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Friedrich Rittelmeyer

Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz
By Rudolf F. Gaedeke
Translated by Cindy Hindes

Friedrich Rittelmeyer
October 5th, 1872 in Dillinger/Donau – March 23rd, 1938 in Hamburg

Preview: Rittelmeyer wrested everything he accomplished out of a weak body and a melancholy temperament. He widened his soul in suffering and active service to everything human and divine. His spirit, however, became a potent force that affected those who worked with him, radiating certainty of life and trust in God.

In the spring of 1922 in the New Church—the German or Little Cathedral—in Berlin, Friedrich Rittelmeyer gave four big lectures on the theme “Anthroposophy and Religious Renewal”. This theme describes Rittelmeyer’s most important personal life motif and his objectively historical deed. His struggle for Christian understanding led him to anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner; His religious quest was led thereby from Jesus to Christ. When these two things are seen against the backdrop of the turn of the 19th century and what was happening in history at that time, particularly now that many decades have passed, we can appreciate his lifetime achievement even more clearly and value it even more highly. Rudolf Steiner’s assessment of Friedrich Rittelmeyer belongs to this appreciation:

“The anthroposophical movement had to see in Rittelmeyer the model of a personality who had united Christianity and anthroposophy in the inner harmony of the heart and in the outer harmony of the work.” (GA 37/2602, 1966, p. 398)

This sketch of his life can in no way replace Friedrich Rittelmeyer’s two autobiographical works: “From My Life” and “Rudolf Steiner Enters My Life.” It means only to mention them, as well as the books by Erwin Schüle, “Friedrich Rittelmeyer – Life and Work,” and Gerhard Wehr, “Friedrich Rittelmeyer.” Despite these works, however, what is still missing today, half a century after his death, is a comprehensive biography and assessment, as well as a representative – if not complete – edition of his works.

Friedrich Karl Robert Franz Rittelmeyer was born on October 5th, 1872, in Dillingen on the Danube, where his French-born father was the Lutheran minister. His mother, who was from Thüringen, had received her teaching degree in Wuppertal. A good year after Friedrich was born, Rittelmeyer’s father was transferred to Schweinfurt am Main, where he later became dean. The couple then had six more children.

Friedrich was a melancholic, solitary child with blond curls and blue eyes, repeatedly weakened by illness, without friends, but highly gifted and thorough in his studies. His parents sent him to school at 5 ½ years-old (1878). In high school and the Abitur (university entrance exam), he was always the top student in his class.

As solitary as he appeared outwardly, even with respect to his father, his inner life kept getting fuller. His astonishingly early memory of his mother at around 14 months, when they were still in Dillingen, already shows a strong, conscious ability to remember events. The death of one of his little sisters allows him to look behind the curtain into another world: an angel experience, which the boy immediately brings as comfort to his grieving mother.

His body is continually beleaguered. A bad case of vaccine poisoning, a life-threatening case of scarlet fever, chronic furunculosis, general weakness, sports injuries, broken arm, broken foot, a weak eye, in short, a constant battle against physical infirmity, but also against a fear of life.

He wanted to become a “minister of God.” High school was all about service. But the 9-year-old schoolboy is reading a 3-volume folkloric world history book and becomes convinced he has already lived through it. The idea of reincarnation begins to dawn in him. From the age of 12, he reads all the German classics and much that is already forgotten today. Whatever he read he retained in his mind; He never read it again – other than Goethe – and yet everything was there, within reach in his memory.

He covered The Iliad and The Odyssey in Greek during one 2-week vacation. The classical world of antiquity, “the clear sky of Greece arched above me in all its serene magnificence,” and “at Plato’s ‘Symposium’ I experienced the celebration of spirit surpassed in all my life only by the Gospel of John.”

But Christianity? Friedrich survived the father’s daily prayers for the entire family, morning and evening, only by sinking into apathy. The confirmation vows (on April 18th, 1886) troubled his conscience: The godless sinner – hoping for grace, certain of grace? – “So, I diligently searched through my life for transgressions.” “The Luther experience, venerably true and deep in itself, is misused punitively to mistreat the sun-thirsty souls of children.” “I wandered through the Christian world for years as a non-believer: And yet, out of a deep inner being, I still always wanted to become a minister.”

Friedrich Rittelmeyer did only what was most necessary for high school. He wanted to remain at the top of the class. Other than that, school was a bitter experience. He passed the Abitur in 1890 with flying colors, but inwardly, the 17-year-old was at the end of his rope. “If only war would happen now so that I could be shot dead with dignity.” He declined an invitation to the Maximilianeum in Munich – a foundation for gifted students created by King Maximilian II – and completed a theology degree (1894) in Erlangen, including two sessions between semesters (1892 and 1892/3) in Berlin.

Rittelmeyer was overfull of human encounters and experiences in Erlangen, Berlin, and in the Uttenruthia student fraternity. Names like Adolf von Harnack, Heinrich von Treitschke, Ernst Troeltsch, and Wilhelm C. Roentgen are just a small sampling. Dealing with students as their spokesperson, taking part in sports, making music on the piano and cello, hiking, theater, concerts, lectures and gatherings in Berlin: he took advantage of all of it, intensively. But the studies themselves did absolutely nothing to fulfill the seeking soul. “What is actually the purpose of your life?” He inwardly asked himself of humanity’s greats: “Which of them could you serve with your life? Whose work could you continue today?” This pondering led him to Jesus. Only to him did he feel obligated. “That’s when I decided to stay alive.”

The 21-year-old had to fight through his existential crisis and then use and fulfill the freedom he achieved. He took the exam (August, 1894). “I had a theology, but no religion, no Christianity.” He had a very good grade, was the best among 50 candidates, but had no content for his sermons.

He was only sure of himself when it came to a spiritual experience. For his 21st birthday on October 5th, 1893, he received a book by Thomas Carlyle (1795-1880) called “Sartor resartus.” He studied it for weeks. This was his introduction to the I-experience, which he then deepened by studying J.G. Fichte. I am – I have a purpose, a goal, and this purpose is eternal, is spiritual, as I am eternal, and thus spiritual. “The kingdom of the I appeared before my soul.” And with it again the experience of having lived on this earth before.

Friedrich Rittelmeyer had 200 Marks of exam prize money at his disposal when, after a stint in the military (1894) cut short for health reasons, he embarked on a month-long trip around Germany. Of the approximately 30 places he visited, he was most impressed with his experiences in the Herrnhut congregation, where the Easter service was being celebrated, Friedrich Naumann’s[1] activities in Frankfurt, and Bodelschwingh’s[2] work in Bethel.

We hear from Friedrich Rittelmeyer about three musical experiences that were important for him. It was a worship service in the “New Church” in Berlin, 21 years before his own sending there. The 100th psalm as scored by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy touched his innermost being. It was a spiritual experience through music, a perception of one’s own higher being.

Based on this experience, Friedrich Rittelmeyer could take the decisive step in cognition. To him is owed the discovery of the I as the fundamental motif of contemporary religious consciousness. For the fundamental motif is no longer the Luther-experience of humankind’s guilt before God, no longer the question: How do I get a merciful God? Human beings in the present time of natural science have lost the awareness of God, no longer know a moral authority, and can barely still think of themselves as “sinners before God.”

The religious experience of the “Consciousness Soul” is pictured in the gospel in the story about The Prodigal Son (Lk. 15), about the human being who comes to himself through the experience of godlessness. Rittelmeyer sees in that a key precondition for theology on the threshold of the 20th century. This is an important point of departure for religious renewal.

Even before Rittelmeyer’s big trip around Germany, he had experienced an inner transformation at the St John Church in Schweinfurt listening to the Brahms Requiem, specifically when a young girl sings the words of Christ “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” In the New Church, this “first greeting from the time of the coming Christ” was strengthened. But the deep thinking theologist spoke up: “I wonder if an angel encounter, if the experience of the higher self could perhaps be conveyed in some other way than through the word, like through music. The spirit blows where and when it will, and the God-less, the free and self-reliant human being, can know through it the true life of God, the Christ. The prodigal son’s father says of his son: “He was dead and is alive again.” Rittelmeyer had felt this in a tender, indisputable way as a blessing, a consecration of the human being. He now knew exactly what Paul had experienced when he said: “Not I, but Christ in me”; he knew what John carried within himself as the word of Christ: “I am the Life.”

Now he could take up his work. His consecration as a human being, as a Christian, had been fulfilled. Rittelmeyer became the vicar of the city of Würzburg, at the age of 23. His weak constitution, however, meant that he was on constant overload with all the tasks at hand. After 2 years on the job, the death of his 13-year-old sister hit him so hard that he fell ill for 9 weeks (1897). Still, it was generally acknowledged that his activities had also started to bear fruit. His sermon preparations, sometimes lasting up to 25 hours, was experienced as substance. He was befriended by philosophy professor Oswald Külpe, who urged him to take on as a doctoral thesis the long-needed epistemological basis for theology. After all, Immanuel Kant and his postulate about the limits of knowledge needed to be overcome. Friedrich Nietzsche was a suitable subject for this work, and Rittelmeyer secured his Ph.D. in 1903 in Würzburg with the doctoral theme “Friedrich Nietzsche and the Knowledge Problem.”

Despite his excessive workload, Friedrich Rittelmeyer completed the Second Theological Exam in Ansbach, from Würzburg, with an overall grade of “outstanding.” In 1901, the 28-year-old met the 16-year-old girl Julie Kerler, who was to become his wife in 1904.

It is impossible to pick out and report here on the important chapters in Rittelmeyer’s autobiography entitled “Confessional Hardships” (Bekenntnisnöte), “Protestant-Catholic,” and “Workings of Destiny” (Schicksalswalten). His application for employment as a pastor found no takers anywhere, not in Vienna, Rome, London, or Berlin. Destiny sent him to fill the position of third pastor at the Holy Ghost Church in Nürnberg, where he was the afternoon preacher. He worked there for 14 years, from 1902 until 1916, when he was called to Berlin.

He had already made the plan in Würzburg to write a book about Jesus at the age of 40. First, however, he had wanted to live with other great minds: Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Buddha, Meister Eckhart, and Johannes Müller, all of whom Rittelmeyer had highly respected at that time in his own way and whose limitations he would only recognize later.

All these works eventually found their written expression, to mixed reviews. There were accolades, but there were also those who called him “The Atheist of the Holy Ghost Church.” His friendship with Christian Geyer, the head preacher at St. Sebaldus, became one of kindred fighters in the spiritual arena. In order to have a positive influence, they put out a collection of sermons together called “God and the Soul” (1906). Its great success provoked the orthodox opponents, and signs of a rift between the many Old Believers and the few progressive priests became clearer. This eventually culminated in the “Nürnberg Church Fight” (1912/13). Rittelmeyer and Geyer, however, continued to work positively. They published a second book of sermons, “Living from God” (1910), and started their own monthly, “Christianity and the Present,” which existed from 1910 to 1923. In 1909, the book “The Pastor” (Der Pfarrer) came out, and in 1912 his life’s plan was truly fulfilled when, at 40, he published the book “Jesus.” “This is now really the best work of which I am capable at present.”

The life plan had left open what the next goal should be. Now the future came knocking. The invitation to give a lecture in Bremen on new religious movements made it clear to Rittelmeyer that he knew nothing as yet about the teaching of the Theosophical Society. He ordered written material. He became acquainted with Michael Bauer, who introduced him to anthroposophy, and he met Rudolf Steiner. That was on Goethe’s birthday, on August 28th, 1911, in Munich. What followed can be read in the valuable book “Rudolf Steiner Enters My Life,” which includes important stages in the collaboration of these two men. His first conversation with Michael Bauer took place in the days between the death and burial of his mother in 1910.

