Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. Lecture 13 of 14
Rudolf Steiner, June 28, 1907:
My task today and tomorrow will be to show you the path into the spiritual worlds which has been followed ever since the 14th and 15th century, particularly in the so-called Occult Training, and which is the most suitable path for modern people. But it will be easier for us to understand the essential points if we first cast a glance over the future development of humanity.
We have already spoken of the course of human development through the stages of Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth. Those who are only accustomed to think in accordance with present-day conceptions will find it difficult to understand that it is possible to know something about the future course of evolution. But you must bear in mind that certain great laws which are now active will also exercise their activity in the future, and those who know these laws can therefore cast a glance into the future.
In the sphere of physical reality no one doubts that things can be foretold — for example, lunar and solar eclipses and other astronomical phenomena can be calculated in advance, far into the future. In the sphere of physical reality there is no doubt as to this. And everybody knows that when certain substances are mixed in a retort, scientists can foretell the result. This is a prophecy relating to external sensory facts, and these things can be foretold because the laws which influence the substances are known.
Similarly we learn to know through spiritual science the laws which govern the course of human life, so that it is possible to foretell what will take place in the future.
An objection might now be raised which has been advanced by the thinkers of every epoch: “It is impossible to speak of human freedom if future events can be foreseen!” But here people confuse the capacity of looking into the future with predestination. In every philosophy you will therefore come across the strangest observations, for all philosophers were unable to make this distinction. Jacob Boehme was the only exception!
Let me now give you an example to make things clearer to you. Let me compare time with space. Imagine yourself standing here, and two people in the street, outside. You can see what these two people are doing, for you are watching them from a distance. But are you able to influence their actions, in view of this fact? No, you are simply looking at them, and these two people act in perfect freedom. You can determine nothing in their actions through the fact that you are looking at them. Now imagine a clairvoyant who observes what will take place in the future. He merely sees this, and he does not in any way influence the events. If these events could be influenced, if they were, so to speak, predestined in the present, there would be no prevision. But we can only grasp the difference between predestination and prevision if we ponder over this problem for a long tune.
I do not intend to describe to you what the Earth will be like when it shall have reached the Venus and the Jupiter stages; instead, I wish to tell you something which will give you an idea of man's future development; I wish to explain to you something which comes from the oldest Christian Mysteries, which originates from the Christian School of the true Dionysius; it was a teaching which was always taught in the Christian esoteric schools.
The following comparison was taken as a starting point: — I am now speaking to you. You can hear my words; you hear the thoughts which were, to begin with, in the depths of my soul; you hear thoughts which would remain concealed to you were I not to express them in sounds. But you could not hear my words if the air did not exist between us. Whenever I utter a word, the air in the space around us is set into motion; whenever I speak, I cause the whole volume of air around me to vibrate; it vibrates in accordance with the words which I pronounce. Let us now proceed further: Imagine that you were able to liquefy the air, and then to render it solid. Air can be liquefied; you know that water can exist in the form of steam and that this air becomes liquid when it cools; and then the liquid can become a solid block of ice. Imagine now that I pronounce the word “God” into the air; a form would fall down — for instance, the form of a shell — if the sound-vibrations could render the air solid. And another wave of sound would fall down as a solid form if I pronounce the word “World”. A crystallized form of air would correspond to every word I utter, and you would be able to perceive these crystallized forms.
This example was in fact advanced in the Christian schools. First of all we have the spoken word, and then this word becomes a solid form; but before it became solid it existed as an inner thought. Now the early Christian imagined the following: The creative process in the universe resembles the creative process which takes place in space when we speak. The creative process proceeded from the idea of things and then the Godhead expressed these ideas in the form of words uttered out into space. Everything which appears to us outside in the form of plants, minerals, etc. is the crystallization of God's utterances. It is possible to imagine everything dissolved into tone-vibrations of the Divine Cosmic Word. “Whatever I see before me is the crystallization of the Word of God!” said the Christian. And in a certain way he made a distinction between the “Father in Concealment” Who had not yet expressed Himself, the “Word” or the Son Who resounds through space, and the crystallized Word, the “Revelation”.
