If we are to acquire new capacities through repeated incarnations in the successive races, if in addition nothing of what the soul has acquired through experience is again to be lost from its storehouse, &$151; how is it to be explained that in mankind of today absolutely nothing remains of the capacities of the will, of the imagination, of the mastery of natural forces which were so highly developed in those periods?
It is a fact that of the capacities which the soul has acquired in its transition through a stage of development, nothing is lost. But when a new capacity is acquired, the one previously gained assumes a different form. It then no longer manifests itself in its own character, but as a basis for the new capacity. Among the Atlanteans for instance, it was the faculty of memory which was acquired. Contemporary man indeed can form only a very weak conception of what the memory of an Atlantean could accomplish. But all that appears as innate concepts in our fifth root race, in Atlantis was only acquired through the memory. The concepts of space, time, number, etc. would present difficulties of a quite different order if contemporary man were obliged to be the first to acquire them. For the faculty which this contemporary man is to acquire is the combinatory understanding. Logic did not exist among the Atlanteans. But each previously acquired power of the soul must withdraw, in its own form, become submerged beneath the threshold of consciousness if a new one is to be acquired. For example, if the beaver were suddenly to become a thinking being, it would have to change its capacity for intuitively erecting its artful constructions into something else.
The Atlanteans also had for example, the capacity to control the life force in a certain way. They constructed their wonderful machines through this force. But on the other hand, they had nothing of the gift for story-telling which the peoples of the fifth root race possess. There are as yet no myths and fairy tales among them. The life-mastering power of the Atlanteans first appeared among the members of our race under the mask of mythology. In this form it could become the basis for the intellectual activity of our race. The great inventors among us are incarnations of “seers” of the Atlanteans. In their inspirations of genius is manifested what has as its basis something else, something that was like life-producing power in them during their Atlantean incarnation. Our logic, knowledge of nature, technology and so forth, grow from a foundation which was laid in Atlantis. If, for instance, an engineer could transform his combining faculty backward, something would result which was in the power of the Atlantean. All of Roman jurisprudence was the transformed will power of a former time. In this the will as such remained in the background, and instead of itself assuming forms, it transformed itself into the forms of thought which are manifested in legal concepts. The esthetic sense of the Greeks is built up on the basis of directly acting forces which among the Atlanteans were manifested in a magnificent breeding of plant and animal forms. In the imagination of Phidias lived something which the Atlantean used directly for the transformation of actual living beings.
What is the relation of the science of the spirit, of theosophy, to the so-called secret sciences?
Secret sciences have always existed. They were cultivated in the so-called mystery schools. Only the one who underwent certain tests could learn something of them. He was always told only as much as was appropriate for his intellectual, spiritual, and moral faculties. This had to be so, for when properly used, the higher insights are the key to a power which must lead to misuse in the hands of the unprepared. Some of the elementary teachings of mystery science have been popularized by the science of the spirit. The reason for this lies in the conditions prevailing in our time. With respect to the development of the understanding, mankind today, in its more advanced members, has progressed to the point where sooner or later it would of itself attain certain conceptions which were previously a part of secret knowledge. But it would acquire these conceptions in an atrophied, caricatured, and harmful form. Therefore some of those who are initiated into secret knowledge have decided to communicate a part of it to the public. It will thus become possible to measure human advances which take place in the course of cultural development, with the measuring rod of true wisdom. Our knowledge of nature, for example, does lead to ideas about the causes of things. But without a deepening through mystery science these ideas can only be distortions. Our technology is approaching stages of development which can only redound to the good of mankind if the souls of men have been deepened in the sense of the spiritual scientific conception of life. As long as the peoples had nothing of modern knowledge of nature and modern technology, the form was salutary in which the highest teachings were communicated in religious images, in a manner which appealed merely to the emotional. Today mankind needs the same truths in a rational form. The world outlook of the science of the spirit is not an arbitrary development, but results from an insight into the historical fact just mentioned.
However, even today certain parts of secret knowledge can only be communicated to those who undergo the tests of initiation. Only those will be able to make use of the published part who do not limit themselves to an external noting of it, but who really assimilate these things internally and make them the content and the guiding principle of their lives. It is not a matter of mastering the teachings of the science of the spirit with the understanding, but of permeating feelings, emotions, the whole life with them. Only through such a permeating does one learn something of their truth. Otherwise they remain something which “one can believe or not believe.” When correctly understood, the truths of the science of the spirit will give man a true foundation for his life, will let him recognize his value, his dignity, and his essence, and will give him the highest zest for living. For these truths enlighten him about his connection with the world around him; they show him his highest goals, his true destiny. They do this in a way which corresponds to the demands of the present, so that he need not remain caught in the contradiction between belief and knowledge. One can be a modern scientist and a scientist of the spirit at the same time. But, however, one must be one and the other in a true sense.