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



Highlight Words

Inner Impulses of Evolution

On-line since: 10th June, 2002

Introduction

The lectures of 18th and 24th September, 1916 on pre-Columbian America, to which this introduction is devoted, contain one obvious and central contradiction: on the one hand there is the universally accepted knowledge that on the occasion of human sacrifices it was the heart that was plucked out, while Steiner on the other states clearly that it was the stomach. So in all that follows we shall have two purposes in mind. It is not our intention to make use of all the documents that are available to us, but rather to deal in a precise manner with a few of them which seem to provide some confirmation of Steiner's statements. We shall then conclude by providing the reader with some thoughts of a methodological nature about the study of the oral and visual evidence for pre-Columbian Mexican spirituality.

Before embarking on the subject itself it seems to us to be most important to consider at some length a few of the characteristics of the existing documents. First of all, they are very scarce, and they contain many gaps. The architectural remains, the stonework and crafts in general have provided some substantial information on Middle American culture, whereas the written documents, what we may call in general the conceptual material, is very poor. Three, or possibly four Maya manuscripts survive, which may or may not be correctly deciphered, as against 27 others destroyed by Fray Diego de Landa in 1562, all the documents described for example by Alonso Ponce in 1588, some or all of which he may have seen, together with all those described by José de Acosta in 1590 and Pedro Sanchez de Aguilar in 1639. Most of the manuscripts assembled by later collectors such as the Frenchman Abbé Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg were lost, as well as those destroyed in 1847 during the civil war in Yucatan, the so-called “war of the castes.” Such a total of manuscripts is beyond computation, and to these must be added the numberless chronicles destroyed in Upper Yucatan in 1870.

The Mexican manuscripts in the strict sense of the word have experienced similar vicissitudes, though from a historical viewpoint they were even more spectacular. The fifteen “codices” in our possession, even if we include other texts such as the monumental collection of Sahagun and the Annals of Cuauhtitlan, are only a few remnants of what at one time was a vast corpus. Itzcoatl, the fourth Aztec king (1427-1440) commanded all the documents of the subject peoples to be destroyed, while Juan de Zumarraga, the first bishop of Mexico, was responsible for the auto-da-fe in 1528 of a “small mountain” of manuscripts heaped up by missionaries in the marketplace of Tezcoco.

Even though we examine with the greatest care the few crumbs that remain in the hope of extracting as much information from them as possible, it must be recognized that for purely statistical reasons they cannot provide any kind of a overall panorama of the cultural reality of Mexico in the historical sense of the term. And this remains true even when we take into account also such useful material as is to be gleaned from the iconography of the stonework or general ornamentation, which is necessarily fragmentary. However ingenious those investigators who rely on these documents may be, they will never be able to extract from them what is not there — and there can be no doubt that what is missing is the greatest part of Mexican culture. For this reason it is not logically possible to use this tiny fragment of pre-Columbian history for the purpose of trying to refute the work of a spiritual investigator.

We shall now proceed to a point by point comparison between the indications given by Steiner in his two lectures on the subject, and the various documents that are available. The most important is the Codex Florentin of Sahagun (here abbreviated to Sah.) in the remarkable Anglo-Nahuatl edition of Anderson and Dibble published from 1950 to 1961 by the University of New Mexico at Santa Fe (General History of the Things of New Spain).

Steiner places the original Meso-American mysteries long before the beginning of our era. For this epoch, which covers the pre-classical and probably also the classical periods, all documents are therefore lacking. Moreover, we many easily imagine that the iconography evidence, as for example for the second period of Teotihuacan, will scarcely offer us any indications because of the secret character of this high (if degraded) initiation. It seems hopeless to expect to find external traces of this initiation in view of the fact that most Mexican art was of a public nature, whether employed for the ornamentation of the temples or for such artisinal products as pottery. Since the veil of secrecy regarding initiation could have been lifted only as the result of a betrayal, it is in the highest degree unlikely that anything bearing on it could have survived. And it was precisely at the period we are discussing that the Mysteries reached their highest point, not when the cult of Taotl was in decline. It my well be that there was such a decline after the destruction of the great black magician mentioned by Steiner, and that this was accompanied by the growth of theocracy — for which the architectural and theological vigor of Teotihuacan II and III provides evidence. With regard to objects having an esoteric character and for this reason not public, the case might be different. We shall return to this point later, while always keeping in mind Juan de Zumarraga's boast that he destroyed 20,000 “idols.”

