Earthly and Cosmic Man. Lecture 1 of 9.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, October 23, 1911:
Now that we are together again after a rather lengthy summer interval, a few words may be said about what has been happening in our Movement meanwhile, particularly about activities which have by no means been without significance for our work in Middle Europe. You know that from the time we were last together here before the summer interval, preparations were in train for the meeting at Munich, which generally begins with a dramatic performance produced in a form appropriate to the spirit of our Movement. During the last few years we have been able to develop this dramatic work. We began, first of all, by having one such performance before a Course of Lectures in Munich; last year we were able to give two performances; and this year we have been able to attempt three. (Note 1) These performances are always, of course, a somewhat hazardous enterprise, but thanks to the ready self-sacrifice of those who helped with their production, we really have succeeded in making a beginning — the beginning of something which, as it develops, will be a very important impulse in anthroposophical life when we ourselves shall no longer be able to be present in the physical body. But things of this kind — which extend far beyond the narrow limits of personal activity — must have a beginning somewhere, and those who participate in them must realize — in order that they may have the due humility and strength — that they are nothing more than a beginning. These performances, combined as they always are with a Course of Lectures, bring together not only members of our own section but also many friends of the Movement who now come to Munich from all over Europe. Those who try to understand the outer and the inner aspects of these activities may have been particularly struck, this year, by two things. The first is the way in which we are striving to carry the impulse of Anthroposophy, to begin with, into Art. Our aim, of course, is that the spiritual life shall be carried into every branch and sphere of existence. The reason why it seems so important to bring this spiritual life into Art is that Spiritual Science must not remain abstract theory or teaching, but must be made part of actual life, and take practical effect there. It was strikingly evident in these Munich performances that it is not the aim of Spiritual Science to achieve this by external subtlety or cleverness, but that its very life can pour vigor into that of Art. This was proved by the whole-heartedness and growing understanding with which Anthroposophists who were present in Munich threw themselves into the work. It is also evident from the fact that in the year 1909 we gave one dramatic performance, two last year, and this year — in spite of great difficulties — we were able to prepare three performances. If you study deeply enough, a work like The Soul's Probation will indicate to you that occult observations, just as those of external life, can be presented in artistic form. If it were a matter of speaking about the essence of these things, I should have a very great deal to say.
What is particularly striking in these Munich gatherings is the steady increase in the number of those who throng to the meetings, with the result that we are becoming acutely conscious of the lack of space, not only for the performances but also for the lectures. During the Lecture Course, this lack of space was such that the heat of the hall caused great discomfort to the listeners. The obvious answer would be to take a larger hall. But there is a difficulty there too. As you all know, Spiritual Science calls for a certain intimacy. It would be highly inappropriate to produce one of the old Greek dramas in a circus-stadium. (According to reliable reports, this has been done recently, although nothing but an entire absence of understanding for Art could win for it any general approval or encouragement. One cannot help being astounded that such a thing has been thought possible ... but, after all, it is not to be wondered at when we realize how greatly our age lacks true feeling for Art.) Inappropriate as it would be to produce an old Greek Drama in a circus-stadium — (I do not mean in an actual circus, of course) such premises would be equally inappropriate for Spiritual Science. Ancient Greek theatre might be suitable, but not a vast stadium. I must confess that the size of the Architectenhaus in Berlin seems to me to be the maximum, and instead of taking a still larger hall I would much prefer to give a lecture twice over in the Architectenhaus than once in a still larger hall. These things are so connected with the innermost character of Spiritual Science that they may not be understood today, but it will be different when Spiritual Science finds its way into the many domains and spheres of life.
