Sunday, January 16, 2011
Rosicrucian Alchemy: purity, love, and the will to sacrifice
Rudolf Steiner, September 28, 1911:
My task today will be to tell you something about the work of Christian Rosenkreutz. This work began in the thirteenth century, is still going on today, and will continue right into eternity. The work began, of course, with what I told you yesterday of the initiation of Christian Rosenkreutz, and all that took place between the council of the twelve and the thirteenth. When Christian Rosenkreutz was born again in the fourteenth century, in an incarnation lasting more than a hundred years, his main task was instructing the pupils of the twelve. At that time hardly anyone else came to know Christian Rosenkreutz apart from these twelve. This is not to be understood as if Christian Rosenkreutz did not meet other people, but only that the other people did not recognize him for what he was. Fundamentally this has remained the same until today. However, the etheric body of Christian Rosenkreutz has been constantly active in the circle of his pupils, its forces working in ever growing circles, until today many people are actually able to be influenced by the forces of his etheric body.
Christian Rosenkreutz selects those whom he wants to have as his pupils in a remarkable way. The one chosen has to pay attention to a certain kind of event, or several events in his life of the following kind: Christian Rosenkreutz chooses people so that, for instance, someone comes to a decisive turning-point, a karmic crisis in his life. Let us assume that a man is about to commit an action that would lead him to his death. These things can be very different one from the other. The man goes along a path which, without noticing it, can lead him into great danger. It leads to the edge of a precipice, perhaps. Then the man, now only a step or two from the precipice perhaps, hears a voice saying ‘Stop!’ — so that he has to stop without knowing why. There could be a thousand similar situations. I should say, of course, that this is only the external sign of being outwardly qualified for a spiritual calling. To be inwardly qualified, the chosen person has to have an interest in something spiritual, theosophy or some other Spiritual Science.
The external event I have described is a fact of the physical world, though it does not come by means of a human voice. The event always occurs in such a way that the person concerned knows quite clearly that the voice comes from the spiritual world. He may at first imagine that the voice has come from a human being who is hidden somewhere, but when the pupil is mature enough he discovers that it was not a physical person intervening in his life. In short, this event convinces the pupil that there are messages from the spiritual world. Such events can occur once or many times in life. We have to understand what effect this has on the soul of the pupil. The pupil tells himself: I have received another life through grace; the first one was forfeited. This new life given him through grace sheds light on the whole of the pupil's further life. He has this definite feeling which can be described in this way: without this Rosicrucian experience of mine I should have died. My subsequent life would not have had the same value but for this event.
It can happen, of course, that even though a man has already experienced this once or even several times he does not come to theosophy or Spiritual Science at once. Later on, however, the memory of the event can come back. Many of you here can examine the past course of your lives and you will find that similar occurrences have happened to you. We give too little attention to such things today. We ought altogether to realize how very important occurrences pass by without us noticing them. This is an indication of the way the more advanced pupils of Rosicrucianism are called.
This kind of occurrence will either pass a person by without being noticed at all — in which case the impression is blotted out and he attaches no importance to it — or, assuming the person to be attentive, he will appreciate its significance, and he will then perhaps rise to the thought: You were actually facing a crisis then, a karmic crisis; your life should actually have ended at that moment. You had forfeited your life, and you were only saved by something resembling chance. Since that hour a second life has been grafted onto the first, as it were. You must look on this life as a gift and live it accordingly.
When such an event awakens in a person the inner disposition to look at his life from that time onward as a gift, nowadays this makes him a follower of Christian Rosenkreutz. For that is his way of calling these souls to him. And whoever can recall having had such an experience can tell himself: Christian Rosenkreutz has given me a sign from the spiritual world that I belong to his stream. Christian Rosenkreutz has added the possibility of such an experience to my karma. That is the way in which Christian Rosenkreutz makes his choice of pupils. He chooses his community like this. Whoever experiences this consciously, knows: a path has been shown me, and I must follow it and see how far I can use my forces to serve Rosicrucianism. Those who have not understood the sign, however, will do so at a later time, for whoever has received the sign will not be free of it again.