The only indications that it would be reasonable to look for are oral traditions from very much earlier transcribed into the Nahuatl language at a time when such knowledge was no longer forbidden. It is of course a well known fact that the failure to commit oral literature to writing has the effect of preserving it better than when it is, as we say, “fixed” in writing. Even if transmission by word of mouth involves numerous changes, especially in a period when an earlier original spirituality is in decline, nevertheless oral transmission does still contain an inner impulse necessarily lacking in a written document.

Steiner begins by speaking of Taotl:

“Before the discovery of America, there were mysteries of the most varied kind in the western hemisphere. ... Like a single central power whom all followed and obeyed, a kind of spectral spirit was revered. ... This spirit was called by a name that sounded something like Taotl.”

The Florentine manuscript contains in several places the word teutl (e is the vowel preferred by modern scholars) god, or teteuh, gods, in the categorical meaning of the term.

“First Chapter, which telleth of the highest of the gods (teteuh).

“Second Chapter, which telleth of the god (teutl) ...” (Sah. I).

The same word is used by the Aztecs in addressing Cortés: “May the god (in teutl) deign to hear ...” (Sah. XII).

In taking account of Steiner's indications we are faced with a process of abstraction that developed in the course of time, by which the “single central power” spoken of by Steiner and common to all the mysteries has become the collective “concept” of the gods. Such a process extending over thousands of years seems plausible to us.

The second point, which we shall examine, concerns Uitzilopochtli (or Vitzliputzli, as the name was transcribed in Steiner's account). In the lecture of September 18th the words appear: “At a certain time a being was born in Central America who set himself a definite task within this culture. The old ... inhabitants of Mexico ... said that he had entered the world as the son of a virgin, who had conceived him through super earthly powers, inasmuch as it was a feathered being (called in the lecture of 24th September a “bird”) from the heavens who impregnated her.” The later lecture also makes it clear that “Vitzliputzli was a human being, a being who appeared in a physical body.”

So it is a question here of the incarnation of a spiritual being who was not a human being in the usual sense of the term. It was only his incarnation in a physical body that made him similar to men. This corresponds very exactly with what is to be found in the Codex Florentin (Sah. I):

“First Chapter, which telleth of the highest of the gods whom they worshipped ... Uitzilopochtli ... was only a common man ...”

The legend to which Steiner refers forms an integral part of the Codex (Sah. III):

“And once ... feathers descended upon her — what was like a ball of feathers. ... Thereupon by means of them Coatl icue conceived [Uitzilopochtli].”

The following are the principal features of the mission of Uitzilopochtli, as Steiner gives them, in connection with the great initiate of the Toatl cults, whom he does not name:

“At this time in Central America a man was born who was destined by birth to become a high initiate of Taotl ... This was one of the greatest black magicians, if not the greatest ever to tread the earth ...”

“Then a conflict began between this super-magician and the being to whom a virgin birth was ascribed, and one finds from one's research that it lasted for three years. ... The three-year conflict ended when Vitzliputzli was able to have the great magician crucified, and not only through the crucifixion to annihilate his body but also to place his soul under a ban, by this means rendering its activities powerless as well as its knowledge. Thus the knowledge assimilated by the great magician of Taotl was killed.”

The continuation of the legend quoted by Steiner deals with the way Uitzilopochtli came into the world (Sah. III).

“At Coatepec ... there lived a woman named Coatl icue, mother of the Centzonuitznaua. And their elder sister was named Coyolxauhqui ... Coyolxauhqui said to them: ‘My elder brothers, she hath dishonored us. We [can] only kill our mother ...’ And upon this the Centzonuitznaua ... when they had expressed their determination that they would kill their mother, because she had brought about an affront, much exerted themselves ... But one who was named Quauitl icac ... informed Uitzilopochtli [who was not yet born]. And Uitzilopochtli said to Quauitl icac ‘... I already know what I shall do ...’

