Monday, January 3, 2011
The New Esotericism
Rudolf Steiner, The Spiritual Guidance of Mankind, chapter 3 of 3 [1911; GA 15]
In accordance with what has been said in the preceding chapters, the spiritual guidance of the course of human evolution may be sought for among those beings who went through their stage of humanity during the previous embodiment of the Earth-planet, during the ancient Moon period. This guidance stood contrasted with another, which checked it, and yet in a certain sense furthered it, and which was carried out by those beings who had not completed their own evolution during the Moon-period. Reference is made in both these cases to those guiding beings immediately above man; to those who lead humanity forward, and to those who provoke resistance, thereby strengthening and confirming the forces arising through the progressive beings, by bestowing on them balance and individuality. In Christian Esotericism these two classes of superhuman beings are called Angels (Angeloi). Above these beings in ascending order stand those of the higher hierarchies, the Archangels, the Archai, and so forth, who likewise take part in the guidance of humanity.
Within the ranks of these different beings there are all possible gradations in regard to perfection. At the beginning of the present Earth-evolution, some in the category of the Angels stand high, while others are less developed. The former have progressed far beyond the minimum of their Moon-development. Between these and those who had just reached this minimum when the Moon-evolution had come to an end, and the Earth-evolution had begun, are all possible gradations. Conformably with this gradation of rank, the beings in question entered during the Earth-period upon the leadership of human evolution. Thus the evolution of the Egyptian civilization was effected under the guidance of beings who had become more perfected on the Moon than those who were the leaders of the Graeco-Roman period, and these again were more perfect than those who have the leadership at the present time. In the Egyptian as also in the Greek Period, those who later on assumed the direction were meanwhile developing, and making themselves ready to guide the civilization of later periods.
Since the time of the great Atlantean catastrophe seven consecutive epochs of civilization have to be differentiated; the first is the ancient Indian epoch, and it is followed by the ancient Persian. [By “ancient Persian” is not meant “Persian” in the usual historic sense, but a pre-historic Asiatic (Iranian) civilization which developed in that land over which, later on, the Persian Kingdom extended.] The third is the Egypto-Chaldæic, the fourth is the Graeco-Roman, and the fifth is our own, which, since about the twelfth century, has been gradually developing and in which we are still living. And since the separate periods overlap, we see already in our times those early events preparing which will lead over into the sixth post-Atlantean epoch. And a seventh epoch will succeed the sixth in due course.
On closer observation we find the following evidence with regard to the guidance of mankind. It was during the third epoch of civilization, the Egypto-Chaldæic, that the Angels (or lower dhyanic beings according to Oriental mysticism) were to some extent independent leaders of humanity. They were not so during the ancient Persian civilization. For then they were subject to a higher direction in a much greater degree than in the Egyptian times, and had to regulate everything in conformity with the impulses of the hierarchies immediately above them. In this way everything was under the immediate guidance of the Angels, who themselves submitted to the rulership of the Archangels. And in the Indian epoch when post-Atlantean life had reached such a height in spiritual matters as has never been attained since — a natural height under the direction of great human teachers — the Archangels themselves were subject in a similar sense to the guidance of the Archai or Primal Powers. Thus if we trace the evolution of humanity from the Indian epoch through the ancient Persian and Egypto-Chaldæic civilizations, we may say that certain beings of the higher hierarchies withdrew ever more and more from the direct guidance of humanity.
In the fourth post-Atlantean period, the Graeco-Roman, man had become quite independent. The guiding superhuman beings were certainly intervening to develop humanity, but only in such a way that the reins were tightened as little as possible, and also that the spiritual leaders themselves might profit as much through the deeds of men as men profited through them. Hence arose that peculiar and quite “human” civilization in the Graeco-Roman time in which man was made to rely entirely on himself. For all the distinctive characteristics of art and political life in Greek and Roman times are traceable to the fact that man had to live out his own life in his own way.
