Saturday, August 11, 2012

Foreword by the translator and publisher

Power to the Virtues

Note: This post is out of date and has been updated on October 8, 2019.

This interactive blog contains a completely revised translation of the introduction Rudolf Steiner on the Virtues to the first German edition in 1972, plus the twelve texts and meditations from the book The Virtues - Season of the Soul by the German philosopher/anthroposophist Herbert Witzenmann (1905-1988) as well as the illustrations painted by the Dutch artist Jan de Kok for The Virtues. The blog was started as a supplement for the exhibition in the De Roos (The Rose), Center for Spirituality and Consciousness-raising, in Amsterdam in 2012. 

What this blog does not contain is the Conclusion from the first complete English translation done by Sophia Walsh, and published by Spicker Books in Dornach, Switzerland towards the end of the previous century (no publication date given), and the Preface to the first (incomplete) English translation done by the American poetess Daisy Aldan (1923-2001) and published by her Folder Editions, New York in 1975.

After the end of the exhibition in The Rose the publisher and translator of the Dutch version of The Virtues Robert Jan Kelder from the Willehalm Institute Press Foundation in Amsterdam is planning to offer this artistic-literary exhibition as a sort enhanced concept artwork to a well-willing gallery, cultural center or some similar venue in The Netherlands or abroad in a concerted effort to bring, as it were, the Virtues into power (this is being written at the beginning of the Dutch national election campaign for seats in the House of Parliament with the actual elections to be held one day after the closing of the exhibition, September 12.) 

This is not as far-fetched or even absurd as it may seem at first. In the esoteric or anthroposophical tradition of the cosmic, Iro-Scottish or Grail Christianity of Saint John and Rudolf Steiner, the middle members of the second Heavenly hierarchy are after all not only called Virtues or Spirits of Movement, but also Powers with the task of keeping the whole cosmos in balance. In that sense, the work The Virtues may be seen as a valiant and noble attempt by the writer to bring down the mighty spirituality of these lofty beings into the minds, heart and soul of those on earth that are prepared to make a genuine effort to comprehend and implement these difficult texts. Thus, by giving one’s vote to these 12 Powers they can win a seat in the House of Virtues, and from there - as a necessary supplement to the work done in the House of Parliament with respect to rights and duties - spread their mighty wings of  benevolent change, thereby giving the movement for norms and values, reintroduced by former Dutch premier Jan Peter Balkenende  new momentum.

A financial condition for a successful campaign to bring the Virtues to power by means of an exhibition moving across town and country is that the 13 paintings, including that for the title page of the book (see the image above), do not pass over into private hands, but become the property of the Willehalm Institute Press Foundation or are given on loan for this purpose. We therefore end this “election campaign text”, by requesting those with ideas or means on how to to give the Powers a seat in the House of Virtues to contact the Willehalm Foundation. Those wishing to comment on the translation are cordially invited to  do so. 

Willehalm Institute Press Foundation, Kerkstraat 386A, 1017 JB Amsterdam, 
Tel. 0031 (0)20-6944572;

Rudolf Steiner on the Virtues

Notes to the First German Edition from 1972

Herbert Witzenmann

The studies on the Virtues owe their origin to a cordial invitation. They were first published in the Star Calendar for the year Easter 1969 to Easter 1970 (Philosophic-Anthroposophic Press, Dornach 1968). They are printed in this [German] edition for the second time in an almost unaltered form. The first edition included a preface, which has been replaced by a new introduction on the origin of the Virtues. The previous preface with the title “Rudolf Steiner on the Virtues” is included below in its entirety. It contains certain explanations which could be useful for the reader.

"Rudolf Steiner has attributed twelve Virtues to the cycle of the year. The meditative nature of this arrangement becomes already evident from the fact that conceptually designated attributes are not linked to  certain dates or periods. It is rather a matter of twelve soul motions, twelve inner steps that can be taken in line with the course of the year.  These indications begin therefore with: “Until January 21 – Courage becomes redemptive power; Until February 21 – Discretion becomes meditative power,” and end with: “Until December 21 – Control of the tongue (speech) becomes feeling for truth”.  The period of inner transformation lasts in each case from the twenty-first day of a month to the twenty-first day of the following month.  Virtues are consequently not character traits that one simply possesses or acquires, but exertions, conquests and enhancements. Rudolf Steiner, as can be seen, does not list a classification of the Virtues, but presents the dynamics of shaping our own Virtues engendering being. Virtues are transitions, examples of pathseeking and pathfinding.

