The Founding of The Circle

Gerald Wagner

For the Anthroposophical Society, 1922 was a year of great challenge. Rudolf Steiner responded to it by traveling & lecturing unceasingly – from the ‘East-West Congress’ in Vienna to his visits to England, & sometimes to huge crowds in Berlin, & Munich.  When Steiner came to Stuttgart, where the Christian Community Priests were working after their founding on 16 Sept., he meet with nearly 100 young people who wanted to carry the new Waldorf educational impulse into contemporary culture. The series of lectures given from 3-15 October 1922 came to be called The Youth Course or The Younger Generation.

Seeing what lived in the youth movement of the time, he endeavored to guide them toward an understanding of themselves within the aftermath of the World War, & in respect to the dawning the new Michael age. In these lectures Steiner shows the spiritual reality behind the generation gap in which the older & younger generations speak “entirely different soul languages.He saw how young people longed to find spirit, in nature, warm community life, & thru a living wisdom in their teachers. They flatly rejected the dead intellectualism, impersonal social routine & rampant egotism in the older generation. Steiner explained that while their antipathetic opposition may at first generate the fires of enthusiasm, only the will for positive creation can provide the long term working strength that can bring real change & growth.

To become teachers, Steiner emphasized the need first for inner development – “self-education” – as the foundation to all other education.

The young listeners were called to develop an inner hearing to perceive the dawning of new Spirit powers. From their desire to become a new breed of educators, Steiner said that in order to bestow true nourishment, they must recognize that the growth of such spiritual food demands that the plough must first be turned inward & the seeds of Spirit sown within. Trusting that eventually, in good time, according to the rhythms of healthy development – with the power of the Sun & the Moon & Stars – a good harvest will ripen within them, which will yield living bread, not stones, in the relationship of human being to human being.

This universal Michaelic harvest provides a greater pathway of purpose, & the certainty of spirit-companionship transcending all generations.

As we have seen in the previous installments The Circle JubileeThe Origins of the Circle & The Eternal Circle – in the midst of this lecture series Steiner met with the 12 founding members of what came to be called The Esoteric Youth Group or The Circle.

Here is the report from Ernst Lehrs about the Founding of The Circle on Monday 16 October 1922: “Because of Dr. Steiner’s early-scheduled departure for Dornach, the gathering took place at 7 am. We waited for him on the landing of the staircase outside the room to which we were called. He met us there with Frau Dr. Steiner & Dr. Ita Wegman, & asked with interested anticipation before entering the room, if we had participated in the Act of Consecration of Man the day before. We told him we had not, because of a difficulty that came from the one of the Priests. About this he stressed several times that he would not have had anything against our participating. “Come in. We want to discuss this right now. You must tell me what stood in your way”.

Thus, the meeting that was dedicated to the festive founding of The Group began with our report of what we experienced the evening before with the pronouncement that we felt was imposed on us. This was followed by Dr. Steiner’s presentation of his relationship to The Christian Community &, in comparison, his position in the Anthroposophical Movement. He made it clear that he had a thoroughly different opinion that held no conditions for participation in the ritual…

Then he went onto something else. We remember he took the opportunity to speak of H.P. Blavatsky, in connection with a description of the esoteric movement of recent years that proceeded Anthroposophy…

Next he explained some things about being in the world as members of our community or group. From now on, it will be for every human group in the outer world – thus, for instance, for students in a teacher training institute, at which one of us studies – of karmic significance that at one time a member of this Group was part of it. Also, effects would arise in the destiny between us & human beings who are connected with us physically or spiritually. These effects would be of a good or bad nature, according to whether we were good or bad in our affairs. Yet, he warned us that this is not so easy to judge. For that, we would need a capacity that one can better express as esoteric discernment.

He said in view of future growth: “Consider yourselves as the root of the Group. About the accepting of future members, he said only that we should not take anyone who is younger than 21, as they are minors legally, & you could have conflict with parents & because of that, with the law. The Group must at all costs, however, avoid any contact with public officials. Further, he advised us not to take, when possible, a married woman whose husband is not joining, or whom you might expect that he will not find a relationship with or access to The Group.