Friedrich Rittelmeyer worked his way into the new world of spiritual science with great energy and critical independence and often spoke openly about it. Now the church leadership could have easily suspended him. Instead, the call went out to him from Berlin in 1916: “Come to Berlin, as you are.” At that time, the nonsensical dogma labeling anthroposophy as “unchristian” had not yet been written in stone. Rittelmeyer’s preaching work in Berlin again took on a larger dimension, both externally and internally. This man, whose personnel file noted: “Not suitable for higher church office,” was now truly a “godly minister,” a sought-out server of the Word with a royal position at The New Church, and he was perfectly aware of what he owed Rudolf Steiner and of how all his listeners were really also guests at the table of anthroposophy.

Outside, the slaughter of World War I raged on. When it started, Rittelmeyer had hoped for an early victory. In 1917, he recognized that war cannot be the means of solving conflicts. Along with other ministers, he crafted a “call” for a ceasefire.

The times brought change, upheaval, revolution. People were stirred up. There was fertile soil in the souls. But Rittelmeyer did not find his way to the question that still needed to be asked and to which Rudolf Steiner had encouraged him. As of 1913, at the latest, it was clear to him that the liturgy, the substance of the ritual, in fact the central practice of religion needed to receive new forms. The riddle in the life of Friedrich Rittelmeyer, who was the classic example of someone striving toward the spiritual reality of Christ in his human activities, remains unsolved: Why could he not ask the question about the ritual? Others had to do so as though in his stead. And it was almost too late.

After working in Berlin for 2 years, Friedrich Rittelmeyer had an accident in French-speaking Switzerland on August 1st, 1918. His son stumbled and fell while hiking near Ebermannstadt. His father tried to catch him and ended up falling himself. A boulder rolled after him, grazing and wounding his head. He had to be hospitalized with a broken leg. Over a year later, after Christmas 1919, delayed repercussions from the head wound showed up. As of May 1920, he was on leave and spent 10 months recuperating on the estate of the von Zastrow family in Birgwitz near Glatz. From there, on the occasion of Rudolf Steiner’s 60th birthday, he produced the most important publication of the time that focused attention on anthroposophy (“From the Lifework of Rudolf Steiner – A Hope for a New Culture”, Munich, 1921).

Meanwhile, the questions to Rudolf Steiner were asked by other people and led to the “June Course” and then to the “Autumn Course” in 1921 (see the narratives on Hermann Heisler, Johannes Werner Klein, Gertrud Spörri, and Gottfried Husemann). Friedrich Rittelmeyer received detailed reports on these courses from Emil Bock. The Berlin students Emil Bock, Eberhard Kurras, Adolf Müller, Richard Gitzke, and Otto Franke had been working with him for a long time on anthroposophy and theology.

Soon after learning about the foundational text of the Act of Consecration of the Human Being as the central new ritual, Rittelmeyer decided to work with the Movement for Religious Renewal as the new true church. “The actual decisive point for me came from an unexpected direction. It was the experience that the living Christ truly comes to humankind in the bread from the altar. He was there, in ineffable purity and light.” (“Rudolf Steiner Enters My Life,” Stuttgart, 10th edition, 1983, p. 143.) The combination of Rittelmeyer’s physical weakness and his painstaking working method came across to the younger founders as hesitant. It was difficult for him to join in with the active initiatives launched by Johannes Werner Klein, Hermann Heisler, and others, all with the steady support of Rudolf Steiner, who was pushing them to get moving: If you waste too much time it could suddenly be too late! Further education and training would have to take place alongside their pastorale work.

How Friedrich Rittelmeyer had hoped his old friend Christian Geyer would be a leading figure in the work of the Christian Community! Without him, the future looked bleak. Geyer’s letter of refusal was lying In Breitbrunn. (The content of a talk between the two friends was often told as an important anecdote with regard to their disagreements: Geyer: “Fritz, if you can prove to me that the Apostle Paul went about preaching in an alb and colored stole, then I’ll join you.” To which Rittelmeyer responded: “Christian, if you can prove to me that the Apostle Paul went about preaching in a cassock and collar, then I’ll stay with you all.”)

There was pain to bear in major new events: Christian Geyer stepped out, Johannes Werner Klein broke his vow (1927), Gerturd Spörri broke hers (1933). As the Erzoberlenker of the newly founded priesthood, Friedrich Rittelmeyer suffered under these wounds to the community.

But the new was stronger: “The divine I of Christ was the most powerful and healing event of my life.” It was the striving for knowledge that resulted in this experience. In that respect, Rittelmeyer was an advanced student on the path of theology and anthroposophy. Now he was to celebrate the renewed form of the ancient holy mass himself and experience the presence of Christ in the bread and wine on the altar. Here his priestly willing and his Christianity found their fulfillment.

It was a group of 45 people, including Rudolf Steiner and 3 witnesses, who were involved in that first Act of Consecration: They were together in Christ’s name. They acted in His name, and he could therefore be in their midst.

After the 1922 founding in Dornach, it was not long before the Rittelmeyer family, with its six children, could move into the newly built Urachhaus in Stuttgart, which had been donated by a Swedish engineer. In Stuttgart, Friedrich Rittelmeyer, together with Emil Bock and Gerturd Spörri, founded the Christian Community, the priest seminary, and the monthly initially called “The Deed of Christianity.” His writing activity often produced several works a year. He was active as a speaker in lectures and on the occasion of many conferences. From 1931 to 1937, he led seven large, unforgettable camps (Freizeiten-retreats). But in the middle of this multi-dimensional work stood the powerful celebrant, the one praying with the congregation, the first priest of a new church.

Friedrich Rittelmeyer had always maintained his independence when it came to judging Rudolf Steiner. He did not hesitate to rebuke the latter in writing for his polemical way of talking about Müller, as his friend Geyer in Nürnberg had heard. On the other hand, he himself had to suffer the pain of being indirectly rebuked by Steiner for having publicly been too kind to an opponent of anthroposophy. (See GA 259, 1991, p. 814ff.)

Rudolf Steiner had provided the circle of priests with only the most essential elements for their social structure. Shaping, broadening, and completing it was up to them. It is understandable that Rittelmeyer declined the one-person job of Erzoberlenker because of his weak constitution and because he wanted to be a brother, not someone special among brothers. But it was spiritually necessary, not as the pinnacle of a pyramid social structure, but as the center, the middle point of the community. Rittelmeyer was spiritually and karmically cut out for the job, for he was not only one of the prominent theologians of the Protestant church, but also one of the most important students of Rudolf Steiner and the representative of anthroposophy – a seasoned fighter for contemporary Christ work in the written and spoken word and an experienced pastor. As it became increasingly clear that all of this was needed in the still small and young circle of priests, Rittelmeyer capitulated to necessity and was inducted as Erzoberlenker on February 24th, 1925.

A few weeks later, Rudolf Steiner died. Friedrich Rittelmeyer was allowed to perform the funeral services in Dornach and Basel on April 3rd.

The following can only hint at the efforts Friedrich Rittelmeyer made as a representative of anthroposophy in his region.  At the East-West Congress in Vienna, so important for the anthroposophical movement, he gave a lecture on “Spirit of Pentecost and Religious Renewal” (June 14th, 1922). He belonged to the Executive Council of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany as of 1923. Rudolf Steiner appointed him as “Goetheanum Speaker,” one of the few who could speak anywhere on behalf of Rudolf Steiner and of the Executive Council of the General Anthroposophical Society. After Christmas 1925, Rittelmeyer spoke out strongly in favor of Albert Steffen’s not self-evident appointment as First Chairman of The General Anthroposophical Society.

Noteworthy in the years 1928/29 is that the circumstances of The Christian Community in Stuttgart had developed in such a way that plans for a larger church were being considered. A substantial plot of land north of Urachhaus was available. Architects worked on plans and models. Then Marie Steiner in Dornach protested mightily that such a project was even being contemplated when construction of the second Goetheanum had not been completed yet. Rittelmeyer was crestfallen. He stopped work immediately. The piece of land was subdivided and sold, and a donation was sent to Dornach from the proceeds. Only a small pocket of land was retained, on which the priest seminary building was erected a few years later (1932/33. Construction of the second Goetheanum – on the inside – is still not completed today.

Relations with the German Anthroposophical Society developed to the point later that Friedrich Rittelmeyer stepped off the Executive Council in 1933. He had had to write a letter to Albert Steffen in 1931, in which he said: “People are naturally becoming increasingly aware that the news coming out of Dornach does not mention The Christian Community – other than in some book reviews – when something good happens, but only when there is something to criticize, and this criticism does not sound like it comes from a place of goodwill…Many who do not put this in writing, still think that way. And that is not in the interest of the anthroposophical movement.”

Then, two years later, shortly before the grave and far-reaching split in The General Anthroposophical Society and its executive council: “Can you blame me, esteemed Mr. Steffen, if I have the greatest reservations about the “memorandum” because of the way it is representing things that I am in a position to monitor? Can you blame me, if I cannot consider this orientation of The Society – shortly before the general assembly – as the basis upon which such fateful decisions may be taken? … [I must] reject the memorandum before history and must consider it a misfortune for The Society.”

In the same year, 1935, The Anthroposophical Society in Germany was banned by the National Socialists. Friedrich Rittelmeyer repeatedly negotiated with the powers-that-be in Berlin for this ban to be lifted. He also entered such negotiations in 1938, shortly before his death, which also helped stall the ban of The Christian Community.

It sounds strange to our ears today what Friedrich Rittelmeyer said and how he wrote about “Germanness” (Deutschtum). But if you think about how his life theme was the relationship of the human I to the I of God, and how he viewed becoming human and becoming Christian as the task of the Germans, then perhaps some formulations that seem tied to the past become understandable: The “matter” is as current as it was then, and he wanted to serve it with the writings “The German World Task Between Russia and America” (1932), “Rudolf Steiner and Germanness” (1921/23), and “Germanness” (1934).

Twenty-four years after the book “Jesus,” he published its follow-up: “Christ” (1936). He wrote about the most important themes of the new religious work: “Toward Religious Renewal” (1922), “The Christian Community” (1925), “From the Johannine Age” (1925) – almost a book a year, plus his articles in the newspaper “Tatchristentum/Christengemeinschaft” (Deed of Christianity/The Christian Community). His book “Meditation” (1921) is still in demand today; his work “Reincarnation in the Light of Thinking, Religion, Morality” (1931), in contrast, is almost completely forgotten. What a deed it was back then, to bring these themes into public view which are now on everyone’s lips! And finally, the motif “Theology and Anthroposophy” (1930) pointed to a field that is still largely lying fallow today…

Rittelmeyer wrested everything he accomplished out of a weak body and a melancholy temperament. He widened his soul in suffering and active service to everything human and divine. His spirit, however, became a potent force that affected those who worked with him, radiating certainty of life and trust in God.

He died on March 23rd, 1938, in Hamburg: He is the great father figure in the priest circle of The Christian Community – whose work is unjustly forgotten; the religious renewer in his own right, who, as a free and independent student of Rudolf Steiner’s, seized anthroposophy as the helper on his path, and who then as a priest could validly say: “Thus I came to the new Christian Community from out of the very center…It was not Rudolf Steiner who spoke the last word, but someone higher!”

[1] Friedrich Naumann was a German liberal politician and Protestant parish pastor.

[2] Friedrich “Fritz” von Bodelschwingh, also known as Friedrich von Bodelschwingh the Younger, was a German pastor, theologian and public health advocate. His father was Friedrich von Bodelschwingh the Elder, founder of the v. Bodelschwinghsche Anstalten Bethel charitable foundations.


Hermann Beckh

Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz
By Rudolf F. Gaedeke
Translated by Cindy Hindes

Hermann Beckh
May 4, 1875, Nuremberg – March 1, 1937, Stuttgart


When Hermann Beckh received a visitor in the last days of February 1937 at his death bed in his parlor in Stuttgart’s Lichtensteinstraße No. 10, he said as a greeting: “…. please be quiet! Dying is happening here.” This saying is characteristic of his life, not only superficially because his utterances were often original, but because a main motif of his being was the search for life beyond death.

