How did those spiritual beings who desire to further man's progress act in order to combat this corruption, error, and illusion arising from the material world? They saw to it — the process was of course slow and very gradual — that man was actually lifted away from the material world as such; this enabled him to shoulder and work out his karma. Whereas, therefore, the beings upon whom it fell to rectify the enticement of the Luciferic beings brought into the world suffering, pain, and what is connected with them, namely death, the beings whose task it was to rectify the outcome of error concerning the sense-world made it possible for man, through his karma, eventually to blot out all the error, all the evil, he has wrought in the world. For what would have happened if he had become the prey of evil and error? Little by little he would have become one with the evil; no progress would have been possible for him. For with every error, every lie, every illusion, we cast an obstacle in the way of progress. We should fall back in our progress to exactly the same extent to which we had cast obstacles in our path through sin and error if we were not in a position to rectify them; in other words, we could not reach man's true goal. It would be impossible to attain this goal if the counter-forces, the forces of karma, were not in operation.
Suppose that in some life you commit a wrong. If this wrong were to become firmly fixed in your life it would mean nothing less than that you would lose the step forward which you would have taken had you not committed the wrong; with every wrong, a step would be lost — enough steps to correspond exactly with the wrongs committed. If the possibility of surmounting error had not been given, man must ultimately have been submerged by it. But the blessing of karma was bestowed. What does this blessing mean for man? Is karma something at which to shudder, something to dread? No, indeed! Karma is a power for which man should be thankful. For karma says to us: If you have committed a wrong, remember that “God is not mocked; whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” An error demands that you shall right it; then, having expunged it from your karma you can again take a step forward!
Without karma, no progress would be possible. Karma is a blessing that has been vouchsafed to us, inasmuch as it obliges us to rectify every error, to re-achieve the steps that thrust us back.
Karma was thus the indirect consequence of the deeds of Ahriman. And now let us go further. In our days we are moving toward the epoch when other beings will draw near to man — beings who in the future before us will intrude more and more deeply into human evolution. Just as the Luciferic spirits intervened in the Lemurian epoch and the Ahrimanic spirits in the Atlantean epoch, so our epoch too will see the intrusion of beings. Let us be clear about the nature of these beings.
Of the beings who intervened during the Lemurian epoch we must say: They entrenched themselves in the astral body of man, drew his interests, impulses, and desires down into the earthly sphere. Where — to speak more precisely — did these Luciferic beings entrench themselves?
You can only understand this by taking as a basis what is set forth in my book Theosophy. There it is shown that the following members of man's being must be distinguished: first, his physical body; then his ether or life body; and then his astral body — or as I have called it in that book, the sentient body or the soul body.
These are the three members with which man was endowed before his earthly existence. The foundation of the physical body was laid on Old Saturn, the ether body on the Old Sun, the soul or sentient body on the Old Moon. On the Earth was added the sentient soul — which is actually a transformation, an elaboration carried out unconsciously, of the sentient body. Lucifer anchored himself in the sentient soul; and there he remains. Through the unconscious transformation of the ether body, the intellectual soul came into being, a more detailed description of which is contained in the book entitled The Education of the Child. It was in this second soul-member, the intellectual soul — the transformed part of the ether body — that Ahriman established his footing. From there he lures man to false conceptions and judgments of material things, leads him to error, to sin, to lying — to everything that originates in the intellectual or mind soul. In every illusion that matter is the sole reality we must perceive the whispered promptings of Ahriman, of Mephistopheles. Thirdly, there is the consciousness soul (spiritual soul), arising from an unconscious transformation of the physical body. You will remember how this transformation came about. Toward the end of the Atlantean epoch the etheric body corresponding to the head came right into the physical head and gradually brought about self-consciousness in the physical body. Fundamentally speaking, man is still working at this unconscious transformation of the physical body, at the development of the consciousness soul. And in the age now approaching, those spiritual beings known as the Asuras (see Note 1) will creep into the consciousness soul and therewith into the human ‘I’ or ego — for the ‘I’ lights up in the consciousness soul. The Asuras will generate evil with a far mightier force than was wielded by the Satanic powers in the Atlantean epoch or by the Luciferic spirits in the Lemurian epoch.