Now, in connection with our activities in Munich ... if through what can be done in one hall, anything worthy of Anthroposophy is to be achieved ... we have come, inevitably, to the conclusion that we must create our own premises and surroundings. This has led to the idea of erecting a building in Munich which would enable us to have a hall of our own, adequate for the needs of the gatherings there. The near future will show whether such a project will meet with success. For this much is certain: if we do find the way clear to erect a building in Munich, it must be done soon; otherwise the finest results of our work will be lost, precisely because during the next few years it will be possible to carry on our work adequately only provided that we have the space. That something is really achieved by building our own premises — this we have seen not only in various small beginnings, but now again in Stuttgart, where the Group has built the first house for Anthroposophy existing in Middle Europe. Those who were present at its Opening will have been amply convinced of what it means to have premises that are dedicated to anthroposophical work, and how completely different it is to go into such a room, compared with other rooms — quite apart from the details of which I spoke at the Opening in connection with the significance of color, the shaping of the space, and so on, for the cultivation of spiritual knowledge.
Many ears, hearts, and souls are open to receive the deepening for which we are striving in Anthroposophy, and there will be many, many more. We have seen, too — indeed it is constantly forced upon us — how eager people are to acquire knowledge of the spiritual world by an easy path. I believe that as the necessity for a deepening of thought and feeling, a widening of knowledge in the different domains of life, and in the occult life too, is brought home in Course after Course of Lectures, many who have worked with us will already have discovered that in our stream of spiritual life, things are not made too easy. When we think of all the literature that has accumulated through the years — and I am sometimes appalled at the number of Lecture Courses and publications piled on our book tables — literature with which every sincere member desires to make himself intimately acquainted, or at any rate must study to some extent ... when we think about this, we may truly say that we do not make it easy for anybody to reach the spiritual world. And yet as the years go by, it is more and more evident that ears and hearts and souls of human beings are open, whenever we have been able to approach them. Although for strange reasons into which we will not enter now, the Congress of the European Sections of the Theosophical Society in Genoa fell through, our own activities did not cease on that account. When the Congress was abandoned (its cancellation was announced only at the last minute and we will speak of the reasons later on), some people might have thought that we could still have held meetings, but it became evident at once that the time must be put to a different use. And so during the days that had been fixed for the Genoa Congress, lectures (Note 2) were given in Lugano, Locarno, Milan, Neuchâtel, and Berne. We were able, therefore, to work during this time in places which it would have been difficult to visit in the near future. In Neuchâtel a Group was founded, desiring to adopt the name of a great spiritual Individuality, Christian Rosenkreutz, of whom the members were eager to hear more intimate details. (I will shortly give a lecture on this subject here too.) When it is remembered that in order to speak about Christian Rosenkreutz at all, in order to understand this mysterious individuality, all the occult truths gathered in the course of many years are required, and that there was a real longing for a more intimate knowledge, then it is clear that understanding of Spiritual Science has been deepened, although it has not been made easy for those who are working with us. And yet, on the other hand, how easy it is made, in reality, for those who sincerely strive for this deepening — how easy it is made! It may be said without boasting that it is made easy for them.
