Gertrud Spörri – December 8, 1894 – July 16, 1968

–From  “Die Gründer Der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz” by Rudolf F. Gaedeke, translation by Gail Ritscher
In 1920, a few months after and quite independently of Johannes Werner Klein, Gertrud Spörri’s personal life circumstances led her to ask Rudolf Steiner the question that contributed to the founding of the Christian Community. Although, like Klein, she renounced her vow in 1933, she was nevertheless a key figure during the formation of that first “destiny community,” and she became one of the first female Christian priests.

Gertrud Spörri was born on 8 December 1894 in Bäretswil, Zürich Canton, Switzerland, and grew up with a brother and sister. Her father had inherited a small textile factory from his brother, but when the business fell into serious debt, Spörri had to quit her job and work as her father’s secretary. She had been engaged to be married at the time, but her boyfriend’s father, a wealthy businessman, advised him against making such a financially unfavorable alliance. The engagement was thus broken off, but not before the young man’s sister had introduced the 18-year-old Spörri to anthroposophy (1913).

Spörri worked not only as a secretary, but also as a visiting nurse in neutral Switzerland during and after the First World War. On Reformation Day in 1916, she heard a minister sermonizing “We need a new Reformation!” The fact that he did not expound on the subject and left it as an empty call was deeply disappointing to Spörri, whose spirit had been nourished by anthroposophy for the previous three years.

A year later (1917), after having tried a number of preachers, she was listening to a sermon on Calvin in a small church outside the city when she had an inner vision of someone in vestments, celebrating at the altar and preaching at the pulpit. With a shock, she recognized herself in the vision, and it remained with her from that day forward, piquing her interest in studying theology. First, however, she spent two years at a private school and passed the Swiss higher education entrance exam in the spring of 1920.

Having chosen to study theology at the age of 25, the eldest of 15 students and the only woman, she spoke to Rudolf Steiner at the beginning of her summer semester. The conversation took place in the atelier, at the foot of the Representative of Man, in May 1920. Rudolf Steiner offered to speak to a group of young theologians with whom he felt he could speak more intimately than was currently possible with the doctors. He told Spörri that two theology students from Marburg had been there in the spring, and that if she wanted to make an impact as an anthroposophist and theologian others would need to find their calling as well so that all together they could “seize the pulpits.”

Spörri had actually sat across from the two Marburg students, Martin Borchart, and Johannes Werner Klein, as well as Martin’s wife and Miss Deussen in the cafeteria in Dornach on 8 February. She had listened to their conversation and even joined in a little bit, all completely by chance, as normally she would have returned home that day with the people with whom she was staying.

Although Spörri had been conversing with Rudolf Steiner in Dornach since 1916, it was through this one-hour conversation that she felt inwardly strengthened by the hope that her life could have impact through theology. The question she asked Rudolf Steiner was about the spiritual basis of the sacraments, specifically baptism and communion. In preparing for her higher education certificate, she had been extremely interested in the sciences. It was with real joy that she learned mathematics and geometry, and she later she felt herself on firm ground when studying anthroposophy via Rudolf Steiner’s doctoral thesis “Truth and Science.”

In the autumn of 1920, she met Martin Borchart and Rudolf Meyer at the first University course in Dornach given at the opening of the first Goetheanum. Theological questions were discussed in depth. Johannes Werner Klein was not present. She did not meet him until the spring of 1921, in early April, at the Goetheanum. This was the first opportunity for the two people who had independently approached Rudolf Steiner about a new theology to compare notes. They noticed how Rudolf Steiner had given them both very similar answers, and that he expected a circle of students to ask him for a course. They therefore set about gathering the addresses of those interested, and Klein drafted a first written inquiry and request to Rudolf Steiner.

Spörri had arranged her studies in such a way that she could wrestle with theology Monday through Thursday in Basel and then spend Friday through Sunday on anthroposophy in Dornach. It was at this point that she decided to go to Germany in order to pursue her fundamental question of “who is God, what is God, where is God?” Borchart had recommended she go to Marburg and offered her a room there, but she chose Berlin. Dr. Roman Boos procured a letter of recommendation for the German Consulate from Friedrich Rittelmeyer, although Spörri had never met him. A friend had also provided the address of theological candidate Emil Bock.

After meeting and talking with Johannes Werner Klein in early April 1921 in Dornach, during the second university course, Spörri left for Berlin. She met Bock there, told him in detail everything that had transpired, and showed him Klein’s letter to Rudolf Steiner. Bock rejected the letter, finding it sycophantic, but he was deeply affected by his conversation with Spörri, and so it was now he who immediately set to work. Spörri left for Stuttgart to meet Klein. They also met with Borchart, Ludwig Köhler, Marta Heimeran, Alfred Heidenreich, and Gerhard Klein, but it proved extremely difficult to form a consensus about what the letter should say. In the end, Spörri appealed to Gottfried Husemann, and it was he who found the formulation acceptable to everyone.

After an 8-week break, Rudolf Steiner once again came to Stuttgart from Dornach, and it was here that Spörri and Klein handed Rudolf Steiner the letter. It was also after their conversation with Rudolf Steiner at 3:00 pm on the afternoon of Tuesday, 24 May, that Rudolf Steiner offered the June Course. All this took place in the building that housed the Anthroposophical Community, Landhausstrasse 70, where Rudolf Steiner also lived. Rudolf Steiner: “Free congregations must be established, a ritual is essential, and it must be clear that women are equal partners in the work. All this can be discussed in more detail in three weeks, when they are all together.”

In the middle of the semester, the first 18 interested people met with Rudolf Steiner from Sunday, 12 June to Thursday, 16 June at Landhausstrasse 70 in Stuttgart. They had met one day previously in a classroom of The Independent Waldorf School in order to get acquainted. A few of them attended a Eurythmy matinee at the Cannstatter Wilhelma Theater before the course started.

Rudolf Steiner offered a second course for the autumn, for which he recommended the following: Assemble ten times as many people, write the first brochures, have Dr. Hermann Heisler gather funds, stay in touch with one another, and plan and print the course for the initial and subsequent participants.

Spörri then continued to study in Berlin with Ernst Troeltsch and Adolf von Harnack, and she also became acquainted with Friedrich Rittelmeyer. Starting in August, however, she was very busy collecting money (3,000 Swiss Francs) for the “Autumn Course” in Zürich, Basel, Bern, and Dornach since Rudolf Steiner wanted to hold the course in Dornach and wanted the financial support for it to be in place beforehand.

In the end, more than 100 people came to Dornach to attend the “Autumn Course,” from 26 September to 10 October 1921. Spörri handled all the written communication, room and board, and financial arrangements.

After these full weeks, she gathered with a smaller circle in Dr. Hermann Heisler’s house, the pastor and Anthroposophical speaker in Tübingen, where Rudolf Steiner’s lectures were edited. During the following winter semester, Spörri’s father fell ill in Switzerland and died shortly thereafter. Spörri was obliged to help out at home and take care of the family, which meant she dropped out of the “center” of the initiatives in Berlin and correspondence was left unanswered. When she finally returned to Berlin in February of 1922, she happened to meet Johannes Werner Klein on the train, who was primed to round up those willing to found the new movement.

The expanding circle continued to meet in Berlin (March 1922). They divided up the cities amongst themselves where preparations for establishing congregations were to be made before meeting up again first in Breitbrunn and then in Dornach in September 1922.

Spörri was always actively in the middle of things and was therefore included in the new priest hierarchy—between three Lenkers and three Oberlenkers—with the position of honorary Oberlenker.

