Saturday, February 29, 2020
The circle of the twelve Bodhisattvas with Christ in the middle as the thirteenth
The Christ Impulse and the Development of Ego-Consciousness. Lecture 1 of 7.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, October 25, 1909:
Today, on the occasion of our General Meeting, I feel it incumbent upon me to speak upon a very sublime subject with which man is concerned. You must allow me to begin by mentioning once again that it is necessary for us to grow accustomed to speak in such a way on these subjects, that we must not rest satisfied with a one-sided rendering of the particulars connected with the higher world, as regards the general idea of the Bodhisattvas and their mission. We must accustom ourselves here to penetrate from the abstract into the concrete and to try, with the help of the ideas and sentiments which we have acquired from our sincere and loving study of life, to press through even to the sublime subjects pertaining to the Bodhisattvas. In doing this we must not merely accept the facts communicated to us, but try to a certain extent to understand them. For this reason I intend in this lecture to-day to begin by giving some description of the idea men had of the Bodhisattvas and of how that idea moved through the world.
We cannot really understand what a Bodhisattva is, without going somewhat deeply into the progressive course of man's evolution, and calling to mind some of the things we have heard in the last few years. Let us consider the nature of this progress. After the great Atlantean catastrophe humanity went through the period of the Old Indian civilisation, during which the great Rishis were the teachers of man. Then followed the period of the Old Persian civilisation; then that of the Egypto-Chaldean civilisation, then the Graeco-Latin period — up to our own, which is the fifth period of civilisation of the Post-Atlantean age. The purpose of these periods is the progressive development of humanity from one form of life to another. Progress is not made only in what is generally described in external history; for if we take great periods of time, we find that all the sentiments and feelings, all the conceptions and ideas of men, alter and are renewed in the course of the development of humanity. What would be the use of advocating the idea of re-embodiment or reincarnation, if we did not know this? What use would it be for our soul to come back over and over again into an earthly body, unless it were to learn something new each time — and not only to have new experiences, but to learn to feel differently? Even the capacities of man, the intimacies of his soul-life, are each time renewed and altered. This makes it possible for the soul to do more than merely ascend stage by stage as though up a series of steps, for each time it meets with new opportunities, through the altered conditions of life, of acquiring something new on earth. The soul is not merely guided from one incarnation to another by its sins and errors; but as our earth alters in every one of its conditions of life, so our souls can each time add something new from without. Therefore the soul progresses from incarnation to incarnation, but also from one period of civilisation to another. It would not, however, be able to progress and develop, were it not that those Beings who had already reached a high development, and were in some way or other above the ordinary humanity, had taken care that something new might always flow into earthly civilisation. In other words, we could not have advanced if there had not been great Teachers at work who, on account of their higher development, were able to receive the experiences from the higher worlds and carry them down to the scene of action of the life of earthly culture. There have always been such Beings in the development of our earth. (I am only speaking to-day of the Post-Atlantean development) and these Beings were in certain respects the Teachers of the rest. We can only understand the nature of these Teachers of humanity if we are clear as to the way humanity itself progresses.
