Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Way, the Truth, and the Life: the etherization of the blood; the two categories of gods; Jehovah-Christ

Diagram 4

Wonders of the World, Ordeals of the Soul, Revelations of the Spirit. Lecture 8 of 10.Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 25, 1911:

In the course of yesterday's lecture we saw how manifold cosmic forces play into human nature, and we also saw how the Greeks experienced these forces and gave them pictorial expression in a mythology most of which is still extant. My frequent references to Greek mythology have not at all been made with the object of interpreting it, but rather to throw the light which it affords upon certain pristine truths. Pictures, together with what we gather from history, are a better help in this respect than our abstract ideas, which are too impoverished to be able to bring to adequate expression the great wonders of the world. Then too in the figure of Dionysos our attention was drawn to something which is associated with the deepest forces of our souls, with what we can call the challenges or ordeals of the soul. What then is meant by the expression ‘ordeals of the soul’? Ordeals are what come upon a man whenever he tries to enter upon the paths leading to the spiritual worlds. I made some reference yesterday to the lightest, the gentlest of them. In general they consist of the experiences a man can have on his way into the higher worlds, experiences to which his soul is not equal without having undergone a certain preparation. The ordeal thus lies in the fact that a man has to make great efforts to endure certain pieces of knowledge, to meet calmly certain experiences. A soul-experience of this nature is indicated toward the end of the second of my Rosicrucian dramas, The Soul's Probation, and this will perhaps help to make clear what such an inner ordeal actually is.

Let us call to mind the figure there described, the figure we know as Capesius. We know from both these two plays of mine the experiences which he has undergone. We have seen how little by little he draws near to the spiritual life, how to begin with the sound instinct, which has alienated him from the kind of scholarship he had hitherto pursued, gives him premonitions of it but no more. He begins to suspect that there is a higher reality behind the world of the mind. It is mainly because he gives rein to these premonitions, it is because he allows them full play, that he inevitably becomes impressed by the exoteric teachings of spiritual science. The communications of spiritual science differ fundamentally from those of other scientific or literary discourse. Whereas the other simply appeals to our intellect, and perhaps indirectly through our intellect to our feeling, a man is only allowing spiritual science, or occult science, to work upon him rightly if he is stirred to the inmost depths of his soul, if his soul is turned inside out, so to say, if it is completely changed by what flows therefrom, not as abstract content, but as life itself. Something like that is what Capesius is depicted as feeling in the first scene of the second play, after he has wrestled with himself as a result of his premonitions, and then plunged deeply into the writings of Benedictus, into the ‘Book of Life’. And that not only causes him to ponder, to rack his brains to try to get at the meaning of what he reads, as he would do whatever he was reading, but he feels the spiritual world break in upon him in a way he does not understand. It has yet another effect upon him. It would be easy to compare the mood which prevails in the first scene of the second play with the mood at the opening of Goethe's Faust; it is however essentially different. The mood of Faust merely shows that, having arrived at a certain scepticism, a certain doubt, as to all knowledge, a man then has an inner urge to find other ways of obtaining knowledge than the usual ones. In Capesius's case something else happens. To begin with he is torn in two, because it makes him recognize doubt, persistence in ignorance, as man's greatest sin. He learns to acknowledge that something lies in the depths of the human soul of which the normal consciousness is quite unaware. A treasure slumbers in the deepest strata of our souls; we are harboring something in depths of soul which the normal consciousness is at first incapable of recognizing.

When we enter fully into the meaning and the true significance of spiritual science we realize that it is no mere selfish yearning, but deep-seated duty toward the macrocosmic forces not to allow the buried treasure in our souls to be wasted. We come to realize that deep down in every man there lies something which once upon a time the gods implanted in him out of their own body, their own substance. We come to feel: ‘The gods have sacrificed a piece of their own existence, they have as it were torn away a fragment of their own flesh, and have deposited it within human souls.’ We men can do one of two things with this treasure, this divine heritage. We can out of a certain indolence say: ‘What do I want with knowledge? The gods will soon direct me to my goal!’ But they do not do so, for they have buried this treasure within us in order that we may bring it to the light of day out of our own freedom. Thus we can let this treasure go to waste. That is one of the courses which the soul can take. The alternative is that, recognizing our highest duty toward the heavenly powers, we should say to ourselves: ‘We must raise up this treasure, we must lift it out of the hidden depths into our consciousness.’ What are we doing when we bring up this treasure out of the unconscious? We give it a different form from the one it had earlier in the body of the gods, but in a mysterious way we give it back again to the gods in the form which it has acquired through us. We are not cultivating in our knowledge any private concern of our own, we are not doing anything merely in the interests of our own egotism, we are simply carrying back into the higher worlds, in the changed form which it has acquired through us, the noble heritage which the gods have given us, so that they may share it with us. But if we neglect this treasure, if we allow it to deteriorate, then we are in a very real sense being egotistic, for then this treasure in our souls is irrevocably lost to the world-process. We are allowing our divine heritage to go to waste, if we are reluctant to recognize its presence in us.

The mood of Capesius springs from this. In the first scene of the second play he feels it his duty not to stick fast in doubt, not to persist in the feeling that one can know nothing; he feels that it would be a violation of his duty to the cosmic powers to allow the treasure in his soul to go to waste. Only he feels to begin with incapable of using the apparatus of his body to draw out these riches, and that is what causes the conflict in his soul. There is nothing of the Faustian attitude here. On the contrary, Capesius says to himself: ‘You must acknowledge that you cannot persist in your ignorance; you may not surrender to the feeling which overtakes you when you think how little strength our customary life has placed at our disposal for drawing out this treasure.’ Then there is only one resource left to us — confidence in our own soul. If the soul patiently develops what lies within it, little by little, then the strength which it feels as yet to be inadequate is bound to become ever greater, until it will at length really be able to fulfill its obligations toward the cosmic powers. This trust in the soul's powers of endurance and its fruitfulness must uphold us when, as often, because we only bring with us strength drawn from the past, we feel afraid, not knowing what to do; when it seems: ‘You must, and at this moment you cannot.’ All the soul's ordeals are like this. From this fear, this feeling of impotence, we at first shrink back, and it is only when we find the strength which arises from this confidence in ourselves, from this trust which grows in us gradually through our deepening in spiritual science, that we are able to pass safely through such trials.

You will already have recognized from the whole trend of these lectures that two cosmic influences play their part in man, in his whole nature and being. And to bring these two currents into harmony great strength of soul is needed, strength to confront them both with fortitude and courage. This is clearly expressed at the end of my second Play The Soul's Probation. There we see how Capesius has undergone important occult experiences, how he has been permitted a glimpse into his previous incarnation, how he has been allowed to know what he was centuries ago on Earth. Then we come to a sentence which is really not to be taken lightly. We come to the saying that knowledge of one life lays obligations upon us for many lives, not simply for one. When we look back into our former incarnation, when we see how we have behaved to this or that person, when we see the debt we have incurred toward them, we feel that we have a heavy burden of debt to repay. And then there comes to us a thought which might well rob us of all courage; we recognize: ‘It is quite impossible for you to make good in your present incarnation the debt which you have brought upon yourself.’ Many men have a great longing to make all the reparation possible, but that springs from egotism. Most men in their egotism find it intolerable to have to carry through the gate of death so very much of their debit account, unbearable to have to say to themselves: ‘You must die and must take your debt of guilt in respect of this or the other matter with you into your next incarnation.’ But courage to admit freely and frankly ‘You have wickedness upon your soul’ calls for a high degree of disinterestedness, whereas usually the human being wants to think himself as good as is his idea of a good man.

Anyone who has had occult experiences of the kind we have been speaking of has to recognize his evil propensities frankly — and he must go further: he must accept the impossibility of making everything good in this life. Romanus expresses this in The Soul's Probation [scene 13] in a speech which may serve to illustrate this point. He says that guilt from the preceding life has to be carried through the gate of death, and that we must have the courage to face the moment when the Guardian stands before us and presents us with our debit account. This situation has to be taken seriously. It brings us face to face with the other current, which may be described in the following way. When the human being cultivates self-knowledge — not just superficial self-knowledge, but true self-knowledge — when he really learns something of his inmost being, then as a rule he discovers something in himself which he finds it very difficult to accept, something which is in the highest degree repugnant to him, something which, when it really dawns upon him, is absolutely shattering. Contrast this crushing feeling in the depths of the soul with the sentiment which prevails in so many people, even in those who have some acquaintance with spiritual science. How often do we hear it said: ‘I do that with no thought of myself; I don't want anything for myself,’ and so on. It may be that just when one is most self-seeking one puts on a mask, one hides this fact from oneself by saying ‘I want nothing for myself.’ That is a common experience. But it is better to acknowledge to oneself the truth, that at bottom even the most unselfish actions are performed for our own sakes, for by recognizing this we lay a foundation which will enable us gradually to bear the true picture with which the Guardian of the Threshold confronts us.

Now let us consider the question at a higher level. Why is it that we find so much in ourselves which is inharmonious? That is connected with the whole of evolution. We shall have to undertake a deeper study of human evolution if we want to understand why it is just when the human being plunges more deeply into his own nature and his own being that he finds so much that is inharmonious. Let us assume for a moment that there is a treasure hidden in the depths of our soul of which the normal consciousness today is quite unaware, and that when in the course of our soul's trials we discover it, we find so much to shock us that we probably shrink back in terror, feeling completely shattered. What is it that we carry within us? We all know that humanity underwent a very complicated evolution before man reached his present stage. We know that in order to reach his present form he had to go through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions and that only after having done this did he enter upon Earth evolution. One day the complexity of the facts of life will be recognized in wider circles and people will realize that it is impossible to understand man or his environment without taking into consideration the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions; people will then see how very naive, how superficial, is the contribution of the abstract science of today. Thus what we have today as the fourfold human being has been slowly prepared and formed through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions. By the time the Moon evolution came to an end, the human being had developed up to a certain point. The time between Moon and Earth evolutions was occupied in working upon the spiritual element which had been present in man during the Moon evolution, elaborating it into a new germ for Earth evolution.

What, then, was man like — man, the product of the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions — when he arrived on Earth? We have already dealt with this question from very many aspects. Today we will look at it from yet another side. We cannot come to know occult facts by pinning ourselves down to a few abstract concepts; we have to approach the truth by throwing light on the facts from all sides. The paths of higher truth are complex, and only he can walk them who is willing patiently to trace their labyrinth.

