Franz Kafka meets Rudolf Steiner

Mention of Franz Kafka in my previous posting has reminded me that there was in fact a meeting between Kafka and Rudolf Steiner. It happened in Prague in March 1911. Steiner was in Prague delivering a series of lectures on the subject of An Occult Physiology. Kafka had first come across Steiner at Mrs Berta Fanta’s salon on Old Town Square, a famous meeting place for intellectuals during the two-decade period before the First World War. These gatherings were attended by professors at the German university in Prague, including Albert Einstein and Christian von Ehrenfels, as well as the up-and-coming younger generation such as Kafka and Max Brod. (Einstein also met Steiner at Mrs Fanta’s salon and attended several of Steiner’s lectures held in the Café Louvre, an Art Nouveau café on Národní třída, and was apparently impressed by Steiner’s views on non-Euclidean geometry.)

Rudolf Steiner in 1911, the year he met Franz Kafka

Rudolf Steiner in 1911, the year he met Franz Kafka

Kafka attended two of Steiner’s lectures and records his reactions in what seems to be an ironical tone (or is it perhaps just an intense observation in an attempt to understand?) in his diary entries of 26th and 28th March 1911. On 26th March he comments on Steiner’s rhetorical trick of giving full weight to the views of his opponents, so that “the listener now considers any refutation to be completely impossible and is more than satisfied with a cursory description of the possibility of a defence”; Kafka then observes: “Continual looking at the palm of the extended hand. Omission of the full stop. In general, the spoken sentence starts off from the speaker with its initial capital letter, curves in its course, as far as it can, out to the audience, and returns with the full stop to the speaker. But if the full stop is omitted then the sentence, no longer held in check, falls upon the listener immediately with full force.” Kafka was to do something similar in his own works, by writing long sentences that sometimes cover an entire page. Kafka’s sentences then deliver an unexpected impact just before the full stop, which gives a final meaning and focus to what has gone before.

On 28th March he comes back to Steiner in his diary, either referring to another or to the same lecture, which he proceeds to gently guy, interspersing this with comments about his neighbour in the audience:

“Dr Steiner is so very much taken up with his absent disciples. At the lecture the dead press so about him. Hunger for knowledge? But do they really need it? . . . Löwy Simon, soap dealer on Quai Moncey, Paris, got the best business advice from him . . . .The wife of the Hofrat therefore has in her notebook, How does One Achieve Knowledge of the Higher Worlds? At S. Löwy’s in Paris.”

Kafka would have been around 28 years old at this time. He seemed to find the tasks of daily existence very difficult, was often lonely and depressed and regarded himself as a perpetual outsider – a German speaker in Prague, a Jew among Christians. Although he had had encounters with some of the leading personalities of the age – apart from meeting Steiner, he had seen Nijinsky dance and had met Einstein, Rilke and Puccini – his experience of the wider world was limited. At university he studied law and then obtained jobs within first one, then another insurance company, work which he resented as it kept him away from his writing. He lived and worked within the same small area of Prague and its surroundings all his life. Despite a fervent longing to be independent, he spent the whole of his short life (he died at the age of 40, probably from starvation due to an inability to eat as a result of laryngeal tuberculosis) resenting that he was either living with his parents in what has been described as “an atmosphere of claustrophobic mutual surveillance” or else with one of his sisters. He had a strong sex drive but seems to have been unable to have satisfactory relationships with women, as he lacked the capacity for losing himself in loving another person. “For even the most intimate friend to set foot in my room,” he told his unfortunate fiancee, Felice Bauer, “fills me with terror.”

Franz Kafka with his fiancee, Felice Bauer

Franz Kafka with his fiancee, Felice Bauer

Kafka attributed his psychological difficulties to having “vigorously absorbed the negative element of the age in which I live.” He had a difficult relationship with his father, who was described by Kafka’s biographer Stanley Corngold as a “huge, selfish, overbearing businessman.” Kafka seems to have been psychic to some degree and in his diary admitted to suffering from “bouts of clairvoyance.”   A huge issue for him during this period was how to create for himself the necessary space for literature when his employment encroached upon his writing time and his family and society expected him to make a living, marry, and raise his own family. Whatever the reasons, in his writings Kafka captured like no other author before him themes such as father-son conflict, alienation, physical and psychological brutality, characters on a terrifying quest, encounters with arbitrary and unjust bureaucracy and mystical transformation.

