Sunday, June 30, 2019
The Secret of Initiation: Encountering the Archangel Michael, the Spirit of the New Age
Rudolf Steiner, January 13, 1924 [Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation, the last of six lectures]
The Michael period, into which the world has been entering ever since the last third of the nineteenth century, and into which human beings will have to enter with increasing consciousness, is very different from former periods of Michael. For so it is in the earthly evolution of mankind. One after another the seven great Archangel Spirits enter from time to time into the life of man. Thus, after given periods of time a certain guidance of the world — such as the guidance of Gabriel or Uriel, Raphael or Michael — is repeated. Our own period is, however, essentially different from the preceding period of Michael. This is due to the fact that man stands in quite another relation to the spiritual world since the first third of the fifteenth century than he ever did before. This new relation to the spiritual world also determines a peculiar relation to the Spirit guiding the destinies of mankind, whom we may call by the ancient name of Michael.
Recently I have been speaking to you again of the Rosicrucian Movement. Rosicrucianism, I remarked, has indeed degenerated to charlatanry in many quarters. Most of that which has been transmitted to mankind under the name is charlatanry. Nevertheless, as I have explained on former occasions, there did exist an individuality whom we may describe by the name of Christian Rosenkreutz. This individuality is, in a sense, the type and standard: he reveals the way in which an enlightened spirit — a man of spiritual knowledge — could enter into relation with the spiritual world at the dawn of the new phase of humanity.
To Christian Rosenkreutz it was vouchsafed to ask many questions, deeply significant riddles of existence, and in quite a new way when compared with the earlier experiences of mankind. You see, while Rosicrucianism was arising, directing the mind of man — with “Faustian” endeavor, as it was sometimes called in later times — toward the spiritual world, an abstract naturalistic science was arising on the other hand. The bearers of this modern stream of spiritual life, men like Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Copernicus or Kepler — worthy as they are of fullest recognition — were differently situated from the Rosicrucians, who wanted to foster not a merely formal or abstract but a true knowledge of the world. The Rosicrucians perceived in their own human life and being how utterly the times had changed, and with it the whole relation of the Gods to mankind.
We may describe it as follows. — Quite distinctly until the fourth century A.D., and in a rudimentary way even until the twelfth and thirteenth century, man was able to draw forth from himself real knowledge about the spiritual world. In doing the exercises of the old Mysteries, he could draw forth from himself the secrets of existence. For the humanity of olden times it really was so: the initiates drew forth what they had to say to mankind from the depths of their souls to the surface of their thought — their world of ideas. They had the consciousness that they were drawing forth their knowledge from the inner being of the human soul. The exercises they underwent were intended, as you know, to stir the human heart to its depths, to inform the human heart and mind with experiences which man does not undergo in the ordinary round of life. Thereby the secrets of the world of the Gods were, so to speak, drawn forth from the depths, from the inner being of man.
Man, however, cannot see the secrets he draws out of himself while in the very act of doing so. True, in the old instinctive clairvoyance man did behold the secrets of the world: he beheld them in Imagination; he beheld them hearingly in Inspiration; he united himself with them in Intuition.
These things, however, are impossible so long as man merely stands there alone — just as little as it is possible for me to draw a triangle without a board. The triangle I draw on the board portrays to me what I bear in a purely spiritual way within me. The triangle as a whole — all the laws of the triangle — are in me; but I draw the triangle on the board, thereby bringing home to myself what is really there within me. So it is when we make external diagrams. And it is the same when it is a question of deriving real knowledge out of the being of man, after the manner of the ancient Mysteries. This knowledge too must, in a sense, be written somewhere. Every such knowledge, in effect, to be seen in the Spirit, must be inscribed in that which has been called from time immemorial “the astral light” — i.e., in the fine substantiality of the Akasha. Everything must be written there, and man must be able to develop the faculty of writing in the astral light.
This faculty has depended on many and varied things in the course of human evolution. Not to speak, for the moment, of pristine ages, I will leave on one side the first Post-Atlantean epoch, the ancient Indian. At that time it was somewhat different. Let me begin with the ancient Persian epoch, as described in my Outline of Occult Science. There was in that time instinctive clairvoyance; there was knowledge of the divine-spiritual world. This knowledge could be written in the astral light so that man could behold it, inasmuch as the Earth, the solid Earth, afforded resistance. The writing itself is done, needless to say, with spiritual organs; but these organs also require a basis of resistance. The things that are thus seen in the Spirit are not inscribed, of course, on the Earth itself; they are written into the astral light. But the Earth acts as a ground of resistance. In the old Persian epoch the seers could feel the resistance of the Earth: thereby alone, the perceptions they drew forth from their inner being grew into actual visions.
In the next, the Egypto-Chaldean, epoch all the knowledge that the initiates drew forth from their souls was able to be written in the astral light by virtue of the fluid element. You must conceive it rightly. The initiate of the old Persian epoch looked to the solid earth. Wherever there were plants or stones, the astral light reflected back to him his inner vision. The initiate of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch looked into the sea, into the river, or into the falling rain, the rising mist. When he looked into the river or the sea, he saw the secrets that endure. Those secrets, on the other hand, which relate to the transient — to the creation of the Gods in transient things — he beheld in the downpouring rain or the ascending mist. You must familiarize yourself with the idea. The ancients had not the prosaic, matter-of-fact way of seeing the mist and rain which is ours today. Rain and mist said very much to them — revealed to them the secrets of the Gods.
Then in the Graeco-Latin period the visions were like a Fata Morgana in the air. The Greek saw his Zeus, his Gods, in the astral light; but he had the feeling that the astral light only reflected the Gods to him under the proper conditions. Hence he assigned his Gods to special places — places where the air could offer the proper resistance to the inscriptions in the astral light. And so it remained until the fourth century A.D. Even among the first Fathers of the Christian Church, and notably the old Creek Fathers, there were many (as you may even prove from their writings) who saw this Fata Morgana of their own spiritual visions through the resistance of the air in the astral light. Thus they had clear knowledge of the fact that out of Man, the Logos, the Divine Word revealed Himself through Nature.
But in the course of time this knowledge faded and grew feeble. Echoes of it still continued in a few specially gifted persons, even until the twelfth or thirteenth century. But when the age of abstract knowledge came — when men became entirely dependent on the logical sequence of ideas and the results of sense-observation — then neither earth nor water nor air afforded resistance to the astral light, but only the element of the warmth-ether. It is unknown, of course, to those who are completely wrapped up in their abstract thoughts. They do not know that these abstract thoughts are also written in the astral light. They are written there indeed; but in this process the element of the warmth-ether is the sole resistance.
The following is now the case. Remember once more that in the ancient Persian epoch men had the solid earth as a resistance so as to behold their entries in the astral light. What is thus contained in the astral light — all that for which the solid earth is the resistance — rays on and out, but only as far as the sphere of the Moon. Farther it cannot go. Thence it rays back again. Thus it remains, so to speak, with the Earth. Man beholds the secrets reflected by virtue of the Earth; they remain because of the pressure of the lunar sphere.
Now let us consider the Egypto-Chaldean epoch. The water on the Earth reflects. What is thus reflected goes as far as the Saturn-sphere. And now it is Saturn that presses for man on Earth to “hold” what he beholds in spirit. And if we go on into Graeco-Latin period — even into the twelfth or thirteenth century — we find the visions inscribed in the astral light by virtue of the air. This time it goes to the very end of the cosmic sphere and thence returns. It is the most fleeting of all; yet still it is such that man remains united with his visions. The initiates of all these epochs could say to themselves every time: Such spiritual vision as we have had — through earth or water or air — it is there. But when the most modern time arrived, only the element of the warmth-ether was left to offer resistance. And the element of the warmth-ether carries all that is written in it out into the cosmic realms, right out of space into the spiritual worlds. It is no longer there.
It is so indeed, my dear friends. Take the most pedantic of modern professors with his ideas. He must of course have ideas — some of them have none at all — but if he has ideas, then they are entered through the warmth-ether in the astral light. Now, the warmth-ether is transient and fleeting; all things become merged and fused in it at once, and go out into cosmic distances. Such a man as Christian Rosenkreutz knew that the initiates of olden times had lived with their visions. They had fastened and confirmed what they beheld, knowing that it was there, reflected somewhere in the heavens — be it in the Moon sphere or the planetary sphere, or at the end of the Universe — it was reflected. But now nothing at all was reflected. For the immediate, wide-awake vision of man, nothing at all was reflected. Now men could find ideas about Nature, the Copernican cosmology could arise, all manner of ideas could be formed, but they were scattered in the warmth-ether, out into the cosmic vastness.
