Friday, December 8, 2023

Buddha on Mars. Buddhism and Christianity: Polar Opposites


Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, December 22, 1912

Between Death and Rebirth. Lecture 5 of 10

I shall not be speaking today about the Christmas Festival as in previous years, for I propose to do that on Tuesday. I would ask you to think of what I shall say as a gift placed under the Christmas tree in the form of an anthroposophical Christmas study — a study which because of the significant knowledge it contains may well be the subject of lengthy reflection and meditation. At this Christmas season we may very properly think of an individual considered by many people to be a mythological or mystical figure but with whose name we ourselves connect the spiritual impulses of Western cultural life. I refer to Christian Rosenkreutz.
With this individuality and his activity since the thirteenth century we associate everything that has to do with the propagation of the impulse given by Christ's appearance on the Earth and the fulfilment of the Mystery of Golgotha. On one occasion I also spoke of what may be called the last Initiation of Christian Rosenkreutz in the thirteenth century. Today I shall speak of a deed he performed towards the end of the sixteenth century. This deed is of particular significance because it linked with the Christ Impulse an achievement of supreme importance in the history of human evolution — an achievement before the time of the Mystery of Golgotha.
One of the innumerable factors which enable us to grasp the supreme significance of the Mystery of Golgotha in the history of mankind on Earth is the deed of Gautama Buddha, the founder of a different religion. Eastern tradition tells us that in the life usually spoken of as the Buddha life, Gautama Buddha rose in his twenty-ninth year from the rank of Bodhisattva to that of Buddhahood. We are aware of what that ascent means and also of the world-wide significance of the Sermon at Benares, the first great accomplishment of the Buddha who had previously been a Bodhisattva. Of all this we are deeply conscious. Today we will think especially of one aspect only, namely, what it signifies in the history of worlds when a Bodhisattva rises to the rank of Buddhahood. The Eastern teaching — which does not differ from that of Western occultism in regard to this event — is that when a human being rises from the rank of Bodhisattva to that of Buddhahood, he need not henceforward incarnate on the Earth in a physical body but can continue his work in purely spiritual worlds. And so we recognise as a valid truth that the individuality who lived on Earth for the last time as Gautama Buddha has since then been present in lofty spiritual worlds continuing to influence evolution and sending impulses and forces from those spheres to further the development and stature of mankind.
We have also spoken of a significant deed of the Buddha, a deed that was his contribution to the Mystery of Golgotha. We have been reminded of the beautiful narrative in the Gospel of St. Luke concerning the shepherds who had gathered together at the time of the birth of the Jesus Child described in that Gospel. [See the Lecture Course entitled The Gospel of St. Luke, given in Basle, 15th–26th September, 1909.] The narrative tells of a song which rang out from Angels and resounded in the devout, expectant souls of the shepherds. ‘Revelations shall tell of the Divine in the Heights and there shall be peace on Earth among men who are of good will.’ It is the song which tells of the revelation of the divine-spiritual forces in the spiritual worlds and the reflection of these forces in the hearts of men who are of good will. We have heard that the song of peace which then rang out was the contribution of the Buddha from spiritual heights to the Mystery of Golgotha. The Buddha united with the astral body of the Jesus Child of whom we are told in St. Luke's Gospel, and the song of Angels announced in that Gospel is to be understood as the influx of the gospel of Peace into the deed subsequently to be wrought by Christ Jesus. The Buddha spoke at the time of the birth of Jesus, and the song of Angels heard by the shepherds was the message from ancient, pre-Christian times, of peace and all-embracing human love which were also to be integrated into the mission of Christ Jesus.
Thereafter the Buddha continued to be active in the advancing stream of Christian evolution in the West and special mention must be made of his further activity. The Buddha was no longer working in a human body but in the spiritual body in which he had revealed himself at the time of the birth of Jesus; and he continued to work, perceptible to those who through some form of Initiation are able to establish relationship not only with physical human beings but also with those sublime Leaders and Teachers who come to men in purely spiritual bodies.
A few centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha, in a Mystery school situated in the region of the Black Sea in the South of Russia, there were Teachers of great significance. What actually took place there can be no more than indicated — and even then half metaphorically. Among the Teachers present in the School in physical incarnations there was one who did not work in a physical body and could therefore be contacted only by pupils and neophytes able to establish relations with Leaders and Teachers who appeared in this Mystery Centre in spiritual bodies. One such Teacher was the Being spoken of as Gautama Buddha. And in the seventh/eighth century after the Mystery of Golgotha this Being had a notable pupil. At that time the Buddha, in his true nature, was in no way concerned with propagating Buddhism in its old form, for he too had advanced with evolution. He had taken the Christ Impulse into the very depths of his being, had actually co-operated in its inception. What had still to be transmitted of the old form of Buddhism came to expression in the general tone and character of what the Buddha imparted in the Mystery Centre referred to above; but everything was clothed in a Christian form. It may truly be said that when the Buddha had become a Being who need no longer incarnate in a human body, he had co-operated from the spiritual world in the development of Christianity. A faithful pupil of his had absorbed into the depths of his soul the teaching which the Buddha gave at that time but which could not become the common possession of all mankind. It was teaching which represented a union of Buddhism and Christianity. It implied absolute surrender to what is super-sensible in human nature, the abandonment of any direct bond with the physical and earthly, complete dedication in heart and soul, not merely in mind and intellect, to what is of the nature of soul-and-spirit in the world; it meant withdrawal from all the externalities of life and absolute devotion in the inner life to the mysteries of the Spirit. And when that being who had been a pupil of the Buddha and Christ, who had learnt of the Christ through the Buddha, appeared again on Earth, he was incarnated as the person known in history as Francis of Assisi. Those who desire to understand from occult knowledge the absolutely unique quality of soul and manner of life of Francis of Assisi, especially what is so impressive about him because of its remoteness from the world and everyday experience — let them realise that in his previous incarnation he was a Christian pupil in the Mystery Centre of which I have spoken.
In this way the Buddha continued to work, invisibly and supersensibly, in the stream that had become part of the process of evolution since the Mystery of Golgotha took place. The figure of Francis of Assisi is a clear indication of what the effect of the Buddha's activity would have been in all subsequent times if nothing else had happened and he had continued to work as he had done while preparing Francis of Assisi for his mission in the world. Numbers and numbers of human beings would have developed the character and disposition of Francis of Assisi. They would have become, within Christianity, disciples and followers of Buddha. But this Buddha-like quality in those who became followers of Francis of Assisi would have been quite unable to cope with the demands that would be made of humanity in modern civilisation.
Let us remind ourselves of what has been said about the passage of the human soul through the various regions of the Cosmos between death and the new birth. We have heard how during that period of existence the soul of a man has to pass through the planetary spheres, to traverse the expanse of cosmic space. Between death and the new birth we actually become inhabitants, in succession, of Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. We then draw our life together again in order to incarnate through a parental pair and undergo the experiences that are possible on Earth but not in other planetary spheres. Since the last death, every soul incarnated on the Earth has undergone the experiences that belong to the heavens. Through birth we bring into our existence on Earth the forces we have acquired in the various heavenly spheres.