That a man can have an experience of the kind described is due to his having met Christian Rosenkreutz in the spiritual world between his last death and his last birth. Christian Rosenkreutz chose us then, and he put an impulse of will into us that now leads us to such experiences. This is the way in which spiritual connections are brought about.
To go further, let us discuss the difference between Christian Rosenkreutz's teaching in earlier times and in later times. This teaching used to be more in the nature of natural science, whereas today it is more like Spiritual Science. In earlier times, for instance, they considered natural processes and called this science alchemy, and when the processes took place beyond the Earth they called it astrology. Today we consider things from a more spiritual aspect. If we consider, for instance, the successive post-Atlantean cultural epochs — the culture of ancient India, ancient Persia, the Egyptian-Chaldaean-Assyrian-Babylonian culture, and the Greco-Roman culture — we learn about the nature of the development of the human soul. The Rosicrucians of the Middle Ages studied natural processes, regarding them as the Earth processes of nature. They distinguished, for instance, three different natural processes which they regarded as the three great processes of nature.
The first important process is the salt process. Everything in nature that can form a deposit of hard substance out of a solution was called salt by the Rosicrucian of the Middle Ages. When the medieval Rosicrucian saw this salt formation, however, his conception of it was entirely different from that of modern man. For if he wanted to feel he had understood it, the witnessing of such a process had to work like a prayer in his soul. Therefore the medieval Rosicrucian tried to make clear to himself what would have to happen in his own soul if the formation of salt were to take place there too. He arrived at the thought: human nature is perpetually destroying itself through instincts and passions. Our life would be nothing but a decomposition, a process of putrefaction, if we only followed our instincts and passions. And if man really wants to protect himself against this process of putrefaction, then he must constantly devote himself to noble thoughts that turn him toward the spirit. It was a matter of bringing his thoughts to a higher level of development. The medieval Rosicrucian knew that if he did not combat his passions in one incarnation he would be born with a predisposition for illness in the next one, but that if he purified his passions he would enter life in the next incarnation with a predisposition for health. The process of overcoming through spirituality the forces that lead to decay is microcosmic salt formation.
So we can understand how a natural process like this occasioned the most reverent prayer. When observing salt formation the medieval Rosicrucians told themselves, with a feeling of deepest piety: Divine spiritual powers have been working in this for thousands of years in the same way as noble thoughts work in me. I am praying to the thoughts of the gods, the thoughts of divine spiritual beings that are behind the maya of nature. The medieval Rosicrucian knew this, and he said to himself: When I let nature stimulate me to develop feelings like this, I make myself like the macrocosm. If I observe this process in an external way only, I cut myself off from the gods, I fall away from the macrocosm. These were the feelings of the medieval theosophist or Rosicrucian.
The process of dissolution gave a different experience: it was a different natural process that could also lead the medieval Rosicrucian to prayer. Everything that can dissolve something else was called by the medieval Rosicrucian quicksilver or mercury. Now he asked again: What is the corresponding quality in the human soul? What quality works in the soul in the same way in which quicksilver or mercury works outside in nature? The medieval Rosicrucian knew that all the forms of love in the soul are what correspond to mercury. He distinguished between lower and higher processes of dissolution, just as there are lower and higher forms of love. And thus the witnessing of the dissolution process again became a pious prayer, and the medieval theosophist said to himself: God's love has been at work out there for thousands of years in the same way as love works in me.
The third important natural process for the medieval theosophist was combustion, which takes place when material substance is consumed by flames. And again the medieval Rosicrucian sought the inner process corresponding to this combustion. This inner soul process he saw to be ardent devotion to the deity. And everything that can go up in flames he called sulphur. In the stages of development of the Earth he beheld a gradual process of purification similar to a combustion or sulphur process. Just as he knew that the Earth will at some time be purified by fire, he also saw a combustion process in fervent devotion to the deity. In the Earth processes he beheld the work of those gods who look up to mightier gods above them. And permeated with great piety and deeply religious feelings at the spectacle of the process of combustion, he told himself: Gods are now making a sacrifice to the gods above them.
