Speaking to audiences in Denmark, Germany and France, Rudolf Steiner discusses a wide range of topics: from positive and negative human soul capacities, true self-knowledge and karma, to changes in human consciousness, from ancient times to the modern era - all in the context of the incarnation of Christ on earth. The lectures illustrate the diversity of Steiner's approach when speaking to different audiences. Reflecting on the polymath Novalis, for example, he is urgent about the responsibility of spiritual science to help humanity awaken to the new age. A few months later, talking of Hegel and deploring the fact that an interest in spiritual matters often fails to be accompanied by an equal interest in logical thought, Steiner uses a dispassionate, philosophical tone. But throughout the lectures he is consistent in his view that spiritual science does not reject conventional science. Trained philosophical thinking leads to different conclusions than materialism, he says, but there is nothing in the field of spiritual science that need be rejected by rigorous scientific thought.
Although the lectures were given to a variety of audiences, ideas recur from different perspectives and in different contexts, with strong thematic links binding them together. These include the relationship between philosophy and science; the nature of clairvoyance; Christ's presence in the etheric realm; reincarnation and karma; the mystery drama The Portal of Initiation; Christmas and its symbols; and the transformation of consciousness that occurred when Christ incarnated physically on earth. In the final lectures, Rudolf Steiner speaks inspiringly about the Christmas festival, contrasting the feeling of inwardness that people used to experience with the hectic cultural environment of modern cities. However, this does not lead Steiner to be nostalgic about the past. Rather, he states, we should seek to recreate a mood of inwardness in a new way, appropriate to our modern age and consciousness. These lectures give us the tools to bring such a contemporary spiritual approach to our lives.