Gnosis and Anthroposophy
the time when the Mystery of Golgotha was consummated, Gnosis
was the form which Thought took amongst that portion of mankind who at
the time were able to understand with knowledge and not merely with
dim feeling this, the greatest impulse in Man's earthly evolution.
understand what was the peculiar disposition of soul in which
the Gnosis lived within men, we must keep in sight, that the
age of this Gnosis was the age when the Intellectual or
Mind-Soul was being developed.
this fact we may also find the reason why the Gnosis vanished
almost entirely out of human history. That it should thus have
vanished, is perhaps — until the cause be
understood — one of the most amazing occurrences in the
whole progress of mankind.
The development of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul was preceded
by that of the Sentient Soul, and this again by the development
of the Sentient Body. So long as the facts of the world are
being perceived through the Sentient Body, all Man's knowledge
lives in his senses. The world is seen coloured, heard
sounding, and so on; but in the colours, in the sounds, in the
varying states of warmth, a ‘material’ substance, presenting
certain appearances of colour, warmth, and so on, there is no
question; men talk of spiritual beings who reveal themselves
through what the senses perceive.
this age, there is as yet no special exercise of an
‘understanding’ that exists in Man alongside of and distinct
from sense-perception. Man either yields himself up with his
whole human being to the outer world, and then the Gods reveal
themselves to him through his senses. Or else he draws back
from the outer world within his own soul-life, and then feels
in his inner man a dull, indistinct sense of life.
notable change sets in when the Sentient Soul begins to
develop. The revelation of the divine world through the senses
begins to fade. In its place begins an outward perception of
sense-impressions, so to speak god-divested, of colours, states
of warmth, and so on. Meanwhile, within, the divine world
reveals itself in spiritual form, in picture-ideas of the mind.
Man now perceives the world from two aspects — from without
through the impressions of sense, and from within through the
spiritual impressions of the mind, in the form of Ideas.
Man must next learn to have as distinct, as clearly formed a
perception of these inner spiritual impressions, as he had
before of the god-informed impressions of the senses. So long
as the reign of the Sentient Soul Age lasts, he can do this;
for out of his own inner being the Idea-pictures rise up in
full and vivid form. His mind is filled from within by a
sense-free spirit-content, which is a copy of the
World-content. If formerly the Gods revealed themselves to him
robed in sense-vestments, they now reveal themselves in
This was essentially the time when the Gnosis came into being
and when it flourished. A wonderful living lore is there, in
which Man knows himself a partaker when he unfolds his inner
being in purity so that the divine content may be revealed
From the fourth down to the first millennium before the coming
of the Mystery of Golgotha, this Gnosis was prevalent
throughout the portion of mankind who had advanced farthest in
the way of knowledge.
Then begins the age of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul. Now the
World-images of Gods no longer rise up of themselves out of the
inner man. Man himself must exert inward power in order to
evoke them from his soul. The outer world with its sense
impressions becomes a question. Man, when he exerts the
inward power and evokes the divine World-images, obtains
But the images are pale in comparison with their earlier form.
It is this phase of the human soul which comes to such
marvelous expression in Ancient Greece. The Greek felt himself
in the midst of the outer world which strikes the senses; and
he felt in the outer world the magic which could arouse his own
inner power to the unfolding of World-pictures. On philosophic
ground, this phase of the human soul found its development in
But in the background, behind all this, was the world of the
Mysteries. Here was faithfully treasured and preserved all that
had come over as Gnosis from the age of the Sentient Soul.
Human souls were trained to be its faithful treasurers. The
Intellectual or Mind-Soul developed in the ordinary course of
evolution. The Sentient Soul was quickened by special training.
And so, behind the ordinary religious and social life of the
day, there flourished — more particularly in this age of
the Intellectual or Mind-Soul, — a Mystery life of a very richly
Here the divine World-images continued to have life, inasmuch
as they were made the spiritual content of cult and ritual.
Look into the inner side of these Mysteries, and one sees the
world pictured in the most wonderful ceremonies and
The human beings in whose inner life this had been awakened
were those who were able to penetrate the Mystery of Golgotha,
at the time when it was consummated, in its profound, cosmic
significance. But it was a Mystery-life which kept quite aloof
from the external world and its affairs in order to cultivate
the Spirit-picture-world in purity. And it became ever harder
for men's souls to call forth the pictures.
