|The Threefold Hecate|
Wonders of the World, Ordeals of the Soul, Revelations of the Spirit. Lecture 2 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 19, 1911:
Yesterday I tried to give you some idea of the way the Greeks thought about the relationship between the human soul and our Earth evolution, laying special emphasis upon two things. I said the Greeks were conscious that in primeval times the soul had been gifted with clairvoyance, and they regarded Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, as the ruler of those clairvoyant powers which played into men's souls from the cosmos. On the other hand I showed how the entire intellectual civilisation of mankind can be traced back to the stream associated with the names of Odysseus, Menelaus and Agamemnon. I tried to make you feel that this civilisation calls for a continual sacrifice. Thus the finest feelings and sentiments of which the human soul is capable, when it comes under the influence of this intellectual civilisation, were offered up to a kind of religious sacerdotal-ism, and the sacrifice of Iphigenia expresses this thought for us. Such views enable us to realise that the tradition, and to a certain extent the actual knowledge, of what we are now endeavouring to regain through Spiritual Science was still very much alive in ancient Greece. We draw attention to the fact that in primeval times the soul had clairvoyant capacities. You can read in my Occult Science — An Outline how in Atlantis men saw into the spiritual world and how cosmic forces appeared to them as actual forms or figures; so that men did not then speak of abstract forces, but of real Beings. Such a figure as Persephone is a relic of this consciousness. Through Spiritual Science we are struggling gradually to come to know again from our modern viewpoint the same living reality in the spiritual world which was familiar to men in primeval times, the same living Beings who lay hid behind the figures of Greek mythology.
The more deeply one goes into Greek mythology, the greater is one's respect, one's admiration, for the profound cosmic wisdom which lies behind it. To give you some idea of this, let me just mention one thing. I said yesterday that Greek mythology draws attention to two different trends — to the intellectual civilization associated with the names of Menelaus, Agamemnon, and Odysseus, and so beautifully exemplified in the sacrifice of Iphigenia, and to the other culture associated with Persephone and her mother Demeter. Now a thoughtful person will naturally reflect that such movements do not take their course in complete independence. Despite their apparent separation there must have been a point of contact somewhere. How does Greek mythology express this profound truth? We know that modern scholarship has nothing but a few abstract ideas to offer in this connection. But Greek mythology traces the ancestry of Agamemnon back to a representative of human soul-forces whom we may call Tantalus. According to the Greek legend Tantalus wantonly offered his own son to the gods as food. We know too that the gods recognized the impious nature of this act, and only one — a goddess — partook of a shoulder-blade. That goddess was Demeter. In this remarkable touch of symbolism — Demeter's eating of the shoulder-blade of the son of Tantalus — we find an indication that there is a connection between the two streams. It confirms that Demeter forces enter into the entire modern civilization associated with the names of Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Odysseus. Thus every item of Greek mythology has its correspondence in what we are bringing to light again in the form of modern spiritual wisdom. It is worthwhile to call attention now and again to such deeply significant features. It brings home to us the fact that the way man looks at the wonders of Nature changes in course of time. Our natural science is proud of its interpretation of Nature. There seems little ground for this pride when we reflect that by representing the force hidden in the depths of Nature as the female ruler of the wonders of Nature, the Greek system of divinities showed a far deeper wisdom than the science of today has any inkling of, or will so much as guess at until spiritual science is allowed to penetrate into our civilization. It can give a considerable spur to our own knowledge, to the knowledge which we have acquired in the course of years, to consider it in relation to the depths of wisdom in Greek mythology.
