The Masonic adventure of Rudolf Steiner

Steiner_FreemasonryIn my little investigation of Frans Farwerck I touched upon the connection of modern Theosophy and certain kinds of of Freemasonry. It was Annie Besant who helped to found the first “co-Masonic” lodge in the Netherlands, or perhaps in those days she still used the term “Joint Freemasonry”. This was in 1904 in Amsterdam. In fact, Annie Besant founded a great many lodges under “The International Order of Co-Masonry, Le Droit Humain” in many different countries. In her wake, many Theosophists joined the ranks of this brandnew Masonic order that allowed both men and women to join. The ‘Theosophical boom’ was not meant to last. The Dutch lodge that Farwerck was to join was actually a reaction to too much Theosophical influence on the Le Droit Humain kind of Freemasonry. Also the Supreme Council in Paris (the international headquarters of Le Droit Humain) started to push for less Theosophy in their lodges from 1918 onwards, causing the first schisms.

Besides Annie Besant more ‘famous’ Theosophists have been “co-Masons”, most notably Charles Leadbeater (who co-authored Besant’s Rituals). Some websites claim that also co-founder of the Theosophical Society Henry Steel Olcott moved from a men-only order to Le Droit Humain. Olcott became a Freemason before the Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 so logically also before “co-Masonry” started in 1893 in France.

Then I heard that Rudolf Steiner had something to do with (co-)Freemasonry. My guess was that this would have occured when he broke with the Theosophical Society to sail a more Western course. A little search on the internet seemed to prove that this was not so. Steiner supposedly rewrote a Masonic Ritual in order to use it within the Esoteric Section of the German branch of the Theosophical Society. Chronologically that could have been a text of Le Droit Humain, but that was not the case.

Memphis-Misraim

There appeared to be a book called The Misraim service – “Freemasonry” and Ritual Work – the collected works of Rudolf Steiner. The first three words of this title suggests that Steiner’s “Ritual Work” was based the writings of Cagliostro, a book about whom I recently reviewed. That is an interesting twist in the story, because how did Steiner come to this “Egyptian” form of Freemasonry and not the form that Annie Besant started to actively push from 1902 onward (according to Wikipedia)? Besant and Steiner knew eachother. The German section of the Theosophical Society was (according to Wikipedia) founded in 1902. The Wikipedia article about Steiner says: “By 1904, Steiner was appointed by Annie Besant to be leader of the Theosophical Esoteric Society for Germany and Austria.” It is hard to imagine that Besant did not suggest to Steiner that “co-Masonry” would make a good addition to this Esoteric Society. Besant herself only became head of the Theosophical Society in 1907. Somewhere between these few years (1904 and 1907) Steiner found a form of Freemasonry that he apparently found more fitting. Le Droit Humain would not come to Germany until 1921 (and still only consists of the first two lodges founded in 1921 and 1924 according to Wikipedia). Perhaps Besant was busy in other places of the world. Perhaps Steiner already had other plans.

In November 1905, both Rudolf Steiner, who was General Secretary of the German Section of the Theosophical Society and Arch Warden of its Esoteric Section, and Marie von Sivers were invited to “join” in a purely formal way, the Order of Ancient Freemasons of the Memphis and Misraim Rite. Soon after, Steiner recieved a Contract and Brotherly Agreement or Charter of the Order of Ancient Freemasons of the Memphis and Misraim Rite, allowing him to form his own Mystic Temple, Mystica Aeterna, in Berlin.

Thus says the back of the Memphis Service book. The back also says:

Though outwardly similar to existing Masonic rituals, forms and legends, the spiritual content Steiner gave was new and vital.

So was Steiner’s Memphis Service Masonic or not. Was Steiner a Freemason himself or not?

Steiner the Freemason?

He received his charter from Theodore Reuss of the Ordo Templum Orientalis or O.T.O. Nevertheless, Steiner was never a member of, nor did he have any involvement with, the O.T.O. Reuss had received permission to operate the Memphis-Misraim rite from John Yarker, who, some twenty years previously, had initiated Madame Blavatsky into the same Order.