On 16 September 1922, in the first Act of Consecration of Man and its embedded Sacrament of Ordination, Spörri was ordained as the very first female priest and celebrated the Act of Consecration for the first time in the White Room of the First Goetheanum.

After having organized all the arrangements for the Autumn Course in 1921, Spörri did the same for the founding gathering in 1922 in Dornach, and then again when all the priests assembled for the Apocalypse Course in September 1924—all the correspondence, gathering of funds in Switzerland, visa processing, lodging, food—everything.

Spörri passed many questions to Rudolf Steiner from the priest circle regarding their work and received many very detailed answers back that were key to establishing the forms of the ritual. It was in the spring of 1924 that she asked him perhaps the most important question, and it is thanks to her that Rudolf Steiner held the “pastoral medicine” course within the Medical Section of the Independent University for Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum in September 1924, in Dornach. This course represents the important beginning of collaboration across multiple professions working out of anthroposophy.

Along with Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Emil Bock, and Hermann Beckh, Spörri founded and expanded the Stuttgart congregation, and it was from Stuttgart that she worked for the priest circle in carrying out the office assigned to her. Later, she also worked for the congregations in St. Gallen and Munich. In 1931, she followed through on the suggestion that Rudolf Steiner himself had made to her by writing all her experiences down in the book “Women at the Altar.” Later, once she was no longer a priest, she published the works “The Divine Purpose of Human Beings” (1948) and “Ancient Revelations of Love in Humanity’s Becoming” (1965).

The great tragedy in Gertrud Spörri’s life was that, after having worked so joyfully on behalf of others, she left the priest circle.

On the surface, it is quite simple to explain what happened. At least one of the two Weidelener brothers pursued and achieved the priesthood harboring an inner lie. He then broke the one fundamental law that all priests of the Christian Community vow to uphold: He arbitrarily altered the forms of the ritual, out of his own self-proclaimed higher insight, and Spörri fell in with this act of hubris. In so doing, she placed herself outside the community under oath, and, on 6 March 1933, she announced her withdrawal.

It is extraordinary that it should be those two representatives of modern confessional theology who had asked Rudolf Steiner—the bearer of the mystery wisdom revealed in anthroposophy—about the renewal of the church and of the sacraments, were also the ones who could not remain steadfast in putting his far-reaching answers into practice: Johannes Werner Klein out of an inner weakness that he sought to strengthen through someone he called “Petra,” and Gertrud Spörri by overestimating her own personal stature in the case of Weidelener.

The year 1933, a year of destiny, was thus also one of deep tragedy for the Christian Community. A common perception then was that one of the oberlenker offices had been weakened first by Christian Geyer’s 1922 withdrawal from active participation in the founding, then by Johannes Werner Klein’s assumption of the office in Geyer’s place, and finally by Spörri’s replacement of Klein in 1929.

Spörri worked in other jobs in Germany until 1939. Then she returned to her homeland of Switzerland, where she was active for decades in the social sphere: first, during World War II, in the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva; later, in a sanitorium for tuberculosis.

In the fifties, she once said to Kurt von Wistinghausen, “I don’t need anthroposophy,” so far had she extracted herself inwardly. When she died from a thrombosis after a hip operation on 16 July 16 1968, in Ruti, the cremation celebration of the first female Christian priest took place without a ritual, with just music and readings. The event was accompanied by a mighty storm with thunder and lightning.

From the biography on „Kultur-Impuls“ by the same author:

The tragedy of her life was that she broke her vow not to change the forms of the ritual. Frederick Rittelmeyer was compelled to give her a leave of absence and relieve her of her duties, and she resigned from the priest circle on 6 March 1933.

She continued with her life’s mission of always providing help to others, first in various social activities in Germany, then in Switzerland for the International Red Cross and in a tuberculosis sanatorium. After a hip operation, she died of a thrombosis near her birthplace.

-Rudolf F. Gädeke


Since the spring of 1921, everything I have done came from my resolve to give my all to the Movement, which was just beginning then. At this point, my only way to express this resolve is to say that I will redouble my efforts within the Movement for Religious Renewal. In addition, I will stand ready to work at any time on behalf of or to establish a congregation, should a concrete task come my way, and I would naturally put all other desires on hold to do so.

It is self-evident that a fundamental, quite extensive training will be necessary to prepare for this work, with the goal of reaching consensus on all questions pertaining to congregational and organizational tasks. Even more important will be both our own and the group’s initial and continuing education, as this will help us penetrate everything related to the ritual more clearly. In this regard, we will need Dr. Steiner’s advice and assistance most particularly. How close we are to celebrating the ritual will need to be decided during the discussions at the University Week in Berlin.

Gertrud Spörri
March 2nd, 1922


A Letter from Gertrud Spörri
Stuttgart, Urachstr. 41
June 4th, 1923

My dear Miss Sterkel,

Mr. Bock received your letter shortly before departing and sends his thanks. He gave it to me. Perhaps you could drop by and see me this week. I am always home between 5 and 7pm, and this week, other than Thursday and Friday, I will also be home later in the evening, if that works better for you. I would love to have some quiet time with you to discuss the many questions with which we are both wrestling now.

Is it true that your father is seriously ill and is in the Olga Hospital? If so, please let me know and I would be happy to come see you, if you cannot get away. Rest assured; I completely share your concern for him.

I hope I will have the chance to get to know you personally soon.

Until then, with warmth,
Gertrud Spörri.

I believe you are aware that I work with Dr. Rittelmeyer and Mr. Bock at the Christian Community.



Zoom Conference: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

An Overview of Wills, Trusts and Other Estate-Planning Tools
Presented by Robb Creese

Saturday, Oct. 22
9:00 – 11:00 am, Pacific
10:00 am – 12:00 noon, Mountain
11:00 am – 1:00 pm, Central
12:00 noon – 2:00 pm, Eastern

Please join us as we explore legal plans you should make to prepare for your eventual crossing of the threshold.

Robb will emphasize the legal requirements for preparing your Will and other documents in virtually every U.S. state and Canadian province. There will be an opportunity for discussion and questions.

Robb Creese became active in The Christian Community in New York City in about 1980. Since March he’s been living in Longmont, Colorado, and takes part in the life of the congregation in Denver. He graduated cum laude from Cornell Law School and is currently licensed to practice law in New York State and within the Cherokee Nation.

Please register for this workshop through Faith DiVecchio, Legacy Coordinator
Email: giving@thechristiancommunity.org


“Young man, I say to you, stand up!” (Lk.7:14)

“Young man, I say to you, stand up!” (Lk.7:14)

Standing up is a matter of willpower, which is needed to overcome gravity.  That takes no effort as long as you are healthy and strong, but it is different when you are tired or exhausted.  You have to do it yourself, with your own strength.  No one else can do it for you.  And it becomes even more difficult when you are sick or bedridden.  Gravity and impotence then take their toll.  Two forces are ceaselessly in conflict with each other; of old this has been expressed in the words “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

When then the trial is over and a long, debilitating illness comes to an end, you can be incredibly thankful that you can stand on your two feet again and that you are free to stand and go where you will.  Is that really only your own spirit that overcomes the weak body?

There is also another, more or less hidden force that wants to help us stand on our own two feet.  It speaks to us every time we are about to lose courage or when despair strikes.  That is the voice that called the youth of Nain out of death to life.  That is the still, strong voice that goes with each one of us until death, into death and in life after death—the voice that calls out to us: “Stand up, let us go on.”


–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, September 25, 2022

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In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was a god. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being had its life in him, and the life was the light of human beings. And the light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not taken hold of it.

