Man in the Light of Occultism, Theosophy, and Philosophy. Lecture 10 of 10
Rudolf Steiner, Christiania, Norway, June 12, 1912:
My dear friends,
It was by no mere chance that after I had given you a description of the meeting with death and with Lucifer that takes place for man when he crosses the Threshold to the supersensible worlds, I passed on to deal with another matter that you may perhaps have found hard to understand. I began by endeavoring to explain to you the true significance of the Christ Being; and in the course of the explanation — which had found its way quite naturally into the subject we were considering — I had to speak of how Christ vanquished Lucifer, as you can find it related in the Gospels in the story of the Temptation in the wilderness. And then, after we had carried our study a little further, we passed on to a communication concerning the Buddha.
Let us briefly call to mind once more this meeting with death and Lucifer. Lucifer appears to the pupil of occultism as in very fact the archetype of human greatness — yes, and even of superhuman, divine greatness — when, at this point, separated as it were from his deeds and actions, he draws near to man. He appears as a Being who tempts man. And it is only when the pupil looks back at what he himself has become through the influence of Lucifer, only when he beholds the frightful animal-like picture of what man has become in the course of his incarnations through the enticements and temptations of Lucifer, that he is as it were healed a little from the seductive power of the figure before him. I then told you of the help that can come to the pupil of the present day from Christ. Christ brings a kind of deep consolation and hope, to counteract the terrible impression made upon the pupil by the meeting with death and Lucifer, and moreover the meeting with the picture of himself, — which is in a certain sense the Guardian of the Threshold. In place of death, in place of the destroyed human body, something else appears.
It is quite possible to experience, independently of the Gospels, independently of any external impression, something that is described in the Gospels. Such a thing is perfectly possible. Think of what happens in ordinary life. In ordinary life you have conscious experience when impressions are made on your consciousness from without and concepts and ideas are called forth in your consciousness by these impressions. Now, however, you have before you a picture that no impression from without can possibly evoke. For you cannot find Lucifer anywhere in the world of the senses; it is utterly impossible for Lucifer to be an external impression in the physical world of the senses. Neither is the picture of death to be found in the world of the senses. And when finally death changes into the Christ, you have before you a picture which you could certainly in the last resort discover as a remembered fact in the external world, but which nevertheless shows itself to you now, at your entry into the supersensible world, as a picture that is attainable without any help from the external world. For no external impression is needed to call forth the picture of the Temptation of Christ and the conquest of death, the overcoming of all that Lucifer began to make of man.
To what kind of a consciousness then have we come? To a consciousness without external object. I have endeavored to lead you to the Unmanifest Light and to the Unspoken Word. And now you have acquired a conception of a Consciousness without external object, a consciousness that receives its content from its own being.
I told you also how the Sun, which hitherto we have thought of as being supreme in power and might, now appears as a planet among the seven planets, and Christ as the Spirit of the planet of the Sun. Christ himself manifests in this connection as a planetary Spirit, brother to the Spirit of Venus. In other words, Christ appears as a brother of Lucifer.
This opened the way for a consideration of the post-Earthly destiny of the Buddha. For the later destiny of the Buddha cannot be livingly experienced in its pure and original truth without attaining to this second stage of initiation; it is impossible to arrive at the truth which we expounded yesterday concerning the Buddha unless one goes beyond the first meeting with death and with Lucifer where one beholds the scene of the Temptation, and passes on to the next stage of initiation where the seven Spirits of the Planets become manifest. This had, therefore, first to be described.
Should you still ask whether the truth concerning the life of the Buddha after he left the Earth is not in some way attainable by external consciousness — the consciousness, that is, which is directed to impressions from without — then the reply must be that it is not possible for the consciousness of Earth to make such research into the conditions of life and culture on Mars as could reveal what the Buddha accomplishes there.
The moment, however, initiation penetrates as far as to the stage we described yesterday, it becomes possible for the consciousness without external object to have this experience by virtue of its own nature. Therefore in relation also to this truth about Buddha it is a question of acquiring the consciousness without external object. The conditions and circumstances of the facts here revealed to us are of course external. For the Buddha lives — quite really — on Mars. Nevertheless the consciousness does not go out of itself; in the recognition of such a truth it is not yielding to the influence of an external impression, it is still a consciousness without external object. I have thus led you to the third of the three things we placed before us at the beginning of these lectures: the consciousness without external object.
Looking back over our study, we see that we have found three stages or conditions of human consciousness. We have first the ordinary physical consciousness. Then we have the consciousness that is attained at the first stage of initiation — and I gave you as an example of what is experienced in this consciousness the picture “Death and Lucifer” or “Christ and Lucifer, in the Story of the Temptation.” Finally, the third stage of consciousness is the one where the seven planetary Spirits manifest themselves to man. And we illustrated this third stage by reference to Buddha. At the third stage you experience the destiny of Buddha after he has become Buddha and returns no more to physical existence on Earth.
We have thus considered three conditions of human consciousness: physical consciousness; consciousness of higher worlds at the first stage as we described it yesterday, illustrating it by the story of the Temptation; and finally a still higher consciousness, the second consciousness of a supersensible nature. Many of you would perhaps like it very much if we could go further and describe still higher stages of consciousness, but time does not allow. I will, however, just hint at one other stage.