What was man like when, bringing with him the fruits of his Moon evolution, he arrived on Earth? Nothing of what we are familiar with today as the physical body of man was present at the commencement of Earth evolution. Although the first rudiments of this physical body were present in the Saturn evolution, were further developed on the Sun, and had already reached a high stage of development on the Moon, we must nevertheless understand that in the intervening periods between Saturn and Sun, and again between the Sun and Moon evolutions, all that had evolved of the physical and other bodies had reverted to spirit. Everything again passed over into imperceptible substantiality at the end of the Moon evolution. The physical which had evolved on Saturn and subsequently been further fashioned was no longer physical, everything had been taken up into the spirit again; the physical was as it were in solution, was present only as forces — forces with the capacity to call forth physical forms, but with the physical element not actually present. When Earth evolution began, what we call the physical was not there in a physical form, but only in a spiritual form, a spiritual form which was capable of condensing little by little to the physical. That has to be borne in mind.

We can go further. We know that we are now in the post-Atlantean age, and that this was preceded by the Atlantean and the Lemurian ages. Beyond the Lemurian age we come to still earlier periods of Earth evolution. But at the beginning of Lemuria man was still not to be found in his present form as physical body. What today is physical was at that time, even where it was densest, still only in etheric form; that is to say, the forces of our present physical body were at that time in solution, as it were, within the ether body, but the forces of this ether body were such that when they condensed in accordance with their own nature they were then able to bring about our physical body. Thus these etheric forces were in a way the forces of the physical body but they were not present in a physical condition. Thus when man entered upon his Lemurian development, his densest body was still an etheric one. Condensation to the physical body only began from the Lemurian time onwards. It was brought about in a very complicated manner. Thus for spiritual vision man was there at the outset in an etheric body, and this etheric body contained those physical forces which had been acquired through the course of Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions. These forces had the tendency to condense, so that little by little the physical body could come into existence, but they were not yet in physical form. But had the forces of the physical body condensed in the way they tended to do at that time, even in his physical appearance man today would have looked very different.

We must be quite clear that, in fact, man's appearance today is quite different from what he was by predisposition in the time which preceded ancient Lemuria. During the course of the Lemurian, Atlantean, and post-Atlantean epochs there have been at work in human nature not only the forces which were already present in man in rudimentary form, but other forces as well. If we wish to form an idea of what the further working of the forces of the etheric body has been, it can best be illustrated in a particular organic system of the human physical body. Let us consider what a part of the human being originating from the ether body has become since the time of Lemuria; let this diagram represent the human ether body as it was at the beginning of Earth evolution, before the Lemurian epoch. In it we find numerous currents, manifold directions of force, which are the outcome of the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions; from among these we pick out a certain number the purpose of which was to bring into being in man's physical organism his blood circulation with its centralization in the heart. Thus there are forces which were acquired under Saturn, Sun, and Moon conditions which were anchored in the etheric body before Lemuria, and which then condensed in such a way as to bring about the blood-system with its center in the heart. We have been describing a particular organic system which from the time of Lemuria onwards, out of specific etheric forces in our ether body, has little by little reached physical densification. Just as, given the right treatment, you can see salt-crystals crystallize out from a solution of common salt in water, just as a crystalline form becomes visible in the solution, so in a higher sense something of the same kind happens to the blood-system and the heart. They crystallize out of special forces in the human etheric body which have an inherent tendency to condense to this physical organic system. It has only been during the course of Earth evolution that they have been able to develop into the physical heart.

Diagram 4

We have yet to see why that took place in the course of Earth evolution, and not for instance in the Moon evolution. What really do the blood circulation and the heart mean to us? They are the ether-world condensed, they are the densified forces of the etheric world! Now, from the moment these forces reached the degree of density manifested today by the physical heart, by the blood and the whole circulatory system, they would have come to an end as far as Earth evolution is concerned, a kind of death would have set in. The important and mysterious feature of Earth evolution is not only that this densification took place, not only that the forces which had come over from Saturn, Sun, and Moon condensed to such an organic system, not only that what was in the etheric body became physical, but that as regards each of our systems of organs in Earth evolution an impulse entered whereby what was once etheric, and had become physical, is once more dissolved, is changed back again into the ether. That this is so, that after the etheric forces have condensed to a system of organs they are not allowed to rest at this as their goal, but that other forces then intervene which dissolve them again, is one of the most momentous impulses of our Earth evolution. In the very moment when our human organs have reached the point of greatest densification in earthly evolution, certain macrocosmic powers re-dissolve the substantiality of the organic system, so that what was there before, and had gradually lapsed into this organic condition, now emerges from it again, again becomes visible.

This process can be most closely followed by the occultist in the case of the heart and the blood streaming through it; it is possible to see how this dissolution comes about, how the Earth-impulses enter into the substance of such an organic system. For clairvoyant sight something streams continuously out of our heart — our heart, the outcome of our blood circulation. If you see clairvoyantly the blood pulsating through the human body, then you also see how this blood becomes rarefied again in the heart, how in its finest elements—not in its coarser, but in its finer parts — it is dissolved and returns to the etheric form. Just as the blood has gradually been formed in the ether, so in the human body of the present day we have the reverse process. The blood becomes etherized, and streams of ether flow continuously from the heart toward the head, so that we see the etheric body built up in an opposite direction by way of the blood. Thus what crystallized out from the etheric during the early part of Lemuria to form the human blood circulation and the heart we now see returning to the etheric form and streaming in the human etheric body toward the brain. And unless these streams of ether were to flow continuously from the heart toward the head, however much we tried to think about the world and to know about it, we should be quite unable to make use of our brain as the instrument for thought. As an instrument for knowledge the brain would be completely useless if it were only to function as physical brain. We have to resort to occultism to learn how the brain would work today if it were left to itself. The human being would only be able to think thoughts connected with the inner needs of his body. For example he would be able to think ‘Now I am hungry, now I am thirsty, now I will satisfy this or that instinct.’ If he were entirely dependent upon his physical brain man would only be able to think thoughts connected with his own bodily needs, he would be the perfect egoist. But currents of a fine etheric substance coming from the heart stream continuously through the brain. These etheric currents are indirectly related to a delicate and important part of the human brain called the pineal gland. They continuously lave the pineal gland, which becomes luminous, and its movements as physical brain-organ respond in harmony with these etheric currents emanating from the heart. Thereby these etheric currents are brought again into connection with the physical brain and give it an impress which enables us to know, in addition to egotistic knowledge, something of the outside world, something that is not ourselves. Thus by way of the pineal gland our etherized blood reacts upon our brain. You will find an even more detailed description of this from a certain standpoint in the lectures which are about to be published under the title Occult Physiology, lectures originally held in Prague. There I have pointed out from another aspect something of the function of the pineal gland. So you see we have not only a process within the Earth which leads to solidification, but also a reverse process of rarefaction. When we grasp this we are driven to the conclusion that we bear in us forces which will cause us to revert to the form we had during the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions.

In his normal consciousness today, man knows nothing of the marvelous play of forces in his ether body; he knows nothing of this communication between heart and brain. Anyone who is made aware of it through occult development becomes aware of something peculiar about these etheric currents — and here self-knowledge yields something very striking, something of the highest significance. One comes to know how these forces stream upward from the heart to the brain, to form the brain in such a way that the human being may be able to make use of it as the instrument of his soul-life. But at the same time one learns that these forces have not passed through the human organization unscathed, that they do not leave the heart in the same state in which they entered it. All that man has meanwhile developed out of the unconscious by way of lower instincts and appetites, all his natural propensities, are carried along in the etheric stream which is borne upwards from the heart. Thus we received this current in ancient Lemuria as a pure etheric stream which had no other craving, no other will, so to say, than to condense to form the wondrous structure of our heart. Since that time we have gone on living as physical men with this heart and this blood circulation: we have passed through a number of incarnations without knowing anything of this solidification of our original ether bodies into the physical parts of heart and blood circulation. And we have become permeated with desires, longings, sympathies and antipathies, emotions and passions, habits and mistakes, and the reborn ether body which now streams upward to the brain is darkened, is filled with all this. We send all this upwards from our heart — and now, in real self-knowledge, we become aware of it. We become aware that what we received from the gods themselves in the depths of our life-body we are unable to give back to the gods again in the same state in which we received it, but that it has become sullied by our own being.

Little by little we must come to know more closely what it is that I have just described as a kind of impurity of our own being. If we would understand the matter we have to bear in mind the following considerations. At the beginning of the Saturn evolution, or rather before it had begun, there was one single etheric stream for the whole of mankind and for the whole of Earth evolution. At the very moment when the Saturn evolution started, a split occurred in the cosmic powers. We shall learn later why that happened; now I only want just to mention it. This duality in the whole of cosmic activity only started from the moment when Saturn began to develop. Greek mythology indicates it by making ancient Saturn — or Cronos, as the Greeks called him — the opponent of his father, Uranus. This shows that they were aware of the original unity of all the macrocosmic forces. But when Saturn, or Cronos, began to crystallize, at once something hidden in the nature of Cronos put him in opposition to the general evolution. To repeat what has been said before, we can put it in this way: The totality of the divine-spiritual beings who held sway in evolution when the development of the planet Saturn began, split in two; so that we now have one evolutionary stream which is directly involved in everything which takes place through Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions down to our Earth, and another stream side by side with this main one.

You can form a rough idea of this secondary stream if you think of the air, the atmosphere surrounding our Earth, as a finer substance, and compare it with the denser parts of the Earth, with water and with the solid elements. We could likewise imagine that a denser development went on in Saturn, Sun, and Moon, but that this denser evolution was all the time sheathed in a more rarefied evolution. We could imagine that there were divine-spiritual beings working directly on Saturn, Sun, and Moon in their own substance, but that there were always other divine-spiritual beings in the periphery, who surrounded the spiritual beings working directly in Saturn, Sun, and Moon, just as air surrounds the Earth. Thus we have indicated two realms of gods, two spiritual realms, one of which plays a direct part in all that takes place successively in the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolution, the other holding itself aloof, so to say, and only intervening indirectly. Now we must try to form an idea of how the one category of gods is related to the other. Please take careful note of the relationship of those gods whose range is properly speaking more comprehensive — I mean those who take part directly in the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions — to those others who encircle this cosmic globe in its successive stages.

