Saturday, April 30, 2011
Rudolf Steiner: "When someone is alone Christ is not there. You cannot find Christ without first feeling a connection to humanity as a whole. You must seek Christ on the path that connects you with all humankind.... To be connected only with your own inner experiences leads you away from Christ."
The East in the Light of the West. Lecture 5 of 9
Rudolf Steiner, August 27, 1909:
In the preceding lecture it has been shown to what extent the external world is an illusion, concealing the spiritual world behind it. The consciousness of the seer penetrating through this illusion represents one path to the spiritual world. It has, however, also been shown that everything in the inner life of the soul — thinking, feeling, sensations, as also the more complicated phenomena of conscience, and so on — form a kind of veil concealing a spiritual world. And the consciousness of the seer penetrating these veils represents the other path into the spiritual world.
The existence of these two different paths has been known at all times to men who sought for initiation. Hence we find that a distinction was made by ancient peoples between upper and lower gods. In the Mysteries of all epochs it was taught that at a certain stage of initiation man enters the world of the upper and of the lower gods, but a great distinction was made between them. Man has no influence upon the way in which the outer world confronts him in the many-colored tapestry of color impressions, warmth impressions etc., or in the phenomena of the elements of fire, air, water, and earth. The Sun rises in the morning; it sheds its rays of light over the Earth, and according to the different conditions set up, the external world of the senses appears; when man penetrates through these outer phenomena, he reaches the spiritual world.
Man is not in a position to destroy this world of the senses through his own resources, because he cannot materially affect the outer phenomena surrounding him; the sense world is placed before him by the spiritual beings of whom it is an expression and manifestation; through his own power he cannot impair it. At initiation he is able to penetrate the veil of the sense world, but he must leave it just as the spiritual beings have shaped and fashioned it.
The relation of a man to his own inner life is different. His perceptions, feelings, will, his thinking, and the development of his conscience depend upon the extent to which he has worked upon the evolution of his soul life. Man cannot evoke a pure or an impure red or green color from the dawn or from a plant: but the corruption of his soul life may well give rise to grotesque feelings and bad moral judgments; he can submit in a greater or lesser degree to the dictation of his conscience; in his fancies he can devote himself to beauty or to ugliness, to true or to false thought images. Through his own conduct a man modifies or changes the veil spread over the spiritual world by the inner life of the soul. And because what we see behind the veil of our own soul-life depends upon whether this veil itself is pure or corrupt, it is easy to understand that in cases where the inner life is corrupt or but slightly developed, when the ascent into the spiritual worlds or descent to the realm of lower spiritual beings takes place, grotesque images in the form of false, nonsensical, abnormal concepts and forces may be called into being.
For this reason it came about that in every age a distinction was made between the ascent to the upper gods and the descent to the lower gods, and that this descent was regarded as more essentially dangerous than the ascent to the upper gods, and on this latter path, through the veils of the inner life to the spiritual worlds, very high demands were made of the pupil of the Mysteries and of Occult Science.
Mention had to be made of this, because these two paths to the spiritual world have played a great role in human evolution and because the East and the West and the relation between the ‘Children of Lucifer’ and the ‘Brothers of Christ’ can only be rightly understood if their existence is taken into account. In the outer world, which to the ordinary human eye is apt to appear a motley web of many and varied facts and phenomena, there is nothing which is not guided by wisdom, nothing in which spiritual beings, spiritual forces and facts do not come into play; and we understand the matter aright only when we have realized that the spiritual events have been brought together under the direction of those powers which have been described from many different aspects. To understand why a certain form of wisdom has flourished in the East and why the future of the Christian impulse depends upon the development of powers residing in the West, we must consider the origin and historical trend of the two worlds (East and West).
We know that the spiritual life of the present had its origin in old Atlantis, that an ancient spiritual life developed upon a land in the West lying between modern Europe and America, and that such Asiatic, African, and American civilizations as exist are the last remnants of those of ancient Atlantis. Atlantis is the Father and Motherland of all the cultured life of today. Before the mighty catastrophe which changed the face of the globe into its present configuration, there were to be found in old Atlantis species of men very different from those of the present time, men guided by high initiates and leaders. A civilization developed there essentially under the influence of an ancient clairvoyance, and men possessed a natural and instinctive faculty for penetrating through the outer veils of the sense world to the higher spiritual world as well as through their own soul life to the lower gods. Just as it is natural to men of the present day to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and so on, it was natural for men of that time not only to see colors and hear in the outer world, but to be aware of spiritual beings as realities behind these colors and tones. In the same way it was natural for men at that time not only to hear the voice of conscience but also to perceive those spiritual beings called Erinyes by the Greeks. The old Atlanteans were intimately acquainted with a spiritual world. The purpose of human evolution implies that men are gradually to rise up out of this old instinctive but spiritually perceptive consciousness and push forward to the consciousness proper to our modern time. It was necessary for men to go through this stage of life on the physical plane.
It was not possible to guide the whole evolution of mankind from the spiritual world in such a simple way that one stream of humanity should pass from old Atlantis over the regions of Europe and Africa into Asia, and that everything should develop, as it were, along straight lines. Evolution is never a simple, straight line of development from a single germ; another factor has to come in, and a very simple analogy will show that this is the case. Consider a plant. The seed is put into the earth and out of it develop the elementary organs of the plant, the leaves, and later, the calyx, stamen, pistils, and so on. Now if development is to continue in plant life, as we know it, it is essential that something else should happen. The formation of the fruit from the blossom depends upon fecundation: the fertilizing substances of one plant must pass over to another, for the fruit could not develop simply out of the blossom. A stream of influences from outside has to be introduced in order that development may progress.
What may be perceived in the plant is a picture of universal life and is also an indication of the laws of spiritual life. It is quite false to believe that in spiritual life a stream of culture arises here or there and continually produces new offshoots from itself. This may happen for a time, but it would no more suffice to bring about what is to come to pass than would the blossom, without fertilization, be able to produce the fruit. At a certain definite point of cultural evolution a side influence must come in, a spiritual fertilization of human development. Just as in plant life the male and female elements develop independently, so in human evolution from the time of Atlantis there had to be formed not one stream but two, passing from old Atlantis towards the East. It was necessary that these streams of civilization should develop separately for a while, and then meet again to fertilize each other at a definite period.
We can follow these two streams of human evolution if we examine the records of spiritual seership. One stream of evolution is formed by the transmigration of certain peoples from old Atlantis to more northerly regions, touching territories which now include England, the north of France, and thence extend to the present Scandinavia, Russia, and into Asia as far as India. In this movement were to be found peoples of various kinds, forming the vehicle of a definite spiritual life. A second stream went a different way, in a more southerly direction, through southern Spain and Africa to Egypt and thence to Arabia. Each of these two streams of civilization goes its own way until they meet to fructify each other at a later point of time.
Now, wherein consists the difference between these two streams of culture? Men belonging to the northern stream were more adapted for the use of the outer senses of external perception; their tendency was to look outwards to the veil of the surrounding world. There were initiates among these northern men who showed them the way to the spiritual worlds where the upper gods were to be found — gods who are reached by penetrating through the veils of the outer sense world. To this category belong the beings reverenced as the Northern Germanic gods. Odin, Thor, etc., are the names of divine beings to be found behind the outer veil of the sense world.
Men belonging to the southern stream were differently constituted. These peoples had a greater tendency to delve into their soul life, into their inner nature. Let us say — and do not take the word amiss — the northern peoples had a greater gift for observing the world, the southern peoples for brooding over their own soul life, seeking the spiritual world through this inner veil. Hence it is not a matter for wonder that the gods of the descendants of the southern stream belonged to the Nether World and were rulers of the soul life. Consider the Egyptian Osiris. Osiris is the divinity found by man on passing through the gate of death; Osiris is the god who cannot live in the external sense world. He lived there in ancient times only, and as the new era approached he was overcome by the powers of the sense world, by the evil Set; and since then he has lived in the world entered after death, accessible only by plunging into the immortal, permanent human principle which passes from incarnation to incarnation. This was why Osiris was felt to be most intimately bound up with the inner life of man.
Here we have the fundamental difference between the northern and the southern peoples. There was, however, one race who in the first period of the post-Atlantean epoch combined both qualities. This race was specially selected to follow both paths leading to the spiritual world and along each of them to discover that which was serviceable and right for that epoch, being possessed of the capacity both for attaining the spiritual world behind the external sense world and also for finding the spiritual world behind the veil of their own soul life by sinking into the mystical depths of their inner nature.
This faculty, in the first epochs at all events of the old Atlantean era, was possessed by all men — and connected with it was a very definite experience. If a man who is only able to reach the spiritual world through the external sense world and to find the upper gods hears that somewhere else on the Earth there are other gods, he does not understand them aright. But where the two faculties of penetrating through the external sense world and through the veil of the soul life are united, a man makes the very significant discovery that what is to be found behind the veil of the soul life is exactly the same, in essence, as that behind the veil of the outer sense world. A uniform spiritual world is revealed from without and from within. If a man should get to know the spiritual world by both paths, he realizes their unity.
The people of ancient India were in a position to realize the unity of spiritual life. When the supersensible sight of the ancient Indian was directed outwards he perceived spiritual beings holding together and coordinating external phenomena. When he sank into his inner nature he found his Brahman; and he knew what he found behind the veil of his soul life to be identical with that which, passing through the cosmos on mighty pinions, created and fashioned the external world. Such mighty conceptions — fruits of ancient Atlantean culture, preserved over the post-Atlantean times — still influence us. But evolution, remember, does not progress by the mere transformation of preservation of the old, but by the bringing to birth of other streams of evolution so that mutual enrichment may take place. If we follow up the northern stream of evolution into Asia, we find that the Indian people traveled the farthest, and after amalgamation with other elements, built up ancient Indian culture.
But more to the north, in the region of Persia, we find an ancient civilization known in later history as the Zarathustrian culture. When we investigate this Zarathustrian culture with supersensible sight, we find that the characteristic of its people was to look more to the outer world, and to advance towards the spiritual world by this path. In view of this characteristic it is evident why Zarathustra, the leader of this ancient Persian culture, attached less importance to inner, mystical absorption, and why he was in a way opposed to it. Zarathustra pointed more particularly to the external sense world and to the visible Sun, in order to call men's attention to the existence behind this visible Sun of a spiritual Solar Being, Ahura Mazdao. This is an exact instance of the path followed by initiates of the northern peoples. The highest form of this more external realization of the spiritual world was developed in ancient Persian culture under the leadership of the original Zarathustra. This form of outer perception was less and less perfect the further the peoples had lagged behind the ancient Persians who pressed on to Western Asia.
Other peoples remained behind in Asia and Europe, but the tendency of them all was to look more towards the external world, and all their initiates chose the path of pointing out to their followers the spiritual world behind the veil of the outer sense world. In Europe, if we make use of spiritual sight, we find in that wonderful Celtic culture which really underlies all other European culture — the remnant of what arose as a result of the cooperation of the mind of the peoples with the wisdom of the initiates. Today Celtic wisdom has very largely been lost, and can be deciphered only to a certain extent by those who have spiritual vision. Wherever ancient Celticism still shines out as the fundamental basis of other European civilizations, there you have an echo of still older European civilizations which, although their paths were in reality the same, remained with the mighty Zarathustrian culture in so far as the characteristics of their peoples were concerned. According to the external distribution of the people their path to the spirit differed.
