|Ex Deo Nascimur In Christo Morimur Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus
Rudolf Steiner, January 11, 1924 [Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation, lecture 4 of 6]
What I have been telling you in recent lectures requires to be carried a little further. I have tried to give you a picture of the flow of spiritual knowledge through the centuries, and of the form it has taken in recent times, and I have been able to show how from the fifteenth until the end of the eighteenth or even the beginning of the nineteenth century, the spiritual knowledge that was present before that period as clear and concrete — albeit instinctive — knowledge showed itself in this later age more in a devotion of heart and soul to the Spiritual, to all that is of the Spirit in the world.
We have seen how the knowledge man possessed of Nature and of how the spiritual world works in Nature is still present in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. In a personality like Agrippa of Nettesheim, whom I have described in my book Mysticism and Modern Thought, we have one who was still fully possessed of the knowledge, for example, that in the several planets of our system are spiritual Beings of quite definite character and kind.
In his writings Agrippa of Nettesheim assigns to each single planet what he calls the Intelligence of the planet. This points to traditions which were still extant from olden times, and even in his day were something more than traditions. To look up to a planet in the way that became customary in later Astronomy and is still customary today would have been utterly impossible to a man like Agrippa of Nettesheim. The external planet — nay, every external star — was no more than a sign, an announcement, so to say, of the presence of spiritual Beings, to whom one could look up with the eye of the soul, when one looked in the direction of the star. And Agrippa of Nettesheim knew that the Beings who are united with the single stars are the Beings who rule the inner existence of the star or the planet, rule also the movements of the planet in the Universe, the whole activity of the particular star. And such Beings he called: the Intelligence of the star.
Agrippa knew also how, at the same time, hindering Beings work from the star, Beings who undermine the good deeds of the star. They too work from out of the star and also into it; and these Beings he called Demons of the star. And together with this knowledge went an understanding of the Earth, that saw in the Earth too a heavenly body having its Intelligence and its Demon.
The understanding, however. for star Intelligence and star Demonology was little by little completely lost, with all that was involved in it. What was essentially involved in it may be expressed in the following way.
The Earth was of course looked upon as ruled in her inner activity, in her movement in the Cosmos, by Intelligences whom one could bring together under the name of the Intelligence of the Earth star. But what was the Intelligence of the Earth star, for the men of Agrippa's time? It is exceedingly difficult today even to speak of these things, because the ideas of men have travelled very far away from what was accepted as a matter of course in those times by men of insight and understanding. The Intelligence of the Earth star was Man himself, the human being as such. They saw in Man a being who had received a task from the Spirituality of the Worlds, not merely, as modern man imagines, to walk about on the Earth, or to travel about it in trains, to buy and sell, to write books, and so forth and so forth — no, they conceived Man as a being to whom the World-Spirit had given the task to rule and regulate the Earth, to bring law and order into all that has to do with the place of the Earth in the Cosmos. Their conception of Man was expressed by saying: Through what he is, through the forces and powers he bears within his being, Man gives to the Earth the impulse for her movement around the Sun, for her movement further in Universal Space.
There was in very truth still a feeling for this. It was known that the task had once been allotted to Man, that Man had really been made the Lord of the Earth by the World-Spirituality, but in the course of his evolution had not shown himself equal to the task, had fallen from his high estate. When men are speaking of knowledge nowadays it is very seldom that one hears even a last echo of this view. What we find in religious belief concerning the Fall really goes back ultimately to this idea; for there the point is that originally Man had quite another position on the Earth and in the Universe from the position he takes today; he has fallen from his high estate. Setting aside however this religious conception and considering the realm of thought, where men think they have knowledge that they have attained by definite and correct methods, it is only here and there that we can still find today an echo of the ancient knowledge that once proceeded from instinctive clairvoyance, and that was well aware of Man's task and of his Fall into his present narrow limitations.
It may still happen, for example, that one may have a conversation with a person — I am here relating facts — who has thought very deeply, who has also acquired very deep knowledge concerning this or that matter in the spiritual realm. The conversation turns on whether Man, as he stands on Earth today, is really a creature who is self-contained, who carries his whole being and nature within him. And such a personality as I have described will say to you, that this cannot be. Man must really in his nature be a far more comprehensive being — otherwise he could not have the striving he has now, he could not develop the great idealism of which we can see such fine and lofty examples; in his true nature Man must be a great and comprehensive being, who has somehow or other committed a cosmic sin, as a consequence of which he has been banished within the limits of this present earthly existence, so that today he is really sitting imprisoned as it were in a cage. You may still meet with this view here and there as a late straggler, as it were. But speaking generally, where shall we find one who accounts himself a scientist, who seriously occupies himself with these great and far-reaching questions? And yet it is only by facing them that man can ever find his way to an existence worthy of him as man.
