Saturday, March 28, 2020
|The Moving Finger of Price in the Holy Grail of Economics|
Lecture 8 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, July 31, 1922:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today we shall have to correct certain current misconceptions which merely hinder anyone who wishes to think objectively, in accordance with realities, on matters of Political Economy, or to enter with such thinking into the actual course of economic life. For an economic science which cannot fertilize our practical life is of no real value. The concepts derived from this merely contemplative economic science must always prove rather inadequate.
We have already seen that the most important question in Economics is that of Price. The point will now be to observe prices in the sense which I have indicated. The rise or fall, or stability, of prices — the fact that the prices of certain products are too high or too low (for one can have a feeling of these things) — indicates whether or not the economic organism is in good order. It must fall to the Associations to discover, from the barometer of prices, what is to be done in the economic life as a whole.
Now, you are familiar with the point of view, still widely prevalent, according to which nothing can be done in practice with the price problem except to allow the so-called law of supply and demand to take its course. It is true that under the pressure not so much of economic facts as of the increasingly urgent demands of the social movement, this theory has been shaken — the theory (maintained by many others besides Adam Smith) that prices regulate themselves of their own accord through the working of supply and demand. The theory simply says: If the supply is too great, this will of itself lead to its reduction — the supply will not be maintained at that level. In this way a regulation of prices will automatically ensue. Similarly, if the demand is too great (or too small) it will inevitably follow that the producers will regulate matters so as not to produce too little (or too much). Under the influence of supply and demand it is thus imagined that prices on the market will, automatically, as it were, approach a certain stable level.
It is important to know whether with such an idea as this we are merely moving in a theoretical world — in a notional system — or whether we are truly entering into realities. And we are certainly not entering into realities. For as soon as you really tackle these concepts of “supply” and “demand” you will see that it is quite impossible, economically speaking, even to establish them. As contemplative students of Economics you can do so, no doubt — you can send people into the market to observe how supply and demand are working. But the question is: With such observations, are you entering deeply enough into the working of the economic processes? Can you make any use of these concepts? In reality you cannot, because you are leaving out in every case what lies behind the processes which you are trying to grasp. You look at the market; you see the working of “supply” and what is called “demand.” But that does not include what lies behind the phenomenon of “supply”; nor will it comprise all that precedes the appearance of “demand.” Yet it is there that you will find the real economic processes, processes which are only summarized, so to speak, in the market itself. The best evidence of this is the extraordinary fragility of these concepts.
If we wish to form proper, useful concepts, our concepts can and must be mobile in relation to life. We must be able, as it were, to carry such a concept about from one domain of reality to another, and as we do so the concept itself must change. It must not simply go up in smoke. But that is just what happens with the concepts of “supply” and “demand.” Take “supply”: It is “supply” when a man brings commodities on to the market and offers them for a price. That is “supply,” you say; but I say: No, it is “demand.” For if a man brings commodities on to the market and wants to sell them, in his case it is unquestionably a demand for money. In effect, if we do not enter further into the economic process, it makes no difference at all whether I have a supply of commodities and a demand for money, or whether I come forward with a “demand” in the cruder sense. If I wish to develop a demand, I must have a supply of money.
Supply of commodities is demand for money and supply of money is demand for commodities. And these are economic realities, for the economic process (in so far as it consists in trade or barter) cannot take place at all unless there are both supply and demand in the case of both buyer and seller. For what the buyer has for supply — namely, money — must also first have been evolved in the economic process somewhere behind his back, or behind the back of the demand, just as the commodity which appears as a supply must also first have been evolved or produced.
Our concepts are quite unreal if we imagine that price arises from the interaction of what is ordinarily called “supply and demand.” In actual fact, price does not evolve at all as it is defined by this line of thought. For the development of price is undoubtedly influenced by the question, whether the demander can become a supplier of money, or whether perhaps, at a given time in the whole working of the economic process, he cannot become a supplier of money with respect to a given product. The point is not only that there must be a certain number of commodities available as supply, but also that there must be a certain number of people able to develop a supply of money for these particular commodities. This will show you at once that we cannot simply speak of an interaction of supply and demand.
On the other hand, if we look now not to the concepts (which may always be wrongly formed) but to the real facts — the facts of the market or even of the pure, “marketless” exchange of commodities and money — it is unquestionable that prices evolve as between supply and demand. Only the supply and demand are always there on both sides. This is undoubtedly the case, as a pure matter of fact.
The important thing is this: Supply, Demand, and Price are three factors, every one of which is primary. We cannot merely write: “Price is a function of supply and demand,” or — to speak mathematically — treat S and D as variables and P, the price, as a third magnitude resulting from the two, i.e., P = ƒ (S, D). No; we must regard all of them, S and D (supply and demand) and P (price), as mutually independent variables and by that means arrive at another magnitude, X. You see, we are coming to a formula. We must not merely suppose that S and D are the independent variables and that the price is a function of the two. No; we have three mutually independent variables which come into mutual interplay and give rise to something new: X = ƒ (S, D, P). The price is there between the supply and demand, but it is there in a peculiar way.
The fact is, we must approach this whole line of thought from another angle. If we do see supply and demand, at any given point on the market, in the relationship in which Adam Smith saw them — if it really is so in any particular domain — then it is approximately so for the circulation of commodities as seen from the standpoint of the Trader. Even here, it is not entirely the case. And it is absolutely not the case from the standpoint of the Consumer, nor from that of the Producer. For the consumer something quite different is true. The standpoint of the consumer is conditioned by what he has. Between what the consumer has and what he gives, a relationship arises similar to that which arises for the trader as between supply and demand. The consumer has to consider the mutual interaction between price and demand. He demands less when for his pocket the price is too high; he demands more when for his pocket the price is sufficiently low. Altogether, as a consumer he confines his gaze to price and demand.
We may say, therefore, that in the consumer's case we must observe rather the interaction of price and demand; in the trader's case we must observe rather the interaction of supply and demand. Lastly, in the producer's case we shall have to observe the interaction between supply and price. For he will in the first place arrange his supply of commodities according to the prices that are possible in the whole economic process. Thus we may call our first equation — P = ƒ (S, D) — the Trader's Equation. Adam Smith applied it to the economic system as a whole. Thus applied, it is incorrect. For we can also form the following equation: We can regard supply, S, as a function of price and demand. And thirdly, we can indicate demand as a function of supply and price. In this last equation we shall have D = ƒ (S, P) — that is to say, demand is a function of supply and price. This is the Producer's Equation. And in the equation where supply is a function of price and demand — S = ƒ (P, D) — we have the Consumer's Equation. But as I beg you to observe, we shall still have made these equations qualitatively different, inasmuch as here (in the consumer's case) the supply is a supply of money, in the producer's case it is a supply of commodities.* In the case of the trader we have to do with something that lies midway between “money” and “commodity.” †
P = ƒ (S, D) ......... Trader's Equation.
S = ƒ (P, D) ......... Consumer's Equation.
D = ƒ (S, P) ......... Producer's Equation.
