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A Guide to the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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A Guide to the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner

Guide to Spiritual Science: Lecture 10


(With special reference to the lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in 1909.)


N speaking further concerning the Christ-principle, I shall try to show how it is merged into the evolution of the post-Atlantean culture, how it stands, not as something absolutely new opposed to old religious knowledge, but far more grew, of necessity, out of them. The old religious knowledge prepared the coming of the Christ beforehand, and all flowed together towards the event in Palestine.

To be able to understand this we must once more consider the quite especially important time in evolution, which lies still further than the Atlantean time, i.e., the Lemurian time, the third period of the Earth's evolution. At the beginning of this epoch the Sun was at first still connected with the earth. In the same way the highest hierarchies were bound most closely with man. The physical bodily nature of man consisted of physical body, etheric body and astral body. Within this threefold human frame the Spirits of Form radiated the ego from out their being into the physical bodily nature of man. The ego lived, now unconscious of itself, in this threefold frame until the Luciferic spirits approached. These were the held-back beings who had not reached their goal upon the old Moon. They beguiled men to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: that means they gave him wisdom and promised him that he should be like God and know what good and evil is. That is a real Luciferic promise. It contains one-half of the truth, but conceals the other half. The ego of man will certainly know what is good and evil, if it eats of the tree of knowledge, if wisdom is thus delivered up to it. But if wisdom is delivered to man before he is ripe for it, then it will not remain divine wisdom. It will, on the contrary, be a very human knowledge, because, for man who is not ripe for it, the way to the knowledge of good and evil goes by way of egoism, goes through the evil, and that signifies an abandoning of God. Lucifer does not say this, but it lies hidden in the promise for him who looks into it. The human way to knowledge is through experience. Only through the results of evil does man learn to recognise it as evil and therewith to measure the good. The more advanced hierarchies would not withhold wisdom from men. Just as man received the physical body, the etheric and astral bodies, and the ego, so also in its time, that is, when the ego was ripe for it, would wisdom be added unto him. This wisdom as a divine gift would be the spirit self. So the whole evolution would proceed towards the spiritual.

The Luciferic beings on the contrary, gave wisdom to the young, weak human ego much too early, and so it fell into egoism. It connected itself inwardly with the sense-world, gave itself up to it, and released itself to that degree from the spiritual world. Until then the ego had not lived on the earth, but in the surroundings of the earth, and should have remained there. Likewise should the ego have experienced the earth processes through the living perceptive physical bodily nature, and so have come to a higher kind of ego-consciousness. But now it ate too early of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; the result was that it bound itself too early with the physical bodily nature, and identified itself with it. It enjoyed the fruits of the astral body. So the ego became unspiritual and with it its coverings. The physical body had not formerly taken up into itself the dense mineral constituents, it had been an unearthly body with physical law. Only now through the stronger connection with the sense world did the physical body take up the firm earthly constituents into itself, and the etheric and astral bodies also bound themselves more and more inwardly with the solid physical body After the Luciferic attack we have a physical shell which becomes thicker and thicker, and the ego, entangled in this, detached itself more and more from the spiritual world, until it quite forgot its spiritual origin.

So man abandoned Paradise; that is the result of the Luciferic temptation. How was this announced to Adam? After the fall into sin God said to him: “By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread.” To take nourishment in the physical sense, to take earth substance into oneself, that had formerly not been necessary for man. But now in order to be able to take up earth substance into himself, he must labour upon the earth. And how was it announced to Eve? “With labour shalt thou bring forth thy children.” Formerly, both propagation and nourishment had been spiritual acts, and the pains accompanying birth are the results of the hardening of the physical bodily nature. A further result of man's being too closely bound up with the physical bodily nature was a change of consciousness. Man gradually so strongly identified himself with the physical bodily nature that he experienced the falling off of this physical bodily nature as “death.” And that, too, he had not known in Paradise, so long as he had accepted it as his home. But by the command, not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil Adam was warned of these results: it was said to him: “Thou mayst eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil shalt thou not eat, for on the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” We see how every word of the biblical record is of the very deepest significance.