Think, for example, about the following. I have said repeatedly that, in our Movement, the basis of anthroposophical life must be this occult ideal: There is in reality only one true form of occultism. To distinguish between an “Eastern” and a “Western” occultism would make as much sense as to distinguish between Eastern and Western mathematics. But on account of intrinsic characteristics, one kind of problem falls more readily into the sphere of occultism in the East and another into that of occultism in the West. Everything that relates to the great Appearance of which we have been speaking for years as the Appearance of Christ is the result of the occult investigations pursued during recent centuries in the European esoteric schools, the European centers of occultism. All that has been said concerning the individuality known to us as “Jesus of Nazareth,” concerning the two Jesus boys, the descent of Christ into the body of Jesus of Nazareth at the time of the Baptism by John in the Jordan, concerning the Mystery of Golgotha and now recently, in Carlsruhe, concerning the Mystery of the Resurrection (Note 3) — all these are truths which could not have been given out today were it not for the occult investigations which have continued in the West from the twelfth century down to the present time. Christianity cannot be understood without knowledge of these truths. Nobody — however great a theologian he may be — can understand Christianity unless he understands the Resurrection, for example. Those who speak like the theologians of today simply cannot understand Christianity — for what can they make of the words of St. Paul: “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith also is vain”? In short, where there is no understanding of the Resurrection, there can be no understanding of Christianity! On the other hand it must also be remembered that the intellect as such, whether directed to Spiritual or to Natural Science, is incapable of approaching subjects like the Resurrection. A modern thinker will say that he must abandon the whole structure of his thought if he is really to believe in the Resurrection and what is described in the Gospel of St. John. Many people have realized and said as much. It is therefore necessary for light to be shed on these things by occultism in the West. So far as can be known from outside, the trend of occultism pursued in the East does not cover these particular truths, which are connected with the Mysteries of the West, with the Mysteries of Christianity. And why? Over in Asia, with the exception of regions in and around Asia Minor, men are not, and have not been, interested in Christ. They do not feel the need to ask about Him, nor have they done so for hundreds and thousands of years. In India and in Tibet wonderful occult teachings exist about the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas, but nobody has been particularly interested in occult research concerning the Being of Christ. The Oriental school of Theosophy cannot, therefore, be expected to have any real knowledge of the Christ.
You all know of the tremendous service rendered by H. P. Blavatsky to the Theosophical Movement when it first came into being. Did the greatness of her achievement consist in formulating the three “Principles” of the Theosophical Society which are still printed on our forms of application for membership? It certainly did not lie in the statement that there must be a society for the cultivation of Universal Brotherhood! There are many such societies and every normal, thinking person will approve of the cultivation of Universal Brotherhood. The greatness of H. P. Blavatsky's work lay in the fact that, through her, an untold number of occult truths found their way into the world. Anyone who studies Isis Unveiled and then The Secret Doctrine, which appeared years later, will realize that in spite of everything that can be said against these works, they do, nevertheless, contain countless truths, truths of which, until then, nobody except those who had experienced initiation had any inkling. Although Madame Blavatsky had an illogical, disorderly mind, although her own speculations are placed, inappropriately, side by side with communications from the Masters (to go into this now would lead too far) — although she was passionate and impetuous and often said things she should not have said (for it is not legitimate in occultism to speak so passionately and illogically) — although it might be considered advisable to get some system and logical sequence into Isis Unveiled, or to eliminate five-sixths of The Secret Doctrine and re-edit the remaining sixth ... yet in the theosophical life we must look at the positive side and say that a great and powerful impulse was there brought into the occult life.
The truth of these matters is that when H.P. Blavatsky wrote Isis Unveiled she was under a kind of Rosicrucian inspiration. Isis Unveiled contains great Rosicrucian truths — even the shortcomings of Rosicrucianism are included. Everything of real importance in the book is Rosicrucian. I said “even the shortcomings of Rosicrucianism” — because insight into the truths of reincarnation and karma, for instance, was not possible in the old Rosicrucianism of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. It was only later on that they could be recognized in the West. In Isis Unveiled Madame Blavatsky gave nothing that even approximates to an adequate explanation of reincarnation and karma; in short, she took over all the shortcomings of Rosicrucianism. Then it came about that through circumstances to describe which would lead too far, Madame Blavatsky fell away from the Rosicrucian influences and was enticed into an Oriental form of Theosophy. (Note 4) The outcome of this was The Secret Doctrine, which in regard to everything that is not connected with Christianity contains great truths, but the greatest nonsense in regard to Christianity. Concerning the various religions and system of thought in the world — with the exception of Judaism and Christianity — The Secret Doctrine is very useful, but nothing the book says about Judaism and Christianity is of the slightest value, because H. P. Blavatsky had entered a sphere in which the truths in these two religions had not been cultivated. The whole direction subsequently taken by the Theosophical Movement is connected with this. The Theosophical Movement proved incapable of any real understanding of Christianity. Let me make it clear, by an example that is important for us, how the Theosophical Movement has failed in this respect.