It must be understood that the interplay of man with the external world, whether it be the external spiritual world or the external sense world, has an effect upon him. Experiences that arise are not a kind of cosmic reflection, but exist in order to bring about the progress of humanity in a perfectly definite way. Now what, in reality, is man of a particular epoch? Man is the result or product of the activities of cosmic powers surrounding him, and is fashioned according to the way in which these cosmic powers permeate him. A man who inhales healthy air develops his organs correspondingly, and the same thing happens to the spiritual organism of a man who absorbs one or another kind of spiritual life and culture. Since the bodily organism is a product of the spiritual, it is affected accordingly. Human evolution is a continuous process, and so it is clear that in all the peoples of this northern stream the development of the external bodily qualities is noticeable, for the forces and powers of the outer world — everything that can fashion from without — were the special ones which streamed into them. Through these outer forces was developed what can be seen and perceived outwardly. Hence in these peoples we find not only a development of warlike qualities, but also an instrument of ever increasing suitability for penetrating the external world: the brain itself grows to greater perfection under the influence of these external forces. The fundamental factors, therefore, for understanding the external world are present in men belonging to this northern stream, and only from them could be derived that spiritual culture which led finally to the mastery of the powers and forces of external nature. It may be said that the principal task of these people consisted in perfecting man's outer instrument, that part of him which is perceptible from without, not only in a physical but also in an intellectual, moral, and aesthetic sense. More and more of the spirit was poured into the outer corporeality. Physical corporeality was developed to greater and greater perfection, and so the individual souls passing from one incarnation to another were generally able to find better vehicles in succeeding births, not only in a physical sense but also in a moral sense.
Now let us enquire what special characteristic developed among the peoples who took the more southern way. It was of course the refinement of the life of the soul, the inner life. The conception of conscience is not to be found in olden times among those peoples whose task was the spiritualization of the outer corporeal qualities. Conscience as a conception arises from among the southern peoples; among them the inner life of the soul was enriched with ideas and conceptions to such an extent that it finally developed into that wealth of secret hermetic science possessed by the ancient Egyptians which amazes us even today. The wisdom of the Egyptians, held in such high honor by those who have knowledge of such matters, could only arise as the result of the development of the inner soul life. All the art and the wisdom which man had to develop from within appeared in the stream of evolution, wherein less importance was attached to the spiritualization of the external corporeality than to the refinement and elaboration of the inner forces of the soul.
Let us now consider Greek sculpture. When a Greek sculptor wished to represent a physical body purified and spiritualized, he produced a type of the northern peoples. All the external forms of Zeus, of Aphrodite, of Pallas Athene, are racial types of the north. Where it was a matter of indicating the inner development of the life of the soul, it was necessary to show that forces develop invisibly within the soul, and then such a figure as Hermes or Mercury was produced. The form of Hermes is that of the African peoples, and it differs from the figures of the other gods: the ears are different, so is the hair, and the eyes are narrow and unlike the eyes of the northern types. — It was known that this type of humanity represented the vehicle of the scientific element, of wisdom, of everything which works upon the soul, and with this was connected the conception of Hermes as messenger to the lower gods.
Again, we might characterize the difference between the two evolutionary streams by saying that the northern peoples worked at the production of a human being whose outer bodily form is an image of the spirit, whereas the southern peoples were busy developing the invisible forces of soul, perceptible only when the gaze is directed inwards (to the inner life). The northern races created the outer aspect of the image of divinity in man; the southern peoples created the invisible soul-image of the godhead in the inner life.
Thus the gods of the southern peoples are invisible divinities which man contacts in his inner nature, who arouse a certain fear and dread, but who from another aspect inspire trust and confidence. It has been pointed out that a man sees these gods of the inner world according to his own nature; if he is morally developed he confronts these gods with moral qualities of soul and their true image is revealed; their essence flows into him and he experiences inner illumination and enlightenment. If a man is immoral and his conceptions are bad or ugly or untrue, he perceives a distorted image of this world of the gods; fearful demoniacal shapes and figures appear, even as the most beautiful face is twisted and caricatured if observed in a spherical mirror. This is why a man confronting these inner gods might feel them to be friendly, intimate spiritual companions, pouring forces into the very depths of soul life, belonging to him in the most intimate sense, strengthening and illuminating him — but if he saw them in images distorted by his own qualities, horror and terror might arise; he could be tormented, persecuted, and led to the wildest excesses of life just because of their manifestation in the grotesque image of his lower passions. From this we may judge why care was taken that no unprepared human being should meet these particular gods; but where access was made possible to the spiritual world a preliminary development of the moral nature was imperatively demanded, and a very thorough preparation was ensured; the initiates were never tired of giving warning about the dangers awaiting weak souls at the meeting with these gods.
In accordance with the nature of the powers holding sway in the spiritual world accessible to the southern peoples it is called the world of Lucifer, the Light-bearer. It is a world spiritual and divine in its nature, illumined in the inner being of man by a light invisible to outward sight and which has to be acquired by the process of individual perfecting. This was the path which people of the southern evolutionary stream took to the world of Lucifer.
As we have seen, the ideal before the more northern stream was the production of a human individuality so perfect, so full of spirit, so noble in regard to everything in life between birth and death, that the outer body should be a worthy vessel for spirituality of the very highest order. And in Zarathustra, the being who had most truly shown the way to the spiritual world behind the veil of sense phenomena, there arose the thought that an outer body must be created by so moral, intellectual, and spiritual a force as should bring it to the highest point of spirituality of which an external body is capable. And since this thought first arose in Zarathustra, he set himself the task of reaching an increasingly lofty standard of perfection, living through every succeeding incarnation in bodies of higher moral, aesthetic, and intellectual qualities. Zarathustra, then, brought these physical qualities to such a point of excellence that his body became not a mere image of the divine world of spirit but a vessel for the reception of the Godhead otherwise to be seen only behind the veil of the sense world.
That to which the old Zarathustra had pointed as the world of Sun Beings behind the physical Sun, as the hidden spirit of the Good — Ahura Mazdao — needed, as it approached nearer and nearer to the Earth, to find a dwelling place within a body of great spiritual perfection. And so in one of his incarnations, Zarathustra appeared in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, a body so spiritualized, so noble, that into its external corporeality could be poured that spiritual essence formerly to be found only behind the veil of the sense world. The human body which had been developed in the northern evolutionary stream by the turning of the external gaze to the spiritual world was prepared for the reception of the spiritual essence concealed behind the sense world. For in this manner, preparation was made for the mighty event of the reception of the spirit behind the sense world, invisible to all save spiritual sight, upon Earth, and its maturing there for three years in the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
Hence it devolved upon the northern peoples not only to develop an understanding of what lay behind the sense world, but to prepare for the possibility of that spirit flooding our earthly world, of the being heretofore hidden behind the Sun, treading the Earth for three years, as man among men. Thus Lucifer had entered into humanity in the southern peoples, and Christ into the northern peoples, each in conformity with the characteristics of the two streams of evolution.
We ourselves live at a time when the two streams must unite as the male and female fertilizing substances of plants coalesce; we live at a time when the Christ who was drawn from outside as an objective Being into the purified body of Jesus of Nazareth must be understood through deep contemplation on the part of the soul, and its union with the world of spirit to be discovered in the inner being, the world arising from Lucifer's kingdom. In this way will come to pass the mutual fertilization of these two evolutionary streams of men.
It has already begun; it began at the moment indicated in the story which tells us that the sacrificial blood of the Christ flowing from the Cross was received into the vessel of the Holy Grail and brought to the West from the East, where preparation for the understanding of the incarnation of Christ had been made in a very definite way by cultivating that which represents the light of Lucifer. In this way the union of these two streams in humanity will become more and more complete. Whatever mankind of the present time may say or do, the healing of the future humanity will be accomplished by the fact that within the union of the two streams, the mighty Christ Being, guiding as He does the evolution of the universe and of man, is understood through the light received by the soul from within, out of the kingdom of Lucifer. Christ will give the substance, Lucifer the form, and from their union will arise impulses which shall permeate the spiritual evolution of mankind, and bring about what the future has in store for the healing and the blessing of the peoples.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Rudolf Steiner: "... as the blood flowed from the wounds on Golgotha there occurred a corresponding spiritual event: at this moment it happened for the first time that rays streamed forth from the Earth into cosmic space, where formerly there had been none ... Darker and darker had the Earth become with the passing of time up to the event on Golgotha. Now the blood flows on Golgotha--and the Earth begins to radiate light."
The East in the Light of the West. Lecture 4 of 9
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 26, 1909:
In view of what has been said we may ask whether all the spiritual beings in existence are to be found behind the phenomena of the sense world, or whether there are others having no expression or manifestation in the physical world. Supersensible consciousness knows that although it is true that a spiritual being or spiritual fact is to be found behind every external phenomenon, yet there do exist spiritual beings having no expression in the physical world. Experiences await the initiate other than those whose projections or shadow images are thrown into the physical sense world. There exist, moreover, spiritual beings and spiritual facts that have no expression in the inner life of the soul, in the phenomena of conscience, thought, feeling, and sensation ... The spiritual world is seen by the higher consciousness to embrace much more than can be experienced in the physical world.
Those who have studied my earlier lectures on these subjects will realize that a host of spiritual beings, at different stages of evolution, have been involved in what has come to pass in the human, animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms during the course of our Earth evolution All such beings intervene in some way or other in the evolutionary texture of the Earth and of the kingdoms belonging to it. Behind the phenomena surrounding us is a richly constituted spiritual world, just as there was during the periods of Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon. We must not attempt to understand these spiritual kingdoms by inventing permanent names for these spiritual beings. The names used are not, for the most part, intended to designate individualities, but offices or spheres of duties. So if a particular name is used in connection with a being active during the Old Sun period it cannot be applied in the same sense to that being as regards its work or function in the Earth evolution; it has progressed by that time. It is necessary to speak of these matters with great accuracy and precision.
The Earth period was not only preceded by three embodiments of the Earth globe, but by three mighty spiritual kingdoms, essentially different from one another when examined by supersensible consciousness. Investigation of the Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon periods reveals many things which cannot be compared with anything we can name on the Earth, and of which one can only speak by analogy.
It will be remembered that I have spoken of the Old Saturn period as being essentially one of warmth, or of fire; on Old Sun this warmth condensed to air; on Old Moon the air condensed to water, and on Earth the earth element appeared for the first time. But the application of our concept of fire or warmth directly to the evolution of Old Saturn would result in an incorrect picture, for the fire of Saturn differed essentially from the fire of our Earth. There is only one phenomenon which can legitimately be compared to the Saturn fire, and that is the fire which permeates the blood as warmth. This vital warmth, or life principle, is more or less comparable to the substance of which Old Saturn was entirely composed, and the physical fire of today is a descendant, a later product, of the Saturn fire; in its external form as perceived in space it has appeared for the first time on the Earth. The warmth of the blood, then, is the only thing which can be compared to what was present during the physical evolutionary period of Old Saturn. There is very little indeed in the realm of our present-day experience which can be compared in any way with the qualities of these earlier evolutionary periods, all of which were very different from our present Earth existence.
It must be understood, however, that everything in the Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon periods is comprised within the Earth evolution, only it has changed in character. What was laid as a germ on Old Saturn and evolved through the Sun and Moon periods is to be found in the Earth evolution, although in a changed condition; we can, however, instance the fundamental elements brought over from the earlier evolutionary periods by examining what is not to be found in this transformed state.
When the Earth first appeared it had absorbed into itself three preceding evolutionary conditions, and all the degrees of spiritual beings involved in them. The beings were at different stages of evolution, however, so it is obvious that distinction must be made between these three different realms of spiritual beings and of spiritual substances; we must realize, in considering the beginnings of the Earth, that certain things which we find there could come into existence only because the Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon periods preceded our Earth evolution, and at its beginning the three are united within it.