We have now followed the descent of man out of the spiritual world, out of Paradise, on to the physical plane. The release from the spiritual worlds proceeds further and further, through the Lemurian times, and later through the Atlantean period. In the Atlantean time beings of the hierarchies existing above man were incorporated in physical human bodies, in order to keep the connection of man with the spiritual worlds. They taught and led men and initiated the most advanced of them. In the post Atlantean times only the initiates knew of the beings and deeds of the spiritual worlds and they brought their knowledge to man in the form of the religions of the times. However different in form these religions were at bottom, they all had something in common. They all directed man to the Sun, not to the physical sun, but to the spiritual Sun-force. They all spoke of the highly exalted beings, who streamed forth their life and wisdom to man down from their dwelling place the sun. The external sun's rays are only the physical visible garment of these highest hierarchies. Through these hierarchies, again, cosmic wisdom and cosmic love make themselves known, not merely love and wisdom, highly developed though these have become. Through this spiritual sun-force cosmic wisdom makes itself known connected with cosmic love. It reveals itself as the Light of the World: Vishva Karman it was called by the Indian wise men, Ahura Mazdao or the great Aura, by Zarathustra, the great leader of the Persian culture, and Osiris by the ancient Egyptians. The initiates of the post-Atlantean cultures saw this cosmic force approach nearer and nearer to the earth and prophesied its appearance on the earth. The prophets, moreover, announced it and the last of them who pointed to this power that was to come, and implored men to prepare themselves to receive it, was John the Baptist. He said, “And of His fullness have all we received grace for grace.” Who are these “We all,” and who is John the Baptist? He was, as Christ Himself declared to us, Elias come back again, he belongs to the greatest leaders of men of the post-Atlantean times, and he says: “We have all of his fullness partaken grace for grace.” What does this fullness mean? It is what the Greek initiates called the Pleroma, and by that meant the fullness, the totality of the highest hierarchies, who had their dwelling place upon the sun. That means that what worked as spiritual force through these highest hierarchies — the creative power, the Logos, the Word, the Sun, which was from the beginning, through whom all is made that was made, who was united with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, that is what is meant by the “fullness.” The fullness of wisdom, the fullness of love, the fullness of power, the highest unity in three, that is the Christ.

Right through the post-Atlantean civilisations the initiates saw the Christ approaching nearer and nearer to the earth. In the Grxco-Latin period men had so firmly bound themselves to the physical plane that even in times when free of the bodily nature, as in the time after death, they could no longer find a connection with the spiritual worlds; so that the spiritual world was a realm of shadows for them, a dark kingdom without light. In this time the Christ entered a human physical nature, in order to show mankind the way back into the spiritual world. Through the mystery of Golgotha, Christ, the cosmic power, bound Himself up with the earth, and promised men to remain with them even to the end of the world. At the baptism by John, the Christ was joined to the body of Jesus of Nazareth. The personality of Jesus of Nazareth, the so-called simple man of Nazareth, is now given to us from a fresh point of view. His physical bodily nature must have been something quite specially prepared to serve the Christ as a bodily frame. This individuality, Jesus of Nazareth, was already one of the greatest initiates in the old Persian culture epoch, who saw the coming of Christ, and who went from incarnation to incarnation throughout the post Atlantean civilisations, preparing mankind for, and pointing to the Christ, and at the same time this individuality in his own evolution rose higher and higher. In the Graeco-Latin times in his incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth, this great individuality had evolved so far that in the thirtieth year of his life his physical nature, his astral body, and his etheric body could be given to the spiritual Christ, for His embodiment or divine incarnation.

The Christ event is the greatest event in the whole evolution of man; it is the central event of our earth's history. It is for every single human soul of the greatest importance to get to know the significance of this event.

Let us consider the three most significant, powerful, spiritual streams of the pre-Christian times, in order to see how they flow together in the Christ Jesus, and experience a new birth. First let us consider that stream which flourished in India and which reached its zenith in the appearance of Gautama Buddha. A second one was that which influenced Asia, the Zarathustra teaching, and a third stream came to expression in the old Hebraic people. Before all things we must once more realise that man was not always the same as he is to-day, — that he possessed quite other abilities in olden times, and that his present talents are all developed through experience. It is, as we know, the characteristic of the great leaders of mankind that in their development they are far in front of man. They possess talents to which mankind on the whole has not yet attained, and which indeed make them the leaders of men. To-day we can hardly conceive of times in which mankind did not yet know of compassion and love. In such times as those of which we speak, they followed leaders, and those inspired them with what had to be done, with deeds of compassion and love, as if with suggestive power. Conscience, too, was not yet as it is to-day, the warning voice which we carry within us. Man had a kind of dim clairvoyance. If a man did something wrong, then he saw, as it were, in picture, the avenging spirits who pursued him. These appearances external to man gradually ceased along with the old clairvoyance, and, withdrawn into man's inner being, now worked from within as the voice of conscience. Rudolf Steiner pointed out that in exoteric literature we can find almost the very time at which the conscience came into existence: Aeschylus, and Euripides, who lived so shortly afterwards treated of the same subject. In the Oresteia, Aeschylus described the Furies who pursued Orestes externally. The events of the drama of Euripides are a result of Orestes' conscience. Conscience makes its appearance in history between the dates of these two poets. It is nearly the same time at which Aristotle worked out the foundations of logic. We have already said how it was in that time that the powers of the intellect also unfolded. Aeschylus lived 525–456; Euripides 460–405; Aristotle 384–322. When we consider that qualities need thousands of years to develop before they become the common property of mankind, such a space of time as that between Aeschylus and Aristotle (200 years) is not a long time.

