Friday, June 21, 2024

The human being in the spiritual world. First-Class Lesson #15 [Given 100 years ago today]


Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland

First-Class Lesson #15

June 21, 1924

My dear friends! Once again, we will begin with the mantric verse of the world stage and the world’s beings, the mantric verse that confronts a person as it sounds forth from all sides, when one is able with true inner appreciation of heart and soul to perceive what the prime essential beings of the world, the prime producers of the world, are able to say.

O Man, know yourself!
So sounds the word of worlds.

You hear it soul-forcefully,
You feel it spirit-powerfully.

Who speaks so world-mightily?
Who speaks so heart-inwardly?

Does it work streaming through space
Into your sense’s self-experiencing?

Does it sound weaving through time
Into your life's evolving stream?

Are you the one, who yourself
In sensing space, in experiencing time
Creates the word, feeling yourself
Estranged in space’s soul-emptiness,
As you lose the power of thinking
In time’s destroying stream?

My dear brothers and sisters, my dear friends, it is worth noting that since various class members are making their appearance at this Class lesson today who have not been here before, some things will be said for the sake of continuity, things which are necessary to know if one wishes to take up and fully appreciate the subject matter of today’s Class lesson.

We have certainly experienced, my dear brothers and sisters, how the great pictures of life appear before the soul when a person approaches, through true, genuine experience, the abyss which emerges between the world in which we live here, and the world that we come to know as the one in which we have our own true being, our actual human existence.

We are aware that when we take hold of the world around us here in the right way, that this world certainly claims our most intense interest. We look all around from the lowliest worm up to the shining, glittering stars of the heavens, looking all around throughout the realms of nature, out of which much has been taken that we ourselves carry within. And we have every reason, in what is revealed around us in streaming brilliant sunlight, to feel down to the bottom of our hearts and souls its grandeur, its world-shaking importance, and its majesty. And we should not become misled by participating in any sort of esotericism, by any type of science of the spirit, however ascetically we happen to chance upon it, for it could be merely a false asceticism, that involves turning away from the world. We should turn neither from the lowly worm nor from the exalted starry heavens, simply because these belong to the visible world. We should not turn away from it all and fail to perceive its grandeur, its majesty, and its sublimity, and fail to perceive the significance that it has for each of us.

We should take this to heart. If we truly embrace spiritual science, we should feel fully at home in what appears around us as the world. But we should also be aware, and we can become aware, as we interact with the things and beings and events of the world in the proper intrinsic manner of heart and soul, we can and should become aware that our true, genuine, highest human self is not to be found in all these realms of nature, in spite of the world being so grand and exalted, in its sun-drenched and sun-illuminated nature, but that in the pursuit of cognition, we must seek our highest nature in a world which is separated from us by an abyss, and that the things on the other side of the abyss, in the other world, from which we really stem, are portrayed to us initially as blackest night. The abyss looms before us as a wall, a black wall.

But the first being that we meet stands right at the abyss. Ever more and more we must allow this to resound within every night when we sleep, and we may certainly find this out, that the realm we are actually in then is the one to which we belong with the innermost and most genuine part of our humanity. But we really take up residence in this realm only when fully ready. We should not enter undeveloped. The Guardian of the Threshold, the first spirit-being that we meet, has warned us about this, in regard to any serious, genuine wish to gaze into this world of our ancient origin, and to enter therein unprepared.

Then it is the Guardian of the Threshold himself who speaks the first words to us, as we tread the path over the abyss, into the realm of spirit from which we come. The Guardian of the Threshold himself admonishes that we should look back at our own self, in order that in self-awareness we should seek the foundation for understanding the world.

It is also the Guardian of the Threshold himself, however, who shows us that what is initially in our soul-nature as thinking, feeling, and willing, that this corresponds to a certain gestalt, an organization in the spiritual world, which can be portrayed in front of us, and with which we can become acquainted imaginatively. At the abyss he points this construction out to us, this gestalt of our thinking, feeling, and willing, in their initial forms appropriate for our present time and age, as the three beasts that emerge from the abyss. And all that follows then is an admonition from the side of the Guardian of the Threshold that we should pay especially close attention to these three beasts, meaning of course, to ourselves, in order in this manner to really find, out of our primal state, the path toward world comprehension.

All this has been brought in the form of mantric verses before the souls of all who have taken part in these lessons, and all of this has led up to what was brought forth in the last lesson.

So here we stand, the situational meditation before us. We have been advised, have had it pointed out to us, that we are already standing on the other side of the abyss, although still under the warning guidance of the Guardian of the Threshold. He directs certain words to us, in order that they should lead us to an understanding of our situation when we have flown over the abyss and have entered the realm which for us is initially quite dark.

On this side, as long as we stay within our present realm, from which we have not originated and from which we have not emerged, here we have under us the firmness of earth, which carries and supports us, and which, as we have seen, may be touched and felt by our entire body, when we stand upon the first element, upon the element of earth.

We also carry within us and may feel what one calls "water" in spiritual science. This is indicated overall by all fluidity, and we may feel the fluid element within us. Most certainly it has built us from within, has made us grow, out of its nature has guided all organs into being, merely out of its nature, out of the nature of this second element, the element of water. And entrained to this water element, that of course is also the blood element, is again an admonition of the Guardian.

Entrained to what we take up through our breath, the air element, entrained to what we take up through warmth, the fire element working effectively in us, also entrained there and directed at us are meaningful words of the Guardian of the Threshold.

And the powers of the world work in us in such a way that an answer forms in our souls, an answer concerning each admonishing question of the Guardian of the Threshold. This answer, brought into movement in us by world powers, this answer can come from Christ, and then it will be the right answer. It can come from Lucifer, but then it will be an incorrect answer. It can come from Ahriman, but then again it will be an incorrect answer.