And then when the medieval theosophist produced the combustion process in the laboratory himself, he felt: I am doing the same as the gods do when they sacrifice themselves to higher gods. He only considered himself worthy to carry out such a process of combustion in his laboratory when he felt himself filled with the mood of sacrifice, when he himself was filled with the desire to devote himself in sacrifice to the gods. The power of the flame filled the medieval theosophist with lofty and deeply religious feelings, and he told himself: When I see flames outside in the macrocosm I am seeing the thoughts and the love of the gods, and the gods' willingness to sacrifice.
The medieval Rosicrucian produced these processes himself in his laboratory and then he entered into contemplation of these salt formations, solutions, and processes of combustion, letting himself at the same time be filled with deeply religious feelings in which he became aware of his connection with all the forces of the macrocosm. These soul processes called forth in him divine thoughts, divine love, and divine sacrifice. And then the medieval Rosicrucian discovered that when he produced a salt process, noble, purifying thoughts arose in him. With a solution process love was stimulated in him, he was inspired by divine love; and with a combustion process the desire to make a sacrifice was kindled in him, it urged him to sacrifice himself on the altar of the world.
These were the experiences of one who did these experiments. And if you had attended these experiments yourself in clairvoyant vision, you would have perceived a change in the aura of the person carrying them out. The aura that was a mixture of colors before the experiment began, being full of instincts and desires to which the person in question had perhaps succumbed, became single-hued as a result of the experiment.
First of all, during the experiment with salt formation, it became the color of copper — pure, divine thoughts — then, in the experiment with a solution, the color of silver — divine love — and finally, with combustion, the color of gold — divine sacrifice. And then the alchemists said they had made subjective copper, subjective silver, and subjective gold out of the aura. And the outcome was that the person who had undergone this, and had really experienced such an experiment inwardly, was completely permeated by divine love.
Such was the way these medieval theosophists became permeated with purity, love, and the will to sacrifice, and by means of this sacrificial service they prepared themselves for a certain clairvoyance. This is how the medieval theosophist could see behind maya into the way spiritual beings helped things to come into being and pass away again. And this enabled him to realize which forces of aspiration in men's souls are helpful and which are not. He became acquainted with our own forces of growth and decay. The medieval theosophist Heinrich Khunrath, in a moment of enlightenment, called this process the law of growth and decay.
Through observing nature the medieval theosophist learnt the law of ascending and descending evolution. The science he acquired from this he expressed in certain signs, imaginative pictures, and figures. It was a kind of imaginative knowledge. One of the outcomes of this was The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians, which was described yesterday.
This is the way the best alchemists worked from the fourteenth to the eighteenth and until the beginning of the nineteenth century. About this truly moral, ethical, intellectual work nothing has been printed. What has been printed about alchemy concerns purely external experiments only, and was only written by those men who performed alchemy as an end in itself. The false alchemist wanted to create substance. When he experimented with the burning of substances he saw the material results as the only thing gained — whereas the genuine alchemist attached no importance to these material results. For him it all depended on the inner soul experiences he had while the substance was forming, the thoughts and experiences within him.
Therefore there was a strict rule that the medieval theosophist who produced gold and silver from his experiments was never allowed to profit from it himself. He was only allowed to give away the metals thus produced. Modern man no longer has the correct conception of these experiments. He has no idea what the experimenter could experience. The medieval theosophist was able to experience whole dramas of the soul in his laboratory when, for example, antimony was extracted; the experimenters saw significant moral forces at work in these processes.
If these things had not taken place at that time, we would not be able to practise Rosicrucianism in the Spiritual Scientific way today. What the medieval Rosicrucian experienced when he beheld the processes of nature is a holy natural science. The mood of spiritual sacrifice, the tremendous joys, the great natural events, including pain and sadness, as well as the events that uplifted him and made him happy, all these experiences that he had during the experiment he performed, worked on him in a liberating and redeeming way. All that was planted into him then, however, is now hidden in the innermost depths of man.
How shall we rediscover these hidden forces that used to lead to clairvoyance? We shall find them by studying Spiritual Science and by devoting ourselves deeply to the inner life of the soul in serious meditation and concentration. By means of inner development of this kind, work with nature will gradually become a sacrificial rite again. For this to come about, human beings must go through what we now call Spiritual Science. Human beings in their thousands must devote themselves to Spiritual Science; they must cultivate an inner life, so that in the future the spiritual reality behind nature will be perceptible again, and we learn to understand again the spirit behind maya.
