Monday, December 31, 2012

How Christ is superior to Krishna

"He must increase; I must decrease." - John 3:30

The Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of Paul. Lecture 4 of 5.
Rudolf Steiner, December 31, 1912 -- 100 years ago today:

At the beginning of yesterday's lecture I pointed out how different are the impressions received by the soul when, on the one hand, it allows the well-balanced, calm, passionless, emotionless, truly wise nature of the Bhagavad Gita to work upon it, and on the other hand that which holds sway in the Epistles of St. Paul. In many respects these give the impression of being permeated by personal emotions, personal views and points of view, by a certain — for the whole collective evolution of man on Earth — agitating sense of propagandism; they are even choleric, sometimes stormy. If we allow the manner in which the spiritual content of both is expressed to work upon us, we have in the Gita something so perfect, expressed in such a wonderful, artistically rounded way, that one could not well imagine a greater perfection of expression, revealed poetically and yet so philosophically. In the Epistles of St. Paul, on the other hand, we often find what one might call an awkwardness of expression, so that on account of this, which sometimes approaches clumsiness, it is extremely difficult to extract their deep meaning.

Yet it is nevertheless true that that which relates to Christianity in the Epistles of St. Paul is the keynote for its development, just as the union of the world-conceptions of the East is the keynote of the Gita. In the Epistles of St. Paul we find the significant basic truths of Christianity as to the Resurrection, the significance of what is called Faith as compared with the Law, of the influence of grace, of the life of Christ in the soul or in the human consciousness, and many other things; we find all these presented in such a way that any presentation of Christianity must always be based on these Pauline Epistles. Everything in them refers to Christianity, as everything in the Gita refers to the great truths as to liberating oneself from works, to the freeing of oneself from the immediate life of action, in order to devote oneself to contemplation, to the meditation of the soul, to the upward penetration of the soul into spiritual heights, to the purification of the soul; in short, according to the meaning of the Gita, to the union with Krishna.

All that has just been described makes a comparison of these two spiritual revelations extremely difficult, and anyone who merely makes an external comparison will doubtless be compelled to place the Bhagavad Gita, in its purity, calm, and wisdom, higher than the Epistles of St. Paul. But what is a person who makes such an outward comparison actually doing? He is like a man who, having before him a fully grown plant, with a beautiful blossom, and beside it the seed of a plant, were to say: “When I look at the plant with its beautiful, fully developed blossom, I see that it is much more beautiful than the insignificant, invisible seed.” Yet it might be that out of that seed lying beside the plant with the beautiful blossom a still more beautiful plant with a still more beautiful blossom might some day spring forth. It is really no proper comparison to compare two things to be found side by side, such as a fully developed plant and a quite undeveloped seed; and thus it is if one compares the Bhagavad Gita with the Epistles of St. Paul. In the Bhagavad Gita we have before us something like the ripest fruit, the most wonderful and beautiful representation of a long human evolution, which had grown up during thousands of years, and in the Epistles of St. Paul we have before us the germ of something completely new which must grow greater and greater, and which we can only grasp in all its full significance if we look upon it as germinal, and hold prophetically before us what it will some day become, when thousands and thousands of years of evolution shall have flowed into the future and that which is planted as a germ in the Pauline Epistles shall have grown riper and riper. Only if we bear this in mind can we make a proper comparison.

It then also becomes clear that that which is someday to become great and which is first to be found in invisible form from the depths of Christianity in the Pauline Epistles had once to pour forth in chaotic fashion from the human soul. Thus things must be represented in a different way by one who is considering the significance on the one hand of the Bhagavad Gita and on the other of the Pauline Epistles for the whole collective evolution of man on Earth, from the way they can be depicted by another person who can only judge of the complete works as regards their beauty and wisdom and inner perfection of form.

If we wish to draw a comparison between the different views of life which appear in the Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul, we must first inquire: What is the chief point in question? The point in question is that in all we are able to survey historically of the two views of life, what we are chiefly concerned with is the drawing down of the ego into the evolution of mankind.

If we trace the ego through the evolution of mankind, we can say that in the pre-Christian times it was still dependent, it was still, as it were, rooted in concealed depths of the soul, it had not yet acquired the possibility of developing itself. Development of an individual character only became possible when into that ego was thrown, as it were, the impulse which we describe as the Christ-Impulse. That which since the Mystery of Golgotha may be within the human ego and which is expressed in the words of St. Paul: “Not I, but Christ in me,” that could not formerly be within it. But in the ages when there was already an approach to the Christ-Impulse — in the last thousand years before the Mystery of Golgotha — that which was about to take place through the introduction of the Christ-Impulse into the human soul was slowly prepared, particularly in such a way as that expressed in the act of Krishna. That which, after the Mystery of Golgotha, a man had to look for as the Christ-Impulse in himself, which he had to find in the Pauline sense: “Not I, but Christ in me,” that he had, before the Mystery of Golgotha, to look for outside, he had to look for it coming to him as a revelation from cosmic distances.

The further we go back into the ages, the more brilliant, the more impulsive was the revelation from without. We may therefore say: In the ages before the Mystery of Golgotha a certain revelation came to mankind like sunshine falling upon an object from without. Just as the light falls upon this object, so did the light of the spiritual Sun fall from without upon the soul of man, and enlightened it.

After the Mystery of Golgotha we can speak of that which works in the soul as Christ-Impulse, as the spiritual sunlight, as though we saw a self-illumined body before us radiating its light from within. If we look at it thus, the fact of the Mystery of Golgotha becomes a significant boundary line in human evolution. We can represent the whole connection symbolically. If we take this circle (Diagram 1) as representing the human soul, we may say that the spiritual light streams in from without from all sides into this human soul. Then comes the Mystery of Golgotha, after which the soul possesses the Christ-Impulse in itself and radiates forth that which is contained in the Christ-Impulse (Diagram 2).

Just as a drop which is illumined from all sides radiates and reflects this illumination, so does the soul appear before the Christ-Impulse. As a flame which is alight within and radiates forth its light, thus does the soul appear after the Mystery of Golgotha, if it has been able to receive the Christ-Impulse.

Bearing this in mind we can express this whole relation by means of the terms we have learnt in Sankhya philosophy. We may say: If we direct our spiritual eye to a soul which, before the Mystery of Golgotha, is irradiated from all sides by the light of the spirit, and we see the whole connection of this spirit which pours in upon the soul from all sides radiating to us in its spirituality, the whole then appears to us in what the Sankhya philosophy describes as the Sattva condition. On the other hand, if we contemplate a soul after the Mystery of Golgotha had been accomplished, looking at it from outside as it were, with the spiritual eye, it seems as though the spiritual light were hidden away in its innermost depths and as if the soul-nature concealed it. The spiritual light appears to us as though veiled by the soul-substance, that spiritual light which, since the Mystery of Golgotha, is contained in the Christ-Impulse.

Do we not perceive this verified up to our own age, indeed especially in our own age, with regard to all that man experiences externally? Observe a man today, see what he has to occupy himself with as regards his external knowledge and his occupation; and try to compare with this how the Christ-Impulse lives in man, as if hidden in his inmost being, like a yet tiny, feeble flame, veiled by the rest of the soul's contents. That is Tamas as compared with the pre-Christian state, which latter, as regards the relation of soul and spirit, was the Sattva-state.

What part, therefore, in this sense does the Mystery of Golgotha play in the evolution of mankind? As regards the revelation of the spirit, it transforms the Sattva into the Tamas state. By means of it mankind moves forward, but it undergoes a deep fall, one may say, not through the Mystery of Golgotha, but through itself. The Mystery of Golgotha causes the flame to grow greater and greater: but the reason the flame appears in the soul as only a very small one — whereas before a mighty light poured in on it from all sides — is that progressing human nature is sinking deeper and deeper into darkness.

It is not, therefore the fault of the Mystery of Golgotha that the human soul, as regards the spirit, is in the Tamas condition, for the Mystery of Golgotha will bring it to pass in the distant future that out of the Tamas condition a Sattva condition will again come about, which will then be set aflame from within. Between the Sattva and the Tamas condition there is, according to Sankhya philosophy, the Rajas condition; and this is described as being that time in human evolution in which falls the Mystery of Golgotha. Humanity itself, as regards the manifestation of the Spirit, went along the path from light into darkness, from the Sattva into the Tamas condition, just during the thousand years which surrounded the Mystery of Golgotha.

If we look more closely into this evolution, we may say: If we take the line A B as the time of the evolution of mankind, up to about the eighth or seventh century before the Mystery of Golgotha, all human civilization was then in the Sattva condition.

7th Century B.C. 15th, 16th Century A.D.


Chald-Egypt. Graeco-Latin Period. Our own age.

Then began the age in which occurred the Mystery of Golgotha, followed by our own age some fifteen or sixteen centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha. Then quite definitely begins the Tamas age — but it is a period of transition. If we wish to use our customary designations, we have the first age — which, in a sense, as regards certain spiritual revelations, still belongs to the Sattva condition — occurring at the same epoch as that which we call the Chaldean-Egyptian, that which is the Rajas-condition is the Graeco-Latin, and that which is in the Tamas condition is our own age. We know, too, that what is called the Chaldean-Egyptian age is the third of the Post-Atlantean conditions, the Graeco-Latin the fourth, and our own the fifth. It was therefore necessary, one might say, in accordance with the plan of the evolution of mankind, that between the third and fourth Post-Atlantean epochs there should occur a deadening, as it were, of external revelation. How was mankind really prepared for the blazing up of the Christ-Impulse? How did this preparation really occur?

