Wednesday, April 5, 2017
The Sun-Initiation of the Druid Priest and His Moon-Science
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 10, 1923:
From the most varied points of view — the point of view in Occult Science is only one of these — I have indicated how in a certain very early condition of our planet, Sun, Moon, Earth (indeed the other planets too, only this will not concern us today) were one whole, and how we must speak first of a departure of the Sun from the one whole, Sun-Moon-Earth; and then at a much later epoch, of a departure of the Moon.
All these matters have, of course, their external aspect, derived from sense-conceptions. But they have also an inner aspect, which is this: that Beings are bound up with such an existence, with Sun-existence, with Moon-existence — Beings who also on their part liberated themselves from the one whole with the separation of the Sun and entered into an entirely different kind of existence in the Cosmos. So that as regards the further evolution of the Earth we cannot merely speak of a detached Sun, exerting its physical and etheric influences on the Earth, but, when it is a question of taking the spiritual element of the cosmos into account, we must speak of a Sun population, of Sun Beings, who although they were once united with the Earth now lead an existence outside the Earth-evolution — an existence that extends far beyond this Earth-existence, and is much more sublime.
It is exactly the same in the case of what may be called the Moon population. And when we were describing the spiritual side of such cosmic processes, it was necessary to point to the fact that within the Earth-evolution itself there once existed a primordial wisdom. But this primordial wisdom did not, of course, consist of concepts which, as it were, floated around in the air; it proceeded from Beings who do not assume a physical body in the human sense, but who, as the result of the instinctive clairvoyant forces possessed by man at that time, did nevertheless live in man; it proceeded from the Beings who continued their existence on the Moon, after the Moon as an external cosmic body had separated from the Earth. We must therefore say that within the Moon-being, not in the light that the Moon radiates back as reflected sunlight, and not in all the rest of what the Moon radiates back from the Cosmos, but in the inner being of this Moon-existence there live Beings who were once the founders of the primordial wisdom among Earth men. These are the Beings who passed over into the figures of myths and sagas in picture form, who did not assume forms perceptible to the ordinary consciousness; they are primordial Beings who were once the founders of the primordial wisdom among Earth men. These are the Beings who passed over into the figures of myths and sagas in picture form, who did not assume forms perceptible to the ordinary consciousness; they are primordial Beings to whom we look back with wonder and awe, even if we only discover them externally as the real foundations of the myths, sagas — primordial Beings to whom the intellectual forces of present humanity can attain only by great exertion through the development once again of Imagination, Inspiration, and so on. But there did remain, at all event within humanity itself, something that was a kind of unconscious memory. And then in the different evolutionary epochs of human civilization, by which I mean, of course, the more ancient epochs of civilization, these unconscious memories appeared in man's life of feeling and in his whole constitution of soul, so that when we survey civilization we can speak of a Sun civilization and a Moon civilization. These are, as it were, consciousness-memories of something that in earlier times worked in a far-reaching sense as Nature-forces in man; and what man perceived of them is only an appendage, reminiscent of growth forces, forces of inner organization.
On the basis of such conceptions we are able to penetrate in some degree into the Druid culture. With the means accessible today to external science man will ask in vain as to what was the real soul-constitution of these Druid priests. (I might just as well call them Druid sages, for both are expressions entirely suited to that age, although of course they did not exist then.) What was it that lived in the impulses by means of which these Druid priests guided their people?
What is often narrated in history, and indeed often sounds terrible, always signifies something that was active in the epochs of decadence and degeneration. What I am going to describe here invariably refers to what preceded this epoch of degeneration, and was active when the civilization was in its prime. For these cromlechs, these Sun circles, in what they truly represent, draw attention to what existed in the epoch when the Druid Mysteries were in their prime. And with the means given us by anthroposophical Spiritual Science, we can in a certain way even today penetrate into the whole manner and mode of working of these Druid priests. It may be said that they were everything to their people, or rather their tribe. They were the authorities for the religious requirements, so far as one can speak of religious requirements at that time. They were the authorities for the social impulses, and also, for instance, for the healing methods of that time. They united in one all that later on was distributed over many branches of human civilization.
