Tuesday, May 11, 2021

What the world needs now is the new Christianity: Anthroposophy


Karmic Relationships. Lecture 71 of 82

Rudolf Steiner, London, August 27, 1924:

If we look back over the evolution of mankind since the Mystery of Golgotha, we get the impression that Christianity, the Christ Impulse, has only been able to live on within the European and American civilisations in the face of definite obstacles and in association with other streams of spiritual life. And a study of the growth and gradual development of Christianity reveals many remarkable facts.

To-day I want to describe in broad outlines the growth and development of Christianity in connection with what ought to live within the Anthroposophical Society: and not only ought to, but can live, because those persons who feel an honest and sincere urge towards Anthroposophy, have this urge from the very depths of their being.

If we take the facts of repeated earthly lives in all seriousness, we shall say: This inner urge to get away from the conceptions and habits of thought of those among whom life, education and social relationships have placed us, this urge that we feel to enter a stream of thought which really makes claims upon our life of soul, must have its origin in karma, in the karma coming from earlier lives on earth.

Now if we study the question of karma in connection with those personalities who find themselves together in the Anthroposophical Movement, it transpires that, without exception, before their present earthly life they have had one other important incarnation since the Mystery of Golgotha. They were already on earth once since the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and are now there for the second time since that Event.

And then the great question arises: How has the previous earthly life, with respect to the Mystery of Golgotha, worked upon these personalities who now, out of their karma, feel the urge to enter the Anthroposophical Movement?

Even from exoteric study we find that men standing as firmly within the stream of Christianity itself as St. Augustine, have said: “Christianity did not begin with Christ; there were Christians before Christ, only they were not so called.” This is what St. Augustine says.

Those who penetrate more deeply into the spiritual mysteries of human evolution and can study these spiritual mysteries with Initiation Science, will strongly confirm such a view as is expressed by St. Augustine, for it is a fact. But it becomes necessary, then, to know in what form that which through the Mystery of Golgotha became the historical Christ Impulse upon the earth, existed in earlier times.

To-day I can speak of this earlier form of Christianity by starting from impressions which came in a place not far distant from Torquay (where our Summer Course has been held), in Tintagel, whence proceeded the spiritual stream connected with King Arthur. It was possible to receive the impressions which can still come to-day at the spot where King Arthur's castle with its Round Table stood — impressions which come above all from the magnificent natural surroundings of this castle.

At this place where nothing but ruins remain of the old citadel of King Arthur, where we look back as if in memory across the centuries that have elapsed since the Arthur stream went out from thence, we realise how stone after stone has so crumbled away that there is hardly anything to be recognised of the old castles which once were inhabited by King Arthur and those around him. But when with the eye of spirit we look out from the place where the castle once stood, over the sea with its iridescent colours and breaking waves, the impression we get is that we are able at this place to penetrate deeply into the elemental secrets of nature and of the cosmos.

Diagram 1

And if we look back with occult sight, if we can visualise the point of time which lies a few thousand years ago, when the Arthur stream had its beginning, then we see that those who lived on Arthur's Mount had, as is the case with all such occult centres, chosen this spot because the impulses necessary for the tasks they had set themselves, for their mission in the world, needed the play of those forces which nature there displayed before them.

I cannot say whether it is always so, but when I saw the view there was a most wonderful play of waves surging and rippling up from the depths — in itself one of the most beautiful sights in all nature. These waves hurl themselves against the walls of rock and as they fall back again in seething foam the elementary spirits are able to rise up from below and come to living expression. From above, the sunlight is reflected in manifold forms in the waves of the air. This interplay of elemental nature from above and from below reveals the full power of the Sun and displays it in such a way that man is able to receive it into his being. Those who can imbibe what is given by this interplay of the beings born of the light above and the beings born in the depths below, receive the power of the Sun, the impulse of the Sun. It is a moment in which man can unfold what I will call “piety” — piety in the pagan sense. Christian piety is not the same as pagan piety which means inner surrender to the gods of nature working and weaving everywhere in the play of nature.

Those who lived around King Arthur absorbed this play of weaving, working nature into their very being. And most significant of all was what they were able to receive in the first centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha.

I want to tell you to-day about the character of this spiritual life that was connected with such centres as that of King Arthur's Round Table. And I must begin by speaking of something that is known to you all.

When a human being dies, he leaves his physical body and still has his etheric body around him for a few days. After these few days have elapsed he lays aside his etheric body and lives on then in his astral body and Ego. What happens thus to the man who has passed through the gate of death, appears to the eye of vision as if the etheric being were dissolving. After death the etheric human being expands and expands, his actual form becoming more and more indefinite as he weaves himself into the cosmos.

A remarkable phenomenon, and the exact opposite of this other, occurred in the world-historic sense when the Mystery of Golgotha took place. What was it that happened then? Up to that time Christ had been a Sun Being, had belonged to the Sun. Before the Mystery of Golgotha had come to pass, the Knights of King Arthur's Round Table stood on these rocks, gazed at the play between the Sun-born spirits and the Earth-born spirits, and felt that the forces living in this play of nature-spirits poured into their hearts and above all through their etheric bodies. Therewith they received into themselves the Christ Impulse which was then streaming away from the Sun and was living in everything that is brought into being by the Sun-forces.

And so, before the Mystery of Golgotha, the Knights of King Arthur received into themselves the Sun-Spirit, that is to say, the Christ as He was in pre-Christian times. And they sent their messengers out into all Europe to subdue the wild savagery of the astral bodies of the peoples of Europe, to purify and to civilise, for such was their mission. We see such men as these Knights of King Arthur's Round Table starting from this point in the West of England to bear to the peoples of Europe as they were at that time, what they had received from the Sun, purifying the astral forces of the then barbarous European population — barbarous at all events in Central and Northern Europe.

Then came the Mystery of Golgotha. What happened in Asia? Over yonder in Asia, the sublime Sun Being, Who was later known as the Christ, left the Sun. This betokened a kind of death for the Christ Being. He went forth from the Sun as we human beings go forth from the earth when we die. And as a man who dies leaves his physical body behind on the earth and his etheric body which is laid aside after three days is visible to the seer, so Christ left behind Him in the Sun that which in my book Theosophy is called “Spirit-Man,” the seventh member of the human being.

Christ died to the Sun. He died cosmically, from the Sun to the earth. He came down to the earth. From the moment of Golgotha onwards His Life-Spirit was to be seen around the earth. We ourselves leave behind at death the Life-Ether, the etheric body, the life-body. After this cosmic Death, Christ left His Spirit-Man on the Sun, and around the earth, His Life-Spirit. So that after the Mystery of Golgotha the earth was swathed as it were by the Life-Spirit of the Christ.

Now the connections between places are not the same in the spiritual life as they are in physical life. The Life-Spirit of the Christ was perceived in the Irish Mysteries, in the Mysteries of Hibernia; and above all by the Knights of King Arthur's Round Table. So, up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, the Christ Impulse belonging to the Sun actually went out from this place where the impulses were received from the Sun. Afterwards the power of the Knights diminished but they lived at the time within this Life-Spirit which encircled the earth and in which there was this constant interplay of light and air, of the Spirits in the Elements from above and from below.

