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Did Rudolf Steiner write the “We Must Eradicate From the Soul” verse?

Did Rudolf Steiner write the “We Must Eradicate From the Soul” verse?

The following verse, usually attributed to Rudolf Steiner, has been has been very popular lately. Steiner wrote a lot of verses for many different purposes. But this one is not one one of them. The first part is a versification of a paragraph from a 1910 lecture. The second part is demonstrably pseudoepigraphical. More on that below. (For those wondering, pseudoepigraphical means “falsely attributed”; it is a technical term used by theologians to describe texts attributed to authors who could not have written them).

According to the editors at Steiner’s archive in Dornach the verse appears to have originated among Dutch anthroposophists during WWII. This information is contained in GA40a.

From the Steiner Lecture:

We must eradicate from the soul
all fear and terror of what
comes towards man
out of the future.
 We must acquire serenity
in all feelings and sensations
about the future.
We must look forward
with absolute equanimity
to everything that may come.
And we must think only that
whatever comes is given to us
by a world-directive
full of wisdom.
The part that is pseudoepigraphical:
It is part of what we
must learn in this age,
namely, to live out of pure
trust, without any security
in existence.
Trust in the ever present
help of the spiritual world.
Truly, nothing else will do
if our courage is not to fail us.
And let us seek the awakening
from within ourselves,
every morning
and every evening.
Some basic hermaneutics can establish that the second half is not from Steiner. While the theme of the first four verses re-occurs repeatedly in slightly different formulations in lectures from the period 1910-1911 – especially in lectures where he is explaining anthroposophy to the public – the second half does not match in phrasing or in theme to anything in the Complete Works. For instance, you will not find a single instance of the phrase “pure trust” anywhere in Steiner’s work. Nor any references to failing courage. Living in trust is not a concept you’ll find in Steiner’s work, and is arguably antithetical to much of Steiner’s western path. And even seeking awakening from within is a novel formulation. Arguably this is the anthroposophical path, but you won’t find Steiner describing it in those terms anywhere.This is not to say that the verse has not given much comfort to many in times of uncertainty. But I feel compelled to point out it’s murky origins.It is pretty clear that whoever created the verse was very familiar with Steiner’s work, perhaps even as a First Class member. And this is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong on anti-anthroposophical about the verse. But there is a difference between a Steiner verse and a verse created by an unnamed and well-meaning anthroposophist. It may be a beautiful and inspiring verse, but that still doesn’t make it a Steiner verse. To me that is a distinction worth maintaining.

The actual date of the lecture from which the verse is derived is 27 November 1910. It is in volume 98 of the expansion series to the complete works (the Beiträge – see below). It may also be in one of the newer GA releases from the past couple of years; I don’t have all of them yet. It ended up in the  Beiträge because the stenogram was not considered reliable enough for inclusion in the GA, at least by the standards at that time. The editors have since decided to put everything into the GA by 2025 regardless of the completeness.
In light of the many objections people bring up when the provenance of the verse is questioned, it is very clear that whoever wrote this was very familiar with Steiner’s work, and was trying to be true to it in spirit. At the same time the language does not match anything else in Steiner’s work. Most of the things Steiner taught are repeated with minor variations all over the CW. Whether it is the basic exercises, fundamentals of karma, or most of the content of Occult Science. But I don’t see an exhortation to “live in pure trust” any other place. This is not to say that trust is not a theme, or that whoever came up with the language isn’t trying to be true to the spirit of Steiner. But unlike most other concepts in Steiner’s teaching we can’t look elsewhere in the CW to try to figure out what might be intended by the phrase, since the phrase is not Steiner’s and does not come up elsewhere in any context.
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What are the Beiträge? There are 122 volumes in the Beiträge series. Each one is devoted to a theme. They contain essays by experts as well as explanatory material, and occasionally a lecture or other archival material that isn’t in the GA. They were released twice per year from 1960 to about the mid 2000s by the Nachlass (back when that was the legal form) from and were available by subscription. Many years there was only one release, so it got a double number.

6 Responses to “Did Rudolf Steiner write the “We Must Eradicate From the Soul” verse?”

  1. michael says:

    The version of the litany used in the time of Paul Muad’dib was believed to have originated with the Bene Gesserit, who themselves faced great dangers during their extensive training

    “I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

  2. Phil Centers says:

    It would be helpful to have the original German of the words Steiner spoke that became this verse. Can those be posted?

    Also, one source lists these words as coming from Steiner’s lecture on “Death and immortality in the light of spiritual science” given in Bremen on November 12, 1911. You say it’s a 1910 lecture. Can you give more details? Thanks

    • daniel says:

      There is no lecture for November 12, 1911 listed in the master list of all known Steiner lectures, at least the one from the 1980s. Christoph Lindenberg’s chronicle of Steiner’s life lists a lecture trip to Bremen on November 11 and 12, 1911. So it appears that Steiner did hold a lecture there on that day, but there is no transcript available. The editorial introduction to the Beitrage edition states that they decided to publish the lecture outside the GA because there were versions circulating that had incorrect dates attributed, were incomplete, or filled out with additional material of unknown provenance. So the attribution to 1911 may be sourced in from one of those unofficial versions.

      • daniel says:

        Lindenberg does have Steiner in Bremen on 27 November, 1910 as well. So people may simply have attributed it to the wrong Bremen lecture.

  3. daniel says:

    Knowing Steiner’s actual words is impossible, since the text of the lecture is reconstructed listener’s notes, and not a stenographic transcript. But it is published in Beitrage 98 as:
    “Wir müssen mit der Wurzel aus der Seele ausrotten Furcht und Grauen vor dem, was aus der Zukunft herandringt an den Menschen. Wie bangt und ängstigt sich der Mensch heute vor allem, was in der Zukunft liegt und besonders vor der Todesstunde. Gelassenheit in bezug auf alle Gefühle und Empfindungen gegenüber der Zukunft muß sich der Mensch aneignen, mit absolutem Gleichmut entgegensehen allem, was da kommen mag, und nur denken, daß [das], was auch kommen mag, durch die weisheitsvolle Weltenführung uns zukommt. Dies muß immer wieder und wieder vor die Seele gestellt werden. Das fuhrt dazu, wie ein Geschenk zu empfangen die rückschauenden Kräfte für vergangene Erdenleben.”
    Translated roughly, that reads:
    “We must root out from the soul the fear and horror of that which approaches man from the future. How anxious and afraid man is today of everything that lies in the future and especially of the hour of death. Man must acquire composure with regard to all feelings and sensations about the future, look forward with absolute equanimity to everything that may come, and only think that whatever may come will come to us through the wise guidance of the world. This must be put before the soul again and again. This leads to receiving like a gift the retrospective powers for past earth lives.”

    • daniel says:

      It looks like the lecture made it into the GA in volume 69b, first published in 2013. That means it was a public lecture. A note in 69d confirms there is no transcript from the lecture of 12 November 1911 in Bremen. The title of the untranscribed lecture was “Death and Immortality in the Light of Spiritual Science”. He gave lectures with the same title in eight other cities in a six-month period, with transcripts existing for three, and partial notes for two more.

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