A man came into being, sent from God; his name: John. He came as a witness, to bear witness concerning the light, so that all people might find faith through him. He was not the light, but was there to bear witness concerning the light.

The true light, which lightens every human being, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world did not know him. He came to his own place, and his own people did not accept him. But to those who received him, he gave the power to become children of God: to those believing in his name, who were born not out of blood, nor out of the will of flesh, nor out of the will of a man, but out of God.

And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we beheld the revelation of his glory: a revelation as of the one born from the father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness concerning him and cried out, saying: “This was the one of whom I said: ‘The one coming after me has taken his place before me, for he was before me.’ ” For from his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen a god; the one born god, being in the inmost being of the father: he has made him known.

John 1

One hundred years ago today, the Act of Congregation of Man first appeared on earth in the form in which we know it today. It was brought out of the spiritual world to 45 men and women who had resolved to bring it out into the world to the best of their abilities. During those days a hundred years ago, every Act of Consecration was also an ordination. And from those people who were ordained and from their deeds, there has grown the movement to which we may all look for the renewal of our link to the spirit, for the healing of our ways on earth, for the healing of the earth.

For those who have taken up the calling of the priesthood, that first service still resounds, echoed every time the service is celebrated anywhere in the world, now in over twenty different languages. There are also closer links. Every time a priest celebrates the service, we may hear the echo of the first time that priest celebrated. And this is not limited to priests. Each of us can recall the first time we experienced the service. So, all of us are ultimately linked back to that one Act of Consecration of Man which took place a hundred years ago today.

We may stand at rest with that connection, for it is there now forever. But then we may ask: where will this great deed of a hundred years go into the future? The past is given; the future is filled with questions, questions which will find their answers according to our deeds.

Our creed begins in eternity. It continues through the great event of the past, into the present and the future, to end with the repeated word “may”, the realm of human freedom. In this realm of freedom lies the answer to the questions that may arise about the future arising from that great deed one hundred years ago.

September 16, 2022, Rev. Michael Brewer

Picture: The First Goetheanum. The first Act of Consecration of Man, was celebrated on the top story of the wing seen on the right.


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Johannes Werner Klein

–From  “Die Gründer Der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz” by Rudolf F. Gaedeke, translation by Rev. Cindy Hindes

June 24, 1898, Düsseldorf – March 9, 1984, Hamburg

The first one who really asked for religious renewal in such a way that the answer could be an offer of help, but also the first one to break out of the community consecrated to the spirit, was Johannes Werner Klein. Within his being, he had to unite the greatest polarities, which continued to have an effect throughout his life.

His father, Alfred, a lawyer in Düsseldorf and a great patron of the arts, had a daughter and a son from his first marriage. When his wife died, his second marriage was to Helene Portig, a Lutheran pastor’s daughter from Bremen. They had four children, three daughters and a second son Johannes Werner, who thus grew up with five siblings. He was born on June 24, St. John’s Day, 1898, and at seventeen (1915), we already see him going to war with patriotic enthusiasm. He became an officer, fought in Russia, and in the following years at the front in France.

In the spring of 1918, when he was in the hospital near Sedan with a severe fever, he clearly realized that the war was lost for Germany – and with it, his highest personal ideal. During a short home leave, which he had surprisingly been granted, he consciously wanted to say goodbye to his relatives. He thought he would not survive the following final phase of the war and wanted to be prepared for death. Thus it happened, when he was with his parents for a few days in the Harz mountains for recreation, that he saw a girl from afar, and this encounter tore him out of his composure in view of death. Now he wanted to live because he felt spontaneously connected to her. Later he learned she was engaged.

The day of the armistice in 1918 approached, and afterward, the retreat of the troops from Metz via Worms and Heidelberg to Franken. In a small village in that quarter, the experience of the collapse of a world and its ideals became overwhelming. Victory for the Fatherland was nothing, his ideal nothing, but he was alive – only, for what?

The girl was engaged. He put the gun to his temple. A glance in the mirror opposite showed him his own face. This kept him from doing the extreme. On New Year’s Eve 1918, he was released into his personal life – but for what? Life – for what?

LifeFor What? that became the title of his memoir, which he published at the age of eighty. From a distance of fifty years, some things in it do not correspond with what he wrote and did in the 1920s, especially concerning the founding of The Christian Community.

At that time, at the beginning of 1919, he lacked inner stability. He found no direction, no goal. He experienced his environment absent-mindedly and dreamily. Then one of his sisters told him about anthroposophy. She gave him a book to read, Edouard Schure’s The Great Initiates. Yes, if what was written there were true! – Once again, the military called, and later, he joined the “Freikorps” [Volunteer Corps] against the Spartacists [Marxist revolutionary movement] in the Ruhr area and at the Lower Rhine. At the same time, Johannes Werner Klein attended lectures at the Düsseldorf College for Municipal Administration. Should he become a lawyer like his father? He also attended introductory evenings in anthroposophy. Should he study theology, as his maternal grandfather wished?

In all this turmoil, painting made him happy and comforted him. He painted many pictures. There were also symbolic ones among them, which were supposed to express his inner self.

On June 24, 1919, on his 21st birthday, one day after the peace treaty of Versailles, he was finally finished with warcraft. He returned to the forests of the Harz Mountains to recuperate. There,  the decision matured to study theology, but he also continued to paint. On July 17, 1919, he wrote, “The decision has been made to take up and carry out the difficult fight. I want to become a theologian. The church is rotten. Who will help to rebuild it?”

He traveled to Friedrich Rittelmeyer, who was staying at Wilhelmshöhe above Kassel for a cure and discussed his study plan with him at this first meeting. Rittelmeyer advised him to come to Berlin. He, however, chose Munich.

He traveled there in late summer. The artistic life, the nature of the nearby high mountains and lakes inspired him to many undertakings. But it did not hold him. He sought peace and quiet, a quieter environment, and fled Munich after eight weeks. He arrived in Marburg during the night. On the steep slope below the castle, he found a student dormitory. First, he took the Hebrew exam after preparing for two and a half months. He had been told that one of the theology students was an anthroposophist. He sought him out at 18 Market Street, on the second floor. It was Martin Borchart. A friendly working relationship with him began.

On November 22, 1919, Johannes Werner Klein wrote in a letter: “The ideal that I have in mind is the establishment of a large, spirit-borne, Christian people’s church. You know my veneration for the Catholic cult as the guardian of true, great mysteries … But as a human being, I am faced with the fact that the Catholic Church failed during the war, like any other … it rules by authority, mixed up with the power of the mysteries … We demand the achievements of Protestantism for all people: Freedom of spirit and freedom of conscience … Only on anthroposophical ground can the new church be built …”

As certain as these sentences sounded, his moods and judgments were repeatedly unsteady. First came a year of “doubts and deepest depressions. 1920 became the darkest year of my student days.” Anthroposophy could not be worked out in such a way that it gave secure support and grounding. Also the university business with its “gray science” did not offer this grounding; ”Satan-Lucifer, whom I love,” entered into the temptation. “I was morbidly sensitive.” From his major of theology, he changed to philosophy.

But right at the beginning of that year, fate had given the first sign. Martin Borchart had asked him to go with him to Dornach. Yes, Johannes Werner Klein wanted to go with him, before the circumstances would no longer allow such a trip abroad. And he wanted to speak with Rudolf Steiner.

On Sunday, February 8, 1920, in the Dornach studio, where the large statue of the overcomer of all temptation stood with its mighty pointing gesture next to Rudolf Steiner and Johannes Werner Klein, Klein asked, in the sense of Schelling, about the third church beyond Catholicism and Protestantism. “If you want to do that and find the necessary forms for it – the forms can be found –  then that means something quite great for humanity …. My task is a different one … You must do it yourself.”