Then it came about that Christian Rosenkreutz, by inspiration of a higher Spirit, found a way to perceive the reflected radiation after all, in spite of the fact that it was only a reflection by the warmth-ether. It was brought about as follows. Other conditions of consciousness — dim, subconscious, and sleep-like — were called into play; conditions in which man is even normally outside his body. Then it became perceptible that that which is discovered with modern abstract ideas is after all inscribed, albeit not in space, but in the spiritual world. This, then, is what we see in the Rosicrucian Movement: the Rosicrucians, as it were in a transition stage, made themselves acquainted with all that could be discovered about Nature in this epoch. They received it into themselves and assimilated it as only man can assimilate it. They enhanced into true Wisdom what for the others was only Science. Holding it in their souls, they tried to pass over into sleep in highest purity and after intimate meditations. Then the divine-spiritual worlds — no longer the spatial end of the Universe, but the divine-spiritual worlds — brought back to them in a spiritually real language what had first been apprehended in abstract ideas.
In Rosicrucian schools not only was the Copernican cosmology taught, but in special states of consciousness its ideas came back in the form I explained here during the last few days. It was the Rosicrucians, above all, who realized that that which man receives in modern knowledge must first be carried forth, so to speak, and offered to the Gods, that the Gods may translate it into their language and give it back again to men.
The possibility has remained until this present. It is so indeed, my dear friends. If you are touched by the Rosicrucian principle as here intended, study the system of Haeckel, with all its materialism; study it, and at the same time permeate yourselves with the methods of cognition indicated in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment. Take what you learn in Haeckel's Anthropogenesis. In that form it may very likely repel you. Learn it nevertheless; learn all that can be learned about it by outer Natural Science, and carry it towards the Gods. You will get what is related about evolution in my Outline of Occult Science.
Such is the connection between the feeble, shadowy knowledge which man can acquire here with his physical body, and that which the Gods can give him, if with the proper spirit he duly prepares himself by the learning of this knowledge. But man must first bring toward Them what he can learn here on the Earth, for in truth the times have changed.
Moreover another thing has happened. Let a man strive as he will today; he can no longer draw anything forth from himself as did the old initiates. The soul no longer gives anything forth in the way it did for the old initiates. It all becomes impure, filled with instincts, as is evident in the case of spiritualist mediums and in other morbid or pathological conditions. All that arises merely from within becomes impure. The time of such creation from within is past; it was past already in the twelfth or thirteenth century. What happened can be expressed approximately as follows:
The initiates of the old Persian epoch wrote very much in the astral light with the help of the resistance of the solid earth. When the first initiate of the old Persian epoch appeared, the whole of the astral light, destined for man, was like an unwritten slate. I shall speak later of the old Indian epoch. Today I shall only go back to the ancient Persian epoch. All Nature: all the elements — solid, liquid, airy, and warmth-like — were an unwritten slate.
Now, the initiates of the old Persian epoch wrote on this slate as much as could be written by virtue of the resistance of the earth. There, to begin with, the secrets destined to come to man from the Gods were written in the astral light. To a certain degree the tablet was inscribed; yet in another respect it was empty. Thus the initiates of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch were able to continue the writing in their way; for they gained their visions by the resistance of the water.
Then came the Greek initiates; they inscribed the third portion of the tablet. Now the tablet of Nature is fully inscribed; it was quite fully inscribed by the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Then human beings began to write in the warmth-ether; that, however, scatters and dissolves away in the vast expanse. For a time — until the nineteenth century — men wrote in the warmth-ether; they had no inkling that these experiences of theirs stand written in the astral light. But now, my dear friends, the time has come when men must recognize: not out of themselves in the old sense can they find the secrets of the world, but only by so preparing themselves in heart and mind that they can read what is written on the tablet which is now full of writing. This we must prepare to do today. We must make ourselves ripe for this — no longer to draw forth from ourselves like the old initiates, but to be able to read in the astral light all that is written there. If we do so, precisely what we gain from the warmth-ether will work as an inspiration. The Gods come to meet us, and bring to us in its reality what we have acquired by our own efforts here on Earth. And what we thus receive from the warmth-ether reacts in turn on all that stands written on the tablet by virtue of air, water, and earth.
Thus is the Natural Science of today the true basis for spiritual seership. Learn first by Natural Science to know the properties of air, water, and earth. Attain the corresponding inner faculties. Then, as you gaze into the airy, into the watery, into the earthy element, the astral light will stream forth. It does not stream forth like a vague mist or cloud; but so that we can read in it the secrets of world-existence and of human life.
What, then, do we read? We — the humanity of today — read what we ourselves have written in it. For what does it mean to say that the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Chaldeans, Persians wrote in the astral light? It was we ourselves who wrote it in our former lives on Earth.
You see, my dear friends: just as our inner memory of the common things that we experience in earthly life preserves them for us, so too the astral light preserves for us what we have written in it. The astral light is spread around us — a fully written tablet with respect to the secrets which we ourselves have inscribed. There we must read, if we would find the secrets once more. It is a kind of evolution-memory which must arise in mankind. A consciousness must gradually arise that there is such an evolution-memory, and that in relation to former epochs of culture the humanity of today must read in the astral light, just as we, at a later age, read in our own youth through ordinary memory. This must come into the consciousness of men.
In this sense I have held the lectures this Christmas-time, so that you could see that the point is to draw forth from the astral light the secrets that we need today. The old initiation was directed mainly to the subjective life; the new initiation concentrates on the objective — that is the great difference. For all that was subjective is written in the outer world. All that the Gods have secreted into man ... what they secreted in his sentient body came out in the old Persian epoch; what they secreted in his intellectual or mind-soul came out during the Grecian epoch. The Spiritual soul which we are now to evolve is independent, brings forth nothing more out of itself; it stands over against what is already there. As human beings we must find our humanity again in the astral light.
So then it was with the Rosicrucian Movement: in a time of transition it had to content itself with entering into certain dream-like conditions, and, as it were, dreaming the higher truth of that which Science discovers here — in a dry, matter-of-fact way — out of the Nature around us.
And this is how it has been since the beginning of the Michael epoch, since the end of the 1870's: The same thing that was attained in the way above-described in the time of the old Rosicrucians can now be attained in a conscious way. Today, therefore, we can say: We no longer need that other condition which was half-conscious. What we need is a state of enhanced consciousness. Then, with the knowledge of Nature which we acquire, we can dive into the higher world; and the Nature-knowledge we have acquired emerges and comes toward us from that higher world. We read again what has been written in the astral light; and as we do so, it emerges and comes to meet us in spiritual reality. We carry up into a spiritual world the knowledge of Nature here attained, or again, the creations of naturalistic art, or the religious sentiments working naturalistically in the soul. (Even religion has become naturalistic nowadays.) And as we carry all this upward — if we develop the necessary faculties — we do indeed encounter Michael.
So we may say: the old Rosicrucian Movement is characterized by the fact that its most illumined spirits had an intense longing to meet Michael; but they could only do so as in dream. Since the end of the last third of the nineteenth century, men can meet Michael in the Spirit, in a fully conscious way.
Michael, however, is a peculiar being: Michael is a being who reveals nothing if we ourselves do not bring Him something from our diligent spiritual work on Earth. Michael is a silent Spirit — silent and reserved. The other ruling Archangels are Spirits who talk much — in a spiritual sense, of course; but Michael is taciturn. He is a Spirit who speaks very little. At most He will give sparing indications, for what we learn from Michael is not really the word, but, if I may so express it — the look, the power, the direction of His gaze.
This is because Michael concerns Himself most of all with that which men create out of the Spirit. He lives with the consequences of all that men have created. The other Spirits live more with the causes; Michael lives with the consequences. The other Spirits kindle in man the impulses for that which he shall do. Michael will be the true spiritual hero of Freedom; He lets men do, and He then takes what becomes of human deeds, receives it and carries it on and out into the Cosmos, to continue in the Cosmos what men themselves cannot yet do with it.
For other beings of the Hierarchy of Archangeloi we feel that impulses are coming from Them. In a greater or lesser degree, the impulses come from Them. Michael is the Spirit from whom no impulses come, to begin with; for His most characteristic epoch is the one now at hand, when things are to arise out of human freedom. But when man does things out of spiritual activity or inner freedom, consciously or unconsciously kindled by the reading of the astral light, then Michael carries the human earthly deed out into the Cosmos; so it becomes cosmic deed. Michael takes care for the results; the other Spirits care more for the causes.
However, Michael is not only a silent, taciturn Spirit. Michael meets man with a very clear gesture of repulsion for many things in which the human being of today still lives on Earth. For example, all knowledge that arises as to the life of men or animals or plants tending to lay stress on inherited characteristics — on all that is inherited in physical nature — is such that we feel Michael constantly repelling it, driving it away with deprecation. He means to show that such knowledge cannot help man at all for the spiritual world. Only what man discovers in the human and animal and plant kingdoms independently of the purely hereditary nature can be carried up before Michael. Then we receive not the eloquent gesture of deprecation but the look of approval which tells us that it is a thought righteously conceived in harmony with cosmic guidance.
For this is what we learn increasingly to strive for: as it were to meditate, so as to strike through to the astral light, to see the secrets of existence, and then to come before Michael and receive His approving look which tells us: That is right, in harmony with the cosmic guidance.
