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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Christian Mystery
GA 97

XIX. The Yoga Path, Christian Gnostic Initiation and Esoteric Rosicrucianism

30 November 1906, Cologne

Initiation makes it possible for a person to gain insight into higher worlds. It is a process of development in the inmost soul. Different people take different paths, but the truth is the same for all of them. Having reached the summit of a mountain you have an open view in all directions. But it would be quite nonsensical not to take the path to the top that is nearest to the point where we actually are. And it is the same with initiation. Once we have reached our goal and truly gained an open view, the insight gained will be the same for all.

It is not good, however, for someone to take a route other than the one that suits his nature. There should really be a separate path for every individual. All of them do, however, fall into one of three types—the yoga path, gnostic and Rosicrucian Christian initiation. One of these three different routes may be taken. They differ because there are three kinds of human beings. Only few Europeans can take the Oriental yoga route. It therefore is not right, as a rule, for a European to take that route. People live in an entirely different climate in the Orient, where the light of the sun is completely different. The anatomical differences between Orientals and Europeans are not easily demonstrable, but the difference in soul and spirit is profound, and this must be taken into account, for inner development intervenes deeply in the soul and spirit nature of a person. Anatomists cannot perceive the finer structure of the Hindu brain. But if you were to ask of a European the things that can be asked of an Indian, you would destroy him. An Indian may be asked to do certain things which serve no purpose at all for a European and may even be bad for him. Above all the yoga path makes one basic demand on pupils that has to be met if the path is to be taken at all. It demands the strict authority of a teacher, who is called a guru. To take that path one must accept the guru's directions in every detail of life. Quite apart from that, the Indian yoga route can hardly be taken unless one tears oneself away from the external conditions of life. It is necessary, you see, to make all kinds of external arrangements that will support the exercises one is given. If you experience things that make a deep impression on your feeling life, this will have a profound influence on you as you are going through occult inner development. The Oriental yoga pupil must therefore ask his guru about every detail of his life. To make any change whatsoever in his life, he must first ask the guru for direction. The yoga path therefore requires absolute subjection to a guru. You have to learn to see things through the guru's eyes, and to feel the way he does. It is impossible to follow this path unless there is profound trust, perfect love, combined with utter trust and an unconditional surrender that has precedence over everything else.

For the gnostic Christian path there is only one great teacher, the central guru. What is needed is belief in Christ Jesus himself not only his teachings. A gnostic Christian pupil must be able to believe that the one and only sublime divine individual spirit was incarnated in Christ Jesus, an individual spirit that cannot be compared with any other, not even the highest. All other individuals started at a lower level on earth and then ascended, examples being Buddha, Hermes, Zoroaster and Pythagoras, and their spiritual stature is the result of many earlier incarnations. This is not the case with Christ Jesus. He cannot be compared with any other individual, with anything else on earth. It would be impossible to follow the gnostic Christian path unless one believes this.

A third path is the Rosicrucian Christian one. There the teacher is the counsellor who essentially limits his counsel to the actual measures taken for spiritual development. This spiritual development must be organized in such a way that it has a deep-reaching influence on the life of the individual. A teacher must always be present for initiation. There is no serious initiation without a teacher. Anyone who wants to say there is, would be saying something as silly as someone who thought it was possible for a child to be bom without the two sexes playing a role. Initiation is a spiritual fertilization process which would in fact be harmful if it were not brought about in such a dual relationship between teacher and pupil.

