Theosophy of the Rosicrucian
XIV. The Nature of Initiation
6 June 1907, Munich
WE have yet to speak today of the principle of Initiation, or esoteric training. And we will speak of the two methods of training which take into special consideration what has been explained here concerning human evolution. For we must be clear that in a certain way we find the truth by retracing our steps to earlier stages of humanity.
It has been said that the inhabitants of old Atlantis could perceive wisdom in all that surrounded them. The further we go back into the far past, the more we find states of consciousness through which men were able to perceive the creative powers which pervade the world, the spiritual beings which surround us. All that surrounds us has arisen through these creative beings and to see them is indeed the meaning of “knowledge.”
When mankind had developed to our present stage of consciousness (and this has only come about during our fifth post-Atlantean epoch) a longing was left in the soul to penetrate again into the spiritual realms. I have told you how in the ancient Indian people there lived from the beginning that deep longing to know the real spirit behind all that surrounds us in the world. We have seen how they had a feeling that all that surrounded them was a dream, an illusion; how their only task was to evolve upwards to the ancient wisdom that had worked creatively in early times. The pupils of the ancient Rishis strove to tread the path which led them through Yoga to look up into the realms from which they had themselves come down. They strove away from Maya to these spiritual realms above.
That is one way which man can take. The most recent way of attaining to wisdom is the Rosicrucian path. This path does not point man to the past but to the future, to those conditions which he will further live through. Through definite methods the pupil is taught to develop in himself the wisdom which exists in germ in every human being.
This is the way which was given through the Founder of the Rosicrucian esoteric stream, known to the outer world as Christian Rosenkreuz. It is not an unchristian way, rather is it a Christian path adapted to modern conditions, and lies between the actual Christian path and the Yoga path.
This path had been partially prepared long before the time of Christianity. It took on a special form through that great initiate, Dionysius the Areopagite, who in the esoteric school of Paul at Athens inaugurated the training from which all later esoteric wisdom and training have been derived.
These are the two paths of esoteric training particularly fitted for the West. All that is connected with our culture and the life we lead and must lead, is lifted up, raised into the principle of initiation through the Christian and through the Rosicrucian training. The purely Christian way is somewhat difficult for modern man, hence the Rosicrucian path has been introduced for those who have to live in the present age. If someone would take the old purely Christian path in the midst of modern life he must be able to cut himself off for a time from the world outside, in order to enter it again later all the more intensively. On the other hand the Rosicrucian path can be followed by all, no matter in what occupation or sphere of life they may be placed.
We will describe the purely Christian way. It is prescribed as to method in the most profound Christian book least understood by the representatives of Christian theology, the Gospel of St. John, and as to contents, in the Apocalypse or Secret Revelation.
The Gospel of St. John is a miraculous book: one must live it, not merely read it. One can live it if one understands that its utterances are precepts for the inner life, and that one must observe them in the right way. The Christian path demands of its disciple that he considers the St. John Gospel a book of meditation. A fundamental assumption, which is more or less absent in the Rosicrucian training, is that one possesses the most steadfast belief in the personality of Christ Jesus. The pupil must at least find it possible to believe that the most lofty Being, the Leader of the Fire-Spirits of the Sun evolution, was physically incorporated as Jesus of Nazareth; that Christ Jesus was not merely the “Simple Man of Nazareth,” not an individual like Socrates, Plato or Pythagoras. One must see his fundamental difference from all others. If one would undergo a purely Christian training one must be sure that in him lived a God-man of a unique nature, otherwise one has not the right basic feeling that enters the soul and awakens it. Therefore one must have an actual belief in the first words of the beginning of St. John's Gospel: “In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and a God was the Logos “to the words” And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.” Thus the same Spirit who was the ruler of the Fire-Spirits, who was linked with the transforming of the Earth, whom we also call the Spirit of the Earth, has actually dwelt among us in a garment of flesh, he was actually in a physical body. That must be recognised! If one cannot do this then it is better to undertake another method of training. One, however, who has accepted this basic condition and calls before his soul in meditation every morning through weeks and months the Gospel words down to the passage “full of grace and truth,” and moreover in such a way that he not only understands them, but lives within them, will experience them as an awakening force in the soul. For these are not ordinary words, but awakening forces which call forth other forces in the soul. The pupil must only have the patience to bring them before his soul continuously, every day, then they become the forces which the Christian training needs, aroused through the awakening of quite definite feelings. The Christian path is more an inner one, whereas in Rosicrucian training the experiences are kindled by the outer world.
