you were in the Cathedral last night you could have seen
written there in illuminated lettering: C. M. B. As you will
all know, these letters represent the names of the so-called
Three Holy Kings, according to the tradition of the Christian
Church: Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar. These names awaken quite
special memories for Cologne. An old legend tells us that some
time after they had become bishops and died their bones had
been brought here. Another legend relates that a Danish king
had once come to Cologne, bringing with him three crowns for
the Three Holy Kings. After he had returned home he had a
dream; in his dream the three kings appeared to him and offered
him three chalices: the first chalice contained gold, the
second frankincense, and the third one myrrh. When the Danish
king awoke the three kings had vanished, but the chalices
remained; they stood before him; the three gifts which he had
retained from his dream.
this legend there is profound meaning. We are to
understand that the king in his dream attained a certain
insight into the spiritual world by which he learnt the
symbolic meaning of these three kings, these three wise men of
the East who brought offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh
at the birth of Christ Jesus. And from this realisation he
retained a lasting possession: those three human virtues which
are symbolised in the gold, the frankincense and the myrrh:
self-knowledge in the gold; self-piety, that is the piety of
the innermost self — which we can call self-surrender
— in the frankincense; and in the myrrh self-consummation
and self-development, or the preservation of the eternal in the self.
was possible for the king to receive these three virtues as
gifts from another world because he had endeavoured to
penetrate with his whole soul into the profound symbol lying
concealed in the three kings who brought their offerings to
There are many features in this legend which lead us a long way
towards understanding the Christ-principle, and what it is to
bring about in the world. Among its profound features are the
Adoration and the Presentation by the three Magi, the three
Oriental Kings, and only with the deepest understanding may we
approach this fundamental symbolism of the Christian tradition.
Later the idea was formed that the first king was the
representative of the Asiatic races; the second, the
representative of the European peoples; and the third, the
representative of the African races. Wherever people wanted to
understand Christianity as the religion of earthly harmony they
saw in the three kings and their homage a union of the
different lines of thought and religious movements in the world
into the One principle, the Christian principle. When this
legend received this form those who had penetrated into the
principles of esoteric Christianity saw in Christianity not
only a force which had affected the course of human
development, but they saw in the Being embodied in Jesus of
Nazareth a cosmic world-force — a force far transcending
the merely human that prevails in this present age. They saw in
the Christ-principle a force that indeed represents for mankind
a human ideal lying in a far distant future, an ideal which can
only be approached by our understanding the whole world more
and more in the spirit. They saw in man, in the first place, a
miniature being, a miniature world, a microcosm, an image of
the macrocosm, the great, all-embracing world. This macrocosm
comprises all that man can perceive with his external senses,
see with his eyes, hear with his ears, but comprises, besides,
all that the spirit could perceive from the perceptions
of the least developed human spirit up to perceptions in the
spiritual world. This was how the esoteric Christian of the
earliest times regarded the world. All he saw in the firmament
or on our earth, all he saw as thunder and lightning, as storm
and rain, as sunshine, as the course of the stars, as sunrise
and sunset, as moonrise and the setting of the moon — all
this was for him a gesture, something like a mimicry, an
external expression of inner spiritual processes. The esoteric
Christian looks on the universe as he looks on the human body.
When he looks on the human body he sees it as consisting of
different limbs: the head, arms, hands, and so on. When he
looks on the human body and sees the movements of hand, eye,
etc., these are for him the expression of the inner spiritual
and psychic experiences. In the same way as he looked through
the human limbs, and their movements, into that which is
eternal, spiritual in man, the esoteric Christian regarded the
movements of the stars, the light that streams down from the
stars to humanity, the rising and setting of the sun, the
rising and setting of the moon, as the external expression of
divine-spiritual Beings pervading all space. All these natural
phenomena were to him deeds of the gods, gestures of the gods,
expressions in mime of those divine-spiritual Beings, as also
was everything that occurs among mankind, when people establish
social communities, when they submit to moral commandments and
regulate their dealings through laws, when from the forces of
nature they create instruments for themselves. These
implements, indeed, they make with the help of the
forces of nature, but in a form in which they are
not to be found directly. All that was done in humanity, more
or less unconsciously, was for the esoteric Christian the
external expression of inner divine-spiritual sway. But the
esoteric Christian did not confine himself to such general
forms, he pointed to quite definite single gestures, single
parts of the physiognomy of the universe, of the mimes of the
universe, in order to see in these single parts quite definite
expressions of the spiritual. When he pointed to the sun
he said: The sun is not merely an external, physical body; this
external, physical solar body is the body of a
spiritual-psychic Being; one of those psychic-spiritual Beings
who are the rulers, the leaders of all earthly fate, the
leaders of all natural occurrences on the earth, but also of
all that happens in human, social life, in the relationship of
men among each other as determined by laws. When the esoteric
Christian looked up to the sun he revered in the sun the
external revelation of his Christ. In the first place the
Christ was for him the sun's soul, and the esoteric Christian
said: “From the beginning the sun was the body of the Christ,
but men on earth and the earth itself were not yet matured for
receiving the spiritual light, the Christ-light, which streams
from the sun. Men had, therefore, to be prepared for the
Then the esoteric Christian looked up at the moon and saw that
the moon reflects the light of the sun, but more feebly than
the sun's light itself; and he said to himself: “If I look
with my physical eyes into the sun I am dazzled by its shining
light; if I look into the moon I am not dazzled; it reflects in
a feebler degree the shining light of the sun.” In this subdued
sunlight, in this moonlight, pouring down on the earth, the
esoteric Christian saw the physiognomical expression of the old
Jehovah-principle, the expression of the religion of the old
law. And he said: “Before the Christ-principle, the Sun of
Righteousness, could appear on earth, the Jahve-principle had
to send down on earth this light of righteousness, toned down
in the Law, to prepare the way.” And so what lay in the old
Jehovah-principle, in the old Law — the spiritual light of
the moon — was for the esoteric Christian the reflected
spiritual light of the higher Christ-principle. And with the
pupils of the ancient Mysteries the esoteric
Christian — until far into the Middle Ages — saw in the
sun the expression of the spiritual light ruling the earth, the
Christ-light, and in the moon the expression of the reflected
Christ-light, which would blind man in its full strength. And
in the earth itself the esoteric Christian saw with the pupils
of the ancient mysteries that which at times disguised, and
veiled for him, the blinding sunlight of the spirit. And for
him the earth was just as much the physical expression of a
spirit as was every other bodily form an expression of
something spiritual. He imagined that when the sun looked
visibly down on the earth, when it sent down its rays,
beginning in the Spring and continuing through the summer, and
called forth from the earth all the budding and sprouting life,
and when it had culminated in the long summer days — then
the esoteric Christian imagined that the sun cherished and
maintained the external, up-shooting life, the physical life.
