TODAY 31 August in 1943 – Deathday of Elisabeth Vreede, a Dutch mathematician, astronomer & Anthroposophist – one of Rudolf Steiner’s closest co-workers, part of the the original Vorstand in Dornach . ‘Vreede’ translates from the Dutch as ‘Peace’.
Elisabeth Vreede was born in Holland, at The Hague, on 16 July 1879. She was a sensitive person, & later on in her life she played an important part in the life of Anthroposophia.
Elisabeth Vreede came into contact with Theosophy in her home growing up. She was interested early on in the starry sky, & while learning French, she read the works of Camille Flammarion, a French astronomer & author. Because of his scientific background, he approached reincarnation from the viewpoint of the scientific method, writing, “It is by the scientific method alone that we may make progress in the search for truth. Religious belief must not take the place of impartial analysis. We must be constantly on our guard against illusions.”
At the University of Leyden she studied mathematics, astronomy, Sanskrit, & philosophy (especially Hegel). She was also actively involved in student life, founding a boat club & was a council member of the students’ union.
After receiving her diploma in 1906, she gave instruction at a higher girl’s school in mathematics until 1910. Then she lived in Berlin, worked on her dissertation, & worked as a secretary for Rudolf Steiner. In April 1914, she moved to Dornach to help in the building of the first Goetheanum & was often found there carving wood.
Her first meeting with Rudolf Steiner took place at the Theosophical Congress in London in 1903. Vreede was leader of the mathematics & astronomy sections in the Goetheanum in Dornach from 1926 till 1935. In her capacity as leader of the Mathematical-Astronomical Section she wrote a monthly letter, then available by subscription, about both modern astronomy & classical astrology in the light of spiritual science. The letters included explanations of the fundamentals of astronomy & discussions of astrology in the modern world, with reference to such topics as the procession of the equinoxes, comets, solar & lunar eclipses, & the meaning of the Christian holidays such as Easter & Whitsun. The Letters in English translation were published in 2007 with the title Astronomy and Spiritual Science.
Rudolf Steiner said of her: ‘this individuality does not wish to be recognized …’ Elisabeth Knottenbelt in her memoirs describes statements about her: that ‘she incarnated too early’ for the sake of serving Rudolf Steiner. “for this task [the work with Rudolf Steiner] she had assumed the sacrifice of a premature incarnation. One who, for the sake of a spiritual mission, comes in this way to earth too early must forego a lot. To a great extent one leaves one’s karmic circle of human beings behind in the spiritual word. Her life was thus really a quite lonely one, only a few persons were grouped around her without any real connection.”
Olive Whicher, personal assistant to, & colleague of George Kaufmann, recalls: “Dr Vreede used to say half jokingly that she thought she wore ‘Tarnkappe’ – an invisibility cap. I think it is true, and furthermore that the invisible cap extends to quite central themes in Rudolf Steiner’s great impulse. No doubt, as the decades pass and the souls who harbour those vital impulses have turned again towards Earth, the invisible cap will wear thin and become transparent”.
“Chilly” was the single word that summed up Elisabeth Vreede for Ernesto Genoni, Australia’s foundational pioneer of biodynamics, when he met her in 1920. Other ﬁrst hand accounts bear out his impression.
Olive Whicher recalled that Elisabeth Vreede “bore the solemn and determined – even stern – expression of the thinker”.
Rudolf Steiner saw her in connection with the Platonic stream, & had indicated that she had incarnated earlier than planned in order to meet him on Earth.
Rudolf Steiner is reputed to have said that Dr. Vreede understood his work more deeply than anyone else.
After the War, Rudolf Steiner developed his idea of the threefold social order & she too had an intense interest in this initiative & work. She was the first to bring this idea of a threefold social order to England.
Elisabeth Vreede had moved to Dornach in 1913, initially living with the English sculptor, Edith Maryon.
Elisabeth Vreede experienced the tragedy of war 1st hand. She moved to Berlin (in 1916 -1917) to support British prisoners of war. She had lived in the same apartment block as Marie & Rudolf Steiner in Motzstrasse. In this philanthropic work, she worked with Dr Elisabeth Rotten – Quaker, peace activist, & co-founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Her feelings for Berlin were ambivalent: “my peculiar mood concerning Berlin – most wonderful and most terrible of all cities”.