You will have heard the two Lectures just given by Dr. Unger, on the Ego in its relation to the Non-Ego in its comprehension of itself considered according to the theory of Knowledge. Now do you suppose that what you then heard rendered by human lips and human thinking, could have been heard in this form 2,500 years ago? It would have been impossible in any part of the earth to speak about the Ego in this form of pure thought. Suppose some individuality 2,500 years ago had desired to incarnate into our earth-life, having made up its mind beforehand to speak of the Ego in that special way, well, it could not have done so! Anyone who supposes that anything of the kind could have been uttered by human lips, 2,500 years ago, entirely fails to recognise the actual progress and alteration in the development of civilisation since that time. For this to be possible it would not only be necessary for an individuality to resolve to incarnate in a human body, but it would also have been necessary that our earth in her evolution should have produced a human body with a particular sort of brain, so that the truths, which in the higher worlds are quite of a different nature, could in that particular brain take the form which we call ‘pure thought.’ For the way in which Dr. Unger spoke of the Ego we call the form of pure thought. 2,500 years ago there would have been no human brain capable of being an instrument for translating these truths into such thoughts. The Beings who wish to descend to our earth must make use of the bodies which this earth-cycle itself produces. Our earth, however, throughout the different periods of civilisation has always brought forth bodies with ever different organisations; only in our fifth Post-Atlantean epoch of civilisation, has it become possible to speak in the form of pure thought — the human race having produced the necessary bodies. Even in the Graeco-Latin age it would not yet have been possible to speak like that along the lines of the theory of knowledge, for there would have been no instrument there to translate such thoughts into human language. That precisely is the task of our fifth Post-Atlantean period; it must gradually form the physical organisation of man into an instrument through which those truths, which in other ages were grasped in quite other forms, can flow in ever purer and purer thought. We will take another example. When a man considers the question of good and evil at the present day, hesitating as to whether he should or should not do a certain thing, he says that a kind of inner voice speaks, telling him: ‘You ought not to do this. You ought to do that!’ and that this has nothing to do with any outer law. If we listen to this inner voice, we distinguish in it a certain impulse, an incitement to act in a certain way in a given case. We call this inner voice conscience. If a man is of the opinion that the different periods of man's development were all exactly alike, he might easily believe that as long as man has inhabited the earth, conscience has always existed. That would not be correct. We can, so to speak, prove historically that there was a beginning to the time when men began to speak of conscience. When this was, is clearly evident. It lay between the periods of two tragic poets: Æschylos, who was born in the sixth century before our era, and Euripides, who was born in the fifth century. You will find no mention of conscience previous to this. Even in Æschylos you will not as yet find what could be called the inner voice; what he writes of, still took the form of an astral, pictorial apparition; the Furies or Erinyes, vengeful beings, appeared to men. The time came, however, when the astral perception of the Furies was replaced by the inner voice of conscience, Even in the Graeco-Latin period, in which a dim astral perception was still present, a man who had committed a wrong could perceive that every wrong act created astral forms in his environment, whose presence filled him with anxiety and fear as to what he had done. Those forms were man's educators at that time; they gave him his impulses. When he lost the last remains of his astral clairvoyance, this perception was replaced by the invisible voice of conscience; that means, that what was at first outside, then entered into the soul and became one of the forces now within it. The alteration that has taken place in mankind in the course of development comes from the fact that the external instrument of man, in which he seeks embodiment, has changed. Five thousand years ago, when a human soul did something wrong, the Furies were perceived; it could not then have heard the Voice of Conscience. In this way it learnt to establish an inner relation to good and evil. This same soul was born again and again, and at last it was born into a body possessing an organisation in which the quality of conscience could approach it. In a future cycle of human development other forms and other capacities will be experienced in the soul.
I have repeatedly laid stress on the fact that no one who really understands Anthroposophy will take up the dogmatic attitude of asserting that the form in which this is given out to-day will be permanent and will suffice for the humanity of all future time. Such is not the case. In 2,500 years' time the same truths will not be revealed in this form, but in a different form, according to the instruments then existing. If you bear this in mind, it will be clear to you that humanity must be spoken to in a different manner in each successive age and that the attitude of the great Teachers towards the capacities and qualities of man must likewise differ. This signifies that the great Teachers themselves undergo development from one cycle to another, from one age to another. In the ages through which humanity progresses, we find going on above man, as it were, a progressive evolution of the great Teachers of humanity. Just as man passes through certain stages and then reaches a certain turning-point, so likewise do the Great Teachers.
We are now living in the fifth period of our Post-Atlantean epoch of civilisation. This is in a certain sense, a recapitulation of the third, of the Egypto-Chaldean period. The sixth will, in like manner, recapitulate the Old Persian, and the seventh will recapitulate the Old Indian. Thus do the various cycles overlap each other. The fourth period will not be recapitulated; it stands in the middle — sufficient unto itself, as we might say. What does this mean? It means that what men experienced in the Graeco-Latin period they only need go through once in an epoch of civilisation; not that they were only once incarnated in it, but that they only experience that period in one form. What was experienced in the Egypto-Chaldean period is being recapitulated now; it will thus be experienced in a two-fold form. There are certain stages of development which betoken a sort of crisis; while other periods are in certain respects like one another, the one recapitulating the other, not in the same way, but in a different form. The manner of man's development in the Post-Atlantean age is this: he went through a certain number of incarnations in the Old Indian period — and will go through a certain number in the seventh period, and these latter will resemble the former. A like resemblance will exist between the second and the sixth — and between the third and the fifth periods. Between these — in the fourth period — there are a number of incarnations, which resemble no other, and which therefore do not signify a transition. Man goes through a descending and an ascending development. The great Teachers of humanity also go through a period of descent and one of ascent, and differ absolutely at the different periods.