At any rate, you see how far more complicated our thoughts on the economic life must be. It is just because we try to get at the ideas so easily and quickly that we have no proper science of Economics today. If we wish to enter into the realities, we must ask ourselves: What is there in this economic life? What really lives in it? We may say: What I get for my own needs comes in the first place into my realm. (I will speak of “property” and “ownership” at a later stage; at present I will express myself as indefinitely as possible — even so, it will suffice to cover the facts). It passes — under the conditions that obtain today — into my realm. I give money, or something that I have produced instead of money. That is how things happen as a rule. But think: In saying this, have we really exhausted the full reality of economic life? After all, I may acquire things otherwise than by giving a commodity for money or money for a commodity. I may acquire money and commodities in a different way. Suppose I steal them. Then, too, I shall have acquired something. And if I should carry on the stealing on a large enough scale, as the old robber chieftains sometimes did for decades at a time — why, to apply to such conditions, a very different science of Economics would have to be evolved from that which has, generally speaking, to be evolved for our own code of ethics! Well, it may seem to you a grotesque example when I say: “Suppose I steal the things!” But what is stealing in reality? To steal is to take something away from someone else without his being in a position to defend himself; or again, without the stealer finding it convenient to exchange the thing for an adequate return. Compare, for example, this now disreputable concept of “stealing” with the concept which we (in the German language) signify with a foreign word when we speak of “requisitioning” or “commandeering.” Under certain circumstances one commandeers things — that is to say, one takes something away from people and gives them nothing in return. In other cases, too, it happens in the economic process that something is taken away from people and they receive nothing in return. These are things which we need only mention, for if we dwelt on them any longer, people would imagine that we were anxious to agitate; and I only wish to develop a science here, I do not wish to “agitate.” Now assume for a moment that somewhere or other — within a comparatively small region — I establish a social order wherein money is abolished. Instead, I organize a system of raids with the necessary armed forces. Those who possess anything are knocked down or killed and the things taken away from them. Well, what is there against that happening? There is this: that the others may perhaps defend themselves. In that case they must have the means to do so. Or again, it might not be worth while. If my territory were not large enough, it would not be worth while.
All this shows that something else has to play over into the economic process at this point. I cannot without more ado take something away from someone else. Why not? Because first, it must somehow be recognized by my fellow-men that I shall be allowed to keep it. And it will by no means be recognized that I am allowed to keep what I have acquired by killing my fellow-men in the surrounding country. What is it then that plays into the economic life at this point? It is the life of Rights; it is Law and Order. You cannot really consider the economic process without observing how law plays into it at every point. You cannot think out the economic life, nor can you bring to pass whatever it may be that you intend, without considering this interplay of legal Rights and Economics. Why, the moment you pass from mere barter to trade assisted by money, you see directly how the principle of Law plays into Economics. For how otherwise, ladies and gentlemen, could it be possible, in return for a pair of boots, to get not a top hat, say, but a pound or whatever it may be? I have saved myself the trouble of giving the tradesman a top hat; I have given him a pound instead. I have my boots; he has the pound. How otherwise should this be possible? If the pound (even if it were a golden sovereign) were recognized by no one as a real value — a value for which something could be received again in return — if it were not rightly installed in the whole economic process, the cobbler might have collected ever so many pounds; it would be of no use to him. Thus the moment Money makes its appearance in economic intercourse we see quite palpably the appearance of the element of law. It is extremely important to bear this in mind. We can only look at the social organism as a whole if we pass from purely economic events to events which take place under the influence of the life of rights.
Let us now assume that I have got my pair of boots from the cobbler and have given him the pound. Now it might happen that the cobbler, just after having sold me the pair of boots, suddenly remembered that cobblers have at times in the world's history been something else besides cobblers (witness Hans Sachs and Jacob Boehme) and having got the pound he might think of doing something quite different with it instead of making another pair of boots. He might do anything with it, into which he put his ingenuity, his genius. So that the pound would suddenly have quite a different value for him than the value of a pair of boots. Thus, the moment we have transformed the commodity into money, that is to say into a lawful right, the right can either be kept (I use the pound to buy me something of equal value with the pair of boots) or through my ingenuity I can do something with the money to produce an altogether new value in the economic process. It is here that the human faculties come in. The individual faculties, which grow quite freely among men, enter in and incorporate themselves in the rights which men acquire with money, just as money, which may be regarded — in this sense — as rights realized, incorporates itself outwardly in the commodity. Thus we have now placed into the organic process which we described provisionally when we spoke of Nature, Elaborated Nature, and Labor divided and organized by the Spirit — we have now placed into this whole process the principle of Law or Rights and the Individual Faculties of men. We have found, within the economic process itself, a division which is in truth a threefold order — a Dreigliederung (threefold memberment, threefold articulation). Only it is necessary that we think of this Dreigliederung in the right way.
If we observe the economic process, we perceive that just because the things I have now been describing are real facts, just because of this, certain impossibilities are actually realized in the economic life. For, you see, one can also acquire a right by conquest or the like; by having the power to take it. One does not always acquire a right by mere exchange; one can also acquire it by having the opportunity or the power to take it for oneself. Here we have an element in right, which, in so far as it is present, is quite incapable of comparison with commodities. There is no point of contact between commodities and rights. Nevertheless, in the actual economic process, commodities (or the money-values representing them) are perpetually being exchanged for rights. Precisely when we pay for land, even when we merely help with our rent to pay for the value of the land, we are paying for a Right with a Commodity or with the money which we have received for a Commodity. At any rate, we pay for a Rights-value with a Commodity-value. Again, when we appoint a school teacher and give him a certain salary, we are (sometimes, at any rate) paying for spiritual faculties with the value of a commodity or a corresponding money-value. Thus there perpetually occur in the economic process exchanges between Rights and Commodities, between Faculties and Commodities, and also between Faculties and Rights.
Mutually incommensurable things are exchanged for each other in the economic process. Consider what happens when someone gets paid for an invention that he has patented. To begin with he accepts payment for a purely spiritual value that is being paid for in commodity-values. There is absolutely nothing that could figure as a standard of comparison in such a case. Here we are touching on an element where Life enters into the economic process with a vengeance! And the thing becomes still more complicated when we introduce the concept of Labor.
I have already said that the wage-laborer does not in reality receive what is generally understood by the idea of “wages,” but that he really sells the product of his Labor for shillings and pence to the enterpriser and thus receives payment. It is only through his expert knowledge of the market that the enterpriser gives the proper value — or at any rate a higher value — to that which he buys from the laborer. Economically considered, the profit is not extracted from the Labor as a surplus value. By economic thinking we cannot possibly arrive at such a judgment. We can at most arrive at it by a moral judgment. The profit is due to the fact that the laborer is in a less favourable social situation. The products which he sells have less value at the point where he sells them than at the point where the enterpriser sells them. For the enterpriser is in a different position — he knows the circumstances far better, he can sell at a greater advantage. The worker's relation to the enterpriser resembles the case of a man who goes on to the market and buys a commodity for a given price. He must buy it there, for the simple reason that his circumstances will not allow him, let us say, to buy it anywhere else. Another person may perhaps be able to buy it more cheaply at another place. The two cases are exactly the same. Economically speaking, that which obtains as between the enterpriser and the wage-laborer is simply a kind of market.
But it undoubtedly does make a certain difference, ladies and gentlemen, whether I am fully conscious that this is the case or whether I imagine that I am paying the laborer for his Labor. You may think the difference merely theoretical, but let such a view of things — or two such views, the one and the other — become real. Let them be realized, and you will see how the economic relationships change under the influence of one view or the other. For what happens between human beings is, among other things, the result of their mental outlook, of the ideas they entertain. As our mental outlook changes, it changes the course of events. Today the whole proletariat bases its agitation on the idea that Labor must be properly paid for, But in fact Labor is nowhere paid for; only the products of Labor are paid for; and this — if it were truly understood — would also come to expression in the actuality of price. We cannot say that it makes no difference whether we call something a wage or the price of a commodity. For the moment we speak of wages, we imagine that we are paying for Labor, and then we go on to all the secondary concepts which confuse Labor as such with other economic processes which are value-creating. Then the social conflicts arise in a false way. The social contracts arise in a true way in so far as they arise out of sentiments and feelings. Sentiments and feelings are always in some way right; but we can never correct what ought to be corrected if we have not the right concepts. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the fatal thing in social life. Often the grievances arise in a way which is right, but the corrections are made under the influence of false concepts. In every detail people evolve these false ideas and carry them over into their whole conception of the economic process, so as to wreak havoc.