This does not seem to be self-evident. At first, his biography predominantly showed the fullness of the original forces of being human. Throughout his life, he was often like a child. Opposing forces fought at the bottom of his soul.

Born on May 4, 1875, into a well-to-do family in Nuremberg, Hermann Beckh grew up together with his younger sister ‘Mariele’ in a carefree childhood. The formative experiences of his first years were shaped by the flowers, the animals and stones, the weather, and the stars. His parents’ travels to the Tegernsee and Berchtesgaden regions and to the Allgäu enabled him to breathe deeply in his childhood soul. In the fourth year of life (1879), this led so far that a rapture state occurred. The impression of the high mountain world near Einödsbach (Allgäu) overwhelmed his consciousness: “I am sure that many people never experience anything of what I experienced there ‘on the other shore of being.’ It was the world of my prenatal existence, … which I had forgotten. ” This is how Hermann Beckh described this experience in his memories of childhood.

When he had to go to school, he felt that this was a ‘violation and deprivation of freedom.’ He didn’t understand why such methods were used when he was able to recite a page-long prose text by heart after reading it once. For years he studied as if in a dream. Languages especially were not difficult for him, so he eventually learned fourteen languages through his later studies. Only in the further school years did the painful necessity arise for him to work more systematically and with diligence. The ‘Gymnasiumabsolutorium,’ the Abitur, was then passed with flying colors. The written examinations had gone so well that oral ones were ordered. This qualified him for a place at the Maximilianeum in Munich.

If the Nuremberg Abitur fell in the year 1893, the study of law, for which Hermann Beckh strangely decided, lasted until 1896 and his time as an assistant judge until 1899. During this time (1899), it happened that he had to sentence a poor married couple with a child for wood theft. Because with a prison sentence, the child would have remained alone, Hermann Beckh sentenced the couple to a fine. But because the couple had no money, Hermann Beckh gave them the sum out of his own pocket after the sentence was passed – and resigned from his post.

Then he began to study anew. To access the sources of human culture, he learned Sanskrit, Tibetan, Indian, Persian, Egyptian, and Hebrew. He studied in Kiel and Berlin, where he received his doctorate from the Humboldt University in 1907 and qualified as a professor in 1908. He became the authority on ancient languages of the Himalayan region and was the first to translate many texts of that region from ancient manuscripts in the Prussian State Library. If he was thus close to the sources and origins of human culture, the second great area of death experience also emerged. He had loved the mountains since his childhood. Once, while hiking in the high mountains, he got caught in a dense fog. He spent a whole night on the edge of a glacier, his feet stuck in his backpack, fighting frostbite. When he was twenty-nine years old, his grandfather died (1904) – the first death in his immediate environment. During the First World War, he only had typing duties in Romania and Bulgaria, also in Kiel and Berlin. Death only really struck him closer when, fifteen years after his grandfather, in 1929, his beloved sister Marie, who had always faithfully accompanied him, died. The mother survived both children and died on May 25, 1943. (No date of the father’s death has been handed down.)

Hermann Beckh

In 1911, when Hermann Beckh was 36 years old, he met Friedrich Rittelmeyer as well as Rudolf Steiner. Since he had already become acquainted with Indian theosophy, he now found in anthroposophy the spiritual bond of all the cultural-historical studies he had pursued up to that time. Now the connection of the history of consciousness of humankind, as it also shows itself in the history of languages, became clear to him. With the two volumes of the Göschen Collection on Buddhism, published in 1916, he began his real life’s work (see the list of writings), which he developed as a speaker, university teacher, and writer.

In addition to his work on the early cultures of humankind, which gave rise to From the World of Mysteries, Hermann Beckh had been deeply involved in music since childhood. At the age of sixteen, he experienced Richard Wagner’s Parsifal in Bayreuth in 1891. The last of Beckh’s works, completed on his deathbed, was Die Sprache der Tonarten (The Essence of Tonality). He had also felt connected to the starry world from an early age. A rich work, “Beiträge zur geistigen Sternenkunde,” (Contributions to Spiritual Astronomy) was dedicated to his fellow pastors in their Rundbrief (newsletter).

The fruit of Beckh’s studies on Buddhism

His two books about the cosmic rhythms in Mark’s Gospel and John’s Gospel should be mentioned especially. They would demonstrate from the spiritual science that the cosmos order and earthly working of Christ belong together.

In Karlsruhe, a philosophy professor, Arthur Drews, had written the book Die Christusmythe (The Christ Myth), in order to show that the Gospels contained nothing but mystical-fairy-tale illustrations of star processes (astral myths). This Arthur Drews belonged to the ‘Combat League against Anthroposophy’ and had expressed: “My I shall be taken by the devil after my death,” and his gravestone read: “Redemption is a detachment from the I.” Against the pantheistic religious philosophy of Arthur Drews, Beckh’s aforementioned works were meant as positive aids to understanding the Gospels.

Hermann Beckh

The always childlike admirer of all that is high and noble, who nevertheless possessed intellectual abilities in abundance, the shrewd jurist, the profound explorer of the word, and the harmonies of the starry and tonal world reaped the fruits of his labor in abundance. Nevertheless, in his opinion, he lacked the real thing. When the preparations for the foundation of the Christian Community had already led to the first two teaching courses with Rudolf Steiner, Professor Beckh had not been asked to collaborate. He had been the anthroposophical speaker at the opening of the first Goetheanum building in 1920. Rudolf Steiner had said of him: “He has done a lot of research that I have not yet come to, although some of it is somewhat speculative.” Hermann Beckh was regarded as an outstanding expert who was not asked for new activity after he had given up his university work to serve Anthroposophy.

He heard about the preparatory group that met in March 1922 in Friedrich Rittelmeyer’s confirmation hall and appeared there with the vehement words: “Now I am here and belong to you; and even if you don’t like it, you won’t get rid of me! ” Thus he became a priest of his own will, a servant of the word in an even more comprehensive sense than before.

As a co-founder of the Christian Community in Stuttgart, he was also its teacher from the beginning. He had become acquainted with anthroposophy in 1911 through an Elijah lecture, but now he himself worked with the firepower of his will for the Word like Elijah. In December 1923, he attended the Christmas Conference for the founding of the General Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum in Dornach.

Hermann Beckh

He was also the lovable-scattered, shy, yet child-loving professor who, somehow not quite present, often seemed clumsy and tempted ridicule. He was lonely in the founding community. He remained misunderstood and knew that he had to “persevere in resistant circumstances.” His severe kidney cancer forced his soaring spirit through pain to the body: “dying is happening here.” But looking to the future, he had written in a poem about the New Jerusalem:

“And even if my path still leads over graves,

Even if I must still be a bearer of death,

There  shines on the path from the world’s farthest reaches

the resting star’s holy serious light.”

As a seminary teacher, Hermann Beckh had imparted to a whole generation of priests the enthusiasm for the spiritual work with the word, the language. The Christian Community preserves his work in the cultural sphere, where his renderings of Genesis 1 – “In the Spiritual Thought of the Original Beginning” and of the 23rd Psalm –  “He who speaks the I in me is my shepherd…” – are read again and again on the occasion of larger sermons.

Caption for Picture:

The fruits of Beckh’s studies on Buddhism


Rudolf von Koschützki

Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz
By Rudolf F. Gaedeke published by Urach Haus
Translated by Rev. Cindy Hindes
Images sourced therefrom

Rudolf von Koschützki
April 8, 1866, Tarnowitz/Silesia – March 16, 1954, Stuttgart

In Rudolf von Koschützki, an unmistakable figure of special maturity and humanity entered the founding circle of The Christian Community. At the time of the founding, the “old gray horse,” as his colleagues amicably called him, had already reached an almost patriarchal age of fifty-six. Nevertheless, he was allowed to serve the movement for thirty-two years until he died in Stuttgart in 1954 at eighty-eight.

He has recorded his life story in the book Fahrt ins Erdenland (Journey to the Land of Earth) in a masterly manner, with rich individual descriptions and fine humor. It belongs to the important components in the fate of the founding circle because there a person without any theological education, from his own deep devotion to nature, found the way to spiritual science and, through it to the renewal of the Christian religion.

Rudolf von Koschützki’s ancestors lived in Silesia as owners or administrators of large estates for more than half a millennium. His great-grandfather owned a whole demesne, Auras, which consisted of twelve knight’s estates. But the course of history brought alternating possession and poverty again and again. Koschützki’s father had only slowly worked his way up again to prosperity, favored by the winning of the Prussian wars.

Into the now irretrievably submerged world of the large, rich eastern estates that had come into being with the Christianization of the so-called Slavs and had been run patriarchally since then, Rudolf von Koschützki was born in Tarnowitz on April 8, 1866. He spent his childhood with a younger sister on the estates that his father managed, located in Upper Silesia, where, in addition to agriculture, mining had grown to great importance. Rudolf von Koschützki’s childhood was filled with life in the great outdoors, with the plants and animals of the estates and forests. For him, school was a cross; he felt the schoolwork was a ‘constant deprivation of freedom.’ All this is uniquely written in his autobiography, supplemented by the descriptions of the book Sun on Earth. Of course, he went through an agricultural apprenticeship as well as a period of training on various estates. One day he was supposed to own and run one himself. In Mecklenburg, during a year of practical training, he met the young sister of his principal at the Ruhhof, Martha Cordua, who, significantly, had been given the nickname Titania, abbreviated ‘Titen’ by her siblings. A sporting race later sealed the feeling of togetherness between the two when Rudolf met Titen again at the Ruhhof on his way to a two-year course of studies in Munich. Then it was considered a foregone conclusion that they would spend their lives together.

But even before the wedding, something happened near Kohlfurt in Lower Silesia on October 18, 1891, which forced a complete change of life. From Breslau, Rudolf von Koschützki followed his fiancé to Berlin by night train. He had chosen a different connection than had been planned and also a different compartment from the one he had first boarded. The train sped through the night; suddenly, there was a terrible jolt, a deafening crash, the brief calm of shock, and then the wild screams of the injured and dying rang out. Rudolf von Koschützki was pinned down with all his limbs, unable to move. It took hours before he was rescued from the wreckage, half dead, the only survivor from his car. He had not only looked death in the eye but had spent hours with it, and in the process, had experienced a review of his twenty-five years of life up to that point.

Then, in 1892, ‘Titen’ and Rudolf von Koschützki married; two daughters, Eva and Irmingard, were born of this marriage. A lease of their own was to become the basis for life, but recurring bouts of weakness ruined the plans. “Something had come unglued between soul and body.”

A recuperative trip to Italy and Rome had little success. A nine-week cure with absolute rest in Breslau, followed by a three-year ‘professional ban’ by the doctor, also did not create the hoped-for stability. Three attempts to build up an existence failed, with his parents, in Munich and in South Tyrol, where Titen, suffering from homesickness, finally became deathly ill. An uncle in Munich had the saving idea: Rudolf could become a writer after all – he came to this idea on the basis of the reports in his detailed letters. The family moved to Habelschwert in the Glatzer Bergland in Silesia. The vivid description of these circumstances in the book Fahrt ins Erdenland belies the fact that a great deal that one would like to know is passed over. Apart from the descriptions of some incidents in Habelschwert and the great journey in the summer of 1900 deep into Russia to Prince Dondukoff at his Romanov Castle, nothing else is passed down for 14 years until we find the von Koschützki family in Potsdam in 1914. From there, Rudolf von Koschützki moved to Russia as a war correspondent.

In 1916 he was back in Berlin. There he was made aware of Friedrich Rittelmeyer’s sermons in the New Church. He got to know Friedrich Rittelmeyer personally and, through him, was made aware of Rudolf Steiner. In the spring of 1917, he heard a lecture by Steiner for the first time and thought, “This is either complete madness or the greatest thing that has been experienced for two millennia.” After the railroad accident in 1891, Rudolf von Koschützki had stipulated as compensation from the Reichsbahn that he would be paid throughout his life as much money as a student councilor would have earned. Thus even after inflation and as a pastor, he always lived independently and in adequate circumstances.