In the plants, springing from the soil, in the animals
unfolding their fertility in these seasons, the esoteric
Christian saw the same principle, in an external, physical
form, that he saw in the Beings whose external expression the
sun was. But when the days became shorter, when autumn and
winter approached, the esoteric Christian said: the sun
withdraws its physical power more and more from the earth. But
in the same degree as the sun's physical power is withdrawn
from the earth, its spiritual power increases and flows to the
earth most intensively when the shortest days come, with the
long nights, in the season afterwards fixed by the Christmas
festival. Man cannot see this spiritual power of the sun. He
would see it, said the esoteric
Christian, if he possessed the inner power of spiritual vision.
And the esoteric Christian had still a consciousness of what
was a fundamental conviction and experience of the
Mystery-pupils from the earliest times into the newer age.
those nights, now fixed by the festival of Christmas, the
Mystery-pupils were prepared for the experience of inner
spiritual vision, so that they could see inwardly, spiritually,
that which at this time withdrew its physical power from the
earth most completely. In the long Christmas winter night
the novice was far enough advanced to have a vision at
midnight. The earth was then no longer a veil for the sun,
which stood behind the earth. It became transparent for him.
Through the transparent earth he saw the spiritual light of the
sun, the Christ-light. This fact, which marks a profound
experience for the mystery-novice, was recorded in the
expression: To see the sun at midnight.
There are places where the churches, otherwise open all day,
are closed at noon. This is a fact which connects Christianity
with the traditions of ancient religious faiths. In ancient
religious faiths the Mystery-pupils said, on the strength of
their experience: “At noon, when the sun stands highest, when
it unfolds the strongest physical power, the gods are asleep,
and they sleep the deepest sleep in summer, when the sun
develops its strongest physical power. But they are widest
awake on Christmas night, when the external physical power of
the sun is weakest.”
see that all forms of life which desire to unfold their
external physical power look up to the sun when the sun rises
in the sky in Spring and strive to receive the external
physical power of the sun. But when, on a summer noon, the
sun's physical power pours most lavishly on to the earth, its
spiritual power is weakest. In the winter midnight, however,
when the sun rays the least physical power down to the earth,
man can see the sun's spirit through the earth, which has
become transparent for him. The esoteric Christian felt that
through absorption in Christian Esotericism he approached more
and more that power of inward vision through which he could
imbue his feeling, thinking and his will-impulses in gazing
into this spiritual sun. Then the Mystery-novice was led to a
vision of the greatest importance: As long as the earth is
opaque the separate parts appear inhabited by people of
different confessions, but the unifying bond is not there.
Human races are as scattered as the climates. Human opinions
are scattered all over the earth and there is no connecting
link. But in the degree in which men begin to look through the
earth into the sun by their inner power of vision, in the
degree in which the “star” appears to them through the earth,
their confessions will flow together to one great united
Brotherhood. And those who guided the great separated human
masses in the truth of the higher planes, towards their
initiation into the higher worlds, were known as “Magi.” They
were three in number, as in the various parts of the earth
various powers express themselves. Humanity had, therefore, to
be led in different ways. But as a unifying power there appears
the star, rising beyond the earth. It leads the scattered
individuals together, and then they bring offerings to the
physical embodiment of the solar star, appearing as the star of
peace. Thus was the religion of peace, of harmony, of universal
peace, of human brotherhood, connected cosmically and humanly
with the ancient Magi, who laid the best gifts that they had in
store for humanity before the cradle of the Son of Man incarnate.
legend has retained this beautifully, for it says: The Danish
king attained an understanding of the Wise Men, of the three
Kings, and because he had attained it they bestowed on him
their three gifts: first the gift of wisdom, in self-knowledge;
secondly, the gift of pious devotion, in self-surrender; and,
thirdly, the gift of the victory of life over death, in the
power and development of the eternal in the self.
