I ran into this book when I was doing a little investigation into Steiner’s ‘Masonic adventure‘. Halfway the book I had enough information to write that article, but I finished the book before I wrote this review.
As you can see in the article, it is not really Freemasonry what this book is about. Steiner wanted to form a lineage for his esoteric school and opted for an irregular form of Freemasony: the Rite of Memphis-Misraim. Therefor one of the working titles for the group was “Misraim Dienst” or “Misraim Service” in the English translation.
The book contains a lengthy introduction of how Steiner came in contact with the Rite of Memphis Misraim, how the Antroposophical Society started and its Esoteric School. The English translation differs of the German introduction in view. Like most books of Rudolf Steiner, this book is a collection of lectures, notes, etc. that have been compiled and published after Steiner’s death. The current title also has notes of students, scans of drawings and sketches, etc.
The first part of the book is really about the Misraim Dienst itself, but about halfway the book switches to lectures that were not necessarily for the esoteric group, but can just as well just touch on a related subject. When the lectures do speak of the rituals or an element therefrom, they can still be lengthy exposes about what the earth and humans looked like in the time of Lemuria or Atlantis, things that Steiner claimed to know from “the Akasha chronicles”, clairvoyant investigations.
It is safe to say -therefor- that the current title is a relatively typical Antroposophical publication, but what is different from most Steiner titles is that this book clearly shows the esoteric side of Antroposophy and Rudolf Steiner. It is a book that is probably interesting for Freemasons because there are both similarities and big differences to Masonic rituals. People interested in Steiner and Antroposophy might enjoy reading lectures that were never meant to be public, but Steiner’s death changed that idea. I find the first half interesting, the second half a bit ‘too much’ here and there.
The first of the Steiner books in Dutch is from the time that Steiner still stood with one leg in the Theosophical Society of H.P. Blavatsky. He was asked later why he didn’t change the title, but he didn’t want to. Theosophy is the essential Steiner book. In fairly simple terms he gives his view on the world, the constitution of man, what happens when you die and how he came to these ideas. Essential read in any case and when you want to read Steiner, I suggest you start with this one.
Hm, the Dutch Antroposophical publisher “Christofoor” recommands this book as the essential work of Rudolf Steiner, but I haven’t been able to find an English version of it. When I am correct, the original version is called “Geheimwissenschaft in Umriss”, which is indeed quite a different title. Amazon seems to have over 580 titles of Rudolf Steiner though, so I am sure there is a version of this one among these.
“De Wetenschap Van De Geheimen Der Ziel” encloses a huge amount of subjects, like the character of occult science (Steiner had a scientific approach to the ‘unseen’ world (for most people)), sleep, death, dreams, insight in the higher worlds (and how to get it), development of the kosmos and mankind, astral world, etc., etc., etc.
The book is not spectacularly thick (450 pages), but it actually has a nice length. A good index to use it as reference book.
The writing style of Steiner is not too appealing in my eyes. He gives an awfull lot of details, which he said is needed to understand the whole. For example the chapter about the development of mankind spans many pages and gives detailed descriptions about the forms, conditions and surroundings of mankind from millions years in the past until today. In the beginning this is quite impressive, but after a while it becomes too much.
Also the writing what somebody/-thing would think in a certain situation is rather irritating.
In general this is an extremely interesting book though and gives you most of the basics of Antroposophy and the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.
If you ask me, you better start with the older, but highly acclaimed “Theosophy” (one of my personal favourite books), then this one and then you are ready for the really in depth writings of Steiner.
1902 Steiners first book about the mystery-tradition and initiation. The detailed information that you grow used to is this time about ancient mysteries in the schools of ancient Greece, Platon, Egypt and then Steiner speaks at length about the gospels and early and later Christianity. Some people feared that Steiner had become Christian, but his ideas are too radical and as we shall see, he kept an open eye to other convictions.
