"I am the resurrection and the life." — John 11:25
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Piercing the Veil of Maya: Overthrowing Reason
"My kingdom is not of this world." — John 18:36
"I am the resurrection and the life." — John 11:25
"I am the resurrection and the life." — John 11:25
Rudolf Steiner: "...Let us imagine the whole situation. Let us picture a man of pre-Christian times, who lived under certain conditions. He will have looked out into the world, he will have seen all manner of things, but within his soul there also lived the possibility of seeing behind these things. He still possessed this disposition. Consequently, it was an undeniable fact for him that there is an etheric body behind every flower. This was a fact for him. Gradually he began to lose this capacity. He lost it because it was banished by the intellectual understanding which rules today. The intellectual capacity cannot be united with the other one, for they are two hostile forces. This is an undeniable fact, and every occultist knows by experience that the understanding, or ordinary thought, sears and burns the clairvoyant manner of looking upon things. Even in the course of history, the knowledge based upon the ancient clairvoyance was lost to the extent to which the understanding, or the intellect in the ordinary meaning, has arisen, and the loss of the old clairvoyant wisdom also implied the loss of the capacity to understand the ancient traditions. A few centuries had to pass, and the kind of man I have just described to you had to be replaced by another kind who might perhaps have said: “It would, of course, be a serious prejudice to think the truth can be discovered in the way in which the world presents itself to our senses. Human reason must supplement everything!” Particularly this belief in human reason was the decisive factor; human reason must first pounce upon the phenomena which appear to the senses and then grasp them logically.
Such a kind of man would perhaps have said: “The special advantage of the human being over all the creatures of the Earth is the fact that he is endowed with reason, that he can understand cause and effect as they manifest themselves behind the sense phenomena. He is able to discover this. And his intellect enables him to communicate with other men through the means of speech. For it is easy to see that speech is a child of reason.” And he might also have said: “Reason is, of course, the highest of all things.” Now, if we wish to draw a vivid picture of such a person, we should imagine him saying to himself: “Rely on your understanding and reason, dissect everything with your reason, and then you will surely reach the truth!” Let us suppose that we are actually facing such a man. I have given you a description from a theoretical standpoint, yet this particular type of man has appeared very frequently. A characteristic thinker of this kind was Cicero, who lived shortly before Christ. If you study Cicero you will immediately see that he thinks exactly in this way, namely, that reason is able to grasp everything. It is not true that the world appears as it presents itself to the senses, nevertheless human reason is able to grasp everything! Just in the case of people who lived shortly before Christ we find an invincible faith in reason. They even identify reason with God himself, who rules within things. Cicero adopts this standpoint.
Let us suppose, however, that someone succeeds in discovering the secrets connected with all this. Let us suppose that someone contemplates all this in an entirely unprejudiced way and sees how everything results little by little. How would he then describe the whole period? Let us suppose that one century before Christ a man who is endowed with deep insight contemplates all these things ... How would the whole course of history appear to him? Well, he would say: “We can see two currents in humanity. One is the old clairvoyant power, with a descending course. Reason appears in its place, and it roots out and destroys within the human being the possibility of looking into the spiritual world. A great darkness spreads over the spiritual world. Those who accept the authority of reason will indeed think that their reason can discover what lies behind things. But these people forget the true nature of reason, about which they talk so much. Reason is linked up exclusively with the brain. It is a force which can only use the brain as its instrument. It belongs to the physical world and must, therefore, share the qualities of the physical world” ... Such a man would say: “You may, if you like, rely on your intellect and say that it enables you to grasp what lies behind things, since the things in themselves are not real. Consider, however, that reason itself belongs to these things. You are a physical being among other physical beings, and your reason belongs to the physical world. If you think that reason enables you to discover what lies behind all the other things, you will demolish the foundation under your feet.” This is what he would say, and he would add: “Indeed, men are more and more inclined to use their reason, to rely upon their intellect. They have this inclination. But in doing so, they raise up before them a wall hiding the spiritual world, for they make use of an instrument which cannot be applied to the spiritual world, for it is limited to the physical world. Humanity, however, unfolds in the very direction of developing this instrument.” And if this man had known the real course of events, he would also have said: “If men return to the spiritual world at all, they should not only be able to use their intellect, which can be applied solely to the physical world, but an impulse must arise enabling them to ascend once more to the spiritual worlds, an impulse which drives the intellect itself along this upward path. But this can only take place,” this person would have said, “if something dies within the human being, if something which calls forth in him the firm belief in the exclusive rule of reason perishes. This must die.” In fact, we imagine the human being gradually descending into the material world and developing his brain more and more. If the human being were to depend exclusively on his reason, he would be unable to abandon it, to come out of it. His physical body would then deceive him and persuade him to do away with everything which cannot be grasped by earthly reason. But it is the physical body which dulls man in this manner, because it gradually develops to a very high degree, and man does not realize that he thus remains within the physical world. Try to imagine this and you will see that the human being is then caught as if in a trap. He is quite unable to escape out of himself. Human evolution has so far reached the point of preventing man from going out of his own self, and so he faces the danger of being gradually overwhelmed by his physical body. What can help the human being at all in this case? If just at the time when the intellect reaches this point there arises the possibility of changing the intellect so that the part which blinds it dies, then this part must die. An impulse must arise which is able to overcome once and for all that part in man which can overwhelm him through a blind faith in mere reason. Try to feel the power of this impulse; try to feel that this was the meaning of human evolution! The bodily constitution developed in such a way that it would have overwhelmed man. He would have reached the point of thinking that he must remain within the physical world and yet be able to penetrate through maya, without bearing in mind that he himself lived in this maya through his intellect. This would have taken place had not something arisen which can tear him out of it as soon as he accepts it, and which is able to counteract the fall into the physical sphere. Indeed, its influence reaches as far as the etheric body, so that the etheric body is then able to kill what leads man into a similar illusion. The human being would otherwise have remained imprisoned in this trap.