Try to picture to yourselves the cliff with King Arthur's castle upon it and from above the Sun-forces playing down in the light and air, and pouring upwards from below the elementary beings of the earth. There is a living interplay between Sun and earth.

In the centuries which followed the Mystery of Golgotha this all took place within the Life-Spirit of the Christ. So that in the play of nature between sea and rock, air and light, there was revealed, as it were in spiritual light, the Event of Golgotha.

Understand me rightly, my dear friends. If in the first five centuries of our era men looked out over the sea, and had been prepared by the exercises practised by the twelve who were around King Arthur and who were concerned above all with the Mysteries of the Zodiac, if they looked out over the sea they could see not merely the play of nature but they could begin to read a meaning in it just as one reads a book instead of merely staring at it. And as they looked and saw, here a gleam of light, there a curling wave, here the sun mirrored on a rocky cliff, there the sea dashing against the rocks, it all became a flowing, weaving picture — a truth whose meaning could be deciphered. And when they deciphered it they knew of the spiritual Fact of the Mystery of Golgotha. The Mystery of Golgotha was revealed to them because the picture was all irradiated by the Life-Spirit of Christ presented to them by nature.

Diagram 2

Yonder in Asia the Mystery of Golgotha had taken place and its impulse had penetrated deeply into the hearts and souls of men. We need only think of those who became the first Christians to realise what a change had come about in their souls. While all this of which I have been telling you was happening in the West, the Christ Himself, the Christ Who had come down to earth leaving His Spirit-Man on the Sun and His Life-Spirit in the atmosphere around the earth, bringing down His Ego and His Spirit-Self to the earth — the Christ was moving from East to West in the hearts of men, through Greece, Northern Africa, Italy, Spain, across Europe. The Christ worked here in the hearts of men, while over in the West He was working through nature.

And so on the one hand we have the story of the Mystery of Golgotha, legible in the Book of Nature for those who were able to read it, working from West to East. It represented, as it were, the science of the higher graduates of King Arthur's Round Table. And on the other hand we have a stream flowing from East to West, not in wind and wave, in air and water, not over hills or in the rays of the Sun, but flowing through the blood, laying hold of the hearts of men on its course from Palestine through Greece into Italy and Spain.

The one stream flows through nature; the other through the blood and the hearts of men. These two streams flow to meet one another. The pagan stream is still working, even to-day. It bears the pre-Christian Christ, the Christ Who was proclaimed as a Sun Being by those who were Knights of the Round Table, but also by many others before the Mystery of Golgotha actually took place. The pre-Christian Christ was carried through the world by this stream even in the age of the Mystery of Golgotha. And a great deal of this wisdom was carried forth into the world by the stream known as that of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It is possible, even to-day, to discover these things. There is a pagan Christianity, a Christianity that is not directly bound up with the actual historical Event of Golgotha.

And coming upwards to meet this stream there is the form of Christianity that is connected directly with the Mystery of Golgotha, flowing through the blood, through the hearts and souls of men. Two streams come to meet one another — the pre-Christian Christ stream, etherealised as it were, and the Christian Christ stream. The one is known, subsequently, as the Arthur stream; the other as the Grail stream. Later on they came together; they came together in Europe, above all in the spiritual world.

How can we describe this movement? The Christ Who descended through the Mystery of Golgotha drew into the hearts of men. In the hearts of men He passed from East to West, from Palestine, through Greece, across Italy and Spain. The Christianity of the Grail spread through the blood and the hearts of men. The Christ took His way from East to West.

And to meet Him from the West there came the spiritual etheric Image of the Christ — the Image evoked by the Mystery of Golgotha, but still picturing the Christ of the Sun Mysteries.

Behind the scenes of world-history, sublime and wonderful events were taking place. From the West came pagan Christianity, the Arthur-Christianity, also under other names and in another form. From the East came the Christ in the hearts of men. And then the meeting takes place — the meeting between the Christ Who had Himself come down to earth and His Own Image which is brought to Him from West to East. This meeting took place in the year 869 A.D. Up to that year we have two streams, clearly distinct from one another. The one stream, more in the North, passed across Central Europe and bore the Christ as a Sun Hero, whether the name were Baldur or some other. And under the banner of Christ, the Sun Hero, the Knights of Arthur spread their culture abroad.

The other stream, rooted inwardly in the hearts of men, which later on became the Grail stream, is to be perceived more in the South, coming from the East. It bears the real Christ, Christ Himself. The other stream brings to meet it from the West a cosmic Image of the Christ. This meeting of Christ with Himself, of Christ the Brother of Humanity with Christ the Sun Hero Who is there only as it were in an Image — this meeting of Christ with His own Image took place in the 9th century.

Diagram 3

I have given you here, my dear friends, an idea of the inner happenings during the first centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha, when, as I have already said, the souls were living who are now again upon earth, and who have carried with them from their previous earthly lives the urge to come in sincerity into the Anthroposophical Movement. [See: Karmic Relationships, Vol. III.]

When we consider this significant Arthur stream from West to East, it appears to us as the stream which brings the Impulse of the Sun into earthly civilisation. In this Arthur stream is working and weaving the Michael stream as we may call it in Christian terminology, the stream in the spiritual life of humanity in which we have been living since the end of the seventies of last century. The Ruling Power, known by the name of Gabriel, who had held sway for three or four centuries in European civilisation, was succeeded at the end of the seventies of last century by Michael. And the Rulership of Michael will last for three to four centuries, weaving and working in the spiritual life of mankind. And so we have good cause at the present time to speak of the Michael streams, for we ourselves are living once again in an Age of Michael.

We find one of these Michael streams if we look back to the period immediately preceding that of the Mystery of Golgotha, to the Arthur Impulse going out from the West, from England, an Impulse which was kindled originally by the Hibernian Mysteries. And we find a still more ancient form of this Michael stream if we look back to what happened centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha, when, taking its start from Northern Greece, in Macedonia, the international, cosmopolitan stream connected with the name of Alexander the Great arose under the influence of the conception of the world that is known as the Aristotelian. What was achieved through Aristotle and Alexander in that pre-Christian age took place under the Rulership of Michael, just as now once again we are living under his Rulership. The Michael Impulse was there in the spiritual life at the time of Alexander the Great, just as it is there now, in our own time. Whenever a Michael Impulse is at work in humanity upon the earth it is always a time when that which has been founded in a centre of spiritual culture spreads abroad among many peoples of the earth and is carried into many regions, wherever it is possible to carry it.

This came to pass in pre-Christian times through the campaigns of Alexander. The achievements of Greek culture were spread among men wherever this became possible. If one had asked Alexander and Aristotle: Whence comes your impulse to spread abroad the spiritual culture of your age? — they would have spoken, though under a different name, of that same Being, Michael, who works from the Sun as the Servant of Christ. For among the Archangels who in turn rule over civilisation, Michael belongs to the Sun. Michael was Ruler in the time of Alexander and is Ruler again in our own time. The next Ruling Archangel was Oriphiel, who belongs to Saturn. His successor, the Archangel Anael, belongs to Venus. While Zachariel, the Archangel who ruled civilisation in the 4th and 5th centuries, belongs to the sphere of Jupiter. Then came Raphael, from the Mercury sphere, at the time when a form of thought connected with medicine and healing lived in the background of European civilisation. After Raphael came Samael, whose Rulership extended a little beyond the 12th century. And then came the Age of Gabriel. Samael belongs to Mars, Gabriel to the Moon. And Gabriel was once again succeeded by Michael, who belongs to the Sun sphere, in the seventies of the 19th century. Thus in rhythmic succession these seven Beings of the Hierarchy of the Archangels rule over the spiritual life of the earth.