Around 1918, Dr. Vreede began to construct the library & archive at the Goetheanum. Using her own means, she purchased the expensive lecture transcripts as soon as they were typed from notes. In 1920 she moved to Arlesheim, Switzerland, where she had built a little house for herself. It was the second house for which Steiner had given the model in 1919. George Kaufmann Adams wrote that: “The model for this house had been made by Edith Maryon with Dr Steiner’s help…’House Vreede’ on the hill at Arlesheim, looking straight across to the Goetheanum, became known through its hospitality to countless friends”.
Elisabeth Vreede attended Rudolf Steiner’s Agriculture Course at Koberwitz, & was a member of the ‘Experimental Circle of Anthroposophical Farmers & Gardeners’ tasked with testing & progressing Rudolf Steiner’s “hints” for the development of a Holistic / Spiritual agriculture. She helped the farmers in developing & understanding the astronomical aspects of their work.
Vreede gave a lecture for “Agricultural Session” at Dornach in January 1926, called ‘The Signiﬁcance of Astronomy for Agriculture’.
At the Christmas Conference in 1924, Steiner appointed her to head the Mathematical-Astronomical Section of the School of Spiritual Science of the recently reestablished Anthroposophical Society, & she belonged to the board of directors of the general Anthroposophical Society from 1925 to 1935. Rudolf Steiner had declared: “Fräulein Vreede is one of those who best understands my lectures”
Lili Kolisko, biodynamics pioneer, wrote: “Elisabeth Vreede, PhD, was a member of the Executive Council, on whose opinion one laid very little – one could almost say, absolutely no – value. This was in spite of the fact that Dr Steiner introduced her in the Christmas Conference  with the following word: “Likewise, a very long-time member is the person I now mean and who has proven, right down to the last detail, to be the most loyal coworker here and with whom you really can also agree to the very last detail: Fraulein Dr Lili Vreede”
Rudolf Steiner stated: “her advice is always sought when we need to know something in the mathematical-astronomical realm … I wish to have this work carried on in the future by Fräulein Dr Vreede as Leader”.
In 1935 the separation within the Anthroposophical Society took place & she was expelled from the executive council & excluded along with her long-time friend & co-member, Dr. Ita Wegman from the board of directors. She was also cut off from the observatory & archives that she herself helped assemble.
Expelled at age ﬁfty ﬁve, Elisabeth Vreede continued to travel, often in Holland and England”, also to Italy, Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Ireland and Turkey. Her last trip to Germany was in 1938 to help Jewish members of the Anthroposophical. Months before her death, she delivered the eulogy at the funeral of fellow purgee, Ita Wegman (1876-1943).
The last years of her life became more lonely. She was cut off from her friends abroad by the War. The death of Ita Wegman at the beginning of March, 1943, was a great shock for her.
Here is a quote from a letter written by her prior to her removal from the executive council: “The Being of Anthroposophy – I myself have always felt it as a spiritual being newly created by Dr. Steiner, as it were the first hierarchical Being that men have begotten, quite young and still underdeveloped, as is the case with a child—a Being that must now begin to develop further through our common work as a ‘community of knowledge’, and with the cooperation of its creator from the spiritual world. Just for this reason I find it so painful when attacks are continually made against part of the active members such as to exclude them from the work, from creating together the Being of Anthroposophy.”
Dr. Vreede gave a lecture on 3 January 1926, which was first published in Vol. 6, Nos. 42 to 46, called The World of the Stars and Human Destiny. In it she addressed the appropriate use of Astrology in our time:
“You will now understand to what purpose we have a horoscope, and that it is not there in the first instance for our own sake. You will understand that when a horoscope is made for a person’s satisfaction, there is always a certain amount of egoism connected with it; for he does not possess it for this purpose! And if you take the passages in our literature where Dr. Steiner speaks about Astrology (there are passages in many of the cycles and lectures) you will find how he emphasizes again and again that Astrology must be something social, which pays no attention to the individual but has social aims. In a true Astrology only what is universally human is considered and not the satisfaction of the egoism of the human being. By considering it egoistically, that deed of Michael is undone whereby other beings ought to be saved from plunging into the abyss.