The Indian yoga path is in seven stages. The sequence is not always the same, however. Different stages may be combined, in a way. It is not necessary to go through stages 1 to 7 in that order. It may happen that one is asked to take something from somewhere in the sequence earlier on, and an exercise may be given that relates to another stage. It depends on the individual concerned. A pupil may do this in a few years, or even a few months. Asked how long initiation takes, Subba Row 148Subba Row (Rao) (1856–1890), Indian scholar. Esoteric Writings, 2nd edition, Adyar 1931. said it may be 70 incarnations or 7, some need 7 years, others may need 7 months, or 7 days, or indeed 7 hours. It depends entirely on the spiritual maturity of the person. Spiritual maturity shows itself sooner in some and needs longer in others. This is a matter of karma. We may well ask why someone may not be outstanding in this respect though he may have reached a very high level of spirituality in an earlier existence. There may be obstacles in his physical or soul nature. The teacher's task is above all to remove such obstacles. The physiognomy of a person in ordinary life has nothing to do with it. An earlier incarnation may lie hidden deep down in the soul and be unable to emerge because of some kind of obstacle or other.

Yama is the first stage of Indian yoga training. It signifies ‘restraint’; or ‘forbearance’. To an Indian this means not to lie, not to kill, not to steal, no dissoluteness, no desires. To enter more deeply into what this means to an Indian, we must consider it in its whole context. Thus we may be vegetarians, but we still have not got out of the habit of killing things. Our life is in fact impossible without this. We actually kill as we breathe, for we exhale carbon dioxide. If the earth's green plant cover did not continually take up the carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, humans and animals would be unable to live. It is part of the yoga exercises to get out of the killing habit. Indians take this very seriously. Many of the connections we have in our life would also come under the heading of stealing for them. Each of us must accept money in some way. Many conditions are involved in our getting this money. When we buy a coat we have no way of knowing if human blood has not been shed for it. People do not give much thought to the fact that they are in a social context and partly responsible for what they do. If we take these things seriously, we must feel responsible for the things that happen because of us.

You help other people most by having few wants. Someone who reduces his wants helps others more than a philanthropist does. Thus if we do not write unnecessary letters this may save some people the effort of having to climb stairs. It is quite wrong to think that you help people by making more demands, thus providing more work. You do not in the least add to the things people need by making work for them. In Europe the situation is so complex nowadays that it is getting more and more difficult to meet the requirements of the Eastern yoga path. This can of course be followed in the proper, strict way in a country where there are no banks and where the cultural situation is clearly apparent.

The 2nd stage is niyana, observance of ritual. The Indian yoga way certainly demands ritual, so that the teachings may be linked with religious rites. It is strictly required that everyone taking the yoga way observes a ritual. Things should be enacted before their eyes. Just as in the case of art it matters that it comes to real expression in objects, so in the case of initiation it is important to have things presented in rituals.

The 3rd stage is asana, body positions assumed to be in accord with specific currents in the cosmos. When people still had a feeling for such things, they would always put the main altar at the eastern end of their religious buildings. Indians are so subtly organized that it matters in which direction they face. The current that goes from north to south is indeed different from the one that goes from east to west. Body positions are important for yoga initiation because the Oriental body is much softer, and taking a particular position leaves much more of an imprint. A European wanting to take the Oriental yoga way would have to do all these things as well.

The 4th is pranayama, bringing rhythm into the breathing process. We can best understand this if we consider that under present-day conditions, the human breath kills things. The teacher instructs the pupil to regulate his breathing according to certain rules he gives him, at least for a time. If we were to examine the breath we would find that the air exhaled by a yoga pupil has quite a different composition, quite a different carbon dioxide content, than the breath of ordinary people. It is therefore true that by regulating the breath the pupil influences the future evolution of the earth. Constant dropping wears the stone. You don't see results from one day to the next. But it all adds up and will have definite significance over long periods of time.