Take a very simple example. A gentleman (this is a true story) once said to me “I am very fond of sending picture postcards to my friends. I send lots of them.” I said, “I am not at all fond of sending picture postcards — and that,” I said, “for economic reasons.” At that time I had not quite as much to do as I have now. “Why?” he asked. I said, “Every time I send a picture postcard, I cannot help thinking: Perhaps a postman will have to run right up to the fourth floor with it. In short, I cause a change, a redistribution, in the economic process. It is not the Labor of the postman that matters, but in the postman you cannot easily distinguish the ‘service,’ the thing done, from the Labor. It is the service that we must estimate. If I keep sending picture postcards to my friends, I increase in an uneconomic way the services to be rendered by postmen.” “That is an economic fallacy,” said the other man, “for on the assumption that one postman need only do a limited amount, an increase in the number of picture postcards will mean that new postmen will have to be employed, and these postmen will get paid. So you see,” he said, “I am really a benefactor to the people who get these jobs.” I could only answer: “Yes, and do you also produce all that they eat? You do not increase the available means of consumption in the very least. You merely bring about a redistribution. To employ more postmen is not to increase the available means of consumption.”
Yet this very idea, ladies and gentlemen, often brings about the very crudest errors in individual cases. For suppose that there is a Borough Council consisting of people like my friend — as may well happen; indeed, such men may even become Cabinet Ministers and then it will be a Cabinet. Then they will say “There are so and so many unemployed. Let us put up new buildings or the like, then the people will be provided for.” Yes, for the next five steps ahead you have rid yourselves of the problem, but you have still produced nothing new. The workers as a whole have no more to eat than they had before. If I let one side of the scale sink, the other side must rise. Thus if you give such instructions not as part of a whole coherent economic process but as a mere isolated measure, an economic calamity must necessarily have arisen on the other side. If we knew how to observe these things, we should be able to reckon it up: By making social reforms in this way, merely giving means of subsistence to the destitute or unemployed, by having new buildings erected, we shall have increased the price of this or that article for a number of other people. In the economic sphere, above all, we must not think short-sightedly. We must think all things in connection. We must think things in connection with one another, as a whole.
But, you see, that is not at all easy to do, for the simple reason that the economic process is very different from a scientific system. A scientific system in its totality can be contained in a single human being — perhaps only in outline, but still, it can be contained within a single human being. But the economic process can never take place in its totality within a single human being. The economic process can only find its reflection where judgments, proceeding from men who stand in the most varied spheres, are working together.
The only possibility of arriving at a real judgment on these things — not a theoretical but a real judgment — is by way of association. In other words, take the three equations once again: A man who is familiar only with the ways and customs of a tradesman will always have the first equation in his head. He himself will trade under the influence of this equation; he will thus be in a position to know the influence which this equation exerts. Likewise the consumer who intelligently follows and observes the process of consumption will understand the influence of the second equation; and the producer will know all that is subject to the influence of the third. At this point you may say: But surely, men are not so unintelligent as not to be able to think beyond their own narrow horizon. Surely a man who is merely a consumer or merely a tradesman can think beyond his own horizon? Yes, that is perfectly right, where one general world outlook is concerned. But in practical economic life there is no other effective way of knowing what is going on in trade, for example, except to be engaged in trade oneself. You must be in the midst of it, you must be trading. There is no other way. There are no theories about it. Theories may be interesting, but theories are Natural Science. The point is not that you should know how trade goes on in general, but that you should know how the products circulate in the process of trade in Basel and its immediate neighborhood. And if you know that, you do not thereby know how they circulate in the Lugano district. The point is not that we should know about things in general, but that we should know something in a particular region. Likewise if you can form an effective judgment as to the higher or lower prices at which scythes or other agricultural implements can be manufactured, you do not thereby know the prices at which screws can be manufactured or the like.
The judgments that have to be formed in the economic life must be formed out of immediate, concrete situations. And that is only possible in this way: For definite domains or regions (whose magnitude, as we have seen, will be determined by the economic process itself) Associations must be formed, in which all three types of representatives will be present alike. From the most varied branches of the economic life, there must be the representatives of the three things that occur in it: Production, Consumption, and Circulation.
It is really tragic that no understanding should be found in our time for what is after all so simple and so sensible. For the moment there is a real understanding, the thing can be done, not even by the day after tomorrow, but by tomorrow. It is not a question of radical changes, but of seeking for the proper associative union and cooperation in each case. You need only summon the will and the intelligence to do it. This is the thing that touches one so painfully, for at this point, after all, economic thinking does to some extent coincide with moral and religious thinking. To me, for instance, it is quite unintelligible how this way of tackling the economic problem could have been entirely neglected by those who are officially in charge of the religious needs of the world. For there can be no doubt about it: during recent times it has clearly emerged that the economic facts are no longer being mastered. The facts have gone beyond the mastery of human beings. Today we stand before this question: How can the thing be mastered, how shall we grapple with it? It must be mastered by human beings, by human beings in association.
I do not wish to make a pun at the end of a very solemn line of thought, but I would say: Our science of Economics has not kept pace, in its conceptions, with the transition which has actually taken place from the economics of barter to the economics of money and the economics of human faculties. In its essential concepts, our Economic Science still fumbles about within the economics of barter. It continues to regard money as though it were just a symbol for barter. I know that this will not be readily admitted. But it is implicit, nonetheless, in the prevailing theories. And so we have this situation: In the older economic systems (though these may no longer appeal to us today) people bartered or exchanged (German tauschen = to barter). Then money came in. (As I said, I do not wish to make a pun, but the genius of language itself is working here.) “Tauschen” (barter) became “täuschen” (illusion or deceit) and everything became unclear. Today we deceive ourselves in almost all our economic processes. The “tauschen” has become a “täuschen” — the exchange (or barter) an illusion. I do not mean that there is deliberate deceit, but that the whole process becomes confused and deceptive. We must first get to the root of things once more and see how our economic processes inwardly take place.
Lecture 3 of 3
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, October 24, 1904:
Before I go further in the explanation of apocalyptic writings, I must again repeat that this explanation can be of real value only to those who have been in the Theosophical Movement for a considerable time and who approach the theosophical view of the world with a certain sympathetic understanding. A great deal will have to be said here that may well cause opponents to attribute all kinds of fantastic things to Theosophy, and which, to begin with, will be regarded by rationalistic thinkers as so much brain-spinning. Familiarity with the nature of theosophical thought and feeling is essential if what is said in connection with the Apocalypse is not to be misunderstood.
What I have said about the relation of Christianity to Jesus Christ and about the relation of the writer of the Apocalypse to Jesus must be kept firmly in mind if we are to understand what follows.
The keystone for a true understanding of the place of Christianity in the world lies in the saying: Blessed are those who believe even though they do not see.
As I have already said, the significance of this utterance lies in the fact that what formerly took place in the deep secrecy of the Mystery temples was carried through Christianity on to the great arena of the world. This does not gainsay in the very slightest the historic actuality of the happenings in Palestine between the years 1 and 33 A.D. The standpoint of those who see to the root of these things will far rather be that the familiar Christian tradition is historic truth. In this respect, therefore, Theosophy is in agreement at every point with what Christians believe. But the historic fact at the beginning of our time-reckoning is something else as well, and we understand it rightly when we think of it as a mystical fact, when we realize that the way of the Passion, the Death, the Resurrection, the Ascension are historic happenings which were formerly enacted in the Mysteries.
There is a word in the Bible which indicates how the ancient Mystery is related to its own fulfillment, to Christianity. In Christianity, everything that pointed to Christ before His actual appearance is called: the Promise. Those who understand these things know that “Promise” means nothing else than that what took place in Palestine had been “promised” in the secrecy of the Mysteries. We can understand it from the very words of ancient scripts. Think only of the Mysteries of Greece. What was enacted in those Mysteries, in deep secrecy, and experienced only by the Initiates, was the Passion, Dying, and Resurrection of the “Son of God.” They experienced it through the preparation they had undergone, through their training on higher planes. Thus in the Mysteries the Initiate beheld the Passion, the Dying, and the Resurrection of the Son of God. This was portrayed before their eyes of spirit. That is the Promise. And then this Promise was fulfilled — in Palestine. This is the explanation of the utterance: blessed not only are those who were seers in the Mysteries, but also those who are able to believe not merely in the Word revealed to the Mystics, but in the Word made Flesh. That is the meaning of this utterance. It is from this point of view that we must understand the relation in which John the Apocalyptist stands to the Mysteries of antiquity and to the Christian Mystery. Light will then be thrown on many a passage.
