The Christ Impulse and the Development of Ego-Consciousness. Lecture 7 of 7.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, May 8, 1910:
Today, May 8, the Theosophical Society celebrates the Day of the White Lotus, which to the outer world is known, in the usual terminology of the day, as the death-day of the instigator of that Spiritual stream in which we now stand. To us it would seem more appropriate to select a different designation for to-day's festival, one taken from our knowledge of the Spiritual world and which should run more like this: ‘The day of transition from an activity on the physical plane to one in the Spiritual worlds’. For to us it is not only an inner conviction in the ordinary sense of the words but an ever-increasing knowledge, that what the outer world calls death is but the passing from one form of work, from an activity stimulated by the impressions of the outer physical world, to one entirely stimulated by the Spiritual world. When to-day we remember the great instigator, H. P. Blavatsky, and the leading persons of her movement who have also now passed over into the Spiritual realm, let us in particular try to form a clear idea of what we ourselves must make of our Spiritual movement so that it may represent a continuation of that activity which she exercised on the physical plane as long as she remained on it; so that on the one hand it may be a continuation of that activity and at the same time be possible for the Foundress herself to continue her work from the Spiritual world, both now and in the future. On such a day as this it is seemly that we should in a sense break away from our usual study of theosophical matters, and theosophical life, and should instead go through a sort of conscientious retrospect, a retrospect concerning what the tasks and duties the theosophical movement sets before us, and which may also lead us to a sort of prevision of what this movement should become in the future, and what we should do, and avoid doing.
What we are carrying on as the Theosophical movement came into the world as the result of certain quite special circumstances and certain historical necessities. You know that there was here no question, as in other Spiritual movements or unions of any sort, — of one or more persons determining to follow certain ideals according as the quality of their hearts and minds leads them to feel enthusiasm for these ideals, trying to enthuse other people and to induce them to form societies or unions for carrying these into practice. Not in this way should we view the Theosophical movement if we understand it aright. We only do this if we look upon it as an historical necessity of our present life: something which, regardless of what people feel or would like to feel about it, was bound to come, for it already lay in the womb of time, so to speak, and had to be brought to birth. In what way then may we regard the Theosophical movement? It may be considered as a descent, a new descent of Spiritual life, of Spiritual wisdom and Spiritual forces, into the sensible physical world from the super-sensible ones. Such a descent had to take place for the further development of man, and must repeatedly take place in the future. It cannot of course be our task to-day to point out all the different great impulses through which Spiritual life has flowed down from the super-sensible worlds in order that the soul-life of man should be renewed when it had, so to speak, grown old; but in the course of time this has frequently occurred. One thing, however, must be borne in mind.
In the primeval past, not long after the great Atlantean catastrophe which the traditions of the various countries record as the story of the Flood, came that impulse that we may describe as the inflow of Spiritual life that poured into the development of mankind through the Holy Rishis. Then came that other stream of Spiritual life that flowed down into man's evolution through Zarathustra or Zoroaster, and we find another stream of like nature in that which came to the old Israelites through the revelations of Moses.
1 Dr. Steiner was forced later on to leave the Theosophical Society because of its Dogmatic Authority.
Finally, we have the greatest Impulse of all in that mighty inflow of Spiritual life poured into the physical world through the appearance on Earth of Christ-Jesus. This is by far the mightiest Impulse ever given in the past, and as we have repeatedly emphasised, it is greater than any that can at any future time come into the earth development. We have also repeatedly stated that new impulses must ever come; new Spiritual life and a new way of understanding the old Spiritual life must flow into the development of mankind; were it not for this, the tree of human development, which will grow green when humanity has attained the goal of its evolution, would wither and perish. The mighty Christ-Well of life out of which He poured into human development must, through the new Spiritual impulses flowing into our earth-life, be better and better understood.
