Sunday, November 17, 2019
The Great Initiates
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, March 16, 1905:
It may well be said that the anthroposophical conception of the world is distinguished from any other we may meet because it can satisfy to such a great extent the desire for knowledge. In the present time we so often hear that it is impossible to gain knowledge of certain things — that our capacity for knowledge has limits and cannot rise above a certain height. On becoming acquainted with modern philosophical research we constantly hear of such limits to knowledge, especially among those schools of philosophy which owe their origin to Kant. The understanding of anthroposophists and of those who practice mysticism is distinguished from all such doctrines through never setting limits to man's capacity for knowledge, but rather looking upon it as capable of being both widened and uplifted. Is it not, to a certain extent, the greatest arrogance for anyone to regard his own capacity for knowledge, from the point at which it stands, as something decisive, and then to say that with our capacities we cannot go beyond definite limits of knowledge? The anthroposophist says: “I stand today at a certain point in human knowledge, from which I am able to know certain things and not others. But it is possible to cultivate the human capacity for knowledge, to heighten it.” What is called a school of initiation has as its essential aim to raise to a higher stage this human capacity for knowledge. So it is quite correct if one from a lower stage of knowledge says that there are limits to his knowledge and that certain things cannot be known. One can, however, raise oneself above this stage of knowledge and press on to a higher stage, so that it becomes possible to know what at a lower stage was impossible. This is the essence of initiation, and this deepening or heightening of knowledge is the task of the initiation schools. This means raising man to a stage of knowledge to which nature has not brought him, but which he must acquire for himself through long years of patient exercise.
In all ages there have been these initiation schools. Among all peoples, those having a higher kind of knowledge have arisen from these initiation schools. And the essential nature of such schools — and of the great Initiates themselves, who have soared above the lower stages of the human capacity for knowledge and, through their inspirations, have been acquainted with the highest knowledge accessible to us in this world — finds expression in Initiates giving to the various peoples on earth their various religions and world-conceptions.
Today we wish with a few strokes to illuminate the essential being of these great Initiates. As in every science, in every spiritual process one must first learn the method through which one penetrates to knowledge. This is also the case in the initiation schools. And here too it is a matter of our being led through certain methods to the higher stages of knowledge, about which we have spoken precisely. I shall now briefly refer to the stages that here concern us. Certain stages of knowledge can only be attained in the intimate schools of initiation where there are teachers who have themselves in their own experience gone through each school, have devoted themselves to every exercise, and have really pondered every single step, every single stage. And one must entrust oneself only to such teachers in the initiation schools.
In these schools there is, it is true, no hint of authority, nothing that smacks of dogmatism; the governing principle is entirely that of counsel, the imparting of advice. Whoever has gone through a certain stage of learning, and has himself acquired experiences of the higher, super-sensible life, knows the inner way that leads to this higher knowledge. And it is only one such as this who is qualified to say what one must do. What is necessary is simply that there be trust between pupil and teacher in this sphere. Whoever lacks this trust can learn nothing; but whoever has it will very soon perceive that nothing is recommended by any occult, mystic, or mystery teacher other than what the teacher has himself gone through. What concerns us here is that, of the whole being of man as he stands before us today, it is essentially only the outward visible part already within human nature that is today complete. This must be made clear to anyone aspiring to become a student of the mysteries — that man as he stands before us today is by no means a completed being, but is in the process of developing so that in the future he will reach many higher stages.
That which today has attained to an image of God, that which has arrived at the highest stage in man, is the human physical body, that which we can see with our eyes and perceive in any way with our senses. That is not, however, the only thing that man has. He has still higher members of his nature. To begin with, he further possesses a member that we call his etheric body. This etheric body can be seen by anyone who has cultivated his soul organs. Through this etheric body man is not simply a creation in which work chemical and physical forces, but a living creation, a creation that lives and is endowed with capacities for growth, life, and propagation. One can see this etheric body, which represents a kind of archetype of man, if, with the methods of the art of clairvoyance — which will be characterized still further — one suggests away the ordinary physical body. You know how, by the ordinary methods of hypnotism and suggestion, the point can be reached when, if you say to anyone that there is no lamp here, he actually sees no lamp. So you can also, if you develop in yourself sufficiently strong willpower — a willpower that shuts out, entirely shuts out, all observation of the physical body — so you can, in spite of seeing into space, completely suggest away physical space. Then you see space not empty but filled by a kind of archetype. This archetype has practically the same form as the physical body. It is, however, not of the same nature through and through, but is fully organized. It is not only interlaced with fine veins and streams but it also has organs. This creation, this etheric body, produces man's essential life. Its color can only be compared with the color of the young peach blossom. It is no color that is contained in the sun spectrum; but it is something between a violet and a reddish tinge. This is then the second body.