We obtain a right perspective of this Druid culture — and it is quite correct to use this expression — only when we realize that its essence is to be found in an epoch preceding that which echoes to us from those mythological conceptions of the North that are connected with the name of Wotan or Odin. What is associated with the name of Wotan really lies later in time than this epoch when the Druid culture was in its prime. In the orbit of wisdom that points to the divine name of Wotan or Odin we must recognize something that comes over from the East, proceeding in the first place from Mysteries in the proximity of the Black Sea. The spiritual content of these Mysteries flowed from the East towards the West, in the certain “colonizing” Mysteries, emanating from the Black Sea and proceeding westwards, were founded in the most varying ways.
All this, however, streamed into a culture that must be called sublime in a deeper sense, into a primordial wisdom, Druid wisdom. This Druid wisdom was really an unconscious echo, a kind of unconscious memory of the Sun and Moon elements existing in the Earth before the Sun and Moon were separated from it. Initiation in the Druid Mysteries was essentially a Sun-Initiation, bound up with what was then able to become Moon wisdom through the Sun-Initiation. What was the purpose of these cromlechs, these Druid circles? They were there essentially for the purpose of a spiritual observation of the relation of the Earth to the Sun. When we look at the single dolmens we find that they are really instruments whereby the outer physical effects of the Sun were shut off in order that the Initiate who was gifted with seership could observe the effects of the Sun in the dark space. The inner qualities of the Sun element, how these permeate the Earth, and how they are again radiated back from the Earth into cosmic space — this was what the Druid priest was able to observe in the single cromlechs. The physical nature of the light of the Sun was warded off, a dark space was created by means of the stones, which were fitted into the soil with a roof stone above them and in this dark space it was possible by the power of seeing through the stones to observe the spiritual nature and being of the Sun's light.
Thus the Druid priest standing before his altar was concerned with the inner qualities of the Sun element so far as he needed the wisdom that then streamed into him — streamed in, however, in such a way that the wisdom had still the character of a Nature-force — for the purpose of directing and guiding his people.
But we must always bear in mind that we are here speaking of an epoch when men could not look at the calendar to see when it was right to sow, when this or that grain of seed ought to be entrusted to the soil. In those ages men did not look at a book in order to get information about the time of the year. The only booking in existence was the Cosmos itself. And the letters that formed themselves into words arose from the observations as to how the Sun worked on one or other contrivance that had been erected. Today, when you want to know something, you read. The Druid priest looked at the action of the Sun in his cromlech, and there he read the mysteries of the Cosmos. He read there when corn, rye and so forth were to be sown. These are only instances. The impulses for all that was done were read from the Cosmos. The greater impulses, which were needed, one may say, to complete the yearly calendar, were obtained from observation within the shadow of the Druid circle. So that in this age, when there was nothing that was derived from the human intellect, the Cosmos alone was there. And instead of the printing-press man had the cromlech in order to unravel from out of the Cosmos the mysteries it contained.
Reading the cosmic book in this way, men were therefore concerned with the element of the Sun. And in contradistinction to the Sun element, they perceived the Moon element. The forces which were then concentrated in the Moon were once united with the Earth. These forces, however, did not wholly withdraw; they left something behind in the Earth. If there had been Sun-forces alone, rampant, growing cells only would have arisen, life elements, always with the character of small or large cells. The diversity, the formation, does not emanate from the Sun-forces, but from the Moon-forces working together with the Sun-forces.
When he exposed himself to all that his circles, his cromlechs could reveal to him, the Druid priest did not receive the mere abstract impression which we today receive, quite rightly, when in our way — that is to say in an intellectual way — we enter into the things of the spirit. For the forces of the Sun spoke to him directly. In the shadow of the Sun the spiritual Sun-nature worked into him directly, and it worked far more intensely than a sense-impression does on us today, for it was related to far deeper forces. As the priest stood before his place of ritual, observing this Sun-nature, his breathing changed even as he observed. It became unloving, it was blunted, it went in waves so that the one breath merged into the other. He, with all that he was as a human being through his breath, lived in what was given as a resulting influence of the Sun. And the outcome was no abstract knowledge, but something that worked in him like the circulation of the blood, pulsating inwardly through him, kindling his human being even into the physical. Yet this working into the physical was spiritual at the same time, and the inner stimulations he experienced — these were really his knowledge.