What is it we are able to experience by means of physical consciousness? Everything in our surroundings that is present to our senses, all the objects of Earth existence. What can we experience by means of the second consciousness? Leaving on one side for the moment the example we brought forward, the story of the Temptation, we find that by means of the first stage of a higher kind of consciousness, something further than the objects of the senses can be discovered. You will find it described in outline in my Occult Science in the part where the Moon is spoken of, that condition of Earth which preceded our present Earth. This old Moon condition is no longer in existence, it has to be described by means of a consciousness that can function without an object present to hand. The Moon condition of our Earth is in the higher worlds. It is present in the higher worlds, preserved, as you have often heard me tell, in the Akashic Record.
So that for the first consciousness of a higher kind we have, besides the Story of the Temptation, all the processes that can be said to have relation to the old Moon. Everything connected with the old Moon is capable of being described by this consciousness. And now I want to draw your attention to something else. There is deep significance in the fact that from among the many kinds of experience man acquires through the first higher consciousness, I chose the story of the Temptation. For when we direct the same consciousness to the ancient Moon, we find there a repetition of the story of the Temptation.
I say a repetition, but naturally it took place long before! It is really so. We learn how Christ already on the old Moon overcame Lucifer, and in the scene that is given us in the Gospels we have to see, as it were, a recurrence of the fact that Christ attained to victory over Lucifer. On Earth Christ repels Lucifer from the outset. This is because on the Moon, when He was Himself less highly evolved — for Christ also undergoes evolution — He had repelled, through the uttermost devotion of His Being to the Highest Powers, all the attacks of Lucifer which at that time still meant something to Him. Already on old Moon Lucifer approached Christ. On Earth he was no longer dangerous to Him: on Earth Christ repels Lucifer at once. On the Moon, however, Christ had to exert all the forces at His disposal in order to repel Lucifer. This is then the added experience that comes to us when we cast back the gaze of higher consciousness into the remote time of Moon.
If we go still further and attain to the second consciousness of a higher kind, then as well as learning about facts that have meaning for Earth, such as the history of Buddha, we learn also what has again been described in outline in my Occult Science: we learn of the still earlier incarnation of our Earth, — the Sun. In that far-off time the conditions were quite essentially different, and the difficulty you have in understanding this particular section in Occult Science can itself be an indication of how difficult it was to describe the state of old Sun. I took pains to describe more especially scenes that are less remote from man and can even remind us of the scenery of Nature. One would have found little understanding, in the time when Occult Science was written, for the things of a more moral nature which are experienced in a study of the Sun incarnation.
When we go back to the time of the old Sun, we do not find there any story of the Temptation. We find the Sun still as a planet among the seven planets, we find Venus with Lucifer as her ruler; and these two, the Sun Spirit and the Venus Spirit — in other words, Christ and Lucifer — appear at first sight like brothers. Only by straining to the utmost our powers of perception are we able to remark the difference between them. For the difference between Lucifer and Christ in the time of old Sun is not apparent to an observation of their external being; it requires a more inward observation and study. It is indeed extraordinarily difficult to find outward means of demonstrating wherein the difference lies. Please, therefore, take what I am now going to say as no more than an attempt to characterize, as well as may be, the difference that clairvoyant consciousness can perceive between Christ and Lucifer in the time of the ancient Sun.
When we direct our gaze now to Christ, now again to Lucifer, a new perception begins to dawn upon us. Lucifer, the ruler of Venus, appears in a form that is extraordinarily full of light — I mean, of course, spiritual light. We have the feeling that all the glow and brilliance we can ever experience on Earth in looking upon a manifestation of light is weak and dim in comparison with the majesty of Lucifer in the old Sun time.
But then we notice, when we begin to perceive his intentions — and we are able to see through these— that Lucifer is a Spirit endowed in his very nature with infinite pride, so great a pride that it can prove a temptation to man. For, as is well-known, there are things which up to a point are not temptations for man but become so when they grow majestic in their proportions, and pride is one of them. When pride is majestically great it tempts man. Lucifer's proud greatness, Lucifer's pride in his majestic figure of light — these contain a seductive element. “Unmanifest light,” light that does not shine outwardly but has immense, strong power in itself — that Lucifer has in full measure.
And how does the Christ figure look beside Lucifer? The Christ figure in the time of old Sun — the Lord and Ruler of the Sun planet — is a picture of utmost devotion, entire devotion to all that is around Him in the world. Whereas Lucifer looks like one who thinks only of himself — we are obliged to clothe it all in human words, notwithstanding the fact that these are quite inadequate — Christ appears as wholly given up, in devotion, to all that is around Him in the great wide world.
The great wide world was not then as it is now. If we were to transport ourselves in these days to the present Sun, then, looking outwards in all directions as from the center of a circle, we should perceive in the first place the twelve Signs of the Zodiac. These were not then externally visible; but instead, twelve great Forms, twelve Beings, were present who let their words ring forth from the depths of the darkness — outer space being of course not then filled with light.