So, when we look back to the most ancient times of civilization, we find evolution guided by beings who, in earlier planetary conditions, had accomplished their development as far as the human stage. But the fourth post-Atlantean period of civilization was intended as a time when man should be put to the test as much as possible. Consequently the whole spiritual guidance of humanity had to be reorganized. We are now living in the fifth post-Atlantean period of civilization. The leading beings of this period belong to the same hierarchy as that which ruled the ancient Egyptians and Chaldæans. In fact those beings who then took the lead have again begun to be active in our times. As has been stated certain of these beings remained behind during the Egypto-Chaldæic civilization, and are to be found manifest in the materialistic feelings and perceptions of our own period.
Now, the progress made by the two classes of Angels or lower dhyanic beings — the class which leads mankind forward and that which obstructs — consisted in their being able to be leaders among the Egyptians and Chaldæans. They achieved this by means of those qualities which they had acquired in primordial times, and which they had further developed by their work as leaders. The progressive angels are intervening to guide the fifth post-Atlantean civilization by means of capacities which they themselves had won during the third or Egypto-Chaldæic civilization. Through the progress they make they are acquiring for themselves quite special capabilities, for they are qualifying themselves to receive the influx of forces emanating from the most important Being in the whole evolution of the Earth.The power of the Christ is working in them; for that power works not only on the physical world through Jesus of Nazareth, but also in the spiritual worlds upon the superhuman beings. The Christ exists not only for the Earth but also for these beings. The beings who guided the old Egypto-Chaldæic civilization were not under the direction of the Christ. It is only since that period that they have placed themselves under His guidance. Their progress consists in their following Him in the higher worlds, so that they may guide our fifth post-Atlantean period of civilization in accordance with His influence.
Those beings who operate as obstructive powers remain behind because they failed to put themselves under the leadership of the Christ. Thus they continue to work independently of Him. More and more in human evolution will become evident a materialistic movement under the guidance of these backward Egypto-Chaldæic spirits. This movement will have a materialistic character and the greater part of contemporary science is under its influence. There are, for example, people today who say that our Earth in its final essence consists of atoms. Who instills this thought into men's minds? It is the superhuman angel beings who had remained behind during the Egypto-Chaldæic period. But side by side with this movement there is another making itself felt, the one which has as its goal the eventual finding of the Christ-principle by man in all that he does.
Now, what will those beings teach who attained their goal in the old Egypto-Chaldæic sphere of civilization, and who then learned to know the Christ? They will be able to instill into man other thoughts than those that assert that there are only material atoms; they will be able to teach that, even to the minutest particle of the world, all substance is permeated with the Spirit of the Christ. And, strange as it may seem, there will be in the future chemists and physicists who will not teach chemistry and physics as they are now taught under the influence of the backward Egypto-Chaldæic spirits but who will teach that ‘matter is built up in the way in which the Christ gradually ordained it.’ The Christ will be found working even in the very laws of chemistry and physics. It is a spiritual chemistry and spiritual physics that will come in the future. Today such a statement may appear to many people as fanciful or worse. But often the sense of the future seems folly to the past. The factors which enter into the evolution of human civilization are there for the careful observer. But he will know quite well the objections which may, with apparent justice, be urged against such alleged folly from the modern scientific or philosophic point of view.
From such hypotheses we are able to understand the advantage the guiding superhuman beings have over man. Humanity learned to know Christ in the fourth civilization period of the post-Atlantean times, the Graeco-Roman epoch, for it was in the course of this civilization that the Christ-event found its place in evolution, and it was then that man learned to know the Christ. The guiding superhuman beings, however, learned to know Him during the Egypto-Chaldæic times, and worked themselves up to Him. Then during the Graeco-Roman civilization they had to leave man to his own fate in order that, later on, they might re-enter the sphere of human evolution. And if nowadays anthroposophy is cultivated, this constitutes recognition of the fact that the superhuman beings who formerly guided humanity are now continuing their task as leaders in such a way as to be themselves under the direct guidance of the Christ. Thus it is with other beings also.
In the ancient Persian epoch the leadership of humanity was apportioned to the Archangels. They put themselves under the direction of the Christ earlier than did the beings in the rank next below them. Of Zarathustra it can be said that pointing to the Sun, he spoke to his followers and his people in some such words as these: “In the Sun there lives the great Spirit Ahura Mazdao, who will one day come down to the Earth.” For the beings out of the region of the Archangels who guided Zarathustra pointed to the great Sun-leader who had not at that time come down upon the Earth but had only begun his journey thither in order, later on, to enter directly into the Rarth evolution. And the guiding beings who directed the great teachers of the Indians also pointed out to these the Christ of the future; for it is a mistake to think that these teachers had no foreknowledge of the Christ. They said that He was “beyond their sphere” and that they “could not attain” unto Him.