As our own age, our nineteenth century drew near, the time came when human development once again required a new intervention, a new impulse. Once again new stimuli, new revelations, had to flow from the super-sensible worlds into our physical world. This was a necessity, and ought to have been felt as such in the earth itself, and was so felt in those regions from which the life of earth is guided, the Spiritual regions; only a short-sighted human observation could say: ‘What is the use of these constantly fresh streams of perfectly new kinds of truths? Why should there be constantly new knowledge and new life-impulses? We have that which was given us in Christianity, for example, and with that we can go on quite simply in the old way!’ From a higher standpoint this sort of observation is extremely egotistical. It really is! The very fact that such egotistical remarks are so frequently made to-day by the very people who believe themselves to be good and religious, is all the stronger proof that a refreshing of our Spiritual life is wanted. How often we hear it said to-day: ‘What is the use of new Spiritual movements? We have our old traditions which have been preserved through the ages as far back as history records; do not let us spoil those traditions by what these people say who always think they know best!’ That is an egotistical expression of the human soul. Those who speak thus are not aware of this; they do not realise that they are only anxious about the demands of their own souls. In themselves they feel: ‘We are quite satisfied with what we have!’ And they establish the dogma, a dreadful dogma from the standpoint of conscience, ‘If we are satisfied with our way, those who must learn from us, those who come after us, must learn to find satisfaction in the same way as we have. All must go on as we ourselves feel to be right, in accordance with our knowledge!’ That way of talking is very, very frequently heard in the outer world. This does not merely come from the limitations of a narrow soul, but is connected with what we might call an egotistical bent of the human soul. In religious life souls may in reality be extremely egotistical, while wearing a mask of piety. Anyone who takes the question of the Spiritual development of mankind seriously, must, if he studies the world around him with understanding, become aware of one thing. He must see that the human soul is gradually breaking away more and more from the method in which for centuries men have contemplated the Christ-Impulse, that greatest Impulse in the development of mankind. I do not as a rule care to refer to contemporaneous matters, for what goes on in the external spiritual life to-day is for the most part too insignificant to appeal to the deeper side of a serious observer. For instance, it was impossible in Berlin, during the last few weeks, to pass a placarding column without seeing notices of a lecture entitled, ‘Did Jesus live?’ You probably all know that what led to this subject being discussed as it has been in the widest circles — sometimes with very radical weapons — was the view announced by a German Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Arthur Drews, a disciple of Edouard Hartmann, author of The Philosophy of the Unknown and more especially of The Christ Myth. The contents of the latter book have been made more widely known by the lecture given by Professor Drews here in Berlin, under the title: ‘Did Jesus live?’
It is, of course, in no sense my task to enter into the particulars of that lecture. I will only put its principal thoughts before you. The author of The Christ Myth, — a modern philosopher who may be supposed to represent the science and thought of the day, — searches through the several records of olden times that are supposed to offer historical proof that a certain person of the name of Jesus of Nazareth lived at the beginning of our era. He then tries, by the help of what science and the critics have proved, to reduce the result of all this to something like the following question: ‘Are the separate Gospels historic records proving that Jesus lived?’ He takes all that Modern Theology on its part has to say, and then tries to show that none of the Gospels can be historic records and that it is impossible to prove by them that Jesus ever lived. He also tries to prove that none of the other records of a purely historical nature which man possesses are determinative, and that nothing conclusive concerning an historic Jesus can be deduced from them.