In spite of what may have been his ironical tone in connection with Steiner’s lecture, Kafka evidently decided that Rudolf Steiner might be able to help him to find his life’s direction and made an appointment to see Steiner in his hotel room in Prague. Kafka records in his diary his impressions of this visit:

“In his room I try to show my humility, which I cannot feel, by seeking out a ridiculous place for my hat . I lay it down on a small wooden stand for lacing boots. . . Table in the middle, I sit facing the window, he on the left side of the table. . . . He begins with a few disconnected sentences. So you are Dr. Kafka? Have you been interested in theosophy long? But I push on with my prepared address: I feel that a great part of my being is striving toward theosophy, but at the same time I have the greatest fear of it. That is to say, I am afraid it will result in a new confusion which would be very bad for me, because even my present unhappiness consists only of confusion. This confusion is as follows: My happiness, my abilities, and every possibility of being useful in any way have always been in the literary field. And here I have, to be sure, experienced states (not many) which in my opinion correspond very closely to the clairvoyant states described by you, Herr Doktor, in which I completely dwelt in every idea, but also filled every idea, and in which I not only felt myself at my boundary, but at the boundary of the human in general. Only the calm of enthusiasm, which is probably characteristic of the clairvoyant, was still lacking in those states, even if not completely. I conclude this from the fact that I did not write the best of my works in those states. I cannot now devote myself completely to this literary field, as would be necessary and indeed for various reasons. Aside from my family relationships, I could not live by literature if only, to begin with, because of the slow maturing of my work and its special character; besides I am prevented also by my health and my character from devoting myself to what is, in the most favorable case, an uncertain life. I have therefore become an official in a social insurance agency. Now these two professions can never be reconciled with one another and admit a common fortune. The smallest good fortune in the one becomes a great misfortune in the other. . . . Outwardly, I fulfill my duties satisfactorily at the office, not my inner duties, however, and every unfulfilled inner duty becomes a misfortune that never leaves. And to these two never-to-be-reconciled endeavours shall I now add theosophy as a third? Will it not disturb both the others and itself be disturbed by both? . . . This is what I have come to ask you, Herr Doktor.”

It’s unfortunate for our curiosity that Kafka is so focused on himself and his problems that he doesn’t record how Steiner responded to this speech. All Kafka reports is this:

“He listened very attentively without apparently looking at me at all, entirely devoted to my words. He nodded from time to time, which he seems to consider an aid to strict concentration. At first a quiet head cold disturbed him, his nose ran, he kept working his handkerchief deep into his nose, one finger in each nostril.”

There is perhaps a little too much information in that last sentence and not enough anywhere else. There is no further mention of Steiner in the diaries, apart from one piece of advice from the same meeting: “Herr Kafka, essen Sie keine Eier.” (“Mr. Kafka, don’t eat eggs.”)

Can we make a guess at what else Steiner had said to him? It seems probable that Steiner realised that Kafka’s life would be a short one and that in his remaining time he would need to focus as much as possible on his writing. We may surmise that Steiner told Kafka to concentrate on literature above all else.

21 Comments

Filed under Anthroposophy, Franz Kafka, Rudolf Steiner

21 responses to “Franz Kafka meets Rudolf Steiner

  1. Sophia Smith

    Fascinating and helpful too.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  2. Hello Jeremy!

    Welcome back to the Steiner Internet! So sorry to hear of your connectivity problems, but all’s well that ends well, and here you are again ready to serve our Lord of this World, Uncle Ahriman and his legion of cyber-elementals who will eventually morph into those “hideous spider beings” that Steiner warned us about on May 13, 1921 in Dornach, GA 204, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here and instead enjoy what freedom and fun we have left.

    Now I am very appreciative that you have posted here about Steiner’s meeting with Kafka in Prague in 1911. And I was suitably gearing up to pontificate about the wider karmi-cosmic — even comic — significance of the encounter, but then I noted a parenthesis that you slipped in and I was stopped in my officious tracks! I was absolutely gobsmacked to realize that you had posted the most splendid specimen of vintage Anthropoop that I have ever seen on the Anthropopper blog to date!

