WE will turn our thoughts to-day to the Festival which every year
revives remembrance of the Mystery of Golgotha.
There are three such main Festivals in Christendom: at Christmas,
Easter and Whitsuntide. Each of these Festivals brings man's life of
soul into a different relation with the great events from which the
whole of earth-evolution receives purpose and meaning.
The Christmas Festival is connected more directly with man's life of
feeling. In a certain sense it has the most popular appeal of all the
Festivals, because when rightly understood it deepens the life of
feeling and is always dear to the human heart.
The Easter Festival makes great demands upon man's powers of
understanding, because here some measure of insight is essential into
the Mystery of Golgotha itself, into how a super-sensible Being entered
the stream of earthly evolution. Easter is a Festival which carries
the faculty of human understanding to the highest level, a level which
is, of course, ultimately accessible to everyone; but the appeal of
the Easter Festival can never be as widespread as that of Christmas.
Through the Whitsuntide Festival, relationship is established between
the will and the super-sensible world to which the Christ Being
belongs. It is of the impulses of will which then take effect in the
world that the Whitsuntide Festival makes men conscious when its
meaning is rightly understood.
And so the great Christian Mystery is illustrated in a threefold way
by these Festivals. There are many aspects of the Christmas Mystery
and in the course of years we have studied them from different points
of view at the time of the Festival. To-day we will think of an aspect
brought graphically before us in the Gospels.
The Gospels tell of two proclamations of the birth of Christ Jesus.
The one proclamation is made to the simple shepherds in the fields, to
whom in dream or in some kindred way an Angel announces the
birth. In this case, knowledge of the event was brought by inner
soul-forces which were of a particular character in the shepherds
living near the birthplace of Christ Jesus. And the Gospels tell of
another proclamation made to the Three Kings, the Three Magi from the
East who follow the voice of a star announcing to them that Christ
Jesus has come into the world.
Here we have an indication of two ways in which higher knowledge came
to men in earlier times. This is again a matter of which the modern
mind has no understanding. The idea prevailing nowadays is that man's
faculties of apprehension and thinking that is to say, inner powers
of the soul have for thousands and thousands of years been
fundamentally the same as they are to-day, except that in earlier
times they were more primitive. But we know from spiritual science
that the tenor and mood of the human soul has undergone great changes
in the course of the ages. In times of antiquity, let us say about six
or seven thousand years ago, man had a quite different conception not
only of his own life but also of the universe around him. His attitude
of soul underwent continual change until, in the modern world, it
amounts simply to intellectual analysis and a purely physical
conception of things in the outer world. This development proceeds
from an instinctive clairvoyance in ancient times, through the phase
of our present mood-of-soul, in order, in the future, to return to a
form of clairvoyant vision of the world pervaded by full, clear
At the time when the Mystery of Golgotha took place on the earth, the
old instinctive clairvoyance had already become dim. Although men's
attitude of soul differed widely from that of to-day, they no longer
possessed the powers of that ancient clairvoyance; neither were they
able to apply the old forms of wisdom in seeking for intimate and
exact knowledge of the world. The teachings of the ancient wisdom, as
well as the faculties of instinctive clairvoyance, had lost their
power when the Mystery of Golgotha took place. Nevertheless, echoes
still survived, as the Gospels clearly indicate if we understand them
aright. Echoes of the ancient wisdom survived here and there in
certain exceptional individuals. These individuals might well have
been the simple shepherds in the fields who with their great purity of
heart possessed a certain power of clairvoyance which came over them
like a dream. And there might also well have been individuals who had
reached the heights of learning, like the Three Magi from the East, in
whom the ancient faculty to gaze into the how of cosmic happenings had
In a kind of dream-condition, the simple shepherds in the fields were
able inwardly to realise what was drawing near in the event of the
birth of Christ Jesus. On the other hand, the knowledge possessed by
the three Magi from the East enabled them, by contemplating the
phenomena of the heavens, to discern that an event of a significance
far transcending that of the ordinary course of life was taking place
on the earth.