those who have understood Christianity in this way have seen in
it the profound idea in spiritual science of the unification of
religions. For they had the firm conviction that whoever
understands Christianity thus can rise to the highest
grade of human development.
of the last of the Germans to understand Christianity in this
way is Goethe, and Goethe has laid down for us this kind of
Christianity, this kind of religious reconciliation, this kind
of theosophy, in the profound poem, The Mysteries, which
has, indeed, remained a fragment but which shows us in a deeply
significant way the inner spiritual development of one who is
penetrated and convinced by the feelings and ideas that I have
just described. Goethe first invites us to follow the
pilgrim-path of such a man, but indicates that this
pilgrim-path may lead us far astray, that it is not easy to
find it, and that one must have patience and devotion to reach
the goal. Whoever possesses these will find the light that he
seeks. Let us hear the beginning of the poem: —
A wondrous song is here prepared for many.
Hear it with joy! Tell all from far and near!
The way will lead you out o'er mount and valley;
Now is the view obscured, now wide and clear,
And if the path should glide into the bushes,
That you have gone astray, you need not fear,
For by a persevering, patient climb
We shall draw near our goal, when it is time.
But no one will, despite profound reflection,
Unravel all the wonders hidden here:
Our mother earth brings forth so many flowers,
And many shall find something to revere;
Maybe that one will gloomily forsake us,
Another stays with gestures full of cheer:
For many wand'ring pilgrims flows the spring,
To each a different pleasure it will bring.
This is the situation to which we are introduced. We are shown;
a pilgrim who, if we were to ask him, would not be able to say
in formal words what we have just seen to be the esoteric
Christian idea — but a pilgrim in whose heart and soul
these ideas live, transformed into feeling. It is not easy to
discover everything that has been secreted into this poem
called The Mysteries. Goethe has clearly indicated a
process occurring in human life, in which the highest ideas,
thoughts and conceptions are transformed into feelings and
perceptions. How does this transformation take place?
live through many embodiments, from incarnation to incarnation.
In each one we learn things of many kinds; each one is full of
opportunities for gathering new experiences. It is
impossible for us to carry over from one incarnation to
the other everything in every detail. When we are born again it
is not necessary for everything that we have once learnt to
come to life in every detail. But if we have learnt a great
deal in one incarnation, and die and are born anew,
although there is no need for all our ideas to live again, we
come to life with the fruits of our former life, with the
fruits of what we have learnt. The powers of perception and
feeling are in accord with our earlier incarnations.
this poem of Goethe's we have a wonderful phenomenon: a man
who, in the simplest words — as a child might speak, not in
definite intellectual or abstract terms — shows us the
highest wisdom, which is a fruit of former knowledge. He has
transformed this knowledge into feeling and experience and is
thereby qualified to lead others who have perhaps learnt more
in the form of concepts. Such a pilgrim, with a ripe soul,
which has transformed into direct feeling and experience much
of the knowledge which it has gathered in earlier
incarnations — such a pilgrim we have before us in Brother
Mark. As a member of a secret Brotherhood he is sent out on an
important mission to another secret Brotherhood. He wanders
through many different districts, and when he is getting tired
he comes to a mountain. He journeys up the path at
last — (every feature in this poem has a deep
significance) — and when he has climbed the mountain he
finds himself before a monastery. This monastery here indicates
the other Brotherhood to which he has been sent. Over the gate
of the jnonastery he sees something unusual. He sees the Cross,
but in unusual guise; the cross is garlanded with roses! And at
this point he utters a significant word that only he can
understand who knows how again and again that motto has been
spoken in secret Brotherhoods: “Who added to the Cross
the wreath of Roses?” And round the Cross he sees the
Triangle shine, radiating beams like the sun. There is no need
for him to understand in ideas the meaning of this profound
symbol. The experience and understanding of it live
already in his soul, in his ripe soul. His ripe soul knows its
inner meaning. What is the meaning of the Cross? He knows that
the Cross is a symbol for many things; among many others, for
the threefold lower nature of man; the physical body, the
etheric body and the astral body. In him the “I,” the Self
is-born. In the Rose-Cross we have the fourfold man: in the
Cross the physical man, the etheric man and the astral man, and
in the roses the Self. Why roses for the Self? — the
esoteric Christian added roses to the Cross because by the
Christ principle he felt called upon to develop the Self more
and more from the state in which it is born in the three
bodies, to an ever higher Self. In the Christ-principle he saw
the power to develop this Self higher and higher. The Cross is
the symbol of death in a quite particular sense. This, too,
Goethe expresses in another beautiful passage when he says:
And until thou truly hast
This “dying and becoming,”
Thou art but a troubled guest
O'er the dark earth roaming.
“Die and be re-born” — overcome what you have first been
given in the three lower bodies: deaden it, not out of a desire
for death, but purify what is in these three bodies so as to
attain in your Self the power to receive an ever greater
perfection. If you overcome what is given you in the three
lower bodies, the power of consummation will live in the Self.
In the Self must the Christian absorb in the Christ-principle
this power of consummation down to the very blood. Right
into the blood this power must work.
Blood is the expression of the Self, the “I.” In the red roses
the esoteric Christian saw the power of the Christ-principle
purifying and cleansing the blood, thus purifying the Self, and
so guiding man upwards to his higher being — he saw the
power that transforms the astral body into the Spirit Self, the
etheric body into the Life-Spirit, the physical body into
Spirit Man. Thus the Rose-Cross in its connection with the
triangle shows us the Christ-principle in profound symbolism.