It is said in the Apocalypse that seven seals are opened. What does the opening of seals mean, in the language in which the Apocalypse is written?
Since time immemorial, the secret of the Sons of God becoming man was announced prophetically to the mystics. And in the language of the Apocalypse, the presentation of this secret on the physical plane is called the opening of a seal. In the language of occultism, the opening of a seal means nothing else than the proclamation of something that was formerly made known only to the Initiates and presented only within the Mysteries. The picture given is correct in its very details. What is later revealed was in earlier times beheld within the Mysteries. During the time of the Mysteries there was no book which recorded what happened in the Mysteries. This came only later. Such a book is the Gospel. The Gospel contains what was formerly presented in the Mysteries, and what is written there is “unsealed” for those who are ready for it.
And who will be ready? Here is something that you must grasp in its whole setting in the Apocalypse. Something is proclaimed to seven Communities. You have heard that these seven Communities are representatives of the seven sub-races of the Fifth Root Race. Who, then, are the Proclaimers? And who are those to whom the proclamation is made? Here we must think from the esoteric point of view of the appearance of Christ as compared with other appearances. (If you have read the last number of the magazine “Lucifer” you will there find something that I will now briefly repeat.)
The evolution of mankind stands under the direction of mighty Leaders who guide its onward progress. In the language of esotericism these Leaders are called Manus. A Manu, therefore, is the Being who at the beginning of a race gives the great impulse, the direction in which the race is to evolve. We are living now in the Fifth Root Race. When, after the destruction of the Fourth Root Race (the Atlantean) this Fifth Root Race began its development, the great impulse was given by the Manu of the Fifth Root Race. The Manu is not in the same sense a man among men as other outstanding human individualities. Even before mankind on the Earth was filled with spirit, the Manu had already reached a lofty stage of development. It was in the Third Root Race, when in the middle of the Lemurian epoch the human spirit flashed up for the first time in the human body, that such leaders came to the human race. When men were young, when they were still children, they could not lead themselves. But their leaders were not of the same nature as themselves. These beings who had already reached a higher stage of development in an evolution that is not that of man, were so advanced that they could be leaders of the human race before the spirit had incarnated in the bodies of men.
These were superhuman beings. These superhuman beings are of two kinds. The one kind, who were already leaders at the time when, in respect of the Spiritual, men were still children, these beings had already advanced so far that they had reached a stage which will be reached by humanity only in the far-distant future. These highly developed individualities, the Manus, are called in the language of esotericism “the Holy Spirits.”
The second category of beings were already nearer to man's level, but still superhuman. They are called “Sons of God.” And the next group of individualities were those who were already men among men.
If we go back to the middle of the Lemurian epoch and survey man's whole evolution, we find three grades of individualities who have something to do with humanity. There is a group of very lofty individualities who long, long ago, in the far past, had already passed through the stages of evolution which man will attain only in the distant future. They are the “Holy Spirits.” A second group are the “Sons of God.” They stand nearer to man but are nevertheless far more exalted than he. And the third group are those who, as human beings, were still children, but were nevertheless the most advanced among those early men. They are the “Fathers” or “Pitris.”
We have therefore three grades of beings, and these three grades of beings are the guides and leaders of mankind.
If we now go back once again to the beginning of the Fifth Root Race, we find the superhuman Manu, by whom the great impulse was given. But in the course of the Fifth Root Race something very significant comes to pass, namely that in the course of the Fifth Root Race men themselves progress so far that a few of them will be able to take into their hands the spiritual guidance of the human race. Those whom we call “Fathers” or “Elders” will then be able to guide and lead men, as formerly they were led by the superhuman beings. Thus the guidance and leadership of mankind passes over from the Manus to those who are “Human Brothers,” “Brothers of Men.”
The Holy Spirits, the Sons of God, the Fathers, become the leaders of the human race in the successive epochs of time. The “Fathers” are also called “Elders.”
When the Word took on human form, so says the writer of the Apocalypse, this Word, the Logos, took on human form as the “Son,” just as formerly the Word took on human form as a Spirit, or since Christian esotericism calls the Spirit “Angel,” before the Word became Flesh, the Word was an “Angel.” This is Christian esotericism. First, the Word or the Logos is an Angel, then the Word became Flesh as Son, and then the Word will become “Elder” or “Father.” These are the successive stages. The Christian Initiates have always understood this. But their words must be rightly understood.
Paul, one of the greatest Christian Initiates, could only hint at these profound secrets. But he gave an indication of what I have just been saying. When the Word was still an Angel, the Word was still on the supersensible plane. The Word is spoken from out of the clouds, from the supersensible, when Commandments are proclaimed. The age of the “Law” is the age of the “Promise.” The time of the Law was when the Word was an Angel. Then the Word became Flesh, and later on the Word will become “Elder” or “Father.” Paul was an Initiate, and proclaimed this in the Epistle to the Galatians in the following words:
“The law is not of faith, but the man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might come on the gentiles, through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; though it be but man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man annulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds as of many; but as of one and to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law which was four hundred and thirty years after cannot annul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one. Is the law then against the promise of God? God forbid; for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.”
Other passages, too, indicate that the Word was an Angel, but subsequently became Flesh. What happened through the Word becoming Flesh? It was proclaimed to the sub-races of the Fifth Root Race how they should develop on into the future. In the Letters to the seven Communities, the author of the Apocalypse indicates how evolution proceeds. Not all human beings reach the goal, not all those who have entered into this evolutionary process reach the goal in the due time. Something very significant comes to pass. In order to understand it aright, let us ask: How does the writer of the Apocalypse help us to understand the Fathers, the Elders? Do we find the Elders themselves in the Gospel? Yes, they are there at the time when the Angel has become the Son. At that time the Fathers are not yet ready to receive the Word into themselves. They must wait for a future time. In the age of the Promise, the Fathers have not progressed sufficiently. They will understand the Word only at the end of the Fifth Root Race, when within themselves, as Fathers, they will understand what remained hidden from them at the time when Christ, their Master, was on Earth. The twelve Disciples are Elders. They are destined again to come into the presence of Christ. Then, at the end of the Fifth Root Race, the Book that was given to them sealed will be unsealed.
Again something of particular significance comes to pass in evolution. We are told what conditions will be when the Fifth Root Race has progressed to the point where it must be decided whether the time has come for the transition into the Sixth Root Race. I shall merely indicate things upon which I will speak more fully in later lectures.
The coming of the Sixth Root Race is announced by the sounding of trumpets. Quote from Rev. IV;12: “And the fourth Angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.”
This refers to the third part that has remained behind, which however, need not have happened. The Letters to the Communities contain not only warnings and admonitions but also sharp reproof. Not all reach the goal. A third part (of humanity) falls away completely from evolution. We have therefore one third which will attain the goal, one third which lags behind, and one third which does not reach the goal and falls completely away. One third attains its goal, a second third will only later attain its goal, making together two thirds; and at the end of the Fifth Root Race, only one third of those who began evolution will have reached the necessary stage of development.
Seventy-two Elders were called upon to enter into evolution and to develop to further stages. The admonitions to the Communities which it devolved upon the Elders to lead indicates that only a third reach the goal. If we take a third of 72 Elders, we have 24 Elders who will still be there when the seven seals of the Book are opened. This revelation of God's majesty is something which was proclaimed by the appearance of Christ. Quote from Rev. IV: “After this I looked and behold, a door was opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, “Come up hither and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” And immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone, and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats, and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment, and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices, and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal, and in the midst of the throne were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion and the second beast like a calf and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within, and they rest not day and night, saying Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty which was and is and is to come. And when those beasts gave glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever and cast their crowns before the throne saying, “Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and Power, for thou hast created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
This is the future stage of evolution when those who have overcome will have become Fathers in the true sense.
