Initiation, Eternity, and the Passing Moment. Lecture 6 of 7.
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 30, 1912:
From the previous lectures you will perhaps have realized how necessary it is to make our conceptions capable of change and movement if we are to arrive at a right description of the various worlds of which we can speak, one of which is our ordinary sensory existence, our ordinary world of the senses. From much that has been said it should be evident to you that we must speak of human concepts in a different language when representing the transition from one world to another. That is one side of the matter. But there is another side; all these worlds work reciprocally, and in one world the interworking of the remaining worlds can always be perceived as a kind of reflection. In each world we are met by the phenomena and beings of that particular world, and, in addition, by all that is working into it from the other worlds. All this must be carefully considered if we would understand the secrets of initiation, the relation of the passing moment to eternity, and the relation of the darkness in life to the light of the spirit. There are certain rules and instructions, which you will find described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, to which the soul can be subjected in order to enter supersensible worlds. It goes without saying that such rules are not only useful but indispensable to anyone really wanting to undertake the first or further steps toward initiation.
At this particular time there is one thing, however, to which we must call attention. Our present age has a certain peculiarity connected with the whole character of the world-cycle in which we live. It has an academic, theorizing tendency, and no matter how much we strive to get rid of it, it still remains engrained in the souls of present-day men. For this reason, when it is a question of rising into higher worlds, they expect before everything to be told how, in such circumstances, each person should act whose soul is desirous of reaching supersensible worlds. But in comparison with the real experience of supersensible life, into these descriptions that may be said to give a normal path, a normal “line of march,” for a quick ascent into higher worlds, there always seems to enter what, in a certain respect, might be called an element of the doubtful.
Life is a complicated affair, and every soul, in whatever position it is found — everyone wishing to start on the ascent into higher worlds must do so from some particular position in life — every soul is involved in a definite karma and starts from a definite point. No two souls are in the same situation. The path for each soul into supersensible worlds is therefore individual, and is determined by the condition of the soul at its point of departure. If you want to keep to the truth, you cannot say that normally such and such a path must be taken by every soul for the ascent into higher worlds, for initiation. Hence the need of something more than instructions given in short pamphlets (a much easier affair) saying the soul should do this or that and giving rise to the belief that it is possible by following out such rules to rise to higher worlds in any circumstances and in the same way as any other soul.
This is why such things are doubtful. It was for this very reason that I tried in A Road to Self Knowledge to indicate something individual that can at the same time be useful to every soul. For the same reason, the necessity also arose of showing how the ways of initiation are both manifold and varied. Without wishing to give any kind of explanation about what has been done, I should just like to point out the different ways in which the necessities are shown in the three figures who appear before our souls as Johannes Thomasius, Capesius, and Strader in my Mystery plays The Portal of Initiation, The Soul's Probation, and The Guardian of the Threshold. You are here shown, as it were, three different aspects of the first stages on the path of initiation. You cannot say of any one of these that it is better or worse than the others; in each case you must admit that it is the outcome of individual karma. It can only be said that a soul such as Johannes or Capesius must necessarily follow the paths we have tried to indicate, not theoretically or pedantically, but in the actual, dramatic figures.
It will become increasingly necessary to lead people away from the belief that a few rules will suffice in these matters — increasingly necessary in precisely these spiritual spheres to point the way from the academic to living figures. Because the connections of the worlds are so manifold, the ways of individuals must be manifold too. But when one first begins seriously to observe certain individualities or beings of the higher worlds and to verify what part they have in man, then especially must we feel the need, instead of giving mere definitions of them, to show these figures livingly and in their multiplicity. In our time it is particularly important for those who strive for spiritual knowledge to observe, in all their manifold and variable nature, such figures as Lucifer and Ahriman, whom we shall always encounter on the path of initiation. It will then be apparent how remarkable are the connections and links between one world and another.
There are many signs today of how, gradually, understanding can be aroused of this interplay of one world with another. I should like to start from the obvious even though it is not sufficiently appreciated that it is. In our time, in the widest circles, there is a strong impulse to get to know the order of nature, the laws of nature, that work through everything, including all the living things that meet us in the world of the senses. There is a tendency to ignore any knowledge coming from other worlds about man and world existence and simply to build a whole world conception out of the one world. This it is that gives the more or less monistic or materialistic stamp to our present world conception. Now, one may say that against this endeavor, other strivings have made themselves felt today as a kind of wholesome check. Within the world in which we live, these endeavors seek such phenomena as are governed by laws different from those of the natural world and, in all their manifoldness, are felt by the materialistic mind to be inconsistent with the order of nature. We should certainly pay heed to all that is done in a serious and scientific way in this field. In this contemporary confrontation of purely materialistic research with another research, which, although little noticed and by using the same methods as ordinary research seeks other connections in our sensory existence than this existence itself offers — in all this we may, indeed, look for quite different worlds, with different laws of being playing into this other research. In this respect it is most desirable, particularly for anthroposophists, to give heed to all that is being done in this direction by extending the methods of science to the interplay of supersensible worlds into our physical existence. I have already pointed this out to smaller circles; today I shall do so for this larger one.