The admonition of Christ should always be formed, in regard to each individual element, so that the Christ in us speaks, so that over there in the spiritual world we feel full of spirit, totally full of spirit, fully in harmony with the spirit-element, but so that we know, that as long as we are men of earth, that we must ever and again journey back over the abyss into earthly existence, we must not languish in how we are over there in the spiritual world, we must tear ourselves away from the nature of the spiritual world.

Christ will always speak to us in this way, warning us, that as long as we are in the spiritual world, that we should be at one with this spiritual world, but when we return again, that we should live upon the earth as proper men and women of earth, for we should be living in the spirit only in the spiritual world.

Lucifer will always spur us on, seeking to have us wish to remain in the spiritual world, to become absorbed in lust with the spiritual world, to become absorbed in the pleasures of the spiritual world.

Ahriman will always induce us into wanting to take on the task of pulling the spiritual world over into the physical world.

This sort of thing must be allowed to work on one's soul, so that by its means a person can properly regard, can feel into, the whole situation regarding the spiritual world.

And so, feel that we ourselves are on the other side of the abyss, already standing within the spiritual world, but standing nonetheless in utter darkness, the Guardian of the Threshold at the abyss turning to us assertively, in warning, directing admonishing questions at us, questions that lance deeply into our souls. Sense how for each individual question a threefold answer comes to us in the answers of Christ, of Lucifer, and of Ahriman.

The Guardian speaks: Where is the firmness of earth, that supported you?

There is no floor anywhere. We are in the spiritual world.

The Guardian asks: Where is earth’s firmness, that supported you?
Christ in us answers: I leave its solid ground, as long as the spirit carries me.
Lucifer in us answers: I feel delight, that I no longer need the support.
Ahriman answers: I will hammer it still harder by the spirit’s might.

The Guardian speaks: Where is water’s forming force, that permeated you?
Christ in us speaks: My life extinguishes it, as long as the spirit forms me.
Lucifer in us: My life expunges it, that I may be released from it.
Ahriman in us: My life affixes it, that I may carry it to spirit realms.

The Guardian: Where is air’s stimulation, that waked you?
Christ in us: My soul breathes heaven's air, as long as the spirit is about me.
Lucifer in us: My soul cares not for it in spirit blissfulness.
Ahriman in us: My soul absorbs it, that I may learn godlike to create.

The Guardian speaks: Where is fire’s cleansing, that inflamed in you the I?
Christ in us: My “I” blazes in God-Fire, so long as the spirit kindles me.
Lucifer in us: My “I” has flaming power through spirit sun-craft.
Ahriman in us: My “I” has its own fire, that flames purely through self-unfolding.

We will be probed by the admonishing questions of the Guardian, about how we have come to deport ourselves in regard to the supports of earth, in regard to the fluid forming force in us, in regard to the astral nurturing force of air in us, and in regard to the “I”-bearing force of fire in us. And in us Christ answers, if a proper humanity moves within us. In us the tempter Lucifer answers, as if we should bound over into the wonder of all forever, which we should really bring into movement within us only during the time we rightfully give ourselves over to the spirit. And in us Ahriman answers, as if we should carry over into the fields of earth what we partake of in the land of the spirit.

Whatever is possible for the soul, we must allow the soul to work on, to work within the soul. We must expose ourselves just as fully to the voice of Christ as to the voice of Lucifer and to the voice of Ahriman. We must inwardly move ourselves in meditation into this situation. In depths of soul we then become, directly by this means, in having appealed to our deepest inner nature, my dear brothers and sisters, directly by this means we become so broadly liberated, that in liberated spirit-experience we can have the spiritual element most truly as our own.

Today we must enter into this situation more fully. We must pointedly feel ourselves to be standing on the other side of the threshold of this abyss, the admonishing Guardian of the Threshold beside us, and within us voices dragging a human being toward the very different positions of Lucifer and Ahriman, and within us the voice of Christ showing us the proper course while Lucifer on one side and Ahriman on the other are seeking to mislead us. Then we will be in the right frame of heart and mind which makes it possible to start off into the spiritual world with feeling, with empathy, with empathic inner feeling.

We can only do this, my dear brothers and sisters, by gradually acquiring the ability to sense, to feel, to regard higher spiritual beings, just as we sense, feel, and regard the beings of the three realms of nature here in the sensory world.

When standing here in the sensory world, external to ourselves we may feel the nature of a stone, the mineral nature, and we may say to ourselves that this mineral nature also lives in us. For we have salinity in us. Mineral nature, living in us in salinity, is the principal thing that really makes it possible to be a human being upon the earth.

We may gaze out upon the plant-world and know that we have taken plant-like nature into ourselves, having it in our earthly nature within what is bordered by our skin, carrying it in our power of growth, carrying it in what forms our organs for us, and carrying it also in all that we process while asleep. We feel plant-like nature carried in us, while we gaze at plant-like nature around us.

We may gaze out upon the animals, and know that in our astral nature, in our breathing process, that we carry animal nature itself within us. As we gaze out on various animals, we say that we feel allied to, in sympathy with, their animal nature, because we carry within ourselves this same animal nature, although within our human nature we reorganize it.

We feel ourselves to be human here in the sensory world under the sway of the beings of the three realms of nature. We must learn to feel in this way when remaining within the spiritual world under the sway of those beings with whom we exist in our human soul and spirit nature, just as we exist here with our physical and etheric nature among the beings of the three realms of external nature. Just as we learn to know ourselves as physical human beings under the sway of other physical human beings, just so we must learn to know ourselves as humans of soul and spirit under the sway of higher beings of soul and spirit.

