The Gospel of St. John: Revisiting the Vision of Rudolf Steiner for the 21st Century- Our Participation in Earth’s Evolution as the Planet of Love
I knew something of Rudolf Steiner’s work before I met Eliza Joslin Kendall, but not enough to have a real understanding as a felt revelation rather than simply an intellectual understanding. That is, I knew that Steiner was a great mystic and seer, with capacities that spread into so many areas that they boggled the mind as to what a human being is capable of. Rudolf Steiner’s ideas about education, art, and spirit eventually became the Waldorf Schools, which still thrive in our day. His ideas about architecture have influenced thinkers and architects, whose buildings are still available to our contemporary sight. His perceptions of what the earth truly is and what it needs for its optimum thriving showed up in his “biodynamic agriculture,” which is still practiced today (and probably is more needed now than ever before). And there are many more disciplines influenced by Steiner’s brilliance that still ripple through our world.
But before I encountered Eliza and the book you are about to read, I can’t say that I actually understood the ideas of Rudolf Steiner. Unlike a dear friend of mine, a dedicated student of Steiner’s work for many decades who actually practices biodynamic ways on her land, whose home library is filled with Steiner’s books. In short, she is no spiritual slouch: she is widely conversant with the work of high-minded thinkers over many centuries, and has been inspired by them all. And yet she once told me, “Of all the people whose work I have studied, Steiner gives me the most inspiration and knowledge. I could let all the others go and just concentrate on Steiner’s work for the rest of my life, and I would be happy.”
However, she also acknowledged that, “His books are very difficult to understand. Even people who have been reading them for years agree that it’s not easy to penetrate what Rudolf Steiner is saying.”
I was relieved to hear her say that. If she—who was so dedicated to Rudolf Steiner’s work, who had willingly taken it upon herself to read and apply his ideas—admitted that he was not an easy read, then I (only a visitor to Steiner’s writings) could be forgiven for being baffled by the few books I had attempted to read and failed to understand.
But in the back of my mind was always the sense that I had missed out on something that really mattered—something that could steer human understanding and its consequent expressions in a direction that might open up a world so infused with spirit as to transform the experience of living here on earth.
So when Eliza Joslin Kendall approached me to help her bring forth a simplified version of one of Rudolf Steiner’s books—the one you are reading, here—I gratefully said, “Thank you, I’d love to.” And it’s important to note that for Liza, “simplified” did not mean dumbing down Steiner’s original brilliance. It meant making his thinking far more accessible, giving his readers the opportunity to embrace the gifts of his unique way of seeing. As she puts it in this book’s Introduction:
Rudolf Steiner’s writings are not intrinsically accessible. Published in about forty volumes, they include books, essays, four plays, mantra verses, and an autobiography. His collected lectures, making up another approximately 300 volumes, discuss an extremely wide range of themes. His books, which are composed of cycles of his lectures, were originally in German before being translated into English, and so can be very ponderous to read. Even I, who am totally committed to the wisdom in these books, found them easier to read and comprehend in small doses.
And so, in keeping with my original desire to bring Rudolf Steiner to the notice of people who did not, like me, grow up with him as a household name, I am offering you The Gospel of St. John by Rudolf Steiner.
And so our collaboration began, the fruits of which lie before you in this book.
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If you, like so many people, have been concerned about the welfare of the planet in our challenging and transformative times, then this book that you are about to read is for you. Rudolf Steiner, who wrote in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, had a prescient and overarching knowledge of the evolutionary arc of humanity and of the earth. The spiritual-historical background he presents may come as news to you, but it will not fail to enlighten you. And perhaps it will also inspire you to do the inner work required to help move humanity from its earlier epochs (Steiner lists seven; we are currently in Epoch Five) towards its inherent goal, so that earth becomes what it was designed to be: the planet of Love. Yes, you read this right: our very own planet, this earth that is going through the sometimes alarming birthing pains of transformation, is meant to be the planet of Love.
