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Things in Past and Present in the Spirit of Man

On-line since: 31st December, 2008

Lecture V

April 13, 1916 Dornach

The occult brotherhoods do possess the ancient tradition, but they are not aware of what the spiritual world is trying to reveal to us in our age. There is a universal formula which rules a large number of these brotherhoods. They speak of the creative power which pulses and permeates the cosmos. When they want, in their sense, to direct themselves to these creative powers, namely, to the divine spiritual which pulsates and permeates the cosmos, then they speak about the Grand Architect of the World. This is a very often used formulation: The Elevated Grand Architect of the world.

For those who can understand the development of mankind from spiritual science, it proves the fact that in truth such brotherhoods go far, far back. These brotherhoods, to be sure, had other forms in more ancient times, but, nevertheless, they go far back in an unbroken sequence to the ancient communities which existed with the Greeks and Romans in the 4th post-Atlantean cultural epoch and we can also go back still farther to the ancient Egyptian times, and our present brotherhoods come from these ancient communities. But as we mentioned earlier, they do not stand in a direct connection with the spiritual world as did the earlier communities, but they preserved that which they had as knowledge more as traditional knowledge.

Now, you already find the concept of the primal revelation in the writings of individually illuminated, theological researchers or researchers of ancient times. What do these people mean by primal revelation? This concept of the primal revelation can become clear when you attempt to become familiar with the ancient religious writings. All you need to do is go back to the writings of Gautama Buddha you will see that what is said there is said upon the basis of the great knowledge; however, as far as he was concerned, it was transmitted by tradition which goes back into distant ancient times built up on a primal knowledge. Thus we are led back to a primal knowledge going back through the earliest centuries to that which was known by people, but which for our particular time is considered to be distorted nonsense by those modern intellectuals when they try to read Jacob Boehme, or Paracelsus. Then you come to the time when people did all sorts of alchemistic experiment and then you go farther and farther back and when an unprejudiced person goes back through the Romans, the Greeks and the Egyptians, he comes to a humanity which once had a knowledge which was spread out over the world in a way in which present day man, however, cannot acquire. Now, it is very difficult for present day man to obtain an idea of this particular situation, because when he tries to transplant himself into these ancient times, all he can think of is that man is a type of ape man. However, in spite of all these theories about the ape man, the unprejudiced person must admit that there must have originally been a knowledge which mankind with his present cleverness cannot reach, a knowledge which is infinitely deep and which stretched itself out over the spiritual worlds in such a superior way that in it is contained not only a consciousness of the fact that man can rise up into the spiritual worlds, but that man can find other beings in these spiritual worlds who are not incarnated in fleshy bodies, beings which we call Angels, Archangels and so on. So, we can find in these ancient religious writings that the people knew of these higher beings and they speak of them as beings with whom they were able to interact. As I said, the writings themselves prove this.