We have become acquainted with what, for us as human beings, is the surrounding encompassing spiritual-soul world, composed of three hierarchies, in the same way we have learned to know what is around us here, and have become acquainted with the beings of the sensory world in the three realms of nature. With our physical-etheric nature we belong to the three realms of nature. With our soul-spiritual nature we belong to the three realms of the hierarchies. While remaining here in the physical world, it is only natural to belong to the three realms of nature, to let them flow through us and to remain among them. While remaining pressed into the soul-spiritual world, during our time there, our condition must be soul-spiritual, in belonging among the entities of the higher hierarchies of the spiritual world, feeling ourselves empathically, intuitively pressed in among them, and discerning these entities of the higher hierarchies just as we do otherwise in regard to the beings of the realms of nature.

The Guardian in turn instructs us further about this. And to these mantric words, drawn forth from the spiritual world by the alluring voice of the Guardian, to these mantric words we must turn, ever and ever again allowing them to resound within our souls in meditation. Then they will have the power, directly by the simple manner in which they have been constructed, through the recapitulation within yourself, through their own quite capable intrinsic form, these mantric words will be properly able to call into wakefulness in our souls the feeling of standing within the spiritual world among the hierarchies.

We have to envision the next mantra in this way, with the Guardian speaking. We are still standing on the other side of the Threshold of the spiritual world in darkness, having learned first to feel about within the spiritual world, before learning to gaze about. First the Guardian speaks, once again in reference to the elements of earth, water, and air. Building on fire will be the subject matter of the next Class lesson. First the Guardian speaks, in reference to the elements of earth, water, and air, and therefore to all that is fixed in us, to all that is fluid in us, primarily our blood and lymph, and in reference to all that is aeriform in us, the air taken in from outside that is encompassed in our breathing process. The Guardian speaks in reference to all this. And he calls forth what resounds in the world of the hierarchies.

After the Guardian has directed his word at us, one hierarchy after the other speaks, the third hierarchy accompanying the first mantra, at first the Angels, then the Archangels, and finally the Archai. We should feel ourselves in this situation. The Guardian of the Threshold is speaking to us. It sounds forth from the darkness, as if emerging from the background all around, and at the same time it speaks within our souls, reverberating within us.

The Guardian speaks:

What becomes of earth’s firmness, that supported you?

The Angels from the Third Hierarchy:

Sense,1 as we sense in your thinking.

The Archangels from the Third Hierarchy:

Experience,2 as we experience in your feeling.

The Archai from the Third Hierarchy:

Behold,3 as we behold in your willing.

We receive from the cosmos a momentous threefold instruction in regard to the question of the Guardian of the Threshold. With magic power his words call forth the answer of the Angels, the Archangels, and the Archai.

Just what do the Angels profess to us? As human beings we think. Initially we believe we only experience our thoughts. But while our thoughts are flowing through our souls, the Angels are actually living within our thoughts. And as we perceive with our senses, as we confront and engage something or other, so living within our thoughts are the Angels, for that is how they perceive, how they sense. They speak and make us aware of this. And just as the Angels sense within our thinking, just so the Archangels live in and experience in our feeling, and the Archai show themselves and take part in our willing.

When some sort of thought, my dear brothers and sisters, zips through your soul, then you should feel, that in this thought a being of the hierarchy of Angels perceives something. In that you are thinking, an Angel is touching something, sensing, perceiving. While you are feeling, a being from the hierarchy of the Archangels is living into it, experiencing. While you are willing, in that you deploy your will, a being from the hierarchy of the Archai is taking hold and looking about, observing. Human thinking, human feeling, and human willing are not merely ongoing within human beings. When we think, the Angels sense. When we feel, the Archangels experience. When we employ our will, the Archai take part, looking about, observing.

[The first part of the mantra was now written on the board.]

The Guardian speaks:

What becomes of earth’s firmness, that supported you?

It is answered from the hierarchy of the Angels, from the third hierarchy: [3rd Hierarchy was written in front of this section and underlined.]

3rd Hierarchy

Angels: Sense, as we sense in your thinking.

It sounds forth from the hierarchy of the Archangels:

Archangels: Experience, as we experience in your feeling.

It sounds forth from the hierarchy of the Archai:

Archai: Behold, as we behold in your willing.

That is what in the spiritual world takes the place of the element of earth. For the supporting force of earth is simply not there. The firm floor of earth is gone. Everything solid and fixed is gone. The Third Hierarchy, the Angels, Archangels, and Archai, make a firm support, but not as the minerals shape up into firmness. We would not be thinking deeply, but would be bogged down on all sides in our thinking if the Angels were not working there, if they were not having their own sort of sensory perception there. If the Archangels were not living in our feeling, we would scatter ourselves about in amorphous formlessness. If the Archai were not able to gaze into our willing, we would fade away to nothing in our willing.

The second is water, which gives us the formative force, the fluid element in us. Once more we may imagine that we are standing on the other side of the abyss in darkness before the spiritual world. First, we learn to feel our way around in it. The Guardian is speaking, admonishing, questioning. Now, however, entrained in answer to the questioning about the force of fluidity, to the element of fluidity, is the Second Hierarchy, the Exusiai, Dynamis, and Kyriotetes.

The Guardian speaks:

What becomes of water’s forming force, that permeated you?

Out of the second hierarchy the Exusiai answer:

Know spirit-world-construction4 in human-body-construction.

The Dynamis of the second hierarchy:

Feel spirit-world-life in human-body-life.

The Kyriotetes of the second hierarchy:

Will spirit-world-process in human-body-existence.

