english translation of the first class esoteric lessons

Hitherto unavailable to non-class members in English, the lectures of GA270 are now published by Frank Thomas Smith online in his own translation, thus not the exact text used in class lessons in the UK or the US. Still, it might be the best alternative for those who don’t read German or who find Steiner’s talk a bit impenetrable in German. (For the German editions, see this website.) Because they’ve been ‘secret’ (ie, only passed on to class members), one might have easily been led to believe these lessons are more riveting — from the perspective of potential scandal or whatever one might gleefully expect — than they actually are.

The dreadful skeptics, who are always so eager to mock, might want to ponder the following texts about the beasts hindering spiritual knowledge ;-)

The Guardian of the Threshold characterizes the first beast, which lurks as fear in your will, as a beast with a crooked back and a bony face and scrawny body. This beast, with its dull blue skin, is verily what rises from the abyss and stands alongside the Guardian of the Threshold for today’s humanity. And the Guardian of the Threshold makes it quite clear to the humanity of today that this beast is actually in you! It rises from out of the yawning abyss which lies in front of the knowledge fields, and reflects what lurks in your will as an enemy of knowledge.

And the second beast, which is connected to the desire to mock the spiritual world, is characterized by the Guardian of the Threshold in a similar way. It emerges alongside the other monster, but its whole attitude is one of weakness and sleepiness. With this sleepy posture and gray-greenish body, it bares its teeth in a warped face. And this baring of teeth is meant to indicate laughter, but lies, because to mock is to lie. So it grins at us as the reflection of the beast that lives in our own feeling and, as the enemy of knowledge, hinders our search for knowledge.

(There’s a third beast, who I feel, applies better to anthroposophists themselves! So you’ve got to read the text to find out more. Read!)

You will also learn, unsurprisingly, there is but one true gate to knowledge. Well, to a certain kind of knowledge, that is.

31 thoughts on “english translation of the first class esoteric lessons

  1. Not sure how it worked, but I marked* this fb discussion public. Not sure if it can be viewed though, or what public means in this context. (These settings just confuse me.)

    *Edit: well, I checked it was marked public… that’s my default. But if I post through tweetdeck, posts don’t end up public, for some reason. It’s all a djungle. Anyway, I guess public means public. I wasn’t quite sure. These constant changes of settings. (And by that I mean, how fb constantly changes everything and you have no clue what’s going on.)

  2. what a wonderful conversation – like a play!

    AK: Can you keep a secret if I tell you one?

    Alicia: That would depend on the secret. Have you killed someone?

    AK: If you won’t keep it unconditionally I don’t feel I can trust you with it, ok?

    Alicia: Just tell the whole world. 99.999% (and more) of its inhabitants won’t even take notice.

    and it continues.

    Personally I think Steiner was a showman and pretty canny, he must have known that ‘three can keep a secret if two are dead.’

    But I also think he made his tall tales up as he went along, depending on the audience – the more gullible the audience the crazier the monsters. I always think of him writing ‘lol’ in the margin of his lecture notes.

  3. I think he enjoyed these monsters. I mean, enjoyed talking about them. It’s all quite fabulous, really. And he definitely wasn’t naive. Difficult to say, of course, but I think he was aware of what was going to happen and that he intended it… counted on it.

  4. He did. He had great fantasy but was also, it seems to me, a keen observer. All that talk about monsters is not so bad; it’s quite useful. If you peel away the stuff emphasizing anthroposophy’s epic importance and the trallala about true knowledge, it’s very readable and occasionally insightful. There are some very nice passages in other class lectures as well. I think it’s great they’re out there; they’re not worth secrecy fuss and what he says is basically nothing radically new (compared to material already available). Which is another reason to suspect a stunt.

    I’m personally not sure steiner himself knew what he was going to do in 2nd. There were some rudimentary notes I think but nothing more. And maybe he hinted at it. But nobody knows, so they have to stop at 1st class… unable to progress without steiner.

  5. The only problem is that very few people except anthroposophists will care (many of them won’t either — they won’t read these lessons). That, I think, is the biggest blow — a blow to self-esteem. There’s nothing to keep confidential because the world can’t be bothered to read this stuff. I think it’s highly fascinating but I’m hardly representative.

  6. At the risk of stating something you already know:

    If I were interested in developing my spiritual knowledge I would complement anything said in these lessons with the relevant chapters from Esoteric Science: An outline, chapter 5 and in Theosophy chapter 4 and of course Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its attainment.