This fact was always present in the ancient, instinctive consciousness of man, which connected him with the spiritual world. And when the number Three was mentioned as characteristic of the higher worlds, those individuals who looked at things in the concrete and not in the abstract, who had facts rather than conceptions or ideas in their mind's eye, always felt in their souls the truth that our Earth has received, into her womb, as it were, everything that came over from Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon. That is the so-called higher, pre-terrestrial triad ... This triad consisting of Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon has evolved into our Earth. In its concrete meaning the higher triad signifies these three pre-terrestrial states; but the quaternary refers to the gradual transformation of these three into the Earth. Accordingly men whose instinctive consciousness brought them into touch with the realities of the spiritual world felt the mystery of the birth of the Earth to be expressed by the relation of three to four. And they turned reverent eyes to the sacred triad of Saturn, Sun, and Moon, which had become the quaternary manifested by the Earth period. It is obvious that the modern expressions Saturn, Sun, and Moon had other equivalents in the instinctive consciousness of ancient humanity.
If we now follow up the course of the Earth evolution we may ask how the separate classes of spiritual beings participate in its progress. Spiritual beings at different stages of evolution directed the processes of the separation of the Sun and Moon from the Earth, as a result of which that progress came to pass. We have first to consider a class of spiritual beings which attained a certain stage of evolution during the Old Sun period; they belong to the Old Sun evolution because it was destined to provide a field of action for them. These are beings which separated the Sun from the Earth during the Earth period, because during Old Sun they were Sun-bound in the same way as humanity is now Earthbound. As we have seen, they needed the Sun for their further evolution and with the Sun they left the Earth in order to work upon the latter from without. When the Sun spirits had withdrawn, the Saturn and Moon spirits were left on the Earth. The development of the Saturn spirits was such that they could direct and guide the separation of the Moon from the Earth; they had passed through the same stage on Old Saturn as the Sun spirits had done on the Old Sun; their maturity had preceded that of the Sun spirits, and they were therefore able to separate the Moon from the Earth and to stimulate from within the inner development of man, who otherwise would have hardened and become mummified. It may be said that the withdrawal of the Sun was brought about by the Sun spirits, and that of the Moon by the Saturn spirits. The Sun is a cosmic symbol for the act of the Sun spirits, the Moon for that of the Saturn spirits. And what is left upon the Earth itself? Spirits of the Old Moon period.
It will be useful at this point to bear in mind a definite epoch of the Earth evolution: that at which the Moon had just left the Earth. The Earth, from which the Sun had withdrawn still earlier, was then in a very different condition from that of today. If the Earth had then been in an exactly similar state to that of today, the whole process would have been unnecessary.
It was imperfect compared to the present mineral, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms — very imperfect in that early period. The various continents had not separated off from each other; everything was in a kind of chaos. Supersensible sight would search in vain at that period for the mineral, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms as they are today. These forms have all developed as a result of the influence of the Sun and the Moon from without, and this was the purpose of the withdrawal of these two bodies. The influences which worked upon the Earth from the Sun and the Moon charmed from it, as it were, everything that has since arisen upon it and all that surrounds us today. The outer forms of the minerals, the plants, the animals, and of physical man have been produced by the beings which work from the Sun, whereas the beings which work from the Moon have stimulated the soul life of men and of animals. This is an approximate and broad sketch of evolution from the so-called Lemurian epoch on into that of Atlantis. It was during the Atlantean epoch that, very slowly and gradually, the Earth began to wear an appearance more or less similar to that which we see around us today. It is necessary therefore to distinguish in the course of the Earth evolution since the withdrawal of the Moon between a chaotic Earth and an organized one which has been influenced by the spiritual beings in its environment.
What is here stated need not necessarily be acquired from historical tradition. Suppose for example that the initiate wisdom of ancient and venerable India, of the Persian sages, of the Egyptian initiations, or of the Greek Mysteries had all been lost; suppose no external documents of any kind whatever were left to tell us of the pristine teaching concerning the spiritual foundations of our Earth evolution. Even then the possibility of developing supersensible consciousness would not be lost; everything that is said here can be discovered by means of supersensible investigation without the aid of any historical document. We have to do with something which at the present time can be studied at its source; even mathematics may also be learnt from original sources.
Let us now try to find a link between the results which supersensible investigation has given us and life in ancient times. It is obvious that some other method might be adopted, but the purpose of this course of lectures is to compare what can be found irrespective of any historical record with what has been handed down by another kind of tradition. We will go back, not so very far, to a historical personage who lived in a comparatively ancient period of Greek culture, of whom history knows very little and the length of whose life even is veiled in much uncertainty. Pherecydes of Syros is in a certain respect the forerunner of the other Greek sages.
He lived at a time in Greek spiritual development called the epoch of the Seven Sages. — This period preceded that of all historical Greek philosophy. The little that external history tells us of Pherecydes of Syros is very interesting; he, among others, is spoken of as the teacher of Pythagoras; and many of the teachings of Herakleitos, of Plato, and of later sages can be traced back to him. It is said that he taught the existence of three principles fundamental to the whole of evolution, and called them Zeus, Kronos, and Chthon. Now what precisely did he mean by these names? It will at once be realized that Kronos is only another name for the Old Saturn evolution. In the teaching of Pherecydes, Kronos is the totality of spiritual beings belonging to the kingdom of Old Saturn, who during the course of the Earth evolution were able to bring about the separation of the Moon. Now for Zeus: Zeus is a word of uncertain meaning when used in ancient times, for it was applied to spiritual individualities at very different stages of evolution. But men in ancient Greece who know something of initiation recognized in Zeus the ruler of the Sun spirits. Zeus lives in the influences which came to the Earth from the Sun. Chthon is a designation of the somewhat chaotic condition of the Earth after the withdrawal of the Moon, at which time neither plant nor animal nor human forms were to be found. In most remarkable words, Pherecydes spoke of the holy primordial triad, of Zeus, Kronos, and Chthon, principles fundamental to the Earth, having come over from pre-terrestrial ages; he also spoke of a further evolution. But in ancient times men did not clothe matters of this kind in such dry, crude concepts as they do today: they drew vivid pictures of what they saw and recognized in spiritual realms. Pherecydes said: ‘Chthon becomes Gea (today called Earth), because of the gift of Zeus, whereby she came to be covered as with a garment.’ This is a wonderful description of that evolution which I have just outlined in a few short words. The Earth was alone; outside it were the Sun and the Moon, the spiritual kingdoms of Zeus and of Kronos. The Sun from without began to work upon the Earth and to fructify it in its then chaotic state; or, in the language of the old Greek sage, Zeus fructified Chthon. The beneficent influences of the kingdom of Zeus were sent down to the physical Earth in the warmth and light of the Sun. This was the gift made by Zeus to the Earth. The Earth covered herself with the garment of plant and animal forms, and with the forms of physical men. Chthon becomes Gea; therefore, because of the gift of Zeus the Earth covers herself with a garment.
This is a wonderful picture, expressed in beautiful language, of what supersensible consciousness is able today to rediscover in the epoch of the Seven Greek Sages. And Pherecydes could not have made such strikingly vivid statements, which can be verified by modern supersensible consciousness, without definite personal knowledge. This knowledge he derived from the so-called Phoenician initiation. He was an initiate of the temples of ancient Phoenicia and had brought over into Greece the temple wisdom which he was at liberty to teach. A great deal of Oriental wisdom came over in this way.
This is one example, among many, of the things that may be rediscovered in the words of the old sages independently of historical tradition. In this instance we have not gone back so very far in human history. If we are able rightly to interpret the expressions used, it is also possible to rediscover original teachings of very ancient times. It would, however, be false to accept the simple explanation that this or that Eastern teaching concerning the evolution of the world is found under the same form in Pherecydes of Syros, in the old Egyptian epoch, in the days of the Chaldean sages, and in the ancient Indian period. If this were the case, it might well be imagined that a wisdom rediscovered today is to be found, in different form, wherever humanity has striven after it; that wisdom is one and the same at all times and in all places. In its abstract sense there is not the slightest objection to be raised to this statement; it is true, but it expresses only a portion of the whole truth. Just as from the rest of a plant to the fruit there is not a regular succession of similar forms, but a variety, composed of green leaves, colored petals, stamens, etc., of higher and higher development, so does diversity appear in the progress of human life on Earth. Correct though it is to say that in a sense the same wisdom appears again and again in different forms, an evolution or a development does nevertheless take place; and it is not at all correct to say that we find in ancient Indian times exactly the same conditions as exist today. That would be as inaccurate as to state that the blossom of a plant is the same as the root. True, the same force exists within it, but the reality emerges only if progress and development are recognized to be fundamental expressions of the secrets underlying human evolution. The teachings of the first post-Atlantean epoch may still be given today; what Pherecydes of Syros taught can be repeated today; but the Earth evolution has also been enriched, and impulses have since been poured into it.
The importance of the Christ impulse in human evolution has already been indicated. That is a thing apart, standing alone in the evolution of the Earth; there is nothing which can be compared with it. It has come to my knowledge that people have spoken of injustice in connection with human evolution if it were true that, for so many thousands of years before the coming of the Christ, full wisdom could not be imparted to mankind. Why was it, these people ask, that anything could be withheld from pre-Christian men? They seem to think, in view of the fact that justice is universal, that although the forms of truth have changed, new truths cannot have been added to the old; for if it were otherwise, men living in post-Christian days would be destined to receive something higher than men of pre-Christian times.
Now, it is understandable that such things should be said in the outer world, but it is not understandable that students of spiritual science should make such statements. And why? Because the men who incarnate during the post-Christian epoch are those who have passed through previous incarnations, and what they could not possibly learn before the appearance of Christ on Earth they must learn after that event. Anyone who believes that man incarnates again and again only to learn exactly the same wisdom has no serious appreciation and feeling for reincarnation in his soul; for to believe in reincarnation seriously means to realize its goal and its purpose and to know that there is good reason for our returning to Earth repeatedly. We come back in order to have new experiences. It is a platitude to say that exactly the same wisdom is to be met with again and again in different conceptions of the world. The concrete fact is that wisdom develops, that it takes on higher and higher forms, until there comes into being on the Earth something that is ripe to pass over into another condition, in the same way as Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon passed over to the Earth condition. There is real progress and not mere repetition — that is the whole point.
And here lies the difference between Eastern and Western modes of thought. Western thought, in face of the whole task and mission of the West, can never separate itself from an actual, concrete, historical conception of the evolution of the Earth — and a historical conception implies the idea of progress, not of mere repetition. It was in the West that the real concept of historical development arose. If anyone falls into a purely Oriental way of thought (and its truth is not in any way questioned, only the historical sense must be added to it) because he has not grasped the idea of historical progress, he may easily lose sight of the meaning of history altogether. He may find himself faced with the question: ‘What is the purpose of this eternal repetition or recurrence of the same thing?’ That was a problem raised by Schopenhauer, who had no understanding of history in its real sense, and whose exoteric teaching was influenced in high degrees by what he had absorbed from Oriental life. Statement of a higher truth in no way impugns a lower, lesser truth; spiritual science fully assents to statements of a non-historical nature in Oriental spiritual life. But the point at issue here is that of raising a mode of thinking to a higher level; or, as we may say, of illuminating Oriental thought by the light of the West. This seemingly rather sweeping statement is justified by the fact that it deliberately opposes the oft-repeated declaration of mystical world-conceptions that fundamentally the different religions, etc., are only the transformation of a single primordial wisdom and nothing more than that.
What I have said here in general terms I should like to illustrate by an example. From what has been said it will be realized that the discoveries of modern supersensible investigation are to be found under another form in ancient times, if we look for them there. It is only possible to throw light on antiquity by starting from the present.