    Now, as the chief investigative gossip reporter for the Akasha Chronicle — sometimes called “Tabloid Tommy and his Anthro-Poop-Sheet,” — it is my Michaelic karmi-cosmopolitan mission to put to the test all claims of Anthropoop made on the world-wide Steiner Internet.

    So, move over Kafka for a spell, and make way for Albert Einstein!

    There are two claims to scrutinize here:

    [1] Did Einstein ever attend any lecture by Steiner in Prague in 1911?
    [2] If yes, what did Einstein really think about Steiner’s grasp of non-Euclidean geometry?

    Now Jeremy, I surmise that you possibly got your Einstein-Steiner information from this website of the Prague Post where it reads:
    http://www.praguepost.com/166-expats-in-cz/40351-einstein-in-prague

    —————————-
    When Einstein was not at home or lecturing, he would be found at one of his two favorite places in Prague –– Café Louvre, an elegant and airy Art Nouveau café on Národní třída, or Mrs. Berta Fanta’s salon on Old Town Square.

    Louvre was a preferred café for the Jewish intellectuals of the time, over other cafés such as Café Slavia. Here, he would often meet with his friend and literary prodigy, Franz Kafka. He also visited several lectures by anthroposopher Rudolf Stein, which were held in the Café, and was impressed by Steiner’s opinions on non-Euclidian geometry.
    ———————-

    Let’s assume that Claim [1] is true for the moment and investigate Claim [2]

    In addition to the 360 volumes of the GA in the Steiner Archives in Dornach, there are also 122 Beiträge – I might call them “portfolios” — containing all kinds of miscellaneous papers and things related to the lectures and cities where Steiner lectured. Portfolio 109 contains everything related to Steiner’s 12 visits to Prague from 1905 through 1924.

    There is a giant PDF file you can link to here on the magnificent Russian site which has the entire GA plus all 122 “portfolios” online.
    http://bdn-steiner.ru/cat/Beitrage/D109.pdf

    ===============
    Heft 109
    Rudolf Steiner in Prag. Zur Geschichte der tschechischen anthroposophischen Bewegung. Erinnerungen, Briefe, Zeitungsberichte, Fotos
    ————–
    Portfolio 109
    Rudolf Steiner in Prague. The History of the Czech anthroposophical movement. Memoirs, letters, newspaper articles, photos
    ============

    In there you will find a reference to Einstein attending a public Steiner lecture in the
    1911 section. I did find this quote from that same source on the German Wikipedia page about Rudolf Steiner. Unfortunately it does not appear in the English wiki.

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Steiner

    ======================

    „Selbst von Albert Einstein wird berichtet, dass er Vorträge Steiners besuchte, deren Inhalte er jedoch rundheraus ablehnte: „Der Mann [=Steiner] hat offenbar keine Ahnung von der Existenz einer nichteuklidischen Geometrie“ soll Einstein gesagt haben sowie: „Bedenken Sie doch diesen Unsinn: Übersinnliche Erfahrung. Wenn schon nicht Augen und Ohren, aber irgendeinen Sinn muss ich doch gebrauchen, um irgend etwas zu erfahren“.

    „Augenzeugenberichte von Franz Halla“ in: Mitteilungen aus der anthroposophischen Arbeit in Deutschland, Nr. 32, Juni 1955,

    ——————————-
    Even Albert Einstein is reported to have attended lectures by Steiner; however, Einstein bluntly repudiated the subject matter, saying: ‘Apparently, that man [Steiner] has no idea of the existence of a non-Euclidean geometry.’ Einstein also supposedly said: ‘Just consider this absurdity: supersensible experience. Instead of using eyes and ears, I’m supposed to use some other kind of sense to experience something’.”

    “Eyewitness Accounts by Franz Halla” in: Transactions of the Anthroposophical Work in Germany, No. 32, June 1955
    =================

    Thus we see that Rudolf Steiner’s putative grasp of non-Euclidean geometry made a very strong impression upon Albert Einstein, but it appears the impression was decidedly negative and dismissive as opposed to the account you reference, Jeremy, that leads us to believe the impression was positive and supportive.

    But take heart, because it’s not the first time Anthroposophists have spawned spurious Anthropoop about Rudolf Steiner and his interaction with well-known contemporaries of his time. I like to say that they tend to look at Rudolf Steiner through “rose(crucian)-colored glasses.”

