Sunday, May 21, 2017
The After-Effects of the Atlantean Mysteries in America and Asia
Inner Impulses of Evolution. Lecture 3.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 18, 1916:
It is extraordinarily difficult to speak of the conditions that were alluded to in the previous lecture because, in more recent times, in our age of materialistic thinking, the ideas and concepts for doing so are largely lacking. They must first be acquired through spiritual science. The information that can be given is, therefore, more in the nature of indications. Moreover, there is a further reason, which is determined by the whole development of our modern culture. This further reason that causes certain difficulties in treating conditions that are hidden behind the threshold of knowledge from modern man is that, on the whole, he has become somewhat lacking in courage. If one wishes to avoid actually using the word cowardly, one cannot say it differently. He has become weak in courage. The modern person much prefers his knowledge to give him nice pleasant feelings, but that is not always possible. Knowledge can fill us with inner satisfaction even when it does not convey exactly pleasant matters, because these — well, unpleasant things belong to truth. In every case one should find satisfaction in truth since even regarding the most terrible truths one can experience a kind of feeling of upliftment. As I have said, however, modern man is much too weak in courage for that; he wants to feel uplifted in his own way. This, too, is connected with secrets of modern existence that will become clearer in the course of such studies as we are now undertaking.
The particular faculties of which we have spoken, namely, the unfolding in our thought and deed of free imaginations and an attitude toward the world based on the primal phenomenon, can only be acquired by modern man when a veil is drawn over certain processes that are occurring, when they don't easily reveal themselves. Thus, it is also a necessary part of the evolution of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch that man does not understand certain things that thrust themselves into our sense world from the subsensible and super-sensible worlds. Most important events that are enacted around us before our very eyes are, in fact, not understood at all by modern man. In a way, he is protected from understanding them because he can only properly evolve the two faculties mentioned above under this protection. Foundations for his understanding of these events, however, have already begun to be laid. They have now progressed so far that evolution cannot continue to advance without reference being made, with a certain care and caution, to these matters.
Modern man, with his experience of what happens around him and of what he himself does and sets going, has but feeble reflections of what is surging and welling up in his own subsensory nature. At best, it emerges from time to time in frightening dream pictures, but they, too, are only feeble. What is happening in the subsensible is unknown to the man of today, and under normal circumstances he knows little of the super-sensible. Beneath what we modern people experience in the soul lies something that one can only describe as eruptive forces. It can be compared precisely with the world one experiences when standing on volcanic ground; you only have to set fire to some paper to have smoke burst out everywhere. If through the smoke you could see what is swirling and bubbling down below, you would then indeed realize what sort of ground you were actually standing on.
It is the same with modern life. We observe that Ernest Renan writes his Life of Jesus, and we see it as we see a solfatara or volcanic landscape. We see what David Friedrich Strauss writes, and we describe it as calm and peaceful. We see what Soloviev writes and we describe that too as calm and peaceful. All of this is written calmly as if we have not yet lit a piece of paper to see the eruptive impulses of humanity living and working beneath the soil.
A great deal has really been said with these few words. It only needs to be systematically thought through and you will see that it is so. What we described at the end of our observations yesterday we see is like living over a volcano. It is, however fully in accord with the purpose of evolution to see things so peaceful and harmless. That is good because beneath this peacefulness and harmlessness the very faculties that we need in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch are being developed. In most people they are not developed consciously, though in spiritual science the endeavor must be made to do so. Hence, it becomes necessary from time to time to indicate with care and caution the things one becomes aware of when one kindles that little piece of paper. Why is all this so? In the first place, because the ahrimanic powers have something quite different in mind for the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. In the fourth post-Atlantean culture they were greatly disillusioned through the Roman evolution, as we described in the last two lectures. They did not attain their goal and therefore have prepared still worse onslaughts for our fifth post-Atlantean epoch, for they mean to try again to achieve their purpose.
