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Self-knowledge in Relation to the
Mystery Drama, 'The Portal of Initiation'

On-line since: 31st October, 2017


Self-knowledge

Lecture by RUDOLF STEINER

in relation to the Mystery Play,
The Portal of Initiation.’

September 1910.
Shorthand report unrevised by the lecturer.
All rights reserved by Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, Dornach.
English translation by G. A. Kaufmann, edited by H. Collison.


IN Munich, as most of you will be aware, beside repeating last year's representation of Edouard Schuré's drama, The Children of Lucifer, we produced a Rosicrucian Mystery Play which seeks in manifold ways to represent some of the truths that are connected with our Movement. On the one hand, the Mystery Play was intended as an example, showing how that which inspires all theosophical life can also pour itself out into Art. On the other hand, we must not forget that this Play contains very much of our spiritual-scientific teachings, in a form in which we shall perhaps only discover it during years to come. This, above all, must not be misunderstood. You should take pains to read the things that are contained in it, — I do not say between the lines, for they are in the actual words, but they are there in a spiritual way. If you were really to take the Rosicrucian Mystery Play in earnest, and look for the things that it contains during the next few years, it would not be necessary for me to give any lectures at all for many years to come. You would discover many things which I am giving in lectures on all kinds of subjects.

It will, however, be more practicable for us to seek these things together than alone. In a certain sense, it is very good for that which lives in Spiritual Science to be among us in this form. To-day, therefore, taking our start from the Rosicrucian Mystery Play, I should like to speak of certain properties of human self-knowledge. But we must first call to mind how the individuality, living and working in the body of Johannes Thomasius, is characterised in this Play. Hence, I should like this lecture on self-knowledge to begin with a recitation of those passages which refer to the self-knowledge of Johannes.

(The second scene: ‘Know thou thyself, O man!’ and the ninth scene ‘O man, feel thou thyself!’ were read out aloud at this point.)

In these two scenes, ‘Know thou thyself, O man’ and ‘O man, feel thou thyself,’ two stages of development in the unfolding of the soul are brought before us. I beg you not to think it strange if I now say the following: I am in no way opposed to the Rosicrucian Mystery Play being interpreted as I have sometimes heard other poems interpreted in theosophical circles. For in this Rosicrucian Mystery there may well come before our souls in a more living and immediate form what I have often said in relation to other works of art I have interpreted. I never hesitated to say: Though the plant or flower does not know what the human being who beholds it finds therein, nevertheless, the flower contains what he finds. I said this once when I was about to interpret Faust. It is not necessary for the poet, when he actually wrote the poem, to have exactly known or felt in the words all that was afterwards found there. I can assure you, nothing of what I may now or subsequently attach to this Mystery Play, and of which I know that it is really contained therein, came to me consciously when the several scenes were created. The scenes grew out of themselves, like the leaves of the plant. One cannot produce such a form by first having the idea, and then translating it into the outer form. I always found it very interesting to see it coming into being, scene by scene. Other friends, too, who learnt to know the scenes one by one, always said. How strange it is; it always comes out differently from what one had imagined.

The Mystery Play is like a picture of the evolution of mankind in the evolution of a single man. And I will emphasise, for real and true feeling one cannot shroud oneself in abstractions when one wishes to set forth Theosophy. Each human soul is different from another, and must indeed be different; for everyone experiences his own evolution, in all that is given as our general teaching, we can only receive guiding lines. Hence the full truth can only be given if we take our start from an individual soul, — representing a single human individuality in a fully individual and characteristic way. If, therefore, any one studies the character of Johannes Thomasius, seeking to translate into theories of human evolution what is specifically said of him, he would be making an entire mistake. He would be much in error if he imagined: ‘I myself shall experience just what Johannes Thomasius experienced.’ That which Johannes Thomasius has to experience applies indeed to every man as to its general tendency and direction. Nevertheless, to undergo these individual experiences one would have to be Johannes Thomasius! Everyone is a Johannes Thomasius his own way. Thus, everything is set forth in a fully individual way, and by this very fact it presents in as true a way as possible, through individual figure, the characteristic evolution of the human being in his soul.