What kind of words were these? They were words — the word “word” is again only a makeshift, to indicate what is here meant — they were words that told of primeval times, of times that even then were in a remote and ancient past. The twelve were twelve World-Initiators. Today we behold standing in the directions of these twelve World-Initiators the twelve Signs of the Zodiac — but from them resounds, for the soul that is open to the whole world, the original being of the Unspoken Word of Worlds, that could take form in the twelve Voices.
And while Lucifer alone — I must now begin to speak more in pictures; human words do not in the least suffice — while Lucifer had the impulse to let stream out upon all things the light that was present in him and therewith come to a knowledge of all things, the Christ on the other hand gave Himself up to the Impression of this Word of the Worlds, received It in its fulness and entirety into Himself, so that this Christ Soul was now the Being that united in Himself all the great Secrets of the World that sounded into Him through the inexpressible Word.
Such is the contrast that presents itself: the Christ Who receives the Word of the Worlds, and the proud Lucifer, the Spirit of Venus, who rejects the Word of the Worlds and wants to found and establish everything with his own light.
All subsequent evolution is a direct outcome of what Lucifer and Christ were at that time. The Christ Being, as we saw, received into Himself the great and all-embracing secrets of the Worlds. The Lucifer Being, having what I can only describe as a “proud figure of Light,” lost thereby his kingdom, lost his Venus kingdom. On other grounds, to enter into which would take us too far afield, the other Spirits of the Planets lost also their kingdoms, or rather changed their natures. But they need not concern us here. What is important for us here is the contrast between Christ and Lucifer.
It came about that Lucifer lost more and more of his rulership; the kingdom of Venus gradually fell away from him. Lucifer with his light became a dethroned ruler, and the planet Venus had thenceforward to do without a proper ruler and was consequently obliged to undergo a backward evolution.
The Christ, however, had during the old Sun time received the Word of the Worlds, and this Word of the Worlds has the quality of kindling itself to new light in the soul by which it is received; so that from that time forward the Word of the Worlds became in the Christ Light, and the planet of which the Christ was ruler, the Sun, became the center of the whole planetary system, the other planets being brought into subjection to it. The same is true also of their spiritual Rulers.
We must let these scenes live before us. We must learn to see the divergence that came about during the old Sun time between the path of Lucifer and the path of Christ. Lucifer went downward; he had to remain behind in his evolution; and he remained behind also during the Moon time. Christ went forward. The Christ Spirit, the Sun Spirit, became a Spirit evolving ever forward until at length He was able to appear on Earth in the Form we have often described. Through His devotion to the World All, through His having received and identified Himself with the Divinely Creative, Inexpressible Word, through His having rejected every sort of pride and put always in its place devotion to the Word of the Worlds — Christ, from being Ruler of a single planet, as He was in the ancient Sun time, became Ruler from the Sun over all the planets, the other planets being reckoned as part of the realm of the Sun.
When you know this — I am speaking here more particularly to those who heard my lectures in Helsingfors [Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature] — knowing this, you will not feel it as a contradiction that Christ is spoken of in those lectures as a Sun Spirit of a higher kind than the Spirits of the planets. For there of course we were speaking of the present day. Christ is far above the other planetary Spirits. He is the Spirit of the Sun. Here, however, where we are not merely describing how the individual planetary bodies are quickened to life by their Spirits, but where our task is above all to describe the several states of consciousness, we have to show how Christ through His own special character and nature has, during the course of the evolution that has taken place between old Sun and the present time, passed through an upward evolution, and from having been a Spirit who was of like nature with the planetary Spirits has become the Ruler or Regent of the whole solar system.
As I have said, time will not allow us to enter on a description of the third consciousness of a higher kind. I will only mention that the condition of ancient Saturn, the first that can ordinarily be described of the successive incarnations of our Earth, can be experienced with this third higher consciousness. As you see, it is therefore possible to speak of a higher consciousness, a third consciousness of a supersensible character. If we really wanted to follow initiation in its completeness, we would have to lead on to giddy heights of consciousness. To do so would from the outset seem a kind of presumption, and as a matter of fact we should be taken into regions where it becomes well-nigh impossible to employ human words. Therefore, in my Occult Science I have forborne to describe anything that belongs to still higher states of consciousness, for it is really out of the question to describe the higher things in human words. In the Mysteries it was done by forming special symbolic signs and then speaking in a language of symbol. By this means it was possible to lead man up to higher states of consciousness. Such higher states do indeed exist; we can speak of a fourth and a fifth consciousness of supersensible nature. It goes on, indeed, without limit. All that we can do is to say that for supersensible consciousness evolution takes its course in a certain direction.
Bearing all this in mind, you will at any rate be able to conceive the possibility that, by means of the various supersensible consciousnesses, man beholds other worlds than the physical; and when you remember that the first rudiments of physical man began, as is shown in Occult Science, during the condition of ancient Saturn, you will also see that there is in man himself a certain connection with the world of the third supersensible consciousness.
But besides this, man is, as you know, guided and led by Beings higher than himself. He can come to a knowledge of these higher Beings; they have their influence upon him. It will therefore not be difficult to see that not only has man, as he stands before us, been created out of worlds that go as far as the third supersensible consciousness, but he has connection also with yet higher worlds.
