from mammoths to mediums

For some inconceivable reason, I got a google alert for this old book today. It’s an edition of a collection of Rudolf Steiner’s lectures to the workers at the Goetheanum. The title is funny enough in itself: From Mammoths to Mediums. But it gets truly hilarious when looking at the publisher’s summary of topics:

‘Topics in this collection include: dancing and sport; guardian angels; effects of the stars; potatoes, beetroots and radishes; the Druids; Roman Catholic and Masonic rituals; proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and salts; Aristotle; nutrition; blood circulation and the heart; honesty and conscience; boredom and opinions; lungs and kidneys; fertilization in plants and humans; light and color; and breathing.’

All this in one volume! An extraordinarily wide range of topics, I’d say. Not unusual for Steiner, but if you think about it, it will seem apparent he couldn’t always know what he was talking about; it would have been humanly impossible (providing Steiner was human, of course, a notion seemingly rejected by some people). Sometimes he made things up out of the blue, a method not dissimilar to clairvoyancy in terms of accuracy.

3 thoughts on “from mammoths to mediums

  1. Zo,

    The reason the topics are so scattered is that they are “lectures” for the workers on the new Goetheanum, 1923 into 1924. He never structured them as regular lectures since they are all question and answer sessions where he never knew what the questions would be. So this is Steiner at his off-the-cuff best.

    Now it is true that he might go off and lecture for a half hour to answer one question, so a lot of the text does appear like regular lectures.

    Now one of these lectures was the infamous “Forbidden Colored Lecture” of March 3, 1923 called “Color and the Human Races.” It was of course censored from the book “From Lucifer to Limestone.” Also the “Forbidden Kosher Lecture” the lecture entitled “The Essence of Jewry” was completely censored from the collection called “From Beetroots to Buddhism.” Also there is “From Elephants to Einstein” so that’s how the editors cleverly expressed the fact that these are not regular lectures.

    And that’s why Sune makes such a big deal about the “colored lecture.” He says that Steiner cannot be racist here because he was talking in a down home, even crude way to the more crude workers at the Goetheanum. Therefore, according to Sune logic, since these were not properly prepared for official lectures of Steiner, then Steiner cannot be held accountable for anything he said that might be construed as racism or anti-semitism.

  2. These lectures are indeed very funny and extremely diverse, and you’re right they’re different from Steiner’s more conventional lecturing (perhaps more like a mixture of his lectures and the sometimes occuring Q&A sessions). Additionally, the English titles are funny. In Swedish, they were simply called lectures to workers, or something like that. There’s an old post and a rather long thread somewhere on the blog. The Swedish publisher also removed that infamous lecture on the colours and the races.

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