After the end of the war and the collapse of the German Reich, he tried once again to establish a small settlement in Liebenburg in the Harz Mountains, after the plan to found a teaching institute for officers who had been wounded in the war in Pomerania had not been realized.

In the early summer of 1921, an anthroposophical conference was announced in Stuttgart. Rudolf von Koschützki was about to finish his book Lebensbilder bedeutender Landwirte. But suddenly he thought he absolutely had to travel to Stuttgart for this conference. He reached his destination by rail, fourth class in passenger trains.

When he arrived, he learned of a meeting of young theologians, up on Kanonenweg, now Haußmannstraße, in the Waldorf School. There the participants of the June course were allowed to use a classroom for further meetings. Once they also met up at the Gänsheide, in the park area of the clinic.

Although Rudolf von Koschützki took part in a meeting of this circle, he thought he had nothing to do with it. When he left, the young Emil Bock put his hand on his shoulder from behind and asked him if he didn’t want to stay because he belonged to it. So it happened that Rudolf von Koschützki also went to Dornach in September for the Autumn Course. There he finally decided that he did not belong. But a dream held him, which he knew for sure concerned his situation. He dreamt he was sitting in the front rows of a theater. A speaker was standing on the stage with his back to him, facing the audience at the back of the stage. He walked backward step by step and finally fell into the orchestra pit. There below, hurrying after the fallen, Koschützki heard the words: ‘Whoever retreats falls into the abyss.’ “There was such a sure and certain guidance in this dream experience that no difficulty of the coming times could mislead me in my decision.”

The first difficulty arose in the coming spring, when a deep disgruntlement threatened to break the circle of the founders. Outwardly, it was the question of whether to start sooner rather later and better prepared. The Berlin group around Friedrich Rittelmeyer felt pressured by Hermann Heisler and a group around him. Rudolf Steiner himself mastered this critical moment when they threatened to quarrel. He energetically took Hermann Heisler’s side. They had to begin; otherwise, it would be too late. He asked each individual to which city he intended to go in order to prepare the church planting … For Rudolf von Koschützki, the situation in the coming months was not easy, especially because his wife could not inwardly say yes to the new things her husband was doing. He had so often started something new in life, and now he wanted to become a priest! After the meeting in Breitbrunn, during the days of the ordinations in Dornach, he decided to accompany the founding of The Christian Community in Breslau.

One of the initially planned collaborators had dropped out at short notice, and so the threesome – the ‘Troika’ – Rudolf von Koschützki, Rudolf Meyer, and Kurt von Wistinghausen, came into being.

Very soon in Silesia, it was possible to celebrate the first Act of Consecration. This was possible at Koberwitz Castle, which was administered by Carl Count von Keyserlingk, who had donated a significant sum of money for the foundation of the movement, even before Rector Moritz Bartsch in Breslau was able to arrange for school rooms, in which a lively congregational life soon developed.

The following year Rudolf von Koschützki was one of the very few priests who attended the Christmas Conference in Dornach for the founding of the General Anthroposophical Society. He was the official representative of Friedrich Rittelmeyer and The Christian Community. His colleagues had to work in their communities, and not even Friedrich Rittelmeyer could be present to give the lecture to which Rudolf Steiner had invited him.

Rudolf von Koschützki was able to witness the next high point in the development of anthroposophy when Rudolf Steiner came to Koberwitz in the Pentecost season of 1924 at the energetic urging of Count Keyserlingk and there laid the foundations for a therapeutic approach to the earth by holding the so-called Agricultural Course. Rudolf von Koschützki became a member of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum on the occasion of these events.

The trained farmer had become a writer. An important book on agriculture, Die Praxis der Landmanns (The Countryman’s Practice), was about to be completed. Then he became a co-founder of The Christian Community, and now he was allowed to become a priestly godfather in the founding of the anthroposophically oriented agricultural movement. This is how it was felt by him and others.

After more than seven years of parish work in Breslau, Rudolf von Koschützki moved to Sieglindestraße in Berlin, where he and his wife founded a small center for the distribution of donated goods to those in need, especially in the parish. He was the “compensation man” who was able to help many people and mediate help.

His descriptions of the journey to Palestine in 1934 complement Emil Bock’s travel

diaries. Bock had asked Rudolf von Koschützki to travel with the group – which also

included Herbert Hahn, the co-founder of the Waldorf School – that brought back so many valuable impressions from the Holy Land for their respective work.

He himself reported on the seizure of power in 1933, the beginning of the war in 1939, and the ban on The Christian Community in 1941. After a three-hour interrogation by the Gestapo in June 1941, Koschützki was allowed to go home again. He was spared imprisonment, but two years later, their apartment burned completely. Once again, he and his family were homeless. In Osterburg an der Biese, in the Altmark, the elderly couple found shelter with their daughter, who was married there. The occupation by the Americans, the British and finally the Russians, all the misery of the looting after the collapse, renewed expulsion, hunger and cold in the post-war period had to be endured until Titen’s strength left her in 1947. She died with the words that had never been spoken before: “I love you very much, that’s what I wanted to tell you at the end.”

Now it was arranged that Rudolf von Koschützki, who was eighty-one years old, would resettle in the western zones. In the summer of 1947, he spent weeks in Leuchtenburg near Bremen as a guest of the Bosse family, who later moved to Güldenholm in Schleswig-Holstein to create a rural center for The Christian Community. In Leuchtenburg, members of the Bremen congregation and the Bremen Youth Circle met repeatedly around Rudolf von Koschützki. One heard from him the story of his life, the story of the founding of The Christian Community and his encounters with Rudolf Steiner.

It was like that again in the summer of 1953 in Stuttgart. Emil Bock had brought him there for the last seven years of his long, great life. The youth conference in the Straßenbahner-Waldheim in the Degerlocher Forest was held under the theme: “Eh’ das Jahrhundert schließt.” (Before the century closes). One thousand six hundred young people led a community life for several days to take up the ideas of anthroposophy and the task of The Christian Community. Rudolf von Koschützki celebrated the Act of Consecration with them. In the evening, casually lifted onto the stage in a wicker chair, he whimsically told of his life, of his encounter with Rudolf Steiner, and of the founding events in the first Goetheanum building. A few months later, on March 16, 1954, he died in Stuttgart. He wanted people to rejoice when he crossed the threshold, and he wanted to report joyfully ‘above’ what was now being done on earth for religious renewal. Like August Pauli and Heinrich Rittelmeyer, he was also a bearer of the Archpriest’s Ring, as a sign of the special recognition he enjoyed among the priests.


August Pauli

Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz
By Rudolf F. Gaedeke
Translated by Cindy Hindes

July 31, 1869, Hernsheim/Franconia – January 6, 1959, Munich

August Pauli, the second oldest of the founding circle, lived through a very similar destiny as did Friedrich Rittelmeyer and brother Heinrich Rittelmeyer, as well as Hermann Heisler and Christian Geyer. Pauli shared his French homeland with Friedrich Rittelmeyer and Christian Geyer and almost the same theological training and ministerial experience with all of them. Hermann Heisler, Heinrich Rittelmeyer, and August Pauli remained individual campaigners, while Christian Geyer and Friedrich Rittelmeyer were united by their unique friendship over many years.

August Pauli was born on July 31, 1869, the second of five children, in the vicarage at Hernsheim in Lower Franconia. The boy spent his first seven years in the natural, purely rural environment of the small village where his father worked as a priest.

His second seven years were marked by a move to Nördlingen and small-town life when his father became dean there. The boy went through elementary and Latin school (1876-1883) until, at the age of fourteen, he entered high school, the Anna-Kolleg in Augsburg, where he passed his Abitur in 1887. His preparation for confirmation and the celebration itself became a particularly profound experience for him in which he learned not only outwardly that the human being partakes in Christ’s grace. The experience opened up inwardly for him: This also means me; I am included in it.

From his entire school years, August Pauli only reported on his history teacher, Professor Metzger, in Augsburg, whose enthusiastic teaching captivated the schoolchildren.

Four semesters of theological studies in Erlangen passed as if without a trace on his soul, and nothing was reported about life in the student fraternity Uttenruthia. It was not until his third year of study in Tubingen that he was forced to follow the students’ example into a more intensive engagement with the study contents. The main occupation involved learning by rote, as it once was at school. The fourth year of study, again in Erlangen, was similar. One of his fellow students was the later famous Ernst Troeltsch; he was followed in the Uttenruthia by ‘the fox’ Friedrich Rittelmeyer, who immediately attracted attention because, as a newcomer, he wanted to give a speech.

Despite his lack of participation, August Pauli passed his first examination in 1891 so well that he was recommended to the Munich seminary. He immediately began his service as a vicar. At twenty-two, he suddenly found himself in the pulpit of his hometown of Nördlingen, substituting for his father, who was seriously ill and soon died. After the third sermon, Pauli thought he had said everything he knew. How was it to continue? The young pastor Dr. Christian Geyer, with whom he had become acquainted as a colleague, provided him with a certain amount of help that his father could no longer give him. From Nördlingen, he then passed the Second Theological Examination in Ansbach.

After three years of this first period of learning, the church leadership transferred him in 1894 as a traveling preacher to the diaspora parishes of Upper Bavaria in Tolz, Miesbach, Holzkirchen, and Tegernsee. In the Catholic area, his activity was quite varied, with constant travelling. The mine workers in Hausham near Miesbach, the immigrant Swabian farmers in Holzkirchen, the bathers in Bad Tolz, and the aristocrats in Tegernsee each formed their own kind of community. And the most diverse acquaintanceships and connections developed – also with “crowned heads.”

In 1897, August Pauli was now twenty-eight and not yet married, when something deeply shocking happened to him; while he himself was in love with a girl, he received a letter from a young man who told him that his sister was devoted to Pauli, and that she was sure he loved her too. This episode, which does not seem to be very significant, awakened a profound problem in August Pauli: Is it permissible for a Christian to experience happiness at the expense of others or alongside the suffering of others? Questions now arose that awakened his own judgements. This struggle gave rise to his first writing:On the Trail of Life – Diary of a Young Theologian. (Auf der Spur des Lebens. Tagebuch eines jungen Theologen.)

The reflections in Schultze Naumburg’s magazine Kunstwart gave rise to interest in and questions about art. Friedrich Naumann, the theologian who became a politician, awakened Pauli’s interest in politics. In theology, which had hitherto been the content of his studies, historical interest in Jesus awoke, and Christ as the Son of God disappeared from consciousness. “At that time, the path had to be taken from the dogmatic Christ, who no longer had any life in him for us, to the historical Jesus.” It was as if, at a later point in the unfolding of his life, something came to light that others had experienced earlier. August Pauli was a loner. He also took his inner steps basically in melancholy solitude and without a friend.

He was strengthened in this by his intensive reading of the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, who had particularly emphasized the importance of the striving single individual and had ultimately given a harsh critique of official church Christianity. August Pauli found in Kierkegaard a precise description of his own stage of development.

Tolzer’s term of office also saw Pauli’s first meeting with Dr. Johannes Müller, who had just moved to Schliersee. August Pauli met him in person. The emphasis on the individual, the single personality, was also the basic motif of Müller’s work, and August Pauli, who was increasingly questioning the fixed forms of the church and church service, found confirmation in the spontaneous, humane nature of Johannes Müller’s work.