The Christian path is pursued by an awakening of the feelings. There are seven stages of feeling which must be aroused. In addition are other exercises which are only given personally to the pupil, and suited to his special character. It is, however, indispensable to experience the 13th Chapter of St. John's Gospel, so to experience it as I will now describe. The teacher says to the pupil: You must develop quite definite feelings. Imagine the following: the plant grows from the soil, but is of a higher order than the mineral soil from which it grows. Nevertheless the plant needs it, the higher could not exist without the lower, and if the plant could think, it would have to say to the earth: It is true that I am higher than thou, yet without thee I cannot live. And it must incline itself to the earth in gratitude. Likewise must the animal bear itself to the plant, for it could not exist without plant life, and even so must the human being bear himself with regard to the animal. And if man has ascended higher, he must say to himself: I could never stand where I do without the lower. He must bow thankfully before them, for they have made it possible for him to exist. No creature in the world could subsist without the lower, to which it must feel gratitude. So even Christ, the very highest, could not exist without the twelve, and the feeling of his inclination to them in gratitude is powerfully portrayed in this 13th chapter. He, the highest of all, washes his disciples' feet.
If this is thought of in full wakefulness as a basic feeling in the human soul, if the pupil lives for weeks and months in reflection and contemplation which deepen this fundamental feeling — the gratitude with which the higher should look down to the lower to which it really owes its existence, then one awakens the first basic feeling. The pupil will have entered deeply enough into the experience when certain symptoms appear, an external symptom and an inner vision. The external symptom is that one feels the feet to be laved by water; in an inner vision one sees oneself as the Christ washing the feet of the twelve. This is the first stage, that of the Washing of the Feet. The event in the 13th Chapter of St. John's Gospel is not only an historical event, it can be experienced by all. It is an external symptomatic expression of the fact that the pupil has raised himself thus far in his life of feeling, nor does this sign fail to appear when he has progressed to this point in the enhancement of his feeling-life.
The second stage, the Scourging, is passed through if one deepens oneself in the following: How would it fare with you if the sufferings and blows of life broke in on you from every side? You should stand upright, you should make yourself strong to meet all the sorrows that life offers, and should bear them. This is the second fundamental feeling which must be experienced. The outer feeling of it is an irritation on the whole surface of the body, and a more inner expression is a vision in which one sees oneself scourged, at first in dream, and then in vision.
Then comes the third, which is the Crowning with Thorns. Here week-long, month-long one must live in the feeling: How would it fare with you, if you must not only undergo the sorrows and sufferings of life, but if even the holiest, your spiritual being, should be subjected to scorn and derision? And again, there must be no lamenting, it must be clear to the pupil that he must stand upright in spite of all. His inwardly developed strength must make him able to stand erect despite mockery and scorn. Whatever threatens to overthrow his soul he must stand erect! Then in an inner astral vision he sees himself with the crown of thorns and is sensible of an external pain on the head. This is the sign that he has advanced far enough in his life of feeling to be able to make this experience.
The fourth is the Crucifixion. Here the pupil must again develop a quite definite feeling. Today man identifies his body with his ego. One who would go through the Christian initiation must accustom himself to carry his body through the world as if it were a foreign object, a table, for instance. His body must become foreign to him, he bears it in and out of the doorway as something external, not himself. When a man has advanced far enough in this fundamental feeling, there is revealed to him what is called the “Ordeal of the Blood.” Certain reddenings of the skin appear on certain places in such a way that he can call forth the wounds of Christ, on the hands, the feet and on the right side of the breast. When the pupil by his depth of feeling is able to develop in himself the Blood Ordeal, the external symptom, then appears likewise the inner, the astral, in which he sees himself crucified.