    Hollywood Tom Mellett

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    • Thank you for finding out more about the Einstein – Steiner connection, Tom. I don’t read German and was not aware of the Franz Halla account you quote. Nor have I so far been able to find a source for the story given in the Prague Post website, which is why I used the word “apparently” in the sentence: “(Einstein) was apparently impressed by Steiner’s views on non-Euclidean geometry.”

      However, the quotation attributed to Einstein does seem to me to be improbable, for two reasons:

      1. Steiner was a brilliant mathematician, among other things working out all the mathematics for joining the two surfaces of the large dome and the small dome of the first Goetheanum. We can be pretty sure that Einstein would also have been intrigued by Steiner’s views on projective geometry, a subject which is still little known and has huge potential for the future.
      2. Einstein was himself given to non-materialist views of the human situation and we can be pretty sure that , if he had found Steiner’s views to be ridiculous, he would not have attended more than one of his lectures.

      If anyone has any further information on Einstein’s views of Steiner, it would be good to hear them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, Jeremy, I wasn’t rolling on the floor, but I was laughing out loud and definitely rolling my eyes at your hagiographical assertion that Steiner was some species of brilliant mathematician! Puh-leeze, gag me with a spoon, as it were! Not only do you insult the intelligence of genuinely brilliant mathematicians out there, but you also manage to insult ordinary mediocre mathematicians who have devoted their lives to the profession. I mean, really Jeremy, don’t you think it’s time you started growing up as an Anthroposophist by acknowledging some of these deeply cherished and quite childish Luciferic illusions about our illustrious spiritual father, Rudolf Steiner?

        This could be a seriously teachable karmic moment for you, Jeremy, so I will cut the rhetorical tomfoolery and get right down to Anthro-pedagogical business here.

        Yesterday I had quite a spiritual insight into your situation and I will report it anecdotally because it taught me something about your starry-eyed attitude toward Steiner.

        Once a week at least, I like to hike up Mount Hollywood, which is located about a mile due East of the famous HOLLYWOOD sign (to the right of the “D”) and at the same elevation, both landmarks being ~1600 ft. above sea level. Yesterday, I went to the mountain and on my drive home to the San Fernando Valley, I like to stop for refreshments at a Gelson’s Market which is located catty corner from the famous Scientology Celebrity Center in the East end of Hollywood.

        There in the parking lot, as I watched a few of the Scientology staff members walk into Gelson’s store, — perhaps to fetch goodies for Tom Cruise or John Travolta, who knows? — I had a sudden realization about your belief in Steiner as a “brilliant mathematician.” You see, those Scientologists believe an almost identical parallel Luciferic fantasy about L. Ron Hubbard — that he was some kind of brilliant and brave US Naval officer during WW II and would have received commendations for his valor except that his missions were secret undercover ones, etc. It turns out that in reality LRH was in the US Navy and even on a ship during the war, but he hardly left port in the USA, let alone fight the Japanese in any battle at sea or undercover spying anywhere.

        Now I am not equating Scientology to Anthroposophy as comparable examples of cults or cult-religions, but I am saying that you, Jeremy, are as equally credulous as any Scientologist who believes in the heroically hyper-embellished myths woven about the life history of L. Ron Hubbard.

        Well, enough of my diagnosis. Now to the healing treatment for your chronic credulity! You aptly named your blog Anthropopper, Jeremy, because right now I am going to pop the cork of your credulity with a quote from Rudolf Steiner himself where he actually totally debunks your childish notion that he was any kind of mathematician regarding the cupola problem, let alone a brilliant one.

        I found this quote on the German website called Kulturimpuls which documents the biographies of more than 1,200 leading Anthroposophists of the 20th Century
        http://biographien.kulturimpuls.org/list.php?&stoebern=1

        Look up [Englert, Joseph] in the alphabetical list or else use the search box and you will find the biography of the German Anthroposophist Joseph Englert, a brilliant civil engineer in Basel, who solved the cupola problem for Rudolf Steiner.