Now everyone who has gone into this question knows, that considered purely from an external standpoint, the sort of observation practised by Professor Drews has much in its favour, and comes as a sort of result of modern theological criticism. I will not go into details; for it is of no consequence to-day that someone having studied the philosophical side of science should assert that there is no historic document to prove that Jesus lived, because the only documents supposed to do so are not authoritative. Drews and all those of like mind go by what has come to us from Paul the Apostle. (In recent times there are even people who doubt the genuine character of all the Pauline Epistles, but as the author of The Christ Myth does not go so far as that, we need not go into it.) Drews says of St. Paul that he does not base his assertions on a personal acquaintance with Jesus of Nazareth, but on the revelation he received in the Event of Damascus. We know that this is absolutely true. But now Drews comes to the following conclusion: ‘What concept of Christ did St. Paul hold? He formed the concept of a purely Spiritual Christ, who can dwell in each human soul, so to speak, and can be realised within each one. St. Paul nowhere asserts the necessity that the Christ, whom he considered as a purely Spiritual Being, should have been present in a Jesus whose existence cannot be historically proved. One can therefore say: that no one knows whether an historic Jesus lived or not; that the Christ-concept of St. Paul is a purely spiritual one, simply reproducing what may live in every human soul as an impulse towards perfection, as a sort of God in man.’ The author of The Christ Myth further points out that certain conceptions — similar to the idea the Christians have of Jesus Christ — were already in existence concerning a sort of pre-Christian Jesus, and that several Eastern peoples had the concept of a Messiah. This compels Drews to ask: ‘What then is actually the difference between the idea of Christ which St. Paul had [and which Drews does not attempt to deny], — what is the difference between the picture of Christ which St. Paul had in his heart and soul, and the idea of the Messiah already in existence?’ Drews then goes on to say: ‘Before the time of St. Paul, men had a Christ-picture of a God, a Messiah-picture of a God, who did not actually become man, who did not descend so far as individual manhood; they even celebrated His suffering, death and resurrection as symbolical processes in their various festivals and mysteries; but one thing they did not possess: there is no record of an individual man having really passed through suffering, death and resurrection on the physical earth.’ That then was more or less the general idea — The author of The Christ Myth now asks: ‘In how far then is there anything new in St. Paul? To what extent did he carry the idea of Christ further?’
Drews himself replies: ‘The advance made by St. Paul on the earlier conceptions is that he does not represent a God hovering in the higher regions, but a God who became individual man.’ Now I want you to note this: According to the author of The Christ Myth, Paul pictures a Christ who really became man. But the strange part is this: St. Paul is supposed to have stopped short at that idea! He is supposed to have grasped the idea of a Christ Who really became man, although, according to him Christ never existed as such! St. Paul is therefore supposed to say, that the highest idea possible is that of a God, a Christ, not only hovering in the higher regions, but having descended to earth and become man; but it never entered his mind that this Christ actually did live on earth in a human being. This means that the author of The Christ Myth attributes to St. Paul a conception of the Christ which, to sound thinking is a mockery. St. Paul is made to say: ‘Christ must certainly have been an individual man, but although I preach Him, I deny His existence in any historical sense.’
That is the nucleus round which the whole subject turns; truly one does not require much theological or critical erudition to refute it; it is only necessary to confront Professor Drews as philosopher. For his Christ-concept cannot possibly stand. The Pauline Christ-concept, in the sense in which Drews takes it, cannot be maintained without accepting the historic Jesus. Professor Drews' book itself demands the existence of the historic Jesus. It would seem therefore, that at the present time a book can be accepted in the widest circles and considered as an earnest and scientific work, which is centred upon a contradiction such as turns all inner logic into a mockery! Is it possible in these days for human thought to travel along such crooked paths as these? What is the reason of this? Anyone who wishes clearly to understand the development of mankind must find the answer to that question.
The reason is that what men believe or think at any given period, is not the result of their logical thought, but of their feelings and sentiments; they believe and think what they wish to think. In particular do those who are preparing the Christ-concept for the coming age feel a strong impulse to shut out from their hearts everything to be found in the old external records — and yet they also feel an urge to prove everything by means of such external documents. These however, considered from a purely material standpoint, lose their value after a definite lapse of time. The time will come for Shakespeare, just as it came for Honker, so will it come for Goethe, when people will try to prove that an historic Goethe never existed at all. Historic records must in course of time lose their value from a material standpoint. What then is necessary, seeing that we are already living in an age when the thought of its most prominent representatives is such that they have an impulse in their hearts urging them towards the denial of the historic Christ? What is necessary as a new impulse of Spiritual life? It is necessary that the possibility should be given of understanding the historic Jesus in a spiritual way. In what other way can this fact be expressed?
