From my book “Christianity as Mystical Fact” it can be gathered that the Gospels, when rightly understood, must be accepted in a very special way. As I intend to speak on the Gospels during this winter I would like to say that it is not possible for me always to begin again from the beginning for the sake of the younger members, so that there will certainly be much in these lectures that will be difficult of comprehension for younger members.
It has frequently been remarked on the occasion of the annual meeting how necessary it is that our younger members should take part in the courses of lectures, that these should be arranged so that early teachings are constantly repeated. May I say here something rather strange — it does not seem practical that the younger members should work so very energetically at going over the beginnings of theosophical life. In that case it might happen that the higher realms of spiritual science were incomprehensible to them, and they might for this reason form strange opinions as to what spiritual science is. This is, however, a matter for the individual member.
I showed in the book mentioned above that we have to accept the Gospels as “books of initiation.” This means that they are nothing less than accounts of the ancient ritual of initiation, paraphrased in a certain way. What is stated in these ancient writings? They mainly contain accounts of how the candidate in his training was led step by step along the path to higher worlds. How he gradually went through certain soul experiences and was finally brought to the point where certain forces slumbering in his soul were awakened. We read how higher stages gradually evolved out of lower ones, up to that stage when the spiritual world dawned within the soul of the would-be initiate and the secrets of the spiritual world were revealed to him. He could then look into the spiritual world. He could behold, for example, the beings of the different hierarchies as we have described them in other connections on many occasions. Thus the content of such “books of initiation” was what anyone seeking initiation had to carry out.
In studying pre-Christian ages we find that many persons passed through initiation in different centers of the Mysteries; that this was not always exactly the same in form, though similar in character, that the stages were introduced one by one up to the point where the person seeking initiation could see into the spiritual world, where the beings of the hierarchies appeared before him spiritually — that is, in a different way to a physical appearance.
This was how it was in pre-Christian times. What meaning for Christianity had these initiations into the ancient Mysteries? What was their significancein regards to the Christ Impulse? Their significance was that a being, outwardly visible on the physical plane and known as “Jesus of Nazareth,” disclosed the secrets of the spiritual world in a way that was not customary, in a way not in accordance with the methods of pre-Christian times. An individual initiated in accordance with ancient ritual (when the events just described had taken place in his soul) could come before men and speak of the secrets of the spiritual kingdoms. But in the case of Christ Jesus something was present by which this personality, Jesus of Nazareth, could speak of these hidden matters without having been led to them in the ancient customary manner.
Jesus of Nazareth had been led to them through what is called the baptism in Jordan. The Spirit of Christ then entered into him. From this moment — that is, from the moment of an historic event when the person of Christ Jesus was initiated in so open a way — the Spirit of Christ spoke to the people around Him of the Mysteries of the spiritual realms, but in a higher way than had been done before. Something had therefore been accomplished on the physical plane, open for all the world to see, which formerly had been attainable — and to a certain extent only — by initiates in the depths of the Mysteries, so that they might then go forth and speak of these mysteries to their fellow men. To put the matter pictorially we might say: We look back to the ancient temple of the Mysteries, we see the heirophant performing the rites of initiation, so that the person initiated can look into the spiritual world, and can then go forth and teach others of this world. This had always been carried out gradually and in the secret depths of the temple. Any talk of such things in the world outside the Mysteries, any talk concerning the spiritual world, was an utter impossibility. But now, what had often taken place in the depths of the Mysteries had been transferred to the outer world, it took place in Palestine. There it was enacted as a historic fact, as the development of Jesus of Nazareth; it was enacted historically in the Mystery of Golgotha. And we have to accept this Mystery, set forth as it was historically before all the world, as forming the link between the Mystery of Golgotha and those ancient temple-Mysteries of the past.
Writings descriptive of initiation, though dealing in essence with the same stages of development, differed in certain particulars in different parts of the Earth, and were suited to the differences in human individuals according to space and time. Knowing this, let us endeavor to enter into the soul of one of those, generally called Evangelists, who concerned themselves with the writing of our Gospels. These men, through their own occult schooling, had some knowledge of the initiation literature of the various peoples and Mysteries. They knew what men had to pass through before it was possible for them to speak of the secrets of spiritual realms and spiritual hierarchies. And now through the events that had occurred in Palestine, and through the Mystery of Golgotha, they were aware that what formerly had only been seen by initiates in the temple of the Mysteries had been enacted openly on the plane of history before all the world, and that it would henceforth enter ever more and more deeply into the minds and souls of men.