And so as we look back — when was the last Rulership of Michael? It was in the Alexander period. It prevailed during that period when Greek civilisation was carried across to Asia and Africa, and finally concentrated in the great and influential city of Alexandria with its mighty heroes of the spiritual life.

It is a strange vista that presents itself to occult sight. In the age which lies a few centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha, we see, going Eastwards from Macedonia — that is to say, once more from West to East but this time farther to the East — we see the same stream which proceeds from the English and Irish souls in the West and which also flows from West to East. During the Alexander period, Michael was the Ruling Archangel on the earth. During the Arthur period, when Michael was working from the Sun, the influences I have described were sent down from the Sun. But what happened later on, after the Mystery of Golgotha had taken place? What happened to the kind of thought that had been carried by Alexander the Great over to Asia?

At the time when Charlemagne, in his own way, was establishing a certain form of Christian culture in Europe, Haroun al Raschid was living over yonder in Asia Minor. All the oriental wisdom and spirituality to be found at that time in architecture, in art, in science, in religion, in literature, in poetry — it was all gathered at the Court of Haroun al Raschid. And at his side there was a Counsellor, a man who was not initiated in all these arts and sciences at that time, but who had been an Initiate in earlier times, in a former life. Around these two men, Haroun al Raschid and his Counsellor, we find that all the wisdom which had been carried by Alexander into Asia, all the teachings which had been drawn from the old nature-wisdom and were imparted by Aristotle to those he was able to instruct — all this was changed. Alexandrianism and Aristotelianism were permeated and impregnated at the Court of Haroun al Raschid with Arabism, with Mohammedanism.

And then, all the learning thus permeated with Arabism was carried over into the stream of Christianity by way of Greece, but especially by way of Northern Africa, Italy and Spain. It was carried over, inculcated as it were into the world of Christendom.

But before this, Haroun al Raschid and his Counsellor had passed through the gate of death, and from that life which leads from death to a new birth they looked down on what was taking place on earth in the expeditions of the Mohammedan Moors to Spain. From the spiritual world they watched the form of culture which they themselves had promoted and which had been spread by their successors. Haroun al Raschid concentrated his attention from the spiritual world more on the regions of Greece, Italy and Spain; his Counsellor more on the stream going out from the East across the regions to the North of the Black Sea, through Russia and into Central Europe.

And now the question arises: What was the destiny of Alexander and Aristotle themselves? They were deeply bound up with the Rulership of Michael but they were not incarnated on the earth at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha.

We must try to get a clear conception of the two contrasting pictures. On the earth are those who were contemporaries of the Mystery of Golgotha. Christ comes down through the Mystery of Golgotha, becomes Man, and from then on lives in the earth-sphere. And what is happening on the Sun? On the Sun there are the souls who at that time belonged to Michael, who were living in his sphere. These souls witnessed, from the Sun, the departure of Christ from the Sun and His descent to earth. On the earth there were those who witnessed His arrival. That is the difference. The experience of those who were on earth during the Michael Rulership at the time of Alexander, was that they saw as it were the other direction of the Christ Event, namely, the departure of the Christ from the Sun. They live on — I will not now mention unimportant incarnations — and they experience, in the spiritual world, that significant point of time in the 9th century, about the year 869, when there took place the meeting of the Christ with His own Image, with His own Life-Spirit brought over from pagan, pre-Christian Christianity.

Another meeting also took place in the spiritual world, a meeting of the individualities living in Alexander the Great and in Aristotle with the individualities who had lived in Haroun al Raschid and his Counsellor. The wisdom from Asia, in a Mohammedanised form, living in Haroun al Raschid and his Counsellor after their death, came into contact, in the spiritual world, with Alexander and Aristotle. On the one side Aristotelianism and Alexandrianism, but impregnated with Mohammedanism, and on the other, the real Aristotle and the real Alexander — not a weakened form of their teachings. Alexander and Aristotle had witnessed the Mystery of Golgotha from the Sun.

Then a great spiritual exchange, a great heavenly Council, if one may call it so, took place in the spiritual world between Mohammedanised Aristotelianism and Christianised Aristotelianism which had, however, been imbued in the spiritual world with the Christian Impulse.

In the spiritual world which borders on our physical earth — it was here that Alexander and Aristotle met with Haroun al Raschid and his Counsellor and consulted together as to the further progress of Christianity in Europe, with an eye to what should come at the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century, when Michael would again have the Rulership on earth. This all took place in the light raying from that other event, namely, the meeting of Christ with His own Image. That heavenly Council was permeated by the influence of this meeting. And the lines, the threads of the spiritual life of humanity were projected with great intensity in the spiritual world which borders on the physical earth.

Below, on the earth itself, the Church Fathers gathered together in Constantinople at the Eighth Ecumenical Council, where they formulated the dogma that man does not consist of body, soul and Spirit, but only of body and soul, the soul possessing certain spiritual attributes. Trichotomy — the definition of man as body, soul and Spirit — was done away with and anyone who persisted in believing it was declared to be a heretic. The Christian Fathers in Europe never spoke of body, soul and Spirit, but only of body and soul.

The decisive event which took place in the year 869 in the super-sensible worlds as I have described it, cast its shadows down into the earthly world. The Dark Age, the Kali Yuga, received a special impetus, while what I have just described was taking place above, in the spiritual world.

Such was the real course of events. In the physical world the Council of Constantinople which eliminated the Spirit, and in the world immediately bordering on the physical, a heavenly Council such as I have described — coinciding with the meeting of Christ Himself with His own Image.

But it was known that it was a question of waiting until the new Michael Age had dawned on earth. There were, none the less, always a few Teachers who knew, even though in a somewhat decadent way, something of what takes place behind the veils of existence. There were always Teachers who knew how to present, if not always in very apt pictures, the spiritual content of the world, who could speak of what was happening in the spiritual world that is so near to the earth. And here and there these Teachers found ears willing to listen to them. Their listeners were men who learned something of true Christianity by catching here and there fragmentary words as to what would come in the 20th century after the Michael Rulership had begun once again.

In you yourselves, my dear friends, are the souls who were in incarnation at that time and listened to those who spoke of the coming Age of Michael and whose speech was influenced by impulses coming down from the heavenly Council of which I have told you.

From these experiences of a previous life in the early Christian centuries — not precisely the 9th century but before and after, chiefly before — arose the subconscious urge, when the Michael Rulership should be there once more, from the end of the 19th century onwards, to look for centres where the spiritual life is again cultivated under the influence of Michael. This impulse was rooted in the souls of those who had once heard of the teachings, who knew something of the mysteries of which we have spoken to-day.

