Stuttgart pioneers

By Christof Wiechert, July 2021

To say it from the outset: this work is based on a deeply and thoroughly researched and understood remembrance in the spirit. And it has another a special merit.

Aller Anfang not only describes the founding figures in detail, but is also a wonderful, heartfelt cultural guide to this region of Germany. And if the biographies of those described demand it, the story also go to Altona, Herrenberg, Mannheim, Berlin, South America, New York. It takes into account the geographical locations, the economic situation, the culture and religion. And before we know it we experience the reality of the significance of the places that souls choose for incarnation because that is where they are intended to do their tasks. This book breathes in great arcs.

The biographies of the founding figures unfold against this background: Adolf Arenson, José del Monte, the Unger family, Marie Antonie Völker (“Toni”), E.A. Karl Stockmeyer, Alice Fels, Emil and Bertha Molt, Emil Leinhas and many others – all strong characters who made themselves available to anthroposophy.

Hartwig Schiller follows the principle of weaving. Certain historical sequences are described and how the protagonists acted in them. For example, the biography of Alice Fels, which has already been presented, becomes an occasion a second time round to give a detailed account of the Mystery Dramas and the emergence of eurythmy. This may seem confusing at first, but one soon notices that there is a system to it – the system of spiritual and geographical cultural creation through life stories.

The milestones the book passes along are the following: the Theosophical Society, the Munich Congress, the model building at Malsch and the branch house at Landhausstraße 70 in Stuttgart, the turmoil in the Theosophical and the founding of the Anthroposophical Society, the Mystery Dramas, the First World War, the threefolding movement and the founding of the Waldorf School. And Stuttgart itself with its, from the beginning, rich collection of different branches that tried to work together.

Hartwig Schiller does not shy away from major excursions into intellectual history. The whole poem fragment of Goethe’s “Mysteries”, the wonderful lecture by the old Arenson at the Goetheanum about old and new generations, but also, seen by the reviewer for the first time, a complete list of the 19 participating companies of Kommender Tag and the complete product range of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory; it is always and all interesting!

We meet Emil and Bertha Molt again at the founding of the Waldorf School and in the difficulties of the threefolding movement. Many beautiful biographical sketches are given of the first group of teachers. Special mention should be made of the thorough portrayal of Emil Leinhas, who has not yet received the recognition he deserves. Hartwig Schiller succeeds in putting his work in perspective, which makes Leinhas visible in his true form.

But it is and remains a shocking experience to learn through this book what kind of personalities, what kind of talents, what kind of strength and will to persevere were mustered by these people and what kind of suffering and tragedy came upon them as a result of the political aberrations. The fact that we who are born later can at least understand this through such a book can close the gaps that these destinies of the time have left in our historical consciousness and conscience.

Here we touch on the great merit of this book: to devote oneself to remembrance in the spirit with such thoroughness, and not to lose one’s orientation in the mass of facts, so that the reader can thereby become aware of this remembrance in the spirit, that is a real gift.

Hartwig Schiller: Aller Anfang. Gründergestalten der anthroposophischen Arbeit in Stuttgart, 478 pages, cloth binding, EUR 39, Verlag Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart 2020

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