Friday, April 8, 2011
Further Stages of Rosicrucian Training. The Philosopher's Stone. The Golden Legend. The Wandering Jew. Positivity
Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. Lecture 14 of 14
Rudolf Steiner, June 20, 1907:
Yesterday I described to you the Rosicrucian Initiation up to the third stage, the Knowledge of Occult Writing. We therefore learned to know what is designated in the Rosicrucian meaning as Study, then the Acquisition of Imaginative Knowledge, and then what is termed as the Penetration into the Occult Writing — into that writing which is taken out of the laws of Nature themselves. Now it behooves us to proceed to the fourth stage of Rosicrucian Initiation, to the one which is called The Preparation of the Stone of the Wise. We should realize that only in the present time has it become possible to say something about that which the Rosicrucians really meant by the Preparation of the Stone of the Wise.
By that name were known certain rules for the entrance into the higher worlds, and these rules have existed ever since the founder of Rosicrucianism inaugurated this movement in 1459. You must bear in mind that this spiritual current has always been handled with the greatest precaution and has always been kept secret.
Towards the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century certain secrets of Rosicrucianism leaked out in an unjustified manner, owing to a kind of treason; at that time several things connected with these secrets were printed, but from these publications one could gather that the people in question had an inkling of these secrets, but did not understand them; nevertheless they at least heard the right words or picked them up, so to speak, also in regard to the “Stone of the Wise”. At that time a series of communications appeared even in the “Reichsanzeiger” on a society whose task it was to prepare the Stone of the Wise; among these communications there is also one which can only be understood by those who know what it is about. It states: “Yes, the Stone of the Wise exists; it is known to almost everyone; indeed, most people have even held it in their hand; it is not at all difficult to find it — but most people do not know this!”
The idea of the Stone of the Wise was connected with the meaning that little by little it enabled one to know man's immortal part, which cannot decay after death, for it leads one up into the higher worlds. If a human being realizes that this immortal part cannot fall a prey to death, he acquires an immortal life through the possession of the Stone of the Wise, and thus he overcomes death. This had been interpreted as meaning that one would never die. But it means instead that thereby one learns to know the world where man lives after death. Moreover one saw in the Stone of the Wise an elixir of life. All this rendered the Stone of the Wise extremely desirable. Those who knew the true meaning of these things must have found these words strangely correct; for they are true — but those who do not know the secret cannot do much with them.
Let me now show you quite briefly what these words really mean. If you wish to understand them, please follow me in the contemplation of a plain, natural-scientific fact: — You must be clear as to the relation existing between the human being and the vegetable kingdom. It is a fact that all those who breathe as man breathes could never exist if there were no plants. Now try to become acquainted with the process which takes place between you and the plants.
You breathe in the air and use the oxygen of the air. You could not live if there were no oxygen. When you take in the air and work upon the oxygen in your organism, you breathe out carbonic acid, a combination of carbon and oxygen. You must therefore say: Man continually takes in oxygen which maintains his body, and he breathes out carbonic acid; consequently he continually creates a poison which could kill him. You continually fill your environment with a poison. — What does the plant do? In a certain way it does exactly the contrary! It takes in carbonic acid, keeps the carbon, and sends out the oxygen which it does not need. Thus you give the plant what it needs, and the plant gives you oxygen in return. What does the plant do with the carbon which it retains? To a certain extent it uses the carbon to build up its own body. You therefore give the plant, so to speak, the opportunity to build up its body out of carbon. — And after thousands of years, when you dig the plant out of the Earth in the form of coal, you have it in the same substance.
The plant gives you oxygen; you breathe it in. You give the plant carbonic acid; it retains the carbon, uses it to build up its body, and returns you oxygen. This is a wonderful alternating process that thus takes place. This is what happens today. But man is developing, and in the future the human body itself will have the organ which transforms carbonic acid into oxygen, retaining the carbon.