Now I have already mentioned that something is coming to expression from two sides, even geographically, that will burst like a storm into our calm and peaceful evolution in this fifth post-Atlantean epoch, predisposed as it is to calm and peace. I pointed to one of these directions when I told you how Genghis Khan was inspired by the priest who had seen a descendant of the “Great Spirit” of old Atlantis. I also indicated how a certain ahrimanic attack was launched from the West through all that followed the discovery of America. It has been overcome in a certain respect but continues to live on in it as a resistant force. One must not think that things that are not seen are not there. Because what the ahrimanic powers took in hand in the Western Hemisphere did not come to outer physical earthly reality, our fifth post-Atlantean culture has been saved from the first attacks. But it goes on living in a sort of spectral form. It is there and impresses itself into men's impulses. People know nothing of it, however, and are unaware that it lives in and inserts itself into their impulses. Now it is only through placing pictures side by side that I can really lay a foundation for concepts that you must gradually create and form for yourselves in meditation. It would not be easy to find concepts in the present fund of ideas to explain what actually lives in the urges and impulses below the threshold. They push up, to be sure, into the ordinary soul life but they are normally covered over and unperceived in modern normal life.
Upon the soil of the Western Hemisphere that was now trodden through the discovery of America, quite special conditions had gradually been taking shape in the course of past centuries. The general population inhabiting those parts was far from attaining the qualities that had meanwhile been developed in the Eastern Hemisphere of Europe and Asia. A people lived in the West who stood far removed from the intellectual capacities that had evolved in the Eastern Hemisphere, but among them were a great number of individuals who had been initiated into certain mysteries. Before the discovery of America, there were mysteries of the most varied kind in the Western Hemisphere and they had a large following for the teachings that came from them. Like a single central power whom all followed and obeyed, a kind of spectral spirit, a descendant of the “Great Spirit” of Atlantis, was revered. This spirit had gradually assumed an ahrimanic character because he still worked with forces that had been right in Atlantis or were already ahrimanic there.
When the Atlantean spoke of his “Great Spirit,” he expressed it, as we have seen, in a word that sounded something like the word “Tao,” which is still preserved in China. An ahrimanic, caricatured counterpart appeared in the West as opponent of the “Great Spirit Tao” but he was still connected with him. He worked in such a way that he could only be made visible through atavistic, visionary perception but whenever they desired his presence, he always showed himself to those persons connected with the widespread mysteries of this cult so they could receive his instructions and commands. This spirit was called by a name that sounded something like Taotl. Taotl was thus an ahrimanic distortion of the “Great Spirit” — a mighty being and one who did not descend to physical incarnation. A great many men were initiated into the mysteries of Taotl but the initiation was of a completely ahrimanic character. It had a quite definite purpose and goal, which was to rigidify and mechanize all earthly life, including that of humans, to such a degree that a special luciferic planet, which has already been referred to in these studies, could be founded above earthly life. The souls of men could then be drawn out to it, by force and pressure.
As we described yesterday, what the ahrimanic powers were striving for in the civilization of Rome was only a feeble echo of what those who, under the leadership of Taotl, set out to attain, and this in much fuller and wider measure by means of the most frightful magical arts. The goal they aimed to achieve was to make the whole earth a realm of death, in which everything possible would be done to kill out independence and every inner impulse of the soul. In the mysteries of Taotl the forces were to be acquired that would enable men to set up a completely mechanized earthly realm. To this end, one had, above all, to know the great cosmic secrets that relate to what works and lives in the universe and reveals its activities in earthly existence. You see, this wisdom of the cosmos is fundamentally in its wording, always the same, because truth is always the same. The point is, however, whether or not it is received in such a way that it is employed rightly.
Now this cosmic wisdom, which was intrinsically not evil but held holy secrets hidden within it, was carefully concealed by the initiates of Taotl. It was communicated to no one who had not been initiated correctly by the Taotl method. When a candidate had been initiated in the correct way, the teaching concerning the secrets of the cosmos was then imparted to him. Now, it was necessary for him to receive these secrets through initiation in a quite definite mood of soul. He had to feel in himself the inclination and desire to apply them on earth in such a way that they would set up that mechanistic rigid realm of death. It was thus that he had to receive the secrets. Nor were they communicated except on one special condition. The wisdom was imparted to no one who had not previously committed a murder in a particular manner. Moreover, only certain secrets were communicated to the candidate after the first murder, but further and higher secrets were imparted to him after he had committed others.