Therefore, a broad basis had to be created. Thomasius is first shown on the physical plane. Single experiences of his soul are indicated, such, for example, as this one, which cannot but be of great significance: — We are told how at a time not very long ago, he deserted a being who was devoted to him in faithful love. That is a thing that often happens, but it works differently on one who is striving to undergo an inner evolution. It is a deep and profound truth: He who is to undergo a higher evolution does not attain self-knowledge by brooding into himself, but by diving other beings. By self-knowledge we must know that we are come from the Cosmos. And we can only dive down by transmuting our own self into another self. To begin with we transmuted into the beings once near to us in life. This therefore, is an example of the conscious experience of one's own self within another. Johannes, having got deeper down into himself, with his self dives down in self-knowledge into another being — into that being whom he had brought bitter pain. So, then we see how Thomasius dives down in self-knowledge. Theoretically we may say: ‘If you would know the flower, you must dive into the flower.’ Self-knowledge, however, is most readily attained when we dive down into the events in the midst of which we ourselves have stood in some other way. So long as we are in our own self, we go through the outer experiences. Over against a true self-knowledge, that which we think of the life of other beings is a mere abstraction. For Thomasius, to begin with, the experiences of other human beings become his own experience. Here, for example, was one Capesius, describing his experiences. We can well understand how such experiences arise in life; Thomasius, however, receives them differently. He listens, but his listening (it is described so in one of the later scenes) is different. It is as though he were not there at all with his ordinary self. Another, deeper faculty reveals itself. It is as though he himself entered into the soul of Capesius and experienced what is going on within that soul.

It is exceedingly significant when he becomes estranged from himself. For this indeed is inseparable from self-knowledge: one must tear oneself free of oneself and go out into another. It is indeed significant for Thomasius when, having heard all these speeches, he finds himself obliged to say: —

“A mirrored picture 'twas of fullest life
That showed me to myself in clearest lines:
This spirit-revelation makes me feel
That most of us protect and train one trait
And one alone in all our character,
Which thus persuades itself it is the whole.
I sought to unify these many traits
In mine own self and boldly trod the path
Which here is shown, to lead unto that goal;
And it hath made of me a nothingness.”

Why did it make of him a nothingness? Because he dived down through self-knowledge into the other beings. Brooding into his own inner life, makes a man proud and arrogant. True self-knowledge leads at first to the pain of diving down into other selves. Johannes listens to the words of Capesius. He experiences in the other soul the words of Felicia. He follows Strader into his cloistered loneliness. All this, to begin with, is abstraction; he has not yet come to the point to which he is afterwards guided through his pain. Self-knowledge is deepened by meditation in the inner self. That which was shown in the first scene, is now revealed by deepened self-knowledge, which — rising out of the abstraction — enters into reality. The words which you have heard resounding through the centuries — words of the Delphic oracle — gain a new life for the human being at this point; yet to begin with it is a life of estrangement from his own self. Johannes, as one who is in process of self-knowledge, dives down into all other beings. He lives in air and water, rocks and streams, — not in himself. All these words which we can only shew resounding from outside, are really words of meditation. At the very moment when the curtain rises, we must conceive the words that sound forth in all self-knowledge — we must conceive them far, far louder than they can be presented on the stage. Then the self-knower dives down into a multitude of other beings. He learns to know the things into which he enters thus. And now the same experience, which he already had before, comes before him in a most terrible way. It is a deep truth. Self-knowledge, when it takes its course in this way, leads us to look at ourselves quite differently than we ever did before. It leads us to learn to feel our own Ego as a stranger!

In fact, it is the outer vehicle of man which he feels most near to himself. A human being of our time is apt to feel it far more nearly when he cuts his finger than when he is hurt by a false judgment passed by his fellowman. How much more does it hurt the human being of to-day when he cuts his finger than when he hears a false judgment! Yet he is only cutting into his bodily vehicle.