At a particular time, Rosicrucian teachers also get their pupils to bring rhythm into their breathing. What does the breathing process bring about? The physical human being cannot be thought of without the plants. We inhale oxygen which combines with carbon in the lung, and we exhale carbon dioxide. The plant does exactly the opposite. There is a continuous cycle between human beings on the one hand and plants on the other. In far distant times human beings will develop an organ of their own which will take care of the function plants perform today. They will be able to process the carbon dioxide in themselves. Human beings will have an organ able to separate the carbon from the oxygen and make it part of themselves. The principles we take in with our food today to build up our bodies will then be something we consciously do within ourselves. We'll thus change carbon dioxide into oxygen again. This process is indeed helped by making the breathing process rhythmical. This was taught extensively in 14th century Rosicrucian schools. Some of these secrets were betrayed, so that they appeared in the popular literature. In an 18th century work reference is made to the philosopher's stone. 149Karl Arnold Kortüm (1745–1828) published a treatise on the philosopher's stone in a paper called the Reichsanzeiger on 8 October 1976. Those able to read German may also see Kleeberg L. Wege und Worte 2. Aufl., Fussnote auf Seite 131. Stuttgart 1961. The statement is literally true. The author himself probably did not know what this was really about. The whole human being must change if he is to achieve what the plant does for him now. His physical body will then be carbon, but not black coal, nor hard diamond, which after all is only a symbol for the philosopher's stone. The philosopher's stone is meant to be a body which is transparent, with the other organs integrated within it. It will consist of a mass of gel-like carbon, rather like the white of an egg. Man is following a course where he will one day develop into this marvellous glory. The rhythmic breathing which leads to this is called ‘alchemy’. The philosopher's stone is the lapis philosophorum. The man who wrote this did not actually know what it was he was writing.

The 5th stage on the yoga path is pratyahara. It consists in being able to suppress external sensory impressions. We have to know the things that are truly our soul world and leave aside everything that has come to us from outside. Most of the things people think have come to them from outside. When someone is able to give himself up consciously to his inner thoughts and make himself blind and deaf to the world around him, though he is inwardly awake; if he is able to have a thought without reflecting on external things, his sleep will be filled with dreams and he'll be practising pratyahara.

At the 6th stage one needs not only to blot out completely anything the eyes see and the ears hear but also suppress inner ideas rising from the soul itself. Having removed everything from the soul that has come to it from life, one then holds one idea, which the guru has given, in one's inner soul. These may be ideas like those given in the first four rules in Light on the Path. The best soul contents are those a special teacher is able to give us.

Such a soul content is allowed to act for some time before one lets go of it, without losing conscious awareness. One then has the function of the life in mind and spirit, without the thinking content. When this 7th stage has been reached the world of the spirit enters into us. This condition is called samadhi.

The path of Christian gnosis is also in seven stages. This method is designed for a somewhat less subtle body and above all for the world of sentience and feeling. The Christian teacher has to guide the pupil's world of sentience and feeling. The seven stages of Christian initiation are 1) the washing of the feet, 2) the scourging, 3) the crown of thorns, 4) the crucifixion, 5) the mystic death on the cross, 6) the entombment, 7) the ascension to heaven.

It is best to consider these 7 stages by describing the way the teacher works with the pupil. The teacher will say, for instance: ‘Look at the plant. It roots and grows in the world of minerals. Addressing itself to the mineral world it would have to say: “It is to you that I owe my existence, and I am only able to live because of you. Thank you!”’ In the same way the animal should say to the plant world: ‘I owe my existence to you and am only able to live thanks to you.’ Looking at the natural world around him and at the human beings who are at a lower level, a similar feeling should live in his soul. It is never possible to develop and reach a higher level unless there are also lower levels. Because of this, people who are socially at a higher level must also go down to those who are below them and give thanks to them. Christ Jesus suggested this when at the washing of the feet he bent down to his disciples and washed their feet. Someone who is at the first stage of Christian initiation must fill his heart and mind with such a feeling of gratitude to all that is below him. Two symptoms will indicate what he has achieved. He will have an astral vision where he sees himself in the washing of the feet situation. This happens to everyone who goes through this in the right way. Secondly he will have a feeling as if water were washing around his feet.

At the 2nd stage the pupil must learn to bear all the pain and suffering that life brings and which is always present all around him. He must stand up straight, even when he has to suffer the greatest pain. The symptoms will be an astral vision where he sees himself being scourged and he will feel something like needle pricks in different places on his body.

