Greek and Germanic Mythology in the Light of Esotericism
IV. The Trojan War
28 October 1922, Berlin
Since there are some newcomers present to-day, I should like briefly to explain that in the course of these lectures I have tried to show how the various myths and sagas are expressions of an esoteric content, and that one only needs to know how to interpret their language to find on occasions deep esoteric truths in them. To-day I should like to speak of one in particular of those sagas which are remarkable in that, while on the one hand they are sagas, yet at the same time they have an external meaning on the physical plane, that is to say, they record quite specific external events.
Before I begin to speak about this saga, I should like to refer to something else that most of you already know, but it is a thing which one has to stress again and again. In the course of our fifth root-race, thus, in the time lying between the end of Atlantis and the beginning of the next, the sixth, root-race, an advance in human evolution of the highest importance will be made; the leaders of mankind, their Manus, will arise in mankind itself. None of the great leaders who brought men forward, the leaders who gave them their important impulses during the earlier root-races, went through their own evolution entirely on earth; they underwent it in part on other planets, and thus they brought from other worlds what they had to give to the earth as great impulses. The Manus of Lemuria and Atlantis, as well as the chief Manu of our fifth root-race, are super-sensible individualities, who underwent the sublime schooling which enabled them to become the leaders of mankind, on other planets. But during the fifth root-race highly developed human individualities have trained themselves so that from the sixth root-race onwards they will be capable of becoming the leaders of mankind. The leader of the sixth root-race, in particular, will be a man as we are, only one of the most advanced, indeed the most advanced among men. He will be a being who began his development when incarnation started, approximately in the middle of Lemuria, one who has always been a man among men, only that he was able to advance more rapidly, and one who has gone through every stage of human evolution. This will be the fundamental characteristic of the Manus of the sixth root-race. Such beings have to undergo all kinds of initiation, they have to be initiated again and again. Hence the fifth root-race from its outset has always had initiates, men who were so initiated as to enable them to walk their own freely-willed path. This was not the case during the Lemurian period, nor even in Atlantis. Both in Lemuria and Atlantis those who helped mankind forward, those who ruled and guided mankind, those who were political leaders and leaders of great religious communities, were under the influence of higher beings. They were directly dependent upon higher Beings, Beings who had gone through their own development on other planets. It is not until the fifth root-race that mankind is left free. Then we have initiates who have a connection with higher Beings, but to whom such comprehensive guidance is not given; more and more freedom is allowed to the initiates of the fifth root-race in matters of detail. Guidance is given on general lines, not only to the initiates, but to those who are stimulated by them. Impulses are given to them, but yet in such a way that it is out of their own spirituality that they have to carry things out.
The five sub-races that we know are: first, the sub-race of Spirituality; this is the sub-race from which the Indian cultural community arose. Then we have the sub-race of the Flame, that is the Persian cultural community. Then we have what we call the ancient Chaldean sub-race, the sub-race of the Stars, of which the Israelite people forms a branch, indeed the most important branch. The fourth cultural community is the one which produced Greece and Rome, the sub-race of Personality. The fifth sub-race is that of the World, the culture within which we ourselves live, the culture of the present stage of evolution, which will be replaced by a cultural community coming from Asia.
Last time I discussed the great initiates of the northern region. On that occasion I pointed to the fact that the initiate, or anyone who is in any way connected with initiation, has a distinguishing mark, and that to be invulnerable is one of these symbolic distinctions. This invulnerability, which we find in Siegfried, is also to be found in Achilles. In fact in the myth with which Achilles is associated, a deep esoteric meaning is hidden. You must realise that what I put before you comes about gradually in the fifth root-race. The Manus so arranged the guidance of the race that the entire leadership of mankind was in the hands of the priesthood, which received its inspiration direct from higher spiritual beings, from super-men. This priesthood could be entrusted with the classification of mankind. It would have been impossible to carry out a division into castes rightly, except in cultural communities guided by priestly rulers. Hence caste is only to be found in the authentic priestly cultures, in ancient India and in Egypt, where initiated priests were at the head of affairs, initiates who followed no impulses derived from kama but only intuitions from above, and they could be trusted to bring about that important classification which in its origin in the Egyptian and the Indian castes was fully justified. When you study these castes, you find that they are an expression of the whole plan of development of the fifth root-race.