Thus Johannes Werner Klein quoted Rudolf Steiner in his book (p. 79). But therein lies one of his later distortions. For in 1924, Klein referred to this conversation for his colleagues as follows: “If you carry out what you intend to do – and the forms can be found for it …. ”

Already at that time, Klein had made the mistake that he himself should create the “forms.” He had made a plan for himself: to finish his studies, to study all the rituals of humanity, to proclaim anthroposophy, to build up an organization, to form a new cultus. For this, the years were set at least until 1933. He experienced his youthful faith in himself strengthened by Rudolf Steiner. Rudolf Steiner had meant he would be able to help, even though his mission was that of spirit knowledge. For inner strengthening, Johannes Werner Klein received a meditation from Rudolf Steiner. Rudolf Steiner had to wait for the proper understanding of his first answer.

Further storms passed through Johannes Werner Klein’s soul, excited by the Kapp-Putsch (an attempted coup to overthrow the Weimar Republic in 1920). He sought tranquility through a period of living with the Benedictine monks in the monastery at Beuron. He immersed himself in the study of anthroposophy with Martin Borchart. He wrote more than two hundred pages about his war experiences and became a leader of youthful hiking groups, all combined with the highest, emphatic enthusiasm, alternating with the deepest depression. Again, the melancholy fir forests of the Harz Mountains were a place of refuge, where he made the decision for more concentrated study. The philosophies of Kant and Fichte began to bring about an inner consolidation. The philosopher Nicolai Hartmann (1882-1950) became his lifelong teacher in abstract thought.

It was not until Easter 1921, on the occasion of the second Hochschule course in Dornach, to which Martin Borchart was able to send his friend Johannes Werner Klein with difficulty, that the latter met Gertrud Spörri, whose theological studies he ironically attacked. But when she replied that Rudolf Steiner had said he was ready to give an intimate course for theologians, Klein awoke from his misconception that he himself should inaugurate the movement.

Now he began – in contrast to the descriptions in his book – an intensive activity. He wrote a “requesting letter” to Rudolf Steiner and, together with Gertrud Spörri, gathered the eighteen people who, after Gottfried Husemann had reformulated the request, received the June Course.

While in summer 1921, these participants worked intensively on the enlargement of the circle, Klein withdrew again and took long hikes in the Black Forest and in the Alps. During the autumn course of 1921 in Dornach, he also kept a low profile and gladly left the leadership and the initiatives to Emil Bock.

In the winter of 1921/22, Johannes Werner Klein was accepted into Nicolai Hartmann’s closest circle of students in Marburg through a semester paper on Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit.” It resulted in the “triumph of my academic career” in the personal-philosophical life of this circle.

But the activities of the new movement foundered. Johannes Werner Klein attributed this also to his own “second failure” at the autumn course in Dornach. That is why at the turn of the year 1921/22, Martin Borchart, Kurt Willmann, and he (for the second time) went to Tübingen to Dr Hermann Heisler. Klein, who had taken over collecting the funds, felt left alone in the monastery of Beuron. Again, in the distress of a feeling of guilt because of his passivity towards the movement, an impulse drove Johannes Werner Klein – but what should happen?

A conversation between Heisler, Borchart, Klein, and Rudolf Steiner came about in January 1922 in Mannheim at the Röchling house. Rudolf Steiner suggested that the founders should put their will in writing. And those who had written such a memorandum then met on the occasion of the Berlin university course in March 1922 in the confirmation hall of the New Church. Friedrich Rittelmeyer was then present in this circle for the first time.

Now Johannes Werner Klein set out intensively on a great journey and gathered all who were determined into the circle that was forming more and more. His studies in Marburg were abandoned; an essay for the first pamphlet was written. They met for the gathering in Breitbrunn, and even before the ordination of priests with the first Act of Consecration was carried out in Dornach, the first circle of the new hierarchy of the priesthood was formed under Rudolf Steiner’s advice. Johannes Werner Klein took over the office of Oberlenker.

He had already formed a first congregation with Rudolf Meyer during the summer in Bremen. There he celebrated the first Act of Consecration in this circle in October 1922, before Friedrich Rittelmeyer held the first public service on November 12, 1922, in the Martinikirche, the old fishermen’s church in Bremen. Johannes Werner Klein began the Hamburg congregational work – after much preparation by the local pastors Hermann Heisler, Carl Stegmann, Thomas Kändler, and Rudolf Meyer – with the ordination of the latter on October 20, 1922.

Lecture tours, contributions at conferences, courses at the seminary in Stuttgart, essays for the magazine (from 1924), and the third volume of the series Christ of All the Earth were his most important works for The Christian Community, in addition to his parish activities in Bremen and, since Christmas 1922, in Hamburg.

The volume Baldur und Christus shows Johannes Werner Klein’s thinking and sensing at that time. The chapter on the Gospel of John already contains the beginning of a decades-long connection with this topic, which much later resulted in his writing Ihr seid Götter [You are Gods]. The booklet Baldur und Christus (Baldur and Christ), published in 1923 by Michael-Verlag, Munich, ends with the motif of the community of all Michael-fighters for the new spirituality.

The priesthood is grateful to Johannes Werner Klein not only for his first question of religious renewal to Rudolf Steiner and all his subsequent activities, however much these may have alternated with phases of weakness for him, but also for the fact that Rudolf Steiner connected his last course in the fall of 1924 with the theme of the Apocalypse of John.

In the spring of 1924, Johannes Werner Klein had not only received medical advice from Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman; Rudolf Steiner had also told him that the deep relationship with that strange, once-seen girl was an old connection of destiny. Klein interpreted this to mean that his will to the priesthood had its origin in her. He had sent her the booklet Baldur and Christ as an occasion for a re-encounter, which took place. In the following years, Johannes Werner Klein sought again and again meetings with Emma (Emma Krille, the name of that girl). She had long since married and later had a daughter. From August 16, 1918 on, he only called her ‘Petra.’ At first, everything was internally driven, which is only too clear from Johannes Werner Klein’s description. He pushed himself into the existing family and, from 1927, lived in Hamburg with the Krilles in the house maintained by them.

From his own descriptions, it is to be noted how he projected far too much of his own into this ‘Petra’ and how dependent he was on these imaginings. One of his later friends, a connoisseur of C.G. Jung’s psychology, judged that this relationship was a typical ‘anima projection’ in Jung’s sense …

Everything had to be subordinated to ‘Petra.’ Johannes Werner Klein resigned from the Anthroposophical Society. This was prompted by Marie Steiner’s preface to the first book edition of Rudolf Steiner’s cycle on the Gospel of John in Hamburg in 1908, which he considered to be a falsification of history in relation to the founding of The Christian Community. In the summer of 1928, he demanded from Rittelmeyer and the leadership, under threat of self-destruction, the recognition of his identity with ‘Petra’ and his task, and only wanted to continue to serve the community – to which he had, after all, pledged himself – under the condition of complete freedom from it. This could not be granted to him. He resigned from his office as Oberlenker and pastor of The Christian Community, its first apostate (April 1929). “The darkest point of my life had been reached.”

After a dramatic confrontation with ‘Petra’ and her husband, he wanted to leave for South America; but as he was on his way, ‘Petra’ met him at the Bremen train station and brought him back to Hamburg. The three of them continued to live together in the Krille’s house.