Now as man in the first Post-Atlantean period had quite different capacities from those he acquired later, he had to be instructed in quite a different way. To what do we owe the fact that in our time wisdom can be clothed in the concise forms of pure thought? We owe this to the circumstance that in our period of development the chief and average quality that is being developed is the consciousness soul (Since 1923 called by Dr. Steiner “The Spiritual Soul.”). In the Graeco-Latin period the intellectual soul or mind was being developed, in the Egypto-Chaldean the sentient soul, in the Old Persian the sentient body, and in the Old Indian the etheric body; — as the chief factor in their culture, of course. What the consciousness-soul is to us, that the etheric body was to the inhabitants of Old India. They had therefore quite a different mode of grasping and understanding. If you had spoken to the Old Indian in forms of pure thought, he would not have had the faintest idea what you meant. To him such words would have been mere sounds, without meaning. The great Teachers could not have taught the Old Indians by communicating wisdom to them in the form of pure thought, nor could they have explained it by word of mouth. To the Old Indians the Great Teachers said very little; for at the stage which the etheric body had then reached people were not receptive to the word which enclosed the thought. It is very difficult for people of our day to imagine how teaching could have taken place under those conditions. Very little indeed was spoken; rather did the listening soul recognise in the nuances of the sound, in the way a word was uttered, what flowed down from the spiritual world. That, however, was not the chief thing. The word was, so to speak, only the call to attention, the signal, that a relationship must now be established between the teacher and the hearer. In the earliest times of the Old Indian period the word was hardly more than when we ring a bell as a sign that something is about to begin. It was a crystallising point around which were woven the indescribable, spiritual currents which passed from the teacher to his pupil. What was of greatest importance was what the teacher saw, in his inner personality. It did not matter what he said; the qualities of his soul were of the greatest importance; for a sort of inspiration passed over from him to the pupil. The latter, having in particular developed the etheric body, the teacher had to address himself specially to that; and it was much easier to understand what the teacher himself was, than anything spoken. Before they could understand the spoken word, men had to pass through the subsequent periods of civilisation. It was therefore not necessary for any one of the great Teachers of the Old Indians to have a particularly developed intellectual or consciousness soul, for such would have been at that time an instrument of which he could make no use.
One thing, however, was necessary in these great Teachers: their own etheric bodies had to be at a more advanced stage of development than were those of the people. If a great teacher had stood at the same stage of development as they, he could not have had much effect upon them; he could not have communicated messages from a higher world, nor given an impulse for progress. In a certain sense what man was to grow to in the future, had first to be brought to him. The Indian teacher had to anticipate, as it were, what the others would only be able to acquire in the subsequent period of civilisation, that of the Old Persians. What the ordinary man in the Old Persian period would take in through the sentient body, that the Great Teacher of the Indians had to communicate through the etheric body. That means that the etheric body of such a teacher must not work like those of other men, it had to work as the sentient body was to do in the Persian civilisation. If a seer, in the present sense of the word, had come in contact with one of the great Indian teachers, he would have said: “What sort of etheric body is that?” For such an etheric body would have looked like an astral body of the Old Persian period.
It was, however, no such simple matter for such an etheric body to have worked as an astral body of a later period. It could not have been brought about at that time by any advanced stage of development. It could only be made possible by the descent of a Being who had already reached a further stage than the others, and who incarnated in a human body which was really neither suited to nor well adapted to him, but which he was obliged to enter to make himself understood by the others. Outwardly he looked like other men, but inwardly he was quite different. To judge of such an individual by his outer aspect would mean to deceive oneself utterly; for while the outer appearance of ordinary persons harmonises with their inner being, in the case of these Teachers it was in complete contradiction. Here we have an individuality, who, as far as he himself was concerned, had no longer any need to come down to earth at all, but who descended to a certain stage and took his place among the Old Indian people, to teach them. He descended willingly, and incarnated in human form, though he was a different Being altogether. He was an individual of such a nature that the destiny to which a normal man — as man — is subject, did not affect him. A Teacher of this kind would live in a body having an external destiny, yet he would have no part in that destiny; he lived in that body as in a house. When that body died, death for him was a very different experience from what it is for other men. Birth, too, and the experiences between birth and death were quite different for him. Hence also such a Being worked in quite a different way in this human instrument. Let us picture to ourselves in what way such an individuality used the brain, for instance. For even if he was able to perceive through the astral body, yet the brain which indeed was otherwise organised, still had to be used as an instrument to observe the pictures through which perceptions were received. There were, therefore, two human types; the one, who used his brain as an ordinary human being, and the Teacher type, who did not use his brain at all in the ordinary way, but in a certain sense left it unused, A great Teacher did not need to use the brain in all its details; he knew things that other people could only learn through the instrument of the brain. It was not a real, earthly incarnation as such; it was not a real incarnation of a human being in the ordinary sense. It represented a sort of double nature; a spiritual being lived in this organisation. There were such Beings also in the later Persian and in the Egyptian periods. It was always the case that in their individuality they towered far above the stature of their human organisation. They were not wholly contained within it. For that reason they were able to work upon the rest of the people in those olden times. This state of things continued down to the time when, in the Graeco-Latin period, an important crisis occurred in the development of mankind.
