[Focus lecture for the January 26 meeting of the Rudolf Steiner Study Circle]
Rudolf Steiner, December 18, 1912:
Friends have expressed the wish that I should speak today on the subject of the lecture here a year ago, when it was said that the initiation of Christian Rosenkreutz took place in very special circumstances in the thirteenth century, and that since then this individuality has worked unceasingly throughout the centuries. Today we shall hear more about the character and the person of Christian Rosenkreutz as we study the great task which devolved upon him at the dawn of the intellectual age in order that provision might be made for the future of humanity.
Anyone who makes his mark in the world as a leading occultist, like Christian Rosenkreutz, has to reckon with the conditions peculiar to his epoch. The intrinsic nature of spiritual life as it is in the present age developed for the first time when modern natural science came upon the scene with men like Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, Galileo, and others. Nowadays people are taught about Copernicus in their early schooldays, and the impressions thus received remain with them their whole life long. In earlier times the soul experienced something different. Try to picture to yourselves what a contrast there is between a man of the modern age and one who lived centuries ago. Before the days of Copernicus everyone believed that the Earth remains at rest in cosmic space with the Sun and the stars revolving around it. The very ground slipped from under men's feet when Copernicus came forward with the doctrine that the Earth is moving with tremendous speed through the universe. We should not underestimate the effects of such a revolution in thinking, accompanied as it was by a corresponding change in the life of feeling. All the thoughts and ideas of men were suddenly different from what they had been before the days of Copernicus. And now let us ask: What has occultism to say about this revolution in thinking?
Anyone who asks from the standpoint of occultism what kind of world conception can be derived from the Copernican tenets will have to admit that although these ideas can lead to great achievements in the realm of natural science and in external life, they are incapable of promoting any understanding of the spiritual foundations of the world and the things of the world, for there has never been a worse instrument for understanding the spiritual foundations of the world than the ideas of Copernicus — never in the whole of human evolution. The reason for this is that all these Copernican concepts are inspired by Lucifer. Copernicanism is one of the last attacks, one of the last great attacks made by Lucifer upon the evolution of man. In earlier, pre-Copernican thought, the external world was indeed maya, but much traditional wisdom, much truth concerning the world and the things of the world still survived. Since Copernicus, however, man has maya around him not only in his material perceptions, but his concepts and ideas are themselves maya. Men take it for granted nowadays that the Sun is firmly fixed in the middle and the planets revolve around it in ellipses. In the near future, however, it will be realized that the view of the world of the stars held by Copernicus is much less correct than the earlier Ptolemaic view. The view of the world held by the school of Copernicus and Kepler is very convenient, but as an explanation of the macrocosm it is not the truth.
And so Christian Rosenkreutz, confronted by a world conception which is itself a maya, an illusion, had to come to grips with it. Christian Rosenkreutz had to save occultism in an age when all the concepts of science were themselves maya. In the middle of the sixteenth century, Copernicus' Book of the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres appeared. At the end of the sixteenth century the Rosicrucians were faced with the necessity of comprehending the world system by means of occultism, for with its materially conceived globes in space the Copernican world-system was maya, even as concept. Thus towards the end of the sixteenth century one of those conferences took place of which we heard here a year ago in connection with the initiation of Christian Rosenkreutz himself in the thirteenth century. This occult conference of leading individualities united Christian Rosenkreutz with those twelve individualities of that earlier time and certain other great individualities concerned with the leadership of humanity. There were present not only personalities in incarnation on the physical plane but also some who were in the spiritual worlds; and the individuality who in the sixth century before Christ had been incarnated as Gautama Buddha also participated.
The occultists of the East rightly believe — for they know it to be the truth — that the Buddha who in his twenty-ninth year rose from the rank of Bodhisattva to that of Buddha had incarnated then for the last time in a physical body. It is absolutely true that when the individuality of a Bodhisattva becomes a Buddha he no longer appears on the Earth in physical incarnation. But this does not mean that he ceases to be active in the affairs of the Earth. The Buddha continues to work for the Earth, although he is never again present in a physical body but sends down his influence from the spiritual world. The Gloria heard by the shepherds in the fields intimated from the spiritual world that the forces of Buddha were streaming into the astral body of the child Jesus described in the St. Luke Gospel. The words of the Gloria came from Buddha, who was working in the astral body of the child Jesus. This wonderful message of peace and love is an integral part of Buddha's contribution to Christianity. But later on too, Buddha influences the deeds of men — not physically, but from the spiritual world — and he has cooperated in measures that have been necessary for the sake of progress in the evolution of humanity.