Now let us remind ourselves of how life flows by on Earth, how at each new incarnation the human being finds that the Earth has changed and that his experiences are quite different. In the course of his incarnations an individual will have lived in pre-Christian times and have been incarnated again after the impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha had been given to evolution. Let us picture with the greatest possible clarity how the Earth evolves, descending from divine-spiritual heights to a certain nadir. The impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha then made an ascent possible in the evolutionary process. The ascent is at present only beginning, but it will continue if human souls receive the impulse of this Mystery and so, later on, rise again to the stage they had reached before the temptation of Lucifer. Let us realise that, in accordance with the fundamental laws of evolution, whenever we return to the Earth through birth we find quite different conditions of existence.
The same applies to the heavenly spheres into which we pass between death and a new birth. Like our Earth, these heavenly bodies also pass through descending and ascending phases of evolution. Whenever we pass into a planetary sphere after death — let us say of Mars, or Venus, or Mercury — we enter different conditions and have different experiences receive different impulses, which we bring back again into physical existence through birth. And because the heavenly bodies are also undergoing evolution, our souls bring back different forces into each incarnation.
Today, because of the profound significance of the Christmas Festival, our thoughts are directed to the spiritual realities of cosmic space itself and we will consider a particular example of evolution. This example is revealed to occult investigation if that investigation is able to penetrate deeply enough into the spiritual nature of other planets and planetary systems as well as into that of the Earth. In the spiritual life of the Earth there was a descending phase of evolution until the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and thereafter a phase of ascent — now latent for the sole reason that a deeper understanding of the Christ Impulse is necessary. Similarly, there were phases of descent and ascent in the evolution of Mars, into whose sphere we pass between death and rebirth. Until the fifteenth/sixteenth century the evolution of Mars was such that what had always been bestowed upon it from the spiritual worlds was undergoing a phase of descent, just as was the case in the evolution of the Earth until the beginning of the Christian era. By the time of the fifteenth/sixteenth century it was necessary that the evolution of Mars should become a process of ascent, for the consequences of the phase of descent had become all too evident in that sphere. As already said, when we pass again into earthly existence through birth we bring with us the impulses and forces gathered from the worlds of stars, among them the forces of Mars. The example of a certain individuality is clear evidence of the change that had come about in the forces brought by human beings from Mars to the Earth.
It is known to all occultists that the same soul which appeared on Earth in Nicolas Copernicus, [Born 1473, died 1543.] the inaugurator of the dawn of the modern age, had been previously incarnated from 1401 to 1464 in Cardinal Nicolas of Kues, Nicolas Cusanus. But how utterly different were these two personalities who harboured the same soul within them! Nicolas of Cusa in the fifteenth century was dedicated in mind and heart to the spiritual worlds; all his study was rooted in the spiritual worlds, and when he appeared again as Copernicus he was responsible for the great transformation which could have been achieved only by eliminating from the conception of space and the planetary system every iota of spirituality and thinking only of the external movements and interrelationships of the heavenly bodies. How was it possible that the same soul which had been on the Earth in Nicolas of Cusa and was wholly dedicated to the spiritual worlds, could appear in the next incarnation in an individual who conceived of the heavenly bodies purely in terms of their mathematical, spatial and geometric aspects? This was possible because a soul who passed through the Mars sphere during the interval between the time of Nicolas of Cusa and that of Copernicus had entered into a phase of decline. It was therefore not possible to bring from the Mars sphere any forces that would have inspired souls during physical life to soar into the spiritual worlds. The souls who passed through the Mars sphere at that particular time could grasp only the physical and material nature of things. If these conditions on Mars had continued without change, if the phase of decline had been prolonged, souls would have brought with them from the Mars sphere forces that would have rendered them incapable of anything except a purely materialistic conception of the world. Nevertheless the results of the decline of Mars were responsible for bringing modern natural science into existence; these forces poured with such strength into the souls of men that they led to triumph after triumph in the domain of materialistic knowledge of the world; and in the further course of evolution this influence would have worked exclusively for the promotion of materialistic science, for the interests of trade and industry only, of external forms of culture on the Earth.
It would have been possible for a class of human beings to be formed entirely under the influence of certain old Mars forces and interested in external culture only; these human beings would have confronted another class of individuals, composed of followers of Francis of Assisi, in other words, of Buddhism transported into Christianity. A Being such as the Buddha, having continued to work until the time of Francis of Assisi as previously indicated, would have been able to produce on the Earth a counterweight to the purely materialistic conception of the world by pouring strong forces into the souls of men. But this would have led to the formation of a class of individuals capable only of leading a monastic life patterned on that of Francis of Assisi; and these individuals alone would have been able to scale the heights of spiritual life.
If this state of things had remained, humanity would have divided more and more sharply into two classes: the one composed of those who were devoted entirely to the interests of material existence on the Earth and the advancement of external culture, and the other class, due to the continuing influence of Buddha, would have consisted of those who fostered and preserved spiritual culture. But the souls belonging to the latter class would, like Francis of Assisi, have been incapable of participating in external, material forms of civilisation. These two categories of human beings would have become more and more sharply separated. As the inevitability of this state of things could be prophetically foreseen, it became the task of the individual whom we revere under the name of Christian Rosenkreutz to prevent such a separation taking place in the further evolution of mankind on the Earth. Christian Rosenkreutz felt it to be his mission to offer to every human soul, living no matter where, the possibility of rising to the heights of spiritual life. It has always been emphasised among us and is clearly set forth in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. How is it Achieved? that our goal in the sphere of occult development in the West is not to rise into spiritual worlds as the result of ascetic isolation from life but to make it possible for every human soul to discover for itself the path into the spiritual world. That the ascent into spiritual worlds should be compatible with every status in life, that humanity should not divide into two categories, one composed of people devoted entirely to external, industrial and commercial interests, becoming increasingly ingenious, materialised and animalised, whereas those in the other category would hold themselves aloof in a life patterned on that of Francis of Assisi — all this was the concern of Christian Rosenkreutz at the time when the approaching modern age was to inaugurate the epoch of materialistic culture during which all souls would bring with them the Mars forces in their state of decline. And because there could not be within the souls of men the power to prevent the separation, it has to be ensured that from the Mars forces themselves there would come to man the impulse to work with his whole being for spiritual aims. For example, it was necessary that human beings should be educated to think in terms of sound natural scientific principles, to formulate ideas and concepts in line with those principles, but at the same time the soul must have the capacity to deepen and develop the ideas spiritually, in order that the way can be found from a natural scientific view of the world to lofty heights of spiritual life.