It was, then, really so that Man was regarded as the bearer of the Intelligence of the Earth. But now, a person like Agrippa of Nettesheim ascribed to the Earth also a Demon. When we go back to the twelfth or thirteenth century, we find this Demon of the Earth to be a Being who could only become what he became on the Earth because he found in Man the tool for his activity.
In order to understand this, we must acquaint ourselves with the way men thought about the relationship of the Earth to the Sun, or of Earthly man to the Sun, in those days. And if I am now to describe to you how they understood this relationship, then I must again speak in Imaginations: for these things will not suffer themselves to be confined in abstract concepts. Abstract concepts came later, and they are very far from being able to span the truth; we have therefore to speak in pictures, in Imaginations.
Although, as I have described in my Outline of Occult Science, the Sun separated itself from the Earth, or rather separated the Earth off from itself, it is nevertheless the original abode of Man. For ever since the beginning of the Saturn existence Man was united with the whole planetary system including the Sun. Man has not his home on Earth, he has on Earth only a temporary resting place. He is in truth, according to the view that prevailed in those olden times, a Sun-being. He is united in his whole being and existence with the Sun.
And since this is so, he ought as a being of the Sun to stand quite differently on the Earth than he actually does. He ought to stand on the Earth in such a way that it should suffice for the Earth to have the impulse to bring forth the seed of Man in etheric form from out of the mineral and plant kingdoms, and the Sun then to fructify the seed brought forth from the Earth. Thence should arise the etheric human form, which should itself establish its own relationship to the physical substances of the Earth, and itself take on Earth substantiality.
The contemporaries of Agrippa of Nettesheim — Agrippa's own knowledge was, unfortunately, somewhat clouded, but better contemporaries of his did really hold the view that Man ought not to be born in the earthly way he now is, but Man ought really to come to being in his etheric body through the interworking of Sun and Earth, and only afterwards, going about the Earth as an etheric being, give himself earthly form. The seeds of Man should grow up out of the Earth with the purity of plant-life, appearing here and there as ethereal fruits of the Earth, darkly shining; these should then in a certain season of the year be overshone, as it were, by the light of the Sun, and thereby assume human form, but etheric still; then Man should draw to himself physical substance — not from the body of the mother, but from the Earth and all that is thereon, incorporating it into himself from the kingdoms of the Earth. Thus — they thought — should have been the manner of Man's appearance on the Earth, in accordance with the purposes of the Spirit of the Worlds.
And the development that came later was due to the fact that Man had allowed to awaken within him too deep an urge, too intense a desire for the earthly and material. Thereby he forfeited his connection with the Sun and the Cosmos, and could only find his existence on Earth in the form of the stream of inheritance. Thereby, however, the Demon of the Earth began his work; for the Demon of the Earth would not have been able to do anything with men who were Sun-born. When Sun-born man came to dwell on the Earth, he would have been in very truth the Fourth Hierarchy. And one would have had to speak of Man in the following manner. One would have had to say: First Hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Second Hierarchy: Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes; Third Hierarchy: Angels, Archangels, Archai; Fourth Hierarchy: Man — three different shades or gradations of the human, but none the less making the Fourth Hierarchy.
But because Man gave rein to his strong impulses in the direction of the physical, he became not the being on the lowest branch, as it were, of the Hierarchies but instead the being at the summit of the highest branch of the earthly kingdoms: mineral kingdom, plant kingdom, animal kingdom, human kingdom. This was the picture of how Man stood in the world.
Moreover, because Man does not find his proper task on the Earth, the Earth herself has not her right and worthy position in the Cosmos. For since Man has fallen, the true Lord of the Earth is not there. What has happened? The true Lord of the Earth is not there, and it became necessary for the Earth, not being governed from herself in her place in the Cosmos, to be ruled from the Sun; so that the tasks that should really be carried out on Earth fell to the Sun. The man of mediaeval times looked up to the Sun and said: In the Sun are certain Intelligences. They determine the movement of the Earth in the Cosmos; they govern what happens on the Earth. Man ought, in reality, to do this; the Sun-forces ought to work on Earth through Man for the existence of the Earth. Hence that significant mediaeval conception that was expressed in the words: The Sun, the unlawful Prince of this world.
And now reflect, my dear friends, how infinitely the Christ Impulse was deepened through such conceptions. The Christ became, for these mediaeval men, the Spirit Who was not willing to find His further task on the Sun, Who would not remain among those who directed the Earth in unlawful manner from without. He wanted to take His path from the Sun to the Earth, to enter into the destiny of Man and the destiny of Earth, to experience Earth events and pass along the ways of Earth evolution, sharing the lot of Man and of Earth.
