How Steiner’s 1919 lecture inspired a personal reflection...

How Steiner’s 1919 lecture inspired a personal reflection...

19 December 2023 187 views

... on participating in ‘the Anthroposophy Studies’ at the Goetheanum. By Alana Boone

During the first half of this year over 40 students from 22 different countries, 5 continents, spanning from the age of 18 to 73 got the feeling that they needed to come study at the Goetheanum. As a 33-year-old from Belgium, I felt that 2023 was also for me the time to enroll and join the Anthroposophy Studies program. Little did I know that the transcript of Rudolf Steiner’s lecture on “The Necessity for New Ways of Spiritual Knowledge”[1] would become my guide on how to participate in the School of Spiritual Science.

During his lifetime Rudolf Steiner gave around 6200 lectures of which 3700 have been written down in shorthand and spread via typewritten transcripts of which many are preserved in the Rudolf Steiner Archiv[2]. One week before my arrival, by sheer coincidence, in an antique shop in Antwerp, I came across an original manuscript of two lectures Rudolf Steiner held in September of 1919 in Stuttgart. I am referring to lectures 16 and 17 of 17 lectures in the lecture series entitled "Spiritual Science & Social & Educational Questions" and published in German as, Geisteswissenschaftliche Behandlung Socialer und Paedagogischer Fragen. It is the first lecture[3] also known as, "The Necessity for a Spiritual Deepening through Freely Acquired Knowledge", or "The Necessity for a Genuine Spiritual Deepening as the Result of Free Knowledge", that inspired this reflection on my experiences during the autumn trimester at the School for Spiritual Science.

The curiosity that brought us here

In the context of the lecture we are discussing, it is worth noting that the day before said lecture was given, on September 7, 1919, Rudolf Steiner, alongside his colleagues, inaugurated the very first Waldorf School in Stuttgart. Following this event, on September 8, Steiner delivered another talk in the city. In this lecture, he began by clarifying his intent – not to introduce entirely new ideas, but rather to emphasize some crucial ideas:

"Men will not be able to make any further progress in matters social, if understanding of the facts in social life does not arise as the result of a spiritual deepening induced by the new methods of acquiring spiritual knowledge which are essential to it […][…] A really genuine spiritual deepening is necessary for mankind at the present time — a spiritual deepening brought about by means of those new methods of obtaining spiritual knowledge which are accessible to men of the present age […] […] A spiritual science which has really arisen out of modern culture must, however, be founded upon the same basic principles of knowledge as natural science."

As a therapist, researcher, and curious individual, I find this call intriguing. Steiner is pointing out the existence of an alternative approach to comprehend ourselves, social complexities and our world as a whole. I am curious to explore this anthroposophical method of inquiry and understanding which Steiner lays out in the quote above. How can it offer fresh insights into the essence of being human and the broader social phenomena?

What appeals to me is that Steiner stresses the complementary nature of this method with our existing scientific education. Even a century ago, he invited us to experiment with expanding our university-acquired knowledge with his ideas and methods. The field that I studied, psychology as well as the body of research in existential therapy, have evolved significantly since Steiner's time. As a therapist, I am eager to use this year to research what elements of Steiner's methods I could incorporate into my current practice, or use to deepening my understanding of the soul's challenges that clients face today.

Throughout his lecture, Steiner emphasizes the importance of using methods and approaches that are accessible and speak to people in the present era. This is particularly relevant in our polarized society, where discussing spirituality, contemplation, and questions about human existence is often met with resistance. When I first read Steiner's lecture, I was intrigued by his ideas on this matter and how they could be applied in a therapeutic setting.

Curiosity about these questions, enhanced my motivation to come and study here. And I'm not alone in this pursuit; my fellow students at the Goetheanum brought with them a variety of intriguing questions and a wealth of diverse backgrounds, spanning the arts, educational sciences, natural and social sciences, farming, medicine, and the humanities. Our varied experiences enrich our group's ability to engage with the methods proposed by Steiner in a very multifaceted manner.

Nurturing our learning journey

With our determined curiosity, we embarked on a collective journey, diving into Steiner's Theosophy[4] during the first trimester of our studies. Over the course of several weeks, we delve into each chapter, led by a different expert in the field like Bodo von Plato, Matthias Rang, Nathaniel Williams, and others.

As a student, embarking on this journey, I grappled with questions about the how of this reading experience. How should I approach this text? How can I forge connections between what the text awakens in me, insights of the teachers from our course, the wisdom of my fellow students and the many other impressions we gain during these weeks? And, crucially, to what wealth, that is meeting me, do I respond thoughtfully during my time here on campus?

Once again, I found guidance in Steiner's 1919 lecture:

“[…] In academic lectures people have “thought things out,” and throws one's own opinions in people's faces. But a man who stands within the Living Spirit, speaks out from the heart not from the head! […] .[…] There must, I say, be feeling for these things, and such feeling arises through the inflowing of the living forces of spiritual knowledge into human hearts and souls. Mere theory that only makes us agree with something in an abstract way and does not teach us how to take the Spirit really seriously, will not do. And to take the Spirit in earnest, means that when anyone enters a lecture hall he is one with the spirits and souls of those who are there […]”

Here, I understand Steiner's insight that being a researcher or student at the School of Spiritual Science transcends a mere intellectual pursuit. To me, he is offering here a clear invitation to engage with this path and its methods from a multitude of perspectives.