At the turn of the century, in 1899, August Pauli became pastor of the small Lower Franconian parish of Westheim. A mere farming village, it was prosperous and knew how to maintain this prosperity with firm social forms, right up to marriage. The parish priest was an integral part, indeed the guarantor and often the enforcer of the customs and laws of old. The new pastor had questions everywhere, challenged the customs: Should this be Christianity? Is it not rather Old Testament, pre-Christian? Is a people’s church at all capable of being Christian? Doesn’t the uniformity of a community contradict spontaneous enthusiasm, the filling of the individual with the spirit? “O could I, like Paul, be a carpet weaver and then, when I wanted to, not if it drove me, if it were an inner necessity for me, help my fellow men come to the truth, to God – would that not be the better, I might say purer in style and therefore a more effective way to serve the cause of Jesus?” Thus wrote August Pauli in his book Im Kampf mit dem Amt. Erlebtes und Geschautes zum Problem Kirche [Struggling with the Office. Experiences and Observations with the Problem of the Church] (1911, p. 47), which was probably significantly influenced by his experiences in Westheim. He could “do nothing but faithfully guard their [the church’s] sleep.”

To vent his soul, he wrote polemical articles in the Pastors’ Correspondence Journal, which soon made him known throughout the country as a ‘highly questionable heretic.’ “By openly and courageously confronting the terrorism of an outdated orthodoxy for the first time, the movement was prepared, which my friends Dr. Geyer and Dr. Rittelmeyer later took into their own hands,” he later wrote.

In 1908, his decision had matured; August Pauli resigned from the service of the Bavarian Regional Church after seventeen years of work. He worked as a freelance speaker in southern Germany and in the summer months at Mainberg Castle, near Schweinfurt, as a private secretary to Johannes Müller. The latter gathered a congregation there near Elmau (1908-1911). During this time, Pauli met his wife, Elsbeth Seydler (October 13, 1881), who came from Königsberg in East Prussia. He also had an important, longer meeting with Christoph Blumhardt in Bad Boll/Württemberg, where he experienced the special, healing presence of the spirit in prayer, with which father and son Blumhardt had been able to work so convincingly.

What is special about August Pauli’s biography compared to that of Hermann Heisler is that he saw himself as able to re-enter the church ministry after a four-year break. In Bavaria, the church did not accept this’ heretic.’ Still in office in Munich was president Bezzel, with whom Friedrich Rittelmeyer had had harrowing experiences.

August Pauli became pastor on the ridge of the Thuringian Forest in Schmiedefeld near Wallendorf. He had also married there at the beginning of August 1914. Despite 4000 members, there was no ‘proper’ congregation among the poor farmers and workers in that harsh climate. People were more or less socialist; there was no religion. On Christmas Day, there was finally time to slaughter a pig; the church was empty – so empty that sometimes no sermon had to be preached. This changed abruptly with the outbreak of the First World War. The church was overflowing, and field services had to be held. Every man wanted to take communion once more – or for the first time – before enlisting: a field of work “calling for a heathen mission.”

From 1916 to 1918, August Pauli worked as a pastor in Weißenfels an der Saale, the place where Novalis died. There, too, his experiences with the Thuringian-Saxon population were not much different from those in Schmiedefeld. He had to administer a “pastoral parish with about 12,000 souls”. There were too many outer obligations, for example, funerals. “I was curious myself when I stepped up to a new grave, what I would say again.” “I had to tell myself that a church that makes its servants accept such things is itself contributing to the complete devaluation of its sacred acts.”

But the political orientation of the church was also intolerable to August Pauli. On the birthday of the emperor (January 27, 1918), the superintendent held the sermon with the theme: “The Hohenzollerns are given to us by God for wisdom and for justice and for sanctification and for salvation.” So his friend Christian Geyer’s offer to take up a pastorate in Nürnberg fell on good ground. But the church leadership did not want to see him in Nürnberg. So he went to Regensburg (December 1918). Even though the people in this southern German city were more accessible and open, church life again shaped itself in the old traditional forms. “I was obviously not yet in the right stream.” In 1921/22, the ‘Leimbach case’ occurred in the Bavarian Regional Church. Pastor Leimbach in Öttingen was a militant advocate of a radical-modern theology. Bavaria’s pastors were divided over him when he was to be suspended. Dr. Christian Geyer, at the head of about fifty modern-minded colleagues, took a six-month leave of absence. In view of the founding of The Christian Community, which Geyer helped to prepare, he hoped to be expelled from the church. This did not happen, and Geyer travelled back to Ansbach to the General Synod instead of Breitbrunn and Dornach.

August Pauli had known about anthroposophy for over a decade through his wife but had not found a special relationship with it. He, too, took a six-month leave of absence because of the Leimbach case. Initially, he had not heard about the preparations for the founding of The Christian Community. Now that he had time, the news came just in time. It became clear to him what had to happen, and he intensively studied the transcripts of the first two so-called ‘theology cycles,’ which Rudolf Steiner had held in the summer and autumn of 1921.

It is pointless to speculate about how many of the fifty progressive pastors around Christian Geyer would have found their way to The Christian Community if he had gone before them. Certainly not very many. It took a deeply personal decision. But August Pauli made this decision. He resigned from the church service for the second time and worked among the founders from the Breitbrunn meeting onward. “Even in my most recent and highest relationships, I bind myself to those who, like me, want to be bearers of the mission of Christ, which we do not receive as individuals, but as a community.”

Rudolf Steiner had explained to him that, actually, only two realizations were necessary for cooperation: That in Jesus, there lived more than a human being and that there must be a new liturgy. Vom Pfarrer der Landeskirche zum Priester der Christengemeinschaft [From Pastor of the National Church to Priest of The Christian Community] is the title of the book August Pauli published in 1928, in which he described the path traced here.

He had walked it in his own way, thoughtfully and thoroughly. The insight that the preaching ministry, as well as the people’s church, urgently needed renewal had already come in 1908, but then fourteen years had passed before he wanted to help build a new church of the future.

As full of pressing questions and deeply moved as the first part of his life had been, he then served the new mission steadily and straightforwardly in the congregation of The Christian Community in Munich, which he founded. In Munich, he began the new work with Gerhard Klein immediately after the ordinations in 1922. In November 1923, Gerhard Klein left Munich, and Hermann Heisler joined Pauli. Seven years younger, he had often taken his steps in life very similarly. But in temperament and style, there had hardly been a greater contrast among the founders of The Christian Community.

Hermann Heisler was a fiery speaker, but August Pauli was always thoughtful and calm, even taciturn, or even aloof, as a friend called it, but always balancing and forming the calming pole in the spiritual discussions of a community that was repeatedly subjected to severe tests.

Probably the most severe of these – besides the ban – was the conflict that broke out in 1933 through Gertrud Spoerri. Hermann Heisler came out sharply against her. August Pauli tried intensively to bring about a mediation. Finally, Friedrich Rittelmeyer travelled from Stuttgart and announced her leave of absence.

The exhilarating time of the beginning of all congregational work for The Christian Community had thus come to an end. The rising power of the National Socialists overshadowed all free spiritual life. Hermann Heisler had to give way to this. He had violated a ban imposed by those in power, and it was necessary for August Pauli to agree to his departure, even though the two men, so different from each other, had become close friends.

Of August Pauli’s two children, his son Reinhold, born in 1915, died in 1938 during a mountain hike at the ‘Totenkirchl’ in the Wilden Kaiser, east of Kufstein. This experience had deeply shaken August Pauli, and Hermann Heisler had been a strong support for him during this most difficult time.

The death of his son unleashed new abilities and possibilities in August Pauli. At almost seventy years of age, he opened his soul to his fellow human beings in radiant mildness, and the refined humor of old-age wisdom met his friends. From that time on, August Pauli was able to perceive clear experiences from beyond the threshold, from the so-called dead, with an alert daytime consciousness. With this ability, he was able to help many people in the following difficult years of prohibition and war.

After the Second World War, August Pauli was the patriarch of the reconstruction phase of the congregation in Munich. He had to cope with the death of his wife Elsbeth in 1955 and another crisis among his colleagues. But then, the almost ninety-year-old was able to experience the consecration of the new church in Munich’s Leopoldstraße, revered and celebrated by the whole congregation. He was rightly one of the few wearers of the golden ring and the title of ‘Archpriest,’ a distinction that has only been awarded to a few priests to this day.

On Christmas Eve 1958, weakness forced him into bed. He died on January 6, 1959. Thus his dying was at the same time a journey through the twelve holy nights and a full awakening to the spiritual reality on Epiphany, the day of the appearance of the light from above.


Alfred Heidenreich

Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz
By Rudolf F. Gaedeke published by Urach Haus
Translated by Rev. Cindy Hindes
Images sourced therefrom

Alfred Heidenreich, 1967

Alfred Heidenreich
January 17, 1898, Regensburg – March 11, 1969, Johannesburg

Alfred Heidenreich was the youngest Christian Community Lenker since its foundation, proposed by Rudolf Steiner, and recognized by the priesthood. On Rudolf Steiner’s advice, his priestly mission took him to England, later to America, South America, and finally to South Africa, where he died in Johannesburg during a journey. Of all the founders, he was, without doubt, the man with the widest horizon of experience, both geographically and spiritually. He had acquired a comprehensive knowledge of German-speaking and English-speaking intellectual history. He was a man of the world in the best sense, as Rudolf Steiner wished many representatives of anthroposophy to be. He had a perfect command of the English language and was equally successful as the editor of the English journal The Christian Community and as a speaker. A knowledgeable connoisseur of anthroposophy and an alert and sharp judge of contemporary events, he had appropriated the ideas and techniques of Rudolf Steiner’s social suggestions – as few in the circle of priests had done – and knew how to apply them masterfully. As a Lenker, and from 1938 on as an Oberlenker, he actively impulsed and shaped the development of the Christian Community for decades until his death.

Heidenreich, 1920

Alfred Heidenreich was born in Regensburg on the Danube on January 17, 1898, the fifth of six children. His father, Georg Jakob Heidenreich, was already 52 years old at his birth, a tax official whose ancestors had been expelled from the Austrian Waldviertel (Heidenreichstein) as Protestants. His four siblings were older than him by a wide margin. His mother Henriette was a née Dannheimer.

The boy attended elementary school from 1904 and, in September 1908, at the age of ten, passed the entrance examination to the Royal Old (humanistic) Gymnasium, which had once been founded by Albertus Magnus. The old imperial city of Regensburg stimulated many historical interests in the very tender boy. For years he went daily past the famous Scots Church of St. James, a direct reminder of the (second) Irish mission to the continent. The old monastery of St. Emmeran, the Romanesque churches, the Gothic cathedral with the jewel of the All Saints Chapel, the stone bridge over the Danube that has been preserved from the Hohenstaufen period, the old patrician towers, and the remains of the Roman city – these are all living witnesses of two thousand years of history that deeply impressed the boy.
And soon, his father especially liked to take the son Alfred with him on his lonely hikes in the city’s beautiful surroundings. Since then, Alfred Heidenreich had been a companionable or also solitary hiker and mountaineer throughout his life.

Schooling consisted primarily of language instruction: first Latin, then Greek, French, and finally Italian as an optional subject. Apart from mathematics and mathematical physics, there were no scientific subjects – a classical education for the ‘ivory tower elite,’ in which the educated bourgeoisie largely lived, without real contact with the emerging problems of the time. Alfred was at the head of the class. When he went off to war in the fall of 1916 with an early school-leaving certificate – Abitur – he had already been an active Wandervogel guide for years on behalf of the elders who had become soldiers before him. Apart from the encounter with two teachers, there was no humanly significant experience at school. It was quite different in the community life of the youth movement.

With his Lutheran Confirmation, his interest in religion and church had ceased. Alfred was attached to his family, parents, and siblings but always felt strange, different. The “Dignity and Security of Officialdom,” which his three brothers also entered, repelled him. But he was also – in an inner way – alien to himself, a homeless soul. Alfred Heidenreich described all this in detail, first in the magazine “The Christian Community” and later in his book about the founding of the Christian Community (Growing Point, 1965; German:  Aufbruch, Stuttgart 2000).