The Evangelists were not biographers in the ordinary sense of the word, when things are written which really do not concern the world, and which no one requires to know about any actively creative personality. They were not biographers like those who ferret out each private concern of the person they write of, but they were biographers in so far as they described the life of Christ by saying: “Something happened at a certain time to Jesus of Nazareth, into whom the Christ entered, which we have seen happen again and again in the Mysteries; but there it was not compressed as a historical event into a few short years; here, on the contrary, it has become an event of history, yet is at the same time a repetition of temple ritual; we can therefore describe this life by describing the different stages formerly passed through during initiation.”
Thus we have to regard the Gospels as books of instructions concerning initiation. In them are found again the ancient directions for initiation, but so that we are shown in a certain way the reason why that which formerly occurred in the depths of the Mysteries now emerges on to the great plane of history. The Evangelist who begins his Gospel by stating the reason for this, who tells from the beginning why he is in a position to write of a historic event which, transformed into something greater, fulfills the instructions given for initiation, is the writer of the Gospel according to Mark. He tells from the first how man has evolved so that this great fact of the removal of initiation from the secret depth of the temples and the setting of it openly on the plane of history might come to pass. He tells us from the beginning that this is connected with an event of immeasurably great importance to human evolution; an event foretold by the Hebrew prophets. For what occurred in Palestine as the Mystery of Golgotha had been seen and spoken of prophetically by Hebrew initiates and prophets.
If we try to enter into the soul of such a man as the prophet Isaiah, with whose words the Gospel according to Mark begins, we find that he declares somewhat as follows: A time will come when the souls of men will perceive differently than they do now; this time is now being prepared for. (Isaiah refers here to his own day.) What is it he wishes to tell us? You know that the Gospel according to Mark begins with the introduction of a mighty saying of this prophet. You know the words well, and how they are employed. I make use here of the ordinary translation of C. Weizsäcker: —
Behold I send my messenger before thee, he shall prepare thy way. Hark to the cry in the wilderness: Make ready the way of the Lord. Make his path straight.
Thus, it is fairly well translated in our Gospel literature. The prophet refers in these words to the greatest event in history — to the Mystery of Golgotha.
You know that in our studies of the other Gospels great trouble has been taken to translate important passages in a comprehensible way. What matters most in this is not the giving of a correct verbal translation according to the dictionary, but in choosing words that reproduce the deep significance of the original and convey this to us in our own language; not only in presenting them theoretically to our understanding, but so that the whole feeling that accompanied the peculiar quality of the language of that day is also passed on to us. For speech at that time was totally different from the present manner of speech. I would like to impress this fact on you, that speech was then not so abstract, so trivial, as it is today.
The whole manner of expressing anything was such that an ever deeper meaning, a richer significance and feeling-content, was imparted to the listener along with the actual words, yet he knew most unmistakably what this feeling-content was. A whole WORLD was then heard in the spoken word compared with what is ordinarily heard today. This is a special quality of the Hebrew tongue; it is exceedingly rich in this power of concealing a very great deal behind the words, because the images employed were taken altogether from the sense-world. Expressions such as “prepare the way” or “make straight the path” are pictures drawn from the sense-world. It is as if the path were prepared with spades and shovels. But when such words were used, the peculiarity of this language compared with others was that behind the expressions employed to denote outward things, a whole spiritual world stood — it stood there so clearly and incontestably that no one could interpret it to their own liking, as is so often done with poetry, where all kinds of things are sometimes read into it. The reason for this was that in the ancient Hebrew language, in the personal use of the language, which cannot be shown in the script, it was possible for whole hidden worlds to be given in the tone. A feeling for such secret things existed.
In Greek, the language of the Gospel text, this is not nearly so much the case. All the same it was still possible, without occult knowledge, to obtain far better translations from the Greek than from the language used by the Evangelists.
As a matter of fact, one translator has merely copied another in this without going into the matter philologically or proving how the original compared with the Greek text. I will give you later a single example of how great were the errors that arose through this. Today I will not interrupt the course of our studies, but will try, not philologically but with the help of what can be learnt through spiritual investigations, to put before you some important things concerning the beginning of the Gospel of Mark.
I will start with this important passage from the prophecies of Isaiah, wherein he tries to show what is to come to pass through the Event of Palestine, so that you may discover through your feeling what it means.
