Today, Dear Friends – on this eve of the New Moon, 30 March 2022, we mark the 97th anniversary of Rudolf Steiner’s rebirth into the Spiritual World.
After the burning of the 1st Goetheanum 100 years ago this year, at the Christmas Conference in 1923, when Rudolf Steiner re-founded & joined the Anthroposophical Society with the ‘movement’ ie. the good spirits working thru Anthroposophia, he also took on the karma of all its members. Starting just after that Dr. Steiner showed signs of illness. Yet he continued to lecture & travel like never before. He was often giving 4 lectures a day for the various courses taking place concurrently. Many of these focused on practical anthroposophy, such as education, agriculture, medicine & the Christian Community. He gave his last in-person lecture on Michaelmas September 1924. Yet even after that, Rudolf Steiner continued to work on his autobiography & the Leading Thoughts during the last months of his life until he died on 30 March 1925 with the Sun in Pisces & the Moon in Taurus.
From “The Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner’ by Guenther Wachsmuth: “Even the last weeks in March 1925, during which he had to endure unspeakable suffering, were devoted in the most intense concentration to spiritual research, creative work, & bestowal…
…the beginning of his shared anthroposophical work with Marie von Sivers stood before his inner eye. It had not been easy for Marie Steiner to live with the increasing intense collaboration between Rudolf Steiner & Ita Wegman over the course of the last few years. Ita Wegman was so entirely different than she was. Now she was forced to deny herself the opportunity to care for the person she loved the most. Trouble with her legs inhibited her from doing this. That they had spoken about this with each other is evident from a letter he wrote her in Berlin on his official birthday:
“I write you these lines at about the same time that you would usually be sitting at my side. Thinking about how beautiful it is to listen to you speck about your activities & to speak with you about various aspects of your work moves me deeply. And when I know that you have now & again been able to read my Autobiography the description of our shared work, I feel deeply how closely connected we are. That destiny has brought other people close to me is simply the way destiny works. And my sickness has shown just how incisive this destiny can be. But you found the way to understanding; this is a blessing for me. To feel the unity of feeling & thinking in discernment is something I can do only with you. That I was not able to show you the last pages of the Steffen article before it went to the printer was a hardship for me. Then for myself, I find inner competence only in your judgement. Through you art is raised into the realms of the hierarchies. I gaze with wonder upon everything you achieve & with such devotion. In my thoughts I am with you” ~RS
Shielded under the devoted care of Dr. Ita Wegman, he still communicated many a spiritual message received, & he had us to report to him what was occurring on the hill of Dornach. He loved the living noise of hammering & scaffold-building which penetrated from the building place of the Goetheanum into the quiet of his sickroom, announcing the building in the process of coming into being. He was united through his council & help with this work to his last breath & beyond death.
“March 1925 was cold and foggy. It became quite windy in the last week of the month, and then the storms began. From the South and the West, the rain whipped against the walls of the studio. On March 29th, Rudolf Steiner awoke in pain. “No work was done that morning. It was the 1st time. We spoke at length about the pain. There was no reason to be worried. The pains disappeared in the course of the day. He was extraordinarily still and patient that day and gave new suggestions for his care” (Wegman and Nachrichtenblatt 1925)
Albert Steffen, who visited Rudolf Steiner regularly throughout his illness, recalled this time: “I visited him March 28th at 5 pm in his studio, where he lay in his sickbed. It was a tall room with skylights. Nothing of the earth looks in: no tree, no mountain, no house, only the light of the heavens. Sculptural and architectural models that he has made himself stand on the shelves along with some busts he has sculpted; at the foot of his bed, the noble statue of Christ, carved by his own hand, soars high above him. All around him are tables covered with books and manuscripts…Up to the last day of his life, his interest was for the entire world. In his studio, which he had not left for half the year, he had collected an entire library”
Rudolf Steiner was writing his “Letters to the Members” up to a few days before he died! The last missive is like a preview of what was to come in the 21st Century. It is titled “From Nature to Sub-Nature.” In it, Rudolf Steiner characterizes the dangers of the technological age & the task that has arisen for humanity thru greed driven technological developments, which rob human beings of a direct experience with nature, placing the artificial there instead. At 4 pm on March 29th, the pain returned. Yet Rudolf Steiner asked again if the adjoining studio was ready for him to work on the model for the 2nd Goetheanum. Both doctors, Wegman & Noll, kept watch throughout the night.
In his recollections of Rudolf Steiner D.N.Dunlop recalled, “A few weeks before his final illness, during the summer conference in Torquay, I spoke to him about my concerns for his physical health. He drew me aside, vigorously but with infinite friendliness, and made me aware that his situation could not be explained in terms of our usual notions of disease”.
It has been publicly stated that he died of stomach cancer. But one of Ita Wegman’s closest colleagues, Dr. Margarete Kirchner-Bockholt vehemently rejected this conjecture. And Dr. Ita Wegman had reported that Rudolf Steiner’s etheric body was no longer able to work in the digestive organs in the appropriate manner. “The result was that these organs were subjected too strongly to the physical forces, which are forces of degeneration.” (Wegman and Nachrichtenblatt 1925)
The last moments in his earthly life were free from all struggle with the physical entity, free from all uncertainty such as characterizes the death of so many human beings; his countenance spoke of peace, grace, inner certitude, spiritual vision. He folded his hands over his breast; his eyes were shiningly & strongly directed into worlds with which in vision he was united. As he drew his last breath, he himself closed his eyes; but this filled the room not with the experience of an end, but with that of a most sublime spiritual action. An exalted, transfigured wakefulness spoke out of his countenance, out of the praying strength of the hands. As the great artists of the Middle Ages gave to the pictures of the knights resting upon the sarcophagus the expression indicating that their closed eyes were still beholding, their resting form was still able to stride forward, so did the figure here resting speak of a super-terrestrial wakefulness, of a striding forward into the spheres of the spirit.