One feature of The Mystery of Eleusis draws attention to an important natural wonder. What is really the crucial event of the drama? Persephone, who represents the ancient clairvoyant forces of the human soul, is carried off by Pluto, the god of the underworld. The whole wondrous action comes alive for you in the Pluto scene of the reconstructed drama; once more we have it before our very eyes. What does it mean, when we apply what Greek mythology and the Mystery of Eleusis thus express to the nature of man himself? What in terms of spiritual science has happened to the old clairvoyant faculty of the human soul? This rape of Persephone has in fact been going on from the earliest times right up to our own day; the old clairvoyant culture has vanished. But nothing in the world ever really disappears, things are really only transformed. Whither, then, has Persephone gone? What is the regent of the old clairvoyant forces doing today in human nature? In the opening chapters of a little book [ 1 ] now on the verge of publication, and which virtually reproduces the contents of my recent lectures in Copenhagen, you can read that the human soul encompasses far more than what it knows by way of intellect, by way of reason. A more comprehensive soul-life, a subconscious soul-life, is at work in us — it is better to call it subconscious rather than unconscious—a soul-life which in most modern men does not emerge into consciousness at all. In this subconscious life which is at work today in the human being without his being able to give a reasoned account of it, is Persephone; that is where the suppressed clairvoyant forces have gone. Whereas in primeval times they worked in such a way that the soul could see into spiritual worlds, today they work in the depths of the human soul. They assist in the development and formation of the ego principle, making it firmer and firmer. Whereas in primeval times these forces were dedicated to the task of making man clairvoyant, today they devote themselves to the establishing, to the consolidation, of our ego. Thus these Persephone forces have been drawn down into the human subconscious, they have been embraced, have so to say been raped, by the depths of the human soul. Thus in the course of the historical development of humanity, the rape of Persephone has been brought about by soul-forces which lie deep in the subconscious, forces which in outer Nature are represented as Pluto. According to Greek mythology Pluto is the ruler of the underworld, of the interior of the Earth. But the Greek was also aware that the same forces which are at work in the depths of the Earth are also at work in the depths of the human soul. Just as Persephone was carried off by Pluto, in the same way, in the course of human development, the soul was robbed of its ancient clairvoyant capacity through Pluto's intervention.
Now, Persephone is Demeter's daughter, and so we infer that in Demeter we have a still older ruler, both of the forces of external Nature and of the forces of the human soul. I said yesterday that Demeter is a figure of Greek mythology whom we associate with the kind of clairvoyant vision which belongs to the very oldest endowment of wisdom of Atlantean humanity — for it is in Atlantis that Demeter is really to be found. When an Atlantean man gazed into the spiritual world, he saw Demeter; she really came to meet him. When, out of this spiritual world, this whirling world of constant movement and changing forms, the archetypal mother of the human soul and of the fruitful forces of Nature appeared to him, what did he say? He said to himself, not in full consciousness, but as it were in the unconscious: ‘I myself have done nothing, I have gone through no inner development, as later ages will do, in order to see into the spiritual world. The same forces of Nature which have given me my eyes, my brain, my organism, and are active in me, these very same forces give me also the power of clairvoyance; just as I breathe, so also I have clairvoyant sight.’ Just as man went through no special development to produce breathing, so at that time he did not form his own clairvoyant faculty, but both these things were given to him by the powers of Nature, by divine beings. When man turned his attention to what was outside him, to what existed all around him, and along with the sensible received the spiritual, he consciously felt: ‘I absorb into myself the substance of the plant kingdom in the world around me (a plant kingdom quite different from our present one), I absorb from outside everything that is growing; but with the substances I take in also the forces active in them.’ The man of that time was not so hopelessly limited in his outlook as to believe that what he took in as food was only physical substance, only something which could be analyzed by the chemist; he knew that with the substances he took in the inner configuration of the forces which are active in them, and that it is these forces which construct him, which build up his body again. Atlantean man said to himself: ‘Outside in Nature, forces are at work; through my breathing and through the food I eat they enter into me. What they are outside me is under the control of the great Demeter. But Demeter sends these forces into the human soul; there they are worked upon and transformed into the faculty of clairvoyance.’ (We may call these forces the process of digestion, but the digestion was then a spiritual one.) ‘Through the forces under the control of Demeter, the fecundating goddess of the whole world, the clairvoyant capacity represented by Persephone is born in the human organization.’ Thus Atlantean man feels that he too has his place among the wonders of Nature. He feels this clairvoyant capacity born in him as the birth of Persephone, he feels that he owes this birth to Demeter, who spreads abroad in the wide cosmos the very same forces which in man develop into the faculty of clairvoyance.