The inner path is the constantly moving mean between a bodily free condition and resurrection towards a spirit-enamored state of being. Virtues are stages of the constant struggle to achieve the midway between aberrations. As witnesses to such a midway experience, they are not described by Rudolf Steiner as achievements but as progressions. They are the reflective awareness between remembrance of the descent of the spirit and premonition of its goal. It is the motion of pathfinding, which yet is quietude, because it ensures the right direction through truth and inner life.
By offering a meditation appropriate to each successive step on this path, an attempt was made to do justice to this dynamic experience of the Virtues. Almost all these meditations rely directly or indirectly on indications given by Rudolf Steiner Since they are intended as suggestions, they can only serve as a kind of introduction to such meditations, which correspond better to the individual living situation and experience."


For these suggestions, the following sources were used:
January: For the meditation on interrelations of destiny, see the relevant descriptions by Rudolf Steiner in his books Theosophy and Occult Science – An Outline.
February: The meditation on silence was taken from the cycle of lectures by Rudolf Steiner, Human and Cosmic Thought, Berlin 1914.
March: Concerning the meditations on magnanimity suggested here, the Defenses (German: Rettingen) by the German philosopher and writer Lessing may be called to mind. Lessing established with this work a new literary genre which, to be sure, has produced no successors, probably because no later author might lay claim to matching his combination of magnanimity and originality of thought. Lessing characterized his Defenses (in the preface to the third and fourth parts of his Works) with the following words: “And whom does one think that I have defended? None but dead men who cannot thank me for it. And against whom? Almost solely against the living, who will perhaps draw a sour face at me for doing so. If that is clever, I do not know what it is to be called rash.”
The more modestly Lessing might belittle his own cleverness in this respect, the more his noble relationship to truth deserves unreserved admiration. Lessing’s Defenses are a glorious testimony to his love for creative individuality and his contempt of philistinism, which assumes that an injustice is annuled in the course of time. Surely no time span, and even if it claims the extent of centuries, can exempt the next generations from nobility of soul and human dignity, nor exonerate them from looking back over injustice committed in the past and letting it point to a direction for a preview of their future action, or relieve them of taking steps that lay their own personality on the balance of justice. Especially not if the consequences of injustice continue to exist and have effect, exposing uniqueness of the caviling of the perpetually out-of-date, the conspiracy of the mediocre, and the mercilessness of those masking the shame caused in them by greatness behind their hate.
April: Lalitawistara, Ch. II; Luke, Ch. 2, 41 ff.
May: Rudolf Steiner, The Education of the Child from the Aspect of Spiritual Science, The Spirtual Guidance of Man and Mankind.
June: Rudolf Steiner, The Christ Impulse in Temporality and Its Effect in Man, Pforzheim, 1918.
July: John, Ch. 14, 6.
August: Syngignoskeim “Cognizing” is what the ancient Greek called forgiving.
September: Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (Freedom), Ch. 14.
October: Rudolf Steiner, “This is what we must learn in our time, to live in pure trust without any existential security, trusting in the ever-present help from the spiritual world.”(froma lecture in 1919).
November: Apocalypse, Ch. 10.
December: Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, December 24, 1918, supplement to the Calender of the Soul. Rudolf Steiner gave various versions of the same content, for example (in Anthroposophical Teachings, Dornach, March 30, 1924):

If you desire to know your own being,
Look round at the whole world from every side.
If you truly wish to comprehend the world,
Look into the depths of your own soul.

January - Courage becomes power of redemption

December 21 to January 21

No beginning without courage. No courage without truth.

The source of true courage is an experience which brings past and future together, for the truth is not restricted to time. From the life between death and a new birth, we bring into the earthly life ahead the impulse to correct the consequences of our deeds in a previous earthly life. This thought from the past is linked to a thought of the future: the fruits of a former life are incorporated into the spiritual germ of the human being, ripen in the life between death and rebirth and then, transformed into talents and abilities, appear in a new life. Upon comprehending these two thoughts, the present becomes the moment of courage. Such courage, practiced in the inner life of soul and exercised in the outer events of destiny, leads the soul to experience immortality. It is the trustworthy consciousness of the fact that the power is garnered in a former life to confront the individual with the events occurring in the destinies of a later life. This courage becomes the redeemer from the fallibility of the death-ridden body.  But in the meetings of those with whom we are connected by destiny, it also, as the bearer of the consciousness of this immortality, becomes the awakener of this consciousness within them.

