Background to the Gospel of Mark. Lecture 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, June 10, 1911:
It is easy to see how the conceptions of spiritual science that have been voiced for some years within our circle, and in the German section generally, are spreading more and more in the world, that understanding of them is beginning to find its way into the hearts and souls of our contemporaries. It is naturally not possible, although it might be a help to present-day understanding, to speak casually of introducing the ideas, feelings, and knowledge of our spiritual movement into the modern world. Many of you might be glad to know how the spiritual nourishment you have received has affected other souls at the present time. It is only on certain occasions that we can speak of the spread of our spiritual ideas, but it may fill you with a certain satisfaction to know that we can see again and again how in different countries and in different hemispheres the spirit which inspires us is gaining a footing — more in one place, less in another. When I was in Trieste a short time ago trying to arouse some comprehension of our point of view, I could see how the ideas we hold were gaining ground. And when from that southern city I passed northward to Copenhagen, where in a recent course of lectures I tried to arouse some interest in the hearts of my hearers, it could be seen there also how the spirit we cherish under the symbol of the Rose Cross is entering into them more and more. Taking together these separate facts one sees that a need and a longing for what we call “spiritual science” does exist at the present time.
That we should not carry on any agitation or propaganda is a fundamental principle of our spiritual movement; we should rather listen attentively to what of the great wisdom of the world the hearts and souls of the men of today require so that they may have both the possibility and the certainty of life. We may therefore add to the thoughts put forward in a general lecture like this, one more: that we consider it a kind of duty at the present time to make of these spiritual thoughts nourishment for other souls. This depends upon the whole manner in which we enter into the life of our time.
You have doubtless already accepted sufficient of the great law of karma to know that it is not a matter of chance when an individual feels constrained at a certain point of time to assume a physical body and come down in the physical world. All the souls gathered here have felt a longing to assume a physical body at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, because they desired to experience in their own souls all that was being prepared and carried out in their physical environment at this time.
Let us now consider our own age as it appears spiritually to souls which, like our own, are born in it. Things were very different in the spiritual world, as well as in the external world, at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to what they were even fifty or sixty years earlier.
The person who is making progress — and you are all in this position — is trying to learn something of the spirit, and of the spiritual guidance of the world; of what fills surrounding space as the creatures of the different kingdoms of nature, and of what enters into our own souls. For the past half century souls longing for the spirit found extraordinarily little true spiritual nourishment where they hoped to find it. This longing for the spirit exists deep within the souls of all men; it is easily silenced, for it does not speak loudly, but the longing is there, and each one — whatever he is, or does in life — can receive true spiritual nourishment. Whatever department of science people take up today, they only learn from it external material facts which serve to further the progress of civilization in a bright and clever way, but they learn nothing of what is revealed to man through the spirit. Whether he works as an artist or in some practical walk of life, he finds little of what he has need, nothing that can enter his soul, his head, or his hands, to give him power and impulse for his work, and also assurance, solace, and power in life. At the beginning of the nineteenth century people had already come to the conclusion that in the near future little of this would be found. Many a one said to himself in the first half of the nineteenth century when some remnants of the old life still remained even if in another form: “There seems to be something in the air; it is as if the ancient treasures of the spirit that have come down to us from olden times were disappearing. It is as if the expected advance in culture of the nineteenth century had entirely wiped out the spiritual communications that have been handed down to us from ancient times.” Many such voices were heard in the first half of the nineteenth century. To show what I mean I will mention but one example. There was a man living at that time who knew the old kind of Theosophy well; he knew also that this old form would completely disappear in the course of the nineteenth century, yet he was firmly convinced that a future was coming when the old Theosophy would surely return. The passage I am about to read was written in the year 1847, when the first half of the nineteenth century was drawing to a close. He who wrote it was a thinker such as is no longer met with today, for he was still conscious of the last echoes of those ancient communications which have long since been lost to us:
What Theosophy really desires is often difficult to discover from the older theosophists, and this is even less clear today, because on its present path theosophy can attain to no scientific existence, and therefore cannot have any great results. It would be most premature to conclude from this that it is a passing phenomenon without scientific justification. History loudly proclaims the opposite. It tells how it can never get to the bottom of this mysterious phenomenon which breaks out unnoticed again and again, and whose changing forms are preserved by the links of a never-dying tradition. At all times there has really been little that has connected this vital, speculative need with vital religious needs. It is only for these last that theosophy exists. The main thing is, if it might one day become really scientific, and produce clearly defined results, so that it would become popular and come to be accepted generally, and in this way bequeath these truths to others who are unable to travel the path on which alone they could discover them for themselves. But all this rests within the womb of the future which we have no wish to anticipate; for the present we are thankful for the beautiful writings of Oetinger, which can certainly reckon on a large circle of sympathizers. [ 1 ]
From this we see how the theosophic spirit was regarded in 1847 by a man like Richard Rothe of Heidelberg.