As we all know, St. Paul started from the Event of Damascus. We also know that to him that Event was the great revelation, whereas all he had heard at Jerusalem — on the physical plane, as direct information — had not been able to make a Saul into St. Paul. What convinced him was the Damascus revelation from Spiritual worlds! Through that alone Christianity really came into being, and through that St. Paul gained the power to proclaim the Christ. But did he obtain a purely abstract idea, which in itself might be contradicted? No! He was convinced from what he had seen in the Spiritual worlds that Christ had lived on earth, had suffered, died and risen. ‘If Christ be not risen then is my teaching vain,’ St. Paul quite rightly said. He did not receive the mere idea, the concept of Christ from the Spiritual worlds, he convinced himself of the reality of the Christ, Who died on Golgotha. To him that was proof of the historic Jesus.
What then is necessary, now that the time is approaching when, as a result of the materialism of the age the historic records are losing their value, when everyone can quite easily prove that these records cannot withstand criticism, so that nothing can be proved externally and historically? It is necessary that people should learn that Christ can be recognised as the historic Jesus without any external records whatever, that through a right training the Event of Damascus can be renewed in each human being and indeed in the near future will be renewed for humanity as a whole, so that it is absolutely possible to be convinced of the existence of an historic Jesus. That is the new way in which the world must find the road to Him. It is of no consequence whether the facts that occurred were right or wrong, the point of importance is that they did occur. It is of no consequence that such a book as The Christ Myth should contain certain errors, the thing that matters is, it was found possible to write it! It shows that quite different methods are necessary in order that Christ may remain with humanity; that He may be rediscovered.
A man who thinks about humanity and its needs and of how the souls of men are expressing themselves externally, will not adopt the standpoint of saying: ‘What do those people who think differently matter to me? I have my own convictions, they are quite enough for me.’ Most people do not realise what dreadful egoism underlies such words. It was not as the result of an idea, an outer ideal, or of any personal predilection, that a movement arose through which people might learn that it is possible to find the way into the spiritual world, and that among other things, Christ Himself can also be found there. This movement came into being in response to a necessity which arose in the course of the nineteenth century, that there should flow down from the spiritual worlds into the physical world, possibilities, by means of which men will be able to obtain spiritual truth in a new sort of way, the old way having died out. In the course of the past winter, have we not testified how fruitful this new way may be?
We have repeatedly laid stress on the fact that the first thing for us in our movement is not to take our stand on any record or external document, but first of all to enquire: What is revealed to clairvoyant consciousness when one ascends to the spiritual worlds? If, through some catastrophe, all the historical proofs of the historic Jesus of the Gospels and of the Epistles of St. Paul were lost, what would independent spiritual consciousness tell us? What do we learn concerning the spiritual worlds on the path which can be trodden any day and hour by each one? We are told: ‘In the Spiritual worlds you will find the Christ, even though you know nothing historically of the fact that He was on the earth at the beginning of our era.’
The fact which must be established over and over again by a renewal of the Event of Damascus is that there is an original proof of the historic personality of Jesus of Nazareth! Just as a school-boy is not told that he must believe the three sides of a triangle make a hundred and eighty degrees simply because in olden times that was laid down as a fact, but is made to prove it for himself, — so we to-day, not only testify out of a spiritual consciousness that Christ has always existed, but also that the historic Jesus can be found in the spiritual worlds, that He is a reality, and was a reality at the very time of which tradition tells.
We have gone further and have shown that what we established by spiritual perception without the Gospels, is to be rediscovered within them. We then feel a deep respect and reverence for the Gospels for we find again in them what we found in the spiritual worlds independently of them. We now know that they must have come from the same sources of super-sensible illumination from which we must draw to-day; we know they must be records of the spiritual worlds.