Courage becomes power of redemption.

A meditation that strengthens this redemptive power is the contemplation of destiny as a consequence of self-inflicted events.

February - Discretion becomes meditative power

January 21 to February 21

Whoever has experienced the imperishable nature of one’s own true being becomes silent, discrete.

True discretion is the biblical metanoia, the change of attitude, also called repentance. For the opposite of repentance is the surrender to the senses. The immortal power of courage that forms the core of our being loses in the surrender to the senses, in external communication, consciousness of itself. By turning back, however, it becomes self-aware. Maintaining silence is therefore gathering strength. It shrouds the spiritual in us that is neither communicable in the images of the physical world and its speech, nor audible to the outward listening ear. Silence is the protection that retains the spiritual as an inviolable secret of the soul. Discretion is worthy to be the bearer of this mystery. It does not disappoint the trust placed in it by the spiritual world and the human beings, since it adopts this trust into the soul realm guarded by this turning back (of our desirous nature). Discretion is the power by which the soul grasps and experiences itself as belonging not to the world of the senses but to the world of the spirit.

Thus it becomes meditative power

A meditation of such discretion is: I am a thought being thought by the hierarchies of the cosmos.

March - Magnanimity becomes love

February 21 to March 21

In silence the voice of the spirit becomes audible as the voice of one’s own true being. This hearing is the sense for individuality. This sense is magnanimity.

Magnanimity is the great sense that, full of interest and respect, gives room to every expression of another being. Every individuality is acknowledged by this sense as the inviolable signet of the spirit inmost in every human being. This sense feels responsible for every other individuality as for its own higher being. For magnanimity, the feeling of solidarity is not subjective. For this sense, it means quite objectively to be responsible for the spirit that is the common origin of all individualities, from which they gain independence and which at the higher level of free community they are called upon to realize amongst themselves. Magnanimity therefore cannot do otherwise but unite in free affinity with every individuality who, however unusual it may be, truly lives as such.

Thus it becomes love.

A meditation of such magnanimity is the contemplation of injustice done to another individuality, which one forgives as if suffered by oneself while unremittingly attempting to have amends made.

April - Devotion becomes sacrificial power

March 21 to April 21

The love that in the responsibility for every individuality feels itself to be a member of a free community is devotion.

In devotion, the nature of living thinking is experienced, of the spirit that lives in us as individuality. In living thinking we do not develop our subjective thoughts, rather the spirit thinks through us the thoughts that indwell within creatures. However, the spirit does not do this by overwhelming us, but such that we unite with it in a free deed, which is at the same time a beholding. In reverence for the spirit in us and in all beings, we raise ourselves to ethical individualism. The content of this reverence, however, differs according to whether it refers to creatures of nature or human beings. Natural creatures we comprehend through our own thoughts, human beings through theirs. By not thinking our subjective thoughts about other human beings, but by devoting our thoughts to theirs, our own individuality becomes the bearer of another individuality. Since externality is wholly overcome in thinking, we lose ourselves in this other individuality, only to find ourselves in it again. In this way, freedom becomes community for devotion.

Thus it becomes power of sacrifice.

A meditation of such devotion is the contemplation of the loss-and-found scenes in the lives of the leaders of humanity. (Buddha is found again under the tree with the singers, the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple with the teachers.) 

May - Balance becomes progress

April 21 to May 21

The sacrificial power of devotion that experiences freedom as community becomes the sense of balance.

For this sacrificial power experiences like through like, spiritual through the spiritual, individuality through individuality. This feeling lies at the basis of every item of knowledge. Through an act of knowledge, in cognition, we find the path through our own spirit to the spirit latent in world phenomena. This would not be possible through a merely reproductive, receptive form of knowledge. As such, it would remain outside reality, which without its participation would not be completely finished.  A true form of knowledge, however, adds through a creative act the ideas to the sense percepts, which for human experience are initially devoid of ideas and thereby meets the spirit initially concealed in percepts.  Thus reality originates in every true act of knowledge out of an experience that initially conceals it. It arises from the sense of balance in the meeting of spirit with spirit. By regaining the reality that he loses in the percepts, the cognizant human being experiences at the same time the emergence of his own spiritual being.  Out of the reality arising in his act of knowledge, man derives his origin as a spiritual being that decides for himself about the birth of his spirit and his higher development.  The knowing of like through like, which shows itself to be the emergence of an independent individuality out of the spiritually permeated world phenomena, is true balance.

