Conversations with Saul Bellow on Esoteric-Spiritual Matters: A Publisher’s Recollections
“The unending cycle of crises that began with the First World War has formed a kind of person, one who has lived through terrible, strange things, and in whom there is an observable shrinkage of prejudices, a casting off of disappointing ideologies, an ability to live with many kinds of madness, an immense desire for certain durable human goods—truth, for instance, or freedom, or wisdom. I don’t think I am exaggerating; there is plenty of evidence for this…. The intelligent public is…waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, social theory, and what it cannot hear from pure science. Out of the struggle…has come an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are, and what this life is for.” —Saul Bellow, Nobel Lecture, 1976
In 1975, Saul Bellow published his eighth novel, Humboldt’s Gift, in which the main protagonist is occupied with, among other things, the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Although the novel was an immediate success, winning a Pulitzer Prize and leading to Bellow’s Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976, the unapologetic presence of Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy in a work of such obvious cultural importance was, and remains, puzzling for many commentators. A sentence from one contemporary review of the novel is typical: “I am not clear whether Charlie’s devotion to Steiner’s Anthroposophy is one of Mr. Bellow’s more obscure jokes or is meant seriously.”
Readers with more than a passing knowledge of Steiner’s work, however, immediately recognized that, behind Bellow’s artful depiction of Charlie Citrine, is Bellow’s authentic and unbiased effort to come to terms with Anthroposophy.
Stephen Usher, who five years later became the manager of Anthroposophic Press (now SteinerBooks), was one such reader. This small book is a personal account of the conversations and correspondence that followed their meeting through a mutual acquaintance, and includes the foreword Saul Bellow wrote then for a book of lectures by Rudolf Steiner, The Boundaries of Natural Science (included in this book).
About the Author
Stephen E. Usher, Ph.D., is an economist with expertise in money, banking, and financial markets. He received his doctorate from the University of Michigan and served as a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 1978 to 1980. His tenure overlapped with Paul Volcker, president of the NY Fed until President Carter appointed him Fed Chairman in August 1979. After heading Anthroposophic Press from 1980 to 1988, Mr. Usher joined a premiere international firm of consulting economists (NERA) and specialized in securities and financial markets. Mr. Usher established his own economic consulting business in 1999. He has lectured hundreds of times in business, cultural, and academic settings and taught introductory economics courses at Rockland Community College in New York and principles of money, banking and financial markets at SUNY as adjunct faculty. Mr. Usher has published numerous books.