What kind of spirit is the theosophic spirit really?
It is a spirit without which true culture would never have taken place. When we think of what is greatest in this, we think of the spirit without which there would have been no Homer, no Pindar, Raphael, or Michelangelo, without which there would have been no deep religious feeling in man — neither spiritual life nor external culture. Everything a man creates must be created by the spirit; if he thinks he can produce anything without it, he is unaware that his whole spiritual endeavor would in that case fail for a certain time. The less spiritual the source from which anything comes, the sooner it dies. Anything having enduring worth must have its source in spirit. The smallest creative act, even in everyday concerns, has an eternal value and connects us with what is eternal; for everything done by man is under the guidance of spiritual life. We know that theosophical life as cultivated by us is founded in Rosicrucianism, and it has often been explained that since the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries the Masters of Rosicrucian wisdom had been preparing what has come to pass since the end of the nineteenth century and will go on further into the twentieth. What was indicated by Rothe as a “future” he hoped and longed for has already become “present” for us today, and will continue to become so more and more. This had long been in preparation by those who allowed this spiritual influence to pour, at first unconsciously, into mankind.
What in a special sense we have called the “Rosicrucian path” has been consciously accepted within our theosophical movement since the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, and what the spirit has imprinted as science on the people of Europe has since then flowed into our hearts.
Can we form an idea from what has taken place in our civilization of how this spirit works?
I have said that since the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries it has “worked” as the true Rosicrucian spirit, but it was always there, and has only assumed this last form since the dates mentioned. This spirit that is active at present as the Rosicrucian spirit goes back to very early ages of humanity. Its mysteries existed in Atlantis. The activity it has recently developed, becoming ever more and more conscious, streamed not so very long ago in an unconscious way into the hearts and souls of men. Let us try to form some idea of how this spirit entered man unconsciously.
We meet together here, and our studies show us how the human soul has developed in this or that, till it has gradually attained to a region where it understands spiritual life, where it may even perhaps see spiritual life. Many of you have striven for years to fill your souls with thoughts and ideas which can set the spiritual life before your eyes. You know the way we regard the secrets of the world. I have often explained the different stages of development the soul passes through, and how it rises to higher worlds. You know that we have to distinguish a higher from a lower part of the self; that man has come over from other planetary conditions and has experienced the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions. During these his physical body, etheric body, and astral body were formed; he then entered on his earthly development. You know that something dwells within us that passes through its training here so as to rise to higher conditions. You have heard that certain beings remained behind on the Moon as Luciferic beings, and these later approached the human astral body as tempters, giving to humanity in this way what they had to give. Then we have often spoken of how man has to overcome certain things in his lower self, that he has to conquer them before he can enter those spheres to which his higher self belongs — that in order to reach these higher regions he has to fulfill the saying of Goethe:—
Und so lang du das nicht hast
Dieses Stirb und Werde,
Bist du nur ein trüber Gast
Auf der dunklen Erde.
“So long as thou hast not experienced death and becoming, thou art a gloomy (sorry) Guest upon a dark Earth.”