So it is with Michael. He also sternly rejects all separating elements, such as the human languages. So long as we only clothe our knowledge in these languages, and do not carry it right up into the thoughts, we cannot come near Michael. Therefore today in the spiritual world there is a very significant battle. For on the one hand the Michael impulse has entered the evolution of humanity. The Michael impulse is there. But on the other hand, in the evolution of humanity there is much that will not receive this impulse of Michael but wants to reject it. Among the things that would fain reject the impulse of Michael today are the feelings of nationality. They flared up in the nineteenth century and became strong in the twentieth — stronger and stronger. By the principle of nationality many things have been ordered, or rather, have become sadly disordered in the most recent times.
All this is in terrible opposition to the Michael principle; all this contains Ahrimanic forces which strive against the inpouring of the Michael-force into the earthly life of man. So then we see this battle of the upward-attacking Ahrimanic spirits who would like to carry upward what comes through the inherited impulses of nationality — which Michael sternly rejects and repels.
Truly today there is the most vivid spiritual conflict in this direction. For this is the state of affairs over a great portion of mankind. Thoughts are not there at all; men only think in words, and to think in words is no way to Michael. We only come to Michael when we get through the words to real inner experiences of the Spirit — when we do not hang on the words, but arrive at real inner experiences of the Spirit.
This is the very essence, the secret of modern initiation: to get beyond the words, to a living experience of the Spiritual. It is nothing contrary to a feeling for the beauty of language. Precisely when we no longer think in language, we begin to feel it. As a true element of feeling, it begins to live in us and flow outward from us.
This is the experience to which the man of today must aspire. Perhaps, to begin with, he cannot attain it for speech, but through writing. For in respect of writing, too, it must be said: Today men do not have the writing but the writing has them. What does it mean, “the writing has them”? It means that in our wrist, in our hand, we have a certain train of writing. We write mechanically, out of the hand. This is a thing that fetters man. He only becomes unfettered when he writes as he paints or draws — when every letter beside the next becomes a thing that is painted or drawn ...
Then there is no longer what is ordinarily called “a handwriting.” Man draws the form of the letter. His relation to the letter is objective; he sees it before him — that is the essential thing.
For this reason, strange as it may sound, in certain Rosicrucian schools learning-to-write was prohibited, even until the fourteenth or fifteenth century; so that the form, the mechanism which comes to expression in writing did not enter the human being's organism. Man only approached the form of the letter when his spiritual vision was developed. Then it was so arranged that simultaneously with his learning of the conventional letters, needed for human intercourse, he had to learn others — specifically Rosicrucian letters — which are supposed to have been a secret script. They were not intended as such; the idea was that for an A one should learn at the same time another sign: 8. For then, one did not hold fast to the one sign but got free of it. Then one felt the real A as something higher than the mere sign of A or 8. Otherwise, the mere letter A would be identified with that which comes forth from the human being, soaring and hovering as the living sound of it.
With Rosicrucianism many things found their way into the people. For it was one of their fundamental principles: — from the small circles in which they were united, the Rosicrucians went out into the world, as I have already told you, generally working as doctors. But at the same time, while they were doctors, they spread knowledge of many things in the wide circles into which they came. Moreover, with such knowledge, certain moods and feelings were spread. We find them everywhere, wherever the Rosicrucian stream has left its traces. Sometimes they even assume grotesque forms. For instance, out of such moods and feelings of soul, men came to regard the whole of this modern relationship to writing — and a fortiori, to printing — as a black art. For in truth, nothing hinders one more from reading in the astral light than ordinary writing. This artificial fixing hinders one very much from reading in the astral light. One must always first overcome this writing when one wants to read in the astral light.
At this point two things come together, one of which I mentioned a short while ago. In the production of spiritual knowledge man must always be present with full inner activity. I confess that I have many note-books in which I write or put down the results I come to. I generally do not look at them again. Only, by calling into activity not only the head but the whole man, these perceptions which do indeed take hold of the entire man come forth. He who does so by and by accustoms himself not to care so much for what he sees physically, what is already fixed; but to remain in the activity, in order not to spoil his faculty of seeing in the astral light.
It is good to practice this reticence. As far as possible, when fixing things in ordinary writing, one should adhere not to writing as such, but draw the letters and redraw them after one's pleasure (for then it is as though you were painting; it becomes an art). Thus one acquires the faculty not to spoil the impressions in the astral light.
If we are obliged to relate ourselves to writing in the modern way, we mar our spiritual progress. For this reason in the Waldorf School educational method great care is taken that the human being does not go so far in writing as in the profane educational methods of today. Care is taken to enable the pupil to remain within the Spiritual, for that is necessary.
The world must receive once more the principle of initiation as such among the principles of civilization. Only thereby will it come about that man, here on the Earth, will gather in his soul something with which he can go before Michael, so as to meet Michael's approving look, the look that says: “That is right, cosmically right.” Thereby the will is fastened and made firm, and the human being is incorporated in the spiritual progress of the Universe. Thereby man himself becomes a co-operator in that which is about to be instilled into the evolution of mankind on Earth by Michael — beginning now in this present epoch of Michael.
Many, many things must be taken into account if man wishes rightly to cross that abyss of which I spoke yesterday, where in truth a Guardian is standing. We shall show in the next lectures how the abyss opened out in the 1840's, and how man today, as he looks back, can find his true relation to this abyss and to this Guardian — helped by such detailed knowledge as I have once again been trying to present.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
We are slowed down sound and light waves, a walking bundle of frequencies tuned into the cosmos. We are souls dressed up in sacred biochemical garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our souls play their music. — Albert Einstein
Anthroposophy, the Gospels, and the Future of Humanity
The Apocalypse of St. John. Introductory Lecture
Rudolf Steiner, Nuremberg, June 17, 1908
In the autumn of this present year Nuremberg can celebrate an important centenary, for it was in 1808 that this city received one of the greatest German spirits within her walls. He was one of those spirits of whom we hear little to-day and whose works are understood still less; but he will signify very much for inane intellectual life in the future when he is once understood. He is doubtless difficult to understated and it may be some time before people grasp him again. In the autumn of 1808 Hegel became Director of the Royal Grammar School in Nuremberg.
Hegel made a statement that we may perhaps take as foundation for what we are going to study. He said: The most profound thought is connected with the figure of Christ, with the outer historical figure. And it is the greatness of the Christian religion that every grade of consciousness can grasp the historical external figure, while at the same time it is a challenge to the most earnest labours of the mind and the deepest penetration. The Christian religion is comprehensible at every stage of culture and yet at the same time it challenges the deepest wisdom. — These are the words of Hegel, the German philosopher.
That the Christian faith, the message of the Gospel, can be understood at every stage of consciousness has been taught for a period to be reckoned almost in millennia. To show that it is a summons to the deepest thought, to a penetration into humanity's whole fund of wisdom, will be one of the tasks of Spiritual Science, if this is understood in its true sense and inmost impulse and made the guide of human life. What we are to consider to-day will be misunderstood if it is thought that Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science is in any way a new religion or desires to establish a new religious faith in place of an old one. One might say, not to be misunderstood, if Spiritual Science is grasped aright, it will be clear that though it is a sure and firm supporter of religious life, in itself it is no religion, nor will it ever contradict any religion as such. It is another matter, however, for it to be the instrument to explain the profoundest truths and the most earnest and vital secrets of religions and show how they may be understood.
It may seem somewhat far-fetched if we make the following comparison in order to show the relation of Theosophy or Anthroposophy to religious documents (and to-day we shall be concerned with the religious documents of Christianity). Anthroposophy is related to the religious documents as mathematical instruction is related to the books on mathematics which have appeared in the course of mankind's history. We have an old work which is really of interest only to students of history versed in mathematics, namely, the geometry of Euclid. It contains for the first time in a scholastic form the mathematical and geometrical facts that are now taught to children in school. How few of the children are aware, however, that all that they learn about parallel lines, triangles, angles, etc., stands in that old book, that it was given to humanity then for the first time. It is quite right to make the child conscious that one can realize these things in oneself, that if the human spirit sets its forces in motion and applies them to the forms of space it is able to realize these forms without reference to that ancient book. Yet someone who has never heard of the book and has been taught mathematics and geometry will value and understand it in the right sense if he one day comes across it. He will know how to prize what was given to mankind by the one who set this work for the first time before the human spirit. In this way one might characterize the relation of Spiritual Science to religious documents.