The pilgrim, Brother Mark, who arrives here, knows that he is
at a place where the profoundest meaning of Christianity is
Full weary by a long and tiring journey,
With a sublimest motive underta'en,
A pilgrim, brother Mark, came through the thicket,
With staff in hand, his footsteps to sustain,
And longing for a little food and drinking,
One beauteous eve he reached a quiet plain.
Its wooded gorges soothing hope bestowed
Beneath a friendly roof to find abode.
But lo! a path he scarcely can distinguish,
High up a mountain steep before him wending.
He follows it, as more and more it rises,
In curvings in and out the boulders bending,
Until again by sunlight warm enveloped,
He turns and sees how fast he is ascending.
At last the summit comes within his sight,
Inspiring him with heart-felt, deep delight.
Next it the sun, majestic in its setting,
Enthroned 'mong clouds within the dark'ning sky.
Now for the peak! For all his weary toiling
He hopes to be rewarded there on high.
O'erlooking all the country 'fore him spreading,
A human home he will perchance espy.
And while he climbs, oh sound how full of cheer!
The chime of bells is wafted to his ear.
And as at length he has attained the summit,
Below a softly sloping valley lies.
His quiet look with inward pleasure brightens;
Before the forest full of joy he spies
A stately building in a greening field,
Which the departing sun with lustre dyes.
E'er long he nears through meadows dewy damp
A monastery lit with gleaming lamp.
He soon arrives outside the quiet homestead,
With hope and peacefulness his soul enfolding,
And on the arch above the closed portal
A symbol full of mystery beholding.
He stands and ponders, whispers words of prayer,
The deep devotion of his heart unfolding;
He ponders long: What does this sign convey?
The sun has set, the chiming dies away.
The sign he sees erected here on high
That brings consoling hope to all mankind,
Which many thousands pledged their lives to shield,
To which in fervour prayed the human mind,
That has destroyed the bitter powers of death,
On victors' banners fluttered in the wind:
A stream of comfort permeates his being,
He sees the cross and bows his head in seeing.
He feels anew the faith of all on earth,
The power of salvation streaming thence;
But as he looks, he feels his very soul
Pervaded by a new and unknown sense:
Who added to the cross the wreath of roses?
It is entwined by blooming, clusters dense,
Profusely spreading just as though they could
Endow with softness e'en the rigid wood.
While light and silv'ry clouds, around it soaring,
Seem heavenward with cross and roses flowing,
And from the midst like living waters streaming
A threefold ray from out one core is glowing;
But not a word surrounds the holy token,
The meaning of the symbol clearly showing.
And while the dusk is gath'ring grey and greyer,
He stands and ponders and is lost in prayer.
spirit of deepest Christianity which pervades this dwelling is
expressed in the cross entwined by roses, and as the pilgrim
enters he is actually received in this spirit. When he enters
he becomes aware that in this house not this or that religion
holds sway — but that there rules here the higher Oneness
of the religions of the world. Within this house he tells an
old member of the Brotherhood that lives there at whose behest
and on what mission he has come. He is made welcome and hears
that in this house there lives in perfect seclusion a
Brotherhood of twelve Brothers. These twelve Brothers are
representatives of different human races from all over the
earth; every one of the Brothers is the representative of a
religious faith. None is accepted here in the un-ripeness of
youth, but only when he has explored the world, when he has
struggled with the joys and sorrows of the world, when he has
“worked and been active in the world and won his way to a free
survey beyond his narrowly confined domain. Only then is he
placed and accepted in the circle of the Twelve. And these
Twelve, of whom each one represents one of the world religions,
live here in peace and harmony together. For they are led by a
thirteenth who surpasses them all in the perfection of his
human Self, who surpasses them all in his wide survey of human
circumstances. And how does Goethe indicate that he is
the representative of true Esotericism? Goethe indicates,
by the words the Brother speaks, that he is the bearer of the
religion of the Rosy Cross. He said: “He was among us; now we
are in deepest sorrow because he is about to leave us; he
wishes to part from us. But he finds it right to part from us
even now; he desires to rise to higher regions, where he no
longer needs to reveal himself in an earthly body.”