The third body is the aura, which I have often described — that cloudlike formation of which I spoke last time when describing man's origin, in which man is as if in an egg-shaped cloud. In this is expressed all that lives in man as lust, passion, and feeling. Joyful self-sacrificing feelings express themselves in this aura in luminous streams of color. Feelings of hate, physical feelings, express themselves in dark color tones. Sharp, logical thoughts express themselves in sharply outlined forms. Illogical, confused thoughts come to expression in figures with blurred outline. Thus, we have in this aura an image of what is living in man's soul as feeling, passion, and impulse.
As man has now been described, so he was set down on the earth — from the hand of nature, so to speak — at the point of time that lies approximately at the beginning of the Atlantean race. Last time I described what is to be understood by “the Atlantean race.” At the moment when the fertilization by the eternal spirit had already taken place, man confronts us with the three members — body, soul, and spirit. Today this threefold nature of man has taken a somewhat different form, as since that time, since nature has released him, since he has become a being with self-consciousness, man has worked on his own being. This work on himself means the refining of his aura; it also means sending light into the aura out of this self-consciousness. A man who stands at a very low stage of development and has never worked on himself — let us say a savage — has the aura which nature has provided him. But all those within our civilization, our cultural world, have auras on which they themselves have helped to work, for in so far as man is a self-conscious being he works upon himself and this work comes into expression first through changing his aura. All that man has learned through nature, all that he has absorbed since he was able to speak and think self-consciously, is a recent acquisition in his aura brought about by his own activity.
If you put yourself back into the Lemurian age, in which man had already had warm blood flowing in his veins for some time, and in which, in the middle of this Lemurian age, his fertilization with the spirit had taken place, man then was not yet a being capable of clear thinking. All this occurred at the beginning of evolution when the spirit had just taken possession of the corporeality. At that time the aura was still completely a consequence of forces of nature. One could then perceive — as one still can with men at a very low stage of development — how at a certain place in the interior of the head (that is to say, a place that we have to seek in the interior of the head) there exists a smaller aura of a bluish color. This smaller aura is the outer auric expression of the self-consciousness. And the more a man has developed this self-consciousness through his thought and through his work, the more this smaller aura spreads itself over the other, so that often in a short time both become totally different. A man who lives in outer culture, a refined man of culture, works on his aura in the particular way that this culture impels him. Our ordinary knowledge, which they offer in our schools, our experiences that life brings us, are absorbed by us and they are perpetually transforming our aura. But this transformation must be continuous if a man wishes to enter into practical mysticism. Then he must make a special effort to work upon himself. For then he must not incorporate into his aura only what culture offers him, but must exercise an influence upon it in a definite, orderly manner. And this happens through so-called meditation. This meditation, this inner immersion, is the first stage which a student of initiation must undergo.
Now in what does this meditation take an interest? Just try to bring to mind and reflect upon the thoughts that you shelter from morning to night, and upon how these thoughts are influenced by the time and the place in which you live. See whether you can hinder your thoughts, and ask yourself whether you would have them if you did not happen by chance to be living in Berlin at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, men did not think in the same way as men do today. If you consider how the world has changed in the course of the last century, and what kind of changes time has brought about, you will see that what passes through your soul from morning to night is dependent upon time and space. It is different when we give ourselves up to thoughts that have an eternal worth. Actually it is only certain abstract, scientific thoughts to which men have given themselves up, the highest thoughts of mathematics and geometry, that have an eternal worth. Twice two is four holds good at all times and in all places. It is the same with the geometrical truths that we accept. But leaving aside a certain fundamental stock of such truths, we may say that the average man has very few thoughts that are not dependent on time and space. What is thus dependent unites us with the world, and only exerts a trifling influence upon that essence which is in itself enduring.