Thus the man of old looked up to the great Demeter, and in ancient Greece man was still aware that it had once been so. But you will have already realized from this that the human organism, the entire bodily constitution, has changed since those ancient times. The human body of today, with its organization of muscle and bone, is substantially denser, more compact, than the bodies of those men who were still able to give birth to Persephone within themselves, since they still had the faculty of clairvoyance. And because this organism of ours has become denser, it can also hold fast the clairvoyant forces in the sub-earthly realm of the soul. The imprisonment of the clairvoyant forces within human nature comes about as a result of the densification of the human body. And when the ancient Greek feels the old, more delicate, rarefied body becoming denser, it is because he is taking in forces which are active in the inner Earth, whereas formerly he had been more under the sway of forces connected with the surrounding air, which rendered him in consequence softer, more supple. And what is active in the sub-earthly realm, the realm governed by Pluto, obtained a greater and greater influence on the human body, so that we may say that Pluto obtained an ever increasing hold over man; he densified the human body and in doing so abducted Persephone. This densification went on right into the physical body. For even in the earlier post-Atlantean times the human organization appeared very different from what it does today. It is very shortsighted to think that the human being was always formed as he is today.
Thus we see that the rape of Persephone and man's connection with Demeter are really expressions of the wonders of Nature within man himself. They show us how Greek mythology was dominated by the consciousness that man is a microcosm, an expression of the macrocosm, the great cosmos. As Demeter works without in the powerful forces of all that brings forth fruit from the Earth, so also is what comes from Demeter active within us. As the forces represented in Greek mythology by Pluto are active within the Earth and not on the Earth's surface, so does Pluto work in man's own organism. We must be able to blot out entirely the usual way of looking at things today, our own habits and customs, if we want to understand the completely different habit of thought even of people as recent as the Greeks. When the modern man wants to make laws he looks to the government, he looks to his parliaments. This is of course not a criticism, it is merely a comment. That is where our laws come from today, and a man would probably be considered a fool if he were to put forward the theory that cosmic forces pass through the heads of the sitting members! We will not pursue this any further; it is sufficient that the man of today would find such an idea grotesque.
It was not so in prehistoric times, it was not even so in ancient Greece. In those times there was prevalent an idea so wonderful, so impressive, that modern man can scarcely believe it. Think of all that I have told you about the development of the Greek gods. I pointed out how Demeter worked in ancient times, how she instilled her forces into human nature — her forces which were active in the plants and caused her child to be born in that human nature. That is what Demeter did in ancient times. Now, there were also other gods working in like fashion both with the forces of Nature and the wonders of Nature. How did they work? Well, when the human being ate and when he breathed, he knew that the forces which he took in from the air and from the plants came from Demeter, and he knew that it was Demeter who gave him his clairvoyant consciousness, but he knew too that it was she who taught him how he had to behave in the world. There were at that time no laws in the later meaning of the term, there were no commandments outwardly expressed, but since man was clairvoyant, it dawned in him clairvoyantly how he ought to behave, what was right, what was good. Thus in those very remote times he saw Demeter, who gave him his food, also as the cosmic power of Nature who, when he took in foodstuffs, so transformed their forces within him that they gave him his morality, his rule of conduct. And the man of old said to himself: ‘I gaze upward to the great Demeter, and whenever I accomplish something in the world, I do so because forces active in the plant world without are sent into my brain.’ This Demeter of old was a law-giver, giving law which did not flash up into consciousness, but which was self-evident, impelling the soul. And it was the same with other gods. In nourishing human beings, in causing them to breathe, in prompting in them impulses to walk and to stand, they at the same time gave men the impulse for morality, for the whole of their outer conduct. When the gods assumed the forms they had later and of which we have spoken — when Demeter saw her child Persephone lost in man's nature, saw her raped as it were by the now denser human body so that these clairvoyant forces could henceforth only be used for coarser bodily nutrition — when at that point she so to say gave up imparting the moral law directly, what did she do? She instituted a Mystery, thereby providing a substitute, a new form of law, for the old law which worked through the forces of Nature. Thus the gods withdrew from the forces of Nature into the Mysteries, and gave moral precepts to men, who no longer possessed a morality drawn from the activity of Nature within them.
This was the essence of Greek thought in the matter: that originally the gods bestowed morality upon men along with the forces of Nature; then the forces of Nature more or less withdrew, and later the gods substituted a moral law in a more abstract form through their messengers in the Mysteries. When man became estranged from Nature he needed a more abstract, a more intellectual morality; hence the Greeks looked to their Mysteries for guidance in their moral life, and in the Mysteries they saw the activity of the gods, as previously they had seen their activity in the forces of Nature. For this reason the earliest Greek period attributed the moral law to the same gods who were behind the forces of Nature. When the Greeks spoke of the origin of their earliest laws they did not refer to a parliament, but to gods who had come down to men and who had in the Mysteries given them the laws which continue to live in human morality.