The purpose of what we call the Theosophical movement is to make such a method of observation possible, to make it possible for spiritual life to play its part in human science. In order that this might come about, the stimulus thereto had to be given by the Theosophical Society. That is the one side of the question. The other is that this stimulus had to be given at a time which was least ripe for it. This is proved by the fact that to-day, thirty years after the birth of the Theosophical movement, the story of the non-historic Jesus still endures. How much is known, outside this movement, of the possibility of the historic Jesus being discovered in any other way than through the external documents? What was being done in the nineteenth century still continues: the authority of the religious documents is being undermined. Thus while there was the greatest necessity that this new possibility should be given to humanity — on the other hand the preparations made for its reception were the smallest conceivable. For do we by any chance believe that our modern philosophers are particularly ready to receive it? How little ready the philosophers of the twentieth century are, can be seen by the concept they have of the Christ of St. Paul. Anyone acquainted with scientific life knows that this is the great and final result of the materialism which has been preparing for centuries: although it asserts that it wishes to rise above materialism, the mode of thought prevailing in science has not progressed beyond that which is in process of dying out. Science as it exists to-day certainly is a ripe fruit, but one which must suffer the fate of all ripe fruit; it must begin to decay. No one can assert that it could bring forth a new impulse for the renewal of its mode of thought or of its methods of coming to conclusions. When we think of this we realise, apart from all other considerations, the weight of the stimulus given through H. P. Blavatsky; — no matter what our opinions of her capacities and the details of her life may be, she was the instrument for the giving of the stimulus; and she proved herself fully competent for the purpose, — We who are taking part in celebrating such a day as this, as members of the Theosophical Society, are in a very peculiar position. We are celebrating a personal festival, dedicated to one person. Now, although the belief in Authority is certainly a dangerous thing in the external world, yet there the danger is reduced by reason of the jealousy and envy that play so great a part; even though the reverence of a few persons is manifested outwardly, and rather strongly, by the burning of incense, yet egoism and envy has considerable power over them. In the Theosophical movement the danger of injury through the worship of the personality and belief in Authority is particularly great. We are, therefore, in a very peculiar position when we celebrate a festival dedicated to a personality. Not only the customs of the time but also the matter itself places us in a difficult position, for the revelations of the higher worlds must always come along the by-way of the personality. Personalities must be the bearers of the revelations — and yet we must take care not to confuse the former with the latter. We must receive the revelations through the medium of a personality, and the question that constantly recurs whether he or she is worthy of confidence, is a very natural one. “What they did on such and such a day does not harmonise with our ideas! Can we, therefore, believe in the whole thing?”
This forms part of a certain tendency of our time, which we may describe as lack of devotion to the truth. How often at the present day do we hear of a case in which some prominent person may please the public; for one or more decades what he or she does may be quite satisfactory, for the public is too lazy to go into the matter for itself. Some years after, if it should transpire that this person's private life is not all it might be and open to suspicion, the idol then falls to the ground. Whether this is right or not is not the point. The point is that we ought to acquire a feeling that although the person in question may be the means by which the spiritual life comes to us, it is our duty to prove this for ourselves — and indeed to test the person by the truth, instead of testing the truth by the person. Especially should that be our attitude in the Theosophical movement: we pay most respect to a personality if we do not encumber him with belief in Authority, as people are so fond of doing, for we know that the activity of that personality after death is only transferred to the spiritual world. We are justified in saying that the activity of H. P. Blavatsky still continues, and we, within the movement which she instigated, can either further that activity or injure it. Most of all do we injure it if we blindly believe in her, swearing by what she thought when she lived on the physical plane, and blindly believing in her authority. We revere and help her most if we are fully conscious that she provided the stimulus for a movement which originated from one of the deepest necessities in human evolution. While we see that this movement had to come, we ascribe the stimulus to her; but many years have gone by since that time and we must prove ourselves worthy of her work, by acknowledging that what was then started must now be carried further. We admit that it had to be instigated by her, but do not let us ferret about in her private affairs, especially at the present time. We know the significance of the impetus she gave, but we know that it only very imperfectly represents what is to come. When we recollect all that has been put before our souls during the past winter, we cannot but say: What Madame Blavatsky started is indeed of deep and incisive importance, but how immeasurable is all that she could not accomplish in that introductory act of hers! What has just been said of the necessity of the Theosophical Movement for the Christ-experience was completely hidden from Blavatsky. Her task was to point out the germs of truth in the religions of the Aryan peoples; the comprehension of the revelations given in the Old and New Testaments was denied her. We honour the positive work accomplished by this Personality and we shall not refer to all she was not able to do, all that was concealed from her and which we must now contribute. Anyone who allows himself to be stirred by H. P. Blavatsky and wishes to go further than she, will say: If the stimulus given by her in the Theosophical Movement is to be carried further, we must attain to an understanding of the Christ-Event.