The most important reason for Johannes Werner Klein’s departure from The Christian Community was that his spiritual view of the Lord’s Supper was no longer compatible with a physically practiced communion as celebrated in the Act of Consecration of The Christian Community. Although he spoke so much about the meeting of spirit and matter, and was so connected with the Gospel of John, the actual Johannine aspect of the renewal of the ritual remained closed to him. For him, it was too “Catholic,” too “Petrine.” He found no backing for sacraments in the gospel. (All this is especially clear in his writing Ihr seid Götter. Die Philosophie des Johannes- Evangeliums. Pfullingen: Neske 1967, S. 114-129. [You Are Gods. The Philosophy of the Gospel of John, Pfullingen: Neske 1967, p. 114-129.]) For him there was now only Petra.

In the following years, Johannes Werner Klein lapsed into national socialism. He became a party member and, for a short time, a district speaker. “National Socialism is the birth force of the new becoming,” he proclaimed in 1934 at the opening of the Volkshochschule Cuxhaven. “We need Eros, friend. Logos is completely exhausted,” he wrote to Claus von der Decken in August 1933. After Emma Krille’s divorce, he married her during the Second World War. After the war, Johannes Werner Klein lived from his lectures and courses, which he held in northern German cities.

In 1984, five years after the publication of his memoirs, which are written in a Luciferic, phrase-like language, Johannes Werner Klein died in Hamburg. He had written his eulogy himself: a single eulogy on Petra, his ‘rock.’ She took her own life a few months later.

The Christian Community has much to thank him for in its formative years. Despite the understanding of his personal fate, it must be said that he stands as an example for the will to the renewed priesthood from the truly free individuality, which is not properly founded in anthroposophy.

MEMORANDUM Marburg, January 29, 1922

The development of our religious movement in the last four months prompts me to state the following in an overview:

The starting point of our striving was clear and unambiguous. It consisted of the question: How can we reach the foundation of viable Christian congregations? – And the spirit of our Stuttgart meeting in June 1921 left no doubt about it: Our problem was of a practical-social nature; our striving was religion, and the equipment that Dr. Steiner first demanded of us, was spirit.

As a technical precondition, there was also the demand for a small, firm organization, which should include all the strong-minded theologians who could be won over for this final goal.

Dornach, in autumn 1921, meant a setback to this spirit. Not only did a large number of the participants have nothing less than a community foundation practically in mind; their appearance also meant a paralysis for all the others. Dr. Steiner had to accept the given situation, and part of the time had to be sacrificed to theorizing and trivialities.

It did not come to any unfolding. The bearers of ideas were silent and failed to act; even the formula of obligation was signed by most of them without a clear consciousness of its implications. The negative attitude of the Dornach participants has hung like a stumbling block on our spiritual development ever since. Theology has prevailed over religion. However energetic and far-reaching the plans of the leadership, there are only theories above us. Where are the individuals? A state has arisen of indefinite listening and waiting for something that is supposed to come from outside or from above, which in reality can only be born from the spontaneity of the individual in a free decision of will. From time to time, however, news comes out of Berlin about the intention of a central preparatory activity and other honestly intended mental instructions, which are not suitable to raise the general joy of responsibility, decision, and determination. [Later handwritten marginal note by J. W Klein: “I do not uphold these judgments for today. At that time, however, they had such an effect on me.”]

It is just the spirit that has got lost, and where everybody should be, nobody is. It is high time that everyone should ask himself, deeply and decisively, what the cause to which we committed ourselves by signing, demands of each one of us today. The money question can no longer be called acute. But the personalities are missing. We are at a decisive turning point.

Therefore, all those who are able to come to a clear, unambiguous decision today should immediately unite in a first front line of workers and take action. For the decision (which no one can help the others to reach in any way) will not be much more or less than to break off and leave everything that is present and from now on to belong only to the matter on the basis of concrete, strong-willed perspectives.

And so, for my own part, I do not hesitate to declare to the other co-workers and to Dr. Steiner that, abandoning my philosophy studies and other educational endeavors, I henceforth want to serve directly only the active carrying forward of our religious movement and that I am available with my whole person.

Furthermore, I demand that during the University Week in Berlin from March 5 to 12, 1922, there should be a clear and unambiguous discussion about the type and competence of the leadership (see attachment) and the future development of the movement. For this purpose, the presence of all who are immediately available is necessary. Dr. Steiner has promised his appearance.

Thereupon, however, we should no longer disperse but join together, exerting all energies for a last teaching and education course. Place and opportunity will arise. And if we ask Dr. Steiner to lead the course in the same way as he trained the Waldorf teachers for their profession, he will certainly grant our wish. And just as certainly, according to his wish, the other teachers such as Rittelmeyer, Geyer, Bock, Rud. Meyer will assist him.

This course will not end until we are ready for practical work. For we cannot part in any other way than directly to our profession.

Notwithstanding our actions, the working organs of the movement will then have to develop further. In particular, a seminary must be founded as soon as possible in order to be able to supply those outside with ever new helpers.

If we are filled with the right attitude and succeed in awakening a supra-individual, objective spirit in all of us as a body, then success is assured.

Johannes Werner Klein


Emil Bock

Emil Bock

–From  “Die Gründer Der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz” by Rudolf F. Gaedeke, translation by Gail Ritscher

19 May 1895 in Barmen/Wuppertal — 6 December 1959 in Stuttgart

Emil Bock’s death on 6 December 1959, the second Sunday of Advent, marked the close of a third grand era in the founding of the Christian Community. The first era consisted of the actual founding events with Rudolf Steiner from 1920-25; the second lasted until 1938 under the leadership of Friedrich Rittelmeyer; the third encompassed the 21 years of the ban, Emil Bock’s arrest by the Nazis, and the resumption of the Christian Community’s work under the leadership of Emil Bock as Erzoberlenker.

With Emil Bock, a man whom Rudolf Steiner once described as having a “will of iron” crossed the threshold of death. In the spring of 1921, having learned from Gertrud Spörri about the first questions to Rudolf Steiner and his responses, Bock stepped forward with his iron will to lead the group of potential founders and to work toward a theology and study of the gospels that was based in anthroposophy.

What the Christian Community owes Emil Bock, above and beyond the tangible wealth of his written works, is beyond accurate measure. Could Friedrich Rittelmeyer, after being deserted in the work by Christian Geyer, have taken up his tasks without the rock-solid support of Emil Bock, 23 years his junior? During the intense events of the founding, the purposeful Emil Bock mediated between talkers and doers, “old” and young, long-time anthroposophists and newcomers to the scene. In addition, he persistently asked the necessary questions based on an unerring sense for both the practical and the spiritual.

Second only to his truly special relationship to architecture, Emil Bock focused most of his considerable energy on creating the social structure of the priest circle and the congregations, working under the hands-off leadership of Rudolf Steiner.

The 27-year-old was comfortable working with both the written and spoken word. In addition to Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Bock also spoke before just as large an audience as Rudolf Steiner in the Gustav-Sigle House in Stuttgart. Anyone who ever attended one of his lectures found his presentation style hard to forget, and his books all have the confident, convincing, vivid style that makes the most difficult content easy to grasp.

Emil Bock exuded a confidence that inspired trust. With his powerful build, round head, lively blue eyes, firm friendly handshake, and open smile, you could not help but want to support him. He had many friends, some of whom felt inwardly carried by him, while others found him a bit too “intense.” The latter, however, failed to see the tender side of his nature, which usually seemed peacefully melancholic—until it flared up ready to do battle!