But as the human body became denser and denser, as it became transformed, what happened to the original Demeter forces? If I may use a very rough illustration, you all know that one cannot do with ice what one can do with water, because ice is in another form. In the same way one cannot do with the solid human body what it was once possible, out of the forces of Nature, to do with the finer body. Into this more rarefied body Demeter had been able to instill, with the products of Nature, the spiritual forces which were in them and thereby to develop clairvoyant forces.
What became of the Demeter forces as a result of the solidifying of the human body, or to use the language of Greek mythology, through the rape of Persephone by Pluto? They had to take a back place in the organization of the human body, they had to become less active; man had to be alienated from the direct influence of Demeter, to become subject to other forces, forces to which I called attention yesterday. What is it that makes the denser human body fresh and healthy? Just as of old it was Demeter, now it is Eros, it is what is represented in the Nature-forces by Eros, who brings this about. If Eros were not working upon the human body, if Demeter had continued to work, the body would be shrivelled and wrinkled throughout life. Today, Demeter forces are not to be found in youthful bodies, in chubby rosy cheeks; they are in the body just when it eliminates the Eros forces, as it does when it becomes older, when it becomes shrivelled and wrinkled. This profound truth is actually portrayed in The Mystery of Eleusis. After the rape of Persephone, Demeter appears before us denuded of her original forces. She is transformed by Hecate, so transformed that she now bears the forces of decline. The rape of Persephone also represents the withdrawal of Demeter from the bodily organization in the course of the historical development of humanity. How splendidly those ancient wonders of Nature are expressed in the figures of the ancient gods! When in old age Eros begins to withdraw from the human body, then the influence of Demeter begins again. Then Demeter can once again, in a way, enter the body; then forces of fruitful chastity can predominate, while the Eros forces fall into the background. We are touching upon a tremendous mystery in human growth, human development, when we speak of old age, when we speak of the metamorphosis of Eros into Demeter forces. Secrets such as this were hidden deep within the Eleusinian drama, so deeply hidden that no doubt anyone with the usual education of today would regard everything I have just said as fantasy. In fact, however, it is the pronouncements of materialistic science about these things that are fantastic — that is where all the dreaming and the superstition really lie!
What is it then that, between the time of Atlantis and our own time, has really changed in human nature? It is that part of man in which his essential being is ensheathed. His essential being is enclosed in three bodily sheaths: it is enclosed in the physical body, the ether body, and the astral body; our innermost, our ego, is hidden within these three sheaths. These three have all become different in the course of evolution from the age of Atlantis up to our own time. What is the essential drive which makes these sheaths different? We have to look for this impulse primarily in the ether body. It is the ether body which is the energizing influence, which is the really impelling factor. It is the ether body which has made the physical body denser, and which has also transformed the astral body. For these three bodies are not like the rind of a fruit, or the layers of an onion, one outside the other, but their forces mutually interpenetrate, they are in living interplay with one another. The sheath which plays the most important part in this process of transformation, in this historical development of the human being, is the ether body. Let us make a diagram of the three bodies to illustrate this. I will draw them simply as three layers lying one under the other.
We have to look for the real forces, the effectual forces, especially those of Eros and Demeter here in the ether body; from the etheric they are sent upward into the astral body, and downward into the physical body; that is to say, the ether body has an influence both on the astral and upon the physical bodies. During the period I have referred to the ether body makes the physical body definitely denser, more compact; it so transforms the astral body that it no longer develops forces of clairvoyance, but only the intellectual forces of human nature. Because man has been transformed in this way, because the ether body has brought about a transformation in all three bodies, important and fundamental changes have taken place. They have all three been changed. The Atlantean body, even a post-Atlantean body of the first period, was utterly different from a body of the present day. All the relationships and conditions of life were quite different; everything has changed.
If we look at the physical body as it develops from the earliest times right up to the present day, we see that through having become denser it has come more under the influence of its physical environment, whereas the delicate physical body of old was more subject to the spiritual conditions of existence. Hence certain characteristics of the physical body which did not exist earlier in a similar form have been enhanced; the causes of disease, of illness, in the physical body in particular have become quite different. In olden times what we call sickness and health were due to quite other causes. In those times human health was directly dependent upon conditions in the spiritual world. Today the physical body is bound up with external physical conditions and therefore dependent upon them; today we have to look for the requisite conditions for health more to the external physical environment. Thus, to use the language of Greek mythology, because of the rape of Persephone by Pluto and her captivity in the nether world of human nature, man in his inmost being has become subject, so far as sickness and health are concerned, to external conditions. That is one of the things which has happened to humanity.