Then Quauitl icac said to him: ‘... At last they arrive here’ ... And Uitzilopochtli just then was born ... He pierced Coyolxauhqui, and then quickly struck off her head ... And Uitzilopochtli then arose; he pursued, gave full attention to the Centzonuitznaua; he pursued all of them around Coatepetl. Four times he chased them all around ... he indeed destroyed them; he indeed annihilated them; he indeed exterminated them ... And only very few fled his presence.”

It is startling to recognize how well these lines agree with what Steiner has given, and how fifteen centuries of oral tradition have only slightly altered the facts made available by occult investigation. According to Steiner's indications regarding the differences between white and black magic, the latter includes a strong dose of egoism, and permits the magician to investigate his own future for selfish aims (a practice, as Steiner often pointed out, forbidden to true occultists). The legend confirms this element of black magic when it speaks of the foreseeing of the birth of the man who is to fight against the forces of evil, and of the attempt made to prevent his incarnation. This is clearly shown in the dialogue between Quauitl icac and Uitzilopochtli who, though not yet born, is fully conscious of his own mission. The three-year struggle indicated by Steiner has a good correspondence with the four times that the Centzonuitznauas were chased around Coatepetl, before they were finally wiped out. Since the great Taotl initiate would naturally be supported by a powerful troop of helpers all equally devoted to evil, the legend confirms that this was indeed the case when it speaks of how the Centzonuitznaua — i.e., the multitude of the Uitznaua — were “exterminated,” and “very few fled his presence” (i.e., not all), thus confirming that the mysteries continued to exist, even though, as indicated by Steiner, they had lost the greater part of their power.

One further remark on this subject, to be taken into consideration only as a possibility, a hypothesis. Steiner does not indicate the name of the great initiated black magician. The legend, however, is most explicit on the matter. The feminine personage (this would be part of the alteration over the centuries) who was the first to wish to prevent Uitzilopochtli from coming into the world, and who was the first to be killed (pierced, as the legend says, in this suggesting the crucifixion) since she was the principal enemy, is Coyolxauhqui (Coyolli meaning fish-hook and xauhqui meaning adorned or decorated). Might this not be the name, or a corruption of the name of the great black magician? And indeed it may be easily imagined that a personage of this kind did not take part personally in the struggle against Uitzilopochtli and his forces, but was only the inspirer of the war waged by his (her?) troops to preserve his knowledge and power intact against the most deadly of his enemies.

The only real contradiction in our hypothesis results from the reversing of the time sequence. According to Steiner it was at the end of the Three Years' War that the black magician was put to death, whereas in our quotation the death of Coyolxauhqui occurred before the final disastrous conflict. This could be a question of one more alteration, or one could perhaps entertain the hypothesis that the magician's name was Uitznaua, or, more likely, a variant of this name-Uitznaua being a plural word designating a Mexican tribe.

The Aztec rites at the period of the Conquest were only a vestige of what was “flourishing” at the beginning of our era. In view of the particular character of these rites it is in keeping with them that a demonical character should have been attributed to Uitzilopochtli. As Sahagun says, “Uitzilopochtli was ... an omen of evil.” (Sah. I). But their transitory character by comparison with the original orientation of these rites in the past might well have resulted in an all-embracing syncretism, combined with fear and veneration toward Uitzilopochtli. And indeed the documents do give evidence of this mixture. The “diabolical” Uitzilopochtli is at the same time the god of a paradise that is fervently desired. As Cortés says in his Third Letter: “They all desired to die and go to ‘Ochilibus’ (Uitzilopochtli) in heaven, who was awaiting them ...” This attitude is also to be found in their desire to be impregnated by this divinity as demonstrated in numerous religious ceremonies. “And of those who ate it, it was said, “they keep the god.” (Sah. III).

Steiner's third statement gives us information about Tezcatlipoca.

“Many opposing sects were founded with the objective of countering this devilish cult (of Taotl). One such sect was that of Tezcatlipoca. He too was a being who did not appear in a physical body, but who was known to many of the Mexican initiates, in spite of the fact that he lived only in an etheric body.”