These murders, however, had to be committed under quite definite conditions. The one to be murdered was laid out on a structure that was reached by one or two steps running along each side. This scaffold-like structure, a kind of catafalque, was rounded off above and when the victim was laid upon it, he was bent strongly back. This special way of being bound to the scaffold forced his stomach outward so that with one cut, which the initiate had been prepared to perform, it could be cut out.
This kind of murder engendered definite feelings in the initiate. Sensations were aroused that made him capable of using the wisdom later imparted to him in the way that has been intimated above. When the stomach had been excised, it was offered to the god Taotl, again with special ceremonies. The fact that the initiates of these mysteries lived for the quite specific purpose that I have indicated to you, imparted a definite direction to their feelings. When the candidates to be initiated had matured on this path and had come to experience its inner meaning, they then learned the nature of the mutual interaction between the one who had been murdered and the one who had been initiated. Through the murder, the victim was to be prepared in his soul to strive upward to the luciferic realm, whereas the candidate for initiation was to obtain the wisdom to mould this earthly world in such a way that souls would be driven out of it. Through the fact that a connection was formed between the murdered and the initiated — one cannot say “murderer,” but “initiated” — it was made possible for the initiated to be taken with the other soul; that is, the initiated could himself forsake the earth at the right moment.
These mysteries, as you will readily admit, are of the most revolting kind. Indeed, they are only in accord with a conception that can be called ahrimanic in the fullest sense. Nevertheless, certain feelings and experiences were to be created on earth by their means. Now, naturally, the evolution of the earth would not continue if, over a considerable part of its surface, mankind and an interest in mankind should completely die out. The interest in humanity, however, did not quite die out even there because other and different mysteries were founded that were designed to counteract the excesses of the Taotl mysteries. These were mysteries in which a being lived who did not come down to physical incarnation but also could be perceived by men gifted with a certain atavistic clairvoyance when they had been prepared. This being was Tezcatlipoca. That was the name given to the being who, though he belonged to a much lower hierarchy, was partly connected through his qualities with the Jehovah god. He worked in the Western Hemisphere against those grisly mysteries of which we have spoken.
The teachings of Tezcatlipoca soon escaped from the mysteries and were spread abroad exoterically. Thus, in those regions of the earth, the teachings of Tezcatlipoca were actually the most exoteric, while those of Taotl were the most esoteric, since they were only obtained in the manner described above. The ahrimanic powers sought to “save” humanity, however — I am now speaking as Ahriman thought of it — from the god Tezcatlipoca. Another spirit was set up against him who, for the Western Hemisphere, had much in common with the spirit whom Goethe described as Mephistopheles. He was indeed his kin. This spirit was designated with a word that sounded like Quetzalcoatl. He was a spirit who, for this time and part of the earth, was similar to Mephistopheles, although Mephistopheles displayed much more of a soul nature. Quetzalcoatl also never appeared directly incarnated. His symbol was similar to the Mercury staff to be found in the Eastern Hemisphere, and he was, for the Western Hemisphere, the spirit who could disseminate malignant diseases through certain magic forces. He could inflict them upon those whom he wished to injure in order to separate them from the relatively good god, Tezcatlipoca. The powerful onslaughts were thus prepared in the West that were to be made upon the world of human impulses.
Now at a certain time a being was born in Central America who set himself a definite task within this culture. The old, original inhabitants of Mexico linked the existence of this being with a definite idea or picture. They said he had entered the world as the son of a virgin who had conceived him through super earthly powers, inasmuch as it was a feathered being from the heavens who impregnated her. When one makes researches with the occult powers at one's disposal, one finds that the being to whom the ancient Mexicans ascribed a virgin birth was born in the year 1 A.D. and lived to be thirty-three years old. These facts emerge when, as stated, one examines the matter with occult means. This being set himself a quite specific task.