We have also said that the human evolution possible today, and that can give us power, certainty, and real content in our lives, is only to be attained when we learn, for instance, of the manifold natures of man, and that this man is not put together in any chaotic manner, but consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. This must not be accepted merely as words, but by describing different temperaments, by studying the education of man, we have presented clear conceptions of these things, showing how up to his seventh year he is concerned with the development of the physical body, up to his fourteenth year with that of the etheric body, and up to his twenty-first year with the astral body. And we learnt from our studies dealing with the mission of truth, of devotion, of anger and so on that what we describe as physical body, etheric body, and astral body, feeling-soul, rational-soul, and consciousness-soul are no abstract ideas, but that they impart life to our whole mental outlook, making everything around us clear and full of meaning. [ 2 ]
It is possible by such ideas to gain understanding of the secrets of the world. And if there are many who consciously or unconsciously persist in their materialistic opinions, there is also a certain number of souls who feel it as a necessity of existence to listen to such statements as we are able to give. Many of you would not have shared in what has been practiced here for years if it were not a necessity of your life. Why are there souls present today who understand the views and ideas evolved here, and who conduct their lives in accordance with them? Because, as you have been born into the world with longings such as I have described, so your forefathers (which means many souls present here today) were born in past centuries into other surroundings and into another world than that of the nineteenth century. Let us look backwards to the sixth and seventh, or to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when many who are here now were incarnated, and let us see what these souls experienced at that time.
There was no theosophical society in those days where people discussed things as we do here, but souls then heard something quite different from the people about them. Let me try to call up before you what these souls heard. They did not travel from place to place in order to hear lectures on spiritual science, but they heard rhapsodists who passed from village to village, from place to place, declaring things concerning the spirit. What did these people say? Let us recall a single instance of this. People did not then say:“We have a Theosophy, a teaching concerning the lower and higher ego, that deals with the different members of man's being and so on,” but rhapsodists traveled through the land, men who were called by the spirit to declare somewhat as follows (I am now repeating some of the things that were spread abroad through Middle and Eastern Europe at that time):
There was once a king's son. He rode forth and came presently to a deep ditch; he heard moaning proceeding from it. He followed the course of the ditch to discover the cause of the moaning, and there he found an old woman. He left his horse, descended into the ditch, and helped the old woman out. He then saw that she could not walk, for she had injured her leg, so he asked her how this accident had come about. She then told him: I am an old woman and I must rise early, soon after midnight, in order to go to the town to sell eggs. On the way I fell into this ditch.” The king's son said: “Thou canst not now reach thine own dwelling. I will set thee on my horse and take thee there.” This he did. The old woman said: “Although of noble birth, thou art a kind and good man, and because thou hast helped me, thou shalt receive a reward from me.” He now guessed that she was something more than an old woman. Then she said: “Because of the kindness thou hast shown me thou shalt receive the reward that thy good soul deserves. Dost thou desire to marry the daughter of the flower-queen?” “Yes,” he said. Then, she continued: “To do so thou hast need of what I can easily give thee.” And she gave him a little bell, saying: “When this is rung once the king-eagle will come with his hosts to help thee, whatever the position in which thou mayst be; when thou ringest twice the king of the foxes with his pack will come to help thee, wherever thou art; and if thou ringest thrice the king of the fishes will come with his hosts and will help thee wherever thou art.”
The king's son took the little bell and returned home and said that he was going to seek the daughter of the flower-queen, and rode forth. He rode a long, long time and no one could tell him where the daughter of the flower-queen dwelt. His horse was by this time worn out and broken down, so that he had to pursue his wanderings on foot. He met an old man and asked him where the dwelling of the flower-queen's daughter was. “I cannot tell thee,” said the old man. “Go on further and ever further, and thou wilt find my father, and he will perhaps tell thee.” So the king's son went on further, and at last found a very ancient primeval man of whom he asked if he could tell him where the flower-queen dwelt with her daughter. Then the old man said to him: “The flower-queen dwells afar in a mountain that thou canst see in the distance from here. She is, however, watched over by a savage dragon. Thou canst not reach her, for the dragon never sleeps in these days; there is only a certain time in which he sleeps, and this is his waking time. But thou must go still further to another mountain: there lives the dragon's mother. Through her thou will reach thy goal.” Courageously he went on. He reached the first mountain, then the second mountain; there he found the dragon's mother, the archetype of all ugliness. But he knew it depended on her whether he would find the daughter of the flower-queen or not. He then saw near the first, seven other dragons who all desired to watch over the flower-queen and her daughter, who had long been held prisoners and who were to be liberated by a king's son. He said to the dragon's mother: “Oh, I know that I must be thy bondsman if I am to find the flower-queen!” “Yes,” she answered, “thou must be my bondsman, and thou must do me a service that is not easy. Here is a horse: thou must lead him out to pasture the first day, the second, and the third day. If thou bringst him home safe, then on the third day perhaps thou mayst attain thy desire. But if thou dost not bring him safe home, the dragon will eat thee — we shall all eat thee.” The next morning he was given the horse. He tried to lead it to the pasture, but soon the horse escaped from him. He sought it but could not find it, and was most unhappy. He remembered the little bell the old woman had given him. He drew it forth and rang it once. Then many eagles appeared, led by the king-eagle. They found the horse, and he was able to lead it back to the mother dragon. She said: “Because thou hast brought it back I will give thee a mantle of copper; with it thou canst take part in the ball that is to be given tonight in the circles of the flower-queen and her daughter.”