I said that what once took place in the deep secrecy of the Mysteries will, in later times, be unsealed. I have told you that Christ's appearance on Earth was presented in the Greek Mysteries. What was then a secret was unveiled through the appearance of Christ. We could have gone into the Greek Mysteries and we should there have beheld the Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. The seven seals belong to the future. If a mystery is also proclaimed then, it will again be a mystery of which the seal belongs to a still later future.
As far as this is possible, I will tell you of a mystery that has been celebrated ever since the time of the ancient Indian Rishis and is of deepest significance. I will try to render it in the following way, in symbolism. There is a horse, with the front foot raised. Upon this horse sits a divine figure with a bow. The figure gives a sign and the horse tramples a serpent on the head with its foot. This is the horse Kalki. This signifies that everything of a lower nature falls away, that there will come a future when the Son of the Gods, he who sits upon the horse, will come and who, as king adorned with the crown, will bring the revelation of what is hidden in the book with the seven seals. This is a mystery that is everywhere to be found. I have only been able to indicate it in an entirely external way. But today it is still a mystery that can be experienced and beheld only by an Apocalyptist, but in the future times will be unveiled within us, just as John has revealed and written down for us the unsealing of the old world. Then we shall realize that it points to the time when the Elders, the Fathers, receive the revelation of what underlies this mystery and is revealed at its unsealing.
Quote from Rev. VI:1-3: “And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, come and see. And I saw, and beheld a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, come and see.”
This is repeated four times. The unsealing of the mystery of the Fathers, as it is contained in Christianity, is of all words spoken in the Mysteries, the most significant. Whence comes man? Whither does his development lead? From the Father to the Father. This is revealed through the Mediator: “No one cometh to the Father save through me.”
The whole of world evolution, that of the past and that of the future, actually comes to expression in the Apocalypse. Even these indications are of the most elementary kind. We must first be able to employ the words of the Apocalypse in their true meaning. We shall learn more and more from them.
Today I only wanted to call forth a feeling that by steeping oneself in this work one realizes that its depths are inexhaustible. Of this I can assure you: The Apocalypse is one of those writings in the face of which we learn true humility, true piety, and through which we learn what the Indian esotericist calls Faith (Glauben). There is an experience which imparts this Faith to us in the deepest sense, and it is the following: After we have made efforts to understand such a writing, we believe, to begin with, that we know a little about it. But when we try to go into it still more deeply, as deeply as our powers allow, we find that our earlier interpretation was utterly childish. We realize that only now do we rightly understand what is said. And having done this and after a lapse of time again take up the book, the same experience is repeated. When this has happened several times, Shradda (Faith) comes to us. We steep ourselves again and again in such a writing, finding in it ever greater depths. That is the inexhaustible fount of such writings, which we can read with unshakable confidence but can never come to an end of their meaning. This is at the same time an urge to be humble in our attitude toward such writings, to delve into them more and more deeply. It will be clear to us then that if a really profound explanation seems to have been found, it will become ever more profound in time to come. From this springs the consciousness that the greatest treasures given to man do not stem from human imperfection but from divine perfection, for this is verily divine wisdom, revelation of divine wisdom. Documents of wisdom are given to us in these books. Our understanding of them is still feeble, for these writings come to us not from men, not from below, but from above, through the Gods. We have to develop to their heights. This gives the esotericist a feeling of the truth of words which must become part of his very life, must be his guiding maxim, and which must permeate theosophists ever more deeply. For it is not dogmatic knowledge, not doctrinal knowledge, that makes a man a theosophist, but the fact that he is steeped through and through with the wisdom of this utterance, that his whole attitude of mind and feeling is filled with the wisdom which it contains: The Highest — it is given from the Primal Beginning; The Highest — it will be understood through man at the end of the days.
Friday, March 27, 2020
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, April 3, 1917:
Building Stones for an Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Lecture 2 of 10.
The Mystery of Golgotha, for which I have already prepared the ground in recent lectures, will be the subject of our enquiry today.
Let us recall the main points for consideration. I mentioned on the last occasion that in order to arrive at a true understanding of the world we must study the tripartite division of the cosmos and man in the light of the three principles of body, soul, and spirit. It is most important to be aware of this fact at the present time, especially in the field of Anthroposophy. I should like to remind you that this idea of trichotomy forms the central theme of my book Theosophy. No doubt you have all read this book and will know that this idea forms the nucleus of the whole book. I quote the relevant passage:
“The spirit is eternal; the body is subject to life and death in accordance with the laws of the physical world; the soul-life which is subject to destiny mediates between these two (body and spirit) during life on Earth.”
Now at the time of the publication of this book I felt it was necessary to define clearly this idea of trichotomy. For by laying special, even decisive, emphasis upon this idea we are really in a position today to understand the cosmos and at the same time to understand the central event of our Earth evolution: the Mystery of Golgotha.
In my last lecture I spoke of the solid body of opposition we encounter today when we set out to study both cosmos and man in the light of the threefold principle of body, soul, and spirit, not simply as something of secondary importance but as the central theme of our study. I have shown how the idea of the spirit was lost in the course of the spiritual evolution of the West. I mentioned that the idea of the spirit was proscribed by the eighth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople and that this proscription not only influenced the development of religious ideas and sentiments, but left a deep impression upon the thinking of recent times. In consequence there are few modern philosophers who are able to distinguish clearly between soul and spirit. And even among those who imagine themselves to be objective, one encounters everywhere the dogmatic assertion, stemming from the eighth Ecumenical Council, that man consists of body and soul alone. He who is familiar with the spiritual life of the West, not only as it is reflected in the more superficial realms of philosophy but as it has implanted itself in the thinking and feeling of all men, even of those who have not the slightest interest in philosophical ideas, sees everywhere the effects of the proscription of the idea of the spirit. And when, in recent times, a tendency developed to draw upon certain aspects of the wisdom teaching of the East as a corrective to Western teachings, the borrowings were presented in such a light that one would scarcely suspect that the cosmos and man are founded on the threefold principle of body, soul, and spirit. For in the division of man into gross body, etheric body, and astral body, derived purely from astral observation — Sthula Sharira, Linga Sharira — Prâna as it was then called — Kâma, Kâma-Manas, and the various other divisions introduced from the East — in all these divisions, which are an arbitrary collocation of seven principles, there is no indication of what should be regarded as of vital importance: namely, that our “Weltanschauung” should be permeated with this idea of trichotomy.
There is no doubt that this idea of man's threefold nature has been suppressed. The spirit, it is true, has often been a focus of discussion today, but the discussions are little more than empty words. People are unable to distinguish nowadays between mere words and realities. Hence many expositions are taken seriously which are little more than a farrago of words, such as the philosophy of Eucken.
We cannot understand the essential nature of the Mystery of Golgotha if we decide to reject the tripartite division of man. As I pointed out in my last lecture, the abolition of the spirit was first decreed by the eighth Ecumenical Council, but preparations had been underway for some time. The ultimate abolition of the spirit is connected with a necessary stage in the spiritual evolution of the West. We shall perhaps be able to approach the Mystery of Golgotha most easily from the standpoint of the tripartite division of man if we recall how Aristotle, the leading representative of Greek thought, envisaged the soul. The Middle Ages were also dominated by Aristotelian philosophy, and though people are unwilling to admit it, modern thought still draws upon the concepts of the Middle Ages. Furthermore, the later evolution of thought was already anticipated in Aristotle a few centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha, and it was with the help of his ideas that the leading minds of the Middle Ages sought to understand the Mystery of Golgotha. These things are of paramount importance and we must really make an effort to investigate them with an open mind.
What was Aristotle's conception of the human soul? I will tell you as briefly as possible the Greek view of the soul as presented by an enlightened mind such as Aristotle. His conception of the soul — and we have here the views of the most famous European of the fourth century B.C. — was roughly as follows.
