The East in the Light of the West. Lecture 9 of 9
Rudolf Steiner, August 31, 1909:
The facts stated at the end of the last lecture cannot but be somewhat unintelligible to persons who encounter them for the first time, for they belong to the secrets of numbers. And the secrets of numbers are those which are in a comparative sense the most difficult to master.
It has been stated that there is a certain relation between the numbers seven and twelve, and that this relation has something to do with time and space. Now this profound mystery can, gradually, be understood by everybody, but it must necessarily remain a mere statement to the kind of cognition which today is alone recognized as such. It has to be elucidated, explained. An understanding of the ‘machinery’ of the world may be reached, as I have already indicated, by distinguishing between conditions which are essentially those of space and conditions which belong essentially to time. We understand the world which surrounds us primarily in terms of space and time; but if we do not confine ourselves to speaking of time and space in an abstract sense and endeavor to understand how conditions are regulated in time and how the different beings in space are related to each other, we find a thread leading on the one side through the complicated relations of time, and on the other through the complex conditions of space.
In the first place we observe the course of world events in the light of spiritual science. We look back at earlier incarnations of man, of races and civilizations, as well as of the Earth itself. We build up within ourselves an idea of what will happen in the future, i.e. in time. And we shall always see our way if we judge of evolution in time from a framework built up by means of the number seven. We must not build and speculate and attribute all kinds of meanings to the number seven; we must only pursue the facts from the point of view of the number seven. In the first place this number seven is only a means of facilitating our task.
Take, for instance, a man whose spiritual vision is so far opened that he can examine data of the Akashic Records of the past. He may use the number seven as a guide and realize that what runs its course in time is built up on the basis of the number seven; that which repeats itself in various forms can very well be analyzed by using the number seven as a foundation and proceeding from this as a basis.
In this sense it is right to say that since the Earth goes through various embodiments we have to look for its seven incarnations; Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. Because human civilizations pass through seven incarnations we must seek their connections by once more using the number seven as a basis. Let us for instance consider the civilizations in post-Atlantean times. The old Indian is the first, the second is the old Persian, the third the Chaldaic-Egyptian, the fourth the Graeco-Latin, the fifth our own, and we are expecting two more, the sixth and seventh, to succeed our own.
We can also find our way in the study of the karma of an individual by trying to look at his three former incarnations. By starting with the incarnation of a man of the present day and looking back at his three former incarnations it is possible to draw certain conclusions concerning his next three incarnations. The three former and the present incarnation plus the three following make seven again. Seven is a clue for everything that happens in time.
On the other hand the number twelve is a clue for all things that co-exist in space. Science, which at the same time was wisdom, was always conscious of this. It said: ‘It is possible to find the right way by connecting the spatial relationship of everything that occurs upon the Earth with twelve permanent points in space — the twelve signs of the Zodiac in the cosmos.’ These are the twelve basic points with which everything in space is connected. This declaration was not an arbitrary yield of human thinking; but the power of thought in those early times had learned from reality and so ascertained the fact that space was best understood when it was divided into twelve constituent parts, thus making the number twelve a clue for all spatial relations. But where the question of changes came in, that is to say in the time element, the seven planets were given as a clue by a still older science. Seven is here the clue.
Now how does this apply to the evolution of human life? We have said that up to the point of time in human evolution characterized by the advent of the Christ-impulse, it is a fact that when a man looked into his inner being, when he sought the way to the world of the Gods through the veil of his inner being, he entered — to use a collective name — the Luciferic world. This too was the path upon which, in those olden times, man sought for wisdom, upon which he sought to acquire a higher knowledge concerning the world than he could find behind the covering of the external sense world. His quest consisted in sinking down into his inner world; for in this world the intuitions and inspirations of moral and ethical life originated, even as the intuitions of conscience arose there. And of course all other intuitions and inspirations which pertain to the moral nature, to that which belongs to the soul, arose out of that soul world.
Hence those lofty individualities who were the leaders of mankind in ancient times had of necessity first to contact the inner life of a man if they wanted to give instruction upon that which belongs to the highest in humanity. The Holy Rishis had to contact the soul life of man, his inner being, that is, as did all the great teachers of humanity in older civilizations. But the soul life of man belongs to time; it runs its course in time. That which surrounds us externally groups itself in space; that which runs its course inwardly, groups itself in time. Hence everything which is to speak to the inner being of man must use the clue of the number seven. How can we best understand a being with a message for the inner life of man? How, for instance, can we best understand those beings with their fundamentally individual characteristics whom we call the Holy Rishis? By relating them to soul life which runs its course in time.
