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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Christian Mystery
GA 97

XXVIII. The Reasons for the Existence of the Theosophical Movement

25 April 1906, Leipzig

It is not by chance that we have a theosophical movement. It has to do with the whole of 19th-century development, with the spread of materialism which came to the fore in the 1840s—more or less, also a little before and after that. Materialism had also spread during the four centuries that went before. To understand this we have to go back to the 5th and 6th centuries. People have a completely wrong idea about the way people's minds went in those days. It is the worst of errors to imagine they thought the way we do today. They had quite different ideas about the stars in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, for example. Today people see only material things in them. In medieval times every star was seen to be a spirit. Not only uneducated but also educated people saw a star as a spirit. And so the whole space of heaven was filled with spirit. There is a big difference between assuming the universe to consist of bodies only or thinking that there is also spirit. In those times people felt secure in a spiritual cosmos. We have no need, however, to long for those medieval views to come back.

Copernicus 201Copernicus, Nicolas (1473–1543). De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, Nürnberg 1543. conquered cosmic space for a materialistic approach. Exploration of the physical world reached its greatest height. Schleiden 202Schleiden, Matthias Jakob (1804–1881), German botanist. Beiträge zur Phylogenesis, in Archiv für Anatomie, Physiologic und wissenschaftliche Medizin vol. 5, 1838. and others discovered the cell. Railways and everything of that kind gave a tremendous boost to materialism. The great guides of humanity then asked themselves what was to be done. How can we make people understand that there is a life of the spirit? People then only had a feeling for material things and would say: ‘If there is a spirit, let it prove itself to be a spirit.’ Spiritualism broke out and people actually attempted this. 203See Rudolf Steiner's public lecture on the history of spiritualism in The History of Spiritism and the History of Hypnotism and Somnambulism (in GA 52, Berlin 30 May 1904. Tr. F. E. Dawson. London & New York: Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co. & Anthroposophic Press 1943; also lectures of 10 and 11 October 1915 in The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century (GA 254). Tr. D. Osmond. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1973. Initiates always seek to teach people in a way they will understand, and efforts were therefore made to produce manifestations, revelations from the other world.

Now we must first of all consider human destiny after death. When we are asleep, physical body and ether body are united and the astral body is floating above the physical body. When we die, not only does the astral body separate from the physical body, but both the astral and the ether body go away, leaving the physical body behind. The astral and ether bodies remain together for a short time, a review of life follows that takes two or three days. Then they, too, separate, the ether body dissolves to be part of the power of life in general, and the astral body reaches a state known as kamaloka. It is disembodied but still has the habits and inclinations of the physical body. Let me illustrate this. A gourmet still has his food fancies. He no longer has a palate, but the palate's desire remains as a sensation of burning thirst. In kamaloka such habits are shed, with the desires finally consuming themselves. Then the astral body, too, is shed, in so far as it was the vehicle for desires.

There is a way in which such abandoned astral corpses can be galvanized and brought into the world we perceive through the senses. The medium makes his ether body available for this and ‘materializations’, as they are called, are brought about with its help. This was the method used to show materialistic humanity what remains after death, and the initiates had hoped that this would convince people.

Two problems arose, however. In the first place, people who became convinced because of spiritualism did not improve morally with this, that is they did not reach a higher level ethically. In the second place this way of seeing, or of being convinced, actually proved unfavourable—after death. People who had it did not have it easier in kamaloka but harder. For on top of everything else they now also brought the desire with them to see all things of the spirit satisfied in material terms, through the senses, for any such view will appear as a quality in kamaloka. An oppressive, leaden weight lay upon these dead. The initiates therefore said to themselves: ‘This will not do.’ Ah, you'll say, the initiates got things wrong then. But they, too, have to learn from experience, trial and error. It was then the almost unanimous decision in the great community of occultists that as this external means had not proved effective they would take another route, which was the inner route of theosophy. What are its aims? The aim is to get to know the spirit that lives in the human being himself. This spirit is the goal. But it is only possible to get to know the spirit if one is without prejudice. One has to understand the things that humanity has in common.

Egotism had evolved parallel to materialism. Here's just one example. Participation in group travel is contingent on one particular condition, which is that religious subjects must not be brought up in conversation. People are afraid of the egotism of personal opinion, for if you have seven people you'll also have seven opinions. Opinions are thus put above general love for humanity. But brotherhood only begins where love of humanity ranks above opinions.

Theosophy exists so that truth may be sought with personal opinions in balance. People have to be tolerant again, not only as regards the person but also with regard to individual nature. To be tolerant is not just to let others be but in this context to open oneself up to understanding their peculiar nature. Theosophy should thus not be a dogma but an expression of love. We must help our brothers, that is, put love above opinions, and this brings a uniform spirit to human evolution. This is the practical approach which should develop in the theosophical movement.

Answers to questions

Question. What method of training should be chosen instead of yoga training?

Answer. Do not confuse occultism with theosophy. The aim of theosophy is to teach the profound wisdom. It does not in itself exist to make people clairvoyant, though it does also go towards such training.

Occult training is available. Some people think they have to look to India for this, but in this they are greatly mistaken. Training of this kind is also available in Europe. Someone looking for a teacher or guru will find him in the world. Theosophists are wrong to look for this only in India. Chacravarti, 204Chakravarti, Prof F. N. spoke for Hinduism at the World Religious Congress in Chicago and also for theosophy, being a theosophist himself. an Indian of high repute, significantly said at the Chicago congress: ‘My people, too, have gone downhill when it comes to understanding the world in spiritual terms, and theosophy has helped us to rise up again.’