Compare this with the story as told by Sahagun:

“Third Chapter, which telleth of the god named Tezcatlipoca ... he was considered a true god ...” (Sah. I).

“... even as an only god they believed in him ... he was invisible, just like the night, the wind. When sometimes he called out to one, just like a shadow did he speak.”(Sah. III).

By contrast with Uitzilopochtli who was both god and man, Tezcatlipoca is a real, veritable god, a clear confirmation of what Steiner says. This is reinforced by a striking agreement: The initiate (that is, “one,” i.e., aca (somebody) perceives “just like a shadow” (can iuhquj ceoalli, literally, only like shadow), that is to say, the etheric, the etheric body being remarkably suggested by the nahuatl term. Ceoalli means “the shadow made by the body when it intercepts the light;” not a shadow in the abstract sense, but something that is similar to the physical without actually being physical.

Let us continue with Sahagun: “When he (Tezcatlipoca) walked on the earth, he quickened vice and sin. He introduced anguish and affliction. He brought discord among people. ... But sometimes he bestowed riches — wealth, heroism, valor. ...” (Sah. I).

Since the point of view here is the same as that attributed to Taotl, it is natural that Tezcatlipoca should be seen as spreading evil in all its forms. But as in the case of Uitzilopochtli it is clear that there has been a noticeable syncretism, as may be seen in the way “sometimes” Tezcatlipoca (in quenman) benefits human beings.

Quetzalcoatl is the fifth being mentioned by Steiner:

“Another sect venerated Quetzalcoatl. He too was a being who lived only in an etheric body.” (24/9).

“He had much in common with the spirit whom Goethe described as Mephistopheles.” (18/9).

Bearing in mind that the great temple of Teotihuacan, belonging to the period with which we are concerned, was dedicated in part to Quetzalcoatl, we read as follows in Sahagun:

“Fifth Chapter, which telleth of the god named Quetzalcoatl. ... Quetzalcoatl — he was the wind.” (Sah. I).

“Third Chapter, which telleth the tale of Quetzalcoatl, who was a great wizard. ... This Quetzalcoatl they considered as a god; he was thought a god. ... And the Toltecs, his vassals, were highly skilled. Nothing was difficult when they did it. ... Indeed these (crafts) ... proceeded from Quetzalcoatl. ... And these Toltecs were very rich; they were wealthy. Never were they poor. They lacked nothing in their homes.” (Sah. III).

While taking note of the use of the same word “wind” (ehecatl) to characterize the substance of both Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, a substance that we have identified as “etheric” in the sense indicated by Steiner, we may think we are also in the presence of a resume of the gifts acquired by Faust by virtue of his position as “vassal” of Mephistopheles — the word maceualli meaning “vassal” just as well as its more usual meanings of “merit” or “reward.”

We find also in the legends the antagonism between Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, as indicated by Steiner. For example in the Annals of Cuauhtitlan there is mention of “Quetzalcoatl vanquished by the sorcery of Tezcatlipoca,” again equating him with Taotl as well as referring to his defeat, as described by Steiner. This antagonism may also be seen in certain rites, as when, for example, a priest playing the part of Quetzalcoatl “kills” the statue representing Uitzilopochtli.

“And upon the next day the body of Uitzilopochtli died. And he who slew him was (the priest known as) Quetzalcoatl. (Sah. III).

The mention in the Codex Florentin of the vassals of Quetzalcoatl, that is to say of a kind of clan devoted to this divinity, implies the existence of a division of opinion among the Mexicans. It is possible to glimpse this dichotomy in the prayer addressed to the “good” Tezcatlipoca: “O lord of the war ... pity me; give me what I require as my sustenance, my strength, of thy sweetness, thy fragrance.” (Sah. III).

Then, a few lines later, we learn that “And also of Totlacuan (Tezcatlipoca) they said that he also gave men misery, affliction ... he stoned them with plagues, which were great and grave ...”

Having in mind the text of Steiner it would seem that we are here faced with an attribution of the evil deeds of Quetzalcoatl to Tezcatlipoca. But as the point of view adopted in the Codex is primarily that of Taotl, it is in keeping with this that, as was the case of Uitzilopochtli, the enemy should be clothed with the attributes of evil.