If we want to make quite clear to ourselves the difference between the spiritual conditions of mankind in the third epoch of humanity — the Chaldean-Egyptian — and the following epochs, we must say: In this third age in all these countries, in Egypt as well as in Chaldea, and also in India, there still was in humanity the remains of the old clairvoyant power: that is to say, man not only saw the worlds around him with the assistance of his senses and of the understanding connected with the brain, but he could also still see the surrounding world with the organs of his etheric body, at any rate, under certain conditions, between sleeping and waking.

If we wish to picture to ourselves a man of that epoch, we can only do so by saying: To those men a perception of nature and of the world such as we have through our senses and the understanding bound up with the brain was only one of the conditions which they experienced. In those conditions they gained as yet no knowledge, but merely, as it were, gazed at things and let them work, side by side in space and one after another in time. If these men wanted to acquire knowledge they had to enter a condition, not artificially produced as in our time, but occurring naturally, as if of itself, in which their deeper-lying forces, the forces of their etheric bodies, operated for producing knowledge. Out of knowledge such as this came forth all that appears as the wonderful knowledge of the Sankhya philosophy; from such a contemplation also went forth all that has come down to us in the Veda — although that belongs to a still earlier age.

Thus the man of that time acquired knowledge by putting himself or allowing himself to be put into another condition. He had so to say his everyday condition, in which he saw with his eyes, heard with his ears, and followed things with his ordinary understanding; but this seeing, hearing, and understanding he only made use of when occupied in external practical business. It would never have occurred to him to make use of these capacities for the acquiring of knowledge. In order to acquire knowledge and perception he made use of what came to him in that other condition in which he brought into activity the deepest forces of his being.

We can therefore think of man in those old times as having, so to say, an everyday body, and within that everyday body his finer spiritual body, his Sunday body, if I may use such a comparison. With his everyday body he did his everyday work, and with his Sunday body — which was woven of the etheric body alone — he perceived and perfected his science. One would be justified in saying that a man of that olden time would be astonished that we in our day hew out our knowledge by means of our everyday body, and never put on our Sunday body when we wish to learn something about the world.

Well, how did such a man experience all these conditions? The experiencing of these was such that when a man perceived by means of his deeper forces, when he was in that state of perception in which, for instance, he studied Sankhya philosophy, he did not then feel as does the man of today, who, when he wishes to acquire knowledge must exert his reason and think with his head. He, when he acquired knowledge, felt himself to be in his etheric body, which was certainly least developed in what today is the physical head, but was more pronounced in the other parts; man thought much more by means of the other parts of his etheric body. The etheric body of the head is the least perfect part of it. A man felt, so to say, that he thought with his etheric body; he felt himself, when thinking, lifted out of his physical body; but at such moments of learning, of creative knowledge, he felt something more besides; he felt that he was in reality one with the Earth. When he took off his everyday body and put on his Sunday body, he felt as though forces passed through his whole being; as though forces passed through his legs and feet and united him to the Earth, just as the forces which pass through our hands and arms unite them with our body. He began to feel himself a member of the Earth. On the one hand, he felt that he thought and knew in his etheric body, and on the other he felt himself no longer a separate man, but a member of the Earth. He felt his being growing into the Earth. Thus the whole inner manner of experiencing altered when a man drew on his Sunday body and prepared himself for knowledge. What, then, had to happen in order that this old age — the third — should so completely cease, and the new age — the fourth — should come in? If we wish to understand what had to happen then, it would be well to try to feel our way a little into the old method of description.

A man who in that olden time experienced what I have just described would say: “The serpent has become active within me.” His being lengthened out into the Earth; he no longer felt his physical body as the really active part of him; he felt as though he stretched out a serpent-like continuation of himself into the Earth and the head was that which projected out of the Earth. And he felt this serpent being to be the thinker. We might draw the man's being thus: his etheric body passing into the Earth, elongated into a serpent-body and, while outside the Earth as physical man, he was stretched down into the Earth during the time of perceiving and knowing, and thought with his etheric body.

“The serpent is active within me,” said he. To perceive was therefore in the olden time something like this: “I rouse the serpent within me to a state of activity; I feel my serpent-nature.” What had to happen so that the new age should come in, that the new method of perceiving should come about? It had to be no longer possible for those moments to occur in which man felt his being extended down into the Earth through his legs and feet; besides which, perception had to die out in his etheric body and pass over to the physical head. If you can rightly picture this passing over of the old perception into the new, you will say: a good expression for this transition would be: “I am wounded in the feet, but with my own body I tread under foot the head of the serpent,” that is to say, the serpent with its head ceases to be the instrument of thought. The physical body, and especially the physical brain, kills the serpent, and the serpent revenges itself by taking away from one the feeling of belonging to the Earth. It bites one in the heel.

At such times of transition from one form of human experience into another, that which comes, as it were, from the old epoch comes into conflict with that which is coming in the new epoch; for these things are still really contemporaneous. The father is still in existence long after the son's life has begun, although the son is descended from the father. The attributes of the fourth epoch, the Graeco-Latin, were there, but those of the third, the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch, still stirred and moved in men and in nations. These attributes naturally became intermingled in the course of evolution, but that which thus appears as the newly arisen, and that which comes, as it were, out of the olden times, continue to live contemporaneously, but can no longer understand each other properly. The old does not understand the new. The new must protect itself against the old, must defend its life against it; that is to say, the new is there, but the ancestors with their attributes belonging to the old epoch still work in their descendants, the ancestors who have taken no part in the new. Thus we may describe the transition from the third epoch of humanity to the fourth.

There had therefore to be a hero, as we might say — a leader of humanity who, in a significant manner, first represents this process of the killing of the serpent, of being wounded by it; while he had at the same time to struggle against that which was certainly related to him, but which with its attributes still shone into the new age from the old. In the advance of mankind, one person must first experience the whole greatness of that which later all generations experience.

Who was the hero who crushed the head of the serpent, who struggled against that which was important in the third epoch? Who was he who guided mankind out of the old Sattva-time into the new Tamas-time? That was Krishna — and how could this be more clearly shown than by the Eastern legend in which Krishna is represented as being a son of the Gods, a son of Mahadeva and Devaki, who entered the world surrounded by miracles (that betokens that he brings in something new), and who, if I may carry my example further, leads men to look for wisdom in their everyday body, and who crushes their Sunday body — the serpent; who has to defend himself against that which projects into the new age from his kindred. Such a one is something new, something miraculous.

Hence the legend relates how the child Krishna, even at his birth, was surrounded by miracles, and that Kansa, the brother of his mother, wished to take the life of the child. In the uncle of the child Krishna we see the continuance of the old, and Krishna has to defend himself against him; for Krishna had to bring in the new, that which kills the third epoch and does away with the old conditions for the external evolution of mankind. He had to defend himself against Kansa, the inhabitant of the old Sattva age; and among the most remarkable of the miracles with which Krishna is surrounded, the legend relates that the mighty serpent Kali twined round him, but that he was able to tread the head of the serpent under foot, though it wounded his heel. Here we have something of which we may say the legend directly reproduces an occult fact. That is what legends do; only we ought not to seek an external explanation, but should grasp the legend aright, in the true light of knowledge, in order to understand it.

Krishna is the hero of the setting third post-Atlantean epoch of humanity. The legend relates further that Krishna appeared at the end of the third cosmic epoch. It all corresponds when rightly understood. Krishna is therefore he who kills out the old perception, who drives it into the darkness. This he does in his external phenomena; he reduces to a state of darkness that which as Sattva-knowledge was formerly possessed by mankind. Now, how is he represented in the Bhagavad Gita? He is there represented as giving to a single individual, as if in compensation for what he has taken away from him, guidance as to how through Yoga he can rise to that which was then lost to normal mankind. Thus to the world Krishna appears as the killer of the old Sattva-knowledge, while at the same time we see him at the end of the Gita as the Lord of Yoga, who is again to lead us up to the knowledge which had been abandoned; the knowledge belonging to the old ages, which we can only attain when we have overcome and conquered that which we now put on externally as an everyday dress; when we return once more to the old spiritual condition. That was the twofold deed of Krishna, He acted as a world-historical hero, in that he crushed the head of the serpent of the old knowledge and compelled man to re-enter the physical body, in which alone the ego could be won as free and independent ego, whereas formerly all that made man an ego streamed in from outside. Thus he was a worldwide historical hero. Then to the individual he was the one who for the times of devotion, of meditation, of inner finding, gave back that which had at one time been lost. That it is which we meet with in such a grand form in the Gita, which at the end of our last lecture we allowed to work upon our souls, and which Arjuna meets as his own being seen externally; seen without beginning and without end — outspread over all space.

If we observe this condition more clearly we come to a place in the Gita which, if we have already been amazed at the great and mighty contents of the Gita, must infinitely extend our admiration. We come to a passage which, to the man of the present day, must certainly appear incomprehensible; wherein Krishna reveals to Arjuna the nature of the Avayata-tree, of the Fig-tree, by telling him that in this tree the roots grow upwards and the branches downwards; where Krishna further says that the single leaves of this tree are the leaves of the Veda book, which, put together, yield the Veda knowledge. That is a singular passage in the Gita. What does it signify, this pointing to the great Tree of Life, whose roots have an upward direction, and the branches a downward direction, and whose leaves give the contents of the Veda? We must just transport ourselves back into the old knowledge, and try and understand how it worked. The man of today only has, so to say, his present knowledge, communicated to him through his physical organs. The old knowledge was acquired as we have just described, in the body which was still etheric — not that the whole man was etheric, but knowledge was acquired through the part of the etheric body which was within the physical body. Through this organism, through the organization of the etheric body, the old knowledge was acquired.