And so the karmic urge lives in souls to find their way to that form of Christianity which was to be spread by Anthroposophy under the influence of Michael at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. What these souls had experienced in earlier times expresses itself in this incarnation in the fact that certain of them find their way to the Anthroposophical Movement.

Knowledge resulting from a converging of old pre-Christian, cosmic Christianity with inward Christian doctrines, teachings which were connected with the spiritual workings of nature and yet also with the Mystery of Golgotha, continued to be taught on earth at the time when those souls who now in this later incarnation feel themselves drawn to Anthroposophy had passed through the gates of death and were living in the spiritual world between death and a new birth. Some of them indeed came down to incarnation on the earth. The ancient teachings, with their cosmic view of Christianity, lived on, propagating traditions of the Mysteries of antiquity. This knowledge lived on in Schools in Europe like that of Chartres in the 12th century, with its great Teachers — Bernardus Sylvestris, Alanus ab Insulis and others. And the teachings lived and worked too in the great teacher of Dante, Brunetto Latini, of whom I spoke to you in the last lecture. In this way we see how there is a continuation of the knowledge in which there was still connection between cosmic Christianity and the purely human, earthly Christianity which more and more gained the supremacy on earth.

The Council held in Constantinople was an earthly, shadow-image of something that took place in the spiritual world. A constant connection was maintained between what was proceeding in the physical world and in the immediately adjacent spiritual world. And because of this, the most illustrious Teachers of Chartres felt themselves inspired by the true Alexander and the true Aristotle, although in a still stronger way by Plato and by the Platonic and Neo-Platonic thought which prevailed in the mysticism of the Middle Ages.

Something of great significance now took place. Those who had grouped themselves around Michael, and who had for the most part been incarnated at the time of Alexander, were now living in the spiritual world. Looking down from thence they saw how Christianity was evolving under the Teachers of Chartres. But they waited until these Teachers — who were the last who taught of Christianity in its cosmic aspect — they waited until these Teachers of Chartres had come up into the spiritual world. And at a certain point of time, at the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries, there gathered together in the spiritual sphere bordering on cur earth, the more definitely Platonic Teachers of Chartres and those who had in some way taken part in the heavenly Council in the year 869. There took place — if I may use trivial words of earth to describe such a sublime event — a kind of conference between the Teachers of Chartres who had just ascended into the spiritual world and were now to continue their existence there, and those who were on the point of descending to earth, among them the individualities of Alexander and Aristotle, who immediately afterwards incarnated in the Dominican Order. And then, in a body of teaching that is so misunderstood to-day but the deep significance of which ought to be realised, in Scholasticism, preparation was made for all that was to come later on in the next Age of Michael.

And now, in order that they might enter right into the heart of Christianity, the souls who belonged to the sphere of Michael, who had lived in the old Alexander time, who had not lived on earth during the first Christian centuries, or at least only in unimportant incarnations — these souls now came into incarnation in order to imbibe Christianity in the Dominican or other Orders, but mainly in the Dominican Order. Again they passed through the gate of death and continued their existence in the spiritual world.

In the 15th century and lasting on into the 16th — and it must be remembered that time-relationships are quite different in the spiritual world — there took place in the super-sensible world the great process of instruction instituted by Michael himself for those who belonged to him. A great super-sensible School was founded, a School in which Michael himself was the Teacher and in which those souls took part who had been inspired by the impulses of the Alexander Age and had later steeped themselves in Christianity in the manner described. All the discarnate souls who belonged to Michael took part in this great School in the super-sensible world during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. All the Beings of the Hierarchy of Angels, Archangels and Archai who belonged to the Michael stream, as well as many elementary beings, also took part in it.

In this super-sensible School, a wonderful review was given of the wisdom of the ancient Mysteries. Detailed knowledge in regard to the ancient Mysteries was imparted to the souls partaking in this School. They looked back to the Sun Mysteries, to the Mysteries of the other planets. But a vista of the future was given too, a vista of what should begin at the end of the 19th century in the new Age of Michael. All this passed through these souls who now, in the present Michael Age, feel drawn to the Anthroposophical Movement.

Meanwhile, on earth, the last bout of the struggle was taking place. Haroun al Raschid had incarnated again as Lord Bacon of Verulam and in this new incarnation had set the impulse of materialism on foot. The universality in the teachings of Bacon, but also his materialism, came from his incarnation as Haroun al Raschid. Bacon was the reincarnated Haroun al Raschid. The Counsellor, who had taken the other path, incarnated in the same epoch, as Amos Comenius.

And so while Christianity illumined by Aristotelian and Alexandrian thought was going through its most important phase of development in the super-sensible worlds during the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th centuries — during this very same period we find materialism being established on earth in the minds of men, established in science by Bacon, the reincarnated Haroun al Raschid, and in the realm of education by Amos Comenius, the reincarnated Counsellor of Haroun al Raschid. The two souls worked together.

When Amos Comenius and Bacon had once again passed through the gate of death, a remarkable thing came to pass in the spiritual world. After Bacon had passed through the gate of death, it happened that because of the particular mode of thinking he had adopted in his incarnation as Bacon, a whole world of “idols,” demonic idols, went forth from his etheric body, and spread themselves out in the spiritual world which was peopled by those who were the pupils of Michael.

As I have shown in my first Mystery Play, things that happen on earth work powerfully into the spiritual world. Bacon's mode of thinking on the earth worked so shatteringly into the spiritual world that it was flooded by a whole host of “idols.”

And the materialistic form of educational science inaugurated by Amos Comenius provided the sphere, the cosmic atmosphere, as it were, for the idols of Bacon. Bacon provided the idols; and just as we human beings have around us the mineral and plant kingdoms, so these idols of Bacon were surrounded by other kingdoms which were necessary to their existence. And these were provided by what Amos Comenius had instituted on earth.

The individualities who had once lived on the earth as Alexander and Aristotle set themselves to fight these demonic idols. And the conflict continued until the time when the French Revolution broke out on the earth.

The idols, the demonic idols which it had not been possible to overcome, which had as it were escaped from the fight, descended to earth and became the inspiring forces of the materialism of the 19th century with its many consequences. These forces are the inspirers of the materialism of the 19th century.

The souls who had remained behind, who with the assistance of the individualities of Aristotle and Alexander had profited by the teaching of Michael, came back to earth, bearing the impulses I have described, towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. And many of these souls can be recognised in those who come to the Anthroposophical Movement. Such is the karma of those who come to the Movement with inner sincerity.

It is a shattering experience to hear of what is happening immediately behind the events in the outer world at the present time. But it is something which, under the impulse of the Christmas Foundation at the Goetheanum must be implanted in the hearts and souls of those who call themselves Anthroposophists. It must live in their hearts and souls, and it will give them the strength to work on, for those who are Anthroposophists to-day in the true sense will feel a strong urge to come down again to the earth very soon. And with a faculty of prophecy connected with the Michael Impulse, it can be foreseen that many anthroposophical souls will come again to the earth at the end of the 20th century in order to bring to full realisation the Anthroposophical Movement which must now be established on a firm and sure foundation.