When Dr. Steiner asked the position of the stars at the moment of a birth, it was always with reference to children who lacked one or other of the forces just described. It was then possible to learn from it which of these forces was not there in the right sense; thus it could be gathered what this human soul lacked before birth. And then it might be possible under certain circumstances to find a cure. Here we see how the matter is carried away from what is egoistic and into the social, when such abnormal children may in this way find a cure, which otherwise might perhaps not be possible. But in those children in whom certain forces were not brought in at birth these influences remain present. …Thus we see how Astrology can be used when it is kept in Michael’s sense, and not in the sense in which it is so often practiced today.”
In 1928 she invited Willi Sucher to come to Dornach & collaborated with him in working out the death asterograms of historical personalities, which was part of his substantial historic research, & which he further worked out in the late 30’s & 40’s, doing the charts & therapeutic research of special needs children in England & Scotland.
On the anniversary, in 1943, of Rudolf Steiner’s death, she spoke to the circle of friends & co-workers at the Ida Wegman clinic. They wanted to commemorate not just Rudolf Steiner but the many others who were leading Anthroposophists but were no longer known to most. She spoke in a devoted way about Edith Maryon, who also died in 1924, & Alice Sauerwein. She portrayed Count Keyserlingk & Louis Werbeck, Caroline von Heydebrand & Eugen Kolisko.
At the beginning of May 1943 she spoke once more on the 400th anniversary of the death of Copernicus. At the lecture it was noticed that only by exceptional exertion could she keep herself upright. Just a few days later on 6 May, she had to take to her bed. She had never been ill nor depended on people until that point. Thanks to the devoted care of Frau Schunemann, she was treated at home until her passing on 31 August 1943 in Ascona.
“The stars bear for us the traces of the Deeds of the Gods which lead through the Beings of the hierarchies to the frontiers of Divinity Itself.” ~Elisabeth Vreede
31 August 2023– “Speaking with the Stars” – Comet 103P/Hartley 2 is passing thru the outskirts of Perseus today. This region is rising after sunset & highest in the overnight hours, so if you can stay out late to observe it around midnight or later, your view will improve.
Look for the comet near Algol in Perseus, on the western border with Andromeda. Hartley 2 is a short-period comet that returns to our skies every 6.3 years. It is expected to brighten over the next two months, as it nears perihelion — the closest point to the Sun in its orbit — in mid-October.
Sunrise: 6:26 A.M.
Sunset: 7:34 P.M.
Moonrise: 8:16 P.M.
Moonset: 6:55 A.M.
Moon Phase: Waning gibbous (99%)
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY (commons,rsarchive.org, Astrosophy.com)
Feast Day of Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus. Rudolf Steiner speaks about these individualities as initiates many times. Here are a few examples: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA103/English/AP1962/19080525p01.html
1528 – Deathday of Matthias Grünewald a German Renaissance painter of religious works who ignored Renaissance classicism to continue the style of late medieval Central European art into the 16th century. Only ten paintings—several consisting of many panels—& thirty-five drawings survive, all religious, although many others were lost at sea in the Baltic on their way to Sweden as war booty. His largest and most famous work is the Isenheim Altarpiece
1740 – Birthday of Johann Friedrich Oberlin, mystic, philanthropist, social Christian. Rudolf Steiner spoke about him in his lectures on Occult History http://wn.rsarchive.org/GA/GA0126/19101227p01.html
1803 – Meriwether Lewis & William Clark start their expedition to the west
1869 – Deathday of Mary Ward, Irish astronomer & entomologist, killed when she fell under the wheels of an experimental steam car built by her cousins. She was the world’s first person known to be killed by a motor vehicle
1997 – Deathday of Diana, Princess of Wales, her companion Dodi Fayed & driver Henri Paul die in a car crash in Paris
Saturday 23 September 2023
Community Prep-Stir / Potluck / Bon-fire
6 – 8 pm at the Lucchesi-Archer-Ginsberg domicile
Please Bring Food & Drink to share, & a jar for the prep
30 September 2023 – Michaelmas Festival & Zinniker Farm Day