Our Century’s Meister Eckhart

For the 150th Birthday of Michael Bauer (1871–1929).


In his recollections of Rudolf Steiner, the Russian symbolist and Anthroposophist Andrej Belyj wrote at one point: «Since 1915 I have had the good fortune to get to know Michael Bauer better, to visit him and to ask him for advice; and although I was able to see the Doctor (Steiner) at the time, I have to admit: Bauer’s advice, the conversations with him, his wisdom, unfathomable, profound word, which sometimes took the form of the almost crude, ‹peppered› popular sayings, but exuded inner warmth and goodness – they were all irreplaceable; even the Doctor could not give me what I received from Bauer: I mean Bauer’s typical, unique ‹tonality›; which could be characterized as follows: If Meister Eckhart met the Doctor and convinced him that the rhythm of the times required an Anthroposophical embodiment of Eckhart’s spirit, then Eckhart would, without losing himself, be Michael Bauer.»1

Master Eckhart of our century –
I remember how you went from Arlesheim to Dornach
Past us: in a time of tremors
You came bowing in flowers and in thorns […]2

Andrej Belyj’s remarkable testimony about the elementary school teacher, Anthroposophy, and Hegel connoisseur, the learned esoteric Michael Bauer is by no means solitary; Bauer, who is rarely mentioned and cited today – except for his stories for children – was one of Rudolf Steiner’s most outstanding collaborators and probably the most spiritually mature and independent of them.3 Friedrich Rittelmeyer, who discovered Anthroposophy through Bauer and later became the first leader of the Christian Community, wrote about his first impressions of Bauer in 1911: «A tall, slim figure with an elongated, dark-bearded, surprisingly spiritual face, he could do for an Indian master who wandered around in the middle of European cities. I have heard from people for whom it was a life event if they only saw, temporarily in his garden, the unknown tall man moving among his flowers. But the strongest impression came from his eyes. […] There, the Christ light shone into the world.»4 After Rudolf Steiner, no one «convinced him so much of the reality of the spiritual world simply through his existence» as Michael Bauer, which was also expressed Rittelmeyer’s profound colleague Eduard Lenz.

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Most Anthroposophists experienced Michael Bauer as someone marked by a severe tuberculosis disease. He had to give up his beloved educational work but was still a member of the central board of the Anthroposophical Society until 1921. When he said goodbye, he was driven into the Stuttgart hall in a wheelchair and greeted by Rudolf Steiner with a ‹reverent bow.› Bauer’s barely audible address was centered around trust between people in the Anthroposophical Society and the «common spirit that is placed in the hearts of people» – especially in view of the «hard struggle» in which this society took off at the beginning of the 1920s. Years ago, after the opening of the Free Waldorf School and the Goetheanum as a Free College for Spiritual Science, there were attacks by Hitler and Rosenberg, by right-wing extremists, racists, and anti-Semites, as well as from also clerical circles.5 «Do you believe that we are in as hard a fight as the Knights Templar had to endure many times! And we should go into battle with the same faithfulness and full awareness.» (Farmer6)

Awareness of the Present

Michael Bauer was a genuine esotericist. However, he was anything but ‹remote from the world› but rather had an astonishing awareness of the present and its crises, supporting the young Anthroposophists who were committed to Social Threefolding in 1919 and hoping for much more political activity and less internal orientation from the Anthroposophical Society. «It becomes more and more clear to me that the mystic easily succumbs to the temptation to neglect the time process […]. Christ’s entry into time is not appreciated enough.»7 The spiritual self-education that Bauer understood as training through the self («The self forms its organs in order to perceive, in order to be active.»8) he saw as a process of waking up for the overall human situation, for the human being and his responsibility for the environment and fellow world, thus also for creation. Bauer wanted to work, but was very limited externally, which depressed him. «I sometimes feel embarrassed to spell out my first name,» he shared with Friedrich Rittelmeyer9 and yet he was more ‹Michaelic› in mood than many of his friends in the anthroposophical contexts. «It is almost a miracle that Michael Bauer is still alive with this serious organic disease. This can only be ascribed to his strong spiritual strength,» emphasized Rudolf Steiner.10 In the end, Steiner would only outlive Bauer by four years. The encounter with his special figure, his nature, and his way of life was still an experience for his last doctor, the famous writer and physician Hans Carossa. Carossa, who always traveled from Munich to the bedridden farmer in Breitbrunn am Ammersee, had trouble with Anthroposophists, with people who, in his experience, «swore only on Rudolf Steiner, rejected everything else with unlimited contempt, always spoke of concentration exercises, but otherwise do not differ in their behavior and actions from the rest of the people.» 11. Carossa, however, excluded his patients from this group – «I have never met a more benevolent, wiser man than Michael Bauer, who in the highest sense of the word emitted rays while he fell apart.»12 Bauer was a ‹healer,› «who, without knowing it, treated and helped his doctor»13. There is little to suggest that Hans Carossa discussed his unfortunate experiences with difficult Anthroposophists with the already seriously ill farmer, who had started working on the board of the German section of the Theosophical Society in 1905 and from the beginning of the Anthroposophical Society (from February 1913) onwards, together with Marie von Sivers and Carl Unger. Perhaps he would have replied to Carossa to a corresponding criticism as in an early letter: «You[the Theosophists] have peculiarities, that’s true. But be fair – you were the only people who initially wanted to listen to Rudolf Steiner.» 14