        I provide my own translation here because the Nachlass hasn’t even published it in the GA yet, though it does have a number 289. Here is the Title:

        Der Baugedanke des Goetheanum: Lichtbildervorträge aus den Jahren 1920/1921 (In Vorbereitung)

        The Architectural Design of the Goetheanum: Lectures with Slides from the Years 1920-1921 (in preparation)

        =======================

        “Technisch war es gar nicht so leicht auszuführen, Kugelflächen so aneinander zu fügen, dass die Sache technisch bestehen kann. Und ich darf hier wohl erwähnen dass es uns gelungen ist, durch die Einsicht und die Anstrengung eines uns befreundeten und geschätzten Basler Ingenieurs [Englert] dieses Problem zu lösen, das ja in der Architektur vorher nicht gelöst worden ist.“

        (Öffentlicher Vortrag in Basel am 10. April 1915, vorgesehen für GA 289)

        ——————————

        “Technologically, it was most definitely not an easy task to accomplish — to fit two spherical surfaces one into the other — so that the [single] object could even technically exist. And I really must mention here that we did succeed through the insight and effort of one of our own, the gracious and esteemed Basel engineer [Joseph Englert] who solved this problem — a problem in architecture which had heretofore never been solved.”

        (Public Lecture in Basel on April 10, 1915, planned for GA 289)

        ==========================

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      • Jeremy,

        I’d now like to unpack your second assertion here

        =========================
        2. Einstein was himself given to non-materialist views of the human situation and we can be pretty sure that, if he had found Steiner’s views to be ridiculous, he would not have attended more than one of his lectures.
        =========================

        Excellent point, and you are totally spot on because, from the available evidence that I have been reading about in Portfolio 109, it does look like Einstein attended one and only one lecture of Steiner’s.

        Furthermore, if Einstein DID attend more than one lecture of Steiner’s, then the grand total could only have been — two.

        Let’s break down Steiner’s Prague visit in 1911.

        Between March 19 and March 28, 1911, Steiner gave a total of 12 lectures:
        —————————-
        8 comprise the cycle called Occult Physiology, GA 128, for members only of the Theosophical Society

        One special addendum lecture on March 28 for members only (the same day he met Kafka), listed in GA 127 with the title: “Aphorisms for the Relationship between Philosophy and Theosophy.”

        One Esoteric First Class lesson

        Two were lectures open to the public at the Café Louvre.
        ————————-

        Thus, it would have been only these two public lectures, at Berta Frant’s salon, that Einstein could have attended.

        Let me translate the flyer that was printed up to announce the cycle. (Later I want to translate the section that explains why I think Einstein only attended one of these lectures.)

        =======================

        THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY (ADYAR)
        Bohemian Section — Prague

        We hereby take the liberty of cordially inviting all friends of the Theosophical Movement to a lecture cycle by Dr Rudolf Steiner on Occult Physiology

        The 8 day cycle will take place March 20-24 and March 26-28, 1911 in the Mercury Hall of the Merchant’s Association. All lectures begin at 8 PM

        In addition, Dr. Steiner will hold 2 public lectures, both in the same venue:
        first on March 19, 1911 at 8 PM entitled

        „Wie widerlegt man Theosophie?“
        „How might someone disprove Theosophy?“

        and again on March 25, 1911 at 4 PM

        „Wie verteidigt man Theosophie?“
        “How might someone defend Theosophy?”

        ======================

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  3. Jeremy,

    There is a book out now that directly deals with Kafka’s clairvoyance and, in fact, the Introduction to the book and the First Chapter are all about Kafka’s meeting with Steiner in 1911.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=qV5pAgAAQBAJ

    The Mystical Life of Franz Kafka:
    Theosophy, Cabala, and the Modern Spiritual Revival
    By June O. Leavitt

    In a long-overlooked diary entry, Franz Kafka admitted to suffering from ”bouts of clairvoyance.” These bouts of clairvoyance can be seen in his writing, in moments when the solid basis of human cognition totters, the dissolution of matter seems imminent, and objects are jarringly severed from physical referents.

    June O. Leavitt offers a fascinating examination of the mystical in Kafka’s life and writings, showing that Kafka’s understanding of the occult was not only a product of his own clairvoyant experiences but of the age in which he lived. Kafka lived during the modern Spiritual Revival, a powerful movement which resisted materialism, rejected the adulation of science and Darwin, and idealized clairvoyant modes of consciousness.