Let us now turn away from such a person who would have spoken in this way when the time of Christ Jesus was approaching, and let us consider the way in which a modern man, or any one of us, would look at things. He would say to himself: If I consider the development of man in an unprejudiced way and see how the intellect, this instrument belonging to maya, has gradually gained strength, I would undoubtedly be on the wrong track if I follow merely the course of the world's evolution. For this is arranged in such a way that if I do not take up within me the impulse which kills that part leading me astray in this direction, I am unable to free myself from the intellect. What must therefore have taken place? I must be able to look back upon a time in which this impulse entered. I must find something within the historical evolution of humanity which brings about the fact that the continuous stream of evolution has been reversed in a materialistic sense. If today I were to look within my own being without finding anything of this kind, what would I then have to find? I would trace in that case the gradual growth of the intellect, until I reached a time, at the beginning of our era, when the intellect began to work ... and further back? There it grows dark; pitch-black darkness rules there, and I shall need something entirely different. Then it will grow light — and here everyone must encounter the Christ! Anyone who is at all willing to believe in the possibility of progress, and that during the following incarnations he will have within him something which will lead him upwards and will prevent his being overwhelmed by maya, must meet the Christ when he looks back into time. Upon looking back, everyone must encounter the Christ. This can give him an impulse leading him upwards.
Let us now suppose that the gospels did not exist, and that we would not need them as anthroposophists. Let us suppose that we do not need the gospels; that all we need is to study the course of human evolution in an unprejudiced way and to say: What would become of every human being if he were unable to look back upon an event which has swung the whole meaning of the earlier course of evolution over to the other side? We simply must encounter the Christ if we go back into the course of evolution! Anthroposophists must be able to find Him, and the clairvoyants will find him under every circumstance. This is a mystery which is connected particularly with Christianity. Documents may be questioned. Indeed, the gospels are not real historical documents. All the clever people, Jensen and others, who decree in a trivially learned manner that the gospels do not exist and who look upon them as mere legends, have a certain justification for doing this, because they depend solely upon their external reason. But if we are anthroposophists we are able to say that we do not need the gospels; we only need the facts supplied by spiritual science itself, and if we go back into time we shall discover the living Christ, as He appeared to Paul in the event of Damascus. Paul experienced in advance what we too are able to experience if we search for the Christ in a truly anthroposophical spirit. Paul was, after all, in the same position of a modern anthroposophist who does not wish to accept the gospels. At his time the gospels did not exist, but Paul was able to go to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, this did not convince him, for otherwise he would not have left Jerusalem. The events described in the gospels did not convince him. It is not necessary, therefore, that the contents of the gospels should convince a modern person. All that is necessary is that he should be in a position to experience, through Anthroposophy, what Paul has experienced, and this experience will then become for him an event of Damascus. He will then have the proof of Christ's existence, in the same way as Paul, without the aid of documents.
Of course, this points to very deep things in human evolution, to extraordinarily deep things in the evolution of man. In a certain sense, every human being, even the simplest man, may experience what the reincarnated Empedocles experienced during the 15th and 16th centuries, who looked back into earlier times and was able to see what he was unable to see before. Before, he had grown so uncertain that he threw himself into Mount Aetna. He cast his glance backwards during the 15th and 16th century, and what he had been unable to grasp in any way during his previous incarnation he was now able to grasp clearly through the Christ principle. And this enabled him to become one of the most remarkable personalities of the later era.