On October 18, 1913, on the Hohe Meißner, near Kassel, the now famous meeting of many free youth alliances had taken place, which summarized their thoughts and their will in the Meißner Formula: “Young people want to shape their lives out of their own determination, before their own responsibility, with inner truthfulness” (see Fritz Blättner, Geschichte der Pädagogik).

Alfred Heidenreich, who joined the leadership of the youth movement at the beginning of the war, later felt this formula to be an essence of what Rudolf Steiner had worked out in his Philosophy of Freedom, just not philosophically formulated but clearly felt.

At eighteen and a half, he had to leave the familiar and beloved world of his birthplace and the Wandervogel life. The brutal events of the war dragged the young man into the material battles of Ypres and later into English captivity on the north coast of France. He had to endure extremely severe humiliations at the hands of the English, which affected him deeply.

He was released in the fall of 1919 after an English guard showed him the white chalk cliffs of Dover on a clear day across the channel, “There, England!” which Alfred Heidenreich always remembered as a first hint of destiny.

At the end of October, he began studying national economics in Munich. Of course, the days off at the beginning of November were used for a trip to the Wendelstein. The group had to divide, and some of them followed.

On November 2, 1919, Marta Heimeran and Alfred Heidenreich met in the small train station in Bayrischzell, and both later described that this first meeting had been a deep recognition for them. A lifelong struggle for common ground began.

In the summer semester of 1920, they both stayed in Rostock, but there was more hiking than studying, so they separated for the winter semester of 1920/21. Marta Heimeran went to Tübingen, Alfred Heidenreich back to Munich. In March 1921, the ‘Open Anthroposophical University Course’ took place in Stuttgart. Rudolf Steiner gave eight lectures on Observation of Nature, Mathematics, Scientific Experimentation, and the Results of Knowledge from the Point of View of Anthroposophy (today in GA 324). Marta Heimeran sent a program of the meeting to Alfred Heidenreich, who had no plans to travel there, with the handwritten remark, “So you know what you’re missing.” Thereupon Alfred Heidenreich decided to go after all. He experienced Rudolf Steiner’s course as a “complete inner upheaval.” During those Stuttgart days, he expressed, “If I stay to the end, I will become an anthroposophist.” So it happened.

Only a few months later, at the Stuttgart Congress in the summer of 1921, the memorable meeting between Rudolf Steiner and members of the youth movement also took place (September 4, 1921). Heidenreich was the spokesperson for the group. Today, this and other encounters are documented in volume 217a of Steiner’s works, Die Erkenntnisaufgabe der Jugend (The Cognitive Task of Youth). The youth movement was and is not only judged positively. Rudolf Steiner, for example, also characterized the wandering instinct as something pathological (GA 318). But he also said of the impulses of the new generation that they were a “hopeful movement of time” (GA 239) because, in these impulses, something drove toward clarifying the fact that every human being has already once, several times been a human being on earth.

Heidenreich’s first work

Alfred Heidenreich now grasped this thought with all the vigor of his soul: anthroposophy is the real goal of the youth movement. This was the purpose of his first essay in the journal Die Drei (Volume I, Heft 8), founded on Rudolf Steiner’s 60th birthday, and then of his first work, Jugendbewegung und Anthroposophie (Youth Movement and Anthroposophy, 1922), in which it says at the beginning: “Anthroposophy is something for young, youthful people, and it is bitter to see how what belongs together in its deepest essence does not come together” (p. 8). Printed in an edition of 5000 copies, it was soon out of print.

From this realization, Heidenreich, together with Wilhelm Kelber, then became a founder and editor of the first anthroposophical youth publication, Der Pfad (1924-1930). (Its editorship soon passed into other hands. In 1930 the journal became the victim of the tragic developments of the General Anthroposophical Society). However, his will became effective, and there were attempts to present anthroposophy in a youth-oriented way for the age of about 17-28 years – a concern that Rudolf Steiner assigned as the task of the Youth Section of the School of Spiritual Science and to which he developed many ideas. September 4, 1921, when the attempt was made in Stuttgart to adapt the Anthroposophical Society to the development of anthroposophy and its practical effects in cultural life, Alfred Heidenreich appeared and said: “If I have asked to speak as a young person, I would like to make an announcement in all modesty. We anthroposophists who have emerged from the youth movement have met during the congress in a number of meetings and have realized that we have special tasks in our mediating position between the youth movement and anthroposophy. We have realized that it is not only our duty to bring anthroposophy to the youth movement, but that it is also our duty to put our young forces at the service of anthroposophy, and that a corresponding activity can result from this” (Mitteilungen des Zentralvorstandes, No. 1, p. 18; in GA 217a, p. 236). Rudolf Steiner considered this appearance as “epoch-making within the history of our anthroposophical movement…. “(op. cit.). In the summer semester preceding these events, Alfred Heidenreich studied in Tübingen. He met, with Marta Heimeran, many a future colleague in the group that called itself ‘Saturn Ring’. One of them, Tom Kändler, and Ludwig Köhler from the anthroposophical student group went to the first course for young theologians in Stuttgart during this time. What was going on there, they asked themselves.

From the fall of 1920 Alfred Heidenreich had become an anthroposophist within half a year. This was

Heidenreich’s cosmopolitan impulse expressed in the subtitle: The English World Church Plans and the Religious World Task of the German Spirit.

the same period that he had intended to use for a study visit to England but which had not come about. The next half year brought the decision to do something for anthroposophy, to participate in the work of religious renewal. He took part in the Autumn Course for theologians in Dornach (September 26 – October 10) and then completed the winter semester. During this time he wrote his aforementioned paper and, as a guest of the Heisler family in Tübingen, worked on his philological-historical doctoral thesis on the Altaich sermon books during the summer semester of 1922. It comprised almost three hundred pages and was typed for him by the fellow student Jutta Frentzel (see p. 413 ff.).

Of course, in the spring he had also participated in the dramatic first meeting of the founders in Berlin, where he belonged to the group of people who not only admired Emil Bock, but were also critical of him. Then followed the weeks in Breitbrunn am Ammer See. His sermon in the forest about “Bread and Wine” always remained in his colleagues’ memory. They met in the stable; they lived by the lake; they were united for a great task. So they went together to Dornach. Rudolf Steiner, who had advised so comprehensively in two courses, now became the helper, the midwife of the common will to celebrate again and again the renewed sacraments, as mediators of present Christ-activity.

On September 16, 1922, Alfred Heidenreich was ordained to the priesthood by Friedrich Rittelmeyer within the first Act of Consecration and became the youngest Lenker of the priesthood. On September 20, he celebrated the Act of Consecration for the first time in the circle of founders at the first Goetheanum. In Breitbrunn, Marta Heimeran and Alfred Heidenreich had already told the co-founders of their intention to marry at some point. It was not until two years later that Alfred Heidenreich addressed the fundamental question to Rudolf Steiner as to whether two ordained priests could marry. “They must only conduct the marriage in such a way that their priestly dignity is preserved,” was his answer. Marta Heimeran drove from Dornach back to Ulm, where the prepared circle was waiting for her. On the first Sunday of Advent, she celebrated the first Act of Consecration there. Alfred Heidenreich was her server because he had not yet moved out to work in a congregation but was still taking his oral exams in the winter of 1922/23.

In 1923 Alfred Heidenreich began to form his congregation in Frankfurt/Main. He asked all anthroposophists not to join it for two years until it had consolidated itself within itself. A solid working friendship developed with Hermann Poppelbaum, later the first Chairman of the General Anthroposophical Society. Soon the young doctoral student in biology, Johannes Hemleben, was won over for the priesthood.

Marta Heimeran went from Ulm to Frankfurt as early as 1923 and from January 1924 onwards for good so that the development work there could be carried out jointly until their marriage in 1929. From the beginning, Alfred Heidenreich managed his regional lenkership in the whole area of West Germany between Darmstadt and the Ruhr area, later including Holland, until he moved to England.

He wrote essays and reviews already in the first volume of the journal Tatchristentum und Christengemeinschaft. In 1928, he published the booklet Im Angesicht des Schicksals (In the Face of Destiny) in the series Christus aller Erde (Christ of All the Earth) edited by Friedrich Doldinger. And, of course, he was a co-organizer and speaker at the many large conferences that drew public attention to The Christian Community throughout Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

Alfred Heidenreich described himself as a person who was not naturally religious. All the more intensively, he immersed himself as a pastor in anthroposophy because it even – also – has a religious effect. Thus it was he who, in the first years during the priests’ conferences, proved to be an expert, especially on Rudolf Steiner’s so-called theology courses. He was kindly mocked as ‘bible-strong.’ Later, others tried to emulate him and always learned much, even by taking Rudolf Steiner’s words literally, if not dogmatically.

Alfred Heidenreich and Marta Heimeran married on September 9, 1929, after a difficult inner struggle. They were married by Friedrich Rittelmeyer a few weeks after they had finished their work as founders in Frankfurt and had begun their work in England. From the summer weeks in July and August 1924, during which both had listened to Rudolf Steiner’s karma lectures in Dornach and during which he had granted them a series of personal conversations, they had received, among other things, the clear hint that the work of The Christian Community would have to be carried to England and America in the coming years.

Now, for a second time, they began to actualize their priestly task starting from nothing and in another language at that. The texts of the Act of Consecration and of all the other rituals had to be translated, for which Cecil Harwood gave them important help. Thus, on June 27, 1929, in the small English seaside town of Lancing, where they completed this work as guests in peace and quiet, the first Act of Consecration in English could be celebrated. Subsequently, the congregation was formed from London. It was Heidenreich’s concern to establish many contacts with other churches and communities.

He did not want The Christian Community to be understood with the claim to absoluteness of the right, new church, but rather as a “leaven” that also brings about many things in others. He had to cope with the special problem that many concerns of The Christian Community, which had emerged from anthroposophy and the German-speaking spiritual life, were to be linked to the English spiritual heritage. He did not want a German (spiritual) colony in England, but an English Christian Community. In other words, He felt like Paul, who did not want to impose Judaism, from which Christianity had arisen, on the nascent Christians of other nations. In his colleagues on the continent in Central Europe, he had found very little understanding for it at that time. In part, they saw it as a decline of the primordial impulse.

Heidenreich, 1937

He succeeded to the point that already two years later, three English priests could be ordained. Until the war, three more personalities were ordained.

Together with Friedrich Rittelmeyer and Eduard Lenz – and after Friedrich Rittelmeyer’s death in 1938 with Erwin Schühle – Alfred Heidenreich traveled repeatedly from London to Berlin after the banning of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany from 1935 to 1939 to negotiate with those in power in order to prevent the banning of The Christian Community, which was not actually carried out until June 9, 1941.

The relationship with England became even more difficult when Alfred Heidenreich, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, after a vacation in Tyrol, left Marta Heimeran-Heidenreich and their son behind because she did not want to come with him yet. After completing a conference in Holland, at literally the last minute, he was able to return to England. There, strangely enough, he was not interned, and finally, after the end of the war, when he had become stateless, he accepted British citizenship. After Friedrich Rittelmeyer’s death in 1938, Alfred Heidenreich had become Oberlenker. Now he lived in England with four English priests who had meanwhile been found. There, and in Switzerland, Holland, Norway, and Sweden, The Christian Community remained active during the Second World War and its prohibition in Germany. In London, Alfred Heidenreich was even able to ordain three more Englishmen as priests in 1944.

After the war, a continuation of his community of life with Marta Heimeran was no longer possible.

In 1948, with his help, The Christian Community was founded in North America, later in South America (1956), and finally in South Africa (1965). Alfred Heidenreich was a leader in all this work and travel. He worked as a recognized anthroposophical speaker, as a helper to Karl König in the Camphill movement, and was appointed to a leading role as a member of the board of the English  The first chapel in London

Anthroposophical National Society. With his help, it was also possible to run a seminary for priests in Shalesbrook for several years. In 1965 Marta Heimeran died in Arlesheim/Switzerland. Four years later, at the age of seventy-one, on March 11, 1969, Alfred Heidenreich died during a trip for The Christian Community in Johannesburg. His English co-workers had already worked out that The Christian Community could one day be founded in Australia and New Zealand, which has since happened.

