[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

Highlight Words

The Bhagavad Gita and the Epistles of St. Paul

The basis of knowledge of the Gita, the Veda, Sankhya, Yoga.

Schmidt Number: S-2672

On-line since: 9th January, 2001


The basis of knowledge of the Gita, the Veda, Sankhya, Yoga.

29 December, 1912

THE Bhagavad Gita, the sublime Song of the Indians, is, as I mentioned yesterday, said by qualified persons to be the most important philosophic poem of humanity, and he who goes deeply into the sublime Gita will consider this expression fully justified. We shall take the opportunity given by these lectures to point out the high artistic merit of the Gita, but, above all, we must realise the importance of this poem by considering what underlies it, the mighty thoughts and wonderful knowledge of the world from which it grew, and for the glorification and spreading, of which it was created. This glance into the fundamental knowledge contained in the Gita is especially important, because it is certain that all the essentials of this poem, especially all relating to thought and knowledge are communicated to us from a pre-Buddhistic stage of knowledge, so that we may say: The spiritual horizon which surrounded the great Buddha, out of which he grew, is characterised in the contents of the Gita. When we allow these to influence us, we gaze into a spiritual condition of old Indian civilisation in the pre-Buddhist age. We have already emphasised that the thought contained in the Gita is a combined out-pouring of three spiritual streams, not only fused into one another, but moving and living within one another, so that they meet us in the Gita as one whole. What we there meet with as a united whole, as a spiritual out-pouring of primeval Indian thought and perception, is a grand and beautiful aspect of knowledge, an immeasurable sum of spiritual knowledge; an amount of spiritual knowledge so vast that the modern man who has not yet studied Spiritual Science cannot help feeling doubts as to such an amount of knowledge and depth of science, having no possible standard with which to compare it. The ordinary modern methods do not assist one to penetrate the depths of know ledge communicated therein; at the most, one can but look upon that here spoken of as a beautiful dream which mankind once dreamt. From a merely modern standpoint one may perhaps admire this dream, but would not acknowledge it as having any scientific value. But those who have already studied Spiritual Science will stand amazed at the depths of the Gita and must admit that in primeval ages the human mind penetrated into knowledge which we can only re-acquire gradually by means of the spiritual organs which we must develop in the course of time. Their admiration is aroused for the primeval insight that existed in those past ages. We can admire it because we ourselves are able to re-discover it in the universe and thereby confirm the truth of it. When we rediscover it and recognise its truth, we then confess how wonderful it really is that in those primeval ages men were able to raise themselves to such spiritual heights! We know, to be sure, that in those old days mankind was specially favoured, in that the remains of the old clairvoyance was still alive in human souls, and that not only through a spiritual meditation attained by using special exercises were men led into the spiritual worlds, but also that the science of those days could itself, in a certain sense, be penetrated by the knowledge and ideas which the remains of the old clairvoyance brought. We must confess that today we recognise, for quite other reasons, the correctness of what is there communicated to us, but we must understand that in those old times delicate distinctions as regards the being of man were arrived at by other means; ingenious conceptions were drawn from that which man was able to know: conceptions clearly outlined, which could be applied to the spiritual as also to external physical reality. So that in many respects, if we simply alter the expressions we use today to suit our different standpoint, we find it possible to understand the former standpoint also.

We have tried, in bringing forward our spiritual knowledge, to present things as they appear to the present day clairvoyant perception; so that our sort of Spiritual Science represents that which the spiritually-minded man can attain today with the means at his command. In the early days of the Theosophical Movement less was done by means of what was drawn straight from occult science than by such methods as were based on the designations and shadowy conceptions used in the East, especially those which, by means of old traditions, have been carried over from the Gita-time in the East into our present day. Hence the older form of theosophical development (to which we have now added our present method of occult investigation) worked more through the old traditionally-received conceptions — especially those of the Sankhya philosophy. But just as this Sankhya philosophy itself was gradually changed in the East, through the alteration in oriental thought, so, at the beginning of the Theosophical Movement the being of man and other secrets were spoken of and these things were specialty described by means of expressions used by Sankaracharya, the great reformer of the Vedantic and other Indian knowledge in the eighth century of the Christian reckoning. We need not devote much attention to the expressions used at the beginning of the Theosophical Movement, but in order to get to the foundations of the knowledge and wisdom of the Gita, we shall devote ourselves today to the old primeval Indian wisdom. What we meet with first, what, so to speak, is drawn from that old wisdom itself, is especially to be found in the Sankhya philosophy.

