Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe... Anthroposophists are those who experience, as an essential need of life, certain questions on the nature of the human being and the universe, just as one experiences hunger and thirst. (Rudolf Steiner, Leading Thoughts, 1924)
...There is something which all those who end up in the anthroposophical movement have in common. And that is that they are initially driven by their inner destiny, their karma, to leave the ordinary highway of civilization on which the majority of mankind at present progresses, to search for their own path.
Let us think for a moment about the conditions in which most people now grow up. They are born to parents who are French or German, Catholic or Protestant or Jewish, or who belong to some other faith, and may hold a variety of beliefs. But among parents is the almost unquestioned assumption, which remains unspoken and sometimes unthought, that their children will, of course, grow up like themselves. These kinds of feelings naturally engender a social ambience, indeed social pressures, which more or less consciously push children into the kind of life which has been mapped out by these more or less clearly defined beliefs. The life of a child then follows its natural course of education and schooling. And during this time parents once again have all kinds of beliefs which exert a decisive influence on their children's lives. The belief, for instance, that my son will, of course, enter the secure employment of the civil service, or that he will inherit the parental business, or that my daughter will marry the man next door. It simply lies in the nature of social circumstances that they are governed by impulses which arise in this way. People have no choice in the matter because that is the effect of the beliefs which govern life. It may not always be obvious to parents, but schooling and all the other circumstances of childhood and youth imprison the human being and determine his position in life. The institutions of state and religion make the adult.
If the majority of people were asked to explain how they got where they are today, they would not be able to do so, because there would be something unbearable about having to think deeply about such matters. This unbearable element tends to be driven underground into subconscious or unconscious areas of our soul life. At best, it will be dredged up by a psychiatrist when it behaves in a particularly recalcitrant manner down there in those unknown provinces of the soul. But mostly one's own personality, the Self, is simply not strong enough to assert itself against what one has grown into in this way.
Occasionally people have the urge to rebel when their situation as a trainee, or even following qualification, unexpectedly dawns on them. You might clench your fist in your pocket, or, if you are a woman, create a scene at home because of such disappointed life expectations. These are reactions against what people are forced to become. We also frequently seek to anaesthetize ourselves by concentrating on the pleasant things in life. We go to dances and follow this with a long lie-in, don't we? Time is then filled up in one way or another. Or someone might join a thoroughly patriotic party because his professional position demands that he belong to something which will reflect his values. We have already been enveloped by the state and our religion; now that must be supplemented by surrounding what one has unconsciously grown into with a sort of aura. Well, there is no need for me to go into further detail. That is roughly the way in which the people who move in the mainstream of life have grown into their existence.
But those who find it difficult to accept this end up on many possible and impossible byways. And anthroposophy is precisely one of these paths on which human beings are seeking to realize themselves; on which they want to live with such an understanding of themselves in a more conscious manner, to experience something which is under their control to a certain extent at least. Anthroposophists are for the most part people who do not walk along the highways of life. If we investigate further why that should be, we find that this is linked with the spiritual world.
Having relived the course of their lives in the spiritual world after death human beings enter a region where they become increasingly assimilated into the spiritual world, where their lives consist of working together with the beings of the higher hierarchies, where all their acts are related to this world of substantive spirit. But a time arrives when they begin to turn their attention to earth again. For a long time in advance of their birth, human beings unite on a soul level with the generations at the end of which stand the parents who give birth to them Ñ not only as far back as their great-great-grandparents, but much further down the line of preceding generations. The majority of souls nowadays look down, as it were, to earth from the spiritual world and display a lively interest in what is happening to their ancestors. Such souls move in the mainstream of contemporary life.
In contrast, there are a number of souls, particularly at present, whose interest is concentrated less on worldly happenings as they approach a new life on earth than on the question of how they can develop maturity in the spiritual world. Their interest lies in the spiritual world right up to the moment before they find their way to earth. As a consequence, when they incarnate they arrive with a consciousness which has its origins in spiritual impulses. With their spiritual ambitions they outgrow their environment, and are thus predestined and prepared to go their own way.
Thus the souls who descend from pre-earthly to earthly existence can be divided into two groups. One group, to which the majority of people today still belong, comprises those souls who can make themselves remarkably at home on earth; who feel thoroughly comfortable in their warm nest, which so fascinated them long before they came down to earth, even if it does occasionally appear unpleasant Ñ but that is only appearance, maya.
Other souls, who may pass patiently through childhood - appearance is not always the decisive thing - are less able to make themselves at home, are homeless souls, and grow beyond the warmth of the nest much more than they grow into it.
(The Anthroposophic Movement, The Homeless Souls, Dornach, June 10, 1923; GA-0258)