Another important agreement between Steiner and the traditions is provided by the cosmogony: the first era (Four Ocelot) of the great ages was presided over by Tezcatlipoca, then the second (Four Winds) was rules by Quetzalcoatl, in this in conformity with the “sending” of Quetzalcoatl, in order to combat the already existing influence of Tezcatlipoca.

 

We shall now broach the subject of the ritual of the excision — of the stomach, according to Steiner; of the heart, according to what is to be found in all the widely known documents on the subject. But before continuing, let us mention one detail that is in fact of crucial importance; we have found in Steiner's personal library a book in which the tearing out of the heart is related. As Steiner all through his life gave evidence of a capacity for reading that is quite extraordinary, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that he knew about this rite of the tearing out of the heart.

In 1904, in #22 of the ethnological review Globus, Fischer for the first time, as far as we know, brought to the attention of the world a figurine in nephritic stone, which we reproduce here.

Figure 1
Figure 1
Click to enlarge

This statuette of unknown origin, now in the Linden Museum of Stuttgart, shows two openings hollowed out one above the other. The upper orifice, which penetrates into the body to a distance of 80 mm, begins at the sternum and ascends at an angle of about 45º and constitutes a cavity that is almost spherical. Its opening has a diameter of 16 mm and when it is 5 mm into the body it is enlarged to 22 mm. Fischer, as well as Seler in his 1904 communication to the Congress of Americanists, confirms that this is a cavity that reminds us of the rite of the tearing out of the heart. We indeed share this opinion, especially in view of the fact that the usual method for plucking out the heart is via an incision under the sternum, the priest having to thrust his hand upwards to grasp the heart. That this was his method of taking hold of it is confirmed by the inclination upwards of about 45º of the cavity, and its roundness corresponds likewise to the global form of the heart.

The second cavity, less deep than the first — penetrating only 40 mm into the body — is oval, and its opening has the dimensions of 11.5 by 18 mm. It also becomes wider in the interior. From being 10 mm at the orifice its diameter is widened to 28 mm. By contrast with the upper cavity — that of the heart — it ascends only very slightly. Seler, not having any definite argument to put forward, supposes that the second cavity merely indicates the absence of the navel or umbilical cord. Now bearing in mind the way in which the first cavity corresponds to the heart and the manner in which it was torn out, from an anatomical point of view it is clearly the stomach that corresponds to this ovoid cavity — the stomach, unlike the heart, being directly accessible as soon as the excision is made. Hence the depth, as well as the very slight upward inclination by comparison with the heart. We may also make the observation that the two organs, slightly off center toward the left in the human body, correspond very well to the two openings made one above the other.

The detailed analysis made by Seler of this figurine, which is carefully and totally covered with symbols, arrives at the conclusion that the statuette — aside from its connection with Xolotl and Tlaloc — represents Tlauizcalpantecutli, the god of the planet Venus. But an unusual feature, and noted as such by Seler, is that this is here a divinity with the attributes of Quetzalcoatl. Unusual though this may be it is not, however, unique, for the Codex Borgia — as Seler points out in the same analysis — shows Quetzalcoatl emerging from the mouth of the god of the Wind as the planet Venus. And as the Wind god is Quetzalcoatl himself we have here a kind of double within the duality Quetzalcoatl-Venus. The nephritic figurine therefore presents us, in what is certainly very esoteric symbolism, an unexpected link, as far as our present documents are concerned, between Quetzalcoatl, god of the planet Venus, and the tearing out of the stomach — a conjecture that we go so far as to regard as almost certain. And since the planet Venus is among other things the seat of the Luciferic forces this idol is a noteworthy illustration of the Ahriman-Lucifer duality linked to the tearing out of the stomach as it is also to the tearing out of the heart. This is, from an occult point of view, an insignificant inference from the indications given by Steiner.