As now in our fifth period of civilization it is the Angels who bring down the Christ into our spiritual evolution, so the sixth period of civilization will be directed by beings belonging to the ranks of the Archangels who guided the ancient Persian civilization. And the spirits of Personality — the Primal Powers — or Archai — who guided humanity during the ancient Indian epoch will have to guide humanity in the seventh period of civilization.
In the Graeco-Roman period the Christ descended from the heights of the spirit-world and revealed Himself in the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth. He then came down as far as the physical world. It will be possible to find Him in the world immediately above ours when humanity shall have become sufficiently ripe. It will not be possible in the future to find Him in the physical world, but only in the world immediately above, for human beings will not always remain the same. Having become more mature, they will then find the Christ in the spiritual world, as Paul found Him in his experience before Damascus, which event prophetically foreshadowed the future means of finding the Christ.
And since in our times the same great teachers who have already guided mankind through the Egyptian civilization are working, so also in the twentieth century it will be these same teachers who will lead men out to behold the Christ as Paul beheld Him. They will show mankind how the Christ not only works upon the Earth, but how He spiritualizes the whole solar system. And those who will be the reincarnated holy teachers of India in the seventh period of civilization will proclaim the Spirit Who was foreshadowed by the undivided Brahman. To such teaching, however, the right content and meaning can only be given through the Christ, as the great, the immense Spirit, of Whom these teachers formerly said He hovered above their sphere. Thus will humanity be led upwards from stage to stage into the spiritual world.
To speak in this way about the Christ — how He is the leader of the higher hierarchies also in the successive worlds — is to teach the science which, under the sign of the Rose Cross, has endured in our civilization since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. If from this aspect we observe more closely the Being Who lived in Palestine, and Who consummated the Mystery of Golgotha, we shall find the following: up to the present time many ideas concerning the Christ have found expression. There was for instance the idea of certain Christian Gnostics in the first centuries, who said that the Christ Who lived in Palestine was not present in any physical body of flesh at all; that He had only an apparent body — an etheric body which had become physically visible; so that His death on the Cross had been no real death but only an apparent one. Then we find diverse disputes among those who professed Christianity, as for example, the well-known controversy between the Arians and Athanasians, and the most varied explanations concerning what the Christ really was. Indeed, right up to our own times people express and have expressed the most different ideas concerning the Christ.
Now, spiritual science must recognize in Christ not merely an earthly but also a cosmic Being. In a certain sense man is, taken as a whole, a cosmic being. He lives a twofold life — one in a physical body from birth to death, another in the spiritual worlds between death and a new birth. When he is incarnated in a physical body he is living in dependence on the Earth, because the physical body is restricted by the forces and conditions of existence belonging to the Earth. The human being, however, does not only take the substances and forces of the Rarth into himself, but is joined to the whole of the Earth's organism. When he has passed through the gate of death, he no longer belongs to the forces of the Earth; but it would be incorrect to imagine that he belongs to no forces at all, for he is then connected with the forces of the solar system and the more distant star-systems. In this way, between death and a new birth he lives in the domain of the cosmic, just as in the period between birth and death he lived in the domain of the earthly. From death to a new birth he belongs to the cosmos, as on the Earth he belongs to the elements — Air, Water, and Earth.
Accordingly, while he is passing through a life between death and a new birth he comes into the region of cosmic influences. For the planets send forth not merely the physical forces of what astronomy teaches, such as gravitation and others, but also spiritual forces. With these spiritual powers of the cosmos man is connected, each person in a special manner according to his own individuality. If he is born in Europe he lives in a different relation to warmth conditions, and so forth, than if he had been born, let us say, in Australia. Similarly, during his life between death and a new birth, one person may stand more closely related to the spiritual powers of Mars, another to those of Jupiter, others again to those of the whole planetary system in general, and so on. It is also these forces which bring man back again to the Earth. Thus before he is born he is living in connection with the collective whole of stellar space.