The knowledge and experience that we have described as attainable by means of the various states of consciousness can be described to the ordinary human being. He can comprehend that such states of consciousness exist. He does not have direct experience as man on Earth of these further states of consciousness, but he does experience their external manifestations. The physical consciousness — that, of course, he experiences directly. The first supersensible consciousness — of this he experiences an indication in the heightened dream consciousness that does not merely afford arbitrary dream pictures but leads on to a perception of realities belonging to a higher world. A systematic higher development of the dream consciousness is all that is required for man to come to the first consciousness of a supersensible nature. This first supersensible consciousness can give information concerning the conditions that prevailed on the old Moon, the past incarnation of our Earth.
Hence you will find that in occult communications most of the descriptions, apart from those concerned with the Earth itself, refer to the old Moon; very often they stop there and do not go back to the old Sun. This will be the case whenever such communications are based on the first supersensible consciousness, which is the one that occurs most frequently and is the easiest to attain. It is in this consciousness that by far the greater part of what H. P. Blavatsky gave in the Secret Doctrine has its source. Occultists who have real knowledge are quite aware of this fact. Consequently if you read through the whole of the Secret Doctrine, then in all the great and comprehensive communications given there in reference to primeval times you will find but scanty reference to a past farther back than old Moon.
The condition of dream consciousness may thus be regarded as a first beginning — so to say, a substitute man has on Earth — for the first supersensible consciousness. When man is in deep sleep, his consciousness is darkened; but we cannot say that no consciousness exists. If the deep sleep consciousness awakens, that is to say, if it is awake outside the body, then it is the second supersensible consciousness. It goes higher than the first, and leads one who can experience it to the old Sun condition.
A little reflection will make plain to you the following. In your day-consciousness you go about making external movements. Such movements are connected with your day-consciousness, your Earth consciousness. The movements that take place inside you, on the other hand — the movements, I mean, of the middle man that continue even when you are asleep — are regulated by the consciousness we may call the consciousness of deep sleep. The movements of the heart and of the breathing are movements connected with this second consciousness and can only be understood in their whole connection with the higher worlds when man awakens outside his body, that is, in the deep sleep condition of the body.
You see, therefore, it is quite possible to perceive with ordinary intelligence that there are these three styles of consciousness. It would take us too far now to investigate the indications that undoubtedly exist in man of still higher consciousnesses. We have, however, shown that whenever man sets out to reflect on his life as Earth man, he discovers manifestations of higher consciousnesses.
It is therefore possible to speak to Earth man of these higher states of consciousness. One can point out first how man experiences the ordinary processes of life on Earth by means of his everyday consciousness. One can then go on to show how, if his dream consciousness were to undergo a tremendous enhancement, he would experience all that belongs to the laws that have been brought over to Earth, so to speak, as a legacy from old Moon; and finally how, were he to become awake in deep sleep, independently of the body, he would experience the old Sun conditions in that form in which they too extend over into the conditions of Earth. It is therefore possible to communicate these things to man at the present time, and to describe to him how they manifest; we are justified in doing so, since an understanding can be awakened for what the occultist investigates.
The occultist speaks of different states of consciousness. In reality they are different worlds: and it has become customary, as you know, to call these different states of consciousness different planes. That which can be surveyed with the physical consciousness is called the physical plane; that which is perceptible to the first consciousness of a supersensible nature, the astral plane; to the second, the lower Devachan or mental plane; and to the third, the higher mental, or higher Devachan plane. Still farther on, we have the Budhi plane and the Nirvana plane. All we are doing here is simply to give other names to the results reached on the occult path.
Both roads lead to a picture of man. For it is always man who in his varying conditions or states is active as member of the different planes or worlds.
What we have done is to lead over the knowledge of man from the standpoint of occultism, where we speak of different conditions of consciousness and different conditions of evolution, to the knowledge of man from the standpoint of theosophy. For where the occultist speaks of conditions of consciousness, the theosophist speaks of successive planes. Occultism can in this manner be communicated openly as theosophy.
We must now go back a little. In the course of our considerations some new points of view have emerged, and it behooves us to go into these a little more fully.
Take for example the perception we arrived at that man is, in his external form, a three times seven-membered human being. We have not time in these lectures to explain the matter in detail, but I will ask you to call to mind what stands written in Occult Science, namely, that before this Earth condition of existence man passed through three other conditions, Moon, Sun, Saturn, and that the very first foundation for the external physical human form was already present during ancient Saturn and subsequently underwent continual development and change.
So that the marvelous and wonderful body of man we have before us today is the result of a long evolution. Its evolution has continued throughout three great phases of existence — Saturn, Sun, Moon. Each one of these can be divided into seven, and each single sub-division of these great phases of existence has left its mark on the human form. Three times seven formative forces have worked upon the form and figure of man.
What man has added during Earth time, — that alone is not to be found! It is, as we have seen, just the part of man that is subject to destruction. It is the completion of the human form, the gathering up of all the parts into a complete whole; and this has been destroyed by Lucifer.