Let us in this connection take a definite spiritual individuality. If we go back to a time when men brought down into the Vedas what was in a certain respect an echo of the sublime wisdom of the Holy Rishis, we find, among many appellations of divine beings, the name of Indra. If, from the point of view of modern supersensible investigation I were to give an answer to the question: ‘What kind of being is the Indra mentioned in the Vedas?’ it would be best for me to explain how it is possible for a modern man to acquire a conception of that being by means of spiritual sight. We have already seen that by rising from the physical to the soul world, spiritual beings can be perceived behind everything surrounding us in the world — behind fire, air, water, and earth — which are their external expressions or manifestations. In the spiritual realm behind the element of air, for instance, a host of spiritual beings appear, beings which do not descend so far as the physical world, but express themselves through the air. In the soul-world we meet them as entities, as individualities, and the mightiest of them is still to be found today in him who in ancient India was named ‘Indra.’ Indra is associated with the whole regulation of man's breathing process, and to his activity we owe the fact that we breathe as we do today. Humanity may look up to this being forever and realize that it is the mighty Indra who has endowed them with the instrument of breath. The activities of such a being are not however limited to one sphere, and humanity owes much else to Indra: they owe to Indra the force which must pour through their muscles if their enemies are to be conquered in war. Hence men were able to pray to mighty Indra for power to be victorious in battle, since this also was one of his functions. To this same being (which needs no name if only its presence is realized) is to be ascribed the flashing of the lightning effects of storms. For these things, too, prayers may be raised, if, in the praying, the gods are thought of.
Indra exists for us today as he existed in ancient Vedic times, but we must now pass on to another consideration. Suppose we take this being named Indra as actually seen by the Old Indian initiates when their spiritual sight was opened in the soul world, and ask ourselves whether the initiate of modern days sees him in the same form. The answer is that he does, in fact, see everything perceptible to the ancient initiate, but something else as well. To take a rather trivial example, suppose we consider a man in the fortieth year of his life and call him Muller. He is the same person who thirty years previously was a boy of ten, but he has changed, even if his name is the same. It would be incorrect to describe this man Muller as a man of forty if we took his appearance at the age of ten; he has passed through a certain development, which must be taken into account when speaking of him in his present condition. Is it to be imagined, then, that while men on the Earth continually develop during their single lives and also from life to life, spiritual beings remain at the same stage at which they manifested themselves to the spiritual consciousness of an ancient Indian initiate? Is it right to conceive of the gods as remaining unchanged through thousands of years? It certainly is not; Indra has passed through an evolution since the days when seers of ancient India looked up to him with reverence.
Now, what has happened to this mighty figure of Indra, and how does his evolution manifest itself if we look back upon it with spiritual consciousness? At a certain moment in evolution something very remarkable with regard to Indra comes to pass. In order to have a clear conception we must repeat certain things. We will direct our spiritual consciousness in the soul world to the ancient Indian god Indra and follow him through thousands of years. We come to a point of time when there is an appearance of rays of light falling from an entirely different spiritual being upon Indra, who is himself illumined by them and ascends to a higher stage of development. It is rather like learning something important from another individual at a certain age, which changed one's whole life. This happened in the case of great Indra, and since that time there has streamed from him the same influence as was to be found in ancient India, only enriched by the spiritual light of another being which was shed upon him.
It is possible to indicate the precise moment in the history of the evolution of humanity when this took place. The God Indra is to be found in the soul world at a time when the Christ was not yet perceptible to Earth evolution, although the Christ light shone upon him. A man who is able to perceive Indra may well say that this being now reveals something different from his earliest revelations; for at first the Christ light did not ray back from him. Since the point of time in question, Indra has not shed his own light into the spiritual evolution of the Earth, but has reflected the light of Christ, just as the Moon reflects the light of the Sun. The light thus rayed back by Indra — not directly perceptible on Earth and in which therefore we cannot actually recognize Christ — was proclaimed by Moses to his people. Moses gave the name of Jahve or Jehovah to this Christ light rayed back by Indra as the sunlight is reflected by the Moon.
In lectures upon the Gospel of St. John I have spoken about another aspect of this matter. The Christ is heralded, and Jahve or Jehovah is the name of the Christ light rayed back by an ancient deity. It is a prophetic heralding of Christ. Indra himself passed to a higher stage of evolution through this contact with the Christ light. He did not of course become Jehovah. It is not correct to say that Jehovah is Indra. But we can understand that as Indra manifests himself in lightning and thunder, even so does Jehovah manifest himself therein, because a being can only reflect in accordance with its own nature. Jehovah therefore was manifested in lightning and thunder.
This is an instance of spiritual evolution being accomplished in its own realm in the same way as human evolution in our world, and of the fact that the same picture of the spiritual beings is not forthcoming after the lapse of thousands of years. History is being made in the spiritual world, and Earth history is only the outer expression of this spiritual history. Every earthly occurrence has its course in events of the spiritual world, and it is necessary to understand these spiritual events in detail.
By this example I have tried to show what it means to throw light upon antiquity from a modern point of view. History is a concept which must be taken quite seriously, and the instance given should elucidate spiritual life. If we bear in mind the fact that there are wisdom-beings to be found today by occult research which we encounter again when we go back in time, only under different names and different manifestations — and at the same time remember that historical evolution and progress are realities in spiritual life which underlie all that is physical — we have grasped two principles of fundamental importance to all progressive spiritual science that is to influence the future of humanity.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
From Radiant Matter by Georg Blattman, a Christian Community priest:
Here we are concerned with the inmost secrets of matter and its transformation, for bread and wine become body and blood. But what is it that makes matter capable of being 'body' in the first place? In our bodies, for example, there are a number of different substances that go into making up our flesh, blood, bones, and so on, all of which can be chemically analyzed. But this is not a unique feature, for these substances can be found outside us too. And when we are dead and buried and our body begins to decay, these substances will all be somewhere in the Earth, where the rain can come and wash them away. They then belong to the Earth. So what is it that makes these substances our bodies? They are our bodies because, in a word, we are inside them. This 'piece of the world' is our tool, but it is much more than a hammer or a pair of pliers, for we are completely inside it, we identify with it. We have slipped into it right down to the individual molecules, so to speak. This is what makes 'matter' into 'body.'
In similar fashion, bread and wine become the body and blood of a divine spiritual being who slips into them, as we have slipped into the various parts of our bodies. When the bread is brought in at the beginning of the service, it is not yet body, but merely a piece of bread. It becomes body when Christ 'incarnates'--becomes flesh--in it.
And now we must perform the final act of uniting the bread and wine--the body and blood--that are already present, but still separate as a true polarity. It is essential that these two opposites be united--and here, man is necessary, for this process can take place only in the person who receives 'Communion' (which means 'becoming one'). The transubstantiated elements merge with man's own substance, but at the same time, bread and wine also become one. Thus those who question the need of giving the Communion in two forms ('Surely bread alone would be sufficient, Christ's blood is "included" in it as body') are only playing with words. For the goal of the whole process up until now has been that this polarity must finally be resolved. And through its resolution, primal unity is achieved on a new level--the counterpart of the origin of the first elements.
Every service at the altar gives the world a 'working model' of the way future evolution will renew the dying Earth.
Source: The Tree of Life and the Holy Grail by Sylvia Francke, pp. 61-62
|"The wisdom of all egos is a harmonious unity."
The East in the Light of the West. Lecture 3 of 9
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 25, 1909:
Our attention has been called to the fact that to human beings at a certain stage of evolution, the external phenomena of warmth, air, water, etc., become living and permeated with spirit, and it has been said that this stage may be designated as that of ‘penetration into the world of the Spirits of the Elements.’ I would ask those who have been students of Spiritual Science for some time to note the words carefully, and to realize that they are used not in an approximate but in an exact sense. ‘Spirits of the Elements’ was the expression I used, and not ‘Elementary Spirits.’
It must be pointed out that when we ascend into supersensible realms other worlds, two of which shall be named, are added to the ordinary world experienced by means of the sense organs; they are to be found behind what is perceptible by the senses and comprehensible to the intellect. There are certain striking characteristics which give an idea of the difference between our world and the two higher ones adjoining it. The first region hidden behind our ordinary world is named, as everyone knows, the Astral or Soul world; the Spiritual world is still more deeply hidden.
In the physical world one of the most comprehensive laws is that of growth and decay, of coming into being and passing away. Look where we will in the physical world we find that a characteristic of its highest beings is that they are born and that they die within it; the inanimate kingdom of the minerals, belonging to the lower realms of nature, may arouse an illusion of permanence within the physical world, but if the mineral kingdom be observed over long periods of time, the law of growth and decay is found there.
Observation of the astral world, however, reveals the fact that here the capacity of transformation or metamorphosis is as predominant as is the law of birth and decay in the physical world. In the astral world we have to do with moving images changing one into the other, in a state of perpetual metamorphosis. Even the astral body of man, which is of all astral phenomena the most intimately bound up with us, visible to the seer as a kind of aura or cloud-like formation around the physical body, shares this characteristic of continual transformation. That which envelopes and penetrates the human being in the form of an astral auric cloud changes practically every moment as higher or lower impulses develop in him, as he experiences wilder or calmer passions, or cultivates thoughts of different nature according to the character of the will impulses. Images and shapes arise in the astral auric cloud, and as different thoughts rise and fade away, its color and form may continually change. There is, however, a certain fundamental character and color in the astral aura of every individual, corresponding to his more or less permanent type of character. Self-metamorphosis, then, is of the very nature of the human astral body. We have seen that the beings visible to a man in the astral world after he has reached the stage of illumination meet him as good or as evil beings according to his own preparation. So strong is the capacity of metamorphosis in those beings which are invisible upon the physical plane and only perceptible in the astral and higher worlds that they may change from good into evil, from light into dark.
In the real spiritual world there is permanence, even if it is relative. For this reason the inner being of man, if it is to exist without a break from one incarnation to another, must pass through the spiritual worlds, because only there is to be found a certain — not external, but relative — permanence or continuity.
The rhythm of growth and decay is the predominant characteristic of the physical world; of the astral world: metamorphosis from one form to another; of the spiritual world: permanence or continuity. First we must realize that the materials for the building up of the human being have been obtained from these worlds; man has been constructed out of them. The physical world lies before him; the other worlds open up to him through initiation — through preparation and development of supersensible faculties of perception. Man then first learns to know what is hidden from him in the ordinary world, but what has just as real an existence. When in ordinary life an outer sheath or expression of some being is found, as for example, fire or air, the being itself is to be sought in a higher world. In order to meet the beings whose expression is physical fire, man must ascend to a region higher than the physical world. That which is the cause and origin of fire, for instance, can be discovered only by rising from the physical plane to the world above it, because the beings in question send down an expression of themselves into the lower world, but remain as to their essential nature in the higher region.
This holds good not only for external phenomena such as fire, air, water, or earth, but also for everything living within us in the physical world. Our feelings, perceptions, and thoughts exist in the physical world along with phenomena of color, sound, tastes, scent, etc. It must be clear to us that everything which constitutes man in an incarnation, every feeling experienced between birth and death, every thought, every idea, is a phenomenon of the physical world. And spiritual beings live behind our feelings and the whole of our soul life just as they do behind the external phenomena of color, sound, scent, or as we say in Spiritual Science, behind fire, air, water, and so on.
In the same way the ego, the self within the physical world, is not our real being, is not what is called our Higher Self, for that is to be found in a supersensible world behind our feelings and sensations. This Higher Self is experienced in a true sense only by attaining to supersensible worlds, where it manifests itself in quite another form.
I will show you by a definite example the relation of the self of man living in the physical world to the Higher Self; this example holds good for present conditions of life only, since anyone who has spiritual sight knows that the nature of these things changes in the course of time. Let us suppose that a man has done an injustice to another and experiences the pang of conscience. I refer here to those special psychic experiences usually expressed by the word conscience. In ordinary life conscience is a term used of certain inner voices demanding that we should set right any wrong we may have committed. Most people hardly ever come to the point of thinking about the nature of conscience; they recognize as a kind of vague feeling that an injustice should be righted; the soul is uneasy when this has not been done. For men in the physical world conscience is an inner experience of the soul.