There remains one last problem which, for the moment, is still awaiting solution: the indication by Steiner that Europeans were put to death by having their stomachs torn out — and the remarks with which Steiner follows this statement constitute the real riddle here. “The fact is even known to history,” he tells us and “this is a matter of historical knowledge.” Though we cannot pretend to resolve this contradiction, we may propose two directions for research along the lines we have followed here. Either Steiner is quoting some historical work without naming it — perhaps a book available only in German — which tells of the association mentioned above. Or else Steiner, after examining some iconographic elements of the documents concluded that the stomach was the organ referred to when it was tacitly traditionally accepted as being the heart.

In the new (1984) German edition of the present cycle the editor tells us that Rudolf Steiner's library contained a book by Charles V. Heckethorn entitled Geheime Gesellschaften, Geheimbünde und Geheimlehren, in which both the excisions, the heart and the stomach, are referred to, and these were said to have been practiced on the Spaniards as well as on others. However, this book, which is not a historical but a popular work, contains descriptions that are very approximate and no doubt partly imagined; and it is clear that Heckethorn has not read Sahagun's work edited by Bustamente in Spanish in 1829 and in French by Siméon in 1888. In view of the fact that Steiner provides very precise descriptions that are not those given by Heckethorn, nor those that have come down to us in any historical documents known to us, we do not believe that Steiner, as the editor says in a footnote, relied on this book, especially when we keep in mind that it is absolutely not a “historical” reference book. So the problem remains still unsolved.

To conclude we should like to begin the second part of our discussion by outlining a number of reflections on the subject of the methodology of the study of what are commonly called “mythologies.” It is possible in a schematic but not altogether incorrect manner to separate two fundamentally different tendencies. The first adopts an anthroposophical viewpoint, held by only an almost negligible minority of officially recognized scholars. These hold that mythologies are the remnants of what were once clairvoyantly perceived facts, that is to say, a perceptible and comprehensible universe, formerly perceived in pictures. This approach was inaugurated by Steiner on the basis of his own personal investigations, which he only later compared with what had survived from ancient cultures. Today the anthroposophist, or someone who wishes to follow this path but lacks the capacities possessed by Steiner, aside from using his awakened sensibilities which can indeed be of real help to him, can only place the totality of what Steiner has taught about the spiritual world over against the mythological facts as they are revealed by the various traditions.

The second path is the one taken by almost all current studies. The spiritual world is invariably regarded as nothing but the subjective creation of the individual, and no effort is therefore made to look for anything truly suprasensible. Looked at from a strictly logical point of view, which ought to predominate in any scientific study, it is entirely legitimate to regard mythical facts as purely subjective, in the absence of clear, controlled and understandable suprasensible perceptions. But such premises must they always be looked upon solely as working hypotheses, and never as untouchable dogmas overruling all other considerations. Indeed the difference between hypothesis and dogma is fundamental. A hypothesis as such never loses sight of its contrary hypothesis, and results alone can eventually eliminate one of the premises. Another unscientific defect may be noted in the attribution of an exclusively subjective character to mythologies: from the point of view of logic the inability to perceive the suprasensible cannot lead one to affirm that such perception does not exist! A man blind from birth cannot do otherwise than recognize that for him colors do not exist. But the same blind man would commit an egregious error in elementary logic if he were to conclude that in the case of everyone else colors are also subjective and not perceived, and if he were to insist also that the names given to colors are therefore meaningless! Although this example may be a little crude it is nevertheless a fair picture of the abnormal situation in which every science that claims to be serious finds itself at the present time.

A second feature of this orientation is its conceptual framework which results in a poverty of concepts that most of the time drives one to despair. Thus Coyolxauhqui is abstractly associated with both “moon” and “goddess” to make her “goddess of the moon.” But what does this association mean in reality? The unlikely ceremony of flaying (practiced in the Mexican rites) is supposed to be a “commemoration” of the simple process of husking the ears of corn — and this, in spite of the varied and extraordinary social consequences, the frenzied emotions of the participants, and the outlandish reversal of the natural order of things involved in a rite of this kind!