This enables us to understand in a deeper sense the beginning of the Gospel of St. John: — “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. It was in the very beginning with God. Everything was made by Him, and except through Him was nothing made that was made.” Everything that was made, was made by the Word! We should take things as literally a possible, then we can easily recognize the creative element of the Word, or the Logos. In the Christian meaning, the Word or the Logos stands in the second place. “Logos” should only be translated with “Word”, for this means that at the foundation of everything which exists in the created world lies the unuttered creative Word; it then resounded as spoken Word, and this is the origin of every existing thing. If we go far back into times we could hear animals, plants, minerals, and men resound through the cosmic spaces as “Word” — even as you now hear my own words — for in those remote times the air had not yet cooled down to such extent as to enable words to take on solid form.
Let us bear this in mind, for then we can say to ourselves: Once upon a time the Word was creative. Men are now beginners in an activity which was once carried out by their ancestors, the Gods, who stood above them. Once upon a time the Gods created the world by uttering their words into the cosmic spaces, and this creative activity gave rise to the created world 'round about us. The forces of procreation in the vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms are but a metamorphosis of the former creative Word of God. We still bear within us a higher and a lower nature. The greatest perfection has been reached by that part within us which is endowed with sex, whereas our larynx contains the first stage of a new procreative power. Whenever we pronounce words we are at the beginning of an activity which will one day become procreative. At present we are only beginners in an activity which was once carried out by the Gods. A new form of procreation will replace the old one. The larynx is now able to form words, but in the future it will become an organ of procreation, a generative organ, which will produce more and more condensed and higher forms. The larynx can now mold forms of air, but in future it will give rise to real beings. When the Earth shall have reached the Jupiter stager the word will have creative power in the mineral kingdom, and during the Venus stage it will be able to produce plants. Thus the course of development will proceed, until man will be able to procreate himself through the word.
The present form arose when man first sent the air streaming through his lungs through sounds. But in future stages of the Earth's development the words, the mere words which we now tell each other, will have a lasting form. And finally the larynx will become man's generative organ, through which he will procreate himself in purity without the intromission of sex.
This shows us the future aspects of human development, and the predisposition of the human larynx. Indeed, an enigmatic phenomenon can show you how intimately the larynx is connected with certain stages of development: When a boy reaches puberty his voice breaks, it undergoes mutation. The human larynx is at the beginning of its development, whereas sexual life is at the end of its development. This shows us the intimate connection of certain things in Nature. In sexual life we are confronted by something which is dying off; the larynx, the word, on the other hand, will in the future become man's generative organ.
We might indicate many other examples showing how the human being will gradually develop organs which now exist in a rudimentary form — for instance, the organs which now constitute his breathing system, but which really form part of the heart system.
The training which was introduced into Europe since the 14th century in fact anticipates future conditions of human evolution and it enables us to follow a speedier course of inner development than the ordinary one. The training which is called the Rosicrucian training is the one most suited to modern men. In a certain sense Rosicrucianism has not a good reputation among men who have only heard of it now and then. If we could rely on the statements made in books, and on what scientists know about Rosicrucianism, then it would indeed be the swindle which it is reputed to be! But those who judge Rosicrucianism by these sources do not know real Rosicrucianism, but a mere swindle!
But let us now consider Rosicrucianism in its true form. It arose through an individuality concealed under the name of Christian Rosenkreutz, who gave rise to the Rosicrucian Movement in the year 1459.
I expressly remark that what I am telling you now is only to be taken as an example, in the same way in which I spoke to you yesterday of the Christian training. Let me therefore indicate right away the seven chief points of Rosicrucian training. The sequence of these stages is not the same for all, but let me point them out to you, for they come into consideration for everyone who passes through the Rosicrucian training.
The first thing is what we call Study; the second is what we call the Appropriation of Imaginative Knowledge; the third, the Appropriation of the Occult Writing; the fourth, the Preparation of the Stone of the Wise; the fifth stage is called Conformity of the Small World, the Microcosm, with the Large World, the Macrocosm; the sixth stage is the Penetration into the Life of the Macrocosm; and the seventh is what we term the Divine Blissfulness.
The Rosicrucian path leads in the surest and profoundest way to a knowledge of Christianity. The Christian path of training is more suited for those who can abide in faith and who can awaken their feeling life within them, in the manner described to you yesterday. But the Rosicrucian path is for those people who can connect the truths of Christianity with the truths relating to the external world. This above all will enable them to protect Christianity against every attack from outside. Christianity is a world-conception of such profundity that our wisdom will never suffice to grasp it fully. The path of Rosicrucian training is the most suitable one for modern persons.