The early Theosophical movement failed to grasp the religious and spiritual life of the Old and New Testaments; that is why everything is wide of the mark in this first movement, and the Theosophical Movement has the task of making this good and of adding what was not given at first. If we inwardly feel these facts, they are as it were a claim, made by our Theosophical conscience.
Thus we visualise H. P. Blavatsky as the bringer of a sort of dawn of a new light; but of what good would that light be if it were not to illuminate the most important thing that mankind has ever possessed! A Theosophy which does not provide the means of understanding Christianity is absolutely valueless to our present civilisation; but if it should become an instrument for the understanding of Christianity we should then be making the right use of the instrument. If we do not do this, if we do not use the impulse given by H. P. Blavatsky for this purpose, what are we doing? We are arresting the activity of her spirit in our age! Everything is in course of development, including the spirit of Blavatsky. Her spirit is now working in the spiritual world to further the progress of the Theosophical movement; but if we sit before her and the book she wrote, saying: ‘We will raise a monument to you consisting of your own works,’ — who is it that is making her spirit earth-bound? Who is condemning her not to progress beyond what she established on earth? We, ourselves! We revere and acknowledge her value if, even as she herself went beyond her time, we also go further than she did so long as the grace ruling the development of the world continues to vouchsafe spiritual revelations from the spiritual world.
That is what we place before our souls to-day as a question of conscience, and after all that is most in accordance with the wishes of our comrade H. C. Olcott, the first President of the Theosophical Society, who has also now passed into the spiritual world. Let us inscribe this in our souls to-day, for it is precisely through lack of knowledge of the living Theosophical life that all the shadow-sides of the Theosophical movement have arisen. If the Theosophical movement were to carry out its great original impulse, unweakened, and with a holy conscience, it would possess the force to drive out of the field all the harmful influences which, as time went by, have already come in, as well as others which certainly will come. This one thing we must very earnestly do: we must continue to develop the impulse. In many places to-day we see Theosophists who think they are doing good work, and who feel very happy to be able to say: ‘We are now doing something which is in conformity with external science!’ How pleasing it is to many leading Theosophists if they can point out that those who study various religions confirm what has come from the spiritual world; while they quite fail to observe that it is just this unspiritual mode of comparison that must be overcome. For instance Theosophy comes into close contact with the thoughts which led to the denial of the historic Jesus and indeed there is a certain relation between them. Originally Theosophy only ranked the historic Jesus with other founders of religion. It never occurred to Blavatsky to deny the historic Jesus; though she certainly placed Him one hundred years earlier. She did not deny His existence, but she did not recognise Christ-Jesus; although she instigated the movement in which He may some day be known, she was not able herself to recognise Him. In this, the first state of the Theosophical movement comes strangely into line with what those who deny the historic Jesus are doing to-day.
For instance, Professor Drews points out that the occurrences that preceded the Event of Golgotha can also be found in the accounts of the old Gods, for example in the cult of Adonis or Tammuz, in that there is a suffering God-hero, a dying God-hero and a risen God-hero, and so on. What is contained in the various religious traditions is always being brought forward and the following conclusion drawn: you are told of a Jesus of Nazareth, who suffered, died and rose again and who was the Christ; but you see that other peoples also worshipped an Adonis, a Tammuz, etc. The similarity to one of the old gods is constantly being insisted on, when referring to the occurrences in Palestine.
This is also being done in our Theosophical movement. People do not realise that comparing the religions of Adonis or Tammuz with the events in Palestine proves nothing. I will show you by means of an example wherein such comparisons are at fault; on the surface they may work out all right, yet there is a great flaw in them. Suppose an official living in 1910 wore a certain uniform as an outer sign of his official activity; and that in 1930 a totally different man should wear the same uniform. It will not be the uniform but the individual wearing it that determines the efficiency of the work he accomplishes. Now, suppose that in the year 2090 an historian comes forward and says: ‘I have ascertained that in 1910 there lived a man who wore a particular coat, waistcoat and trousers and further, that in 1930 the same uniform was being worn, we see therefore, that the coat, waistcoat and trousers have been carried over and that on both occasions we have the same being before us.’