According to the way in which a man stands individually related to the cosmic system, so are the forces directed which lead him to this or that set of parents and to this or that locality. The impetus, the inclination to incarnate here or there, in this or that family, in this or that people, at this or that time, depends on how the person was organically connected with the cosmos before birth. In former times, in that territory where the German tongue was spoken, a specially apt expression was used to indicate a person's entrance into the world through birth. When a person was born, people said that in such and such a place he had “become young” (junggeworden). Therein lies an unconscious reference to the fact that man in the time between death and a new birth continues at first to be subject to the powers which had made him old in a previous incarnation, but that before birth there come in their place such forces as again make him “young.” Thus Goethe in “Faust” still uses the expression “to become young in Nebelland.” — Nebelland being the old name for mediæval Germany.
The truth underlying the casting of a horoscope is that those who know these things can read the forces which determine a person's physical existence. A certain horoscope is allotted to a person because, within it, those forces find expression which have led him into being. If for example in the horoscope Mars stands over Aries (the Ram), this signifies that certain of the Aries forces are not allowed to pass through Mars, and are weakened. Thus is a man put into his place within physical existence, and it is in accordance with his horoscope that he guides himself before entering upon earthly existence.
This subject, which in our times seems so much a thing of chance, should not be touched upon without our attention being called to the fact that nearly everything practised in this connection today is simply dilettantism. It is pure superstition, and for the external world the true science of these matters has been for the most part completely lost. Consequently, the principles expressed here are not to be judged according to that which nowadays frequently leads a questionable existence under the name Astrology.
Now, it is the active forces of the stellar world that impel a man into physical incarnation; and when clairvoyant consciousness observes a person, it can perceive in his organization how this has resulted from the cooperation of cosmic forces. We may now attempt to illustrate this hypothetically, but in a form corresponding entirely with clairvoyant observation. If a person's physical brain were extracted and its construction clairvoyantly examined, so that it might be seen how certain parts are situated in certain places and how they send out appendages, it would be found that each individual's brain is different from that of every other. No two people have brains alike. Let us imagine further that such a brain could be photographed in its complete structure so that one would have a kind of half sphere in which every detail was visible. In a series of such pictures each would be different according to the brains of the different individuals. And if one were to photograph a person's brain at the moment of birth and then photograph also the heavens lying exactly over the person's birthplace, this latter picture would be of exactly the same appearance as that of the human brain. As certain centers were arranged in the latter, so would the stars be in the photograph of the heavens. Man has within himself a picture of the heavens, and every man has a different one, according to whether he was born in this place or that, and at this or that time. This is one indication that man is born from out of the whole cosmos.
When we keep this clearly in view we can rise to the idea of how the macrocosm manifests itself in each separate individual, and then, starting from this point, we can attain a conception of how it showed itself in the Christ. But if we were to imagine the Christ after the Baptism of John as though the macrocosm had then been living in Him in the same way as in other people, we should be mistaken.
Let us first consider Jesus of Nazareth. His conditions of existence were quite exceptional. At the beginning of our era two boys were born and named Jesus. The one came through the Nathan line of the house of David, [Luke III, 23–38] the other through the Solomon line of the same house. [Matthew 1, 1–17] These two children were not born quite at the same time, but nearly so. In the Jesus descended from Solomon, described in the Gospel of St. Matthew, there was incarnated the same individuality who had formerly lived on the Earth as Zarathustra, so that in this Child Jesus there appears the reincarnated Zarathustra or Zoroaster. The individuality of Zarathustra grew up in this Child until, as St. Matthew says, His twelfth year. In that year, Zarathustra left the body of this Child and passed over into that of the other Child Jesus Whom the Gospel of St. Luke describes. In consequence of this the latter Child became suddenly quite different. The parents were astonished when they found Him in Jerusalem in the temple after the spirit of Zarathustra had entered into Him. This is intimated when it is said that the Child, after having been lost and found again in the temple, so spake that his parents did not recognize Him. They only knew Him, the Child descended from Nathan, as He had been up to this time. But when He began to reason with the doctors in the temple, it was possible for Him to speak as He did because the spirit of Zarathustra had come into Him. Until the thirtieth year did the spirit of Zarathustra live in the Jesus who was descended from the Nathan line of the house of David. In this body He ripened to a still higher perfection. The following remark must here be added: As regards this personality in which the spirit of Zarathustra now lived, an extraordinary feature was that into his astral body the Buddha rayed forth his impulses from the spiritual worlds.