In the seventh and eighth centuries, for example, there was a very important center of initiation in the neighborhood of the Black Sea, in which the Buddha taught, in his spirit body. In such schools there are those who teach in the physical body; but it is also possible for the more advanced pupils to receive instruction from one who teaches in an ether-body only. And so the Buddha taught those pupils there who were capable of receiving higher knowledge. Among the pupils of the Buddha at that time was one who incarnated again a few centuries later. We are speaking, therefore, of a physical personality who centuries later lived again in a physical body, in Italy, and is known to us as St. Francis of Assisi. The characteristic quality of Francis of Assisi and of the life of his monks — which has so much similarity with that of the disciples of Buddha — is due to the fact that Francis of Assisi himself was a pupil of Buddha.
It is easy to perceive the contrast between the qualities characteristic of men who like Francis of Assisi were striving fervently for the spirit and those engrossed in the world of industry, technical life, and the discoveries of modern civilization. There were many people, including occultists, who suffered deeply at the thought that in the future two separate classes of human beings would inevitably arise. They foresaw the one class wholly given up to the affairs of practical life, convinced that security depends entirely upon the production of foodstuffs, the construction of machines, and so forth; whereas the other class would be composed of men like Francis of Assisi who withdraw altogether from the practical affairs of the world for the sake of spiritual life.
It was a significant moment, therefore, when Christian Rosenkreutz, in the sixteenth century, called together a large group of occultists in preparation for the aforesaid conference, and described to them the two types of human beings that would inevitably arise in the future. First he gathered a large circle of people, later on a smaller one, to present them with this weighty fact. Christian Rosenkreutz held this preparatory meeting a few years beforehand, not because he was in doubt about what would happen, but because he wanted to get the people to contemplate the perspectives of the future. In order to stimulate their thinking he spoke roughly as follows: Let us look at the future of the world. The world is moving fast in the direction of practical activities, industry, railways, and so on. Human beings will become like beasts of burden. And those who do not want this will be, like Francis of Assisi, impractical with regard to life, and they will develop an inner life only. Christian Rosenkreutz made it clear to his listeners that there was no way on Earth of preventing the formation of these two classes of men. Despite all that might be done for them between birth and death, nothing could hinder mankind being divided into these two classes. As far as conditions on the Earth were concerned it is impossible to find a remedy for the division into classes. Help can only come if a kind of education could be brought about that did not take place between birth and death but between death and a new birth.
Thus the Rosicrucians were faced with the task of working from out of the supersensible world to influence individual human beings. In order to understand what had to take place, we must consider from a particular aspect the life between death and a new birth.
Between birth and death we live on the Earth. Between death and a new birth man has a certain connection with the other planets. In my Theosophy you will find Kamaloka described. This sojourn of man in the soul world is a time during which he becomes an inhabitant of the Moon. Then one after the other, he becomes an inhabitant of Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and then an inhabitant of the further expanses of heaven or the cosmos. One is not speaking incorrectly when one says that between two incarnations on the Earth lie incarnations on other planets, spiritual incarnations. Man at present is not yet sufficiently developed to remember, while in incarnation, his experiences between death and a new birth, but this will become possible in the future. Even though he cannot now remember what he experienced on Mars, for example, he still has Mars forces within him, although he knows nothing about them. One is justified in saying: I am not an Earth inhabitant, but the forces within me include something that I acquired on Mars.
Let me consider a man who lived on Earth after the Copernican world outlook had become common knowledge. Whence did Copernicus, Galileo, Giordano Bruno, and others acquire their abilities in this incarnation? Bear in mind that shortly before that, from 1401 to 1464, the individuality of Copernicus was incarnated as Nicholas of Cusa, a profound mystic. Think of the completely different mood of his docta ignorantia. How did the forces that made Copernicus so very different from Nicholas of Cusa enter this individuality?
The forces that made him the astronomer he was came to him from Mars! Similarly, Galileo also received forces from Mars that invested him with the special configuration of a modern natural scientist. Giordano Bruno too brought his powers with him from Mars, and so it is with the whole of mankind. That people think like Copernicus or Giordano Bruno is due to the Mars forces they acquire between death and a new birth.
But the acquisition of the kind of powers which lead from one triumph to another is due to the fact that Mars had a different influence in those times from what it exercised previously. Mars used to radiate different forces. The Mars culture that human beings experience between death and a new birth went through a great crisis in the Earth's fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It was as decisive and catastrophic a time on Mars in the fifteenth and sixteenth century as it was on the Earth at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. Just as at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha the actual ego of man was born, there was born on Mars that particular tendency which, in man, comes to expression in Copernicanism. When these conditions came into force on Mars, the natural consequence would have been for Mars to continue sending down to Earth human beings who only brought Copernican ideas with them, which are really only maya.