At this same time in Central America another man was born who was destined by birth to become a high initiate of Taotl. This man had in his previous earthly incarnations been initiated as described above and through the fact that he had many, many times repeated the procedure involving the excision of the stomach, which has been described to you and which there is no need to recapitulate, he had been gradually equipped with a lofty earthly and super-earthly knowledge. This was one of the greatest black magicians, if not the greatest ever to tread the earth; he possessed the greatest secrets that are to be acquired on this path. He was faced directly with a momentous decision as the year 30 A.D. approached, namely whether or not, as a single human individual, to become so powerful through continuous initiation that he would come to know a certain basic secret. Through knowledge of this secret he would have then been able to give such a shock and impetus to the coming evolution of man on earth that humanity in the fourth and fifth post-Atlantean epochs would have been thrown into terrible darkness, with the result that what the ahrimanic powers had striven for in these epochs could have come into existence.
Then a conflict began between this super-magician and the being to whom a virgin birth was ascribed, and one finds from one's research that it lasted for three years. The being of the virgin birth bore a name that, when we try to transpose it into our speech approximates Vitzliputzli. He is a human person who, among all these beings who otherwise only moved about in spirit form and could only be perceived through atavistic clairvoyance, in actual fact became man, so the story goes, through his virgin birth. The three year conflict ended when Vitzliputzli was able to have the great magician crucified, and not only through the crucifixion to annihilate his body but also to place his soul under a ban, by this means rendering its activities powerless as well as its knowledge. Thus the knowledge assimilated by the great magician of Taotl was killed. In this way Vitzliputzli was able to win again for earthly life all those souls who, as indicated, had already received the urge to follow Lucifer and leave the earth. Through the mighty victory he had gained over the powerful black magician, Vitzliputzli was able to imbue men again with the desire for earthly existence and successive incarnations.
Nothing survived from these regions of what might have lived on if the mysteries of Taotl had borne fruit. The forces left over from the impulse that lived in these mysteries survived only in the etheric world. They still exist subsensibly, belonging to what would be seen if, in the sphere of the spirit, one could light a paper over a solfatara. The forces are there under the covering of ordinary life, which is like the surface crust of a volcano.
So, on one side, what came from the inspirer of Genghis Khan entered into the forming of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch and, on the other, what worked on as the ghost or spectre of the events that had taken place in the Western Hemisphere. No more than a feeble echo was left of this when the Europeans discovered America. But it is even known in ordinary history that many Europeans who set foot on Mexican-American soil were murdered by the decadent priesthood, which, though no longer as evil as in earlier times, still cut out the stomach, as I described. This was the fate of many Europeans who trod the soil of Mexico after the discovery of America, and the fact is even known to history.
In Vitzliputzli these people revered a Sun being who was born of a virgin, as I have said. When one investigates it occultly, one finds that he was the unknown contemporary in the Western Hemisphere of the Mystery of Golgotha. One can, indeed, also describe these things superficially as modern people like to do to avoid giving pain. If, however, one desires real knowledge, the one must cast a fleeting glance upon these concrete facts of the past, as we have done today. Yes, when we regard this modern human soul, we see how below, in the direction of the subsensible, and how above, in the direction of the super-sensible, it is exposed to great and serious dangers, and how forces play in that remain unknown. Yet it is good that they remain unknown because it is only in this way that the fifth post-Atlantean epoch can develop. The veil must be lifted now so that consciousness may be added to what still remains unconsciousness, because enough time has passed since America has been discovered. Otherwise, if consciousness did not gradually enter, these forces would become paramount, and the relatively beneficent conditions of the time of unconsciousness would turn around and become the curse of humanity. After all, many things, which in the way they have made their appearance have proved a benefit, bear the inherent tendency to become a curse to mankind.