Not only the Christian Community lamented the death of one of its most outstanding pioneers. That second Sunday in Advent, 1959, the entire anthroposophical movement lost one of Rudolf Steiner’s most important and influential students. Bock’s life unfolded it such harmonious segments that it is tempting to think of it as having a canonical composition: 21 years as erzoberlenker, preceded by 21 years meeting and working with anthroposophy (as of 1916), preceded by 19 years of childhood and youth, and culminating in his near-death experience during WWI and his subsequent period of recovery and completing his military service.

Emil Bock was born on Sunday, 19 May 1895, in Barmen, which today is part of Wuppertal. His parents were simple folk, his father working in a warehouse. There was a brother 8 years his senior, but Emil had no particular relationship with him. Life was very simple. The family lived in three rooms in a house on a back street. The days were marked by the difficult working conditions that affected the souls and health of his parents. The serious, quiet little boy had no toys, and eventually he had to earn money for the family by tutoring, particularly after the death of his father when Emil was 16 (1911). A gifted student, Emil was able to attend school (Realgymnasium) with the support of his father’s Jewish boss, Ernst Wahl. He subsequently received an education not only in the humanities, but also in the natural sciences, for which he was very grateful. In the 1959/60 issue of “Die Christengemeinschaft,” Bock himself described the sadness and yearning of his childhood and youth and his intimate shy relationship to Grete Seumer, who later became his wife.

Early on, Bock showed a special interest in myths and history, for human beings and their destinies.

When an excursion to Cologne was planned in one of the upper grades, Emil Bock gave a presentation on Romanesque architecture. In addition to the famous gothic cathedral in Cologne, the city, with its 12 Romanesque churches, still provides a grand overview of the golden age of this harmonious, Christian architecture, even after the destruction and reconstruction caused by the war.

Bock completed his Abitur (comparable to the International Baccalaureate) in the spring of 1914 and—again with the support of Ernst Wahl—immediately began his teacher training in Bonn, majoring in Germanics and new languages (English, French).

The end of the semester coincided with the beginning of WWI, and Bock volunteered for military service. Although his presentation on Romanesque architecture and his tour guide services through the churches of St. Gereon and St. Aposteln in Cologne may have been a deliberate attempt to overcome his shyness, he must also have been very confident inwardly. Sent to the front with minimum training on 10 October 1914, he was convinced that nothing could happen to him.

After three weeks at the Front in Flanders, he was hit by a ricochet bullet on 31 October 1914. It left him lying in a trench between the two fronts, a fist-sized hole in his back, half submerged in water, for 30 hours. He was taken for dead, and had he been transported at that point, he would have bled out en route. He hung on, constantly fighting to remain conscious, as though floating above his wounded body. Having decided to live, he summoned all his willpower and called out loudly to attract the attention of the corpsmen, who were once again combing the field of slaughter “below him” for the wounded. What they heard was a weak groaning, and they carried him away. He recovered slowly, first in Bonn, then in Berlin, where he had to complete his military service as an inspector of international mail. A large amount of printed material being mailed to Switzerland and authored by “Rudolf Steiner” thus fell into his hands, and he took these materials back to his quarters overnight in order to peruse them (1915).

Bock’s parents had not been churchgoers, though his father had sent him to Sunday School at the Reformed Church. He had been impressed by “Old Krauss,” an original lay member of the especially pious Wuppertal circles. A boy invited him to the Bibel-Kränzchen (Bible study group) where he met idealistic young people, many of whom later died in the war. In the summer of 1914, in Bonn, he was drawn into the Theological Student Association by some classmates. These were young Emil Bock’s connections with “theology.”

Because the barracks in Rheinland were packed full when the war started, Emil Bock had enlisted in the military in Berlin, where they needed “tall chaps.” He was accepted and sent to the Front. The dreamer that he was, despite all his alertness, was now jolted fully awake. After his experience of floating above his body, as though beyond the threshold of death, he lived in acute awareness of it, almost as though it did not belong to him.

After a 6-month hospital stay in Bonn, he was discharged in Berlin over Easter 1915. He learned Greek and Latin, at first just to remind himself how to study. In June, just a few months after starting to learn Hebrew, he passed the Hebrew exam. In the summer, after being granted permission to work part-time, he slowly resumed the studies he had started. He gave a lecture on Novalis and considered writing his doctoral thesis on Christianity and Novalis. As a Germanist, he also joined the Theological Student Association in Berlin, where he heard all the famous professors: Dessoir, Deissmann, Troeltsch, Beckh, Harnack.

It was 20 August 1916, a Sunday in summer, when Emil Bock made his most significant encounter at the age of 21. He was working for the Tegel Translation Service and had an early morning assignment at a prisoner-of-war camp. Afterwards, as he wandered toward the center of town without any particular goal, he noticed and decided to tag along with a growing stream of people moving toward the New Church on the Gendarmenmarkt. It was Friedrich Rittelmeyer’s inaugural sermon on a theme from the Gospel of John (John 17:4): “…the bright clarity of a life filled with broad knowledge and understanding spread out around him. Knowing and believing were one. Clearly formulated statements about Christ and the spiritual world lent concrete weight to certain ideological perspectives.” Soon after, the two men met one another in person.

To begin with, Friedrich Rittelmeyer brought Emil Bock together with Eberhard Kurras and spoke to them cautiously about anthroposophy. Both of them had been hearing Rudolf Steiner’s public lectures since spring 1917; later, Rittelmeyer took them along to two lectures at the anthroposophical branch on Gaisbergstrasse, where they were then also personally introduced to Rudolf Steiner. These were the two big lectures on Luther that Rudolf Steiner gave on September 11 and 18 for the 400-year celebration of the Reformation (today in GA 176: “The Karma of Materialism”).

Emil Bock now began to study anthroposophy, along with everything else, although he still was not clear on his career goal. It was only after the war, in November 1918, that he enrolled in the theology department. He soon won a competition with a paper on Schleiermacher’s[1] religious thinking and received the Schleiermacher plaque. He was awarded another prize for a paper on Schleiermacher’s concept of the church, and he won first place a third time for a paper on Schleiermacher’s historic way of thinking in a Schleiermacher Society competition. Needless to say, he was never obliged to take a written exam later.

Bock worked for a while as a youth counselor in the “Youth Club.” He became the founder and leader of a theological study group. Eventually, he became a vicar and substitute preacher, and before long he became intimately acquainted with Berlin’s churches and congregations—as well as with the misery of working as a pastor. At that time, anyone obliged to provide religious instruction to the children of 80 workers could expect some rough patches, and anyone obliged to adhere to strict liturgical forms must have yearned for rituals that contained more life.

The work with Friedrich Rittelmeyer was intense in that theology student group, which Emil Bock, Eberhard Kurras, Adolf Müller, Richard Gitzke, and others nurtured for years. Bock wondered whether he should apply for the position of second pastor at the New Church. While he consciously refrained from openly supporting anthroposophy, he also became increasingly more involved in it, becoming one of its most profound experts. That being said, he, too, failed to ask Rudolf Steiner the necessary question for launching the actual work of renewing religion through anthroposophy.

The decisive moment only came for Emil Bock when Gertrud Spörri told him at the beginning of the summer semester, so late April/early May 1921, what she, Johannes Werner Klein, and Hermann Heisler had asked Rudolf Steiner. From that moment on, he was the driving force of the movement, along with Gertrud Spörri, and remained in constant touch with Friedrich Rittelmeyer. It was on his instruction that Gertrud Spörri went to Stuttgart, resulting in the historic written request to Steiner and his promise to hold the “June Course” as an introduction to the actual teaching course of the priest candidates at the Goetheanum in Dornach in September and October 1921 (“Autumn Course”). Organizing the “June Course” in Stuttgart for 18 students presented no particular difficulties. Gertrud Spörri procured what was necessary. Emil Bock promptly delayed his big final exam in order to participate in the “June Course.” Gertrud Spörri organized all aspects of the “Autumn Course” for nearly 120 participants, including obtaining the necessary financial backing.