The Greek text is as follows:
We must in the first place clearly understand that the word messenger or angel was only used in olden times in the sense employed by us when describing the hierarchies, that is when we describe those beings who stand immediately above man in the ranks of the hierarchies. We must feel when we read the words “his angel” that a being belonging to this realm is meant. If this is not felt then the meaning of the whole passage is lost. Spiritual science alone can provide a foundation for such an understanding, and also for all it has to tell us about the Christ Event.
What is the fact of greatest importance in the Christ Impulse? The fact that through it full consciousness first entered the human soul so that a place might be prepared there for a self-conscious ego. So that there might gradually arise within this self-consciousness ego in the further course of earthly evolution all the secret things (Geheimnisse) which formerly arose by a kind of natural clairvoyance within the astral body.
The present epoch was preceded by one in which men still carried over with them into post-Atlantean culture a natural clairvoyance which enabled them to look into the spiritual world. In certain abnormal conditions of soul the secrets of the spiritual world still poured down into men, and they were able to look up to the hierarchies. They naturally saw more often, and for a longer period, the hierarchy which stands nearest to man — the hierarchy of angels. They saw them as the beings standing immediately above man. In the time of this ancient clairvoyance men were not aware that they possessed something within them that was to lead them to the spiritual world. They looked on it as a grace accorded to them from without, as something granted to their souls by spiritual powers. Therefore the prophets looking to the future could speak as follows: “A time is coming when man will be aware of his ego; he will then know that it is through the self-conscious ego that the secrets of the spiritual world will come to him.” All this was to come. A time was to come in which man would say: “When I have my ego in me, I shall be able, through the power it brings, to penetrate to the secrets of the spiritual world.” This had, however, first to be prepared for.
Thus man, who is as it were the lowest of the hierarchies, had to he prepared for what he was to become by being equipped with something which as yet he did not possess. The messenger, or angel, announced that man would become an ego-being in the fullest sense of the word. While the mission of former angels had been to reveal to man the spiritual world, a special angel was now to receive a special mission. This angel was to carry revelation a stage further, and make known to man that he was to enter consciously into his ego, while the revelations of former angels had not been suited to a self-conscious ego.
So Isaiah announces: “The age of the Mystery of the Ego is to come, and from among the host of angels one will be specially chosen to declare to you this Mystery!” Only in this way can we understand what is meant when it says that the messenger or angel was sent before. Before whom was the messenger sent? He was sent beforehand to those who were to attain their self-conscious ego, and was to come as a being from the hierarchy of angels. No angel had as yet announced generally to men that it was foretold they were to receive a self-conscious ego. So this messenger of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke came to tell them to prepare themselves inwardly, to create within their souls a place for the ego, to prepare for the full validity of the ego. What is most important in this passage is the reference to the great change in the evolution of the human soul: whereas formerly men had to go out of themselves in order to enter the spiritual world, from this time onwards they could continue within their ego, and could, through it, discover the secrets of that world.
Let us now compare a soul of olden times with one from the time when the Christ Impulse was drawing near; picture a man of the earlier pre-Christian centuries. If wishing to enter the spiritual world he could not to do so and maintain his self-consciousness, however highly he was developed. To do this he had to divest himself of his self-consciousness, had to pass into an unconscious condition; he had to rise into the world of the hierarchies — the world of the spirit. His consciousness was lowered. This was an old feeling belonging to pre-Christian times. What then was the position of a man who did not altogether belong to the age when it was natural for him, on the withdrawal of self-consciousness, to find himself in the spiritual world, and what was the position of the man who did not live at a time when humanity was at the stage when his ego could be developed? The ego existed already in Atlantean times, but complete certainty that the greatest mystery of the spiritual world could well up within it came first to man through the Impulse of Christ. This was the feeling that caused men in the days of the old initiation to say: “When I desire to enter the spiritual world and learn what these worlds can reveal to me, I have to suppress a certain part of me and stimulate and bring life to another part of my soul.” What had to be suppressed? And what had to be made especially alive? That part of his soul which was gradually to develop into the “I” had to be suppressed; this is what had to become darker, heavier. It could retain no memory. It had to become void and empty. On the other hand the astral body, the body which can give a certain degree of clairvoyance, had to be specially stimulated. When this happened ancient clairvoyant powers of perception entered the astral body.