    Kafka’s contemporaries — such theosophical ideologues as Madame H.P. Blavatsky, Annie Besant, and Dr. Rudolph Steiner — encouraged the counterculture to seek the true, spiritual essence of reality by inducing out-of-body experiences and producing visions of higher disembodied beings through meditative techniques. Leaders of the Spiritual Revival also called for the adoption of certain lifestyles, such as vegetarianism, in order to help transform consciousness and return humanity to its divine nature.

    Interweaving the occult discourse on clairvoyance, the divine nature of animal life, vegetarianism, the spiritual sources of dreams, and the eternal nature of the soul with Kafka’s dream-chronicles, animal narratives, diaries, letters, and stories, Leavitt takes the reader on a journey through the texts of a great psychic writer and the fascinating epoch of the Spiritual Revival.

    ===============

    Here is a review of the book in the Times Literary Supplement, which also starts off with the importance of the Kafka-Steiner encounter.
    http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article1119440.ece

    Tom

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  4. Another pretty obvious interpretation, after reading his full description of the meeting, is that Kafka was simply ridiculing Steiner. Here’s how the meeting probably went… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTyBpsX1TdE

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    • It’s tempting to think that Steiner was being ridiculed by Kafka (from past comments she has made, Alicia Hamberg clearly shares your view on this) but please note the following passage from Gabriel Josipovici’s review (‘Why we don’t understand Kafka’ in the Times Literary Supplement) of a book by June Leavitt on The Mystical Life of Franz Kafka:

      “June O. Leavitt …describes Kafka here as “ridiculing” Steiner’s claims and “satirizing” his psychic powers and self-appointed mission of enlightening humanity, describing the last paragraph as “facetious”. However, she argues, “Kafka’s yearning for transcendental mind continued despite his disappointing meeting with Steiner”. Throughout his life, she maintains, Kafka was torn between his desire to write and his experience of out-of-body states, which he longed for yet dreaded.

      This brings out well how even the most learned and well-meaning critics, if they are not very careful, will start with a slight misreading and end in the further reaches of absurdity. For Kafka’s description of Steiner’s lecture and of their meeting follows the same pattern as everything else in the diary: he notes everything he sees and that happens to him with puzzled and scrupulous detachment. Pace Leavitt, he is not satirizing Steiner or the Frau Hofrat (or himself for the comedy with the hat), but merely noting it all, as though trying to pierce a mystery which is immediately comprehensible to everyone but himself.”

      As for your Mr Bean clip, now I see where you found Rudolf Waldorf! 🙂

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  5. ‘It’s tempting to think that Steiner was being ridiculed by Kafka (from past comments she has made, Alicia Hamberg clearly shares your view on this)’

    Just out of curiosity, do you remember where you saw me say this? I know I’ve said it’s an absolutely hilarious piece of writing (which you surely can’t deny…?) — I’m less sure I’ve said that Kafka wrote it to ridicule Steiner. Maybe I did, but I can’t recall it. I have no idea why he ended describing a long self-absorbed rant by telling us in detail how Steiner picked his nose (maybe because Steiner did pick his nose? who knows), but the effect is entertaining. He may not have ridiculed anything, for what I know. Maybe he ridiculed the situation. Or maybe he ridiculed Steiner. But I don’t know. Doesn’t make it less funny though!

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    • Hello Alicia,

      I don’t have the exact reference in front of me but I’m pretty sure it was in 2009, in a comment you left on the Waldorf Critics pages – no doubt a search there will turn it up. Kafka’s account is a funny piece of writing, I quite agree, but it seems likely from what Josopovici has said in his TLS review, that Kafka was simply observing everything with “puzzled and scrupulous detachment…as though trying to pierce a mystery which is immediately comprehensible to everyone but himself.” If only he had said a little more about what Steiner told him…

      Best wishes,

      Jeremy

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      • Hello Jeremy,
        thank you — I found it! It was indeed 2009, and there were a couple of comments about it. I don’t think I ridiculed Steiner but in one comment I concluded that Kafka must have found the meeting quite useless (and that what Steiner replied wasn’t worthy of attention). I may have been wrong about that. In fact, it’s quite possible that I was.

        Of course it would have been great to know what Steiner told him. On the other hand, that could possibly have ruined some of the humurous qualities the diary entry.