In this manner we are brought into becoming aware that as we stand face to face with everything around us, that we are not standing alone. We should learn to feel that in our bodily existence, in all that we carry around within the boundaries of our skin, there lives a part of universal world existence. The Second Hierarchy is in us, working in us, making us to some extent cosmic beings, beings linked to the cosmos as our limbs are linked to us.

All this should wash over us so thoroughly in awareness, through this mantric verse, so that in standing within the events of the world, everything within us, from the smallest vibration of our cellular organs, to the grand exalted beating movements of our blood, to the rhythms of our breathing system, to the rhythms alternating between night and day, so that everything, so that all this, is not merely happening within us, but as a linked limb of universal world process. [The second part of the mantra was now written on the board.]

The Guardian speaks:

What becomes of water’s forming force, that permeated you?

The Exusiai answer from the Second Hierarchy: [2nd Hierarchy was written in front of this section and underlined.]

2nd Hierarchy


Know spirit-world-construction in human-body-construction.

The Dynamis answer from the second hierarchy:


Feel spirit-world-life in human-body-life.

The Kyriotetes answer from the second hierarchy:


Will spirit-world-process in human-body-existence.

In these mantric verses, as I have often said, all must be taken specifically as given. So the question may arise, why it is, that standing here next to “world spiritual process” is “human body existence”? We must take each exact word to heart if a mantric verse is to work properly in our souls. Externally world process has dominion, and we perceive it as happening. This world process is world-wide, all-embracing, and fills the universe. As it continues on in us, it actually is in us, although we feel it as self-contained in our existence, because our skin defines our outer borders and we feel ourselves to be fully self-contained. Within ourselves we do not feel everything moving, undulating, weaving, in the way we feel it externally. And so here “process” stands in contradistinction to “existence,” whereas earlier and quite rightly “construction” stands with “construction," and “life” with “life”.

And in regard to the element of air, its admonishing question is also raised by the Guardian of the Threshold. It is answered by the beings of the First Hierarchy, the Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim. They admonish us that we should become aware of just how the cosmos works in us. We must progress from mere consciousness to self-consciousness, and here it is the beings of the First Hierarchy who guide us.

The Guardian speaks:

What becomes of air’s stimulation, that waked you?

From the First Hierarchy the Thrones answer:

Grasp5 inner existence knowingly in your god’s-world-existence.

The Cherubim from the First Hierarchy:

Warm6 yourself on inner life in your god’s-world-life.

The Seraphim from the First Hierarchy:

Wake7 inner light in yourself in your god’s-world-light.

So now we are admonished to re-awaken self-awareness at a higher level, for by means of the magical words of the second hierarchy we have traversed out into the cosmos, we have felt our unification with the cosmos. [The third part of the mantra was now written on the board.]

The Guardian speaks:

What becomes of air’s stimulation, that waked you?

From the First Hierarchy the cosmic answer sounds forth: [3rd Hierarchy was written before the section and underlined.]

1st Hierarchy


Grasp inner existence knowingly in your god’s-world-existence.


Warm yourself on inner life in your god’s-world-life.


Wake inner light in yourself in your god’s-world-light.

Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, without having felt the effective working of this last mantra, as it sounds forth from the fiery flashing power of the Seraphim, “Wake inner light in yourself in your god’s-world-light,” without this flashing, flaming word intoned by the Seraphim flaming forth, we would not be able to catch the sense of how, out of our own soul, a force must be awakened, so that as we stand there in darkness, on the other side of the abyss, still just feeling about, gradually feeling the world approaching us, by this means, by and by, a mere glimmer begins to emanate from us, becoming more lucid, the glimmer progressively penetrating ever further in space, and broader and broader, and as the glimmer becomes more and more luminous, more and more brilliant, by means of our own force the night-bedecked darkness there in the spiritual world gradually becomes lucent. It must be so. In this manner we must try to attain the igniting power of the true self, the fiery igniting power of true humanity, for this is the light in the initially night-bedecked spiritual lands.

So, we feel ourselves to be within the threefold spiritual world of the Angels, Exusiai, Thrones, and so forth, just as we feel ourselves to be within the sensory world here in the sensory existence in the three realms of nature. So we learn to feel ourselves as human beings in our true human manner of existing in the spiritual environment, just as we feel ourselves as sensing human beings in the sensory environment. We learn it, inasmuch as we ascend due to the third hierarchy, which unfurls the spirit in us, we ascend to the particular spirit within which this hierarchy lives, inasmuch as we then ascend from this to the second hierarchy, which develops the spirit in us of producing, living, existing, and finally, insofar as we come to the first hierarchy, where we once again have a support, although a support of spirit, which most certainly is at the top and not at the bottom, wherein we have the reign of wisdom in the Cherubim, which brings us, in the service of self-awareness, to what can in turn bring warmth into our inner nature in self-perception, in inner-self-feelings, in inner-self-warming, until we come thereby to this inwardly-warmed self which becomes the illuminating element, which will clarify, illuminate, what was dark for us before.

And so we stand, feeling such things at the side of the Guardian of the Threshold, feeling immersed in the admonition sounding forth, confronting us from all the beings of the world, from all the happenings of the world, so that from self-awareness we ascend to world-awareness, from world-awareness to human-awareness, and so that we remain standing extant in nature, but also extant in spirit, we ourselves held by both sides of reality, by the side of nature and by the side of spirit.

But then resounding in a new form, in a new gestalt, the words not being different, but being felt differently, strengthened through the admonition of all the hierarchies of the spiritual world, in which we stand primarily as human beings, and so then again resounds the world word:

O Man, know yourself!
So sounds the word of worlds.