What actually is at the basis of this fact? From a certain stage of initiation, one can come directly behind this mystery. We know that the world around us is not only spread out in the way today's sense knowledge speaks of it, but there is a so-called elementary world at the basis of this nature, world which, if we go back into ancient mythologies we find descriptions of these elemental beings. These elemental beings that lie at the base of the mineral kingdom are called gnomes, those at the base of the water plant kingdom are known as undines, those aeroform elementals as sylphs and the warmth elementals as salamanders. These beings which we just described have their special task in the world; they have a great deal to do. External materialistic science says that everything makes itself of itself, but this is not true. Things do not make themselves of themselves. The person whose eyes are open to the elementary world sees how these elementals actually go through a kind of cycle of the year, how there are beings working down from the spiritual world upon these elementals, they work differently in spring, differently in summer, differently in autumn and differently in winter. This means that we have an elementary kingdom spread out around us which lies at the basis of the nature kingdom and there streams down, one cannot say an instruction, but one can say that forces pour down in order that these elementary beings can receive the power in the spring in order to form the plant covering for the earth. The forces of certain spiritual beings are carried down which impart themselves to these elementary beings so that a new world of form can sprout forth in the spring. And as summer approaches, they receive, as it were, a later course of instruction, forces are poured down upon them so that they can effect that which has to come about in summer. An interworking between the spirits of the higher hierarchies and the elementary beings who weave and live in the nature which surrounds us performs itself in the cycle of the year. This means we are continuously concerned with an up and down pouring, with an up and down streaming of spiritual beings of the hierarchies whose students are the elementary beings who provide the enlivening forces for all that which has to sprout and germinate in the course of the year. All that which arises and fades away in the course of the year, that does not simply grow out of the earth, but stands in a direct interworking with the divine spiritual. And it was said that that which germinates and sprouts in the course of the year stands in direct interworking with the beings who permit their forces to stream up and down and they pour these forces into the elementary world. But, my dear friends just as today sylphs, gnomes, undines and salamanders receive their influence from the beings of the hierarchies who stream up and down according to the course of the year, so when man did not have such a solid physical body in those ancient times, he received instructions from the higher hierarchies who streamed up and down. All the sagas and myths that remain tell us that in ancient times man received such instruction from beings who themselves had descended out of the spiritual worlds. These myths absolutely rest upon a truth. Man found himself with those spirits among whom the gnomes, sylphs, undines, and salamanders exist today, and whereas these elementary beings receive those forces through which they are able to effect the forms which sprout out of the Earth during the course of the year, so man in ancient times received his instructions from hierarchies who streamed up and down. And that which he received in ancient time remains as a residue in writings which have still been preserved and from which an unprejudiced person can prove — as we said — that once upon a time such a primal revelation did exist. Thus we see that such a primal revelation really did exist and in those periods which preceded the eighth century B.C. you have the last residue flowing down to mankind from this primal revelation. Actually we can put the year 747 B.C. as the year which mankind, a result of the further development of his physical nature, was excluded from a direct participation in such instruction. Naturally such an exclusion occurs very gradually, step by step. All that which was contained in ancient science flowed down in this way as a direct knowledge from the spiritual worlds into mankind and has been transmitted by tradition, but is no longer understood today.

Let us focus our attention upon the last science which came to the human being in this way. The question is: What did man experience from such a primal revelation that had flowed down in the course of the time from the earliest periods an into ancient Atlantis? He experienced the connection in which he himself as a human being stood within the spiritual worlds since he is a microcosm and all the processes and forces in the microcosm which otherwise occur in the great macrocosmic world play in him. And the last thing which man learned in this way, the last thing which flowed to him from the external is geometry and mathematics. That person who today allows geometry and mathematics to work upon him in a true sense, will still be able to perceive the fact that a different kind of knowledge comes to him in geometry and mathematics, a different kind of knowledge from the other knowledge which he gathers from experience. There is something within geometry and mathematics which one can perceive apart from external experience. No man can prove that the three angles of the triangle are 180° by merely drawing a triangle in a sense sort of way. He can arrive at the fact, but proving it can only be done as a result of an inner experience of thinking. Man does not need to use his fingers to prove to himself that 3x3=9; all he need do is ideate it to himself and in an inward way he will come to the truth that 3x3=9.

But what comes to expression in the forms of architecture is obtained from a much wider basis. That which is at the basis of geometry and mathematics goes back to a much more ancient knowledge than that which is at the basis of architecture art. In the Graeco-Latin times, that which was ancient knowledge in the mysteries was mediated to the human being by one saying the following to him: ‘When you really deepen yourself, then you bring out of yourself that which was revealed to you by the spirits of the higher hierarchies earlier lives on Earth.’ In the Egyptian Mysteries you did not have to do that. The higher beings themselves still came down. Now in the Greco-Latin period the master assembled his students and said the following: “You were there in earlier incarnations and you went through human development in which the spirits of the higher hierarchies took part. This has established itself in your souls. Bring it up.” Thus Masters of the Greco-Latin mysteries were still able in this way to fetch up that which was established in the human soul. Everything is to be found in the human soul, because everything streamed down through spiritual beings into the human beings from the primal revelation. What we once upon a time experienced in instructions from the hierarchies we really bring out of ourselves.