The spiritual seer, however, observing from the astral world the man who has done the act of injustice, sees the pang of conscience surrounding him in remarkable astral shapes — shapes which are absent if no pang of conscience has been felt. The origin of these forms may be explained as follows: Suppose somebody has done an injustice: from thoughts which have led to the unjust act other thought-forms develop as the metamorphosis of the first. Everything that a man thinks and feels exists in his astral aura as a form or shape of the nature of thought or of feeling. A thought which is, let us say, distinct, definite, can be seen in sharp outline hovering round a man, and wild thoughts or passions in confused outlines. At the time when a man is doing an injustice he has certain thoughts and feelings; these forms detach themselves from him and live in his environment, but the essential point is that they do not remain in this condition but draw nourishment from certain worlds. Just as the wind rushes into empty spaces, beings from definite regions (of which more later) rush into the forms created by the pang of conscience and fill them with living substance. Thus in his own thought-forms a man offers opportunity for other beings to live in his environment, and these beings are really the cause of the sting of conscience. If the beings were not present the conscience would not sting. When a man begins to feel these beings unconsciously, the first gnawing of an uneasy conscience is experienced.
This example shows us that spiritual sight reveals a reality very different from that presented to physical sight. If a man is to contact the spirits of conscience, who live upon the astral plane, he must look through his conscience into the higher worlds in the same way as would be necessary in order to perceive the spiritual beings who animate physical life.
From different lectures we know that the human soul has changed in the course of long periods of time — human consciousness of today is different from the consciousness, let us say, of the ancient Indian people in the first post-Atlantean epoch, and it in its turn was very different from the consciousness of the Atlantean age. The clear waking consciousness of the physical world has developed from a dim, primitive clairvoyance. The further we go back in evolution the more traces do we find of this primitive clairvoyance.
We need not go further than some thousands of years, and we shall find that many people were then able not merely to perceive physical fire, but to look through it to the spirits of the element of fire. Gradually it came about that the higher world withdrew from human consciousness and the latter came to be limited to the physical world. This holds good not merely for the external sense world but for the whole of the life of the soul in the physical world. So it is stated that in a phenomenon like conscience a modern spiritual seer perceives astral forms around human beings, and the ancestors of this modern man, being endowed with clairvoyance, must have been able to see these astral forms. Just as fire conceals the spirits of the fire, so does human conscience — the inner voice — conceal the world of the spirits of conscience. The astral phenomena must have been perceptible to men of ancient times; but they could at that time have had no inner conscience, since it had not yet developed. What we of today call the psychic phenomenon of conscience was not present in our forefathers, but on the other hand they could see in the astral aura what is now only perceptible to the eye of the seer; modern men feel the inner voice of conscience, and the spirits of conscience are hidden behind it.
I have brought forward this example deliberately, because it affords concrete evidence of these matters. It is possible to indicate precisely the epoch in external history when the transition took place from perception of the outer spirits of conscience to the awakening of conscience as an inner voice. Compare the Orestes of Aeschylus with the same theme as treated by Euripides, who lived a short while later. Between the age of Aeschylus and that of Euripides — a few years only — occurred the transition which confirms what I have just said. In the story of Orestes as related by Aeschylus, Agamemnon returns home after the war and is murdered by his unfaithful wife. His son, Orestes, who is absent, returns and takes vengeance upon his mother for the death of his father, because one of the gods demands that he shall do so; his act is in harmony with the national feeling of those times that declares that his act is righteous and that he has done his duty. But as the result of the murder of his mother, Orestes sees the Erinyes, the avenging goddesses, approaching. These avenging goddesses of Greek mythology are simply a pictorial image of what has just been described as a reality for spiritual perception. And now let us see whether in this old drama there is any phenomenon which could be described by the modern word conscience. There is not even a word for it in any ancient language, as research would testify. In the poem of Euripides, who used the same story a few decades later, we find no Furies, no avenging goddesses; there men hear instead the inner voice of conscience. Concretely perceptible, in the interval between the lives of these two poets, conscience arose.
Clairvoyance was so vivid and real in human evolution before this age that the feeling experienced by man as the result of an unrighteous act was entirely different from what it became later. Man's clairvoyant vision was still open; he saw in his environment what I have described in Greece as the Erinyes. The inner feeling which he experienced in presence of this vision was one in accordance with the character of the astral world he wanted to change, to transform the images surrounding him. As soon as an unrighteous or unjust deed has been wiped out by turning it into a good one, the Erinyes change into the beneficent Eumenides. Man felt that an evil deed brought about a terrible result in the astral world, that it must be transformed, and that he must by a positive act bring about the metamorphosis. His actions then were in accordance with what he saw in his environment. The inner voice of conscience was non-existent.
Everything in the world and in the inner life of the soul as well has developed or evolved, conscience among the rest. If anyone were to go back some thousands of years in search of an instance of our modern soul life, he would make a great mistake. For transitions such as this take place with considerable suddenness. Just as in the plant there is a sudden metamorphosis from leaf to flower, so does one occur in spiritual evolution. The phrase ‘Nature makes no jumps’ is untrue; Nature continually makes jumps at decisive moments. And such sudden transitions are perceptible in spiritual life. For centuries and millennia there is slow and gradual development; but then there is a sudden change, as in the case of conscience in the fifth century B.C., where an earlier tragic poet makes no mention of conscience in his dramas and only a few decades afterwards it is introduced for the first time. With this is connected the fact that clairvoyant perception of the spirits of conscience, the Erinyes, has disappeared. The spiritual beings are of such a nature that our inner experience of conscience comes between us and them in the same way as the outer expression of fire hides the spirits of the element of fire.
This points to the fact that so far as the physical world is concerned, limits of experience are set in two directions. The external phenomena of external color, form, and so on, form the boundary line at which the external spirits are to be found. But behind the inner phenomena of conscience, memory, feeling, will, and thought a spiritual element exists as it does behind fire, air, water, or earth. The spirit is hidden behind them. When conscience came to be a voice speaking in the human soul, it interposed itself in front of the world of the Furies and hid that from human sight. The historical life of humanity becomes intelligible only when considered from this inner point of view. Mankind can understand nothing of what has come to pass in the world if it leaves spiritual facts out of sight in considering evolution, or becoming.
We may now ask: What is the relation of the inner and the outer spiritual realms to each other? We know that man as a fourfold being is composed of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego, and that this fourfold constitution is to be traced back to the very source and origin of humanity. Man did not originate on the Earth, for the Earth itself has passed through other incarnations, that of Saturn, of Old Sun, and Old Moon. The first germ of the physical body of man arose on Old Saturn; on Old Sun the etheric body was added; and on Old Moon, the astral body. The ego was first incorporated into this threefold constitution on Earth. Evolution is by no means such a simple matter as to involve merely a transition from the Saturn period into the Sun period, thence to Old Moon, and thence again to Earth; the process is much more complicated than that.
Even if we speak of the transition from Saturn to Old Sun and of this to Old Moon, we could not speak thus simply of the Old Moon evolution itself. I have said that during the Old Moon evolution there was a separation of Earth and Sun (the Earth was then Old Moon) or properly speaking, of Moon and Sun. Saturn and Sun may perhaps be spoken of as single bodies, but during the Old Moon period two bodies emerged from the one; the Old Moon existed at the same time as the Old Sun. These two bodies united again after a time, passed through an intermediate condition, and arose later as Earth. During the earliest period of Earth evolution the substances and beings now to be found in the present Sun and Moon were united with the Earth; the present Sun beings separated from Earth, which remained in connection with what later separated off as our Moon; after the separation of Moon, Earth remained alone, between the Moon and the Sun. These three bodies were one in the beginning; only later did the Sun and the Moon develop out of the Earth.
Let us now enquire as to the spiritual meaning of this separation. We will leave out of consideration the first separation occurring during the Old Moon period and look at what happened in this connection during the Earth period. — Certain beings pass through their evolution on Earth, and Sun and Moon afford evolutionary opportunities to others. Beings at a different stage of development from that of man separated from the Earth with the Sun, because their evolution could not proceed otherwise. At the time, therefore, of the separation of the Sun from the Earth we are faced with the fact that man was left behind, since the nature of his evolution demanded the conditions afforded by Earth. The other beings, whose evolution could not proceed upon Earth, separated from it the substances necessary for them, and built their Sun abode. Thence they influence and work upon the Earth. In the physical sunbeams as they lighten and warm the Earth, we see streaming the activities of the Sun spirits; the sunbeams are the outer, corporal manifestation of Sun beings. That is the meaning of the separation of the Sun from the Earth.
What was the meaning of the separation of the Moon? Man could not have kept pace with the evolutionary tempo of the Sun beings if they had remained in union with the Earth. The evolutionary tempo of the Earth was slackened by the separation of the Sun, but still it was not suitable for human beings — it was too slow. Man would have become hardened or mummified if the Moon had remained in connection with the Earth. Earth would gradually have become a planetary body from which human beings would have developed with forms like dead bodies that lack inner spiritual and psychic life. The Moon had to withdraw from Earth in order that the right evolutionary tempo for the being of man might be set up. If the Sun had remained with Earth, man would have been forced into an outer life and activity which he could not have endured; if Moon had remained he would have become impervious to stimulus; he would have dried up, lacking vital force. The stimulus received by man from Sun was an external one which would have produced too rapid a tempo. In the same way as Sun stimulates the life of the flowers in the fields would man's thoughts, feelings, and will have been stimulated from without, but at such a rate that he would have been burnt up by physical and spiritual Sun fire. The source of this stimulus left Earth and in this way its influence was weakened. At first, because of the hardening tendency inherent in Earth, the Sun's influence had too little effect, and a portion of these hardening factors had to leave with the Moon. Therewith came into the evolution of Earth and of man a new vitalizing principle, the stimulating influence of which was exactly contrary to that of the Sun from without. The new stimulus came from within. The life of the soul in the physical world could develop only because man was saved from this hardening and mummification by the withdrawal of the Moon.
Ask of one whose spiritual sight is able to penetrate into the cosmos as to the origin of man's perception of the external world, and his answer will be that it is to be found in the physical or spiritual Sun elements. Ask what lies at the basis of inner experience, of thought, of feeling, of conscience, for example, and it will be found that all this is due to the Moon, to those beings who separated their substance from the Earth with the Moon. The presence of Moon substances in the Earth would have prevented the inner mobility of soul life.
We must remember that it was not merely for the sake of man that the separation of the Sun and Moon from the Earth came to pass, but also for the sake of those beings whose evolution was at first bound to that of humanity. In the Sun dwell beings who need the Sun for their evolution, just as the evolution of man needs the Earth. To remain with the Earth would have been death to their existence; but the separation resulted in their becoming able by degrees to reach a stage where their beneficent influences could flow down to the Earth from without. When the seer observes the light, when he perceives external objects, he realizes at a certain stage of his evolution that it is the Sun beings which live behind the physical phenomena of color, sound, and so on, but that these beings themselves had to develop to their present stage. These Sun spirits are the upper spiritual beings contacted through the phenomena of the sense world.
Let us now ask how the inner stimulus was given to save mankind from hardening, from ossification. Certain beings were needed which at the appropriate time,withdrew the Moon substances from the Earth. These beings realized that the act of the Sun beings was not sufficient, and that they must protect the Earth from ossification by withdrawing the Moon from the Earth. They were in a certain respect higher than the Sun spirits. These latter, when the Sun was still united with the Earth, felt themselves obliged for the sake of their development to find another dwelling place, but the other spirits were able to remain with the Earth even after the Sun spirits had gone out. And this made it possible for them to save human evolution at a certain point of time by separating the Moon from the Earth. Thus they were in a certain respect higher than the Sun beings ... they were able to separate a substance from the Earth relatively coarser than that connected with the Sun spirits and by becoming rulers of this coarse substance to prove their greater power. For those who are able to transform evil into good are more powerful than those who rule over the good and make it, possibly, a little better.
Those are the beings behind the phenomena of the life of the soul, who by separating the Moon from the Earth made thinking, feeling, willing, and conscience possible. They come from the Moon region, a spiritual kingdom which in a certain respect is higher, more powerful, than that of the Sun spirits, which are to be found behind external maya. Maya is twofold: there is the external maya of the sense world, and the inner maya of soul life. Behind the first stand those spiritual beings who have their center in the Sun; behind the maya of the inner life stand the other beings, who belong to a more powerful kingdom.