Just imagine vividly that you, when in the etheric body, could perceive by means of the serpent. There was something then present in the world which to the man of the present day is no longer there. Certainly the man of today can realize much of what surrounds him when he puts himself into relation with nature; but just think of him when he is observing the world: there is one thing he does not perceive, and that is his brain. No man can see his own brain when he is observing; neither can any man see his own spine. This impossibility ceases as soon as one observes with the etheric body. A new object then appears which one does not otherwise see — one perceives one's own nervous system. Certainly it does not appear as the present-day anatomist sees it. It does not appear as it does to such a man; it appears in such a way that one feels: “Yes! There thou art, in thy etheric nature.” One then looks upwards and sees how the nerves, which go through all the organs, are collected together up there in the brain. That produces the feeling: “That is a tree of which the roots go upwards, and the branches stretch down into all the members.” That in reality is not felt as being of the same small size as we are inside our skin: it is felt as being a mighty cosmic tree. The roots stretch far out into the distances of space and the branches extend downwards. One feels oneself to be a serpent, and one sees one's nervous system objectified, one feels that it is like a tree which sends its roots far out into the distance of space and the branches of which go downwards. Remember what I have said in former lectures, that man is, in a sense, an inverted plant. All that you have learnt must be recalled and put together, in order to understand such a thing as this wonderful passage in the Bhagavad Gita. We are then astonished at the old wisdom, which must today, by means of new methods, be called forth from the depths of occultism. We then experience what this tree brings to light. We experience in its leaves that which grows upon it: the Veda knowledge, which streams in on us from without.

The wonderful picture of the Gita stands out clearly before us: the tree with its roots going upwards, and its branches going downwards, with its leaves full of knowledge, and man himself as the serpent round the tree. You may perhaps have seen this picture, or have come across the picture of the Tree of Life with the serpent; everything is of significance when one considers these old things. Here we have the tree with the upward-growing roots, and the downward-turning branches; one feels that it goes in an opposite direction to the Paradise-tree. That has its deep meaning: for the tree of Paradise is placed at the beginning of the other evolution, that which through the old Hebrew antiquity passes on into Christianity. Thus in this place we are given an indication of the whole nature of that old knowledge, and when Krishna distinctly says to his pupil Arjuna: “Renunciation is the power which makes this tree visible to mankind,” we are shown how man returns to that old knowledge when he renounces everything acquired by him in the further course of evolution, which we described yesterday. That it is which is given as something grand and glorious by Krishna to his only individual pupil Arjuna as a payment on account, while he has to take it from the whole of humanity for the everyday use of civilization. That is the being of Krishna.

What then must that become which Krishna gives to his single individual pupil? It must become Sattva wisdom; and the better he is able to give him this Sattva wisdom, the wiser, clearer, calmer, and more passionless will it be, but it will be an old revealed wisdom, something which approaches mankind from without in such a wonderful way in the words which the Sublime One, that is to say, Krishna Himself, speaks, and in those in which the single individual pupil makes reply. Thus Krishna becomes the Lord of Yoga, who leads us back to the ancient wisdom of mankind, and who always endeavors to overcome that which, even in the age of the Sattva, concealed the spirit from the soul, who wishes to bring before his pupil the spirit in its ancient purity, as it was before it descended into substance. Thus in the spirit only does Krishna appear to us in that mutual conversation between Krishna and his pupil to which we referred yesterday.

Thus we have brought before our souls the end of that epoch which was the last one of the ages of the old spirituality, that spirituality that we can so follow that we see its full and complete spiritual light at its beginning, and then its descent into matter in order that man should find his ego, his independence. And when the spiritual light had descended as far as the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, there was then a sort of reciprocal relationship, a Rajas relationship, between the spirit and the more external soul-part. In this epoch occurred the Mystery of Golgotha.

Could we describe this epoch as belonging to the Sattva-condition? No! For then we should not be describing just what belonged to that epoch! If anyone describes it correctly, as belonging to the Rajas-age — making use of that expression of Sankhya philosophy — he must describe it according to Rajas, not in terms of purity and clearness, but in a personal sense, as aroused to anger about this, or that, and so on. Thus would one have to describe it, and thus did St. Paul portray it, in the sense of its relation to Rajas. If you feel the throbbing of many a saying in the Epistles to the Thessalonians, to the Corinthians, or to the Romans, you will become aware of something akin to rage, something often like a personal characteristic pulsating in the Epistles of St. Paul, wrenching itself away from the Rajas-condition — that is the style and character of these Epistles. They had to appear thus; whereas the Bhagavad Gita had to come forth clear and free from the personal because it was the finest blossom of the dying epoch, which, however, gave one individual a compensation for that which was going under, and led him back into the heights of spiritual life. Krishna had to give the finest spiritual blossoms to his own pupil, because he was to kill out the old knowledge of mankind, to crush the head of the serpent. This Sattva-condition went under of itself, it was no longer there; and anyone in the Rajas age who spoke of the Sattva-condition spoke only of that which was old. He who placed himself at the beginning of the newer age had to speak in accordance with what was decisive for that time. Personality had drawn into human nature because human nature had found the way to seek knowledge through the organs and instruments of the physical body. In the Pauline Epistles the personal element speaks; that is why a personality thunders against all that draws in as the darkness of the material; with words of wrath he thunders forth, for words of wrath often thunder forth in the Epistles of St. Paul. That is why the Epistles of St. Paul cannot be given in the strictly limited lines, in the sharply defined, wise clearness of the Bhagavad Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita can speak in words full of wisdom because it describes how man may free himself from external activity, and raise himself in triumph to the spirit, how he may become one with Krishna. It could also describe in words full of wisdom the path of Yoga, which leads to the greatest heights of the soul. But that which came into the world as something new, the victory of the spirit over that which merely pertains to the soul within, that could at first only be described out of the Rajas-condition; and he who first described it in a manner significant for the history of mankind does so full of enthusiasm, in such a way that one knows he took part in it himself, that he himself trembled before the revelation of the Christ-Impulse. The personal had then come to him, he was confronted for the first time with that which was to work on for thousands of years into the future, it came to him in such a way that all the forces of his soul had to take a personal part in it. Therefore he does not describe in philosophic concepts, full of wisdom, such as occur in the Bhagavad Gita, but describes what he has to describe as the resurrection of Christ as something in which man is directly and personally concerned.

Was it not to become personal experience? Was not Christianity to draw into what is most intimately personal, warm it through and through, and fill it with life? Truly he who described the Christ-Event for the first time could only do so as a personal experience. We can see how in the Gita the chief emphasis is laid upon the ascent through Yoga into spiritual heights; the rest is only touched upon in passing. Why is this? Because Krishna only gives his instructions to one particular pupil and does not concern himself with what other people outside in the world feel as to their connection with the spiritual. Therefore Krishna describes what his pupil must become, that he must grow higher and higher, and become more and more spiritual. That description leads to riper and riper conditions of the soul, and hence to more and more impressive pictures of beauty. Hence also it is the case that only at the end do we meet with the antagonism between the demoniacal and the spiritual, and it confirms the beauty of the ascent into the soul-life; only at the conclusion do we see the contrast between those who are demoniacal and those who are spiritual. All those people out of whom only the material speaks, who live in the material, who believe that all comes to an end with death, are demoniacal. But that is only mentioned by way of enlightenment, it is nothing with which the great teacher is really concerned: he is before all concerned with the spiritualizing of the human soul. Yoga may only speak of that which is opposed to Yoga as a side-issue.

St. Paul is, above all, concerned with the whole of humanity, that humanity which is in fact in the oncoming age of darkness. He has to turn his attention to all that this age of darkness brings about in human life; he must contrast the dark life, common to all, with that which is the Christ-Impulse, and which is first to spring up as a tiny plant in the human soul. We can see it appearing in St. Paul as he points over and over again to all sorts of vice, all sorts of materialism, which must be combated through what he has to give. What he is able to give is at first a mere flickering in the human soul, which can only acquire power through the enthusiasm which lies behind his words, and which appears in triumphant words as the manifestation of feeling through personality.

Thus the presentations of the Gita and of the Pauline Epistles are far removed from each other; in the clearness of the Gita the descriptions are impersonal, while St. Paul had to work the personal into his words. It is that which on the one hand gives the style and tone to the Gita, and on the other to the Pauline Epistles; we meet it in both works — almost, one might, say in every line. Something can only attain artistic perfection when it has acquired the necessary ripeness; at the beginning of its development it always appears as more or less chaotic.

Why is all this so? This question is answered if we turn to the wonderful beginning of the Gita. We have already described it; we have seen the hosts of the kindred facing each other in battle, one warrior facing another, yet both conqueror and conquered are related to one another by blood. The time we are considering is that of the transition from the old blood-relationship, to which belongs the power of clairvoyance, to that of the differentiation and mingling of blood, which is the characteristic of our modern times. We are confronted with a transformation of the outer bodily nature of man and of the perception which necessarily accompanies this.

