translation of Fichte’s book.

9 “dessen Gipfel, und hellsten Lichtpunkt” J.G. Fichte, Die Anweisung zum seeligen Leben (1806), p. iv (FGA I, 9: 47). For an excellent overview of Fichte’s philosophical writings on religion in English, see Yolanda Estes, “Commentator’s Introduction”, in: J.G. Fichte and the Atheism Dispute (1798-1800), eds. Y. Estes & C. Bowman (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010).

10 Ibid., Fichte 1806, pp. 47-48 (FGA I, 9: 73).

11 Ibid., Fichte 1806, pp. 38, 154 (FGA I, 9: 70, 115).

12 Ibid., Fichte 1806, p. 162 (FGA I, 9: 118).

13 Ibid., Fichte 1806, pp. 35-37 (FGA I, 9: 68).

14 Ibid., Fichte 1806, pp. 38-39 (FGA I, 9: 70).

15 Ibid., Fichte 1806, p. 39 (FGA I, 9: 70).

16 Ibid., Fichte 1806, p. 43 (FGA I, 9: 71-72).

17 Ibid., Fichte 1806, pp. 53-57 (FGA I, 9: 75-77).

18 Cf J.G. Fichte, Die Grundzüge des gegenwärtigen Zeitalters. Dargestellt von Johann Gottlieb Fichte in Vorlesungen, gehalten zu Berlin, im Jahre 1804-5 (Berlin: Im Verlag der Realschulbuchhandlung, 1806), (seventh lecture), pp. 210-212.

19 J.G. Fichte, The Science of Knowing. J.G. Fichte’s 1804 Lectures on the Wissenschaftslehre (Albany/New York: State University of New York Press, 2005), ed. and translated by Walter Wright, p. 205. (Translation slightly modified). The text is a letter to Appia, 23 June 1804, see: FGA IIII, 5: 247.

20 J.G. Fichte, Die Wissenschaftslehre, in ihrem allgemeinen Umrisse dargestellt (Berlin: J. E. Hitzig, 1810), p. 45 (FGA I, 10: 345).

21 Quoted in: E. Fuchs (ed.), Fichte im Gespräch, vol. 4 (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: frommann-holzboog, 1987), p. 209.

22 Zacharias Werner to Chamisso, 14 February 1806, quoted in: E. Fuchs (ed.), Fichte im Gespräch, vol. 3 (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: frommann-holzboog, 1981), p. 391.

23 Rudolf Steiner, Das Christentum als mystische Thatsache von Dr. Rudolf Steiner (Berlin: Verlag von C.A. Schwetschke und Sohn, first edition 1902; 2nd ed. 1910; the text is volume number 8 in the Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe (Dornach/Switzerland: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 9th ed., 1989). It can also be found in R. Steiner, Schriften – Kritische Ausgabe (SKA), ed. C. Clement, vol. 5 (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: frommann-holzboog, 2013), pp. 103-230.

24 Rudolf Steiner, Das Christentum als mystische Thatsache (1902), p. 134; GA 8, pp. 164-165; SKA 5, p. 221.

25 See R. Steiner, ibid. (1902), pp. 96-116; GA 8, pp. 119-145; SKA 5, pp. 188-206.

26 Hartmut Traub, Philosophie und Anthroposophie. Die philosophische Weltanschauung Rudolf Steiners – Grundlegung und Kritik (Stuttgart: Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 2011).

27 Cf. H. Traub, Philosophie und Anthroposophie, especially pages 908-973.

28 Ibid., p. 901.

29 Apart from my long review-essay (see endnote 4 above), see too the text: “Wie kann die Steinerforschung wissenschaftlicher werden? Replik auf Hartmut Traub” (originally published in Die Drei, 4/2013, pp. 61-65); as well as my recent review: “The Scholarly Steiner: Review of SKA 5”, published in Southern Cross Review, Nov.-Dec. 2014.

30 H. Traub, Philosophie und Anthroposophie, pp. 960, 901.

31 Ibid., p. 960.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid., pp. 25-26.

34 Among others, see H. Traub, Philosophie und Anthroposophie, pp. 133, 228, 302, and esp. pp. 909-914, 953-973. Traub even considers it likely that Steiner had Fichte’s text in front of him while writing his 1902 book (ibid., p. 966).