We shall best obtain an understanding of how Sankhya philosophy looked upon the being and nature of man if, in the first place, we keep clearly before us the fact that there is a spiritual germ in all humanity; we have, always expressed this fact by saying that in the human Soul there are slumbering forces which, in the course of human evolution, will emerge more and more. The highest to which we can at present aspire and to which the human soul can attain, will be what we call Spirit-Man. Even when man, as a being, has risen to the stage of Spirit-Man, he will still have to distinguish between the soul which dwells within him and that which is Spirit-Man itself; just as in everyday life today we have to distinguish between that which is our innermost soul and the sheaths which enclose it; the Astral Body, the Etheric or Life-Body, and the Physical Body. Just as we look upon these bodies as sheaths and distinguish them from the soul itself, which for the present cycle of humanity is divided into three parts: sentient soul, intellectual reasoning soul, and consciousness soul — just as we thus distinguish between the soul-nature and its system of sheaths — so in future stages we shall have to reckon with the actual soul, which will then have its threefold division fitted for those future stages and corresponding to our sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul, and the sheath-nature, which will then have reached that stage of man which, in our terminology, we call Spirit-Man. That, however, which will some day become the human sheath, and which will, so to say, enclose the spiritual soul-part of man, the Spirit-Man, will, to be sure, only be of significance to man in the future, but that to which a being will eventually evolve is always there, in the great universe. The substance of Spirit-Man in which we shall some day be ensheathed, has always been in the great universe and is there at the present time. We may say: Other beings have today already sheaths which will some day form our Spirit-Man; thus the substance of which the human Spirit-Man will some day consist exists in the universe. This, which our teaching allows us to state, was already known to the old Sankhya doctrine; and what thus existed in the universe, not yet individualised or differentiated, but flowing like spiritual water, undifferentiated, filling space and time, still exists, and will continue to exist, this, from which all other forms come forth, was known by the Sankhya philosophy as the highest form of substance; that form of substance which has been accepted by Sankhya philosophy as continuing from age to age. And as we speak about the beginning of the evolution of our earth (recollect the course of lectures I once gave in Munich on the foundation of the Story of Creation), as we speak of how at the beginning of our earth-evolution, all to which the earth has now evolved was present in spirit as substantial spiritual being; so did the Sankhya philosophy speak of original substance, of a primordial flood, from which all forms, both physical and super-physical, have developed. To the man of today this highest form has not come into consideration, but the day will come, as we have shown when it will have to be considered.

In the next form which will evolve out of this primeval flowing substance, we have to recognise that which, counting from above, we know as the second principle of man, which we call Life-Spirit: or, if we like to use an Eastern expression, we may call Budhi. Our teaching also tells us that man will only develop Budhi in normal life at a future stage; but as a super-human spiritual form-principle it has always existed among other entities, and, inasmuch as it always existed, it was the first form differentiated from the primeval flowing substance. According to the Sankhya philosophy the super-psychic existence of Budhi arose from the first form of substantial existence. Now if we consider the further evolution of the substantial principle, we meet as a third form that which the Sankhya philosophy calls Ahamkara. Whereas Budhi stands, so to speak, on the borders of the principle of differentiation and merely hints at a certain individualisation, the form of Ahamkara appears as completely differentiated already so that when we speak of Ahamkara we must imagine Budhi as organised into independent, real, substantial forms, which then exist in the world individually. If we want to obtain a picture of this evolution we must imagine an equally distributed mass of water as the substantial primeval principle; then imagine it welling up so that separate forms emerge, but not breaking away as fully formed drops, forms which rise like little mounts of water from the common substance and yet have their basis in the common primeval flow. We should then have Budhi; and inasmuch as these water-mounts detach themselves into drops, into independent globes, in these we have the form of Ahamkara. Through a certain thickening of this Ahamkara, of the already individualised form of each separate soul-form, there then arises what we describe as Manas.

Here we must admit that perhaps a little unevenness arises as regards our naming of things. In considering human evolution from the point of view of our teaching, we place (counting from above) Spirit-Self after Life-spirit or Budhi. This manner of designation is absolutely correct for the present cycle of humanity, and in the course of these lectures we shall see why. We do not insert Ahamkara between Budhi and Manas, but for the purpose of our concept we unite it with Manas and call both together Spirit-Self. In those old days it was quite justifiable to consider them as separate, for a reason which I shall only indicate today and later elaborate. It was justifiable because one could not then use that important characteristic that we must give if we are to make ourselves understood at the present day; the characteristic which comes on the one side from the influence of Lucifer, and on the other from that of Ahriman. This characteristic is absolutely lacking in the Sankhya philosophy, and for a construction that had no occasion to look towards these two principles because it could as yet find no trace of their force, it was quite justifiable to slip in this differentiated form between Budhi and Manas. When we therefore speak of Manas in the sense of the Sankhya philosophy, we are not speaking of quite the same thing as when we speak of it in the sense of Sankaracharya. In the latter we can perfectly identify Manas with Spirit-Self; but we cannot actually do so in the sense of Sankhya philosophy; though we can characterise quite fully what Manas is.