This is the thing that emerges in self-knowledge: we learn to feel our body as an instrument. It is not so difficult for a man to feel his hand as an instrument when he uses it to grasp an object; but he now learns to feel the same with one or another portion of the brain. This feeling of the brain as of an instrument occurs at a certain stage of self-knowledge. Things become localised. When we drive a nail in the wall, we know that we are doing it with a certain tool. Now we are also aware that in doing so we make use of this or that part of the brain. These things become objective — external to us. We learn to know our brain as something that is really separated from us. Self-knowledge brings about this objectivity of our own bodily vehicle, until at length it is as foreign to us as our external tools. And as we begin thus to feel our bodily nature as an objective thing, thereby we also begin to live in the outer Universe. Only because a man still feels his body as his own, he is not clear about it; he thinks there is a boundary between the air outside him and the air within. He says to himself that he is there within; and yet, within him is the same air as outside him. Take then the substance of the air; it is within and at the same time without. And so it is in every case so it is with the blood, and with all that is bodily. In a bodily sense, man cannot be either within or without. That is mere Maya. Inasmuch as the bodily ‘inside’ becomes external to us, it is prolonged into the world outside us, into the Cosmos. And so it is, in deed and truth.

The pain of feeling oneself a stranger to oneself, — this was intended in the first scene. It is the pain of feeling oneself estranged from oneself, by finding oneself in all outer things. Johannes' own bodily vehicle is like an entity that is outside him. Feeling his own body outside of himself, he sees the other body approaching him, — the body of the being whom he has deserted. This other one approaches him, and he has learned to speak with that other being's own words. This tells him that his self has now expanded to the other being:

“Ah, bitter sorrow hath he brought to me;
So utterly I trusted him of old.
He left me lonely with my sorrow's pain,
He robbed me of the very warmth of life,
And thrust me deep beneath the chill, cold ground.”

The reproach comes vividly into our soul, only when we are bound to utter the suffering of the other one, with which our own self is connected; for our own self has now dived down into the other self. Such is the real deepening of things. Johannes at this point is really in the pain which he has caused; he feels himself poured out into it and again awakened. What does he really experience? Taking it all in all, we find that the ordinary man undergoes such an experience only in the state that we call Kama-loca. The candidate for Initiation has to experience, already in this world, what the normal human being undergoes in the spiritual world. He must undergo within the physical body the Kama-loca experiences which in the ordinary course are undergone outside the physical. Therefore, all the characteristics which we may understand as properties of Kama-loca are presented here as experiences of Initiation. Just as Johannes dives down into the soul whom he has given pain, so must the normal man in Kama-loca dive down into the souls to whom he gave pain and suffering. As though a box-on-the-ears were given back to him, so must he feel the pain. There is only this difference: while the Initiate experiences these things within the physical body, the other human being undergoes them after death. He who experiences them now will live in quite a different way when Kama-loca comes.

However, even that which man can undergo in Kama-loca, may be experienced in such a way that he is not yet free. It is a difficult task to become completely free. It is one of the most important experiences of spiritual development in our time (in the Graeco-Latin age it was not yet so) to realise how infinitely difficult it is to get free of oneself. A most important Initiation-experience is expressed in the words wherein Johannes feels himself fettered to his own lower body. His own being appears to him as a being to whom he is enchained: —

“I feel the chains that hold me chained to thee.
So fast was not Prometheus riveted
Upon the naked rocks of Caucasus,
As I am riveted and forged to thee.”

That is a thing essentially connected with self-knowledge. It is a secret of self-knowledge.; we must only apprehend it in the right way.

Have we really become better men by becoming earthly men, — by diving down into our earthly vehicles? Or should we be better if we were able to be alone in our inner life, — if we could simply cast the vehicles aside? Superficial people may well ask, when they first meet with the theosophical life, Why should one first dive down into an earthly body? The simplest thing would be to remain above; then we should not have all the misery of diving down. Why have the wise Powers of Destiny plunged us into the body?

In simple feeling, one can explain a little if one says that Divine-spiritual forces have been working at this earthly body for millions of years. Precisely inasmuch as it is so, we should make more of ourselves than we have the force to do. Our inner forces are inadequate! The fact is, if we merely wish to be what we are in our own inner being, — if we are not corrected by our vehicles — we cannot possibly be equal yet to what the Gods have made. Life shows itself in this way. Here upon Earth, man is transplanted into his bodily sheaths - sheaths that that have been prepared by beings during tree Worlds. Man still has the task of building and developing his inner being. Here between birth and death, man is an evil being through the elasticity of his bodily sheaths. In Devachan he is once more a better being, for he is there received by the Divine-spiritual beings who pour him through with their own forces. In time to come — the Vulcan era — he will be a perfect being. Here upon Earth, he is a being who gives way to one lust or another. The heart, for example, is so wisely ordered that it withstands for decades the attacks which man directs against it with his excesses — as, for instance, with his drinking coffee.