Such a conclusion would of course be foolish, but not more so than to say that in the religions of Asia Minor we find Adonis or Tammuz undergoing suffering and death and rising again, and that we find the same in Christ! The point is not that suffering, death and resurrection were experienced, the point is by Whom were they experienced! Suffering, death and resurrection are like a uniform in the historical development of the world and we should not point to the uniform we meet with in the legends, but to the individualities who wore it. It is true that individualities, in order that men might understand them, have so to say performed Christ-deeds which show that they too could accomplish the acts of a Tammuz, for instance; but each time there was a different being behind the acts. Therefore, all comparisons of religions proving that the figure of Siegfried corresponds to that of Baldur, Baldur to Tammuz and so on, are but a sign that the legends and myths take certain forms in certain peoples. When we are trying to gain knowledge of man there is no more value in these comparisons than there would be in pointing out that a certain species of uniform is later found to be in use for the same office. That is the fundamental error prevailing everywhere, even in the Theosophical movement, and it is nothing but a result of the materialistic habit of thought.
The will and testament of Blavatsky will only be fulfilled if the Theosophical movement is able to cultivate and preserve the life of the spirit — if it looks to the spirit which shows itself, and not in the books someone may have written. Spirit should be cultivated among us. We will not merely study books written centuries ago, but develop in a living way the spirit which has been given us. We will be a union of persons who do not simply believe in books or in individuals, but in the living spirit; who do not merely talk about H. P. Blavatsky having departed from the physical plane and continuing to live on after her death, but who believe in such a living way in what has been revealed through Theosophy that her life on the physical plane may not be made a hindrance to the further super-sensible activity of her spirit.
Only when we think about her in that way will the Theosophical movement be of use, and only when men and women who think in that way are to be found on the earth can H. P. Blavatsky do anything for the movement. For this it is necessary that further spiritual research should be made, and above all that people should learn what was asserted in the last public lecture: — that mankind is in process of development and that something approximate to conscience came into being at the time of Jesus Christ; that such things do arise and are of significance to the whole of evolution. At a particular point of time conscience arose; before that time it was altogether a different thing, and it will be different again after man's soul has for some while developed further in the light of conscience. We have already indicated the way in which it will alter in the future.
As a parallel to the appearance of the Event of Damascus a great number of people in the course of the twentieth century will experience something like the following: As soon as they have acted in some way they will learn to contemplate their deed; they will become more thoughtful, they will have an inner picture of the deed. At first only a few people will experience this, but the numbers will continually increase during the next two or three thousand years. As soon as they have done something the picture will be there; at first they will not know what it is; but those who have studied Theosophy will say: ‘This is a picture! It is no dream; it is a picture, showing the karmic fulfilment of the act I have just committed. Some day this will take place as the fulfilment, the karmic balancing of what I have just done!’ This will begin in the twentieth century. Man will begin to develop the faculty of seeing before him a picture of a far-distant, not-yet-accomplished act. It will show itself as an inner counterpart of his action, its karmic fulfilment, which will some day take place. Man will then be able to say: ‘I have now been shown what I shall have to do to compensate for what I have just done, and I can never become perfect until I have made that compensation.’ Karma will then cease to be mere theory, for this inner picture will be experienced.
Such faculties as this are becoming more frequent; new capacities are developing; but the old are the germs for the new. What will make it possible for men to be shown the karmic pictures? It will come as a result of the soul having for some time stood in the light of conscience! Not the various external physical experiences it may have are of most importance to the soul, but rather its progress towards perfection. By the help of conscience the soul is now preparing for what has been just described. The more incarnations a man has during which he cultivates and perfects his conscience, the more he is doing towards acquiring that higher faculty through which in the form of spiritual vision the voice of God will once more speak to him, the voice of God which was formerly experienced in a different way. Æschylos still represented his Orestes as having a vision before him of what had been brought about by his evil actions; he was compelled to see the results of these actions in the external world. The new capacity in course of development for the soul is such that men will see the effects of their deeds in pictures of the future. That is the new stage. Development runs its course in cycles, following a circular movement, and what man possessed in his older vision comes back again in a new form.