You will get a better idea of this if you first have a look at man himself. Take the human soul: it thinks. What does it mean, to think? It means to bring about thoughts. Thinking is a process which goes on in us, and while on the one hand it makes real soul-beings of us, on the other hand it draws us upward and causes our thoughts all the time to envelop our souls. Now, man with his thoughts, even as a being of soul, is still at a relatively subordinate stage of world-organization; but the beings whom we have just referred to as gods, dividing them into two streams, are at a far higher stage. Imagine for a moment that man was capable not only of grasping his thought purely as thought, but that the human soul was so strong that what it thought immediately became a being. Imagine that we were to give birth to our thoughts as beings, that whenever we grasped a thought it straightaway existed. (In a certain way it does remain in the Akasha Chronicle, but it does not become so dense that we are confronted by it as a reality.) Imagine that we were not just to think thoughts, but that with each thought we were to bring forth a being! Then you would have grasped what takes place within the divine-spiritual world. The gods who were living in the complete harmony, the perfect unity, which existed among them before Saturn, represented themselves; they thought. But their thoughts were not like human thoughts, which we have to pronounce unreal: their thoughts were beings, they were other gods. Thus we have generations of gods whose reality is original, and others who are merely the representations — the real ideas — of the gods directly associated with the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions. They are the gods who surround the world-sphere in the course of its development through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions.

Thus we have two categories of gods; one of them is the thought-world of the other, is in fact related to the other as our thoughts are related to our real soul-existence. What have we so far usually called the gods who are merely the thoughts of the others? Because of certain characteristics of theirs we have called them Luciferic beings, and henceforth we must assign to the category of Luciferic beings all those of whom we can say that ‘the original gods had need to present themselves to themselves in self-knowledge.’ Therefore they confronted themselves with the Luciferic beings as cosmic thoughts, or cosmic thought-beings, just as the human being is confronted by his thoughts. And just as man actually first comes to know himself in his thoughts, so the original gods learned to know themselves in Lucifer and his hosts. We could express that in another way: we could say that these beings, who are really only the ideas of the others, always lagged behind the others in their development. The advanced gods have, so to say, left something of themselves behind, so that they could look back and see themselves in this mirror thrown off from their own substance — just as we in everyday life can only see ourselves in a mirror. Thus in fact the Luciferic beings are backward beings, entities thrown off by the original gods, entities who are there to form a mirror of self-knowledge for the progressive gods.

In a certain sense what goes on in our own souls is a complete picture of this macrocosm. Only the pattern prefigured in the macrocosm occurs in us reversed. We bear in our microcosm a copy of this division between the ranks of the gods, of whom one class is original and the other born out of this original class and existing in order that the original gods may present themselves to themselves. From this you can well see that there must be a great difference between these two categories of gods.

The difference is quite obvious. It is shown in the fact that our entire self, including all that is unconscious in us, the whole comprehensive self — from which our bodily organization has also sprung — derives from the original generation of gods. But what we experience, what we can span with our everyday consciousness, comes from the generation of gods who are only the thoughts of the original gods. Our being comes to us from two sides. Our organization as a whole, with all that is unconscious in us, comes from the original generation of gods. What we are conscious of comes from the other side, from the generation of gods who only hover around the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions. Hence when we examine closely our own life of ideation we feel that the idea or mental representation is, in a higher sense, only the youngest daughter, so to say, of a line of gods; we feel the unreality, the merely notional transience, the elusiveness, of our life of consciousness. That is something which also dawned upon the pupils of the Greek Mysteries, in that it was made clear to them: ‘There are divine streams running through the whole of evolution which are all-embracing, all-inclusive, which pour their entire being into us, streams of which we are quite unconscious; and there are other streams which are only taken into the ordinary normal consciousness.’ Then the Greek pupil became clear that he must disregard his formal consciousness and turn to the ancient gods, who were also called the gods of the underworld, gods in whose nature Dionysos shared, for only so would he be able to acquire knowledge of the true being of man.

There is only one being in Earth evolution through whom something quite new can enter into us — a new element of clairvoyance, but also a new element of feeling and activity, steeped in occult forces.

The fact is that of the divine stream which hovered over the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions, up to a certain point of time only what I have just described could enter into human life. It streamed into human consciousness from outside, so to say, without man's descending into his inmost being, into the region of the lower gods. And what flowed in in this way was something incapable of ever reaching true world-reality. It was not possible to reach the true world-reality through external knowledge. In order to reach that, it would have been necessary for something to be instilled into what through the long ages of the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions had entered our normal consciousness from without — something which was not just the thought-life of the sub-earthly, the Chthonic deities, but something which was itself a reality, something which would cause our mere life of thought — all that seems to us to have been exuded from our soul as our unreal thoughtlife — suddenly for a moment to be so laid hold of by a substantial reality that a particularly precious thought should stand fast and abide with us, close to us as our very soul, as a reality. Something like this would have to happen if the gods moving in the periphery were to work in the way that the other gods have acted throughout the ages — the gods who through the more extended self have worked right into our bodily organization. Something would have to stream into us from without, which would signify a kind of renewal from the spiritual world, a resurrection, a revivification of what had first organized us and then withdrawn into the depths of our consciousness.

What entered into these peripheral gods at a certain moment was in fact the Christ, who at the Baptism by John in the Jordan took possession of the body of Jesus of Nazareth. In Christ a divine being entered into physical life by the same path which had been taken by those gods who earlier had only been the thought-life of other gods. But now for the first time a real Being enters, a Being who is not just the thought of the other gods, but who is substantial and autonomous. Out of the world-space, in which hitherto only the thoughts of other gods had lived, there comes a divine thought which is real. What had made that possible? It was possible because this significant event of the Baptism by John in the Jordan had been preceded by a long preparation lasting through the whole of evolution through Saturn, Sun, and Moon. What happened on the banks of the Jordan, and later in the Mystery of Golgotha, echoes another momentous event that took place in the far-distant past, as far back as the time of the Sun evolution.

We know that prior to Earth evolution there were the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions. On Earth we experience the Mystery of Golgotha and the Baptism by John in the Jordan. It can be elicited from the Akasha Chronicle that during the Sun evolution another important event took place. You could describe it as the culmination of a long process. The upper gods were the thoughts of the lower gods, and these upper gods found that it suited them better (putting it colloquially) to live in the rarefied element of the upper world rather than in the denser element of which the Earth was composed. It was during the Sun evolution that this separation took place between the two different generations of gods, of whom one elected to continue to live, as the real ancient gods, with the elements of earth, water, and air, whereas the other found it too difficult to enter into these dense elements, and continued to live only in what we call the etheric elements, first with warmth, then with light ether, chemical ether, and life ether. We can also designate these two generations of gods working side by side by saying that the one chose the more difficult path, that took them through the denser elements, while the other chose the easy way, flitting around the first generation in the chemical and life-ether, out of which they formed their bodies. Everything which lives in the finer etheric elements was developed in this way: forces were developed which in the long run were only able to live in these finer elements. This took place in the main during the Sun evolution.

But toward the middle of the Sun evolution something stupendous happened. A Being developed forces not in accordance with the finer, rarer etheric elements. Side by side with the Mystery of Golgotha, which we call the great Earth-sacrifice, we can speak of a Sun-sacrifice, in that a Being who had chosen to dwell among the gods who only wanted to live in the finer elements nevertheless developed powers of densification adequate to the Earth elements. And so, since the Sun evolution we have had in the ranks of the beings equipped only with forces adapted to the etheric spheres, a Being who, within the cosmic ether, has an inner relationship with the earthly element. From the time of the Sun evolution this Being waited for the right moment to introduce the forces He had developed into the Earth itself. It was Zarathustra's great merit to recognize: ‘In the Sun in the heavens above us something remains from the old Sun evolution. For the present this Being is in the Sun. But the moment is drawing near when He will also bring down to Earth his form that is suited to the earthly elements.’ Then came the time when humanity, though still not mature enough to recognize this Being who had become part of the etheric world in Himself, was nevertheless able to recognize Him in reflection; that was a stage on the way.

Thus in the course of evolution, for reasons which we shall speak of tomorrow, this Being showed Himself to humanity to begin with not directly, but in a reflected form, which we can describe as related to reality as moonlight, which is reflected sunlight, is related to the direct light of the Sun. That Being, who began to prepare Himself for His great deed on Golgotha during the old Sun evolution, was first shown to humanity in mirrored form. And this reflected form was called by the ancient Hebrew people Jahve. Jahve, or Jehovah, is the reflection of Christ; he is really the same as Christ, only seen in a mirror, so to say, seen aforetime, prophetically — prefigured until the time was ripe for Him to show Himself not merely in reflection but in His own form, His pristine form.

Thus we see the most important event for the Earth was prepared in the old Sun; we see humanity prepared for the Christ through the ancient Hebrew civilzsation. We see the Being who once separated Himself from the Earth and went to the Sun return to the Earth again; but we see too that He first revealed Himself to man in a mirrored image, so to say in a representation. Jahve or Jehovah is related to the real Christ just as the upper gods are related to the lower ones: he is the representation of the real Christ, and to those who see through things, resembles Him completely. Hence in a certain way we can speak of Jehovah-Christ, and in doing so light upon the true sense of the Gospels, which relate that the Christ Himself said: ‘If you would come to know Me, then you must know how Moses and the Prophets have spoken of Me.’ Christ knew well that when, of old, people spoke of Jehovah or Jahve, they were speaking of Him, and that all that was said of Jahve applied to Himself, as the mirror-image is related to its archetype.



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hamlet is Hector reincarnated; Faust is Empedocles reincarnated

"This is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ"