Hence in those ancient epochs wherein the great sages spoke, one question above all was asked: ‘Whence have they descended?’ Just as we might ask a son ‘Who are your father and mother?’ — so ancestry, the time element, was then the subject of inquiry. On meeting a wise man the primary concern was: ‘Whence does he come?’ Who was the being who preceded him? What is his descent? Whose son is he? Therefore in speaking about the Luciferic world, the number seven had to be taken as basic, and the interest was whose child it was who was speaking to the human soul. We speak of the children of Lucifer in this sense when we speak of those who in olden times taught of the spiritual world lying hidden behind the veil of soul life, behind that which belongs to time.
But the Christ comes under a different category altogether. The Christ did not descend to Earth by the path of time. The Christ came to the Earth at a certain point of time, but from outside, from space. Zarathustra saw Him when he directed his gaze to the Sun, and spoke of Him as Ahura Mazdao. To the spiritual vision of man in space Ahura Mazdao came nearer and nearer until He descended and became Man. Here therefore the interest lies in the approach through space, not in the time sequence. The approach through space, this advent of the Christ out of the infinitude of space down to our Earth, has an eternal and not a temporary value. With this is connected the fact that Christ's work upon Earth is not carried on only under the conditions of time. He does not bring to the Earth anything corresponding to the relationships between father and child, or mother and child, which exist under time conditions, but He brings into the world something which goes on side by side, which co-exists. Brothers live side by side, they co-exist. Parents, children and grandchildren live after one another in time, and the conditions of time express their individual relation to each other. But the Christ as the Spirit of Space brings a spatial element into the civilization of the Earth. What Christ brings is the co-existence of men in space, a condition of increasing community of soul regardless of time conditions.
The mission of the Earth planet in our cosmic system is to bring love into the world. In olden days the task of the Earth was to bring in love with the help of time. Inasmuch as through the conditions of ancestry and descent the blood poured itself from generation to generation, from father to child and grandchildren, those who were connected through time were ipso facto those who loved each other. Family connections, blood relationships, the descending stream of blood through the generations following each other in time, provided the foundation of love in the olden times. And the cases where love took on more of a moral character were also rooted in the conditions of time. Men loved their ancestors, those who had preceded them in time.
Through Christ there came the love of soul to soul, so that that which is side by side, which co-exists in space, enters a relationship which was at first represented by brothers and sisters living side by side and at the same time — the relationship of brother love which one human soul is intended to bear toward another in space. Here the condition of co-existent life in space begins to acquire its special significance.
Hence in the olden times it was natural to speak of those who were connected by the rule of the number seven: the seven Rishis, and the seven Sages. But Christ is surrounded by twelve Apostles, in whom we see the prototypes of man living side by side, co-existing in space. And this love, which independently of successive ages is to encompass all that exists side by side in space, will enter social life on Earth through the Christ principle. To love what is around us with brother love, that is to follow Christ. If, therefore, we speak in the olden times of the children of Lucifer, the Christ principle is the impulse which causes us to say: ‘Christ is the firstborn of many brethren.’ And the brotherhood relationship to Christ, the feeling oneself drawn not as to a father but as to a brother, whom one loves as an elder brother, but nevertheless as a brother, is the fundamental relationship which men have learned to assume in consequence of the descent of the Christ principle upon the Earth.
These of course are only instances which illustrate and make clear, although they do not prove, the relation between the numbers seven and twelve. The more, therefore, that the Christ influence shines down into the world, the more allusion is made to the nature and reality of things by grouping them in twelves, as for instance the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve Apostles, and so on. In this connection the number twelve has a mystical and secret meaning as regards the evolution of the Earth.
This may be termed the external aspect, the outer view, of the great change which took place in the Earth evolution through the infusion of the Christ principle. We might speak at great length about the relation of the number seven to the number twelve and have to leave much that concerns the deep mysteries of our universe still incomprehensible. If what has been said in elucidation of the numbers seven and twelve be taken as clues to the relationships existing in time and in space, we shall be able to penetrate more and more deeply into the secrets of the universe. But for all of us this relation between the numbers seven and twelve should, in the first place, be one which apart from everything else indicates how profoundly momentous the Christ event was for the world, and how necessary it is thenceforth to seek another numerical clue if we are to find our way in it.