Another kind of mingling of blood, a new significance of blood, now enters into the evolution of mankind. If we wish to study the transition from that old epoch to the new — I would remind you of my little pamphlet The Occult Significance of Blood — we must say that the clairvoyance of olden times depended upon the fact that the blood was, so to say, kept in the tribe, whereas the new age proceeded from the mixing of blood, by which clairvoyance was killed, and the new perception arose which is connected with the physical body. The beginning of the Gita points to something external, to something connected with man's bodily form. It is with these external changes of form that Sankhya philosophy is mostly concerned; in a sense it leaves in the background that which belongs to the soul, as we have pointed out. The souls in their multiplicity are simply behind the forms. In Sankhya philosophy we have found a kind of plurality; we have compared it with the Leibnitz philosophy of more modern times.

If we can think ourselves into the soul of a Sankhya philosopher, we can imagine his saying: “My soul expresses itself in the Sattva or in the Rajas or in the Tamas condition with respect to the forms of the external body.” But this philosopher studies the forms. These forms alter, and one of the most remarkable changes is that which expresses itself in the different use made of the etheric body, or through the transition as regards blood-relationship we have just described. We have then an external change of form. The soul itself is not in the least affected by that with which Sankhya philosophy concerns itself. The external changes of form are quite sufficient to enable us to consider what takes place in the transition from the old Sattva age to that of the new Rajas, on the borders of which stands Krishna. It is the external changes of form which come into consideration there.

Outer changes of form always come into consideration at the time of the change of the ages. But the changes of form took place in a different way during the transition from the Persian to the Egyptian epoch from what they did in that from the Egyptian to the Graeco-Latin; still an external change of form did take place. In yet another manner took place the transition from the Ancient Indian to the Persian, but there too there was an external change of form. Indeed it was simply a change of form which occurred when the passing-over from the old Atlantis itself into the post-Atlantean ages took place. A change of form — and we could follow this by holding fast to the designations of the Sankhya philosophy: we can follow it simply by saying: The soul goes through its experiences within these forms, but the soul itself is not altered thereby; Purusha remains undisturbed. Thus we have a particular sort of transformation which can be described by Sankhya philosophy according to its own conceptions.

But behind this transforming there is Purusha, the individual part of the soul of every man. The Sankhya philosophy only says of this that there is an individual soul-part which is related through the three Gunas — Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas — with external form. But this soul-part is not itself affected by the external forms: Purusha is behind them all and we are directed to the soul itself; a continual indication of the soul itself is what meets us in the teaching of Krishna, in what he as Lord of Yoga teaches. Yes, certainly — but the nature of this soul is not given us in the way of knowledge. Directions as to how to develop the soul is the highest we are shown: alteration of the external forms; no change in the soul itself, only an introductory note.

This first suggestion we discover in the following way: If man is to rise through Yoga from the ordinary stages of the soul to the higher, he must free himself from external works, he must emancipate himself more and more from outer works, from what he does and perceives externally; he must become a “looker-on” at himself. His soul then assumes an inner freedom and raises itself triumphantly over what is external. That is the case with the ordinary man, but with one who is initiated and becomes clairvoyant the case does not remain thus; he is not confronted with external substance, for that in itself is maya. It only becomes a reality to him who makes use of his own inner instruments. What takes the place of substance? If we observe the old initiation we meet with the following: Whereas man in everyday life is confronted with substance, with Prakriti — the soul which through Yoga has developed itself by initiation has to fight against the world of the Asuras, the world of the demoniacal. Substance is what offers resistance; the Asuras, the powers of darkness, become enemies. But all that is as yet a mere suggestion; we perceive it as something peeping out of the soul, so to say; we begin to feel that which pertains to the soul. For the soul will only begin to realize itself as spiritual when it begins to fight the battle against the demons, the Asuras.

In our language we should describe this battle — which, however, we only meet with in miniature — as something which becomes perceptible in the form of spirits, when substance appears in spirituality. We thus perceive in miniature that which we know as the battle of the soul when it enters upon initiation, the battle with Ahriman. But when we look upon it as a battle of this kind, we are then in the innermost part of the soul, and what were formerly material spirits grow into something gigantic; the soul is then confronted with the mighty foe. Soul then stands up against soul: the individual soul in universal space is confronted with the realm of Ahriman. It is the lowest stage of Ahriman's kingdom with which one fights in Yoga; but now when we look at this as the battle of the soul with the powers of Ahriman, with Ahriman's kingdom, he himself stands before us. Sankhya philosophy recognizes this relationship of the soul to external substance, in which the latter has the upper hand, as the condition of Tamas. The initiate who has entered initiation by means of Yoga is not only in this Tamas state, but also in battle with certain demoniacal powers, into which substance transforms itself before his sight. In this same sense the soul, when it is in the condition not only of being confronted with the spiritual in substance but with the purely spiritual, is face to face with Ahriman. According to Sankhya philosophy, spirit and matter are in balance in the Rajas condition: they sway to and fro, first matter is above, then spirit; at one time matter weighs down the scales, then spirit. If this condition is to lead to initiation it must lead in the sense of the old Yoga to a direct overcoming of Rajas, and lead into Sattva. To us it does not yet lead into Sattva, but to the commencement of another battle: the battle with what is Luciferic.

And now the course of our considerations leads us to Purusha, which is only hinted at in Sankhya philosophy. Not only do we hint at it, we place it right in the midst of the field of the battle against Ahriman and Lucifer: one soul-nature wars against another. In Sankhya philosophy Purusha is seen in immense perspective; but if we enter more deeply into that which plays its part in the nature of the soul, not as yet distinguished between Ahriman and Lucifer, then in Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas we only find the relation of the soul to material substance. But considering the matter in our own sense, we have the soul in its full activity, fighting and struggling between Ahriman and Lucifer.

That is something which in its full greatness can only be considered through Christianity. According to the old Sankhya teaching Purusha remains still undisturbed: it describes the condition which arises when Purusha clothes itself in Prakriti. We enter the Christian age and in that which underlies esoteric Christianity we penetrate into Purusha itself, and describe this by taking the trinity into consideration: the soul, the Ahrimanic, and the Luciferic. We now grasp the inner relationship of the soul itself in its struggles. That which had to come was to be found in the transition in the fourth epoch, that transition which is marked through the Mystery of Golgotha. For what took place then? That which occurred in the transition from the third to the fourth epoch was something which can be described as a mere change of form; but now it is something which can only be described by the transition from Prakriti into Purusha itself, which must be so characterized that we say: “We feel how completely Purusha has emancipated itself from Prakriti; we feel that in our innermost being.”

Man is not only torn away from the ties of blood but also from Prakriti, from everything external, and must inwardly have done with it. Then comes the Christ-Impulse. That is, however, the greatest transition which could take place in the whole evolution of the Earth. It is then no longer merely a question of what might be the conditions of the soul in relation to matter — in Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas — for the soul no longer has merely to overcome Tamas and Rajas to raise itself above them in Yoga, but has to fight against Ahriman and Lucifer, for it is now left to itself. Hence the necessity to confront that which is presented to us in that mighty poem the Bhagavad Gita — that which was necessary for the old times — with that which is necessary for the new.

That sublime Song, the Bhagavad Gita, shows us this conflict. There we are shown the human soul. It dwells in its bodily part, in its sheaths. These sheaths can be described. They are that which is in a constant state of changing form. The soul in its ordinary life lives in a state of entanglement, in Prakriti. In Yoga it frees itself from that which envelops it, it overcomes that in which it is enwrapped, and enters the spiritual sphere, when it is quite free from its coverings.

Let us compare with this that which Christianity, the Mystery of Golgotha, first brought. It is not here sufficient that the soul should merely make itself free. For if the soul should free itself through Yoga, it would attain to the vision of Krishna. He would appear in all his might before it — but as he was before Ahriman and Lucifer obtained their full power. Therefore a kind divinity still conceals the fact that beside Krishna — who then becomes visible in the sublime way described in our last lecture — on his left and on his right there stand Ahriman and Lucifer. With the old clairvoyance that was still possible, because man had not yet descended into matter; but now it can no longer be the case. If the soul were now only to go through Yoga it would meet Ahriman and Lucifer and would have to enter into battle with them. It can only take its place beside Krishna when it has that ally Who fights Ahriman and Lucifer; Tamas and Rajas would not suffice. That ally, however, is Christ. Thus we see how that which is of a bodily nature freed itself from the body— or one might also say, that which is bodily darkened itself within the body, at the time when Krishna, the Hero, appeared. But, on the other hand, we see that which is still more stupendous: the soul abandoned to itself and face to face with something which is only visible in its own domain in the age in which the Mystery of Golgotha occurred.

I can well imagine, my dear friends, someone saying: “Well, what could be more wonderful than when the highest ideal of man, the perfection of mankind, is placed before our eyes in the form of Krishna!” There can be something higher — and that it is which must stand by our side and permeate us when we have to gain this humanity not merely against Tamas and Rajas but against the powers of the spirit. That is the Christ. So it is the want of capacity to see something greater still, if one is determined to see in Krishna the highest of all.

The preponderating force of the Christ-Impulse as compared with the Krishna-Impulse is expressed in the fact that in the latter we have incarnated in the whole human nature of Krishna the Being which was incarnated in him. Krishna was born, and grew up, as the son of Vasudeva; but in his whole manhood was incorporated, incarnated, that highest human impulse which we recognize as Krishna. That other Impulse, which must stand by our side when we have to confront Lucifer and Ahriman (which confrontation is only now beginning, for all such things, for instance, as are represented in our Mystery Dramas will be understood psychically by future generations), that other Impulse must be one for which mankind as such is at first too small, an Impulse which cannot immediately dwell even in a body such as one which Zarathustra can inhabit, but can only dwell in it when that body itself has attained the height of its development, when it has reached its thirtieth year. Thus the Christ-Impulse does not fill a whole life, but only the ripest period of a human life. That is why the Christ-Impulse lived only for three years in the body of Jesus. The more exalted height of the Christ-Impulse is expressed in the fact that it could not live immediately in a human body, as did Krishna from his birth up.