Here I am indicating a future state of development of man, a different condition from that which I pointed out to you yesterday, when speaking of the Rosicrucian path of training. In the future man will have a passionless body of a higher order, a body which you may find today upon a lower stage in the plant; man will be able to build up a body which will be plant-like upon a higher stage. In the organ which now constitutes his heart he will have an apparatus which will be able to do that which the plant does today. Now. the human being and the plant belong together; one could not live without the other. If there were no plants, all the beings who breathe in oxygen would have to die in a very short time, because it is the plant which supplies us with oxygen. We cannot imagine life without plants. But what the plant now does outside will in the future be done by that organ into which our heart will develop when the heart shall have become a muscle which we ourselves control. We spread out our consciousness over the plants; we grow together with the vegetable world, so that in the future that which the plant now does outside our being will take place within our being. Then we shall also retain the carbon which we now discard, and build up our body with it. We shall be like the plants upon a higher stage of consciousness.
From primeval ages, occultism weaves all this into a wonderful legend. It is the Golden Legend. And what I have explained to you today was imparted to the pupil of occultism in the form of an image. The legend was more or less as follows: —
When Seth, the son whom God gave Adam and Eve in place of the murdered Abel, once entered Paradise, he found the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life grown together, their branches intertwined. From this tree Seth took three seeds, following the command of the Angel who guided him. He kept the three seeds, and when Adam died he placed them into Adam's mouth. And a tree grew out of Adam's grave; to those who knew how to look upon it in the right way, this tree revealed a writing in flaming letters — the words: “Ejeh Asher Ejeh”: “I am He that was, He that is, He that shall be.” Now Seth took some wood from this tree and many things were made out of it — among them the rod which became the magic rod of Moses. And this tree multiplied; from its wood the portal of Solomon's temple was made, and later on, when it had passed through many other destinies, it became the Cross upon which the Savior hung.
The legend thus connects the wood of the Cross of Golgotha with the tree which grew out of Adam' s grave from the seeds of the Tree of Paradise.
This legend conceals the same mystery which I indicated to you today. It meant to say: In primeval ages the human race had not yet sunk down to the flesh with passion; it was pure and chaste like the plant which stretches out its calyx to the Sun. The human beings then descended through the “fall into sin” — their flesh was filled with passion. But everything which the human being once possessed in the state of innocence will be regained if he succeeds in forming through knowledge a body devoid of passion, the body which he once had before acquiring knowledge. Bear in mind the origin of the Ego. That the human being no longer possesses that innocent body is connected with the fact that he began to breathe through the lungs and was able to form his red blood. Man's present form, and the fact that this form is the bearer of knowledge in the present meaning, is therefore connected with his breathing and the circulation of the blood.
Now transfer yourselves into the human body of today. You can imagine the oxygen streaming into it and stimulating the red blood; you can look upon the blood as a tree with many branches reaching into every part of the body, and you can see the blue blood streaming back filled with carbonic acid.
You have two trees within you: the tree of the red blood, and the tree of the blue blood. Man, as the bearer of an Ego, could not exist without these two trees. He had to take in the blood in order to have an Ego, and that is how our modern knowledge arises; this forms its foundation. But death was connected with this development, for you constantly transform the red blood into blue blood filled with carbonic acid! The occult teacher of the Old Testament therefore said: “Look upon your own being: you have within you the red tree of blood; without this tree you would never have become a cognitive human being. You have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge; but this gave you at the same time the possibility to give life.”
That which was once a Tree of Life became a death-bringing tree; the blue-blood tree within us is therefore the Tree of Death. This is the present state of things. But the initiate sees a future state, when the human being shall have the plant-nature within him, when the heart-organ shall transform the blue blood into red blood in a direct way, within the human being. Then the Tree of Death shall have become the Tree of Life and man shall have become an immortal being. What man once was upon a lower stage he shall once more become upon a higher stage, and he will have within him the apparatus which now exists in the plant.
Paradise thus shows us a final state of humanity. Seth' s mission, so the occult teachers explained, was that he saw that which comes at the end of the times: the balancing of the two principles within the human being. Thus the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge intertwine in Paradise; but in man they can only exist if he seeks aid from the plant. But how can he acquire the faculty through which the two trees intertwine within his being? By developing within him the three higher members of human nature.
