01/21/1841 is the birthday of Édouard Schuré, a French philosopher, poet, playwright, novelist, music critic, & publicist of esoteric literature. Born in the old cathedral city of Strasbourg, as a young boy he experienced certain events that, as he described them many years later, “Ieft traces upon my thoughts, to which my memory returns ever and again.” The result of these events he called “inner vision, evoked by impressions of the external world.” The first of these experiences occurred shortly after the death of his mother, when he & his father visited a resort in Alsace. On the walls of one of the buildings the ten-year-old boy saw a remarkable series of frescoes, depicting the world of undines, sylphs, gnomes & fire-spirits. Before these representations of the Elemental Beings, the boy was transported into another world, the world of creative fantasy. Like a talisman, the pictures awakened the magic forces of wonder in the child soul, & the result was a new perception.
Not long after the death of his father, which occurred when Schure was fourteen, he visited Paris, & saw for the first time the classical sculptures in the Louvre. The beauty of the Venus di Milo, of Dionysus, of the wounded Amazon, penetrated deeply into the boy, awakening in him a love & appreciation for the world of ancient Greece, which was to play so significant a role in his later work as a playwright. In these sculptures Schure became aware of the fact that a divine beauty can be made manifest in physical substance through the magic of art. At about this same time Schure read a description of the Eleusinian Mysteries of Ancient Greece, & the inner pictures this evoked were so vivid, so compelling, that he dedicated himself to the task of recreating the sacred drama of Eleusis for modern humanity. For Schure was convinced that through the experiencing of such a drama, people of modern times can acquire a totally new conception of the relationship between the spiritual striving of the ancient world & the religious conceptions of today.
Parallel with these experiences of soul & spirit, Schure’s early years were devoted to formal education. Eventually he received his degree in law at the University of Strasbourg, but he never entered into practice. He visited Germany, remaining there for a few years, during which time he wrote Histoire du lied published in 1868. In this book he expressed his love for music & poetry which had been enhanced by his personal acquaintance with Richard Wagner, then living in Munich.
Shortly after his return from his travels in Germany, Schure married the sister of his friend, the composer Nessler. They moved to Paris, where Schure continued his writing & studies, making friends with some of the most important men & women in the cultural life of France of his time. With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Schure & his wife went to Italy.
In Florence Schure made the second great friendship of his life. One day Malvida von Meysenbergs, the devoted admirer & helper of the philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, introduced Edouard Schure to a Greek lady, Margherita Albana Mignaty. The meeting made a profound impression upon Schure, an impression he was to recall clearly in the last year of his life: “When I saw those great sunny radiant eyes directed questioningly upon me, I felt my consciousness almost desert me, for my whole being seemed called upon to reveal itself.” In the presence of this beautiful woman, so reminiscent of the women of the classical Greece he so deeply loved, Schure once again found access to the spiritual world opening within him. In Margherita Albana Mignaty he discovered a soul to whom the unseen world was as immanent as the physical. This direct relationship with the spiritual world was the result of the death of her child, which had taken place some years before. Through their many conversations, Schure’s own spiritual perception broadened & deepened beyond anything he had previously imagined. He referred to her as his Muse, & saw in her a “spirit that moves mountains, a love which awakens and creates souls, and whose sublime inspiration burns like a radiant light.” on one occasion he asked her how she acquired such precise knowledge of the spiritual history of humankind, such intimate details concerning long-forgotten antiquity. Her reply was profoundly simple: “When I wish to penetrate to the very depths of a subject, I shut myself in my room and reveal myself to myself.” Through the inspiration of Margherita Albana Mignaty ‘as a testimony of a faith acquired and shared,’ Schure’s book The Great Initiates came into being.
Schuré now turned increasingly to the esoteric & the occult, his major influence being the famous French occultist-scholar Fabre d’Olivet. In 1884, he met the founder of the Theosophical Society Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Although unwelcome in the Theosophical Society, he nevertheless entered.
In 1900, the actress Marie von Sivers came into contact with him because she intended to translate his works into German (The Great Initiates, The Sacred Drama of Eleusis & The Children of Lucifer). At the German Section of the Theosophical Society, he met the Austrian philosopher & later founder of Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner. In 1906, Sivers brought about a meeting between Schuré & Steiner. Schuré was deeply impressed & thought of Steiner as an authentic ‘initiate’ in line with his The Great Initiates. After hearing Steiner lecture in Paris for the first time in 1906, Schuré in an ecstatic state ran home & wrote down the entirety of the lecture from memory. This first lecture, & the other lectures in the series (which Schuré wrote down) were published as Esoteric Cosmology. Subsequently, Steiner & von Sivers staged Schuré’s esoteric dramas at the Theosophical Congresses in Berlin & Munich. Schuré’s The Children of Lucifer, served as a precursor of Rudolf Steiner’s own esoteric dramas. In 1908 Schuré brought out Le Mystère Chrétien et les Mystères Antiques, a French translation of Steiner’s work Christianity as Mystical Fact & the Mysteries of Antiquity. Édouard Schuré was often visited by Rudolf Steiner in Barr, Alsace. Steiner produced many of Schure’s plays. In speaking about his book The Great Initiates Steiner says: “Édouard Schuré speaks about the ‘Great Illuminated,’ the Great Initiates, who have looked deeply into the background of things, and from this background have given great impulses for the spiritual development of mankind. He traces the great spiritual deeds of Rama, Krishna, Hermes, Pythagoras and Plato, in order to show the unification of all these impulses in Christ…. The light streaming from Schuré’s book enlightens those who wish to be firmly rooted in the spiritual sources from which strength and certainty for modern life can be drawn.”~Rudolf Steiner