What was Rudolf Steiner like? — In the first place there was nothing in the least pompous about him. He never made one feel that he was in any sense extraordinary. There was an astonishing matter-of-factness about him, whether he spoke at a business meeting of the Anthroposophical Society, presided over faculty meetings of the Waldorf School, lectured on his ever increasing discoveries in the spiritual field, or spoke in public discussions on controversial subjects of the day.
I attended small lecture courses of less than fifty people, heard him lecture in the large hall of the first Goetheanum, was present at large public meetings when he expounded his “Threefold Commonwealth” ideas in the electric atmosphere of the Germany of 1923, during the occupation of the Ruhr and the total collapse of the German currency. He was always the same: clear, considerate, helpful, unruffled. In those days he could fill the largest halls in Germany, and his quiet voice was strong enough to be heard without artificial amplification in the last rows of the gallery.
His hair remained jet black to the end; I cannot remember a strand of grey in it. His brown eyes, they sometimes had a shimmer of gold in them, looked with sympathy upon everything. And he possessed a wonderful buoyancy of carriage.
From 1913 Steiner lived permanently at Dornach, near Basel, Switzerland, in a house known locally as “Villa Hansi.” However, he spent most of his time in his studio, which was really nothing but a simple wooden building adjoining the large carpentry-shop where much of the woodwork of the first Goetheanum was prefabricated. In this studio he received an unending stream of callers. One would, perhaps, be shown into the room by a helping friend, but at the end he would always conduct one to the door himself. He put one at ease with such courtesy that one was in danger of forgetting who he was. And he gave the impression that he had no other care nor interest in the world than to listen to one's immature questions.
He would sit on a simple wicker chair, his legs crossed, perhaps occasionally moving one foot up and down. ... I have never met anyone, and I am sure I shall never meet anyone who seemed so constantly at rest and in action simultaneously, all the time perfectly relaxed and absolutely alert.
The last summer of his life, in 1924, was the most prolific of all. He gave specialized courses on agriculture, on curative education, on Eurythmy. Then followed a summer school in August at Torquay in England; and when he returned to Dornach in early September, he increased his activities still further and gave as many as five, sometimes six different lectures each day. There was a daily course on the New Testament Book of Revelation for the priests of the Christian Community, another on pastoral medicine for priests and doctors combined, another on dramatic art, where I remember him one morning acting single handed the whole of Dantons Tod, a drama of the French Revolution by the German writer, Buchner. On another morning he acted the Faust fragment by Lessing. And in addition to all this, he also held lectures for the workmen of the Goetheanum.
Besides these specialized courses, the general lectures and other central activities of the Goetheanum School for the Science of the Spirit continued without interruption.
But the inevitable moment approached when even his resilient body showed the strain of his immense work. Sometimes for the period of a whole week he would hardly sleep more than two hours each night. I believe that he knew what he was doing. He well knew why he burned the candle not only at both ends but also in the middle.
My last memory of him is of the night when I was privileged, together with another friend, to keep vigil at the foot of his bed on which his body was laid out. It was the night before his funeral. The bed stood in his simple studio where he had been confined during the last six months of his life. Looking down on him was the great wooden statue of Christ which he had carved and nearly finished. Even in the literal sense of the word he had laid down his life at the feet of Christ.
The dignity of his features was enhanced by the marble whiteness of death. In the stillness of the night, with only a few candles burning, it was as if ages of human history converged to do homage. With a deep sense of reverence I wondered who he was. I am wondering still.
A Biographical Sketch by Alfred Heidenreich (London, England -- August 1961)
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7/ Part 8 / Part 9