We have learned that the human being consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and Ego, and we have seen that when the Ego works upon the astral body it produces the first higher member; when it works upon the etheric body, the second higher member; and when it works upon the physical body, the third one. The future human being will therefore consist of seven parts, for he will also have the Spirit-Self [Manas], the Life-Spirit [Buddhi], and the Spirit-Man [Atman].
When the human being thus transforms his lower nature he will have the Tree of Life within him. At the beginning of his development man has therefore been predisposed through his Ego for the unfolding of his three higher members.
Seth took three seeds and the first Ego-man, Adam, let these seeds grow into a tree. This tree contains that which passes through every incarnation. During your first incarnation your Ego was upon a very low stage, but from incarnation to incarnation it reaches ever higher stages. What grows out of it is the symbol for the eternal part in man, which will reach its greatest perfection at the end of the Earth. But we shall only attain to this if we connect ourselves with everything that is highest along the path of the Spirit. Everything which leads humanity upwards along this path — the rod of Moses, Solomon' s Temple, and finally the Cross upon Golgotha — helps us to unfold fully the higher trinity within us. The Cross of Golgotha indicates the path leading to the highest fulfillment of man. At the beginning the seed from which that Tree grew was laid in Adam's mouth (this cannot be expressed more beautifully than in this Legend!); it was the seed which Seth had gained in the manner described. Here you have the path of humanity throughout the ages, the path of humanity through Time. And in future, man will have to attain that which the plant can do today: the transformation of his being, the capacity to produce carbon within himself, through his own power. Man will in the future master the alchemy of the plant.
The alchemistic preparation of what I have just now described to you was reached by giving the Rosicrucian pupil certain indications about the way in which he had to regulate his breathing process. This can only be grasped if we bear in mind the proverb: The steadily falling drop hollows out the stone. But the Rosicrucian pupil works towards this future goal. Even as the drop, small as it is, after a long time achieves a hollow in the stone, so the progress of the human bodies is brought about by this regulation of the breathing process. The indications given to the Rosicrucian pupil enable him to prepare, even today, a condition in which the Ego acquires the faculty to contemplate the future state of being in the higher worlds. The Rosicrucian pupil therefore does two things: In the first place he helps to prepare the future of humanity, and secondly he himself acquires the power of looking into the spiritual worlds; he sees that which will later on come down into physical reality.
Now you will be able to understand the indications which were published by that strange man, though he did not understand them. The Stone of the Wise is ordinary black coal — but you must learn the process enabling you to elaborate the carbon through your inner forces: this constitutes the future of mankind. The present coal is a prototype of that which will one day constitute the most important substance of the human being. Bear in mind the clear diamond: also the diamond is nothing but carbon! This was called the “Preparation of the Stone of the Wise” in the Rosicrucian world-conception. It conceals a process of transformation in the human being and the call to work upon future conditions of humanity. All who work in this way help to prepare the human bodies of the future, the bodies which will in future be needed by human souls.
There is a saying which expresses very beautifully this work upon future states of being, and we shall be able to understand it after having made a clear distinction between the development of souls and of races.
In the past all of you were Atlanteans, but these Atlantean bodies presented an entirely different aspect — as I have already explained to you. Within your present body lives the same soul which once lived somewhere in an Atlantean body. But not every body was prepared — as yours are being prepared today — by the few colonists who at that time migrated from the West to the East. Those who remained behind — those who connected themselves, as one says, with the race — decayed, whereas those who had progressed founded new cultures. The last stragglers along the path leading eastwards, the Mongolians, have preserved something of the Atlantean culture. They have not progressed; they remained within the race. In the same way, when a new age dawns, the bodies of those who do not progress will become the Chinese of the future. Also in the future there will be decadent races. In Chinese bodies live souls who had to incarnate again within the Chinese race because during the Atlantean time they were attracted too strongly by their race. The souls that dwell within you today will in the future incarnate in bodies proceeding from those who are now working in the manner described, producing the bodies of the future, in the same way in which the first colonists of the Atlanteans prepared the bodies of coming ages. And those who cling to everyday things, who do not wish to connect themselves with that which the future holds in store, will melt together within the race.