Now in the Graeco-Latin age the intellectual soul or mind (Mind in the sense of ‘I have a mind to do’ a thing.) began gradually to form inner faculties. Whereas in the time preceding this the chief things flowed in from outside, so to speak — as we saw in the example of the Furies, when men had avenging beings around them but not within them — in the Graeco-Latin period something began to flow from within, towards the great Teachers. In this way quite new conditions were established. Formerly, Beings from the Higher Worlds descended and found a state of things which enabled them to say: “It is not necessary for us completely to enter the human organisation; for we can do our work by carrying down to men what they cannot otherwise obtain, and causing that to flow into them from the Higher Worlds.” At that time it was not yet necessary for man to contribute anything, there was no need for him to bring anything to meet the great Teachers. But if the great Teachers had gone on with this policy, it might have occurred — from the fourth Period onwards — that one of these great Individualities would have descended into some part of the earth and found there something which did not exist above. As long as the Furies, the avenging spirits, were visible, men could turn their attention away from what was to be found on earth. Now, however, came something quite new — conscience. That was unknown to the spirits above; there was no possibility up there of observing it. It came as something quite new to them. In other words, in the fourth period of Post-Atlantean civilisation the necessity arose for these great Teachers actually to descend to the stage of man, therein to learn what it was that was coming up to meet them out of the human souls. Now began the time when it would not do for them not to share to some extent in the qualities inherent in man. Let us now observe that significant Being, whom in his earthly incarnation we know as Gautama Buddha.
Gautama Buddha was a Being who had always been able to incarnate in the earthly bodies of the various periods of civilisation, without having had to use everything in this human organisation. It had not been necessary for this Being to go through real human incarnations. Now, however, came an important turning-point for the Bodhisattva; it now became necessary for him to make himself acquainted with all the destinies of the human organisation within an earthly body which he was to enter. He was to experience something which could only be experienced in an earthly body; and because he was such a high Individuality, this one incarnation was sufficient for him to see all that a human body can develop. Other people have to evolve the inner capacities gradually, throughout the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh periods; but Buddha could experience in this one incarnation all that it was possible to evolve. In his incarnation as Gautama Buddha he saw, in advance, the first germ of what was to arise in man as conscience, which will become greater and greater as time goes on. He was therefore able to re-ascend into the spiritual world directly after that incarnation; there was no need for him to go through another. What man will, in a certain sphere evolve out of himself during future cycles, Buddha was able to give in this one incarnation, as a great directing force. This came about through the event which has been described as the “sitting under the Bodhi-tree.” He then gave forth — in accordance with his special mission — the teaching of compassion and love contained in the eightfold path. This great Ethic of humanity which men will acquire as their own during the civilisations yet to come, was laid down as a basic force in the mind of the Buddha who descended at that time, and from Bodhisattva became Buddha, which means that he really rose a stage higher, for he learnt through his descent.
That, in different words, describes that great event in Eastern civilisation known as “the Bodhisattva becoming Buddha.” When this Bodhisattva, who had never really incarnated, was 29 years of age, his individuality fully entered the son of Suddhodana; not having fully had possession of him. He then experienced the great human teaching of compassion and love. Why did this Bodhisattva, who then became Buddha, incarnate in this people? Why not in the Graeco-Latin people?