The second thing has to do with the ether body itself. Besides being the source of the forces of metamorphosis, the ether body has also changed in itself. In primeval times this ether body was so organized that the human being did not get to know the world in the way he does today; but when through the old Persephone clairvoyance he gazed into the spiritual world he saw pictures of spiritual beings. Man saw around him a world of images. Of course it was the forces of the astral body which called forth these images, but the astral body would not have been able to see them if it had depended upon itself alone. The astral body does not of itself see images. Just as a man does not see himself advancing unless a mirror confronts him, so the astral body would not see the images it produces if its activity were not so to say reflected back by the ether body. Thus it is the ether body which brings to the point of vision, to perception, the images called forth by the astral body. What man perceives of the goings-on in his own astral body is what is mirrored for him by his ether body. If all our inner astral processes were not reflected by our ether body we should of course still have the astral body's activity within us, but we should not be aware of it, we should not perceive it. Hence the whole picture of the world which the human being makes, the total content of his consciousness, is a reflection of his ether body. Whether a man knows anything of the world depends upon his ether body. This was so in the old clairvoyant days, and it is still so today.
What is the secret of the ether body? Its secret is that it is the key to knowledge of the world. What the world brings about in the astral body would not open the door to knowledge of the world were it not for the ether body. The ether body contains all that I have referred to in certain passages of the two Mystery plays [ 2 ] of mine which you have just seen performed. The plays mention the labyrinth of thought, the threads which have to weave our knowledge of the world. We do not come to know the world merely by looking at it. Either, as in the old clairvoyance, we move from picture to picture, or, as in modern intellectualism, we move from thought to thought as if through a labyrinth. This association too is brought about by the activity of the ether body. Thus what we may call the key and what we may call the threads which connect the single images of our consciousness when we acquire knowledge of the world have both undergone a change. Thus you see what is dependent on the forces of the ether body and what has to be changed in these forces.
Let us now consider the third member, the astral body itself. This is the element in us which is subject to the influences of the world and in which the forces and the skills are formed which are then reflected by the ether body. Knowledge is kindled in the astral body; it is brought to consciousness through the ether body. A thought, an image, is kindled in the astral body; we have these in us because we have astral bodies. But these thoughts and images become conscious in us because we have ether bodies; they would still be in us even if we had no ether bodies, but we should not be aware of them. The torch of knowledge is kindled in the astral body; this torch is reflected as conscious knowledge in the ether body. This torch of knowledge which is kindled in the astral body has changed in the course of the historical development of mankind; in ancient times man had clairvoyant or imaginal knowledge; today he has intellectual or rational knowledge. That is the change which has come about in the astral body.
Thus during the course of the historical development of man forces have been at work in his nature which have changed his whole relationship with Demeter. Out of the human body, once so rarefied, Demeter was so to say driven. She was driven out of the astral body with its lost clairvoyant capacities, and Eros took her place. In return, as I have shown you today, certain different Eros-free forces in human nature came more under the sway of Demeter. Thus during this period from the time of Atlantis up to the present day a force has been working on the development of human nature in three ways: there is a triple kind of development, of transformation, a triple kind of metamorphosis, emanating from the ether body and working upon the physical body, upon the ether body itself, and upon the astral body. This force of genetic change has been and still is in human nature. It changes us from youth to age by leading over the forces of Eros into those of Demeter. There is in our organization this threefold development which in the physical body brings about changes in the conditions affecting sickness and health, which causes the ether body to reflect knowledge in a different way, and which transmutes the torch of knowledge in the astral body. How wonderful it is to find these genetic forces represented in Greek mythology, forces which are active in all of us, forces which transform our astral bodies and therefore the nature of Demeter herself. These human etheric forces which work upon the physical body, upon the ether body itself, and upon the astral body are represented by the threefold Hecate. Whereas today we say that forces of metamorphosis emanate from the ether body in a threefold way, the Greek spoke of the threefold Hecate.