In Oriental occultism — apart from its very highest initiates, who do not speak otherwise than we — the loftiest individuality is that of the Bodhisattva. One such Bodhisattva was the individuality who, about five hundred years before our era, rose to the next rank, which again is understood in Orientalism. In his twenty-ninth year, the Bodhisattva who had been born as the son of King Suddhodana became the Buddha. The attainment of Buddhahood, as everyone conversant with Buddhism understands, means that the being in question, after the physical life during which he has become Buddha, can never again appear on the Earth. When the Bodhisattva becomes Buddha he no longer returns to the Earth in an ordinary body, nor is he subject to the laws of reincarnation. But he has a “successor.” When the Bodhisattva received enlightenment and rose to Buddhahood, he “nominated” a successor to become Bodhisattva. This next Bodhisattva will be born as a human being, a human being towering above others, until he himself ascends to the rank of Buddha. It is known to every true disciple of Orientalism that exactly five thousand years after the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha under the Bodhi Tree, the Bodhisattva succeeding him will attain to Buddhahood, and will appear as Maitreya Buddha — in three thousand years' time from now. Up to then a Bodhisattva will live in manifold incarnations yet to come; he will appear again and again on the Earth, but will not rise to the rank of Buddha for another three thousand years — and then he will be a great Teacher on the Earth.
This is the highest individuality recognized by Oriental occultism. Because Madame Blavatsky had been captured, as it were, by the Oriental trend of occultism, such understanding of these things as might have been attained, was limited by Eastern conceptions. At the same time, also, there was the desire to bring to Europeans further light on Christianity; but no real understanding of Christianity was possible by means of Eastern teachings — for they lead only to the individualities of the Bodhisattva and the Buddha. The consequence of this was that even those who were endowed with clairvoyance could only perceive the individuality of a Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva was, however, incarnated in Jeschu ben Pandira, who lived 105 years before our era. He was closely connected with the Essenes and had pupils, among them one who was afterwards responsible for the Gospel of St. Matthew. A Bodhisattva individuality, the successor of Gautama Buddha, was incarnated in Jeschu ben Pandira, of whom Oriental Theosophy speaks. And to clairvoyant vision it seemed as though nothing of particular importance happened 105 years after Jeschu ben Pandira had lived. Think of H. P. Blavatsky. She directed her occult gaze to the time when Jeschu ben Pandira was living and saw that a great Bodhisattva individuality was incarnated in him. But because her entanglement in an Oriental trend of Theosophy had limited her powers of vision, she was incapable of seeing that 105 years afterwards, the Christ had come. Of Christ she knew only what was said in the West, and from this she conceived the notion that no “Christ” ever lived, that it was all make-believe; but that 105 years before our era there had lived a certain Jeschu ben Pandira, who was stoned and then hanged on a tree — who was not, therefore, crucified. Jeschu ben Pandira was now described as if he had been Jesus of Nazareth. This is a complete confusion. Concerning the real Jesus of Nazareth who was the Bearer of the Christ, nothing is said. Jeschu ben Pandira, who had lived 105 years earlier was said to be “Christ,” because a European name was thought to be desirable.