Every Anthroposophist should be moved by this knowledge: “I have in me the impulse of Anthroposophy. I recognise it as the Michael Impulse. I wait and am strengthened in my waiting by true activity in Anthroposophy at the present time in order that after the short interval allotted in the 20th century to anthroposophical souls between death and a new birth, I may come again at the end of the century to promote the Movement with much more spiritual power. I am preparing for the new Age leading from the 20th into the 21st century” ... It is thus that a true Anthroposophist speaks. Many forces of destruction are at work upon the earth! All culture, all civilised life must fall into decadence if the spirituality of the Michael Impulse does not so lay hold of men that they are capable of bringing upliftment to the civilisation that is hurrying downhill.

If there are to be found truly anthroposophical souls, willing to bring this spirituality into earthly life, then there will be a movement leading upwards. If such souls are not found, decadence will continue to spread. The great War, with all its attendant evils, will be merely the beginning of still worse evils.

Human beings to-day are facing a great crisis. Either they must see civilisation going down into the abyss, or they must raise it by spirituality and promote it in the sense of the Michael Impulse.

That, my dear friends, is what I had to say to you on this occasion and my desire is that it shall work on and bear fruit in your souls. For as I have often said at the conclusion of a happy and satisfying visit, when we have worked together for a time, we know, as Anthroposophists, that it is our karma to have been able to do so. We know too that we still remain united, even when divided in physical space. We shall remain united in the signs that can reveal themselves to the eyes of spirit and to the ears of soul if what I have said in these lectures has been received in full earnestness and has been understood.

Source: Karmic Relationships, August 24, 1924 a.m.

Heart and Soul


Rudolf Steiner:  "Anthroposophy can mean something for humankind only if it is received with the whole compass of the human heart and soul."

Source: Karmic Relationships, vol. 8, lecture 4. September 12, 1924. p. 71

Karma as it shows itself in history


Karmic Relationships. Lecture 70 of 82

Rudolf Steiner, London, August 24, 1924:

When we look back over the historical evolution of mankind and see how event follows event in the course of the ages, we are accustomed to regard these events as though we might find in more recent times the effects and results of earlier ages, as though we could speak of cause and effect in history in the same way as we do in connection with the external physical world.

We are however bound to admit that when we do look at history in this way, nearly all of it remains unexplained. We shall not, for example, succeed in explaining the Great War simply as an effect of the events that took place from the beginning of the century until the year 1914. Neither shall we succeed in explaining the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century out of the events that preceded it. Many theories of history are put forward but they do not carry us very far, and in the last resort we cannot but deem them artificial.

The truth is that the events in human history only become capable of explanation when we look at the personalities who play a decisive part in these events, in respect of their repeated lives on earth. And it is also true that when we have given attention to this study for a considerable time, when we have observed the karma of historical personages as it shows itself in the course of their lives on earth, then and only then shall we acquire the right mood of soul to go into the matter of our own karma. Let us then to-day study karma as it shows itself in history. We will take a few historical personages who have done something or other that is known to us, and see how this deed or course of action may be traced from that which was written into their karma from their earlier incarnations.

It will in this way become clear to us that the things that happen in one epoch of history have really been brought over by human beings from earlier epochs. And as we learn to take quite seriously — it is too often considered as mere theory — all that is said about karma and repeated earth-lives, as we come to place it before us in precise and concrete detail, we shall be able to say: All of us who are sitting here have been on the earth many times before and we have brought with us into this present earth-life the fruits of earlier earth-lives.

It is only when we have learned to be quite earnest about this that we have any right to speak of the perception of karma as something that we know. But the only way to learn to perceive karma is to take the ideas of karma and put them as great questions to the history of man. Then we shall no longer say: What happened in 1914 is the result of what happened in 1910, and what happened in 1910 is the result of what happened in 1900, and so on. Then we shall try instead to understand how the personalities who make their appearance in life themselves bring over from earlier epochs that which shows itself in a later one. It is only on this path that we shall arrive at a true and genuine study of history, beholding the external events against the background of human destinies.

History sets us such a number of riddles! But many a riddle is cleared up if we set about studying it in the way I have described. People appear sometimes quite suddenly in history, shooting in as it were like meteors. You examine their education and upbringing — it affords no explanation whatever. You examine the age to which they belong — again you can find no clue to the problem of their appearance in this particular time. Karmic connections alone will afford the true explanation.

I will speak of one or two such personalities who have lived in times not very far distant from our own, and whose lives readily suggest the double question: What were their circumstances in an earlier earth-life, and what have they brought over from that earlier life that has made them as they are now?

Or again, let us take the case of personalities of an earlier age, who lived a long time ago in the history of evolution. Here we are anxious to know when they came again to earth, and what sort of people they were in a later incarnation. If in an earlier life they attained to fame and renown, we ask ourselves: What did they become when they returned? We would like to be able to add other lives to the one of which we read in history; perhaps they were historical characters a second time, or perhaps renowned in some other way: in any case we would like to know the connections.

Now connections of this kind are exceedingly difficult to investigate. Let me begin by giving you an idea of how, when we want to research into karmic connections, we have to look at the whole human being and not merely at what often strikes us at first sight as being particularly characteristic.

I should like here to give an example which may seem rather personal. I once had a Geometry teacher whom I loved dearly. It was not difficult for me to love him because during my boyhood I was exceedingly fond of Geometry. But this teacher was really quite unusual. He had a peculiar talent for Geometry that fascinated me, although people who are never deeply impressed by other human beings might have thought him dry and uninteresting. Notwithstanding this somewhat prosaic nature, however, he was a man whose influence could have a strongly artistic effect upon one. I always had an intense desire to unravel the secret of this personality and I tried to apply the methods of occult research by which this end can be attained.

I spoke in Torquay, and will only now repeat in brief, of how, if one progresses in the development of the occult forces of the soul in the way I described in the lecture here a year ago [Man as a Picture of the Living Spirit. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972.] and reaches the stage of empty consciousness, and if then this empty consciousness becomes filled with what resounds from the spiritual world, it is possible — if one adds to this experience such things as I spoke of in this morning's lecture — to have impressions, intuitions that are as exact as a mathematical truth and point from certain phenomena in the present life of an individual to an earlier life.

Now the wonderful way in which this teacher of mine worked in Geometry, his whole method of handling the subject, made me deeply interested in him. And this interest remained, even after his death at an advanced age. Destiny never brought me into actual contact with him again after I left the school in which he taught, but his personality stood before me in the spirit as a reality, until the day of his death and after his death; he stood there before me in particular clarity in all the detail of his bearing and actions.

Now what made it possible for me to receive out of his present life an intuition of his previous earth-life, or at any rate the previous earth-life of importance for him, was the fact that he had a club foot! One leg was shorter than the other.

When we remember that in the transition from one earth-life to another, what was head-organisation in the previous life becomes foot- or limb-organisation, and what was foot- or limb-organisation becomes head-organisation, then we shall readily understand that a bodily trait of this kind may have a certain significance, inasmuch as the life of the individual stretches across repeated earthly existences. This club foot enabled me to trace the individuality of my Geometry teacher back into the past. He was not a man of any renown but he was a person who made upon me at any rate and upon others too, a deep and lasting impression; he had an extraordinarily strong influence upon many lives. And I was able to discover, starting from the fact of his club foot, that a study of his personality led one back to the very same place in history where one has to look for Lord Byron.