I wished to indicate to you by means of this description the sort of things that are surging and seething beneath the surface. Now let us leave this sub-earthly region and again consider the earthly, but without trying to make any immediate connections in thought between the two realms; we can do that later. Let us consider the question as to how that most remarkable and brilliant Life of Jesus by Ernest Renan was written in such a way that Jesus is depicted as a man who went about on earth as I have described. Such a gifted personality as Renan was not conscious of the ground on which he wrote precisely this life of Jesus. Such a work was written out of quite definite impulses but they remain in the unconscious. The impulses out of which this book was written can be considered collectively as one fundamental impulse or instinct that so far has produced only what is good — within certain limits, relatively good — because it is an excellent work of its kind. Many other things have been done out of this same instinct. I have only chosen this one example in the sphere of knowledge but one could also choose examples from life. Here, however, one would come into spheres where people are easily irritated.
Renan's book is written out of a fundamental impulse that tries to attain a specific object, namely, to observe purely externally what we know as man, to view him solely as he is when placed out into the world. I have chosen this example of the life of Jesus because, actuated by this instinct, Renan here approaches the most sacred personality of humanity and describes Him in such a way that He stands before us only as outer personality. Should it go on increasing indefinitely, where would this natural impulse eventually lead us? It would lead to a point where men would no longer be inclined to look into their own souls when they observe the world. Renan has gone so far that he no longer trusts himself to look into his own inner self when he speaks of Christ Jesus. He speaks only of the historic figure and endeavors to perceive Him externally. This comes from the instinct to lose oneself gradually in mankind and so come to see each person in the world only outwardly, no longer responding to what is reflected into one's soul from another human being.
Here, the natural impulse of primal phenomenon perception is carried to an extreme: The outer world is to be perceived without stirring the inner life in any way. The one-sided perfecting of this impulse aims at a human society in which people only see each other externally when they meet. In many respects the immediate present shows us how far the impulse has gone because it is already assumed today that people are to be understood less and less from their inner qualities of soul and more and more purely externally. The false cultivation of the idea of “nation,” in particular, stamps a man with nationality — an external condition when compared with the inner soul nature. He is then judged in accordance with this nationality and is thereby moulded in life so that he comes to be regarded only as belonging to a certain nation rather than for his own character and qualities. This is one of the forces that does great service to his natural impulse. By these means earthly humanity would tend to be enclosed increasingly within national boundaries, which would become impassable in the future. Thus, out of this first impulse, the picture of each human being arises as he stands merely externally in the world.
Now let us look at the other impulse. It would be such that through it one would consider inner experience only, paying no attention to the external man and perceiving only what can be lived through inwardly, what can be directly felt in the soul. If one makes this impulse a criterion of knowledge regarding the figure of Christ Jesus, then interest in the Jesus figure would naturally decline and would center only on the Christ being. Should this impulse spread, there would be no interest in Jesus as an historical figure but only in study of the Christ being. It is the opposite of the other impulse and it, too, is now striving to become general in earthly humanity. Should it succeed, people would pass one another by, each brooding inwardly over himself in a rich life of soul. They would pass each other without even feeling the need to understand the individual character of those around them. Everyone would only desire to live in the home of his own soul, as it were. In the sphere of knowledge this impulse inspired Soloviev in his treatment of the most sacred Being of humanity. He had interest only in the Christ and not for the historical Jesus.
You see the two extremes toward which modern man is tending. The one is the impulse, the instinct, only to view the world from outside, to carry the primal phenomenon to an extreme. The other is to conceive of the world only inwardly in free imaginations. All this is in its beginnings and up to the present has developed in admirable, beneficent ways, but it also has a strong tendency to become the reverse. Just as Renan's Life of Jesus is a masterpiece of external description, so are Soloviev's representations of the Christ Being the highest that could have been created in this sphere in the present day. They are wholesome impulses. Nevertheless, they represent the urge that, in its one-sided cultivation, would drive back each man into his own house.
In contrast, a knowledge must arise through the science of the spirit, a knowledge that can be embraced in two statements that I should especially like to inscribe into your souls today. The first is: A man can never come to a really good, upright, strong personal inner life without having the warmest interest in other men. All inner life that we seek remains false and seductive if it does not go hand in hand with a kindly interest in the character and qualities of other people. We ought straightway to take it for granted that we find ourselves inwardly as man when we take an interest in the characteristics of others. Entering with love into the individualities of other people, which is at times united with a deep experience of the tragedy of life, is what can bring us to self-knowledge. The self-knowledge we seek through delving into ourselves will never be true. We deepen our own inner nature by meeting other people with full interest. But this statement as it has now been expressed here, implies something that cannot be directly carried into effect because it must interact with the other statement.