        Best,
        -alicia

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  6. Hello Jeremy and Alicia
    For me the greatest mystery with the meeting between Kafka and Steiner always was that Steiner apparently didn’t see whom he had in front of him. Perhaps because a great author (Kafka wasn’t so great at that time, but he was evidently working on The Trial, Der Process, where he expressed deep insights in an inner world of Man. That Steiner inspired him in this is clerly shown in the texts, Especially in the story the preast tells K in the cathedral. Vor dem Gesetz (In front of the Law?). The Guardian, and the effect he has on “the man from the countryside (Der Mann vom Lande) is clearly a strong interpretation of one of Steiners mainthemes: The guardian of the treshold, Hüter det Schwelle. It is much to say about this, but I will not bother you with a long essay, especially not in english.
    Humbly yours
    Göran F

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    • Hello Göran,

      You make a remarkable observation that Rudolf Steiner had inspired Franz Kafka to write about the “Guardian of the Threshold” in his famous work The Trial, (Der Prozeß), which was published in 1925, the same year Steiner died. If what you say is true, then it means that the concept of the Guardian of the Threshold came “full circle,” as it were, with Kafka bringing it back into the realm of fiction writing where it originated.

      Of course, Rudolf Steiner, as a Theosophist, “inherited” the idea from Madame Blavatsky, but she, in turn, had derived the Guardian concept from its original author who is Edward Bulwer-Lytton, in his Rosicrucian novel Zanoni published in 1842.

      As the saying goes about karma “What goes around, comes around.” So perhaps Franz Kafka did finally redeem the fantastical and fictional idea of the Guardian that Steiner actually reified and took so literally and actually believed was a real being existing in some real spiritual world.

      Do you know that I have never met anyone personally nor have I ever heard any Anthroposophist report that he or she has ever encountered this so-called Guardian of the Threshold? (I mean outside of Steiner’s 3rd Mystery Play, perhaps.) Have you?

      Hollywood Tom Mellett,
      The Garbage-Man of the Threshold
      In Los Angeles

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      • Steve Hale has reported to me that he has indeed encountered the Guardian of his Lower Threshold and apparently penetrated this threshold. I don’t know about the current status of his other thresholds.

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      • I have encountered what Steiner described as the amalgamation of my shortcomings, and the guide for the tasks for my life going forward. It was a singular and signal event, though with aftershocks for a year or two afterwards.

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    • Hello Göran,
      what a surprise to see you around!
      You wrote:
      ‘That Steiner inspired him in this is clerly shown in the texts …’

      Is anything known about the extent to which Kafka was familiar with Steiner’s books or lectures (apart from the ones he attended himself)?

      Clearly he was interested in theosophy and similar ideas, but they were (as the article Jeremy lined to points out) highly fashionable at the time. The inner world of man was a preoccupation of many, and concepts very similar to Steiner’s Guardian could have come from other sources.

      You also wrote:

      ‘…. Steiner apparently didn’t see whom he had in front of him.’

      How can we possibly know he didn’t?

      best,
      -alicia

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      • Göran Fant

        Alicia,
        I fully agree with your commentary.
        1. The concept “Guardian of the Threshold” is as you say not unic for Steiner. It was a concept in theosophy, and of course in masonic rituals since its beginnings, and these rituals are inspirated by far older traditions in the mysteries of Egypt, Old Greek etc. This is so well documented so I won’t repeat it here.
        However we know that Kafka knew Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse… and in his texts we find clear analogies to formulations in Steiner, especially in The Trial and in the paralipomena to it. We underestimate Kafka (I don’t think you do) if we think that his interest in theosophy primarily was caused by the fact that it was in fashion during theese years. His books, especially The Trial, show how deeply he lived in those realms of the mental world.

        2. Relevant is also your point that we can’t know what Steiner saw in his later so famous visitor. It was only a sentimental sigh from me regretting that they had no confirmed contact later. And that evidently Kafka was deeply disapointed after his meeting with RS. An reasonable interpretation is that Kafka’s hope to be accepted as one of Steiners personal pupils in the esoteric school wasn’t fullfilled. You know also, Alicia, that Steiner oversaw Hilma af Klint – with Christian Morgenstern and Andre Bely it was quite an other thing.