In this case we first start with man in the world of sense, living in the physical world. At first he lives his physical existence in such a way that he realises his surroundings by means of his senses; and through his organs of touch, by means of his hands and feet, by handling, walking, speaking, he reacts on the physical world around him. Man realises the surrounding world by means of his senses and he works upon it, in a physical sense, by means of his organs of touch. Sankhya philosophy is quite in accordance with this. But how does a man realise the surrounding world by means of his senses? Well, with our eyes we see the light and colour, light and dark, we see, too, the shapes of things; with our ears we perceive sounds; with our organ of smell we sense perfumes; with our organs of taste we receive taste-impressions. Each separate sense is a means of realising a particular part of the external world. The organs of sight perceive colours and light; those of hearing, sounds, and so on. We are, as it were, connected with the surrounding world through these doors of our being which we call senses; through them we open ourselves to the surrounding world; but through each separate sense we approach a particular province of that world. Now even our ordinary language shows us that within us we carry something like a principle which holds together these different provinces to which our senses incline. For instance, we talk of warm and cold colours, although we know that this is only a manner of speaking, and that in reality we realise cold and warmth through the organs of touch, and colours, light and darkness through the organs of sight. Thus we speak of warm and cold colours, that is to say, from a certain inner relationship which we feel, we apply what is perceived by the one sense to the others. We express ourselves thus, because in our inner being there is a certain intermingling between what we perceive through our sight and that which we realise as a sense of warmth — more delicately sensitive people, on hearing certain sounds can inwardly realise certain ideas of colour; they can speak of certain notes as representing red, and others blue. Within us, therefore, dwells something which holds the separate senses together, and makes out of the separate sense-fields something complete for the soul. If we are sensitive, we can go yet further. There are people, for instance, who feel, on entering one town, that it gives an impression of yellow another town gives an impression of red, another of white, another of blue. A great deal of that which impresses us inwardly is transformed into a perception of colour; we unite the separate sense-impressions inwardly into one collective sense which does not belong to the department of any one sense alone, but lives in our inner being and fills us with a sense of undividedness whenever we make use of any one sense-impression. We may call this the inner sense; and we may all the more call it so, inasmuch as all that we otherwise experience inwardly as sorrow and joy, emotions and affections, we unite again with that which this inner sense gives us. Certain emotions we may describe as dark and cold, others as warm and full of light. We can therefore say that our inner being reacts again upon what forms the inner sense. Therefore, as opposed to the several senses which we direct to the different provinces of the external world, we can speak of one which fills the soul; one, of which we know that it is not connected with any single sense-organ, but takes our whole being as its instrument. To describe this inner sense as Manas would be quite in harmony with Sankhya philosophy, for, according to this, that which forms this inner sense into substance develops, as a later production of form, out of Ahamkara. We may, therefore, say: First came the primeval flood, then Budhi, then Ahamkara, then Manas, which latter we find within us as our inner sense. If we wish to observe this inner sense, we can do so by taking the separate senses and observing how we can form a concept by the way in which the perceptions of the separate senses are united in the inner sense.