Just here we can see the truth of Greek mythology as portrayed in the story of Orestes. Orestes is told by the ruling gods that he has performed a good deed, but the Erinyes approach him, and they are felt to be older beings than those belonging to the kingdom of Zeus: they are goddesses who take vengeance even though the external goddesses of the Sun kingdom (the kingdom of Zeus) had given their consent to the act. Man is here confronted by beings of an older spiritual race, who intervene as a corrective in what he undertakes under the guidance and leadership of the beings who withdrew from the Earth with the Sun. This remarkable example clearly shows how the conceptions of ancient peoples, expressed in their mythology, confirm what spiritual investigations of today teach in another way.
At this point I ask you to bear in mind the fact that at a certain point of time during the Earth evolution a spiritual being, Whom we name the Christ, a being previously united to the Sun, descended from the Sun, and at the time of the life of Jesus of Nazareth united Himself to the Earth. The Christ being entered into the body of Jesus of Nazareth. This is an absolutely unique phenomenon and cannot be thought of in the same connection as other occurrences here mentioned. It has been said that after the separation of the Sun, the Earth would have hardened if the Moon had not also been ejected; human beings would have mummified. This is perfectly true for a very large part of Earth life, but not for the whole of it. In spite of the withdrawal of Sun and Moon, something in the Earth would have fallen a prey to death if the Christ event had not come to pass. Though the withdrawal of the Moon made an inner soul life possible, yet it was the Christ's descent from the Sun which gave this inner life a new stimulus.
When a spiritual seer looks back to the time preceding the Christ event, a striking vision comes before him. The external form of the Earth, confronting the physical senses as maya, vanishes and something comparable to the human form appears, but only a form, a figure. To spiritual vision the outer mayavic Earth (and I say the Earth deliberately) changes into the form of a human being with arms outstretched in the shape of a cross, a male-female form. This reminds us of the wonderful words of Plato, words that he drew from the Mysteries, that the world soul is crucified on the cross of the world's body. This is exactly the image which presents itself to the eye of the spiritual seer: the Christ died on the cross, and thereupon the Earth, which had been mere form and figure, became filled with life. The coming of the Christ principle into the Earth had something in common with the withdrawal of the Moon; life poured into what otherwise would have remained mere form.
To understand ancient times aright is to realize that they all lead up to the Christ event. Just as men of today look back to the Christ as a being Who at a certain point of time entered into human evolution, so pre-Christian initiates all pointed to the coming of the Christ as foreshown by events. Nothing could have been a surer herald of the Christ than the mighty phenomenon, visible under certain conditions to spiritual sight, of the disappearance of the physical form of the Earth and the vision of the world soul crucified on the world's body. In dim Indian antiquity it was said by the sages that when their spiritual vision arose they saw, deep down under the mountains of the Earth, near its central point, a cross, and upon it a male-female human being, having on its right side the symbol of the Sun and upon its left side the symbol of the Moon, and over the rest of the body the various land and sea formations of the Earth. That was the clairvoyant vision which the sages of ancient India had of the form waiting until our Earth could be brought to life by the Christ principle. And inasmuch as those ancient sages pointed to the most important prophecy of the Christ event they were justified, when they looked still more deeply into existence, in saying: the Christ will come because that which points to Him is in existence. Ancient wisdom at its highest level becomes prophetic; it looks towards that which will come to pass in the future. What the future holds is entirely the result of the present, and so present spiritual vision can receive intimations of a spiritual event which is to take place in the future. Indications of the Christ event were not given in any outwardly abstract way, but were revealed to spiritual sight by the phenomenon of the world soul crucified on the cross of the world's body, waiting to receive the life of the Christ when He should unite Himself with the Earth. The wisdom of all egos is a harmonious unity if considered in its fundamentals. Starting from this point let us look at the wisdom of different epochs in a light that will reveal it in its true aspect.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Rudolf Steiner: "Life is not to be understood here on Earth. Occultism alone can give knowledge of life; external science can never fathom it. It would be the wildest fantasy to believe that one could ever penetrate the laws of life as one can physical or chemical laws. To do so remains an ideal; it can never be reached. On the physical plane there is never any possibility of giving knowledge of life. This knowledge of life must remain the preserve of supersensible knowledge."
The East in the Light of the West. Lecture 2 of 9
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 24, 1909:
In this and the succeeding lectures we shall make it a special point to consider the wisdom of the Eastern world, that is to say humanity's treasures of ancient wisdom in general, in the light which may be kindled by the knowledge of the Christ impulse and all that the course of the centuries has gradually evolved from this Christ impulse in the form of the wisdom of the Western world. If Anthroposophy is to be a living thing it must not consist in views and opinions of the higher worlds which are already in existence, taken from history and then taught, but it must comprise all the knowledge obtainable by us today about the nature of the higher worlds. Not only in olden times were there people who could turn their gaze towards these higher worlds and see them in the same way as we see the outer world with our physical eyes and understand it with our intellect. There have been such people at all periods of human evolution and there are such today. Humanity never has been dependent on the mere study of truths recorded in history, nor is man dependent on receiving these teachings about the higher worlds from any special physical place. Everywhere in the world the current of higher wisdom and knowledge may be tapped. It would be no wiser for our schools to teach mathematics or geography today by means of old documents, written in ancient times, than it is for us, when studying the great wisdom of the supersensible worlds, to consider only ancient, historical accounts. Therefore it will be our present task to approach the things of the higher worlds, the beings of the supersensible regions themselves, to review many things that are known, less known, or quite unknown about these higher worlds, and then to ask ourselves what the people of older and of ancient times had to say about these things. In other words, we shall allow Western wisdom to pass before our souls, and then enquire how that which we learn to know as Western wisdom accords with what we may learn to know as Eastern wisdom. The point is that the wisdom of the supersensible worlds, if related to man, may be grasped by the intellect. It has often been emphasized by me that any unprejudiced mind may grasp and comprehend the facts of the higher worlds. Although this unprejudiced common sense is a very rare faculty in our present time it does exist, and whoever is willing to exercise it can understand everything that is related of the result of clairvoyant investigation. It is true that these facts of the higher worlds can only be collected and investigated by so-called clairvoyant research, through the ascent into the higher worlds of people who have prepared themselves for this special purpose. And as in these higher worlds beings live which, in relation to man, we may call spirits or gods, the investigation of the higher worlds is in reality an association of the clairvoyant or the initiate with spirits or gods. Consequently a clairvoyant can only investigate the higher worlds by ascending the stages which lead to intercourse with the spirits or gods.
Much already has been said about these things at different times and places, and only the most essential part is here repeated. The first requisite for a person who wants to become clairvoyant in order to penetrate the higher worlds is nothing less than the acquisition of the faculty of seeing, knowing, and experiencing without the help of the outer senses, not only without the help of instruments which have been built into our body such as eyes and ears, etc., but also unaided by the instrument which more especially serves our intellect, namely, our mind. No more than we can see the supersensible worlds with physical eyes, or hear in them with physical ears, can we learn to know them through the intellect which is bound up with our physical brain. Thus man has to become independent of the activity which he exercises when using his physical senses and his physical brain.
Now we know already that in normal human life there is a condition in which man is outside the instrument of his physical body, viz. the condition of sleep. We know that of the four principles of human nature — the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego — the latter two, the astral body and the ego, gain a certain independence during sleep. During our waking life, from morning till we fall asleep at night, they are closely connected with the other two principles, with the physical and etheric bodies. But when we are asleep these four principles separate in such a way that the physical body with the etheric body remain lying on the bed, and the astral body and the ego are liberated and live in another world. Thus in the normal course of his life man is for some hours out of every twenty-four in a condition in which he is free from the instruments which are built into his physical body; but he has to pay for this liberation from his sense-body in a certain way with darkness; he cannot perceive the world in which he lives during sleep.
The organs and instruments necessary for man when he wishes to see in the spiritual world, in which he lives with his ego and his astral body at night, must of course be built into his astral body — relatively speaking into his ego. And the difference between a normal person of our time and a clairvoyant investigator consists in the fact that the astral body and the ego of the normal person are in a certain way unorganized and lacking organs of perception when they withdraw from the physical and etheric bodies at night, while in the astral body and ego of the clairvoyant investigator organs have been developed similarly to the eyes and ears of the physical body, though the organs are of a different kind. Thus the first task which the person who wants to become a clairvoyant investigator has to undertake is that of building into his hitherto unorganized astral body and ego spiritual eyes, spiritual ears, etc., and of doing all that is necessary to develop these spiritual organs.
But that is not the only thing necessary. Let us suppose that a person has progressed so far that, by the methods which we shall presently mention he has equipped his astral body and ego with spiritual eyes and ears, etc. Such a person would then have an astral body different from that of an ordinary person since he would have an organized astral body. He would, however, not yet be able to see in the spiritual world, or at any rate he would not be able to reach certain stages of seeing. Therefore something more is necessary. If in our present conditions man really wishes to ascend to conscious clairvoyance, it is not only necessary for spiritual eyes and ears to be developed in his astral body, but also for all that is thus plastically formed in this astral body to be imprinted upon the etheric body, even as a seal is stamped on sealing-wax. Real, conscious clairvoyance begins when the organs — the spiritual eyes and ears, etc. — formed in the astral body imprint themselves on the etheric body.
Thus the etheric body has to help the astral body and the ego if clairvoyance is to be brought about; or in other words, all the principles of man's nature that we possess — the ego, astral body, and etheric body — with the sole exception of the physical body, have to work together to this end. Now, there are greater difficulties for the etheric body than for the astral body in this respect. For the astral body and ego are, we might say, in the fortunate position of being free from the physical body once every twenty-four hours. From morning when we wake till evening when we go to sleep they are united with the physical body, and all that time the astral body and the ego are bound up with the forces of the physical body, which prevent the astral body and ego from developing their own organs. The astral body and ego are delicate soul-beings; they follow, by their own elasticity, the forces of the physical body, conforming themselves to it and taking on its form. Therefore at night the astral body and ego of normal persons still have these forces of the physical body within themselves as after-effects, and only by special measures can we free the astral body and ego from these after-effects and enable the astral body to develop its own form, that is to say its spiritual eyes and ears, etc. But we are at least in the fortunate position of having the astral body free in the course of every twenty-four hours; that is to say we have the possibility of working on it in such a way that it no longer follows the elasticity of the physical body at night but its own elasticity.
The preparatory exercises taken up by the clairvoyant investigator consist essentially in spiritual activities performed during waking life, which strongly influence the astral body and the ego, and which have such strong inner effects that when at the moment of falling asleep the astral body and ego withdraw from the physical and etheric bodies, they experience the after-effect of what has been done by way of special preparation for clairvoyant research.
Let us now consider two cases. The ordinary person living a normal life surrenders himself from morning till evening to the impressions of the outer world, which works on the outer senses and the intellect. He falls asleep at night; his astral body goes out of his physical body and is then given over entirely to the experiences of the day, following the elasticity of the physical body, but not its own. But when through meditation, concentration, and other exercises given to those who wish to tread the path to higher knowledge a person strongly influences his soul, that is his astral body and ego, during waking life — in other words, when he has certain moments which he sets apart from ordinary daily life and in which he does something entirely different from the pursuits of ordinary waking life, and when in these particular moments he does not surrender himself to what the outer world has to say to the senses and to the intellect but to what is a revelation from and a product of the spiritual worlds, a marked change takes place. When a man surrenders himself to such things, when he spends part of his daily waking life in meditation, concentration, and other exercises, for however short a time it may be, they affect his soul so strongly that the astral body experiences the effects of this meditation, concentration, etc., at night when it leaves the physical body, and follows an elasticity different from that of the physical body. The method for the attainment of clairvoyant powers employed by the teachers of this research is drawn from the knowledge which has been tested for thousands of years in the way of exercises, meditation,s and concentrations, which have to be followed in waking life in order that they may have after-effects in sleeping life and produce a different organization of the astral body. It is a great responsibility which the person who gives such exercises to his fellow men takes upon himself. Such exercises are not invented; they are the result of spiritual labor in the Mysteries, in the occult schools. It is known that that which is prescribed in these exercises works on the soul in such a way that when this soul withdraws from the physical body in sleep it develops its spiritual eyes and ears and its spiritual thinking in the right way.