So that when we divide the human being into three times seven members, we have the expression of physical man on the Earth as he comes before us with all the changes wrought upon him by each successive previous condition of existence. It is the physical human being with which we are here concerned. The occultist must consider him in the way we have done in this lecture, in such measure as time has allowed.
The theosophist, on the other hand, can only have his attention directed to what is present there before him. We can say to him: In man, there is the physical body. When we set out to study the human being, we come first of all to his physical body, that highly complicated form which has passed through so many conditions of existence and is today perpetually unfolding and manifesting the traces left behind from these earlier conditions.
Then, as you will remember, we went on to consider something else. We made a study of man in his inner movements; and let me remind you of the conclusion to which we were led yesterday. The form of man we can see, but the movements as such we do not see, and I pointed out yesterday how difficult it is to discriminate between the movements and arrive at a conclusion as to which are the essential movements in man.
One fact, however, emerged quite naturally from our study, namely, that this faculty of movement takes us back to the old Sun. It will accordingly not surprise you when I go on to say that all the inner movements in man are connected with the experiences he underwent during the time of old Sun. Whereas man as physical man bears in him the impress of Saturn, Sun, and Moon, man as the man of inner movement has carried in him the forces for this inner movement since the time of Sun. The man of inner movement has passed through Sun and Moon, and also Earth as far as it has gone today.
Thus we distinguished in the human being something that is not form but is the inner ground of movement, and this we must designate as the first invisible man. We do not see this man; we can, however, see the external results of his activity — the movements; and we call him the etheric body, the ether body. The ether body can only be perceived by means of a higher consciousness. The workings of the ether body in the physical world are the inner movements that the human being performs.
In so far, therefore, as man has had to undergo all three conditions of existence that preceded our own, he has become physical man; in so far as he has had to undergo Sun and Moon time only, he has become etheric man. And we can ascend a stage further and say that in so far as man has undergone Moon time alone, he has become astral man — that is to say, there has flowed into his movements all that leads to thinking, feeling, and willing.
When we pass beyond the external and bodily, beyond also that which is within man (in inner movement), we come then to astral man, which is also not to be seen as such, but manifests and comes to expression in thinking, feeling, and willing.
Finally, we come to that element in man which Earth has begun to prepare in him and which it will be her task in the future to complete. For Earth is called upon to bring to perfect development and form the I of man, which has already shown itself in the course of the evolution of the Earth and will in the future develop to higher stages — Spirit Self, Life Spirit, Spirit Man (Manas, Budhi, Atman). And now we have before us: Man in his several members.
It transpires therefore that in seeking to understand man in his relation to the whole world, not only do we come upon different conditions of consciousness that we then identify with different worlds, but we are also led to a division of the human being into his several members — physical body, ether body, and so on.
Moreover by means of an intelligent external observation of man we can come to perceive that, while the ether body is not visible to us, we can yet discern manifestations of it here in the physical world. The manifestations of the ether body are the movements within man. The manifestations of the astral body are thinking, feeling, and willing. The “ I” manifests itself — is its own manifestation.
When once man is intelligent enough to comprehend that the movements he makes within him do not proceed from his form, cannot indeed proceed from anything physical, when once he can rise to the only intelligent way of regarding them, namely, as having their source in the supersensible, then the possibility is opened for him — not simply of believing in, but of grasping with his understanding, the existence of an ether body.
To clothe occult knowledge in forms that appeal to ordinary consciousness — this is to bring occultism into theosophy, to clothe it, as it were, in the garment of theosophy. Just as we found that in theosophy we speak of planes, so again are we clothing the truth in the garb of theosophy when we speak of the various members of man's nature.
Everything that can be said concerning man has first to be found on an occult path. We must traverse the whole wide world, we must attain, as students in occultism, to the various conditions of consciousness; and we shall discover that these various conditions of consciousness can afford us an explanation of man, can indeed show us what he really is. Through occultism alone can man be understood in his true nature and being.
Theosophy is no more than an attempt to clothe the occult knowledge in intelligently stated truths, so that men may have insight into occult knowledge. The facts of which I have been telling you — if you will test them intelligently, you will find them to harmonize one with another in countless ways, harmonize too with the whole world. Intelligent testing is the one and only way to find confirmation of the results obtained in occultism.
A second point emerged that also requires to be explained a little further — for we must make it clear that although theosophy and occultism seem at first to lead to contradictions (we heard in the first lecture of this course what is to be our attitude to such contradictions), further study will always lead to the solution of these. You will have seen this happen already in many instances in these lectures.
Perhaps, however, new contradictions will now present themselves when what we have just been saying is taken in connection with what was said in earlier lectures of the course. It is out of the question to deal today with all the possible contradictions, but there is one that I would like to endeavour to solve with the aid of the occult knowledge attainable in the second consciousness of a supersensible kind.
Many of you will remember that I — and others too — have repeatedly pointed to the cosmic character of the Christ, and have shown how He surpasses in His very nature all other founders of religions. It is only to be expected that this unique character of the Christ Being should more readily meet with recognition in the West, since it is in the West that the historical sense is specially developed. In order for the evolution of the Earth to take place in such a manner as to allow of men going through many different incarnations, the West will naturally look for a “center of gravity” for this evolution.