The sources of Spiritual Science are of such a nature that if it is understood in its true impulse it is not to be referred to any kind of document or tradition. Just as knowledge of the surrounding sense-world is given us by the free use of our forces, so can the knowledge of the super-sensible, the invisible lying behind the visible, be given us by the deep-lying spiritual forces and faculties slumbering within the human soul. When man uses the instruments of his senses he can perceive things lying before him and combine them with his intellect. In the same way someone using the means given him through Spiritual Science can look behind the veils of sense-existence to the spiritual causes, to where beings weave and work which are imperceptible to the physical eye and ear. Thus it is in the free use of man's forces, though they are still slumbering as super-sensible forces in the majority of men, that we have the independent source of spiritual knowledge, just as the source of external knowledge lies in the free use of forces directed to the sense-world. And when man possesses the knowledge which introduces him into the super-sensible behind the sensible, the invisible behind the visible, a knowledge as definite as his knowledge of outer objects and events, then he may go to the traditional books and records. Furnished with super-sensible knowledge he may approach the records through which, during the course of evolution, tidings have reached man of the super-sensible world, just as the geometrician approaches the geometry of Euclid. And then he tests them as the modern geometrician tests the geometry of Euclid; he can prize and recognize these documents at their true value. Nor does one who approaches the records of Christianity equipped with knowledge of the super-sensible world find that they lose in value; indeed on the contrary, they appear in a more brilliant light than they showed first to the mere believer, they prove to contain deeper wisdom than had been dreamt of earlier, before the possession of anthroposophical knowledge.
But we must be clear on another point before we can realize the right relation of Anthroposophy to the religious documents. Let us ask ourselves who is better able to judge the geometry of Euclid — one who can translate the words and give the contents without having first penetrated into the spirit of geometry, or one who already understands geometry and is therefore able to discover it in the book? Let us think of a mere philologist, one who knows nothing of geometry, how many incorrect statements would appear if he tried to convey the meaning of the contents. Many have done this with the records of religion, even those who are supposed to be chosen to fathom their true sense. They have gone to these records without first having any independent knowledge of super-sensible facts. And so we have to-day most careful explanations of religious documents, explanations that explore the history of the time and show how the documents originated, and so on. But the explanations resemble explanations of Euclid's geometry by a non-geometrician. Religion — and this we will hold fast — can only be found if one is aided by spiritual-scientific knowledge, although Spiritual Science can only be an instrument of the religious life, never a religion itself. Religion is best characterized through the content of the human heart, that sum of feelings and emotions through which man's sensitive soul sends up all that is best in it to the super-sensible beings and powers. The character of a man's religion depends on the fire of these feelings, the strength of his sensitivity, just as it depends on the warm pulse-beat in the breast and on the feeling for beauty how a man will stand before a picture. True it is that the contents of the religious life is what we call the spiritual or super-sensible world. But just as little as an aesthetic feeling for art is the same as an inner grasp of its laws — though it may assist understanding just as little are the wisdom, the science, that lead into the spiritual worlds the same as religion. This science will make religious feeling more earnest, worthier, broader, but it will not be religion itself. Grasped in its true sense it may lead to religion.
If we wish to understand the force and significance, the real spirit of the Christian religion we must penetrate far into spiritual life. We must look back into times of a primeval past, the pre-religious age of mankind, and try to envisage the origin of religion. Is there a pre-religious age of humanity? Yes, a time existed on earth when there was no religion; this is acknowledged by Spiritual Science though in a very different sense from the assertions of materialistic civilization. What does religion signify for mankind? It was and for a long time will still be that which the word itself signifies. The word “religion” means the uniting of man with his divine element, with the world of the spirit. The religious ages are essentially those in which man has longed for union with the divine, be it out of the sources of knowledge, or from a certain feeling, or because he felt that his will could only be strong if it were permeated by divine forces. Ages in which man had an inner premonition rather than definite vision, in which he rather sensed that a spiritual world was around him, than saw it — these are the religious ages of our earth. And before these ages were others when man did not need such a sense of longing for union with the super-sensible spiritual world, because he knew that world, as to-day he knows things of the sense world. Does man need to be convinced of the existence of stones, plants, animals? Does he need documents or doctrines to prove to him or let him surmise that there are rocks, plants, animals? No, for he sees them round him and needs therefore no religion of the sense-perceptible world. Let us imagine someone from quite another world, possessing quite different senses and organs of knowledge, one who would not see the stones, plants and animals because to him they were invisible. Let us imagine that he was informed through writings or in some other way of their existence, which to you is a matter of direct sight and knowledge. What would that be for him? It would be religion. If he were informed through some book of the existence of stones and plants and animals it would be religion to him, for he has never seen them. There was a time in which humanity lived amongst those spiritual beings and deeds that are recorded in the religious teachings and teachings of wisdom.
The word “evolution” has become a magic word in many fields of thought to-day, but it has been applied by science solely to outer sense-perceptible facts. To one who regards the world from the standpoint of Spiritual Science everything is in process of evolution, and most of all the human consciousness. The state of consciousness in which man lives to-day, through which when he wakes in the morning he is able to grasp the world with his senses, this state has evolved from a different one. We call the present consciousness the clear day-consciousness. But this has evolved from an ancient state which we call the dull picture-consciousness of mankind. There, however, we reach back to humanity's early evolutionary stages of which anthropology tells nothing, since it uses only the instruments of the senses and methods of the intellect. It believes that man has gone through stages in the far past which are the same as the animal creation passes through to-day. We have seen in earlier lectures how the relation of man to the animal is to be understood. Man was never such a being as the present animal, nor is he descended from beings like them. If we were to describe the forms out of which man has evolved they would prove very different in appearance from the present-day animal. These are creatures which have stayed behind at earlier stages of evolution, con-served these stages and hardened them. The human being has grown beyond his earlier evolutionary stages, the animal has gone down below them. So in the animal world we see some-thing like laggard brothers of humanity, who no longer, however, bear the form of those earlier stages.
The earlier stages of evolution took their course when there were different conditions of life on the earth, when the elements were not distributed as they are to-day, when the human being was not encumbered with the kind of body he now bears, and yet was man. He was able to wait, figuratively speaking, within the course of evolution for his entry into the flesh, was able to wait until the fleshly materiality had reached a condition in which he could develop the forces of the present spirit. The animals were not able to wait, they became hardened at an earlier stage, took on flesh earlier than was right. They were therefore obliged to stay behind. We can thus picture that the human being has lived under other conditions and other forms of consciousness. If we follow these back for thousands and thousands of years we shall always find different ones. What to-day we call logical thought, intellect, understanding, has only evolved late in man's history. Much stronger were certain forces in him which are already beginning to decline, such, for instance, as memory. In an earlier age memory was far more developed than it is now. With the growth of the intellect in mankind, memory has stepped essentially into the background. If one uses some measure of practical observation one can recognize that what Spiritual Science relates is not said without foundation. People might assert that if that were true about memory, then a person remaining backward in development by some accident, should be backward least of all in memory. It could also be claimed that if intellectuality were fostered in a person artificially kept back, then his memory would suffer. Here in this city a characteristic case of this very nature is to be found.
Professor Daumer, whom one must hold in the highest esteem, observed this case very thoroughly. It was the case of that human being, so enigmatic for many people, who was once placed into this city in a mysterious way, and who in just as mysterious a way met his death in Ansbach. An author, in order to indicate the mystery of his life, wrote that as he was carried out to burial the sun was setting on the one horizon and the moon was rising on the other. I speak, as you know, of Caspar Hauser. If you disregard all the pros and cons that have been asserted, if you look only at what has been fully verified, you will know that this foundling — who was one day simply there in the street, and who since he did not know whence he came, was called the Child of Europe — could neither read nor write when he was found. At an age of twenty years he possessed nothing of what is gained through the intellect but he had a remarkable memory. As they began to instruct him, as logic entered his soul, his memory disappeared. This transition in consciousness was accompanied by something else. He possessed at first an incredible, an entirely inborn truthfulness and it was precisely in this truthfulness that he went more and more astray. The more he nibbled, so to say, at intellectuality, the more it vanished. There would be many things to study were we to enter deeply into this human soul which had been artificially held back. It is not difficult for the student of Spiritual Science to credit the popular tradition, so unacceptable to the learned people of to-day, which relates that while Caspar Hauser still knew nothing, while he still had no idea that there were beings besides himself of different form, he exercised a remarkable effect upon quite savage creatures. Savage animals humbled themselves and became mild, something streamed from him that made such beasts gentle, although they savagely attacked anyone else. We could in fact penetrate deeply into the soul of this remarkable personality, so enigmatic to many, and you would see how things that cannot be explained from ordinary life are led back through Spiritual Science to spiritual facts. Such facts cannot be learnt by speculation but only by spiritual observation, though they are comprehensible to an unbiased and logical thinking.
All this has only been said in order to show you that the modern consciousness has evolved from another, an age-old-state when man was not in direct touch with outer objects in the modern sense, but on the other hand was in connection with facts and beings of the spiritual world. A human being did not see another's physical form — nor did this form resemble that of to-day. When another being approached him a sort of dream-picture arose and by its shape and colouring he knew whether the other was antagonistic to him or sympathetic. Such a consciousness perceived spiritual facts and the spiritual world. To-day man is among beings of flesh and blood, at that time, when he turned his gaze to himself and himself was soul and spirit, he lived among spiritual beings. They were present to him, he was a spirit among spirits. Although his consciousness was only dreamlike, yet the pictures that arose in him were in living relation to his environment. That was the far distant age when man still lived in a spiritual world. Later he descended from it in order to take on a corporeal nature suited to his present consciousness. Animals already existed as physical creatures while man still perceived in spiritual realms. He lived at that time among spiritual beings, and just as you need no proof to be convinced of the presence of stones, plants and animals, so man in those primeval times needed no testimony in order to be convinced of the existence of spiritual beings. He lived among spirits and divine beings and therefore needed no religion. That was the pre-religious age.