There are people who wish to remain within traditional things, who do not wish to know anything of progress and who do not listen to those who can lead them beyond the race to ever new forms of humanity. The myth has preserved this tendency in a wonderful way, for it can not be described more appropriately than by pointing to one of the greatest, who spoke the words: “Those who do not forsake father and mother, wife and child, brother and sister, cannot be my disciples”, and by setting forth the tragic aspect of a man who says: “I do not wish to have anything to do with such a guide!” and who rejects Him. How can this be expressed more clearly than by the image of him who rejects the guide and who cannot progress! This is the legend of Ahasver, the Wandering Jew, who sat at the feet of Christ Jesus and rejected the greatest of all guides, who did not wish to know anything of the course of evolution and must therefore remain with his race and always return within his race. These are myths which are given to humanity as a perpetual reminder, so that it may know the gist of things.
This fourth stage of Rosicrucian training must therefore be looked upon as something of immense depth, and humanity thus gradually develops the “Preparation of the Stone of the Wise.”
The fifth stage is the correspondence of microcosm and macrocosm. The whole complicated human body, such as it exists now, has arisen in a special way. My lectures have led you through the Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth conditions. Upon Saturn, only the first foundations of your sensory system existed; only this existed of everything which now constitutes your physical body, and it was embedded in the Saturn-substance, even as crystals are now embedded in the Earth-substance. Your eye was like a crystal of quartz. Upon the Sun, the glands which were your highest organs were constituted in such a way that they covered the surface of the Sun. And upon the Moon the organs which form your nervous system were spread over the Moon's surface. The Moon had a nervous system in which the men-animals who lived upon the Moon had a share. Upon the Earth, man acquired his osseous system; this was not possible upon the Moon, for it had no mineral kingdom.
This shows you hew wonderful is the structure of the human body. The organ of sight, the eye such we have it now, was once spread over the whole of Saturn; and what was once spread out in the great cosmos outside entered our being. In regard to each organ occult science can tell you how it is connected with the macrocosm, with the great world outside, for something in the external world corresponds to the liver, the spleen, the heart, etc. Spiritual science can also tell you what had to take place in the external world so that these organs might arise. The Rosicrucian schooling enables us to immerse ourselves in our sense-organs, to penetrate from within into our eyes and ears, and to gain a clairvoyant knowledge of the development of these organs.
I have led you back to an epoch in the Atlantean evolution when the etheric body still emerged so far above the physical body that it could not coincide with a point in our head which is just above the root of the nose. We have seen that the etheric body then gradually penetrated into the physical body and that the physical body took on its present form. Now there is one method of immersion connected with a certain formula which can only be communicated by word of mouth. When you thus concentrate yourself upon that point where the physical part of the head coincides with the above-mentioned point of the etheric head, then you learn to know what the Earth was like at that time when the etheric head began to enter the physical head. In a similar way you may enter every part of your body, of your microcosm, and thus gain knowledge of the forces which hold sway in the macrocosm. Man is the most complicated of all beings, and even as the message contained in a telegram enables you to identify the sender, so the immersion in this or in that organ of your body enables you to gain knowledge of the creative powers which gave rise to it.
This leads us on to the sixth stage, which is called the Immersion in the Cosmos. Those who have learned to know, in the manner described above, the relationship between microcosm and macrocosm have gained a knowledge which embraces the whole world. This fact is concealed behind the ancient motto: “Know thyself!”
But a very harmful influence has been exercised by theosophists who say: Within you lies the whole godhead; the highest principle is contained within your being. Thus all you need to do is look into your being , to look within yourself, and this will enable you to know the whole world. Yet this inner brooding is the most foolish thing we can do, for it only leads to the knowledge of our lower self, which we have in any case. Self-immersion never shows us more than we already have. Real self-knowledge only arises in the complicated manner described above, and then it is at the same time world-knowledge.
A genuine theosophical teaching does not make things easy for us, but it must say: Calm, earnest meditation should lead you to the knowledge even of the most complicated beings. You cannot recognize the Godhead otherwise than by learning to know it piece by piece in the world outside. Patience and perseverance are needed for this. Calm, slow progress leads you to a knowledge of the world. Theosophy cannot give you a universal formula supplying knowledge all at once; it can only indicate the path along which you can gain self-knowledge and world-knowledge. This will lead you to a knowledge of God.