But there is also an inner relationship of space and time which I can only indicate here in bare outline with which the numbers twelve and seven have something to do. And my illustration shall be made as was usual in the mysteries when the relations of twelve to seven in the cosmos was being portrayed. It has been said that if we do not consider universal space in an abstract sense, but really relate Earth conditions to universal space, we must refer those Earth conditions to the circle described by the twelve essential points of the Zodiac, viz. Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. These twelve points of the Zodiac were not alone the real and veritable world symbols for the very oldest divine spiritual beings, but the symbols themselves were thought to correspond, in a certain sense, with reality. Even when the Earth was embodied as old Saturn, the forces issuing from these twelve directions were at work upon that ancient planet; so they were later on the old Sun, and on the old Moon, and are now and will continue to be in the future.
Therefore they have as it were the nature of permanence, they are far more sublime than that which arises and passes away within our Earth existence. That which is symbolized by the twelve signs of the Zodiac is infinitely higher than that which is transformed in the evolutionary course of our planet from old Saturn to old Sun and from that to old Moon and so on. Planetary existence arises and passes away, but the Zodiac is ever there. What is symbolized by the points of the Zodiac is more sublime than what upon our Earth plays its part as the opposition between good and evil.
In an early lecture I called your attention to the fact that on penetrating into the astral realm we enter a world of change — where something which from one point of view works for good may from another point of view appear as evil. These differences between good and evil have their meaning in evolution and seven is the key number. That which is the symbol of Gods in the twelve points in space, in the twelve points of permanence, is above good and evil. Out in space we have to seek for the symbols of those divine-spiritual beings which, considered in themselves and without reference to their effects upon our earthly sphere, are beyond the differences between good and evil.
But now let us conceive that which becomes our Earth beginning to be active. That can only happen by a division as it were coming to pass in the permanent deities and that which takes place entering into a different relation to these gods of permanence, who are divided into two spheres, into a sphere of good and a sphere of evil. In themselves neither is good nor evil; but inasmuch as it influences the evolution of the Earth it is sometimes good, sometimes evil; so that all that belongs to the one may be described as the sphere of goodness, and that which belongs to the other, as the sphere of evil.
In order to obtain the correct conception we must consider the civilizations of the post-Atlantean era, which had gone through the old Indian, the old Persian, the Chaldaic-Egyptian civilizations, and which will also go through the civilizations which are to follow these, up to the next great catastrophe and beyond it. If we inquire where is there a truer image of what runs through the whole evolution of mankind than can be found in sense perception or in human intellect, we must turn to occult science and ask what is that which is to be discovered in the spiritual world, and which moves more or less as a continuous spiritual stream through all these seven civilizations. In the wisdom of the East a word has been formed for that which runs through all these civilizations; it is — if one considers its real nature — not an abstraction, but something concrete — it is a Being. And if we wish to describe this Being more intimately, of whom in reality all other beings — whether the seven holy Rishis or even higher beings who do not descend into physical incarnation — are the messengers, we may designate it by a name which has rightly been used by the East. Every revelation and all the wisdom in the world can be traced back finally to this one source, the source of primeval wisdom, under the dominion of a Being who evolves on through each and all the above-named civilizations of the post-Atlantean era, who appears in each epoch in one form or another, but who is always One Being, the bearer of the wisdom which has appeared in the most varied guises.
When I described in the last lecture how the holy Rishis breathed in this wisdom and took it in concretely, this soul of the light which was spread abroad externally and was breathed in as light-wisdom by the holy Rishis was the outflowing of that sublime — I cannot go into this fully here — we must understand that what only belongs in minor degree to the sphere of goodness must also be called good. As soon as that which in the spiritual world (which as I have said is permanent, eternal, having nothing to do with time) passes into time, it divides itself into good and evil. Of the twelve points of permanence there remain belonging to the good, the five actually within the sphere of good and the two on the border, making seven. Therefore we speak of seven as remaining over from the twelve. When we wish to speak of that which is good and which acts as our guide in time, we must speak of seven wise men, of seven Rishis, for this corresponds to reality. Hence also comes the conception that seven signs of the Zodiac belong to the world of light, to the upper world, and that the lower five beginning with Scorpio belong to the world of darkness.