This possibility had to be created! And it was created by Christian Rosenkreutz, who towards the end of the sixteenth century gathered around him his faithful followers from all over the Earth, enabling them to participate in what takes place outwardly in space from one heavenly body to another but is prepared in the sacred Mystery Centres, where aims are pursued leading beyond those of planetary spiritual life to the spiritual life of cosmic worlds. Christian Rosenkreutz gathered around him those who had also been with him at the time of his Initiation in the thirteenth century. Among them was one who for long years had been his pupil and friend, who had at one time been incarnated on the Earth but now no longer needed to appear in a physical incarnation: this was Gautama Buddha, now a spiritual Being after having risen to the rank of Buddhahood. He was the pupil of Christian Rosenkreutz. And in order that what could be achieved through the Buddha should become part of the mission of Christian Rosenkreutz at that time, a joint deed resulted in the transference of the Buddha from a sphere of earthly activity to one of cosmic activity. The impulse given by Christian Rosenkreutz made this possible. We will speak on another occasion in greater detail of the relationship between Gautama Buddha and Christian Rosenkreutz; at the moment it is simply a matter of stating that this relationship led to the individuality of the Buddha ceasing to work in the sphere of the Earth as he had formerly worked in the Mystery Centre near the Black Sea, and transferring his activity to Mars. And so at the beginning of the seventeenth century there took place in the evolution of Mars something similar to what had come about at the beginning of the ascending phase of Earth evolution through the Mystery of Golgotha. What may be called the advent of the Buddha on Mars was brought about through Christian Rosenkreutz and the ascending phase of Mars evolution began from then onwards just as on Earth the ascending phase of culture began with the Mystery of Golgotha.
Thus the Buddha became a Redeemer and Saviour for Mars as Christ Jesus had become for the Earth. The Buddha had been prepared for this by his teaching of Nirvana, lack of satisfaction with earthly existence, liberation from physical incarnation. This teaching had been prepared in a sphere outside the Earth but with the Earth's goal in view. If we can look into the soul of the Buddha and grasp the import of the Sermon at Benares we shall witness the preparation of activity that was not to be confined to the Earth. And then we shall realise how infinitely wise was the contract between Christian Rosenkreutz and the Buddha, as the result of which, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Buddha relinquished his activity on the Earth through which he would have been able, from the spiritual world, to influence human souls between birth and death, in order henceforward to work in the Mars sphere for souls between death and rebirth.
This is the momentous outcome of what might be called the transference of the essence of the Christmas Festival from the Earth to Mars. As a result, all the souls of men, in a certain sense, pass through a phase of being followers of Francis of Assisi and thereby, indirectly, of the Buddha. But they do not pass through this phase on the Earth; they pass through their monasticism — to use a paradoxical expression — their adherence to Francis of Assisi, on Mars, and bring forces from there to the Earth. As a result, what they have thus acquired remains in the shape of forces slumbering in their souls and they need not adopt a strictly monastic life in order to undergo the experiences undergone by intimate pupils of Francis of Assisi. This necessity was avoided by the transference of the Buddha to cosmic worlds by agreement with Christian Rosenkreutz whose, work on Earth now continued without the collaboration of the Buddha. If the Buddha had continued his activity on the Earth, all that he could have achieved would have been to make men into Buddhist or Franciscan monks and the other souls would have been abandoned to materialistic civilisation. But because what may be called a kind of ‘Mystery of Golgotha’ for Mars took place, during a period when human souls are not incarnated on Earth, these souls absorb, in a sphere outside the Earth, what they need for their further terrestrial existence, namely, an element of true Buddhism, which in the epoch after Christ's coming can be acquired only between death and a new birth.
We are now at the threshold of a great mystery, a mystery which has brought an impulse still operating in the evolution of mankind. Those who genuinely understand this evolution know that any truly effective influence in life on the Earth inevitably becomes part of the general stream of evolution. The event that may be called the Mystery of Golgotha on Mars was different from the Mystery of Golgotha on Earth — less powerful, less incisive, not culminating in death. But you can have some idea of it if you reflect that the Being who was the greatest Prince of Peace and Love, who was the Bringer of Compassion to the Earth, was transferred to Mars in order to work at the head of the evolution of that planet. It is no mythological fable that Mars received its name because it is the planet where the forces are involved in most bitter strife. The mission of the Buddha entailed his crucifixion in the arena of the planet where the most belligerent forces are present, although these forces are essentially of the nature of soul-and-spirit.
Here, then, we face a deed of a Being whose destiny it was as a great servant of Christ Jesus, to receive and carry forward the Christ Impulse in the right way. We stand face to face with the mystery of Christian Rosenkreutz, recognising his wisdom to have been so great that, as far as lay within his power, he incorporated into the evolution of mankind as a whole the other impulses that had been decisive factors in preparation for the Mystery of Golgotha.
A subject such as this cannot be grasped merely in terms of words or intellect; in its depth and range it must be felt — with the whole heart and soul. We must grasp what it signifies to be aware that among the forces we bring with us in the present epoch when we pass into incarnation on the Earth there are also the forces of the Buddha. Those forces were transferred to a sphere through which we pass between death and the new birth in order to enter in the right way into earthly life; for in this earthly life between birth and death it is our task to establish the right relationship to the Christ Impulse, to the Mystery of Golgotha. And this is possible only if all the impulses work together in harmony. The Christ descended from other worlds and united with the Earth's evolution. His purpose is to give to men the greatest of all impulses with which the human soul can be endowed. But this is possible only if all the forces connected with the evolution of humanity take effect at the right point in the process of that evolution. The great Teacher of the doctrine of Nirvana, who exhorted men to liberate their souls from the urge for reincarnation, was not destined to work in the sphere of physical incarnation. But in accordance with the great Plan designed by the Gods — in which, however, men must participate because they are servants of the Gods — in accordance with this Plan, the work of that great Teacher was to continue in the life that lies in the realm beyond birth and death.
Try to feel the inner justification of this conception and in its light follow the course of evolution; then you will realise why the Buddha had necessarily to precede Christ Jesus, and how he worked after the Christ Impulse had been given. Think about this and you will understand in its true light the phase of evolution and of spiritual life which began in the seventeenth century and in which you yourselves are living; you will understand it because you will realise that before human souls pass into physical existence through birth they are imbued with the forces that bear them forward.
At the time of an important Festival, instead of a seasonal lecture I wanted to lay under the Christmas tree, as a kind of Christmas gift, certain information about Christian Rosenkreutz. Perhaps some or even many of you will receive it as was intended — as a means of strengthening the heart and the forces of the soul. We shall need this strengthening if we are to live with inner security amid the harmonies and disharmonies of existence.
If at Christmastide we can be strengthened and invigorated by consciousness of our connection with the forces of the great Universe, we may well take with us from this centre of anthroposophical work something that was laid as a gift under the Christmas tree and as an encouragement can remain a living force throughout the year if we nurture it during our life from one Christmas season to the next.