Meditation means nothing other than surrendering oneself to thoughts which have eternal worth, in order to raise oneself up in a conscious way to what lies above both space and time. Such thoughts are contained in the great religious writings: the Vedanta, the Bhagavad Gita, the Gospel of John from the thirteenth chapter to the end, and the “Imitation of Christ,” by Thomas a Kempis. He who sinks himself with patience and perseverance so that he lives in such writings; he who deepens himself anew every day — perhaps working for weeks on one single sentence, thinking it through, feeling it through — will gain unlimited benefit. Just as each day one learns more nearly to know and love a child with all its individual characteristics, so one can daily draw into one's soul an eternal truth of the kind that flows from the great Initiates, or from inspired men. This has the effect of filling us with new life. Very significant also are the sayings in the “Light on the Path” that have been written down by Mabel Collins, under the instruction of higher powers. Actually in the first four sentences there is something that, when applied with patience in the appropriate way, is capable of so seizing upon man's aura that this aura is completely shot through with new light. One can see this light in the human aura shining and glistening. Bluish shades arise in the place of the reddish or of the reddish brown shimmering shades of color, and, in the place of yellow, clear reddish ones arise, and so on. The whole coloring of the aura transforms itself under the influence of such eternal thoughts. The student cannot yet perceive this in the beginning, but he gradually begins to notice the deep influence that emanates from the greatly transformed aura.
If a man, in addition to these meditations, consciously and in a most scrupulous way practices certain virtues, certain achievements of the soul, then, within this aura, his sense-organs of the soul develop. We must have these if we want to see into the soul-world, just as we must have physical sense-organs to be able to see into the material world. As the outer senses were planted into the body by nature, so must man, in a regular way, implant the higher sense-organs of the soul into his aura. Meditation leads man to become ripe from within outwards, forming, developing, and interweaving the available capacities of the soul's senses.
But if we wish to cultivate these sense organs we must turn our attention to quite definite accomplishments of the soul. You see, man has a series of such organs in his organization. We call these sense organs the so-called Lotus flowers because the astral image, which man begins to evolve in his aura when he is developing himself in the way described, takes on a form that may be compared with that of a Lotus flower. It goes without saying that this is only a comparison, just as one can speak of the wings of the lung, which also bear only a resemblance to wings. The two-petalled Lotus flower is found in the middle of the head above the root of the nose, between the eyes. Near the larynx is the sixteen-petalled Lotus flower, while in the region of the heart there is the twelve-petalled one, and in the region of the pit of the stomach the one with ten petals. Still farther down are found the six-petalled and four-petalled Lotus flowers. To day I want to talk only about the Lotus flowers that have sixteen petals and twelve petals.
In Buddha's teachings you are given an account of the so-called eightfold path. Now ask yourselves once why Buddha offered precisely this eightfold path as particularly important in the attainment of the higher stages of man's development. This eightfold path is: right resolve, right thinking, right speech, right action, right living, right striving, right memory, right self-immersion, or meditation. A great Initiate such as Buddha does not speak out of a vaguely felt ideal, but out of knowledge of human nature. He knows what influence the practice of such exercises of the soul will have on the future development of the body. If we look at the sixteen-petalled Lotus flower in the average man of today we actually see very little. If I can so express it, it is in the process of flaring up again. In the far-distant past this Lotus flower was once present; it has gone backward in its development. Today it is appearing again, partly through man's cultural activity. In the future, however, this sixteen-petalled Lotus flower will come again to full development. It will glisten vividly with its sixteen spokes or petals, each petal appearing in a different shade of color; and finally, it will move from left to right. What everyone in the future will possess and experience is today being cultivated by those who seek in a conscious way their development in the school of initiation, in order to become leaders of mankind. Now eight of these sixteen petals have already been formed in the far-distant past; today eight have still to be developed, if the mystery pupil wishes to have the use of these sense-organs. These will be developed if man treads the eightfold path in a conscious way, observantly and clearly, if he consciously practices these eight soul activities given by Buddha, and if he arranges his whole life of soul so that he takes himself in hand, practicing these eight virtues as vigorously as he can only do when sustained by his meditation work, thus bringing the sixteen-petalled Lotus flower not only into bloom but also into movement, into actual perception.