is worthy to rise. For he has risen to the point that Goethe
describes with the words: “In every religion there is the
possibility of attaining the highest purity.” When each
of the twelve religions is ripe to form a basis of harmony, the
Thirteenth, who has before brought about this harmony
externally, can pass away. And we are beautifully told how we
can achieve this consummation of the Self. First, the
life-story of the Thirteenth is related; but the Brother who
has received Mark knows many details, which the great Leader of
the Twelve cannot tell himself. Several features of profound
esoteric significance are now recounted by one of the Twelve to
Brother Mark. He learns that when the Thirteenth was born a
star appeared to herald his life on earth. Here there is a
direct connection with the star which guided the three holy
kings, and with its inner meaning. This star has an enduring
significance: it shows the way to self-knowledge,
self-surrender and self-consummation. It is the star which
opens the mind for the gifts which the Danish king received
from the vision in his dream, the star which appears at the
birth of anyone ripe enough to absorb the Christ-principle. And
there were other signs. There were signs showing that he had
developed to that height of religious harmony which brings the
peace and harmony of the soul. Profoundly symbolical in this
sense is the vulture which swoops down at the birth of the
Thirteenth, but instead of destroying it spreads peace
around it among the doves. We are told still more. While his
little sister is lying in the cradle a viper winds itself round
her. The Thirteenth, still a child, kills the viper. Hereby is
wonderfully indicated how a ripe soul — for only a ripe
soul can achieve such a thing after many
incarnations — kills the viper in early childhood: that is
to say he overcomes the lower astral nature. The viper is the
symbol for the lower astral nature; the sister is his own
etheric body, round which the astral body winds itself. He
kills the viper to save his sister. Then we are told how he
submitted obediently to every demand of his parents. He obeyed
his stern father. The soul transforms its knowledge into ideas
and thoughts; then healing-powers develop in the soul and can
bring healing into the world. Miraculous powers develop: they
are represented by the sword with which he strikes a spring out
of the rock. We are here definitely shown how his soul follows
the path of the Scriptures. Thus gradually there develops the
higher man, the representative of humanity, the Chosen one, who
works as the Thirteenth here, in the society of the Twelve, the
great secret Brotherhood which, under the sign of the
Rose-Cross has taken upon itself for all mankind the mission of
harmonising the religions scattered in the world. This is how
we are made acquainted, in a profound, manner, with the
soul-nature of that one who has until now guided the
Brotherhood of the Twelve.
At last he knocks. The myriad stars above him
Look down with shining eyes as they appear.
The portal opes, and he is bidden welcome
By brethren wont to comfort and to cheer.
So he relates how far by hill and valley
The will of higher Beings led him here.
They stand amazed, for well they see their guest
Was sent to them by heavenly behest.
They crowd around him, and their inmost being
They feel by a mysterious power stirred,
Their breath they hold to listen, for he rouses
An echo in their hearts with ev'ry word.
Like deepest lore, yet uttered by a child,
The wisdom flowing from his lips is heard:
He seems so innocent, like crystal clear,
As though descended from another sphere.
At last an aged brother cries: Oh welcome,
If with consoling hope thy path is blessed!
Thou seest us, our souls are moved within us
By thee, and yet we can but stand oppressed:
Our greatest bliss from us is being taken,
Anxiety and dread disturb our rest.
Thou comest as a stranger, yet to share
Portentous hours of mourning and of care:
For he, alas! who all of us united,
To whom as father and as friend we bow,
Who light and fortitude within us kindled —
Our leader — is prepared to leave us now.
Yea, he himself his passing has predicted,
Refusing though to tell us when and how:
The mystery of what must needs befall
Brings bitter tribulation to us all.
Thou seest us grey and aged ev'ry one,
By nature destined for repose and rest:
Not one was here admitted who, a youth,
Desired to fly from wordly joy and zest.
Each one has met with life's vicissitudes,
Its burdens, pleasures and its anxious quest,
Until, matured, too old to longer roam,
Within these walls we found a shelt'ring home.
The noble man who led us to this haven,
Within his heart the peace of God does dwell;
Along the path of life we walked together,
His ev'ry action I remember well;
But now his fervent praying, his seclusion,
The hour of his departing must foretell.
How small is man! Oh would that he could give
His life, so that a greater one might live!
This is my heart's profound and only wish!
Fulfilment is denied to my desire.
How many have preceded me in death!
How bitter is the thought he must expire.
Had he been here, with hearty welcome's warmth
He would have given all thou didst require;
But now in spirit-regions dwells his mind,
Already far from those he leaves behind.
Each day one hour he lingers in our midst
And speaks to us, by strange emotion stirred:
The wondrous paths that Providence has led
Within his life he lauds with ev'ry word;
We hark and heed, for after-ages hoarding
With care the merest trifle that occurred,
While one writes down his words to make us sure
His memory shall live both true and pure.
I hear him speak, but oh, how much there is
That I would rather far myself relate,
For all is still alive within my mind,
The least of circumstances I would state;
Impatiently I list, can scarce conceal
How sore it is thus silently to wait:
One day I shall no more restrain my zeal,
The splendours of this beauteous life reveal.
I should disclose how first an angel's voice
His coming to his mother prophesied,
And how, when he was christened, in the sky
A star with brilliant lustre was descried,
How down a vulture swooped with mighty wings
To settle by the gentle pigeons' side,
But not to pounce on them in greedy wildness,
A harbinger he seemed of peace and mildness.
How as a child a viper he destroyed,
This is a miracle he ne'er has told.
He found his sister peacefully asleep,
The clinging reptile round her arm was rolled.
The nurse had fled and left the babe alone,
He killed the pois'nous snake, resolved and bold;
His mother came and saw the daring deed
And thrilled with joy she found her daughter freed.
He ne'er related that a spring arose
From out the barren rock before his sword,
And as a brook, with rippling waves alive,
Its plenteous waters down the hill-side poured;
E'en now, as quick as forth it gushed at first,
It bickers silver sparkling o'er the sward.
But those who saw the wondrous stream appear,
Dared not to drink, o'ercome by solemn fear.
For when a man excels by gifts of nature,
It is no wonder if his life is blessed;
In him we worship the Creator's power,
Through feeble human clay made manifest;
But he who overcomes himself has gained
The greatest triumph, stood the hardest test,
And well may he to all the world be shown:
Yea, this is he, this deed is his alone!