In the course of the Earth period, man will cast away all the evil brought to him by the Luciferic spirits together with the blessing of freedom. The evil brought by the Ahrimanic spirits can be shed in the course of karma. But the evil brought by the Asuric powers cannot be expunged in this way. Whereas the good spirits instituted pain and suffering, illness and death in order that despite the possibility of evil, man's evolution may still advance, whereas the good spirits made possible the working of karma to the end that the Ahrimanic powers might be resisted and the evil made good, it will not be so easy to counter the Asuric powers as Earth existence takes its course. For these Asuric spirits will prompt what has been seized hold of by them, namely the very core of man's being, the consciousness soul together with the ‘I’, to unite with earthly materiality. Fragment after fragment will be torn out of the ‘I’, and in the same measure in which the Asuric spirits establish themselves in the consciousness soul, man must leave parts of his existence behind on the Earth. What thus becomes the prey of the Asuric powers will be irretrievably lost. Not that the whole man need become their victim — but parts of his spirit will be torn away by the Asuric powers. These Asuric powers are heralded today by the prevailing tendency to live wholly in the material world and to be oblivious to the realty of spiritual beings and spiritual worlds. True, the Asuric powers corrupt man today in a way that is more theoretical than actual. Today they deceive him by various means into thinking that his ‘I’ is a product of the physical world only; they hue him to a kind of theoretical materialism. But as time goes on — and the premonitory signs of this are the dissolute, sensuous passions that are becoming increasingly prevalent on Earth — they will blind man's vision of the spiritual beings and spiritual powers. Man will know nothing nor desire to know anything of a spiritual world. More and more he will not only teach that the highest moral ideals of humanity are merely sublimations of animal impulses, that human thinking is but a transformation of a faculty also possessed by the animals, that man is akin to the animal in respect of his form and moreover in his whole being descends from the animal — but he will take this view in all earnestness and order his life in accordance with it.
Man does not as yet entirely base his life on the principle that his true being descends from the animal. But this view of existence will inevitably arise, with the result that men will also live like animals, will sink into animal impulses, animal passions. And in many things that need not be further characterized here, many things that in the great cities come to expression in orgies of dissolute sensuality, we can already perceive the lurid, hellish glare of the Spirits we call the Asuras.
Once again let us look back. We have said that suffering and pain, nay even death, were brought by the spirits who are intent upon man's progress. The words of the Bible are unambiguous: “In travail shalt thou bear thy children!” Death has come into the world. Death was decreed for man by the powers opposing the Luciferic spirits. From whom came the gift of karma itself, who made karma possible for man? — To understand what is here being said you must discard all earthly, pedantic notions of time. Earthly notions of time give rise to the belief that what has once happened here or there will have an effect only upon what comes afterward. But in the spiritual world it is the case that what comes to pass reveals itself in its effect, beforehand; in its effect it is already there, in advance. Whence comes the blessing of karma? Whence has there arisen in our Earth evolution this blessing of karma? From a power none other than Christ.
Although Christ appeared only later, He was always present in the spiritual sphere of the earth. Already in the ancient Oracles of Atlantis, the priests of those Oracles spoke of the “Spirit of the Sun,” of Christ. In the old Indian epoch of civilization the Holy Rishis spoke of “Vishva Karman”; Zarathustra in ancient Persia spoke of “Ahura Mazdao”; Hermes of “Osiris”; and Moses spoke of the power which, being eternal, brings about the harmonization of the temporal and natural, the power living in the “Ehjeh asher Ehjeh” (I am the I AM) as the harbinger of Christ. All spoke of the Christ; but where was He to be found in those ancient times? In the realm to which the eye of spirit alone can penetrate, in the spiritual world. In the spiritual world He was always to be found, working in and from the spiritual world. It is He Who even before man appeared on Earth sent down the possibility of karma. Then He came Himself to the Earth, and we know what this has meant for man. We have described what was wrought by Him in the earthly sphere, we have spoken of the significance of the Event of Golgotha and of its effect also upon those who at that time were in the spiritual world, not incarnate in earthly bodies. We know that at the moment on Golgotha when the blood flowed from the wounds, the Christ Spirit appeared in the underworld, flooding the whole world of spirit with radiance and light; we have said that the appearance of Christ on the Earth is the event of supreme importance also for the world through which man passes between death and a new birth (see Note 2).
