Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz
IX. The Dawn of Occultism in the Modern Age I
27 January 1912, Cassel
Today's lecture will be historical in character, and the day after tomorrow I shall speak of matters which will give us deeper insight into the impulses contained in the thinking, — willing and actions of rosicrucianism. We can only understand the work of rosicrucianism as it is today when we realise that it was never a model laid down once and for all but assumes a different form in every century. This is because rosicrucianism must always adapt itself to the conditions of the times. It is quite obvious to us that the fundamental impulses of Spiritual Science must increasingly find their way into the culture of the present age; but we know, too, that Western culture presents difficulties. Spiritual Science cannot make different human beings of us from one day to the next, because through our karma we have been born into Western culture. Our task is not as simple as that of the representatives of communities based upon race or the tenets of a particular religion. For our fundamental principle must be that we are not rooted in the soil of a specific creed but regard the different systems of religion as forms and variations of the one, universal life. It is the seed of spiritual truth in all religions for which Spiritual Science must seek. As a Westerner, the Anthroposophist may very easily be misunderstood, above all by the different religious confessions and schools of thought in the world.
If we rightly understand our task as Spiritual Scientists we must hold fast to the principle of historical development, realising that Spiritual Science is an integral part of this development. Each one of you here has been incarnated in every epoch of culture — indeed more than once. What is the purpose of these reincarnations? Why must the human being pass through all these different schoolings in the periods of culture and civilisation? It was this question which brought Lessing 45See note 32. to avow his belief in the idea of reincarnation. Lessing thought to himself: Human beings have lived through all the earlier periods of culture and they must return again and again in order to learn new things and to be able to connect the old with the new. There must be a purpose in the fact that we pass through different incarnations, and the purpose is that in each of them the human being shall add new experiences to the old.
As you have often heard, there are great differences between the successive epochs of culture. Today we shall speak in greater detail of an extremely important period: the thirteenth century. Human beings in incarnation at that time lived through an experience which had not fallen to the lot of others. What I am now about to say is known to all who have reached a certain high level of spiritual life and who are now again in incarnation.
In the thirteenth century spiritual darkness fell for a time upon all human beings, even the most enlightened, and also upon the initiates. Whatever knowledge of the spiritual worlds existed in the thirteenth century came from tradition or from men who in still earlier times had been initiates and were able to call up memories of what they had then experienced. But for a brief space of time it was impossible even for these men to have direct vision of the spiritual world. Darkness had to fall for this short period to prepare for the intellectual culture which was to be characteristic of our modern age. The important point is that we have this kind of culture today in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. Culture in the Greek epoch was quite different. Instead of the modern, intellectual kind of thinking, direct perception was then the dominant faculty; the human being was one, as it were, with what he saw and heard, even with what he thought. He did not cogitate and reason as he does today, and needs must do, for this is the task of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch.
In the thirteenth century it was necessary for especially suitable personalities to be singled out for initiation, and the initiation itself could only take place after that brief period of darkness had come to an end. The name of the place in Europe where these events that I shall now describe took place cannot yet be communicated, but before very long this too will be possible.
We shall speak today of the dawn of occultism in the modern age. Twelve men were living at the time of the darkness, twelve men of deep spirituality, who came together in order to further the progress of humanity. None of them possessed the power of direct vision of the spiritual world, but they were able to bring to life within them memories of what they had experienced through earlier initiation. And by the dispensation of the karma of mankind, the heritage left by the ancient culture of Atlantis was embodied in seven of these twelve men. In my book Occult Science it is stated that the seven wise teachers of the ancient, holy Indian civilisation bore within them the surviving wisdom of Atlantis. These seven men were incarnated again in the thirteenth century and formed part of the twelve; it was they who were able to look back to the seven streams of the ancient Atlantean wisdom and to their further course. The task assigned to each of the seven was to make one of the seven streams of wisdom fruitful both for the culture of the thirteenth century and for that of our modern age. These seven individualities were joined by four others; unlike the first seven, these other four were not able to look back to times of the primeval past; they looked back to what mankind had acquired from occult truths during the four epochs of post-Atlantean culture. The first of the four looked back to the period of ancient India, the second to that of ancient Persia, the third to that of Egyptian-Chaldean-Babylonian-Assyrian culture, and the fourth to that of the Greco-Roman age. These four joined the seven in the council of the wise men in the thirteenth century; the twelfth had fewer memories; he was the most intellectual of the twelve and it was his task to cultivate and foster the external sciences. These twelve individualities did not live on only in the sphere of occultism as cultivated in the West, but could also be ‘incorporated’ as it were in men who possessed some genuine knowledge of occultism. Goethe's poem The Mysteries 46See note 29. gives a certain indication of this.