Our attention is therefore directed to two definite but quite distinct
forms of knowledge. We will think, first, of the knowledge possessed
by the three Magi as a last remnant of an ancient wisdom. It is
clearly indicated that these Magi were able to read the secrets of the
movements of the stars. The story of the three Kings or Magi points to
the existence of an ancient lore of the stars, an ancient knowledge of
the secrets of the worlds of stars in which the secrets of happenings
in the world of men were also revealed. This ancient lore of the stars
was very different from our modern astronomical science although in
a certain respect it too is prophetic in that eclipses of the sun, of
the moon, and the like, can be predicted. But it is a purely
mathematical science, speaking only of conditions and relationships in
space and time in so far as they can be expressed in terms of
mathematics. What plays with a higher significance into man's inner
life from beyond space and time, but into the world of space and time,
was read by an ancient star-lore from the courses and movements of the
stars, and it was this star-wisdom that formed the essential content
of the science belonging to an earlier epoch. Men sought in the stars
for explanations of what was happening on the earth. But to such men
the world of stars was not the machinelike abstraction it has now come
to be. Every planet was felt to have reality of being. In a kind of
inner speech of the soul, these men of old conversed, as it were, with
each planet, just as to-day we converse with one another in ordinary
speech. They realised that what the movements of the stars bring about
in the universe is reflected in man's inmost soul. This was a living,
spirit-inwoven conception of the universe. And man felt that as a
being of soul and spirit he himself had his place within this
universe. The wisdom relating to cosmic happenings was also cultivated
in Schools of the Mysteries where the pupils were prepared, carefully
and intimately, to understand the movements of the stars in such a way
that human life on earth became intelligible to them.
What form did these preparations take? These preparations for
knowledge of the stars and their workings consisted in training the
pupils, even in the times of instinctive clairvoyance, to unfold a
more wide-awake consciousness than that prevailing in normal life. The
masses of the people possessed faculties of instinctive clairvoyance
which were natural in a life of soul less awake than our own. In
ancient times the wide-awake thinking of to-day would not have been
possible. Nor could mathematics or geometry be grasped in the way they
are grasped by the modern mind. Man's whole life between birth and
death was a kind of dreamlike existence, but on that very account he
had a far more living awareness of the world around him than is
possible in our fully wide-awake consciousness. And strange as it
seems, in the age which lasted into the second millennium or even as
late as the beginning of the first millennium B.C. ( it was to the
last surviving remains of this age that men like the three Magi
belonged ) individual pupils in the Mysteries were initiated into a
kind of knowledge resembling our geometrical or mathematical sciences.
It was Euclid
who first gave geometry to the world at large. The
geometry presented to mankind by Euclid had already been cultivated
for thousands of years in the Mysteries, but there it was communicated
to chosen pupils only. Moreover it did not work in them in the same
way as in men of later time. Paradoxical as it seems, it is
nevertheless a fact that the geometry and arithmetic learnt by
children to-day was taught in the Mysteries to individuals specially
chosen from the masses on account of their particular gifts who were
then received into the Mysteries.
One often hears it said to-day that the teachings given in the
Mysteries were secret and veiled. In their abstract content however,
these so-called secret teachings were no different from what is now
taught to children at school. The mystery does not lie in the fact
that these things are unknown to-day but that they were imparted to
human beings in a different way. For to teach the principles of
geometry to children by calling upon the intellect in an age when from
the moment of waking until that of falling asleep the human being has
clear day-consciousness, is a very different matter from imparting
them to pupils specially chosen because of their greater maturity of
soul in the age of instinctive clairvoyance and dreamlike
consciousness. A true conception of these things is rarely in evidence
In Eastern literature there is a Hymn to the God Varuna which says
that Varuna is revealed in the air and in the winds blowing through
the forests, in the thunder rolling from the clouds, in the human
heart when it is kindled to acts of will, in the heavens when the sun
passes across the sky, and is present on the hills in the soma juice.