The impulse going forth from Christ is in the fullest sense reality. We need but ask ourselves what would have become of the Earth had Christ not appeared. Precisely from the opposite picture — an Earth without Christ — you can apprehend the significance of Christ's coming. Let us suppose that Christ had not come, that the Mystery of Golgotha had not taken place.
Before Christ's Coming, the condition in the spiritual world of human souls who were the most progressed, who had acquired the deepest interest for earthly life, was truly expressed by the saying of the Greeks: Better it is to be a beggar in the upper world than a king in the realm of the Shades. For before the Event of Golgotha the souls in the spiritual world felt completely isolated, enveloped in darkness. The spiritual world in all its gleaming clarity was not transparent to those who entered it through the portal of death. Each one felt isolated, thrust back into himself as though a wall were between himself and every other soul. And this feeling of isolation would have become more and more intense. Man would have hardened within the ego, would have been thrown back into himself, nor could he have found any bridge to the others. And egoism, already intense, would have increased beyond all telling with every new incarnation.
Earth existence would more and more have made men into utter egoists. There would have been no prospect of brotherhood on the Earth or of inner harmony among souls; for with every journey through the spiritual world, a stronger influence would have penetrated the ego. That is what would have happened to an Earth without Christ. That the way from soul to soul will be found again, that it has been made possible for the mighty force of brotherhood to pour over all humanity — this is due to Christ's Coming, to the Event of Golgotha. Therefore Christ is the power who has enabled man to turn Earth existence ultimately to good account, in other words to give karma its true configuration — for karma must be worked out on the Earth. That man finds in himself the force to profit by his karma in physical existence, that advancing evolution is possible for him — all this he owes to the working of the Christ Event, to the presence of Christ in the earthly realm.
And so we see many diverse forces and beings working together in the evolution of humanity. Had Christ not come upon the Earth, man would have been engulfed in error, because having hardened within himself he would have become as it were a globe on its own, knowing nothing of other beings, entirely self-enclosed, driven into that condition by error and sin.
Christ is verily the Light which leads out of error and sin, the Light which enables man to find the way upward. And now let us ask ourselves: What was it that was lost to man in that he descended from the spiritual world, was ensnared in desires and passions under the influence of Lucifer, and then, under Ahriman's influence, in error, illusion, and lying in the earthly world? — He lost direct vision of the spiritual world, he lost understanding of the spiritual world.
What, then, must he regain? He must regain full understanding of the spiritual world. As a self-conscious being, man can grasp the import of Christ's Deed only by realizing, with full clarity of understanding, the significance of Christ. The Christ Power is there in very truth — not brought by man, for the Christ Power was brought to the Earth by none other than Christ Himself. Karma has come into humanity through Christ. But now, with self-consciousness, man must learn to know Christ in His real nature and His connection with the whole universe. Only so can man work in the true sense as an ‘I’. What then, does he actually achieve when, after Christ's appearance, he does not merely rest satisfied with letting Christ's power work upon him unconsciously, with saying: I am content with the knowledge that Christ came to the Earth; He will redeem me and ensure my progress! — but when he says: I am resolved to know what Christ is in all reality, how He descended; I am resolved to participate through my own spirit in Christ's Deed! — what does man achieve thereby?
