Those whom the world recognises as the great men of history were not really the greatest; the greatest, the Initiates, kept in the background.
In the course of the eighteenth century, on a quite unnoticed occasion, an Initiate made brief acquaintance with a writer, and spoke words to which the writer paid no special attention at the time. But they worked on in him and later gave rise to potent ideas, the fruits of which are in countless hands today. The writer was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was not an Initiate, but his knowledge derived from one.
Here is another example. Jacob Boehme, a shoemaker’s apprentice, was sitting alone one day in the shop, where he was not allowed to sell anything himself. A person came in, made a deep impression upon him, spoke a few words, and went away. Immediately afterwards, Boehme heard his name being called: “Jacob, Jacob, today you are small, but one day you will be great. Take heed of what you have seen today!” A secret attraction remained between Boehme and his visitor, who was a great Initiate, and the source of Boehme’s powerful inspirations.
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 95 – At the Gates of Spiritual Science: Lecture One: The Being of Man – Stuttgart, 22nd August, 1906
Translated by E. H. Goddard & Charles Davy