Such as he can be to-day by virtue of his own forces, man goes his way through Kama-loca. In Kama-loca he shall learn to know what he can by his own force alone. And that, in truth, is nothing good. Man, to describe himself, cannot describe himself with any predicate of beauty. He must describe himself as Johannes does:

“Yet in what shape know I myself again.
My human form is lost and gone from me;
Like some fierce dragon do I see myself;
Begotten out of primal lust and greed.
And clearly do I see how up till now
Some dim deluding veil of phantom forms
Hath hid from me mine own monstrosity.”

Our inner being is harnessed, as it were elastically, and is thus hidden from us. Truly we learn to know ourselves as ‘some fierce dragon’ when we learn to know Initiation. Therefore these words are derived from the very deepest feeling; they are not words of morbid introspection, but of true self-knowledge: —

“Oh yea, I know thee; for thou art myself:
Knowledge doth chain to thee, pernicious beast,
Chain mine own self — pernicious beast — to thee;”

Fundamentally the two are the same; first as the object, then as the subject. ‘I willed to flee from thee …’

This flight, however, leads him all the more into himself. And now the ‘company’ emerges — in which we really are when we look into ourselves. This ‘company’ consists of our own cravings and passions, — all that we did not notice before, because every time we wanted to look into ourselves our gaze was diverted to the world around us. Compared to the inner life into which we tried to look, the world is a world of wondrous beauty. Here, then, we cease to look into ourselves in the illusion or Maya of life.

When human beings around us indulge in vain chatter and we grow tired of it, we take flight in solitude. For certain stages of development, it is important to do so. We can collect ourselves. We should collect ourselves in this way; it is a means of self-knowledge. Nevertheless, there are these experiences we come into a ‘company’ where we can no more be lonely. For at this stage — it matters not, whether within us or without us — beings appear who will not let us be alone. Then comes the experience which man is meant to have. Solitude itself brings him into the worst society of all: —

“Man's final refuge hath been lost to me;
I have been robbed of solitude.”

All these are real experiences, but you must not let their very intensity become a snare. Do not imagine, if such experiences are presented in their full intensity, that you should therefore be afraid. Do not imagine that these things are meant to divert any one from diving down himself into these waters. One may not experience them at once with the same intensity as Johannes did. He had to experience them thus for a definite purpose, — in a certain sense, even prematurely. Regular self-development will go at quite another pace. The fact that it takes place in-Johannes so tumultuously, should be conceived as an individual matter. Because he is an individuality who has suffered shipwreck inasmuch as he infringes on these laws, therefore it all takes place in him in a far more tempestuous way. He learns to know these laws, in that they throw him deeply out of his balance.

Nevertheless, what is here described of Johannes is intended to call forth the feeling that true self-knowledge has nothing to do with trite or easy phrases. Self-knowledge, if it be true, can do no other to begin with than to lead through suffering and grief. Things that were hitherto a refreshment take on another countenance when they appear in the field of self-knowledge. No doubt, we can pray for solitude, even though we have already found self-knowledge. Nevertheless in certain moments of self-knowledge, solitude may be the very thing we lose, if we seek it in our hitherto accustomed way. It is in moments when we flow out into the objective world, and when the lonely one suffers the direst pain of all.

This pouring-out of ourselves into other beings, — we must learn to feel it rightly if we would feel what this Play contains. It is conceived with a certain aesthetic feeling; it is ‘spiritually realistic,’ through and through. A realist with true aesthetic feeling suffers a certain pain at an unrealistic presentation. Here again, that can give satisfaction at a certain stage can be a source of pain at another. All this depends upon the way of self-knowledge. When for example you have understood a play of Shakespeare's — a great work, in the external world — it may no doubt be a source of aesthetic pleasure to you. Nevertheless, there may occur a moment of development when you are no longer satisfied. You feel your inner being rent as you go on from scene to scene. You no longer see any necessity in the sequence of one scene after another. You feel it quite unnatural that one scene is placed next to the other. Why so? Because there is nothing to hold the scenes together, — only the writer Shakespeare, and the onlooker. There is an abstract principle of causality and no reality of being in the sequence of the scenes. It is a characteristic of Shakespeare's dramas; nothing is indicated that works karmically through and through and holds the whole together.