You hear it soul-forcefully,
You feel it spirit-powerfully.

Who speaks so world-mightily?
Who speaks so heart-inwardly?

Does it work streaming through space
Into your sense’s self-experiencing?

Does it sound weaving through time
Into your life's evolving stream?

Are you the one, who yourself
In sensing space, in experiencing time
Creates the word, feeling yourself
Estranged in space’s soul-emptiness,
As you lose the power of thinking
In time’s destroying stream?

Blackboard (left side)
Blackboard (left side)
Blackboard (right side)
Blackboard (right side)

Blackboard Text for the Fifteenth Lesson

3. Hierarchie:
Der Hüter: Was wird aus der Erde Festigkeit, die dich stütze?
Angeloi: Empfinde, wie wir in deinem Denken empfinden
Archangeloi: Erlebe, wie wir in deinem Fühlen erleben.
Archai: Schaue, wie wir in deinem Wollen schauen.

2. Hierarchie:
Der Hüter: Was wird aus des Wassers Bildekraft, die dich durchdrang?
Exusiai: Erkenne Geistes-Welten-Schaffen im Menschen-Körper-Schaffen.
Dynamis: Erfühle Geistes-Welten-Leben im Menschen-Körper-Leben.
Kyriotetes: Wolle Geistes-Welt-Geschehen im Menschen-Körper-Sein.

1. Hierarchie:
Der Hüter: Was wird aus der Lüfte Reizgewalt, die dich erweckte?
Throne: Ergreife wissend Innen-Sein in deinem Gottes-Welten-Sein.
Cherubine: Erwarme am Innen-Leben in deinem Gottes-Welten-Leben.
Seraphine: Erweck’ in dir Innen-Licht in deinem Gottes-Welten-Licht.

3rd. Hierarchy:
Guardian: What becomes of earth’s firmness, that supported you?
Angels: Sense, as we sense in your thinking.
Archangels: Experience, as we experience in your feeling.
Archai: Behold, as we behold in your willing.

2nd. Hierarchy:
Guardian: What becomes of water’s forming force, that permeated you?
Exusiai: Know spirit-world-construction in human-body-construction.
Dynamis: Feel spirit-world-life in human-body-life.
Kyriotetes: Will spirit-world-process in human-body-existence.

1st. Hierarchy:
Guardian: What becomes of air’s stimulation, that waked you?
Thrones: Grasp inner existence knowingly in your god’s-world-existence.
Cherubim: Warm yourself on inner life in your god’s-world-life.
Seraphim: Wake inner light in yourself in your god’s-world-light.

Source: June 21, 1924

Jñāna Yoga — Anthroposophy — culminates in Hatha Yoga

"The Marriage of the Virgin" by Raphael

Hatha Yoga: The union of the Sun (Ha) and the Moon (Tha)

The concluding lessons of the First Class:

Lesson 16:The chela becomes Anthropos-Sophia

Lesson 17: The Bride of Christ: The microcosmic Anthropos-Sophia becomes the macrocosmic Moon Sophia

Lesson 18: Ha-Tha Yoga: The union of Sophia and Christ the Sun God

Lesson 19: Advaita (Nonduality): Not I, but Christ in me

Thursday, June 20, 2024

In & Out


The Himalayan Institute's meditation shrine

Entering: "God in me"

Leaving: "I in God"

The History and Actuality of Imperialism


Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, February 20, 1920:

Today's lecture will be episodic, a kind of interspersion into our considerations, because I would like our English friends, who will soon be going home, to be able to take as much as possible with them. Therefore I will structure this lecture in a way to be as effective as possible. Today I would like, at first historically, not so much referring to the present — that can be done tomorrow perhaps — I would like to say something about imperialism, historically, but in a spiritual-scientific sense.

Imperialism is a much discussed phenomenon recently, and discussed by those who are more or less conscious of its relationship to the total phenomena of the present time. But when such things are discussed, what is not taken into account, or at least not enough, is that we live within the historical course of events, that we stand in a very definitive historical evolutionary epoch and that we can only understand this evolutionary epoch if we know where the phenomena which surround us, in which we live, come from.

Basically, what is most effective today and what will show itself to be an even more effective imperialism in the future will be its bearer: the Anglo-American people. As far as its name is concerned, it has shown itself to be something new: economic imperialism. But most important is the fact that everything said about this economic imperialism is untrue; everything, I would say, seems to be hanging in the air, which more or less consciously leads to untruthfulness. So in order to recognize how in these times realities are completely different from what is said about them, a more profound observation of the historical course of events is necessary.

I only need to mention one item of present-day phenomena in order to characterize the public's ability to judge. We have experienced how at first in various parts of Europe and finally even in Germany, Woodrow Wilson has been glorified. Our Swiss friends know very well that while Woodrow Wilson was being glorified I always spoke out against him in the sharpest terms here in Switzerland, for what Woodrow Wilson is today, he was of course also then when he was being glorified by the whole word. (It is already being reported — although I can't say if it's the complete truth — that in America they are thinking of declaring him unfit to govern, that there are doubts about his judgment.) The public's capacity for judgment, as it zips around the world today, is sufficiently characterized by such things.

And one must only remember a second thing. During the last four of five years,an enormous amount of pretty things have been talked about: the self-determination of peoples and so forth. All these things were not true, for what was behind them was something completely different: it was of course a question of power. And in order to understand what it's about, what is said, thought, and judged, it is necessary to return to the realities. And when things such as imperialism are considered — “Imperial Federation League” is the official designation in England since the beginning of the twentieth century — we must realize that they are the recent products of an evolution and they go back to a remote past, and can only be explained by a true consideration of history.