If this Bodhisattva was really to become the Buddha of the fourth Post-Atlantean period of civilisation, he had to bring in something new for the future. When the consciousness-or spiritual-soul has been fully developed, man will, by its means, gradually become sufficiently ripe to recognise of himself the great impetus given by Buddha. At a time when man had only developed the intellectual soul, it was necessary that Buddha should already have developed the spiritual soul. He had so to use the physical instrument of the brain that he was complete master of it; and this in quite a different fashion than could have been done by one who might have progressed in advance as far as the Graeco-Latin period of civilisation. The Graeco-Latin brain would have been too hard for him to use. It would only have enabled him to develop the intellectual or mind (Mind in the sense of ‘I have a mind to do a thing.’) soul, whereas he had to develop the spiritual soul. For that he required a brain that had remained softer. He made use of the soul that was only to develop later, in an instrument that had been used by man in earlier times and had been retained by the Indian people. Here again we have a recapitulation: Buddha repeated a human organisation belonging to earlier times, together with a soul-capacity belonging to times yet to come. The events that take place in the evolution of humanity are to this extent, of the nature of a necessity. In the 5th to the 6th century before our era, Buddha had the task of introducing the spiritual-soul into the organisation of man. He, as a single individual, could not, however, take over the whole task of doing all that was necessary in order that the spiritual-soul might prepare itself in the right way from the 5th century onward. His own particular mission only comprised one part of that task: that of bringing to man the doctrine of Compassion and Love. Other teachers of humanity would have other tasks. This part of the Ethics of Humanity, the ethic of Love and Compassion, was first introduced by Buddha, and its vibrations still endure; but humanity must in future develop a number of other qualities besides these, as, for instance, that of thinking in forms of pure thought, in crystal-clear thoughts. It was no part of Buddha's mission to build up thoughts, to add one clear thought to another. His task was to form and establish that which leads man of his own accord to find the eight-fold path.
So there had to be another Teacher of humanity having quite different faculties, one who carried down a different stream of spiritual life from the higher spiritual worlds into this world. To this other individuality was given the task of carrying down what is gradually showing itself, in mankind to-day, as the faculty of logical thought. A Teacher had to be found, able to carry down what makes it possible for man to express himself in forms of pure thought; for logical thought itself only developed as time went on. What Buddha accomplished had to be carried into the intellectual- or mind-soul. This soul, through its position between the sentient soul and the consciousness- or spiritual-soul, possesses the peculiar attribute of not having to recapitulate anything. The Old Indian epoch will be repeated in the seventh, the Old Persian in the sixth, the Egyptian in our own; but just as the fourth epoch stands alone, apart from the others, so does the intellectual- or mind-soul. The forces necessary for our intellectual faculties which only appear in the spiritual-soul, could not be developed in the intellectual soul; although these were only to appear later, they had to be laid down in germ and stimulated at an earlier period.
In other words: the impulse for logical thinking had to be given before the Buddha gave the impulse for Conscience. Conscience was to be organised into man in the fourth epoch; conscious, pure thinking was to develop in the consciousness- or spiritual-soul in the fifth epoch, but had to be laid down in the third epoch of civilisation, as the germ for what we are evolving now. That is why that other Great Teacher had the task of instilling into the sentient soul the forces which now appear as pure thought. It is therefore easy to see that the difference between this Teacher and the normal man was even greater than it was in Buddha. Something had to be aroused in the sentient soul which did not as yet exist in any living man. Ideas or conceptions would not have helped to develop this; therefore although this Individuality had the task of laying the germ of certain faculties, he could not himself make any use of them. That would have been impossible. He had to employ other, quite different, forces.