I will now speak of the twelve-petalled Lotus flower in the region of the heart. Six petals of this flower were already developed in the far-distant past, and six must be developed by all men in the future, by present-day Initiates and their pupils. In all anthroposophical handbooks you can find reference to certain virtues in the forefront of those that should be acquired by anyone aspiring to the stage of Chela, or pupil. These six virtues which you find mentioned in every anthroposophical handbook concerned with man's development are: control of thought, control of action, tolerance, steadfastness, impartiality, and equilibrium, or what Angelus Silesius calls composure. These six virtues, which one must practice consciously and attentively in conjunction with meditation, bring to unfolding the six further petals of the twelve-petalled Lotus flower. And these are not gathered blindly in the anthroposophical textbooks, nor are they stamped by haphazard or individual inner feeling, but they are spoken out of the great Initiates' deepest knowledge. Initiates know that whoever really wishes to evolve to the higher super-sensible stages of development must bring about the unfolding of the twelve-petalled Lotus flower. And to this end he must today develop, through these six virtues, the six petals that were undeveloped in the past. Thus you see how the great Initiates essentially gave their directions for life out of their own deeper knowledge of the human being. I could extend these remarks to still other organs of knowledge and observation, but I only wish to give you a brief sketch of the process of initiation, and for that these indications should suffice.
When the pupil has progressed so far that he begins to form the astral sense-organs, when he has progressed so far that he is capable of perceiving not only the physical impressions in his surroundings but also what belongs to the soul — in other words, to see what is in the aura of man himself as well as what is in the aura of animals and plants — he then begins a completely new stage of instruction. No one can see in his environment that which has to do with his soul before his Lotus flowers revolve, just as one without eyes can see no color and no light. But when the barrier is pierced, when the pupil has gone beyond the preliminary stages of knowledge so that he has insight into the soul-world, then true “pupil-ship” first begins for him. This leads through four stages of knowledge. Now what happens in this moment, when man has passed beyond the first steps and has become a Chela? We have seen how all that we have just described related to the astral body. This is organized throughout by the human body. Whoever has undergone such a development has a totally different aura. When man out of his self-consciousness has illuminated his astral body, when he himself has become the luminous organization of his astral body, then we say that this pupil has illuminated his astral body with Manas. Manas is nothing other than an astral body dominated by self-consciousness. Manas and astral body are one and the same, but at different stages of development.
One must understand this if, in the practice of mysticism, one wishes to apply in a practical way what is given in anthroposophical handbooks as the seven principles. Everyone acquainted with the mystic path of development, everyone who knows something about initiation, will say that these have a theoretical value for study but for the practicing mystic they have value only if the relation existing between the lower and the higher principles is known. No practicing mystic recognizes more than four members: the physical body, in which work chemical and physical laws, the etheric body, the astral body, and finally the self- or Ego-consciousness, called at the present stage of development Kama-Manas, the self-conscious thinking principle. Manas is nothing other than that which has been worked into the body by the self-consciousness. The etheric body in its present form is deprived of any influence of the self-consciousness. We can indirectly influence our growth and nourishment, but not in the same way as we cause our wishes, our thoughts and ideas to proceed from self-consciousness. We cannot ourselves influence our nourishment, digestion, and growth. In men, these are without connection to the self-consciousness. The etheric body has to be brought under the influence of the astral body, the so-called aura. The self-consciousness of the astral body has to penetrate the etheric body — to be able to work out of itself upon the etheric body — as man, in the way already shown, works upon his astral body, his aura. Then, when man through meditation, through inner immersion, and through practicing activities of the soul, which I have described, has come so far that the astral body has organized itself, then the work extends to the etheric body, and the etheric body receives the inner word. Then man not only hears what lives in the world around him, but there resounds in him his etheric body, the inner meaning of things.