Thus there were twelve outstanding individualities, joined by a thirteenth who, after the period of darkness had come to an end, was to be chosen for the kind of initiation demanded by the culture of the West. The circumstances are very mysterious, and I can only give you the following information in the form of a narrative. To me it is objective truth, but you yourselves can put it to the test by gathering together what has been said by Anthroposophical Spiritual Science during the last few years, in addition to what you know of history since the thirteenth century.
It was known to the council of twelve wise men that a child was to be born who had lived in Palestine at the time of Christ and had been present when the Mystery of Golgotha had taken place. This individuality had strong heart forces and a power of deep, inward love which circumstances had since helped him to unfold. An individuality of extraordinary spirituality was incarnated in this child. It was necessary in this case for a process to be enacted which will never be repeated in the same form. What I shall tell you does not describe a typical initiation but an altogether exceptional happening. It was necessary for this child to be removed from the environment into which he was born and to be placed in the care of the twelve at a certain place in Europe. But it was not the external measures adopted by the twelve wise men that are of essential importance; what is important is the fact that the child grew up with the twelve around him, and because of this, their wisdom was able to stream into him. One of the twelve, for example, possessed the Mars wisdom and therewith a definite quality of soul — a mood of soul tempered by the form of culture influenced by Mars. The forces of the Mars culture endowed his soul with the faculty, among others, of presenting occult sciences with a fiery enthusiasm and ardour. Similar planetary influences were also at work in other faculties distributed among the twelve. The influences pouring from the twelve wise men worked in such mutual accord that the soul of the child was brought into harmony. And so the child grew up under the unceasing care of the twelve. Then, at a certain time, when the child had grown into a young man of about twenty, he was able to give expression to something that was a kind of reflection of the twelve streams of wisdom — but in a form altogether new, new even to the twelve wise men. The metamorphosis was accompanied by violent organic changes. Even physically the child had been quite unlike other human beings; he was often very ill and his body became transparent, as though filled with light. Then there came a time when for some days the soul departed altogether from the body. The young man lay as if dead ... And when the soul returned it was as though the twelve streams of wisdom were born anew, so that the twelve wise men, also, could learn something quite new from the youth. He was now able to speak of quite new experiences. There had come to him, through the Mystery of Golgotha, an experience similar to that of Paul before Damascus. Thereby it was possible for all the twelve world conceptions, religious and scientific — and fundamentally there are only twelve — to be amalgamated into one comprehensive whole, which could do justice to them all. Of what was taught we shall speak the day after tomorrow. It remains now to be said that the young man died very soon afterwards. His life on earth had been brief. His mission has been to create this synthesis of the twelve streams of wisdom in the sphere of thought and to bring forth the new impulse which he could then bequeath to the twelve men who were to carry it further. A great and significant impetus was thus given. The name of this individuality from whom this impulse originated was Christian Rosenkreutz. 47See note 23. He was born again in the fourteenth century and this earthly life lasted for more than a hundred years. In the new earthly life he brought to fruitfulness, in the outer world too, all that he had lived through in that brief space of time. He traveled all over the West and over practically the whole of the then known world in order to receive anew the wisdom which in the previous life had quickened in him the new impulse — the impulse which, as a kind of essence, was to filter into the culture of the times.
This new impulse also came to expression in the exoteric world. The inspiration of the being of whom we have spoken, worked, for example, in Lessing. It is not, of course, possible to give external proof of this, but Lessing's whole mode and manner of thinking is such that the rosicrucian impulse is perceptible to one who is versed in these matters. Again in the nineteenth century — an age so ill adapted for the ideas of karma, reincarnation and the like — this impulse worked exoterically. It is an interesting fact that towards the end of the forties of the nineteenth century a certain scientific body offered a reward for the best philosophical treatise on the subject of the immortality of the soul: Among the treatises submitted, the one that was awarded the prize was by Widenmann 48See note 33. who accepted the principle that the soul has many earthly lives. Naturally this essay does not speak of reincarnation in the way as Spiritual Science now does; but it is interesting that such a writing should have appeared at that time and have been awarded the prize. And other contemporary psychologists also acknowledged their belief in repeated earth lives. The thread of belief in reincarnation and karma was never entirely broken. Moreover the early writings of the founder of the Theosophical Society, the great H.P. Blavatsky, 49See note 1. are explicable only when we recognise the rosicrucian inspiration underlying them.