The Oriental tradition is correct which says that the Buddha was born as a “Bodhisattva” and only during his time on Earth, in his twenty-ninth year, rose to the dignity of a Buddha. When the Gautama Buddha was a little child, the Indian sage Asita came weeping into the royal palace of his father, Suddhodana. He wept because, as a seer, he knew that this king's son would become the Buddha, and because as an old man, he felt that he would no longer be living to see that event take place. Now this sage was born again in the time of Jesus of Nazareth. It is he who is brought before us in the Gospel of St. Luke as the priest of the temple who saw the revelation of the Buddha in the Child Jesus descended from Nathan. And seeing this he was able to say: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for I have seen my Master,” What he had not been able to see previously in India, he saw through the astral body of the Boy Jesus, Who comes before us in St. Luke's Gospel: the Bodhisattva become Buddha.
All this was necessary in order that that body might be produced which received the baptism of St. John in the Jordan. At that moment the individuality of Zarathustra left the threefold body — the physical, the etheric, and the astral body — of that Jesus Who had grown up in so complicated a manner in order that the spirit of Zarathustra might be able to dwell in Him. The reincarnated Zarathustra had to pass through two possibilities of development which were given in the two Jesus children. Thus there stood before the Baptist the body of Jesus of Nazareth and in it from that time onwards there acted the cosmic individuality of the Christ. Now, as we have shown, in the case of any other human bein, the cosmic spiritual laws work upon him only insofar as they give him a start in Earth-life. Afterwards there appear in opposition to these laws, others which arise out of the conditions of the Earth-evolution. In the case of the Christ-Jesus, after the baptism of John the cosmic-spiritual forces alone remained effective without being influenced in any way through the laws of the Earth evolution.
Thus in Palestine during the time that Jesus of Nazareth walked on Earth as Christ-Jesus — during the three last years of his life, from his thirtieth to his thirty-third year — the entire Being of the cosmic Christ was acting uninterruptedly upon Him, and was working into Him. The Christ stood always under the influence of the entire cosmos — He made no step without this working of the cosmic forces into and in Him. That which here took place in Jesus of Nazareth was a continual realization of the horoscope, for at every moment there occurred that which otherwise happens only at a person's birth. This could be so only because the whole body of Jesus descended from Nathan had remained open to the influence of the sum total of the forces of the cosmic spiritual hierarchies which direct our Earth.
If thus the whole spirit of the cosmos worked into the Christ Jesus, who was it that went, for example, to Capernaum? He who went about as a being upon the Earth appeared quite like any other man. The forces active within Him, however, were the cosmic forces, coming from the Sun and stars; and these directed His Body. And it was always in accordance with the collective Being of the whole Universe, with whom the Earth is in harmony, that all which the Christ Jesus did took place.
It is because of this that in the case of the acts of the Christ-Jesus there is so often some slight hint given in the Gospels about the relative grouping of the stars at the time. We read in St. John's Gospel how the Christ finds His first disciples. There we are told: “It was about the tenth hour,” because in this fact the spirit of the whole cosmos found expression in conformity with the appointed moment of time. Such intimations are less clear in the other Gospel passages, but he who can truly read the Gospels finds them everywhere.
From this point of view also the miracles are to be judged. Let us take one passage — the one that runs thus: “When the Sun was set, they brought the sick unto Him, and He healed them.” What does that mean? The evangelist is drawing attention to the fact that this healing was connected with the whole position of the constellations and that, at the time in question, the constellations throughout the heavens stood as they only could have when the Sun had set The meaning is that, at the time, the requisite healing forces could make themselves felt after sunset, and the Christ Jesus is represented as the intermediary Who brought the sick into connection with the forces of the cosmos which, just at that time, could work curatively. These forces were the same as those which worked as Christ in Jesus. It was through the presence of Christ that the healing took place. Only thus could the sick person be exposed to the healing forces of the cosmos, which could only work as they did when they were in the right relationship to time and space. Thus these forces worked on the sick person through their representative, the Christ.