Recall to your mind that because the Luciferic spirits slipped into his astral body, man has come down into the world of sense, thereby falling prey to the evil but also acquiring the possibility of self-conscious freedom. Lucifer is in very truth present in the being of man, has drawn him down to the Earth, has ensnared him in earthly existence; inasmuch as the passions and desires contained in the astral body had first been led by Lucifer into the earthly realm, Ahriman too was able to invade the astral body — in the intellectual soul. Christ appeared, and with Him the force which can bear man upwards again into the spiritual world. But now, if he so wills, man can come to know Christ, he can gather all wisdom to this end. What does he achieve thereby? Something of untold moment! When a man knows Christ, when he absorbs the wisdom which begets insight into what Christ truly is, then he redeems himself and the Luciferic beings through this knowledge of Christ. Were man merely to say: I am content with the fact that Christ appeared and to allow myself to be redeemed by Him unconsciously — then he would contribute nothing to the redemption of the Luciferic beings. These Luciferic beings, who have brought man freedom, also make it possible for him, if he so wills, to turn it to account in order to understand Christ.
Then the Luciferic spirits are cleansed and purified in the fire of Christianity and the wrong done to the Earth by them is changed into blessing. Freedom has been attained; but it will also be carried into the spiritual sphere as a blessing. That man is capable of this, that he is capable of understanding Christ, that Lucifer, resurrected in a new form, can unite with Christ as the good Spirit — this, as prophecy still, was told by Christ Himself to those around Him, when He said: “Ye shall be illumined by the new Spirit, by the Holy Spirit!” This “Holy Spirit” is none other than the Spirit through whom man can apprehend what Christ has wrought. Christ desired not merely to work, but also to be apprehended, to be understood. Therefore the sending of the Spirit by whom men are inspired, the sending of the “Holy Spirit”, is implicit in Christianity.
In the spiritual sense, Whitsuntide belongs inseparably to Easter. This “Holy Spirit” is none other than the Lucifer Spirit, resurrected now in higher, purer glory — the Spirit of independent understanding, wisdom-inwoven. Christ Himself foretold that this Spirit would come to men after Him, and in the light of this Spirit their labors must proceed. What is it that works onward in the light of this Spirit? The world-stream of spiritual science, if rightly conceived! What is this spiritual science? It is the wisdom of the Spirit, the wisdom that lifts into the full light of consciousness that in Christianity which would otherwise remain in the unconscious. The torch of the resurrected Lucifer, of the Lucifer now transformed into the good, blazons the way for Christ. Lucifer is the bearer of the Light — Christ is the Light! As the word itself denotes, Lucifer is the “Bearer of the Light.” That is what the spiritual scientific movement should be, that is implicit in it. Those who know that the progress of mankind depends upon living apprehension of the mighty Event of Golgotha are they who as the “Masters of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Feelings” are united in the great Guiding Lodge of mankind.
And as once the “tongues of fire” hovered down as a living symbol upon the company of the apostles, so does the “Holy Spirit” announced by Christ Himself reign as the Light over the Lodge of the Twelve. The Thirteenth is the Leader of the Lodge of the Twelve. The “Holy Spirit” is the mighty Teacher of those we name the “Masters of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Feelings.” It is through them that his voice and his wisdom flow down to mankind in this or that stream upon the Earth. The treasures of wisdom gathered together by the spiritual scientific movement in order to understand the universe and the spirits therein, flow through the “Holy Spirit” into the Lodge of the Twelve; and that is what will ultimately lead mankind step by step to free, self-conscious understanding of Christ and of the Event of Golgotha. Thus to cultivate spiritual science means to understand that the Spirit has been sent into the world by Christ; the pursuit of spiritual science is implicit in true Christianity. This will become more and more evident to men; and then they will realize that in spiritual science they have a potent asset in their lives. Men owe to spiritual science the consciousness, which dawns in them by degrees, that Christ is the Spirit Who fills the world with light. And the consequence will be that here on this earthly globe, in the physical world itself, men will make progress in their moral life, in their life of will, and in their intellectual life. Through physical life itself the world will be spiritualized in ever-increasing measure. Men will grow in goodness, strength, and wisdom and will gaze with ever deepening vision into the foundations and origins of existence. They will bear with them into the supersensible life the fruits acquired in this physical life, and ever and again bring these fruits back from the supersensible life into a new incarnation.