If we follow a train of thought which has nothing in common with the sensory world, we pursue study in the Rosicrucian meaning. What is designated as “thinking in free thoughts” is only known to the civilization of the West through geometry; the Christian-Gnostic schools therefore used the name “mathesis” for the designation of things connected with the higher truths, with God and the higher world, for such truths had to be grasped independently of everything pertaining to the sensory world, even as mathematics must be grasped independently of all sensory impressions. A circle drawn with chalk is most imperfect, a real circle can only be conceived in thoughts; thought alone is able to grasp everything that can be learned in connection with the circle. Through mathematics we learn to think of the circle independently of the senses; we construct it in thought, with the aid of the triangle built up spiritually, whose angles equal to 360 degrees.
It is somewhat uncomfortable to have to think without the support of external sensory objects, and for the majority of men there is no other field of study in this direction than spiritual science. In my first lecture I told you that the knowledge contained in spiritual science can absolutely be grasped through logic. But clairvoyance is needed if anyone wishes to investigate these truths. Logic suffices, however, for the understanding of the truths contained in spiritual science.
Our materialistic age could only invent the calculating machine, which teaches us to form thoughts which are not independent of the senses. A child, above all, should learn to grasp things independently of sensory impressions. The influence of spiritual science will therefore be of greatest value in education: spiritual science is an excellent training for the development of a thought activity independent of the senses. Everything which I have told you in connection with Saturn, the Sun, and the various members of the human being relates to things which cannot be seen; they must be grasped through thought, independently of the senses. No one should, however, believe that he can train himself unless he first grasps these truths theoretically. The advantage of such truths is that they do not exist for the senses, so that they can transmit to us a way of thinking which goes beyond sensory life. For many people it is sufficient at first to penetrate into the truths which theosophy describes in connection with facts which cannot be grasped through the senses. These truths constitute the kind of thoughts which were always explained to the pupils of the Rosicrucian schools, and the truths were well impressed upon them.
If we now wish to proceed we can find a good means of a training in thought in my books Truth and Science and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. These books are merely a gymnastic in a form of thinking which is independent of the senses. Generally speaking you will find that in other books it does not make much difference if the thought contained in one sentence is transferred to another one. But in the above-mentioned books no thought can be transferred to another place. These books have arisen in such a way that my own person merely gave this thought-structure the opportunity to take on a sensory form. It was necessary to yield to these thoughts, so that they could arise of their own accord, continue of their own accord. Those who are willing to penetrate more deeply into these thoughts, devoting themselves to this study for, say, half a year (this is not easy, but the effort entailed is the very best way of training), those who can read these books to the very end, have drawn out of their inner being a dormant force.
The second stage is Imagination, or Imaginative Knowledge, which is entirely under the influence of Goethe's beautiful words: “All transient things are but a symbol”. Only those who have acquired a firm, sure thinking should enter this second stage. For they might easily fall into delusive fancies without a firm foundation of thought. Consequently the first condition is to have a clear head; nothing can protect us more against mistakes than a clear way of thinking.
In the widest meaning, imagination might be characterized by observing everything which surrounds us in the following manner: — Observe the face of a human being; you see upon it creases and wrinkles, which come and go; you do not only describe these lines, but you designate them as smiles or sorrow. A man's smile reveals to you his happy disposition of mind. You do not only deduce an inner truth from something which you see outside, but this outer perception is for you a real symbol of that man's inner life; or else you see a tear falling: you are not only a physicist who observes that tear in accordance with the law of gravity, but you know that that falling tear is the expression of the soul's inner sadness. Thus everything which you see outside on a person's countenance becomes for you the expression of the soul's inner mood. The Rosicrucian pupil learns to feel that everything which he sees outside is similarly the expression, let us say, of the Earth-Spirit: a certain plant — for example the meadow-saffron — really appears to him as the expression of the mourning life of the earth. Even as a smiling countenance reveals to him the soul's happy mood, so the flowers become an expression for the earth's happy or sorrowful mood.
Goethe did not only wish to convey an external image when the Earth-Spirit in “Faust” speaks:
“In Lebensfluten Tatensturm,
Wall ich auf und ab,
Webe hin und her
Geburt und Grab,
Ein ewiges Meer,
Ein wechselnd Weben,
Ein glühend Leben,
So schaff ich am sausenden Webstuhl der Zeit,
Und wirke der Gottheit lebendiges Kleid.”
In the floods of life,
In the storm of action,
I surge up and down,
I weave to and fro!