This is only a mere indication serving to show that space, when it forsakes its sphere of eternity and takes into itself created things which run their course in time, is divided into good and evil; and in bringing out the good, seven is raised out of the twelve; seven then becomes the true number for temporal conditions. For truths which belong to time, we must take the number seven as our clue; the remainder, the number five, would lead us into error. That is the inner meaning of these things.
Do not at the moment imagine that this is very difficult to understand, but realize rather that the world is very profound and that there must be things whose meaning is very hard to fathom.
Christ came into the world to sit down even with publicans and sinners. He came in order to take up that which would otherwise have had to be cast out of the world process. In the story of Oedipus the same thing had to be cast out that in the Christ-life was gathered up as a leaven, as was corroborated by the story of Judas. Just as new bread must be leavened with a small portion of the old, if it is to rise and spread, so the new world must take in a leaven made of something which came out of evil. Hence Judas, who had been cast out from every place, who had even made himself impossible at the court of Pilate, could be admitted where the Christ was working, He Who came to heal the world in such a way that the seven could be changed into the twelve and that which had been represented by the number seven might henceforth be represented by the number twelve. The number twelve is in the first instance represented to us by the twelve brothers of Christ, by the twelve disciples.
This must serve as a slight indication of the profound change that thus came into our whole Earth evolution. It is possible to elucidate the significance of the Christ-principle, and of its entrance into the evolution of the Earth, from many different points of view, and what has just been touched upon is one of them.
Now let us once more place before our souls that which is a consequence of all that has gone before. It is felt and recognized by spiritual science wherever it is truly cultivated that with Christ something very special entered into the evolution of the Earth. Wherever true spiritual science is studied, it is felt and recognized that there is one thing which runs through all the Beings of whom we are now speaking. And what we then described as their wisdom had poured down in other ages (for instance, in that quite different conception which was expressed in the old Persian epoch) from the same one Being, who is the great teacher of all civilizations. The Being who was the teacher of the holy Rishis, of Zarathustra, of Hermes — the Being whom we may designate as the Great Teacher, who in the different ages manifests Himself in the most various ways — the Being who, as is natural, at first remains entirely concealed from external vision — is designated, by means of an expression borrowed from the East, as the totality of the Bodhisattvas. The Christian conception would designate it the Holy Spirit.
The Bodhisattva is a Being who passes through all civilizations, who can manifest Himself to mankind in various ways. Such is the Spirit of the Bodhisattvas. All the ages have looked up to the Bodhisattvas. The holy Rishis, Zarathustra, Hermes, and Moses looked up to them — it matters not how they named the Being in whom they perceived the embodiment of the Bodhisattva principle. The Bodhisattva can be given this one name, ‘the Great Teacher,’ and to him those individuals looked who wished to receive and could receive the teachings of the post-Atlantean era.
This Bodhisattva Spirit of the post-Atlantean era has taken human form many times, but one such interests us in particular. A Bodhisattva took on that radiant human form of the Being of Gautama Buddha — it does not for the moment concern us in what other fashion he was also manifest. And it signified an advance of this Bodhisattva when it was no longer necessary for him to remain in the upper spiritual realms, when his development in the spiritual worlds was such that he could master his physical corporeality to the extent of becoming man as Buddha. A Bodhisattva advancing in human existence is Buddha. The Buddha is one of the human incarnations of the all-embracing Wisdom figures underlying the evolution of the Earth. In the Buddha we have the incarnation of that Great Teacher who may be called the essence of wisdom itself. The Buddha is the Bodhisattva who has become an Earth being.
And it is unnecessary to believe that a Bodhisattva incarnated in only the Buddha; for one of the Bodhisattvas has incarnated either wholly or in part in other human personalities. Such incarnations are not all similar; it must be quite clear that just as a Bodhisattva lived in the etheric body of Gautama Buddha, so such a one also lived in the members of other human individuals; and because the being of that Bodhisattva who inherited the astral body of Zarathustra streamed into the members of other individualities, for instance Hermes, we may — but only if we understand the matter in this sense — call other individualities who also are great teachers an incarnation of a Bodhisattva. It is permissible to speak of ever-recurring incarnations of the Bodhisattva, but we must understand that behind all the men in whom the incarnation took place the Bodhisattva stood as a part of that Being who is the personified All-Wisdom of our world.
In this sense, then, we gaze upon the Wisdom-element which in olden times was imparted to mankind from the Luciferic worlds. When we gaze upon this we are looking at the Bodhisattvas.