In the first part of his book The Mystery of Man, a book I should like especially to recommend to you, our friend Ludwig Deinhard has undertaken the commendable task of giving lucid classification and description of everything that in our age can be investigated by means of the scientific methods recognized today about the interplay of a supersensible world into the world that is accessible to us all. These scientific methods are indeed still being applied with prejudice. This lucid classification has been a worthy task. It can be a lesson to anyone interested in seeing how, simply by taking the facts and following them up, we can find that the supersensible actually springs forth from the life of the senses. So this book, The Mystery of Man by Ludwig Deinhard, which has appeared recently, has an important task, and I take this opportunity of bringing it to your notice.
This interplay of other worlds into the sensory world creates something within it that is really repeated and appears in all worlds. This makes it, however, particularly necessary that we should not form pedantic, rigid, or one-sided dogmas or opinions that this or that is so, that Lucifer is like this, Ahriman like that; that one must shun the Luciferic, the Ahrimanic, and so on. Our considerations yesterday followed this theme.
Let us assume that someone who has taken the first steps on the path of initiation, because his soul life has become clairvoyant by his own efforts to open the eyes of his soul, meets the figure in supersensible worlds whom we call Lucifer. How did we describe this being yesterday? He comes before the soul as a being forever striving to make the eternal, which otherwise is in constant movement and change, into the stable, temporal, and momentary, so that as something individual it can rejoice in its power to grow individually great. If as a soul you meet Lucifer in supersensible worlds, he then appears there as the great light-bearer who leads, really leads, to bringing down into sensory existence all the treasures that pertain to real being in the spiritual world, and to the creation of its reflection and revelation in the world of the senses. If you follow Lucifer in this striving of his in supersensible worlds, then you are working for the fulfillment of the primordial task of the universe; that is, to reveal the unrevealed, to commit to the moment all that is eternal, and to make it possible that all that flows away into limitless eternity should be held fast in the inward greatness of the individual moment.
Now, a desire exists in every human soul as an echo from the spiritual worlds to bring to fulfillment this striving to make manifest the unrevealed, to fix the eternal in the passing moment. Hence it is that when man enters supersensible worlds, either by way of initiation or by death, it is really Lucifer who acts as his light-bearer. The dangers to which man is exposed when face to face with Lucifer in higher worlds are really only present when man takes with him into these worlds too great a measure of what in sensory existence constitutes his right relation to Lucifer. Lucifer is only dangerous for man's life in higher worlds if he takes with him too much of the nature and essential being of physical man. How then do matters stand with Lucifer within the actual life of the senses, where there is always the interplay of supersensible worlds? In the historical course of man during sensory existence and in his evolution we have to do above all with the interplay of the higher worlds, which send active impulses into physical life so that one thing may take place after another, in the way things are played out during the whole of Earth existence in the history of mankind.
The self-seeking strivings of every human soul that we regard as human and egoistic play into the life of the senses, and we know that the development of every soul must start from egoism. That is natural. We also know that man can work his way out from egoism. Into all that souls have been able to do on Earth through egoism, there comes what we may call the manifestation of the eternal in the passing moment. Luciferic forces are forever playing into what is fixed in the individual soul and also into all that the individual man can do for the whole world-order and existence through being an egoist and having the power to develop within him inward greatness that wells forth from his inner being. For what is individual greatness in the individual soul but the seed of all the greatness in the whole world evolution of man? What gave Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, their power to affect mankind? It was their egohood, and because within them there were whole worlds, worlds that issued forth from their inner being alone, out of their egohood. In this indirect way, through egohood, the impulses of spiritual life are introduced, which are from epoch to epoch the mediators of the greatest spiritual deeds of mankind. In this we find Lucifer again. It is he who is light-bearer, the impulse and power behind all the greatness that radiates into human evolution from the mighty forces of eternity that, at certain points of time, surge up from the individual human soul.