In January 1922, a Swedish engineer donated 100,000 Swedish Krona to the cause—worth millions in Germany at that time. Although three quarters of the money soon had to be returned, Bock was able to use part of it to buy a piece of land in Stuttgart on Urachstrasse and build “Urachhaus” there. He traveled back and forth from Stuttgart to Berlin several times a month for quite a while, as he and Rittelmeyer had decided to follow Steiner’s advice to eventually move the “central office” of the movement from Berlin to Stuttgart in order to be closer to Steiner and the anthroposophical work.

In addition to all this activity, Emil Bock passed his licentiate[2] exam during this time (March 1922), while Gertrud Spörri spent the winter months caring for her father in Switzerland until his death. It thus turned out that neither of them from the “central office” in Berlin had the time to give adequate attention to the future founder circle by acting as the focal point and by initiating activities. Rudolf Steiner therefore advised sending out a memorandum to bring together those truly committed to the founding, which ultimately took place in Berlin in March. Once again, there was a need for mediation, this time not between talkers and doers, like during the “Autumn Course,” but between those who felt more time was needed to prepare properly before moving forward, like Rittelmeyer, and those who felt there was no time to lose.

This dramatic back and forth eventually resulted in the real, practical work of the founding. Congregations were formed, financial calculations were made to the extent possible, and other issues were dealt with in order to realize the intention behind the planned gathering in Breitbrunn and the founding events, namely, the inauguration of a new Christian church.

Leadership rested in the hands of Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Christian Geyer, and Emil Bock. They met for talks on the von Keyserlingk family estate in Koberwitz, after which they all traveled to Dornach for eight extensive conversations with Rudolf Steiner. This also provided them with the opportunity to participate in the “National Economic Course” and ultimately to meet the circle in Breitbrunn. It was during this time that Christian Geyer withdrew, dealing a heavy blow not only to Friedrich Rittelmeyer, but also to the entire founder circle, which now felt the weight of an added responsibility to which Rudolf Steiner made pointed reference on the very first day in Dornach.

Finally, the time was at hand. The hierarchy of the priest circle was established based on Rudolf Steiner’s advice; Emil Bock was granted the status of oberlenker on 10 September prior to being the first one ordained as a priest by Friedrich Rittelmeyer on the 16th. He then performed ordinations himself for some of the founder circle.

His own report about the founding events appear in the anthology “We Experienced Rudolf Steiner” (Stuttgart 1977).

Emil Bock worked tirelessly for the Christian Community after the founding in Dornach. He now lived in Stuttgart, where he gave public lectures to audiences of over 1,000 in hopes of attracting attention to the new movement. Small circles of interested people received further preparation and were accepted as the first congregation members. Small groups had already experienced the Act of Consecration at separate times before they all experienced it together on the first Sunday of Advent, 1922, in a rented room belonging to the Schiedmayer piano company.

Emil Bock began his priestly work by forming the first member groups within the Stuttgart congregation. His activities as lenker and oberlenker began at the same time. Rudolf Steiner’s advice to him emphasized the importance of helping pastors who often worked solo. Emil Bock helped them not only on a personal level, but also by holding public lectures in their cities and participating in congregational functions, the way Friedrich Rittelmeyer and others were doing. He was, of course, a main speaker at all the many conferences in the early years—up to seven in a single year—in the various cities and towns.

In addition, he began to prepare a seminary training for priests right away with Friedrich Rittelmeyer and Hermann Beckh. He served as seminary director for 10 years and remained one of the seminary’s most important lecturers until his death. Then there was his written work. He was one of the most prolific authors, starting with his articles in the periodical “Die Drei” in 1921, then in “Tatchristentum” in 1922, then in Die Christengemeinschaft,” which he published after Friedrich Rittelmeyer, from 1938 to 1959. Furthermore, his written work appeared nearly monthly in the internal “Rundbrief” circulated to all priests. He was also an inexhaustible letter writer and dictator, as beautifully evidenced by a volume of his collected letters. And—not least—he authored a long list of books that can justifiably be called the standard-bearers for the first decades of Christian Community work: In pride of place, the series “Spiritual History of Humanity” that he began in 1934, a first great attempt to view the contents of the Bible through the lens of anthroposophy and introduce a universal viewpoint of the human being accessible to modern thinking. The spiritual importance of this work on, for example, the meaning of Judaism in the years of aggressive anti-Semitism cannot be overstated.

Other works, such as “Boten des Geistes” (Messengers of the Spirit) or “Wiederholte Erdenleben” (Repeated Earthly Life), belong to the spiritual history of mankind in a broader sense, as do “Die Zeitalter der Romanischen Baukunst” (The Age of Romanesque Architecture), and “Schwäbische Romanik” (Schwabian Romanesque Art), or “Zeitgenossen, Weggenossen, Wegbereiter” (Contemporaries, Traveling Companions, Path Blazers). Naming all the books here, let alone placing a value on them, is impossible. Just two additional works need be mentioned: First, “The Life and Times of Rudolf Steiner,” which mark Bock as one of the most accomplished experts on anthroposophy. This is especially remarkable given that the collected works of Rudolf Steiner were not at his disposal nor, to a large extent, even public. He had gathered a mountain of historical facts about the course of Rudolf Steiner’s life, one of which was the identification of the “herb gatherer” as Felix Koguzki, whom Steiner had encountered as a student. This identification was made possible with the help of Stuttgart congregation member Margarete Georgii and was based on a hint from Erich Gabert. Anyone privileged enough to hear even one of Emil Bock’s later lectures, which culminated in the book “The Life and Times of Rudolf Steiner,” could only marvel at his masterful way of presenting biographic and historical themes.

The second book that comes to mind—and this links the end of Bock’s written work with its beginning—is his effort around the German linguistic form of the New Testament, particularly the Gospels. From the time the Christian Community was founded, Emil Bock worked toward a modern and spiritually appropriate translation of the gospel. He aspired in particular to follow Rudolf Steiner’s advice that the translation fully express the original meaning. Starting in September 1927—the exact middle point of his life—until 1930, Emil Bock issued steady installments from this work, which he called “contributions to understanding the Gospel.” His process was to look into the composition of this “divine masterpiece,” its meaning, and what it contained in terms of imagination and inspiration. It was only after this preparatory work that he published “contributions to the translation of the New Testament” in manuscript form.

Bock never considered his translation as final. While at the seminary, I personal heard Emil Bock saying in his quiet humorous way during a course on Paul’s letter to the Romans, “I have brought you a translation of this section we are discussing, it is something like my twenty-fifth, but it is also rubbish.” It therefore became a question of whether and in what form these translations should be published. Given the author’s reservations and intentions, we must be grateful that the extensive volume “The Gospel” and the printed translation “The New Testament” exist today, even if they have subsequently been revised by others.

We have thus far been considering Emil Bock as speaker and writer. Let us now go back to the days of the founding and follow additional steps in his biography from there.

On 13 November 1922, while on a lecture tour, Emil Bock and Grete Seumer had married in Wuppertal. Four children came out of this marriage—the eldest named by Rudolf Steiner. The children rarely saw their father, who traveled constantly, so even when he was at home, Bock felt more like a stranger to them.