Now, in post-Atlantean evolution there is a Being who is fundamentally different from a Bodhisattva and not to be confused with the latter, although this Being of Whom we are here speaking was once incarnate in a human individuality who at the same time received the inpouring of the Bodhisattva-Buddha being. Because a man once lived in whom the Christ incarnated and because at the same time the radiations of the Bodhisattva entered this human individuality, we must not take the essential thing in this incarnation to be the embodiment of the Bodhisattva in the personality who was Jesus of Nazareth. During the last three years the Christ principle was predominant, and the Christ principle and the Bodhisattva principle are fundamentally different.
How can we instance this difference? It is exceedingly important for us to know whereby the Christ, Who was once incarnate in a human body — only once, never before and never after — could so incarnate. Since that time He can be reached by the path which leads to the inner essence of the human soul; before then He was accessible if the gaze, as was the case with Zarathustra, was directed outward. Wherein, then, does the difference consist between the Christ, between that Being to whom we must ascribe such a central position, and a Bodhisattva?
It consists in this, that the Bodhisattva is the Great Teacher, the incarnation of wisdom, which pervades all the civilizations, which incarnates in many different ways; but the Christ is not only a teacher — that is the essential point — Christ is not only a teacher of men. He is a Being whom we can best understand if we expand to the sphere where in dazzling spiritual heights we can find Him as an Object of Initiation and where we may compare Him with other spiritual beings. There are regions of spiritual life where, freed of all the dust of Earth, we may find the sublime Bodhisattva Being in his spiritual essence and where we may find the Christ stripped of all that He became on the Earth or in its vicinity. There we find the origin of humanity, the source whence all life proceeds: the primeval, spiritual source. We find not only one Bodhisattva, but a series of Bodhisattvas.
Even as there is a Bodhisattva who underlies our seven successive civilizations, so there was a Bodhisattva underlying the Atlantean civilizations, and so on. We find in these spiritual heights a series of Bodhisattvas, who were, for their age, the great teachers and instructors not only of mankind but also of those beings who do not descend into the region of physical life. We find them there as the great teachers; there they gather that which they are to teach — and in their midst is One Being Who is great not only because He teaches, and that is the Christ. He is not alone great because He teaches; rather is He a Being Who works upon the Bodhisattvas who surround Him by manifesting Himself to them. He is seen by the Bodhisattvas and He reveals His Glory to them. The Bodhisattvas are what they are through being great teachers; the Christ is to the world what He is through His own Being, through His own Essence. He needs only to be seen, and the manifestation of His own Being needs only to be reflected in His surroundings, for the teachings to spring forth. He is not only a Teacher — He is Life, a Life that pours itself into the other beings, who then become teachers.
The Bodhisattvas are mighty teachers because from their spiritual heights they enjoy the bliss of being able to see Christ. And when in the course of the evolution of our Earth we find incarnations of the Bodhisattvas, we speak of great teachers of mankind, because the Bodhisattva principle is the most essential in them. The Christ does not only teach; we learn of Christ in order to understand Him, in order to recognize what He is. Christ is more an object than a subject of learning. The difference between Christ and the Bodhisattvas is that He is to the world what He is because the world is blessed by the sight of Him. The Bodhisattvas are to the world what they are because they are great teachers.
Therefore if we wish to look up to the living Being, the life-source, of our Earth, we must look at the incarnation in which was embodied not a Bodhisattva (in which this fact was the most important feature of the incarnation) but a Being who did not Himself leave any teaching behind, but who gathered around Him those who spread Gospels and teachings concerning Him over the whole world. The point of prime importance is that no document exists written by Christ Himself, but that teachers surround Him and speak about Him, so that He is the object and not the subject of the teaching. It is a remarkable circumstance and one of utmost importance with reference to the Christ event that nothing has been received from Him Himself, but that others have written about His Being.
It is therefore not to be wondered at that we are told we can find all the teachings of Christ in other faiths also; for Christ is in nowise merely a teacher. He is a Being who desires to be understood as a Being; He does not wish to sink into us only through His teachings, but through His life. We may gather together all the teachings in the world that are accessible to us, and we shall even then not have sufficient to enable us to understand the Christ. If men of the present day cannot turn directly to the Bodhisattvas, and with the spiritual eyes of the Bodhisattvas look up to Christ, then they must learn from these Bodhisattvas what can eventually make Christ comprehensible.