Related post:

Eastern Belief Systems in the West: A Dead End


Rudolf Steiner:  "A grafting of any Oriental system upon our own culture would be of no avail, for it would oppose every condition of the spiritual life of the West."

Source: December 2, 1909

"Buddhism and Christianity: Polar Opposites"

Related post:

Buddhism and Christianity: Polar Opposites


Buddhism is a religion of renunciation; Christianity is a religion of resurrection

Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, December 2, 1909:

The Spiritual Science Movement has often, since its inception, been confused with various other tendencies in existence at the present time. It has been accused, in particular, of desiring to implant one or another of the Oriental spiritual influences — for example the Buddhistic — into western culture. For this reason, the subject of today's lecture should have a special interest for spiritual research, for it will present certain observations concerning the respective significance of Buddhism and Christianity from the standpoint of Spiritual Science.
    Anyone who has made himself in some degree acquainted with the nature of Buddhism will be aware how its founder, Gautama Buddha, evaded all questions concerning the evolution of the world and the foundations of human existence. He would not speak of these. He would speak only of the means by which mankind could enter into a form of existence that was satisfying in itself. Therefore one cannot, to begin with, regard Spiritual Science, which never avoids these questions concerning the source and origin of existence and the great facts of evolution, as being similar to Buddhism. But since it is the case that a certain trend of thought which exists within this sphere of Spiritual Science is being more and more identified with Buddhism, namely, the conception of repeated lives on Earth for the whole of humanity, and also the conception concerning that which passes onward from life to life as spiritual cause and effect — one may as well say at once that it is really astonishing that this idea of reincarnation should be designated as ‘Buddhism.’
    The function of Anthroposophy, or Spiritual Science, is not to acknowledge allegiance to any particular name, but only to what is capable of investigation as a truth, unconnected in our day with any names whatsoever. The fact that the teaching of reincarnation, or repeated lives on Earth, is also to be found in the teaching of Gautama Buddha, although in an entirely different form, is analogous, where present-day Spiritual Science is concerned, to the fact that elementary geometry is also to be found in Euclid; and just as little as it is justifiable to accuse every teacher of geometry of perpetrating ‘Euclidism,’ so is it equally unjustifiable to accuse Spiritual Science, when it makes the teaching of reincarnation its own, of being ‘Buddhism’ just because similar concepts were also taught by Buddha.
Nevertheless it is necessary to point out that Spiritual Science is the instrument which we must use in order to penetrate into and to test the source of every religion, whether it be the religion which is at the foundation of the whole of our European culture — Christianity — or whether it be Buddhism.
If we would now, in the sense of Spiritual Science, enter thoughtfully and deeply into the spirit of Buddhism, so as to be able to compare it with the spirit of Christianity, we shall do better if we do not at once turn to the great doctrines — which can so easily be interpreted in different ways — but rather try to construct a picture of the immense significance and far-reaching results of Buddhism from various symptomatic facts which concern its whole disposition and presentment. This can best be done if we consider first of all a Buddhist scripture which is held in high esteem — and that is the questions which were put by King Milinda to the sage Nagasena.
Here we are given a conversation which draws out the very spirit of the whole trend of Buddhistic thinking. The powerful, spiritually minded King Milinda desires to question Nagasena, the sage. The King, who has never been at a loss in the presence of any sage because he always knew how to evade anything that was said in opposition to his own ideas, comes to Nagasena to speak with him about the meaning of the ‘Eternal,’ — the meaning of the immortal part of human nature which passes onward from incarnation to incarnation.
Nagasena asks the King: — ‘How dids't thou come hither? on foot, or in a carriage?’ ‘In a carriage.’ ‘Well,’ said Nagasena, ‘let us now consider what a carriage is. Are the shafts the carriage? No. Is the seat you sat upon the carriage? No. Are the wheels the carriage? No. Is the yoke the carriage? No. And thus,’ said Nagasena, ‘one can enumerate all the parts of the carriage, but all the parts are not the carriage. And yet, all that is there enumerated is the carriage, only the carriage consists of all the parts put together; it is no more than a name for that of which all the parts make one whole. If we consider it apart from its separate constituents, it is nothing but a name!’
The sense — and the object — of what Nagasena said is this: that one must turn one's gaze away from everything that the eye can behold in the physical world. Nagasena wished to point out that actually nothing exists in the physical world which in itself constitutes what is collectively designated by a name, in order that he may thus reveal the worthlessness and meaninglessness of all the physical-material constituents of things. And, so as to make his use of this example clear, Nagasena says: ‘It is thus also with all that constitutes Man, and which passes onward from one Earth-life to another. Are the hands, and the legs, and the head that which goes from life to life? No! What thou doest today, what thou doest tomorrow, is it these things which go from life to life? No! What is it then, which collectively is Man? It is Name and Form. But then, it is even so with the name and form of a wagon. If we gather the different parts together, we have only a Name. There is nothing there in particular except the parts!’
So that we may observe this still better, there is yet another analogy which the sage Nagasena showed to King Milinda. The King said: — ‘Thou sayest, O wise Nagasena, that of that which stands before me as Man, Name and Form pass from life to life. Is it then the Name and Form of the self-same Being that appears again in a new embodiment upon the Earth?’
And Nagasena replied: ‘See now: the mango-tree bears a fruit. A thief comes and steals the fruit. The owner of the mango-tree says: “Thou hast robbed me of my fruit,” but the thief answers: “It is not thy fruit. Thy fruit was that which thou didst plant in the ground! it has transformed itself. That which was growing upon the mango-tree simply bears the same name — it is not thy fruit!”’ And then Nagasena continued: ‘It is true that it bears the same name and form; but it is not the same fruit. Still, one can punish the thief in spite of that! And so,’ said the sage, ‘it is even thus with what reappears in a later life on Earth in relation to what was there in earlier lives. It is like the fruit of the mango-tree which was planted in the Earth. But only because the owner had first planted the fruit in the Earth was it possible for a fruit to grow upon a tree. Therefore we must say that the fruit belongs to him who buried the first fruit in the Earth. Thus it is with man: his deeds and his destiny are the fruit and the effects of his earlier lives. But what appears is new, as the fruit of the mango-tree is new.’
So Nagasena showed how what is once there in any one Earth-life strives to reappear transformed, as effects, in later lives.
It is easier to gain a sensitiveness toward the whole spirit of Buddhistic teaching by such examples as this than by a study of the main principles, for the latter can be interpreted in various ways. If we let the spirit of these analogies work upon us, we see clearly enough that the Buddhist desires to wean his adherents from the idea of what may be regarded as the separate individuality, the definite personality, and to point out, above all things, that that which reappears in a new embodiment is — it is true — the result of this personality, but that one has no right to speak of an uninterrupted ‘I,’ in the true sense of the word, as extending from one incarnation to another.
Now if we turn from Buddhism to Christianity we can — though such a comparison has never been selected before — use this instance of Nagasena in the Christian sense, and represent it somewhat as follows.
Suppose we imagine that King Milinda and the Sage are reborn, and that the conversation takes place now. Were it fully dominated by the spirit of Christianity it would necessarily have to proceed as follows. Nagasena would say: ‘Behold the hand! Is this hand a man? No, the hand is not the man. For if there were only a hand, there would be no man. But if you cut the hand off a man's body, it dries up, and in three weeks' time there would be no hand left. Whence then is a hand a hand? By reason of a man! Is the head a man? No! Is the heart anything by itself? No! Because if we remove the heart from a man in a very short time it ceases to be a heart, and the man ceases to be a man. Therefore the heart is a heart by reason of the man; the man is a man by reason of his heart. And moreover, man is only man upon the Earth because he possesses the heart as an instrument. So the living organism has parts, which in themselves are nothing, but are only something by reason of their co-existence within us. And when we consider what the separate parts are not, we find we have to fall back upon something which is invisible behind them, which rules them, holds them together and uses them as its instruments. And even when we behold all the separate parts together, still we have not found the Man himself, if we only look for him as the sum of the separate parts.’