You will generally find it stated in books today that nobody knows
what this soma-juice really is. Modern scholars assert that nobody
knows what soma-juice is, although, as a matter of fact, there are
people who drink it by the litre and from a certain point of view are
quite familiar with it. But to know things from the vantage-point of
the Mysteries is quite different from knowing them as a layman from
the standpoint of the experiences of ordinary waking consciousness.
You may read to-day about the Philosopher's Stone for which men
sought in an epoch when understanding of the nature of substances was
very different from what it is today. And again, those who write about
alchemy assert that nothing is known about the Philosopher's Stone.
Here and there in my lectures I have said that this Philosopher's
Stone is quite familiar to most people, only they do not know what it
really is nor why it is so called. It is quite well known, because as
a matter of fact it is used by the ton.
The modern mind with its tendency to abstraction and theory and its
alienation from reality, is incapable of grasping these things. Nor is
there any understanding of what is meant by saying that our
geometrical and arithmetical sciences were once imparted to mature
souls quite different in character from the souls of modern men, In my
book Christianity as Mystical Fact I have indicated the special nature
of the Mystery-teachings but these significant matters are not as a
rule correctly understood; they are taken far too superficially. The
way in which the subject-matter of the Mystery-teachings in ancient
times was imparted that is what needs to be understood.
Novalis was still aware of the human element, the element of feeling
in mathematics which, in utter contrast to the vast majority to-day,
he regarded as being akin to a great and wonderful Hymn.
It was to an
understanding of the world imbued with feeling but expressed in
mathematical forms that the pupil of the ancient Mysteries was led.
And when this mathematical understanding of the universe had developed
in such a pupil, he became one whose vision resembled that of the men
described as the three Magi from the East. The mathematics of the
universe which to us has become pure abstraction, then revealed
reality of Being, because this knowledge was supplemented and enriched
by something that came to meet it. And so the science and knowledge of
the outer universe belonging to an ancient culture which in its last
echoes survived in the Magi, was the origin of the one proclamation
the proclamation made by way of wisdom pertaining to the outer
On the other side, inner feeling of the secrets of the evolution of
humanity could arise in men of a disposition specially fitted for such
experiences. Such men are represented by the shepherds in the fields.
These inner forces must have reached a certain stage of development
and then instinctive-imaginative perception became direct vision. And
so, through their faculty of inner vision, the simple shepherds in the
fields were made aware of the proclamation: The God is revealing
Himself in the heavenly Heights and through Him there can be peace
among all men who are of good-will.
Secrets of the cosmos were thus revealed to the hearts of the simple
shepherds in the fields and to those who were the representatives of
the highest wisdom attainable by the human mind at that time. This is
the revelation made to the three Magi from the East. The great mystery
of earth-existence was proclaimed from two sides.
What was it that came to the knowledge of the Magi? What kind of
faculties developed in specially prepared pupils of the Mysteries
through the mathematics imparted to them?
The philosopher Kant says of the truths of mathematical science that
they are a priori. By this he means that they are determined before
the acquisition of external, empirical knowledge.
This is so much
lip-wisdom. Kant's a priori really says nothing. The expression has
meaning only when we realise from spiritual-scientific knowledge that
mathematics comes from within ourselves, rises into consciousness from
within our own being. And where does it originate? In the experiences
through which we passed in the spiritual world before conception,
before birth. We were living then in the great universe, experiencing
what it was possible to experience before we possessed bodily eyes and
bodily ears. Our experiences then were a priori a form of cognition
independent of earthly life. And this is the kind of experience that
rises up, unconsciously to-day, from our inmost being. Man does not
know unless, like Novalis, he glimpses it intuitively that the
experiences of the life before birth or conception well up when he is
engrossed in mathematical thought. For one who can truly apprehend
these things, mathematical cognition is in itself a proof that before
conception and birth he existed in a spiritual world. Of those to whom
this is no proof of a life before birth, it must be said that they do
not think deeply and fundamentally enough about the phenomena and
manifestations of life and have not the faintest inkling of the real
origin of mathematics.