Michael Bauer in Munich, 1907, source: Rudolf Steiner Archive Dornach

Magic Key

Since 1902, Bauer and his Nuremberg working group had been involved in building up the German section of the Theosophical Society. At Rudolf Steiner’s request, he also gave national lectures at an early stage and campaigned for Anthroposophical Spiritual Science to become better known, including in Switzerland – years before the Goetheanum was built. Various descriptions of the special quality of his lectures have been preserved, for example by Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Albert Steffen, and Andrej Belyj. «One experienced a baptism into a human being, quite apart from the contents that passed through the soul. For a long time, it had a beneficial effect on life that one had lived in a purely human element. Like a magic key, one was unlocked for everything that is human.» (Rittelmeyer15) «He only said what he had made his own through inner work. He was different at the end of his speech than at the beginning, and the audience was transformed accordingly. They were faced with a decision. They either took themselves in hand or they let themselves down. Michael Bauer always spoke in such a way that the freedom of the audience was preserved. He worked through his pure example.» (Steffen16) «Many of his lectures live in my memory alongside the best and strongest lectures by Steiner.» (Belyj 17 ). However, Bauer always remained self-critical: «When humility leaves us, we are forsaken by God. One can be happy when others say it was good – provided that one can trust these others to make a judgment; some praise is in truth a rebuke – but you don’t have to imagine that you have done it well enough in view of the immense need all around and wise enough in view of the incalculable depth of the world.»18 As early as 1914 he was committed to the dissemination of Eugène Lévy’s work ‹Rudolf Steiner’s Worldview and its Opponents› and worried about the public image of Anthroposophy.19 He was also an excellent writer himself. In 1921 he not only contributed the central contribution ‹Rudolf Steiner and Pedagogy› to an anthology for the 60th birthday of the founder of anthroposophy but also published his large article ‹Esoteric Training According to Rudolf Steiner› in Eugen Diederich’s widely spread ‹Tat› magazine. Who besides himself would have been capable of such an extremely independent and spiritually profound presentation at that time? In his preliminary remark, he formulated: «Within his deliberately planned life work, Steiner repeatedly and in detail described the path to the supersensible worlds; especially in the books ‹How to Know Higher Worlds› and ‹Outline of Occult Science.› It cannot occur to the student to want to supplement the teacher’s communication about it in any way. Since the effects of the training are often – if not doubted, then at least misunderstood – it may well go if I, who have learned to survey part of the inner path, take the floor. In the following explanations, I consciously rely only on my own experiences and will perhaps present a bit one-sided as a result. But at least I won’t speak out of prejudice, but out of years of experience.»20

Gateway to Anthroposophy

«Michael Bauer loved Anthroposophical Spiritual Science and spirituality, which he represented in such a public way, and for many people, he became not only the gateway to Anthroposophy but also a constant spiritual companion. He not only helped Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Christian Morgenstern, and Andrej Belyj decisively with his advice and support but also numerous other known and unknown Anthroposophists or people who were looking for Anthroposophy. The spirit tone of his statements was such that the ashamed of Hegel and Fichte ceased,» wrote Rittelmeyer, who the Theosophists had been suspicious of.21 «At the point where I had to overcome the first serious impulses in Spiritual Science, Michael Bauer stood like a good angel posted at an accident scene, as fate had intended.»22 How knowledgeable Bauer was in questions of meditative practice is illustrated by a memory from the Russian actor Michail Chekhov: «He once gave me a meditation. Then he closed his eyes for half a minute to check the picture given to me. And at that moment – looking at his face – something dawned on me of the possibilities of meditation, something that I had not been able to understand before this happy moment. – Once, when I had difficulties with the exercises that he had given me – quite unexpectedly and at the right time I received a slip of paper from him that explained and advised on these difficulties. – And when I came to him one morning and told him about my dream, he said to me: ‹That is exactly what I thought up for you, what I wanted to give you.› – Another time, also with a view to it on a dream of mine, he said: ‹Yes, but the picture needs to be strengthened,› and then he added what was still missing in my dream. – Where, where are the limits of love and concern for people at Michael Bauer?»23 «Michael Bauer loved anthroposophical spiritual science and spirituality, which he represented in such a public way, and for many people, he became the gateway to anthroposophy, but also a constant spiritual companion. He not only helped Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Christian Morgenstern, and Andrej Belyj decisively with his advice and support but also numerous other known and unknown anthroposophists or people who were looking for anthroposophy. The spirit tone of his statements was such that the ashamed of Hegel and Fichte ceased,» wrote Rittelmeyer, who the theosophists had been suspicious of.24 «At the point where I had to overcome the first serious impulses in the humanities, Michael Bauer stood like a good angel posted at an accident scene, as fate had intended.»25