Thus the Earth will more and more become the expression of its Spirit, of the Christ Spirit. Spiritual science will be understood in the light of the world's foundations, apprehended as a real and active power. In various respects today mankind is near to losing the Spirit altogether. In the recent public lecture (see Note 3) it was said that men suffer today under the fear of heredity. The fear of the burden of heredity is the direct offspring of our materialistic age. But is it enough if a man simply says to himself that he need not have this fear? — By no means does that suffice. A man who does not concern himself with the spiritual world, who does not instill into his soul what can flow from spiritual science, is subject to the forces of physical heredity. Only by steeping his whole being in what spiritual science can communicate to him does he gain mastery over the forces of heredity, regards it as a factor of no essential significance, and becomes the victor of everything that the powers of hindrance place in his way in the external world. It is not by arguing or philosophizing it away, or by contending: Spirit exists! — that man brings the life of the senses under his command, but by permeating himself with the Spirit, by absorbing the Spirit, by having the will to acquire intimate knowledge of the Spirit. Then spiritual science will make men healthier even in the physical world; for spiritual science is itself a therapy that brings vigor and health. And the essential power of spiritual science will become still more evident to us when we consider what becomes of the human being when he passes through the gate of death. The modern mind finds great difficulty here.
Man thinks to himself: Why need I trouble about what happens in the spiritual world? When I die I go into the spiritual world in any case and then I shall see and hear what goes on there! In endless variations one hears this easy-going way of talking: Why should I trouble about the spiritual before I die? When the time comes I shall see what there is to see. My relationship to the spiritual world will not be altered in the slightest, no matter whether I do or do not concern myself with it. — But indeed this is not so! A man who thinks in such a way will enter a world of darkness and gloom, unable to make very much of what is said in my book Theosophy about the spiritual worlds. For it is only by allying himself in spirit and soul with the spiritual world during life in the physical world that man can acquire the faculty of perception in the spiritual world; the preparation must be made in his life here on Earth. The spiritual world is there in very truth — the faculty of being able to see in that world must be acquired on the Earth; otherwise there is blindness in the spiritual world.
Spiritual science is therefore the power which alone makes it possible for man to enter the spiritual world with consciousness. Had Christ not appeared in the physical world, man would have gone under in that world, could not have found entry to the spiritual world. But Christ lifts him into the spiritual world in such a way that he can see and be conscious there. This depends upon his knowledge of how to unite his being with the Spirit sent by Christ; failing that knowledge, he remains unconscious. Man has to win his immortality through his own efforts, for an unconscious immortality is no immortality. A beautiful saying of Meister Eckhardt is: “What does it profit a man to be a king if he knows it not?” — What he meant was: Of what use is the spiritual world to a man if he does not know what the spiritual worlds are in reality? The capacity for seeing the spiritual world can be acquired only in the physical world. Those who ask: Why was it necessary for man to descend at all into the physical world? do well to take this to heart. — Man descended in order to acquire vision of the spiritual world. He would have remained blind to the spiritual world had he not descended and attained the self-conscious manhood which enables him to return to the spiritual world now lying in radiance and light before his soul.
Spiritual science is therefore not merely a “conception of the world” in the accepted sense but something without which — even in the immortal part of his being — man can know nothing about the worlds of immortality. Spiritual science is an active power, permeating the soul as reality. And in that you are present here in the pursuit of spiritual science, you are not only gathering knowledge but you are growing into something you would otherwise not have become. That is the difference between spiritual science and other world conceptions. The latter are rooted in knowledge; spiritual science is rooted in being.
