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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.

MEMORANDUM

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

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Christ In You.

The text of the Act of Consecration of Man consists of words that are like seed kernels that are waiting to sprout sooner or later. Some of those words and sentences are promises for the future that are expressed in the form of a possibility. Sometimes the verb is even missing so that it does not become clear whether it is a wish, a petition, or reality: “Christ in you.” What does it mean? Is He in us? Or are we asking Him to dwell in us? Or are we called to give Him a dwelling place? Who is able to say of himself: Christ is in me?
“Our life is His creating life.” Has that come to manifestation in our daily life? We usually act as if our life is not His life but our own. Perhaps in a distant future, looking back from the highest standpoint, we will be able to acknowledge: Yes, our life was His creating life.
But that does not mean that we should meekly wait until that time perhaps comes. On the contrary, every day, every moment calls on us: can you make this day, this moment into His creating life? Can you even do that with the mind-numbing daily work that countless people have to perform in our time? Billions of people on earth have to work as insignificant links or as slaves of technology. When you ask them: “What are you doing it for?” the discouraging answer is usually: “I am doing it for the money.”
But also the most thankless, seemingly senseless work can make a contribution to life on earth, when we not only ask: What do you do? but also: How do you do it?
With everything we do Someone sees us—Someone Who wants to connect His creating life with every human life. His deepest longing is: I in you and you in Me. Everything we do we can do in the knowledge: I am doing it for the earth, for my brothers, for my sisters, for Him Who wants to live in us: Christ in us.

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, November 20, 2022

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The Thinking Heart

The Thinking Heart

We are living in a world in which we are used to keeping everything at a distance.  Admittedly, we are daily reminded of the misery of the world, but usually we don’t stop to think of it much.  When we have seen the daily news we go back to the order of the day.  After all, there is not much more we can do if we want to fulfill our daily obligations.  The only way to bridge this distance and still be able to do something at that distance is to take the misery of the world to heart, irrespective of the fact that we can actually do so little.  A master in this art was Etty Hillesum (1914-1943)* who, during the terrors of the Second World War, gave herself the task: “I want to be the thinking heart.  I would wish to be the thinking heart of a whole concentration camp.”  Her broken life is a witness of taking-to-heart, whereas outwardly she could do nothing for others. What do we then have left?  The thinking heart.

There is a moment in the Act of Consecration of Man that asks for taking the world to heart.  But usually at this culminating point of the service we are so busy with ourselves that we forget the rest of the world.  After all, it is the most intimate moment when we, each for herself or himself, receive the peace.  What kind of peace is that?

The Act of Consecration itself gives an answer, but we tend to forget this answer when we receive the peace of Christ.  For early in the Communion, He says: “This peace with the world can be with you also…”  In radical terms: His peace is not earmarked for me, but through me: for the world, with the world.  In the most precious moment of the Act of Consecration of Man, if we take the suffering, battling world to heart in our thinking, this world can briefly come to rest in us and find peace.

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, October 23, 2022.

* Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman in Holland who was picked up by the Nazis during World War II, spent time in the Dutch concentration camp and died in Auschwitz. She left a diary in which she recorded profound experiences.

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Let us…

In the first words of the Act of Consecration of Man a task is expressed that can stay with us for the rest of our life.  You can make a beginning with it when before the service you look around: with whom will we fulfill the Act of Consecration of Man?  Who are meant with the little word “us?”  Can I in some way take those present along in this great prayer?  That becomes more difficult when someone is present for whom we feel antipathy, or perhaps even worse than that.  But such a person also forms part of the Act of Consecration of Man.  Even for our enemies and for those who persecute us do we have the task to pray (Matthew 5:44).

In the course of the Act of Consecration the circle of the community with whom we pray opens out.  All Christians and all who have died may participate in the offering.  Whenever we feel together with a soul who has died, who offers with us on the other side of the threshold, we begin to experience that not only this one, but countless deceased souls want to participate in the altar service.  Even when a few people are praying, it may be “full” at the altar.  That is why the text of the Act of Consecration says: “… all who have died.”

In the last part the altar service opens itself once more for the word “us.”  The communion speaks not only about us the living, about Christians, and those who have died, but about the life of the world.  Eight times the word “world” sounds in this part.  The peace of Christ is meant for the life of the entire world.  The Act of Consecration of Man is so great that we can include everyone and everything in this prayer.  Christ does not want to redeem a small select group, but the whole world.  However, He cannot do this alone. Our Christian Community may in the coming century and centuries perhaps remain an insignificant small movement, but the Act of Consecration of Man can also in a community of a few persons grow to infinity.

Christ needs our prayer.  May the word “us” grow forever and encompass all—all who are present, all true Christians, all who have died, until eventually the world has become part of our prayer.  Thus we can help Him to bear and order the life of the world.

 

-Rv. Bastiaan Baan, October 2022

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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.”

 

 

 

 

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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.


Memorandum

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

 

ZOOM Workshop: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

ZOOM Workshop: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

,

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

 

MEMORANDUM
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.