We shall have to speak further of the overwhelming greatness of the Christ-Impulse as compared with the Krishna-Impulse and how this is to be seen. But from what has already been characterized you can both see and feel that, as a matter of fact, the relation between the great Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul could be none other; that the whole presentation of the Gita being the ripe fruit of much, much earlier times may therefore be complete in itself; while the Epistles of St. Paul, being the first seeds of a future — certainly more perfect, more all-embracing — world-epoch, must necessarily be far more incomplete.

Thus one who represents how the world runs its course must recognize, it is true, the great imperfections of the Pauline Epistles as compared with the Gita — the very, very significant imperfections — they must not be disguised — but he must also understand the reason those imperfections have to be there.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Mystery of Krishna

The Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of Paul. Lecture 3 of 5.
Rudolf Steiner, December 30, 1912 -- 100 years ago today:

The whole meaning of a philosophical poem such as the Bhagavad Gita can only be rightly understood by one to whom such things as are laid down therein, or in similar works of the world's literature, are not merely theories, but a destiny; for man's conceptions of the world may become destiny.

We have in the last few days made acquaintance with two different conceptions of world-philosophy (not to mention a third, the Vedantic), two different nuances of world-philosophy which, if we look at them in the right way, show us most strikingly how a world-philosophy may become a destiny for the human soul. With the concept of the Sankhya philosophy one may connect all that a man can attain to in knowledge, perception of ideas, survey of the world-phenomena; all in which the life of the soul expresses itself. If we describe that which at the present day still remains to the normal man of such knowledge, of a world-philosophy in which the concepts of the world can be expressed in a scientific form, if we describe that which stands at a lower level spiritually than Sankhya philosophy we may say that even in our own age, in so far as our destiny permits, we can still feel the effects of Sankhya philosophy. This will, however, only be felt by one who, as far as his destiny allows him, gives himself up to a one-sided study of such a branch of world-philosophy; a man of whom it might in a certain respect be said: He is a one-sided scientist, or a Sankhya philosopher.

How does such a man stand as regards the world? What does he feel in his soul? Well, that is a question which can really only be answered by experience. One must know what takes place in a soul that thus devotes itself one-sidedly to a branch of world-philosophy, using all its forces to acquire a conception of the world in the sense just characterized. Such a soul might study all the variations of form of the world-phenomena, might have, so to say, the most complete understanding of all the forces that express themselves in the world in the changing forms. If a soul in one incarnation confines itself to finding opportunity through its capacities and its karma so to experience the world-phenomena that, whether illuminated by clairvoyance or not, it chiefly acquires the science of reason, such a tendency would in all circumstances lead to a certain coldness of the whole soul life. According to the temperament of that soul, we shall find that it took on more or less the character of ironical dissatisfaction concerning the world phenomena, or lack of interest and general dissatisfaction with the knowledge that strides on from one phenomenon to another. All that so many souls of our time feel when confronted with a science consisting merely of learning — the coldness and barrenness which then depresses them — all this we see when we investigate a soul-tendency such as is presented here. The soul would feel devastated, uncertain of itself. It might say: What should I have gained if I conquered the whole world, and knew nothing of my own soul, if I could feel nothing, perceive nothing, experience nothing; if all were emptiness within! To be crammed full of all the science in the world and yet to be empty within; that, my dear friends, would be a bitter fate. It would be like being lost among the world phenomena; it would be like losing everything of value to one's own inner being.

The condition just described we find in many people who come to us with some sort of learning or of abstract philosophy. We find it in those who, themselves unsatisfied and realizing their emptiness, have lost interest in all their knowledge, and seem to be suffering; we also meet it when a man comes to us with an abstract philosophy, able to give information about the nature of the Godhead, cosmology, and the human soul in abstract words, yet we can feel that it all comes from the head, that his heart has no part in it — his soul is empty. We feel chilled when we meet such a soul. Thus Sankhya philosophy may become a destiny, a destiny which brings man near being lost to himself, a being possessing nothing of his own and from whose individuality the world can gain nothing.

Then again let us take the case of a soul seeking development in a one-sided way through Yoga, who is, so to say, lost to the world, disdaining to know anything about the external world. “What good is it to me,” says such a person, “to learn how the world came into existence? I want to find out everything in my own self; I will advance myself by developing my own powers.” Such a person may perhaps feel an inward glow, may often appear to us somewhat self-contained and self-satisfied. That may be; but in the long run he will not always be thus; on the contrary, in time, such a soul will be liable to loneliness. When one having led a hermit's life while seeking the heights of soul-life goes forth into the world, coming everywhere in contact with the world-phenomena, he may perhaps say: “What do all these things matter to me?” and if then, because of his being unreceptive to all the beauty of the manifestations and not understanding them he feels lonely, the exclusiveness leads to a fateful destiny! How can we really get to know a human being who is using all his power toward the evolution of his own being and passes his fellow human beings by, cold and indifferent, as though he wished to have nothing in common with them? Such a soul may feel itself to be lost to the world; while to others it may appear egotistical to excess.

Only when we consider these life-connections do we realize how the laws of destiny work in the conceptions of the world. In the background of such great revelations, such great world-philosophies as the Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul, we are confronted by the ruling of these laws of destiny. We might say: if we look behind the Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul, we can see the direct ruling of destiny.

How can we trace destiny in the Epistles? We often find indicated in them that the real salvation of soul-development consists in the so-called “justification by faith” as compared to the worthlessness of external works; because of that which the soul may become when it makes the final connection with the Christ-Impulse, when it takes into itself the great force that flows from the proper understanding of the Resurrection of Christ. When we meet with this in the Epistles we feel, on the other hand, that the human soul may, so to say, be thrown back upon itself, and thus be estranged from all external works and rely entirely on mercy and justification by faith. Then come the external works; they are there in the world; we do not do away with them because we turn from them; we join forces with them in the world. Again destiny rings out to us in all its gigantic greatness. Only when we look at things in this way do we see the might of such revelations to mankind.

Now these two revelations to humanity, the Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul, are outwardly very different from one another; and this external difference acts upon the soul in every part of these works. We not only admire the Bhagavad Gita for the reasons we have briefly given, but because it strikes us as something so poetically great and powerful; because from every verse it radiates forth to us the great nobility of the human soul; because in everything spoken from the mouths of Krishna and his pupil, Arjuna, we feel something which lifts us above everyday human experiences, above all passions, above everything emotional which may disturb the soul. We are transported into a sphere of soul-peace, of clearness, calm, dispassionateness, freedom from emotion, into an atmosphere of wisdom, if we allow even one part of the Gita to work upon us; and by reading the Gita we feel our whole humanity raised to a higher stage. We feel, all through, that we must first have freed ourselves from a good deal that is only too human if we wish to allow the sublime Gita to affect us in the right way.

In the case of the Pauline Epistles, all this is different. The sublimity of the poetical language is lacking, even the dispassionateness is lacking. We take up these Epistles and allow them to influence us, and we feel over and over again how what is wafted toward us from the mouth of St. Paul comes from a being passionately indignant at what has happened. Sometimes the tone is scolding or — one might say — condemnatory; in the Pauline Epistles this or that is often cursed; there is scolding. The things that are stated as to the great concepts of Christianity, as to Grace, the Law, the difference between the law of Moses and Christianity, the Resurrection — all this is stated in a tone that is supposed to be philosophical, that is meant to be a philosophical definition but is not, because in every sentence one hears a Pauline note. We cannot in any single sentence forget that it is spoken by a man who is either excited or expressing righteous indignation against others who have done this or that; or who so speaks about the highest concepts of Christianity that we feel he is personally interested; he gives the impression that he is the propagandist of these ideas. Where could we find in the Gita sentiments of a personal kind such as we find in the Epistles in which St. Paul writes to this or that community: “How have we ourselves fought for Christ Jesus! Remember that we have not become a burden to any, how we have labored night and day that we might not be a burden to any.” How personal all this is! A breath of the personal runs through the Pauline Epistles. In the sublime Gita we find a wonderfully pure sphere — an etheric sphere — that borders on the superhuman and at times extends into it.

Externally, therefore, there are powerful differences, and we may say that it would be blindest prejudice not to admit that through the great Song that once was given to Hinduism flows the union of mighty fateful world-philosophies, that through the Gita something of a noble purity, quite impersonal, calm, and passionless, was given to the Hindus; while the original documents of Christianity — the Epistles of St. Paul — bear, as it were, an entirely personal, often a passionate character, utterly devoid of calm. One does not attain knowledge by turning away from the truth and by refusing to admit such things, but rather by understanding them in the right way. Let us, therefore, inscribe this antithesis on a tablet of bronze, as it were, during our subsequent considerations.