The Gospel of Mark. Lecture 1 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Basel, September 15, 1912:
It is well known that the Gospel of St. Mark begins with the words: “This is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
A man of today who seeks to comprehend this Gospel of St. Mark is at once, in the very first words, faced with three riddles. The first is to be found in the words: “This is the beginning.” The beginning of what? How can this beginning be understood? The second is: “the beginning of the Gospel ...” In an anthroposophical sense, what does the word “Gospel” mean? The third riddle we have often spoken of: the figure of Christ Jesus Himself.
Whoever is seriously seeking for knowledge and a deepening of himself must recognize that mankind is evolving and progressing. For this reason what we may call the understanding of any revelation is not fixed once and for all, or confined to any particular epoch. It progresses, so that anyone who attaches a serious meaning to the terms “evolution” and “progress” must necessarily believe that as time goes on, mankind's deepest problems will be ever better, and more thoroughly and profoundly, understood. For something like the Gospel of St. Mark, as we shall demonstrate by means of these three riddles, a certain turning point in our comprehension has been reached only at the present time. Slowly and gradually, but distinctly, there has been prepared what can now lead us to a real understanding of the Gospel and enable us to understand that “the Gospel begins.” Why is this the case?
We need only glance back a little to what filled human minds a comparatively short time ago and we shall see how the very nature of comprehension may — indeed must — have altered in relation to a subject like this. If we go back further than the nineteenth century we shall find that in the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries we approach ever closer to a time when those persons whose spiritual life was at all concerned with the Gospels had to start from a very different basis of comprehension than that of the person of today. What could an ordinary man of the eighteenth century say to himself if he wished to place himself in the general line of the evolution of humanity, and was not one of the few who were connected in some way with an initiation or some occult revelation — assuming that he had assimilated within himself everything offered by external exoteric life? Even the most cultivated man, one who stood on the highest pinnacle of the culture of his age, could not look back on more than three thousand years of the life of mankind; and one thousand of those years was before the Christian era and nearly lost in misty dimness. The other two thousand years since the founding of Christianity were not yet quite completed. He might look back three thousand years, shall we say? When one looked back at the earliest of these millennia one was confronted with a completely mythical, dim, prehistoric epoch of humanity, the age of old Persia. This, and what still remained of the knowledge of the ancient Egyptian epoch, preceded what “actual history” related, which began only with Hellenism. This Hellenism, to a certain extent, formed the foundation of the culture of this age. All those who wished to look more deeply into human life started with Hellenism; and within Hellenism appeared all that Homer, the Greek tragedians, and all the Greek writers have written concerning the primeval history of this people and their work for mankind.
Then one sees how Greece began to decline, how it was stifled by Rome, though only externally. Generally speaking, Rome overcame Greece only politically, while in reality it adopted Greek culture, Greek education,and Greek life. It might be said that politically the Romans conquered the Greeks, but spiritually the Greeks conquered the Romans. During this latter process, while Hellenism was conquering Rome spiritually, it poured into Rome through hundreds and hundreds of channels what it had itself acquired. From Rome this streamed forth into all the other civilizations of the world, while during this time Christianity streamed more and more into the Greco-Roman civilization and was to a large extent transformed when the northern Germanic peoples took part in the spreading of the Greco-Roman Christian culture. With this intermingling of Greece, Rome, and Christianity, the second millennium of the world's history passed away, which to the men of the eighteenth century was the first Christian one. Then we see the beginning of the second Christian millennium, the third historical civilization of man. We see how everything goes on apparently in the same way — although, if we have deeper insight, we shall see that in this third millennium everything is really different. Two figures only need be cited, a painter and a poet, who, although they appear some two centuries after the end of the millennium, nevertheless show how something essentially new began for Western civilization with the second Christian millennium, something which these two men carried further. These two figures are Giotto and Dante. Note 1 ] Giotto as painter and Dante as poet represent the beginning of all that followed, and what they gave was embodied in later Western cultures. Those were the three thousand years that could at that time be surveyed.
Then came the nineteenth century. Only someone who can look more deeply into the whole formation of the culture of the age is able now to perceive all that took place in the nineteenth century, and how for that reason everything had to become different. It is all contained in the minds and souls of men, but only a very few can as yet understand it.
The perspective of the man of the eighteenth century went back only to Hellenism; the age before that was somewhat nebulous. What happened in the nineteenth century — and this is little appreciated or understood today — is that the East played its part in the culture of the West, indeed very intensely so. This intervention of the Oriental influence in its own peculiar way is what we must bear in mind when considering the transformation that took place in the civilization of the nineteenth century. This penetration by the Orient threw light and shade upon everything that poured into the culture, and will increasingly do so. For this reason a new understanding was required concerning things that up to that time humanity had regarded in a different light.
If we wish to choose single figures and individuals who have influenced the culture of the West, in whom we could find nearly everything that a man felt in his soul at the beginning of the nineteenth century if he concerned himself with spiritual life, we may mention David, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe, Note 2 ] who was just beginning to penetrate into life. Future historians writing of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries will be very clear about one thing, that the intellectual and spiritual life of that era was determined by these five figures. There lived then, more than anyone can imagine now, even in the most delicate stirrings of the soul, what we may call the feelings and truths of the Psalms. There lived also fundamentally what is to be found in Homer as well as what took such magnificent form in Dante; then, even if it did not live in Shakespeare himself, there was what is nevertheless so beautifully expressed by him in the form in which it now lives in men of modern times. Added to this is the striving of the human soul after truth which Goethe expressed in Faust, something that in reality lived in every human soul in such a way that it was often said, “Every man who seeks the truth has something of the Faust nature in him.”
To all this there was added a quite new perspective, which extended beyond the three thousand years covered by these five persons. It came in ways that are at first quite unfathomable by external history. This was the first entry of an inner Orient into the mental and spiritual life of Europe. It was not only that to the poems of those writers mentioned earlier was added what was given in the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita, nor the fact that by learning to know these Eastern poems a different emotional nuance about the world was aroused, differing fundamentally from that of the Psalms or from what is to be found in the poetry of Dante or Homer, but something appeared in a mysterious manner which became ever more visible during the nineteenth century. One name alone will suffice, a name which made a great stir in the middle of the nineteenth century, and this will convince us that something came from the East to Europe along mysterious paths. We need but mention the name of Schopenhauer. Note 3 ] In Schopenhauer what is it that strikes you most of all, if you leave aside the theoretical elements of his system? Isn't it the content of feeling and sentiment that pervades his whole thought? In the profound relationship between this nineteenth-century man and the Oriental-Aryan mode of thought and feeling, in every sentence, we might say, in the emphasis of feeling in Schopenhauer, lives that which we might call the Eastern element in the West; and this passed on to Eduard von Hartmann Note 3 ] in the second half of the nineteenth century.
This penetrated along mysterious paths, as we have just said. We gradually come to better understand these mysterious paths when we see that in the course of the developments of the nineteenth century a complete transformation, a metamorphosis, of all human thinking and feeling took place — not however in only one part of the Earth but in the intellectual and spiritual life of the whole Earth. As to what took place in the West, if anyone would take the trouble, it would be enough to compare anything written about religion, philosophy, or any aspect of spiritual life with something that belongs to the eighteenth century. He will then see that a complete transformation took place, that all the questions regarding the highest riddles asked by mankind had become more vague, that men were striving to formulate new questions, to look for new sentiments and modes of perception, that nothing belonging to religion and what it formerly gave to man could still be given through it to the human soul in the same way. Everywhere there was a longing for something deeper and more profoundly hidden in the depths of religion.
This was not true of Europe alone. It is characteristic of the beginning of the nineteenth century that all over the civilized world men, through an inner urge, were compelled to think differently. If we wish to form a more exact conception of what we are discussing, we must see that there was a general convergence of the peoples and their folk cultures and folk beliefs, with the result that people belonging to entirely different creeds began in the nineteenth century to understand each other in a quite remarkable way. We shall quote a characteristic example which lies at the heart of what we are trying to indicate. In the thirtieth year of the nineteenth century, a man appeared in England who was a Brahmin, an adherent of what he considered to be true Brahminism, that is, the Vedanta teaching. Ram Mohun Roy Note 4 ], who died in London in 1836, exercised a great influence on those of his contemporaries who were interested in such things, and made a great impression. The remarkable thing about him was that on the one hand he stood there as a reformer of Hinduism, though a misunderstood one, while on the other hand everything he said could be understood by all Europeans who were familiar with the advanced thought of their age. He did not put forth ideas that could be understood only through Orientalism, but ideas that could be understood by ordinary human reason.
What was Ram Mohun Roy's attitude? He said something along these lines: “I live in the midst of Hinduism, where a number of different gods are worshipped. If the people of my country are asked why they worship these gods, they say, ‘It is our custom, we know nothing else. It was done by our fathers and their fathers before them.’ And because the people were influenced in this way,” Ram Mohun Roy continued, “the crassest idolatry became the rule, an appalling idolatry which disgraces the original greatness of the religion of my fatherland. There once was a belief that, although partly contradictory, is to be found in the Vedas. It is the purest form of human thought, and it was brought into the Vedanta system by Vyasa.”
This was the belief professed by Ram Mohun Roy. For this reason he had not only made translations from various incomprehensible idioms into the languages that are understandable in India, but he also made extracts of what he considered the correct teaching and spread them among the people. What was his intention when he did this? He thought he recognized behind all that comes to expression in the various gods and all that is worshipped in the different idols a pure teaching of a primal divine unity, the spiritual God who lives in all things but can no longer be recognized in the idols. This God must once more penetrate into the minds of men. When this Indian Brahmin spoke in detail about what he believed to be the correct Vedanta teaching, the true Indian creed, it did not sound strange. To those who understood him rightly, it was as though he preached a kind of rational belief that can be attained by everyone who by using his rational mind turns to the universal unitary God. And Ram Mohun Roy had followers: Rabindranath Tagore and others Note 4 ]. One of these followers, and this is especially interesting, gave a lecture in 1870 about Christ and Christianity. It was indeed extraordinarily interesting to hear an Indian speak about Christ and Christianity. The actual mystery of Christianity was quite remote from the Indian speaker — he did not touch upon that at all. From the whole course of the lecture we can see that he is quite unable to grasp the fundamental fact that Christianity does not proceed from a personal teacher but is founded on the Mystery of Golgotha, a world-historical fact, on death and resurrection. But that which he can grasp and is so clear to him is that in Christ Jesus we have a figure of tremendous significance, one that is of importance to every human heart, a figure that must stand there as the ideal figure for the whole history of the world. It is remarkable to hear this Indian speaking about Christ and to hear him say “If a man goes deeply into Christianity, he will see that Christianity must, even in the West, go through a further evolution, for what the European brings to my fatherland as Christianity does not appear to me to be the true Christianity.”
We see from the examples quoted that it was not only in Europe that people's minds began to look behind the religious creeds, but also in distant India. It is true also of many parts of the Earth where minds began to awake, and men approached in a new way and from an entirely new point of view something they had possessed for thousands of years. This metamorphosis of souls in the nineteenth century will be fully perceptible only in the course of time. Only in later times will history recognize that impulses of this kind, although apparently affecting only a few people, streamed through thousands of channels into our hearts and souls, so that today all those who participate in any way in spiritual life have them within their souls. This had to result in a total renewal. All older questions were transformed, and a new kind of understanding came into being in relation to all views that had hitherto been held. So it is that in the world even today such questions are already taking on a greater profundity. What our spiritual movement desires today is the answering of these questions.
This spiritual movement is convinced that these questions cannot in their present form be answered by the old traditions, by modern natural science, or by that conception of the world which reckons only with the factors of modern natural science. Spiritual science, research into the spiritual worlds, is necessary. In other words, mankind today, in accordance with the whole trend of his evolution, must ask questions that can be answered only through supersensible investigation. Quite slowly and gradually there have emerged from the spiritual life of the West things that are once more in harmony with the most beautiful traditions that have come over from the East. You know that we have always stressed the fact that the law of reincarnation comes out of Western spiritual life itself, and that it need no more be taken as something historical coming from Buddhism than for example Pythagorean doctrine needs to be taken over from historical traditions. This has always been emphasized, but the fact that the idea of reincarnation arose in modern souls formed a bridge which extended across the three thousand years of which we have been speaking (during which the doctrine of reincarnation was not the center of thinking) to the figure of Buddha. The horizon, the perspective of the evolution of mankind, was extended beyond the three thousand years. This gave rise to new questions, which can be answered only through spiritual science.
Let us begin with the question to which the beginning of this Gospel of Saint Mark gives rise, this Gospel which begins with the words “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Let us remember that these introductory words are immediately followed not only by a characterization of a passage of the old prophets but by the announcement of Christ by John the Baptist. This proclamation was stated by him in such a way that it may be put in these words: “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of the divine is extending over the whole Earth-existence.” What does all this mean?
