Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Holy Grail and Parsival

Diagram 1

Stars once spoke to us;
their silence now is world destiny;
awareness of this silence
can cause us earthly human beings pain.

But in mute stillness ripens
what we speak to the stars;
awareness of this speech
can strengthen our spiritual core.

~Rudolf Steiner

"I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!"  — Luke 12:49-50

an excerpt from Man: Hieroglyph of the Universe. Lecture 16 of 16

Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, May 16, 1920:

It is evident that something like a co-operation of thought-activity and heat-activity takes place. In what does this consist? Here we come to something which demands very careful consideration.
Taking first the whole of the rest of man, and then his head, we can of course, trace a transmutation of matter (metabolism) from the former to the latter; and the fact that ultimately the head has to do with thought — that we perceive as a direct experience. Yet what really happens? We will lead up to this gradually by way of appropriate imagery. Let us suppose we have some fluid substance; we bring it to boiling point, then it evaporates, and changes into a more rarefied substance. This same process takes place far more intensely with human thought. All that plays its part as transmutation of substances in the human head brings it about that all substance falls away like a sediment, it is precipitated, and nothing remains of it but the mere picture.
I will now use another example. Suppose you have a vessel containing a solution. This you cool down, which is again a heat-process. A sediment collects below, and above remains finer liquid. This is also the case with the human head; only here no substance whatever is collected above, nothing but pictures, all matter is expelled. This is the activity of the human head; it forms what are mere pictures, and expels the matter.
This process, as a matter of fact, takes place in everything that may be called the transition to pure thinking. All the material substance which has cooperated in the human inner life falls back into the organism, and pictures alone remain. It is a fact that when we rise to pure thought, we live in pictures. Our soul lives in pictures; and these pictures are the remains of all that has gone before. Not the substance, but the pictures remain.
What has just been presented can be followed into the thoughts themselves, for this process only takes place at the moment when thoughts change into mere pictures. At first thoughts live, as it were, embodied. They are permeated by substance; but as pictures they separate themselves out from this substance. If however, we go to work in a truly spiritually scientific way, we can quite easily distinguish pure thought, sense-free thought that has separated itself out from the material process, from all thoughts belonging to what I have called in these lectures the “instinctive wisdom of the ancients.”
This instinctive wisdom of the ancients, as we learn it today, bears in it, quite literally and exactly, the character of not being brought to such filtration of thought that all material substance fell away. Such falling away of all matter is a result of human development. Although not observed by external physiology, it is a fact that virtually — of course virtually and approximately — the thoughts of earthly humanity before the Mystery of Golgotha were always united with matter, and that at the time of the intervention of the Mystery of Golgotha in Earth-life, humanity had arrived at the point in evolution of being able to dissociate itself from matter in the inner process of thought; matter-free thought became possible.
This is not to be regarded as unimportant! It is indeed of the utmost importance that we should observe this development in earthly life — that man in his evolution has become free from the embodiment of thoughts; that they have changed to pure pictures. Thus we may say that up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, embodied pictures lived in man; but after the Mystery of Golgotha, matter-free pictures lived in man. Before the Mystery of Golgotha, the Universe worked upon man in such a way that he could not attain to pictures free of the body, free of matter. Since the Mystery of Golgotha, the Universe has, as it were, withdrawn. Man has been transposed to an existence which only takes place in pictures.
What man felt before the Mystery of Golgotha as his connection with the Universe, that he related also to the Universe. He related human life on Earth to Heaven. This we can observe quite exactly. The Hebrew of old was clearly and distinctly conscious that the twelve tribes of old Israel were projections on Earth of the constellations of the Zodiac. The twelve-foldness of the Universe comes to expression in the life of man; and we may say that in those days the life of man was pictured as a result of the twelve-foldness of the Heavens, of the Zodiac. Every man felt the starry Heaven streaming into him; and above all a group of men felt themselves as a group into which the starry Heaven rayed. In the evolution of Hebrew antiquity we must go back to the time when we are told of the twelve sons of Jacob as the projection on Earth of the twelve regions of Heaven. Just as there was this in-streaming of the heavenly forces upon Earth-man in gray antiquity, so also, since in the different parts of the Earth's surface evolution came about at different times, in Europe we find a similar thing at a later time. We must go back to the Middle Ages and study the legends of King Arthur and his Round Table, those significant Celtic legends. For Mid-Europe developed later to the stage reached by the old Hebrews thousands of years before. Mid-Europe was only so far on at the time to which the Legends of Arthur and his Round Table are assigned. There was however, a difference. Hebrew antiquity evolved to the point where the in-streaming from the Universe still yielded embodied pictures. Then came the point of time when the body was withdrawn from the pictures, when the pictures had to be given a new substance. There was indeed a danger that, as regards his soul-life, man would pass completely into a picture-existence. This danger man did not at once recognise. Even Descartes was still floundering, and instead of saying: ‘I think, therefore I am not’, he said the opposite of the truth: ‘I think, therefore I am’. For when we live in pictures, we really are not! When we live in mere thoughts, it is the surest sign that we are not. Thoughts must be filled with substance. In order that man might not continue to live in mere pictures, in order that inner substance might once more be in the human being, that Being intervened who entered through the Mystery of Golgotha. Hebrew antiquity was the first to meet with this intervention of the central force, which was now to give back reality to the human soul that had become