But it was only just during the time of Christ on Earth that they could so work. It was only then that such a connection existed between the cosmic constellations and the powers of the human organism that, for certain illnesses, healing could intervene when through the instrumentality of the Christ Jesus the cosmic grouping of the same forces was able to work on men. A repetition of this relationship in the evolution of the cosmos and the Earth is as little possible as is a second incarnation of the Christ in a human body. Regarded in this way, the life of the Christ Jesus appears as the earthly expression of a definite connection between the cosmos and the forces of man. The tarrying of a sick person by the side of Christ means that through the proximity of Christ this sick person found himself in such a relation with the macrocosm that the latter could work upon him curatively.
* * *
Herewith the points of view have been stressed which enable us to discern how the guidance of humanity has come under the influence of the Christ. The other forces, however, which had remained behind in the Egypto-Chaldæic times, worked on side by side with those that are permeated by the Christ. This is evident even in the attitude frequently adopted today towards the Gospels. Literary works appear in which great pains are taken to show that the Gospels can be understood through an astrological interpretation. The greatest opponents of the Gospels employ this astrological interpretation to prove, for example, that the way taken by the Archangel Gabriel from Elizabeth to Mary signifies merely the progress of the Sun from the constellation of Virgo to another. This, in a certain sense, is correct, except that these thoughts were poured in this manner into our age by the beings who had remained behind during the Egypto-Chaldæic period. Under such an influence people are induced to a make-belief that the Gospels present only allegories in the place of definite cosmic relations. The truth really is that in the Christ the whole cosmos finds expression. Therefore one can express the life of the Christ by connecting its separate events with the cosmic relations which work into Earth existence unceasingly through the Christ. A right understanding of this matter will thus lead to a full recognition of the Christ as having lived on Earth. Whereas if the interpretation were true that the Christ life as expressed in the Gospels is only a matter of constellations being treated allegorically, then we should have to conclude that there was no real earthly Christ at all.
If a comparison were to be used, we might think of each human being as represented by a spherical mirror — which, if it were set up, would give pictures of all its surroundings. Let us suppose we were to trace with a pencil the outline of all that is shown from the surroundings. We could then take the mirror and carry the picture about with us wherever we went. Let this be a symbol for the fact that when a person is born he brings with him a copy of the cosmos in himself, and afterwards carries about with him all through his life the effect of this one picture. The mirror might, however, be left untouched by the pencil, so that wherever the person carried it, it would depict the immediate surroundings. It then would always be giving a picture of the collective environment. This would be a symbol of the Christ from the baptism of St. John up to the Mystery of Golgotha. That which in the case of any other person passes into his earthly existence only at birth, flowed into the Christ-Jesus at every moment. And when the Mystery of Golgotha was consummated, that which had been radiating from the cosmos passed over into the spiritual substance of the Earth, and has from that time forward been united with the spirit of the Earth.
When St. Paul became clairvoyant before Damascus, he could recognize that That Which had formerly been in the cosmos has passed over into the spirit of the Earth. Of this everyone can be convinced who can bring his soul into such a condition that he can have the same experience as had St. Paul. It is in the twentieth century that those people will first appear who will have St. Paul's experience of the Christ event in a spiritual way.
Whereas up to our times this event could be experienced only by such persons as had gained clairvoyant powers by means of an esoteric training, hereafter to look upon the Christ in the spiritual sphere surrounding the Earth will be possible for the advanced powers of the soul in the course of the natural evolution of humanity. This — as a repetition of the experience of the event before Damascus — will be possible for some people from a certain point of time in the twentieth century. The number of such people will afterwards increase, until in the distant future it will be a natural faculty of the human soul.
* * *
With the entrance of Christ into the evolution of the Earth an entirely new impulse or direction was given to this evolution. External facts of history also express this. In the early times of post-Atlantean evolution men knew very well that above them there was not merely a physical Mars, but that what they saw as Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn was the expression of a spiritual being. In later times this perception was completely forgotten. The heavenly bodies became, according to human ideas, mere bodies to be estimated according to their physical condition. In the Middle Ages people saw in connection with the stars what only the eyes can see — the sphere of Venus, the sphere of the Sun, the sphere of Mars and the other planets, up to the sphere of the fixed stars. Then came the eighth sphere like a solid blue wall behind.