This is the way we take today, because our knowledge is pursuing an inverted path. If we look at the development of our knowledge, we must admit that it starts from the differentiation of the separate senses and then tries to climb up to the conjoint sense. Evolution goes the other way round. During the evolution of the world, Manas first evolved out of Ahamkara and then the primeval substances differentiated themselves, the forces which form the separate senses that we carry within us. (By which we do not mean those material sense-organs which belong to the physical body, but forces which underlie these as formative forces and which are quite super-sensible.) Therefore when we descend the stages of the ladder of the evolution of forms, we come down from Ahamkara to Manas, according to the Sankhya philosophy; then Manas differentiates into separate forms and yields those super-sensible forces which build up our separate senses. We have, therefore, the possibility-because when we consider the separate senses the soul takes a part in them — of bringing what we get out of Sankhya philosophy into line with that which our teaching contains. For Sankhya philosophy tells us the following: In that Manas has differentiated itself into the separate world-forces of the senses, the soul submerges itself — we know that the soul itself is distinct from these forms — the soul immerses itself into these different forms; but inasmuch as it does so, and also submerges itself into Manas, so it works through these sense-forces, is interwoven with and entwined in them. In so doing the soul reaches the point of placing itself as regards its spiritual soul-being in connection with an external world, in order to feel pleasure and sympathy therein. Out of Manas the force-substance has differentiated which constitutes the eye, for instance. At an earlier stage, when the physical body of man did not exist in its present form (thus Sankhya philosophy relates) the soul was immersed in the mere forces that Constitute the eye. We know that the human eye of today was laid down germinally in the old Saturn time, yet only after the withdrawal of the warmth organ, which at the present day is to be found in a stunted form in the pineal gland, did it, develop — that is to say, comparatively late. But the forces out of which it evolved were already there in super-sensible form, and the soul lived within them. Thus Sankhya philosophy relates as follows: in so far as the soul lives in this differentiation principle, it is attached to the existence of the external world and develops a thirst for this existence. Through the forces of the senses the soul is connected with the external world; hence the inclination towards existence, and the longing for it. The soul sends, in a way, feelers out through the sense-organs and through their forces attaches itself to the external world. This combination of forces, a real sum of forces, we unite in the astral body of man. The Sankhya philosopher speaks of the combined working of the separate sense-forces, at this stage differentiated from Manas. Again, out of these sense-forces arise the finer elements, of which we realise that the human etheric body is composed. This is a comparatively late production. We find this etheric body in man.

We must therefore picture to ourselves that, in the course of evolution the following have formed: Primeval Flood, Budhi, Ahamkara, Manas, the substances of the senses, and the finer elements. In the outer world, in the kingdom of nature, these fine elements are also to be found, for instance, in the plants, as etheric or life-body. We have then to imagine, according to Sankhya philosophy, that at the basis of this whole evolution there is to be found, in every plant a development starting from above and going downwards, which comes from the primeval flood. But in the case of the plant all takes place in the super-sensible, and only becomes real in the physical world when it densifies into the finer elements which live in the etheric or life-body of the plant; while with man it is the case that the higher forms and principles already reveal themselves as Manas in his present development; the separate organs of sense reveal themselves externally. In the plant there is only to be found that late production which arises when the sense substance densifies into finer elements, into the etheric elements; and from the further densifying of the etheric elements arise the coarser elements from which spring all the physical things we meet in the physical world. Therefore reckoning upwards we can, according to Sankhya philosophy, count the human principles, as coarse physical body, finer etheric body, astral body (this expression is not used in Sankhya philosophy. Instead of that the formative-force body that builds the senses is used) then Manas in an inner sense, then in Ahamkara the principle which underlies human individuality, which brings it about that man not only has an inner sense through which he can perceive the several regions of the senses, but also feels himself to be a separate being, an individuality. Ahamkara brings this about. Then come the higher principles which in man only exist germinally, — Budhi and that which the rest of Eastern philosophy is accustomed to call Atma, which is cosmically thought of by the Sankhya philosophy as the spiritual primeval flood which we have described. Thus in the Sankhya philosophy we have a complete presentation of the constitution of man, of how man, as soul, envelopes himself in the past, present and future, in the substantial external nature-principle, whereby not only the external visible is to be understood, but all stages of nature, up to the most invisible. Thus does the Sankhya philosophy divide the forms we have now mentioned. In the forms or in Prakriti, which includes all forms from the coarse physical body up to the primeval flood, dwells Purusha, the spirit-soul, which in single souls is represented as monadic; so the separate soul-monads should, so to say, be thought of as without beginning and without end, just as this material principle of Prakriti — which is not material in our materialistic sense — is also represented as being without beginning and without end. This philosophy thus presents a plurality of souls dipping down into the Prakriti principle and evolving from the highest undifferentiated form of the primeval flood in which they enclose themselves, down to the embodiment in a coarse physical body in order, then, to turn back and, after overcoming the physical body, to evolve upwards again; to return back again into the primeval flood, and to free themselves even from this, in order to be able as free souls to withdraw into pure Purusha.