Dr. Steiner closed this part of the conversation when, with a noticeable change of his breathing, he said that he now wanted to give us a formulation of an oath. Through the reading of this oath in the presence of the others, the admittance into the community would be effected. Thus, we were first to accept one another mutually through each of us reading the oath aloud to the others. From then on, the oath should serve to expand the Group through our own responsibility. He asked that someone write down what he then dictated freely by speaking the oath word-for-word, as if bringing it out of the Spiritual world in the moment. All the while, he held his gaze meditatively before him. Then he paused briefly, laid his hands & arms quietly in front of him, & said with deep earnestness in a voice in which cosmic firmness & humble quiet appeared to be paired: “And now consider your community as having been founded by the Spiritual world itself”.     

Amanda sage

At that he got up & we did also. He then came to each of us, stood quietly before each, took our right hand in both of his, & looked us briefly in the eyes with a gaze that cannot be described in words. Perhaps we may say, thinking of a term used later in one of his Rosicrucian lectures of January 1924, that his was a ‘star-gaze’. Here we were allowed to look into eyes from which no personal gaze proceeded, but rather through which starry worlds looked & rayed forth.

 Before he left he asked us to please report it to him should anyone decide in the end not to join the Group. This surprised us, because we all thought such a thing unimaginable. Later, looking back at emerging difficulties led us to understand his precaution. Nonetheless, it told us that in the future we should give those seeking admittance the opportunity for a last examination of their decision, after they have come to know what is involved with our Group…

How surprised we were when Dr. Steiner turned back to us as he was leaving & said warmly: “And now get to know one another well!” This gave us the idea to tell each other our biography that same evening at our mutual acceptance into the membership. This then became a permanent practice with admittance to membership.

During the rest of the time before his departure, Dr. Steiner allowed us to ask him any kind of questions of a more or less personal nature…

One question was about Dr. Steiner’s position in relation to both the School that was a kind of Esoteric Section that existed in the Society until 1914 & to what has been newly formed here. About this he said: “As I began teaching, I had to connect my work with the thread of the old tradition. What came thusly into being had to be broken off due to outer circumstances. What has taken place now is a first in the post-Christian age; human beings themselves chose, out of freedom before the Spiritual World, to join together esoterically.”

Here is added something that we understod only later. As at the end of World War 1, some of the older Esoteric School members asked Dr. Steiner about the possibility of taking up what had been interrupted by the war, he said that ‘the old could no longer be taken up; Though, it could come to ‘a new Esoteric form’ within the Society. However, that would depend first upon people coming to him out of freedom & asking for an esotericism in common with one another. He said such could only happen from those belonging to the younger generation.’

We then understood his so surprisingly positive demeanor as Rath spoke the question in the committee discussion before the first lecture of the course! (see Origins of The Circle)

As Rudolf Steiner finally left the room in order to travel to Dornach, with the car that was already waiting for him, he turned several times at the door & waved warmly with both hands.

Herbert Hahn added a few more details in his report: “Among other things, Rudolf Steiner spoke about being young & growing old. He said for instance: “It is unavoidable that you will one day get grey hair here & a wrinkle there as the physical body shall & must grow old. For every grey hair that appears & for every wrinkle that imprints itself, the soul can add a fresh, young ‘something’. Only then does aging proceed the way it is willed by the Spirit”.

In connection with this, he said that we should again & again enliven the impulse that led us to the founding of our community, so that it lives as it did on the first day.

He said: “You see, in the day to day world, the old adage. ‘New brooms sweep well’ holds true. It means that the bristles of the broom gradually wear, even though in the beginning they were ever so good. That must not be the case with you! Your ‘broom’ must receive new Bristles every day”. 

When mentioning how Rudolf Steiner gave the Youth Group an esoteric lesson during the re-founding of the Anthroposophical Society, Herbert Hahn considered the Founding of The Youth Circle to be “one of the Preparatory steps for the Christmas Conference of 1923. This community is given an inner obligation for carrying through the great impulse of the Christmas Conference.”

Dear friends – Thank you for your earnest interest in this initiative. It has been a potent experience to share these founding impulses with you. May we all take up the deed, in our own ways, during this powerful Centennial time, to enliven Anthroposophy.


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