I have often said here before that the essentially spiritual in things is a resounding. I have drawn your attention to how the practicing mystic, when speaking in a correct sense, talks of a sound in the spiritual world in the same way as of a light in the astral world, or world of desire. Not for nothing does Goethe say, when guiding his Faust to heaven: “Die Sonne tönt nach alten Weise im Bruderspharen Wettgesang ...” (“The sun resounds in ancient fashion, contending with his brother spheres”). Nor are the words of Ariel empty when Faust is being escorted by the spirits into the spiritual world: “Tönend wird für Geistesohren schon der neue Tag geboren” (“Hear the new day being born, Spirit ears can hear its ringing”).
This inner sounding which, of course, is not at all a sound perceptible to the outer physical ear, this inner word through which things can express their own nature, is an experience that man has when he becomes able to influence his etheric body from his astral body. Then he has become a Chela, a real student of the great Initiates. Then he can be led further upon this path. A man who has thus ascended this step is called a homeless man, because fundamentally he has found the connection with a new world, because it rings to him out of the spiritual world, and because he thereby no longer has his home, so to speak, in this physical world. One must not misunderstand this. The Chela who has reached this stage is just as good a citizen and family man, just as good a friend, as he was before he had reached the stage of Chela. He need not be torn away from anything. What he has experienced is an evolution of the soul, thus acquiring a new home in a world lying behind this physical one.
What then has happened? The spiritual world sounds within man, and through this sounding of the spiritual world man overcomes an illusion, the illusion which takes in all men before they begin this stage of development. This is the illusion of the personal self. Man believes himself to be a personality separate from the rest of the world. Mere reflection could teach him that even physically he himself is not an independent being. Bear in mind that if the temperature in this room were 200 degrees higher than it now is, none of us would be able to survive as we now survive. As soon as the outer situation changes, the conditions for our physical existence are no longer there. We are simply a continuation of the external world, and are as separate beings absolutely inconceivable. This is still more the case in the world of the soul and of the spirit. Thus we see that man conceived of as a self is only an illusion — that he is a member of the universal divine spirituality. Here man overcomes the personal self. Here arises what in the mystic chorus of Faust Goethe has expressed in the words: “Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis.” (“All that is transitory is but a likeness.”) What we see is only a picture of an eternal being. We ourselves are only a picture of an eternal being. When we have surrendered our separate being — for we live a separate life through our etheric body — then we have overcome our outer, separate life, we have become part of universal life.
There arises in man something which we have called Buddhi. Buddhi is now practically reached as a stage in the development of the etheric body, that etheric body which no longer occasions a separate existence but enters into universal life. The man who has attained this has arrived at the second state of Chela-ship. Then all doubts and reservations fall away from his soul; he can no longer be superstitious any more than he can be a doubter. Then he has no more need to secure the truth in order to compare his ideas with the outer environment; then he lives in tone, in the word of things; then what it is sounds and resounds out of its being. And there is no more superstition, no more doubt. This is called the surrendering of the keys of knowledge to the Chela. When he has reached this stage, within it there sounds a word from the spiritual world. Then his own words no longer proclaim an echo of what is in this world, but his words are an echo of what stems from another world, which works into this world, but which cannot be perceived with our outer senses. These words are messengers of the Godhead.
When this stage is passed beyond, a new one comes. This is entered by man gaining influence over what is done directly by his physical body. Before this, his influence only extended to his etheric body, but now it extends to his physical body. His actions must set the physical body in motion. What man does is incorporated into what we call his karma. Man, however, does not work on this consciously; he does not know how each of his deeds causes a consequence. It is only now that he begins in a conscious way so to fulfill his actions in the physical world that he consciously works on his karma. Thus, through his physical actions, he wins influence over his karma. And now there is not only a sounding from the objects in his environment, but he has come far enough to be able to utter the name of all things. Man lives in our present stage of culture in such a way that he is only able to utter one single name. That is the name he gives himself: “I.” That is the only name man can really give to himself. (Whoever immerses himself in deeper knowledge can arrive at depths of which psychology does not dream.) It is the only instance in which you yourself can give the name in question. No one else can say “I” to you, only you yourself. To everyone else you must say “you,” and they in return must say the same. There is something in everyone to which only they themselves can apply the name “I.” On this account the Jewish mystery teachings speak also of an inexpressible name of God. That is something which is immediately a proclamation of God in man. It was forbidden to utter this name unworthily, sacrilegiously; hence the sacred awe, the significance and reality when the Jewish mystery teachers uttered this name. “I” is the one word that says something to you that can never approach you from the outer world. So now, as the average man alone names his “I,” so the Chela in the third stage gives to all things in the world names which he has received out of intuition. That means he has passed into the world “I.” He speaks out of the world “I” itself. He may call everything by its most profound name, whereas the man today standing at the average stage can only say “I” to himself. When the Chela has arrived at this stage, he is called a Swan. The Chela who has been able to raise himself to the point of naming all things is called Swan because he is the messenger of all things.