When an individual incarnates he owes his physical existence to his father and mother. But he owes only his physical inheritance to his parents. The whole man, according to Aristotle, could never come into being solely through the union of father and mother, for this whole man is endowed with a soul. Now, one part of the soul — let us remember that Aristotle distinguishes two parts of the soul — is tied to the physical body, expresses itself through the body, and apprehends the external world through sense-perception. This part of the soul arises as a necessary byproduct of man's parental inheritance. The spiritual part of the soul, on the other hand — the “Active Reason,” as Aristotle calls it, which participates through intellection in the spiritual life of the Universe, in the “nous” — is immaterial and immortal and could never come into being through parental inheritance, but solely through the participation of God — or the “Divine,” as Aristotle calls it — in the procreation of man through the parents.
It is thus that the whole man comes into existence. The whole man is born of the cooperation of God with the father and mother, and it is most important to realize that Aristotle understands the word “man” in this sense. From God man receives his spiritual soul, or “Active Reason,” as Aristotle calls it. This “Active Reason,” which comes into being with each individual through divine cooperation, evolves during life between birth and death. When man passes through the gate of death the physical body is given over to the Earth, and, with the body, the lower part of the soul, the “Passive Reason” in Aristotelian terminology, which is associated with the physical organism. The spiritual part of the soul, the “Active Reason,” on the other hand, subsists, according to Aristotle, and when “separated, appears just as it is” — withdraws to a world remote from the phenomenal world and enjoys immortality. Now, this immortal life is such that the man who performed good deeds while in the body is able to look back upon the fruits of his good deeds, but cannot change the karma of his past actions. We only understand Aristotle aright when we interpret his ideas as implying that through all eternity the soul looks back on the good or evil it has wrought.
In the nineteenth century especially, scholars were at pains to grasp this idea, for the style of Aristotle is economical to the point of obscurity. In his controversy with Eduard Zeller, the late Franz Brentano [original note 1] endeavored throughout his life to gather every scrap of evidence which could throw light upon Aristotle's conception of the relationship between the spiritual part of man and the whole man. Aristotle's views passed over into the philosophy which was taught throughout the Middle Ages down to recent times and which is still taught in certain ecclesiastical circles today. Franz Brentano, who was actively interested in these ideas, in so far as they stemmed from Aristotle, came to the following conclusion.
The mind of Aristotle, which by virtue of its inherent disposition toward reflective thought transcended the limitations of materialism, could not have subscribed to the notion that the spiritual part of the soul was in any way material or could have evolved from man's parental inheritance. There were only two possible ways, therefore, Brentano thought, in which Aristotle could envisage the soul. On the one hand: to accept the idea that the spiritual part of the soul was a direct creation of God working in conjunction with the parental inheritance, so that the spiritual part of the soul arose through divine influence upon the human embryo and that this spiritual part did not perish at death, but entered upon eternal life. What other possibility was open to Aristotle, Brentano asks, if he rejected this idea? And he believed that Aristotle was right to accept this idea. There was only a second possibility; a third did not exist — and this was to admit not only the post-existence, but also the pre-existence of the soul before birth or conception. Now, Brentano realized clearly that once we admit the possibility that the soul exists before conception then we are forced to concede that the soul does not experience a single incarnation only, but undergoes successive incarnations. And since, in later life, Aristotle rejects palingenesis, i.e. reincarnation, he had no option but to accept creationism, the doctrine that the soul is created ex nihilo with each embryonic life. This accepts post-existence, but denies pre-existence. Franz Brentano, who had been a priest, may be regarded as one of the last representatives of the positive side of Aristotelian scholastic philosophy. He thought it was eminently reasonable on the part of Aristotle to reject the doctrine of reincarnation and to recognize only creationism and post-existence.
And this view, despite its many modifications, forms the core of all Christian philosophy in so far as this philosophy rejects the idea of reincarnation. It is a strange phenomenon, both touching and tragic, to see how such an eminent scholar as Franz Brentano, who had resigned from the ministry, resolutely strove to clarify his ideas about creationism and yet could not bridge the gap which separated him from the doctrine of reincarnation. What was the reason for this? It was evident that, despite his profound erudition, despite the vigor and acuity of his mind, the door to the spirit was closed to him. He could never attain to the idea of the spirit or recognize the spirit as separate from the soul. It is not possible to attain to the idea of the spirit without accepting the idea of reincarnation. The idea of reincarnation is inseparable from the idea of the spirit. In Aristotle's day the idea of the spirit had already begun to decline. In the key passages of Aristotle's writings we observe that when he touches upon the question of preexistence he becomes obscure or ambiguous.
All this is connected with something of the greatest importance, something which carries profound implications, namely, that a few centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha man had entered upon a stage of evolution when something akin to a mist shrouded the soul whenever the spirit was mentioned. This mist was not so dense then as it is now, but the first signs of the corruption of man's thinking in matters of the spirit were already manifest at that time. And this is connected with the fact that in the course of time mankind had undergone an evolutionary process. Over the centuries man's soul had changed and was no longer the same as it had been in primeval times. Because man possessed atavistic clairvoyance in those remote times he had direct experience of the spirit. He could no more doubt the existence of the spirit than he could doubt the existence of the phenomenal world. It was simply a question of the degree of spiritual perception he could attain. That it was possible to find the path to the spirit in past ages was never in doubt. Nor was there ever any doubt that during the life between birth and death the spirit dwelt in the souls of men so that by virtue of this spiritual endowment the human soul could participate in divine life. And this conviction which was founded on an immediate awareness of the spirit was at all times expressed in the cult of the Mysteries. It is a remarkable fact that one of the earliest Greek philosophers, Heraclitus, speaks of the Mysteries in such a way that we realize he is aware that in olden times they were of immense importance to mankind, but that they had already fallen into desuetude. Thus enlightened Greeks had already begun in the fifth century B.C. to speak of the decline of the Mysteries.
Rites of various kinds were enacted in the Mysteries, but it is only the central idea of these Mysteries which is of particular interest to us today. Let us dwell for a moment on this central idea of the Mysteries as they were practised up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and as late as the reign of the Emperor Julian the Apostate. In recent times attention has been called to the anti-Christian nature of many aspects of these Mystery cults. It has been pointed out that what we know as the “Easter Legend”, the keynote to the Passion, the Death and Resurrection of Christ, can be found everywhere in the Mysteries. And the conclusion drawn from this was that the Christian Easter Mystery was simply a transference of the ancient pagan myth and ritual cults to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed these legends and rites were so alike that many no longer questioned their identity and said: “What the Christians say of Christ, that He suffered, was crucified and rose again, that His resurrection gave promise of hope and salvation for man — all these Christian ideas are to be found in the Mystery cults!” Pagan usages, they claimed, had been collected together, fused into the “Easter Legend” and transferred to the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Indeed in recent times people have gone even further. Strangely enough, even in the sphere of orthodox Christianity — one need only recall certain (Protestant) sects in Bremen — there was no longer any interest in the historicity of Jesus. They said that the various Mystery cults and legends had been collected over the years and had been centralized, so to speak, and that in the early Christian community the Christ legend had been developed out of them. I recall a discussion which took place here in Berlin a few years ago. During the tragic years of recent times past events have become unreal and seem a distant memory, although the discussion took place only a few years ago. In the course of this discussion the official representatives of Christianity declared that the real issue was not the historical Jesus, but simply the “Idea of Christ” which arose in the primitive Christian community through the impact of divers social impulses.
