Neill Reilly presents portraits (rather than biographies) of five remarkable individuals. These are short, subjective, affectionate sketches. The author relates fond remembrances of five departed souls in deeply personal portraits that are nevertheless meaningful even for those who have never heard of these people who chose a life of service. Readers can test the facts presented here and determine their usefulness as inspiration for living a better life. If the author seems too fond of his subjects, he readily pleads guilty as charged.
The five "Michaelic" individuals portrayed are Professor Fritz Koelln, John Fentress Gardner, Lee Lecraw, Marjorie Spock, and William Ward. As students of Rudolf Steiner's Spiritual Science, they each sought to bring new light to philosophy, education, and the arts for the future.
The term Michaelic refers to the qualities expressed by the Archangel Michael, who fights the dark forces that work to suppress human hope, goodness, loving kindness, and true community. Michael is often depicted as armored and resolute, giving no quarter to evil. He is intimately connected with Christ as Earth’s guiding light. Each of these five individuals represents well-lived, Michaelic lives. Like the book's cover image, Archangel Michael assumes a balanced stance, with one foot restraining the head of Satan and his sword at the ready. Such balance and focus is critical to all human endeavors, especially those related to spiritual life and contributions to education and society.
These five brief portraits offer inspiration to all who aspire to live a deeper and more balanced life, one that pours much-needed loving kindness and selfless service into our world.
C O N T E N T S
Fritz Carl August Koelln
John Fentress Gardner
Mr. Reilly has written a very loving reminiscence of five persons whom he had known, and now has properly celebrated, for their most generous contributions to the teaching and lives of others.
The persons celebrated within this slim volume were certainly educated, but the more important point is that they were willing to impart most gladly to younger persons the benefit of their respective scholarship, and much more significantly, their wisdom.
Properly characterized, this volume is closer to that of spiritual autobiography, a genre which began during Puritan times, the confessional autobiography, e.g., John Bunyan’s spectacularly successful The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678- 84). The latter book gave rise to the birth of the English novel, e.g., Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders (1722).
Mr. Reilly’s book involves, like the latter, a personal, spiritual journey, to hopefully attain a higher plane of spirituality. The best quotation from Mr. Reilly’s book is the excerpt from Plato’s Phaedo, which encapsulates many of Mr. Reilly’s major points. The center-point of Mr. Reilly’s focus is to attain a higher, non-material, Platonic relation to our own physical circumstances, and thence possibly to enjoy and explore our sense of true spiritual freedom.
We are asked to be conversant with the thoughts of Herr Dr. Rudolf Steiner. The book’s focus is better when it is fixed upon the success of the educational procedures, practicum, and premises of the rigors of the Waldorf School professors and students. When Mr. Reilly focuses upon the above themes, he stands on firmer and more persuasive ground.
The individual portraits are certainly cleanly etched:
Herr Fritz Koelln: No mere sentimental portrait of Mr. Chips here; rather a devoted learner and an equally indefatigable and impassioned imparter of knowledge.
John Fentress Gardner: A tall, elegant man with exquisite manners, most exacting in his questions, particular in all manner of inquiry, and factually driven.
Lee Lecraw: Wonderfully young, inspired and perfect for 1-8th graders.
Marjorie Spock: Obviously an important person in the formation of Rachel Carson’s seminal book, Silent Spring.
William Ward: Very tony in his picture. Seems like a most companionable chap with whom you might have learned a lot during a breezy, informal stroll through Central Park in NYC, without the heavy breathing of the Academy.
What is most wonderful in Mr. Reilly’s personal accounts are the vivid evocations of the lives lost and but now graciously restored: The particular focus on OLDER people: for their wisdom and generosity of spirit; but certainly foremost for their youthfulness, of both Heart and of Mind.
One thinks of W. B. Yeats’ In Memory of Major Robert Gregory and the ballad by Bob Dylan and later by the Byrds: My Back Pages: “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
I was also left with recalling the classic, pounding anthem by the musical group Journey, “Only the Young Can Say.”
The irony of Mr. Reilly’s message may be that perhaps only the OLD can say: with hearts and minds still vivified, and therefore, forever young.
Mr. Reilly has performed great service to his professors and noble friends. They must be most proud today.—Robert R. Brina, Ph.D.
Neill Reilly's concise, well written and very rewarding book is a work of philosophy contained within a set of interesting and affectionate profiles of teachers involved in anthroposophy and Waldorf pedagogy. These five engaging profiles are the springboard to examine big questions, based on anthroposophy and the writings of Rudolph Steiner.
These five highly evolved individuals are limned with great care and precision and allowed to speak to us through the stories of their lives as well as through their writings and those of Rudolf Steiner himself to create a meditation on lives well lived, the meaning of life and death and the transformations developing in the Michaelic Age in which we live.
As a contemporary and friend of Neill at Bowdoin ( and of the author of the fine forward, Bruce Murphy), I did know Professor Koelln ( and was taught by Professor Karl, also an anthroposophist), although I myself had never studied the subject in any depth.
I was delighted, therefore, to find this book was not only a set of delightful profiles, (and judging by my knowledge of Prof Koelln, very accurate) but a larger meditation, on Anthroposophy, aging, Death, intelligence, transformation, and courage. It is a philosophical whole, worth reading and rereading.
It is particularly resonant for anyone, like myself, entering (in the words of Leonard Cohen) the foothills of old age. It is a discussion of the good life, lived courageously and how such a life (or lives) may end triumphantly.
You will like and admire these people, and learn good lessons from their stories. You will learn about the work of Rudolph Steiner and the Waldorf schools, and about Neill and Bruce, and their lifelong study of great questions (and answers).
Buy this lovely book (it is well illustrated too) and annotate it. In the margins, you will record many insights. A fine book, worthy of its author and of the people who taught him well.—Charles D. Wick