I have said that the ego was already present to a certain extent, but man could not make use of it when he desired to investigate the secrets of the spiritual world. The ego had in this case to be suppressed and the astral body stimulated. This stimulation of the astral body had become ever more and more impossible. In ancient times suppression of the ego and stimulation of the astral body so that the secrets of the spiritual world could pour into it was something that belonged to the elemental attributes of man. Advance in evolution consisted in the increasing incapacity of the astral body to receive the secrets of the spiritual world. At this stage men acknowledged: “My astral body will become ever less able to attain what once was mine through the old form of clairvoyance; my ego also will cease to pass out of me in the way it was wont to do, and as yet it is unable to rise to anything of itself.” The most gifted clairvoyant was at most aware of something empty, something void, within his soul. Such was the ego to which as yet no impulse had been imparted. At the same time men were aware it was not possible for them to enter the spiritual world through the ego.
From this you can gather what was the soul-attitude of those who desired to look into the spiritual realms at the time when the Christ Impulse was approaching. They might have said: “I can no longer develop in my astral body what formerly it was possible to develop; and no impulse has yet come to my ego; my soul is chaotic; I feel unable to rise to the spiritual world.”
Then as the time for the coming of the Christ Impulse drew near, certain methods were employed — men underwent a certain training — with the result that they made the acquaintance of those who were not as yet filled with the spirit. When seeking entrance into higher worlds they were told: “Realize that thou canst not rise to these worlds through thy astral body; thou must first of all enter that inward place where thou feelest thyself as man, where thou art no longer conscious of the smallest connection with the outer world.”
This was how men felt as the time for the coming of the Christ Impulse drew near. Everyone who sought for initiation realized that his astral body was no longer fitted to be the means for his entrance into the spiritual world — that the time for this was past — and that the ego was not as yet ready for it. But those who desired to receive the Impulse, who longed to leave the body and penetrate to spiritual worlds, divined (more than divine they could not) that there was something in them that strove with all its might toward that spiritual Impulse. This soul experience, which all passed through who sought at that time the path to spiritual illumination, was called “the path of loneliness.” What, then, had the messenger to do who prepared the way for the Christ Event? He had to tell those who desired to know of the approaching Impulse about “the path of loneliness.” He had to know loneliness fundamentally. He had to be the preacher of this loneliness of soul. You will come to know, as you study the Gospel of Mark further, that in certain cases great spiritual beings through whom some important advance in human evolution was to be carried out found the instruments they required in living men, and that they entered into them so as to live within a soul in bodily incarnation. The “messenger” spoken of by Isaiah, who must not be accepted as a man quite in the ordinary sense, took possession of the soul of the reincarnated Elias, lived in him and announced the approach of the Christ Impulse. It was this messenger who spoke from the soul of John the Baptist. Whence came this voice? It sprang from what I have just described as a great loneliness of soul. We read of this in the Gospel according to Mark: it says: “Listen to the cry of soul-loneliness.” The Greek word “ὲν τη ὲφήμω” should not be translated in a symbolic sense by “wilderness,” thus giving them an external meaning. In these words an image is presented to us by which the whole spiritual world may be grasped. Their real meaning is “in loneliness.”
To understand this expression better, we must occupy ourselves a little with the true meaning of what is felt by the word “κνφιος” or Lord, as it is usually translated in the lines “prepare the way of the Lord.” The true meaning is something we can still divine in the Greek, and is confirmed when we associate it with ancient tradition. In ancient usage this word had not the trivial meaning it has today.
In this materialistic age man has become a great philistine in respect of language. Words are no longer “the bodies of soul-beings,” so that it is possible to sense a whole world in them.
What was felt in the Greek word “κνφιος” or Lord when spoken in the connection I have indicated? Men felt that it was an image of what went on within them, of what they sensed was happening in their soul life. The uprising of the “I am” from the depths of the soul was felt as the coming of the “Lord” and “Ruler,” he who regulated and ordered the soul-forces, and is used in the sense employed today when we say the various soul forces possessed by man — thinking, feeling, and willing — are the servants of his soul. But within the soul there is a master, the ego.