We have already pointed out in yesterday's lecture that in the Gita we find the significant instruction of Arjuna by Krishna. Now who exactly is Krishna? This question must, above all, be of interest to us. One cannot understand who Krishna is if one does not make oneself acquainted with a point which I have already taken the opportunity of mentioning in various places: that is, that in earlier ages the whole system of giving names and descriptions was quite different from what it is now. As a matter of fact, it does not now in the least matter what a man is called. For we do not in reality know much about a man in our present time by learning that he bears this or that well-known name, that he is called Miller or Smith. We do not really know much about a man — as everyone will admit — by hearing that he is a Privy Councillor, or anything else of the kind. We do not necessarily know much about people because we know to what social rank they belong. Neither do we know much of a man today because he has to be addressed as “Your Honor” or “Your Excellency” or “My Lord”; in short, all these titles do not signify much; and you may easily convince yourselves that other designations that we make use of today are not very important either. In bygone ages this was different. Whether we take the description of the Sankhya philosophy or our own, we can start from either and make the following reflections.

We have heard that, according to Sankhya philosophy, man consists of the physical body, the finer elemental or etheric body, the body that contains the regular forces of the senses, the body which is called Manas, Ahankara, and so on. We need not consider the other, higher, principles, because they are not, as a rule, developed yet; but if we now consider human beings such as we see them in this or that incarnation, we may say: Men differ from each other, so that in one that which is expressed through the etheric body is strongly predominant, and in another that which is connected with the laws regulating the senses, in a third that which pertains to the inner senses, in a fourth Ahankara. Or, in our own language, we may say that we find people in whom the forces of the sentient soul are particularly prominent; others in whom the forces of the intellectual or mind-soul are more particularly active; others in whom the forces of the consciousness soul predominate, and others again in whom something inspired by Manas plays a part, and so on. These differences are to be seen in the whole manner of life which a man leads. They are indications of the real nature of the man himself.

We cannot at the present time, for reasons which are easily understood, designate a man according to the nature which thus expresses itself; for if one were, for instance, to say at the present day, men's convictions being what they are, that the highest to which a man could attain in the present cycle of humanity was a trace of Ahankara, each one would be convinced that he himself expressed Ahankara more clearly in his own being than other people did, and it would be mortifying for him if he were told that this was not the case, that in him a lower principle still ruled. In olden times it was not thus. A man was then named according to what was most essential in him; especially when it was a question of putting him over others, perhaps by giving him the part of a leader, he would be designated by dwelling especially on the essential part of his being just described.

Let us suppose that in olden times there was a man who, in the truest sense of the words, had brought Manas to expression within him, who had certainly in himself experienced Ahankara, but had allowed this as an individual element to retire more into the background and on account of his external activity had cultivated Manas; then according to the laws of the older, smaller, human cycles — and only quite exceptional men could have experienced this — such a man would have had to be a great law-giver, a leader of great masses of people. And one would not have been satisfied to designate him in the same way as other men, but would have called him after his prominent characteristic, a Manas-bearer; whereas another might only be called a senses-bearer. One would have said: That is a Manas-bearer; he is a Manu.

When we come across designations pertaining to those olden times, we must take them as descriptive of the most prominent principle of a man's human organization, that which most strongly expressed itself in him in that particular incarnation. Suppose that in a particular man what was most specially expressed was that he felt divine inspiration within him, that he had put aside all question of ruling his actions and studies by what the external world teaches through the senses and by what reason teaches through the brain, but listened instead in all things to the Divine Word which spoke to him, and made himself a messenger for the Divine Substance that spoke out of him! Such a man would have been called a Son of God. In the Gospel of St. John, such men were still called Sons of God, even at the very beginning of the first chapter.

The essential thing was that everything else was left out of consideration when this significant part was expressed. Everything else was unimportant. Suppose we were to meet two men; one of whom had been just an ordinary man, who allowed the world to act upon him through his senses and reflected upon it afterwards with the intellect attached to his brain; the other one into whom the word of divine wisdom had radiated. According to the old ideas we should have said: This first one is a man; he is born of a father and mother, was begotten according to the flesh. In the case of the other, who was a messenger of the Divine Substance, no consideration would be given to that which makes up an ordinary biography, as would be the case with the first who contemplated the world through his senses and by means of the reason belonging to his brain. To write such a biography of the second man would have been folly. For the fact of his bearing a fleshly body was only accidental, and not the essential thing; that was, so to speak, only the means through which he expressed himself to other men. Therefore we say: The Son of God is not born of flesh but of a Virgin, he is born straight from the Spirit; that is to say: What is essential in him, through which he is of value to humanity, descends from the Spirit; and in the olden times it was that alone which was honored. In certain schools of initiation it would have been considered a great sin to write an ordinary biography, which only alluded to everyday occurrences, of a person of whom it had been recognized that he was remarkable because of the higher principles of his human nature. Anyone who has preserved even a little of the sentiments of those old times cannot but consider biographies such as those written of Goethe as in the highest degree absurd. Now let us remember that in those olden times mankind lived with ideas and feelings such as these, and then we can understand how this old humanity was permeated with the conviction that such a Manu, in whom Manas was the prevailing principle, appears but seldom, that he must wait long epochs before he can appear.

Now if you think of what may live in a man of our present cycle of humanity as the deepest part of his being, which every man can dimly sense as those secret forces within him which can raise him up to soul-heights; if we think of this, which in most men exists only in rudiment, becoming in a very rare case the essential principle of a human being — a being who only appears from time to time to become a leader of other men, who is higher than all the Manus, who dwells as an essence in every man, but who as an actual external personality only appears once in a cosmic epoch; if we can form such a conception as this, we are getting nearer to the being of Krishna. He is man as a whole; he is — one might almost say — humanity as such, thought of as a single being. Yet he is no abstract being. When people today speak of mankind in general, they speak of it in the abstract, because they themselves are abstract thinkers. The abstract being is we ourselves today, ensnared as we are in the sense-world, and this has become our common destiny. When one speaks of mankind in general, one has only an indistinct perception and not a living idea of it. Those who speak of Krishna as of man in general, do not mean the abstract idea one has in one's mind today. “No,” they say, “true, this Being lives in germ in every man, but he only appears as an individual man, and speaks with the mouth of a man, once in every cosmic age.” But with this Being it is not a question of the external fleshly body, or the more refined elemental body, or the forces of the sense-organs, or Ahankara and Manas, but the chief thing is that which in Buddhi and Manas is directly connected with the great universal cosmic substance, with the divine which lives and weaves through the world.

From time to time beings appear for the guidance of mankind such as we look up to in Krishna, the Great Teacher of Arjuna. Krishna teaches the highest human wisdom, the highest humanity, and he teaches it as being his own nature, and also in such a way that it is related to every human being, for all that is contained in the words of Krishna is to be found in germ in every human soul. Thus when a man looks up to Krishna he is both looking up to his own highest self and also at another: who can appear before him as another man in whom he honors that which he himself has the predisposition to become, yet who is a separate being from himself and bears the same relationship to him as a God does to man.

In this way must we think of the relationship of Krishna to his pupil Arjuna, and then we obtain the keynote of that which sounds forth to us out of the Gita; that keynote which sounds as though it belonged to every soul and can resound in every soul, which is wholly human, so intimately human that each soul feels it would be ashamed if it did not feel within it the longing to listen to the great teachings of Krishna. On the other hand, it all seems so calm, so passionless, so dispassionate, so sublime and wise, because the highest speaks; that which is the divine in every human nature and which yet once appears in the evolution of mankind, incorporated, as a divine human being.

How sublime are these teachings! They are really so sublime that the Gita rightly bears the name of the “Sublime Song” or the “Bhagavad Gita.” Within it we find, above all, teachings of which we spoke in yesterday's lecture, sublime words arising from a sublime situation; the teaching that all that changes in the world, although it may change in such a way that arising and passing away, birth and death, victory or defeat, appear to be external events, in them all is expressed something everlasting, eternal, permanently existent; so that he who wishes to contemplate the world properly must raise himself from the transitory to this permanence. We already met with this in Sankhya, in the reasoned reflections as to the permanent in everything transitory, of how both the conquered and the victorious soul are equal before God when the door of death closes behind them.

Then Krishna further tells his pupil, Arjuna, that the soul also may be led away from the contemplation of everyday things by another path, that is, through Yoga. If a soul is capable of devotion, that is the other side of its development. One side is that of passing from one phenomenon to another and always directing the ideas, whether illuminated by clairvoyance or not, to these phenomena. The other side is that in which a man turns his whole attention away from the outer world, shuts the door of the senses, shuts out all that reason and understanding have to say about the world, closes all the doors to what he can remember having experienced in his ordinary life, and enters into his innermost being. By means of suitable exercises he then draws up that which dwells in his own soul; he directs the soul to that which he can dimly sense as the highest, and by the strength of devotion tries to raise himself.

Where this occurs he rises higher and higher by means of Yoga, finally reaching to the higher stages which can be attained by first making use of the bodily instruments; he reaches those higher stages in which we live when freed from all bodily instruments, when, so to say, we live outside the body, in the higher principles of the human organization. He thus raises himself into a completely different form of life. The phenomena of life and their activities become spiritual: he approaches ever nearer and nearer to his own divine existence, and enlarges his own being to cosmic being, enlarges the human being to God inasmuch as he loses the individual limitations of his own being and is merged in the ALL through Yoga.