And so as you go through The Gospel of St. John: Revisiting the Vision of Rudolf Steiner for the 21st Century—Our Participation in Earth’s Evolution as the Planet of Love, I trust that you will absorb something not only of Steiner’s brilliant exposition on why the Christ came into physical incarnation for the first time on the earth as Jesus—
not only Rudolf Steiner’s sense of what had to happen prior to that, over the span of ages and “epochs,” in order to prepare humanity for the emergent individual-ego relationship to God (whereas earlier there was more of a “group soul” experience of God)—
but also I trust that you will respond to Eliza’s immense contribution in this book. Her presence in these pages reveals the mind and heart of a person utterly dedicated to helping the human-planet transformation towards universal love come about. Her own dedication, passion, and intelligence shine forth in her “Commentaries,” which draw from her own life-experience as well as her knowledge of Rudolf Steiner, as well as in the questions and answers she has chosen to illuminate in the “Review” that ends each chapter of the book.
Eliza Joslin Kendall is an astonishingly dedicated, versatile, and accomplished person whose work has included Spiritual healing and energy work, Transformational Life Coaching and Mediation, event planning, and more. She is well suited not only to write this book, but also to help you take it deeply into your own life. To some degree, she was born into the Steiner work (see the Introduction), although she didn’t truly make that connection until years later. But once that connection was made, she embraced it wholeheartedly. As she says in the book’s Introduction:
In 2012, when my parents moved from their home in Connecticut where they had lived for over 50 years, I found a copy of the same book I had read so many years earlier: Rudolf Steiner’s Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. I immediately picked it up and started reading. The best way I can explain it is that this time, I just knew that I knew all that he was talking about, as if I had read it before.
I decided to read other books on Rudolf Steiner. One of these was The Gospel of St. John. His writings resonated so deeply within me that I immediately felt called to take Steiner and his philosophy to the public. I continue to feel that this is greatly needed, especially in today’s world.
And now that this book is available for you here and now, Liza has taken the next step and come up with ways for you to make the illuminated content of the book a reality in your own life. Especially if you’ve ever thought, “Isn’t there something more? Isn’t there some reason I’m here on earth at this time? Isn’t there something real that I can do to help?” Liza’s take is that there are things you can do after reading this book to bring its wisdom into the world. In keeping with the name of her business, “Leave It with Liza,” she has, for example, set up a Book Club that you can be part of (online or in person) so that Rudolf Steiner’s ideas can become a real, active force in your life. So that you can participate, consciously and in your own way, in humanity’s movement towards becoming a planet of love.
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I came into this project as a book developer and editor, and I am gratified to have been given the opportunity to encounter Liza’s digestible version of Rudolf Steiner’s The Gospel of St. John so intimately, with such attention to detail. My view of my job in such instances is that I fill the role of the “prototype reader,” and that anything I don’t immediately understand, others also may not understand. Therefore, I come to such projects with a willingness to not understand, and to use my own experiences that ordinarily might be deemed negative (e.g., confusion, lack of passionate interest, chaos) as an indication of what’s missing in a manuscript, what needs to be added or deleted or bridged, and what’s needed in order that the hidden diamond of the work shines through. Because, as Liza has written, Rudolf Steiner’s writings often began as verbal lectures, which then were transcribed and published in German. And the English translations from the German transcriptions are often ponderous, overly intricate, and obscuring of the real jewels within.
Liza gave me permission to change a word or phrase here and there in the direction of clarity and accessibility. And to help myself enter into the text, going ahead of the readers-to-come, I titled the chapters and wrote chapter synopses, and suggested some “hand-holds” for readers—to put forth, right from the start, information that originally was woven into the later chapters; information that I thought would help readers hold a larger picture at the outset, enabling them to follow Rudolf Steiner’s brilliant but not always linear progression of thought. So, for example, I thought it helpful for readers to know up front that Steiner speaks of seven Epochs of humanity’s evolution, rather than finding it out midway. Things like that.
If I have been successful, your experience of reading this book will proceed with relative ease, though not without challenge (but a worthy challenge!). You will find, as I did once I had unraveled what confused me, that there is a fascinating, reverberating, and illuminating epic that you yourself are part of. And perhaps you will be inspired to take in the gnosis that this book both points to and is, and have your own direct experience of the incarnation of Christ-Jesus (whatever your religious beliefs or background) in a way that shifts your perspective of yourself, the human community of which you are part, and the planet that has the resources (some, in surprising ways—read on) to actually become the planet of Love.
Wishing you a deep, transformative, and encouraging read,
Book Developer and Editor