The fifth is the Mystic Death. The pupil raises himself ever higher to the feeling: I belong to the whole world; I am as little an independent being as the finger on my hand. He feels himself embedded in the whole world, as if a part of it. Then he experiences the feeling that all around him grows dark, as if a black darkness envelops him, like a pall that becomes dense around him. During this time, the pupil of the Christian initiation learns to know all the sorrow and all the pain, all the evil and wickedness that attaches itself to mortal man. That is the Descent into Hell; each one must live through it. Then something comes to pass as if the veil were torn asunder, and the pupil sees into the spiritual worlds. This is called the Rending of the Veil.
The sixth is the Burial and Resurrection. When the pupil has advanced so far he must say: I have already accustomed myself to look on my body as something foreign, but now I see everything in the world as standing as near to me as my own body, which indeed is only taken from these substances. Every blossom, every stone, is as near to me as my body. Then the pupil is buried in the earthly planet. This stage is significantly linked with a new life, with the feeling of being united to the deepest Soul of the planet, with the soul of the Christ, who says, “those who eat my bread tread me underfoot.”
The seventh, the Ascension, cannot be described; one must have a soul that is no longer dependent on thinking through the instrument of the brain. In order to be sensible of what the pupil undergoes in what is called the Ascension, it is necessary to have a soul which can live through this feeling.
This passing through states of humility and deep devotion represents the nature of the Christian initiation, and he who earnestly goes through it experiences his resurrection in the spiritual worlds. Today it is not possible for all to undertake this path, and so the existence of another method leading to the higher worlds has become a necessity. That is the Rosicrucian method.
Here again I must refer to seven stages which will give a picture of the content of this training. Much of it has already been described in Lucifer-Gnosis, 1Dr. Steiner refers to the articles in Lucifer-Gnosis afterwards published as Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. much can only be given from teacher to pupil within the school, and yet an idea must be formed of what the training provides. It has seven stages, though not consecutive, it is a question of the pupil's own individuality. The teacher prescribes what seems to him adapted to his pupil, and much else forms a part that cannot be made public.
The seven stages are the following:
- Imaginative knowledge
- Inspired knowledge, or reading the Occult Script
- Preparation of the Philosopher's Stone
- Correspondence between Macrocosm and Microcosm
- Living into the Macrocosm
- Divine Bliss
Study in the Rosicrucian sense is the ability to immerse oneself in a content of thought not taken from physical reality but from the higher worlds. This is called the life in pure thought. Modern philosophers for the most part deny this; they say that every thinking must have a certain vestige remaining from sense perception. This, however, is not the case, for no one, for example, can see a true circle; a circle must be seen in the mind; on the blackboard it is only a collection of tiny particles of chalk. One can only attain to a real circle if one leaves aside all examples, all actual things. Thus thinking in Mathematics is a super-sensible activity. But one must also learn to think supersensibly in other fields.