The pupils of the ancient Mysteries who had absorbed the kind of
wisdom which in its last echoes had survived in the three Magi from
the East, had this clear impression: If as we contemplate the stars we
see in them the expressions of mathematical, arithmetical progression,
we spread over universal space the experiences through which we lived
before birth. A pupil of the Mysteries said to himself: Living here on
the earth, I gaze out into the universe, beholding all that is around
me in space. Before my birth I lived within these manifestations of
cosmic realities, lived with the mysteries of number connected with
the stars, with all that I can now only mentally picture in terms of
mathematics. In that other existence my own inner forces led me from
star to star; I had my very life in what is now only a mental
activity. Such contemplation made vividly real to these men what they
had lived through before birth, and these experiences were sacred to
them. They knew that this other world was a spiritual world their
home before they came down to the earth. The last echoing remains of
this knowledge had survived in the Magi from the East and through it
they recognised the signs of the coming of Christ.
Whence came the Christ Being? He came from the world in which we
ourselves live between death and a new birth, and united Himself with
the life that extends from birth to death. Knowledge of the world in
which our existence is spent from death to a new birth can therefore
shed light upon an event like the Mystery of Golgotha. And it was
through this knowledge that the Mystery of Golgotha, the Christmas
Mystery too, was announced to the Magi.
While man is living on the earth and unfolding the forces which bring
knowledge of the world around him, while he is unfolding the impulses
for his actions and social life, he is unconsciously experiencing
something else as well. He has no knowledge of it, but just as he
experiences the aftereffects of his life before birth, so does he also
experience what finally passes through the gate of death to become the
content of the life after death. These forces are already present in
germ between birth and death but come to fruition only in the life
after death. They worked with intense strength in the old, instinctive
clairvoyance, and in their last echoes they were still working in the
simple shepherds in the fields because of their purity of heart. We
live within the play of these forces above all during sleep, when the
soul is outside the body, within the outer universe. The soul is then
living in the form of existence in which it will live consciously
after death, when the physical body has been laid aside.
These forces from the world of sleep and dream which in certain
conditions can penetrate into waking life, were very active in the
old, instinctive clairvoyance, and they were working in the simple
shepherds to whom the Mystery of Golgotha was proclaimed in a way
other than to the three Magi.
What kind of knowledge is brought by the forces that are paramountly
active between death and a new birth, if, as was the case with the
Magi, they have been kindled during life between birth and death? It
is a knowledge of happenings in the world beyond the earth. The human
being is transported from the earth into the world of the stars in
which he lives between death and a new birth. This was the world into
which the three Magi from the East were transported away from the
earth into the heavens.
And what kind of knowledge is brought by the forces that well up from
the inmost being of man, above all in the world of dream? These forces
bring knowledge of what is coming to pass within the earth itself. In
this kind of knowledge it is earthly forces that are most strongly at
work, the forces we have through the body, through existence in the
body. These are the forces which are particularly active between
sleeping and waking. Then too we are within the outer universe, but
the outer universe that is especially connected with the earth.
You will say: this contradicts the statement that during sleep we are
outside the body. But in reality there is no contradiction. We
perceive only what is outside us; we do not perceive that within which
we actually live. Only those who lack real knowledge and are satisfied
with phrases speak of such things in glib words to the effect that it
is meaningless to base spiritual science upon knowledge acquired
outside the human being, for what really matters is that knowledge of
outer nature shall be gained through the forces within man. Schools
of Wisdom like the one in Darmstadt
may be based on high-sounding
principles of this kind, but a man can remain a phrasemonger in spite
of being the founder of such a School of Wisdom. We must understand
the inner nature of the world before we can acquire super-sensible
knowledge, and it is only then that we can penetrate into the nature
of our own inmost being. Men like Keyserling speak of the need to view
things from the vantage-point of the soul, but they do not penetrate
into the inmost being of man; they simply pour out phrases.