Now came the year 1413 and man can no longer become conscious of what the earlier spiritual instruction was because it has been covered over in his soul by the materialistic age. Since 1413 the soul unites itself thickly with the body and that is able to act as a covering for that which exists within our souls. However, in the whole period from 747 B.C. to 1413 A.D. it was possible to bring up out of the soul that which in earlier times streamed in in the way I indicated. Just imagine how a person, particularly in the ancient Greek Age, actually had to perceive. Precisely in the ancient Greek Age he perceived as I have indicated. he said to himself: “Geometry as it is brought to expression in the form of architecture, flowed down earlier through divine spiritual instruction from the external would.” Man was hemmed in by forms. Now when man wants to draw a triangle, he takes a piece of chalk and draws it, but the ancient Greek did not have to do that. All he needed to do was to meditate upon himself and at the same time he could, as it were, clairvoyantly see the triangle for himself. Thus he was still able to diagram geometry for himself in a clairvoyant way. It was also so with writing in primal ages, but this applies to a still earlier period. There one did not need to write upon papyrus, but one was able to write clairvoyantly for oneself; you wrote for yourself clairvoyantly. At a certain time in the Greek Mysteries, man was told the following: you are able to have thoughts about yourself and meditate clearly upon yourself, you can then recall what lives in you. You can recall the divine being which lives in you when you do not just focus on the transient earth human being but recall the divine being in you, then you would be able to build up an architectural structure around you which is put together from the forms of geometry. You are within all of that. Just as the spider who spins her web is within it, thus such a student of the Greek Mysteries etherically spun geometry around himself, whole geometry and the other human knowledge is presented in itself in this geometrical structure which he spun out of himself. All he needed to do was establish it outside of himself and then he had the Greek Temple. The Greek Temple is nothing other than the filling in with physical material that which presented itself in this way clairvoyantly in geometrical forms around the human being. The Greek Temple only put the stones into that which appeared before the Greek. Hence the Greek always had the tendency to present a figure of the god in the Temple which he actually had to think of to himself as his own divine hunan being. He did not simply build a temple, but he also put in a divine god such as Pallas Athene.

Thus from all this you can see the connection of architecture, the building of the temple with the original clairvoyance. That person felt something in architecture of a divine nature in these times, something which is connected in the highest degree with all the inner revelations of the human being. They felt that one did not build in the way people build today where you learn all sorts of things at the university, but at that time man could perceive the architectural structure as the revelation of the Spirits of Form. For this reason, we can see the rather special way in which Vitruvius, the great architect of the time of Augustus, speaks of the architect, of the moral qualities which the architect must have, of recollecting the divine spiritual of the universe. And why was it necessary that according to Vetruvius' perception, the architect had to know all this? They saw the manifestations of the beings of the higher hierarchies in the forms of the buildings and this is of great significance. It is true that today's architect would make a face if you demanded that he also learn medicine, philosophy, astronomy, etc., besides his studies at the technical university; in other words, he would be a spiritual scientist of sorts.

Now, why was this so? It was so because Vetruvius, himself, was still able to perceive the following: “When I build” he said to himself “this finite human being is not allowed to build, but this finite human being must be a channel so that a being, of the higher hierarchies can work through him.” However, this possibility of coming into connection with the higher hierarchies so that when one puts stone upon stone in the building, not what finite man creates but what the spirits of the hierarchies create, this possibility was received only in the secret places of the mysteries. One had to be initiated into the connection of the divine spiritual with the human. One had to know medicine, because one had to so adapt the forms so that they could actually be an imprint of the human being himself. Note how in a similar way the shell of the snail is an imprint of the snail himself, how the macrocosm injects the forces into the snail enabling the snail to build the shell out of its own beingness. In a similar way man felt the working of the divine spiritual beings in him; a divine spiritual being led his hand, his own spirit and worked into the forms of architecture.

Now, because the forms of the architecture were the last which were revealed, all those spiritual brotherhoods of which I spoke last time, speak of the real architecture and of the soul mood which real architecture must have. Above all, there live in these occult brotherhoods, even if it is in caricature, that which entered from the spiritual world in the way just described. The person who enters the first grade enters into the spiritual world upon this path. He is presented in these occult communities in the second grade and is made familiar not with those external social relationships but with those relationships which pass from one human soul to another. He becomes a brother member in the second grade and finally he learns to feel in himself what it means to say: ‘Here I stand as a human being and I, as a man, feel that I am a sheath of that which lives in me as spirit man to whom beings of the higher hierarchies can speak, down to whom they can descend; that I can speak no word that is not inspired by these spirits of the higher hierarchies.’ Even if only a small consciousness of this is present in those who are in the third grade of such occult brotherhoods, nevertheless they still call themselves masters of the third grade. But because revelations do not occur any longer, because today things do not work so intensively, because today there is no longer a direct connection with the spiritual world, one has to take hold of the traditions of that which was handed down, then one spreads a mystery over it and does not allow it to be imparted to any one else. However, this primal knowledge was continued in such communities from generation to generation, from century to century and sometimes it was utilized in a very bad way as I indicated last time.