Thus says the synopsis of the Steiner book on Amazon. So he was not a member of the O.T.O., but was he a Freemason?

There is a website that has similar information as on the back of the book, but more specific. In the Dutch version of Peter Koenig’s investigation into the O.T.O. membership of Steiner it says that Steiner and Sivers were not asked to “”join” in a purely formal way”, but they asked to be initiated. The website even has a date: 24 November 1905. Strangely enough the English version has: “24 November 1905: Rudolf Steiner and Marie von Sivers each pay 45 Marks to Theodor Reuss for their membership in Memphis-Misraim.” Thus saying nothing about initiation.
Koenig gets even worse. In the Dutch version he quotes Steiner saying: “Reuss ist kein Mensch, auf den irgendwie zu bauen waere”, or ‘Reuss is not a person you can build upon in any way.’ In the English version Koenig translated this into: “Reuss is not a man who can be trusted”. That is quite a different way of phrasing.

Or how about: “Op 2/01/1906 geeft Steiner zijn eerste voordracht in samenwerking met de Loge.” ‘On 2/01/1906 Steiner gives his first lecture together with the lodge.” Compare this to:

2 January 1906: For the first time, Steiner gives a lecture to men AND women at the same time and calls “Masonry” (by which he possibly means the irregular AASR and MM rite) “a caricature” “with snoozing forces to be woken up again“; which is “our work to do“. Steiner considers it as his “duty to save the Misraim-Dienst for the future.” The Misraim-Dienst is to combine Terrestrial with Celestial, Visible with Invisible and to again renew the Eleusinian Mysteries.

There is more specific information. On 3 January 1906 Steiner received the 30° 67° and 89°. The description is “die Steiner de graden 30° 67° en 89° oplevert”. Personally I would only use the word “opleveren” to indicate that a person perhaps received something but not in a formal way, it sounds a bit like the word is used ironcally.
In English this date is described by:

3 January 1906: Reuss signs a contract with Steiner making the latter a 30°, 67° and 89° for Berlin. His Misraim-Service is now called “Mystica aeterna”. Marie von Sivers is authorized for the accommodation of women. “The exaggerations of the male culture must be back-drawn by the occult forces of the woman” (according to Steiner).

Then again in Dutch: “In 1906 (maart) wordt Steiner ingewijd in de 33° en 95° graad. Steiner wordt verantwoordelijk voor de Loge ‘Mystica Aeterna’ te Berlijn. Marie von Sivers wordt Grootsecretaris.” This sentence translates as: “In 1906 (March) Steiner is initiated into the 33° and 95° grade. Steiner becomes responsible for the Lodge ‘Mystica Aeterna’ in Berlin. Marie von Sivers becomes Grand Secretary”.
The English version is again wholly different: “On 27 March 1906 Steiner receives a letter from Reuss, in which he is addressed as 33° (AASR) and 95° (Misraim).” Initiation by letter, eh?

That is a strange order of grades too, but if this “Mystica Aeterna” is a Memphis-Misraim lodge lead by Johannes Reuss and not Steiner’s own order within the Esoteric Section of the German Theosophical Society, this certainly sounds like Steiner was indeed a Freemason. This seems to be the case since a bit futher down we can read: “Op 17 juni 1907 erkent Reuss, Steiner als een volwaardig leider 33° 90° 96° en stelt hem voor als ‘Obersten General Grossrates des Mizraïm-Ritus’ voor Duitsland.” (“On 17 June 1907 Reuss recognises Steiner as full leader 33° 90° 96° and appoints him as ‘Obersten General Grossrates des Mizraïm-Ritus’ (‘Upper General of the Grand Council of the Mizraïm-Rite’) for Germany.”
Then again, in the English article of Koenig it says: “The “Mystica aeterna” now is considered as second department in Steiner’s Esoteric School”, but also: “15 June 1907: Reuss sends Steiner an Edict making Steiner a 33°, 90° and 96° of Berlin and independently acting General Grandmaster of the Sovereign General Grandcouncil of the Mizraim-Rite of Germany.” (“This paper does not make Steiner either a member of the O.T.O. or its Grandmaster. However, Reuss continues to call himself Grandmaster of Misraim.”)