What lies beyond these three stages cannot be expressed in ordinary language. It demands knowledge of a special script only taught in mystery schools. The next stage is the stage of what is veiled. And beyond this lie the stages which belong to the great Initiates, those Initiates who at all times have given the great impulses to our culture. They were Chelas to begin with. To begin with they acquired the keys of knowledge. Next they were led further to the regions where were disclosed to them the universal and the names of things. Then they raised themselves to the stage of the universal, where they could have the deep experiences through which they were qualified to found the great religions of the world.
But it was not only the great religions that came forth from the great Initiates; it was every mighty impulse, all that is important in the world. Let us take just two examples that show the kind of influence that has been exercised on the world by the great Initiates who have gone through the schooling. Let us go back to everyday life at the time when the pupils of the initiation schools were guided under the leadership of Hermes. This guidance was in the end an ordinary, so-called esoteric, scientific instruction. I can sketch for you in only a few strokes what such instruction contained. It was shown how the Cosmic Spirit descended into the physical world, incarnated himself here, and how he began afresh a material existence, how he then reached the highest stage of man and celebrated his resurrection. Paracelsus in particular has expressed this very beautifully in the following words: “The individual beings we meet in the outer world are the single letters, and the word that is formed from them is MAN.” Outwardly we have all contributed human virtues or failings to this creation. Man, however, is the fusion of all this. It was taught as esoteric instruction in the Egyptian mystery schools, in all detail and with great richness of spirit, how there lives in man, as microcosm, the fusion of the rest of the macrocosm.
After this instruction came the Hermetic instruction. What I have said one can grasp with the senses and the understanding. But what is offered in the Hermetic instruction can only be grasped if one has attained the first stage of Chela-ship. Then one can learn that special script which is neither arbitrary nor a matter of chance, but which gives us the great laws of the spiritual world. This script is not, like ours, an external picture arbitrarily fixed in single letters and parts; it is born out of the spiritual law of nature itself, because the man who becomes versed in this script is in possession of this natural law. All his conception of soul and astral space itself thus becomes regulated by law. What he conceives is conceived in the sense of the great signs of this script. He is capable of this when he has renounced his self. He unites himself with primal everlasting law. Now he has his Hermetic instruction behind him. Henceforward he himself can be admitted to the first stage of a still deeper initiation. Now, as the next stage, he should experience something in the astral world, the essential soul world, that has a significance reaching beyond the cosmic cycles. After he has acquired the capacity for the astral senses to be fully effective, so that they work right down into the etheric body, then for three days he is ushered into a deep mystery of the astral world. In that astral world he then experiences what last time I described to you as the primal origin of the Earth and man. He has before him and he experiences this descent of the spirit, this separation of Sun, Moon, and Earth, and the coming forth of man — this whole series of phenomena. And at the same time they form themselves into a picture before him. And then he emerges. After he has this great experience in the mystery school behind him, he goes among the people and relates what he has experienced in the soul and astral world. And what he relates runs approximately like this:
“There was once a divine couple who were united with the earth, Osiris and Isis. This divine pair were regents of everything that happens on earth. But Osiris was pursued by Typhon and cut into pieces, and Isis had to search for the corpse. She did not bring it home, but graves of Osiris were distributed among the various parts of the earth. So he was brought completely down into the earth and buried there. But a ray from the spiritual world fell upon Isis, fertilizing her through immaculate conception with the new Horns.”
