Albert Schweitzer's Friendship with Rudolf Steiner
- Published: Saturday, 17 April 2010 13:19
Compiled by S. T. Adelante
These excerpts, translated by Frank Thomas Smith, are from the book Der Andere Rudolf Steiner ("The Other Rudolf Steiner"; Dornach, Switzerland: Pforte Verlag, 2005).
From the memoirs of Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965):
"My first encounter with Rudolf Steiner took place on the occasion of a Theosophical conference in Strasbourg. If I'm not mistaken, it was in 1902 or 1903. Annie Besant, with whom I was acquainted through Strasbourg friends, introduced us.
"At that time Rudolf Steiner acted in connection with the Theosophical Society, not so much because he shared its convictions, but because he found in its members the possibility to find understanding and interest for the spiritual truths which he had to make known.
"I knew that he had completed a study of Goethe’s works in Weimar. He of course knew nothing of the young Strasbourg University instructor [Schweitzer] who was occupied with Kant’s philosophy and the problems of research into the life of Jesus. He was fourteen years older than I.
"The language mostly used at that Theosophical conference was French. So they counted on me, because I spoke German, to take care of the Austrian guest, which I gladly did. I arranged it so we were neighbors at meals during the conference. From the beginning, he was the talker and I the listener and questioner during our conversations.
"Before we had consumed the soup, a discussion spontaneously arose about his studies of Goethe in Weimar and about Goethe’s Weltanschauung (or world view). I immediately became aware that my companion had extensive knowledge of natural science. It was a great surprise to me that he spoke of the need to recognize the importance of Goethe’s knowledge of nature. He had been able to penetrate from a superficial knowledge of the sense world to a more profound knowledge of spiritual being. I knew something about Goethe’s natural scientific writing and the places where he sought a perceptual knowledge. My table partner realized that he had an attentive listener beside him. He gave a lecture. We forgot that we were supposed to be eating. In the afternoon we stood around together, not paying much attention to what was happening at the Theosophical conference.
"When the discussion turned to Plato, I could participate more. Steiner surprised me here as well, in that he revealed hidden aspects of Plato’s knowledge that I had not yet appreciated.
When Steiner asked me what concerned me especially in theology, I answered that it was research into the historical Jesus. Well, I felt the moment to have come in which I could take the conversation in hand and began to lecture him about research into the life of Jesus and about which Gospel contained the oldest tradition. To my astonishment, he did not discuss this subject. He let me lecture on without saying a word. I had the impression that he was mentally yawning. I got off my theological social-scientific high horse and put it in the stable, and waited for what would come.