Then, in the future, although it will only happen to a small number of people to begin with, they will be able to experience Paul's vision on the road to Damascus and to perceive the etheric Christ, Who will come among men in supersensible form. But before this happens man will have to return to a spiritual view of nature.
If we did not know the whole significance of Rosicrucianism we could believe that humanity was still at the same stage as it was two thousand years ago. Until man has gone through this process, which is only possible by means of Spiritual Science, he will not come to spiritual vision. There are many good and pious people who are theosophists at heart, although they are not followers of Spiritual Science.
Through the event of the baptism in the Jordan, when the Christ descended into the body of Jesus of Nazareth, and through the Mystery of Golgotha, mankind has become capable of beholding and recognizing the Christ later in the etheric body — from 1930 onward. Christ has only walked the Earth once in a physical body, and we should be able to understand this. ‘The second coming of Christ’ means seeing Christ supersensibly in the etheric. Therefore everyone who wants to tread the right path of development must work to acquire the capacity to see with spiritual eyes. It would not signify human progress for Christ to appear again in a physical body. His next appearance will be a revelation in the etheric body.
What was given in the different religious creeds has been gathered into one whole by Christian Rosenkreutz and the council of the twelve. This means that everything that the separate religions had to give and all that their followers strove for and longed for will be found in the Christ Impulse. Development during the next three thousand years will consist in this: the establishing and furthering of an understanding of the Christ Impulse. From the twentieth century onwards all the religions will be reconciled in the mystery of Rosicrucianism. And in the course of the next three thousand years this will become possible because it will no longer be necessary to teach from documents, for through the beholding of Christ human beings will themselves learn to understand the experience Paul had on the way to Damascus. Mankind itself will pass through the experience of Paul.
The Maitreya Buddha will appear five thousand years after Buddha was enlightened under the bodhi tree — that is, about three thousand years from now. He will be the successor of Gautama Buddha. Among true occultists this is no longer in doubt. Occultists of both the West and the East are in agreement about it. So two things are beyond question: Firstly, that the Christ could appear only once in a physical body; secondly that He will appear in the twentieth century in etheric form. Great individualities will certainly appear in the twentieth century, like the Bodhisattva, the successor of Gautama Buddha, who will become the Maitreya Buddha in about three thousand years. But no true occultist will give to any human being physically incarnated in the twentieth century the name of Christ, and no real occultist will expect the Christ in the physical body in the twentieth century. Every genuine occultist would find such a statement erroneous. The Bodhisattva, however, will especially point to the Christ.
Secondly, it will be three thousand years before the Bodhisattva who appeared in Jeshu ben Pandira appears as the Maitreya Buddha. The real occultists of India, in particular, would be horrified if we were to maintain that the Maitreya Buddha could appear before then. There could well be the kind of occultists in India, of course, who are not real occultists and who, for reasons of their own, speak of a Maitreya Buddha already in incarnation. Proper devotion to Rosicrucian theosophy and to Christian Rosenkreutz can protect anyone from falling into these errors.
All these things are stated in Rosicrucianism in such a way that they can be tested by reason. Healthy human understanding can test all these things. Do not believe anything on my authority, but just take what I say as an indication and then test it for yourselves. I am not perturbed, for the more you examine theosophy or Spiritual Science the more sensible you will find it. The less you take on authority, the more understanding you will have for Christian Rosenkreutz. We know Christian Rosenkreutz best when we enter properly into his individuality and become conscious that the spirit of Christian Rosenkreutz lives on and on. And the nearer we approach his great spirit the stronger we shall become. We can hope for a great deal of strength and help from the etheric body of this great leader, who will always be there, if we ask him to help us.
We will also be able to understand the strange event of Christian Rosenkreutz falling ill if we absorb ourselves properly in the work of Spiritual Science. In the thirteenth century this individuality lived in a physical body that grew weak to the point of transparency, so that for several days he lay as though dead, and during this time he received from the twelve their wisdom and he also experienced the event of Damascus.
May the spirit of true Rosicrucianism be with you and inspire you in this group: then the mighty etheric body of Christian Rosenkreutz will be all the more active here.