We must conceive this knowledge in a far more living way, as far more intense — we must conceive it as living experience. Moreover, the Druid priest received it at certain times only. With a lesser intensity of life it could be kindled in him every day at noon; but if the great secrets were to be revealed, the priest had to expose himself to these influences at the time which we now call the season of St. John. Then there arose what I may call the great wave of his knowledge as against the lesser daily waves. And while, through the Sun-influences which he thus caught up on Earth in a peculiar and artificial way, he experienced what he felt as his Initiation — his Sun-Initiation — he became able also to understand the forces which had remained behind as Moon-forces in the Earth when the Moon had left it. Such was the Nature-lore he gained under the influence of Sun-Initiation. What was revealed on the surface of things was unimportant to him, but what welled forth from below as the Moon-forces in the Earth, this was important. Through the principle of Initiation, whose relics, as we have seen, are preserved in these strange monuments today, he placed himself in a condition to gain knowledge. And the knowledge he gained was of all that works in Nature, especially when in the sky at night-time the stars stood over the Earth, and the Moon traveled across the heavens.
The Sun-Initiation gave the Druid priest the spiritual impulse, and as a result he had his science of Nature. Our science of Nature is an earthly science. His was a Moon-science. The underlying Moon-forces, as they ray forth in the plants from the depths of the Earth, as they work in wind and weather and so forth — these he felt. He felt them, not in the abstract way, as we today — having an earthly science — feel the forces of Nature. He felt them in all their livingness.
And what was thus livingly revealed to him, this he felt as the elemental beings living in the plants, in the stones, in all things. These elemental beings, having their dwelling place in trees and plants and so forth, were enclosed in certain bounds. But they were not those narrow bounds that are set to man today. They were far wider. His science of Nature being a Moon-science, the Druid priest perceived how the elemental beings can grow and expand into gigantic size.
From this resulted his knowledge of the Jötuns, the giant-beings. When he looked into the root-nature of a plant beneath the soil, where the Moon-forces were living, there he found the elemental being in its true bounds. But the beings were ever striving to go forth and grow outward gigantically. When the kind of elemental beings who lived beneficially in the root-nature, expanded into giants, they became the giants of the frost, whose outward physical symbol is in the frost, who live in all that sweeps over the Earth as the destructive hoar frost and other destructive forces of the frost-nature. These were the loosened root-forces of the plants which lived within the frost, as it swept with its giant forces over the Earth, working destructively; whereas in the root-nature the same forces worked bounteously and beneficially. And what worked in the growth of the leaves, this too could grow to giant size. Then it lived as a giant elemental being in the misty storms that swept over the Earth, with all that they contained in certain seasons — with the pollen of the plants, and so forth.
And what lives gently, modestly, as it were, in the flower-forces of the plants, when this grows to giant size, it becomes the all-destroying fire.
Thus in the weather-processes the Druid priests beheld the forces of being expanded into giants — the same forces that lived within their right limits in the kingdoms of Nature. The chosen places where we find these old heathen centers of ritual show that what they received on the one hand through the Sun-circles and the cromlechs, was developed into the Earth-knowledge which was thus made possible. They developed it so as to be able properly to observe the mysterious working and weaving of wind and weather as they sweep over the Earth — the working together of the water and the airy nature, the hoar-frost oozing forth from the earth, the melting dew. It was through the Sun-Initiation and the knowledge of the Moon-beings that there arose this most ancient conception which we find at the very foundations of European culture.
Thus the Druid priest read and deciphered the cosmic secrets which his institutions of the Sun-Initiation enabled him to gain from the Cosmos. Thus, stimulated by the Sun-Initiation, he gained his knowledge from his science of Moon-nature. But with all this the whole social and religious life stood in close connection. Whatever the priest could say to the people arose on the spiritual foundations of this element in which the people lived. We see it best of all in what the Druid priests possessed as a science of healing. They saw on the one hand the elemental beings contained within their bounds in the various growths and products of the mineral and especially of the plant kingdom. Then they observed what happened to the plants when these were exposed to frost, exposed to the influences which the giants of the storm and wind carry through the airy spaces, or again, exposed to the seething of the fire-giants. They studied what the giants of frost and hoar-frosts, the giants of the storm, the fire-giants, if loosed and set free, would do to the plants. At length they came to the point of taking the plants themselves, and imitating within certain limits all that was indicated in outer Nature as the influence of the giants. They subjected the plants to a certain process, to the freezing cold process, the process of burning, the process of binding and solution.