The Rosicrucian Mystery Play, on the other hand, is realistic — spiritually realistic. Much is required of Johannes Thomasius. Without actively partaking in any important role, he is there the stage. He is the one in whose soul it is all taking place. What is described is the development of the soul — the real experiences that are undergone in the soul's development.

The soul of Johannes, realistically, spins one scene out of another. Here, then, we see that the realistic and the spiritual are in no contradiction to each other. The ‘materialistic’ and the spiritual need not — although they can — be in contradiction to each other. The realistic and the spiritual certainly need not be in contradiction to each other. Moreover, a materialist can thoroughly admire what is realistic in a spiritual sense. Shakespeare's dramas can certainly be described as realistic in terms of an aesthetic principle. But you will also understand that an Art which goes hand in hand with Theosophy eventually leads to this: — For him who experiences his own self in the Cosmos, the whole Cosmos becomes an Ego-being. Therefore we cannot abide it that anything should meet him in the Cosmos which does not stand in relation to the Ego-being. Art will in this respect have to learn that which will bring it to the principle of the Ego. For in effect, Christ once upon a time brought us the I. In the most varied spheres this I will live and find expression.

This human reality of the soul, and on the other hand this dismemberment in the world outside, shows itself also in another way. If at that time someone asked: Which person is Atma, which is Buddhi, and which Manas? … truly it was a dreadful Art if it had to be thus interpreted, as saying: ‘This character or that is a personification of Manas.’ There are such theosophical abuses, trying to interpret things in this direction. One could only say of a work of Art that had to be interpreted in such a way, Poor work of Art! Certainly, for Shakespeare's plays it would be utterly false and laughable. These are but illnesses of childhood in the theosophical movement, and we shall wean ourselves of them in time. But it is necessary to draw attention to them. Someone might even set to work and look for the nine members of human nature in the Ninth Symphony!

Yet it is right in a certain sense that the single and united human nature is also distributed among many human beings. One human being has this colouring of soul, and another that. Thus, we can see the human beings before us, representing many sides of the total human nature. Only it must be conceived in a realistic way, it must arise out of the very nature of things. Even as human beings meet us in the ordinary world, there too they represent the several sides of human nature. As we unfold ourselves from incarnation to incarnation, we shall become a totality in time. To present the underlying truth of these things, the whole of life must be dissolved. So, it is in the Rosicrucian Mystery Play. What is intended, in a certain sense, to represent Maria, is dissolved among the other figures who are about her as her companions and who with her together constitute an Ego-hood. Qualities notably of the Sentient Soul are to be seen in Philia; qualities of the Intellectual or Mind-soul in Astrid; qualities of the Spiritual Soul in Luna. And in this sense their names are chosen.

The names are chosen for the several beings according to their nature. Not only in the names; in the whole way in which the words are placed, the characterisation of the three — Philia, Astrid and Luna — is exactly graded. This is especially true of the seventh scene, where the Spiritual — Devachan — is to be shown. The beginning of the seventh scene is a far better characterisation of ‘Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul and Spiritual Soul’ than can otherwise be given in mere words. Human figures are shown, in answer to the question: What is ‘Sentient Soul,’ what is ‘Intellectual Soul’ and what is ‘Spiritual Soul’? In Art, the different stages can be shown, through the whole way in which these figures stand there. In the human being they flow into one another. Once they are dissolved from one another, they present themselves in this way: Philia places herself into the Universal All, Astrid into the elements, while Luna goes outward in self-action and self-knowledge. And inasmuch as they present themselves in this way, the Devachanic scene contains all that can represent Alchemy in the true sense of the word. The whole of Alchemy is there contained; only we must gradually find it out. It is given not n the mere abstract content, but in the life and being of the words. Therefore, you should not only hear what is said, — and above all, not only what each individual speaks; — you should hear how they speak, in relation to one another. The Sentient Soul inserts herself into the astral body here, then, we have to do with weaving astrality. The Intellectual Soul inserts herself into the ether-body; here, then, we have to do with living, moving ether-essence. Lastly, we see how the Spiritual Soul adorns herself and with inner firmness pours herself into the physical body. That which works through the Soul, as light within the soul, is given in the words of Philia. That which works in an etheric way, so that we stand over against what is true, is given in Astrid. That which gives inner firmness, so that it is united with the physical body which is primarily solid, is given in Luna We must be sensitive to this.