On the second day he was again to take the horse to the meadow. It was given to him, but soon it escaped again, and nowhere could he find it. So he drew forth the little bell again and rang it twice. Immediately the king of the foxes appeared with a large following. They found the horse, and he was able to restore it to the dragon's mother. She then said to him: “Today thou shalt receive a silver mantle with which thou canst again attend the ball that takes place tonight in the circle of the flower-queen and her daughter.” At the ball the flower-queen's daughter said to him: “Demand on the third day a number of these horses: with them thou canst rescue us and we shall be united.” On the third day the horse was again handed over to him so that he could take it to the pastures. At once it escaped again, for it was very wild. He drew forth his little bell and rang it three times. The fish-king then appeared with his following. They found the horse and he took it back a third time. He had successfully performed his task. The dragon mother then gave him as recompense a mantle of gold as his third covering; with it he could take part on the third day at the ball at the flower-queen's dwelling. Besides this he was able to bring as a fitting present to her those horses that he had taken care of. With them he could carry the flower-queen and her daughter to their own fortress. And round this fortress which all the others wished to steal from her they allowed a thick hedge of bushes to grow so that the fortress could not be taken.
Then the flower-queen said to the king's son:“Thou hast won my daughter; thou shalt have her by and by, but only on one condition. Thou shalt only have her for half the year; the other half she must withdraw from the surface of the Earth so that she may be with me; only thus is it possible for thee to be united with her.”
In this way he won the daughter of the flower-queen and lived with her always for half the year; during the other half she was with her mother. This and other stories entered into very many souls. They listened to them, but did not interpret them allegorically after the manner of the strange theosophists of recent times; for these things have no value as symbolic or allegoric statements. No! people accepted them because they found pleasure and joy in them; they felt warm life flow through their souls when they listened to such tales.
There are many souls living now who heard such tales and accepted them with joy. And when received in this way they continued to live within these souls: they turned into thought-forms, into feelings and perceptions; thus they became something different than they were before. This produced results, it imparted powers to such souls, and these powers were changed, they were transformed into something else. Into what were they changed?
They were changed into that which lives in men's souls today as longing for a higher elucidation of these same secrets, a longing for theosophy. The rhapsodist did not tell of people who strove toward their higher self, and to attain it must conquer the lower self which held them down, but they told of a king's son who, as he rode forth through the world, found an old woman in distress, and did a good and kindly deed! Today, we say: People must do good deeds, deeds of love and sacrifice. At that time men spoke in images. Today we say: Men must feel within such sympathy for the spirit that they divine something of the spiritual world, something that connects them with it, and enables them to develop forces that can put them in touch with it. In earlier times men were told in parables of the old woman who gave the king's son a bell. Today they are told: Man has taken all the other kingdoms of nature into himself: what lives scattered in them is united harmoniously in him. But he must understand how something lives in him which lives in all surrounding nature, that he can only overcome his lower nature when this is brought into right relationship with himself so that it can help him.