It can, therefore, only astonish one that Westerners are still to be found who are not prepared to admit this center of gravity of evolution — which is, in effect, the Christ Impulse. To speak of reincarnation of the Christ would be to make the same mistake as to imagine that a pair of scales could be held in balance at more than one point. Seen from this aspect, the matter is really exceedingly simple.
There is, however, another, a moral ground of which we must take account in its effect on the relationship of the human being to the Christ, who is to be regarded as being Himself the Impulse of Earth evolution. It is as follows. Christ entered the evolution of the Earth at a particular moment. The men who are living at the present day were incarnated before the coming of Christ and are now incarnated again. Thus they have lived not only during the time of Earth evolution when Christ was not yet present, but they live also now when Christ has been present; and the objection frequently made from a materialistic standpoint, that if Christ were so important, then a one and only appearance on Earth would signify an injustice to mankind, falls to the ground. Nevertheless one still hears people ask: “How could such an injustice be allowed to happen, that all the men who lived before Christ have not had the benefit of His deed, while those who live after Him have this benefit?” But they are the very same human beings! Such an objection should most assuredly not be raised in theosophical quarters!
And yet, this objection opens up a matter of very great significance. For there are a few instances where the objection is in a certain sense justified; and one of these instances, as you will see if you stop to reflect, is the case of the Buddha.
While human beings all over the Earth are born again and again and can thus always come to an experience of the Christ Impulse in their incarnations after the time of Christ, the Buddha attained in pre-Christian times the stage of evolution which removed from him the necessity of returning any more into an Earthly body. This means that the Buddha belongs therefore to the very small number of human beings who lived on the Earth and then left it before Christ came. And you may want to know, what is the relation of the Christ to Buddha?
Apart from what I mentioned yesterday, that Buddha shone down from higher worlds into the astral body of the Luke Jesus Child, how do the Christ and Buddha stand to one another? Is it actually so, that Buddha left the Earth before Christ was on the Earth? that he took his way to Mars, so that the Buddha and Christ so to speak passed one another?
Only with the help of deep occult knowledge can we hope to solve this problem. Recall in thought all that I have been telling you. I explained to you how the Christ was united with the Sun. In point of fact it was only through the baptism by John, or rather through the Mystery of Golgotha itself, that the Christ came into union with the Earth. The Christ is therefore a Sun Spirit and we have to look for Him, before the Mystery of Golgotha took place on Earth, in close connection with His Kingdom, the Sun. Zarathustra sought Him there. And it is during the time when Christ is working as Ruler in the kingdom of the Sun, when He has not yet extended His rulership to the Earth — at all events, not yet by means of His Impulse — that the life of Buddha takes its course on Earth.
And now we must turn back to the earlier incarnations of Buddha, if we would arrive at the truth in this matter. We know that Buddha was before a Bodhisattva; he worked on Earth through long periods of time as a Bodhisattva. These Bodhisattvas had in them no ordinary human soul. Their case was quite a special one. You must here call to mind the description in Occult Science of the beginning of Earth evolution — how, after the interval between Moon and Earth, the Sun was reunited with Earth and the other planets, and how they all then separated again, being shed, as it were, like a husk or shell one after the other. (See also my lecture cycle on the Spiritual Hierarchies.)
There was, therefore, at one time the condition in which the Earth was united with the Sun. Then Earth and Sun separated, and you know that after that came the separation also of the Moon, and the strengthening of the Earth through souls coming from other planets.
Let us now fix our attention on the point of time when the Sun has just separated from the Earth. When this separation took place, the two planets Venus and Mercury — I am giving them their astronomical names — were still within the Sun. The Earth alone separated off, Venus and Mercury remaining within the Sun. We have therefore now Sun and Earth. On Earth, evolution continues. Only a small number of human beings remain behind; others go up to the planets, to return again later on.
With the Sun went also Beings; for the world does not consist just of external matter, but of Beings. Beings went with the Sun when it separated from the Earth. And their Leader is the Christ. For at the time in Earth evolution when the Sun separated from the Earth, what one may call the taking precedence by the Christ over Lucifer and the other planetary Spirits had already come to fulfilment. Then later on, Venus separated, and Mercury.
Let us consider for a moment the exit of Venus from the Sun. Together with Venus are Beings who had also at first gone with the Sun but were not able to remain there. These break away and inhabit Venus. Among them is the Being who stands behind the later Buddha. He went as a messenger from the Christ to the dwellers on Venus. The Christ sent him to Venus, and here on Venus Buddha passed through all manner of stages of evolution.
Later on, souls came back from Venus to Earth. The ordinary human souls were of course but little developed. Buddha, however, who also descended to Earth with the Venus souls, was a highly evolved Being — so highly evolved that he could at once become a Bodhisattva and afterwards early a Buddha.
Thus we have in Buddha one who had long ago been sent out by Christ and had the task of preparing the work of Christ on Earth. For his mission to the Venus men had this meaning: that he should go to Earth beforehand, as a forerunner of the Sun.