The Druid priests said to themselves: “Looking out into this world of Nature we behold the destructive working of the giants, of frost and storm and fire. But we can take from these giants, from the Jötuns, what they spread so awkwardly and clumsily over the world; we can wrest it from them; we can harness once more within narrow limits these loosened forces of the Moon.”
This they did. They studied what takes place in the thawing earth, in storm and wind, in the fierce, seething heat of the Sun. All this they applied to the Sun-nature which lived in the plants and which they themselves received in their Initiation. And in so doing they created their remedies, their healing hers and the like, all of which were based upon the fact that the giants were reconciled with the Gods. In those times each single remedy bore witness to the reconciliation of the foes of the Gods with the Gods themselves.
What man received immediately under the influences of Sun and Moon, just as it was offered by Nature herself, this would be a food-stuff. A medicine, on the other hand, would be something that man himself created, in that he continued Nature beyond herself, harnessing the giant-force to place it in the service of the Sun.
We must imagine the Druid civilization spread out over a great portion of Northern and Central Europe about 3,000 or 3,500 years ago. Men had nothing at all similar to writing. They had only this cosmic writing. Then into all this there spread from the East, to begin with from a Mystery in the region of the Black Sea, what is now contained as an insoluble riddle for the ordinary consciousness in the Norse Mythology, associated with the name of Wotan.
For what is Wotan? The Mystery from which this Wotan culture proceeded was a Mercury Mystery, a Mystery that added to the impulses of Sun and Moon the impulse of Mercury. One might say that that old civilization was there in a sun-and Moon-radiant innocence and simplicity, untouched by what could be told to mankind through the Jupiter impulses. Only away in the East these Jupiter impulses were already present. From thence they now spread, colonizing, towards the West. Wotan-Mercury carried his influence westward.
Here at the same time we have thrown light upon the fact that Wotan is described as the bringer of the Runes, the Runic art of writing. He was the bringer of what man drew forth from himself in the first primitive way of intellectuality as an art of deciphering the universe. This is the very first entry of intellectualism, the Wotan impulse. Thus one might say that the Mercury, the Wotan-nature, was now added to the Sun-and Moon-natures.
Wherever this Wotan impulse worked itself out fully, everything that was present from earlier experiences was influenced by it. It all received a certain impulse from this Wotan element. For there was one thing, a special secret of the Druid culture. We know that at all places things arise that do not belong there. Weeds grow on the tilled land. We might say that the Druid culture recognized as the good plants of civilization only the Sun and Moon qualities, and if, hastening forward as it were to a later time, the intellectual element already then arose, they treated it as a weed. Among the many remedies the Druids had, there was one against the Mercury quality of deep thought and introspection. Strange as it may seem to us today, they had a remedy against this habit of sinking into one's inner being, or as we should say, of pondering on one's own salvation. The Druids wanted man to live with Nature and not to sink into himself, and they regarded as sick and ill anyone who even attempted to express anything in signs or the like, unless it were merely to imitate the things of Nature in a primitive form of art. Anyone who made signs was diseased and must be healed. Indeed he was then considered as black human being, he was not white. Yes, my dear friends, if we with all our present knowledge were transposed into the Druid culture, we should all be sent to a hospital and cured.
And now from the East the Wotan civilization brought this very illness. The Wotan civilization indeed was felt as an illness. But it also brought, with a power grown truly great and gigantic, what had formerly appeared as an abnormality, an unhealthy introspection. Into the midst of what had formerly been taken only from the cosmic writing, it brought the Rune. So that man now transferred his intellectual element into the signs he made. It brought in all that was felt as a Mercury culture. Thus it was no wonder that what proceeded from the Wotan culture, distilled from the best forces that were in it, viz., the Baldur-Being, the Sun-Being, was felt and thought of as one united not with life, but with death. Baldur had to go to Hel, into the dark forces of Death, the dwelling-place of Death.