At the 3rd stage the pupil gains the ability to bear it when scorn and derision are poured on things that are most sacred to us. The teacher says to the pupil: ‘If you are able to bear mockery and derision of what is most sacred to you and stand up for it nevertheless, you will be able to wear the crown of thorns.’ The pupil will experience a particular kind of headache when he has reached this level.

At the 4th stage he must learn to consider the body as something wholly external to himself carrying it around the way we carry around an instrument, a hammer or some other tool. In some schools the pupils learn to speak of their body like this: ‘My body goes through the door’—and the like. In his astral vision the pupil then sees himself nailed to the cross. He has Christ's stigmata on his hands and feet and on the right side of the body. Red stigmata appear at the moment of meditation and concentration.

The 5th stage is the mystic death. Here the individual feels as if a veil was placed between him and the rest of the world, like a black curtain. He then comes to know inwardly all the badness there can be in the world. Descent into hell—that is the mystic death. A vision will then show the curtain being torn apart.

At the 6th stage one has a feeling as if everything else were one's own body. You are united with the earth. That is the entombment.

The 7th stage, resurrection, cannot be put into words. Someone who goes through those feelings in his soul gains insight into the world of the spirit.

The third kind of initiation is the Rosicrucian way. It has been known in Europe from the 14th century. It is above all concerned to strengthen and empower the inner will. Where the Oriental school puts the emphasis on thinking, and the Christian school on feeling, the Rosicrucian way aims to develop the will. The stages of this way are 1) study, 2) Imagination, 3) learning the occult script, 4) bringing rhythm into life, 5) coming to understand the correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm, 6) contemplation of or entering into the macrocosm, 7) godliness.

For study, the pupil must have the patience to gain certain ideas concerning the world. He must first of all accept the teaching he is given. Thus he must, for example, devotedly study the teachings of elementary theosophy. He must try and enter as deeply into these as he can. Patient acquisition of ideas is essential for anyone who wants to reach higher levels. This calls for a specific way of training one's thinking, getting used to living and being active in the pure thinking element. Books such as The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity and Truth and Knowledge 150Steiner R. The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. A Philosophy of Freedom (GA 4). Tr. R. Stebbing. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1989. Steiner R. Truth and Knowledge (GA 3). Tr. R. Stebbing. West Nyack NY: Rudolf Steiner Publications 1963. have been written for those who want to achieve Rosicrucian initiation and train their minds. It is a matter of overcoming the difficulties, which many find insurmountable, of following one's thoughts and perceiving how one thought of necessity arises from another. Oriental training required strict submission to the guru. For gnostic Christian training the pupil must put the Christ at the centre of all endeavour. In Rosicrucian Christian training the teacher is by his side, his friend and counsellor.

We are more apt to take a tumble when we come to the higher regions. It is therefore important to gain inner certainty. In everyday situations life itself puts us right. It will sometimes correct our errors in terrible ways. Such correction is not given when we ascend to the higher worlds. This is why in Oriental training one must see with one's guru's eyes and feel through him. The European teacher is a counsellor. One needs the guidance of another when ascending into the higher worlds. In the astral world, perceptions are entirely different from those we have in the physical world; and in the devachanic world, too, a new world of perceptions opens up for us. The three worlds differ completely in the impressions to be gained. But one thing is the same for all of them, and that is logical thinking. This can be a reliable guide on the astral and devachanic planes. When study has taught us to think logically, we can also manage on the astral and devachanic planes. The logic of the physical plan no longer applies on the buddhi plan, however.

The 2nd stage of Rosicrucian training is Imagination. European pupils should take their time over this, for it is easy to take a tumble. Man must learn to develop a moral relationship to things. All that is transient should be seen as a simile for something that is eternal. If we look at the natural world in this way, the autumn crocus, for instance, becomes the image for us of a solitary spirit seeking to rise upwards in a melancholy way. The violet will be a symbol of something that has its existence in undemanding, calm beauty. Every stone makes us think—it is a simile for something that lies behind it. Our world thus grows richer. Things tells us of their inmost nature. One flower will then be the tear through which the earth gives expression to its pain, another the expression of joy. Looking at a grain of rice, for example, we may observe a small flame arising from it. The small flame becomes an image of what will later be the haulm growing from the grain.