If we allow this sort of knowledge to influence us, we see how, underlying it, so to speak, was that old wisdom which we now endeavour to re-acquire by the means which our soul-meditations can give us; and in accordance with the Sankhya philosophy we see that there is insight even into the manner in which each of these form principles may be united with the soul. The soul may, for instance, be so connected with Budhi that it realises its full independence, as it were, while within Budhi; so that not Budhi, but the soul-nature, makes itself felt in a predominating degree. The opposite may also be the case. The soul may enwrap its independence in a sort of sleep, envelop it in lassitude and idleness, so that the sheath-nature is most prominent. This may also be the case with the external physical nature consisting of coarse substance. Here we only need to observe human beings. There may be a man who preferably cultivates his soul and spirit, so that every movement, every gesture, every look which can be communicated by means of the coarse physical body, are of secondary importance compared to the fact that in him the spiritual and soul-nature are expressed. Before us stands a man — we see him certainly in the coarse, physical body that stands before us — but in his movements, gestures and looks there is something that makes us say: This man is wholly spiritual and psychic, he only uses the physical principle to give expression to this. The physical principle does not overpower him; on the contrary, he is everywhere the conqueror of the physical principle. This condition, in which the soul is master of the external sheath-principle, is the Sattva condition. This Sattva condition may exist in connection with the relation of the soul to Budhi and Manas as well as in that of the soul to the body which consists of fine and coarse elements. For if one says: The soul lives in Sattva, that means nothing but a certain relation of the soul to its envelope, of the spiritual principle of that soul to the nature-principle; the relation of the Purusha-principle to the Prakriti-principle. We may also see a man whose coarse physical body quite dominates him — we are not now speaking of moral characteristics, but of pure characteristics, such as are understood in Sankhya philosophy, and which do not, seen with spiritual eyes, bear any moral characteristic whatever. We may meet a man who, so to speak, walks about under the weight of his physical body, who puts on much flesh, whose whole appearance is influenced by the weight of his physical body, to whom it is difficult to express the soul in his external physical body. When we move the muscles of our face in harmony with the speaking of the soul, the Sattva principle is master; when quantities of fat imprint a special physiognomy to our faces, the soul-principle is then overpowered by the external sheath principle, and the soul bears the relation of Tamas to the nature principle. When there is a balance between these two states, when neither the soul has the mastery as in the Sattva state, nor the external sheath-nature as in the Tamas condition, when both are equally balanced, that may be called the Rajas condition. These are the three Gunas, which are quite specially important. We must, therefore, distinguish the characteristic of the separate forms of Prakriti. From the highest principle of the undifferentiated primeval substance down to the coarse physical body is the one characteristic, the characteristic of the mere sheath principle. From this we must distinguish what belongs to the Sankhya philosophy in order to characterise the relation of the soul nature to the sheaths, regardless of what the form of the sheath may be. This characteristic is given through the three states Sattva, Rajas, Tamas.

We will now bring before our minds the penetrating depths of such a knowledge and realise how deep an insight into the secrets of existence a science must have had, which was able to give such a comprehensive description of all living beings. Then that admiration fills our souls of which we spoke before, and we tell ourselves that it is one of the most wonderful things in the history of the development of man, that that which appears again today in Spiritual Science out of dark spiritual depths should have already existed in those ancient times, when it was obtained by different methods. All this knowledge once existed, my dear friends. We perceive it when we direct the spiritual gaze to certain primeval times. Then let us look at the succeeding ages. We gaze upon what is generally brought to our notice in the spiritual life of the different periods, in the old Greek age, in the age following that, the Roman age, and in the Christian Middle Ages. We turn our gaze from what the older cultures give down to modern times, till we come to the age when Spiritual Science once again brings us something which grew in the primeval knowledge of mankind. When we survey all this we may say: In our time we often lack even the smallest glimmering of that primeval knowledge. Ever more and more a mere knowledge of external material existence is taking the place of the knowledge of that grand sphere of existence and of the super-sensible, all-embracing old perception. It was indeed the purpose of evolution for three thousand years, that in the place of the old primeval perception the external knowledge of the material physical plane should arise. It is interesting to see how upon the material plane alone — I do not want to withhold this remark from you — there still remains, left behind, as it were, in the age of Greek philosophy, something like an echo of the old Sankhya knowledge. We can still find in Aristotle some echoes of real soul-nature; but these in all their perfect clarity can no longer be properly connected with the old Sankhya knowledge. We even find in Aristotle the distribution of the human being within the coarse physical body; he does not exactly mention this, but shapes a distribution in which he believes he gives the soul-part, whereas the Sankhya philosophy knows that this is only the sheaths; we find there the vegetative soul which, in the sense of the Sankhya philosophy would be attributed to the finer elemental body. Aristotle believes himself to be describing something pertaining to the soul; but he only describes connections between the soul and the body, the Gunas, and in what he describes he gives but the form of the sheaths. Then Aristotle ascribes to that which reaches out into the sphere of the senses, and which we call the astral body, something which he distinguishes as being a soul-principle. Thus he no longer clearly distinguishes the soul-part from the bodily, because, to him, the former has already been swamped by the bodily shape; he distinguishes the Asthetikon, and in the soul he further distinguishes the Orektikon, Kinetikon, and the Dianetikon. These, according to Aristotle, are grades of the soul, but we no longer find in him a clear discrimination between the soul-principle and its sheaths; he believes he is giving a classification of the soul, whereas the Sankhya philosophy grasps the soul in its own being as a monad and all the differentiations of the soul are, as it were, at once placed in the sheath-principle, in the Prakriti principle.