Mrs Blavatsky actually did not only present Indian views, as many people assume. First a European was her guide, and then an Egyptian. 205Nothing further is known about these two guides. See Olcott HS Old Diary Leaves 1895. That was when she wrote Isis Unveiled.

You should not think that the training should be the same for all. The nature of the Indian organism is such that the ether body may be drawn out much more easily. It is at a different level, the first level of the Indian root race, i.e. its first root race, whereas Europeans are at the fifth level of the fifth root race. It is relatively easy to get an Indian to be clairvoyant, drawing out the ether body and putting it into the state known as lethargy, i.e. numbness and lack of sensation. It is as if the body has gone dead. If we were to let a finger die by tying it off, a clairvoyant would see the ether finger hang down beside the tied-off finger. When someone has been hypnotized, the clairvoyant sees the etheric brain hanging down on either side of the head. When the body has thus been deadened, the astral body has to be used, and this imprints anything impressed in it into the ether body. It is extremely difficult for a European to get such astral impressions, or to have them given to him, and a way was sought, therefore, where it was not necessary to draw out the ether body. The Rosicrucians found this from the 14th century onwards, and their method is the best for Europeans. Our bodies have grown denser than Indian bodies; they have gone through a downward development, which is in accord with the necessary process of evolution. On the other hand we enter this state in full conscious awareness, whilst daytime consciousness is suppressed with the Indian method.

Hypnotizing people is not, on the whole, a good thing. Firstly the intervention weakens the subject's will. Secondly it is black magic, with the subject being overcome by the hypnotist. It definitely should not be used with healthy people, though the situation may be a little different in case of sickness.

What does the term ‘downward development’ mean?

Take the materialistic view of things. Here ape, here man—and man is therefore descended from the ape. This is not the case, for ape and man have common ancestors, something modern scientists also accept. 206See Poppelbaum H. Man and Animal, chapter on origins The truth is that the one must develop at the cost of the other. Thus there was a realm of life forms during the ancient moon period of evolution that were somewhere between animal and plant. Mistletoe is a relict of this. The plant evolved downwards, the animal upwards. The same applies to man. Human beings developed some parts upwards and others downwards. Thus it is a fact, for instance, that humans once had cartilage instead of bones. To put it crudely: they are progressively hardening. On the other hand any loosening or separation of the higher bodies brought about by occult training is an anticipation of general evolutional stages that will be reached in the future.

Why has man been incarnated in his physical body?

Man already had all the potential in those earlier times which he is to develop on earth, but none of it was his own. When man will no longer gain anything from being in this world he will no longer need to incarnate. He will then give his body to the planet.

What is the situation with the Flood?

This Flood was the great event which came when the greater part of Atlantis went down. The actual end of Atlantis covered vast spaces of time. Like everything important told in the Bible and the oldest records—much treasure trove still waits to be found there—the rainbow which came into being in Noah's day 207Genesis 9: 13-17. is something of great significance. We are told it symbolized the covenant between god and humanity. In occult terms it has another meaning as well. On Atlantis, moisture and air were distributed in a very different way. German mythology refers to Niflheim, home of mists. The whole of the air was filled with water then. Human beings of post-Atlantean times were only able to live after the sinking of Atlantis. The rainbow could only develop when both rain and sunshine had become possible on earth.

We read of dirigible airships in records of Atlantis. 208E.g. in W. Scott-Elliot's The Story of Atlantis, preface by A. P. Sinnet What was the situation there?

The Atlanteans had developed their second body, the ether body with its vital energies, to a high level. The rational mind was only feeble at that time. Memory had to take its place. Thus Atlanteans would not do sums, now knowing the value of figures, but were able to judge quantities from memory. They knew what amount they would have if they added 3 items to 3. Earlier situations they were able to remember helped them to know this. Having fully developed their vital energies they knew how to make use of the vital energies in the whole natural world. They knew the germinative potential of grain seed, for instance, and how to draw it forth and use it. Just think of the power in a seed grain! Think of everything that may come of it. The yogis also know, in a way, how to lure the germinative power out of the seed. The stories of a mango seed being put in the soil and a shoot arising, then the tree, leaves, flowers and finally fruit is not fiction, it is a fact. Atlanteans who were able to use vital energies for a dirigible as well as for other things therefore need not be mere fable.

Is it possible to avoid having to go through devachan after death?

At a particular stage of development the ether body is so firmly put together that it will not dissolve after death. This happens when the astral body has imprinted much spirituality in the ether body. With the ether body able to continue, the pupil need not go into the devachan, which is the place where the new ether body is created.

Does the kind of food we eat really have such great significance for the development of occult powers?

Absolutely. Development is completely impossible if alcohol is taken. And it is strange, but there are deep reasons for this, that the issue of abstinence and temperance is coming alive so much again at this time.

But wine is surely only grape juice, and therefore fruit juice?

Juice obtained from grapes is good for development for as long as it is only fruit juice, though when it has fermented it has a detrimental effect. Look back once more in history. Wine began to be taken 600 years before Christ, when the custom was probably already at its height, for the feasts of Dionysus developed at which homage was paid to the god of wine. But just like everything else, so every fruit, too, has its time, and grapes will vanish from the earth again. Just think of the coming of the vine pest. Everything coming from a living animal serves us for food—milk, eggs—and so does every part of a plant that seeks to reach the light, the sun. Because of this, tree fruits are very good. Tubers growing in the soil, such as potatoes, and roots are not so good. In the past, people ate people, then they ate animals. They will gradually change to a pure vegetable diet and finally end with the minerals. Everything that precipitates should be avoided, salt, for instance. All this has to do with the development of occult powers and not with gaining knowledge of spiritual truths.