Therewith, for mediaeval man, the Christ is the one Being Who in the Cosmos saved the task of Man on the Earth. Now you have the connection. Now you can see why, in Rosicrucian times, it was again and again impressed upon the pupil: “O Man, thou art not what thou art; the Christ had to come, to take from thee thy task, in order that He might perform it for thee.”
A great deal in Goethe's Faust has come down from mediaeval conceptions, although Goethe himself did not understand this. Recall, my dear friends, how Faust conjures up the Earth Spirit. With these mediaeval conceptions in mind, we can enter with feeling and understanding into how this Earth Spirit speaks. —
In the tides of Life,
In Action's storm,
A fluctuant wave,
A shuttle free,
Birth and the Grave,
An eternal Sea,
A weaving, flowing
Life, all glowing:
Thus at Time's humming loom ‘tis my hand prepares
The garment of Life which the Deity wears.
who is it that Faust is really conjuring up? Goethe himself, when he was writing Faust, most assuredly did not fully know. But if we go back from Goethe to the mediaeval Faust and listen to this mediaeval Faust in whom Rosicrucian wisdom was living, then we learn how he too wanted to conjure up a spirit. But whom did he want to conjure up in the Earth Spirit? He did not ever speak of the Earth Spirit, he spoke of Man. The deep longing and striving of mediaeval man was: to be Man. For he felt and knew that as Earth man he is not truly Man. How can manhood be found again? The way Faust is rebuffed, pushed to one side, by the Earth Spirit is a picture of how man in his earthly form is rebuffed by his own being.
And this is why many accounts of conversion to Christianity in the Middle Ages show such extraordinary depth of feeling. They are filled with the sense that men have striven to attain the manhood that is lost, and have had to give up in despair, have rightly despaired of being able to find in themselves, within earthly physical life, this true and genuine manhood; and so they have arrived at the point where they must say: Human striving for true manhood must be abandoned; earthly man must leave it to the Christ to fulfil the task of the Earth.
In this time, when man's relation to true manhood as well as his relation to the Christ was still understood in what I would call a superpersonal-personal manner — in this time Spirit-knowledge, Spirit-vision was still a real thing, it was still a content of experience. It ceased to be so with the fifteenth century. Then came the tremendous change, which no one really understood. But those who know of such things know how in the fifteenth, in the sixteenth centuries, and even later, there was a Rosicrucian school, isolated, scarcely known to the world, where over and over again a few pupils were educated, and where above all, care was taken that one thing should not be forgotten but be preserved as a holy tradition. And this was the following. — I will give it to you in narrative form.
Let us say, a new pupil arrived at this lonely spot to receive preparation. The so-called Ptolemaic system was first set before him, in its true form, as it had been handed down from olden times, not in the trivial way it is explained nowadays as something that has been long ago supplanted, but in an altogether different way. The pupil was shown how the Earth really and truly bears within herself the forces that are needed to determine her path through the Universe. So that to have a correct picture of the World, it must be drawn in the old Ptolemaic sense: the Earth must be for Man in the centre of the Universe, and the other stars in their corresponding revolutions be controlled and directed by the Earth.
And the pupil was told: If one really studies what are the best forces in the Earth, then one can arrive at no other conception of the World than this. In actual fact, however, it is not so. It is not so on account of man's sin. Through man's sin, the Earth — so to speak, in an unauthorized, wrongful way — has gone over into the kingdom of the Sun; the Sun has become the regent and ruler of earthly activities. Thus, in contradistinction to a World-System given by the Gods to men, with the Earth in the center, could now be set another World-System, that has the Sun in the center, and the Earth revolving round the Sun — it: is the system of Copernicus.
And the pupil was taught that here is a mistake in the Cosmos, a mistake in the Universe brought about by human sin. This knowledge was entrusted to the pupil and he had to engrave it deeply in his heart and soul. — Men have overthrown the old World-System (so did the teacher speak) and set another in its place; and they do not know that this other, which they take to be correct, is the outcome of their own human guilt. It is really nothing else than the expression, the revelation of human guilt, and yet men take it to be the right and correct view. What has happened in recent times? (The teacher is speaking to the pupil.) Science has suffered a downfall through the guilt of man. Science has become a science of the Demon.
About the end of the eighteenth century such communications became impossible, but until that time there were always pupils here and there of some lonely Rosicrucian School, who received their spiritual nourishment imbued as it were with this feeling, with this deep understanding.
Even such a man as Leibnitz, the great philosopher, was led by his own thought and deliberation to try and find somewhere a place of learning where the relation between the Copernican and Ptolemaic Systems could be correctly formulated. But he was not able to find any such place.
Things like this need to be known if one is to understand aright, in all its shades of meaning, the great change that has come about in the last centuries in the way man looks on himself and on the Universe. And with this weakening of man's living connection with himself, with this estrangement of man from himself, came afterwards the tendency to cling to the external intellect that today rules all. Is this external intellect verily human experience? No, for were it human experience, it could not live so externally in mankind as it does. The intellect has really no sort of connection with what is individual and personal, with the single individual man; it is well-nigh a convention. It does not flow out of inner human experience; rather it approaches man as something outside him.