Through knowledge of the spiritual world we are really preparing to awake in the right way in our next incarnation, and this knowledge also helps us to work in the right way for those who are to come after us. For this reason Theosophy is in itself no egotistical movement, for it does not concern itself with what benefits the individual alone but with what makes for the progress of all mankind.
We have now enquired on two occasions: ‘What is conscience?’ To-day we have also asked: ‘What will the conscience now developing, eventually become? How does conscience stand, if we regard it as a seed in the age through which we are now passing? What will be the result of the action of this seed of conscience? — The higher faculties just described!’ It is very important that we should believe in the evolution of the soul, from incarnation to incarnation, from age to age. We learn that, when we learn to understand true Christianity. In this respect we still have a great deal to learn from St. Paul. In all Eastern religions, even in Buddhism, you find the doctrine that ‘the outer world is Maya.’ So it is; and in the East that is established as absolute truth. St. Paul points to the same truth, and emphatically asserts it. At the same time St. Paul emphasises something else: ‘Man does not see the truth when he looks with his eyes; he does not see the reality when he looks at what is outside. Why is this? Because, in his descent into matter he himself transfused the external reality with illusion. It is man himself, through his own act, who made the outer world an illusion.’ Whether you call this the Fall, as the Bible does, or give it any other name, it is a man's own fault that the outer world now appears as an illusion. Eastern religions attribute the blame for this to the Gods! ‘Beat thy breast,’ says St. Paul, ‘for thou hast descended and so dimmed thy vision that colour and sound no longer appear spiritual. Dost thou believe that colour and sound are materially existent? They are Maya! Thou thyself hast made them Maya. Thou, man, must release thyself from this; thou must re-acquire what thou has done away with! Thou hast descended into matter and now must thou release thyself therefrom, and set thyself free — though not in the way advised by Buddha: Free thyself from the longing for existence! No! Thou must look upon the life on earth in its true light. What thou thyself hast reduced to Maya, that thou must restore within thee — This thou can'st do by taking into thyself the Christ-force, which will show thee the outer world in its reality!’
Herein lies a great impulse for the life of the countries of the West, a new impulse, which as yet is far from having been carried into all parts. What does the world know to-day of the fact that in one part of it an endeavour is actually being made to create a ‘theory of Knowledge’ in the sense of St. Paul, as it were? Such a theory could not alarm as Kant does: ‘The thing-in-itself is incomprehensible.’ Such a theory of knowledge could only say: ‘It lies with thee, 0 man; through what thou now art, thou art bringing about an untrue reality. Thou must thyself go through an inner process. Then will Maya be transformed into truth, into spiritual reality!’ The task of both my books, Truth and Science and Philosophy of Spiritual Activity was to put the theory of Knowledge on a Pauline basis. Both these books are focused on that which is the great achievement of the Pauline conception of man in the Western world. The reason these books are so little understood, or at most in theosophical circles, is because they assume the hypothesis of the whole impulse which has found expression in the Theosophical movement. The greatest must be seen in the smallest!
Through such considerations as these, which lift us above the limits of our narrow humanity, and show us how, in our little every-day work, we can link on to that which goes on from stage to stage, from life to life, leading us ever more and more into the spiritual existence, — through dwelling on these we shall become good Theosophists. It is right that we should devote ourselves to thoughts such as these, on a day devoted to a personality who gave the stimulus to a movement that will live on and on, which is not to remain a mere colourless theory but must have the sap of life within it, so that the tree of the theosophical conception of the world may constantly renew its greenness.
In this spirit let us endeavour to make ourselves capable of preparing a field in the Theosophical movement in which the impulse of Blavatsky shall not be hindered and arrested, but shall progress to further development.
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