Koenig proves to be a annoying source. The Dutch version of the article seems to imply that Steiner was initiated into a specific, yet irregular, branch of Freemasonry. The English version gives me the idea that Steiner simply bought a few documents and received a few titles without undergoing any initiation.

Are there other sources that could corroborate if Steiner was a Freemason? The German Wikipedia about Steiner speaks about: “Memphis-Misraïm-Ritus, ein irreguläres freimaurerisches Hochgradsystem, in dem er auch selbst Mitglied wurde” (my emphasis), meaning that Memphis-Misraim is an irregular High Grade System of which Steiner was a member. The English Wikipedia speaks about: “A lodge called Mystica Aeterna within the Masonic Order of Memphis and Mizraim, which Steiner led from 1906 until around 1914.” This line is referenced to “Ellic Howe: The Magicians of the Golden Dawn London 1985, Routledge”.

You cannot lead a lodge when you are not a Freemason, so it indeed sounds like Steiner was a Freemason afterall, an “irregular” one perhaps, but the same can be said about Besant et al. According to the Dutch website that I quoted earlier, already in 1906 Steiner distanced himself from Reuss and in 1907 from Annie Besant. After a few years of silence, he launced the Antroposophical in 1912 suggesting that he left both the Theosophical Society and the Masonic lodge that he lead, even though the English Wikipedia says that Steiner lead “Mystica Aeterna” until 1914, so he remained in the chair after he started the Antroposophical Society.

A bit more on the lodge then. The German Wikipedia has some interesting information about “Mystica Aeterna” under the lemet “Theodor Reuß“. Reuss was a member of the Theosophical Society in the USA. Steiner would have bought his Grand Mastership of the “Mystica Aeterna” lodge from Reuss for 1500 Reichsmark. Steiner’s wife later wrote that Steiner had an “Arbeidsgruppe” “Mystica Aeterna” until 1914. This sounds a bit like the information that some people want to debunk. “Mystica Aeterna” is here presented as an O.T.O. lodge. The same can be said about other Wikipedia articles.
Here it says that Reuss allowed Steiner to found “Mystica Aeterna”.

The book

What is already odd for starters is the title. Marie Sivers, Steiner’s second wife, published almost all material she had by Steiner, whether they were lectures, instructions or simply notes and drawings. This is the reason that there are so many books by Steiner. The book I mentioned is one of such publications. It contains the ritual texts that are left, instructions, lectures and notes from Steiner’s audience. The title of the 1987 German edition says nothing about Freemasonry, but uses the term “erkenntniskultischen Abteilung”. The translator turned this into “cognitive ritual group”, while “Erkenntnis” is actually “truth”.
The group got a variety of names and the book suggests that the workings are indeed somewhat Freemasonry-like, but much different. The texts also make clear that Steiner never intended his study group to be in any way Masonic. Also it stopped at the outbreak of WWI and was never revived.

Conclusion?

There is the big suggestion that Steiner and Sivers at least underwent an initiation of some sort. Steiner received high grades, but apparently just as honour. He did lecture for the lodge for a while and became head of the German section of Memphis-Misraim, but was that more than just his own group that he did not intend to be Masonic? I am not sure about that. When reading the book, I have the idea that Steiner was unaware of different kinds of Freemasonry and in particular unaware of the fact that Memphis-Misraim is quite an exotic kind not representative for the larger part of the Masonic world.
It strongly appears that Steiner only joined a Memphis-Misraim lodge because he wanted his esoteric group to connect to an esoteric current, but as soon as he did, went his own way.

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