On the sixth stage of Rosicrucian schooling we do not attain to a dry, intellectual form of knowledge, but to one which is intimately connected with the world, with the universe. Those who have this knowledge are intimately connected with everything in the universe; it is a connection which a modern men can only understand by bearing in mind the mysterious love-relationship between man and woman, which is based upon a secret knowledge of the other's being. The contemplation of the macrocosm leads not only to an understanding of the world, but to an intimate connection with every being, resembling that of lovers. In that case you will have an intimate relationship, a kind of love relationship with the plant, with the stone, with every creature in the universe. You will develop a specialized love for every being; to each one you will say something which you would not have said had you not reached this deeper understanding.
Animals eat the substances which suit its constitution and do not touch those that might harm it. This is based on a sympathetic relation towards certain things and an antipathetic one towards others. Man had to lose this direct connection with things in order to reach his present form of knowledge, but he will regain this connection upon a higher stage. What enables a modern occultist to know that the plant's blossom has another influence upon the human body than the root? And how does he know that the influence of an ordinary root differs from that of a carrot? Because these things speak to him, as they do to animals upon a lower stage. Animals do not have a conscious understanding of such things, but man will regain this direct connection with the substances and beings of the universe upon the highest stages of consciousness.
The seventh stage of Rosicrucian schooling naturally follows the sixth one. Everything which I have told you so far will have shown you that the knowledge involved is chiefly connected with soul-impressions and feelings. No knowledge which we attain along this path does not at the same time move the heart in the most living way, so that a clear distinction should be made between a logical, intellectual idea and spiritual knowledge.
The occultist does not mean to touch your feelings, and to tell you all manner of beautiful things. He simply relates the facts of the spiritual world and he would consider it as shameless to appeal to your feelings in a direct way. But he knows that when he tells you the truths of the spiritual world, these truths themselves speak; these spiritual facts should stir your feelings. A Rosicrucian therefore never takes into consideration the person of a teacher, for the teaching is in no way connected with the person. The teacher is the instrument through which the truths themselves speak to men. Those who still believe or have “views of their own” are not fit to be occult teachers. For if we judge through feeling instead of judging objectively, we might even say that twice two is five!
This shows you how the Rosicrucian gradually penetrates into the knowledge of the higher worlds by developing various things within him. He needs guidance in this; but all those who earnestly seek this guidance will find it at the right moment.
We cannot say, however, that the Rosicrucian successively passes through these seven stages of training under the personal guidance of a teacher. The occult teacher chooses what is more suited to the one or to the other. I have already given you a description of the preparatory stages. Let me now emphasize two things in in this preparation, in order to show you that other things must be developed before proceeding to the stricter exercises.
There is one thing which must be practiced from the very outset, and that is concentration, concentration of thought. Consider how your thoughts ramble about from morning to night! They came from this or from that direction and draw you along with them, A Rosicrucian pupil must choose a time in which he is master of his thoughts; he should take an object as uninteresting as possible and reflect over it. The length of time employed for this does not matter: essential are energy, patience, and perseverance.
The other thing is what we call “positivity”, which consists in going in search of things in life which are characterized best of all by a Persian legend relating to Christ Jesus.
One day when Christ Jesus was walking along with his disciples, they found on the road's edge the carcass of a dog, in an advanced stage of decomposition. The disciples, who were not so highly developed as Christ Jesus, turned away from this horrid sight, but Christ Jesus thoughtfully looked upon the animal and said: “What beautiful teeth it has!”
No matter how ugly a thing may be, there is always some beauty concealed in it; in every lie there is a grain of truth, in everything evil a grain of goodness. This does not mean, of course, that you should abstain from criticism! You misunderstand positivity if you think that you should no longer find anything bad, ugly, etc., but positivity means that you should see the grain of beauty in everything evil. This develops the higher forces of your soul. All this forms part of the preparation.
