Dear friends – a few young people have written in asking me to share more background around the ‘Wandervogel’ Youth Movement & how it was manifesting in the Anthroposophical Movement of Steiner’s day to bring forth “der Jugendkreis” (the Youth Circle) You can read about the Circle Jubilee here.
The best source is in “Esoteric Lessons Vol. 3 – 1913-1923, (CW 266/3) from the Collected Works of Rudolf Steiner” giving a moving account of the origins & development of the Esoteric Youth Group. Friends, I wholeheartedly recommend reading these recollections, notes & testimonies from the young people who were part of this revolutionary time. It seems especially important for those who are members of The Circle now to review this material, since as Lehrs related, Steiner gave the advice that members “should reflect again & again upon the foundational impulse of the Group”
I will highlight a few details to help bring some perspective of what was living in the souls of these young people 100 years ago; who may be seeking to work with us from the spiritual world today.
The catastrophe of the World War proved that the old societal conditions were decadent, no longer serving the striving human being. Young people especially yearned for a new social practice. In 1919 the Movement for the Threefold Social Organism arose out of Rudolf Steiner, which really called to these young people. From this came many Anthroposophical Student Groups. In 1920 the Association for Anthroposophical Collage Studies was founded. This led to the East-West Congress in Vienna in June 1922, where a group of young people set up a meeting with Rudolf Steiner.
Steiner described the youth as Wondervogel = Migratory birds – “a movement arising internationally out of elemental forces”, to announce the end of the Kali Yuga, in a series of lectures called ‘Youth and the Etheric Heart’ given especially for the young people who were grappling with many hardships & questions of their destiny following the disaster of World War I.
The young people responded by getting together & writing ‘circulars’ which were popular at that time, to try to explain what was living in them. These reports were often read at various Anthroposophical General Meetings. One such circular by Otto Palmer, Jr. spoke about the origins of the Youth Movement: “…we must see it above all as a protest that came to life in the youth against the old branch life that has up until now been customary in the Anthroposophical Society. Indeed, there actually does live in the youth something that feels the need to have Anthroposophy not be just something we do on Sunday afternoons (not like wearing it as jewelry or decoration on Sunday), but rather to bring everything that is given in Anthroposophy into life and to make it into practice…instead of a lecturer speaking from a podium, with the audience just listening, now people have joined together who want to work together on a theme…”
Another circular by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer said: “…If we ourselves add ability to our willing, then the fight against the old thinking can be taken up everywhere…”
After Steiner gave the lectures called: Mystics after Modernism to the Berlin Youth Group, Ernst Lehrs, Wilhelm Rath, Karin & Wilhelm Selling, & Kurt Walther, became inspired by the “Friend of God from Oberland” & his ‘circle of 12 Friends of God’. This enkindled in them & others the ideal of building a similar circle of Anthroposophical youth to meet the modern age. They hoped to create this ideal thru the newly formed “Bund fur freies Geistesleben (Association for Independent Spiritual Life)
Rath wrote to Lehrs: “…The request is that, since we want for all the future to come to an intensive, living working-together, that Rudolf Steiner give us the possibility of uniting meditatively at a specific time in rhythmic sequence – even though we are separated in space – by giving us a unifying meditation into which we can immerse ourselves in the morning or evening. This idea seems important to me.”
Other young people were more concerned with asking Steiner about practical career advice. So, as Rath wrote in his book “Mein Weg zum Kreis” (My way to the circle): “…the result was a long wrestling with the formation of the question to be put to Dr. Steiner”.
Over 80 young people, from the ages of 18-25, & about 20 older folks came to Stuttgart for the Youth Course, 3-5 October 1922, in what came to be called “Becoming the Archangel Michael’s Companion”. Steiner understood that the young people saw “fixed programs as something for which the time is past”, so Herr Doctor suggested they meet together to discuss what they wanted the 1st lecture to be about, & then they could go from there. The Official local Society reps were offended that they weren’t included, although Steiner did invite the Vorstand & the college of teachers from the Waldorf School.
According to “Enstehungsgeschichte des Jugendkreises” (The history of the origin of the youth group by Ernst Lehrs) the young people were split, ‘one group wanted to bring a question about building an esoteric community, the other group rejected this flatly & demanded that only a question that concerns the pedagogical realm should be brought. Finally, they agreed on a neutrally formulated question. When it was presented to Rudolf Steiner, he appeared to be disappointed by it, so Wilhelm Rath felt compelled to bring the idea forward about the esoteric community, which Dr. Steiner was immediately willing to do.’ He suggested that the large group consult once more & that only those who wanted to take up the esoteric idea should come to the next meeting.
After much debate the majority separated off, & the Youth Course, called today THE YOUNGER GENERATION, GA 217, itself addressed their career questions; while a group of 12 went on to meet with Dr. Steiner on Friday the 13th October 1922. (Interesting to think back on that Friday the 13th October in 1307, when King Philip IV of France, in league with Pope Clement V, ordered all the Knights Templars to be rounded up & thrown into prison)
From Herbert Hahn we hear: “We gathered in a festive, expectant mood. Dr. Steiner entered together with Frau Dr. Steiner, with a noticeably earnest bearing. He held in his hand a violet leather-bound book, out of which later he read the meditations & let them be copied. Upon entering the room, he paused a moment in the doorway & counted us as he pointed a finger at each of us. Thereby, we ourselves became aware for the first time that there were twelve of us. Then he opened the book & said with a deep, calm voice: “I have the task of communicating the following to you”.