Sunday, March 17, 2019
The Golden Calf
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, March 22, 1912:
Our occult exercises are supposed to bring us to imaginative knowledge. Not so long ago they had imaginations that could be understood by any pupil without further explanation. Today such imaginations must be explained in words, because very few esotericists would be able to understand them by themselves. An imagination will now be given here that's useful for any esotericist who has the feeling that he's not making any progress in spite of his efforts. The pupil should imagine that his teacher or master is standing before him in the shape of Moses, and that the latter asks him: “So you'd like to know why you're not getting ahead on the esoteric path?” “Yes.” “I'll tell you why. It's because you worship the golden calf.” Then the pupil sees the golden calf next to Moses. The latter lets fire come up from the Earth that consumes the golden calf and turns it to powder. He throws this powder into some clear water and gives the mixture to the pupil to drink.
A few centuries ago any esotericist would have been able to understand this image. Now it must be explained as follows.
When we go back in our memory, we get to a point where our memories stop and ego-consciousness began. What lies before that is what we made out of ourselves in previous incarnations and brought into this one. That's the golden calf that we worship without realizing it — our sheath nature.
The pupil should now replace the image of the golden calf with the image of what he was as a child, before he had an ego-consciousness. He becomes fully aware that what he feels is his ego is just a Luciferic effect. For, ordinary consciousness is based on memory and memory is a Luciferic force, since it's Lucifer's task to carry the past over into the present. If one strips oneself of what one has through ego-consciousness, then what remains is what we've brought with us from other Earth lives.
Some people may feel that it's hard to have to think of themselves like that, but we won't be prepared to meet the Guardian of the Threshold without strict concepts like that.
Then the pupil should imagine that fire burns the child's form that he is; he's become a little bigger since then, but basically he's still the same sheath-man that the child was, except that the illusion of an ego has been added. He sees how the form turns to powder, and this becomes a strong awareness that all parts of these physical, etheric, and astral sheaths must become as indifferent to him as a pile of ashes, as indifferent as clay is for a sculptor before he's made something out of it. He must think away his physical body and its outer shape, his etheric body with its memory, his astral body with its sympathies and antipathies — or think that they are a pile of ashes.
One might not be able to put this into practice right away. It doesn't mean that one should suddenly hug someone one disliked, but when we carry out this imagination as an exercise, we must be able to get rid of all antipathies.
And the powder is thrown into the pure water of divine substance, the way it was before the Luciferic force worked on it. This is how the sheath nature is to be sacrificed and the divine substance is to be given back. But an esotericist also arrives at the insight that everything that's now only a pile of dust for him was formed out of the spirit. His body's shape was sculpted by the spirit; the spirit made him into what he now is as a form. And we should take what the spirit has made out of us back into ourselves. We should drink the water again in which the dust was dissolved. Then we have it pure, after the golden calf was burned, pulverized, and dissolved. If we do this, we'll feel that a whole place in us seems to become empty; it's the place where the ego usually is — we feel that this is getting empty. Then one can either become a Buddhist and go into a region for which a man should feel that he's too worthy — into nirvana, into an extraterrestrial sphere — or one can arrive at a new awareness of the Christ impulse and can feel it stream into the place of our ego that has become empty.
Christ would never have been able to come to Earth among the Hebrew people if Moses hadn't destroyed the golden calf, thrown it into water, and given it to Israel's children to drink. This doesn't mean that one should do this imagination every day — but maybe every 3 or 4 weeks. It's basically just another clarification of our Rosicrucian verse.