Emma Smith and Marie Steiner
In his autobiography, Rudolf Steiner remarks in passing upon a marriage between him and the woman who preceded Marie von Sivers as his wife, saying about it merely:
The friendship with [the widowed] Mrs. [Anna] Eunike was soon transformed into a civil marriage. About these private matters nothing more need be said. In this “Autobiography”, I nowhere intend to mention anything about my private life that does not play a role in the course of my development. And life in the Eunike household gave me the opportunity, at that time, to have an undisturbed foundation for a life in motion both inwardly and outwardly. Beyond this, private matters have no place in what is public. They have nothing to do with this.
The statement reflects just that quality of concern for what pertains to all of humanity that characterizes Rudolf Steiner from beginning to end in his work. Matters that do not have all of humanity as their concern “have nothing to do with this.”
From this perspective, it may appear unjustified, in the context of a work such as this which has as its concern matters pertaining to the spiritual development of humanity, to address what on their surface appear to be the personal relationships of men like Joseph Smith and Rudolf Steiner to their wives. For what can these have to do with “what is public”?
If we take seriously enough the nature of our incarnation as a phenomenon involving our descent, as universal spiritual beings, into male or female form, a viewpoint can be acquired that sees in the relationship between husband and wife something of cosmic significance. For Steiner to write what he does of his relationship with Anna Eunike reveals that that relationship, indeed, never took on such significance. That his relationship with Marie von Sivers did so is the thesis of this chapter. Once again, however: to understand just what was working in this relationship from the perspective this book sees it as necessary to offer, we must turn back to the earlier encounter between Joseph Smith and the woman--his wife--he referred to as an “elect lady”: Emma Hale.
In Emma Hale, Joseph Smith found the life’s companion whose succor and support was understood by many, in less liberated times, to constitute the very foundation of happiness for a man. That it was only, finally, with her by his side as his wife that he was able, after five years of annual visitations by an angelic entity who, he said, had shown him and clarified for him the nature of the “golden plates” he was to retrieve from a hillside in upstate New York, indeed to carry them away from that spot cannot be underestimated in its significance as an indication of the importance women were to have in the “restored Gospel” Joseph understood it as his mission to preach.
Emma struggled mightily to understand and to accept “the Lord’s” revelations regarding polygamy. The love she bore for her husband until his dying day found expression in her words upon receiving his corpse upon its return from the place where he had been murdered by a mob: “Joseph, Joseph, my husband, my husband, have they taken you from me at last?” That, within a few years after his death, she would remarry outside the Church having refused to accept the legitimacy of the leadership of the man most Latter-day Saints considered Joseph's successor, Brigham Young, is among the most salient examples of the kind of division and discord that can emerge even among the closest associates of a spiritual figure upon his or her demise. In the case of Emma Smith, this discord arose primarily due to her opposition to the continuation of the practice of polygamy after Joseph's death. She had been able, reluctantly, to deal with it when it came from the inspiration of her beloved Joseph; that it might remain, however, as his legacy through the example of lesser men such as Brigham was, for her, unbearable. She transmitted to her children, of whom the oldest was eleven when their father died, an attitude towards Brigham and polygamy that resulted in their growing up believing that Joseph had never had anything to do with it himself, and that Brigham was monstrously representing their father’s work in a way that defiled it and defamed him.
In his Old Testament studies, Valentin Tomberg makes clear that there are three fundamental forms of occultism at work in the human race: the mechanic occultism, which seeks to penetrate the secrets of the material world; the hygienic occultism, which concerns itself with the health of the relationship between the supersensible and physical planes; and the eugenic occultism, which addresses the deepest secrets of the spiritual dimension itself. Tomberg’s groundbreaking work to grasp the Old Testament as a work of the eugenic occultism has yet to be appreciated for the continuation of authentic spiritual-scientific research it represents.
Joseph Smith’s mission was to bring the eugenic occultism of the Old Testament into a form that could result in the completion, in America, of what had begun in Palestine: the purification of the blood towards the end of permitting the incarnation of pure souls. What in Palestine had pertained to one people in preparation for the incarnation of Christ, in America became the basis for work that was to embrace all mankind.
When Steiner indicated, beginning in the second decade of the twentieth century, that the eugenic occultism was destined to arise in the East, he was predicting developments that emerged as inevitable out of what had come to pass, after Smith's death, as the failure of the Latter-day Saint movement to take on a form that could permit its eugenic occultism to reach all of humanity. This failure was due to the inability of Joseph Smith’s own sons to come into the mission they could have performed of bringing the impulse represented by their father into a form that met the demands of the time, as represented by the movement of materialistic natural science. Thus, this mission was destined to arise under the guidance of beings whose work could only take place where the Germanic folk soul had given rise to a people capable of the kind of thinking Rudolf Steiner represented and developed into anthroposophy. Valentin Tomberg took up this impulse and, as a representative of the Eastern cultural sphere with special gifts for eugenic occultism, proclaimed--perhaps prematurely, and perhaps without the right degree of diplomatic skill--its having arisen. When his claim was dismissed as the fruit of “disease” and demeaned as a kind of “game” by Marie Steiner, the person who could have continued the work of Steiner out of direct connection to the occult forces that had inspired anthroposophical forms was cut off from the most gifted individuals--Steiner”s spiritual “children”--just as Brigham Young was prevented from working with Smith's own children in the way that would have been necessary for Latter-day Saintism to develop in a way that was in accord with the real nature of what was needed.
Twice in less than a hundred years, the true successors to spiritual leaders, Smith and Steiner, whose role in the development of Western civilization out of the guidance of the Christ-impulse directly was central in America and in Europe, were cut off from the field for their labors due to what emerged as a kind of powerful jealousy within the wives of these two men. The power of this jealousy was exhibited in Emma’s horror of polygamy, and no less in what transpired between Marie and Ita Wegman when they transported her husband’s ashes to the place where they were to be interred. If Tomberg is correct that the eugenic occultism is what inevitably emerges when the deepest hidden realities of supersensible spheres are penetrated with occult insight, we must recognize in Marie Steiner's dismissal of the results of Tomberg’s research the indication it is that she had not, herself, attained to direct insight into such realities. This also sheds light on another circumstance that played a certain central role in the division within the Executive Council after Steiner’s death.
When, as the Christmas Conference approached, Rudolf Steiner went about the occult task of discerning which individuals could be expected to take upon themselves leadership roles together with him in the Executive Council, he offered the position of Vice Chairman to Marie Steiner. Since the nature of a leadership role in any movement with an authentic mission in relationship to the spiritual worlds is that it is a position whose holder becomes a recipient of occult guidance, had Marie Steiner succeeded her husband as Chairman at his death, the depths of the personal relationship of trust and love they uniquely shared could have become the basis for a special freedom on the part of occult forces to transmit to her the kind of help that permits an inspired leader to transcend their human limitations in the service of a spiritual impulse. Instead, she declined her husband's offer, saying that it was inappropriate for her to have the role both of wife and Vice Chairman before the members. A correct insight into the later conflicts in the Executive Council must include the consciousness that they were in no small measure the result of turmoil in the spiritual worlds that arose from the fact that Marie Steiner's confusion of personal matters with public ones had led her to decline her world-historical mission. It is a similar confusion that led Emma Smith to marry outside the LDS Church after Brigham had taken the majority of Church members to Utah, thus finally cutting her own sons off from the impulse in the service of which their father--like Steiner eighty years later--had offered his life.