Then man descended, the earlier form of consciousness changed into the modern. Colours and forms are no longer perceived as floating in space, colour is laid upon the surfaces of sense-objects. In the same measure as man learnt to direct his senses to the outer world, did this outer world draw itself like a veil, like the great Maja, over the world of spirit. And humanity had to receive tidings of the spiritual world through this sheath, religion became necessary.
There is also a state, however, between the time preceding a religious consciousness and the time of actual religion: there is an intermediate condition. Thence are derived the mythologies, sagas, folk-stories of the spiritual worlds. It is a dreary arid learning that has no inkling of real spiritual events and asserts that all the figures of Nordic or German mythology, of Greek mythology with its accounts of the deeds of the gods are merely inventions of popular fantasy. They are not inventions, the peasant folk do not indulge in such fancies and if they see a few clouds stretched across the sky, say that they are little sheep. That the people have such fantasies is a fiction of our modern learnedness which abounds in lively fantasy about such things. The truth of the matter is quite different. The old saga and stories of the gods are the last relics, the last memories of the pre-religious consciousness. They are records of what men themselves have seen. Those who described Wotan, Thor, Zeus, etc., did so because they remembered that such things had been experienced once upon a time. Mythologies are fragments, broken pieces of what had once been experienced. The intermediate stage was shown in another way as well. Even when clever men had already — let us say — become very clever, there were still persons who under exceptional conditions (call them states of insanity or being carried away, as you will) could see into the spiritual worlds, who could still be aware of what in earlier times was seen by all. They recounted that they themselves still saw something of the spiritual world. This was linked with the memories and led to a living faith among the people. That was a state transitional to the state of actual religion.
We may ask: what paved the way in mankind to an actual religion? It was because men found a means of so developing their inner being that they were once more able to behold the worlds from which they had sprung, which they used to see in a dull consciousness. And here we touch upon a chapter which to many modern minds contains but little probability, the question of initiation. What are initiates? They were those who so developed their inner nature of soul and spirit through certain methods that they grew again into the spiritual world. There is initiation! In every soul super-sensible forces and faculties lie dormant. There is, or at least there can be, a great and mighty moment when these forces awaken. We can gain some idea of this moment if we picture the general course of human evolution. To speak in the words of Goethe we can say that we look back into the far past when the human body had no such physical eye or physical ear as exist to-day. We look back to times when there were undifferentiated organs, able neither to see nor to hear, at the places where these organs are now situated. A time came for physical humanity when such blind organs evolved to radiant points, gradually evolved until light itself dawned upon them. In the same way a time came when the human ear had developed to such a stage that the former silent world revealed itself in tones and harmonies. The sun's forces worked upon the formation of the human eye. And to-day man can live the life of spirit and thus develop the organs of soul and spirit which are largely undeveloped in present mankind.
The moment is possible and for many has already dawned when the soul and spirit are transformed just as once the external physical organism was transformed. New eyes and ears arise through which the light shines and tones resound out of the spiritually dark and silent world. Development is possible, even to the point of living into the higher worlds. That is initiation. And the Mystery Schools provided methods of initiation as in ordinary life the methods of the chemical laboratory or of biological research are made available. The difference is only this — official science has to prepare instruments and other apparatus for its use, while he who would become an initiate has but one instrument to perfect, namely, himself in all his forces just as the force of magnetism can lie dormant in iron, so there slumbers in the human soul the power to penetrate into the spiritual world of light and sound. And so the time came when normal humanity saw only physical sense-existence and when the leaders were initiates. These could see into the spiritual worlds and give information and explanation of the facts of that world in which man had earlier lived.
To what does the first stage of initiation lead? How does it appear to the human soul? Do not imagine that this development is merely a matter of philosophic speculation, a spinning out, a refinement of ideas. The ideas man has about the sense-world are transformed when he grows into the spiritual world. No longer does he apprehend things through sharply outlined concepts, but through pictures, through Imaginations. For the human being grows into the spiritual process of world creation. The firm definite contours of the physical material world exist, in fact, nowhere else. In the world creative process the animal does not appear with clear outline. One has there something like a basic idea of the animal from which the diverse external forms can originate, a living reality, membered in itself. One must take one's stand strictly on the basis of Goethe's words: “All things corruptible are but a semblance.” The initiate learns at first to know and grasp in pictures, he learns to ascend into the spiritual world. There his consciousness must be more mobile than that which serves us for apprehending the surrounding sense-world. Hence this stage of development is called the Imaginative Consciousness. It leads man again into the spiritual world, but not in a dull twilight state. The initiate consciousness to be gained is clear and bright, as clear as man's consciousness by day. There is thus an enrichment, the spiritual consciousness is added to the day-consciousness. In the first stage of initiation man lives in the imaginative consciousness. The documents of humanity record what the initiates experienced in the spiritual world just as information with regard to the science of geometry was imparted to mankind through Euclid. We recognize what stands in these records when we go back to the sources — the spiritual vision of the initiates.
Those were the conditions prevailing among men up to the appearance of the greatest Being who has trodden upon the earth, Christ Jesus. With his appearance anew element entered evolution. If we would understand the essential nature of the new element bestowed on mankind through Christ Jesus, we must realize that in all pre-Christian initiation the candidate was completely withdrawn from ordinary life, he must work upon his soul in centres of profoundest secrecy. Above all we must realize that when man raised himself again into the spiritual world something of that merely dreamlike picture-consciousness still remained. Man had to retreat from this sense-world to be able to enter the spiritual world. That this is no longer necessary to-day has been brought about through the appearing of Christ Jesus on earth. Through the fact that the Christ-principle has entered humanity, the Central Being, the very Centre of the spiritual world, has once existed historically in a human being on this earth. It is the same Being for whom all these have longed who have developed a religious life, who have beheld in the Mystery Centres, who have left the sense-world in order to enter the spiritual world. The Being of whom it has been proclaimed that man confronts it as his highest nature, this has entered humanity's evolution with Christ Jesus. One who understands something of genuine spiritual science knows that all religious proclamation before the coming of Christ Jesus is a prophecy of him.
When the ancient initiates wished to speak of the highest that was accessible to them in the spiritual world, of that which they were able to see as the origin of all things, then under the most diverse names it was of Christ Jesus that they spoke. We need only remember the Old Testament, itself a prophecy. We remember how when Moses was to lead his people he received the command: “Say to thy people that the Lord God has said unto thee what thou shalt do.” Then Moses asks: “How will the people believe me, how can I convince them? What shall I say when they ask who has sent me?” And he was commanded: “Say the ‘I-am’ has sent thee.” Read it again and compare as exactly as you can with the original text and you will see its significance. The “I-Am,” what does that mean? The “I-Am” is the name for the divine Being, the Christ-principle of man — the Being of whom man feels like a drop, a spark, when he can say “I am.” The stone, the plant, the animal cannot say “I am.” Man is the crown of creation inasmuch as he can say “I am” to himself, he can utter a name which does not hold good for anyone but the one who utters it. You alone can call yourself “I”; no one else can call you “I.” Here the soul speaks within itself in a word to which none other has entrance except a Being which comes to the soul through no external sense, on no outer path. Here Divinity speaks. Hence the name “I-Am” was given to the Godhead whose being fills the world. “Say that the ‘I-am’ has told thee !” Thus was Moses to speak to his people.
Men learn only gradually to understand the true, deep meaning of this “I-am.” Human beings did not feel themselves as individuals at once. You can still find this in the Old Testament, these men did not as yet feel individual. Even the members of the German tribes, right into the time of the Christian Church, did not feel themselves to be individualities. Think back to the Cherusci, the Teutons, etc., the German tribes in whose land modern Germany now lies. The separate members felt the tribal ego, and themselves as a part of it. A man would not have said “I am” in the clear, definite way it is said to-day; he felt himself part of an organism composed of those who were related by blood. This blood-relationship assumes the greatest proportions among the followers of the Old Testament religion. The individual felt himself sheltered in the whole folk which for him was ruled by one Ego. He knew the meaning of “I and the Father Abraham are one,” for he traced the blood-relationship back through the generations to Abraham. If he wished to go beyond his single ego he knew himself to be sheltered in the Father Abraham, from whom flows all the blood through the generations, which is the external bearer of the common Folk-Ego.
Now if this expression, which signified the highest they knew to the people of the Old Testament is compared with what has been brought through Christ Jesus then a lightning-flash illumines the whole advance that has come about through Christian evolution. “Before Abraham was, was the ‘I-am.’” What does this mean? “Before Abraham was the ‘I-am.’” (That is the right rendering of the biblical passage.) It means: Go back through all generations, and you find something in yourself, in your own individuality which is even more eternal than what flows through all blood-related generations. Before the ancestors were, was the “I-am,” that Being which draws into every human being, of which each human soul can directly feel something in itself. Not “I and the Father Abraham,” not I and a temporal Father, but I and a spiritual Father, who has no part in anything perishable, we are one! I and the Father are one. The Father dwells in each separate individual, the Divine Principle lives in him, something which was, which is, and which is to be.