This is how matters appear to every human being, without the aid of any document, simply through retrospection. At some later time, all men will be able to look back into an earlier incarnation and they will distinguish exactly the incarnations before and after Christ. What may be felt today instinctively by a simple soul who reads the gospels will arise, later, in the form of knowledge. This is the chief difference between the gospels and other documents: they are the first documents which we must understand. The gospels are a great, beautiful, and mighty point of transition. It we pass through it, light begins to spread, while everywhere else there is darkness.
It is indeed so. Christianity is only at the beginning of its evolution, and a modern man may find that he often loses his thread when he investigates earlier things. But if he returns to one of the events in the life of the Christ he will feel inspired, and it will grow light about him. Even a simple person may experience what occultists discover — namely, he will be able to feel within his soul a reflection, as it were, of what I have just explained. He may feel very depressed owing to his human weaknesses and mistakes and he may admit to himself: “What I am today is the result of all the generations!” But then he would deny this and would have to admit to himself, instead, that he himself has been his own father and his own mother. There is, consequently, something within us connecting us with the rest of humanity, and we may feel very depressed by all human mistakes, weaknesses, and illnesses. Nevertheless, even the simplest soul always has the possibility of rising. These words should not be understood in the orthodox meaning. What is possible for an occultist is also possible for the simplest soul. Such a simple man may feel as weak as possible, but if he begins to read the gospels, strength will flow out of the gospels, because the power of the Word streams out of them and penetrates into the etheric body. The gospels are strengthening words, words of strength. They do not speak merely to the intellect, but penetrate into the deeper forces of the soul. And they are not merely based upon the intellect which exists in maya, but they penetrate into the deeper forces, which can, as it were, console the intellect concerning its own nature. This is the great strength of the gospels; they exist for every one of us, and this is the powerful element distinguishing them from all other documents. This fact, too, may not be accepted, but its rejection would imply that the possibility of human progress is denied altogether.
You see, this points to a fact which cannot be grasped right away. And now you will be able to realize what was needed for the preparation of a person whom I have already set before your soul hypothetically, who announced, one century before our era: “A man must come who will give us the impulse which will bring about the great turning point in the course of events.”
This person was a significant man, and he also underwent the necessary preparation. For a long time, the attempt had already been made, among those who knew things, to bring about the possibility that at least a few people, as it were, should understand the times which were approaching, that they should understand what was being prepared, namely, that, on the one hand, men were being drawn into a snare, and that, on the other hand, through the appearance of the Christ, they could be led upwards again. This was taught prophetically. The man who was chosen to teach this prophetically, more than one century before our era, within the circles of people who were able to understand these teachings, was an initiate of the community of the Essenes, which was closely related to the circles frequented by the Christ. He announced the coming of One Who would lead men upwards again. The man who taught this within the community of the Essenes was a very significant individuality. External history really knows very little about him, but at least a few writers mention the legends referring to him which were handed down traditionally. Thus he is not merely a mythological character, or one who is named exclusively in occultism, He lived a hundred years before Christ and he even instructed one of his five or six pupils to write down his teachings. One of the pupils of this man, who drew attention to the Christ and announced His coming, understood the meaning of his teachings. This man, therefore, had a pupil, who was called Matthew, and he wrote down the mysteries relating to the Christ. The individuality who taught them was Jeshu ben Pandira. He had to suffer martyrdom because he taught these things; he was stoned to death in his own country, and afterwards his lifeless body was hanged. We should not confuse Jeshu ben Pandira with Jesus of Nazareth. Jeshu ben Pandira, the great prophet of the Christ, instructed his pupils to write down what he knew, and these documents then came into the hands of the man who included them, with the mysteries which they contained, into the gospel which is known to us as the Gospel according to Matthew. It is an important, a preeminently important, fact to realize, in the first place, the necessity of the Christ impulse, and in the second place, in an occult historical way, how Jeshu ben Pandira, through the fact that he was first stoned and immediately afterwards crucified, set forth, as it were, symbolically what took place afterwards in the Mystery of Golgotha. Christ was not stoned but crucified, and a wonderful thing took place simultaneously with His death, for at the very moment when His blood streamed out of His wounds something passed over into the atmosphere of the Earth, which brings to those who take up this event in their etheric body when they look back into time, to those who pass through this event and look, as it were, into the grave of the Christ, something leading them into a past filled with light, because they have passed through this moment. But without this experience, darkness spreads over everything which lies before it.
Consider what has been said today. It was my task to point this out to you. This subject, however, is so vast and encompassing that mere indications can be given. Nevertheless, these indications were treated so that if you investigate what you already know and what you carry in your heart, you will find to what a great extent life itself and your own soul prove the truth of what I have told you today.