If therefore we wish not only to become participant in Christ, but to understand Him, we must not only look at what Christ has done for us, but we must learn of all the teachers of West and of East, and we must account it a holy thing to become familiar with the teachings of the whole known world; we must devote ourselves to the sacred task of understanding the Christ in His completeness by means of the highest teaching.
Now, the mysteries always make appropriate preparation for the corresponding duty of mankind. Every age has its special task; and every age has to receive the truth in the particular form needed by that epoch. Truth in its present form could not have been given to the old Indian, or to the old Persian. The truth had to be given to them in the form suitable to their capacities of perception. Therefore in the age which owing to its other characteristics was best suited to receive the Christ upon Earth — that is to say, the fourth or Graeco-Latin epoch — the truth about Christ and about the world connected with Him was brought to mankind in a form adapted for humanity of that time.
To believe that in the age following directly on the Christ-manifestation the whole truth about the Christ was already known is to be in complete ignorance concerning the progress of the human race. He who believes only the teaching of the first centuries after the Christ event, who considers that which was written and recorded then to be the only true Christian teaching, knows nothing of human progress; he does not know that the greatest teacher of the first Christian centuries could tell him no more about Christ than the people of that time were able to assimilate. And because the men of the first Christian centuries were preeminently such as had descended the deepest into the physical world, their understanding permitted them to take in comparatively little of the highest teaching concerning Christ. The majority of the early Christians could understand but little about the Christ Being.
We know that in old Indian times men possessed a high degree of clairvoyance in consequence of the relation of the etheric body to the other members; but the time had not then come for this vision to perceive the Christ as anything other than Vishva-karman — a Spirit in distant regions beyond the sense-world. In the time of the old Persian civilization it was first possible dimly to sense the Christ behind the physical Sun. And so it went on. It was possible for Moses to perceive the Christ, as Jehovah, in thunder and lightning that is quite near the Earth. And in the person of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ was seen incarnated as man. This is the manner of human progress; in old India wisdom was absorbed through the etheric body, in the old Persian period through the astral body, in the Chaldaic-Egyptian period through the sentient soul, in the Graeco-Latin period through that which we call the intellectual soul. The intellectual soul is bound to the world of sense. Therefore it lost the vision of that which extends far, far beyond the sense-world.
Accordingly in the first post-Christian centuries little more of existence was seen than that which lies between birth and death, and that which directly follows as the nearest spiritual region. Nothing was known of that which passes through many incarnations. This was due to the condition of human understanding. Only one part of the life cycle could be made intelligible: man's life on Earth, and the fragment of spiritual life which follows it. That, therefore, is what we find described for the mass of the people.
But that was not to continue. The outlook of man had to be prepared for an excursion beyond this part of his understanding. Preparation had to be made for a gradual revival of the all-embracing wisdom which man was able to enjoy in the time of Hermes, of Moses, of Zarathustra, and of the old Rishis, as well as for offering us the possibility of an ever increasing understanding of Christ. Christ had to come into the world just at a time when the means of understanding were most contracted. The way had to be opened for the revival of the ancient wisdom during the ages to come and for placing it gradually in the service of the understanding of Christ.
This could only be accomplished by the creation of Mystery wisdom. Those men who came over into and beyond Europe from old Atlantis brought with them great wisdom. In old Atlantis the majority of the people were instinctively clairvoyant; they could see into spiritual realms. This clairvoyance could not develop further; and withdrew perforce into separate personalities in the West. It was guided there by a Being who once upon a time lived in deepest concealment, withdrawn behind those who had already forsaken the world and who were pupils of the great initiates. This Being had remained behind in order to preserve for later ages what was brought over from old Atlantis. Among the great initiates who had founded mystery places in the West for the preservation of the old Atlantean wisdom, a wisdom that entered deeply into all the secrets of the physical body, was the great Skythianos, as he was called in the Middle Ages. And anyone who knows the nature of the European mysteries knows that Skythianos is the name given to one of the greatest initiates of the Earth.
But there also lived in the world for a long, long time the Being which in a spiritual sense we may describe as the Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva was the same Being who after completing its task in the West was incarnated in Gautama Buddha about six hundred years before our era. This exalted Being, who as Teacher had by that time withdrawn more toward the East, was a second great Teacher, a second great Keeper of the Seal of the wisdom of mankind. There was also a third individuality destined to greatness of whom we have spoken in various lectures. [We are here speaking of these Beings in the spirit in which they were understood by older conceptions of the world, justified today from the standpoint of spiritual science.] It is he who was the teacher of the old Persians: the great Zarathustra. The three great spiritual Beings and individualities known to us under the names of Zarathustra, Gautama Buddha, and Skythianos are, as it were, incarnations of Bodhisattvas. That which lived in them was not the Christ.