This is shown by the fact that whereas in old times men said “it thinks,” and in respect of feeling and willing “it feels,” “it wills within me,”men now say when the ego, the Lord of the soul forces, is in command and the mighty change in human evolution is felt: “I think,” “I feel,” “I will.” In earlier days the soul was to a certain extent unconscious, it was imprisoned and submerged within the forces that served it. But now the ego, the Lord of the soul forces, was to be born! The cry went forth: “He who is Lord of the soul is coming!” No person or being is meant by these words, but only the emergence of the ego as “Lord” of the soul.
This was taught in the temples, where preparation was made for what was to come to pass in human nature. With holy reverence and deep humility it was made known: For a time the condition of souls was such that they had in them only the serving powers of thinking, feeling, and willing; but now the “Ruler” was to be born.
This mighty fact is now proceeding; its development will go slowly on until the end of the Earth-age, when it will have gained ever more and more power. Yes, this will come to pass! And it is the Christ who gives the first impulse to this development. This is the “Great Hour,” the turning point of the world's time-piece, the hour when Christ lived on Earth. The hands of the world clock now point to the moment of the coming of the ego. As Lord of the forces of the soul, it now begins to evolve ever greater power, and will have reached its goal when the Earth perishes and man passes on to still higher stages of development.
It is only when we try to feel as people must have felt in those early days, that it is possible for us to form some idea of what Isaiah desired to say, and John the Baptist to repeat. Isaiah referred to the great event that was to take place within the souls of men, and to the course of the further development of these souls. But then we must not translate the word “λνφιοσ,” as “straight” as is usually done, nor as “level,” but as “open,” so that the road could be used.
It is then the “Lord” comes; he takes his way toward the human soul. But man must do something so that he can really take possession of the soul. The way must be made free, open. In short, if we translate this passage so that it means something, and if at the same time we hold to tradition, it must be done somewhat as follows:
Take heed, [ 1 ] I send my angel before the ego in thee; he shall prepare the direction (Richtung).
Hark to the cry in the (soul's) loneliness (the cry of longing for the Lord of the soul): prepare the direction for the (soul's) ruler; work that the way be open for him.
In this form of words you have approximately an idea of what can be felt in the words of Isaiah. These words, or their content, was carried over by the angel into the soul of the Baptist. Why could the angel do this? To answer this question we must consider for a little the nature and method of the initiation of John the Baptist, and how this initiation affected his soul.
From former lectures you know that a man can either be initiated by descending into his own soul or by going forth from his soul, by liberation from the body and uniting his soul forces with the cosmos. These two paths were followed by different peoples in the most varied manner. When a man desired to pour out his soul into the macrocosm, the twelve stages through which he had to pass to attain to this were “marked” by the twelve signs of the Zodiac; for his soul had to expand in certain clearly defined directions of the macrocosm. Now, a very great deal was already attained — something important, that is, for the historical evolution of the world — when any soul had evolved so far as to be able to receive into it all the macrocosmic forces springing from those hidden things which are the meaning of each of the constellations. As a rule the ancient rites of initiations were conducted so that the soul expansion of one initiate was directed to the macrocosmic secret, say of Capricorn, another to those of Cancer, of the Scales, and so on. I have explained on other occasions that there are twelve different possible ways of expansion into the macrocosm, and that these are indicated symbolically by the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Anyone attaining initiation through expansion of his soul into the macrocosm, and who does not attain at once to the highest — the Sun initiation — but only to a partial initiation, would have his soul vision directed to the mysteries connected with some special constellation. To attain this he would have to turn his gaze away from everything of a material nature. This means, care would have to be taken that his gaze was directed, either through the rites of the Mysteries, or through John the Baptist by “Grace from above,” in such a way that he would have the Earth between him and the special constellation. In other words, his glance had to be directed at night to the constellation through the Earth. When a constellation is seen with physical eyes it is the physical constellation that is seen. But when a man's gaze can penetrate the substance of the Earth, which is between him and the physical constellation, he does not see the physical but the spiritual part of the Earth; that is, he sees the mysteries (Geheimnesse) which the constellation expresses.
The training that John the Baptist had passed through had made it possible for him to gaze at night through the material Earth upon the constellation Aquarius, the Waterman. He had received therefore (after the angel had entered into his soul) the initiation of Aquarius. Thus, through all he knew and had felt, John the Baptist was able to put himself in touch with the faculties of the angel, so that through this being he could make the content of the “Waterman initiation” known; and the information he gave respecting this was: that the lordship of the ego, the “Lord,” would enter men's souls. This is what the initiation of the Waterman gave.