This it becomes progress.

A meditation of such balance is contemplating the way children learn to walk, which allows balance to become progress.

June - Perseverance becomes faithfulness

May 21 to June 21

Balance experienced as progress is perseverance.

For man only progresses towards the true form of world phenomena by tirelessly penetrating them with his own being. This progress does by no means first begin where it is fully transparent for self-observation. Rather, the true motivation underlying all perseverance is the fact that every activity is derived more or less consciously from the archetypal activity of thinking, that the success of every outwardly directed activity depends on the meeting of one’s own spirit with the spirit latent in things, and that we thereby not only shape the object of our activity, but also ourselves.  All learning and ability is based on that. This is the meaning of Hegel’s saying: “Der Bildende bildet sich selbst”. (All education is self-education) By persevering, we are therefore true to the mandate of self-formation implanted in us. Only such faithfulness enables us to remain true to a task, to a person.  Faithful is the one who, by working ceaselessly to make something of himself, fulfills what he owes the world and the people connected to him by destiny.

Thus perseverance becomes faithfulness.

A meditation of such faithfulness is the Prologue to the Gospel of John. (For it proclaims the Word that we hear in ourselves when we remain true to ourselves, to others and to our task by persisting against all odds. 

July - Selflessness as the path to the human center becomes catharsis.

June 21 to July 21

Such true perseverance is selfless.

True selflessness is equally far removed from hardening and dissolution.
Adulating dependency is no less self-centered than rigid consistence on one’s own prejudices and interests. True selflessness defends neither the narrowness of the subjective personality nor loses itself in other people and things. It is rather the golden mean between these two deviations and temptations. Not obscured by the selfishness of fear nor by that of greed, it is therefore pure. Purification is the path that overcomes fear through the truth that unites all beings and, through an inner life that liberates one from the dependency of desire, accepts the twists and turns of fate. This selflessness, which through considerateness and renunciation finds itself, is self-assured. With his idea of purification (catharsis) Aristotle denotes initiation into the path of destiny as being the task of the poet. This catharsis is achieved by overcoming and transforming the dangers that threaten the human center.

Selflessness as the path to the human center becomes catharsis.

A meditation on such selflessness is the saying: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”

August - Compassion becomes freedom

July 21 to August 21

Such purified selflessness is true compassion.

True compassion undergoes all suffering as its own, without the loss of independence in its well-considered judgment. Indeed, independence can only have its source in compassion. For compassion is spiritual union. Everything remaining external to us, however, exerts influence or imposes coercion on us. In the mind of another human being that is not linked with ours by the compassion weaving between us, we do not live as free individualities. For such a person avoids us or seeks (albeit in a manner of which he himself is perhaps not aware) to make us dependent on him. Similarly, we can only turn away from a person, whom we approach without compassion, or attempt in some form or other to dominate him. On someone whom we confront with a coercive attitude, however, we are no less dependent than on someone we avoid. Naturally, this is not a matter of outer behavior but of a mental attitude. Once we have reached a spiritual union, however, we can neither be the object of an exertion of power nor do we exert power.  It is not possible, because our own being and the one united with us cannot be the object of our power. Knowledge therefore excludes power, and compassion is a form of knowledge. Even in the compassionate union with someone deserving revulsion (which is of course wholly inward), we do not demean ourselves. On the contrary, through it we liberate that higher element which is hidden in him as it is in everything of a lower nature of which it has only not become conscious. True compassion therefore does not only make ourselves free, but also liberates those it embraces.

Thus it becomes freedom.

A meditation on such compassion is: Compassion is the sheath in which the free heart beats.

September - Courtesy becomes tact of the heart

August 21 to September 21

The compassion that becomes freedom restores to courtesy its meaning and dignity.

Courtesy today has become a mere formality that, insofar as it is not deemed altogether dispensable, is only still recognized because it eases relationships or because it has become a habit.  True courtesy discerns at the same time the higher human I as well as the spiritual union of higher I-beings in a free community. Faced with discourtesy, we are therefore more affected by the self-humiliation of the ruffian than by our own dismay. For the same reason, we feel that every criticism, which is not at the same time an acknowledgment of potential development, is self-debasement of the critic. True courtesy, on the other hand, is free union with the higher being of the one we meet. We experience ourselves in him and show esteem for the spirit common to both of us. True courtesy however goes even further. It experiences not only itself in the higher being of the one it meets, but this higher being also in itself. It is dismayed on the other’s behalf if the latter did not succeed in expressing himself in word and deed as he truly is. This dismay is far more unbearable than the discomfiture at one’s own failure. Even more so does courtesy feel ashamed when upon subsequent self-examination it has to blame itself for having remained on the surface of another’s ill-mannered self-expression instead of having accorded it its most valid significance. Courtesy thus constantly supplements and transforms out of its own understanding the imperfect.  It knows, moreover, through her demeanor to create the opportunities that enable everyone it meets to open themselves. It distances itself no less, however, from a behavior that denies its own better nature.