Mankind had now to be given time to experience in itself the advent of Christ, Who had formerly made Himself manifest to Moses upon Mount Sinai; Jehovah was the same Being as Christ, though wearing another form. Time had to be allowed to mankind in which to prepare to receive the Christ. That occurred in the epoch in which the comprehension for such things reached the nadir. But preparation had to be made, in order that understanding and wisdom should again grow greater and greater; and this was part of Christ's mission on Earth.
There is a fourth individuality named in history behind whom, for those who have the proper comprehension, much lies hidden — an individuality still higher and more powerful than Skythianos, than Buddha, or than Zarathustra. This individuality is Manes, and those who see more in Manichaeism than is usually the case know him to be a very high messenger of Christ. It is said that a few centuries after Christ had lived on the Earth there was held one of the greatest assemblies of the spiritual world connected with the Earth that ever took place, and that there Manes gathered round him three mighty personalities of the fourth century after Christ. In this figurative description a most significant fact in connection with spiritual development is expressed. Manes called these persons together to consult with them as to the means of reintroducing the wisdom that had lived throughout the changing times of the post-Atlantean age and of causing it to unfold more and more gloriously in the future.
Who were the personalities brought together by Manes in that memorable assembly? (It should be remembered that such an event can only be witnessed by spiritual sight.) He called together the personality in whom Skythianos lived at that time, and also the physical reflection of the Buddha who had then appeared again, and the erstwhile Zarathustra who was wearing a physical body at that time. Around Manes was this council, himself in the center and around him Skythianos, Buddha, and Zarathustra. And in that council a plan was agreed upon for causing all the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas of the post-Atlantean time to flow more and more strongly into the future of mankind; and the plan of the future evolution of the civilizations of the Earth then decided upon was adhered to and carried over into the European mysteries of the Rose Cross. These particular mysteries have always been connected with the individualities of Skythianos, of Buddha, and of Zarathustra. They were the teachers in the schools of the Rose Cross; teachers who gave their wisdom to the Earth as a gift, in order that through it the Christ Being might be understood.
Hence in all spiritual Rosicrucian schools the deepest reverence is paid to these old initiates who preserved the primeval wisdom of Atlantis; to the reincarnated Skythianos, in whom was seen the great and honored Bodhisattva of the West; to the temporarily incarnated reflection of the Buddha, who also was honored as one of the Bodhisattvas; and finally to Zarathustra, the reincarnated Zarathustra. These were looked up to as the great Teachers of the European Initiates. Such presentations must not be taken in the sense of external history, although they elucidate the historical course of events better than any external description could do.
Let me illustrate this statement by saying that there is hardly to be found a single country in the Middle Ages in which a certain legend was not everywhere current, though at that time no one in Europe knew anything of Gautama Buddha, and the tradition of Gautama Buddha had been completely lost. Yet the following story was related (it is to be found in many books of the Middle Ages and is one of the widely disseminated stories of that period): Once upon a time there was a King in India to whom a son was born called Josaphat. Extraordinary things were prophesied about this child when he was born. His father therefore especially guarded him; he was only to know what was most precious, he was to dwell in perfect happiness, he was not to become acquainted with pain and sorrow or with the misfortunes of life. He was protected from everything of that sort. It happened, however, that Josaphat one day went out of the palace and passed in succession a sick man, a leper, an aged man, and a corpse — so runs the tale. He returned deeply moved into the king's palace and chanced upon a man whose soul was filled with the secrets of Christianity and whose name was Balaam; Balaam converted Josaphat, and this Josaphat who had experienced all this became a Christian.