And now you will be able to understand that Buddha, having been with Christ for a longer time than the other Earth men — for the Earth separated off earlier — needed only that portion of the Christ Impulse which he still had in him from the Sun, to enable him to follow the Christ Event from the spiritual world. For Buddha that sufficed. Other human beings had to await the Christ Event on Earth. But because Buddha had this special relationship to the Christ, because he had been sent out by the Christ as a forerunner, he did not need to await on Earth the Christ Event. He took with him from Earth the capacity of remembering — even without the help of the Christ, which other men need — what the I means on Earth. Hence he was able also to look down and behold the Christ Event from higher worlds.
Thus was preparation made long beforehand in the World All for the remarkable mission that Buddha had undertaken at the behest of Christ. For he was first sent to the Venus men — and compare what I am now telling you with the lectures I gave at Helsingfors — and afterwards to the Earth; then he made his way back to the Mars men, and there has to continue working, carrying out on Mars the mission for which he had so long been preparing.
On Mars it is so, that the men who have remained there stand in great peril, even as the Earth men were in peril, from which Christ set them free. The danger for the Mars men is, that their astral body — they have, as you know, not an I to develop as we — their astral body, and thereby indirectly also their ether body, may suffer a very serious diminution of force and become dried up. The whole nature of the Mars men has proved to be of a kind that leads to terrible wars. The men of Mars tend to settle permanently on a certain spot. Men on the Earth are cosmopolitanly inclined; Mars men are wedded to the soil, there are very few cosmopolitans among them.
And there is, or rather was, on Mars constant war and strife, due to the astral bodies that are very strong and not tempered and made gentle by an I. If you will think it over you will understand that among men who develop in this way there must inevitably be a terrible amount of strife and conflict. Mars is nothing else than a kind of reincarnated Moon; what the astral body holds is not tempered with the softening influence of the I, with the result that the men of Mars have quite an exceptional lust for war. The Greeks acted on a true knowledge when they made Mars the God of War. One is indeed filled with wonder and amazement when one finds in the world of legend these echoes of the truth. Unforgettable is the impression one receives when, having discovered that terrible wars took place there, one finds that this occult knowledge is present in the names that were given out of the knowledge contained in the ancient Mysteries.
Think of the continuation of the life of Buddha, this Master of Compassion and Love, this Master in the overcoming of caste-distinctions, and you will understand the mission that Buddha had on Mars: to introduce something to which the Mars men could never come unaided, something which would seem to them like an exaggerated piety, a kind of monastic attitude to life. For it was the mission of Buddha by means of a conspicuous example of exceeding humility and poverty to quicken the Mars men to life in this direction. I can only just begin to draw for you the picture of Buddha's influence upon Mars. The meaning of his work there for the Mars men, who live without the I, is in point of fact entirely similar to the influence of a redeemer and a savior, one who liberates men to a higher world-conception. And while upon Earth universal brotherhood and love of one's neighbor are connected in their deepest impulse with the Christ, cosmopolitanism in its essential character is connected with the Deed of Salvation which Buddha has to fulfil on Mars.
There is yet another point in our study that might present a difficulty, and I would like to dispose of it before we separate. It is the fact that the various religions on Earth, which as every theosophist knows have a common single source, are differently related to occult communications. Every religion has to be referred back to a founder who through this religion made known to a group of people, in a manner suited to their capacity, some experience belonging to a particular stage of initiation.
You have for instance the religion which is not able to rise to the Christ, the Spirit of the Sun, but is peculiarly adapted to rise to the great and far-reaching soul that lived in the being who was many times incarnated as a Bodhisattva — a religion that looks up in worship to him who is the great Initiator, the great Inspirer, of the Buddha. This religion is not able to ascend to a vision of how the Christ is the Sun Spirit and has descended to Earth. It sees only as far as to the one who is sent as a messenger; it gathers together, as it were, for its content that which goes forth from the Sun and becomes a planetary spirit. And we can well understand that Buddha is regarded as a planetary spirit.
Such a religion, that lifts men's thoughts to the Spirit who guides the evolution of the Buddha, could only grasp a figure like the figure of Vishnu in the Indian Trimurti. Moreover, since a religion of this kind has not yet come through to the knowledge of the universal victory of Christ over Lucifer, neither is it able to place the figure of Lucifer in such relation to the Christ as we can today. To the followers of such a religion Lucifer seems to be standing beside the Christ as an independent figure — His equal, unsubdued. We have seen how Lucifer is given the place of a kind of brother. This is what you have when Shiva confronts Vishnu. Look into the religion of Shiva, study it carefully; and you will follow me when I say that the Shiva religion of India can be understood when one has knowledge of the Lucifer Being. For Shiva is in reality Lucifer in the form in which he is not yet overcome. All its cult and ritual, the whole of the religion of Shiva with its 60 million adherents — viewed from this standpoint, it shows itself to be an eminently Luciferic kind of religion.
From these examples you will readily understand how all forms of occult knowledge have been able to impress their influence on different religions at different stages, according to the character and disposition of the peoples concerned.