But simultaneously the Baptist declared that the time had now come when a change was to take place in this initiation: it was to be replaced by another, one by which men would be able to understand the approaching lordship of the ego. Therefore he said to his disciples: “I am he who through the initiation of the Waterman has all the powers of his angel at his disposal. But after me ONE will come who has at his command all the subsequent powers of his angel!”
If you advance by day toward the Sun from the constellation of Ares, through that of the Bull, the Twins, and so on to Virgo, you must advance at night from the direction of the Waterman (Aquarius) to the constellation of the Fishes, that is, you must advance in the direction of the spiritual Sun. John had received the Waterman-initiation, and he pointed out that he who was to come after him would be an initiate of Piscis, the initiation which follows on the initiation passed through by John, and was therefore of a higher order. The Baptist told his intimate disciples: “Through the initiation of Aquarius I have only those powers at my disposal by which I can announce through my angel that the Lord — the ruler — is coming, but after me One will come who has powers symbolized by the initiation of the sign of the Fishes. Into him the Christ will enter!”
In these words John the Baptist refers to Jesus of Nazareth. Ancient tradition has on this account assigned to Christ Jesus the symbol of the Fish; and as everything that occurs outwardly is symbolic of inward events — though these may occur outwardly — the helpers appointed to Him were fishermen. This is an external historic fact; at the same time as regards spiritual secrets it is profoundly symbolic. John declared “a higher initiation is to come to humanity,” and he described himself as a “Waterman.” This is absolutely clear. But we must learn to see ever more clearly how the images employed to express the hidden things of men are at the same time connected with astronomical and cosmic mysteries.
“I have baptised you with water,” said John. Water baptism was specially the baptism within the power of those who had received from heaven the initiation of the “Waterman.” But in that the spiritual Sun progresses in the opposite direction to the physical Sun, which advances from the sign of the Virgin to that of the Scales, the spiritual Sun (as in the advance from John the Baptist to Jesus of Nazareth) progresses from the Waterman to the Fishes. And were anyone to appear in the world having experienced the initiation of the Fishes and able therefore to receive into him those spiritual forces, those spiritual impulses, which are the instruments of the Fish initiation, then it would be possible for him to baptize not only as John did with water, but to baptize in the higher sense described by John as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In this lecture I have put before you in a certain way a twofold conception: Firstly, I have shown that in the Gospel according to Mark facts of human evolution, historical events, are dealt with in which mention is made of a higher power, of an “angelic,” not a human power; and that this power spoke through John the Baptist. On the other hand I have shown that in the accounts given here reference is made to heavenly events; namely, to the progress of the spiritual Sun from the sign of the Waterman to that of the Fishes. Indeed the Gospel according to Mark contains in every verse something which can only be read aright when in the sequence of the words we keep before us both their human and their cosmic, astronomical meaning, and when we realize that something lives in man the true significance of which is only to be found in heaven. Only when this is done can the connection between the mysteries of the cosmos and the mysteries of human nature be more clearly understood. Today, at the close of my lecture, I can but hint at what lies behind such things. I merely wished today to give you some premonitions of what lies in this direction. For we shall have to dive to very great depths in studying the Gospel of Mark, and you will have to ponder long and deeply if you are to attain to something more than “premonitions.” In what follows I will try to make clear to you the way this Gospel has to be read.
You all know the rainbow. To a child it appears as something real in the firmament. Until explained to him, he believes he can grasp it with his hands. Later, man learns that the rainbow does not depend on itself, but that it only appears when rain and sunshine stand related to each other in a certain way; when this relationship is changed it disappears. Thus it is not a reality; it is but an illusion. The realities as regards the rainbow are rain and sunshine.
If anyone has made a little progress on the path of occult development something is revealed to him which quite of himself he compares with the rainbow. Of this he says: It is actually not true, it is but an appearance held together by things outside it. Do you know what this “appearance” is? It is man himself!
Man is only an appearance, a semblance, and if with his physical senses he regards himself as reality, he has given himself over to illusion — to maya, the great “Non est.” For the word “maya” is compounded of “Mahat aya.” (Mahat = great, ya = being, and a = not); signifying the great non-being. On the path of occult development man reaches a point where he compares himself with something resembling a rainbow; he realizes he is but a semblance, a delusion, and that everything that is perceived by the senses is delusion also. The Sun as physical globe is a delusion. What physical science describes as a ball of gas in space is quite correct for practical purposes, but anyone who regards this as reality is giving himself over to delusion — to maya. The truth regarding the Sun is that it is a meeting-place of the spiritual hierarchies, whose deeds are expressed in warmth and light, and who approach us in the warmth and light of the Sun. The warmth and light we perceive is illusion. All appearance is illusion.