It is not necessary to bring the Akashic records to our aid in order to interpret this legend, since ordinary philology suffices to reveal the origin of the name Josaphat. Josaphat is derived from an old word Joaphat; Joaphat again from Joadosaph; Joadosaph from Juadosaph, which is identical with Budhasaph — both these last forms are Arabic — and Budhasaph is the same name as Bodhisattva. So the European occult teaching not only knows the Bodhisattva, it also knows, if it can decipher the name of Josaphat, the meaning of that word. This cultivation of occult knowledge in the West by means of legends contained the fact that there was a time when the being who lived in Gautama Buddha became a Christian. Whether this be a matter of knowledge or no, it is none the less true. Just as belated traditions may exist, as men may believe today that which was believed thousands of years ago, and which has been propagated by means of tradition — so they may also believe that it accords with the laws of the higher worlds for Gautama Buddha to have remained the same as he was six hundred years before our era. But it is not so. He has ascended, he has evolved, and in the true Rosicrucian teachings the knowledge of this fact has been preserved in the form of the above legend.
Within the spiritual life of Europe we find him who was the bearer of the Christ: Zarathas or Nazarathos — the original Zarathustra — appearing again from time to time; in the same way we meet with Skythianos again, and the third great pupil of Manes, Buddha, as he was after he had taken part in the experiences of later ages.
Thus the European who had some knowledge of initiation looked into the changing ages and kept his gaze fixed on the true figures of the Great Teachers. He knew of Zarathas, of Buddha, of Skythianos — he knew that through them wisdom was pouring into the civilization of the future — wisdom which had always proceeded from the Bodhisattvas and which must be used in order to promote understanding of the greatest treasure of all comprehension: the Christ, Who is fundamentally a completely different Being from the Bodhisattvas and Whom we can understand only by gathering together all the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas. Therefore in the spiritual wisdom of Europe there is a synthesis of all the teachings that have been given to the world through the three great pupils of Manes and by Manes himself. Even though men may not have understood Manes, a time will come when European civilization will take such form that there will be a feeling for what is connected with the names of Skythianos, Buddha, and Zarathustra. They give to mankind the material whose study will teach us to understand Christ, and through them our understanding of Him will grow more and more complete.
The Middle Ages certainly showed a strange form of reverence and worship to Skythianos, to Buddha, and to Zarathustra when their names began to percolate through; in certain communities of the Christian religion anyone who wished to be taken for a true Christian had to utter the formula: ‘I curse Skythianos, I curse Buddha, I curse Zarathas!’ But what it was then thought necessary to curse will become the center for those who will best make Christ comprehensible to man, a central point to which mankind will look up as it did to the great Bodhisattvas through whom the Christ will be understood.
Today mankind can at the most bring two things to these teachings of the Rose Cross — two things which may indicate a beginning of the power and greatness that will appear in the future in the form of the understanding of Christianity. Spiritual science of today will be the means of making one such beginning, by bringing the teachings of Skythianos, of Zarathustra, of Gautama Buddha to the world again, not in their old but in an absolutely new form, accessible to investigation from out of its very nature. The elements of what we learn from these three great Teachers must be embodied into civilization.
From Buddha, Christianity had to learn the teachings of reincarnation and of karma, but in the older religion they are to be found in an ancient guise, unsuited to modern times. Why are the teachings of reincarnation and of karma flowing into Christianity today? Because the initiates have learned to understand them in a modern sense, just as Buddha himself after his fashion understood them — and Buddha was the great teacher of reincarnation. In the same way we shall attain to an understanding of Skythianos, whose teaching deals not only with the reincarnation of men but with the powers which rule from eternity to eternity. So shall the central Being of the world, the Christ, be ever more and more understood.
In this way the teachings of the initiates gradually flow into humanity. The spiritual scientist of today can only bring two things in as elementary beginnings compared to what must come about in the future spiritual evolution of mankind. The first element will be that which sinks into our innermost being in the form of the Christ-life; and the second will be an increasingly comprehensive understanding of the Christ by the aid of spiritual cosmology. The Christ-life in the inmost heart, and an understanding of the world which leads to an understanding of Christ — these are the two elements.
We may begin today, for we are only on the threshold of these things, by having the right feeling. We meet together for the purpose of cultivating right feeling about the spiritual world and all that is born out of it, as well as right feeling towards man. And as we cultivate this right feeling we gradually make our spiritual forces capable of receiving the Christ into our innermost being; for the higher and nobler our feelings become, the more nobly can Christ live within us. We make a beginning by teaching the elementary truths of our Earth evolution, by seeking that which we owe originally to Skythianos, Zarathustra, and Buddha and by accepting it as they teach it in our age, in the form they themselves know it, their evolution having progressed to our present age. We have reached a point in civilization now where the elementary teachings of initiation are beginning to be disclosed.