Men have actually only begun after 2,000 years to feel the force of this world-impulse; in future ages, however, they will realize the significance for mankind of this forward step in the remission and evolution of the earth. What the ancient initiates tried to reach could only be realized if one went beyond the individual human being and grasped the spirit of a whole people. If the normal man heard that he would say: That is a transient entity which begins with birth and ends with death. But if he were initiated in the secrets of the Mysteries, he saw as the Folk Spirit, as the actual Being who flows through the blood of the generations, that which was only dimly sensed by the others. He could see what can be reached only in the spiritual realm and not in external reality. He could see a divine Being who flows through the blood of the generations. To stand face to face in the spirit before this God could only take place in the Mysteries.
Those who were round Christ Jesus with full understanding as his intimate pupils were conscious that a Being of divine spiritual nature stood outwardly before them, clothed in the flesh as human personality. They were sensible of Christ Jesus as the first human being to bear a Spirit who otherwise was felt only by interrelated groups, and who could only be seen in the spiritual world by initiates. He was the Firstborn among men.
The more individualized a man becomes the more he can become a bearer of Love. Where the blood links men together they love because they are led to what they should love. When man is granted individuality, when he tends and nurtures the divine spark within hit then the impulses of love, the waves of love, pass from man to man out of the free heart. And thus with this new impulse man has enriched the old bond of love that is bound to the blood-tie. Love passes over gradually into spiritual love which flows from soul to soul and which will ultimately encompass all humanity in a common bond of brother-love. But Christ Jesus is the Force, the living Force, once historically and externally present, through whom for the first time mankind has been brought to the bond of brother-love. Men will learn to understand this bond of brother-love as the perfected spiritualized Christianity.
People say very lightly to-day that theosophy should seek the common kernel of truth in all religions, for the contents of all religions are the same. People who talk like that and only compare religions in order to note the abstract resemblance have no understanding of the principle of evolution. World evolution is not without meaning. All religions undoubtedly contain the truth, but inasmuch as they evolve from form to form they evolve to higher forms. It is true that if you search deeply enough you can find teachings in other religions that are also to be found in Christianity. Christianity has not brought new doctrine. The essential element of Christianity does not lie in its teachings. Take the founders of pre-Christian religions, in their case it was a matter of what they taught. If they themselves had remained unknown, their teaching would have been preserved and this would have been enough. But with Christ Jesus that is not the point. What matters is that he was there, that he has lived here on this earth in a physical body. Not belief in his teaching but in his Person — that is the essential thing. The point is that he has been beheld among mortals as the Firstborn; whom one asks: if Thou wert in the position in which I find myself, wouldst Thou feel as I do? Wouldst Thou think as I am now thinking? Will, as I am willing? That is else important thing, that he is the greatest example as Personality, with whom it is not a matter of listening to his teaching, but of looking at him himself, and seeing how he acted. And so the intimate pupils of Christ Jesus speak quite differently from the pupils and disciples of other religious founders. It is said of those: The Master has taught this or taught that. The disciples of Christ Jesus say: We are not telling you invented myths and doctrines; we say to you what our eyes have seen, our ears heard. We have heard his voice, our hands have touched the Source of Life whereby we have community with you. And Christ Jesus himself said: “You shall bear witness for me in Jerusalem, in Judea to the end of the world.” These words contain a very great significance; testimony shall you bear for inc to the end of the world. That means that there will at all times be those who, just as the men in Judea and Galilee, could say out of direct knowledge who Christ was, in the sense of the Gospel.
“In the sense of the Gospel” — what does that mean? Nothing less than that he was from the beginning the Principle that lived in all creation. He says, “If you do not believe in me, believe at least in Moses, for if you believe in Moses, then you believe in me, for Moses has spoken of me.” We have to-day seen this. Moses has spoken of him by saying: The “I-Am” has said it to me; the “I-am,” who up to then was only perceptible in the spirit. The fact that the Christ has entered visibly into the world, appearing as man among amen, is what distinguishes the Christ-gospel from the divine proclamations of other religions. In all of these religions spiritual wisdom was directed to something which was outside the world. Now, with Christ Jesus, something entered the world which was to be grasped as the sense-perceptible itself. What did the first disciples experience as the ideal of their wisdom? No longer merely to understand the life of the spirits in spirit-land, but how the Highest Principle could have been present on the earth in the historical Personality of Christ Jesus. It is much easier to deny divinity to this Personality than to acknowledge it. Here lies the distinction between a certain doctrine of early Christian times and what we may call inner Christianity — the distinction between Gnosis and esoteric Christianity. The Gnosis certainly recognizes Christ in his divinity, but it could not raise itself to the conception that the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us, as the writer of the John Gospel emphasizes. He says: You shall look upon Christ Jesus; not as something to be grasped purely in the invisible, but as the Word which has become flesh and dwelt among us. You must know that with this human personality a force has appeared which will work into the farthest future, which will encircle the earth with the true spiritual love as a force that lives and works in all that lives into the future.
And if man gives himself up to this force he grows into the spiritual world from which he has descended. He will ascend again to where the initiate's vision can already reach to-day. Man will divest himself of what belongs to the senses when he penetrates into the spiritual world. The candidate who was initiated in ancient times could see in retrospect the far past of spirit-life; those who are initiated in the Christian sense through receiving the impulse of Christ Jesus are enabled to see what becomes of this earthly world of ours when humanity acts in the sense of the Christ Impulse. As one can look back to earlier conditions, so, starting from the conning of Christ, one can look into the farthest future. Consciousness will alter again, there will be a new relation of the spiritual to the sense-world. Earlier initiation was directed to tine past, to age-old wisdom; Christian initiation reveals the future to one who is to be initiated. That is a necessity; man is to be initiated not only in wisdom, or in feelings but in his will. For then he knows what he is to do, he can set himself a goal for the future. Ordinary everyday people set themselves aims for the afternoon, for the evening or the morning; the spiritual man is able, out of spiritual principles, to set himself distant aims which pulse through his will and make his forces quicken. To set goals before humanity means in the true, highest sense, in the sense of the original Christ principle, to grasp Christianity esoterically. In this way it was grasped by the one who has written the great principle of the initiation of the will — the writer of the Apocalypse. We misunderstand the Apocalypse, if we do not understand it as the impulse given for the future, for action and deed.
Everything that we have let pass before us to-day can be understood out of anthroposophical Spiritual Science. I have been unable to give more than a slight sketch. When through Spiritual Science one grasps what lies behind the sense-world, one can look with understanding at all that has been given in the Gospels, at what has been proclaimed in the Apocalypse. And the more deeply penetrating is one's approach to the super-sensible worlds, the more profound is what one will find in the Christian documents. The records of Christianity will appear in higher brilliance, with deeper truths when one goes to them strengthened with the spiritual vision that may be gained by the help of Anthroposophy. True it is that the simplest heart can have some feeling of what truths lie hidden in Christianity. But man's consciousness will not be satisfied for ever with a dim sensing, it will evolve higher and wish to have knowledge and under-standing. Yet even when it mounts to the highest teachings of wisdom, there will always be mysteries in Christianity still more profound. It is for the simplest heart but also for the most developed intellectuality. The initiate experiences it again as pictures, and so the naive consciousness may divine what truths are slumbering there. Man, however, will demand knowledge and not faith — and even then he will find satisfaction in Christianity. If the explanations of the Gospels are given him through Spiritual Science he will be able to find the fully satisfying content in Christianity. Hence Spiritual Science will take the place of the highest philosophies of the past. It will bear testimony to the beautiful words of Hegel quoted at the beginning: “Profoundest thought is linked with the historical external figure of Christ Jesus, and every degree of consciousness — therein lies the greatness of Christianity — can grasp it externally. At the same time, however, Christianity demands the deepest and most penetrating wisdom. Christianity is for every stage of culture, but it can meet and satisfy the highest demands.”
Survivals of the ancient wisdom
Rudolf Steiner, January 12, 1924 [Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation, lecture 5 of 6]:
We have seen how the old knowledge that was once acquired by means of instinctive clairvoyance gradually faded into a kind of evening twilight. It is difficult to find any trace of that old wisdom in modern times, particularly after the eighteenth century, for what I have told you is really true, namely that in recent times what has persisted — or rather, to put it more correctly, what has only recently made its appearance — is the external observation of Nature, Logic, the sequence of abstract thoughts. But neither with external observation of Nature nor with the mere sequence of abstract logical thoughts can a bridge be built for man whereby he may attain to reality. Much of the ancient wisdom has nevertheless maintained a sort of existence in traditional form and may be found even as late as the middle of the nineteenth century. And in order that we may orientate ourselves rightly to the important subjects with which we shall have to deal, I should like today to speak further about some of the ideas that were still to be found in the first half of the nineteenth century and are really survivals of the ancient wisdom.