The men of the old Indian epoch had not the feeling of compassion and love within them. They were under the guidance of leaders and these all stood under him whom men pointed to as the Bodhisattva of Compassion and Love. This Bodhisattva was always incarnated so that his whole being did not go into the physical bodily nature. His powerfully spiritual astral forces reached up into the spiritual worlds, and he carried down thence the impulses to compassion and love. That was his mission since primitive times. This Bodhisattva individuality was finally born as the son of the King Suddhadana; and this incarnation was a complete one. He could now no longer, as before, receive the impulses of compassion and love through inspiration. But by looking within he could find these qualities within his own heart. That there went out from him the teaching of compassion and love as his own, that was the experience under the Bodhi tree; he then gave it out as the teaching of the eight-fold path. The “Preaching of Benares” is the great proclamation of compassion and love for the first time, out of the consciousness of men. In this incarnation as son of King Suddhadana, he was raised from Bodhisattva to Buddha. Therewith he attained the right to be no more incarnated in a physical body. What he had further to bring to mankind could better flow as a spiritual stream into the main impulse of what the Christ brought to mankind. Every human quality must come to expression through one man first of all. Then only can it be developed as a talent, by mankind as a whole. Only from that time when, in the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, there grew up the teaching of compassion and love as his own, were there men in the world who could find the teaching of compassion and love in themselves. Gradually more men will be able to find this teaching in themselves, but only some three thousand years after our time will there be a sufficient number of people who will have developed it in their own souls. Only then will the mission of Buddha on the earth be fulfilled.

The second stream, that which Zarathustra inaugurated in the old Persian epoch stood, like the old Indian, also under the influence of the old dim clairvoyance. The third stream, on the other hand, which came to expression in the ancient Hebrew people was a logically thinking one. This stream was quite a different one from the other two, which were under the influence of the old clairvoyance. A clairvoyance results when the etheric body works independently, — especially the etheric of the brain. And only when the brain and the etheric of the brain are closely bound together can thinking result. The etheric works out the brain to its very finest and expends all its forces upon it, so that clairvoyance cannot be developed alongside. It was necessary, however, that thinking, that faculty which is bound to the brain, should be developed in mankind. Such a civilisation had to be inaugurated by a person who had the least possible faculty for the old clairvoyance, but whose physical brain, on the other hand, was very fully developed, so that he was quite specially capable of surveying the appearances of the physical world, in its size, measure, order, and harmony, and of studying the unity in the external appearances. While the earlier civilisations were fructified by inspiration this man had to look out to the periphery of the appearances to find the unity as the God behind the external world. He had to explore the external physical world, and arrange in analytical form thunder and lightning, and all the manifestations of nature. This man was Abraham; he arose from the Chaldean civilisation, which had developed its astrology out of its clairvoyance. All this was taken up by him with just that physical brain which had been so finely elaborated. He was also said to be the originator of arithmetic. He had received a special mission to found a people, not a civilisation, in which the teaching could be given as in those times which were inspired. Then, that which should become the common good of all mankind, through this individuality, the ability to estimate the external world appearances by size, number and weight, — this was a physical characteristic and could be passed on only through inheritance and blood relationship. A people had to be founded which had the possibility of finding through human reasoned combinations order and wisdom in the world. The wisdom of the gods in the stars, could be read by the wise men of Chaldea in clairvoyance; but now it had to be discovered through logical combinations. The descendants of Abraham, the twelve tribes of Israel, were to be the reflection of the measures which are preordained in heaven, and He who charged Abraham with his mission said: “Thy descendants shall be ordered according to the stars in their number” (not numerous as the stars, as is wrongly translated). Abraham had to give up all the old capabilities of clairvoyance in order to have a brain which should correspond with his mission. Abraham, when summoned to offer up Isaac, was withheld from fulfilling the sacrifice, and in the place of Isaac he offered up the ram. Each of the clairvoyant capacities can be related to one of the star combinations, or constellations. The last that was freely offered was connected with the constellation of the ram. This sacrifice made possible the gift of judging the outer world according to measure and number. Perception from without was to become all important, and the old clairvoyance, if it ever showed itself, was not accepted; therefore Joseph, in whose dreams it re-appeared, was driven forth. He had in him what was characteristic of his whole people, and at the same time, the old gift of clairvoyance remained with him. He was sold into Egypt and there he brought about a complete revolution through directing his gift of clairvoyance to the outer ordering of things, to outer rule and regulation. That was Joseph's mission. Thus it appeared how in Judah external thinking, and reckoning according to external measure and order, had lost their connection with the spiritual world, therefore it was that Joseph sought it in its connection with the Egyptian culture in which was found what could not be brought out of man himself, because it could not be brought forth from within — the Egyptian initiation through which Moses had to go. Moses connected what he had received out of the Egyptian initiation with the special mission which was given to his people since the time of Abraham. These three streams, the old Indian, the old Persian and the old Hebrew, were the three great streams of the time before Christ with which Christ Jesus had to unite what He Himself had to bring. This, His deed, was only made possible through extraordinary measures. The discussion of these will form the conclusion of these lectures.

Last Modified: 03-Sep-2020
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