Philia (Sentient Soul)

Ich will erfullen mich

I will myself imbue

Mit klarstem Lichtessein

With clearest rays of light

Aus Weltenweiten.

From cosmic spaces wide.

Ich will eratrnen mir

I will breathe deep within

Belebenden Klangesstoff

Sound-substance that gives life

Aus Aetherfernen,

From distant ether-bounds,

Dass dir, geliebte Schwester,

Dear sister, that thou may'st

Das Werk gelingen kann.

Succeed in this thy work.

Astrid (Intellectual Soul)

Ich will verweben

Through all the streaming light

Erstrahlend Licht

I will weave darkness in

Mit dämpfender Finsternis,

To cloud its radiant beam.

Ich will verdichten

I will make dense and thick

Das Klanges leben.

The living life of sound;

Es soll erglitzernd klingen,

That glowing it may sound

Es soll erklingend glitzern,

And sounding it may glow.

Dass du, geliebte Schwester,

Dear sister, that thou may'st

Die Seelenstrahlen lenken kannst.

Direct the soul-life's rays.

Luna (Spiritual Soul)

Ich will erwärmen Seelenstoff

Soul substance will I warm,

Und will erhärten Lebensäther.

Life's ether harden too.

Sie sollen sich verdichten,

That they may thus condense

Sie sollen sich erfühlen,

And may thus feel themselves

Und in sich selber seiend,

As living in themselves

Sich schaffend halten;

And powerful to create.

Dass du, geliebte Schwester,

Dear sister, that thou may'st

Der suchenden Menschenseele

Prove wisdom's certainty

Des Wissens Sicherheit erzeugen Kannst.

To mankind's seeking soul.

I draw your attention to the fact that Philia, in the last line but one, uses the words ‘Dass dir, geliebte Schwester.’ In Astrid's words we have the darker sound ‘Dass du, geliebte Schwester,’ entering into the denser element. ‘Dass du, ... dass dir ...’ And now in Luna's words it is interwoven with the still more weighty sound, ‘in suchenden Menschenseele.’ Here the u is so interwoven with the neighbouring consonants as to gain a still closer density.

These are the things we can characterise. They are indeed like this. It depends above all on the manner, not on the mere content. Compare the further words of Philia: —

Ich will erbitten von Weltengeistern,

From cosmic spirits I

Dass ihres Wesens Licht

Will beg their being's light

Entzücke Seelensinn,

The soul-sense to enchant,

Und ihrer Worte Klang

The sound too of their words

Beglucke Geistgehor;

To charm the spirit's ear;

with the quite different way in which Astrid speaks: —

Ich will die Liebesstöme,

The love-streams will I guide

Die Welt erwarmenden

That will fill the world with warmth

Zu Herzen leiten

Unto the heart of man

Dem Geweihten;

Who is initiate;

In all these words there is conveyed the inner life and being of the Devachanic element of the world. Through these things we must realise (and for this reason I mention them) that when self-knowledge begins to go out into the outer life and being of the Universe, we need to wean ourselves of all one-sidedness. We can but experience in a dead and Philistine way that which is present at each single point of existence. It makes us rigid to be held fast at a single point in space and to imagine that we can express the truth in words. Mere words cannot express the truth so well, for it is all involved in the actual physical sound. We must feel the quality of expression also.

Such an important process as the self-knowledge of Johannes is only rightly experienced when he courageously achieves it, when he grasps it bravely. This is the next act. Self-knowledge has shattered us and cast us down. Now, having learned in the Universe outside — having perceived the Cosmos as related to us; having known the very being of other beings, — now we begin to take it into ourselves. Now we make bold to live what we have known. It is only half the battle to dive down, as Johannes did, into a being to whom we brought suffering — whom we ‘thrust deep beneath the chill, cold ground.’ We now feel differently; we take courage to balance-out the pain. Then we dive down into this life, and in our own being we speak differently. This, to begin with, is what meets us in the next scene.