Man's soul is placed between two poles that are simply the impression and reflection of all the worlds in which the soul actually stands. At the one pole the human soul hardens within itself, winds itself into the cocoon of its selfhood, and only desires what is of service to itself, what is for its self-gratification. At the other pole the human soul draws forces from its own depths that are able to radiate into the whole life of humanity. When does this egohood of man come to light? This happens the moment we think how necessary it is for every man to sacrifice for others what is his own, what is his most individually, what belongs most deeply to his egohood. But in all that man can do for his fellows out of his egohood lives Lucifer, the other pole of Lucifer; in all that man can thus achieve for humanity under the influence of the light-bearer lies a reflection of what Lucifer really is in higher worlds, a reflection of his creative activity, which is the revealing of the unrevealed.
Can we then say that Lucifer is evil, or can we say that Lucifer is good? One can only say that if a man maintains that Lucifer is evil, and that we must flee from him, then it must also be said that we must avoid fire, because in certain circumstances it destroys life. On the path of initiation we find that the words good and evil cannot be used in this way for the description of any being of the supersensible world order. Fire is good when it acts in good conditions, evil when it works in evil ones; in itself it is neither the one nor the other. So it is with Lucifer. He exercises a good influence on man's soul when he becomes the instigator of man's sacrifice on the altar of human evolution of all that is most individual in his soul. Lucifer becomes an evil being — rather, what he does becomes evil — when he arouses impulses leading only to self-gratification in the human soul. Thus, once our attention has been drawn to these beings, we have to follow up the effect their deeds have in the world. The acts of supersensible beings can be described as good or bad; the beings themselves, never!
Just imagine that somewhere, on some island or other, there were a human race holding the opinion that, in all circumstances, one must protect oneself from Lucifer and that he has to be kept at the greatest possible distance. That would not prove that the men of this island had better knowledge of Lucifer than anyone else, but simply, by virtue of their particular qualities, that these men were only able to convert into evil what Lucifer could give them. The views about Lucifer held by the people of this island would only be characteristic of the people, not of Lucifer. I will not say whether or not this island exists. You can look for it yourselves in the evolution of the world.
We must seek the attributes of Lucifer in the being Lucifer whom we meet in the supersensible world. The manner of his working has to be sought in how his powers take on different qualities when, for instance, they work on such an island and their effects actively ray out on such an island.
And the Ahrimanic? What is that? When we meet Ahriman in the supersensible world, we find his particular attributes are quite different from those of Lucifer. To come into relation with Lucifer in the supersensible world we really only need to purify and cleanse ourselves from all the dross of faulty egohood and the egoism of sensory existence. For that, Lucifer will make us a good guide in the actual supersensible world, and we shall not easily become his prey. But with Ahriman it is different; his is another task in world evolution. While Lucifer reveals all that is hidden, Ahriman's task for the world of the senses can be described by saying that where our world of the senses is, where it becomes visible, there is Ahriman, but he permeates it invisibly, supersensibly. How does Ahriman help us? He helps us considerably in the physical world; he helps every soul. Indeed, he helps every soul to carry into higher worlds as much as possible from the world of the senses, of what is played out only there, because the world of the senses exists for some purpose and is not merely maya. It exists as the stage for events that beings may experience, and what is thus enacted and experienced must be borne up into supersensible worlds. The power to carry into eternity what is of value in sensory existence is the power that belongs to Ahriman. To give the passing moment back to eternity, that is in Ahriman's power.
For the individual soul in relation to Ahriman, however, something quite different comes into consideration. What men experience primarily in sensory existence is of infinite value to them, and I hardly think I shall meet with much opposition if I say that the enthusiasm and the inclination carefully to preserve what we experience in sensory existence, and to save it up as far as possible for eternity, is generally much greater than the other tendency, namely, to bring down into the world of the senses all that we can from the hidden spiritual worlds. Man loves the world of the senses quite naturally and comprehensibly, and would like to take as much as possible of it with him into spiritual existence. Certain religious faiths, in order to comfort their adherents, tell them that they can quite well take with them into spiritual life all that is in sensory existence. No doubt they say it because they unconsciously realize how much man loves what is his in physical existence. This is what Ahriman's power strives to bring about, that all that we have here can be carried on with us into spiritual worlds. This inclination and desire to carry up the physical into the superphysical is both strong and forceful in the soul. It is not at all easy to get rid of it when, through death or initiation, you rise from the world of the senses into higher worlds. Therefore, you still have it in you when you become a being of the higher world. If you meet Ahriman there, this is just where he becomes dangerous because he willingly helps you to carry into these supersensible worlds all you have gained and experienced in sensory existence.