We have often spoken of the evolution of man through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon epochs: how he left the other kingdoms of nature behind him, retaining the best out of each, so that he might rise to something higher. By what means has he evolved? By means of that which Plato uses as a symbol — the horse; on this he rides forward from incarnation to incarnation. At that time the image of the bell was used; it was rung to summon the kingdoms of nature through their representatives — the Eagle-king, Fox-king, and Fish-king — so that he who was to become the ruler of these kingdoms might be brought into right relationship with them.
The soul of man is untamed, and only when love and wisdom control it is it brought into the right relationship. At one time this was brought to man's notice in pictures; his soul was guided so that he could understand what today is told us differently. At that time he was told: When you ring the bell once the Eagle-king comes, when you ring it twice the Fox-king comes, and when you ring it three times the Fish-king; these brought back the horse. This means the storms which rage in the human soul must be recognized, and when we recognize them we can free it from the lower disturbances and bring it into order.
Man must learn to know how his own passions — anger and so on — are connected with his development from one seven years to another seven; he must learn to know the threefold nature of the human sheaths. In former days we were presented with a wonderful picture. Every time the king's son rang the bell — that is, when by his own power he had subdued one of the kingdoms — he acquired a covering, a sheath.
Today we say: We study the nature of the physical body. At that time an image was used: the dragon-mother gave the man a mantle of copper. Today we say: We study the nature of our etheric body; then it was said: The dragon-mother gave him a silver mantle. Again we say: We learn to know our astral body with all its surging passions. At that time they said: The dragon-mother gave him on the third day a golden mantle.
What we learn today concerning the threefold sheath-nature of man was brought to people at an earlier day through the image of the copper, silver, and golden mantles. And to the souls that then received the thought-form of the copper, silver, and golden mantles, we say today: What brings you understanding of the dense physical body is related to the other bodies as copper ore is to silver and gold. Today we say: Backward Luciferic beings of seven different kinds remained behind on the Moon and worked upon the human astral body. The rhapsodists said: When the king's son came to the mountain where he was to be united with the flower-queen's daughter, he met seven dragons who would have devoured him if he had not accomplished his day's task. We know that if our evolution is not carried out aright it is owing to the power of the seven different kinds of Luciferic beings. Today we say: In carrying out our spiritual development we find our higher self. Formerly, people were presented with a picture. The king's son, they were ,united himself with the flower-queen's daughter. We say: The human soul must attain to a certain rhythm.
In one of the earlier lectures in this course I said: When an idea rises in a man's soul he must allow it time to mature; he will then observe a certain rhythm. After seven days the idea has entered deeply into his soul; after fourteen days, the idea now being more mature, is able to lay hold of the outer astral substance, and to allow itself to be “baptised by the universal spirit”; after twenty-one days it has matured still further, and only after four times seven days does it reach the stage where he can give it to the world as his own personal gift. What I have described is an inner rhythm of the soul.
A man can only create successfully when he has no desire to impart hurriedly to the world what has chanced to come to him, but knows that the orderliness of the external universe must enter in his soul. We must live so that we repeat the macrocosm microscopically in ourselves.
These pictures which were told everywhere — and hundreds of them could be cited — stimulated the powers of the human soul by means of thought-forms, so that such souls are today ripe enough to listen to the other form of instruction, the form cultivated in spiritual science. But the longing for this had first to become very strong. All the conscious striving of men's souls had first to disappear from the physical plane. Then with the coming of the second half of the nineteenth century materialistic culture arose, and all was desolation as regards spiritual life. But the longing, on the other hand, grew ever greater and greater the more the ideal of a future spiritual movement grew. There were but few remaining in the first half of the nineteenth century who felt, as in a faint memory, and experienced in silent martyrdom, how the ideas which were once perceived, discussed, and developed still existed; but were in decline.
