I had an interesting three days traveling around the German state of Württemberg, especially the area known as Swabia. Jan Ziolowski, my host, picked me up in Heidelberg Sunday afternoon when it was sunny and hot. I, of course, forgot my rain coat, my asthma inhaler, and my camera – all of which had been laid out and ready to go. This was the first time I had met Jan. He is part of an historical society for the Moravians, but he is not Moravian. He read one of my books and some of my articles and wanted to meet. He is a brilliant man and is deeply read in the history of esoteric Pietist religion, Freemasonry (which is different in Europe than America) and anthroposophy. That is a spiritualist movement developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century. The anthroposophists are engaged in medicine, organic agriculture, education (Waldorf schools), and spiritual counseling. In the car Jan explained some of the principles behind his pharamaceutical work.
And then he took me to the first top on our tour of mystical Germany: Weinsberg where Justus Kerner lived. He was a famous philanthropist, doctor, writer, and scientist who also talked to ghosts. I’d never heard of him, but he is interesting. That part of Germany is rich in vineyards and they make good Rhine wines. We drove up into the mountains where farms and villages are small and were isolated until modern roads. We were often creeping behind tractors, and the terrain reminded me of the area near Boone, NC. I saw the May Trees that German villages erect on long poles, and Jan explained about the Swabian mentality of holding onto property. I cannot remember the names of the villages we visited, but the scenery was beautiful. We had excellent apple cider at a little guest house. People in that area “rent” apple trees rather than own them. Each year the trees are auctioned and the winner has the right to the fruit.
We stopped in a beautiful place called Murrhardt where Friedrich Christopher Oetinger was pastor and teacher in the time of Zinzendorf. He was a brilliant man whose ideas later influenced the philosopher Hegel. Oetinger came to Herrnhut in the early days and was close to Zinzendorf, but he disagreed with the count and left the movement. Still he remained friends with more mystically minded Moravians, especially Spangenberg. He could not publish all of his own writings for fear of being condemned as heretic, but he viewed the physical world as the manifestation of Spirit. I’ve read about him, but I’ve never read his writings. It was good to see where he preached and lived.
Finally we came to Jan’s home in Swäbish Gemünd, which is a place that the US once had Pershing missiles. The soldiers once dropped a missile in his yard! He pointed out to me the three dormant volcanoes called the Three Emperors and explained about the circle of sacred places that protect that region of the world. The ancient Celts and Germans built shrines where the energies were high and the shrines form a circle. The Romans came and used the shrines. Then the Christians after the Romans had left. We talked about his church the Christian Gemeinschaft, which is dismissed as a sect since it believes in reincarnation. We talked about past lives, purgatory, and ghosts. We talked about the Freemasons, Christianity, ghosts, reincarnation, spiritual dance, Waldorf schools, heresies and the danger of orthodoxy. But always we came back to Zinzendorf. I slept on a sofa bed in his office chiding myself for not having brought my inhaler. But I figured a pharmacist would know what to do if I had an attack.
On Monday we made a very long trip into the Black Forest to a tiny spa town called Bad Tienach to see a kabbalistic altarpiece that was painted in the 17th century by a princess who was taught by John Valentine Andrea. Andrea was a close associate of Comenius and the writer of the Rosicrucian manifestos and a utopian novel. We went to Calw (pronounced Cough) and toured Andrea’s church. Calw is a beautiful Black Forest town with lots of fachwerk houses that have been standing for centuries. Jan was kind enough to loan me a rain coat since I was ill prepared.
Jan delivered me at the synod at Bad Boll in the pouring rain. Synod will be in another post! I was only invited to be at synod overnight because of the costs, so I left the next morning. Unfortunately, a combination of an on-coming cold and a late night talking and laughing with Moravians left me with laryngitis! Jan picked me up about ten and we went to visit the grave of Christoph Blumhardt, who was a famous evangelist and healer. He was given the spa of Bad Boll to build a holistic Christian healing center there. His son was one of the great Christian socialists of the early 20th century. The son inherited the spa and when he died his family gave it to the Moravians. They sold it some years ago because of the costs, but they still have a presence there, including a God’s Acre where many Moravian missionaries are buried.
We drove through the rain to Ulm just because I mentioned I had never been there. Mainly Jan wanted to talk about the Camphill Movement, which may have some roots in Moravianism. I told him about my contacts with the Brüderhof in NY, and we discussed the possibilities of Moravians and Camphill working together. Camphills are communities for handicapped people where they can live freely in their own villages with volunteers helping them as needed. There are several in Europe and South America, but only one (a retirement village) in the US. Ulm was interesting. It is one of the older cities in Germany having been a major Roman city. It’s on the Danube and remained a wealthy trading center in the Middle Ages. The burghers built a beautiful Gothic cathedral with the highest spire in Germany – over 500 feet. The city chose to join the Reformation, but they did not destroy the beautiful art in the cathedral. There is a Lego version of the cathedral. After lunch Jan dropped me at the train station and I made my way back to Heidelberg with a lot to think about.