What we are seeing, then, is the decline of the Mars culture. Previously, Mars had sent forth good forces. But now Mars sent forth more and more forces that would have led men deeper and deeper into maya. The achievements that were inspired by Mars at that time were ingenious and clever, but they were maya all the same.
So you see that in the fifteenth century you could have said Mars' salvation, and the Earth's too, depended on the declining culture of Mars receiving a fresh impulse to raise it up again. It was somewhat similar on Mars to what it had been like on the Earth before the Mystery of Golgotha, when humanity had fallen from spiritual heights into the depths of materialism, and the Christ Impulse had signified an ascent. In the fifteenth century the necessity had arisen on Mars for the Mars culture to receive an upward impulse. That was the significant question facing Christian Rosenkreutz and his pupils; how this upward impulse could be given to the Mars culture, for the salvation of the Earth was also at stake. Rosicrucianism was faced with the mighty task of solving the problem of what had to happen so that, for the Earth's sake, the Mars culture should be brought once more onto an ascending path. The beings on Mars were not in a position to know what would bring about their salvation, for the Earth was the only place where one could know what the situation on Mars was like. On Mars itself they were unaware of the decline.
Therefore it was in order to find a practical solution to this problem that the aforesaid conference met at the end of the sixteenth century. This conference was well prepared by Christian Rosenkreutz in that the closest friend and pupil of Christian Rosenkreutz was Gautama Buddha, living in a spirit body. And it was announced at this conference that the being who incarnated as Gautama Buddha, in the spiritual form he now had since becoming Buddha, would transfer the scene of his activities to Mars. The individuality of Gautama Buddha was as it were sent by Christian Rosenkreutz from the Earth to Mars.
So Gautama Buddha leaves the scene of his activity and goes to Mars, and in the year 1604 the individuality of Gautama Buddha accomplished for Mars a deed similar to what the Mystery of Golgotha was for the Earth.
Christian Rosenkreutz had known what the effect of Buddha on Mars would signify for the whole cosmos, what his teachings of Nirvana, of liberation from the Earth, would signify on Mars. The teaching of Nirvana was unsuited to a form of culture directed primarily to practical life. Buddha's pupil, Francis of Assisi, was an example of the fact that this teaching produces in its adepts complete remoteness from the world and its affairs. But the content of Buddhism, which was not adapted to the practical life of man between birth and death, was of great importance for the soul between death and a new birth. Christian Rosenkreutz realized that for a certain purification needed on Mars the teachings of Buddha were preeminently suitable.
The Christ Being, the essence of divine love, had once come down to the Earth to a people in many respects alien, and in the seventeenth century Buddha, the prince of peace, went to Mars — the planet of war and conflict — to execute his mission there. The souls on Mars were warlike, tom with strife. Thus Buddha performed a deed of sacrifice similar to the deed performed in the Mystery of Golgotha by the bearer of the essence of divine love. To dwell on Mars as Buddha was a deed of sacrifice offered to the cosmos. He was as it were the lamb offered up in sacrifice on Mars, and to accept this environment of strife was for him a kind of crucifixion. Buddha performed this deed on Mars in the service of Christian Rosenkreutz. Thus do the great beings who guide the world work together not only on the Earth but from one planet to another.
Since the mystery of Mars was consummated by Gautama Buddha, human beings have been able during the period between death and a new birth to receive from Mars different forces from those emanating during Mars' cultural decline. Not only does a man bring with him into a new birth quite different forces from Mars, but because of the influence exercised by the spiritual deed of Buddha,, forces also stream from Mars into men who practice meditation as a means of reaching the spiritual world. When the modern pupil of Spiritual Science meditates in the sense indicated by Christian Rosenkreutz, forces sent to the Earth by Buddha as the redeemer of Mars stream to him.
Christian Rosenkreutz is thus revealed to us as the great servant of Christ Jesus; but what Buddha, as the emissary of Christian Rosenkreutz, was destined to contribute to the work of Christ Jesus — this had also to come to the help of the work performed by Christian Rosenkreutz in the service of Christ Jesus. The soul of Gautama Buddha has not again been in physical incarnation on the Earth, but is utterly dedicated to the work of the Christ impulse. What was the word of peace sent forth from the Buddha to the child Jesus described in the Gospel of St. Luke? ‘Glory in the heights, and on the Earth — peace!’ And this word of peace, issuing mysteriously from Buddha, resounds from the planet of war and conflict to the soul of men on Earth.