According to this plan, the guidance of this fifth root-race should pass over gradually from the priestly outlook to that of the world. A worldly king, a king who was not a priest, would, in the early stages of the fifth root-race, have been quite impossible. It was impossible in Atlantis, when the leader still worked with other forces, when the impulse did not yet pass through the thinking mind. But in the fifth root-race there had to come a halt, guidance had to be entirely withdrawn from cosmic powers and handed over to those who receive divine inspiration. Hence in the Indian and Egyptian cultures we have priestly rulerships. The priest is the Regent, it is from him that everything emanates. The priest belongs to the first caste, the warrior to the second. After that come the castes which follow purely worldly occupations. We come down in stages to those who are concerned with agriculture. Little by little these castes are to attain independence.
Thus the first caste was the priestly one, the second the warrior caste. We never find that the temporal relationships which emerge in the course of evolution are the same as those which show themselves externally in space. I beg you to note that if a spatial relationship is to become a temporal one, it occurs in the ratio of four to seven, occurs in such a way that the fourfold expands to sevenfold. Thus during the fifth root-race the four castes find their outward expression in time in the gradual training to independence of the seven sub-races. The ratio of four to seven comes from a quite specific law. To-day I will merely say that evolution takes place in such a way that in the first sub-race, in all essential matters, guidance is entirely in the hands of the priests In the second sub-race we have one led by the priest-kings. Zarathustra, the true magician, is the counselor of priest-kings. During the third sub-race the rulership is able to pass over to worldly kings, who however still follow the guidance of the priests or the priest-kings. It is only during the fourth sub-race that we find purely worldly kings, kings who are no longer associated with priestly power. This fourth sub-race has its first beginning in the Greek folk. It is in Greece that we first see worldly kings, and, as the Greek colonies become established, in them too we find worldly kings.
The saga of the Trojan War is a representation of the spread of Hellenism; it is the mythical presentation of an esoteric truth, the efflorescence of the fourth sub-race of the fifth root-race, and the replacement of the priestly rulership, now in its last stage, by the purely worldly rulership.
That is very subtly indicated at the beginning of the Trojan saga. You probably know that matter is always represented by water I need only call attention to the familiar Nicene Creed, which says “suffered under Pontius Pilate”. As the esotericist knows, this is an incorrect rendering. What it really says is “suffered in pontoi pilatoi”, which means merely “in compressed water”, and signifies “descended in order to suffer in matter”. This sentence in the Creed which is said all over Christendom has come about through the word “pontoi” having become “Pontius”. When Thales states that everything has originated from water, he is referring to the comprehensive physical matter of which alone we can treat when we would speak of physical things. He is using the term ‘water’ for physical matter. Physical matter is to be the all-important thing for those who now take over guidance. The predominance of physical matter then led to there being worldly kings. Previously there had only been kings who stood in relationship with the Divine. Peleus is the king who is to rule on the physical plane, deriving his strength from the physical plane. This is represented by his marriage with the goddess Thetis — the marriage of the leader of mankind with the matter of the physical plane, with the goddess of water, the goddess of the sea.
And from this union sprang Achilles. He is the first initiate of this kind. Hence he is invulnerable except in the heel. All those who were initiated in the fourth sub-race were vulnerable in some spot. It is only in the fifth sub-race that there will be initiates so advanced as not to be vulnerable anywhere. Achilles is plunged into the Styx. That means to be dead to the earthly and withdrawn to a higher plane of vision.
There we have an important transition. Spiritual life descends for the first time in the middle of the fourth sub-race. For the first time we have to do with physical struggle. Thereby something remarkable comes about. The earlier leaders of the world were free from kama, for they had had to divest themselves of everything connected with kama during their previous initiation stages up to their spiritual initiation. So long as there were priests in the old sense, it was not possible for any trace of kama to enter into the guidance of the world. Kama caused separation, caused beings to turn against one another. Earlier, too, men who were opposed to one another were to be found, but that was not due to kama-manas, but happened because men were not advanced enough to distinguish between good and evil. At that time men could not measure the fight by the standard of good and evil. They could not say “war is good” or “war is bad” any more than they could Say a lion was good or bad; good and evil first began in the moment when kama-manas descended, so that kama worked together with manas, and man became his own master and turned consciously towards or against his fellow man. It was then that conscious war arose. This is indicated in the saga, where we are told that all the gods were present at the marriage of Peleus with the sea-goddess Thetis — except one, a goddess who hitherto had had no influence on the earth, because the stage had not yet been reached when the union of manas with kama occurred. Now on the physical plane the goddess Eris, the goddess of discord, begins to be active. She tosses an apple, discord, into human nature. By so doing she was the sole cause of the first war in the fifth root-race which took place with full human responsibility. In the Trojan war the mythical comes to expression. Before that, strife was determined by instinct.