While in the second scene the other being called to Johannes:

“Ah, bitter sorrow hath he brought to me;
So utterly I trusted him of old.
He left me lonely with my sorrow's pain,
He robbed me of the very warmth of life,

And thrust me deep beneath the chill, cold ground.”

— now, in the ninth scene, now that Johannes has experienced himself at the place whither all self-knowledge drives us, now; the same being calls to him:

“Thou must find me again and ease my pain.”

This is the other side. First the shattering experience, and then the needed compensation. Therefore, the other being calls to him: ‘Thou wilt find me again.’

This lifting of experience into the Universe — this filling of the self with living experience of the Universal All — could be presented in no other way. True self-knowledge — emerging as it does out of the Cosmos — could only be presented in that Johannes awakened with the very same words. Quite naturally it must begin thus in the second scene: —

“'Tis thus I hear them, now these many years,
These words of weighty import all around.”

But then, when he has dived down into the ground of earth, — united himself with the earth beneath, — then there arises in his soul the force to let the words arise in a new form. That is essential (in the ninth scene):

“... For three long years
I have sought strength of soul, with courage winged,
Which doth give truth unto these words, whereby
A man may free himself to conquer first;
Then conquering himself may freedom find ...”

Then come the words: ‘Know thou thyself, O man!’ by contrast to the words in the second scene: ‘O man, feel thou thyself!’

Again, and again, the same picture meets us. While on the one hand the scene goes downward:

“It seems mine own peculiarities
And all the world besides live in these words:
‘Know thou thyself, O man! Know thou thyself!’”

afterwards it is reversed; it changes. The scene portrays the real process. So, too, we heard the terrible, shattering word in the second scene: —

“But then, Maria, does thou realise
Through what my soul hath fought its way but now?”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Man's final refuge hath been lost to me:
I have been robbed of solitude.”

And in the ninth scene it is shown how his being only now gains confidence and certainty. Such is the congruence of the two scenes. These are not purposeful constructions. The real experiences are so and must be so — quite as a matter of course. Thus, we should feel how in a soul such as Johannes Thomasius, self-knowledge is gradually purified, till it becomes living self-experience. And we should feel how this experience of Johannes is distributed over many human beings. His own self-knowledge is distributed over all the human beings in whom — in their single incarnations—the several portions of his being are expressed. In the Sun-Temple at the last, a whole company of human beings are there. They all are there like a tableau, and yet all together are a single man. The properties of a single human being are distributed among them all. It is at bottom a single human being. A pedant would say: ‘Then there are too many parts, there should be nine instead of twelve.’ Reality, however, does not create so as to agree with theories; yet it is more in agreement with the truth than if in regular and theoretic fashion the several members of the human being were to be marched on to the stage.

Imagine yourself now in the Sun-Temple. There are the single human beings, placed in the actual way in which they belong together karmically. There they are standing together, even as Karma has put them -together in life. And now imagine: Johannes himself is there, and the character of every single one is reflected in his soul. Each single one is a soul-quality of Johannes. What, then, has happened — if we sum up the result? Karma has brought them together, as at a nodal point of Karma. Nothing is meaningless, aimless or purposeless. All that the single human beings have done, signifies not only single events, but in each case an experience of Johannes' soul. Everything takes place twice over: in the Macrocosm and in the Microcosm — the soul of Johannes. And that is his Initiation.

For instance, as Maria is to Johannes himself, so is an, important member of his soul to another member of the soul. These are the real congruences, strictly carried out. That which is action outwardly, — inwardly in Johannes is a process of evolution. That which the Hierophant says in the third scene is about to happen here: —

“Within our circle there is formed a knot
Of threads that Karma spins, world-fashioning.”

The knot has been formed. The well-tied knot reveals whither all is leading. On the one hand is the absolute reality — the way in which Karma spins, world-fashioning. It is no aimless spinning. It is the knot as the Initiation-process in Johannes' soul. And yet, such is the whole, that a single hum-an individuality is there over and above them all. It is the Hierophant, who plays his active part and guides the several threads.