If something wrong is done, or wrong exercises are practiced, certain results also follow. Effects do not fail to appear, but in this case abnormal forms (or if we want to use an expression of the sense-world we might say ‘unnatural’ forms) are built into the astral body. What is the meaning of unnatural forms being built into the astral body? It means that forms are built into it which contradict the great universe, which do not harmonize with it. It would correspond in this sphere to building organs in our physical body which could not hear outer sounds in the right way or see the outer light in the right way, and which would not be in accord with the outer world. Through wrong meditation and concentration man would therefore be brought into a position of contradiction to the universe with regard to his astral body and his ego; and he would, instead of receiving organs through which the spiritual world could gradually reveal itself, be shattered by the influences of the spiritual world. He would experience these influences of the spiritual world not as something which benefited and enriched him, but as something which shattered his life, and if the methods were quite wrong, tore his being asunder.
It is important to take particular notice that we are here confronted with the fact that something which exists in the outer world — and we speak now of the spiritual outer world — may be beneficial to man in the highest degree, as well as harmful in the highest degree, according to the way in which he brings his own being to meet it. Let us suppose that a man with a wrongly developed astral body exposes himself to the spiritual world around him. This world works in upon him. Whereas this spiritual world will flow in on him and enrich him with the mysteries if he has cultivated his organs in the right way, it will tear him asunder and shatter him if he has developed them in the wrong way. It is one and the same outer world which in one case carries man upwards to the highest, in the other case shatters and ruins him; the same external world, of which he will say that it is a divine and beneficent world when he carries within himself the right organs of perception, and a world of ruin and destruction when he has within himself an inner being which is not developed in the right way. In these words lies much of the key to an understanding of good and evil, of what is fruitful and what is destructive in the world. And this should enable us to see that the effect which any kind of beings of the outer world have on us is no standard by which to judge these beings themselves. According to the way in which we confront the outer world, the same being may either be beneficial or destructive to us, god or devil to our inner organization, and it is therefore imperative to bear this continually in mind.
We have now placed before our minds what the preparation for clairvoyant investigation is like with regard to our astral body and ego. And we have emphasized that we human beings are in a certain respect in a fortunate position, because we have our delicate astral body and ego outside our physical and etheric bodies for at least a certain time during each twenty-four hours. But the etheric body does not leave the physical body at night; it remains united with it. We know that not till the moment of death is the physical body deserted by the etheric body, which then withdraws along with the astral body and the ego. We need not mention today what becomes of these three principles of human nature between death and a new birth; we will only clearly present to our minds the fact that at death man is set free from his physical body and from all that is built into this physical body, free from the physical sense-organs and free from the brain, the instrument of the intellect which works physically. The ego, the astral body, and the etheric body are then united in an appropriate fashion and can work together. Therefore it is that from the moment of death true clairvoyance sets in with regard to the previous life, although this at first lasts only for a short time. This has been often stated.
Such a cooperation as normally only takes place at the moment of death must be made possible to the ego, the astral body and the etheric body during life if complete clairvoyance is to be brought about. The etheric body must be liberated from the condition in which it is imprisoned during normal life; it must arrive at being able to use its elasticity and to become independent of the elasticity of the physical body, as the astral body is at night. For this purpose more intense, more strenuous, and in a certain respect higher exercises are required. All these things will be mentioned again in their corresponding connection in the course of the next lectures; for the present it will suffice to understand that such exercises are necessary, and that it is not sufficient to have practiced the preparatory exercises which have the effect of developing spiritual eyes and ears in the astral body, but that exercises for giving the etheric body independence and freedom from the physical body are also required.
Just now, however, we will only consider the result. It is not difficult to imagine, from what has been said what this result must be. In normal cases it is only at the moment of death that the astral body and the etheric body can work together, free from the physical body. So if clairvoyance is to be aroused, something must take place which can only be compared with what sets in for man at the moment of death; that is to say, man must, if he wishes to become consciously clairvoyant, reach a stage of development where he is just as independent of his physical body and the use of the members of his physical body during life as he is at the moment of death.
By what means can man acquire such independence of his physical body, and bring himself into a condition which resembles the moment of physical death? Only by cultivating certain feelings and shades of feeling which stir the soul so forcibly that by their power they seize the etheric body and lift it out of the physical body. Such strong impulses of thought, feeling, and will must work in the soul that an inner force is aroused which frees the etheric body from the physical body, at any rate for certain moments. In these moments, however, the physical body must absolutely be as if dead to ordinary, normal human life.
But this cannot be brought about by external, physical methods in our period of human evolution. Anyone who thinks that such things can be brought about by physical methods would become the victim of a stupendous delusion. Such a person would wish to enter the spiritual worlds by adhering to the methods of the physical world; that is to say he would not yet have attained to a real belief in the force of the spiritual worlds. For purely subjective experiences, impulses proceeding from the strong, energetic life of the soul, are alone competent to bring about this death-like condition.
And speaking in the abstract, we may say for the present that the most essential thing for bringing about such a condition is that man experiences a change, as it were a turning upside down of his sphere of interests. For ordinary life provides man with certain interests. These interests play their part from morning till night. Man is interested — and quite rightly, for he must live in the world — in things that appeal to his eyes, his ears, his physical intellect, his physical feelings, etc.; he is interested in what confronts him in the outer world; one thing interests him more, another less; he pays more attention to one thing and less to another; and that is natural. In these fluctuating interests, binding him to the tapestry of the outer world by a certain power of attraction, man lives, and by far the greater part of our present humanity lives in these interests alone. Nevertheless it is possible for man, without detriment to the freshness and intensity of these interests, to bring about moments in his life in which these outer interests are not at all active, in which, if we wish to express it radically, this whole outer sense-world becomes absolutely indifferent to him, in which he kills out absolutely all the interest forces which fetter him to this or that object in the world of the senses. It would be wrong for a man not to reserve this deadening of his interests in the outer world for certain ‘festival moments’ in life, it would be wrong to extend it over his whole life. He would then become incapable of taking part in the work of the outer world, whereas we are called to take part in the outer world and in its life.
We must therefore reserve for ‘times of high festival’ this possibility of letting all interests in the surrounding world die out; we must, so to say, acquire this twofold nature. On the one hand we must feel a fresh and vital interest in everything which goes on in the outer world in the way of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain, and of life which is blossoming and flourishing and of life which is dying. This freshness and originality of our interest in the outer world must be kept alive in our earthly life; we must not become strangers upon Earth, for then we should act from egoism and deprive the stage to which our forces must be devoted in our present evolution of these forces. But on the other hand we must, if we wish to ascend into the higher worlds, cultivate the other side of our being, which consists in killing out during ‘moments of Holy Day’ all our interests in the outer world, of letting them die out. And if we have patience and perseverance and energy and strength to practice this as long and as much as our karma demands, this deadening of interest in the outer world at last liberates a strong energetic force in our inner being, because that which we kill out in this way in the outer world reappears as higher and more abundant life in the inner world. We experience an entirely new kind of life; we experience the moment in which we can say: That which we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears is only a small part of life. There is an entirely different life, life in the spiritual world; a resurrection in the spiritual world, a transcending of what we usually call life, a transcending in such a way that not death but a higher life is the result.
As soon as this pure spiritual force has grown strong enough in our inner being, we may gradually experience moments in which we become rulers and lords over our etheric body, when this etheric body does not take on the shape forced upon it by the elasticity of the lungs and the liver, but the shape forced upon it from above downwards by our astral body. Thus we imprint on our etheric body the shape which, through meditation, concentration, etc., we have first imprinted on our astral body. We imprint the plastic form of our astral body on the etheric body, and we ascend from ‘preparation’ to ‘illumination’ — the next stage of clairvoyant research. The first stage, by which our astral body is changed in such a way that it receives organs, is also called ‘purification,’ because the astral body is purified and purged from the forces of the outer world, and conforms to the inner forces — purification, cleansing, catharsis. But the stage at which the astral body succeeds in imprinting its own form on the etheric body implies that in a spiritual sense, light begins to shine around us, that the spiritual world around us is revealing itself and that ‘illumination’ is setting in.
What I have just described goes hand in hand with certain experiences which man goes through, with typical experiences which are the same for everyone, and which everyone who treads this path experiences the moment he is ripe for it, if he pays the necessary attention to certain things and occurrences which are beyond the physical. The first experience, which occurs through the organization of the astral body and which therefore comes about as an effect of meditation, concentration, etc., might be called an inner experience of the feelings describable as an inward division of the whole of our personality. The moment this is experienced one can say to oneself: Now you have become something like two personalities, you are like a sword in its scabbard. Formerly you might have compared yourself with a sword which does not lie loosely in its scabbard but is one with it, the two consisting of one; you felt yourself one with your physical body; but now you seem, although lying in your physical body like a sword in its scabbard, to be a being which feels itself to be something apart from the sheath of the physical body, in which it is lying. You feel yourself to be within the physical body, but not grown into one with it, not as if consisting of one piece with it. This inward liberation, this inward realization of oneself as a second personality which has emerged from the first, is the first great experience on the way to clairvoyant vision of the world.
The fact must be emphasized that this first experience is an experience of the inner feelings: One must feel that one is lying within one's old personality, and yet feel free and mobile within it. The analogy with the sword and its scabbard is of course rough. For the sword feels itself cramped on all sides by the scabbard, while man, when he has this experience, has a strong feeling of inner mobility, as if he might break on all sides through the limits of his physical body, as if he could forsake it by falling through the skin of his physical body and stretch out his feelers far, far into a world which, although still dark, begins to be perceptible to his feeling in the darkness, one might say, begins to be knowable through inner touch. This is the first great experience man has.
The second great experience is that this second personality, which now exists within the first, gradually becomes capable of really leaving this first personality, of stepping out of it. This experience expresses itself in the fact that, although often only for a short time, one feels as if one could see oneself, as if one stood confronting oneself like a double. This is the second experience, and it is moreover of much greater importance than the first.
With it something is connected which it is very difficult for man to bear. It must never be forgotten that in normal life man is contained within his physical body. That which lives within man's physical body as astral body and ego accommodates itself to the forces of the physical body; it yields as it were to them; it conforms itself to the bodily forces, assuming the shapes of the liver, the heart, the brain, etc. And this is also true of the etheric body, so long as it remains within the physical body. Now we all know what is indicated by the expression brain, heart, etc., what wonderful instruments and organs they are, how complete in themselves, how perfect as creations! What is all human art and human creative work compared with the creative work, the art and technique, necessary for constructing such wonderful instruments as the heart, the brain, etc. What is everything which man can accomplish at the present stage of his evolution in the way of art and technical skill compared with that divine art and technique which have built up our physical body and which, therefore, also guard us as long as we are within it.
So we are not merely in an abstract sense devoted to our physical bodies during daily life, but interwoven with a concrete creation of the gods. Our etheric and astral bodies are fitted into forms created by the gods. If we now become free and independent there will be a change. We free ourselves at the same time from a wonderful instrument of divine creation. Thus we do not leave the physical body as some imperfect thing to be looked down upon, but as the temple which the gods have built for us and in which normally we live during our waking life. Such a temple do we leave on abandoning the physical body. What are we then?