I explained this morning (in the second lecture on “Anthroposophy”) that certain forces working through the power of vision on the sentient soul, will at a higher stage become conscious forces, and will then appear in the form of thought. If that great Teacher-Individuality was able so to stimulate the sentient-soul that the forces of thought could penetrate it, in somewhat the same way as life subconsciously penetrated it through the act of vision — without the least realising it, that Teacher could then achieve something. This could only be done in one way. To stimulate the sentient soul and instill into it, so to speak, the power of thought, this Individuality had to work in a very special way. He had to give his instruction, not in conceptions — but through music! Music engenders forces which set free in the sentient soul something, which, when it rises into the consciousness and has been worked upon by the spiritual soul, becomes logical thinking. This music came forth from a mighty Being, who taught through music. You will think this strange, and may perhaps not believe it possible, yet such was the case. Before the Graeco-Latin age, in certain parts of Europe, there existed an ancient culture among those peoples who had remained behind as regards the qualities strongly developed in the East. In those parts of Europe the people were not able to think much, for their development had been of quite a different nature; they had but little of the forces of the intellectual soul. Their sentient soul, however, was very receptive to what proceeded from the impulses of a special kind of music, which was not the same as our music to-day. We thus go back to a time in Europe when there was what we might call an ancient “musical culture” — a time when not only the “Bards” were the teachers, as they were later, when these things had already fallen into decadence, but when a music full of enchantment passed through all those parts of Europe. In the third epoch of civilisation (i.e., the Egyptian) there was a profound musical culture in Europe, and the minds of those peoples who were waiting quietly for what they were destined to carry out later, were receptive in a particular way to the effects of music. These effects worked upon the sentient soul in a similar way to that in which the thought-substance works upon it through the eyes. Thus did music work on the physical plane; but the sentient soul had the subconscious feeling: “This comes from the same regions as the Light.” Music — the song from the realms of Light!
Once upon a time there was a primeval Teacher in the civilised parts of Europe — a primeval Teacher who in this sense was a primeval Bard, the pioneer of all the ancient Bards and minstrels. He taught on the physical plane by means of music, and he taught in such a way that something was thereby communicated to the sentient-soul, which was like the rising and shining of a sun. What tradition has retained concerning this great Teacher was later on gathered together by the Greeks — who were still influenced by him from the West as they were influenced in a different way from the East. This was embodied in their conception of Apollo, who was a Sun-God and at the same time the God of music. This figure of Apollo dates back, however, to that great Teacher of primeval times, who put into the human soul the faculty which appears to-day as the power of clear thinking.
The Greeks also tell of a pupil of this Great Teacher of humanity — of one who became a pupil in a very special way. How could anyone become the “pupil” of this Being?
In those bygone times, when this Being was to work in the manner just described, he was not, of course, encompassed in the physical organisation; he transcended that which walks the earth as physical man. A man with an ordinary sentient-soul might have been receptive to the effects of the music, but he could not have aroused them in others. A higher Individuality had come down and was like the radiance of what lived in the cosmos outside. It became necessary, however, that in the fourth Post-Atlantean epoch of civilisation, in the Graeco-Latin period, he should descend again — that he should descend to the human stage and make use of all the faculties that are in man. Yet, although he made use, so to speak, of all the human faculties, he could not quite descend. For, in order to bring about what I have described, he required faculties transcending those possessed by a human organisation in the fourth post-Atlantean period. The effects of this music even then included what was to be found in the spiritual soul; and it could not at that time have lived in an individuality organised only for the intellectual soul. Hence, although incarnated in such a form, he still had to hold something back. His incarnation in the fourth epoch was such, that although he completely filled the whole human form, yet he as man, dwelling within that form, had, as it were, something within him that extended far beyond it; he knew something of a spiritual world, but he could not make use of this knowledge. He had a soul which extended beyond his body. Humanly speaking, there was something tragic in the fact that the Individuality who had acted as a great Teacher in the third epoch of civilisation, should have had to incarnate again in a form in which his soul was to a great extent outside it — and yet that he could not make any use of this superior and unusual faculty of soul. This kind of incarnation was called a “Son of Apollo”, because that, which had dwelt on earth before, was reincarnated in a very complicated and not in a direct way. A Son of Apollo bore within him as soul what Mysticism designates by the symbol of the ‘feminine’ element; he could not bear all of it within him, because it was in another world. His own feminine soul element was itself in another world to which he had no access but for which he longed, because a part of himself was there. This marvellous inner tragedy of the reincarnated Teacher of former times has been wonderfully preserved in Greek Mythology under the name of ‘Orpheus’ — the name given to the reincarnated Apollo, or “Son of Apollo.”
This tragedy of the soul is represented in a marvellous way in the figures of ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’. Eurydice was soon torn from Orpheus. She dwelt in another world; but Orpheus still had the power, through his music, of teaching the beings of the nether world. He obtained permission from them to take Eurydice back with him. But he must not look around him; for that would mean inner death; — at all events it would bring about a loss of what he formerly was and which he cannot now take into himself.