The other statement is: We never gain a true knowledge of the outer world if we do not resolve to examine the universally human in ourselves and learn to know it. Therefore, all natural science of modern times will be a purely mechanical science and knowledge, not true but false, inverted, unless it is based on the knowledge of man. In the science that was described by me as “occult science” in the book An Outline of Occult Science, the knowledge of the outer world was sought for together with the knowledge of the human being. We find the inner through the outer, the outer through the inner.
I will bring forward next time what remains to be said regarding certain present-day phenomena as they come to light in other works such as the so-called Life of Jesus by David Friedrich Strauss. Today, I should only like to add that when, twice seven years ago, our impulse to form a theosophical movement began to work — the movement later became anthroposophical — the intention was that all the activity that went on in this movement would be founded on these two principles: The without should kindle self-knowledge; the within should teach knowledge of the world. In these two statements, or rather in their realization in the world, lies true spiritual insight into existence and the impulse to real human love, to a love filled with insight. A realization of what lies in these statements should be sought for through our Society. If in these twice seven years all had come to pass that has been striven for, if the opposing powers in our time, had not been strong enough to hinder many things, then today I should have been able to speak of certain secrets of existence quite differently from the way in which it is possible to do so. Then this Society would have become ripe enough for things to be said in its midst today that could be spoken nowhere else.
In that case, there would also be a guarantee that these secrets of existence would be safeguarded in the right way. What has happened in our Society has shown, however, that it is precisely in the matter of safeguarding things that it fails, fails through all manner of contrary interests that have attached themselves to the movement. There is really no longer a safeguard today — at least, no thorough safeguard that what is said among us is not made use of, and, as frequently has happened, clothed by many persons in such feelings, in any way they please in the outer world. Since this is so, when we examine the Society, we find that, in looking back over the twice seven years, in many respects it has remained behind. Such introspection should not lead to a loss of courage but it should lead us to be discontent with revelling in the possession of a certain degree of knowledge, and also to developing that deep earnestness in life that will lead us to accept truth in the form in which it must be communicated in our age. When it is possible for outstanding members of our movement who are writers to think in the manner revealed recently, then it is clear that other and deeper impulses must now awaken within the souls of those who find themselves in our Society than have awakened hitherto. We do not join together merely to possess agreeable facts of knowledge. Rather should it be that we unite together in order to carry on a sacred service to truth in the interest of mankind's evolution. Then, indeed, the right knowledge will come to us. Then these facts will not be restrained by all sorts of prejudices.
At any rate, let us receive at least into our hearts this ideal that perhaps even yet such a Society may arise as is necessary in the wide world of prejudice — a Society that permeates and interpenetrates our times. What I am saying is naturally not directed in the slightest degree toward anyone in particular, nor toward any single soul among us. Its intention is solely to emphasize the ideal of knowledge of our epoch, the ideal of the service of mankind we should recognize as necessary. With the same warmth with which I spoke here about eight days ago. I should like again today to stress what must not be forgotten in our circle, namely, that it is essential to modern humanity for a group of people to exist to whom it is possible to speak in the most open and candid manner of the whole content of truth that needs to be revealed today without stirring up prejudicial emotions! We must accept it as our Karma that enmity has lifted up its head in our circle, enmity from out of the unintelligent feelings, ideas and customs of the time. We should not be deceived for a moment: this is our karma. Then, from the very recognition of it the impulse for the right will arise. In particular, we must not so often forget as quickly as we do what we receive, nor let so much of what is put into concise sentences embracing truths separately explained, merely pass over us. Rather, let us preserve it all in our hearts. In our circle the longing to forget often what is most important of all, is widely diffused. So we have not yet become the living organic Society that we need, or rather that humanity needs. To achieve this it is necessary above all that we should acquire a memory for what we can learn through life in the Society.