Let us endeavor with the light that modern spiritual science can give us to view retrospectively those past ages in the center of which is contained “the fulfillment.” Let us try to understand what it means that “an old era is completed and a new one is beginning.” We shall best be able to understand this if we first turn our attention to something belonging to more remote times and then consider something belonging to the modern era; between the two lies the Mystery of Golgotha. Let us take something before the Mystery of Golgotha and then something later, and then endeavor to enter deeply into the difference between the two epochs, so that we may recognize how far the old epoch had been completed and a new one begun. In this way we shall not enter into abstractions or definitions, but consider the concrete.
I should like you to turn your attention to the first millennium of human evolution, as it was thought to be in earlier times. There in the remotest period of this first millennium stands the towering figure of Homer, the Greek poet and singer. Hardly more than the name remains to mankind of him to whom are ascribed those two great poems which are among the greatest accomplishment of mankind: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Scarcely more than his name is known, and in the nineteenth century doubts were cast even on that — but we need not dwell any further on that now. The more we  know of the figure of Homer, the more we admire him. For a person who studies such things, the characters created by Homer whom we meet in the Iliad and the Odyssey seem more alive than all the purely political figures of Greece. Many different people who have studied Homer over and over again have said that because of the precision of his descriptions and his manner of presentation he must have been a doctor. Others say he must have been an artist, a sculptor, or a craftsman. Napoleon admired the way Homer described tactics and strategy; still others think he must have been a beggar wandering through the land.
However all this may be, it certainly does demonstrate the unique individuality of Homer. Consider one of his characters, Hector. If you have any time available, you ought to study the figure of Hector in the Iliad — how plastically he is described so that he stands as a complete personality before us; how we see his affection for his paternal city, Troy, his wife, Andromache, his relationship to Achilles, and to his armies; and how he commanded them. Try to call up this man before your mind, this man who possessed all the tenderness of a husband, and who clung in the ancient way to his home city of Troy, and who suffered such disillusions as only really great men can. Remember his relation with Achilles. Hector, as presented by Homer, is a towering figure from very ancient times, a man of great all-embracing humanity, for of course what Homer is describing belongs to a period well before his own, in the darkness of the past. Hector stands out above all the others, all those figures who seem mythical enough in the eyes of modern men.
Now take this one figure. Skeptics and all kinds of philologists may indeed doubt that there ever was a Hector at all, in the same way as they doubt the existence of Homer. But anyone who takes into consideration what may be understood from a purely human viewpoint will be convinced that Homer describes only facts that actually occurred. Hector was a living person who strode through Troy, and Achilles and the other figures were equally real. They still stand before us as personages of real earthly life. We look back to them as people of a different kind from ourselves, who are difficult to understand but whom the poet is able to bring before our souls in every detail. Now let us place before our souls a figure such as Hector, one of the chief Trojan commanders, who is defeated by Achilles. In such a personage we have something that belongs to the old pre-Christian age, something by which we can measure what men were before the time when Christ lived on Earth.
I will now draw your attention to another figure, a remarkable figure of the fifth century B.C.: the great philosopher Empedocles Note 5 ], who spent a large part of his life in Sicily. It was he who was the first to speak of the four elements — fire, water, air, and earth — and who said that everything that happens in the material realm caused by the mingling and disintegration of these four elements results from the principles of love and hate ruling in them. It was he also who by his activity influenced Sicily by calling into being important political institutions, and he went about trying to lead the people into a life of spirituality. When we look back to Empedocles we find that he lived an adventurous as well as a deeply spiritual life. Perhaps the truth of what I am about to say will be doubted by some, but spiritual science knows that Empedocles went about in Sicily not only as a statesman, but as a magician and initiate, just as Hector, as depicted by Homer, walked in Troy. In order to characterize the remarkable attitude of Empedocles toward the world the fact confronts us — and it is true and no invention — that in order, as it were, to unite himself with all existence around him, he ended by throwing himself into Mount Etna and was consumed by its fire. In this way a second figure of the pre-Christian age is presented to our souls.
Now let us consider such figures as these in accordance with the methods of spiritual science. First of all we know that these individualities will appear again; we know that such souls will return to life. We shall not pay any attention to their intermediate incarnations but look for them in the post-Christian era. We then see something of the change brought about by time, something that can help us to understand how the Mystery of Golgotha intervened in human evolution. If we say that such figures as Hector and Empedocles appeared again, we must ask how they walked among men in the post-Christian era. For we shall then see how the intervention of the Mystery of Golgotha, the fulfillment and beginning of a new age, worked on their souls. As serious anthroposophists assembled here together we need not shrink from the communications of true spiritual science, which can be confirmed by external facts.
I should now like to turn your attention to something that took place in the post-Christian era, and perhaps again it may be said that the person concerned was a poetical personage. But this poetical personage can be traced back to a real individuality who was once alive. I direct your attention to the character created by Shakespeare in his Hamlet. Anyone who knows the development of Shakespeare, insofar as it can be known externally, and especially someone who is acquainted with it through spiritual science, will know that Shakespeare's Hamlet is none other than the transformed real prince of Denmark, who also lived at one time. I cannot go into everything underlying the historical prototype of the poetical figure of Hamlet, but through the research of spiritual science I can offer you a striking example of how a man, a spirit of ancient times, reappears in the post-Christian era. The real figure underlying Hamlet, as presented by Shakespeare, is Hector. The same soul that lived in Hamlet lived in Hector. It is just by such a characteristic example as this, and the striking way the two different souls manifest themselves, that we can interpret what happened in the intervening time. A personality such as that of Hector stands before us in the pre-Christian age. Then comes the intervention of the Mystery of Golgotha in human evolution, and the spark it kindled in Hector's soul causes a figure, a prototype of Hamlet, to arise, of whom Goethe said, “This is a soul that is unable to deal with any situation and is not equal to its position, who is assigned tasks but is unable to fulfill them.” We may ask why Shakespeare expressed it in this way. He did not know. But anyone who can investigate the connections through spiritual science knows that behind these things forces were at work. The poet creates in the unconscious; before him stands, so to speak, first the figure which he creates, and then, as in a tableau of which he himself knows nothing, the whole individuality with which the figure is connected. Why does Shakespeare choose particular qualities in Hamlet and sharply emphasize them, qualities that perhaps Hamlet's own contemporaries would not have noticed? Because he observes them against the background of the era. He feels how different a soul has become in its transition from the old life to the new. Hamlet, the doubter, the skeptic, who has lost the ability to cope with the situations with which he meets in life, the procrastinator and waverer, this is what Hector, once so sure of himself, has become.
Let me direct your attention to another figure of modern times, who was also first presented to mankind in a poetic picture, in a poem whose protagonist will certainly live on in humanity for a long time to come when for posterity the poet, like Homer or Shakespeare, no longer is in existence. About Homer we know nothing at all, and about Shakespeare we know very little indeed. What the various compilers of notes and biographers of Goethe have written will long since have been forgotten. In spite of the printing press and other modern inventions, what interests people in Goethe at the present time will likewise have been long forgotten. But large as life, and modelled from life, there will stand the figure of Faust which Goethe has created. Just as men today know nothing of Homer, so will they some day know but little of Goethe (which will be a good thing); but they will know much about Faust. Faust again is a figure who, as he is presented to us in a literary form by Goethe, can be recognized as one brought to a certain conclusion by Goethe. The poetical picture refers back to a real sixteenth-century figure who lived then as a real person, though he was not as Goethe described him in his Faust. Why then did Goethe describe him in this way? Goethe himself did not know. But when he directed his attention to the traditional Faust that had been handed down to him, a Faust with whom he was already acquainted through the marionettes of his boyhood, then the forces that stood behind Faust, the forces of his previous incarnation, the forces of Empedocles, the old Greek philosopher, worked within him! All these radiated into the figure of Faust. So we might say, since Empedocles threw himself into Etna and united himself with the fire-element of the Earth, what a wonderful spiritualization of pre-Christian nature mysticism was accomplished in fact in the final tableau of Goethe's Faust, when Faust ascends into the fire- element of heaven through Pater Seraphicus and the rest. Slowly and gradually a totally new spiritual tendency entered into the deeper strivings of men. Already some time ago it began to become evident to the more profound spirits of mankind that, without their knowing anything about reincarnation or karma, when they were considering a great comprehensive soul whom they wished to describe from the depths of their inner life, they found themselves describing what radiated over from earlier incarnations. Although Shakespeare did not know that Hamlet was Hector, he nevertheless described him as such, without being aware that the same soul had lived in both of them. So too Goethe portrays his Faust as though Empedocles with all his peculiarities were standing behind him, because in his Faust there lived the soul of Empedocles. It is characteristic that the progress of the human soul should proceed in this way.
I have mentioned two characteristic figures, in both of whom we can perceive that when great men of earlier times reappear in a modern post-Christian age, they are shaken to the very depths of their souls and can only with difficulty adjust themselves to life. Everything that was within them in the past is still within them. For example, when we allow Hamlet to work upon us, we feel that the whole force of Hector is in him. But we feel that this force cannot come forth in the post-Christian era, that it then meets with obstacles, that something now works upon the soul that is the beginning of something new, whereas in the figures of antiquity something was coming to an end. So do these figures stand plastically delineated before us; both Hector and Empedocles represent a conclusion. But what is working on further in mankind must find new paths into new incarnations. This is revealed with Hector in Hamlet and also with Empedocles in Faust, who had within him all the abysmal urges toward the depths of nature. Because he had within him the whole nature of Empedocles he could say “I will lay aside the Bible for a time and study nature and medicine. I will no longer be a theologian.” He felt the need to have dealings with demonic beings who made him roam through the world leaving him marveling but uncomprehending. Here the Empedocles element had an after-effect but was not able to adjust itself to what a man must be after the new age had begun.
I wanted to show you through these explanations how in well-known souls, about whom anyone can find information, a powerful transformation shows itself, and how the more deeply we study them the more perceptible this becomes. If we inquire what happened between the two incarnations of such individualities, the answer always is the Mystery of Golgotha, which was announced by the Baptist when he said “The time is fulfilled: the kingdoms of the spirit, or the kingdoms of heaven, are passing over into the kingdom of man.” Yes, the kingdoms of heaven did indeed powerfully seize the human kingdom, but those who take this in an external sense are unable to understand it. They seized it so powerfully that the great men of antiquity, who had been in themselves so solid and compact, had to make a new beginning in human evolution on Earth. This new beginning showed itself precisely with them, and lasted until the end of the old epoch, with the Mystery of Golgotha. At that time something that had been fulfilled ebbed away, something which had presented men in such a way that they appeared as rounded personalities in themselves. Then came something that made it necessary for these souls to make a new beginning. Everything had to be transformed and altered, so that great souls appeared small. They had to be transformed into the stage of childhood, for something quite new was beginning. We must inscribe this in our souls if we wish to understand what is meant at the beginning of the Gospel of St. Mark by the words “a beginning.” Yes, truly a beginning, a beginning that shakes the inmost soul to its foundations and brings a totally new impulse into human evolution, a “beginning of the Gospel.”
What then is the Gospel? It is something that comes down to us from the kingdoms we have often described, where dwell the higher hierarchical beings, among whom are the angels and archangels. It descends through the world that rises above the human world. So do we gain an inkling of the deeper meaning of the word Gospel. It is an impulse that descends through the realms of the archangels and angels; it comes down from these kingdoms and enters into mankind. None of the abstract translations really covers the matter adequately. In reality the word Gospel should indicate that at a certain time something begins to flow in upon the Earth which formerly flowed only where there dwell the angels and archangels. Something descended to Earth that shook the souls of men, and shook the strongest souls most. It is here noted that this was the beginning, and the beginning has a continuation. The beginning was made at that time, and we shall see that fundamentally the whole development of humanity since then is a continuation of that beginning when the impulse began to flow down from the kingdom of the angeloi, or what we call the “ev-angel” or Gospel.
We cannot seek or investigate deeply enough if we wish to characterize the different Gospels. We shall see that especially the Gospel of St. Mark can be understood only if we understand in the right way the evolution of humanity with all its impulses and all that has happened in the course of it. I do not wish to describe this externally, but to characterize actual souls, showing how it is only the recognition of the fact of reincarnation, when it becomes a matter of real research, that can bear witness to the progress of such souls as those of Hector and Empedocles. Only in this way can the deeper significance of the Christ Impulse be brought before our souls. Otherwise we may discover beautiful things, but they will all be superficial. What lies behind all the outer events in the history of the Christ Impulse is discovered only when we can throw light upon life through spiritual research, so that we can recognize how a single life passes not only in its separate phases but also in the sequence of incarnations. We must look upon reincarnation as a serious matter and apply it to history in such a way that it becomes an element that gives life to it. We shall then perceive the working of the Event of Golgotha, the greatest of all impulses. It is especially in souls that this impulse, which we have described often enough, will become visible.