    I must be a slow learner because I have been reading these for 15 years now and cannot claim to have made much progress

  7. Slow learner here again

    my progress has been meagre, but there has been some progress. I feel comfortable on this path and perhaps in 10-20 years I’ll have got a bit further.

    I think talking about it helps clarify things…..so…….what did you mean when you said you doubt that he had the content figured out?

  8. “Because they’ve been ‘secret’ (ie, only passed on to class members), one might have easily been led to believe these lessons are more riveting — from the perspective of potential scandal or whatever one might gleefully expect — than they actually are.”

    Ha! Count me as one who’s been saying all along that when the Super Duper Extra Special Secretest of Secret Stuff came out, it was going to be dull as dishwater. THAT’S the real secret. Some critics used to get real worked up over getting every last comma Steiner spoke or published out there, ‘cus … why again? Whatever “secret” stuff is left it is more of the same. I mean what did people think it was going to be? We have future lives on Jupiter so maybe we also have future lives on Neptune?
    We’ve been watching a really good program on quantum physics, string theory, parallel universes etc., and I keep thinking sadly that it’s too bad people listen to someone like Steiner – reality is far more fascinating and complex than anything Steiner could have dreamed up, though he sure did give it a good try.

  9. To suggest the First Class Lessons were ‘secret’ material is slightly misleading. They are content which should be heard spoken, rather than read in a book. They are therefore passed from person to person. The class-reader makes a sacrifice by reading them.
    There was never any question of elitism; only a judgement on the part of the class-reader as to whether the person wanting to join the class would keep to the tradition that the mantrams are not passed on, except through the class, and that the person wanting to join has sufficient familiarity with anthroposophy to be able to have a balanced view of what they hear in the class.
    As Alicia says there is very little in terms of content that cannot be found expressed differently in the rest of Steiner’s oeuvre. The point is that one hears it in a different way.
    One could draw an analogy with the difference between a living singer standing in front of one singing, and hearing a recording of that singer.

  10. Slow — I think he didn’t know and that he would have ended up expanding on the stuff he’d already spoken about. So in a certain sense, he had the content figured out, but I think he promised something more — something more profound, something more transformational — and I don’t believe he had that. He had the same old stuff, which he could have repeated. But I’m not sure that’s all he wanted to give people.

    Diana — yes, although I don’t think dull is the right word, it *is* the same stuff we already know. Actually, you’ll find more mindblowing stuff (about the future jupiter stage and all that and similar) elsewhere. It is dull in the sense that it’s not a big revelation, there’s nothing new. I know some critics were quite worked up about it. When I first came to this, they were not, I think, online yet. A couple of years later, someone asked me about them, and I said I still haven’t seen them. I pondered the possibility of trying to get them second hand somehow (you couldn’t get them from the publisher without fulfilling certain requirements — I think that may have changed now). Then I googled the title in German and voilà, there they were, as pdfs. I quickly realized that the contents don’t merit secrecy. I think many have thought there’s something in these volumes that could harm anthroposophy. Basically, there isn’t. I haven’t read all the lectures, but enough of them to know there’s nothing to get worked up about.

    falk — well, but as far as the general public and non class-member anthros are concerned, that effectively meant ‘secret’. I probably should read that book by Kiersch, but did Steiner really recommend that the lectures be read, the way he delivered them, word by word, by others? I find that a bit odd too — that this tradition originated with him. Because in that case, he ought to have been quite aware that the contents could not be controlled forever (as in kept within a smaller group… though it did work for decades I guess!).

    ‘There was never any question of elitism; only a judgement on the part of the class-reader as to whether the person wanting to join the class would keep to the tradition that the mantrams are not passed on, except through the class, and that the person wanting to join has sufficient familiarity with anthroposophy to be able to have a balanced view of what they hear in the class.’

    There is a little elitism in that. And there is that thing about one human being judging the other human being’s capacity, which may not boil down to actual capacity but to personal connections and preferences. It is, to a certain extent, arbitrary. Let’s face it — I would never have been admitted to any of these readings ;-) (No matter how much I had worked on my familiarity with anthroposophy.) I very much would like to go. Just to know what it’s like. I know what’s in the texts, so for that reason, it would be no big thing. I can already pass on the mantrams — I’ve tried, but nobody cares ;-)

    That said, I’m one of these people who process visual information, ie written texts, much more easily than auditory information. So, in my personal view, it’s a bit silly to decide that some kinds of information should be experienced heard rather than read. Whether that is a good idea or not, would depend on the mind of the person processing the content. Actually, getting something from these lectures would then depend on being a good listener rather than someone who understands them in a superior way.