We do not want to delve so deeply into the past as we could when studying the spiritual evolution of humanity, but we do want to go at least as far back as several centuries before the Christian era. We find imperialistic empires in Asia, and a subspecies of such empires in Egypt. Most characteristic of the Asiatic impulse are, for example, the historically known Persian empire and, especially, the Assyrian empire. But it is not sufficient to study this first phase of imperialism only in the last, historically known stage of the Assyrian empire, simply because the motivators dominating the Assyrian empire cannot be understood without reaching back to even earlier Oriental conditions. Even in China, whose whole organization reaches so far back, the organization of recent times has changed so much that the true character of an Oriental imperialism as it once existed is not recognized. However, the conditions which are known historically make it possible to see what the fundamentals are.

We cannot understand the old Oriental imperialism without knowing the conscious relationship between people of a region, let's say an empire, and what we today would call the ruler or the rulers of that empire. Because of course our words for ruler or king and so forth no longer express the feelings about the ruler or the rulers. It is very difficult to understand the feelings of people in general of the third to fourth century before the Christian era because it is difficult nowadays to take account of how people felt in those ancient times about the relation of the physical world to the spiritual world. Today most people think, if they even think about a spiritual world, that it is somewhere in the distant beyond. And when the spiritual world is spoken about — and in the future it will again have to be spoken about as being present among us just as the sense world is — then what results is what has led for example to the Protestant mentality. But the essential nature of ancient times is that no distinction was made between the physical and spiritual worlds.

This is so much the case that when ancient times are referred to by people of today they can hardly imagine much consistency, for the way of thinking was so different then from what it is today. Rulers, a ruling caste, slaves, ruled people, that was reality — not something called a physical reality, but it was the reality, simultaneously the physical and the spiritual reality. And the ruler of an Oriental empire — what was he? The ruler of the Oriental empire was God. And for the people of those times there was no God beyond the clouds, no choir of spirits who surrounded the highest God — that view came later — but rather what we today call ministers or court jesters, somewhat disrespectfully, were beings of a divine nature. For it was obvious that because of the Mystery schooling they had gone through, they had become something greater than ordinary people. They were looked up to, just as the Protestant mentality looks up to its God or certain more liberal circles look up to their invisible angels and such. Extra invisible angels or an extra super-sensible invisible God did not exist for the people of the ancient Orient. Everything spiritual lived in man. In the common man lived a human soul. In those whom we would today call rulers, lived a divine soul, a God.

The concept of a really existing godly empire, which at the same time was a physical empire, is no longer taken into consideration. That a king has real divine power and dignity is considered absurd today, but was a reality in Oriental imperialism.

As I mentioned, a subspecies was found in Egypt, for there we find a true transition to a later form. If we go back to the oldest form of imperialism, we find it based on the king being God who really physically appeared on Earth, the son of heaven who physically appeared on Earth, who was even the father of heaven. This is so paradoxical for the contemporary mind that it seems unbelievable, but it is so. We can learn from Assyrian documents how conquests were justified. They were simply carried out. The justification was that they had to expand more and more the God's empire. When a territory was conquered and the inhabitants became subjects, then they had to worship the conqueror as their god. During those times no one thought of spreading a certain worldview. Why would it have been necessary? When the conquered people openly recognized the conqueror, followed him, then all was in order, they could believe whatever they wanted. Belief — personal opinion — wasn't touched in ancient times, nobody cared about it.

That was the first form in which imperialism appeared. The second form was when the ruler, the one who was to play a leading role, wasn't the god himself, but the god's envoy, or inspired by the god, interpenetrated with divinity.

The first imperialism is characterized by realities. When an Oriental ruler of ancient times appeared before his people, it was in all his splendor, because as a god he was entitled to wear such clothes. It was the clothing of a god. That's what a god looked like. It meant nothing more than what the ruler wore was the fashion of the gods. And his paladins were not mere bureaucrats, but higher beings who accompanied him and did what they did with the power of higher beings.

Then came the time, as already mentioned, when the ruler and his paladins appeared as God's envoys, as interpenetrated with divinity, as representatives. That is very clear in Dionysus the Areopagite. Read his writings, where he describes the complete hierarchy, from the deacons, archdeacons, bishops, archbishops, up to the church's whole hierarchy. How does he do this? Dionysus the Areopagite presents it as though in this earthly churchly hierarchy is mirrored what God is with his archangels and angels, super- sensibly of course. So above we have the heavenly hierarchy and below its mirror image, the worldly hierarchy. The people of the worldly hierarchy, the deacons, archdeacons, wear certain clothes, and they perform their rituals; they are symbols. The first phase was characterized by realities, the second phase was characterized by signs, by symbols. But this has been more or less forgotten. Even Catholics understand little of the fact that the deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops are the representatives of the heavenly hierarchies. This has been mostly forgotten.

With the advancement of imperialism a division occurred, a real division. On one hand there were the leaders tending more towards being divine representatives, priestly, where the priests were kings; on the other hand the tendency towards the secular, although still by the grace of God. Basically these were the two forms: the churches and the empires.

During the first imperialism, when all was physical reality, something like this would have been unthinkable. But in the second phase of imperialism the division occurred. On one side more secular, but nevertheless representative of God, on the other side more church oriented, also representative of God. That system held until the Middle Ages and, I would even say, until the year 1806, but more as a shadow, retained in kings and paladins as God's representatives. The Roman Catholic Church's propagation tended more towards the priestly. But where this phenomenon of God's representative or envoy, which held through the entire Middle Ages, was most strongly maintained was in the so-called Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which finally disappeared in 1806. In “Holy” you have a whiff of what was divine during the ancient times on Earth; “Roman” indicates the provenance, where it came from; “German Nation” was what it covered, the more secular element.

