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Laurence Oliphant is one of the great unknown personalities of the nineteenth century, and indeed of recent cultural history at large. He was born at Cape Town in 1829 and died near London in 1888. He left behind some twenty books, including novels, travel accounts, and mystical spiritual writings. He was diplomat, traveler, adventurer, writer, and mystic. At the beginning of the 1860s, the period of Oliphants great spiritual transition began when he met the Swedenborgian Thomas Lake Harris. It was Oliphant's last works, Sympneumata and Scientific Religion, that prompted Rudolf Steiner to pursue karmic research on Oliphant. As a result, Steiner revealed the karmic relationship between the lives of Oliphant and the Roman poet Ovid. In an August 24, 1924, lecture in London, Steiner commented that Oliphants individuality is significant not only because of the previous Ovid incarnation, but also because of its activity in the interval between the two incarnations. Looked at in the light of spiritual research on the subject, Oliphants life assumes dimensions of world-historical interest. When a Stone Begins to Roll contains extensive selections from Oliphants autobiographical book, Episodes in a Life of Adventure; or, Moss from a Rolling Stone (1887). In addition to the insightful commentary of T.H. Meyer, the book also offers a generous sampling of Oliphants complex and compelling work, as well as hitherto unpublished material and the satire The Sisters of Tibet.

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