Thus we observe the worldwide radius that Alfred Heidenreich’s thinking and activity had assumed on behalf of the movement for religious renewal. In the times when Central Europe in our twentieth century was led into bondage, war, and hardship, it was a particularly sacrificial pioneering act to introduce the religious renewal emanating from Central Europe into the English-speaking world, into other continents. The Christian Community will probably only be able to appreciate in the future what has been achieved by Alfred Heidenreich and his collaborators. This will initially be done through the book by Christian Maclean, Pioneers of Religious Renewal, Edinburgh 2016.


I hereby declare my decision to serve to the best of my ability a religious renewal by founding a free Christian congregation on the foundations imparted by Dr. Steiner. I want to begin my direct activity at the moment which the community of co-workers considers to be given according to the authoritative advice of Dr. Steiner. The realization of the necessity of this decision has made doubts about my suitability and worthiness recede, although, for the moment, I can only consider myself capable of founding a free Christian congregation and presiding over it as a preacher but not worthy of being the bearer of the cultus given to us. To acquire this worthiness through inner work is still my endeavor.

March 4, 1922 Alfred Heidenreich


Friedrich Leopold Doldinger

December 2,1897, Radolfzell – September 2, 1973, Freiburg

From Die Gründer der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz, by Rudolf Gädeke
Translated by Rev. Cindy Hindes


From his ordination on September 16, 1922, Friedrich Doldinger worked as one of the most prominent personalities of the original circle. For more than fifty years, he was pastor in the congregation he founded in Freiburg im Breisgau and was Lenker of the congregations in Baden. None of the first four Lenkers and three Oberlenkers held office for so long. None of the other often-so-called original priests worked exclusively in one parish for more than half a century, from the very first day.

The sacraments of the Catholic Church instilled a special piety in Friedrich Doldinger as a child. Already as the first pupil in the class of the Realgymnasium, he proved his scientific abilities and his exact thinking; from childhood onwards, he lived actively in the arts, writing poetry, painting, and making music.

Religion, science, and art lived in unique harmony in him. He was, however, not without powerful obstacles due to his descent from a Catholic-Alemannic family, his extremely fine sensitivity, and a persistently very weak constitution. He was a man both revered and controversial as hardly any of his colleagues. He still lives clearly in the memory of many people: a medium-sized figure, fine limbs, a splendid head, usually tilted slightly to one side and a little forward, as if listening, a pained smile, a gaze at once penetrating and yet as if dreaming. In earlier years, he was always mistaken for a girl, or a woman.

He was hardly ever seen without a scarf around his neck, at any time of the year, and rarely without a cap on his head, like the ones motorcyclists used to wear. Once he had pulled it off with an energetic gesture, his hair stood out like flames in all directions. The first five decades of The Christian Community’s life were shaped by him in a special way.

Their third son, Friedrich Leopold was born to the Catholic postal clerk couple Willibald and Walburga Doldinger. He grew up with his two older brothers, Alfred and Walter. As a child, he regularly went to church and then to the lake with a view over to the island of Reichenau. Later he wrote about the end of his 14th year: “… that everything traditionally ceremonial without the content of the good spirit is repugnant to me. I realized this at the age of fourteen when I turned away from the Catholic Church”.

He ruptured his lung while swimming. As a result, he had to miss school for half a year. Later, he had a gymnastics accident.

His father was transferred to Freiburg in Breisgau. There, Friedrich attended the Realgymnasium and found, to his own surprise, that he was usually first in his class and also ‘very good’ in painting. He read a lot and was an avid user of the town library. He was particularly impressed by the sagas of the gods, the Germanic heroic sagas, and the Edda. He did much of this reading in seclusion on the grounds of the “Old Cemetery.” Through a woman friend who gave him a picture of the Sistine Madonna and one of Michael fighting the dragon, the sixteen-year-old had his first contact with anthroposophy in 1913. Mrs. Woebken took him to Stuttgart for a lecture by Rudolf Steiner, where Friedrich Doldinger was also introduced to him. However, he did not like the lecturer’s energetic manner of speaking.

A heart defect saved him from military service in the First World War. Ever since his confirmation, he had fainting spells and attacks of weakness, such that he fell down as if lifeless. Breathing exercises increased such conditions even more. He had to stay away from school for three-quarters of a year. How he loved the holiday visits to relatives in Radolfzell and Überlingen am See and the visits to Uncle Alfred, who was a district court judge in Karlsruhe and once showed him Rudolf Steiner’s Occult Science with the remark: “Nonsense personified.”

At eighteen, he passed an external Abitur in Ettenheim with an excellent essay, the subject of which we, unfortunately, do not know. Now he felt more free. His parents and brothers did not look too favorably on his ambitions. He read anthroposophical books! How To Know Higher Worlds? and the Mystery Dramas! Why hadn’t this been given to him earlier? That was something for his artistic soul. He met Mrs. Anna Wolffhügel with her three children, whose husband, later a Waldorf teacher, was in the field.

In the winter semester of 1916/17, he began his studies, which he completed exclusively in Freiburg for health reasons, as he was always ill to the point of endangering his life and dependent upon his mother’s care. He absorbed knowledge from experimental physics to literature and philosophy to musicology.

In 1921, he wrote his doctoral thesis in literature: Die Jugendentwicklung Friedrich Heinrich Jacobis bis zum Allwil-Fragment in ihrer Beziehung zur Gesamt-Entwicklung [The Development of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi’s Youth up to the Allwil-Fragment in its Relationship to the Overall Development]. It was highly acclaimed by Edmund Husserl. His second subject was musicology.

It is still to be reported from the years of study that Friedrich Doldinger had to stay in Munich for several months in 1918 in order to undergo treatment by Marie Ritter, the inventor of the ‘Ritter Mittel.’ During this time he met Albert Steffen, Ernst Uehli, Otto Graf Lerchenfeld, Frau Harriet von Vacano and, in Breitbrunn am Ammersee, Margareta Morgenstern and Michael Bauer. All were well-known members of the Anthroposophical Society at that time.

In the following year, he was already actively involved in Freiburg through lectures and discussions to spread the idea of the threefold social order. He published works in the Waldorf Nachrichten (e.g. “Hubertus,” Volume II, p. 416, or “Der Sänger,” Volume III, p. 160).

Then his study and reading evenings formed the center of a circle that later became a local group of the Anthroposophical First Class work. He himself did not speak much, was mostly silent, and always seemed somewhat embarrassed; he liked to play something on the piano or recite poetry. But he could also forcefully express his views — he called himself an uncomfortable “truth-teller” — which won him many admirers and some opponents.

In May 1920, Johanna Otto, his future wife, met him for the first time in this circle. We have a detailed chronicle of his life from her (privately duplicated). According to her own judgment, she was an “absolutely emotional person.” “He was spirit – I was pure soul.” She was his ardent admirer, fifteen years his senior, energetic and caring. Her husband gave Doldinger money, a bicycle, and a typewriter. She was, as she herself writes, always ill, irreligious, and melancholic to depressive. They went on a short trip to Lake Constance together, both as if dreaming.

In the autumn of 1920, the first anthroposophical First Class course took place in Dornach to mark the opening of the Goetheanum building. Of course Friedrich Doldinger was there. Johanna also traveled with him. It was the colored windows in the building and the eurythmy that most captivated Friedrich Doldinger.

In 1921 his doctoral thesis was finished, typed by Johanna. Friedrich Doldinger published his first essay in the newly founded journal Die Drei on the “Weg zur Wirklichkeit bei Goethe und Steiner” (The Path to Reality in Goethe and Steiner) and edited the verse epic by Julius Mosen “Ritter Wahn” with his own introduction at the publishing house Der Kommende Tag.

At that time, Tom Kändler, a theology student from Tübingen, visited him in Freiburg in the summer and told him about the preparations for work on religious renewal and the first course (June course) that Rudolf Steiner had just held. This would be continued in the autumn. Rudolf Steiner himself had drawn attention to Friedrich Doldinger and thought he should be invited.

From the ‘Autumn Course’ in 1921 on, Friedrich Doldinger was a member of the founder’s circle. It was difficult for him to explain his professional will to his parents: But he was always able to go his own way. He was not a fighter but an absolute individualist.

From Dr. Hermann Heisler’s financial collections, each founder was to be paid three thousand marks to start work. The value of the money dwindled daily due to inflation.

In Breitbrunn am Ammersee the circle stayed as guests of Michael Bauer and Margareta Morgenstern. They met daily in an empty cowshed to prepare for the foundation in Dornach. Friedrich Doldinger sat in the sun at the open door under an umbrella and took notes. Even then, he seemed to some like a figure from Spitzweg’s pictures. Was he actually listening to the discussions? His paper on the Templars, however, quickly dispelled the impression of a dreaming poet.

Then they sailed together across the Ammersee, then across Lake Constance into Switzerland to Dornach. Rudolf Steiner received the circle and helped it to form itself as a priesthood of the consciousness soul age. This included the new kind of hierarchy of the community, and through his advice, Doldinger was acknowledged as one of the first four Lenkers.

In Freiburg, after the founding days in Dornach, all the preparations were made; a room was rented, a circle of people was officially confirmed as the first members before the Act of Consecration could be celebrated on December 3, 1922.

The Freiburg Community Chronicle and the records of Johanna Doldinger describe in detail the development of community life year by year. Friedrich Doldinger immediately began to travel in his area of influence, which included Baden and Switzerland. He held lectures and musical-poetic celebrations throughout the area. From a distance, he witnessed the Goetheanum fire on New Year’s Eve 1922/23. During the 1923/24 Christmas Conference, he was present in Dornach as far as his priestly duties allowed. Friedrich Doldinger had done much for the Anthroposophical Society. Rudolf Steiner is said to have asked him if a house for the Anthroposophical Society together with The Christian Community could be built in Freiburg.

On May 8, 1924, Hermann Beckh officiated at the wedding of the Doldinger couple.

Rudolf Steiner asked him by telegraph to hold the funeral of his collaborator Edith Maryon in Basel on  May 6, 1924. When Friedrich Doldinger enquired by telephone about the course of events, he received the clarifying reply: “You perform the rite for the deceased; the rite must precede; and then I come and speak of the special circumstances of her life, which in this case were anthroposophical.”

The autumn weeks of 1924 brought the culmination of Rudolf Steiner’s lecturing activities. Friedrich Doldinger took part in everything: Drama Course, Karma Lectures, Classes at the School, Apocalypse Lectures for the Priesthood, Pastoral Medicine Course. Johanna Doldinger was accepted by Rudolf Steiner into the School: “You are the lady who creates The Christian Community together with Doctor Doldinger in Freiburg; continue to be a worthy member of the Society!”

Rudolf Steiner died on March 30, 1925. The Doldinger couple attended the funeral service in the hall of the carpenter’s workshop, which included a composition by Friedrich Doldinger.

Christ of All Earth, vol. 13, 1925

He earned great merit for the movement as a whole from 1923 onwards, when he published a series of small volumes under the title Christ of All Earth, with his own single volume design, which announced the spiritual-pious attitude that The Christian Community wanted to generate. With thirty-nine titles by 1940, these writings went out into the world by the tens of thousands and found their receptive readers. In the journal Tatchristentum, which after a year was called The Christian Community, he was involved with contributions from the beginning. Many other writings were created by him, well over thirty works. But it was as a speaker and festival organizer that he was most effective until his old age.