I have already indicated that during the whole time from the year 747 B.C. to 1413 A.D. there was a certain connection with the spiritual world. One could at least enliven it out of one's inner being in these years, one could at least enliven it out of memory. That ended in the 14th century. However, beyond the 14th century certain sensitive people did feel that the spirit still plays in, that if, for example, you want to understand the 15th, 16th, 17th century, you must get an idea that those were still times in which the breath of spiritual life still streamed over the earth. However, this gradually disappeared. In the time from the 14th, 15th, 16th, even from the 17th century, there were sensitive natures who knew: The spirit weaves and lives around us.

Now, I want to bring a fact to your attention. The present historian speaks about the time of Savonarola in the 15th century, for example, in such a way that he speaks of Florence as he does of a city today, because he cannot transplant himself into the soul mood of that time, into that mood where one could still experience something of the spiritual. Why was it that at that time in a certain week in Florence every person who you met on the street looked so very sad and walked with his head bent down and his eyes dimmed? This was because Savanarola had given a sermon on the previous Sunday and he had said: “If the moral aspect continues as it is, then the flood will break in.” And he ended it with the words: “I tell you, waters will flow over the earth.” When he spoke these words, they were enlivened with spirit. The spirit streamed out, and for a whole week the people of Florence dwelled under this spiritual influence. It was very sad.

One of the contemporaries of Savanarola was Pico della Mirandola, Count Mirandola, who lived at the end of the 15th century and also experienced the soul mood which lived in Florence. Pico della Mirandola was one of those spirits who belonged to the sensitive spirits and in that year which passes over from the 4th to the 5th period he felt how the spirit was disappearing from the environment and at the same time he received an inner yearning to feel the spirit. There were a number of people in Florence at that time who experienced this in the same way. They felt that the spirit disappears for the normal person, but they must try to receive it into themselves and these Renaissance men called themselves the Neo-Platonists. In the Academy of Florence, there was a reliving of Plato. I wanted to characterize this for you so that you can understand that there was a sudden transition from the 14th to the 15th century in the soul mood in reference to how these men connected themselves with the spiritual world. When you go back into those times, you can see that people yearned to receive impressions of the spiritual world, but these people were single people all over the world and they had to do special ascetic exercises so that they could receive something of the spiritual in a sort of caricature way. You know that modern science says that nature makes no jumps, but that is not true, it does jump everywhere. When the leaf transforms itself into the blossom, that is a jump. So we see that there was a sudden spring from the 14th to the 15th century and this feeling died away.

Our task is to appeal to those forces which we have as a replacement for the ancient way of grasping the spiritual. There are two ways of doing this. One way is to continue to propagate tradition and many secret societies arose from being satisfied with the propagation of what the ancient said through tradition. However, there were people who attempted to reckon with the new soul forces which came in as replacements for it. They attempted to translate that which came in from the ancient way in the form of pictures, of direct perception into the form of intellectual power, this intellect which is bound to the physical body of our 5th post-Atlantean period. One of the people who tried to do this was Amos Comenius.