The Dionysian Mysteries; Socrates is Silenus reincarnated, Plato is Dionysos the Younger reincarnated

Diagram 3

Wonders of the World, Ordeals of the Soul, Revelations of the Spirit. Lecture 7 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 24, 1911:

What is it that has been the theme of our lectures during the last few days? We have been trying to bring to light again in the impressive pictures of Greek mythology, as the expression of an ancient wisdom, what in our own time we can come to know through spiritual science, occult science; and we have certainly seen how much of what we come to know today in quite another way is to be found there as something quite obvious. When we realize this, especially when we discover that the deepest and most significant principles of knowledge, principles still today not fully recognized, were already expressed in pictorial fashion in this Greek mythology, our usual very superficial ideas about it are bound to be severely shaken.

The Greeks felt that what they hid in their Mysteries and associated with the figure of Dionysos was still deeper and more significant than all that they associated with the upper gods — with Zeus, Poseidon, Pluto, with Apollo, Mars, and so on. For whereas they expressed pretty well everything which had to do with the upper gods exoterically, by means of the world around them, they veiled what had to do with Dionysos within the sanctity of the Mysteries, and only communicated it to those who had undergone a thorough preparation.

What then was the contrast between what the Greeks felt in their ideas about the upper gods, and what was withdrawn into the sanctity of the Mysteries? What was the fundamental difference? In their ideas about the upper gods, about Zeus, Poseidon, Pluto, Apollo, Mars, and so on, they expressed everything of which one can become conscious through a deeper insight into the wonders of the world, a deeper insight into what takes place all around us and into the laws which govern it. But something essentially different was involved in what was associated with the figure of Dionysos; Dionysos had to do with the deepest vicissitudes of the human soul struggling for knowledge and for entry into the supersensible worlds. The Mysteries associated with his name threw light upon the lot of the soul struggling for knowledge, living in the depths; they shed light upon all the testings which the soul had to undergo on its way.

If we would understand the figure of Dionysos and his connection with these tribulations, we must first give some thought to what modern spiritual science has to say about the human mind in the act of cognition. It might seem that modern man has abundant opportunity to become instructed as to what cognition really is. For the study of philosophy is accessible in all countries, and it is to this that we look to supply the answer to the question of how knowledge comes about. But from the standpoint of spiritual science, philosophy has not been very successful in answering this question, and you can easily see why this is. So long as philosophy — the ordinary philosophy of the day — refuses to recognize the truth about the human being — that he consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego — it can come to no viable theory of knowledge. For knowledge is bound up with the whole being of man, and unless the true being of man, his fourfold nature, is taken into account, the question as to what knowledge is will only be answered by the empty phrases which are so familiar in modern philosophy. Because of the limited time at our disposal I can of course only briefly refer to this, I can only say a few words about the nature of human knowledge. But we shall understand one another if we begin by asking how it is acquired, as distinct from what it may signify.

You all know that the human being could never attain to knowledge if he did not think, if in his mind he did not carry on something akin to work in ideation or thinking. Knowledge does not come of itself. The human being has to undertake work within himself, he has to allow ideas to pass through his mind if he wants to know. As adherents of spiritual science we have to ask ourselves where in human nature those processes take place which we designate as ideation, as mental representation, and which lead to knowledge.

According to the materialistic illusion, the typical philosophic fantasy of today, knowledge comes about as a result of work carried out by the brain. Admittedly, work does take place in the brain in the act of cognition, but if we bear in mind that the main thing in knowledge is the work within the soul in the life of ideation, the question must arise: ‘Has the content of the process of ideation anything to do with the work which goes on in the brain?’ The brain is part of the physical body, and what constitutes the content of our life of ideation, what constitutes the work of our soul in ideation, in mental representation, which is what brings knowledge about, does not go as far as the physical body; that all takes place in the three higher members of the human being, takes place from the ego through the astral body down to the etheric body. As far as its content goes, you will find nothing in any element of our process of ideation which takes place in the physical brain. Thus, if we are talking expressly of the content or of the activity of mental representation, we must attribute that solely to the three higher supersensible members of the human being, and then we can ask ourselves what the brain has to do with all this that goes on supersensibly in the human being. The obvious truth upon which modern philosophy and psychology are based, that in the act of cognition processes do take place in the brain, has of course to be admitted; it cannot and should not be denied, but it is relatively unimportant. Nothing of the mental representation itself lives in the brain. What significance, then, has the brain, has the external bodily organization in general, for knowledge, or let us say to begin with, for the life of ideation?

Since I must be brief, I can only indicate it pictorially. As regards what really happens in our souls in the forming of ideas and in thinking, the work of the brain has precisely the same significance as a mirror has for the man who sees himself in it. When you with your personality move through space, you do not see yourself — unless you meet a mirror; then you do see what you are, you see how you look. A man who claims that the brain thinks, a man who professes that the work of ideation, of representation, goes on in the brain, is just about as shrewd as the man who looks at a mirror and says: ‘I am not walking about out here, that is not me. I must get inside the mirror, that is where I am.’ He would soon become convinced that he was not in the mirror, but that the mirror was reflecting what was outside it. So it is with the whole of the physical organization. What becomes evident through the work of the brain is the inward supersensible activity of the three higher members of the human organization. The mirror of the brain is needed in order that this activity may become evident to the human being himself, in order that through the mirror of the brain he may perceive what he is supersensibly; this is an inevitable result of our contemporary human organization. If, as an earthly being today, man had not this reflecting bodily organism, primarily the brain, he would still think his thoughts but he would not be aware of them. The whole endeavor of modern physiology and a good deal of modern psychology to understand thinking is about as clever as looking into a mirror to find your own reality. What I have here said in a few words can be epistemologically and scientifically substantiated in the strictest manner. It is of course quite another question whether the argument would be at all understood. Experience indeed suggests the contrary. In however strictly logical a manner one argues today even with philosophers, they do not understand a mortal word, because they just do not want to go into these things. For in the outer world today there is still absolutely no will to tackle the most serious problems concerning the human faculty of cognition.
Diagram 3

Let us take this diagram to represent the human physical bodily organization. If then we wish to express in correct diagrammatic form the human process of cognition, we have to say: ‘No part of what thinking is, nothing of the act of cognition, takes place anywhere within this external physical organism; it all takes place in the adjacent etheric and astral bodies and so on.’ It is there that all the thoughts which I have indicated diagrammatically by these circles are to be found. These thoughts do not enter into the brain at all — it would be nonsense to think that they do — they are reflected through the activity of the brain and thrown back again into etheric body, astral body, and ego. And it is these images, which we ourselves have first produced, and which are then made visible to us by the brain — it is these mirrored images which we see when as earthly men we become aware of what actually goes on in our soul-life. Within the brain there is absolutely no thought; there is no more of thought in the brain than there is of you in the mirror in which you see yourself.

But the brain is a very complicated mirror. The external mirror in which we see ourselves is simple, but the brain is tremendously complicated, and of necessity a complex activity takes place in order that it can become the instrument, not indeed for producing thought but for reflecting it. In other words, before a single thought of a single earthly man could come into existence, there had to be a preparation. We know that this preparation took place during the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions, and that in fine the present physical body, and with it the brain, is the result of the work of many spiritual hierarchies. So we can say that by the beginning of Earth evolution man on Earth was so formed that he could develop his physical brain to become the reflecting apparatus for what the human being really is, for the real man, who is at first only to be met with in the environment of this our physical bodily organization. That is how we put it today, and it can surely be understood, at all events by an. audience of anthroposophists. Fundamentally this process of cognition we are examining is quite easy to understand.