With all our strength we strive to live and labour,
Where'er by fate our twisting paths be wended;
Whereas the world oppresses, e'er impeding,
And seeks to tear us from the way intended;
Within this inner storm and outer struggle
Our spirit hears a word scarce comprehended:
The power that holds constrained all humankind
The victor o'er himself no more can bind.
This man who had overcome himself, that is, who had
overcome that ego which is man's portion at first, has
become the Head of the chosen Brotherhood. And thus he leads
the Twelve. He has led them to a point at which they are
matured enough for him to leave them. Our Brother Mark is then
conducted further to the rooms where the Twelve work. How do
they work? Their activity is of an unusual kind, and we are
told that it is an activity in the spiritual world. A man whose
eyes observe only physically, whose senses experience only the
physical plane, and only what is done by people in the physical
world, cannot easily imagine that there is still another task
which may even be far more vital and important than what
is done externally on the physical plane. Work from the higher
planes is far more important for mankind. Naturally, whoever
wishes to work on the higher planes can only do so on condition
that he has first completed the tasks of the physical plane.
These Twelve had done so. For this reason their combined
activity is of great importance as a service to mankind.
Brother Mark is led into the hall where the Twelve were
accustomed to assemble, and there he sees in deep symbolic
guise the nature of their combined activity. The individual
contribution of each of the Brothers to this combined activity
is expressed by an individual symbol above the seat of each one
of the Twelve. Symbols of many kinds are to be seen there,
expressing profoundly and in very different ways the
contribution of each to the common task, which consists in
spiritual activity, so that these streams flow together into a
current of spiritual life which flows through the world and
invigorates the rest of mankind. There are such brotherhoods,
such centres from which such streams emanate and have their
effect on the rest of mankind.
Above the seat of the Thirteenth, Brother Mark again sees the
sign: the cross entwined with roses; this sign, which is at the
same time a symbol for the four-fold nature of man, and in the
red roses the symbol of the purified Blood or ego-principle,
the principle of the higher man. And then we see what is to be
overcome by this sign of the Rose-Cross, portrayed in a
symbol of its own, to the right and left of the seat of the
Thirteenth. On the right Mark sees the fiery-coloured dragon,
representing the astral nature of man. It was well known in
Christian Esotericism that man's soul can surrender to the
three lower bodies. If it succumbs to them it is dominated by
the lower life of the threefold bodily nature. This is
expressed in astral experience by the dragon. It is no mere
symbol but a very real sign. The dragon represents what has
first to be overcome. In the passions, in those forces of
astral fire, which are part of man's physical nature, in this
dragon, Christian Esotericism, which has inspired this poem and
which has spread through Europe, saw what mankind has received
from the torrid zone, from the South. It is the South that has
bestowed on mankind the fierce passion, tending chiefly towards
the lower senses. The first impulse to fight and overcome it
was divined in the influences streaming from the cooler North.
The influence of the cooler North, the descent of the Ego into
the threefold physical nature of man, is expressed according to
the old symbol taken from the Constellation of the Bear and
shows a hand thrust into the jaws of a bear. The lower physical
nature expressed by the fiery dragon is overcome; and what has
been preserved, represented by the higher rank of animal life,
was expressed in the bear; and the Ego, which has developed
beyond the dragon nature, was represented with profound
appropriateness by the thrusting of a human hand into the
bear's jaws. On both sides of the Rose-Cross there appears
what must be overcome by the Rose-Cross, and it is the
Rose-Cross which calls upon man to purify and raise himself
more and more.
Thus the poem really describes the principle of Christianity in
the profoundest manner and, above all, shows us what we ought
to have before our mind's eye, particularly at a festival such
as we are keeping to-day.
eldest of the Brothers living here, and belonging to the
Brotherhood, tells the Pilgrim Mark expressly that their
combined activity is of the spirit, that it is spiritual life.
This work for mankind on the spiritual plane has a particular
meaning. The Brothers have experienced life's joys and sorrows;
they have passed through conflicts outside these walls; they
have accomplished tasks in the world; now they are here,
but that does not mean that their work is at an end; the
further development of mankind is their unending task. He is
told: “You have seen as much now as can be shown to a novice to
whom the first portal is opened. You have been shown in profound
symbols what man's ascent should be. But the second portal hides
greater mysteries: those of the influence of higher worlds on
mankind. You can only learn these greater mysteries after
lengthy preparation, only then can you enter through the other
gate.” Profound secrets are expressed in this poem.
In him I scarce as virtue may denote
The power of good which e'en his youth inspired
And taught him to respect his father's word,
When harshly he his services required,
With duties burdening his leisure hours;
The son obeyed with ardour, never tired,
Like some poor boy who, friendless and astray,
Is glad to work for but a trifling pay.
On foot he joined the warriors in the field,
In lowering tempest and in dazzling light,
The horses he did tend, the meals prepare,
And armed the soldiers ready for the fight.
Oft as a messenger, both keen and fleet,
He hastened through the woods by day and night;
To live for others both in thought and action
Seemed but to give him joy and satisfaction.
And brave and cheerful always, in the strife
He sought the arrows scattered on the ground;
Then hastily he gathered curing herbs,
With which the burning wounds he cooled and bound;
And just as if his very touch were healing,
Ere long the sufferers were strong and sound;
How all regarded him with joy and pride!
Alone his father seemed not satisfied.