Now, in studying the pagan Mystery cults there is always a dangerous temptation to compare them with the Christian Easter Mystery. Let me illustrate this by a faithful description of the Phrygian Easter festivals. In addition to the Phrygian festivals I could also cite other festivals, for these were equally widespread. In a letter to the sons of Constantine, Firmicus (note 1) gives the following account of the Phrygian Easter festival. The statue of the God Attis was bound to the trunk of a fir tree and carried around in solemn procession at midnight. Then the sufferings of the God were re-enacted. At the same time a lamb was placed at the foot of the tree. At dawn the resurrection of the God was proclaimed. While on the previous night when the God was bound to the tree and seemingly given over to death the multitude broke out in wild lamentations as was customary during the ritual, now, when the resurrection of the God was announced at sunrise the lugubrious chants were suddenly transformed into wild outbursts of joy. The statue of the God, Firmicus tells us, was buried elsewhere. During the night when the melancholy dirges reached their climax, a light shone in the darkness and the tomb was opened. The God had risen. And the priest addressed the assembled populace in these words: “Take comfort, ye faithful, for the God is saved and ye too will be saved.”
There is no denying that these religious festivals, celebrated untold centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha, show great similarity to the Easter Mystery of Christianity. Because this idea was so attractive many believed that these ideas of the suffering, death and resurrection of the God were widespread and had been, to some extent, welded into a unity under Christian influence and transferred to Jesus of Nazareth.
Now, it is important to understand the real origin of these pagan, pre-Christian rites. They date far back into the past and sprang from those profound and original insights into the nature of man and his relation to the cosmos as revealed through atavistic clairvoyance. Of course at the time when the Phrygian festivals were celebrated, people did not understand their real meaning any more than the Freemasons of today understand the significance of the rites they practice. Nonetheless all these ceremonies date back to a time when an ancient wisdom — a grandiose knowledge of the universe and man — existed, a knowledge which is exceedingly difficult to understand today. Remember that not only is man dependent upon his environment in relation to his physical body, but that his spirit and soul also are an integral part of his environment. He draws on his environment for his ideas and representations, they become routine responses, second nature, to him and for various reasons he cannot escape them. Therefore with the best will in the world it is difficult to understand certain knowledge which, for reasons I have already mentioned, has been lost in the course of the spiritual evolution of mankind.
The natural science of today — there is no need to repeat my admiration for its achievements, though I harbor certain reservations about it — is concerned only with the superficial aspect of things. It can make only a minimal contribution to an understanding of their true nature. It is true that science has made great advances in certain spheres — but it all depends upon what one understands by “great advances.” The invention of wireless telegraphy and many other discoveries which are important contributions to our life today are certainly deserving of admiration. But, one may ask, where does that take us? If we were to pursue this question we should come face to face with what is forbidden territory today. Modern science naturally considers the primordial wisdom, the last corrupt remnants of which survived in the Mystery cults I have mentioned, to be sheer folly. That may well be. But what is foolishness in the eyes of men may often be wisdom in the sight of God.
True insight into the nature of the universe and man discloses, among other things — I propose today to emphasize those aspects which are important for an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha — a certain conception of the human organism which modern science regards as the height of absurdity, i.e. that the human organism is fundamentally different from the animal organism. (I have already mentioned many of these differences, but today I will confine myself to the difference which bears upon the Mystery of Golgotha.) When we make a serious study of the animal organism in the light of Spiritual Science we find that it bears within it the seeds of death. In other words, spiritual investigation when applied to the animal organism recognizes that, by virtue of its constitution, this organism must inevitably suffer death, that it disintegrates and finally returns to the mineral kingdom. The death of an animal is not something mysterious and inexplicable. When we study its organism we realize that, for the animal, death is as natural to it (i.e. the organism) as the need for food and drink. That death is a necessity for the animal lies in the nature of its organism.
This is not the case with man, for his organism is differently constituted. Here we touch upon a sphere that must remain a total enigma to modern science. When we study the human organism in the light of Spiritual Science we find nothing in the human organism itself which suggests that death is inevitable. We must accept death in man as something he experiences and which cannot be explained, for, originally, neither man nor his physical organism were made for death. The fact that death occurs in man from within cannot be explained from the being of man itself. The inner being as such provides no explanation of death.
I realize that this view will be regarded as folly by the scientific pundits of today. Generally speaking it is extremely difficult to arrive at an understanding of these problems, for they touch upon profound mysteries. And even today, if we wish to understand these problems we can only treat of them after the fashion of Saint-Martin [original note 2] in his book Des Erreurs et de la Vérité. In an important passage, when speaking of the evolutionary consequences that follow from a supernal event that took place in the spiritual world before man first incarnated on the physical plane, he wrote the following words, which will be readily understood by everyone who is familiar with such matters:
“However much I may desire to enlighten you, the obligations I have undertaken do not permit me to comment in any way upon this subject; and furthermore, I, for my part, would rather blush for man's transgressions than speak of them.”
For Saint-Martin is here alluding to a transgression committed by man before his first incarnation on Earth. He was forbidden to speak of this openly. But today we are in a position to speak of many things that Saint-Martin could not discuss in his time — not because mankind has progressed since that time, but for other reasons. But if we were to discuss a truth such as “man is not intended to die”, together with all the relevant factors, we would have to touch upon matters which may not be disclosed today. Man is not born to die, and yet he dies! These words express something which is obviously an absurdity to the pundits of modern science, but which, to those who seek to penetrate to a true understanding of the world, must be reckoned among the most profound mysteries.
This realization that man was not born to die and yet dies, lies concealed in those ancient Mysteries, including the Attis Mysteries which I have already mentioned. Man looked to the Mysteries for an answer to this enigma that man was not born to die and yet dies. Now, why were the Mysteries celebrated? They were celebrated in order that man should be reminded afresh each year of something he wished to hear, something he wished to experience and realize within his soul. He wished to be reassured that the time had not yet come when he would have to face the inexplicable problem of his death. What did the neophyte hope for from the Attis Mysteries? He had the instinctive feeling that a time would one day come when mankind would seriously have to face the reality of death, which remained an enigma. But this time had not yet come. And while the priest celebrated the death and resurrection of the god, man felt reassured and consoled, for the time had not yet come when he would have to come to terms with the reality of death.
It was common knowledge in ancient times that the event described in the first chapter of Genesis, and which is understood symbolically today, referred to a reality. The men of ancient times knew this instinctively. It was modern materialism that first outgrew the instinctive feeling that the temptation of Lucifer referred to an actual occurrence. On this question the materialist interpretation of Darwin, which is intellectually so perverse, is very far removed from the truth. This crude, perverted thinking believes that by a gradual and continual process over long periods of time man has developed from animal ancestry. In such a materialist hypothesis the story of the temptation can have no place. For only a “brow villanous low” could believe that an archetypal ape or monkey could have been tempted by Lucifer!
Instinctively men knew at the time of the Mysteries that the story of Creation concealed a fact that had once been common knowledge. They felt that man, as originally created, was not mortal. And because of this “fact” they felt that something had entered into his physical organism and had corrupted it, and so opened the doors to mortality. Man became mortal through a moral defect, through what is called original sin. I will recur to this later. Man became mortal not after the fashion of other forms of organic life, not as the inevitable consequence of natural law, but through a moral defect. The soul was the seat of his mortality.
The animal soul as species-soul is immortal. It incarnates in the individual animal, which is mortal by virtue of its organism. The species-soul (or group-soul) relinquishes the animal organism which is subject to death without having undergone any transformation. From the outset the nature of the animal organism is such that, as individual organism, it is ordained to die. This does not apply to the human organism to the same extent. In the case of the human organism, the species-soul or group-soul which lies at the root of this organism is able to manifest in the individual man, and as independent human organism ensures him immortality. Man could only become mortal through a moral act originating in the soul. In a certain sense man had to be endowed with a soul before he could become mortal. The moment one treats these ideas as abstractions they become meaningless. We must endeavor to attain to a concrete knowledge of spiritual realities.
Now, in ancient times — and also in the period shortly before the Mystery of Golgotha — men never doubted for a moment that the soul brought death to man. The soul has evolved through the ages. In the course of this evolution the soul has progressively corrupted the organism and in consequence has worked destructively upon the organism. Man looked back to ancient times and said to himself: A moral event took place in olden times and its effect upon the soul is such that whenever the soul now incarnates, it corrupts the body. And because it corrupts the body man can no longer live between birth and death in a state of innocence. In the course of hundreds and thousands of years the condition of the soul has grown progressively worse and the body has suffered continuous corruption! Thus it is increasingly difficult for man to find his way back to the spirit. The further evolution advances, the more the body is corrupted by the soul and the more the seeds of death are sown in the body. And a time must come when it will no longer be possible for man, once he has lived his alloted span, to find his way back to the spiritual world.
