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Lecture 3:


(From short notes by Marie Steiner-von Sivers)

Berlin, 30th September 1904

[See the Notes for this Lecture]

All of our medieval stories — Parsifal, the Round Table, Hartmann von Aue — reveal mystical truths in esoteric form, even though they are usually only understood in their outward aspect. Where do we search for their origin? We must look to a time before the spread of Christianity. Into Christianity was blended what had lived in Ireland, Scotland ... [Gap in the notes.] We are led to a particular centre whence this spiritual life was disseminated. The spiritual life [of Europe] emanated from a mother lodge in Scandinavia, ‘Drottes’ Lodge. Druids = Oak. For this reason the Germanic peoples were said to receive their instructions beneath oak trees.

‘Drottes’, or Druids, were ancient Germanic initiates. They still existed in England till Elizabethan times. All that we read in the Edda or can find in the ancient German sagas refers back to the temples of the ‘Drottes’ or Druids. The author of these tales was always an initiate. The sagas not only have a symbolical or allegorical meaning, but something else as well.

Example: We know the saga of Baldur. We know that he is the hope of the gods, that he is killed by the god Loki with a branch of mistletoe. The God of Light is killed. This whole story has a deep mystery content which all who underwent initiation not only had to learn, but had to experience.

The Mysteries. Initiation: the first deed was called the search for the body of Baldur. It was supposed that Baldur was always alive. The search consisted of a complete enlightenment about the nature of man. For Baldur was the human being who has gone astray. Once upon a time the human being was not as he is today, he was undifferentiated, not bowed down by passionate experiences, but composed of finer ephemeral substance. Baldur, the radiant human being. When truly understood, all things which appear to us in the form of symbols must be understood in a higher sense. This human being who has not descended into what today we call matter, is Baldur. He lives in each one of us. The Druid priest had to search for the higher self within him. He had to become clear about where this differentiation took place, between the higher and the lower ... [Gap]

The secret of all initiation is to give birth to the higher human being within oneself. What the priest accomplishes more quickly, the rest of mankind must undergo in long stages of development. To become leaders of the rest of mankind, the Druids had to receive this initiation.

Man who had descended deeper now had to overcome matter and regain his former higher level. This birth of the higher human being takes place in all the Mysteries in a similar sort of way. The man who had become submerged in matter had to be reawakened. One had to make a series of experiences — real experiences — which were unlike any sense experiences one can have on the physical plane.

The stages. The first step was that one was led before the ‘Throne of Necessity’. One stood in front of the abyss: really experienced through one's own body what lived in the lower kingdoms of nature. Man is both mineral and plant, but the man of today is unable to experience what is undergone by the elementary substances and yet the enduring, the constraining things in the world are due to the fact that we are also mineral and plant in our nature.

The next step led the human being to all that lived in the animal kingdom. Everything which existed in the form of passions and desires was beheld in swirling and interweaving movement- All this had to be observed by the candidate for initiation so that his eyes would be opened to what lay behind the veil of the senses. Man is not aware that what swirls around in astral space is hidden behind the physical sheath. The veil of maya is really a sheath which must be penetrated by him who is to be initiated — the sheaths drop away, the human being sees clearly. That is a very special moment: the priest becomes aware that the sheaths had dammed back the impulses which would have been frightful if they had been let loose.

The third step led to a vision of the elemental nature forces. That is a step which man finds difficult to comprehend without previous preparation. That powerful occult forces are residing in these nature forces and through them express elemental passions, is something which makes man aware that there are powers quite outside the scope of anything he can experience as his own suffering.