35 H. Traub, Philosophie und Anthroposophie, pp. 954-961.

36 Ibid., p. 956.

37 Ibid., p. 961.

38 Ibid., Traub, p. 957, footnote 569.

39Allerdings ist Steiners Tendenzen dazu auch bereits bei Fichte begegnet”, Ibid.

40 Ibid., pp. 956, 1001.

41 Cf. especially H. Traub, Philosophie und Anthroposophie, pp. 953-964.

42 H. Traub, Philosophie und Anthroposophie, p. 954.

43 J.G. Fichte, Die Anweisung zum seeligen Leben (1806), pp. 175-177 (FGA I, 9: 124).

44 J.G. Fichte, Die Anweisung zum seeligen Leben (1806), pp. 178-179 (FGA I, 9: 124-125).

45 See R. Steiner, Mein Lebensgang (written 1923-1925), (Dornach/Switzerland: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 2011), pp. 363-365, 388-390, 395-396, 410.

46 Some recent scholarly studies in the field of Western esotericism have also taken note of certain innovations in Steiner’s conception of esoteric Christianity. Among others, see Egil Asprem, The Problem of Disenchantment (Leiden: Brill, 2014), p. 489. Nevertheless, much of this research field still insufficiently takes into account the crucial influence that Fichte, Goethe, Schelling and other thinkers from the German idealistic period had on the development of Steiner’s early and later views of Christianity.

47 See the section ‘Johannine Christianity’ of my text: “The Scholarly Steiner: Review of SKA 5”, published in the Southern Cross Review, November-December 2014.

48 A reflection written in 1909: see Christian Morgenstern, Stufen (Munich: Piper, 1918), p. 199; cf. C. Morgenstern, Aphorismen, Werke und Briefe, vol. 5, ed. R. Habel (Stuttgart: Urachhaus, 1987), aphorism no. 1425, p. 306.

49 R. Steiner, lecture 22 May 1908, in: Das Johannes Evangelium (GA 103), 10th ed. 1981, p. 82.

50 J.G. Fichte, Die Grundzüge des gegenwärtigen Zeitalters. Dargestellt von Johann Gottlieb Fichte in Vorlesungen, gehalten zu Berlin, im Jahre 1804-5 (Berlin: Im Verlag der Realschulbuchhandlung, 1806), p. 210.

51 References to the Johannine texts in this essay are based on the Greek-English New Testament, eds. Nestle, Aland et. al. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1998).

52 Nur mit Johannes kann der Philosoph zusammenkommen, denn dieser allein hat Achtung für die Vernunft, und beruft sich auf Den Beweis, den der Philosoph allein gelten lässt: den innern.” J.G. Fichte, Die Anweisung zum seeligen Leben, oder auch die Religionslehre. Durch Johann Gottlieb Fichte. (Berlin: Im Verlag der Realschulbuchhandlung, 1806), pp. 155-156. (FGA I, 9: 116).

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid., Fichte 1806, pp. 154-155 (FGA I, 9: 115).

55 J.G. Fichte, Staatslehre (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1820), p. 217 (FGA II, 16: 145).

56 Rudolf Steiner, Das Christentum als mystische Thatsache (1902), pp. 89-90; GA 8, pp. 111-112; SKA 5 p. 182.

57 Apart from the primary source of the main written work Das Christentum als mystische Tatsache (Christianity as Mystical Fact, cf. footnote 22 above), for Steiner’s further treatment of the raising of Lazarus, see the important lecture cycles: R. Steiner, Das Johannes Evangelium, lecture cycle in Hamburg 18-31 May 1908 (GA 103), 10th ed. 1981; R. Steiner, Das Johannes Evangelium im Verhältnis zu den anderen Evangelien, besonders zu dem Lukas-Evangelium, lecture cycle in Kassel, 24 June – 7 July 1909 (GA 112), 5th ed. 1975; and R. Steiner, Kosmogonie, lectures in 1906 (GA 97), 2nd ed. 2001.