Birth and the Grave;
An eternal ocean,
A changing weaving,
A glowing life,
Thus I work on the whirring loom of Time
And weave the Godhead's living garment.
For Goethe, the Spirit of the Earth gradually becomes something that lives in the Earth; he acquires a soul-spiritual connection with the whole surrounding Nature.
Let me now explain to you more in detail one of the moods which can be found in Nature.
We have a Rosicrucian pupil walking across the fields. He sees the tiny pearls of dew upon each plant. This reminds him of the ancient “Neflheim," the “Land of Mists”, where the air was filled with a dewy mist and where the human beings had quite a different connection with Nature than they have now. The Rosicrucian pupil who is thus walking over the meadows and who perceives the pearls of dew upon the plants says to himself: In the ancient Land of Mists this was once dissolved in the atmosphere. And within his soul rises up a deeply concealed memory of the Atlantean age.
Imagination was specially cultivated among the pupils of the medieval Rosicrucian Schools, and also among the pupils of the Holy Grail. Since I cannot express myself in any other way, let me now convey to you in the form of a dialogue some of the truths which were taught in these Schools.
The teacher said to his pupil: — “Behold the plant: see how it springs out of the ground, opening its calyx with the organs of fructification; see how the Sun's rays come down upon it and open the blossom, so that the fruit can ripen”. The Rosicrucian pupil, and also the pupil of the Holy Grail, had to conjure up before their soul this image, this idea.
Now there is something very significant, even in materialistic science, whenever a plant is being compared with the human being. You must, in that case, take the plant's root as corresponding to the human head, whereas the flower corresponds to man's generative organs, which he shamefacedly conceals. In the plant the root corresponds to the human head. Man is a reversed plant; the animal is a half-reversed plant. Rosicrucianism therefore says: Behold the plant: its root is in the ground and its organs of fructification are chastely turned toward the Sun's ray. Behold the animal: its spine is horizontal ... and then behold man: There you have a complete reverse, a complete transformation. In the cosmic process of evolution the plant, the animal, and man are symbolized by the Cross! The Cross is the plant, the animal, and man. — Now you will be able to understand Plato's words: The soul of the universe hangs upon the Cross of the universe. — the soul of the universe, the cosmic soul which permeates everything, is stretched out upon the plant, the animal, and man.
Now it was impressed upon the Rosicrucian student: “Behold the plant: in its kind, it is lower than you, for it is not endowed with consciousness and with the power of thinking; but its substance is pure and chaste; it turns its calyx towards the Sun; its organ of reproduction is turned without any passion toward the Sun's ray, the holy spear of love. But physical substance has become permeated with passion. Now think of the future ideal — a purified substance, producing itself in purest chastity.” And his attention was drawn toward the larynx, where man shall one day have attained the purity and chastity of the flower's calyx. “Think of the plant's calyx, which is devoid of passion. The larynx develops through passion, but it will become pure again and reproduce itself chastely, by allowing itself to be fructified by the spiritual ray of the Sun, by the Holy Spear of Love.” A prototype of this “holy spear of Love” is the spear which pierced the heart of Christ-Jesus upon the Cross.
Yesterday we saw that this blood which streamed out of the Redeemer's wound banished egoism from the Earth. The spear which pierced him is therefore a foreboding of that higher spear, the Sun's ray in a spiritual form. And the Holy Grail indicates the chalice of humanity which develops out of the larynx, and which will be the purified generative organ of the future, as is the case today in the plant.
This is the deeper meaning of the Holy Grail, which was brought to the knowledge of the Rosicrucian students and of the disciples of the Holy Grail when they had reached the imaginative stage. Now compare the vision which you obtain through these images — the plant's calyx, sex filled with passion, the Holy Grail, the passionless chalice — compare this with the dry, intellectual concept supplied by modern science; this will show you the difference between imagination and mere intellectual thought: the whole cosmic process must be grasped in images! This is important, for the more intellectual concepts which we have today are not creative; but if these concepts are added to an image, then the images will become creative. This was felt in past times, and it should be considered in the education of the child.
Let me now discuss an actual problem. Today people say so easily: What nonsense our elders taught us children, by telling us the story of the stork! Children should be told the truth.