What we today are able to understand in this way was felt by the ancient Greek, and therefore he said to himself: ‘There is concealed in this physical bodily organism, without man's having any direct consciousness of it, something of great significance. This physical organism is undoubtedly from the Earth, since it consists of the materials and forces of the Earth, but there is something secreted within it which can reflect back the whole life of the human soul.’ When the ancient Greek was directing his feeling upon the microcosm, upon man, he called this element — coming from the Earth and thus macrocosmic — this element which played a part in the constructing of the brain, the Dionysian principle; so that it is Dionysos who works in us to make our bodily organism into a mirror of our spiritual life.

Now, if we apply ourselves to this purely theoretical exposition, if we enter into it, we can experience that the soul is being put to a first and very gentle trial; it is very slight, and since the organization of present-day man is not tuned to the most delicate refinements, it usually passes unnoticed. These challenges will have to become ruder if the man of today is to feel them.

It is only when one is filled with enthusiasm for knowledge, when one looks upon the attainment of knowledge as a matter of life itself, that one feels what I am about to describe as a first tremendous challenge to the soul. It comes about when this very knowledge leads us on to recognize that the mighty word of wisdom ‘Know thyself’ resounds toward us out of primeval times. Self-knowledge, as the cardinal maxim upon which all other true knowledge turns, shines before us as a high ideal. In other words, if we want to attain knowledge in general, we must first endeavor to get to know ourselves, to get to know what we are. Now, all our knowledge takes its course in the process of ideation. Our life of ideation, or mental representation, which reproduces for us all the things outside us, we experience in the form of mirrored image. The process does not penetrate at all into what we are as physical bodily organism; it is thrown back to us, and the human being can no more see into his own physical being than he can see what is behind the mirror. Moreover, he does not penetrate into his physical organization, because his soul-life is completely filled by this process of representation. One is obliged to say: ‘Then it is quite impossible to learn to know oneself: one can come to know nothing but this process of ideation which has turned one into a reflecting apparatus. It is impossible to penetrate further, we can only reach as far as the frontier; and at the frontier the whole life of the soul is thrown back again, as a man's image is thrown back in a mirror.’ If an undefined feeling challenges us to know ourselves, we have to confess that we cannot do it, that it is impossible for us to know ourselves.

What I have just been saying is for most men of today an abstraction, because they have no enthusiasm for knowledge, because they are incapable of developing the passion which must come into play when the soul is confronted by its own absolute need. But imagine this realization developed into feeling, and then the soul is faced with a hard task indeed: ‘You must attain something which you cannot attain!’ In terms of spiritual science that means that no knowledge which man can acquire by exoteric means will lead to any degree of self-knowledge.

From this springs the endeavor to press on by quite another path than that of ordinary knowledge to what the work of Dionysos within us is — to our own being. That has to take place in the Mysteries. In other words, something was given to man in the Mysteries which had nothing to do with the ordinary soul-life, that is only mirrored in our bodily organization. The Mysteries could not confine man within the limits of exoteric knowledge, for that would never have enabled them to lead man into himself. Anyone determined to recognize only exoteric science would consequently have to say: ‘The Mysteries must have been pure humbug, for they only make sense on the assumption that something quite different from ordinary knowledge was cultivated in them, with the object of reaching Dionysos.’ Thus in the Mysteries we have to expect happenings of a kind which approach man in quite another way from all that man meets in ordinary exoteric life. This brings us directly up against the question: ‘Is there really any means of penetrating into what is ordinarily only a reflecting apparatus?’

I should like to begin from something seemingly quite unimportant. As soon as one takes the very first step in describing spiritual truths — truths which lead to reality and not to the maya of the outer world, not to illusion — one has to set about it in quite a different way from the way one sets about describing scientific or other matters in ordinary life. That is why it is so difficult to make oneself understood. Today men try to confine everything within the fetters which have been forged for modern science, and nothing that is not presented in this form is accepted as ‘scientific’. But with such knowledge it is impossible to penetrate into the nature of things. Hence in the lectures on spiritual science which are given here, a different style, a different method of presentation is used from the one to which ordinary science is accustomed; here things are so described that light is thrown upon them from several sides, and in a certain way language is taken seriously again. If one takes language seriously, one reaches what one might call the genius of language. In one of the earlier lectures of this course I said that it was not for nothing that in my second Rosicrucian Mystery Play, The Soul's Probation, I used the word dichten for an original activity of the World Creator, or that in The Portal of Initiation I said of Ahriman that he creates ‘in dichtem Lichte’. [ 1 ] Anyone who appraises such words in the light of present-day usage will believe that they are just words like any other. Not at all. They are words which go back to the original genius of language, words which draw out of the language something that has not yet passed through the conscious human ego-life of ideation. And language has many instances of this.

In the book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind I have pointed out what a beautiful expression there still was in old German for what is indicated in an abstract way by geboren werden (to be born). When a man comes into the world today he is said ‘to be born’. In old German there was another expression for this. The human being was of course not conscious of what really takes place at birth, but the genius of language, in which Dionysos plays a part, reaching in this way right into the activity of mental representation as distinct from the mere reflection of it — the genius of language knew that, when the human being goes through the gate of death, then in the first part of the time between death and a new birth, forces are at work in him which he has brought with him from his previous life and which are the forces which caused him to grow old in that life. Before we die we become old, and the forces which make us old we carry over with us. In the first part of the time between death and a new birth these forces go on working. But in the second half of the life between death and rebirth quite different forces set in. Forces take hold of us which fashion us in such a way that we return to the world as little children, that we become young. The language of the Middle Ages hinted at this mystery, by not using merely the abstract phrase geboren werden but by saying: Der Mensch ist jung geworden (the man has become young). This is an extremely significant expression! In the second part of Goethe's Faust [ 2 ] we find this phrase: im Nebellande jung geworden. Nebelland is an expression for the Germany of the Middle Ages; it means no more than to have been born in Germany, but in this expression there lies an awareness of the genius of language, thus of a higher being than man, who participated in the creation of the human organism. That one speaks of ‘Dichtung’ in German is based on awareness that the ‘Dichter’ brings together what is outspread in the world, condenses it. One day there will be a philosophy which is not so dry and prosaic, not so philistine as that of today, because it will enter into the living genius of language, which in the ego-man of today underlies his conscious life of ideation. Much has to be elicited from this genius of language if one wants to characterize the things of the spiritual world, which lie beyond what ordinary consciousness can grasp.

Thus another method of presentation has to be used in the description of spiritual things. Hence the strangeness which is bound to be felt in many descriptions of the higher worlds. When we speak of the spiritual worlds we already meet at the very outset with something which must have originated behind what the human being has in his consciousness. It has to be drawn from the subconscious depths of the soul. Moreover, if one does this today something is necessary which seems quite trivial but is nevertheless important. If one wants to describe spiritual-scientific things in their true sense, one must forgo the use of the customary terminology. One has perhaps even to go so far as to acknowledge quite consciously: ‘If you reject the customary terminology then the professors and all the other intellectuals will say you have no proper command of language. They will find all manner of things to object to, they will find you lacking in clarity; they will carp at all sorts of things in the way in which spiritual science is expressed.’ One has to accept that quite consciously, for it is inevitable. One must face up to the fact that one will probably be looked upon as stupid, because one fails to make use of the customary ‘perfectly logical’ terms, which in a higher connection are the height of imperfection.

What I have pointed out to you as a small matter — or not so small — was in ancient Greece a necessity for the pupil of the Mysteries, and is still so today. In order to come to his full self, in order to penetrate into his inmost being, which otherwise is only reflected by his external bodily organization, the pupil must divest himself of the usual conscious external method of acquiring knowledge. Superficial persons could of course immediately say: ‘But you claim that the human being always retains his common sense, and judges everything in the higher worlds in accordance with it; yet you now say that he must renounce normal external knowledge. Surely that is a contradiction!’ In reality it is quite possible to test the things of the higher spiritual worlds with common sense and intelligence while nevertheless withdrawing from that form of conscious knowledge to which we are accustomed in the outer world. Here our souls are once more faced by a severe ordeal. In what does this ordeal consist?

As things are today, it is the habit of the soul to think and to apply the judgments of common sense within certain moulds, namely in those forms which in the ordinary process of mental representation are taught by the external world. That is the normal thing. And now imagine some professor or other, who is learned in the science of the outer world, and within the forms appropriate to that kind of knowledge an exceptionally able thinker. People come and say: ‘You want to make yourself understood by that professor; he obviously knows how to think scientifically in the modern sense of the term; if he can't understand you, you must have said something it is impossible for anyone to understand!’ Well, there is no need to dispute that our professor has a sound commonsense judgment for the things of the ordinary external world. But our subject matter is the things of the spiritual world, and it will not do for him to listen with that part of his soul which brings common sense to bear on the ordinary things of the external world; he would have to listen with quite a different part of his soul. It does not follow that his common sense will continue to accompany a man when he seeks to grasp anything other than the things belonging to the outside world. Those are the things for which common sense is adapted; and a man may well possess an understanding for those things — and yet it may leave him in the lurch when he comes to the things of the spiritual world.

What is required if we intend to penetrate into spiritual worlds is not a critique of spiritual-scientific things conducted by the instrument of common sense, but that we should take our common sense along with us in our approach to them, and not lose it on the way from outer science toward inner, spiritual science. What matters is that the soul should be strong enough to avoid the experience so many people endure today. You could describe it like this: As long as it is only a question of external science, these people are paragons of logic, but when they hear of spiritual science, then they have to make the journey from information about external things to information about the spiritual world. And on this journey they generally lose their common sense. Then they fancy that, because they had it with them when they started, they must have had it later on too! It would be a bad mistake to conclude that it is not possible to enter into the things of the spiritual world with common sense. It is just that one must not lose hold of it on the way there.

What I have just put before you in a petty example was in a far higher sense a necessity for Greek pupils of the Mysteries, as it is for modern mystics also. They have to slough off completely, as it were, their normal consciousness, yet for all that they have to keep with them the sound common sense which goes with normal consciousness and then make use of it as an instrument for judgment in an entirely different situation, from an entirely different viewpoint. Without relinquishing his normal consciousness no one can become a mystic. He has to do without the consciousness which serves him well in the everyday world. And the challenge to the soul which emerges at this point, on the way from the customary outer world to the spiritual world, is that it should not lose its common sense and treat as nonsense what, if it has held on to its common sense, reveals itself as a deeper experience.

Thus the pupil in the Greek Mysteries needed to divest himself of all that he was able to experience in the outer, the exoteric, world, and this is also necessary for the mystic today. Hence the things of the world outside sometimes assume quite different names when they enter into the sphere of mysticism. When in my Rosicrucian play The Soul's Probation it is said of Benedictus that in his speech the names of many things are changed, that they even take on a completely opposite meaning, this is something of deep significance. What Capesius calls unhappiness, Benedictus is obliged to call happiness. [ 3 ] Just as after death our life to begin with runs its course backwards and we experience things in backward order, in the same way we have to change the names of things into their opposites if we are speaking in the true sense of the higher worlds. Hence you can estimate what an entirely different world it was which the ancient Greeks acknowledged as the content of the holy Mysteries.