Thus in this incarnation of Apollo as Orpheus, we have again a sort of descent of a Bodhisattva — if we may use this Eastern term — to Buddha-hood. We might quote a number of such Beings who stand out from age to age as the great Teachers of humanity and who always had a very special experience at the time of their deepest descent. The Buddha experiences the bliss of inspiring the whole of humanity. That Bodhisattva, whose memory is preserved externally under the name of ‘Apollo,’ had an individual experience: he was to prepare the individuality, the quality of the Ego. He experiences the tragedy of the Ego; he experiences the fact that this ego is, in the present state of man as regards this attribute of his, not entirely with him. Man is struggling up to the higher ego. That was foreshadowed for the Greeks by the Buddha or Bodhisattva in Orpheus.
These particulars furnish us with a characterisation of the great Teachers of humanity and we are then able to form a picture in our minds. If you summarise what I have said, you will find that I have all along been speaking of those Beings who formed the sentient-soul and the spiritual-soul in a particular way as inner faculties — faculties which must draw into man from within. As we are now surveying this one period we can only for the moment consider two of these Beings, those who formed the sentient soul. But there are many such, for the inner nature of man evolved gradually, stage by stage.
Let us now compare yet another Being with that which affects the inner nature of man, so to speak. For indeed we cannot but say to ourselves: If there is a constant succession of Teachers who supply the progressing and developing inner faculties of man with spiritual food from the higher regions, there must be other Individualities who accomplish other work and above all take part in the changes in the earth itself and in what evolves from one age to another. When the Buddha influenced the intellectual soul from within, so to speak, through the consciousness or spiritual soul in the fourth period of civilisation, it must also be influenced from without. Something had to approach the intellectual soul from without. This Being had to approach from another aide and to work in quite a different way. A Teacher such as those we have been describing, had, when he appeared among men, to pour into their inner being what he had to bring down from higher regions. He was a Teacher. What had the other Being to do, who was to bring the earth forward, so that it developed further from one generation to another? He was not only to influence the inner being of man to develop this or that faculty within him, but He Himself, as Being, had to descend to the earth. He who was to descend, was not merely toteach, the intellectual soul, but to form it. One had to appear who was to form that soul and who was Himself to be its direct expression in the fourth period, that eminent period that stands alone in the middle. This Being had to come from quite a different side. He had to draw into human nature itself, to incarnate within it. The Bodhisattvas transformed the inner nature of man; this Being transformed his whole nature. He made it possible for the Teachers to find a suitable soil on which to work in the future. He transformed the whole human being. We must recollect how the different souls in man build themselves into the different bodies: the sentient soul into the sentient body, the intellectual into the etheric body and the spiritual soul into the physical body. The field of action of the Bodhisattva is there where the spiritual soul builds itself into the physical body. That is where they lay hold of man from the one side. There the intellectual- or mind-soul works into the etheric body, another Being, in the fourth period, influenced man from another side. When did he do this? It was accomplished at the time when the etheric body in man could be directly affected, — when that Being whom we have described more closely as Jesus of Nazareth, forsook the physical body at the moment of the Baptism in Jordan. When that whole body was immersed, whereby occurred what we have described as a ‘shock,’ the Christ-Being sank down into that etheric body. That is the Individuality Who comes from quite a different side and is of quite a different nature. Whereas in the case of the other great Leaders of humanity we have, in a sense, to do with more highly evolved human beings, men who have at least once been subject to all the fate of a man, — of Christ that cannot be said. What is the lowest principle of the Christ-Being? Counting from below, it is the etheric body. That means that when some day man, through Spirit-Self, shall have transformed his whole astral body and will set to work on his etheric body, he will then be working in an element in which the Christ once worked in the same way. Christ gives an impulse of the most powerful kind, which will continue to work on into the future, and which man will only reach when he begins to work at the transmutation of his etheric body in a conscious way.
In his journey through life, man starts from birth, or even from conception, and travels on till death; from death to his next birth is another journey. On his way from death to a new birth he first passes through the astral world then through what we call the lower part of the Devachanic world, and after that through the higher Devachanic world. Or, using the European terms, we call the physical world the little world or the world of mental powers, of intelligence; the astral world is called the elemental world; the lower Devachan the heavenly world, and the Higher world is the world of reason, of discernment, of discretion. The European mind is only gradually evolving to the point where the true expressions may be found in its language. Therefore, what lie beyond the Devachanic world has been given a religious colouring and is called the ‘World of Providence’ — which is the same as the Buddhi-plane. What is beyond that again could indeed be seen by the old clairvoyant vision, an ancient tradition tells of it; in the European languages no name could be formed for it. — Only in our present day can the seer once more work his way up to that world which is above and beyond the World of Providence. European languages cannot truly give a name to this world. This world does indeed exist; but thought is not yet far enough advanced to be able to describe it. For to that which Eastern Theosophy calls Nirvana and which lies above the ‘World of Providence,’ one cannot just give any name one pleases.