The forward striding figure of the Christ statue, pointing into the expanses of the universe, which he himself had created & at whose feet he now lay, spoke for the eye of those left behind on earth what was taking place for the spirit of a great human being who had dedicated his life to the annunciation of the Christ. Even in dying, Rudolf Steiner bestowed upon humanity the most sublime gift of consolation: the certitude that death is a waking entrance into worlds of life & action.
From Friedrich Rittelmeyer speaking about his death: “None of us had expected that Rudolf Steiner would succumb to the illness. The mortal sheath, just abandoned by the spirit setting out on its far journey, was resting on the death-bed at the foot of the Christ statue which stood there almost completed. Those who looked at the face of the dead could see what the spirit can make of the body in the life of a truly great man on earth. The sublimity and purity of his features was equal to every test and unsurpassed. Perhaps the death mask, if it is ever reproduced as a picture, will be a means of convincing many. Again and again one’s gaze turned from the forsaken earthly body to the great Christ figure which points with compelling gesture into the future. The disciple had fallen at the feet of the Master. It was as if Christ were taking the disciple to Himself with sheltering arms while He Himself went forward with unceasing step towards the future of the world. The disciple’s mission was fulfilled. The Master’s brow was radiant with the light of divine world-purposes. When, at the wish of Frau Dr. Steiner, and in the solemnly decorated hall where Dr. Steiner had given most of his great lectures, I was performing the burial service according to the ritual of The Christian Community, a drop of the sprinkled water fell in the centre of the forehead and shone there through the whole service like a sparkling diamond. The light of many candles was reflected in this glittering star – even as the revelations of light from higher worlds had been reflected in his spirit. Thus adorned, the body sank into the coffin. To me it was as if higher Spirits had indicated in an earthly picture what it had been our lot to experience. When the service was at an end, one impression lived mightily within my soul: “This work is now completed. Like a great question it stands there before mankind. If all who belong to that work dedicate their powers to it with single purpose, it will prevail!”
According to Ita Wegman’s report right before he crossed the threshold, Rudolf Steiner was very still sad & silent. She recalled, “It seemed to me as though he had a very difficult problem to solve. The forces of light in his eyes appeared weaker than usual”.
From Ita Wegman Nachrichtenblatt 1925: “At 3 am, I noticed a slight change in his breathing. I approached his bed; he was awake. He looked at me & asked whether I was tired. This question touched me. His pulse was not as strong as it had been, but much faster. I called Dr. Noll in order to speak with him about what ought to be done. Herr Steiner was not astonished to see him there in the middle of the night & greeted him amiably. “I don’t feel too bad” he said “I just can’t sleep.” We turned the light out again. At 4 am, he called me because the pain had reappeared. He said, “As soon as the day comes, we want to continue the treatment that I suggested”…Naturally, we didn’t wait for the day to come but did what was necessary. But then the situation changed quickly – his pulse grew weaker, his breathing more rapid. And we had to experience how his life was gradually extinguished…He went as though it were the obvious thing to do. It seemed to me as though the dice had been thrown for a last decision. When they fell, there was no struggle, no attempt to remain upon the earth any longer. He gazed calmly into the space before him for a time, said a couple of tender words to me, consciously closed his eyes & folded his hands”
Again from “The Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner’ by Guenther Wachsmuth: In the lofty darkened space of the studio stood the bier of him who had completed this earthly life, surrounded by a sea of flowers, by the light of candles, the death watch by his side day & night. Many hundreds of persons came in soundless silence for the last visit, went back into life comforted, trusting, having received in their affliction assurance of the virtuousness of the Spirit, of rebirth. On the 3rd day the body was brought into the great workshop, to lie in state finally in the lecture hall, at the place from which he had for decades proclaimed the knowledge of the spirit. At the request of Frau Marie Steiner, Fredrich Rittelmeyer conducted the funeral service which was the gift of Rudolf Steiner to the Christian Community.
The next morning the coffin was carried away for cremation. When it was passing by the newly erected structure of the new Goetheanum, the workers at the building stood still on the scaffolding & greeted the master builder & friend. At the cremation ritual, Albert Steffen united us with our beloved teacher in a picture of his being which only the artist could draw in such shining perfection. He spoke of “the friend of God and leader of humanity”. And what has come into being in us earthly persons through the leadership & schooling of Rudolf Steiner as a certitude, what we are called upon to do in his spirit, he summarized in the following words:
“He has again showed the world to us in such a way that we know it has come forth out of god. He has died in such a way that we feel: Christ lives in this death. May his immortal Spirit be resurrected in our deeds. We will, as well as we can, make them holy.”
“His last thoughts were of the work to which he had in love dedicated himself” ~Rudolf Steiner, from the last act of the 4th Mystery Drama.
“To create centres of peace & love in which the Christ can resurrect.”
~written on the urn that holds the ashes of Rudolf Steiner
What a blessing to receive the teachings of this great initiate. May we continue our connection with him in the spiritual worlds & ever enliven our Michaelic work with The Christ & the Being of Anthroposophia.