Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz By Rudolf F. Gaedeke
Translated by Cindy Hindes
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 activities in Frankfurt, and Bodelschwingh’s 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!”
 Friedrich Naumann was a German liberal politician and Protestant parish pastor.
 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.
Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz By Rudolf F. Gaedeke
Translated by Cindy Hindes
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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