“Humanity must embark upon a conscious grasp of today’s events. For this reason, we must come to know Christ better, and this is connected with insight into the nature of the human being, Jesus of Nazareth” (Rudolf Steiner).
On 1 June 1914, Rudolf Steiner spoke in Basel for the last time before the outbreak of World War I, and for the last time ever in all his lectures and writings about the Nathan soul and its relationship with the Mystery of Golgotha. This internal lecture, given only for members of the Anthroposophical Society, concluded a series of profound Christological reflections begun on September 20, 1913, at the laying of the foundation stone for the St. John’s building (the first Goetheanum) in nearby Dornach and culminating (four weeks before the Sarajevo assassination that sparked the Great War) in the motif of “selflessness,” whose importance for the future Steiner stressed with great and unmistakable emphasis.
This study by Peter Selg—first published on the centennial of the outbreak of World War I—focuses on the development of key motifs in Steiner’s lectures in the immediate prewar period: the “Fifth Gospel,” the Nathan soul, and Christ’s act of sacrifice. Also contained here is the entire text of Rudolf Steiner’s lecture in Basel on June 1, 1914, whose important words of introduction have appeared only once before, in the Goetheanum newsletter in 1936.
1. Rudolf Steiner: “The Four Christ Sacrifices and the Culture of Selflessness” (Basel, June 1, 1914)
2. Peter Selg: Preludes to the Mystery of Golgotha: The account given in Basel, and the culmination of anthroposophic Christology before the outbreak of World War I
Peter Selg was born in 1963 in Stuttgart and studied medicine in Witten-Herdecke, Zurich, and Berlin. Until 2000, he worked as the head physician of the juvenile psychiatry department of Herdecke hospital in Germany. Dr. Selg is now director of the Ita Wegman Institute for Basic Research into Anthroposophy (Arlesheim, Switzerland) and professor of medicine at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences (Germany). He lectures extensively and is the author of numerous books, many of which have been published in English.
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.
Matthew Barton is a translator, editor, teacher, and poet, and taught kindergarten for many years at the Bristol Waldorf School. His first collection of poems was Learning To Row (1999). He has won numerous prizes for his work, including an Arts Council Writer's Award and a Hawthornden Fellowship.