At the 3rd stage a whole world of the spirit arises from all that is. The spiritual reality, the spiritual content of all things floats above them. The whole astral world becomes visible. You then find yourself as if in the waves of the ocean, feeling as if you were floating in the sea. You see the colour of a tulip lifted out of it, as it were, and realize that this is the garment of a spiritual entity. At this third stage the pupil learns the occult script. We must learn this if we truly want to live in the astral world. Thus many things are based on a spiral in this world (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4

We see such a spiral in the Orion nebula and in the configuration of life forms. Human and animal embryos are spiral in form at an early stage. One part is an image of the physical aspect, the other part, which winds into it, of the astral. The beginning of a new stage in human history is also symbolized by a double spiral. It is the sign of Cancer in the zodiac. When ancient Atlantis had perished and the post-Atlantean period began, with the ancient Indian race, the sun rose in the sign of Cancer at the beginning of spring. Learning the occult script we gain our orientation in the astral world.

The 4th stage consists in learning the rhythm of life. The pupil is instructed to regulate his breathing in a particular way. In nature, everything goes in rhythms. Every plant will rhythmically flower at the same time. Rhythm may also be seen in the animal world. Thus an animal is only fertile at certain times of the year. In man, however, rhythm becomes chaos. Man must create a new rhythm for his life. Many people only have rhythms that are imposed on them. Generally speaking, people do not have rhythms chosen of their own free will. The Rosicrucian must see to it that his life becomes rhythmical. Rhythm is given to the breathing process according to special instructions given by the teacher.

The 5th stage is getting to know the correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm. A bond exists between human beings and all things around them in this world. Ordinarily this only shows itself as love between the two sexes, the feeling that the one person finds in the other exactly what is familiar and related to him, what belongs to him. Many things are due to this mysterious relationship between world and man. An example is Paracelsus' discovery of the relationships that exist between certain plants and man. Having this ability he also came to know how other substances relate to man. 151Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus (1493–1541), son of a Swiss physician. Studied alchemy and chemistry at Basel, the properties of metals and minerals in mines. Later town physician at Basel, moving to Salzburg in 1541. Revolutionized old medical methods, basing himself on empiricism. He called someone suffering from cholera an Arsenicus, because arsenic will evoke exactly the symptoms in a healthy person which one also sees in a case of cholera. 152‘It arises from this that you shall not say “that is cholera”, “that is melancholia”, but “that is Arsenicus, that is Aluminosum”; and thus also "he is of Saturn, he is of Mars”, not “he is of melancholia, he is of cholera”. Then one part is of the heavens, one part of the earth, mingled together like fire and wood, so that each may lose its name; then they are two things in one.’ From Paragranum, collected medical works in German, edited by K. Sudhoff vol. 8 p. 74. Munich 1922–23. One can have a personal relationship, a loving relationship with all things, one that is wholly of the spirit. This must be practised. You achieve it by following specific directions. If you think of the point that lies between the eyebrows and above the root of the nose in relation to a particular word, insight into a quite specific process in the world will come to you after some time. Thinking of the inner eye you gain knowledge of the sun's nature, of the processes that occurred when sun and earth were still one heavenly body. Another exercise makes it possible to know the moon in its spiritual aspect, or the condition of the earth 18 million years ago.

You then enter deeply into the correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm. Concentration on the point between the eyebrows and above the root of the nose you are able to penetrate into the time when the I entered into the human being. The human being then grows into the macrocosm in his conscious mind. He has to practise this for some time, growing into all things, be they far or near.

The 7th stage is that of godliness, when one grows beyond the limited bodily shell and is able to live with the macrocosm.

Pupils are instructed according to their occult status. When a pupil has gone through these stages as a real experience, he has reached the summit of insight into higher worlds.