One of Nature's wonders in the genesis of the human organization is expressed in this threefold Hecate. We there get a glimpse into immense wisdom. You can still see the statue of this ‘triple Hecate’ in Rome today. [ 3 ] It reveals how one of her aspects has to do with the conditions determining sickness and health, being furnished with the symbols of the dagger and the serpent (this latter symbol was also assigned to Aesculapius as the representative of medicine). The dagger represents the external destructive influences upon the human organism. The endowment of one aspect of the threefold Hecate with these emblems indicates forces which act upon the ether body in its development. The second aspect of Hecate had to indicate that in the ether body itself the key to knowledge of the world had changed; what are the symbols shown by this second form? They are the key and the coil of rope, typifying the labyrinth of thought. The third Hecate carries a torch—the torch of knowledge developed in the astral body. We cannot help feeling that the way in which this profoundly meaningful figure is regarded in our materialistic age is one great mass of superstition. What new life such profound and impressive symbols as that of the threefold Hecate will acquire when we know once more what they mean! When the soul steeped in spiritual science stands before such a statue, ancient Greece will arise anew in her thought: all the knowledge of the spiritual nature of man mysteriously hidden in such a statue will stream into her again. We should not take these things in an abstract way. Of course we can only express them by clothing them in abstract thought, but all this can become for us living feeling if we permeate ourselves with the consciousness that Hecate has only changed the manner of her activity, that she is in us even today, is at work in every single one of us.
The ancient Greek said that not only humanity as a whole but every individual is subject in his development to the forces of Hecate, in the changes undergone by physical, etheric, and astral bodies. Hecate works in man in a threefold way. But what was communicated to the soul at that time in pictorial form can also be learnt again today. How is this expressed by the pupil of spiritual science, who no longer speaks in this pictorial way? He says that in the course of the development of the individual from birth to maturity his sheaths undergo changes. In the first seven years the physical body is changed, in the second seven years the ether body, in the third seven years the astral body. The forces which you find described in my little book Education of the Child [ 4 ] without the use of pictures, work in the human organization in a threefold way. They are the Hecate forces. When spiritual science describes for you how up to the change of teeth the human being develops primarily his physical body, it is saying that one form of Hecate is working in him. There we are saying in a modern way what the Greek meant when he represented one part of Hecate with dagger and serpent; and the second seven years of transformation, when the ether body works upon itself, is represented in the key and the coil of rope; and the third seven years, during which changes take place in the astral body, is represented in the emblem of the torch. Thus long ago I said in modern form what was expressed in the ancient Greek Mysteries by the figure of Hecate.
That is also the meaning of the development of our European civilization. Going back to Greek times, we find in the tradition of Greek mysticism, of Greek mythology, the powerful pictures which were placed before the pupils in order to awaken in them the knowledge which man at that time needed. In a different way the figure of the threefold Hecate awakened the knowledge which we today absorb when we grasp the doctrine of the threefold change which takes place between birth and about the age of twenty. And when we understand such teaching, then we grasp correctly the course which human civilization has to take. The old clairvoyant form of knowledge had to be buried in the Plutonic region of the human soul, and for a period, from the time of Socrates right up to our own day, men had to remain more or less in ignorance about all these things. Men had to build up, to consolidate, their egos. But under the surface the old knowledge, the knowledge aroused by those impressive pictorial images of the Greeks, still remained. It was buried as it were under the load of intellectual culture. Now it is emerging again from the dark depths of the spirit. What was submerged in the depths of the soul is coming to the surface again for the life of today in the form of spiritual science. Today we are again beginning, in the way I have described in Education of the Child, to recognize the threefold Hecate in a more abstract way. This is preparing the human soul for a future clairvoyance which is already in sight, notwithstanding our intellectualism.