You need only think of the Hierophant in his relation to Maria. This passage in the third scene can indeed illumine what self-knowledge is. It is no joke to go out of oneself; it is a very real process. The human vehicles are deserted by the inner force; then they remain behind and become a battlefield for subordinate powers. The very moment when Maria is sending down to the Hierophant the ray of love, can be presented in no other way than thus: Down there is the body, taken hold of by the power of the Adversary, and saying the very opposite of what is going on above. Above, the ray of love rays down; below, a curse is uttered. These then are the contrasting scenes: Devachan in the seventh scene, Maria describing what she actually did; and in the third scene the world below, where, as the body is left behind, the curse of the demonic Powers against the Hierophant is uttered. Here you have two complementary pictures. It would be very bad if one had to construct them so, artificially.

To-day, then, I have based my lecture on one aspect of the Mystery Play. I hope we have thus been able to illumine certain characteristic facts that underlie Initiation.

The fact that certain things have had to be sharply emphasised — so as to describe the processes of Initiation — should not render you pusillanimous in striving for the spiritual world. Descriptions of dangers have no other purpose than to steel the human being against adversary powers. The dangers are there, the pains and sufferings are certainly before us. It would be a very poor aspiration if we were only willing to ascend into the higher worlds, so to speak, by the most comfortable ways. The spiritual worlds cannot be attained as comfortably as in modern railway trains, where you simply let yourself be rolled along, or as the outer material culture generally does it in the things of outer life. That which is here described is not intended to make us lacking in courage; quite on the contrary. Our courage shall be steeled precisely by making ourselves acquainted in this way with the attendant dangers of Initiation.

Just as it is in Johannes Thomasius, whose tendency made him incapable of guiding the brush any longer, and this was translated into dire pain, and pain at length into knowledge; so too, all that which kindles pain and grief will be translated into knowledge.

But we must seek the path in real earnest. We can only do so by realising that the theosophical truths are not so simple after all. They are deep truths of life, — so much so that we can never come to an end in seeking to comprehend them. Examples of life itself enable us most nearly to comprehend the world. We can speak far more exactly of the conditions of higher development when we describe the development of Johannes, than we can do when we describe the human being's development in general. In the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, the higher evolution is described such as it can be for every human being. The pure possibility, which can indeed be realised, is there described. When we describe Johannes on the other hand, we describe a, single human being, and in so doing it is not possible to us to portray higher development in the abstract.

I hope you will not find occasion to say that after all I have not yet told you the truth. The fact is, there are two extremes, and we must find the grades between them. All I can do is again and again to give you hints and suggestions. These must then live in your hearts and souls. After the hints, I recently gave you on St. Matthew's Gospel I said, ‘Try not to remember the literal words, but when you go out into the world try to create in heart and soul that which the words will there have become. Try not to read only in Lecture Cycles, but also with earnestness to read in your own soul.’ To do so, however, something must first have been given to you from outside; something must first have passed into your soul; otherwise, you would only be deceiving yourself. Try then to read it in your soul, and you will see that that which has sounded into your soul from outside will yet resound there in quite another form.

This and this alone would be the true anthroposophical striving: — In every lecture that is given, there should be as many different ways of understanding as there are listeners present. He who would speak about Theosophy can never wish to be understood in one way only; he would fain be understood in as many ways as individual souls are there. Spiritual Science can afford this.

One thing, however, is necessary — I do not say it as a mere aside. One thing is necessary, namely that every single way of understanding be true. It may be individual, but it must be true. Some people go so far in their individual ways of understanding that they understand the exact opposite of what is said!

Thus, if we speak of self-knowledge, we must also realise: It is more useful in self-knowledge to look for the mistakes within us and the True outside ourselves. We do not say: ‘Seek for the truth within thyself.’ No! You will find what is true in the world outside, it is poured out into the Universe. We must become free of ourselves through self-knowledge, and we must go through all these stages of the soul. Loneliness can be a very bad companion; but we can also feel the full measure of our own weakness, when in our soul we sense the echoing greatness of that Universe from out of which we are born. And at this moment we take courage. If we make bold to experience in life what we cognise, then we shall find it confirmed: — Out of the loss of the last refuge of our life there will spring forth life's first and last refuge — life's first and last security. It is that certainty which makes it possible for us first to overcome ourselves, and then to find ourselves anew—in that we find ourselves within the Cosmos.

Oh man, experience the World in thee!
Then only, going beyond thyself,
Thou wilt have found thyself in thy true being.

If we feel these things as living experience, they will become steps in our evolution.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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