Initiates have always exercised this kind of thinking in regard to the being of man. Rosicrucian theosophy is such super-sensible knowledge, and its study, with which we are now occupied, is the first stage of the Rosicrucian training itself. I am not bringing forward Rosicrucian theosophy for any external reason, but because it is the first stage of the Rosicrucian Initiation. People think often enough that it is unnecessary to talk about the principles of man's being, or the evolution of humanity or the different planetary evolutions, they would rather acquire beautiful feelings, they do not want to study earnestly. Nevertheless, however many beautiful feelings one acquires in one's soul it is impossible to rise into the spiritual worlds by that alone. Rosicrucian theosophy does not try to arouse the feelings, but through the stupendous facts of the spiritual worlds to let the feelings themselves begin to resound. The Rosicrucian feels it a kind of impertinence to take people by storm with feelings. He leads them along the path of mankind's evolution in the belief that feelings will then arise of themselves. He calls up before them the planet journeying in universal space, knowing that when the soul experiences this fact it will be powerfully gripped in feeling. It is only an empty phrase to say one should address oneself direct to the feelings, that is just indolence. Rosicrucian theosophy lets the facts speak, and if these thoughts flow into the feeling nature and overpower it, then that is the right way. Only what the human being feels of his own accord can fill him with bliss or blessedness. The Rosicrucian lets the facts in the cosmos speak, for that is the most impersonal kind of teaching. It is a matter of indifference who stands before you; you must not be affected by a personality, but by what he tells you of the facts of world-becoming. Thus in the Rosicrucian training that direct veneration for the teacher is struck out, he does not claim it nor require it. He wishes to speak to the pupil of what exists, quite apart from himself. One who will press forward into the higher worlds must accustom himself to the kind of thinking in which one thought proceeds from another. A thinking of this nature is developed in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity and Truth and Science. These books are not written in such a way that one can take a thought and put it in another place; much more are they written as an organism arises, one thought grows out of another. These books have nothing at all to do with the one who wrote them; he gave himself up to what the thoughts themselves worked out in him, how they linked themselves one to another.
Study, then, for one desiring to make a somewhat elementary approach means acquiring a certain knowledge of the elementary facts of spiritual science itself, whereas for one who wishes to go further it means an inner meditation in a thought-structure which lets one thought grow out of another, out of itself.
The second stage is Imaginative Knowledge, the knowledge which unites with what is given to the pupil in the study-stage. The study is the basis, it must be perfected through individual imaginative knowledge. If you think over various things that I have touched upon in the last lectures, you will find traces — in the echo for instance — of what were everyday occurrences on Saturn. It is possible to look on all around us as a physiognomy of an inner spiritual element. People walk over the earth and it is a conglomeration of rocks and stones to them, but men must learn to grasp that all surrounding them is the true physical expression for the Spirit of the Earth. Just as the body is ensouled, so is the earth planet the external expression for an indwelling spirit. When men look on the earth as possessing body and soul as man does, then only they have an idea of what Goethe meant when he said “All things corruptible are but a semblance.” When you see tears run down the human countenance you do not examine by the laws of physics how quickly or how slowly the tears roll down; they express to you the inner sadness of the soul, just as the smiling cheek is the expression for the soul's inner joy. The pupil must educate himself to see in each single flower in the meadow he crosses, the outer expression of a living being, the expression of the Spirit dwelling in the Earth. Some flowers seem to be tears, others are the joyful expression of the earth's Spirit. Every stone, every plant, every flower, all is for him the outer expression of the indwelling Earth Spirit, its physiognomy that speaks to him. And everything “corruptible” or transitory becomes a “semblance” of an eternal, expressing itself through it. Feelings like these had to be attained by the disciple of the Grail, and by the Rosicrucian. The teacher would say: Behold the flower chalice which receives the ray of the sun, the sun calls forth the pure productive forces which slumber in the plant and hence the sun's ray was called the “holy lance of love.” Look now at man; he stands higher than the plant, he has the same organs within him, but all that the plant harbours in itself, perfectly pure and chaste, is in him steeped in lust and impure desire. The future of human evolution consists in this: man will again be chaste and pure, and speak forth his likeness into the world through another organ which will be the transformed organ of generation. Chaste and pure without desire, without passion, man's generative organ will be; and as the calyx of the blossom turns upward to the holy love lance, it will turn to the spiritual ray of wisdom, and fructified by this will bring forth its own image. This organ will be the larynx.
The Grail pupil was shown: the plant on its lower stage has this pure chalice, man has lost it; he has degenerated to impure desires. Out of the spiritualised sun ray he must let this chalice come again, in chastity he must develop that which forms the Holy Grail of the future.