Now Lord Byron too had a club foot. This is an external physical characteristic, but what is external and bodily in one life is, in another, a quality of soul-and-spirit; and this characteristic led me to recognise that the two personalities who were not now contemporaries (for my Geometry teacher lived later than Byron) had, in an earlier earth-life, been together. In the modern age they had lived as poet and geometrician, each a genius in his own line, the one becoming widely famous, the other making only upon a few individuals an intimate impression which influenced the shaping of their destinies. In an earlier life, however, in medieval times, they had been side by side; together they had listened to the legend of the Palladium, the holy treasure that had once been in Troy, had then come over with Aeneas and was regarded by Rome as the talisman upon which her fortunes depended. The Emperor Constantine afterwards took it across to Constantinople and the success and happiness of Constantinople in its history depended on this Palladium. The legend, looking prophetically into the future, went on to say that whoever acquires the Palladium, his shall be the rulership of the world.

This is not the time for me to enlarge upon the merits and content of the legend. I will only say that these two individuals who were at that time incarnated in what is to-day called Russia, undertook together, with warm enthusiasm, the journey to Constantinople in search of the Palladium. They were not able to obtain possession of it but they kept the enthusiasm alive in their hearts.

And now we can actually see how Lord Byron resolved to go in search of the Palladium in another guise when he took part in the Greek struggle for freedom. If you study carefully the life of Lord Byron, you will find that a great deal in this gifted poet is due to the fact that in an earlier earth-life he had been spurred on by enthusiasm for such an enterprise.

And again, as I look back upon my Geometry teacher with his modest, unassuming character, I can see how he owed his charm and endearing qualities in this life to the enterprise of that earlier time, although his part, then, had been a secondary one. Had he taken an equal share in it with the individuality who became Lord Byron, he would have been a contemporary of his again in the later life.

I bring this example before you in order that you may realise that we have to look at the whole human being if we want to investigate karmic connections; we have even, for example, to note bodily defects or deformities. If we find that a person has some distinguishing talent of a spiritual kind in one earth-life, let us say has been a great painter, we must not draw the abstract conclusion that he was a great painter in his former earth-life. What we see on the surface are only the waves thrown up by karma which flows in deeper waters below and has to do with body, soul and spirit. We must take the whole life into the horizon of our vision.

It will frequently happen that little characteristic actions of a person, such as the way he moves his fingers, will lead the way to karmic connections far sooner than any outstanding activities he may have undertaken and that are from every other aspect of more consequence. I once had the experience of being able to arrive at deep and intimate karmic connections in the case of a certain person by giving attention to quite an incidental peculiarity that made a strong impression upon me. He used to give lessons in a school, and on every occasion, before beginning his lesson, he took out his pocket handkerchief and blew his nose. He never by any chance began to teach without doing this. It was a deeply-rooted characteristic in him. The impression it made upon me was significant and I was able to read in it a pointer to important features of his former earth-life. It is in these signs that we have to find some significant trait in the person that will often take us back to the earlier incarnation.

And now I would like to show you how interesting from a historical point of view the question of karma becomes. Let us take a few concrete cases, for example, the case of Swedenborg, who appears in such a striking way in the 18th century. Last year I spoke of him in Penmaenmawr [See: Lecture 7, The Evolution of Consciousness. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966.] from quite a different standpoint. I spoke then of his spiritual qualities but I did not touch upon his karma.

Swedenborg is a very remarkable figure. Until he was more than 40 years old he was a great and notable scholar, of such repute that the Swedish Academy of Science is even now still occupied in bringing out the numerous scientific works he left behind — purely scientific works. When we know that Arrhenius, for example, has concerned himself with their publication, we shall conclude that they must be un-spiritual in the very highest degree. Otherwise Arrhenius would scarcely interest himself in them! Nobody could say that up to his fortieth year Swedenborg had anything whatever to do with spiritual matters in his knowledge and learning. Then, all of a sudden, he began — as the scientists put it — to go crazy, to give out imposing and magnificent descriptions of the spiritual world as he had seen it. It was something entirely new in Swedenborg's life, shooting in like a comet.

We ask ourselves: What can there have been in an earlier earth-life to produce such a result?

Or again, take a personality like Voltaire. I am choosing a few great personalities whose lives leave us with unanswered questions. Voltaire is one who may be called an absolutely incommensurable person. We are puzzled to know how this strange character, now scornful and contemptuous, now pious not to say unctuous, could grow up as a product of his age, or again how he could have the tremendous influence he did have upon it.

With what irony does destiny work! Voltaire had a deep influence upon the King of Prussia; and this connection between Voltaire and the King of Prussia was a most significant factor in the destiny of the spiritual life of Europe. One cannot help asking: What really lies behind all this in the deeper background of history?

We may take still a third case, and one not without meaning for our own day, when many things are thrusting themselves upon our notice from the background of existence. Take the case of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, who died in the 16th century. When we follow the remarkable destiny of the Jesuit Order that he founded, we are compelled to ask the question: What kind of life had Ignatius Loyola after he passed through the gate of death? And if he has come again, what part has he played in the more recent history of mankind? There you have questions which, if they can be answered, may well throw a light upon the background of very much that has happened in history.

Intuitive vision led one back, for example, to a soul who lived in the 5th century A.D., not long after St. Augustine, and who was educated in the schools of Northern Africa, as was St. Augustine himself. In these schools, the personality of whom I am speaking became acquainted with all that proceeded from the Manichean wisdom and from the wisdom of the East which had, of course, undergone such great changes in a later age. In subsequent wanderings he came across to Spain and there absorbed what may be called early Kabbalistic doctrine, teachings which open out a vista of great cosmic relationships. Education and experience thus equipped him with an extraordinary wide outlook, and at the same time with knowledge that sprang from two main sources — one already in decadence and the other just beginning to flourish. The result was to give him in one respect a deepened life of soul, but at the same time to leave him in uncertainty and doubt.

After many travels on earth, this personality passed at length through the gate of death; and at a definite point between death and rebirth his karma brought him in touch with a particular Genius, a particular spiritual Being belonging to the world of Mars.

You know that in the period between death and a new birth a human being builds up spiritually the karma he has afterwards to bring into physical embodiment in later earth-lives. Now not only do other human souls with whom he is karmically connected share in this work with him, but the Beings, too, of the various spiritual Hierarchies. These Beings have tasks to fulfil as the result of what a human soul brings over from earlier earth-lives. And so this soul of whom I am speaking was engaged in building up his karma for the next life on earth. Now it happened that through all he had received and done, through all he had thought and felt in earlier lives, especially in the life that was particularly significant and of which I have just given you a brief sketch, he was brought very near to a spiritual Being belonging to the world of Mars. He acquired thereby a strongly aggressive nature, but on the other hand also a wonderful gift of speech; for Mars Beings prepare from out of the cosmos all that belongs to speech and language and place it into the karma of human beings. Wherever artistic skill and fluency in speech show themselves in the karma of a human being, these are to be traced to the fact that his karmic experiences have brought him into the vicinity of Mars Beings.