There could be no more cherished companion than Ahriman for those who would preserve each passing moment for eternity. Many men, as soon as they have passed the gateway into the supersensible world, find in Ahriman an accommodating companion; he is always seeking to make what takes place on Earth play its part in the higher worlds and to claim it there for himself and for those who work with him. But even that is not the worst, because you do not enter the supersensible world without having in a certain respect cast off your selfhood. If you gained entrance there with your ordinary, normal impelling force, you would soon seize hold of Ahriman and feel him to be a most easy-going companion. But you cannot enter in that state. On entering higher worlds, you already have the faculty for recognizing him as partaking in the divine, since with overwhelming tragedy he permeates Earth evolution in sensory existence and is forever at pains so to transform it that it shall become a spiritual life. That is Ahriman's deep tragedy! He would like to change all that has ever appeared in the physical into the spiritual, and he battles in the world order for the purification and cleansing, in cleansing fires, of everything physical. In his sense that is good, but it would be evil in the sense of the divine, spiritual beings if Ahriman, who is their opponent in the world order, could carry out all his aims.
Much must be done there in a different way from how he would have it done. I should like here to describe what I mean by a comparison. By applying this comparison to the whole world order, you will be able to appreciate how Ahriman strives for himself after what he can call good, yet how impossible it is to fit this “good” into the whole world order.
Now let us take any animal that, for its progressive development in sensory existence, must shed its skin. From time to time it must lay aside its skin like a kind of image of itself and progress in life with a new form. Something has to be cast aside to give the being in question new possibilities of life. Ahriman would like to save everything and would like to prevent all snakes from casting their skin; he would like everything used up that, in the mind of the world order, must be cast aside. Man, too, would like to do that in sensory existence. There is a great deal he would prefer not to leave but to take with him, although in the mind of a higher world order it is destined for the temporal and the passing moment. Because the urge is so strong in him, man would, if it were possible for him, among all his questions in the sensory world about unknown paths and so forth, want first to ask: “Where can Ahriman be found? Where can Ahriman help one to carry into eternity what is held in the passing moment?”
Here is the one good thing! Man is not able to find Ahriman in the world of the senses because here he is invisible and spiritual. It belongs to the obligations of the Guardian of the Threshold that Ahriman should remain as invisible as possible in the physical world. Thus man can unfold what lies in his own forces alone for the preservation of the passing moment in eternity, and cannot unconsciously let Ahriman help him. Here again, good and evil play into man's physical life as two poles. Man as a soul passes through human evolution in which one task is good, genuine and true; that is, to carry out of the sensory world all that has eternal value and to make it part of the eternal kingdom. This is the duty laid upon us — to take the precious treasures of the moment and offer them up on the altar of eternity. When we let Ahriman help us with the real treasures of temporal life, then it is good. But when at the moment of entering the supersensible world we come to know Ahriman — until then we cannot see him — and show him the tendency that remains in us to carry out of the sensory world into the supersensible world what has no value, then this has a great deal of value for him. It is worthless, however, for his opponents. Then he can find us to be useful tools to lead what is loved here in sensory existence over into eternity. Because it is thus loved, it takes its place through him in eternity.
So once more we see how what emanates from Ahriman cannot, in itself, be called either good or bad, but becomes good or bad according to how men place themselves toward it and enter into relation with it. Through this we can realize how easy it is for descriptions to be superficial when answering questions that show so little real thought as “What is Ahriman like?” or “What is Lucifer like?” In the higher worlds where descriptions of these beings are only possible, there are really no such utterances, no such questions. Thus is man drawn into the labyrinth of life. Both Lucifer and Ahriman are working in this labyrinth, and man has to discover how to take up the right attitude toward them. This necessity for seeking our right relationship to the beings of supersensible worlds is just what gives us the power for self-development. Connections with supersensible worlds are not maintained by striving for a knowledge based on that of the senses, so much as by creating a relationship with spiritual beings in the way we have just described. For this reason men must go into the darkness of life in which beings work who can just as well be good as evil, and who can become good or evil in the effects of what they do according to the way in which we relate ourselves to them. That is what constitutes the darkness of life. Hence the light of life, spiritual light, can only shine into the darkness of life by our acquiring the right relation to, and getting to know, the several powers of the supersensible world who play into our physical world. Also, when wishing to speak of supersensible worlds, we change our ideas and concepts. I should like to bring before your souls by yet another example how differently we must think if we would find the connection between the sensory world and the supersensible world in the right way.