I relate these things to you in order that you may see how in a time that does not lie so very far back the whole manner of thinking was nevertheless entirely different from what it is today. As I said before, it is exceedingly difficult to arrive at these things, for it is single individuals — living all alone, or having around them at the most a small circle of pupils — who carried on the ancient wisdom, preserving it in secret, often without themselves understanding its wonderfully deep foundation. A similar picture has really to be made of the conditions as they were in still earlier times, for it is quite certain that the two characters who are familiar to you under the names of Faust and Paracelsus encountered in the course of their wanderings such lonely individuals — cave-dwellers of the soul, we may call them — and learned a great deal from them; learned from them what they themselves afterwards developed and elaborated through an inner faculty of their own, a faculty that was in their cases, too, of a rather instinctive nature.
What I am now going to relate to you was however much later: it was in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Once more we find a small group — call it a school if you will — a lonely school of Central Europe. There, in this little circle, was to be found a deep and penetrating teaching concerning Man. A long time ago, on a spiritual path, I became aware that at a certain place in Central Europe there existed such a small company of men who had knowledge. As I have said, I learned to know of it on a spiritual path; I was not able at that time to make observations in the physical world, since I was not then in the physical world, but in a spiritual way it became known to me that a little company of this kind existed.
I should, however, not speak of what was taught within this little company, had not the essence of what was hidden in it subsequently again disclosed itself to research made independently through Spiritual Science; I should not speak of it had I not myself, so to speak, found the things anew. For it is just in the refinding that one obtains the right orientation to the wisdom that has survived from olden times, and that is truly overpowering in its greatness.
From this little company of which I speak, a tradition goes right back in history, back through the whole of the Middle Ages into the times of antiquity that I described to you in the lectures given at the Christmas Meeting, the times, that is to say, of Aristotle. The tradition does not, however, come directly from Greece; it comes from Asia, by way of what was brought over to Asia from Macedonia by Alexander.
Within this little company is known and taught in all exactness a deep and penetrating teaching concerning Man, in respect especially of two human faculties. We may see there a spiritual scientist — he may truly be so called — who is a fully developed Master, instructing his pupils. The symbols by which he teaches them consist in certain geometrical forms — let us say for example a form such as this — [two intersecting triangles] — and at the points are generally to be found some words in Hebrew. It was impossible to find any direct connection with such symbols; one could do nothing with them directly. And the pupils of this master knew through the instructions they received that what, for example, Eliphas Levi gives later on, is in reality nothing more than a talking around the subject, for the pupils were at that time still able to learn how the true meaning of such symbols is only arrived at when these symbols are rediscovered in the nature and being of the human organization itself.
We find in particular one symbol that played a great part for this little company of men. You get the symbol when you draw apart this “Solomon's Key,” so that the one triangle comes down and the other is raised up. The symbol thus obtained played, as I said, a significant part even as late as the nineteenth century within this little community or school.
The Master then made the members of his little circle of pupils take up a certain attitude with their bodies. They had to assume such a position that the body itself as it were inscribed this symbol. He made them stand with their legs far apart, and their arms stretched out above. Then by lengthening the lines of the arms downwards, and the lines of the legs upwards, these four lines came to view in the human organism itself. A line was then drawn to unite the feet, and another line to unite the hands above. These two joining lines were felt as lines of force; the pupil became conscious that they do really exist. It became clear to him that currents pass, like electro-magnetic currents, from the left fingertips to the right fingertips, and again from the left foot to the right foot. So that in actual fact the human organism itself writes into space these two intersecting triangles.
The next step was for the pupil to learn to feel what lies in the words: “Light streams upwards, Weight bears downwards.” The pupil had to experience this in deep meditation, standing in the attitude I have described. Thereby he gradually came to the point where the teacher was able to say to him: “Now you are about to experience something that was practised over and over again in the ancient Mysteries.” And the pupil attained then in very truth to this further experience, namely that he experienced and felt the very marrow within his bones.
You will be able to obtain some feeling for these things if you will bring what I am saying into connection with something I said to you only yesterday. I told you then, in another connection, that if men continue only to think so abstractly as has become the custom in the course of time, then this living in abstract thoughts remains something external; man as it were externalizes himself. It is the exact opposite that occurs when, in this way, a consciousness of the bones from inside is attained.
But now there is something else that will help you to come to an understanding of the matter. Paradoxical as it may sound, it is yet true that such a book as my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity cannot be grasped by mere Logic, it must be understood by the whole human being. And in point of fact you will not understand what is said in that book concerning thinking, unless you know that in reality man experiences thought by means of the inner knowledge and feeling of his skeleton. A man does not really think with the brain, he thinks with his skeleton, when he thinks in sharply defined thoughts. And when thought becomes concrete, as is the case in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, then it passes over into the whole human being.
But now the pupils of this Master went further still; they learned to feel the inside, the inner nature, of the bones. Therewith they were able to experience a last example of what was practised in manifold ways in the ancient Mystery Schools, they learned to experience symbols by making their own organism into these symbols; for only so can symbols be really and truly experienced. Explanation and interpretation of symbols is really nonsense; so too is all theorising about symbols. The true attitude to symbols is to make them and actually experience them. It is the same as with fables and legends and fairy tales. — These should never be received merely abstractly, one must identify oneself with them. There is always something in man whereby he can enter into all the figures of the fairy tale, whereby he can make himself one with the fairy tale. And so it is with these true symbols of olden times, which come originally from spiritual knowledge; I have expressed it by writing these words in your own language.
In modern times there is little sense if Hebrew words are written, words that are no longer fully understood; for then the man who reads them is not inwardly quickened to life, he has not an inward experience of the symbol, rather he is cramped by it. It is as though his bones were broken. And that is what really happens — spiritually of course — when one studies seriously such writings as those of Eliphas Levi.
Thus, then, did these pupils learn to experience the inside of their bones. But, my dear friends, when you begin to experience the inside of the bones, you are really no longer in your body. If you hold something in your finger a few inches in front of your nose, the object you are holding is not in you; just as little is what you experience within your bones really in you. You go inwards, it is true, but nevertheless you go out of yourself. And this going out of oneself, this going to the Gods, this going into the spiritual world, is what the pupils of that lonely school learned to grasp and understand. For they learned to know the lines which from the side of the Gods were drawn into the world, the lines that were drawn by the Gods to establish and found the world. They found in one direction, namely through Man, the path to the Gods.
And then the teacher put into words what the pupil was experiencing. — He expressed it in a sentence that will naturally appear ludicrous and paradoxical to many people today but that holds nevertheless, as you will be able to recognize, a deep truth: —
Behold the man of bone,
And thou beholdest Death.
Look within the bones
And thou beholdest the Awakener —
that is, the Awakener of man in the Spirit, the Being who brings man into connection with the world of the Gods.
Now in the time of which we are speaking not very much could be attained on this path; something however could be attained. Something of the teaching concerning the evolution of the Earth through different metamorphoses became clear to the pupils. Through being able to place themselves into the Spirit-being of Man, they learned to look back into Atlantean times and even farther. As a matter of fact very many things that were not in those times written down or printed but were related by word of mouth concerning the evolution of the Earth had their origin in a knowledge and insight that came about in this way.
Such was one of the teachings given in this school.
Another teaching is also very interesting. This teaching brought to light in a practical manner the higher position of Man in respect to the animals. Facts that we put to practical use in various ways and that are of great value to us were known and understood even as late as the nineteenth century by men who based their knowledge on good old traditions of knowledge and insight. We are proud today that we have police-dogs who are able to track out all kinds of wrongdoing in life. This practical use had not been thought of in olden times. But the faculty of dogs, for example, in this direction was even better known than it is today. Man had insight to perceive around the human being a very fine substance, finer than anything that can be seen or smelt or sensed in any way. And it was known that there is a fine fluid belonging also to the world as a whole. It was recognized as a special differentiation of warmth-currents, in union with all manner of other currents, which were looked upon as electro-magnetic; and the scent of the dog was connected with these currents of warmth and electro-magnetism. The pupils of that little school of which I have been telling you had their attention drawn to the same kind of faculty in other animals too. It was shown to them how this sense for a fine fluid flowing through the world was present in a very great many animals. And then it was pointed out to them how that which in the case of the animal develops downwards in the direction of the coarse and material, develops in man upwards into a quality of soul.
And now we come to something taught in this school that is of the very greatest interest. It was taught by reference to facts of external anatomy, but a deeply spiritual truth was indicated. It was said to the pupil: “Behold, Man is a Microcosm; he imitates in his organism what takes place in the great structure of the Universe.” Nor was Man regarded as a microcosm, as a little world, only in respect of the processes that go on within him. What shows itself plastically in man, in plastic forms and structures — this too was referred back to processes in the external world.