Rightly conceived, these things will make us say to ourselves: With this illumination, an inner, fundamental connection is revealed between Christ, the Spirit, and spiritual science. In face of this connection all the superficial statements made today to the effect that a Western trend is being set up in opposition to an Eastern trend of occultism fall to the ground. There can be no question of any such opposition. There are not two occultisms, there is only one occultism; and there is no opposition between Eastern and Western Theosophy. There is only one truth. And what is our reply to be when we are asked: If Eastern occultism is the same as Western occultism, why is it that in Eastern occultism Christ is not acknowledged? The right reply is that it is not for us to give the answer; that obligation does not rest upon us, for we fully acknowledge Eastern occultism. If asked whether we acknowledge what Eastern occultism says about Brahma, about the Buddha, we shall answer: Most certainly we acknowledge it. We understand what is meant when we are told that the Buddha attained his exalted rank in this or that way. We deny no single one of the Eastern truths; in so far as they are positive truths we acknowledge them all. But shall this prevent us from acknowledging as well what goes yet further? No indeed! We acknowledge what is said by Eastern occultism, but that does not prevent us from acknowledging, too, the Western truths.
When people allege that it is an inferior way of thinking on the part of Orientalists to say that the Buddha died from eating too much pork — as these learned gentlemen assert — and it is explained that this actually has a deep meaning, namely that the Buddha imparted to those immediately around him too much of the esoteric wisdom, so that this over-abundance caused the onset of a kind of karma — then we agree that it is so; we say: certainly there lie behind it the deeper esoteric truths as stated by you who are Eastern esotericists! — But when the statement that the Apocalypse was revealed to St. John on Patmos amid thunder and lightning is held to be unintelligible (see Note 4), then our answer will be: everyone who is aware of what is really meant knows that it is a truth! We do not refute what is said about the Buddha but we cannot agree when the validity of the other statement (concerning the Apocalypse) is denied. We do not contest the assertion that the astral body of the Buddha was preserved and was later incorporated in Shankaracharya. But that does not prevent us from teaching that the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth was preserved and in multiple replicas was incorporated in various individuals dedicated to Christianity, like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Elizabeth of Thüringen. We deny no single truth of Oriental esotericism. Therefore when we are asked: Why is anything refuted? Why is there opposition? — it is not incumbent upon us to answer. It would be incumbent upon us to answer if the opposition came from our side. But it does not! The duty to answer rests upon one who denies, not upon one who agrees. That is obvious enough.
In the coming weeks (see Note 5) you will be able to hear of the connection between spiritual science and the Event of Golgotha and you will realize that the whole vocation, the whole mission of the spiritual scientific movement in the world is raised to a higher sphere inasmuch as spiritual science puts into effect the inspiration, the power proclaimed as the Spirit by Christ Himself.
So we see how powers work together in the world, how everything that appears to oppose the progress of mankind subsequently turns out to be a blessing. We realize, too, that in the post-Atlantean epoch — from age to age — the Spirit who has brought man freedom will appear again in a new form; Luciferus, the sovereign Bearer of Light, will be redeemed. For everything in the great World Plan is good, and the evil endures only for a season. Therefore he alone believes in the eternity of evil who confounds the temporal with the eternal; he who does not rise from the temporal to the eternal can never understand evil.
- Note 1:
- The Asuras are retarded beings of the hierarchy of the Archai (Spirits of Personality). They are beings who instead of furthering man's progress to independence, lure him into gross egoism. In the negative sense they now bear the name originally pertaining to the entire hierarchy.
- Note 2:
- Cf. Lecture 13, Cycle VIII: The Gospel of St. John in relation to the other three Gospels, especially to the Gospel of St. Luke. “At the moment when the Blood flowed from the wounds on Golgotha, the Earth — which in the course of evolution had grown ever darker — began to send rays out into cosmic space, began to be radiant.”
- Note 3:
- Berlin, 18th February, 1909.
- Note 4:
- The reference is to a passage in The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky. A later volume, compiled by Annie Besant from manuscripts left by Blavatsky, includes a statement indicating that the author was not unaware of the significance of thunder and lightning as an accompaniment of spiritual revelations.
- Note 5:
- Lecture Course on the “Spiritual Hierarchies”