Now it is of the greatest importance for us to know that whenever the rosicrucian inspiration is given, in each century, the bearer of the inspiration is never outwardly named. His identity has been known only to the very highest initiates. Today, for example, it is only permissible to speak of happenings of a hundred years ago; for this is the period of time which must elapse before they may be spoken of openly. The temptation to pay fanatical veneration to authority vested in some personality — than which there is no greater evil — would be too great. This danger is too near at hand. Silence is a necessary precaution not only against the wiles of ambition and pride — which it might be possible to resist — but paramountly because of the occult, astral attacks which would be directed all the time against such an individual. Hence the rule that these things may not be spoken of until a hundred years have elapsed. Such studies must help us to realise that the fulcrum of historical development is contained in rosicrucianism.
By a simple comparison let me explain to you what is meant by this. Think of a pair of scales. There must be only one fulcrum, for if there were two, no weighing would be possible. One such fulcrum is also necessary in the process of historical development. Eastern world conceptions do not admit this, nor do they recognise historical evolution in this sense; and the same applies to Schopenhauer. 50Arthur Schopenhauer: 1788 – 1860. See ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Idea in the ‘Supplements to the second volume’, chapter 38 ‘Uber Geschichte’ (On History). But it is the task of Western humanity to acknowledge the course of history — and it is the mission of rosicrucianism to promote a kind of thinking which admits the reality of a fulcrum or pivotal point in history. In regard to what will now be said, the religious confession to which a man may belong is of no consequence. For it can be substantiated from the Akashic Record that the day which represents the pivotal point in the evolution of mankind is the 3rd April in the year 33 AD. Knowledge of the fact that the pivot of evolution lies at this point is an essential part of rosicrucianism.
What was it that really happened then? What happened was what can be called the crisis in the world of the demons. And what does this mean? We know that in earlier times human beings possessed the faculty of primitive clairvoyance. This clairvoyance became progressively feebler, almost to the point of extinction. The fact is that hitherto the human being had been conscious mainly in the astral body and less in the ego. The crisis came about because of the darkening of the ancient clairvoyance. Man's vision extended only into the lowest regions of the spiritual world. The ego still lived in the astral world; but the beings and powers which the ego was able to behold deteriorated into greater and greater impurity. Man no longer had any vision of the good powers, but as he looked into the astral world he saw only these evil beings. The only means of salvation was the cultivation and development of the ego. The starting point for this was what took place in the baptism by John in the Jordan. What was the experience of one thus baptised? He experienced in the first place the physical process of immersion in the water, which caused the separation of the astral and etheric bodies from the physical body. This enabled him to perceive that a crisis was at hand in the world of the demons. And those who had been baptised knew: We must change our hearts! The time is at hand when the spirit is to stream directly into the ego. Such a man felt that these terrible astral beings were within him, always penetrating into him.
Something had to come that transcends the astral, and this is the ego. Through the ego it will be possible for communities of human beings to gather together in freedom of soul, communities no longer determined by ties of blood. And now picture to yourselves a man possessed by demons of the most evil kind who know that they are facing a crisis. Picture to yourselves again that to such a man there comes One Whose mission it is to oppose the demons. What must the demons feel? They must feel ill at ease to the highest degree! And so indeed it was: in the presence of Christ Jesus the demons were ill at ease.
Rosicrucianism has within it the impulse by which the demons may and must be countered. Through this impulse the ego is to become supreme — but in this respect little progress has yet been made.
Returning to the point at which the lecture began, it is not difficult to realise that it will be harder for us as Anthroposophists to make our voice heard in the world than it will be for any others. The adherents of other views of the world will have less persecution to suffer than Anthroposophists. For nothing makes men more uneasy than to describe to them the true nature of the Christ. But our conviction is based upon the results of genuine occult science, and this conviction must be sustained with all the strength of which we are capable.