The individuality of whom I am speaking had been in the company of one particular Mars Being — a Being who now began to interest me intensely when I had recognised him in connection with this soul. The individuality himself appeared again on earth in the 18th century, as Voltaire. Thus Voltaire bore within him from his earlier earth-life the learning of the schools of Northern Africa and of Spain, elaborated and transformed through the fact that the shaping of his karma had taken place with the help of this particular Mars Being.

When you consider Voltaire's great gift of language and on the other hand his instability in many things, when you consider his writings, not so much their content as his manner and habit of working, you will come to understand how it all follows quite naturally from the karmic influences I have described. And when we observe how Voltaire comes over from his earlier earth-life with his aggressiveness, his fluency of language, his power of satire, his only partially concealed lack of integrity, yet at the same time his genuine and ardent enthusiasm for truth — when we study all this in connection, first, with his former incarnation and then with his association with the Mars Being, the personality of Voltaire and still more from an occult point of view this. Mars Being, will begin to be of great interest to us.

It was my task at one time to follow this Mars Being and through this Being certain events on earth received great illumination. We meet in history with the remarkable figure of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Ignatius Loyola was, to begin with, a soldier. He was stricken with a severe illness and in the course of it was inwardly impelled to carry out all kinds of soul-exercises which were the means of filling him with such spiritual strength that he became able to set himself the task of rescuing the old Catholic Christianity from the spread of Evangelicalism. And thanks to the forces he had acquired through having a wounded leg — that is the interesting point — he succeeded in founding the Order of the Jesuits, which introduces occult exercises of the will in a most powerful manner into practical religious life. What we may think of this from other points of view is not here our concern. Ignatius Loyola, in establishing the Jesuit Order, sought to represent the cause of Jesus on earth on a grand scale, in a purely material way, through the training of the will.

Anyone who studies the remarkable life of Ignatius Loyola cannot fail to conceive a certain admiration for it. And now if we pursue the matter further with the occult insight of Intuition, we come to something very significant.

Ignatius Loyola was the means of starting the Jesuit Order which has done more than anything else to bring Christianity right down into the earthly, material life, accompanied, however, with a strong spiritual power. The Jesuit Order has one rule which goes altogether against the grain in men of the present age but which, notwithstanding, has contributed more to its effectiveness than any other factor. Besides the usual monastic vows, besides the exercises, besides everything else that a candidate has to undergo before he can become a priest, the Order of the Jesuits has in addition this rule, namely that there shall be unconditional subjection to the command of the Pope of Rome. Whatever the Pope orders to be done, it is never asked in the Jesuit Order what opinions there may be about it. It is simply carried out because the Jesuits are convinced that higher things of the Spirit make themselves known through the Pope and that it behoves them, in unconditional obedience to Rome, to carry out the commands of this higher authority. A doubtful and precarious rule: nevertheless it implies a great selflessness that is present in Jesuitism and again signifies a tremendous increase of strength, for everything a man does with intense energy, putting forth all his force and acting not on his own authority nor out of emotion — everything a man does in this way gives him extraordinary strength. It is a strength that moves, so to speak, in the lower clouds of material existence, but it is none the less a spiritual force. It is in truth a remarkable phenomenon.

And now, if we follow up these extraordinarily strange and imposing facts, we come to discover that the same Mars Genius who plays a part in the life of Voltaire, accompanied the life of Ignatius Loyola from the moment when he passed through the gate of death. The soul of Ignatius Loyola was perpetually under the super-sensible influence of this Mars Genius.

As soon as Ignatius Loyola had passed through death, things were immediately quite different for him than they are for other men. Other men do not at once lay aside the etheric body at death but only a few days later and have a brief retrospective vision of the past earth-life before entering upon the journey through the soul-world. In the case of Ignatius Loyola this retrospective vision lasted for a very long time. And by reason of the special kind of exercises that had been working in his soul, a close and intimate connection was able to be established between the soul of Ignatius Loyola and the Mars Genius. For a strong and active affinity, an elective affinity so to speak, existed between this Mars Genius and all that had gone on in the soul of the sick soldier, who through the injury to his foot had been forced to take to his bed and from being a soldier had become a man who could not use his leg. All these circumstances had had a deep and powerful effect upon Loyola and when we look at the whole man it becomes clear. These circumstances led Ignatius Loyola into connection with the Mars Genius whom I had learned to know on another path of investigation. And what took shape through this connection made it possible for Ignatius Loyola to have this significant retrospect of his life which continued on and on for a long time, whereas in the ordinary way it lasts for only a few days after death. Loyola was able thereby to establish a retrospective connection as it were with those who came after him in the Jesuit Order. He remained united with his Order in the retrospect of his own life.

To this connection with its founder are due the forces that held the Order together, the forces that determined its strange and abnormal destiny and can be seen in its subjection in unquestioning obedience to the Pope — in spite of the repeal of this rule by the Pope himself — and in spite of the persecutions that went on! But on the other hand all the things that the Jesuits themselves accomplished in the world are to be traced to the singular connection of which I have spoken.

Now this example, if we follow it further, can shed a wonderful light over certain historical events and connections. After Ignatius Loyola's death, his soul remained always in the vicinity of the earth — for one is near the earth so long as this retrospect lasts. Even if the retrospect is extended it cannot last many centuries for when it extends at all over any long period it is quite abnormal — but abnormal things do constantly occur in the great world-connections. And comparatively soon after his earth-life was over, Ignatius Loyola appeared again in the soul of Emanuel Swedenborg.

We have here arrived at a very astounding fact, but it is also extremely illuminating. Think of the light it sheds upon history! The Order of the Jesuits continues in existence ... but the one who held it together up to a certain moment of time has become an entirely different person ... he appears in the individuality of Emanuel Swedenborg. He became the spirit of Emanuel Swedenborg, and since that time the Jesuit Order has been guided by altogether different impulses from those of its founder. We may frequently see in history how in the course of karma the founder of some undertaking or movement, or the persons who are deeply united with it, become separated from the movement they have founded and the movement passes over to quite other forces. So we learn how little meaning there is from a historical point of view to trace back the Jesuit Order to Ignatius Loyola. External history does so. Inner knowledge can never do so, for it sees how the individualities separate themselves from their movements.

In its external course, many a phenomenon in history is traced back to this or that founder. If, however, we come to know the later earth-life of the founder of some undertaking we may find that he has long ago separated himself from it. A great deal of what is set down as history simply loses all meaning when we are able and ready to face the occult facts that stand behind the evolution of karma.

That is one thing that emerges. The other is as follows.

The soul of Ignatius Loyola, now the soul of Swedenborg, entered an organism that had acquired its quite unusual soundness of head through the fact of the injury to the leg from which Loyola had suffered in the former life. And this soul that had remained all the time in the vicinity of the earth, was not able, to begin with, to come down fully and completely into the new earthly incarnation. The body remained, up till the fortieth year, a remarkably healthy body with a sound and healthy brain, a healthy etheric body and a healthy astral body. With these sound and healthy organisations Swedenborg grew to be one of the greatest scholars of his time; but it was not until his early forties, when he had been through the period of the Ego-development and was entering on the development of the Spirit-Self, that he came under the influence of the Mars Genius of whom I have spoken. During the first forty years of Swedenborg's life this influence had been somewhat suppressed; but now he came directly under it and from this time on it is the Mars Genius that speaks through Emanuel Swedenborg, in all the spiritual knowledge he has of the universe.