In the final line of this quote, Steiner underscores that our engagement should not solely revolve around the content of our studies but also include a profound connection with those with whom we study. In Chapter Four of Theosophy, he offers concrete suggestions on how we can collaborate as co-researchers. He emphasizes how "knowledge lies dormant in each human soul”, "how we can orient ourselves by the insights of others”, and how "our own unconscious knowing can be awakened, activated, and met by the knowledge discovered by others."

As I delved into this chapter, it became even more apparent to me that our study group plays a pivotal and proactive role in shaping our learning journey. Therefore, I try to consciously make an effort to listen and absorb the insights shared during lectures with an open perception and an open mind. This requires both the courage and trust of my fellow students as they grant us insight into their processes of grappling with the course materials. It also asks a conscious presence in order to be attentive to the internal shifts occurring within myself during these moments. The methods described here are very similar as the techniques we use as therapists during our one on one sessions. What is very different for me is the intensity and fast tempo of switching between insights that are being shared. I experience this as a continuous practice with its fair share of trial and error.

Following each class, it continues to amaze me how each of us encounters what is essentially the same text (albeit with intriguing translation differences among Dutch, German, Georgian, Italian, and Spanish versions in the classroom). Yet, our individual relationships with the presented theory and methods and how we are working with the theory differs often significantly.

In conclusion, I truly believe that this dynamic and collaborative approach to our learning journey addresses Steiner's observation of the challenge in comprehending "the living spiritual power" as a solitary individual. By making it a collective endeavour to engage with the theory from diverse angles, we present a variety of interpretations, approaches, and puzzle pieces. By collectively sharing the facets we've worked on each morning, we can gain a richer and more comprehensive understanding of the brilliant matter we're studying and thus enhancing our individual capacities

From theory to a vital everyday practice

But what do we intend to do with these newfound individual capacities? Both in the previous quote and on multiple occasions in the lecture, Steiner emphasizes the significance of nurturing a living and vital understanding in our present everyday lives:

"[…]I do not write to have the words remain mere printed letters on paper, subject to the critique of theorists. I write for humanity as it exists today, in a manner aligned with reality […]

“[…] Oh, humanity must acquire the faculty to sense the source of Truth, not just comprehend the logic of it. What can truly empower humanity to work and act for the future is much more 'inner' than those who believe they are delving into inner matters today[…]"

Within the School of Spiritual Science, we are consistently urged to reflect on how the inner understanding we acquire here can be practically applied in our daily lives. This is exemplified by our weekly seminars with individuals who apply Anthroposophy in various contexts, such as medicine, biodynamic farming, and education. Through these seminars we encounter individuals who understood the inner and outer work of Steiner and his colleagues in the past and who are currently building on and expanding in the fields that they touched.

These many lectures have also lead to the rise of the research projects and the student activities that we will be working on during the coming months of this course. Given the tightly packed “official” program we noticed that many of the current domains in which Anthroposophical methods and theories are being applied could not be introduced to us. So as our student lead project of the first semester, my colleague from Turkey, Nisan Eskicioglu, and I took the initiative to broaden our horizons further by organizing the “A Living Anthroposophy” series. During this series of lectures, we invited individuals with practical experience in Mysterein Kunst, Heileurythmie, Sprachgestaltung, Christologie, natural cosmetics, and more to share their experiences of integrating Anthroposophy into the contemporary world.

These evenings with many soulful and inspirational figures all contribute to bridging the gap between Steiner's “historic” texts and our present era. To me, as a therapist, this semester has awakened many new questions and areas to explore in order to fully understand how Steiner’s methods can be integrated into and inform my practice in the future. There are too many to summarize in this article. Having said that, with the following passage in Theosophy, Steiner has deepened my love and gratitude for my profession as a therapist substantially during my time here at the School of Spiritual Science:

"The soul stands between the present and the permanent. Through memory, the soul preserves yesterday; through action, it prepares tomorrow."

In closing, I want to express my deep and heartfelt thank you to all the staff, my co-researchers, the amazing people who collaborated on projects, the lecturers, the many people who engaged in soulful encounters, and who each added to my Swiss-sized mountain of inspirations that I collected during my time here at the Goetheanum.

Alana Boone, Brugge, Belgium - Alumni Anthroposophy Studies on Campus, Autumn 2023


[1] Rudolf Steiner Archive (2023). The necessity for a new ways of spiritual knowledge (GA 192) Lecture 1. Available at:
[2] Rudolf Steiner Archiv (2023). Our records. Available at:
[3] Rudolf Steiner Archive (2023). The necessity for a new ways of spiritual knowledge (GA 192) Lecture 1. Available at:
[4] Steiner, R. (1978). Theosophy. Uitgeverij Vrij Geestesleven, Zeist.