Very few people today know that Amos Comenius was the actual founder of the modern pedagogy and that he founded the primer in the 16th, 17th century. A book by Friedrich Eckstein entitled Comenius and the Bohemian Brothers was recently published. Friedrich Eckstein is one of those people who was united with me in a small theosophical group in Vienna at the end of the 1880's. Then he went his own way and I had not heard of him until this book about Amos Comenius appeared. These 150 wood cuts from the original edition are given with German and Latin texts. Here you have wood cuts beginning with God, the world, heaven, the elementals, the elements, plants, fruits, animals, the human body and its members, etc., all of which was put in such a way as to appeal to the heart. This sort of presentation still appeals very much to people. Herder and Goethe loved all this in their childhood. The whole way of writing children's books rests upon Amos Comenius. He was connected with many secret brotherhoods all over Europe and he wanted to establish what he called his “Pan Sophia”. In the beginning of our period, in the 16th, 17th century, we have in Amos Comenius a human being who knew that now is the time for a sudden change, that one must transmute all the knowledge from earlier times into the form of external intellect. You do not simply continue it in the form of the ancient tradition. This tradition rests upon that which was the Temple architecture. Amos Comenius had as his task translating in his “Pan Sophia” everything which worked in the 5th post-Atlantean period and he says the following: “Why should the Temple of Pan Sophia be erected according to the ideas, directions and laws of the higher architect Himself? Because we have to follow the primal picture of the totality; measure, number, position and the goal of the paths according to the wisdom of God, Himself, when, indeed, He instructed Moses to erect the Tabernacle, then Solomon to erect the Temple and finally Ezekial to reestablish the Temple. The structure materials of Solomon's Temple were very precious stones, metals, marble and sappy, good smelling trees like spruce and cedar.” And so we want to establish a school of wisdom, a universal wisdom, a “Pan Sophia” wisdom so that one can say that that which is in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, which was represented in the Wander Years, is a continuation of what Amos Comenius wanted.

In conclusion I want to add some more things. A book has recently been written by Karl Ludwig Sleiss entirely out of natural science. I just want to read something of it to you. (Summary of what was read) He talks about a hysterical young woman sitting on a sofa in a room where an electrical ventilator was running. She became hysterical and said: “Oh, there is a bee that wants to sting me.” She had heard the buzzing of the ventilator. Low and behold, she did produce an inflammation of the eyelid which was quite large. Here is another case where Sleiss talks about a well-known business man who approached him and asked him to cut off his arm because he felt that it was poisoned. Sleiss said that the arm was not poisoned. The man went away and the next day he died. Sleiss said that there was no inflection at all and his diagnosis was death by hysteria. What he wanted to say is that you cannot only cause an inflammation of the eyelid through thought, but you can also kill yourself through thought. What this modern scientist is saying is that thought can incarnate itself, that thought can make itself flesh. However, in the second case of the businessman who wanted his arm cut off because it was poisoned, this was a case of mediumistic clairvoyance where he knew he was going to die. Now, what happened in the case of the hysterical woman who had a swollen eyelid was that the thought that she imagined there was a bee from the sound of the ventilator became imagination and then descended into the astral body, it then came through the ether body and incarnated in the physical body.

In this same book in a chapter entitled “The Myth of Metabolism in the Brain”, Sleiss says that Goethe must have been some sort of clairvoyant, because Goethe had come to the idea that not only are the bones transformed out of the spinal column but also the whole brain has been transformed from it. Now, Sleiss said this in 1916 and he wondered if he could find some indication that Goethe had this idea. However he does not know that in 1892, I, myself, found this indication in the Goethe Archives.

Therefore we can see how certain truths of the spiritual world are penetrating into mankind's consciousness through certain channels. For example, they are talking about Strindberg's play of dream, “Tramspiel” which he produced and they can see the spiritual world breaking in everywhere. Strindberg worked in an extraordinary way and people are saying that there must be some spiritual communication there. Much streamed into Strindberg; however, everything is caricatured. Even that is very interesting for people today. For example, you can read the book Golom by Gustav Merig and you can find something there of which you can say that a stream of spiritual life breaks into mankind in a powerful way; however it is caricatured in forms where it can be more damaging than useful for those people who are not solidly established. Again you get a stream of the spiritual world breaking into the short story entitled “Cardinal Napaloos” (sic). In this story you find certain knowledge about the playing in of the Akashic Chronicle and so forth in a quite wonderful way. You can find indications of how the spiritual world wants to pour into mankind. It is very important to open our eyes to the fact that the spiritual world wants to pour into mankind today. We do not have to warm up ancient traditions, although they are interesting to study. We ought to meet the demands of the present. The spiritual worlds want to pour in. It comes unconsciously and is caricatured. However, when we develop ourselves according to spiritual science, it will not be caricatured; we can actually experience the spiritual world properly. through anthroposophical spiritual science, one can get an understanding for the opening up of our soul, our heart, our head, to the streams of the spiritual world.

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