Limitlessness

Bauer did not want to know anything about the ‹limits of love› any more than Rudolf Steiner; rather, he looked for the source of the forces of love and found them not least in esoteric life: «If the esotericist walks the right path, which first sets him up inwardly, makes him independent, makes him progressive – then he will soon find out that he has the strength for this growth flowed in as love. Streams of love run down through the hierarchies into people’s hearts. And soon the desire and will to pass on this blessing stream will come to this experience. In other words: the esoteric learns that his ability to love, to love purely selflessly, is growing larger and larger. His independence has not made him stand out, not isolated, not separated from the rest of the people, but connected in a new way through divine love. And that is the wonderful thing about his life; God is not in a certain, delimited place in the world.»26 In this – and in many other things – Michael Bauer would have got on brilliantly with Martin Buber if they had met; After that, Buber’s negative judgment on anthroposophy would very likely have turned out differently.27 Bauer was not able to stand like a good angel at all «accident sites» (Rittelmeyer); but he accompanied the priests of the Christian community and the teachers of the Waldorf school on their difficult path in the first years after the foundation. «Rudolf Steiner himself referred us to him and he to us,» emphasized Rittelmeyer for the priesthood.28 They held their preparatory meeting before the foundation in Dornach for three weeks in Breitbrunn in the summer of 1922. Bauer conducted one-on-one interviews with all participants, received a daily report on the events and conversations, and spoke to them about meditation. «The world-conquering peace of a person who only lives by grace was around him.» (Alfred Heidenreich29) But the teachers at the Waldorf School that had just been founded in Stuttgart also came to Bauer and asked for his advice. He, probably the most talented educator in the ranks of the Anthroposophical Society, was interested in all the details of the school – and he took on this task of accompanying the teachers after Rudolf Steiner’s death to a certain extent on his behalf. In Nuremberg, children had been waiting for him on the street that morning for him to tell them a story. «How should the new, which means progress, become reality without fantasy? It is she who shows the paths that no one has yet followed. The path to the new cannot come from memory. And pure thinking lacks sensuality. The imagination builds its rainbow bridge from the sky of the purest knowledge to the earth of realization. But who would know anything better for the exercise of the imagination than telling something ‹that never happened anywhere.›»30

Need as a measure

Michael Bauer would very much have liked to help the Anthroposophical Society and its Dornach Center after Rudolf Steiner’s death. He regarded their internal disputes as a catastrophe and a momentous aberration from their actual tasks – in the world and inside the Goetheanum and its society. 31 saw the Anthroposophical Society faced with new tasks in April 1925. «Our teacher left us his work. How do we behave so that it exists and continues to grow?»32 Bauer spoke of an ‹unacquired inheritance› and tried to provide suggestions for an active anthroposophical reception almost 100 years later by means of a series of articles that he wanted to publish in quick succession in the weekly newspaper’s newsletter (which he did not succeed in editing) have lost their relevance.33 Bauer wanted to keep the ‹student relationship› to Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy alive and at the same time to ensure that the teacher’s work would not be damaged by dogmatism, «to keep it pure and unadulterated and let it work»34. He described the task of «constantly confronting the work in our consciousness with the terrible hardship of the time»; thereby it stays alive and changes according to the respective needs. The recipient also remains lively: «But it also keeps us alive and in flux and strengthens and deepens our seriousness and our sense of responsibility with regard to the tasks that the zeitgeist places on us.»35 In 1925, Bauer also counted the elimination of «discouraging prejudices» and «superstitions about the Steiner man» in public, which stand in the way of searching souls and prevent the future of anthroposophy and its society, as one of the necessary social tasks. Bauer wanted to counter this in good time: «Even if many of the older generation were looking for Steiner’s work because they were unable to cope with the burden of their lives or found no satisfaction in other ways – the time has now come, his work in the open Decision for other seekers to carry on those who long for the great need of our time and to carry them out.»36