Therefore, even Aristotle himself in speaking of the soul part no longer speaks of that primeval knowledge which we discover in the Sankhya philosophy. But in one domain, the domain of the material, Aristotle still has something to relate which is like a surviving echo of the principle of the three conditions; that is, when he speaks of light and darkness in colours. He says: There are some colours which have more darkness in them and others which have more light, and there are colours between these. According to Aristotle, in the colours ranging between blue and violet the darkness predominates over light. Thus a colour is blue or violet because darkness predominates over light, and it is green or greenish-yellow when light and darkness counterbalance each other, while a colour is reddish or orange when the light-principle overrules the dark. In Sankhya philosophy we have this principle of the three conditions for the whole compass of the world-phenomena; there we have Sattva when the spiritual predominates over the natural. Aristotle still has this same characteristic, in speaking of colours. He does not use these words: but one may say: Red and reddish-yellow represent the Sattva condition of light. This manner of expression is no longer to be found in Aristotle, but the principle of the old Sankhya philosophy is still to be found in him; green represents the Rajas condition as regards light and darkness, and blue and violet, in which darkness predominates, represent the Tamas-condition of light and darkness. Even though Aristotle does not make use of these expressions, the train of thought can still be traced which arises from that spiritual grasp of the world conditions which we meet with in the Sankhya philosophy. In the colour teaching of Aristotle we have therefore an echo of the old Sankhya philosophy. But even this echo was lost, and we first experience a glimmering of these three conditions, Sattva, Rajas, Tamas, in the external domain of the world of colour, in the hard struggle carried on by Goethe. For after the old Aristotelian division of the colour-world into a Sattva, Rajas and Tamas condition, had been entirely buried, so to say, it then reappears in Goethe. At the present time it is still abused by modern physicists, but the colour-system of Goethe is produced from principles of spiritual wisdom. The physicist of today is right from his own standpoint when he does not agree with Goethe over this, but he only proves that in this respect physics has been abandoned by all the good Gods! That is the case with the physics of today, which is why it grumbles at Goethe's colour teaching.

If one wished today really to combine science with occult principles, one would, however, be obliged to support the colour theory of Goethe. For in that we find again, in the very centre of our scientific culture, the principle which once upon a time reigned as the spiritual principle of the Sankhya philosophy. You can understand, my dear friends, why many years ago I set myself the task of bringing Goethe's colour theory again into notice as a physical science, resting, however, upon occult principles; for one may quite relevantly say that Goethe so divides the colour phenomena that he represents them according to the three states of Sattva, Rajas, Tamas. So gradually, there emerges into the new spiritual history discovered by the modern methods, that which mankind attained to once upon a time by quite other means. The Sankhya philosophy is pre-Buddhistic, as the legend of Buddha brings very clearly before our eyes; for it relates, and rightly, the Indian doctrine that Kapila was the founder of the Sankhya philosophy. Buddha was born in the dwelling place of Kapila, in Kapila Vastu, whereby it is indicated that Buddha grew up under the Sankhya teaching. Even by his very birth he was placed where once worked the one who first gathered together this great Sankhya philosophy. We have to picture to ourselves this Sankhya doctrine in its relation to the other spiritual currents of which we have spoken, not as many Orientalists of the present day represent it, nor as does the Jesuit, Joseph Dahlmann; but that in different parts of ancient India there lived men who were differentiated, for at the time when these three spiritual currents were developing, the very first primeval state of human evolution was no longer there. For instance, in the North Eastern part of India human nature was such that it inclined to the conceptions given in the Sankhya philosophy; more towards the West, human nature was of that kind that it inclined to conceive of the world according to the Veda doctrine. The different spiritual “nuances” come, therefore, from, the differently gifted human nature in the different parts of India; and only because of the Vedantists later on having worked on further and made many things familiar, do we find in the Vedas at the present time much of Sankhya philosophy bound up with them. Yoga, the third spiritual current, arose as we have often pointed out, because the old clairvoyance had gradually diminished, and one had to seek new ways to the spiritual worlds. Yoga is distinguished from Sankhya in that the latter is a real science, a science of external forms, which really only grasps these forms and the different relations of the human soul to these forms. Yoga shows how souls can develop so as to reach the spiritual worlds.