Moreover, to begin with, men pondered most, as we can see from the traditions of the Edda, not on the question of how this Baldur, son of the Wotan forces, should be freed from Hel — for this is really a later conception — but on the question of how he should be healed. And at length they said: We have many means of healing, but Baldur, the intelligence proceeding from the Runes of Wotan — for this there are no remedies, and it can only lead to death.
Thus we see once more what I have pointed out to you from so many points of view in the study of human evolution. In olden times the instinctive knowledge of mankind knew nothing of the significance of death, for men remembered the pre-earthly life and knew that death is only a transformation. They did not feel death as any deeper incision than this. Above all there was no such thing as the tragedy of death. This only entered in when the Mystery of Golgotha approached, which became indeed a redemption from the fear of death. In the Baldur legend you see the most visible description of how, with the entry of intellectualism, there comes that mood of soul which reckons with deaths, and you see what thus entered into human evolution.
Thus what had been seen in the death of Baldur, who could not rise again, was only healed once more in the way of soul and spirit, when the Christ-figure who could rise from death was placed over against him.
It is wonderful how in the North, through the influence of the Mercury-forces on the Sun-and Moon-forces, the perception of the Christ-impulse was prepared. In Baldur, the God who falls into death and cannot rise again, we see the forerunner, in the North, of Christ, who also falls a victim to death, but who can rise, because He comes directly from the Sun. Baldur, on the other hand, the Sun-force coming from Wotan, is the Sun-force reflected back by Mercury, radiating forth from the signs which man makes out of his intellect.
Thus we see how evidently all these things evolve in the Northern regions, where man still appears to us living and reading in the Cosmos, seeking for his religious, social and medical conceptions from the Cosmos, until at a later stage he passes over to dwell with the Earth-forces. From his sacrificial stone the Druid priest gazes at the configuration of the shadow of the Sun, and reads what appears in the shadow, representing the spiritual aspects of the Sun. Then we approach the time when the Sun-Being, the Sun-nature that had been caught up, as it were, in the cromlechs is drawn in abstract lines, called rays. We approach the time when the relationship of what lives in root and leaf and blossom with what lives in frost and wind and fire is recognized at most in a chemical sense. Giants and elemental beings alike are transformed into “forces of Nature.” And yet in our forces of Nature no more is contained than the giants of ancient time. We are only unaware of the fact and feel immensely superior. It is a straight line of development from the giants to the forces of Nature. These are the latter-day children of them. Man who lives today in a highly derived, i.e., an unoriginal, civilization, cannot but be deeply moved when he looks at these scant relics of the Druid age. It is as though he were to behold the hoary ancestors of what is living in this present time.
To go more into detail, we too today speak of medicine and remedies in a strangely abstract way, very intellectually, describing abstractly their mode of preparation. All this we must imagine transformed into something altogether living if we would look back on the way the Druid priest regarded his remedies. For he felt the Sun-forces which he knew so well and which in plants and other products of Nature he treated with the forces of the giants. All this was altogether living for him. From the giants he wrested the forces of preparation to transform the plants into medicaments. He knew that in so doing he did something for the whole Cosmos. Then he gazed on man himself. Through his peculiar knowledge of man, the most intimate parts of the natural man, e.g. in the dream-recognized the symptoms coming forth, as it were, from the imaginations that arose, the vague, unconscious flickering-upward of the deeper human nature into consciousness under the influence of these remedies in which the giant-forces were subdued and held in check, he recognized how these things worked in the human being into whom they were instilled. Thus he had on the one hand his Loki in the wild influences of the outer fire, and on the other hand what he had taken away from Loki in order to transform this or that plant by a combustion process into a medicament. From the way this worked within the human being, he then beheld the Loki-force in man. For here it was disarmed. And the Druid said: That which out there in the world of the giants is working with threatening danger and destruction works healingly when brought in the right manner into the inner man. Poisonous forces as it were on a large scale become healing forces when brought to the right place.
Thus the Druid in his way perceived the varied forces and workings of Nature. Thus he was within the spiritual whereby he sent forth the religious, social, medicinal and other impulses into his community. Thus in that time the ancient primeval wisdom which the Moon Beings, so long as they were here, had cultivated on the Earth, and which was now no longer here directly, since they themselves had gone with the Moon — this primeval wisdom was preserved through Beings that were found and known by a kind of Sun-Initiation in the way I have described to you today.