The triple Hecate, Demeter, Persephone, and all those other figures of whom Greek mythology tells us, were not in Greek times abstractions as the credulous scholars of today imagine. No, they were living figures of Greek seership! All these figures will appear again to clairvoyant vision, which in the future will press more and more urgently upon man from the spiritual world. And the force which penetrates into human souls in order to lead them up again to clairvoyance — or I could also say in order to bring down clairvoyance to them — is the force which was first prepared as conscious thought in the old Jahve civilization, and then reached its full development through the coming of the Christ Being, who will become ever better understood by men. And when among the adherents of genuine spiritual science it is said that this clairvoyant vision of the Christ, who has been united with the Earth since the Mystery of Golgotha, is already beginning in this twentieth century, it is also made clear that this return of Christ will certainly not be in a physical body, but will come about for etheric vision, as it did for Paul at Damascus. [ 5 ] The power of the Christ provides all the impulses to enable human nature to rise again and to see all that has been buried in the depths of the soul — such as, for instance, the figures of the Greek gods. That will be the greatest event for the future history of the human soul. It is the event for which spiritual science must prepare, so that the soul may become capable of acquiring the etheric vision. In the next three thousand years it will lay hold of more and more souls; the next three thousand years will be devoted to kindling the forces in the human soul which will make it aware of the etheric wonders of Nature around it. It will begin to happen in our own century that one here and one there will see with their etheric souls the reappearing Christ, and within the next three thousand years more and more men will see Him. Then will come the fulfilment of the true Oriental tradition, a tradition with which all true occultism is in agreement. At the end of three thousand years the Maitreya Buddha will descend, and will speak to humanity in a form which every human soul will understand, and will mediate the Christ-nature to man. That is the secret guarded by Oriental mysticism, that about three thousand years after our time the Maitreya Buddha will appear. What can be added as the contribution of Western culture is that the cosmic Individuality who has only once appeared in a human body will become ever more visible to the etheric vision of man; you will find this again emphasized in my Mystery Play The Soul's Probation. Thereby He will become a trusted friend of the human soul. Just as two thousand years ago the Buddha spoke of what was natural to the best human souls of his time, so in words which will thrill the soul the Maitreya Buddha will be able to proclaim everywhere what today cannot be proclaimed publicly: the vision of the Christ in the etheric world which is to come. That is the greatest event of the twentieth century, this upward development of human nature toward what we may call the recurrence of the vision of St. Paul. In the vision at Damascus it came to one person only; in the future it will come little by little to all humanity, beginning in our own century. Whoever has faith in the progress of human nature, whoever believes that the soul will develop ever higher and higher powers, knows that it was necessary for the soul which had sunk to the uttermost depths of the physical plane, that the Christ too should appear once in a physical body. It was necessary because at that time the soul could only see the Godhead in a body which was visible to the physical eye, to physical organs. But because, after the old Hebrew civilization had paved the way for it, this event did take place, the soul is being led to ever higher capacities. The soul's heightened capacities will show themselves in that man will learn to see the Christ even when He no longer walks among men in a physical body, when He shows Himself as He is among us now, as He has been since the Mystery of Golgotha, visible of course only for clairvoyant sight. Christ is here, He is united with the ether body of the Earth. What matters is that the soul should develop so as to be able to see Him.
Herein lies the great advance in the evolution of the human soul. Anyone who believes in this progress, who believes that spiritual science has a mission to fulfill in regard to it, will understand that the powers of the soul must become ever higher, and that it would mean stagnation if in our time the soul were obliged to see the Christ in the same physical form in which He was once seen. He will know that there is a sublime meaning in the old Rosicrucian formula about God the Son, who once, and once only, incarnated in a human body, but Who, beginning from our own century, will become visible as an etheric being to human souls to an ever increasing extent. This is confirmed by prophecy as well as by our own knowledge. Anyone who believes in human progress believes in this Second Coming of the Christ, who will be visible to those endowed with etheric sight. Those who refuse to believe in this progress may well believe that the powers of the soul remain stationary, and still today need to see the Christ in the same form in which He was seen when humanity was plunged in the uttermost depths of matter. They are the ones who can believe in a Second Coming of Christ in a physical body.
Notes:1. The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind. (Anthroposophic Press Inc., New York, 1950).2. Die Pforte der Einweihung and Die Priifung der Seele, the first two of four Mystery Plays by Rudolf Steiner. Translated as The Portal of Initiation and The Soul's Probation in the first volume of Four Mystery Plays. The references are to be found in Scene 2 of The Portal of Initiation and Scene 2 of The Soul's Probation. See 1983 edition of the Four Mystery Plays, translated by Adam Bittleston, published by Rudolf Steiner Press, London.3. The triple Hecate. A bronze statuette in the Capitoline Museum.4. Translated by Mary and George Adams (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co.).5. See The true Nature of the Second Coming. Two lectures by Rudolf Steiner (1910) (Anthroposophical Publishing Co.).
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