And if we ask ourselves what an Indian soul was to do, who, at a comparatively later time wanted to develop, though not in a one-sided way, who did not wish to advance by the mere consideration of external form, but wanted to uplift the soul-nature itself, so as to evolve again that which was originally given as by a gracious illumination in the Vedas — to this we find the answer in what Krishna gave to his pupil Arjuna in the sublime Gita. Such a soul would have to go through a development which might be expressed in the following words: “Yes, it is true thou seest the world in its external forms, and if thou art permeated with the knowledge of Sankhya thou wilt see how these forms have developed out of the primeval flow: but thou canst also see how one form changes into another. Thy vision can follow the arising and the disappearing of forms, thine eyes see their birth and their death. But if thou considerest thoroughly how one form replaces another, how form after form arises and vanishes, thou art led to consider what is expressed in all these forms; a thorough inquiry will lead thee to the spiritual principle which expresses itself in all these forms; sometimes more according to the Sattva condition, at other times more after the forms of the other Gunas, but which again liberates itself from these forms. A thorough consideration such as this will direct thee to something permanent, which, as compared to form, is everlasting. The material principle is indeed also permanent, it remains; but the forms which thou seest, arise and fade away again, pass through birth and death; but the element of the soul and spirit nature remains. Direct thy glance to that! But in order that thou shouldst thyself experience this psychic-spiritual element within thee and around thee and feel it one with thyself, thou must develop the slumbering forces in thy soul, thou must yield thyself to Yoga, which begins with devotional looking upwards to the psychic-spiritual element of being, and which, by the use of certain exercises, leads to the development of these slumbering forces, so that the pupil rises from one stage to another by means of Yoga.” Devotional reverence for the psychic-spiritual is the other way which leads the soul itself forwards; it leads to that which lives as unity in the spiritual element behind the changing forms which the Veda once upon a time announced through grace and illumination, and which the soul will again find through Yoga as that which is to be looked for behind all the changing forms. “Therefore go thou,” thus might a great teacher have said to his pupil, “go thou through the knowledge of the Sankhya philosophy, of forms, of the Gunas, through the study of the Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, through the forms from the highest down to the coarsest substance, go through these, making use of thy reason, and admit that there must be something permanent, something that is uniting, and then wilt thou penetrate to the Eternal. Thou canst also start in thy soul through devotion; then thou wilt push on through Yoga from stage to stage, and wilt reach the spiritual which is at the base of all forms. Thou canst approach the spiritual from two different sides; by a thoughtful contemplation of the world, or by Yoga; both will lead thee to that which the great teacher of the Vedas describes as the Unitary Atma-Brahma, that lives as well in the outer world as in the inmost part of the soul, that which as Unity is the basis of the world. Thou wilt attain to that on the one hand by dwelling on the Sankhya philosophy, and on the other by going through Yoga in a devotional frame of mind.”

Thus we look back upon those old times, in which, so to speak, clairvoyant force was still united with human nature through the blood, as I have shown in my book, The Occult Significance of Blood. But mankind gradually advanced in its evolution, from that principle which was bound up in the blood to that which consisted of the psychic-spiritual. In order that the connection with the psychic-spiritual should not be lost, which was so easily attained in the old times of the blood-relationship of family stock and peoples, new methods had to be found, new ways of teaching, during the period of transition from blood-relationship to that period in which it no longer held sway. The sublime song of the Bhagavad Gita leads us to this time of transition. It relates how the descendants of the royal brothers of the lines of Kuru and Pandu fought together. On the one side we look up to a time which was already past when the story of the Gita begins, a time in which the Old-Indian perception still existed and men still went on living in accordance with that. We can perceive, so to say, the one line which arose out of the old times being carried over into the new, in the blind King Dritarashtra of the house of Kuru; and we see him in conversation with his chariot-driver. He stands by the fighters of one side; on the other side are those who are related to him by blood but who are fighting because they are in a state of transition from the old times to the new. These are the sons of Pandu; and the charioteer tells his King (who is characteristically described as blind, because it is not the spiritual that shall descend from this root but the physical), the charioteer relates to his blind King what is happening over there among the sons of Pandu, to whom is to pass all that is more of a psychic and spiritual nature for the generations yet to come. He relates how Arjuna, the representative of the fighters, is instructed by the great Krishna, the Teacher of mankind; he relates how Krishna taught his pupil, Arjuna, about all that of which we have just been speaking, of what man can attain if he uses Sankhya and Yoga, if he develops thinking and devotion in order to press on to that which the great teachers of mankind of former days have described in the Vedas. And we are told in glorious language, as philosophical as it is poetical, of the instructions given through Krishna, through the Great Teacher of the humanity of the new ages which have emerged from the blood-relationship. Thus we find something else shining from those old times across to our own. In that consideration which is the basis of the pamphlet, The Occult Significance of Blood, and many similar ones, I have indicated how the evolution of mankind after the time of blood-relationship took on other differentiations, and how the striving of the soul has thus become different too. In the sublime song of the Bhagavad Gita we are led directly to this transition; we are so led that we see by the instructions given to Arjuna by Krishna, how man, to whom no longer belongs the old clairvoyance dependent upon the blood-relationship, must press on to what is eternal. In this teaching we encounter that which we have often spoken of as an important transition in the evolution of mankind, and the Sublime Song becomes to us an illustration of that which we arrived at by a separate study of the subject.