Thus the pupil looks up to the great Ideal. What comes to pass in the slow evolution of the whole human race is experienced earlier by the initiate. He shows us mankind's evolution in pictures and these pictures work quite differently from the abstract thoughts which have been produced by the modern materialistic age. If you picture evolution in such lofty and powerful pictures as the Grail, then the effect is different from that of ordinary knowledge, which is unable to exercise any deep influence on your organism. Imaginative knowledge works down on the etheric body and thence on to the blood and this is the medium which acts formatively on the organism. Man will become increasingly more able to work on his organism through his etheric body. All imaginative knowledge based on truth is at the same time healing and health giving, it makes the blood healthy in its circulation. The best educator is imaginative knowledge, if man is only strong and devoted enough for it to be able to work on him.
The third stage is Reading in the Occult Script, that is, not only seeing isolated pictures but letting the relationship of these pictures work upon one. This becomes what is called occult script. One begins to coordinate the lines of force which stream creatively through the world forming them into definite figures and colour-forms through the imagination. One learns to discover an inner connection which is expressed in these figures and this acts as spiritual tone, as the sphere-harmony, for the figures are founded on true cosmic proportions. Our script is a last decadent relic of this old occult writing and is modeled on it.
One comes to the fourth, Preparing the Philosopher's Stone, through exercises of the breathing process. If man breathes as ordained by nature he needs the plant-world for his breathing.
If the plant were not there he could not live, for it gives him oxygen and assimilates the carbon which he himself breathes out. The plant builds its own organism from this and gives back oxygen, thus through the plant world oxygen is continually renewed for man. Humanity could not exist by itself; eliminate the plant world and mankind would in a short time die out. So you see the cycle: you breathe in oxygen which the plant breathes out, you breathe out carbon which the plant inhales and from which it builds up its own bodily nature. Thus the plant belongs to me, it is the instrument by which my life is sustained. You may see in the coal how the plant builds its body from carbon, for coal is nothing else than the dead remains of plants.
Rosicrucian training guides the pupil through a definitely regulated breathing process to form that organ that can within himself effect the transformation of carbon into oxygen. What is today done by the plant externally, will later on, through a future organ which the pupil is already developing through his training, be effected in man himself This is slowly being prepared. Through the regulated breathing process man will bear in himself the instrument for the preparation of oxygen; he will have become akin to the plant, whereas now he is of a mineral nature. He will retain the carbon in himself and build his body from it, and hence his body will later on be more plant-like, then he can turn towards the holy love lance. The whole of humanity will then possess a consciousness like that gained by the initiate today when he raises himself into the higher worlds.
This is called the transmutation of human substance into that substance of which carbon itself is the basis. This is the Alchemy which leads man to build up his own body as does the plant today. One calls this the preparation of the “Philosopher's Stone” and carbon is its outer symbol. But it is not the Philosopher's Stone until the pupil can create it himself through his regulated breathing process. The teaching can only be given from teacher to pupil, it is wrapped in deep secrecy, and only after he is completely purified and made ready can the pupil receive this mystery. If it were to be made public today, then men in their egoism would gratify their lowest needs through the misuse of this highest mystery.
The fifth is the Correspondence of Microcosm and Macrocosm. When we survey the path of human evolution we see that what lies within man today has gradually entered from without — for instance, the glands were an external growth on the Sun, like our modern fungi; all that today lies within the human skin was once outside. The human body is, as it were, pieced together from what was spread outside it, each separate member of your physical body, etheric body and astral body was somewhere outside in the universe. This is the macrocosm in the microcosm. Your very soul was outside in the Godhead. Whatever is within us corresponds to something which is outside, and we must learn to know the true correspondences in ourselves.
You know the spot on the brow just above the root of the nose; it expresses the fact that a certain something which was formerly outside has drawn into man. If you penetrate this organ in meditation, sink yourself into it, this denotes more than a mere brooding in this point, you learn to know then the part of the outer world which corresponds to it. The larynx, too, you get to know and the forces which build it. Thus you learn about the macrocosm through sinking yourself into your own body. This is no mere brooding within yourself! You should not say: God is within and I will seek Him. You would only find the puny human being whom you yourself magnify into God! One who only speaks of this inward brooding never comes to real knowledge. To reach this by the path of Rosicrucian Theosophy is less comfortable and demands real work. The universe is full of beautiful and marvelous things, one must be absorbed in these, one must seek God in his individual expressions, then one can find him in oneself and then only does one learn to know God as One. The world is like a great book. We find its letters in created things, we must read these from beginning to end, and then we learn to read the book microcosm and the book macrocosm from beginning to end.