What was the meaning of Dionysos in these Mysteries? If you read the little book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind, which is to be published within the next few days, you will see that in all ages there have been great teachers of mankind who have remained unseen, who only manifest themselves to clairvoyant consciousness. You will see that when the ancient Egyptians said, in answer to a question from the Greeks as to who their teachers were, that they were instructed by the gods, it was the truth. They meant that men who were clairvoyant were inspired by teachers who did not descend to Earth, but who appeared to them in the etheric sphere and taught them. I am not putting it fancifully, what I am saying is absolutely true! When in ancient Greece pupils were introduced into the Mysteries, after having undergone due preparation so that they did not take such things lightly, superficially — as is done today when they are discussed in abstract terms — they were then in a position to see within the Mystery the teacher who was not to be seen by physical eyes but was visible only to the inspired consciousness. The hierophants, who were to be seen with physical eyes, were not the important people. The important beings were those visible to clairvoyant consciousness. In the Mysteries with which we are concerned in these lectures, in the Dionysian Mysteries, the highest teacher of the pupils who were sufficiently prepared was in fact the younger Dionysos himself — that figure which I have already told you was a real one, he who was followed by a train of sileni and fauns and who made the journey from Europe to Asia and back again. He was the real teacher of the pupils in the Dionysian Mysteries. Dionysos appeared in an etheric form in the holy Mysteries, and from him it was then possible to perceive things which were not merely seen as mirror-images in normal consciousness, but things which welled forth directly from the inner being of Dionysos.

But because Dionysos is in us, the human being saw his own self in Dionysos, and learnt to know himself — not by brooding upon himself, as is so often recommended by people who know nothing of reality — but the way to self-knowledge for the Greek Mysteries was to go out of himself. The way to self-knowledge was not to brood upon himself and to gaze only upon the mirror-images of ordinary soul-life, but to contemplate that which he himself was, though he could not reach down to it in normal consciousness, to look upon the great Teacher. The aspirants looked upon the great Teacher, who was not yet visible when they entered into the Mystery, as upon their own being. In the world outside, where he was recognized merely as Dionysos, he made his journey from Europe to Asia and back, actually incarnated in a fleshly body; there he was a real man standing upon the physical plane. In the Mysteries he appeared in his spirit-form.

In a certain way it is still so today. When in the world outside the modern leaders of men go about in human garb, they are unrecognized by the world. When from the standpoint of spiritual science we talk about ‘The Masters of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Feelings’ people would often be surprised to know in what simple, unassuming human form these Masters are to be found in all countries. They are present on the physical plane. But they do not impart their most important teachings on the physical plane, but following the example of Dionysos of old, they impart them on the spiritual plane. And anyone who wishes to listen to them, to be taught by them, must have access to them not only in their physical bodies of flesh, but in their spiritual forms. In a certain way that is true today as it was in the Dionysian Mysteries of old. Thus one of the tests we have to undergo is to obey the exhortation ‘Know thyself’ by going out of ourselves.

But in the Dionysian Mysteries the soul was exposed to yet another test. I told you that the aspirants learned to know Dionysos as a spirit-form. In the Mysteries they were actually instructed by him, they learned to recognize him as a spirit-form governed entirely by what was most essential and most important in man's own nature, by what represented the human self firmly planted upon the Earth. When the Greek pupils directed their clairvoyant sight upon the figure of Dionysos, then this Dionysos seemed to them a beautiful, sublime figure, a noble external representation of humanity. Now, just suppose that one of these pupils had left the Mystery Temple, after having seen Dionysos there as a beautiful, sublime human form. I expressly draw your attention to the fact that the younger Dionysos still remained a teacher in the Mysteries long after the real man, of whom I have told you that he journeyed from Europe to Asia and back again, was dead. If however one of these pupils had left the place where the Mystery was enacted and had encountered in the world outside the real Dionysos incarnated in the flesh, if he had met that human being who corresponded to the higher man whom he had seen in the Mystery, he would have seen no beauty! Just as today the man who has entered into the Mystery may not hope to see the figure which he had before him in sublime beauty in the spiritual world in the same august beauty on the physical plane, just as he must be clear that the physical embodiment of the spiritual form which he met in the Mystery is maya, is complete illusion, and conceals the sublime beauty of the spiritual figure, so that in the physical world it becomes in a way hideous — so it was in the case of Dionysos. And what tradition has given us as the external appearance of Dionysos, who is not represented as such a perfect divine form as Zeus, is in fact the image of the Dionysos who was manifested in the flesh. The Dionysos of the Mystery was a beautiful being; the fleshly Dionysos was not to be compared with him. Hence it is no good looking for the figure of Dionysos among the finest types of antique human beauty. He is not so represented by tradition, and we have in particular to think of those who constituted his followers as being hideous in appearance, like the satyrs and sileni.

What is more, we discover in Greek mythology something extremely remarkable. We are told something which is in fact the truth — that the teacher of Dionysos was himself a very ugly man. This person, Silenus, who was the teacher of Dionysos himself, the aspirants in the Mystery came to know also. But Silenus is described to us as a wise individual. We need only recall that a great number of wise sayings are attributed to him, sayings which repeatedly stress the worthlessness of the normal life of man if it is only viewed from the outside in its maya or illusion. Then we are told something which made a great impression upon Nietzsche — we are told that King Midas asked Silenus, the teacher of Dionysos, what was best for man. The wise Silenus gave the significant but puzzling reply: ‘Oh, thou race of brief duration, the best would be for thee not to have been born, or since thou hast been born, the second best for thee would be swiftly to die.’ This saying has to be rightly understood. It is an attempt to indicate the relationship between the spirituality of the super-sensible world and the maya, the great illusion, of outer life.

Thus, when we look at them in their physical human forms, these exalted beings are by no means beautiful — or at any rate they can only be regarded as beautiful in a different sense from that in which the late Greek period understood ideal beauty. We can in a way still idealize Dionysos in contrast to what he was as a man in the outer world. If we wish to contrast the form Dionysos assumed in the physical with the majestic splendor of the spiritual form which he revealed in the Mystery itself, there is nothing to stop us doing so. We are not obliged to think of him as ugly. But we should be wrong to think of the teacher of Dionysos, old Silenus, otherwise than as with an ugly snub-nose, and ears which stuck out, and anything but handsome. Silenus, the teacher of Dionysos, who was finally to hand over to man the archetypal wisdom in a form suitable for the human ego-consciousness — a wisdom which sprang from the deeper self of man — this Silenus was still closely akin to the life of Nature, which man in his present bodily form has really grown out of. The ancient Greek imagined that the present comeliness of the human being, from the point of view of external maya, had developed out of an old, ugly, human form, and that the type of the individuality who was incarnated in Silenus, the teacher of Dionysos, was not at all pleasing to look at.

Now, as students of spiritual science it will not be difficult for you, from all I have said so far, to suppose that both in the younger Dionysos and in his teacher, the wise Silenus, we have to do with individualities who have been of immense importance for the education of modern human consciousness. Thus when we cast about to find the individualities in the spiritual environment who—both for our own as well as for Greek consciousness—were and are momentous for what man has become, we find these two, Dionysos and the wise Silenus. These individualities are there in prehistoric times into which no history, no epic, goes back, but of which nevertheless the later history of the Greeks tells us, particularly in the epic tradition of its sagas and its myths. In these times both the wise Silenus and Dionysos were incarnated in physical bodies, performed physical deeds, and died, as their bodies had to do. The individualities remained.

Now you know of course that in human history very much happens which is highly surprising to the man who only thinks abstractly; this is especially the case as regards the incarnation of human and other beings. Sometimes a later incarnation, although more advanced, may from the outside seem less perfect than an earlier one. In my second Rosicrucian Mystery Play, in the incarnation of the monk in the Middle Ages (Maria in modern times), I have been able to give just a very faint idea of the spiritual realities. Thus in history too the abstract thinker must sometimes be overcome with astonishment when he contemplates two successive incarnations, or at any rate incarnations which belong together. The younger Dionysos, who, I told you, allowed his soul to be poured out into external culture, was nevertheless able at a specific time to gather himself together again as a soul in a single physical human body; he was born again, incarnated among men; but in such a way that he did not keep his old form but added to his outer physical form something of what had constituted his spirit-form in the Dionysian Mysteries. Both the younger Dionysos and his teacher, the wise Silenus, were reincarnated in historical times. Those initiated in the Mystery-wisdom of ancient Greece were fully conscious that these two had been born again; so were the Greek artists, who were stimulated and inspired by the initiates.

Little by little such things have to be told if spiritual science is not to stop at platitudes, if it is to enter into reality. Things which are true have to be told for the sake of the further evolution of humanity. The wise old teacher of Dionysos was born again, and in his further incarnation was none other than Socrates. Socrates is the reincarnation of old Silenus, he is the reincarnated teacher of Dionysos. And Dionysos himself, that reincarnated being in whom verily lived the soul of Dionysos, of old, was Plato. One only realizes the profound meaning of Greek history if one enters into what was known—not of course to the writers of external history — but to the initiates who have handed down the tradition from generation to generation right up to today — knowledge which can also be found in the Akasha Chronicle. Spiritual science can once more proclaim that Greece in its early period harbored the teacher of humanity, whom it sent over to Asia in the journey conducted by Dionysos, whose teacher was Silenus. What Dionysos and the wise Silenus were able to do for Greece was renewed in a manner suited to a later age by Socrates and Plato. In the very time when the Mysteries were falling into decay, in the very time in which there were no more initiates who could still see the younger Dionysos clairvoyantly in the holy Mysteries, that same Dionysos emerged as the pupil of the wise Silenus, he who had himself become Socrates — emerged as Plato, the second great teacher of Greece, the true successor of Dionysos.

One only recognizes the meaning of Greek spiritual culture in the sense of ancient Greek Mystery-wisdom when one knows that the old Dionysian culture experienced a revival in Plato. And we admire Platonism in quite another way, we relate ourselves to it in its true stature, when we know that in Plato there dwelt the soul of the younger Dionysos.

1. dichten = to compose, as author or a poet, to make literature; dicht = thick. In Ahriman's speech in Scene 4, he says: ‘Ich wirke diese Schönheit in dichtem Licht’ — translated in the English version as ‘which charm I weave for thee in light condensed’.
2. Part II Act 2. Laboratory Scene. Spoken by Homunculus.