7 lectures, Dornach, January 4–13, 1918 (CW 180); 1 lecture, December 24, 1920 (CW 202)
“In this series of lectures, Rudolf Steiner repeatedly challenges us to awaken a new way of thinking that can truly penetrate into the social questions surrounding us. As he so often did, Steiner emphasizes how Spiritual Science can, indeed must, address the pressing issues of the day. It might seem strange to some readers that a book with the title Ancient Myths should be a call to a new understanding of our modern condition, yet it is through an appreciation of the significance of myths in the lives of ancient peoples that Steiner makes clear the challenges we face in our modern ways of knowing” (from the introduction).
Ancient myths are an expression of great truths about the nature of the universe and human development. Through mysterious, lively images, they describe knowledge of a people’s origin, their place in the cosmos, and their unique state of consciousness. Because modern consciousness has become so abstract, such stories challenge us to exercise a different kind of consciousness to experience their truths and reunite with the realities they describe.
In these eight lectures, Steiner looks at Egyptian, Greek, and Hebrew myths, illustrating how they express people’s consciousness then. He views in the Osiris–Isis story an expression of the loss of direct perception of the invisible, suprasensory realm. He shows the connection between that loss and the challenge we face today in bringing new life to our abstract thinking and understanding the world.
Steiner offers remarkable a new Isis legend. In the Egyptian myth, the veiled Isis says, “I am the All. I am the Past, the Present, and the Future. No mortal has yet lifted my veil.” In the New Isis legend, as told by Rudolf Steiner, the Isis figure states, “I am the Human Being. I am the Past, the Present, and the Future. Every mortal should lift my veil.” This extraordinary story challenges modern humanity to awake to a new consciousness of the spiritual forces that work in our lives and in society. We are to bear this new spirit within us with increasing understanding and a fresh sense of responsibility.
This book offers tremendous inspiration to transform our head knowledge into heart knowledge and to lift the veil to spirit and know our place and purpose in the past, present, and future.
Ancient Myths and the New Isis Mystery is a translation from German of 7 (of 16) lectures from Mysterienwahrheiten und Weihnachtsimpulse. Alte Mythen und ihre Bedeutung. Geistige Wesen und Ihre Wirkung Band IV (GA 180) and one lecture from Der Mensch in Zusammenhang mit dem Kosmos 2: Die Brücke zwischen der Weltgeistigkeit und dem Physischen des Menschen. Die Suche nach der neuen Isis, der göttlichen Sophia (GA 202). Cover image: The Goddess Isis stretching her winged arms in a protective gesture (from the tomb of Seti, 19th Dynasty).
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.
- SIGNE EKLUND SCHAEFER
was the founding director of a professional development program in Biography and Social Art, one of several activities of the Center for Biography and Social Art. A teacher of adults for many decades, she has been a student of life for as long as she can remember. Never having heeded what was told her as a child—not to ask so many questions—she continues to love learning. Her desire to know more about the multiple dimensions of human development led her as a young person to the work of Rudolf Steiner and to Waldorf education. She directed Foundation Studies at Sunbridge College for more than twenty years and was on the faculty of Emerson College in Sussex England before that. She continues to teach both nationally and internationally, including at several recent workshops in China. She coauthored Ariadne’s Awakening,
a book on gender questions and coedited the parenting book More Lifeways
. A mother and grandmother, she now lives in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, with her husband Christopher Schaefer. -
Rev. James H. Hindes has been a Christian Community priest for more than thirty years and has served as pastor in congregations in England and Germany as well as in New York City, Massachusetts, Los Angeles, and for the last five years in Denver, Colorado. Rev. Hindes is the author and translator of several books.
William Michael (Jens) Jensen has worked with SteinerBooks since 1995, beginning as a copyeditor, a job that quickly included putting together and maintaining our first website. In 2001, he moved to Montreal and worked long-distance for SteinerBooks there for fourteen years, assuming the additional tasks of designing books, covers, and catalogs. He currently lives and works in western Massachusetts.