The Mystery of Death: The Nature and Significance of Central Europe and the European Folk-Spirits
15 lectures, various cities, January 31 – June 19, 1915 (CW 159)
Speaking during the early stages of World War I—with the Western Front just miles away and thousands of young men dying—Rudolf Steiner focuses on the subject of death. In particular, he addresses the difficult question of why some people die prematurely, especially in youth. He also speaks about the deaths of three acquaintances, having made contact with their living souls in the afterlife, voicing their own words and describing the first stages of their journeys after death.
Steiner strikes a second chord with his description of the task of Central Europe in the context of the various “folk souls.” The influences of these spiritual entities are reflected in the culture and life of various peoples but do not promote nationalism. Indeed, nationalism cannot be transcended until we understand and recognize our differences. This approach is based on phenomenology rather than on value judgements.
The third main theme that runs through these lectures has to do with understanding the active impulses and connections in history. Reaching beyond simple notions of “fate,” can we allow for the activities of the Christ impulse?
These extraordinary lectures previously unpublished in English—are presented here with an introduction, notes, and index.
This volume is a translation from German of Das Geheimnis des Todes. Wesen und Bedeutung Mitteleuropas und die europäischen Volksgeister (GA 159).
About the Author
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.