We, however, are obliged to say that those who stand within that Oriental stream do not perceive who the Christ Being is. It cannot be denied that the moment attention has to be drawn to a matter like this, we find ourselves in an unpleasant position. And why? Everyone who is acquainted with the sciences knows that there are matters which can be disputed; but there are others which cannot be disputed — and there, if someone holds a contrary opinion, it can only be said that he does not understand the point at issue. Now if we say: “You do not understand this” — we may be considered extremely arrogant! We are in this unpleasant position in that we cannot agree with those who speak of Jeschu ben Pandira as the “Christ.” The fact is that they simply have not reached the stage of being able to understand. It is unpleasant to have to say this, but it is a fact. They are really not to be blamed when they speak of the being, whom they too recognize, as though He could come again and again in the body — for they have no real knowledge of the Christ Being Who could appear only once in the flesh! And now take Esoteric Christianity by Annie Besant, and read it with more care than is usual in theosophical circles. It speaks of an individuality who lived 105 years before our era; but the mistake is that he is called “Christ.” Suppose some person — the authoress of this book, for instance — were now to say that during the twentieth century the being described in Esoteric Christianity is to appear in some human being in the flesh. Nothing more could be said against this, from our standpoint, than would be said to anyone who might go to India and proclaim that the Buddha will incarnate again. He would be told: “You are an ignorant European! Everyone knows that the Buddha can never appear again in the flesh; you therefore understand nothing about Buddhism.” But we too, in Europe, must be entitled to take the same attitude when it is alleged that Christ will incarnate a second time! Our reply can only be: “You do not understand. True knowledge of the Christ Being reveals that He is a being Who can appear once, and once only, in a body of flesh.” Let us say that understanding here lies on different levels; then there can be no misunderstanding!
What is the point that might really separate us from an Oriental trend of Theosophy? Do we deny that a man lived 105 years before our era, who was stoned for blasphemy and afterwards hanged on a tree? No, we do not deny it. Or do we deny that a great individuality dwelt in that being? We do not. Neither do we deny that this being may reincarnate in the twentieth century. We admit it. Is there therefore any real issue concerning which we should have to repudiate the statements made by the other school of Theosophy? Only this, that we are bound to say: “You do not know the Being Whom we call Christ: you call another by His Name. We must have the right to correct this. As for the rest ... it is only a question of nomenclature, except when you expressly ignore matters of which we speak in connection with the beginning of our era. We speak of the two Jesus children, the Baptism by John in the Jordan, the Mystery of Golgotha. Of these, you say nothing! We must be allowed the right to know things of which you are ignorant! Otherwise one would be under the decree: What we do not know, nobody else has the right to know; for what we do not know is all false!” In this connection our position is that we do not make the trouble, and when any is made, it is the others who are responsible for it.
All misunderstandings could very easily be avoided. So far as we are concerned there is no reason for misunderstanding, and none exists. Only we must have the right to bring to theosophical life the results of occult researches of which nothing is known on the other side, and which immeasurably deepen our understanding of the problems of the West. So in one important respect, provided only that goodwill exists, it is not in the least necessary for disharmony to arise in the Theosophical Movement. Goodwill is necessary — not the attitude that is ready to repudiate some authenticated truth ... for that would not be goodwill but denial of truth! Goodwill must be accompanied by reason. Why do differences of opinion arise? Is it because some subject is looked at from different standpoints or also, possibly, from different levels? If the latter is the case, the others will not be able to substantiate their opinion. And then it is a matter of realizing how the land lies, and of having tolerance.
For us, at any rate, this principle must be established, and I had to refer to it on this first occasion when we are together again. I have referred to it as a proof that in our Movement it is very easy to see things clearly, if there is a sincere wish to do so. We ourselves may truly say that there is no need for us to oppose anyone. We can afford to wait until the opposition comes from elsewhere. We can go on working quietly, and this subject would not have been raised or mentioned at all if friends had not been distressed by the rumor that Theosophists are all at variance among themselves. It is true that ultimately we may find ourselves in the very disagreeable position of being obliged to say “On the other side they have no knowledge of certain truths.” This may lead to an accusation of arrogance, but we can put up with that, provided we know what real humility is.