Thus it becomes tact of the heart.

A meditation of such courtesy is:  Courtesy and tact of the heart relate to each other as diastole and systole.

October - Contentment becomes composure

September 21 to October 21

Courtesy enlivened to tact of the heart desires nothing for itself. All it seeks is to help others in fulfilling the social-artistic task of enhancing their outer appearance with the light of the archetypal idea living within them. 

Whoever is convinced that in the things and beings themselves lies the disposition to their perfection, is satisfied and views obstacles to their development as necessary conditions for progress and as a spur to action. Discontented is only he who fails to see in world phenomena themselves the hidden plan of their development, and instead expects essential changes to come from external measures. Therefore tact of the heart is inner peace, contentment.
This contentment is always threatened by reflections on the social and political conditions in which we live. And faced with these conditions, never was cause for concern more pressing than in our times. What has become apparent over decades in a most frightening way and which threatens to become even more so can, in the sense of the here characterized contentment, only be understood as sheet lightning heralding a spiritual manifestation, as clouds above which the light is spreading. Only after the breakdown of outdated modes of social and economic life, can they adopt their contemporary form. Out of need, vision is born. But only when the fear and horror of events looming from the future are overcome in the confidence gained by the fulfillment of the daily demands, can the eye be opened for this vision.

Thus contentment becomes composure.

A meditation on such composure is: To live without any existential security, out of pure confidence in the certainty of the ever-present help from the spiritual world, is the demand of our time.

November - Patience becomes insight

October 21 to November 21

Such composure holds the balance of patience in its hand.

Patience is wisdom united with strength, strength united with wisdom. Without wisdom, strength would be hopeless endurance, without strength, wisdom would be idle contemplation. Strength and wisdom are the pillars rising over land and sea bearing the sun-countenance of the angel, who commands the writer of the Apocalypse to devour the book. True knowledge is fulfilled in activity; only the ever re-examined deed leads to real action. The balance of patience determines the weight of the personality. In active interaction with world phenomena, patience allows our knowledge to mature. In reality-based judgement, patience heightens the expectant mood of action. Impatience misleads to prejudice and premature action. But he who submits his actions each time to the judgment of his knowledge, possesses true patience.

Thus it becomes insight.

A meditation on such insightful patience is a picture from the Apocalypse: Above the pillars of strength and wisdom shines insight.  

December - Control of the tongue becomes feeling for truth.

November 21 to December 21

This insightful patience controls the tongue.

For whoever speaks and judges hastily, harms or hinders the maturing process that harvests the truth of world phenomena in his judgment and lets his own actions emerge as ripened fruit from his interaction with world phenomena. Whoever speaks without waiting for this ripening merely voices subjective opinions concerning a world that, in essence, remains foreign to him. Such utterances may draw the applause of the like-minded and, by conforming with common usage, meet with outward success. They are not the truth patiently won and tried in practice with equanimity. Truth is rather the spirit of things opening its eyes in our pursuit of knowledge. Premature words uttered frightens it away. Control of the tongue enables the enchanted spirit, lying dumb and blind in things, to see and speak. Control of one’s tongue loosens the tongue of the creatures sighing for the spell to be broken. The spill is lifted from them when their being in our silence becomes an organ of perception, which interprets itself in the gaze upon its spell-bound state. In this way, the world and the self crossover and interchange, in contrast to the state of our normal consciousness in which they confront each other, disparate and fixed. The essence of things within the human being actively pursuing knowledge becomes an organ of perception; man experiences himself, in so far as he is engaged in creating knowledge, as a being spread out over de totality of the world phenomena. In control of the tongue, it is not the separation of world and self, but their crossing over and interchange that is sensed as the truth. The control of the tongue is the fruitfulness of human knowledge.

Thus this control becomes feeling for truth.

A meditation of such feeling for truth is:

When man gains knowledge of himself,
His self becomes for him the world;
When man gains knowledge of the world,
The world becomes for him his self.