E'en as a ship, despite its heavy load
From port to port with speedy lightness sailing,
He bore the burden of his parents' word
That in obedience ne'er he should be failing;
As pleasure is for boys, for youths distinction,
For him his father's will was all-prevailing,
So that he might demand whate'er he would,
Each task was soon fulfilled, each test was stood.
At last the father yielded and acknowledged
The merit of his son in word and deed;
While of a sudden all his sternness vanished,
He gave the youth a swift and precious steed;
Henceforth a sword replaced the shorter #8224,
And from his lesser duties he was freed:
Thus, destined by his birth and well acquitted,
Into an Order he was now admitted.
Ah, well could I report for many days
Amazing things to every one who hears;
And higher than the most delightful tales
His life will be esteemed in coming years;
For what in poetry and fiction charms,
Yet to our mind incredible appears,
Will here with greater pleasure still be heard,
Because it has in real event occurred.
The name of him whom Providence has chosen
That wondrous things on earth he should achieve,
Whom I may often praise, though ne'er sufficing
Whose destiny we scarcely can believe,
His name — it is Humanus, Saint and wise one,
The best of men whom I did e'er perceive:
By origin another name he bears,
Which with illustrious ancestors he shares.
The aged brother would have spoken on.
Filled with the miracles that he did know,
And he shall gladden us for many weeks
With all the stirring facts he still can show;
But he was interrupted, just as now
His heart was pouring forth in fervent flow.
The others softly in and out had passed
And deemed it time to intervene at last.
When Mark had bowed before his hosts and prayed
In gratitude for the sustaining meal,
A bowl of crystal water he requested.
They brought what he had craved with friendly zeal.
Hereafter led him to their festive hall,
Therein a sight unwonted to reveal.
Of what he saw you soon will be aware,
For everything shall be described with care.
No ornament was here, the eye deluding,
A cross-arched vault rose sternly from the ground,
And thirteen chairs against the walls, he noticed.
Were like a pious chorus ranged around,
By clever hands full delicately carven;
In front of each a little desk he found.
Devotion seemed to fill the very air,
Fraternity and restfulness and prayer.
Above each chair was hung a special shield,
Thirteen in all the number he espied.
They seemed to be important, purposeful,
No boast of ancestors in shallow pride.
And brother Mark, with longing all aglow,
Desired to learn what secret they did hide:
Lo, in the middle one the mystic sign,
The cross which clustring roses do entwine.
Each object will arouse to life and action
The soul which to its inspiration yields;
Some places are adorned by swords and lances,
While helmets hang above these other shields;
Here battered weapons are to be discovered,
Such as one may collect on battle-fields:
There spears and banners, come from distant lands,
And even fetters here and iron bands!
Each brother sinking down before his chair,
In silent prayer profoundly wrapt they rested;
Then softly chanted fervent hymns of thanks,
By cheerfulness and piety suggested;
With mutual blessing they retired to sleep,
A short repose, by fancies unmolested:
But Mark remains, surrounded by a few,
Still wishing more attentively to view.
Though tired in body, full awake his mind,
Preoccupied by many hidden things:
For here, his thirst in raging flames appeasing,
A dragon is enthroned with fiery wings;
And here between his jaws a bear is holding
An arm from which the blood it loses springs,
Both shields, in distance corresponding quite,
Hung next the Rosy-Cross to left and right.
The paths were wonderful that led thee here,
The aged brother speaks unto his guest:
Oh let these symbols bid thee stay until
The many heroes' deeds we manifest;
Our mysteries we will confide to thee,
For what is here concealed, can ne'er be guessed;
Although thou wilt divine what here was done,
Endured and lost, and last what triumph won.
Do not believe that but of times gone by
The brother spake. Here wonders never fail;
And more and ever more thou shalt behold,
Until withdrawn is the enshrouding veil.
One portal only 'tis that thou hast passed:
And if thou feelst the call, O friend, prevail!
The foremost court as yet thou didst attain,
But worthy art the very core to gain.
After a short sleep our Brother Mark next learns to divine
something at least of the inner mysteries; in the powerful
symbols he has let the ascent of the human Self work upon his
soul, and when he is awakened by a sign from his short rest he
comes to a window, a kind of lattice, and hears a strange
threefold harmony sounding thrice, and the whole as if
intermingled with the playing of a flute. He cannot look in,
cannot see what is happening there in the room. We do not need
to be told more than these few words as an indication of what
awaits the man who approaches the spiritual worlds, when he is
so far purified and perfected by his endeavours to develop his
Self, that he has passed through the astral world and
approaches the higher worlds — those worlds in which are to
be found the spiritual archetypes of the things here on earth.
When he approaches what is called in esoteric Christianity the
world of heaven, he approaches it through a world of flowing
colour; he enters into a world of sound, into the harmony of
the universe, the music of the spheres. The spiritual world is
a world of sound. He who has developed his higher Self to the
level of the higher worlds must become at home in this
spiritual world. It is indeed Goethe who clearly expressed the
higher experience of a world of spiritual sound in his Faust
when he lets him be carried up to heaven and the world of
heaven is revealed to him through sound.
“The sun-orb sings, in emulation
'Mid brother-spheres, his ancient round:”
physical sun does not sing, but the spiritual sun sings. Goethe
retains this image when, after long wanderings, Faust is
exalted into the spiritual worlds (Faust, Second Part):
“Sounding loud to spirit-hearing, see the new-born day
appearing.” “Pealing rays and trumpet-blazes — eye is
blinded, ear amazes: The Unheard can no one hear!”