Of course, Emil Bock tried to learn as much as possible from Rudolf Steiner through his lectures and in discussions about the movement. He therefore participated not only in further meetings of the priest circle in 1923 and 1924, but also in the “Course for Young Doctors,” the “Curative Education Course,” and the “Tone Eurythmy Course.” Unsurprisingly, he became a member of the School for Spiritual Science, taking part in the First Class lesson on 15 February in Dornach. This was not for his personal edification, but because he was convinced that at least the leaders of the Christian Community also needed to be broadly educated in anthroposophy. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, meanwhile, after his first experiences as oberlenker with the destinies of priests, found it necessary to ask for and follow Rudolf Steiner’s advice: For the work to continue, the priest hierarchy needed one person at the center with full responsibility and authority. Thus, a few weeks before Rudolf Steiner’s death, the office of erzoberlenker was formally instituted on 24 February in Berlin; after that, Friedrich Rittelmeyer named his successor—Emil Bock—and shortly after that, both men stood at the death bed of their master.

In addition to all his obligations as pastor, lenker—in the 1930s, his lenker region sometimes stretched from Cologne to Königsberg (about 250 miles)—oberlenker, seminary teacher, lecturer, and writer, Emil Bock always found a few weeks in which to cultivate a particular art that resulted in his most important impulses and insights: He traveled. If possible, he took in the details of every city and every landscape on foot. He traveled to Italy, Greece, Egypt, and, most notably, twice to the Holy Land. We learn about these trips in his “Travel Diary” and his work “The Catacombs,” but mostly in his books about the Old and New Testaments; his descriptions are so alive that it is clear the author was on location. In fact, the impression is that he was present for the events described. One of his most significant discoveries is no doubt that a precondition for Christ’s work on earth was the polarity between the Holy Land in Galilee and Judea.

The year 1938 marked a gloomy time in Emil Bock’s life. Friedrich Rittelmeyer died unexpectedly in Hamburg on 23 March. Bock drove to the funeral deeply shaken not only by the loss of this friend and father figure, who had been a huge support to him, but also by the clear recognition that the weighty job of erzoberlenker was beyond his capacities. Nevertheless, on 9 June 1938, he was inducted into the office of erzoberlenker in Kassel amid the circle of priests.

The persecution of the Christian Community by the National Socialists ultimately led to Bock’s arrest on 11 June 1941. He was now robbed of work, library, writings, and freedom. For a few weeks, he lived with his five colleagues Borchart, Husemann, Klemp, Kuhn, and Feddersen in a cell meant for two in the concentration camp Welzheim, near Stuttgart, until the other five were released. Then he lived alone for another 8 months, until 5 February 1942. He lived in constant fear for his life, wondering not only if he would be killed, but also if he could survive his imprisonment and the completely inadequate nutrition given the repercussions from his war wound. These months were a time of serious trial for Emil Bock. He pondered his destiny with apprehension and his confidence occasionally flagged.

Bock had started to write his memoires during his prison term, but was interrupted by his release. He traveled first to his hometown of Wuppertal and, at the instigation of his Solingen friend Jagenberg, wrote a story about the Solingen paper mill and the region called Bergisches Land. He was permanently employed in Stuttgart at that time by the company Bosch. Some friends tasked him with writing a book about Romanesque architecture in Schwaben and (later) in Alsace. Because of the war, this work (in two volumes) only came out in 1958; it is still the leader in its field.

Immediately after the surrender in 1945, Emil Bock began to pursue his previously secret activities in public again. First and foremost was to reestablish contact with all Christian Community members and priest colleagues. The congregation house, seminary building, and Urachhaus in Stuttgart had all been destroyed, but the fraternity house in Haussmannstrasse offered the use of its hall for free: The golden time of a second vibrant new beginning dawned.

At the same time, Emil Bock pushed for a large-scale relaunching of the Anthroposophical Society in the occupied zone that would later become the Federal Republic of Germany. The Society had been unable to operate for 10 years, since being banned in 1935. Bock became part of the first executive council with Emil Kühn and Emil Leinhas. The anthroposophical youth inaugerated the “higher education weeks” (1947, 1948, 1949) and asked Emil Bock, among others, for advice and collaboration. He launched the “News from the Anthroposophical Work in Germany,” a quarterly magazine that is still among the best organs of the anthroposophical movement.

From 1948 to 1951, conferences took place in Assenheim (in the Wetterau region, north of Frankfurt) with representatives of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The EKD subsequently labeled the baptism of the Christian Community as “non-Christian.”

Emil Bock, who possessed and radiated so much confidence, found himself deeply astonished three times in his life when events unfolded so counter to his expectations: his war wound, his near-death experience, and this dictum denouncing the baptism of the Christian Community (i.e., the whole work of the Christian Community) as “non-Christian.” —more than 40 years later, the EKD would express interest in restarting the talks from that time.

Emil Bock was granted another 14 rich years of work after the new beginning in 1945, years in which he completed his work on art (Romanesque), in which he profoundly deepened his theological and anthroposophical epistemology, and in which, as a priest, he recognized with increasing clarity that the most important thing is prayer, communal prayer during the ritual. This insight was the content of his last lecture.

“Is it time then?” he asked on his death bed. The hour that was too soon had arrived. How much he would still have liked to do!

The priests then stood around his coffin with countless members, friends, and acquaintances. He had ordained most of them. None had forgotten the sound of his steps in the stillness as, during their ordination, he had received them into the circle of priests during the encircling chalice walk. No member had forgotten it, either, and all felt: There lived one of the original priests (Urpriester), who was allowed to hand down the renewed priest ordination.

[1] Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher was a German Reformed theologian, philosopher, and biblical scholar known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity.

[2] Equivalent to a Master’s degree


On this path carry no purse, nor bag, nor sandals (Lk.10:1-20)

On this path carry no purse, nor bag, nor sandals (Lk.10:1-20)

As we approach a milestone in the life of The Christian Community, the 100th anniversary, the most important question may well be: how will it continue into the future?  How can we guard the treasure that is entrusted to us?  The way it usually goes in the development of a new movement, it also went in our Christian Community: due to human imperfection this movement is no longer as undamaged and untouched as it was in the beginning.  For some people that is a reason to be disappointed and turn away to look for something else, something better. However, when in spite of all disappointments, you have experienced what takes place in the Act of Consecration of Man—Who it is who speaks and acts—you want nothing better than to guard this great gift and carry it out into the world, to every city and place where Christ wants to come.  But how?  How do we face the coming century?

One thing is certain; in the future we won’t be able to call upon results obtained in the past, or on the achievements of those who came before us.  We will in a certain sense have to face the future with empty hands, without expectations, without judgments, without preconceived plans—relying only on the always present help of Him whom we serve at the altar.

To set foot on the unknown land of the Act of Consecration of Man you have to take the shoes off your feet, leave the knapsack with your achievements behind, and put down the purse with all spiritual riches.  Christ looks for beggars for the spirit who live in the awareness: separated from Him I have no strength do to anything.

The best preparation for this uncertain future is to enter into each Act of Consecration like a blank page, as if it were the first time you met Him.  And if that fails: as if it were the last time you met Him.  You will then experience that Christ gives the most precious thing that exists on earth: Himself.

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, Sept. 4, 2022


The Founding of The Christian Community in 1922

In September of 1922, a group of 45 courageous, devoted, and enthusiastic people – both men and women – were gathered together in Dornach, Switzerland. There, with the help of Rudolf Steiner, the inaugurator of modern spiritual science or Anthroposophy, the events took place which led to the founding of what we have come to know as The Christian Community. Read more