And so in Swedenborg we have a man of genius, who gives us brilliant and magnificent description of the lands of the Spirits, albeit in pictures that are somewhat questionable. Thus has the mighty spiritual will of Ignatius Loyola found transformation.

It is always the case that if we follow up the real and actual karmic connections, we discover, as a rule, something that startles and astounds us. The ingenious speculations one so often hears about repeated earth-lives are ingenious speculations and nothing more. When investigation is really exact, the result is usually very startling, for the evolution of karma that moves forward from earth-life to earth-life is hidden deep, deep down below all that is experienced and lived out by man between birth and death.

I wanted to give you this example in order that you may see how deeply may be hidden that which flows in karma from earth-life to earth-life. You have seen it in a personality who is well known to us all. Only by investigating these hidden factors shall we arrive at the true explanations. And if you now study the life of Emanuel Swedenborg, knowing the connections of which I have told you, you will find how things become clear to you, one after another.

* * *

In the early years of this century I was several times in London. On the occasion of one of these visits I was prompted to make myself acquainted with an extraordinarily significant personality — to begin with, simply in his writings. And as in those days there were rather longer intervals between the journeys than there are now, I obtained from the Theosophical Library the books he had written — the books that is to say, of Laurence Oliphant.

Laurence Oliphant is a remarkably interesting and significant personality: he strikes you in this way directly you begin to study his writings. These books deal with the similarities to be found in different religions, with spiritual religions, and so forth; and all of them bear evidence of a deep understanding of how in the various processes of his body and soul, man is connected with the secrets of the universe. When you read Oliphant's writings you have the impression: Here is a picture of man in his earth-life that owes its inspiration to deep cosmic instincts. The processes of the earthly life of man that are connected with birth, embryonic life, descent and so forth, are described in such a way as to show how man, as microcosm, is wondrously rooted in the macrocosm.

Now I was very soon led in this study to a point where the figure of the dead Laurence Oliphant stood before me, but not in a form which suggested that I had here to do with the individuality as he was then living after death; it was rather that what was contained in these writings (which may be described as setting forth a kind of cosmic physiology, a cosmic anatomy) began to come alive, began to spiritualise; and a figure appeared, not all at once entirely clear, but unquestionably there before me on many different occasions. I was able to make occult investigations into the matter and I could never do otherwise than bring the figure into connection with what came to me from reading Oliphant. It was very often there before me. At first I was often unable to satisfy myself as to what this figure wanted, what its manifestations meant. The whole manner of its appearance however, left me in no doubt whatever that it was none other than the individuality of Laurence Oliphant; and it was likewise clear to me that this figure had had a long life in the time between death and a new birth — that is to say, the birth as Laurence Oliphant — probably only broken by one earth-life that was not very significant for the rest of the world. What might not then be hidden in the personality of Laurence Oliphant! In short, this appearance of the figure of Laurence Oliphant suggested significant questions of karma.

When I entered on an investigation of the karma, a spiritual Being became manifest who is engaged in the elaboration of human karma, in the same way as the Mars Being of whom I told you in connection with Voltaire and with Ignatius Loyola.

Now one may get to know such Genii in the most varied ways. They are especially present when it is a question of undertaking spiritual investigation into that which appears, primarily, in physical manifestation among men on earth. I was always drawn to this kind of research. My Philosophy of Spiritual Activity leads, as you know, to a treatment of the life of will from a cosmic standpoint. Such matters always interested me deeply. Then, again, the questions that now arise out of the tasks of the Anthroposophical Movement lead to investigations of karma — I do not say our task is exhausted in the investigation of karma for this can always only be a part of it — and the investigations of karma lead once more to Genii such as the Mars Genius of whom I have told you. These Genii are, however, also to be met with on the path of another kind of research to which I have alluded and the results of which appear in the book that Dr. Ita Wegman and myself have worked out together in the sphere of medicine. [Fundamentals of Therapy: an Extension of the Art of Healing through Spiritual Knowledge. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1967.] When one seeks in this way for an Initiate-knowledge of nature, one comes in a similar way to Mercury Genii; these Mercury Genii approach one because they play a special part in the karma of human beings. When man is passing through the life between death and a new birth, he is first of all purged in respect of his moral qualities; this takes place under the influence of the Moon Beings. Through the Mercury Beings his illnesses are transformed into spiritual qualities. In the Mercury sphere the illnesses a man undergoes in life are transformed by the Mercury Genii into spiritual energies, spiritual qualities. That is an exceedingly important fact and one which leads further, namely to the investigation of questions of karma in matters that are in any way connected with disease.

Now the investigations which I described in Torquay led me into close contact with the spirit of Brunetto Latini, the teacher of Dante. When one penetrates into these spiritual worlds in the manner described, it also becomes possible to stand before individualities in the form in which they lived in a particular epoch. Thus one can stand face to face with Brunetto Latini, the great teacher of Dante in the 13th century. Brunetto Latini still possessed a knowledge whereby nature was seen, not in the abstraction of natural laws, but as under the influence of living spiritual Beings. On the way back to his native town of Florence from his post as Ambassador in Spain, Brunetto Latini heard all kinds of reports that troubled and disturbed him, and in addition he had a slight sunstroke. In this condition and under the influence, too, of the pathological disturbances, glimpses came to him of nature in her creative work, of cosmic creation, and of the connection of man with the planetary world. What he was able to see was wonderful and sublime and no more than a shadow-picture of it subsequently found its way into the great work of Dante — the Divine Comedy.

But now if we follow this Brunetto Latini, we find that in a critical moment, when the knowledge was like to suffocate him, when it seemed to him that he might go astray from true knowledge and fall into error — in this critical moment, Ovid became his guide, Ovid, the Roman author of the Metamorphoses which contain such wonderful visions of the old Greek age, though expressed in the prosaic, characteristically Roman style.

And so we meet the individuality of Ovid together with Brunetto Latini. If we have a true grasp of the connection we can see Brunetto Latini, in the pre-Dante time, actually together with Ovid. Ovid is with him. And now, precisely in connection with the scientific, medical researches of which I was speaking, Ovid revealed himself as Laurence Oliphant. The long life since the Ovid time, passing but once to earth again in the interval and then as a woman in an incarnation that had little significance for the world outside, came at length to this fulfilment. The content of the soul is transplanted into modern times, and Ovid appears again as Laurence Oliphant.

Nor is it Brunetto Latini alone but other personalities too of the Middle Ages who assert that Ovid was their guide. At first it sounds like a tradition that simply gets carried on. In reality, Ovid was the guide in the spiritual world for many Initiates, appearing again as Laurence Oliphant with his sublime treatment of physiology and pathology. This connection between Laurence Oliphant and Ovid is of most far-reaching import and is one of the most illuminating examples one could possibly find.

Source: Karmic Relationships, August 24, 1924 p.m.