Therefore in the second phase of imperialism we no longer merely have the Church's anointed imperialism, but we have the tangled web of the divine and the secular anointed in the empires. That already began in the old Roman Empire during pre-Christian times and extended into the late Middle Ages. But this imperial Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation always had a double character. Remember that it goes back to Karl the Great. But Karl the Great was crowned by the Pope in Rome. Therewith royal dignity became a symbol, so that what existed here on the physical Earth was no longer reality. The people of the Middle Ages did not worship Karl the Great and Otto I as gods, which was the case in more ancient times, but they saw in them godly representatives. And that had to be continually confirmed, for of course it became ever weaker in consciousness. But it still retained a symbolic reality, a reality of signs. These emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation went to Rome in order for the Pope to crown them. Istwan I was also crowned king of Hungary by the Pope in the year 1000. The anointment, and therefore the power, was bestowed on the world's rulers by the clergy.

It was also thought that there was justification for other peoples being incorporated into the empire. Even Dante thought that the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was justified in ruling the whole world. So the formula for imperialism is even to be found in Dante.

In fables and other lore where the events of history are crystallized in human consciousness, things are expressed from various viewpoints, not just one. We could say that in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Europe the consciousness existed — not a clear one, more like a feeling — that once in ancient times in the Orient men lived on the physical Earth who were themselves gods. They didn't think it was a superstition, oh no, rather they thought that such gods could no longer live on the eErth because the Earth had become so bad. That's been lost, what made men gods, the “Holy Grail” has been lost and now, in Central Europe, it can only be found in the way Percival found it: one seeks the way to find god within, whereas earlier god was a reality in the empire. Now the empire is merely a sum of symbols, of signs, and one must find the spirit in the symbols.

Of all the things which once existed, only remnants remain. Reality is deadened. Remnants remain, remnants of the most diverse kind. Generally, as long as things are real, definite, they later become ambiguous. And thus in Europe diversity grew from clear reality. As long as the Holy Roman Empire had meaning in human consciousness, the representative of the empire was powerful and competent enough to subdue the individual angel-symbols, the local princes, for that consciousness included the emperor's right to do so. But his right rested more or less on something ideal, which more and more lost its meaning, and the local princes remained. So we have in the Holy Roman Empire something which gradually had its inner substance squeezed out until only the exterior remained. The consciousness that earthly men were representatives of God was lost. And the expression for the fact that people no longer believed that certain individuals were representatives of God is Protestantism — protest against the idea of men as representatives of God.

If the principle of Protestantism had rigorously penetrated, no prince could have been crowned “by the Grace of God” again. But such things remained as remnants. These remnants remained until 1918, then they disappeared. These remnants, which had already lost all inner meaning, remained as outer appearances until then. The local German princes were the outer appearances; they only had meaning in those ancient times when they were symbols for an inspirational kingdom of heaven.

Other remnants remained. Not so long ago a pastoral letter was written by a Central European bishop — perhaps he was an Archbishop. In that pastoral letter he more or less claimed that the Catholic priest is more powerful than Jesus Christ for the simple reason that when the Catholic priest performs the transubstantiation at the altar, Jesus Christ must be present in the Sanctissimum, in the Host. The transubstantiation must really take place through the priest's power. It means that the action performed by the priest forces Christ Jesus to be present on the altar. Therefore the more powerful is not Christ Jesus, but he who performs the transubstantiation at the altar!

If we wish to understand such a thing, which, as I said, appeared in a pastoral letter a few years ago, we must go back not to the times of the second imperialism, but to the times of the first imperialism, many elements of which are retained in the Catholic Church and its institutions. Therein lies the remnant of the consciousness that those who rule on the Earth are the gods, whereas Christ Jesus is only the son of God. What was written in that pastoral letter is of course an impossibility for the Protestant mentality, just as for today it is almost impossible to believe that thousands of years ago people actually saw the ruler as God. But these are all real historical factors, real facts which played a role historically and are still present today.

These earlier realities play strongly into later events. Just look at how Mohammedanism [Islam] has spread. Certainly Mohammed never said: Mohammed is your God — as it would have been said thousands of years earlier by an Oriental ruler. He limited himself to what corresponded more to the times: There is a God , and Mohammed is his prophet. In people's consciousness he was God's representative — the second phase of imperialism. The manner in which Islam spread, however, corresponded to the first phase. For Muslims have never been intolerant towards other beliefs the way some others were. The Muslims were content to defeat the others and make them their subjects, just as it was in older times when a profession of faith was not required, for it was a matter of indifference what they believed if they just recognized God.

And something also remained of the first phase of imperialism — strongly influenced by the second — in Russian despotism, in tsarism. The way in which he was recognized by his subjects goes back, at least partially, to the first phase of imperialism. It was not so much a question of what was in the consciousness of the Russian people, for the rulership of the tsars rested on the Germanic and the Mongolian elements rather than that of the Russian peasantry itself.

Now we come to the third phase of imperialism. It has been formulated since the beginning of the twentieth century, since Chamberlain and his people coined the expression “Imperial Federation League,” but the causes go back to the second half of the seventeenth century, when that great upheaval occurred in England as a result of which everywhere in the West that the Anglo-American people lived, the king, who earlier had been God, then an anointed one, became a kind of mere shadow — one cannot say a decoration exactly, but rather something more tolerated than taken seriously.