We live here in physical existence in such a way that we feel how there plays with and around us what we call our destiny. In our destiny we find many sympathetic things and many adverse things. Anyone who can conjure up a true idea of himself knows that feeling and experiencing with others, and the sympathy or antipathy with which we meet the fortunes of life, are among our most powerful sensations and are most deeply rooted in our soul. Now it happens — I need not here repeat why, as this has been told you frequently in earlier lectures — that in our higher ego, which, in the sense of our previous lectures, bears within it merely a memory of the ordinary ego — in this higher ego, we ourselves prepare the very destiny that then may torment us and cause us suffering throughout a whole lifetime. Are there not some who deny the idea of reincarnation because, having lived through this one, they have no desire to build a new existence for themselves? The reason for this is that they labor under the delusion that in the worlds man inhabits after death everything goes on in the same way as in the world of the senses. Here in the sensory world one thing may please us, another displease us. But during the life between death and a new birth it never occurs to us that we should feel in this way. There we feel quite differently, though here we may not know it. When after death we come into the spiritual world, we realize, for example, “I have lived on Earth in a life of the senses; I have possessed a certain faculty, but this faculty found a one-sided expression in me; it is possible I even made bad use of it. I must now form myself anew in another Earth existence and embodiment so that this one-sidedness may be balanced and the imperfection rectified. In other words, I must take over in another imperfection what I have previously had in an imperfect form, so that by working in the opposite direction I may balance and harmonize the matter.”
Then a time begins between death and a new birth, which goes on until the new birth, during which man says, for example, “Formerly, I worked and made myself proficient at painting. I will now be born so that in my new life I will be quite incapable of painting. By not being able to paint, I shall never be able to harbor in my soul a judgment arrived at from the standpoint of a painter, but I shall be able only to judge as one would who has simply seen something. Thus, I shall acquire other forces that will be helpful in harmonizing and balancing what was mine before.” So we can look back on a life between birth and death to something happily passed through and yet say: “If I were so to direct my whole evolution as only to experience life thus, I should never get its full flavor.” Out of forces thus developed there follows the desire: “What once I experienced in happiness I must now experience in suffering.” You then arrange everything in such a way that, impelled by this longing you have to experience suffering in a certain sphere and by undergoing this, you make further progress in life. Then the fact becomes clear that in the supersensible worlds we have craved for pain and suffering, though in sensory existence we feel they are something to be avoided.
Here the difference between life in sensory existence and life between death and rebirth in supersensible worlds becomes of real, practical significance. Quite different forces are active in our life between death and a new birth from all that we find sympathetic or otherwise between birth and death. What then does a man do who would judge life in supersensible worlds according to his sympathies and antipathies of sensory existence? Actually, he transplants in perspective into the supersensible world what he had in sensory existence. It is just as though you were to draw or paint a rose, for instance, on a sheet of glass. Then if you look at the sheet of glass you will not see it. You look through the glass but the painting that you take for a reality is projected onto the space of the wall behind. But it is not real at all; it is you who have transplanted it there. In the same way a man, when he wants to judge of the supersensible world by the sympathies and antipathies of the sensory world, can project into that world something like shadows that may nevertheless have validity there. This something has a certain effect and is in a way authentic. Even if it is not seen, something like a fog is projected onto what stands in that world before the observer.
Thus, again and from another side, we are shown through feeling what may be called the darkness of life. If we ask why we live in this darkness between birth and death, it may be said that it is because judgments and valuations of life that are justified and natural in life between birth and death must have no value for the existence we lead in supersensible worlds between death and a new birth. In sensory existence we have need of a life of soul that in supersensible life no longer has validity. Therefore if we are to gain comprehensive knowledge of the universe, we must allow all our investigations and our knowledge of the supersensible world to be penetrated by the light of its spirit. The greatest mistake that men can make in their view of the world is that of imagining that they can extend to supersensible worlds the concepts and ideas gained from the world of the senses and without having the patience and endurance to await from actual investigation into the supersensible, descriptions of all that, as spiritual light from higher worlds, radiates into the darkness of sensory existence. Here the question confronts us: “Is it indeed only those having power of vision in supersensible worlds, those who have had the privilege of initiation, who are able to let this spiritual light of supersensible worlds work upon them?” This belief is widely spread throughout the world. You often hear it said: “How can one understand anything of the supersensible worlds if one has never gone through initiation?” You then hear it pointed out that the only true way must be to go through initiation, the one path leading to supersensible worlds.
What the connections are in this sphere, how understanding is related to seeing in supersensible worlds, and how much consolation and strength we can have in life through the apprehension of spiritual light in our darkness will be our starting-point tomorrow. That will lead us a few steps further into the problem we are now considering.
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