And now I want to ask you to follow me in a further consideration. We have spoken of the Unmanifest Light, and of the Inexpressible Word; and we have succeeded also in arriving by many detours at consciousness without an object. Let us now pause a moment at this trinity, and ask: Do these three things come to expression at all in our world, do they reveal themselves there?
The answer is that by taking together all that has been given in the course of these lectures, we can without difficulty arrive at a knowledge of how these three things express themselves in our world. Take Light! When we gave a description of the proud Lucifer, it was all Light! Light is essentially an attribute of the spiritual; and when he is on the physical plane, man only has light — and then in its very weakest expression — in his thoughts.
And where has man the Inexpressible Word, when he is here on the physical plane? That which in the great world is Inexpressible Word is expressible word here on the physical plane, and you will not take long to discover what must be the origin and source of the word. It is what we call the soul in man.
While therefore the Light gradually becomes what is spiritual in man, the Word becomes gradually revealed in man in his soul nature.
And Consciousness — how does it manifest in physical man? Through the fact that external matter impinges upon him. For physical consciousness needs an external object — it must, as it were, have something to bite! Up above, we found: Consciousness without Object, Inexpressible Word, Unmanifest Light. Down below, we find as their last manifestation on the physical plane: human consciousness that chews at matter; the soul that reveals, although in obscured form, the word; and finally the light that is present in exceedingly feeble manner in man's thinking.
In the human aura alone can the clairvoyant see thinking as light. All that comes from light he can see only as aura. Nevertheless in thinking — in that which on the physical plane is already spiritual — we may recognize the last reflection of the Unmanifest Light.
So, you see, man can after all bring to expression these three highest things that we found. We discover them when we regard man as spirit, soul, and matter. And in spirit and soul together man finds the picture of his I as a unity. Yes, even this triad which we find on the physical plane — matter, soul, spirit — is a revelation of the highest trinity.
Men lost these primal revelations of the occultism of olden times, and occultism gradually took on a new form that met with but little outward understanding. In our time occultism must again find understanding, in our time it must become theosophy.
There has been an intervening time when men did not look up to the occult truths that had been communicated to them earlier, when they did not understand what we today clothe in the words of theosophy. And in this intervening time they held by the last manifestation, the latest product as it were of the working of the higher trinity — they held to matter, soul, and spirit.
This stage gave birth to what we may call philosophy, which in reality first made its appearance about six centuries before Christ and has continued on into our own time. You will always find that philosophy starts from the last external manifestation of the great trinity which remains ever deeply hidden. Philosophy sees spread out before her the material life, and the material life alone — the food, as it were, for human consciousness. Philosophy does not comprehend the Inexpressible Word, but it can nevertheless still have a feeling for the soul element in the world when it reveals itself in the soul of man as the expressed word. Philosophy does not find the Unmanifest Light, but can sense it from afar, inasmuch as it appears, in its last activity, in human thinking — that is to say, in that portion of the human spirit which is turned, to begin with, to the external world. Body, soul, and spirit — the mind of the Greek sees them as threefold man, and they play their part right through the age of philosophy.
Mankind has been passing through an epoch in his evolution when the occultisms were hidden. Hidden too, were the theosophies. All that was left for man to hold on to was the most external of all revelations, was what we call body, soul, and spirit. And this epoch has lasted until now.
But the time of philosophy is fulfilled. The philosophers have had their day. The one thing that remains for philosophy to do is to save for man that which the clairvoyant must remember at the first stage of his evolution: the I, the self-consciousness. And it is important that philosophy should not fail of this task.
Try to understand my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity from this point of view. The book is written in such a way as to lead over the philosophical consciousness into the new age that is coming, when that which can give a more exact and accurate picture of the higher trinity must enter once again into the evolution of mankind — when theosophy must find its way into human evolution.
The age of philosophy has come to an end. Older than philosophy is theosophy, and theosophy will take the place of philosophy, notwithstanding all opposition. It has, so to speak, the longer life, it exceeds in duration the age of philosophy. Only for a certain limited time can the human being be studied from the philosophical standpoint. Further into the past, and further too into the future, extends the age when man can be considered from the standpoint of theosophy.
Transcending both, and probing man's being to the uttermost, is occultism. For behind all human knowledge whatsoever stands occultism. Occultism is the oldest of all; it has the longest age of time. Before theosophy was, was occultism; after theosophy, occultism will still be. Before philosophy was, was theosophy; after philosophy, theosophy will still be.
And now, my dear friends, try among other ideals to apprehend this one: that you are called upon to understand how in our time the philosophical ideal (which has necessarily only been held by a few) has to flow into a new ideal, the theosophical ideal, which will be comprehensible to many, because theosophy is able to speak to man from far greater depths than philosophy, which can never be anything but abstract, since it is only a last feeble copy of the original being of man in his threefoldedness.
If we study the matter in the way we have done, then we are seeing it all on the background of world-history as historic necessity; we feel what theosophy must be for modern man, and we recognize how the three points of view — philosophy, theosophy, occultism — are in very truth ways of understanding man that must unfold one after the other. Let this thought not remain just a thought in the head, but let it sink deep into your hearts, and you will learn to appreciate how important, as well as how holy, theosophy must be for us.