A man thinks he has a heart in his breast, but this heart is a delusion, nothing more. It is like the rings we see around street lamps on a misty autumn evening. These rings are not reality, but are produced by clearly defined forces. So is the human heart. You can perceive this in the following way. Suppose that this circle I have drawn represents the vault of the heavens: one kind of force streams into us from one side, other forces from other sides; these forces split up here in the center where I have drawn a small circle.
Nothing of the forces that stream into man from heaven and split up there (sich schneiden) really exist where he thinks they do, in his heart. Think everything else away except the forces that meet in you, as light meets in the rainbow — what remains is the human heart. It is the same with our other organs: they are fragments of forces (Schnittkräfte) caused by the breaking up of world forces.
When you move from one place to another you say “There is an impulse in me to move from here to there.” In saying this you say something that appertains to maya. Why? Because forces come from the macrocosm, which are split up down here (sich schneiden), and these broken-up fragments give rise to illusion concerning the power and direction in walking. The results met with down here are but fragments of cosmic forces. If we desire to know the truth we must ask: What takes place in the macrocosm? What do cosmic forces bring about, both the upper and the lower? They bring that about in us that makes it appear as if we had a heart, a liver, etc., or that has such an appearance that we say: I walk from here to there. If the truth regarding this were to be described, we would have to describe cosmic forces.
If we wish to describe what John the Baptist did when he baptized, we must describe what the macrocosm — that is, the forces represented by the sign of the Waterman — charged him to do. This was determined at one time within the great cosmic lodge, and the forces necessary for it were sent down into John. It is thus in the language of the cosmos we must read what took place at a certain point of time. It was thus the writer of the Gospel according to Mark read the heavenly events corresponding with the earthly events that occurred in Palestine. He describes astronomical occurrences when he says: “Understand what I have to say to you in this way: suppose there is here a wall on which visible shadows play. If you wish to know the real cause of these shadows you must consider the things of which they are the reflections. I describe what took place at Jordan; all the same they are but the instruments of something else; in reality I am describing what was brought about on Earth through the astronomical forces of the macrocosm!”
The writer of the Gospel of Mark describes cosmic forces. He describes the shadow-pictures or projections thrown by mighty macrocosmic events onto the screen provided by the small district of Palestine. We must realize this clearly if we are to enter into the full greatness and importance of the document we call the Gospel of Mark; but we must first try to form something of the nature of a divination of what it is that is here presented to us. We must endeavor to understand what it is we are told in the beginning of the Gospel. The prophet Isaiah had foretold that the Lord of the soul forces of mankind would come, that in John the Baptist the “messenger” would dwell, who would prepare man for the reception of this ruler of his soul forces. This messenger had first to take as his dwelling place the body of one who had passed through the initiation of the Waterman, who was able therefore to lead men on the path that is connected on Earth with such an individuality as Jesus of Nazareth, one who because he had received the Fish initiation had prepared himself for the reception of the Christ.
All the events that take place on Earth are the reflections of cosmic events, and are connected with cosmic conditions in the same way as the rainbow is connected with rain and sunshine; and as, if we wish to describe the rainbow, we must study rain and sunshine, if we wish to know what was in the heart of John the Baptist or of Jesus of Nazareth, in whom the Christ dwelt, we must study cosmic conditions. So far as man is concerned, the whole world is explained by what took place in Palestine and on Golgotha. He who does not read the Gospel of Mark otherwise than merely as a document, which provides him with groups of letters descriptive of great world events is on a level with one who says: “Here I have one group of lines and strokes, there another” — he has no conception of what is referred to in the word “Lord,” but thinks only of the black letters. It is mostly in this way that the Gospel of Mark is read in our day. For what is told in it is but the outer lettering of what it really contains. To understand this Gospel we must rise to the level of those things to which, as in a shadowy reproduction, the events in Palestine refer.
Try to get at the meaning of the words: “Earthly events are the shadows of macrocosmic events.” When you have done this you will have taken the first step in the understanding of one of the greatest documents in the world — the Gospel according to St. Mark.
Notes:1. “Behold” is no longer correct.
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