All that followed, according to the myth, is only a further elaboration of a tendency that was already there. The most beautiful apple is said to be the Eris apple. The three goddesses, Hera, Pallas Athene and Aphrodite — that is to Say, all that earlier was divine soul — disagree among themselves, for the three goddesses signify different stages of soul-life on the higher, spiritual plane. Now things are no longer decided on the higher level, but Paris is called upon to make the decision from the stand-point of the physical plane. Everything descends to the physical plane. The decision too descends to the level of the physical. But something comes about through this. Here lies the crux of the matter, this is where it becomes clear what is at stake. What is it that we have to face because the decision is made from the standpoint of the physical plane? The union of manas with kama. Hitherto man had had a certain relationship with kama, single beings had turned against one another, but this had not yet the significance of good and evil. But now kama unites itself with manas, and the deed becomes conscious. You know that the densest kama fell away from the earth and accompanies it as a satellite which is our moon. Hence in the language of esotericism we might call all that accompanies us to-day in the moon the ‘leitmotif’ of the lower nature; it is what draws us downwards, the great signpost showing us what we can come to if we succumb to our lower nature.
Thus, what is momentous in the union between manas and kama during the fourth sub-race is that the man who has to make the decision unites himself directly with the kama of the moon, with Selene. Selene is none other than Helen. The union of Paris with Helen in the fourth sub-race of the fifth root-race is a symbolical expression of the marriage between kama and manas. The man endowed with manas, finding himself on the physical plane, seizes hold of the moon principle. You meet this everywhere in writings of an esoteric nature. It is also a Helen who drags down Simon Magus and unites him with the element of kama.
Thereby is brought about the full union between the principles of manas and of kama on the fully conscious physical plane. It corresponds not only with what the Trojan War stands for symbolically but also with what really happened. The Trojan War did actually take place. Although it was a series of physical events, these events have a symbolic meaning as well, they are mystical facts. The concept of mystical fact comprehends not merely mystical content, but a mystical content which runs its course outwardly on the physical plane.
Please try to understand this. At the beginning of the sixth root-race an influence will have developed, not in higher spheres, but in the sphere of the present-day conscious mind; in the fifth sub-race this influence is still in its infancy, but it is nevertheless already developing. It is something which emanates from the musical element. For the fifth root-race music will be not merely art, but the means of expression for quite other things than the purely artistic. Here is something that points to the influence of a specific principle on the physical plane. The most significant impulse by those directly initiated in the fifth sub-race will, to begin with, be given solely in the sphere of music. What has to flow in is not astral, but it is something of great significance in the sphere of the mental life of the fifth root-race. It is something that the human intelligence will come to recognise as important, something which has been called the Kundalini fire. 1The expression ‘Kundalini fire’ is used by Dr. Steiner in the first edition of his book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. In later editions he replaced the term by another which is translated in the 1937 English edition as “the spiritual perceptive force in the organ of the heart”, (see p.185). It is a force which to-day still slumbers in man, but which will gradually gain more and more importance. To-day it already has a great importance, it has a great influence upon what we perceive through the sense of hearing. During the further development in the sixth sub-race of the fifth root-race the Kundalini fire will acquire great influence on what lives in the human heart. The human heart will really have this fire. At first this seems to be mere symbolism but man will then really be permeated by a force which will live in his heart, so that during the sixth root-race he will no longer make a distinction between his own well-being and the well-being of the whole. So deeply will man be permeated by the Kundalini fire! He will follow the principle of love as his own innermost nature.
In the seventh sub-race of the fifth root-race the whole of mankind will be in a real chaos, for the root-race will then be near to its collapse. But a small number of the seventh sub-race of the fifth root-race will become the true sons of the Kundalini fire. They will be permeated with its full power. They will provide the material, they will pass it on to the leaders of those who will develop: man further. Thus is the fifth root-race directed to the heights which kindle the divine fire; thus is kindled out of inmost depths with holy fervour the divine principle which no longer separates man from man, but evokes brotherliness as far as the human understanding reaches. And thus far shall brotherliness be quickened in our own root-race and in the next. This fire will live in single individuals; and in those who are initiated in the course of the fifth root-race there already lives a spark of this divine fire which is the capacity for brotherliness and will put an end to separation.