Through the symbolic world of the astral, man, if he evolves
higher, approaches the world of the harmony of the spheres, the
Devachanic domain, the spiritual music. Only softly, softly,
does Brother Mark, after passing through the first portal, the
astral portal, hear floating out to him the sound of the inner
world behind our external world, of that world which transforms
the lower astral world into that higher world which is pervaded
by the triple harmony. And in reaching the higher world man's
lower nature is transformed into the higher triad: our astral
body is changed into the spirit-self, the etheric body into the
life-spirit, the physical body into the spirit-man. In the
music of the spheres he first senses the triple harmony of the
higher nature, and in becoming one with this music of the
spheres he has the first glimpse of the rejuvenation of man
when he enters into union with the spiritual world. He sees, as
in a dream, rejuvenated mankind float through the garden in the
form of the three youths bearing three torches. This is the
moment when Mark's soul has awakened in the morning from
darkness, and when some darkness still remains; his soul has
not yet penetrated it. But precisely at such a time the soul
can gradually look into the spiritual world. It can look into
the spiritual worlds as it can look when the summer noon is
past, when the sun is losing in power and winter has come, and
then at midnight the Christ-principle shines through the
earth in the night of Christmas. Through the Christ-principle
man is exalted to the higher trinity, represented for Brother
Mark by the three youths who are the rejuvenated soul of man.
This is the meaning of Goethe's lines:
And until thou truly hast
This “dying and becoming,”
Thou art but a troubled guest
O'er the dark earth roaming.
Every year anew Christmas will indicate to the one who
understands esoteric Christianity that what happens in
the external world is the mimicry, the gestures, of inner
spiritual processes. The external power of the sun lives in the
spring and summer sunshine. In the Scriptures this external
power of the sun, which is only the forerunner of the inner
spiritual power of the sun, is represented by John the
Baptist, but the inner, spiritual power by Christ. And while
the physical power of the sun slowly abates, the spiritual
power rises and grows in strength until it reaches its zenith
at Christmas time. This is the meaning underlying the words in
the gospel of S. John: “He must increase, but I must
decrease.” And he increases until he appears where the sunforce
has again attained the outer physical power. So that man may
henceforth revere and worship in this external physical power
the spiritual power of the sun, he must learn the meaning of
the Christmas festival. For those who do not know this meaning
the new power of the sun is nothing but the old physical power
returning. But whoever has become familiar with the impulses
which esoteric Christianity, and especially the Christmas
festival, should give him will see in the growing power of the
solar body the external body of the inner Christ which
shines through the earth, which gives it life and fruitfulness,
so that the earth itself becomes the bearer of the Christ-power,
of the Earth-Spirit. Thus what is born in every Christmas night
will be born for us each time anew. Through Christ we shall
experience inwardly the microcosm in the macrocosm, and this
realisation will lead us higher and higher.
festivals, which have long ago become something external to
men, will again appear in their deep significance for mankind
if they are led by this profound Esotericism to the knowledge
that the occurrences of external nature, such as thunder and
lightning, sunrise and sunset, moonrise and the setting of the
moon, are the gestures and physiognomy of spiritual existence.
And at the turning-points which are marked by our festivals we
should realise that these are also times of important
happenings in the spiritual world. Then we shall be led on to
the rejuvenating spiritual power represented by the three
youths, which the ego can only win by devoting itself to the
outer world and not egotistically shutting itself away from it.
But there is no devotion to the outer world if this external
world is not permeated by the Spirit. That this Spirit shall
appear every year anew for all men, even for the feeblest, as
Light in the darkness, must be written every year afresh in the
heart and soul of man.
This is what Goethe wished to express in this poem, The
Mysteries. It is at once a Christmas poem and an Easter
poem. It would indicate profound secrets of esoteric
Christianity. If what he wished to indicate of the deep
mysteries of Rosicrucian Christianity is allowed to work
upon our souls, if we absorb its power even in part, then for
some few at least in our environment we shall become
missionaries; we shall succeed in fashioning this Festival once
more into something filled with spirit and with life.
When after short repose within his cell
A deep resounding bell awakes our guest,
His soul is filled with longing for devotion,
He rises quickly with unwearied zest
And hastens to the church, with all his heart
Responding to the gladly heard behest,
Obedient, peaceful and by prayer bestirred;
Alas! The door is locked, he stands deterred.
But hark! a blow on dull resounding ore
Three times in equal intervals renewed,
No chime it seems to be of clock or bells,
From time to time with tones of flute imbued;
The floating music fills the heart with joy,
Mysterious 'tis and scarce to be construed,
It sounds like singing, solemn and entrancing,
To which the couples interlace in dancing.
Bewildered and by strange emotion moved,
He hastens to the window there to gaze;
The day is dawning in the distant east,
The sky o'erflown by lucent streaks of haze.
And may he trust his eyes? A mystic light
Is fleeting through the garden's winding ways;
Three youths with torches in their hands he sees
Who haste along the paths between the trees.
He clearly sees their wonderful apparel,
The white resplendent garments which they wear,
Their girdles made of intertwining roses,
The wreaths of flowers in their curly hair;
They seem to come from some nocturnal dances,
With joy of movement thrilled, enlived and fair.
But as the stars will fade, when day is near,
Extinguishing their torch, they disappear.