And then Nagasena could look back upon the old analogy of the carriage, and could now say, speaking of course out of the spirit of Christianity: ‘True it is that the shafts are not the carriage, for with the shafts alone thou coulds't not be conveyed. True it is that the wheels are not the carriage, for the wheels could not carry thee. True it is that the yoke is not the carriage, for the yoke could not carry thee. True it is that the seat is not the carriage, for that also could not carry thee! Though it is true that the carriage is only a name for the assembled parts, yet thou art not conveyed by the parts, but thou art conveyed by something that is not the parts, for by their means thou canst not travel.’
But by the ‘Name’ something particular is denoted. And thus we are led to something which is non-existent in any of the parts!
Hence arises the striving of the Buddhistic spirit away, so to speak, from what is perceived, in order to surmount it and to deny the possibility that anything particular attaches to what is seen. The spirit which imbues the Christian way of thinking — and this it is that concerns us — perceives the separate parts of a carriage, or of any other object, in such a way that the tendency is to turn from the parts to a recognition of the whole. And because of this difference between the Buddhistic and the Christian conception of things, remarkable consequences arise out of each of them.
Out of the Buddhistic, and this is the conclusion we are naturally led to from the foregoing indications, the following arises: —
A man stands before us. He is constructed out of several parts. This man busies himself in the world, and performs various actions. And while he appears thus before us, his Buddhistic attitude of thought causes him to feel the worthlessness and unreality of everything around him. But he is led to free himself from his attachment to nothingness, so that he may rise to a higher existence in reality; to turn away from all that his eyes behold, and from everything that he can gain by means of all possible human knowledge. Away from this world of the sense-perceptions! For everything that it offers, when it is conceived only as Name and Form, reveals itself in all its emptiness! There is no truth in anything belonging to the physical world!
Now, whither does the Christian conception lead us? It does not regard the separate parts as separate, but regards them in such a way that one indivisible unity and reality is perceived ruling among them. It regards the hand in such a way that it is seen to be a hand only because a man, using it as a hand, makes it a hand. Therefore here is something (a man) which as it stands before us, immediately and inevitably suggests that which stands behind it.
Hence something quite different from the Buddhistic arises from this way of thinking, so that we can say as follows: ‘Here stands a man. That which he is by reason of his different parts, and by means of his acts, can only be because behind it all there stands, as Man, a Spiritual Being, who not only brings the parts into movement, but performs all the separate acts. That which is revealed in the separate parts, and lives itself out in them, has poured itself into all that is visible of the man; it is that which, within what is seen, will reap the fruits of actions and be able to draw out of the world of the senses something that we may call an ‘event’ and carry it onward into a later incarnation upon Earth. There — behind the external appearance — stands the Doer — a Doer who does not spurn the outer world, but so handles it that its fruits are taken up and carried into a future life.’
When we, as knowers of Spiritual Science, consider reincarnation from the Buddhistic standpoint, we must express it thus: that that of which man is the unified expression in his Earth-life has no value, for his deeds alone have their effects in the following incarnation; while in the light of Christianity, that which makes man a unity in his earthly life is the fullness of his ego. That has value; and that it is which carries the fruits of one incarnation onward into the next.
Thus we can see that a certain quite definite configuration of thought, which is far more important than theories and principles, cleaves these two great world-conceptions most powerfully asunder. If we were less prone in these days to depend so much upon theories, we should find that we could far more easily arrive at an understanding of the main characteristics of various spiritual tendencies by turning our attention especially to their symptoms, to their methods of presentation. And that holds good both for the Buddhistic and the Christian conceptions. In the conversation described we have the very core of the Buddhistic conception as expressed by the great founder of Buddhism himself. The theme of the present lecture is certainly not intended to develop a line of opposition against the founder of the Buddhistic world-conception, but rather to portray his world-conception quite objectively and in accordance with its true characteristics.
The Buddha legend describes clearly enough, even though in pictorial fashion, what the founder of Buddhism intended. We are told that Gautama Buddha was born the son of King Suddhodana, and that he was brought up in a royal palace where he was surrounded by everything that could possibly serve to ennoble human life. During his early years he was not allowed to know anything at all of human sorrow and pain, but he lived in the midst of happiness, and joy, and distractions of all kinds. Then we are told how one day, when he was twenty-nine years of age, he left the palace, and for the first time in his life was confronted by sorrow and pain and all the dark shadows of existence. It is described how he met an old, old man whose life was ebbing away, and above all how he saw a corpse. And it dawned upon him that life must after all be utterly different from all that he had experienced in the palace, where he had known nothing but joy, where disease and death had never come near him, and where he had learned to believe that life could never ebb away nor cease. And now he discovered that life embraced both pain and sorrow. Heavily indeed did this discovery weigh upon the great soul of Buddha! Life contained pain, sorrow, and death. He had seen it for himself in the sick man, the aged man, and the corpse. ‘What is the value of life?’ he cried to himself, ‘if it bears sickness, old age, and death within it!’ And out of that cry there arose at last the monumental teaching of Buddha on the Sorrow of Life, which he gathered together in these words: ‘Birth is sorrow! Old age is sorrow! Sickness is sorrow! Death is sorrow! All existence is filled with sorrow!’ And as he later elaborated this theme still further: — ‘That we cannot always be united with those we love, that is sorrow. That we must be joined to that which we love not, is sorrow. That we cannot obtain, in every circumstance of life, what we desire, is sorrow.’
Sorrow is everywhere, no matter whither we turn our gaze. And if Buddha's use of the word ‘sorrow’ has not quite the meaning that is imparted to it today, still it is intended to express that man is everywhere, and at all times, a prey to everything that comes against him, that assaults him from without, and that he is unable to unfold any active forces to meet it. ‘Life is sorrow,’ said Buddha, ‘therefore we must seek the causes of sorrow.’
There then arose before his soul the picture of what he called ‘the thirst for existence.’ Since we look out upon the world and see that sorrow is everywhere, we are compelled to say: Man is bound to have sorrow if he enters into this world of sorrow; but what is the cause of his suffering? The cause is this: that he desires, that he thirsts, to be incarnated in this world. The passionate longing to forsake the spiritual world and enter into a physical body, and in it to become aware of the outer material world — that is the cause of this sorrow-filled human existence. Hence there is only one way to escape from sorrow, and that is by conquering the thirst for life. And this thirst for existence can actually be overcome when, according to the teaching of Buddha, men can learn to unfold within themselves the so-called ‘Eightfold Path,’ which, so it is generally said, consists of right judgment, right discrimination, right speech, right deed, right living, right aspiration, right thinking, right contemplation.
Thus through the right attitude toward life, according to the great Buddha, there arises by degrees within men's souls something which destroys the passionate longing for existence, something which brings them so far that at last they are no longer compelled to descend into physical incarnation, but are liberated from an existence which is overwhelmed by sorrow.