This picture is nothing other than a mighty representation of what we have come to know as the exit of Sun and Moon, as the separation of Sun and Moon and as the dawning of mankind. Isis is the image of the Moon; Horns stands for earthly mankind, the earth itself. Before man was endowed with warm blood, before he was clothed with his physical body, he felt in mighty pictures what proceeded in the soul world. In the beginning of the Lemurian, of the Atlantean and the Arian evolutions, man was always prepared by the great Initiates to receive the mighty truths contained in such pictures. For this reason, the truths were not simply represented but were given in the pictures of Osiris and Isis. All the great religions we meet in antiquity are from what the great Initiates experienced in astral space. And the great Initiates emerged from these experiences and spoke to each particular people in the way they could understand, that is to say in pictures of what the Initiates themselves had experienced in the mystery schools. This was so in ancient times. Only through being in such a school of initiation could one rise to higher astral experience.
All this was changed with the coming of Christianity. It cut into evolution with great significance. And since the appearance of Christ it has been possible for man to be initiated as an initiate of nature, just as one speaks of a poet of nature. There have been Christian mystics who by grace have received initiation. The first who was called to carry Christianity into all the world under the influence of the words: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” was Paul. The appearance on the road to Damascus was an initiation outside the mysteries. I cannot go into further detail here.
It was the great Initiates who gave the impulse to all great movements and founding's of culture. From medieval times there comes a beautiful myth that may be said to show us this in a time when one did not yet demand materialistic foundations. The myth arose in Bavaria and has, therefore, assumed the garb of Catholicism. What then happened we will make clear as follows. There arose at that time in Europe the so-called civic culture — modern citizenship. The onward development of man, the progress of each soul to a higher stage, was understood by the mystic as the advancing of the soul, of the womanly element in man. The mystic sees in the soul something womanly that was fertilized by the lower sense impressions of nature and by the eternal truths. In every historical process the mystic sees such a process of fertilization. For those who see more deeply into man's path of development, for those who see the spiritual forces behind physical appearances, the great and deep impulses for the progress of mankind are given by the great Initiates. Thus the man with a medieval world outlook ascribed to the great Initiates the raising up of the soul to higher stages during the new period of culture that was brought about by means of cities. This city-development was attained by souls making a sudden move forward in history. And it was an Initiate who brought about this move. All mighty impulses were ascribed to the great lodge of Initiates surrounding the Holy Grail. From there came the great Initiates who are not visible to ordinary men. And the Initiate who at that time provided the civic culture with its impulse was called, in the Middle Ages, Lohengrin. It is he who was the missionary of the Holy Grail, of the great lodge; and Elsa of Brabant stands for the soul of the city, the womanly element that was to be fructified through the great Initiate. The mediator is the swan. Lohengrin was brought by the swan into this physical world. The Initiate must not be asked his name. He belongs to a higher world. The Chela, the Swan, has been the mediator of this influence.
I have merely been able to indicate how this great event has again been symbolized for the people in a myth. It is in this way that the great Initiates have worked and have put into their teachings what they have to make known. And in this way worked all those who have founded man's early culture — Hermes in Egypt, Krishna in India, Zarathustra in Persia, Moses among the Jewish people. Orpheus continued the work — then Pythagoras, and finally the Initiate of all Initiates, Jesus, who bore within Him the Christ.
Here only the greatest of Initiates are mentioned. We have tried in these descriptions to characterize their connection with the world. What has been described here will still remain remote to many people's thoughts. But those who have become aware of something of the higher worlds in their own souls have always raised their eyes not only to the spiritual world but also to the leaders of mankind. It was only from this standpoint that they have been able to speak in as inspired a way as Goethe. But you find among others, too, something of the divine spark leading towards the point to which spiritual science should again bring us. You find it in the case of a German, a young, intelligent German poet and thinker, whose life has all the appearance of a blessed memory of some former existence as a great Initiate. Those who read Novalis will notice something of the breath that guides us into the higher world. There is something in him that also contains the magic word, though not expressed as explicitly as usual. Thus he has written the beautiful words about the relation of our planet to mankind that convey as much to the lowly and undeveloped as they do to the Initiate:
“Mankind is the sense of our earth-planet, mankind is the nerve that binds the earth-planet with the higher worlds; mankind is the eye through which this earth-planet lifts its gaze to the heavenly Kingdoms of the Cosmos.”