Let us suppose that at a certain moment we could leave this physical body without further preparation, let us suppose that some magician (of whatever kind he might be) could assist us to leave our physical body, and that our etheric body accompanied our astral body, and that we, in a certain respect, went through an experience comparable with the moment of death; let us suppose that we could do this without the preparation of which we have spoken; what should we be when, outside the physical body, we confront ourselves? We are then what in the course of the world evolution we have made of ourselves from incarnation to incarnation. As long as from morning to night we are within our physical body, this divine creation, the temple of our physical body, corrects what we have incorporated within ourselves in the course of our incarnations on Earth; but the moment we step out of it, our astral and etheric bodies show what they have accumulated from incarnation to incarnation and appear as they are according to what they have made of themselves.
If a man thus unprepared leaves his physical body, he is not a spiritual being of a higher, nobler, and purer form than the form was which he had in his physical body, but a being laden with all the imperfections heaped up in his karma during his incarnations. All this remains invisible so long as the temple of our body encloses our etheric body, our astral body, and our ego. It becomes visible the moment we step out of our physical body with the higher principles of our being. Then there appear before us, if at the same moment we become clairvoyant, all the inclinations and passions which still remain with us as the result of our former incarnations. In the course of the future evolution of our Earth we have still to go through many incarnations, full of activities and accomplishment. The inclinations, instincts, and passions for much that you will do later are already within you, developed through incarnations in former times. Everything that man is capable of accomplishing in the world in certain directions, all obligations to others incurred by offences against them for which reparation has to be made in the future, are already incorporated in the astral body and the etheric body when he leaves his physical body. We confront ourselves so to say naked as a soul-being, if at the moment of leaving our body we are clairvoyant; that is to say we stand before our spiritual vision in such a way that we know how much worse we are than would be the case if we had attained the perfection possessed by the gods, which made them capable of creating the wonderful building of our physical body. We perceive at this moment how far we are from the perfection which we must hold before us as our future ideal of development. We know at this moment how deeply we have sunk below the world of perfection.
This is the experience which is connected with ‘illumination’; it is the experience which is called the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold. That which is real does not become more or less real according to our seeing or not seeing it. That shape which we see in the moment just described is always there, is always within us; but because we have not yet got loose from ourselves, because we do not confront ourselves but are within ourselves, we do not see it. In ordinary life, that which we see at the moment that clairvoyantly we step out of ourselves is the Guardian of the Threshold. He shields us from an experience that we must first learn to bear. We must first acquire a strong enough force to enable us to see a world of the future before us, and to look without fear and horror upon what we have become, because we know for certain that we can make it all right again.
The capacity which we must possess for experiencing this moment without being depressed by it must be acquired during the preparation for clairvoyant investigation. This preparation consists, abstractly expressed, in making the active, positive qualities of our souls strong and energetic, in bringing our courage, our feeling of freedom, our love, our energy of thought and our energy of lucid intellect to the greatest possible height, so that we step out of our physical body not as weak people but as strong. If, however, there is too much left in man of what is called anxiety and fear, he will not be able to endure this experience of encountering the Guardian of the Threshold without harm.
Thus we see that there are certain conditions to be fulfilled before looking into the spiritual worlds, those worlds which in a certain respect hold out a prospect of the highest that we can think of for life in our present development of humanity, but at the same time demand of man a complete transformation of his being such as he has to attain in the solemn ‘Holy Day moments’ mentioned before.
It is a real blessing in our present time for the aspirant, before he proceeds to this experience, to be told what those who have gained experience in the higher worlds have seen. We can understand even when we cannot see. But by making increasing efforts to reach an intellectual comprehension of what the clairvoyant tells us, and coming to the conclusion, after a survey of everything life brings us, that the clairvoyant's reports are quite sensible after all, we shall be doing the right thing at the present time. We must become Anthroposophists before aspiring to clairvoyance, and we must learn to know Anthroposophy thoroughly.
If we do this, the great, comprehensive, strengthening, encouraging and refreshing ideas and thoughts of Anthroposophy give to the soul not only a working hypothesis but also qualities of feeling, will, and thought which make the soul like tempered steel. If the soul has gone through this process, the moment of meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold becomes something quite different from what it would have been otherwise. Fear and terror, states of anxiety and care, are conquered in quite a different way if previously we have learned to understand and to grasp what is related about the higher worlds.
And later, when a person has had this experience, when he has confronted himself and thus has met the Guardian of the Threshold, the world begins to show itself to him in quite a different way. Everything in the world may be said to wear a new aspect. And a justifiable opinion might be expressed by the following illustrations. I had supposed up till now that I knew what fire is, but that was only an illusion. For what I have called fire up till now would be like calling the tracks of a carriage on a road the only reality, and denying that a carriage in which a person was sitting must have been passing that way. I declare these tracks on the road to be the signs, the outer expression, of the carriage which has passed there and in which a person was sitting. I have not seen the person who passed there, but he is the cause of these tracks, he is the reality. And a person who believed the marks left by the wheels to be something complete in themselves, something real and basic, would be taking the outer expression for the thing itself.
That which our senses see as flashing fire bears the same proportion to its reality, to the spiritual being which stands behind it, as do the tracks on the road to the person who was sitting in the carriage which passed there. In fire we have only an outer expression. Behind what our eyes see as fire and what we feel as heat is the real spiritual entity, which has only its outer expression in the outer fire. Behind what we inhale as air, behind what enters our eyes as light, and behind what our ears perceive as sound are active beings spiritual and divine, whose outer garments only we behold in fire, in water, and in what surrounds us in the different realms of nature.
In the so-called secret teaching, in the teaching of the Mysteries, the experience which is then gone through is called the passage through the elementary worlds. Whereas previously one had lived in the belief that what we know as fire is a reality, one then becomes aware that living beings are hidden behind the fire. We become, so to say, acquainted with fire, more or less intimately, as something quite different from what it appears to be in the world of the senses. We become acquainted with the fire-beings, with what is the soul of the fire.
Just as our souls are hidden behind our bodies, so the soul and spirit of the fire are hidden by the fire which we perceive with our outer senses. We penetrate into a spiritual domain when we experience the soul and spirit of fire in this way, and the experience by which we realize that the outer fire is no reality, that it is a mere illusion, a mere garment, and that we now move among the fire-gods just as we did formerly among people of the physical world, is called ‘living in the element of fire,’ to use the terms of occult science.
It is the same with that which we breathe. The moment that what we breathe as outer air becomes to us only the garment of the living beings within it, we live in the element of air.
And so when one has passed through the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold, that is to say, when one has acquired true self-knowledge, one can ascend to experiencing the beings in the so-called elements, in the elements of fire, of water, of air, and of earth. These four classes of gods or spirits live a real existence in the elements, and a person who has reached the stage which has just been described is in touch with the divine spiritual beings of the elements. He lives in the elements; he experiences earth, water, air, and fire. That which in ordinary life is designated by these words is only the outer garment, the outer expression, of divine spiritual beings behind it. It becomes plain therefore that certain spiritual divine beings live in that which meets us (speaking according to spiritual science) as solid matter or earth, as fluid matter or water, as volatile matter or air, and as warm fiery matter or fire.
These, however, are not the highest spiritual beings. When we have struggled on through the experiences of the elementary world, we ascend to the entities which stand in the relation of creators towards the spirits who live in the elements. For let us consider our physical surroundings. We find that they consist of the four outer principles of the elementary world. Whether we take plants, or animals, or stones, or anything else on the physical plane, they consist according to spiritual science either of the solid element, that is earth, or the fluid element, water, or the gaseous element, air, or the fiery element, fire. Of these elements the things which physically surround us in the world of stones, of plants, of animals, and of men are composed. And we know that behind what physically surrounds us there are, as creative and fructifying forces, those forces which for the most part come to us from the Sun. We know that the Sun calls forth budding and germinating life out of the Earth. Thus the Sun sends to the Earth forces which — considered physically for the moment — make it possible for us to perceive on Earth with our physical senses that which lives in fire, in air, in water, and in earth. We see the Sun physically because it radiates physical light. This physical light is sustained by physical matter. Man sees the Sun from sunrise to sunset, and he does not see it when the physical Earth substance hides it; he does not see it from sunset to sunrise.
In the spiritual world there is no such darkness as reigns in physical life from sunset to sunrise. When the clairvoyant has gained what has been described, when he perceives behind fire the spirits of fire, behind air the spirits of air, behind water the spirits of water, and behind earth the spirits of earth, in that moment he sees behind these divine spiritual beings their higher ruler, their higher Lord, the entity which in comparison to these beings of the element is like the warming, illuminating, beneficent Sun as compared to the budding and germinating life on our Earth. That is to say, the clairvoyant ascends from a contemplation of the elementary gods to the contemplation of those higher divine beings which in the spiritual world may be symbolically compared with the Sun in its physical relation to the Earth. Behind the beings of the elements a high spiritual world is seen, the spiritual Sun. When for the clairvoyant that which otherwise is darkness becomes light, when he attains to clairvoyance, to ‘illumination,’ he realizes the spiritual Sun, that is to say the higher divine spiritual beings, in the same way as the physical eye realizes the physical Sun.
And when does he penetrate to these higher divine spiritual beings? At the moment when, as it were, for other people the spiritual darkness is at its densest. When man's astral body and ego are free — that is to say, from the moment of falling asleep to that of waking — man lives surrounded by darkness because he does not see the spiritual world which then surrounds him. This darkness increases gradually, reaches its densest point, and decreases again until the morning when he awakes. It comes, as it were, to a point in which it reaches its densest degree. This densest degree of spiritual darkness may be compared with what in outer life is called the hour of midnight. Just as normally the outer physical darkness is then at its densest, since it increases towards this moment and then decreases, so there is a densest degree of spiritual darkness, a midnight. At a certain stage of clairvoyance it happens that the spirits of the elements are seen during the time when for other people the spiritual darkness begins to increase, and similarly during the time in which darkness decreases again. In other words if only a lower stage of clairvoyance has been reached, one experiences, so to say, certain gods of the elements, but just at the time of the highest spiritual moment, the midnight hour, darkness may still set in, and ‘illumination’ only begins again after this moment has been passed. When, however, a definite stage of clairvoyance is reached, the midnight hour becomes so much the more ‘illuminated’; and just at this midnight-hour, at the time when the normal person is so to say most shut off from the divine spiritual world, most entangled in maya, or illusion, one ascends into the light. At this time one beholds those spiritual beings which, compared to the gods of the elements, are like the Sun compared to the physical Earth. One beholds the higher creative gods, the Sun gods, in the moment which is technically called: ‘Beholding the Sun at midnight.’
These are the stages which today, as at all times, have to be lived through by those who wish to work themselves up to clairvoyant investigation, who wish to look through the veil which in the shape of the earthly elements is drawn over the real world. They are: the feeling of freedom inside one's ordinary personality, like that of a sword in its sheath; the feeling of being outside the physical body, as if the sword were drawn out of its sheath; the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold; the experiencing of the gods of the elements, that is, experiencing the great moment when the beings of fire, air, water, and earth become beings among whom we walk and with whom we associate as in ordinary life we associate with human beings; and lastly, experiencing the moment when we behold the king, the commander, the leader of these beings of the elements.
These are the stages which could be experienced at all past times and which can still be experienced today. These are the stages (already often described, for they can be described in many ways, and still the description always remains imperfect) leading upwards into the spiritual worlds. We were obliged to present them to our souls so as to see what man at all times has had to do himself in order to learn to know the divine spiritual beings. And we shall further have to place before our souls what it is which man experiences in these divine spiritual worlds; we shall have to realize some of the more concrete preparations to be gone through in order to meet the gods. And when we have presented this to our souls and the way in which it can be attained by Western initiation, we shall compare what we have thus gained with what has been given to humanity in the way of Oriental tradition and ancient wisdom. And in making this comparison, we shall be shedding the light of the Christ upon the wisdom of pre-Christian times.