These things, according to Buddha, constitute the Four Noble Truths: viz., the knowledge of sorrow; the knowledge of the causes of sorrow; the knowledge of the necessity for liberation from sorrow; and, lastly, the knowledge of the means of liberation from sorrow.
These are the Four Holy Truths which Buddha, after his enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree, gave out in the great sermon at Benares, about the fifth or sixth century before Christ.
Liberation from the pain of existence! That is what stands in the forefront of Buddhism, and it is that which makes it possible to describe the religion of Buddha as a ‘religion of redemption’ in the highest sense of the words; a religion of redemption from suffering; and since all existence is bound up with suffering, a redemption above all, from the continuance of rebirth. That is entirely in accordance with the type of the presentation of Buddhism which is embodied in the Nagasena conversations. For in the moment that human thinking, which embraces the outer world of the senses, beholds its worthlessness, when that which is a mere gathering together of parts possesses for the thinker only Name and Form; when nothing passes from incarnation to incarnation save the results of existence, then it must be said that ‘true’ existence is only attained when man is able to overcome and transcend everything that is to be found in the external world of the senses.
Now, it is not correct — and this can be perceived even by the simplest method of observation — to say that Christianity is a ‘religion of redemption’ in the same sense as Buddhism. If we place Christianity in its correct relation to Buddhism, we can speak of it as a ‘religion of rebirth.’ For Christianity proceeds from the knowledge that everything which in its totality represents man in a single life is fruitful, and these fruits have importance and value for the innermost being of man, and are carried over by him into a new life and brought, in that life, to a higher state of perfection than in the previous one. Everything that we experience and absorb in a single life always appears again and grows ever more and more perfect until it is revealed at last in its true spiritual form. What is apparently worthless in our existence, when it is taken hold of by the spiritual, has its resurrection in a degree more perfect than before; is spiritually embodied. Nothing in existence is worthless, because it rises again if the spirit has entered into it rightly.
The thought-content of Christianity is a religion of rebirth, a religion of the resurrection of the best that we have experienced; a religion wherein no single thing that is 'round about us is a ‘nothingness,’ but wherein all things are building-stones for the completion of a great edifice that is to arise through the gathering together of everything spiritual from out of the world of the senses.
Buddhism is a religion of liberation from existence, whereas Christianity is the opposite, a religion of rebirth upon a more spiritual level. This is revealed in the least as well as in the greatest of the forms of its presentation, no less than in its fundamental principles. And if we look for the actual reasons of this difference between the two religions, we can say that they arise out of the entirely opposite nature of the character of Oriental and Western culture.
There is a very radical difference between the method of presenting things that springs from the culture that gave birth to Buddhism and the method that springs from that culture into which Christianity poured itself. It is possible to describe this difference quite simply. It lies in the fact that all true Oriental culture, which has not been fertilized by the West, is non-historical, whereas Western culture is historical. That is the ultimate root of the difference between the Christian and the Buddhistic conceptions. The Christian conception recognizes that not only are there repeated lives on Earth, but that history rules in them; that is to say, that what to begin with cannot be experienced at a higher and more perfect stage can continue to become more and more perfect throughout the course of the succeeding incarnations.
Where Buddhism sees the liberation from Earth-existence in the ascent to Nirvana, Christianity sees, as the goal of its evolution, that everything engendered, everything achieved, in each single Earth-life, ascends to ever higher and higher degrees of perfection until, spiritualized and transfigured, it consummates its resurrection at the end of the world.
Buddhism is non-historical, precisely in accordance with the character of its cultural origin. It is non-historical for the simple reason that it merely places the external world in opposition to mankind, who acts within it. The Buddhist says: ‘We look back at past incarnations, or forward to future ones, but we stand opposed to the outer world!’ He does not ask: ‘Is it possible that man, in earlier days, was differently placed as regards the world? or may be perhaps differently placed in the future?’ Christianity does ask that question. But the Buddhist arrives at the conception that the relationship of man to the world in which he is incarnated is an unchanging one; that driven as he is by the thirst for existence into a physical embodiment, he enters a world of sorrow, no matter whether he had been compelled to an embodiment in the past or whether he is so compelled in the present. Always it is sorrow that the world brings to him. Thus the incarnations succeed each other, and there is no idea of evolution being brought under its true aspect as an historical conception. Thus the conception is clear that fundamentally the Buddhist finds his Nirvana, his state of bliss, solely in the relinquishing of repeated lives on Earth; and thus also he sees that the source of misery itself is the external world. He says: ‘It is inevitable that if thou abandonest thyself to the physical world, suffering must be thy lot; for suffering comes from thence.’
That is not Christian. The Christian conception is through and through an historical, sequential one. It does not concern itself with the non-historical relationship of opposition to the physical world. But it says: ‘As man passes from incarnation to incarnation he is indeed placed in opposition to a physical world. But if this world brings him sorrow, if it offers him what does not satisfy him, what does not fill him with an inwardly harmonious life, that does not arise from the fact that earthly existence as a whole is such that suffering is inevitable, but it comes because man himself has brought with him a false relation to the external world, and does not place himself rightly within it.’
Christianity, and the Old Testament also, point to a definite occurrence whereby man evolved something within himself that causes him, through his inner life, to make the world his source of sorrow. Hence it is not the external world in which we are ‘made flesh,’ not that which enters through our eyes and echoes in our ears which brings us sorrow; it is that which the human race once unfolded within itself which placed it in a wrong relation to this external world. And this was an inheritance which passed from age to age, so that mankind today still suffers pain. Thus Christianity points out that this state of things arose when humanity itself was at the beginning of its earthly existence. We can enlarge upon these two aspects of the foundations of both religions. Buddhism for ever emphasizes that 'the world is maya, is illusion!’ Christianity asserts: ‘It is true that, to begin with, what man beholds of the world is illusion; but that arises from man himself, who has so formed his organs of perception that his vision cannot penetrate to the spiritual world. The outer world is not the illusion, but the human outlook is the source of the illusion.’ Buddhism says: ‘Gaze upon all the events that surround you! They are illusion. Behold what flashes in the lightning: it is illusion! What roars as thunder: it is maya, it is the great deception!’ ‘Not so,’ would the Christian spirit reply: ‘But until now the human race has not found it possible to open — (in Goethe's words) — the “spiritual eyes and ears,” for these would reveal the outer world in its true form!’
No; it is not that we are surrounded by maya, but that man is so imperfect a being that he cannot perceive the true form of the world. And so Christianity seeks, in pre-historic ages, the event that made the human heart become incapable of creating the true conception of the physical world. Therefore, through many incarnations of development, we have — in the Christian sense — to reattain the state of spiritual sight and hearing before the true form of the outer world can be perceived. Repeated incarnations are, therefore, not meaningless, but they are the way toward the perception, in the light of the Spirit, of that from which the Buddhist would escape: i.e. the way to the finding of the spiritual within the physical. To overcome this world, which appears to us now as a physical one, to overcome it with something which man does not yet possess, but which he can attain as a spiritual reality; to overcome human error which sees the world as maya — that is the inner impulse of Christianity.
