Steiner's Last Words?


In a discussion recently, someone wondered what Rudolf Steiner's last words were. The discussion started when someone remembered that someone said that Steiner's last words were on the relation of John the Baptist to Lazarus, or something to that effect, and that the attending doctors had this notarized. It seemed incorrect to me, so I did some checking. My Christoph Lindenberg biography of Steiner (1000 pages in German - usually considered the most comprehensive) states that Steiner, on his deathbed (that is, on the night he died) said nothing in the way of "last words" only a few "nice things" to Ita Wegman before closing his eyes, folding his hands and passing, in what seemed to those present a conscious manner (page 980). Present were Dr's Ita Wegman and Ludwig Noll, and Guenther Wachsmuth. It was about 5 AM, Monday, March 30th, 1925. Wegman described the passing as something that seemed decided only in the final moments. Just the day before Steiner was making plans to work on his sculpture "the representative of man" the following day. Though mostly bedridden for the previous six months, Steiner remained quite optimistic about overcoming his illness, read quite a bit, wrote a number of articles, and did work on the plans for the second Goetheanum. His passing struck many as quite unexpected.

So perhaps the "last words" came from a few days earlier. I looked back a bit. He spoke to Albert Steffen on March 28th in the evening. Earlier that day Steiner wrote his last "To the Members" article, titled "From Nature to Sub-Nature" covering "a preview of the 20th century" per Lindenberg (the article can be found in Volume 26 of the complete works, page 258). Access to Steiner was strictly controlled, since by his own diagnosis the illness was caused by exhaustion from personal interviews, so the only people he really saw were Steffen, Wachsmuth, Wegman and Noll, and of course Marie Steiner (who had been away from Dornach attending to the business of the Society since February 23rd).

In the end I am as curious as anyone to know what Steiner's "last words" were. However, the largest, most comprehensive and most recent Steiner biography (published 1997) don't speak of any last words, much less notarized last words, so I have to be somewhat skeptical of their existence. Further I have to wonder how they could possibly have been notarized. While I am not familiar with the process in Switzerland specifically, most countries require a notary public be physically present to certify that the words (usually written) are the express will of the author. At best Dr's Noll or Wegman could have their own statements notarized after the fact. These, however, would not be Steiner's words, but Wegman's or Noll's words, that are notarized. Yet as I have already stated, even these are not known to Steiner's most thorough biographer. Perhaps the mistake is considering Steiner's final lecture cycle "The Book of Revelation and the Work of the Priest" to be "deathbed comments." But in the end, it appears that Steiner did not die leaving any "last words" or final message.

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This page contains a single entry by Daniel Hindes published on March 14, 2004 3:54 PM.

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