The contents of this book are selected from the matter of Rudolf Steiner’s Esoteric School. The School remained in existence for ten years from 1904 to 1914, when the outbreak of the First World War prevented its continuance. During that period Rudolf Steiner was still within the Theosophical Society, and he used the words `theosophy’ and `theosophical’, though always (as he tells us in his Autobiography) in the direction in which his anthroposophical spiritual science had from the first been pointing. After the lapse of a further ten years, when he went on to found the General Anthroposophical Society and himself became its President, his esoteric guidance of those members who sought it was continued on a somewhat different footing, in closer association with the organization and direction of the Society.
The institution of the Esoteric School in 1904 had been quickly followed by publishing descriptions of the path which pupils should follow, in the book Theosophy, in the series of Essays, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. How is it achieved? (first published in book form in 1909), and also in Occult Science: an Outline, which appeared early in 1910. A description of the basic conditions for inner development, particularly of the `subsidiary exercises’, is also to be found in these books, and after their publication Rudolf Steiner sometimes alluded to such exercises by reference to them. In Chapter V of Occult Science: an Outline (`Knowledge of Higher Worlds. Concerning Initiation’) he lays down as follows the necessary precondition for all the exercises.
We can however understand from this how necessary it is that man should not demand entry into the spiritual world until he has learned and understood certain essential truths of that world by the simple exercise of his everyday intelligence, developed in the physical world. If spiritual development follows the right and normal path, then before he aspires to enter the supersensible world the pupil will already have mastered with his ordinary intelligence the whole of the earlier contents of this book.
In 1947, thirty-three years after the First World War had interrupted the Esoteric School and two years after the end of the Second, Marie Steiner, in response to requests from members of the Anthroposophical Society, set about publishing the most important of the Contents of the Esoteric School. Numerous works on oriental training methods (Yoga etc.) were making their appearance, and it was her object to set against these something from the European discipline of Rudolf Steiner. `By making available’, she wrote in a letter, `examples of Rudolf Steiner’s careful, personally-delivered advice, I wished to ensure that something could come forth from that Rosicrucian stream which is more in tune with the present age than decadent Indian and Tibetan methods.’
Three separate series of selections in English translation, entitled From the Contents of the Esoteric School, have previously appeared in 1948, 1949 and 1954. The following includes a revised translation of all that they contain together with some additional material not previously published in English.