Later Copernicus appeared and broke down the idea that only that which is perceptible to the senses can be authoritative. The modern physical scientists may indeed say: “It is madness to declare that the world is Maya, or illusion, and that you must look into a spiritual world in order to see the truth, for in spite of all you say true science is that which relies on the senses and records what these senses tell.” But when did astronomers rely only on the senses? Surely at the very time when that astronomical science was dominant which is attacked by the science of today! It was at that time when Copernicus began to think out what exists in the cosmic space beyond the evidence of the senses that our modern astronomy as a science began. And so it is in every domain of science. Wherever science, in the most modern sense of the word, has arisen, it has done so in opposition to what had been apparent to the senses. When Copernicus declared “what you see is Maya or deception; rely on what you cannot see” — that was the moment when the science came into being which is recognized as such today. It might thus be said to the representative of modern science: “Your science itself only became ‘science’ when it was no longer willing to depend upon the senses only.”
Giordano Bruno came as philosophical interpreter of the teachings of Copernicus. He led the gaze of man out into cosmic space, and announced that what people had called the limitations of space — what they had placed there as the eighth sphere limiting everything in space — was in reality no limitation; it was Maya, or illusion; for an infinite number of worlds had been poured forth into cosmic space. That which was formerly considered to be the boundary of space was shown to be only the boundary of the sense-world of man, and if we direct our gaze beyond the sense-world we shall no longer see the world only as known to the senses, but we shall also recognize Infinity.
From this it is apparent that in the course of human evolution man originally started from a spiritual view of the cosmos and in time lost it. In its place there came a mere sense-perception of the world. Then there came into evolution the Christ Impulse. Through this, mankind was led to stamp the spiritual view once more upon the materialistic. At that moment when Giordano Bruno burst the fetters of sense illusion, the Christ evolution was so far advanced that the soul power which bad been kindled by the Christ Impulse could then become active within him. An indication is thus given of the whole significance of the manner in which the life of Christ penetrates all human evolution, at the mere beginning of which humanity stands today.
To what then does spiritual science now aspire? It completes the work begun for external science by Giordano Bruno and others in that it says: That which external science is able to perceive is Maya, or illusion. Just as formerly one looked to the “eighth sphere” and thought that space was thereby bounded, so contemporary human thought believes that man is shut in or enclosed between birth and death. Spiritual science, however, expands man's vision by directing his attention out and beyond the limits of birth and death.
There is a continuous chain in human evolution which such ideas as these make us recognize. And in the true sense of the words, that which resulted in the conquest of sense illusion through Copernicus and Giordano Bruno proceeded from the inspiration arising from that spiritual current now working in the modern spiritual science of anthroposophy. What one might call the newer esotericism worked in a mysterious manner on Copernicus, Bruno, Kepler, and others. Those therefore who now base their thought on foundations laid by Giordano Bruno and Copernicus and do not wish to accept anthroposophy are unfaithful to their own traditions in desiring to hold fast to sense illusion. As Giordano Bruno forced a way through the blue firmament of heaven, even so does spiritual science break down the barriers of birth and death for man by showing how he originates from out of the macrocosm, lives in a physical existence, passes through death, and reenters macrocosmic life. And what we see in a limited degree in each individual meets us unrestrictedly and in a larger sense in the representative of the spirit of the cosmos — in the Christ-Jesus.
Once and once only could that impulse be given which the Christ gave. Once only could the whole cosmos be thus reflected, for the conjunction of the stars which then took place can never be repeated. In order to give an impulse to the Earth, this conjunction was obliged to work through a human body. As it is true that this same grouping cannot occur a second time, so it is equally true that the Christ was only once incarnated. Only if one did not know that the Christ is the representative of the whole universe and only if it were impossible to win one's way to this Christ-Idea — the elements for which are given through spiritual science — only then would it be possible to maintain that Christ could appear more than once upon the Earth.
