Rudolf Steiner and Le Droit Humain?

The possible connections of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) with Le Droit Humain remain elusive. Over four years ago I wrote about Theosophy and co-Masonry for which text I also investigated Steiner.

In 1905 Steiner and his wife Marie Sivers seem to have undergone an initiation (of which Steiner was not impressed) into the rite of Memphis Misraim, but in 1934 Steiner’s widow Sivers denied that he was ever a Freemason.

I had no indication that Steiner was involved in the Masonic pursuits of Annie Besant. This may not be strange at first glance, as the two were not exactly best mates, but there are photos featuring these two, perhaps in better times. See right. According to Wikipedia this photo was taken in München / Munich, Germany in 1907.

Then I was notified about this image (click on it for more information and the source):

Supposedly this is a photo of the first international convent of Le Droit Humain in 1921. Face #19 is mentioned as Rudolf Steiner! Two things are interesting about this image. First of all, I know another photo of the same convent, but I have never seen this one, neither online nor in a book. Second: Rudolf Steiner?!?

The person who put the above image on Pinterest has two other versions of the photo, with thanks to the dusty drawers of the Finish federation of Le Droit Humain:

The man who supposedly is Steiner is this fellow:

My first thought was, this man indeed looks like Steiner, but is that really him? Some points add to my doubt.

  1. In 1920, Steiner was 60 years old. This man doesn’t look that age;
  2. In 1920, there were no lodges of Le Droit Humain in either Austria (were Steiner was born), nor in Germany (where he lived) and the first lodges in both countries were founded from the Netherlands, so Dutch(wo)men would have represented these lodges (who are indeed on the other known photo of the convention). In what capacity would Steiner have been there?

Like I said, there is a better-known photo that several sources list as taken at the first international convention of Le Droit Humain in 1920:

This photo can be found in some books. What is striking is that the ‘decor’ is the same in both photos, but many people aren’t! Both groups stand in front of two panels, but in one photo there is the chair of the Worshipful Master and in the other it is not there. My guess is that it is the same temple, judging the panels and the ‘curtains’. A few people appear in both photos, several do not. Wouldn’t it be weird to make two photos at a convent with different groups of people?

Maybe a question is: are both photos indeed from the first convention? There is some confusion about the year too. Most sources speak of 1920 for the first convention, some of 1921. Could there have been a ‘test run’ and a ‘real convention’?

Or perhaps, are the photos are taken further apart, judging ‘Steiner’s’ face up to some 20 years, and did the years get mixed up? That is not too convincing either. Look at the man in the chair:

That’s the same person, right? That’s Eugène Piron (1863 – 1929) who was Grandmaster of the International Order of Mixed Gender Freemasonry Le Droit Humain from 1918 to 1928/9, so he wouldn’t have sat in the chair 20 years before the convent. His face does seem a bit more puffy on the right and his hair is not entirely the same. The photos could have been taken on different days, or in different years, but not as far apart that Steiner would seem 20 years younger.

The French Wikipedia has Piron Grandmaster until 1921 which would have narrowed down the possible years for both photos, but the website of the French federation says that Lucien Levi succeeded him in 1929, so it seems that Wikipedia has the dates wrong. Indeed, they have no name between 1921 and 1928 which is weird.

Before Piron came three female Grandmasters, so the photos can’t be taken before 1918. As we saw Piron was succeeded by Lucien Lévi, but these two can impossibly be mixed up. It follows that to all likelihood both photos were made between 1918 and 1928.

One suggestion is that the website of Le Droit Humain states that Piron organised the first international convent in 1921 (!) and the first national convent on the creation of the French federation in 1922! So that would be an occasion for a photo too.

An odd point is that there are international visitors on both photos. The small group contains Dutch(wo)men, the ‘Steiner photo’ at least one Fin. I suppose that the photo with Piron on the chair is of the international convention of 1920 or 1921 and the other was taken at another occasion, such as the installation of the French federation (not the national convention) where international visitors would be logical.

Since the person who sent me the photos is as curious as myself, he’s been doing research too He used software to calculate how likely it is that the man is Steiner. 88%! Similar ears, similar nose, similar eyebrows, similar lips and when the photo is ‘colored’ even a similar chin (in color it is clearer what are shadows). This is a comparison with a photo of a younger Steiner though. So I rattled up a photo that is supposedly from 1920 (below right) and when you se that against the other photo, it becomes less likely that the man is Steiner.

We can also safely exclude the possibility that the man is Rudolf’s brother Gustav (1866-1941). He looked like this (right) and was deaf from birth.

So that solves it, right? The man probably isn’t Steiner. Well, things are not that easy!

The man the the bottom right of Steiner is Petter (or Pekka) Ervast (1875-1934) who was an interesting character. He founded the Finish Theosophical Society in 1907, but left in 1920 to found the Finish federation of Le Droit Humain. Some say that later he left Le Droit Humain to found Ruusu-Ristin (Rosy-Cross) a Theosophical society with a Masonic core, other sources claim that he founded both Le Droit Humain and Ruusu-Ristin at the same time.

Be that as it may, if the Finish federation was founded in the same year that the first international convent was held. If it was just before the convention, I can understand Ervast being there, but we just saw that the ‘Steiner photo’ is probably taken later, at the installation of the French federation for example. Of course, that is also an occasion for international visitors.

Ervast was in contact with Rudolf Steiner. One letter of their correspondence is said to remain and some say that Steiner stayed with Ervast when he was in Helsinki.

Could it be that somebody knew about this and therefor thought that the man next to Ervast, looking like Steiner, was Steiner?

Interestingly, Ervast can be ‘used’ in another way to find a possible date for the photo. He proves to wear a 33º sash and he got his 33º in 1925. Piron was in the chair until 1928 or 1929, so the ‘Steiner’ photo may have to be dated even later than 1922.

But if that’s the case, Steiner certainly can’t be Steiner as he died in January 1925 after having been bedridden for half a year.

Does anybody have access to the documents of the both conventions and/or the installation of the French federation to see if that can answer a few questions? And even if the man is not Steiner, does anybody have more information about Steiner’s possible involvement in Le Droit Humain in general?

An interesting puzzle. The dating 1925 and therefor the impossibility of the man being Rudolf Steiner is probable, but we have had more years that we found probable until new information surfaced. It is also probable that this is an old photo that not many people knew.

In light of the above maybe the most interesting question is: if the man isn’t Steiner, who is he?

So far in all likelihood, we have no new suggestions that Steiner was involved in Le Droit Humain.

The present case is not 100% solved, so any information is welcome, but I think we’re close to the answer. It does remain odd that somebody made the drawing for the photo and put Steiner’s name there, but I think this can be answered by the Ervast – Steiner link and the similarity.

In any case, it was nice working with you Kane! If ever a drawer contains another mystery, we’ll be in touch.

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