But it is only in its beginning, it is still hidden, veiled by the existing life of separation. The power of kama still conceals the Kundalini fire. And because it emerges in veiled form as premonition, as foreboding, in the immediate future it will assume another character. On the plane of illusion the divine fire is the divine wrath. When the whole of mankind is permeated by this brotherliness it will become the divine love. But so long as it makes itself felt in individuals as zeal, it is the divine wrath. It asserts itself by working with great power in individuals and since the others are not yet ripe enough, it manifests itself as the divine wrath.
The poet, the initiate, who speaks of such things, always expresses this at the outset of his poem. As I pointed out to you in the case of the Odyssey, its main theme is announced in the first lines. And in the Iliad too you will find that the blind poet indicates his theme at the very beginning. “Sing, O Muse, of the wrath of the divine hero Achilles.” It is of the Kundalini fire that the poet speaks when he says this. Only in the fifth race can it be thus spoken of. At the very outset, when the priest Calchas takes the side of the priest-king of Apollo, you see the wrath flare up between Agamemnon and Achilles. And what is it that is overthrown? A priest-king state. Troy is a state in which the king is under the influence of the ancient priestly rulership. The rulership is replaced by the purely worldly principle. There you have a perfect illustration of the fact that what is victorious is nothing else but worldly cleverness. The initiate of the fourth sub-race is Odysseus, the cunning one, who receives initiation in the course of his wanderings. He was not previously an initiate, he became one only as a result of the experiences he went through. In the strangling of the priest of Apollo by the snake you see the same thing symbolised. The snake is the purely worldly cleverness, it ensnares Laocoon, the priest, the representative of the old Trojan priesthood.
If you understand all this you see that the Trojan saga, like so many others, is simply adhering to a true world-historic continuity. This is the secret that the Mysteries have guarded. They have shown the great events in the history of the world to the initiates from this lofty standpoint. In the Mysteries themselves such events were plainly taught, and in the old Greek Mysteries — the ancient ones that long preceded the Eleusinian Mysteries — this important moment, the beginning of the fourth sub-race of the fifth root-race and its whole significance, was among other things brought before the pupils.
To those who are not conversant with theosophical teachings this sounds fantastic. But it is a fact. The Trojan War was shown in the Mysteries before it took place. This is the essential principle of the Mysteries, and it is this which makes it necessary to keep them secret, because they reveal not only the great events of the past, but also events to come. These were not revealed to satisfy curiosity or the undue thirst for knowledge. Those who are initiated into the Mysteries are called upon to take a part in the fashioning of world-history. They have to derive from the Mysteries the forces to enable them to do this. That is the significance of the Mysteries. Hence their betrayal would mean the public announcement by someone of what is to happen in the future Anyone doing this causes utter confusion among his fellow men. Suppose something important is to happen in five hundred years time. In order for this to come about mankind needs to be prepared.
Individuals receive impulses enabling them to bring mankind to the point at which they will live under other conditions, to the point at which they will become ripe enough to adapt themselves to the transformation and to bear it. The initiates are in a position to endure these conditions and to further them. Suppose that one were to bring about an event straightway, years before it was due. Then mankind would not be mature enough for it. Every Mystery will one day under quite different conditions become common property, but it must be under other conditions. To-day there are still Mysteries which will not be revealed until the sixth root-race. The next root-race will live in quite other conditions. Universal brotherhood will then be something quite different. Suppose that to-day someone were to be told a secret that is only suitable for a being with the quality of brotherliness. He would misuse it. There are no absolute Mysteries, there are only things which under certain conditions cannot yet be borne, and men who cannot yet bear them.
That is the essence of the Mystery. It translates itself into the external course of world-history. Those who understand something of this are terribly afraid lest the initiates should in some way, through lack of foresight, betray something too soon. It was always the case that the betrayal of the Mysteries bore the severest penalties. In ancient times the penalty was death. It was not the priests who exacted this, for they knew that a betrayal cannot actually happen. But those who knew something about the matter from the outside, and were not themselves initiated, feared the betrayal of the Mysteries. Socrates himself was a victim of such an attitude.