To begin with, I wished to give you some idea of the Christian-Gnostic path of training. In the Rosicrucian schooling you will find the deepest and most genuine Christianity. If you are a Rosicrucian, you can be a Christian in the deepest meaning of the word, in spite of the demands of modern life. In the past, one could be a good Christian by withdrawing from the world; this was possible so long as man was not influenced by those forms of thinking which now render it so difficult for him to be a Christian. For the thoughts which have developed out of the natural-scientific way of thinking render it difficult for us to take in Christianity in its original form. The noblest men are those who honestly say: “Today I cannot connect anything real with Christianity”.
The spiritual world indeed lives 'round about us, but within us live the thoughts produced by our materialistic age. We are incessantly surrounded by these thought-forms of materialistic life. A conscientious person must therefore say: In the present time we need a remedy which can cope with the ideas that continually stream into us, a remedy which enables us to hold our own and to remain upright in the face of everything which streams into us from the world outside.
Spiritual science offers us this remedy. We are egoists if we reject it, if we refuse to take it. Spiritual science feels that it is the executor of that which also constituted the will of medieval theosophy. Everyone can understand spiritual science, even those who are acquainted with the justified objections raised against it by natural science. The Rosicrucian direction of theosophy enables everyone to find that which leads to a knowledge of the universe, and to peace within the soul: to a sure, steady attitude in life. The theosophy of Rosicrucianism is not a merely theoretical knowledge which can give rise to polemical discussions, but a living knowledge which must flow into our whole modern civilization. Theosophists who have passed through the Rosicrucian schooling know every objection which can be raised against spiritual science and are well acquainted with every counter-argument.
A polemical treatment of theosophy would produce the same result as, for instance, the polemical treatment of Eduard von Hartmann's “Philosophy of the Unconscious”. Eduard von Hartmann published this book and made certain statements in it which appeared like a higher standpoint in the face of the materialistic views of natural-scientific research. All the scientists rose up in arms against hin and a flood of criticism was poured over the “Philosophy of the Unconscious”. Eduard von Hartmann was called “the greatest amateur”. Among the many writings which appeared against this book there was an anonymous pamphlet which brilliantly opposed the “Philosophy of the Unconscious”, drawing in every possible argument available to a scientist who has a thorough knowledge of the natural sciences of his time. This writing was greatly admired and applauded. Oscar Schmidt, the famous zoologist, said for instance: “What a pity that we do not know the author of this excellent pamphlet, for he stands at the very summit of modern science.” And Ernst Haeckel wrote: “Let him come out of his anonymity, and we shall welcome him as one of us.” In fact, this pamphlet created quite a sensation! Then a second edition appeared, with the name of the author: Eduard von Hartmann! Now the scientists did not say a word and the matter was hushed up. This really took place.
You see that those who adopt a higher standpoint are themselves able to advance counter-arguments, for they only need to descend to another standpoint. We might also bring forward a few counter-arguments if we had sufficient time at our disposal. But in the brief time available it was essential above all to communicate some of the facts which spiritual science can proclaim today concerning the higher worlds.
The chief point to bear in mind is that spiritual scientific truths should exercise a healing influence upon men. Occult science can show that these truths are able to permeate every sphere of human life and to fructify it. And when spiritual science will have exercised this healing, fructifying influence it will have justified its existence in the best possible way. This is the proof which spiritual science seeks. Theosophists therefore do not grow alarmed when people come and say: “This is pure fantasy!” Everything which has become a blessing in human civilization has at first been regarded as pure fantasy. In the history of the forties of the 19th century we could cite many examples in support of this statement.
If spiritual science is to become a reality in life it must penetrate into that which constitutes our ordinary environment. When spiritual science has become a force which gives wings to our whole life, permeating our daily actions, it will have stood the test. This is the standpoint adopted by the Theosophy of Rosicrucianism, and from this standpoint you should view the lectures which I have delivered to you. Spiritual science will one day develop into something which will influence humanity and bring new impulses in art and science, in medicine and education. Its forces will stream into every sphere of life, animating it.
This is the standpoint of these lectures, which should be accepted in this light.