Because all these things had transpired it was possible to avert the division of human beings into the two distinct classes, consisting on the one hand of men of the type of Francis of Assisi, and on the other of men who live wholly as materialists. If Buddha had remained in direct and immediate connection with the Earth, he would not have been able to concern himself with the ‘practical’ people, and his influence would have made the others into monks like Francis of Assisi. Through the deed of redemption performed by Gautama Buddha on Mars it is possible for us, when we are passing through the Mars period of existence between death and a new birth, to become followers of Francis of Assisi without causing subsequent deprivation to the Earth. Grotesque as it may seem, it is nevertheless true that since the seventeenth century every human being is a Buddhist, a Franciscan, an immediate follower of Francis of Assisi for a time, while he is on Mars. Francis of Assisi has subsequently only had one brief incarnation on Earth as a child; and he died in childhood and has not incarnated since. From then onwards he has been connected with the work of Buddha on Mars and is one of his most eminent followers.
We have thus placed before our souls a picture of what came to pass through that great conference at the end of the sixteenth century, which resembles what happened on Earth in the thirteenth century when Christian Rosenkreutz gathered his faithful around him. Nothing less was accomplished than that the possibility was given of averting from humanity the threatened separation into two classes, so that men might remain inwardly united. And those who want to develop esoterically despite their absorption in practical life can achieve their goal because the Buddha is working from the sphere of Mars and not from the sphere of the Earth. Those forces which help to promote a healthy esoteric life can therefore also be attributed to the work and influence of Buddha.
In my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment I have dealt with the methods that are appropriate for meditation today. The essential point is that in Rosicrucian training, development is such that the human being is not torn away from the earthly activities demanded of him by his karma. Rosicrucian esoteric development can proceed without causing the slightest disturbance in any situation or occupation in life. Because Christian Rosenkreutz was capable of transferring the work of Buddha from the Earth to Mars it has become possible for Buddha also to send his influences into men from outside the Earth.
Again, then, we have heard of one of the spiritual deeds of Christian Rosenkreutz; but to understand these deeds of the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries we must find our way to their esoteric meaning and significance. It would be good if it were generally realized how entirely consistent the progress of theosophy in the West has been since the founding of the Middle European section of the Theosophical Society. Here in Switzerland we have given lecture cycles on the four Gospels. The substance of all these Gospel cycles is potentially contained in my book Christianity as Mystical Fact, written twelve years ago. The book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment describes the Western path of development that is compatible with practical activities of every kind. Today I have indicated that a basic factor in these matters is the mission assigned to Gautama Buddha by Christian Rosenkreutz, for I have spoken of the significant influence which the transference of Buddha to Mars made possible in our solar system. And so stone after stone fits into its proper place in our Western philosophy, for it has been built up consistently and in obedience to principle, and everything that comes later harmonizes with what went before. Inner consistency is essential in any world conception if it is to stand upon the ground of truth. And those who are able to draw near to Christian Rosenkreutz see with reverent wonder in what a consistent way he has carried out the great mission entrusted to him, which in our time is the Rosicrucian-Christian path of development. That the great teacher of Nirvana is now fulfilling a mission outside the Earth, on Mars — this too is one of the wise and consistent deeds of Christian Rosenkreutz.
In conclusion, the following brief practical indication will be added for those who aspire to become pupils of Christian Rosenkreutz.
A year ago we heard how the knowledge of having a certain relationship to Christian Rosenkreutz may come to a man involuntarily. It is also possible, however, to put a kind of question to one's own destiny: ‘Can I make myself worthy to become a pupil of Christian Rosenkreutz?’ It can come about in the following way: Try to place before your soul a picture of Christian Rosenkreutz, the great teacher of the modern age, in the midst of the twelve, sending forth Gautama Buddha into the cosmos as his emissary at the beginning of the seventeenth century, thus bringing about a consummation of what came to pass in the sixth century before Christ in the sermon of Benares.
If this picture, with its whole import, stands vividly before the soul, if a man feels that something streaming from this great and impressive picture wrings from his soul the words: O man, thou art not merely an earthly being; thou art in truth a cosmic being! — then he may believe with quiet confidence: ‘I can aspire to become a pupil of Christian Rosenkreutz.’ This picture of the relationship of Christian Rosenkreutz to Gautama Buddha is a potent and effective meditation.
And I wanted to awaken this aspiration in you as a result of these considerations. For our ideal should always be to take an interest in world happenings and then to find the way, by means of these studies, to carry out our own development into higher worlds.
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