During this last year it has been necessary to give expression to the progress — for so it may truly be called — that has taken place in occult investigation since the middle of the thirteenth century. This has been done, for instance, in my book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind. These developments are hardly mentioned in any Movement other than our own. It may be said, therefore, that we have had to undertake the difficult task of assimilating the most recent results of occult research. It may be regarded as a good augury that at the founding of the Neuchâtel Group the need was expressed for more intimate knowledge of the greatest Teacher of Christianity — Christian Rosenkreutz — of his incarnations and of the nature of his work. I have spoken as I have today in order that each of you may know how things really are when someone on the other side says “Here we are told that Christ will incarnate again in the twentieth century, but over there it is said that He will appear as a Spiritual Being only. These are two conflicting standpoints.” No, we must not allow this to be said. It must, however, be emphasized — and admitted by the other side, too — that they are speaking of Jeschu ben Pandira, who was stoned 105 years before our era. When, for instance, in Annie Besant's last book, The Changing World, everything is jumbled up and no mention made of the usurpation of the name “Christ,” when sheer contradiction exists between Esoteric Christianity and The Changing World ... these are matters which really must be pointed out, in order to prevent people from being misled into thinking that in her latest book Annie Besant is speaking of the real Christ. If this were so, she would have to repudiate the book Esoteric Christianity and say that its contents are not correct — for that book speaks of a being who lived 105 years before our era, not at its beginning.
Our work is characterized by the fact that the findings of occult investigation cover even the most modern times. From one point of view, therefore, it is a kind of aspersion — although an unintentional one — when outsiders call us “Rosicrucians.” It really is a kind of aspersion: at any rate it reminds me of an amusing incident which once took place in the market of a town in Central Germany. — One man said: “So-and-so is a sluggard.” “What?” said another, “you say he is a sluggard? But I know that he is a butcher, not a sluggard!” The same kind of logic which implies that if a man is a butcher he cannot be a sluggard underlies assertions to the effect that our Movement is not “Theosophical” but “Rosicrucian.” Why do we cultivate Rosicrucian principles? Because genuine Rosicrucian schools of occultism have existed and because the results of Rosicrucian knowledge must be received into our own Movement — just as we have spoken, without any bias whatever, about Brahmanism, Orientalism, about ancient and modern Christianity. I do not think that in many other theosophical groups mention has been made, for instance, of the Mexican deities Quitzalcoatl and Texkatlipoka, as has been done among us. (Note 5) So, in addition to all the other subjects, we have also included the results reached by genuine Rosicrucian investigation — naturally so, since we do not disdain the fruits of genuine occultism. If we have become familiar with a number of symbols derived from Rosicrucianism it is because they have the best influence upon the minds and hearts of modern men. We are “modern” Theosophists precisely because we do not refuse to accept the results of the most modern research. Perhaps someone has heard that I have sometimes used the form of address: “My dear Rosicrucian friends” ... These things occur just because we stand upon the universal foundations of Theosophy. It is, therefore, an unconscious aspersion when the designation “Rosicrucian” is imposed upon our Movement. We must, however, be tolerant about these things.
Our task this winter will be to deepen still further the teachings and truths already received. And so, in order to prepare the ground for speaking about Christian Rosenkreutz here, too, I want to speak about the threefold nature of man and its true basis, insofar as man is a being capable of receiving intellectual, aesthetic, and moral impulses. We shall have to search very deeply into the occult foundations of these things, and expand the teachings already received, for instance about the Saturn- Sun- and Moon evolutions, by studying man as an intellectual, an aesthetic, and a moral being.
- Note 1:
- The Portal of Initiation and The Soul's Probation by Rudolf Steiner. See “Four Mystery Plays.”
- Note 2:
- The Christ Impulse through the Course of History. Lugano, 17.9.11; Locarno, 19.9.11,
Buddha and Christ. The Spheres of the Bodhisattvas. Milan, 21.9.11.
Rosicrucian Christianity. Neuchâtel, 27 and 28.9.11. Not yet published in English.
- Note 3:
- From Jesus to Christ. (In English translation.) Ten lectures.
- Note 4:
- See: The Story of My Life, by Rudolf Steiner. Chap. XXIX.
- Note 5:
- See: Inner Impulses in the Evolution of Mankind, by Rudolf Steiner. (Lecture III and Lecture V.)
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