The truth is that between sleeping and waking we look back, feel back,
as it were, into our body. We become aware of how our body is
connected with the earth for the body is given by the earth. The
revelation to the shepherds in the fields was the revelation given by
the earth, proceeding from their bodily nature. In a state of dream
the voice of the Angel made known to them what had come to pass.
And so the contrast is complete:
To the Magi: revelation through heavenly lore.
To the Shepherds: revelation given by the earth.
That the revelation should have been from two sides is entirely in
keeping with the Mystery of Golgotha. For a heavenly Being, a Being
Who until then had not belonged to the earth, was drawing near. And
the coming of such a Being must be recognised through wisdom
pertaining to the heavens, through wisdom that is able to reveal the
descent of a Being from the heavens. The wisdom of the shepherds is
knowledge proceeding from the earth; the weaving life of the earth
becomes aware of the coming of the Being from heaven. It is the same
proclamation, only from another side a wonderful, twofold
proclamation to mankind of a single Event.
The attitude with which the Event of Golgotha was received by mankind
is to be explained by the fact that only vestiges of the ancient
wisdom remained. In the first centuries of our era, certain Gnostic
teachings were able to shed light upon the Mystery of Golgotha, but as
time went on, men strove more and more to understand it through purely
intellectual analysis and reason. And in the nineteenth century,
naturalism invaded this domain of belief. There was no longer any
understanding of the super-sensible reality of the Event of Golgotha.
Christ became the wise man of Nazareth in the naturalistic sense.
What is necessary is a new, spiritual conception of the Mystery of
Golgotha. The Mystery of Golgotha as such must never be confused with
the attitude adopted to it by the human mind.
The mood-of-soul prevailing in the shepherds and in the Magi was in
its final phase at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. Everything in
the evolution of humanity undergoes constant change and metamorphosis.
What has the wisdom possessed by the Magi from the East now become? It
has become our mathematical astronomy. The Magi possessed
super-earthly knowledge which was actually a glorious remembrance of
life before birth. This knowledge has shrivelled away into our
mathematical-mechanistic conception of the heavens, to the phenomena
of which we apply only mathematical laws. What wells up from within us
in our mathematical astronomy is the modern metamorphosis of the
knowledge once possessed by the Magi.
Our outer, sense-given knowledge, conveyed as it is merely through
eyes and ears, is the externalised form of the inner knowledge once
possessed by men like the shepherds in the fields. The mood-of-soul in
which the secrets of earth-existence were once revealed to the
shepherds now induces us to look at the world with the cold detachment
of scientific observation. This kind of observation is the child of
the Shepherd-wisdom but the child is very unlike the parent! And
our mathematical astronomy is the child of the Magi-wisdom. It was
necessary that humanity should pass through this phase. When our
scientists are making their cold, dispassionate researches in
laboratories and clinics, they have very little in common with the
shepherds of old, but this attitude of soul is nevertheless a
metamorphosis leading back directly to the wisdom of the shepherds.
And our mathematicians are the successors of the Magi from the East.
The outer has become inward the inner, outward. In the process,
understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha has been lost, and we must be
fully conscious of this fact. Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha
has vanished most completely of all, perhaps, in many of those who
claim to be official ministers of Christianity to-day.
With the forces of knowledge, feeling and belief possessed by modern
men, the true reality of the Event of Golgotha can no longer be
grasped. It must be discovered anew. The Magi-wisdom has become
inward; it has become our abstract, mathematical science by which
alone the heavens are studied. What has become inward in this way must
again be filled with life, re-cast, re-shaped from within.
And now, from this point of view, try to understand what is contained
in a book like my
Outline of Occult Science.
The Magi gazed at the worlds of the stars; therein they beheld the
Spiritual, for they could behold man's experiences in his life before
birth. In our mathematics this has become pure abstraction. But the
same forces that are unfolded in our mathematical thinking can again
be filled with life, enriched and intensified in Imaginative
perception. Then, from our own inner forces there will be born a world
which, although we create it from within, can be seen as the outer
universe, embracing Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, Vulcan.