The Way is the Goal

According to Bauer, a lot will depend on whether anthroposophy is imparted to inquirers «without any shallow teaching.» «Through the words of everyone who brings you anthroposophy, you should hear that someone is speaking who is himself a little on the way as a new person.»37 The highest and most inward part of Steiner’s work remains the indicated path, which must be followed further. Michael Bauer was a connoisseur and apologist of this spiritual training, the ‹esoteric school of the Goetheanum› – and after Rudolf Steiner’s death he also pleaded for an inward, esoteric relationship to the anthroposophical knowledge itself («his [Steiners] Thoughts are like seeds that want to sprout»38), an esoteric relationship that must be determined by great truthfulness and an elementary longing for knowledge. «One can, of course, object that no one submits to the effort of studying anthroposophy without asking himself a question. It is true, however, that there are different degrees of understanding and that an esoteric relationship to knowledge only arises when something like a longing for knowledge, a longing for knowledge, drives our studies out of heartbreak.»39

Michael Bauer was only able to make himself understood and asserted to a limited extent after March 30, 1925, in the midst of the major Dornach crises and the contemporary circumstances. Today, however, his words can be heard again and become effective – his words, thoughts and all of his spiritual form. «Every increase in the life of the soul is a break in the camp of materialism.»40 Bauer once wrote about his spiritual teacher Rudolf Steiner: «What set him apart from all people of our time was the way he felt about life and the world. He not only had a different conception of people and their destiny, he was a different person. He was constantly changing insofar as the ever-increasing scope of his knowledge broadened the field of activity like a growing light. He saw people more and more clearly at a point of development where only his will could still create a favorable turn. He also saw knowledge as dependent on this will. His work eventually became a unique endeavor to encourage humanity.»41


Book Peter Selg, Michael Bauer, a colleague of Rudolf Steiner. Publishing house at the Goetheanum. Dornach 2021.

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Footnotes

  1. Andrej Belyj, Transforming Life. Basel 1977, p. 170.
  2. Cit. n. Christoph Rau, Michael Bauer. His life and his meeting with Friedrich Rittelmeyer. Dornach 1995, p. 69.
  3. See Peter Selg, Michael Bauer. A Colleague of Rudolf Steiner. Dornach 2021.
  4. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, My Life’s Encounter with Rudolf Steiner. Stuttgart 1983, p. 15 f.
  5. Cf. Peter Selg, The Opening of the Goetheanum and the Defamation of Anthroposophy. Dornach and Arlesheim 2021.
  6. Cit. n. Christoph Rau, op. cit., p. 55 f.
  7. Michael Bauer to Helga Geelmuyden, January 24, 1921. In: Michael Bauer, Collected Works. Ed. v. Christoph Rau. Stuttgart 1985-1997, Volume 5, p. 81.
  8. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 4, p. 43.
  9. Michael Bauer,
  10. Cit. n. Margareta Morgenstern, Michael Bauer. A Citizen of Both Worlds. Stuttgart 1950, p. 151.
  11. Cit. according to Christoph Rau, op. cit., p. 102.
  12. Cit. n. Margareta Morgenstern, op. cit., p. 171.
  13. Cit. according to Christoph Rau, op. cit., p. 106.
  14. Ibid., P. 206.
  15. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, From My Life. Stuttgart 1937, p. 330.
  16. Cit. n. Margareta Morgenstern, op. cit., p. 116.
  17. Andrej Belyj, op. Cit., P. 232.
  18. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 5, pp. 90 f.
  19. See Peter Selg, Michael Bauer, op. Cit., P. 183 f.
  20. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 2, p. 303.
  21. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Meine Lebensbegegnung …, loc. Cit., P. 21.
  22. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, From My Life, loc. Cit., P. 338.
  23. In: Kurt von Wistinghausen (ed.), Michael Bauer. Humanity and freedom. Stuttgart 1971, p. 219.
  24. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Meine Lebensbegegnung …, loc. Cit., P. 21.
  25. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, From my life, loc. Cit., P. 338.
  26. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 2, p. 333.
  27. Cf. Gerhard Wehr, ‹What should the upper worlds for us, if they exist?› Martin Buber’s misunderstanding of anthroposophy – from the point of view of Hugo Bergmann and Albert Steffen. In: Ralf Sonnenberg (ed.), Anthroposophy and Judaism. Frankfurt a. M. 2009, pp. 129-139.
  28. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Michael Bauer as a person. In: The Christian Community. 1929, p. 107.
  29. Cit. according to Christoph Rau, op. cit., p. 87.
  30. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 2, p. 49 f.
  31. Friedrich Rittelmeyer, my life encounter … On p. 16.
  32. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 2, p. 324.
  33. See Peter Selg, Michael Bauer, op. Cit., P. 115 ff.
  34. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 2, p. 325.
  35. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 4, p. 179.
  36. Ibid., P. 180.
  37. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 2, p. 315.
  38. Ibid., P. 326.
  39. Michael Bauer, op. Cit., Volume 4, p. 201.
  40. Ibid., P. 204.
  41. Ibid., P. 178.

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