In 1909 Steiner had a series of discourses about the Cosmic hierarchies. In these early days Steiner was still under Theosophical influences and there is quite some Eastern information. Steiner gives his views that he obtained by clairvoyant investigation and this book is one of these which may be a bit over the top for people who are not familiar with Steiners way of getting and giving information. As always the information is very detailed and (at least to me) very interesting. Not the everyday things or even ‘every day spiritual information’, but something to use (or not of course) in your larger worldview.
Lectures of early 1910 and late 1911 about esoteric Christianity. Steiner had clairvoyant abilities, but unlearned them when he thought they weren’t helpfull and relearned them in the ‘version’ that he thought better. When these abilities were not fully developed Steiner gave lectures partly based on information of other writers. This is one of such books. Later another book (see Mysterieplaatsen en Inwijdingswegen below) followed this one, but is totally based on clairvoyant investigations. Here you will learn about the hidden meanings of Christian feasts and symbols and later about Rosicrucianity and Christianity.
‘Mysteryplaces and ways of initiation’ is -as the title suggests- about the parth of initiation. Steiner begins in times long past (before Lemuria) and especially speaks with the rites of the myteries of Efeze (ancient Greece) and Hibernia (Ireland) in detail. The information he got with his clairvoyant abilities, he has been watching the rites instead of reading about them. This is -of course- very interesting if you take it that Steiners information is correct. Lateron Steiner also speaks about the Rosicrucian school and some of its literature.
The lectures were given before Christmas 1923 in a difficult time for the Antroposophical Society. The first Goetheanum had just burned down and Steiner wanted to reform the Society.
Of the massive amount of lectures of Steiner there are as many reproductions in book. The lectures of this book were about the gospel of Saint Luke, there are also books about the other three gospels. Steiner gives his highly original ideas about this famous texts. Ideas that he got by looking in the “akasha chronicles”. In this way Luke becomes a very interesting story and Steiner speaks about Zoroastric and Buddhistic influences on the text, the story and Christianity in general. He even goes so far to say that there were two babies Jesus, one ‘Zoroastric’ and one ‘Buddhistic’!
Here we have a collection of lectures and articles giving the story of the building of the first Goetheanium, the headquarters of the Antropophical Society in Dornach, Switzerland. This mainly wooden building that burned down in 1922 was completely designed by Steiner, the architecture, interior, decorations, etc. You can see how the building used to be in the photos in this book.
The second part of the book is about ‘eurithmy’, Steiners movement-therapy (a bit like the now well-known Tai-Chi).
I haven’t been able to find out if this title is also available in English.
It seems that every esoteric society of the present day has to make a book about mystery-schools of which (of course) they are the last in line. We have Grace Knoche for the Theosophists, Conrad Dietzfelbinger for the Rosicrucians and (after several books by Rudolf Steiner himself of course) now Baan for the Antroposophists. This book in total is not really groundbreaking. It speaks about a few ancient mystery-schools (of Mithras, Egypt, Old and New Testament and Celts), the fire, water, air and earthproofs of initiation and of course Antroposophy. What did make a very good first impression is the introduction about the Extersteine in Germany. Baan says that this was a Germanic mystery-place and he has a few nice theories and especially a few nice photos! He has a photo of a ‘runesign’ inside of the stones and a photo of the inside of the ‘cathedral’. Also on the outside there is a “hangagod” (a hanging Odin) that I never heard about. Of course the stonecutting of Christ being taken off the cross is spoken about, especially the Irminsul that is in this picture. Also Baan quotes a woman who had some clairvoyant experiences while being inside the church which may (or may not) shed some light on the actions that took place inside the Extersteine while it was still a pagan sanctity.
The next chapter is about Mithras and Michael sanctities. This is a nice piece about the (a bit too obvious) similarities between the two cults, but the Michael temple in Monte Gargano, Italy which used to be a Mithraeum was something that I hadn’t heard about yet.
The rest is fairly standard, so all in all this is a mediocre book with a some very interesting information.