The next trial is called the ‘Handing over of the Serpent’ by the hierophant. One can only explain it by means of the effects which it brings about. It is elucidated in the Tantalus saga. The privilege of being allowed to sit in the Council of the Gods can be abused. It signifies a reality which certainly raises man above himself, but dangers accompany it which are not exaggerated in the story of the Tantalus curse. As a rule man says he is powerless in face of the laws of nature. These are thoughts. With that kind of thinking, which is only a shadowy brain-thinking, nothing can be achieved. In creative thinking, which builds and constructs things of the world, which is productive and fruitful, the passive kind of thinking is replaced by a thinking permeated by spiritual force. The blown skin of a caterpillar is the empty sheath of the caterpillar; when filled with [productive] thinking it is the living caterpillar. Into the sheath-thoughts, living active power is poured so that the priest is enabled, not only to see the world in vision, but to work in it through magic. The danger is that this power can be abused. He can ... [Gap]

At this stage the occultist acquires a certain power, whereby he is enabled to deceive even the higher beings. He must not only repeat truths but experience them and decide whether a thing is true or false. That is what is called ‘The Handing over of the Serpent by the Hierophant’. [it denotes the same thing on a spiritual level that the rudimentary stages in the formation of the spinal cord signify on the physical level. In the animal kingdom we pass through the fishes, amphibians and so on till we reach the brain of the vertebrates and man. See notes.] We have a spiritual backbone, too, which determines whether we are to develop a spiritual brain. Man goes through this process at this stage of his development. He is lifted out of Kama (feelings, passions, desires) and endowed with a spiritual backbone so that he can be raised up into the spiraling of the spiritual brain. On a spiritual level, the windings of the labyrinth are the same as the convolutions of the brain on the physical level. Man gains access to the labyrinth, to the windings within the spiritual realm.

Then he had to take the oath of silence. A naked sword was presented to him and he was obliged to swear the most binding oath. This was that he would henceforth keep silence about his experiences where it concerned people who had not been initiated as he had. It is quite impossible to reveal the true content of these secrets without preparation. He, [the initiate] however, could create these sagas so that they became the expression of the eternal. One who could give utterance to things in this way of course had great power over his fellow men. The creator of a saga of this kind imprinted something into the human spirit. What is thus spoken is then forgotten and only the merest vestige of it survives death. Eternal truths remain longest after death. Of less elevated scientific thought hardly anything remains. The eternal does so and appears again in a new incarnation.

The Druid priest spoke out of the higher plane. His words, though simple, being the expression of higher truths, sank into the souls of his hearers. He spoke to simple folk but the truth sank into their souls and something was incorporated into them which would be reborn in a new incarnation. At that time men experienced the truth through fairy stories; thus today our spirit bodies have been prepared and if we are able to grasp higher truths today it is because we have been prepared.

Thus this time, which came to an end in 60 A.D., had prepared the spiritual life of Europe, had provided the soil on which Christianity could build. These teachings have been preserved and whoever searches will be able to find access to what was taught in these Lodges.

After he [the Druid] had given his oath on the sword he had to drink a certain draught — and this he did from a human skull. The meaning of this was that he had transcended what was human. That was the feeling which the Druid priest had to develop concerning his lower bodily nature. He had to look upon all that lived within his body with the same objective, cool attitude as he felt towards a containing vessel. Then he was initiated into the higher secrets and shown the path to higher worlds. Baldur ... [Gap] He was led into an immense palace which was roofed by flashing shields. He encountered a man who cast forth seven flowers. Cosmic Space, Cherubim, Demi-urge [Maker of the World]. Thus he became truly a Priest of the Sun.

Many people read the Edda and are unaware that it is an account of what really took place in the ancient ‘Drottes’ mysteries. An immense power lay at the disposal of the ancient ‘Drottes’ priests, a power over life and death. It is true that everything becomes corrupt in time. It was once the highest, the holiest of things. At the time when Christianity was spreading, much had degenerated and there were many black magicians, so that Christianity came as a redemption.

The study of these old truths alone is able to give an almost complete survey of the whole of occultism.

Unlike our present practice, not one stone was laid upon another in the building of a Druid temple without the use of exact astronomical measurement. Doorways were built according to astronomical measurement. The Druid priests were the builders of humanity. A faint reflection of this is preserved today in the views which the Freemasons hold.

Learning to penetrate astral substance, viewing the sun at midnight: First initiation.

Handing over of the Serpent by the Hierophant: Second Initiation.

The journey into the Labyrinth: Third Initiation.

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