In 1803 a man was born in whose soul some echo of the wisdom of an earlier day still remained. Something dwelt in him that was closely related to our theosophical ideas. His soul was filled with longing to solve the secrets of spiritual science — his name was Julius Mosen. His life could only be preserved by spending the greater part of it in bed. His soul no longer suited his body, for owing to the way he had grasped these things, yet was unable spiritually to enter further into them, he had drawn his etheric body out of his physical body, and consequently he had become an invalid. He had, however, risen spiritually to considerable heights. In the year 1831 he wrote a remarkable book called “Ritter Wahn.” He knew of a wonderful legend in Italy about the Knight Wahn, and when studying it he said to himself: Something of the spirit of the universe lives in this legend; this saga has arisen in the way it has, these pictures have been formed as they are, because those who formed them were filled with the living spiritual guidance of the world. What was the result? In 1831 he wrote a most wonderful dramatic work. It has naturally been forgotten — as everything is that originates in this way from greatness of spirit. Ritter Wahn sets out to conquer death. On the way he meets with three old men. It occurred to Julius Mosen strangely enough to translate the name of one of the old men, it Mondo, as Ird (Earth), for he knew something special lay in translating it thus into German. The name of the three old men whom Ritter Wahn met when he set out to conquer death were Ird, Zeit, and Raum — earth, time and space. The three could not help him, for they were subject to death. Ird (earth) is that which is subject to the laws of the physical body, and therefore to death; Zeit (time), the etheric body, is transient; and the third, the lower astral body, which gives us the impression of space, is also subject to death. Our individuality passes from incarnation to incarnation, but that by which we are fixed within our three sheaths, according to this Italian legend, is Ird, Zeit, and Raum (earth, time and space). What is the Ritter Wahn? — Illusion.
We have often spoken of what enters us as maya. We ourselves are it; we who go on from incarnation to incarnation look out on the world, and are confronted with the great illusion. Each one of us is a “Ritter Wahn” and each one goes forth, if we live in the spirit, to conquer death. In this life we meet the three old men, our sheaths. They are very old. The physical body has existed since the age of Saturn, the etheric body since the Sun-age, the astral body since the Moon-age, and that which dwells in man as the “I” has been united with him since the coming of the Earth-age. Julius Mosen represents this in such a way that the soul, by which Ritter Wahn would conquer death, first storms out into the world as a rider, thus employing the Platonic image which was prevalent all over Central Europe and far beyond it. So Ritter Wahn rides forth, and would conquer heaven with the aid of materialistic thoughts — as people do who trust to the senses — thereby remaining entangled in delusion and maya.
But when at death they enter the spiritual world, what happens is beautifully described by Julius Mosen — life is not exhausted; souls long to return to Earth to carry out their further development. Ritter Wahn comes down to Earth again. And as he sees the beautiful Morgana, the soul as it is stirred by everything earthly — just as was the flower-queen's daughter — and revealing its union with everything that can only come to man through earthly schooling, there when united with the beautiful Morgana, when again united with the Earth, death falls away from him. This means he passes through death in order to raise his own soul (represented by Morgana) ever higher, to purify and develop it further in each incarnation.
From images like these, which bear the stamp of many centuries, ideas enter into man and are aided by artists like Julius Mosen. They sprang in his case from a soul too great to live healthily in a body belonging to the age of materialism that was approaching; therefore, owing to the greatness of his glowing soul, he suffered a silent martyrdom. This was in the year 1831. All these thoughts lived in the soul of a man in the first half of the nineteenth century. They must rise again, but now so that they will kindle human powers, human forces. Yes, they will rise again. This gives us some understanding of what is meant when we speak of a theosophical spirit, the spirit of Rosicrucianism, which must enter into mankind.
We now divine that what is cherished in our movement has existed always. We fall into the illusion of Ritter Wahn if we imagine anything can prosper without active cooperation of this spirit.
Whence came the rhapsodists of the seventh to the twelfth century; the men who wandered through the world giving rise to thought-forms so that souls might comprehend things somewhat differently? From what center did they come? Where had they learnt how to present such pictures to the souls of men? They learnt this in those temples which we recognize as the schools of the Rosicrucians. The rhapsodists were pupils of the Rosicrucians. Their teachers told them: You cannot go forth today and speak to mankind in ideas as will be done later; today you must speak to them of the king's son, of the flower-queen, of the three mantles. By this means thought-forms are built up which will live in men's souls, and when these souls return they will understand what is necessary for them for their further progress.
Spiritual centers are continually sending their messengers out into the world, so that in every age that which lives in the depths of the spirit may be brought near to the souls of men.