        Habent sua fata libelli! The Trial hade really a strange way before it became one of the most discussed novels of the last century. Kafka let only the parable of the man from the countryside be printed during his lifetime (1919) – the text that gives a picture of the guardian of the treshold. He worked on the novel during the 1914-16. This parable, Vor dem Gesetz, is treated in a very unusual way. In the chapter, last but one, In Dom the priest of the prison reads it for Joseph K. And then he and Joseph K have a long talk about it with deep interpretation. There you find the famous words on the paradoxality of life: ”Richtiges Auffassen einer Sache und Missverstehen der gleichen Sache schliessen einander nicht vollständig aus”
        Against Kafkas expressed will Max Brod let the novel be published after the authors death. Millions of people may thank him for this unfaithfulness!
        In this by Kafka ”forbidden” book there are some by him removed chapters. And in one of theese removed chapters (where Joseph K again meets the artist Titorelli, there are some lines which he crossed over: there you find some of the most theosophic formulations in his texts, perhaps the most lightful and hopeful. Here you even find a rather clear hint on reincarnation. Ambiguity!
        Perhaps one finds in this the reason why Kafka after all rejected Steiner vice versa. He is a master of expressing lonelines, absurdity, darkness, one of the greatest in worldliterature. Maybe he didn’t want the calm, more apollonic atmosphere in Steiner’s Weltanschaung.
        There is much more of this, and perhaps I soon will write an essay on some theosophic aspects on Kafka which are not described so fully in Leawitts book, (The Mystical Life of F K) .
        Alicia, and others: if there is interest we may have a little seminar on this in Stockholm, for example in Thelins café in St Eriksgatan. As I really appreciate your honest way to formulate essential objections to careless conclusions, Alicia, you will be my guest on coffe or herbal tea (with a little something to eat) if you would participate. OSA

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      • Hello Göran (and Jeremy, of course),
        to begin from the end: that sounds a lovely suggestion. Not that I’m a knower of Kafka, or anything — I am unfortunately not! (But at least I do know Thelins! I lived a block away when I was a kid.) Anyway, I’m up for it. Unfortunately, my ahrimanic nature and my past as the supposed arch-enemy of anthroposophy may put other participants off the idea. Please do send me an e-mail (aliciahamberg@gmail.com).

        So, to Kafka, then.

        ‘We underestimate Kafka (I don’t think you do) if we think that his interest in theosophy primarily was caused by the fact that it was in fashion during theese years.’

        Quite possibly I do actually underestimate him! But that aside, these ideas and thoughts were quite widespread and ‘normal’ in his days. In contrast to today. He would have been exposed to them, not because he sought what was fashionable, but because it was natural.

        As for Steiner, he may have met quite a number of aspiring writers and artists who came and sought his advice, and most of them likely never became famous.

        ‘An reasonable interpretation is that Kafka’s hope to be accepted as one of Steiners personal pupils in the esoteric school wasn’t fullfilled.’

        Is it known what or how much he knew about it? The diary entry doesn’t reveal anything about it, as far as I can remember. In fairness, I don’t think Kafka is presenting his case very well, if that’s what he wanted from the meeting! (Supposing that his account of what he said in the meeting is accurate.) He does talk a lot, but it isn’t evident what he wants. Another thought: maybe he talked so much they ran out of time. Steiner often did have a tight schedule, didn’t he?

        ‘… Steiner oversaw Hilma af Klint – with Christian Morgenstern and Andre Bely it was quite an other thing.’

        Yes, but this may have been a consequence of more practical conditions, than any profound insight (or rather lack thereof). Bely followed Steiner around on his tours. While af Klint met him once (I think) when he visited Stockholm.

        ‘He is a master of expressing lonelines, absurdity, darkness, one of the greatest in worldliterature. Maybe he didn’t want the calm, more apollonic atmosphere in Steiner’s Weltanschaung.’

        Oh, I think there’s quite enough of loneliness, absurdity and darkness inherent in Steiner’s visions — as well as drama! But, of course, much of the more practical-oriented advice is oriented towards calm and, that phony word, balance. Maybe I’m out on a limb here, but especially with the darkness — there’s so much of it.

        -alicia

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  7. You guys write too much.

    Like

  8. Pingback: From Anarchy to Synarchy: The Emergence of a Global Consciousness – Beyond The Soul's Meridian

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