The English-speaking peoples bring other preconditions to what we may call the people's will, the voting system, than, say, the French — the Latin peoples in general. The Latin peoples, especially the French, certainly carried out the revolution of the eighteenth century, but the French people today are more royal than any other. To be royal doesn't only mean to have a king at the top. Naturally a person whose head has been cut off cannot run around; but the French as a people are royal, imperialistic, without having a king. It has to do with the mood of soul. This “all are one” feeling, the national consciousness, is a real remnant of the Louis IV mentality.

But the English-speaking peoples brought other preconditions to what we may call the people's will. And little by little this became what the elected parliaments decided, and thus the third form of imperialism developed, which was formulated by Chamberlain and others. But today we want to consider this third imperialism psychologically.

The first imperialism had realities: One person was the God for the mentality of the other people. His paladins were the gods who surrounded him, sub-gods. The second form of imperialism: What was on the Earth was the sign, the symbol. God acted within men. Third form of imperialism: Just as the previous evolution was from realities to signs and symbols, now the development is from symbols to platitudes.

This is an objective description of the facts, without being emotionally tinged. Since the seventeenth century what has been called the will of the people in the public life of the Anglo-American peoples in the law books — of course categorized according to classes — is no more than empty platitudes. Between what is said and reality there is not even the relation which existed between the symbol and reality. So the psychological path is this: from reality to symbol, and then to platitudes — to words which have been squeezed out, dried out, empty words. This is the reality of the third imperialism: squeezed out, empty words. And nobody imagines that they are divine, at least not where they originated.

Just think about the basis of that imperialism, the ruling elements of which are empty platitudes: during the first imperialism the kings, in the second imperialism the anointed, now the empty platitudes. From majority decisions of course nothing real results, only a dominant empty platitude. The reality remains hidden. And now we come to an important factor upon which reality is based: the colonization system. Colonization played an important role in the development of this third imperialism. The “Imperial Federation League” summarizes the means of spreading imperialism to the colonies. But how do the colonies become part of the empire? Think back on real cases. Adventurers who no longer rightly fit into the empire, who are somewhat down at heel, go to the colonies, become rich, then spend their riches at home, but that doesn't make them respectable, they are still adventurers, bohemians. That's how the colonial empire is created. That is the reality behind the empty platitudes. But remnants remain. Just as symbols and empty platitudes remain as remnants of the original realities, or symbolic crowns on princes and tsars, also from the enterprises of the somewhat foul-smelling colonists, realities remain. The adventurer's son is not so foul smelling, right? He already smells better. The grandson smells even better, and a time comes when everything smells very good. The empty platitudes are now possessed by what smells good. The empty platitudes are now identified with the true reality. Now the state can spread its wings; it becomes the protector and everything has been made honest.

It is necessary to call things by their real names — although the names seldom describe the reality. It's necessary because only thus can we understand what tasks and what responsibilities confront humanity in these times. Only in this way is it possible to realize what a fable convenue so-called history really is, meaning that history which is taught in the schools and universities. That history does not call things by their real names. On the contrary, its effect is that the names describe what is false.

What I have just described is something terrible, isn't it. But you see, it's a question of guiding the feelings towards responsibilities. Let's now consider the other side. Let's consider such an ancient empire. In people's minds it was an earthly reality; the priest-king came from the Mysteries. The second was no longer earthly reality, it was symbolic. It is a long way from the godly jewelry the rulers and their paladins in the ancient oriental empires wore to the “Roter Adler” [Red Eagle] medals hung around people's necks long afterward. But that's how things evolved. It went from reality to nothing, not even a sign or symbol, but basically the expression of the empty platitude. Finally this empty platitude system, which has spread from the Eest to the rest of the world, has penetrated public affairs. I have even met court councilors — who anyway have little counseling to do — but what about the titular court councilors? Just an empty platitude hung on certain people, and everything remains as before.

Whereas in the first phase the physical reality was thought to be spiritual, in the future this physical reality may no longer be thought of as spiritual. Nevertheless, the spiritual must be present here in the physical world. That means that spiritual reality must exist alongside physical reality. The human being must move around here within the physical reality, and recognize a spiritual reality, must speak of it as something real, super-sensible, invisible, but which exists, which must be established among us.

I have spoken about something quite terrible: about the platitude. But if the world had not become so platitude oriented, there would be no room for the introduction of a spiritual empire. Precisely because everything old has now become platitudes, a space has come into being in which the spiritual empire can enter. Especially in the West, in the Anglo-American world, people will continue to speak in the usual terminology: things that come from the past. It will continue to roll on like a bowling ball. It will roll on in the words. You can find innumerable expressions especially in the West which have lost all meaning, but are still used. But not only in these expressions but in everything described by the old words the empty platitude lives, in which there is no reality, for it has been squeezed out. That is where the spiritual, which has nothing of the old in it, can find room. The old must first become empty platitude, everything that continues to roll on in speech thrown overboard, and something completely new must enter, which can only propagate as a world of the spirit.

Only then can there be a kingdom of Christ on Earth. For in that empire a reality must exist: “My kingdom is not of this world.” In the kingdom of this world, in which the kingdom of Christ will propagate, there will exist much that has not become empty platitude. But in the Western world, everything originating in ancient times is destined to become platitude. Yes, in the West, in the Anglo-American world, all human tradition will become platitude. Therefore the responsibility exists to fill the empty vessel with spirit, about which can be said: “This kingdom is not of this world!” That is the great responsibility. It's not important how something came about, but what we do with what has come about. That is the situation.

Tomorrow we will speak about what can be done, for under the surface, especially in the Western countries, the secret societies are most active, trying to insert the second phase of imperialism into the third. For in the Anglo-American people you have two imperialisms pushed together: the economic one of a Chamberlain, and the symbolic imperialism of the secret societies, which play a very effective role, but which are kept secret from the people.

Source: February 20, 1920. GA 196