It is a trivial point of view when people think they can construct such tales as I have been describing from fancy. Ancient legends which express the spiritual secrets of the world arise because the men who compose them have harkened to and been purified by those who impart these secrets; the whole form of the legends is constructed in accordance with these spiritual secrets. The spirit of all humanity — both of the Microcosm and the Macrocosm — lives in them.
The rhapsodists were sent to spread their meaningful legends through the world from the same temples whence originates the special knowledge of today — knowledge that, entering into men's hearts and souls, makes the culture they demand possible. In this way the spirit that is deeply implanted in humanity passes on from epoch to epoch. And in this way the great beings, who in pre-Christian times instructed individualities within the holy temples concerning the things they had brought over with them from earlier planetary conditions, strengthened this teaching by introducing into it the Christ so that their work might continue in accordance with this superlative being — the Christ who had now become the great leader and guide of mankind!
When I tell you that the tales which have endured for so many centuries and called forth thought-forms in Western culture came from the same source, and expressed the same things — only in pictures — that we tell the world today concerning the Christ; you will realize how in the time following the Mystery of Golgotha the spiritual guides of humanity did in fact further arid support the teaching of Christ in their centers of learning. All spiritual guidance is connected with the Christ. When we are aware of this connection we catch a glimpse of the light we must have, and must make use of, more especially in respect of the things our souls longed for when they came into incarnation in the nineteenth century. If we allow those forms to affect us which can inform us regarding the longings of earlier days, we feel we can rely upon our souls and can say: Those others waited so that we might accomplish what they longed for. What spirits like Julius Mosen had longed for, because they felt within them all that the messengers of the Holy Temples had related in countless pictures, so as to prepare souls for times to come — what these souls longed for is set forth in the words of Richard Rothe, who, when speaking of theosophy in 1847 at Heidelberg, says: “Would that one day it might become really scientific, and produce clearly defined results, so that it might become popular and be generally accepted; for only in this way can it bequeath those truths to others who are unable to travel the path on which alone they could discover them for themselves.”
In those days Rothe felt this longing — not only for himself but for his contemporaries — he found resignation in saying: “All this lies as yet within the womb of the future which we have no wish to anticipate!” Those who knew the secrets of the Rosicrucians did not speak in 1847 so that these could be perceived in an external way. But what rests within the womb of the future comes to life when a sufficient number of souls are found who realize that knowledge is a duty. We dare not give back our souls unevolved to the Spirit of the Universe, for in that case we would have deprived the Spirit of something He had implanted in us. When souls are found who realize what they owe to the Spirit of the Universe because of their strivings to solve the secrets of the world, they will have fulfilled the hopes cherished by the best men of an earlier age. These men looked to us who were to come after them and said: “Once this knowledge becomes scientific it must become popular and lay hold of men's hearts.”
But such hearts must first exist, they must be there! This depends on those who have joined our spiritual society realizing: “I must gain spiritual illumination, I must learn the secrets of existence!” It depends on each separate soul within our society whether the longing I have described is to be but a vain dream of those who hoped for the best from us, or a worthy dream that we can realize for them.
When we perceive the emptiness in modern science, in art, and in social life, we feel there is no need to be lost in this desert — we can get out of it. An age has once more come round in which the Holy Temples speak, not now merely in images and parables, but in truths, which, though still regarded by many as theoretical, will become ever more and more a source of life, and will pour living sap into the souls of men.
Each one can determine with the best powers of his soul to receive this living sap into himself.
These are the thoughts we would impress on your souls at the present time, being the sum of all we have received concerning the true meaning of the spiritual guidance of mankind. When we allow such thoughts to work within our souls we have a lively stimulus for future endeavor, and we see how much of constructive force they contain that is quite independent of the actual words with which these thoughts have been expressed.
However imperfect my words may be, it is the reality that matters, not the way the thoughts are expressed, and this reality can live in every soul. For the sum of all truth dwells in each separate soul like a seed which can blossom when this soul accepts it.
Notes:1. From the introduction by Richard Rothe to “The Principles of Theosophy according to Frederick Cristopher Oetinger,” Tubingen, 1847.
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