58 R. Steiner, Das Christentum als mystische Thatsache (1902), p. 102; GA 8, p. 126; SKA 5, p. 192.

59 Ibid. (1902), p. 101; GA 8, pp. 124-125; SKA 5, pp. 191-192.

60 At the beginning of the 20th century the theologian Johannes Kreyenbühl had also posited the Lazarus as the author of the fourth gospel cf. Das Evangelium der Wahrheit, Berlin, volume 1 (1900), pp. 157-159, and volume 2 (1905), p. 810. Hence, both Steiner and Kreyenbühl share the same choice of Lazarus as the writer of the fourth gospel. However, Kreyenbühl’s approach differs considerably from Steiner’s multi-perspective and contradictory-free approach, and his solution does not depend on understanding the open mystery and initiation language, or the dramatic composition and images of this gospel.

61 For contemporary overviews of this problem and selected answers, see among others: Richard Bauckham, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 2007), and Martin Hengel’s influential earlier but still valuable study: Die johanneische Frage: Ein Lösungsversuch (Tübingen: Mohr, 1993). Selected works from an anthroposophical perspective: see Manfred Krüger’s translation into German and highly stimulating commentary, Die Schriften des Johannes, Vol. II, Wahr ist das Wort, Betrachtungen zum Johannesevangelium mit einer Übersetzung der Briefe (Stuttgart: Verlag Freies Geistesleben, 2011), pp. 13-31, 87-134; and in English, Andrew J. Welburn, The Beginnings of Christianity (Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1991) pp. 302-331.

62 R. Steiner, Das Johannes-Evangelium (GA 103), lecture 22 May 1908 in Hamburg, 10th ed. (1981), p. 64.

63 R. Steiner, Kosmogonie (GA 94), lecture 28 October 1906 in Munich, p. 245.

64 R. Steiner, Das Christentum als mystische Thatsache (1902), p. 102; GA 8, pp. 125-126; SKA 5, p. 192. See too R. Steiner, Das Johannes-Evangelium (GA 103), pp. 62-84.

65 R. Steiner, Das Christentum als mystische Thatsache (1902), p. 105; GA 8, p. 129 ; SKA 5, p. 195.

66 Lecture 19 February 1906 in Berlin: “The awakening of Lazarus is the awakening of John himself, who wrote the gospel.” (Die Auferweckung des Lazarus ist die eigene Auferweckung des Johannes, der das Evangelium geschrieben hat.) in: GA 94, p. 200. Or again lecture 31 May 1906, in Paris: “John – that is Lazarus who arose out of the grave after his initiation” (Johannes – das ist der nach seiner Einweihung aus dem Grabe erstandene Lazarus.) GA 94, p. 50.

67 See R. Steiner, Das christliche Mysterium (GA 97), and Das Johannes-Evangelium (GA 103).

68 In: R. Steiner, Esoterische Betrachtungen, vol. 4 (GA 238), pp. 166-174.

69 Cf. R. Steiner, Das Johannes-Evangelium (GA 103), 10th ed. (1981), p. 4.

70 R. Steiner, Das Johannes-Evangelium (GA 103), lecture 22 May 1908 in Hamburg, 10th ed. (1981), p. 67.

71 Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, volume 1, 2007, p. 848.

72 Zander’s superficial grasp of Steiner’s Christology is evident because the main reference he provides for his misjudgment is “(GA 10310, 64 [1908])”, i.e. this same Hamburg lecture of 22 May 1908 entitled “The Awakening of Lazarus” that I have just quoted at length, where Steiner unambiguously states his view of the identity of the Beloved Disciple and the awakened Lazarus, and even their identity with John the Evangelist (Ibid.).

73 Cf. R. Steiner, Goethes geheime Offenbarung (Goethe’s Secret Revelation; August 1899) in: GA 30, pp. 86-99; Goethes ‚Faust’ als Bild seiner esoterischen Weltanschauung (Berlin: F. Grunert, 1902) reprinted in: GA 22; and Die Geheimwissenschaft im Umriß (GA 13), 30th ed. 1989, esp. p. 34.

PART II