And so the teacher of Christianity is not one who says: ‘The world is the wellspring of sorrow! Escape from it to another that is utterly different — attain Nirvana!’ But Christianity sets before us as the mighty Impulse for the forward evolution of the Earth, the Christ, Who pointed, in the strongest possible way, to the inner being of man, wherefrom he could unfold the power to use every incarnation that he has upon Earth in such a way that he can carry the fruits of it forward to his future incarnations through his own strength. Not to bring the course of his incarnations to a close and enter Nirvana, but to use all he can of them, to work further upon their results, so that he can spiritually experience resurrection.
There we have the great distinction which makes Buddhism on the one hand a non-historical conception, and Christianity, on the other hand, a historical conception. The Christian idea seeks in the ‘Fall’ the origin and source of man's pain and sorrow; and in a ‘resurrection’ the healing of them. ‘You will not be freed from pain and sorrow by departing from Earth-existence; but you will be set free when you correct the error which gives you a false relation to the world. The source of sorrow is in yourselves! If you perceive aright you will know that the outer world indeed and in truth melts away like mist in the Sun — but all the deeds that you have done in the world, all your experiences, it will bring to a resurrection in the Spirit!’ This is Christianity as a ‘religion of rebirth,’ a religion of resurrection. And only thus can it be placed beside Buddhism. That is to say, only in the sense of spiritual-scientific thought can these two be compared, and their deepest impulses understood.
What has been indicated here can be verified in the minutest particulars. For instance, one can find in Buddhism something like the Sermon on the Mount. He that hears the Law — i.e. what Buddhism communicates as the Law — is blessed. He that can live with all creatures and does no evil toward them, is blessed. We can regard the Buddhistic beatitudes side by side with the Sermon on the Mount as it is given in the Matthew Gospel; but we must understand them aright. Let us compare them for a moment with what we find in St. Matthew. First we hear the mighty words: ‘Blessed are those who are beggars for the Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Here it is not only said ‘blessed are those who hear the Law,’ but another sentence is added: It is said, ‘Blessed are they who are poor in the Spirit, so that they must beg for the Spirit, — for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’ What does that mean?
Now, one can only correctly understand such a sentence when one brings the whole of the historically conceived teaching of Christianity before the mind's eye, and then one recognizes that all human soul-capacities have passed through a ‘history’ — that they have all evolved. Spiritual Science clearly and truly understands the word ‘evolution’ in the sense that what is present today, was not always present. It tells us that what we possess today as our reason, our scientific thought, was not in existence in primeval times; but instead, there was present in humanity what might be called a dark, dim clairvoyance. Men did not come to their knowledge of external things in the way they do today, but something arose within them like an archetypal wisdom, far surpassing what we ourselves can achieve. Whoever knows history knows that such a primeval wisdom existed. Though men did not know how to construct machines and railways, and rule the surrounding world by means of the forces of Nature, yet they had a knowledge of the divine-spiritual foundations of the world infinitely transcending our own. But it would be quite wrong to suppose that their knowledge was gained by thinking. On the contrary, it rose up in their souls as though bestowed upon them, as revelation, as dim inspirations rising within them without their cooperation, but so that they were there as real images of the spiritual world, a really present archetypal wisdom.
Human progress, however, consisted in the fact that from incarnation to incarnation this shadowy clairvoyance, this wisdom, had to grow less and less, for it was necessary that it should be lost in order that man might learn at last to grasp the things of the world by his reason. In the future, man will be able to see clairvoyantly into the spiritual world, and at the same time will possess the forms of his present knowledge.
Today we are in an intermediate state. The old clairvoyance is lost, and what we now possess has been developed through long ages.
How has mankind arrived at a knowledge of the world through his reason, and from out of his own innermost self-consciousness? And when, more especially, did self-consciousness appear?
It was at the time (though as a rule the evolution of humanity is not observed with such exactitude as this) in which Christ Jesus came to the Earth. At that time, humanity stood at a turning-point in evolution when the old clairvoyance had gone, and which was the starting-point of that which has brought about our greatest achievements. The entrance of Christ into the world-evolution was the turning point from the old age to the new, from the old to the new world-conception! And there is, moreover, a technical expression for that stage of achievement which it was then possible for mankind to experience, when men had begun to know the outer world through their own self-consciousness; an expression which is used by John the Baptist when he proclaims that ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ That means: ‘The knowledge of the world in ideas and concepts is at hand.’ In other words: ‘Man is no longer directed to the old clairvoyance, but he must, from out of his own being, learn to know and investigate the world.’ The tremendous impulse for that which man had to gain by means of his own ego, and not through the grace of bestowal — that was given by Christ Jesus.
Thus there are great depths of meaning hidden even in the first words of the Sermon on the Mount, which might well be expressed as follows. Humanity stands today at that stage when it is a ‘beggar for the Spirit.’ Previously, men possessed clairvoyant vision and could behold the spiritual world. That is now lost. But a time is coming, through the power of the ego, through the inner revelation of the Word, when men will find a substitute for the old clairvoyance. Therefore — ‘blessed’ are not only those who in ancient times attained to the Spirit through dim inspirations, but also those are ‘blessed’ who have no clairvoyance, because to lose it is the course of their evolution. Oh! — they are not unblest, they who are beggars for the Spirit, because they are ‘poor in the Spirit’! Blessed are they, for theirs is that which is revealed to them by their own ego, is that which they can attain through their own self-consciousness!
And further: ‘Blessed are they that mourn’; for even though the outer world causes suffering by reason of man's wrong attitude toward it, yet the time has now come when man, if he takes hold of his self-consciousness, and unfolds the forces inherent in his ego, will know the remedy for his pain. He will find within himself the possibility of comfort. The time has come when external means of comfort have lost their individual significance, because the ‘I’ is now to find the healing balm within. Blessed are they who can now no longer find in the external world what was once to be found there. And in this sense also, the fourth beatitude is to be understood: ‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.’
The source of that righteousness which shall counterbalance the unrighteousness of the world, is now to be found in the ego itself.
Thus Christ appears as the guide to the human self, the guide who points directly to the Divine in Man, and therewith gives the indication — ‘Take that which lives in Christ into your own inner self; then shall ye find the force necessary for carrying the fruits of earthly existence from incarnation to incarnation.’
To this also belongs an event which at first appears as a wholly painful one in the Christian doctrine, namely, the death of Christ Jesus, the Mystery of Golgotha. This death has not the usual significance of other deaths. On the contrary, Christ reveals the truth that this death is to be the starting point for an immortal and unconquerable life. It is not merely an event which releases Christ Jesus from life, but it is an event passed through because it leads to an ascending process, and an eternal and infinite ‘living’ flows from it. This is something (and it was so accepted by those who lived in the first centuries after Christ) that will become more and more recognized when the understanding of the Christ Impulse will have grown greater than it is today. When that time comes, men will understand that, six hundred years before the Christian era, one of the greatest of human beings, leaving his palace and finding a corpse —finding death — could conceive of it thus: ‘Death is sorrow! Liberation from death is redemption,’ and that he could have nothing to do with what lay under the dominion of Death.
Six hundred years pass, and we come to the time of Christ. And when yet another six hundred years have passed, a symbol is raised up for that which only the humanity of the future will understand. What is this symbol?
It is not a Buddha; it is not any ‘Chosen One.’ No — simple men passing by saw the symbol of the Cross, and upon the Cross, a dead body; and they did not say, ‘Death is sorrow!’ They did not turn away from it, but they saw in this dead body what became for them a bulwark of the eternal in life; they saw what conquers all Death, and points to the transcendence of earthly things.