The large conferences were an important element in the early days of The Christian Community. Friedrich Doldinger was involved in almost all of them. In 1926 he himself organized a conference in Freiburg with the theme “Christ – Gospel – Church.” Doldinger always performed dramatic scenes he had written and rehearsed himself, played his own compositions, and showed paintings; artistic activity was the element that inspired many people around him to join in. He loved improvisation, not only on the piano but also in drawing, making small things out of any material but also in speaking, and performing. Most of what he created and did was done on the spur of the moment. Only conferences and journeys were planned in the long term.

“Gloria” one of hundreds of Freidrich Doldinger drawings

His wife was a strict judge. After a lecture, she could audibly call from the back row: “Friedrich, that was cultural salad.” But she was also his constant companion.

Gottfried Husemann was somewhat involved in Doldinger’s Freiburg congregation during a convalescence period in 1927/28. The two were very similar in many ways: outwardly often sickly, spiritually open and stimulating, very musical, but with an easily offended sensibility. One was a choleric Westphalian, the other a melancholic, gruff Alemanni. One can guess how difficult it was for the two of them to live with each other throughout their lives. For both, the spontaneous personal will for freedom took precedence over all the necessary order of a community.

Doldinger had a hard time with ‘Stuttgart,’ with the movement leadership, to which he himself belonged. It was not in him to hold meetings or attend conferences, although he took his leadership responsibility very seriously. He had to be effective himself and did so intensively for fifty years. For him, the source was the lived unity of knowledge, art, and religion. When he once thought it necessary, he wrote to all his colleagues: “If a strong and heartfelt devotion to anthroposophy were cultivated among us, exhortations to conscientiousness would be superfluous, as would the need for slogan-like declarations of will.”

He was allowed to travel extensively: In 1937, three months in Finland, earlier stays in Italy, then France with Paris and Chartres, and later, after the war, several times in Sweden and England. He loved to travel, despite all his settledness in Freiburg. As early as 1931, he was given a tiny car for his business trips. He always had friends and patrons but suffered greatly from those who were not well-disposed towards him.

From 1936 onwards, the ‘Midwinter Week’ in Freiburg and the days around the Day of Repentance and Prayer in Bremen were part of his fixed annual schedule. After the war, the meetings at the Hardthof on Lake Bonn were added. He cultivated all these activities over the decades.

Facsimile of Doldinger’s Memorandum 1922

When The Christian Community was banned in 1941, he registered with Professor Weismann to study composition and piano playing. He gave piano lessons and had more than twenty students. During the war, he wrote his Mozart book, which ran into six editions and has been reprinted by a renowned publisher. “I worked through a solid meter of literature for it!” he had commented on it.

Of his compositions, the Good Friday music, the ‘Kassel music,’ the choirs, especially the baptismal choir, the string quartets, and the songs and movements for the Act of Consecration must be remembered.

After the war, 1948-1950, the small construction of a church was possible on Goethestraße 67a, where the congregation regrouped after the time of the war and had its center for decades. It is unforgettable how Friedrich Doldinger improvised on the harmonium before the service!

Still to be mentioned are the two North German Conferences in the summer of 1949 at Sternberg Castle/Lippe and in 1950 at Schloss Vahrenholz on the Weser, which made it possible for a larger circle to experience his works and the intensive life of the Bremen community and its youth circle with Friedrich Doldinger.

More than two decades of intensive work followed. This is a miracle in view of his persistently weak health, and only possible because of the glowing fire in his spirit and will that he forged. In his old age, many smiled at him as an oddball. It was not easy for colleagues who nevertheless, needed to work with him.

It will certainly take some time before we rediscover much of Friedrich Doldinger’s work. However, there was one quality he had that everyone experienced: humor! At the beginning of a lecture during a conference in Hamburg—the hall was merely partitioned off in an exhibition hall— it was loud. People shouted for him to speak louder; he replied: “I don’t speak louder; you have to be quieter.” He is said to have once preached to his confirmands:  “One gets by in life with relatively few sins. Yes, so be it.”

He died on September 2, 1973, after a life full of physical and mental suffering, from which he always extracted a transfiguration that shines in the words: “Christ of All Earth.”






Johannes Perthel – September 9, 1888 – July 20, 1944

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


As far as his friends are concerned, Johannes Perthel was called away far too early from his life and his work for The Christian Community. He had the peculiar destiny of dying during the bombing of Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance while he was vacationing there.

There was something difficult hanging over his destiny, but those in his circle, particularly his colleagues, treasured the radiant humanness that he had wrested from his life.

The way he himself described it was that from childhood on he kept experiencing and feeling himself as not quite an outsider, but still as someone else. He went his own way.

Born on September 6, I888, in Leukersdorf/Erzgebirge, he grew up in a very strict orthodox parish house. School aroused inner opposition. He had no friends there. Already in primary school he wrote in an essay saying that he wanted to become a pastor. After graduation, he studied liberal theology. He literally had to wrangle permission from this orthodox father to spend the semester in “liberal” Marburg.

He quarreled constantly with his father during semester breaks at home. His mother said nothing. Johannes became increasingly withdrawn. New forces needed to be extracted from orthodoxy and family tradition.

He became a member of the national and anti-Semitic “German Student Association.” Then, at 22, he wrote a favorable factual assessment of a lecture by the Jewish Social Democrat, Bernstein for the association’s magazine. Once again, he had shocked his friends.

Johannes Perthel had passed his theology exam before the First World War. He fulfilled his one-year mandatory military service; during that time, however, he struggled with an internal conflict that caused him to withdraw from an officer candidate’s course after the first 6 months. Once again, he was totally misunderstood.

After the war had begun, an inner sense of duty – he had just become a pastor – made him call on his colleagues in Saxony to take up arms for the fatherland. His best friend answered this call and died in service shortly thereafter. Johannes Perthel himself was not called up and was used as a field chaplain only for the last year and a half of the war. He found this to be an impossible task both inwardly and outwardly, but he gained a great deal of important insight into the destinies of soldiers.

In May 1915, Johannes Perthel married Mechthild Grohmann, the sister of the famous Goethean botanist Gerbert Grohmann. The couple had three children.

It seems typical for Perthel that, after his time as auxiliary pastor, he chose a pastorate that required a pioneer spirit. The small Saxon mining town of Oberwürschnitz, between Zwickau and Chemnitz, had just become an independent parish. There was neither church, nor community room, nor parish house, nor congregation. Perthel reported humorously about how he pulled off a parish house and community room. The congregation, however, just would not form. The locals were largely closed, hard-working miners.

Johannes Perthel now attempted to bridge the gulf between the working world and church. He became a member of the Social Democratic Party, again shocking his colleagues, friends, and family. Even harder to swallow, however, was the realization that the gap between workers and church was not bridgeable, even though the Social Democratic pastor was now often invited to give lectures by the Saxon workers.

The most valuable experience in all this was the complete inner freedom from all previous obligations, for a pastor as a Social Democrat was treated like a leper in his social class.

It was under these circumstances that a friend introduced him to a young man from the youth movement, presenting him as the representative of a new world view (Weltanschauung). It was the spring of 1920, the same time that the very first request went to Rudolf Steiner for a new religious practice.

Johannes Perthel and his wife purchased Rudolf Steiner’s “Basic Issues of the Social Question” and “How to Know Higher Worlds.” Understanding what was written there came only gradually, but was inspirational. Later, Johannes Perthel would have to suffer a severe shock to the system from this first go-between to anthroposophy, but now the first step had been made. He met Rudolf Steiner in Chemnitz and learned about the preparations for religious renewal.

From this moment on, Johannes Perthel knew that he wanted to join in the work. It was soon very obvious to him that the renewals Rudolf Steiner had proposed to the circle of founders would find no place in the existing church. He wished to work establishing independent congregations in the Ore Mountains. This became clear to him during inner wrestling in the fall of 1921, when he was attending the theological course in Dornach. According to his own telling, it was thanks to his wife, who was with him in Dornach, and the construction of the first Goetheanum that he was able to overcome “the intellect man” (Kopfmensch), as he called it. The large columns of the Goetheanum hall, each different and yet emerging from and connected with one another: This sense impression helped decisively.

Johannes Perthel gave up his parish in 1922 and was later present for the preparatory weeks in Breitbrunn. During the actual founding deeds in 1922, Rudolf Steiner himself suggested Perthel for a lenker position. And so, on September 16th, 1922, he was ordained as a priest by Friedrich Rittelmeyer during the first Act of Consecration of the Human Being.

He then established the congregation in Leipzig with Rudolf Frieling, and from there he supervised as lenker the founding of congregations in Saxony, Thüringen, and Silesia. He worked in Breslau from 1926, through the 30s, and up until the ban of The Christian Community in 1941. He numbered among the seven leading figures of the priest circle from the very beginning and, as such, he played a significant role until the ban in building up and initially forming The Christian Community.

On June 9th, 1941, Johannes Perthel participated in the lenker meeting in Erlangen as the ban came into effect. His two daughters in Breslau came under intense pressure from the Gestapo. They were forbidden to inform their brother in the field. Johannes Perthel rode out the time of the ban as a bookkeeper for the company of a Breslau congregation member.

He is not known for writing anything of great length. However, from the first issue of the magazine first called “Tatchristentum,” his articles and reports appeared every year, as well as in the “messages” for the members, which he issued as of 1936.

Johannes Perthel worked as a lecturer, particularly during the large conferences that took place at that time throughout Germany, often several times a year. But it was primarily his humanity, won through much suffering, that earned him great respect and thanks in the priest circle and among all members.

In the summer of 1944, Johannes Perthel was staying in Oberstaufen in the Allgäu visiting Elfriede Straub, the unforgettable congregation helper from first Breslau, then Stuttgart. From there, he wanted to visit his sister-in-law, the wife of Gerbert Grohmann, as well as Marta Heimeran, in Horn on Lake Constance. As the train pulled into the station at Friedrichshafen on July 20th, 1944, there was an air raid alarm. All the passengers had to leave the train for a nearby aboveground air raid shelter. The shelter received a direct hit, which no one survived. Days later, Elfriede Straub searched for her missing guest in Friedrichshafen. In a laundry basket at the police station, she found Johannes Perthel’s passport, riddled with holes. His memorial stone is found in a large community burial site. He was torn out of life without knowing that his son had preceded him, falling in the field in Russia on July 13th.


Oberwürschnitz, 21 February 1922

It seems clear to me from recent experiences that bringing about religious renewal within the [established] church in the sense we mean will be impossible. To remain viable in the present, and faced with inner emptiness, the church is forced to shift more and more into outer forms. In the process, it must enclose itself in a protective shell that will render it impenetrable to all new impulses coming from outside. Furthermore, the people we need to reach today are not to be found in church. On the contrary, one gets the impression that we are not doing the people who come to church today any favors if we let the new spiritual impulse flow into the sermon. As people who still somehow draw strength from the past, they also want to be uplifted by the past. So, in the long run, we ultimately do ourselves and them no favor by chaining ourselves together.

Once we have recognized this, the moment must come sooner or later when the inner impossibility becomes an outer impossibility, and if the kind of religious activity we intend is still to have any value, it must take place outside the church in the formation of independent congregations.

Because of the enormous responsibility involved, it will no doubt be tempting to postpone this decision and to wait for stronger external relationships and greater inner readiness, but the decision must nevertheless be made at some point. Therefore, because there will have to be a decision and because the times require something, it would be good for this decision to be made today.

I thus declare myself ready to give up my parish when the time is right and help form independent congregations, my only request being that I be allowed to bring everything to some kind of conclusion by Easter.

When I think about where to work, it seems that it should be possible for me to work my way into the local mining community from neighboring Oelnitz, the center of the local suburbs. These people are finished with the past, and they do not have anything new yet. It would just be a matter of shaking them out of their apathy. They might be able to trust someone whom they just recently knew as a pastor.

I would be most grateful if Dr. Steiner could make the effort to unite us once again for an immediate introductory course.

-Johannes Perthel



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.


, ,

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