    I feel, also, that the texts not being available to read gives immense power to the one person who’s supposed to read them out loud. Priests were in a better position when people were illiterate and couldn’t read the bible (and other sources) themselves. The situation is not entirely analogous, but it’s much easier to take a critical look at a text that you can examine in writing. You can go over passages you don’t understand or find inaccurate (or whatever) again and again; you can actually start to take the content seriously rather than uncritically.

  11. Alice

    re: his work is not transformational

    I encountered Steiner’s ideas first in my mid-twenties. Prior to that I had read a lot of different strands of new age thinking, but eventually lost my appetite for that type of material.In Steiner I found ideas that helped me to make sense of what I had read and learn a whole lot more besides

    In that sense his works were and continue to be transformational in my life.I am fully aware that other people are not attracted to his work and they should listen to their feelings if they feel aversion (it would also be good for them to understand the reasons for this aversion from a self-knowledge perspective). When I read or listen to his lectures I feel well-being and that is a good point of departure for me.

    Enjoy life!

  12. ‘re: his work is not transformational’

    Just pointing out one thing here: that’s most definitely not what I claimed. On a personal level, I very much understand it can be transformational — that was never in question.

    What I did refer to, however, was the (in my opinion virtually non-existent) difference between the ‘secret’ 1st class lessons and the rest of his work and what would, in my prediction, happen in the 2nd class lessons:

    ‘I think he didn’t know and that he would have ended up expanding on the stuff he’d already spoken about. So in a certain sense, he had the content figured out, but I think he promised something more — something more profound, something more transformational — and I don’t believe he had that.’

    … so, what I’m saying, he’s not offering something more than what he’s already offered, and, as this was the question you put to me, I would not expect anything else from the continuation of the class lessons, ie, the second class, that never happened (because he died).

    Whether or not his work is transformational, on a personal (or even on a more general) level, is another issue altogether — I’m just saying the 2nd class lessons would not have provided anything *more* transformational relative to what’s already there (no matter how we value it).

  13. Melanie:

    ‘Personally I think Steiner was a showman and pretty canny, he must have known that ‘three can keep a secret if two are dead.’’

    Actually, the existence of the ethereal kiosk has caused me to come to doubts about the ability of the dead to keep secrets. Especially after a few glasses of champagne… or cognac.

  14. just don’t tell everyone! They don’t need to know it was all the fault of those women it got so out of hand. Or about the even more secret doctrine (sshhh)

  15. …and these old lessons, Rudi keeps reading them in the ethereal kiosk. Always falls asleep before he’s finished. Everybody is upset, we keep yelling: ‘we want to know the end of the story!!’ Sometimes someone tries to snatch his notes from him. But the claws of dead people… you don’t know how strong they are until you try them! (This in consideration, we wonder why he always drops his glass on the floor when he falls asleep. With a big crash. How can it be? Selective super-powers?)

    Sometimes he mumbles about the 2nd class. I can’t betray a sleep-talking man, though. Plus there isn’t much to say really. Except, listen to the wisdom of dogs.

  16. Haven’t read the whole thread yet… but I’ve had this bookmarked for a long time… Isn’t this the same stuff? It’s been on the internet for a couple of years at least, I’m pretty sure.

  17. In German, yes. Haven’t seen the text in English (and I have googled several times not finding it). Actually, I just assumed it was in a recent edition of his Southern Cross Review, because I got it via a google alert. (I looked, and it seems to be the current SCR.)

    The mantras have been online, also in English, but not with the rest of the text.

  18. The mantras are just a small part, while the lessons, in their entirety, fill several volumes. GA 270 a, b and c! C is, I seem to remember, Steiner repeating himself from a and b.

  19. I find Alicia’s inside view of the ethereal kiosk absolutely hilarious, with Rudi mumbling in his dead, drunken sleep :-) A perfect setting for enjoying whatever might be entertaining about anthroposophy, saving it from eternal boredom. And I’m willing to beleive in anything said in the conversation between Rudi, Alicia and Mr Dog …

  20. Ulf – it’s as likely as anything said by Rudi in his lifetime. In fact, in a thousand years, no one will be able to tell one from the other – one fiction from the other fiction. It will be like Plato and Atlantis.

  21. I’ve seen some of the things that pass for non-fiction in the book shops, and this is far more realistic. And the entertainment sure isn’t fictitious! Also, everything said is obviously 100% accurate. Look inside your own mind, and you’ll find truth!

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