The noble Buddha saw a corpse — and he turned from the material world with the judgment that all death is sorrow; while those men of simple nature who beheld the Cross and its dead burden did not turn away, but gazed upon it because they found in it a witness of the everlasting life that streams from earthly death!
And so six hundred years before the Christian era, Buddha stands before the corpse; and six hundred years after the death of Christ, the simple man of the world beholds that symbol which expressed what had happened with the founding of Christianity.
Never in the whole history of human evolution has such a transformation taken place as this! And the more objectively these things are grasped, the more clearly will the great significance of Buddhism emerge.
We have shown how mankind once possessed a primeval wisdom, and how in the course of many incarnations this wisdom gradually declined. The appearance of Buddha marked the close of the old development; it was a mighty world-historical indication that the ancient archetypal wisdom was lost. In the historical sense this explains the ‘turning away’ from life. Whereas Christ marks the commencement of a new development which sees this life as the source of the eternal. Hitherto there has been no explanation of these immensely important facts of human evolution.
Therefore, and because these things are not yet understood, it sometimes happens that in our time there can be such beautiful and noble natures (as for instance, Theodor Schulze, who died at Potsdam in 1889) who, because they cannot find in any external concepts what truly fills their rich inner life, try to find satisfaction in Buddhism. And Buddhism reveals to them how in a certain sense the human being, when he raises himself by developing his own inner forces above the world of the senses, can transcend his own nature. That, however, is only possible because the greatest impulse, the very essence of Christianity, is still so little understood.
Spiritual Science must some day become the means by which the core of the whole presentation of the Christ-Impulse can be more and more deeply penetrated. It is just the evolution-idea which Spiritual Science approaches so honestly that will lead humanity to an exact and intimate grasp of Christianity, so that Spiritual Science may rest in the hope that the rightly comprehended Christian teaching will be unfolded more and more as against that form of it which is incorrectly apprehended, and moreover, without any transplanting of Buddhism into our modern times. It would, in fact, be a very shortsighted policy that would seek to establish Buddhism in Europe! For anyone who knows the conditions of the spiritual life of Europe knows that even those tendencies which are apparently ranged against Christianity have borrowed from it its whole arsenal of weapons.
A Darwin, a Haeckel, would never have been possible — strange though this may sound — if it had not been for the educational systems of Christendom, which alone made it possible for them to think the thoughts they did; if those particular forms of thought had not already been there which they, nourished in the Christian world, could then use, so to say, as weapons of offence against their own Mother. For what they and others have to say is often apparently directed against Christianity — that is, in the manner of its utterance. But the thoughts could never have been there without the Christian education. For this reason, a grafting of any Oriental system upon our own culture would be of no avail, for it would oppose every condition of the spiritual life of the West. It is only necessary to think clearly about the fundamental teachings of the two religions.
If the spiritual life is sufficiently closely observed it will certainly be seen that because of the unclearness that exists about these things, there are souls who, feeling sympathy with Buddhism, and who stand even on the highest of philosophical watch-towers, would like to teach the ‘renunciation of existence.’
Such a one was Schopenhauer. The whole tenor of his life might be described as ‘Buddhistic.’ Thus when he says, for instance, ‘The image of the highest type of mankind stands before us in one whom we call a “saint” ... one who has overcome everything in life that the outer world can give; one who stands there merely as a physical body, who conceals nothing of the Ideal of the World-environment within him; who desires naught, who merely waits until the body itself is destroyed, so that every trace may be wiped out of all that connected him with this physical world; so that, renouncing what is of the Earth, he annihilates Earth-existence; so that at last nothing remains that in life leads from desire to pain, from fear to terror, from enjoyment to grief.’
That is an interpolation of Buddhism into our Western world. Such a thing happens because of our misapprehensions, because we do not understand clearly enough what the deepest impulses of Christianity are, and what its content and its form denote. What have we achieved through Christianity? If we regard the impulse alone, we have achieved just that which shows what intensity of cleavage can exist between Schopenhauer and one of the most significant personalities of our time. While Schopenhauer sees his ideal in someone who has overcome all enjoyment and pain that proceeds from the outer life, who merely exists waiting until the last threads that bind his physical body together are severed — we find the very opposite in Goethe's picture of the struggling Faust, who strides from desire to enjoyment, and from enjoyment to desire, who at length purges himself so that all his passions are transformed, and that which was to him the highest and holiest that can irradiate human life, became itself a passion. Such was Faust — who did not say ‘I wait until the last traces of my Earth-existence are obliterated,’ but who proclaims the stupendous words: ‘The relics of my earthly sojourn are indestructible throughout the Æons of Time.’
That was how Goethe expressed in his “Faust” the meaning and spirit of what, in his old age, he once described to his secretary Eckermann: ‘At least you will admit that the conclusion of “Faust,” where the redeemed soul ascends, was very hard to portray; so that in dealing with a subject so far above the earthly, and so transcending conception, I might easily have succumbed to mere vagueness, if I had not confined my poetical intentions within the sharp outlines of Christian and ecclesiastical figure and imagery, and so given them a healthy form and solidity.’
And so Faust is made to ascend a rung of the ladder of existence which has its origin in Christian symbolism — the step from the mortal to the immortal, from death to life.
In Schopenhauer we see unmistakable interpolations of the Buddhistic element into Western thought-culture: ‘I wait till I have attained such perfection that with the death of my body the last traces of my Earth-existence are obliterated!’ And he believed, also, that this world-conception would enable him to interpret the pictorial creations of Raphael and Correggio. Goethe, on the other hand, portrayed the upward-striving individuality that knew the sum-total of earthly achievements was permanent, was interwoven with Eternity: ‘The relics of my earthly sojourn are indestructible throughout the Æons of Time!’
That, indeed, is the true, the realistic, Christian impulse; for it leads to a reawakening of earthly deeds as spiritual accomplishment. It is the reawakening of the best that can be achieved on Earth. It is the religion of resurrection! It is in very truth a ‘realistic’ world-conception, which brings down out of spiritual heights the loftiest content for existence into the world of the senses. Thus we can say that something like the light of a dawn shines out in Goethe — a self-comprehending Christianity of the future, which, while acknowledging all the greatness and significance of Buddhism, yet negates its renunciation of earthly embodiments, and points upward to a great acknowledgment of every single incarnation in the whole great sequence.
And so Goethe, in the sense of the true Christian of modern times, looks out over a past world from whose womb all have been born, and upon a present world wherein, if its true results are grasped, we achieve something which time cannot annihilate.
Thus, in linking mankind in true theosophical fashion with the Universe, he cannot do otherwise than forge the links on the other side which bind it to the true content of Christianity. He says therefore — 

On the day when you to the world were given
The Sun stood still, greeting every star,
And ever since then have you striven
To grow by the laws that rule who you are.
So must you be; an escape you cannot know,
As the Sybils and Prophets told us long ago.

By expressing in this way man's connection with the outer world, he is inevitably pointing to this: that as man is born out of the constellations of existence, he becomes, in the world, what is not only indestructible but what must ultimately consummate his resurrection in a form that is spiritual. And so he had to add these words to the rest —

And in all of time no power could undoThe living form your life created of you.
And we can also add: There is neither any power nor any time that can annihilate what is achieved in time itself and which ripens as fruit for eternity.

Related post: Buddha on Mars