The methods by which the pupil of the great Krishna may rise by one of these ways to the spiritual heights are then given. First of all, a distinction is made between what men have to do in the ordinary world. It is indeed a grand situation in which the Gita places this before us. Arjuna has to fight against his blood-relations. That is his external destiny, it is his own doing, his karma, which comprises the deeds which he must first of all accomplish in this particular situation. In these deeds he lives at first as external man; but the great Krishna teaches him that a man only becomes wise, only unites himself with the Divine Eternal, if he performs his deeds because they themselves in the external course of nature and of the evolution of humanity prove to be necessary; yet the wise man must release himself from them. He performs the deeds; but in him there is something which at the same time is a looker-on at these deeds, which has no part in them, which says: I do this work, but I might just as well say: I let it happen. One becomes wise by looking on at what one does as though it were being done by another; and by not allowing oneself to be disturbed by the desire which causes the deed or by the sorrow it may produce.

“It is all one,” says the great Krishna to his pupil Arjuna, “whether thou art in the ranks of the sons of Pandu, or over there among the sons of Kuru; whatever thou doest, thou must as a wise man make thyself free from Pandu-ism and Kuru-ism. If it does not affect thee whether thou art to act with the Pandus as though one of them, or to act with the Kurus as though thou were thyself a son of Kuru; if thou canst rise above all this and not be affected by thine own deeds, like a flame which burns quietly in a place protected from the wind, undisturbed by anything external: if thy soul, as little disturbed by its own deeds, lives quietly beside them, then does it become wise; then does it free itself from its deeds, and does not inquire what success attends them.” For the result of our deeds only concerns the narrow limitations of our soul; but if we perform them because humanity or the course of the world require them from us, then we perform these deeds regardless as to whether they lead to dreadful or to glorious results for ourselves.

This lifting oneself above one's deeds, this standing upright no matter what our hands may carry out, even — speaking of the Gita situation — what our swords may carry out or what we may speak with our mouth; this standing upright of our inner self regardless of all that we speak with our mouth and do with our hands, this it is to which the great Krishna leads his pupil Arjuna. Thus the great Krishna directs his pupil Arjuna to a human ideal, which is so presented that a man says: “I perform my deeds, but it matters not whether they are performed by me or by another — I look on at them: that which happens by my hand or is spoken by my mouth, I can look on at as objectively as though I saw a rock being loosened and rolling down the mountain into the depths. Thus do I stand as regards my deeds; and although I may be in a position to know this or that, to form concepts of the world, I myself am quite distinct from these concepts, and I may say: In me there dwells something which is, it is true, united to me and which perceives, but I look on at what another is perceiving. Thus I myself am liberated from my perceptions. I can become free from my deeds, free from my knowledge, and free from my perceptions.”

A high idea of human wisdom is thus placed before us! And finally, when it rises into the spiritual, whether I encounter demons or holy spirits, I can look on at them externally. I myself stand there, free from everything that is going on even in the spiritual worlds around me. I look on, and go my own way, and take no part in that in which I take part, because I have become a looker-on. That is the teaching of Krishna.

Now having heard that the Krishna teaching is based upon the Sankhya philosophy, it will be quite clear to us that it must be so. In many places one can see it shining through the teaching of Krishna; as when the great Krishna says to his pupil: The soul that lives in thee is connected in several different ways; it is connected with the coarse physical body, it is connected with the senses, with Manas, Ahankara, Buddhi; but thou art distinct from them all. If thou regardest all these as external, as sheaths surrounding thee, if thou art conscious that as a soul-being thou art independent of them all, then hast thou understood something of what Krishna wishes to teach thee. If thou art aware that thy connections with the outer world, with the world in general, were given thee through the Gunas, through Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva, then learn that in ordinary life man is connected with wisdom and virtue through Sattva; with the passions and affections, with the thirst for existence, through Rajas; and that through Tamas he is connected with idleness, nonchalance, and sleepiness.

Why does a man in ordinary life feel enthusiasm for wisdom and virtue? Because he is related to the basic nature characterized by Sattva. Why does a man in ordinary life feel joy and longing for the external life, feel pleasure in the external phenomena of life? Because he has a relation to life indicated through Rajas. Why do people go through ordinary life sleepy, lazy, and inactive? Why do they feel oppressed by their corporality? Why do they not find it possible continually to rouse themselves and conquer their bodily nature? Because they are connected with the world of external forms which in Sankhya philosophy is expressed through Tamas.

But the soul of the wise man must become free from Tamas, must sever its connection with the external world expressed by sleepiness, laziness ,and inactivity. When these are expunged from the soul, then it is only connected with the external world through Rajas and Sattva. When a man has extinguished his passions and affections and the thirst for existence, retaining the enthusiasm for virtue, compassion, and knowledge, his connection with the external world henceforth is what Sankhya philosophy calls Sattva. But when a man has also become liberated from that tendency to goodness and knowledge, when, although a kindly and wise man, he is independent of his outward expression even as regards kindness and knowledge; when kindness is a natural duty and wisdom is as something poured out over him, then he has also severed his connection with Sattva. When, however, he has thus stripped off the three Gunas, then he has freed himself from all connection with every external form; then he triumphs in his soul and understands something of what the great Krishna wants to make of him.

What, then, does man grasp, when he thus strives to become what the great Krishna holds before him as the ideal — what does he then understand? Does he then more clearly understand the forms of the outer world? No, he had already understood these; but he has raised himself above them. Does he more clearly grasp the relation of the soul to those external forms? No, he had already grasped that, but he has raised himself above it. It is not that which he may meet with in the external world in the multitude of forms, or his connection with these forms, which he now understands when he strips off the three Gunas; for all that belongs to earlier stages. As long as one remains in Tamas, Rajas, or Sattva, one becomes connected with the natural rudiments of existence, adapts oneself to social relationships and to knowledge, and acquires the qualities of kindness and sympathy. But if one has risen above all that, one has stripped off all these connections at the preceding stages. What does one then perceive, what springs up before one's eyes? That which one perceives and which springs up before one is what these are not. What can that be which is distinct from everything one acquires along the path of the Gunas?

This is none other than what one finally recognizes as one's own being, for all else which may belong to the external world has been stripped away at the preceding stages. In the sense of the foregoing, what is this? It is Krishna himself; for he is himself the expression of what is highest in oneself. This means that when one has worked oneself up to the highest, one is face to face with Krishna, the pupil with his great Teacher, Arjuna with Krishna himself: who lives in all things that exist and who can truly say of himself: “I am not a solitary mountain; if I am among the mountains I am the largest of them all; if I appear upon the Earth I am not a single man, but the greatest human manifestation, one that only appears once in a cosmic age as a leader of mankind, and so on; the unity in all forms, that am I, Krishna.” — Thus does the teacher himself appear to his pupil, present in his own Being.

At the same time it is made clear in the Bhagavad Gita that this is something great and mighty, the highest to which a man can attain. To appear before Krishna, as did Arjuna, might come about through gradual stages of initiation; it would then take place in the depths of a Yoga schooling; but it may also be represented as flowing forth from the evolution of humanity itself, given to man by an act of grace, as it were, and thus it is represented in the Gita. Arjuna was uplifted suddenly at a bound, as it were, so that bodily he has Krishna before him; and the Gita leads up to a definite point, the point at which Krishna stood before him. He does not now stand before him as a man of flesh and blood. A man who could be looked upon as other men would represent what is nonessential in Krishna. For that is essential which is in all men; but as the other kingdoms of the world represent, as it were, only scattered humanity, so all that is in the rest of the world is in Krishna. The rest of the world disappears and Krishna is there as ONE. As the macrocosm to the microcosm, as mankind, as a whole, compared to the small everyday man, so is Krishna to the individual man.

Human power of comprehension is not sufficient to grasp this if the consciousness of it should come to man by an act of grace; for Krishna, if one looks at the essential in him — which is only possible to the highest clairvoyant power — appears quite different from anything man is accustomed to see. As though the vision of man were uplifted above all else to perceive the vision of Krishna in his highest nature, we catch sight of him for one moment in the Gita, as the great Man, compared with whom everything else in the world must appear small; He it is before whom stands Arjuna. Then the power of comprehension forsakes Arjuna. He can only gaze and haltingly express what he beholds. That is to be understood: for by means of the methods he has used until now, he has not learned to look at such as this, or to describe it in words; and the descriptions that Arjuna gives at this moment when he stands before Krishna must be thought of thus.

For one of the greatest artistic and philosophical presentations ever given to humanity is the description of how Arjuna, with words which he speaks for the first time, which he is unaccustomed to speak, which he has never spoken before because he has never come within reach of them, expresses in words drawn from the deepest parts of his being what he feels on seeing the great Krishna: “All the Gods do I perceive in Thy body, O God, so also the multitude of all beings. Brahma the Lord, on His Lotus-seat, all the Rishis and the Heavenly Serpent. With many arms, bodies, mouths, and eyes, do I see Thee everywhere, in countless forms; neither end, middle, nor beginning do I see in Thee, O Lord of everything! Thou appearest to me in all forms, Thou appearest to me with a diadem, a club, a sword, as a flaming mountain radiating out on all sides; thus do I see Thee. My vision is dazzled, as radiant fire by the brilliance of the Sun, and immeasurably great. The Everlasting, the Highest that can be known, the Greatest Good: thus dost Thou appear to me in the wide universe. The Eternal Guardian of the Eternal Right art Thou. Thou standest before my soul as the Eternal Primeval Spirit. Thou showest me no beginning, no middle, and no end. Thou art eternally everywhere, infinite in force, infinite in the distances of space. Thine eyes are as big as the Moon, yea, as big as the Sun itself, and out of Thy mouth there radiates sacrificial fire. I contemplate Thee in Thy glow and I perceive how Thy glow warms the universe which I can dimly sense between the ground of the Earth and the breadth of heaven; all this is filled with Thy power. I am alone there with Thee, and that world in Heaven wherein the three worlds dwell is also within Thee, when Thy wondrous, awful Figure displays Itself to my sight. I see whole multitudes of Gods coming to Thee, singing praises to Thee, and I stand there afraid, with folded hands. All the hosts of seers call Thee blessed, and so do the multitude of saints. They praise Thee in all their hymns of praise. The Adityas, Rudras, Vasus, Sadkyas, Vishvas, Ashwins, Maruts, Ushmapas, Ghandarvas, Yakshas, Siddhas, Asuras, and all the saints praise Thee; they look up to Thee full of wonder: Such a gigantic form with so many mouths, arms, legs, feet; so many bodies, so many jaws filled with teeth — the whole world trembles before Thee and I too tremble. The Heaven-shattering, radiating, many-armed One, with a mouth working as though it were great flaming eyes, thus do I behold Thee. My soul quakes. I cannot find security or rest, O great Krishna, Who to me art Vishnu Himself. I gaze into Thy menacing innermost Being, I behold It like unto fire, I see how It works, how existence works, what is the end of all times. I gaze at Thee so, that I can know nothing of anything whatever. Oh! be Thou merciful unto me, Lord of Gods, Thou House in which worlds do dwell.”