We then behold the heavens through inner perception, inner vision, as
the Magi discerned the secrets of the Mystery of Golgotha through
outer perception. The outer has become inward, has become mathematical
abstraction. Therefore what is now inward must be expanded into
perception of the outer universe; inward perception must lead to a new
astronomy, to an astronomy inwardly experienced.
It is only by striving for a new understanding of Christ that we can
truly celebrate the Christmas Festival to-day. Can it be said that
this Festival still has any real meaning for the majority of people?
It has become a beautiful custom to take the Christmas Tree as the
symbol of the Festival, although as a matter of fact this custom is
hardly a century old. The Christmas Tree was not adopted as a symbol
of the Festival until the nineteenth century. What is the Christmas
Tree, in reality? When we endeavour to discover its meaning and know
of the legend telling that it grew from the tiny branch carried in the
arms of the boy Ruprecht on the 6th of December, when we follow its
history, it dawns upon us that the Christmas Tree is directly
connected with the Tree of Paradise. The mind turns to the Tree of
Paradise, to Adam and Eve. This is one aspect of the way in which the
Mystery of Golgotha can again be proclaimed in our time. The mind
turns from the Mystery of Golgotha, back to the world's beginning. The
meaning of world-redemption is not understood and the mind turns again
to the Divine creation of the world. This comes to expression in the
fact that the real symbol of Christmas the Crib so beautifully
presented in the Christmas Plays of earlier centuries, is gradually
being superseded by the Christmas Tree which is, in reality, the Tree
of Paradise. The old Jahve religion usurped the place of Christianity
and the Christmas Tree is the symbol of its recrudescence. But in its
reappearance the Jahve religion has been split into multiple
divisions. Jahve was worshipped, and rightly worshipped, as the one,
undivided Godhead in an age when his people felt themselves to be a
single, self-contained unity not looking beyond their own boundaries
and full of the expectation that one day they would fill the whole
earth. But in our time, although people speak of Christ Jesus, in
reality they worship Jahve. In the various nations (this was all too
evident in the war), men spoke of Christ but were really venerating
the original Godhead who holds sway in heredity and in the world of
nature Jahve. Thus we have the Christmas Tree on the one side, and
on the other, national Gods at a level inferior to that of the
Christian reality. These were the principles by which men's
comprehension of the Mystery of Golgotha was diverted back again to
the conceptions belonging to a much earlier epoch. The assertion of
the principle of nationality, the claiming of national Gods, denotes a
step backward into the old Jahve religion. Those who see fit to
worship Christ as a national God it is they who deny Him most
What must never be forgotten is that the proclamations to the
Shepherds and to the Kings contained a message for all mankind for
the earth is common to all. In that the revelation to the shepherds
was from the earth, it was a revelation that may not be differentiated
according to nationality. And in that the Magi received the
proclamation of the sun and the heavens, this too was a revelation
destined for all mankind. For when the sun has shone upon the
territory of one people, it shines upon the territory of another. The
heavens are common to all; the earth is common to all. The impulse of
the human universal is in very truth quickened by Christianity. Such
is the aspect of Christmas revealed by the twofold proclamation.
. . . .
When we think of the Christmas Mystery, our minds must turn to a
birth, to something that must be born anew in our time. For true
Christianity must verily be born anew. We need a
World-Christmas-Festival, and spiritual science would fain be a
preparation for this World-Christmas-Festival among men.
- Note 1:
- About 300 B.C.
- Note 2:
- None really comprehend mathematics who do not undertake the study
with reverence and devotion as a revelation from God."
(From Thoughts on Physics).
- Note 3:
- "Mathematics and physics are the two theoretical sciences of reason
which have to determine their objects a priori."
(From the Preface to the 2nd ed. of The Critique of Pure
- Note 4:
- Founded in 1920 by Count Hermann Keyserling (1880-1946).