What attracts us particularly to the Bhagavad Gita is the clear and emphatic way in which the path of man is spoken of, the path man has to tread from the temporary to the permanent. There at first Arjuna stands before us, full of trouble in his soul; we can hear that in the tale of the charioteer (for all that is related comes from the mouth of the charioteer of the blind King). Arjuna stands before us with his trouble-laden soul, he sees himself fighting against the Kurus, his blood-relations, and he says now to himself: “Must I then fight against those who are linked to me by blood, those who are the sons of my father's brothers? There are many heroes among us who must turn their weapons against their own relations, and on the opposite side there are just as honourable heroes, who must direct their weapons against us.” He was sore troubled in his soul “Can I win this battle? Ought I to win, ought one brother to raise his sword against another?” Then Krishna comes to him, the Great Teacher Krishna, and says: “First of all, give thoughtful consideration to human life and consider the case in which thou thyself now art. In the bodies of those against whom thou art to fight and who belong to the Kuru-line, that is to say, in temporal forms, there live soul-beings who are eternal, they only express themselves in these forms. In those who are thy fellow-combatants dwell eternal souls, who only express themselves through the forms of the external world. You will have to fight, for thus your laws ordain; it is ordained by the working laws of the external evolution of mankind. You will have to fight, thus it is ordained by the moment which indicates the passing from one period to another. But shouldst thou mourn on that account, because one form fights against another, One changing form struggles with another changing form? Whichsoever of these forms are to lead the others into death — what is death? and what is life? The changing of the forms is death, and it is life. The souls that are to be victorious are similar to those who are now about to go to their death. What is this victory, what is this death, compared to that to which a thoughtful consideration of Sankhya leads thee, compared to the eternal souls, opposing one another yet remaining themselves undisturbed by all battles?” In magnificent manner out of the situation itself, we are shown that Arjuna must not allow himself to be disturbed by soul-trouble in his innermost being, but must do his duty which now calls him to battle; he must look beyond the transitory which is entangled in the battle to the eternal which lives on, whether as conqueror or as conquered. And so in a unique way is the great note struck in the sublime song, in the Bhagavad Gita; the great note concerning an important event in the evolution of man kind, the note of the transitory and of the everlasting.

Not by abstract thought, but by allowing the perception of what is contained in this to influence us, shall we find ourselves upon the right path. For we are on the right path when we so look upon the instructions of Krishna as to see that he is trying to raise the soul of Arjuna from the stage at which it stands, in which it is entangled in the net of the transitory. Krishna tries to raise it to a higher stage, in which it will feel itself uplifted beyond all that is transitory, even when that comes directly to the soul in such distressing manner as in victory or defeat, as giving death or suffering it. We can truly see the proof of that which some one once said about this Eastern philosophy, as it presents itself to us in the sublime poem of the Bhagavad Gita: “This Eastern philosophy is so absolutely part of the religion of those old times that he who belonged to it, however great and wise he might be, was not without the deepest religious fervour, whilst the simplest man, who only lived the religion of feeling, was not without a certain amount of wisdom.” We feel this, when see we how the great teacher, Krishna, not only influences the ideas of his pupil, but works directly into his disposition, so that he appears to us as contemplating the transitory and the troubles belonging to the transitory; and in such a significant situation we see his soul rising to a height from which it soars far beyond all that is transitory, beyond all the troubles, pain and sorrows of the transitory.

Last Modified: 29-Aug-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com