He turns towards the sons of the race of Kuru and points to them: “These sons of the Kuru all assembled here together, this multitude of kingly heroes, Bhishma and Drona, together with our own best fighters, they all lie praying before Thee, marveling at Thy wondrous beauty. I am fain to know Thee, Thou Primal Beginning of existence. I cannot comprehend that which appears to me, which reveals itself to me.”

Thus speaks Arjuna, when he is alone with Him Who is his own being, when this Being appears objectively to him. We are here confronted with a great cosmic mystery, mysterious not on account of its theoretical contents, but on account of the overpowering sensations which it should call up within us if we are able to grasp it aright. Mysterious it is; so mysterious that it must speak in a different way to every human perception from how anything in the world ever spoke before.

When Krishna Himself caused to sound into the ears of Arjuna that which He then spoke, it sounded thus: “I am Time, which destroys all worlds. I have appeared to carry men away, and even if thou shalt bring death to them in battle, yet all these warriors standing there in line would die even without thee. Rise up, therefore, fearlessly. Thou shalt acquire fame and conquer the foe. Exult over the coming victory and mastery. Thou wilt not have killed them when they fall dead in the battle; by Me they are all killed already, before thou canst bring death to them. Thou art only the instrument, thou fightest only with the hand the Dronas, the Jayadanas, the Bhishmas, the Karnas, and the other warrior heroes whom I have killed, who are already dead — now kill thou them, that my actions may appear externally when they fall dead in Maya; those whom I have already killed, kill thou them. That which I have done will appear to have been done by thee. Tremble not! Thou art not able to do anything which I have not done already. Fight! Those whom I have already killed will fall by thy sword.”

We know that all there given in the way of instruction to the sons of Pandu by Krishna to Arjuna is related as though told by the charioteer to Dritarashtra. The poet does not directly relate: “Thus spake Krishna to Arjuna ”; the poet tells us that Sandshaya, the charioteer of Dritarashtra, relates it to his blind hero, the king of the Kurus.

After Sandshaya related all this, he then spoke further: “And when Arjuna had received these words from Krishna, reverently with folded hands, tremblingly, stammering with fear and bowing deeply, he answered Krishna: 'With right doth the world rejoice in Thy glory, and is filled with reverence before Thee. The Rajas [these are spirits] flee in all directions, furious. The holy Hosts all bow down before Thee.'"

Wherefore should they not bow down before the First Creator, Who is even greater than Brahma? Truly we are confronting a great cosmic mystery; for what says Arjuna when he sees his own self before him in bodily form? He addresses this own being of his as though it appeared to him higher than Brahma Himself. We are face to face with a mystery. For when a man thus addresses his own being, such words must be so understood that none of the feelings, none of the perceptions, none of the ideas, none of the thoughts used in ordinary life must be brought to bear upon the comprehension. Nothing could bring a man into greater danger than to bring feelings such as he may otherwise have in life to bear upon these words of Arjuna. If he were to bring any such feelings of everyday life to bear upon what he thus expresses, if this were not something quite unique, if he did not realize this as the greatest cosmic mystery, then would lunacy and madness be small things compared to the illness into which he would fall through bringing ordinary feelings to bear upon Krishna, that is to say, upon his own higher being.

“Thou Lord of Gods, Thou art without end, Thou art the Everlasting, Thou art the Highest, Thou art both Existence and Non-existence, Thou art the greatest of the Gods, Thou art the oldest of the Gods, Thou art the greatest treasure of the whole universe, Thou art He Who knowest and Thou art the Highest Consciousness. Thou embracest the universe; within Thee are all the forms which can possibly exist; Thou art the Wind, Thou art the Fire, Thou art Death, Thou art the eternally moving Cosmic Sea, Thou art the Moon, Thou art the highest of the Gods, the Name Itself, Thou art the Ancestor of the highest of the Gods. Worship must be Thine, a thousand, thousand times over, and ever more than all this worship is due to Thee. Worship must come to Thee from all Thy sides; Thou art everything that a man can ever become. Thou art full of strength as the totality of all strength alone can be; Thou perfectest all things and Thou art at the same time Thyself everything. When I am impatient, and taking Thee to be my friend I call Thee Krishna, call Thee Yiva, Friend — ignorant of Thy wonderful greatness, unthinking and confiding I so call Thee, and if in my weakness I do not reverence Thee aright, if I do not rightly reverence Thee in Thy wanderings or in Thy stillness, in the highest Divine or in everyday life, whether Thou art alone or united with other Beings, if in all this I do not reverence Thee aright, then do I implore pardon of Thy Immeasurableness. Thou Father of the world, Thou Who movest the world in which Thou movest, Thou Who art more than all the other teachers, to Whom none resembles, Who art above all, to Whom nothing in the three worlds can be compared — prostrating myself before Thee I seek Thy mercy, Thou Lord, Who revealest Thyself in all worlds. In Thee I gaze at That which never has been seen, I tremble before Thee in reverence. Show Thyself to me as Thou art, O God! Be merciful, Thou Lord of Gods, Thou Primal Source of all worlds!”

Truly we are confronted with a mystery when human being speaks thus to human being. And Krishna again speaks to his pupil: “I have revealed Myself to thee in mercy. My highest Being stands before thee; through My almighty power and as though by enchantment it is before thee, illuminating, immeasurable, without beginning. As thou now beholdest Me no other man has ever beheld Me. As thou beholdest Me now, through the forces which by my grace have been given to thee, have I never been revealed, even through what is written in the Vedas; thus have I never been reached by means of the sacrifices. No libation to the Gods, no study, no ceremonial whatsoever has ever attained unto Me; no terrible expiation can lead to beholding Me in My form as I now am, as thou now beholdest Me in human form, thou great hero. But fear must not come to thee, or confusion at the sight of My dreadful form. Free from fear, full of high thoughts thou shalt again behold Me, even as I am now known unto thee, in My present shape.”

Then Sandshaya further relates to the blind Dritarashtra: When Krishna had thus spoken to Arjuna, the Immeasurable One — without beginning and without end, sublime beyond all strength — vanished, and Krishna showed Himself again in his human form as though he wished by his friendly form to reassure him who had been so terrified. And Arjuna said: “Now I see Thee once more before me in Thy human shape, now knowledge and consciousness return to me and I am again myself, such as I was.”

And Krishna spoke: “The shape which was so difficult for thee to behold, in which thou hast just seen Me, that is the form for the sight of which even Gods have endlessly longed. The Vedas do not indicate My shape; it will neither be attained by repentance, nor by charity, neither by sacrifice, nor by any ritual whatsoever. By none of these can I be seen in the form in which thou hast just seen Me. Only one who knows how to go along the way in freedom, free from all the Vedas, free from all repentances, free from all charities and sacrifices, free from all ceremonials, keeping his eyes reverently fixed upon Me alone, only such a one can perceive Me in such a shape; he alone can recognize Me thus, and can also become entirely one with Me. Whosoever behaveth thus, as I put it into his mind to behave, whosoever loveth and honoreth Me, whosoever doth not care for the world, and to whom all beings are worthy of love, he comes to Me, O thou, My son of the race of Pandu.”

We are confronted with a cosmic mystery of which the Gita tells us that it was given to mankind at a most significant cosmic hour, that significant cosmic hour when the old clairvoyance, which is connected with the blood, ceases, and human souls must seek new paths to the everlasting, to the intransitory. Thus this mystery is brought to our notice so that we may at the same time realize by means of its presentation all that can become dangerous to man when he is able to see his own being brought to birth out of himself.

If we grasp this deepest of human and cosmic mysteries — which tells of our own being through true self-knowledge — then we have before us the greatest cosmic mystery in the world. But we may only put it before us if we are able to reverence it in all humility. No powers of comprehension will suffice, none will enable us to approach this cosmic mystery; for that the correct sentiment is necessary. No one should approach the cosmic mystery that speaks from out the Gita who cannot approach it reverentially. Only when we can feel thus about it do we completely grasp it.

How, starting from this point of view, one is able in the Gita to look at a certain stage of human evolution, and how, just by means of what is shown to us in the Gita, light can also be thrown upon what we meet with in a different way in the Epistles of St. Paul — that it is which is to occupy us in the course of these lectures.