This is no longer a mere understanding, it lives over into feeling, it fuses the human being with the whole universe and he feels all things to be the expression of the divine Spirit of the Earth. If a man has reached this point, he voluntarily performs all his deeds in accordance with the will of the whole cosmos and this is what is known as Divine Bliss.
When we are able to think thus, we are treading the Rosicrucian path. The Christian school is based more on the development of inner feelings, in the Rosicrucian school all that is spread out in physical reality as the divine nature of the earth is allowed to work upon us and reverberate in us as feeling. These are two ways which are open to all. If you think in the manner of modern thought then you can take the Rosicrucian path, no matter how scientific you may be. Modern science is an assistance if you do not merely study cosmic evolution, reading the letters, as it were, but carry your research into what is concealed behind, just as in a book one does not consider the letters but reads the meaning by their aid. You must seek the spirit behind science, then science becomes to you but the letter for the spirit.
What has been said is not meant to be a comprehensive account of the Rosicrucian training, it is only meant to serve as an indication of what can be found in it. It is a path for present day man, it makes him capable of working into the future. These are only the elementary stages, to give some idea of the way. We can thus realise how through the Rosicrucian method one may oneself penetrate into the higher mysteries.
Spiritual Science is necessary to humanity for its further progress. What is to take place for the transforming of mankind must be brought about through men themselves. He who accepts the truth in his present incarnation will mould for himself in later incarnations the outer form for the deeper truths.
Thus what we have discussed in this lecture course is coordinated to a whole. It is the instrument which is to work creatively for future civilisation. It is taught today because the man of the future needs these teachings, because they must be directed into the evolutionary path of mankind. Everyone who will not accept this truth of the future, lives at the cost of other men. But he who accepts it lives for others, even if at first he is impelled by an egoistic longing for the higher worlds. If the path is the right one then it is of itself the destroyer of self seeking and the best educator of selflessness.
Occult development is now needed by mankind and must be implanted into it. An earnest, true striving for truth, step by step, this alone leads to genuine brotherliness, this is the magician which can best bring about the uniting of humanity. This will serve as the means to bring about humanity's great goal, unity; and we shall reach this goal when we develop the means to it in ourselves, when we seek to acquire these means in the noblest, purest way, for it is a matter of hallowing humanity through these means.
Thus Spiritual Science appears to us not only as a great ideal, but as a force with which we permeate ourselves and out of which knowledge wells up for us. Spiritual Science will become increasingly more widespread, it will penetrate more and more all the religious and practical aspects of life, just as the great law of existence penetrates all beings; it is a factor in humanity's evolution.
This is the sense in which these lectures on Rosicrucian Theosophy have been given. If it has been understood, not only abstractly, but so that feelings have been evoked through knowledge of facts, then it can work directly into life. When this knowledge flows into all our members, from head to heart and thence into the hand, into all that we do and create, then we have grasped the foundations of spiritual science. Then we have grasped the great task of civilisation which is laid in our hands, and then from this knowledge feelings, too, are developed which one who likes to take things easily would prefer to develop direct.
Rosicrucian Theosophy does not wish to revel in feelings, it wishes to bring the facts of the spirit before your eyes. The pupil must take part, must let himself be stimulated by the facts which have been described, feelings and sensations must be aroused in him through them. In this sense Spiritual Science should become a powerful impulse for the sphere of feeling, but at the same time be that which leads us direct into the facts of super-sensible perceptions, which lets them first arise as thoughts and then leads the seeker upward into the higher worlds.
This was intended to be the significance of these lectures.