In ancient times it was this moment that was anticipated with fear and dread. Men felt that after countless generations a generation would arise whose souls would so corrupt the body and sow the poisonous seeds of death that man could no longer reclaim his spiritual heritage. And this generation will one day appear, they said. And they wanted to be reassured whether this fatal moment was drawing near, and to this end the Attis rites and similar ceremonies were enacted. At the same time they sought to discover whether the souls of men still had so much of divine plentitude that the time had not yet come when these souls had abandoned their divine heritage and could no longer find their way back to the spirit. Great importance therefore was attached to the words of the priest when he said: “Take comfort, ye faithful; the God is saved, your salvation is assured!” With these words the priest wished to indicate that God was still active in the world, that the souls of men had not yet severed all connection with the divine. The priest sought to comfort the people, saying: “The resurrection of the God is ever renewed. The God is still within you.”
When we touch upon these questions we become aware of the deep, unplumbed depth of feelings and emotions which were once characteristic of a particular epoch in the evolution of man. Today man has not the slightest inkling of the inner conflicts with which these men of earlier times had to wrestle. Though they may have been totally illiterate and have known nothing of what we call culture today, yet they could not escape these feelings. And in the Mystery schools, which preserved the old traditions derived from ancient clairvoyant insight, the neophytes were told that if evolution were to continue unchanged, if the effects of original sin were to be prolonged, then a time would come when the souls of men would turn from God to a world of materialism of their own creation, and would progressively corrupt the physical body and rapidly hasten the process of death. These souls would remain earthbound and be relegated to limbo; they would be lost. But since these schools still preserved a knowledge of the spirit, the knowledge of the trichotomy of man still survived. What I am speaking of at the moment, the seminaries, applied to the soul and not to the spirit. For the spirit is eternal and follows its own laws. From their spiritual insight people knew that the soul would be relegated to limbo, but the spirit would reappear in ever repeated Earth-lives. A time in the evolution of the world was approaching when the spirits of men would incarnate anew and would look back upon the lost Paradise which once had existed on Earth. Souls would be lost, never to return. Spirits would reincarnate in bodies which they would activate after the fashion of automata. And the way in which this was done would be neither felt nor experienced by the soul.
But what, on the other hand, were the feelings bf those who were drawn to the Christian Easter Mystery? They felt that unless the Earth received a new impulse, then, in future incarnations, man would be born without a soul. They awaited something that Earth evolution could not achieve of itself, something that was destined to enter earthly life from without, namely the Mystery of Golgotha. They awaited the incarnation of a being who would save the souls of men from death. There was no need to save the spirit from death, but it was imperative to save the soul. This being, who entered Earth evolution from without by incarnation in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, was recognized as the Christ who had come to save the souls of men. Men were now able to unite spiritually with the Christ, so that through this union the soul loses its power to corrupt the body, and all that they had lost since the Fall could gradually be recovered. That is why the Mystery of Golgotha must be regarded as the central point in human evolution. From the Fall until the Mystery of Golgotha, man experienced a progressive decline of his spiritual forces. The forces of corruption had increasingly invaded his soul and threatened to make man an automaton of the spirit. And from the Mystery of Golgotha until the end of the Earth cycle all that was lost before the Mystery of Golgotha will gradually be retrieved once more. Thus, at the conclusion of Earth evolution, the spirits of men will incarnate in the physical body for the last time and these bodies will once again be immortal. It was in expectation of this redemption that men understood the Mystery of Easter.
Before this could be realized it was necessary to overcome the power which had caused the moral corruption of the soul; and this power was overcome by the decisive event on Golgotha. How did the early Christians who still possessed occult knowledge understand the last words of Christ on the Cross? They were living in expectation of an external event that would bring to an end this corrupting influence of the soul. The cry of Christ on the Cross— “It is finished” — was a sign to them that the time had now come when the corrupting power of the soul was a thing of the past. It was a miraculous event fraught with vast and unsuspected mysteries. For tremendous questions are involved when we think about the Mystery of Golgotha. When we pursue our studies further we shall find that it is impossible to think of the Mystery of Golgotha without also thinking of the Risen Christ. The Risen Christ — that is the essential. And in one of his most profound utterances St. Paul says: “If Christ be not risen, then all our faith is vain.” The Risen Christ is unique to Christianity and is inseparable from Christianity. The death of Christ is also an integral part of Christianity. But how is this death portrayed? And how must it be portrayed? An innocent man was put to death, He suffered and died. Those who crucified Him clearly bear a heavy burden of guilt, for He who died was innocent. What was the significance of this guilt for mankind? It brought them salvation. For had Christ not died upon the Cross, mankind could not have been saved. In the Crucifixion we are confronted by a unique event. The death of Christ on the Cross was the greatest boon bestowed upon mankind (cf. John XI, 49–52). And the heaviest guilt that mankind has taken upon itself is this, that Christ was crucified. Thus the heaviest guilt coincides with the greatest good fortune.
The superficial mind no doubt will pay little attention to this. But for those who probe deeper, this question is fraught with profound mystery. The most heinous crime in the history of the world proved to be the salvation of mankind. We must understand this enigma, or at least try to understand it, if we are to comprehend the Mystery of Golgotha. And the key to the solution of this enigma is found in the exemplary words spoken by Christ on the Cross: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” The right understanding of these words provides the answer to the cardinal question: Why did the most heinous crime become the source of the salvation of mankind?
If you reflect upon this you will realize that one must take into account the trichotomy of man in order to understand the Mystery of Golgotha. For Christ died in order to redeem the souls of men. He reclaims the souls of men that would have been lost but for His advent. Morality would have vanished from the Earth, and the spirit inhabiting a body that reacted mechanically would have been the victim of necessity in which morality has no place. Mankind would have been unable to have psychic experiences. The mission of Christ was to bring man back to God. It is not surprising, therefore, that three centuries before Christ, Aristotle, a most enlightened Greek, failed to understand the nature of the soul and its relation to the spirit at a time when the crisis of man's soul was at hand. There were many discrepancies in Aristotle's view of the soul, since he could not have known of the coming of the Savior, and it is not surprising therefore that his views of the soul were illogical. How is one to account for the fact that the erroneous conceptions of Aristotle concerning the relationship of soul and spirit persisted so long? The significance of Christ for the souls of men is that He demonstrates once again that man is a threefold being of body, soul, and spirit and that an inner relationship exists between objective events and moral events. And we shall never fully understand this relationship unless we accept the idea of the trichotomy of man.
If we wish to arrive in some measure at an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha we must penetrate to the inmost recesses of the human soul. In the present lecture I have only been able to offer an introduction to this theme. I believe that it is our immediate concern to speak of these things at the present time. We must take advantage of this Easter festival to enquire more closely into these matters in so far as it is possible today. Perhaps it may be possible thereby to awaken in us much that may one day be a seed that will only mature in future time. For it is only gradually that we come to realize that we are living in an age when there are many things we cannot fully comprehend. This is evident from the difficulty men experience today in developing a clear and conscious understanding of events that are imminent. Unfortunately it is not possible to indicate, even briefly, how one should understand in clear consciousness the painful event of which the people of Europe, or at least of Central Europe, have only recently been informed. [original note 4] Today we are only half aware of these things.
I only wanted to touch upon certain questions today in order to relate them in my next lecture to the Mystery of Golgotha.
NOTES BY TRANSLATORNote 1. Firmicus. His full name was Julius Firmicus Maturnus. A Sicilian priest of the fourth century. The reference is the “De errore profanorum religionum” A.D. 347. (German translation by A. Müller, 1913.)