Diagram 1

picture. This, however, was not at once understood. In the Middle Ages we have the last ramifications in the twelve around King Arthur's Table; but this was soon replaced by something else — the Parsifal Legend, which places One man over against the twelve, One man, who develops the twelve-foldness from out of his own inner centre. Thus, over against that picture which was essentially the Grail picture, must be the Parsifal picture, in which what man now possesses within him, rays out from the centre. The endeavour of those in the Middle Ages who wished to understand the Parsifal picture, who wished to make the Parsifal striving active in the human soul, was to bring into the picture-existence that could crystallise out in man after all the materiality had filtered away — to bring into it true substance, inwardness of being. Whereas the Grail legend shows still the in-streaming from without, the Parsifal figure is now set over against it, raying out from the pictures that which can restore reality to them.
Inasmuch as the Parsifal Legend appeared in this form, it represented the striving of humanity in the Middle Ages to find the way to the Christ within. It represents an instinctive striving to understand that which lives as the Christ in the evolution of humanity. If one studies inwardly what was experienced in the form of this figure of Parsifal, and compares it with what is to be found in the modern creeds, one receives a strong impulse towards that which must happen today. People are now satisfied with the mere husk of the word ‘Christ’ and believe that they thus possess Christ, whereas even the theologians themselves do not possess Him but hold to the outer interpretation of the word. In the Middle Ages there was still so much direct consciousness left, that by comprehending the representative of humanity, Parsifal, men were able to wrest their way upwards to the form of Christ. If we reflect on this we receive the impression of man's place in the whole Universe. Throughout the world of Nature, conversion of forces prevails. In man alone matter is thrown out by pure thought. That matter which is actually cast out of the human being by pure thought is also annihilated, it passes into nothingness.
If we reflect upon this, we must think of all Earth-existence as follows: Here is the Earth, and on the Earth, man; into man passes matter. Everywhere else it is transmuted. In man it is annihilated. The material Earth will pass away in proportion as matter is destroyed by man. When, some day, all the substance of the Earth will have passed through the human organism, being used there for thinking, the Earth will cease to be a cosmic body. And what man will have gained from this cosmic Earth will be pictures. These however, will have a new reality, they will have preserved an original reality. This reality is that which proceeds from the force which, as central force, makes itself felt through the Mystery of Golgotha. Thus, when we look to the end of the Earth, what do we see? The end of the Earth will come when all its substance is destroyed as described above. Man will then possess pictures of all that has taken place in earthly evolution. At the end of the earthly period the Earth will have sunk into the Universe, and there would remain merely pictures, without reality. What gives them reality however, is the fact of the Mystery of Golgotha having been there in humanity; that gives these pictures inner reality for the life to come. Through the Mystery of Golgotha, a new beginning is set for the future existence of the Earth.
From this we can see that what is contained in our stream of evolution is not to be regarded merely as a continuous stream, where one thing is always related to another as effect to cause, but we must so consider the Earth-evolution that we recognise in the first place a pre-Christian evolution, out of which came all that men were able to think at that time, for what they were able then to think was contained in the Father-God, was imparted to the Earth through Him. The nature and work of the Father-God, however, was such that what He created as Earth-evolution was given over to that part of Earth-evolution that tends to pass away. A new beginning was made with the Mystery of Golgotha. Of all that went before only pictures were to remain, as it were descriptive paintings of the world. These pictures were, however, to receive new reality through that which entered as Being into the evolution of the Earth through the Mystery of Golgotha. That is the cosmic significance of the Mystery of Golgotha; that is what I meant years ago, when I said: Christianity will not be understood until it has penetrated even into the physics of our Earth, until we understand how, even in physical things, the Christian substance works in the world-existence. We have not grasped Christianity until we can say to ourselves: Precisely in the domain of heat such a change is taking place in man that through it matter is being destroyed and a purely picture-existence comes forth out of the matter; but through the union of the human soul with the Christ-substance this picture-existence is made into a new reality.

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