If our descendants will treat us as we treat our forefathers, they will also laugh at us and say: Our forefathers thought that the human being arises through a physical act! — And they will look back upon the time when this was explained to children in a spiritual way. In ancient times, when the story of the stork arose, also adults believed in it, for they knew that when a human being is born his soul descends from the spiritual world; and so they always connected birth with the descent of a winged being. You may even find this again in nursery rhymes, for instance in the following one:
Flieg, Käfer, flieg!
Dein Vater ist im Krieg!
Deine Mutter ist im Pommerland,
Pommerland ist abgebrannt;
Flieg, Käfer, flieg!
Fly, Beetle, fly!
Your father is in the war.
Your mother is in Pommerland,
Pommerland is burnt to ashes!
Fly, Beetle, fly!
This “Fly, Beetle!” is meant as an image for the human soul, because a faint knowledge still existed of the astral world, from where the souls fly down into the physical world. And what is “Pommerland”? “Pommer” is the same word as “Pommerle,” which means a small child, so that “Pommerland”, or “Pommerleland”, is the Land of babies, where the mother goes to fetch her baby. Such things must simply be explained in the light of the spiritual world. If you bear in mind that the image of the stork bringing babies is really an image for a spiritual process — reincarnation — you will realize how immensely important it is that certain things should first be grasped in the form of pictures; if the child is first taught to look upon the image of the spiritual process, he will develop an entirely different frame of mind, enabling him to listen reverently even to the description of the physical process.
If you know that the stork is an image for the descending soul, you yourself will once more believe in the stork! Your words can wing a child's fancy if you understand the truth underlying an image; in that case a mysterious fluid will stream out of it and pass over to the child. This applies to every image. Children can thus be taught everything.
How can you deal with the problem of life after death? Lead the child to a butterfly's cocoon and tell him: Even as the butterfly flies out of its cocoon, so the soul flies out of the body when we die, but we cannot see this. If you really believe in this, you will be able to convince the child that when the butterfly leaves its cocoon this is, upon a lower stage, the same as when the soul leaves the body. If spiritual science enables us to dive down again into the spiritual world, so that living images rise up in human hearts, education will change altogether; then the child will no longer be taught dry intellectual facts which coarsen his soul. We should not pull things down to a grotesque or comic sphere but we should realize instead what important things lie at their foundation.
The third thing which must be acquired for the paving of the “path” is the Learning of the Occult Writing. This does not consist in learning a writing as is the case in ordinary life. The letters of the alphabet may indeed be traced back to occult images, but they are not by a long way an occult writing. In occult writing we must penetrate into the real great cosmic forces which are active in the universe. And all that we write down must be so that one process of development passes over into the next. Take a plant: it bears seeds; in the seed you have the starting point for a new plant. But if you could really investigate the process you would find that nothing of the old plant passes over into the new plant. In reality, the old plant perishes completely in regard to its substance, while the new plant builds up its form from entirely new substances — all that passes over into the new plant is a kind of movement. Here you have some sealing wax and there a seal: you press the seal into the wax. Of the seal itself nothing has gone over into the wax; only the form remains. — This is the case in every process of development. When it perishes the old substance merely supplies the opportunity for a new form to arise in accordance with the old form. This is designated with two intertwining spirals which do not meet. Such a transition existed after the Atlantea epoch of culture; this epoch disappears and a new one arises in the Indian epoch of culture; also this must be designated with two spirals. I have already told you that in the year 800 A.D. the Sun rose in the sign of Aries; before that in the sign of Taurus; further back in the sign of Gemini; and still further back in the sign of Cancer. The Graeco-Latin age, containing the seeds of our present epoch, coincided with the time when the Sun rose in the sign of Aries; the preceding civilization, the Chaldean-Assyrian-Egyptian one, coincided with the time when the Sun rose in the sign of Taurus; before that we have the Persian culture, when the Sun rose in the sign of Gemini; and the ancient Indian culture developed itself when the Sun stood in the sign of Cancer. It was then that the sign of Cancer, two intertwining spirals, was first written down.
Thus I might explain to you each sign of the Zodiac according to its true meaning. These signs were formed out of Nature; they are an expression for the forces and laws which are active outside, in Nature. If we learn to know the occult signs we begin to go outside ourselves; we penetrate into the mysterious foundations of Nature.
Thus I have given you some indications of the first three stages of the Rosicrucian path: Study, Imaginative Knowledge, and the Acquisition of the Occult Writing.
Tomorrow we shall discuss the other stages, beginning with the Preparation of the Stone of the Wise.
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