Then, in the highest places of the Mysteries, Spirit-beings
descended out of the spiritual Cosmos, to aid struggling men in
their efforts after knowledge. So the impulses of the Sentient
Age were continued and further developed under the influence of
the Gods themselves. There arose a Gnosis of the Mysteries, of
which none but a very few had even the faintest conception.
Alongside this Mystery-Gnosis, was what men could take in with
the Intellectual or Mind-Soul. This was the exoteric Gnosis, of
which fragments have come down to posterity.
the exoteric Gnosis of the Mysteries men became ever more
incapable of rising to the development of the Sentient Soul.
And so this esoteric wisdom passed over more and more into the
care and cultivation of the Gods alone. This is one of
the deep secrets in the historic evolution of mankind: ‘Divine
Mysteries,’ so to speak, were at work in it from the first
centuries of Christianity down into the Middle Ages.
these Divine Mysteries, the treasure which men could no longer
preserve, was preserved in earthly life by Angelic beings. And
so the Gnosis of the Mysteries lived on whilst the exoteric
Gnosis was being diligently exterminated.
The World-Image-content, treasured in a spiritual way by
spiritual beings, preserved in the Gnosis of the Mysteries so
long as it was needed for the advancement of mankind, could not
indeed be made accessible to the conscious understanding of
men's souls. But the feeling-content could be preserved,
so that at the right cosmic moment, when men were fitly
prepared, it might be given to them and bring them the warmth
of soul with which the Spiritual Soul might — later on and
in a new way — penetrate into the kingdom of the Spirit.
Thus Spirit-beings built the bridge between the old
World-content and the new.
There are indications to be found in this mystery of human
evolution. The Holy Vessel of the Grail, the Cup of Jasper
used by Christ when He broke the Bread, in which Joseph of
Arimathea caught the Blood which flowed from the pierced side
of Jesus — the Cup, that is, which held the Mystery of
Golgotha — was taken, so legend says, into the custody of
Angels, until the Castle of the Grail had been built by
Titurel, and it could descend upon those human beings who were
duly prepared to receive it.
Spirit-beings treasured the World-Images in which lived the
Mystery of Golgotha. And when the time was come they sent down,
not indeed the Imaginative content — that was not
possible — but the feeling-content into the minds of
can be but a stimulus, this feeling legacy of an ancient
knowledge, implanted in the hearts of men. Yet it is a very
powerful stimulus, from which in our age — out of the
Spiritual Soul — there may grow up, by the light of
Michael's agency, a new and full understanding of the Mystery
Anthroposophy is striving after this new understanding.
From the description given, it is clear that Anthroposophy
cannot be a revival of the Gnosis, for this was the mode of
knowledge of the Sentient soul; whereas Anthroposophy has to
draw a no less rich content of knowledge out of the Spiritual
Soul, and in a totally new way.
The Gnosis develops in its
characteristic form in the age of the Sentient Soul (fourth
to first millennium before the incidence of the Mystery of
Golgotha.) “The Divine' reveals itself in this age of
Man inwardly, as a spiritual content of the mind, whereas
in the previous period — the Age of the Sentient
Body — it had revealed itself in and with the
sense-impressions of the outer world.
In the Age of the Intellectual or
Mind-Soul, ‘the Divine,’ as spiritual content, has faded
from the inner life, and can be realized but faintly. The
Gnosis is preserved in sternly guarded Mysteries; and when
men can preserve it no longer, because they are no longer
able to requicken the Sentient soul, Spirit-beings take
charge of it and carry over into the Middle Ages, not
indeed the knowledge-content but the
feeling-content of it. (this is indicated in the
legend of the Holy Grail.) Meanwhile the exoteric Gnosis,
which found its way into the Intellectual or Mind-Soul, is
being forcibly exterminated.
Anthroposophy cannot be a revival of
the Gnosis; for Gnosis was connected with the development
of the Sentient Soul. The work of Anthroposophy is, by the
light of Michael's agency, to evolve out of the Spiritual
Soul a new form of understanding of Christ, and the World.
Gnosis was the old form of knowledge, preserved from
earlier times — the one best able, at the time when the
Mystery of Golgotha took place, to convey this Mystery to