As I was saying, between death and rebirth, man ascends to the higher Devachan or world of Reason. When there he looks into higher worlds, worlds he cannot himself enter, and there he sees the Higher Beings at work. Whereas man spends his life in worlds extending between the physical plane and Devachan, it is normal for the Bodhisattvas to extend to the Buddhi-plane, or what we in Europe call the World of Providence. That is a good name, for it is precisely the task of the Bodhisattvas to guide the world as a good ‘providence’ from age to age. Now what took place when the Bodhisattva went through the embodiment of Gautama Buddha? — When he reaches a certain stage, he can ascend to the next higher plane — to the Nirvana-Plane. That is his next sphere. It is characteristic of the Bodhisattvas that when they become Buddhas they ascend to the Plane of Nirvana. Everything that works on the inner being of man dwells in a sphere extending to that Plane. A Being such as the Christ works into the nature of man from the other side. He also works, from the other side, into those worlds to which the Bodhisattvas ascend when they leave the region of man; in order themselves to learn, in order that they may become Teachers of humanity. There they meet, — coming down to them from above, from the other side — a Being such as the Christ. They then become pupils of Christ. A Being such as He, is surrounded by twelve Bodhisattvas; we cannot indeed speak of more than twelve; for when the twelve Bodhisattvas have accomplished their mission we shall have completed the period of earth-existence.
Christ was once on earth; He has descended to earth, has dwelt on the earth, has ascended from it. He comes from the other side; He is the Being who is in the midst of the twelve Bodhisattvas, and they receive from Him what they have to carry down to earth. — Thus, between two incarnations the Bodhisattva-Beings ascend to the Buddhi-Plane; there they meet the Being of Christ as Teacher, and they are fully conscious of Him. He in this Being, extends to that Plane. The meeting between the Bodhisattvas and the Christ takes place on the Buddhi-Plane. When men progress further and shall have developed the qualities instilled into them by the Bodhisattvas, they will become more and more worthy themselves to penetrate that sphere. In the meantime it is necessary that they should learn that the Christ-Being was incarnated in human form in Jesus of Nazareth, and that in order to reach the true Being of the Individuality of Christ, one must first permeate the human form with understanding.
Thus twelve Bodhisattvas belong to Christ, and they prepare and further develop what He brought as the greatest impulse in the evolution of human civilisation. We see the twelve, and — in their midst — the thirteenth. We have now ascended to the sphere of the Bodhisattvas, and entered a circle of twelve stars; in their midst is the Sun, illuminating, warming them; from this Sun they draw that source of life which they afterwards have to carry down to earth. How is the image of what takes place above, represented on earth? It is projected into the earth in such wise that we may render it in the following words: Christ, Who once lived on the earth, brought to this earth evolution an impulse for which the Bodhisattvas had to prepare humanity and they then had to develop further what He gave to the earth-evolution. Thus the picture on earth, is something like this: Christ in the middle of the earth-evolution; the Bodhisattvas as His advance-messengers and His followers, who have to bring His work closer to the minds and hearts of men.
A number of Bodhisattvas had thus to prepare mankind, to make men ripe to receive the Christ. Now, although men were ripe enough to have Christ among them, it will be a long time before they mature sufficiently to recognise, to feel, and to will, all that Christ is. The same number of Bodhisattvas will be required to develop to maturity in man what was poured into him through Christ, as was necessary to prepare men for His coming. For there is so much in Him, that the forces and faculties of men must go on ever increasing, before they are able to understand Him. With the existing faculties of man, Christ can only be understood to a minute extent. Higher faculties will arise in man, and each new faculty will enable him to see Christ in a new light. Only when the last Bodhisattva belonging to Christ shall have completed his work, will humanity realise what Christ really is; man will then be filled with a will in which the Christ Himself will live. He will draw into man through his Thinking, Feeling, and Willing, and man will then really be the external expression of Christ on the earth.