Thus we see how an idea of Christ arises out of the new spiritual science, which reveals to man in a new form his connection with the whole macrocosm. Certainly, in order to gain a true knowledge of the Christ, those inspiring forces are absolutely necessary which are now being bestowed by the same superhuman beings who formerly guided the Egypto-Chaldæic epoch and who have now put themselves under the Christ. There is need of a new inspiration of this kind, of an inspiration which the great esoteric teachers of the Middle Ages had prepared from the thirteenth century onwards, and which from this time forth must ever come more and more into effect. When man, according to the meaning of this science, prepares his soul aright for the knowledge of the spirit-world, he can then hear clairaudiently and he can see clairvoyantly what is revealed by the old Chaldæic and Egyptian angel beings who are now again acting as spiritual leaders under the guidance of the Christ. That which humanity will some time later actually gain thereby, could only be prepared in the first centuries of Christianity and up to our times.
Consequently we may say that in the future there will live in the hearts of men an idea of the Christ incomparable in greatness with anything which humanity has so far recognized. That which arose as a first impulse through the Christ, and has lived as an idea of Him up to the present time — even in the case of the best representatives of the Christ-principle — is only a preparation for the true understanding of the Christ. It would be strange indeed if, against those who in the West gave expression in such a way as this to the Christ-idea, it were brought as a reproach that they do not stand on the foundation of Western Christian tradition. But it is quite possible, for this Western tradition does not by any means suffice to help us to comprehend the Christ of the near future.
From the hypothesis of Western esotericism we can see the spiritual direction of humanity gradually flowing into what may be in a real, true sense called the guidance which comes from the Christ-impulse. That which is appearing as the new esotericism will flow slowly into the hearts of men, and the spiritual guidance of men and of humanity will ever more and more be consciously seen in such a light. We realize within ourselves how at first the Christ-principle flowed into the hearts of men because the Christ had gone about Palestine in the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth. Because men by that time were gradually surrendering themselves to reliance on the world of sense, they could receive the impulse which corresponded to their perception. Afterwards that same impulse so worked through the inspiration of the new esotericism that such spirits as Nicholas of Cusa, Copernicus, and Galileo were inspired, and Copernicus, for instance, was enabled to make this assertion: “That which is evident to the senses cannot teach the truth about solar systems; if we want to find the truth we must investigate behind sense appearances” At that time men, even spirits like Giordano Bruno, were not yet ripe enough to join consciously to the new esoteric stream. The spirit of the movement had to work in them unconsciously. Yet powerful and magnificent was the announcement of Giordano Bruno: “When a human being enters into existence by means of birth, then it is something macrocosmic that concentrates itself as a monad; and when a human being passes through death the monad spreads itself out again; that which was enclosed within the body spreads itself out in the cosmos in order to draw itself together again in other stages of existence, and again to spread itself out.” There Bruno gave expression to mighty conceptions which, even if expressed in stammering tongue, were in entire accord with the sense of the new esotericism.
The spiritual influences which lead humanity need not work in such a way that man is always conscious of them. For example, they put Galileo in the cathedral of Pisa. Thousands had seen the old church lamp there, but they had not seen it as did Galileo. He saw the church lamp swinging; compared the time of its oscillation with the beat of his own pulse; found that the church lamp swung in a regular rhythm resembling his pulse-beat; and from this discovered the laws of the pendulum in the sense of modern physics. Anyone acquainted with contemporary physics knows that this science would not be possible without Galileo's principle. In this way the force was then working which is now appearing as spiritual science; Galileo was placed in the cathedral of Pisa before the oscillating church lamp, and modern physics gained its principles. In such a mysterious way do the guiding spiritual forces of humanity perform their work.
We are now approaching the time when people are to become conscious of these guiding powers. We shall always come to a better and better understanding of what has to happen in the future if we rightly understand what is working inspirationally as the new esotericism. We must recognize that those same spiritual beings indicated as their gods by the ancient Egyptians when the Greeks asked them about their teachers are now again assuming control through having placed themselves under the leadership of the Christ. Ever more and more will men feel how they can cause to reappear in a brighter lustre, in a nobler style, and on a higher level that which was pre-Christian. The consciousness necessary for the present time, which must be an intensified consciousness, ought to give us a feeling of our high duty and great responsibility in reference to the recognition of the spiritual world. This can only penetrate our souls when we have recognized, in the sense indicated, the task of spiritual science.