A well-known reaction to this type of excessively naive speculation exists today in all those tendencies comprised under the general name of structuralism, especially in the works of Levi-Strauss, who looks upon mythology as nothing but imaginative pictures constructed out of the social and geographical realities of a given epoch. If we examine closely the “studies” of Levi-Strauss we find they are based on a kind of fundamental dogmatism. They give the illusion of being impeccably scientific, but in fact they lead to a bewildering series of vicious circles. Instead of regarding materialism as simply a working hypothesis yet to be proved, materialism is put forward as a dogma, and conclusions are then deduced from the original dogmatic content. The logical worth of this kind of procedure can be illustrated from the following picture. Let us imagine an ethnologist blind from birth who is investigating a tribe made up persons with more or less seriously defective eyesight, who are the distant descendants of ancestors whose sight was normal. His informant will tell him about the round shape of the sun and explain that it is the source of heat, the latter being the only aspect of the sun that is perceptible to the blind ethnologist. Since the ethnologist denies the existence of any other kind of perception than his own he will seek to “explain” the round shape of the sun by taking under consideration all the other facts he can find associated with the sun — what the structuralists call the infrastructures. It is easy to imagine that there may be “real” facts in the sense in which the ethnologist conceives of them, which will permit him to associate the source of heat with the round shape of the sun. His learned work of explanation will certainly be coherent and in a certain way irrefutable, but it will be at the same time absurd, the round shape being simply the result of ordinary perception, shared by everyone except the ethnologist! Broadly speaking, that is the “scientific” edifice which is all we possess to explain the entire realm of mythology!

The objection might be raised that we are doing no better than the men whose work we are criticizing. Instead of the dogma of subjectivism we are substituting an equally dogmatic objectivism. Yet in fact there is a crucial difference. We are dealing here with two different conceptual frameworks, one provided by materialism and the other by anthroposophy, neither of them being of course perfected and completed systems. Faced with the data of mythology the first approaches them in a negative way, dogmatically rejecting what they claim to be, namely descriptions of real and not subjective facts, such as life after death, spirits, divinities and the like. By contrast the second approaches them positively. It tries to approach the data of mythology by entering into this material from within, so to speak, making use of a series of concepts which correspond exactly to the mythological symbols, not in an arbitrary manner but as the necessary complement to the percepts of which the symbols themselves are the reflected images. One can then raise the objection that the Steinerian system is just as subjective as the mythologies, and therefore lacks all objective validity. Aside from the fact that once the Steinerian system is known this objection might well disappear, the difference between the two conceptual systems might also be demonstrated objectively. This could be done on a statistical basis, the general principle applicable to all research that makes use of models.

The most coherent model is regarded as that which takes in the largest number of phenomena, and is therefore superior to any other model that covers fewer facts. Take, for example, the Aztec rite of flaying. Is there at the present time any serious psychological system that is coherent and applicable over a wide range of phenomena that can offer any explanation of how it could be that the unlikely sequence of tortures, murders, and rites so repulsive as to be scarcely imaginable, should have been the commemoration of the husking of a plant??? This pretended similarity between the flaying of a human being and the husking of a plant is surely an idea so far-fetched as to be totally worthless. Anthroposophical concepts are of course not waiting passively to be made use of for mythological studies, including studies of the kind just mentioned. But when the first steps in this direction have been taken, only then will the time come when we can talk of a confrontation between the facts and the fundamental teachings of anthroposophy — not a confrontation between anthroposophy and the present materialistic edifice constructed from the beginning out of pure dogmatism, but an undogmatic examination of the material and non-material remains (for example mythology, popular stories and the like) just as they were at the time of their original discovery. This examination should not be based on the dogmatic notions prevalent at that time, which, as far as present day popular and scholarly opinion is concerned, have indeed endured to this day.

Materialism possesses no concept capable of being applied in a positive manner to Uitzilopochtli, who was both a god and at the same time only a man. It is obliged to flatten out the original texts, thus implicitly showing its contempt for their authors; and it can only condescendingly refrain from paying any attention to what appears to it as at most a piece of poetic imagery — for example, Tezcatlipoca appearing like a shadow. This bespeaks neither a true scientific spirit, nor does it show any sign of a true respect for others. When will all this change?

Frédéric Kozlik
France, 1984

*Lecture given Sep. 11, 1916 contained in volume 272 of the bibliographic survey of Steiner's works. It was never published in English.




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