Thus, profound and solemn attention was given in this school to the passage of the Moon through First Quarter, Full Moon, Last Quarter, New Moon; they learned to watch how the Moon in this way goes through twenty-eight to thirty phases. They watched out in the Cosmos the passage of the Moon through her phases. They watched the Moon as she moves within her orbit. They saw how she describes her twenty-eight to thirty curves or turns and they understood how Man has in his spinal column these twenty-eight to thirty vertebrae and how the development of the spinal column in the embryo corresponds with the movements and forces of the Moon. They saw in the form and shape of the human spinal column the copy of the monthly movement of the Moon. And in the twenty-eight to thirty nerves that go out from the spinal column into the whole organism they saw a copy of the streams that the Moon sends down continually upon the Earth, sending them down at the various stages of her path in the heavens. Actually and literally, in these continuations of the vertebrae they saw a reflection of the inpouring of the Moon-streams. In short, in what the human being bears within him in the nerves of the spinal marrow together with the spinal marrow itself they saw something that unites him with the Cosmos, that brings him into living connection with the Cosmos.
All this that I have indicated to you was presented to the pupil. And he was then made to observe something else. It was said to him: “Look at the optic nerve: watch how it goes from the brain across into the eye. You will see that in the course of its passage into the eye it is divided into very fine threads. How many threads? The threads that go from the optic nerve into the inside of the eye are exactly as many in number as the nerves that go out from the spinal marrow; there are twenty-eight to thirty of them. So we may say that a spinal marrow system in miniature goes from the brain through the optic nerve into the eye.”
Thus has Man — so said the teacher to his pupils — thus has man received this thirty-membered system of nerves and spinal marrow from the Gods, who in primeval antiquity formed and shaped his existence; but Man himself has fashioned, in his eye, in his sense-world-beholding eye, a copy of the same; there, in the front of the head-organism, he has fashioned for himself a copy of what the Gods have made of him.
After this, the pupil's attention was directed to the following. The organization of the spinal marrow stands, as we have seen, in connection with the Moon. But on the other hand, through the special relationship that the Moon has to the Sun, we have a year of twelve months; and from the human brain twelve nerves go out to the various parts of the organism, the twelve chief nerves of the brain. In this respect Man, in his head organization, is a microcosm, in respect, namely, of the relationship between Sun and Moon. In the whole form and figure of Man is expressed an imitation of the processes out yonder in the Cosmos.
Again, the pupil was taught to observe something more. He has seen how in the optic nerve, through the way the optic nerve is split up into thirty divisions, Man imitates the Moon system of the spine. And he has seen how twelve nerves go out from the brain. But now again, when the particular part of the brain that sends the olfactory nerve into the nose is examined the fact is disclosed that there, in that little portion of the brain, the whole big brain is imitated. Just as in the eye the system of nerves and spinal marrow is imitated, so in the organ of smell the whole brain is imitated, inasmuch as the olfactory nerve enters the nose in twelve divisions, in twelve strands. So that Man has an actual, miniature human being in front, here, in his head.
And then the pupil was made to observe that anatomically this miniature human being is no more than a mere indication. Things grow different; only the most minute anatomical investigation could avail here; although on the other hand, as it were in compensation, they express themselves especially strongly in the astral body. Having however only bare indications of them, they cannot be made use of in ordinary life. Yet we can learn to do so. And even as the pupil was shown how to experience the inside of his bones, so was he shown how to experience, in a really living way, this particular part of his being.
And here we come to something that is in truth more akin to the whole Western outlook than are many other things that come over to us from the East. For the East too speaks of this concentration on the root of the nose, this concentration on the point between the eyebrows. (This is how the exact spot is defined.) But in truth this concentration is a concentration on the miniature man that is situated in this spot and can be grasped astrally. A meditation can actually be so formed as to enable one to apprehend something in the region like a miniature man in embryonic development. The pupil in that school received this guidance: he learned to apprehend, in intensely concentrated thought, a kind of embryonic development of a miniature human being.
By this means did the pupils who had the faculties for it develop the two-petaled lotus-flower. [Footnote: see Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment by Rudolf Steiner] And then it was said to them: The animal develops this faculty downwards, to the fluid of warmth and of electro-magnetism. Man on the other hand develops into the astral what has its place here in the head and nose. At first sight it appears to be merely a sense of smell, but the faculty, the activity, of the eye plays over into it. Man develops this into the astral. He acquires the faculty whereby he is able not merely to follow that fluid, as do the animals, but to evoke continual interchange with the astral light, and to perceive by means of the two-petaled lotus-flower what he is continually writing into the astral light his whole life long. The dog scents only that which has remained, that which is there present. Man has a different experience. Inasmuch as he moves with his two-petaled lotus-flower, even when he cannot perceive with it, he is forever writing everything that is in his thoughts into the astral light; and now he acquires the faculty that enables him to follow what he has written; and to perceive at the same time something else, namely, the true difference between Good and Evil.
In this manner echoes of ancient primeval treasures of wisdom were still present, of which the rudiments were still taught in later days, even practically. And we can see how very much has been lost under the influence of the materialistic streams that began to work so forcibly about the middle of the nineteenth century. For such things as I have been indicating to you were still, to a certain degree at least, experienced and known in certain circles, isolated and hermit-like though they were. And in the most varied domains of life knowledge was still derived from such hidden sources, knowledge that was later entirely disregarded, and that many today long to find again. But on account of the crude methods that prevail in our time, external cognition cannot regain it.
Now together with all else that was taught to the pupils of that little circle, there was one special and definite teaching. It was shown to the pupil how when he makes use of the organ that is really an organ of smell raised up into the astral light, then he learns to know the true substance of all things, he learns to know Matter. And when he comes to a knowledge of the inside of his bony system, and thereby learns to know the true and authentic World Geometry, to know the way in which the forces have been inscribed into the world by the Gods, then he learns to understand the Forms that work in the things of the world. Thus if you would learn to know Quartz in its substance — so it was said to the pupil — then look at it in the two-petaled lotus-flower. If you would learn to know its crystal form, how the substance is given shape and form, then you must apprehend this form out of the Cosmos with the power of apprehension that you can gain by living experience of the inside of the bony system.
Or again, the pupil was taught as follows. — If you use your head-organ, then you learn to know how a plant is fashioned in respect of Substance. If you learn to experience the inside of your bony system, then you learn to know how a certain plant grows, why it has this or that form of leaf, this or that arrangement of its leaves, why it unfolds its blossoms in this or that manner.
Everything that is Form had to be understood in the one way, everything that is Substance in the other way. And it is really interesting to find, when we go back to Aristotle, how he makes this distinction in respect of everything that exists, the distinction between Form and Substance. In later times, of course, it was taught in a merely abstract way.
In the stream that came from Greece to Europe the abstractness with which these things were set forth in books was enough to drive one to despair; this went on throughout the Middle Ages, and in still more recent times has gone from bad to worse. But if you go back to Aristotle you find that, with him, Forms really lead back to the experience I described, you find with him the true insight into things that is able to see in every head that which he calls the Matter or Substance in the things. This insight possessed by Aristotle was the aspect of his teaching that was carried into Asia.
But now the inner knowledge — that is to say, the knowledge that is in accord with the Akashic Records — the inner knowledge of the philosophy taught in Greece points us to something of which I could naturally only give quite an external indication in my Riddles of Philosophy, where I showed how Aristotle held the view that in Man, Form and Matter flow into one another; in Man, Matter is Form and Form Matter. You will find this where I am speaking of Spirit in Riddles of Philosophy.
Aristotle himself, however, taught it in quite a different way. Aristotle taught that when you approach the minerals, you experience in the first place their Form by means of the inside of the bones of the lower leg, and you experience their Substance in the organ of the head. The two are far apart. Man holds them apart, Form and Substance; in the mineral kingdom itself they come together in crystallization. When man comes to an understanding of the plant, then he experiences its Form by means of his experience of the inside of the thigh-bone, its Substance once more by means of the organ of the head, the two-petaled lotus-flower. The two experiences have already come a little nearer. And when man experiences the animal, then he feels the animal in its Form through the experience he has of the inside of the bones of the lower arm, and again he feels its Substance through the organ of the head — this time the two are very near together. And if now man experiences Man himself, then he experiences the Form of Man through the inside of the upper arm that is connected with the brain by way of the speech formation. I have often spoken of this in my introductory words on Eurythmy. There the two-petaled lotus-flower unites with what goes from the inside of the upper arm to the brain. And particularly in speech we experience our fellow human being no longer divided as to Form and Content, but as one in Form and Content.
This teaching still survived in all its concreteness in the time of Aristotle. And as we have said, a trace of it can still be found as late as the nineteenth century. But there we come to an abyss. In the forties of the nineteenth century these things were utterly and completely lost. And the abyss lasted until the end of the nineteenth century when the coming of the Michael Age gives the possibility for these truths to be found again. When, however, men step over this abyss, they are really stepping over a threshold. And at the threshold stands a Guardian. Men were not able to see this Guardian when they went past him between the years 1842 and 1879. But now they must, for their own good, look back and take note of him. For to continue not heeding him and to live on into the following centuries without heeding him would bring terrible trouble upon mankind.
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