You may feel how the intellect became external by comparing the way in which Aristotle himself imparted his Logic to his pupils with the way in which it was taught much later, say in the seventeenth century. — You will remember how Kant says that Aristotle's Logic has not advanced since his time. — In the time of Aristotle, Logic was still thoroughly human. When a man was taught to think logically, he had a feeling as though — if again I may be allowed to express myself in imaginative terms — as though he were thrusting his head into cold water and thereby became estranged from himself for a moment; or else he had a feeling such as Alexander expressed when Aristotle wanted to impart Logic to him: You are pressing together all the bones of my head! It is the feeling of something external.
But in the seventeenth century this externality was taken as a matter of course. Men learned how from the major and minor premise the consequent must be deduced. They learned what we find treated so ironically in Goethe's Faust:
“The first was so, the second so.
Therefore the third and fourth are so:
Were not the first and second, then
The third and fourth had never been!
There will your mind be drilled and braced,
As if in Spanish boots ‘twere laced!”
Whether, like Alexander, one feels the bones of one's head all pressed together, or whether one is laced up in Spanish boots with all this First, Second, Third, Fourth — we have in either case a true picture of what one feels.
But this externality of abstract thought was no longer felt in the time when Logic began to be taught in the schools. Today of course this has more or less ceased. Logic is no longer specifically taught in the schools. It is rather as if there had once been a time when hundreds and hundreds of people had put on the same uniform under direction, and done it with enthusiasm, and then afterwards there came a time when they did it of their own free will without giving it a thought.
During all the time however when the Logic of the abstract was gaining the upper hand, the old spiritual knowledge was incapable of going forward. Hence we see it in its turn becoming external, and assuming a form of which examples are to be found in the writings of Eliphas Levi or the publications of Saint-Martin. These are the last offshoots of the old Spirit-knowledge and Spirit-vision.
What do we find in a book such as Eliphas Levi's The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic? In the first place there are all kinds of signs — Triangles, Pentagrams, and so forth. We find words from languages in use in bygone ages, especially from the Hebrew. And we find that what in earlier times was life and at the same time knowledge that could pass over into man's action and into man's ideas — this we find has become bereft of ideas on the one hand, and on the other hand has degenerated into external magic. There is speculation as to the symbolic meaning of this or that sign, concerning all of which the modern man, if he is honest, would have to confess that he can find nothing particular in it. There are also practices connected with all manner of rites, while those who spoke of these rites and frequently practised them were far from having any clear notion at all of their spiritual connection. Such books are invariably pointers to what was once understood in olden times, was once an inward knowledge-experience, but when Eliphas Levi, for example, was writing his books, was no longer understood. As for Saint-Martin — of him I have already written in the Goetheanum Weekly.
Thus we see how what had once been interwoven into the soul-and-spirit of man's life could not he held there but fell a victim to complete want of understanding. The common impulse and striving for the Divine that shows itself in the feeling of man from the fifteenth to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is genuine and true. Beautiful things are to be found in this impulse, things lovely and sublime. Much that has come from these times and that is far too little noticed today has about it as it were a magic breath — the genuine spell of the Spiritual.
Side by side, however, with all this, a seed is sprouting, the seed of the lack of understanding of old spiritual truths. We have therewith a hardening, ossifying process, and a growing impossibility to approach the Spiritual in a way that is in accord with the age. We come across men of the eighteenth century who speak of a downfall of all that is human, and of the rise of a terrible materialism. Often it seems as though what these men of the eighteenth century say applies just as well to our own time. And yet it is not so; what they say does not apply to the last two-thirds of the nineteenth century.
For in the nineteenth century a further stage has been reached. What was still regarded in the eighteenth century with a certain abhorrence on account of its demoniacal character has come to be taken quite as a matter of course. The men of the nineteenth century had not the power to say: Copernicus: yes, but a conception of the Universe such as this was only able to arise because man did not become on Earth that which he should have become, and so the Earth was left without a ruler, and the rulership passed over to the unrighteous lords of the world (the expression occurs again and again in mediaeval writings); these took over the leadership of the Earth — even as the Christ left the Sun and united Himself with the destiny of the Earth.
Only now, at the end of the nineteenth century, has it again become possible to look into these things with a clear vision such as man possessed in olden times; only now in the Michael Age has the possibility come again. We have spoken repeatedly of the dawn of the Michael Age, and of its character. But there are tasks that belong to this Michael Age, and it is possible now to point to these tasks, after all that we have been considering in the Christmas Meeting and since about the evolution of Spirit-vision throughout the centuries.