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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Christian Mystery
GA 97

XX. How do we Gain Insight into the Higher Worlds in the Rosicrucian Way?

11 December 1906, Munich

One of the less well known poems written by Goethe is called The Secrets. 153Steiner R. The Mysteries. A Christmas and Easter Poem by Goethe (in GA 98). Title should read The Secrets. Translator not known. London: Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co. 1946. It has remained a fragment. Goethe speaks of a pilgrim, Brother Mark, whose peregrinations remind us of the destiny of Parsifal. Having travelled a long way he comes to an isolated house, a monastic kind of building. There he finds a federation, a gathering of twelve persons. He ultimately gets to know the nature, the character of the twelve and of a thirteenth who is their leader. Each of the twelve has something to do that is extraordinarily important. It is to give a kind of description of the life of the thirteenth. This thirteenth individual has worked his way through chaos and obstacles of all kinds. Goethe says of him:

Man needs to overcome and free himself
of the great power binding all creation,

meaning someone who develops the higher human being in himself.

This thirteenth individual, called Humanus, has grown completely beyond himself. The greatness, the influence of this wise individual, as we feel and intuit him to be, is even greater because, as we are immediately told, he is dying and before entering the higher worlds of the spirit has the ultimate, most beautiful and greatest gift to give to the twelve. And the ‘pure fool’ is to win through and take the place of the thirteenth. There is some kind of Good Friday magic about this fragment. And the whole should indeed have been presented in the Good Friday setting. Goethe himself explained the poem more or less by saying that there are many confessions in the world but we must see the same kernel of truth in all of them. 154Die Geheimnisse. Fragment von Goethe. Published (in German) in Morgenblatt für die gebildeten Stände 27 April 1816. He suggested this in the poem by putting one of the twelve world religions before us that represents the common kernel of truth in the twelve. And the thirteenth is the representative of this original truth itself. The poem really outlines the theosophical view of the world. Using a poetic image, Goethe wanted to show how a synthesis of all religions can be brought about in peace. When Brother Mark comes to the monastery gate, a cross with roses wound around it shines out. Goethe knew the deep significance of this symbol, and also hinted at it in his verses:

Yet something new comes to his inner mind
When he beholds the image with his eyes:
The cross stands there, with roses closely wound.
Who put together roses and the cross?

These are words of truly esoteric meaning.

The question we are going to consider today is ‘How do we gain knowledge of the higher worlds in the Rosicrucian way?’ We are going to discuss some aspects of the Rosicrucian method. It is one of the ways of gaining insight into and access to the higher worlds. The term ‘Rosicrucian’ may sound strange and peculiar to some of you. One has heard of the Rosicrucians as a secret brotherhood which first appeared under that name in about the 14th century. Anything one finds in encyclopaedias and the current literature about them is of no account. A number of highly influential people have represented a quite specific spiritual stream as Rosicrucians. It is only too easy to flail into the most serious error when seeking to discover the greatest truths, as may be seen from many publications on the Rosicrucians. They were one of the closest secret brotherhoods and had to go through severe trials and tests. Anyone wishing to become a member of the order had to go through many things. The aspirant had to go through specific occult training to gain self-knowledge. Ignorance may, however, make the sublime appear in caricature. And that is also how Rosicrucianism was completely misunderstood and distorted to become caricature. What has been written about Rosicrucianism is utter charlatanism. Someone who is able to judge it rightly will see the kernel of truth in it. But it has always been difficult to find out about Rosicrucianism, as you can see from the fact that Helmont, 155Helmont, Johann Baptist van (1577–1644), Flemish physician and chemist. His son Franciscus Mercurius Helmont, developed his natural philosophy and theosophical teachings further. Leibniz 156Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm (1646–1716), German philosopher and mathematician. The source on which Rudolf Steiner based his statement has noi yet been established. See Arnold, Paul, Esoterik im Werke Shakespeares, Berlin n.d.: ‘Leibniz felt moved write that everything said about the Brothers of Rosenkreutz was pure invention on the part of some people with rich imaginations.’ It is known, however, that Leibniz was a member of a Rosicrucian group when he obtained his doctorate at Altdorf University in 1667. Baron Johann Christian von Boyneburg, former president of the Elector of Mainz's privy council, was also a member. It was at the suggestion of Boyneburg that Leibniz was called to serve the Elector of Mainz as a diplomat and legal adviser. and others were unable to do so. Rosicrucian initiation is said go back to a book written in the early 17th century which says, among other things, that the Rosicrucians were involved in alchemy and also other things such as higher education. That's what is says in the Fama Fraternitatis. 157Anonymous work entitled Fama Fraternitatis oder Entdeckimg der Bruderschaft des Hochldblichen Ordens der R. C., Kassel 1614.

Even there you'll find nothing about genuine Rosicrucianism, for the secrets of the Rosicrucians were passed on by the oral tradition. Things that are outwardly given the name ‘Rosicrucian’ are hardly suitable for getting at the essence of the Rosicrucians. Today we'll consider the methods used by the genuine Rosicrucians, in so far as this is possible on a public occasion. The theosophical movement initially started in the Oriental way. The truth can be found anywhere if one knows how to look for it and is sufficiently mature. People had a different way of thinking things at the time when the ancient Indians received the teaching of the holy Rishis, a different way of feeling and using their will, of seeing and perceiving. The things they did in those days can no longer be done today. The methods used in the past can no longer be used today. Nothing in the world is absolute; humanity is in a continuous process of evolution. People now have a very different, more subtle structure to their brains, and even the way the blood is formed is different. Because of this, all truth must be transformed today, and initiation methods must be such that they are suitable for present-day Europeans. These are the reasons why there had to be Rosicrucianism, a completely different way of initiation. The Rosicrucian stream is in the care of great teachers who have always stayed in the background.

Rosicrucian initiation is in seven stages. These provide a standard method that makes it possible for Europeans to go through the trials they have to go through. The stages do not necessarily have to be consecutive, for the teacher would choose what was best for the individual nature of the pupil. The seven stages are study, imagination, inspired insight or reading the occult script, preparing the philosopher's stone, correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm, entering into the macrocosm in a living way, and the 7th or highest stage which is godliness.

Study meant developing concepts and ideas that made a person able to form a sound, comprehensive idea of essential relationships. For the Rosicrucians, study involved everything we have in theosophy today, having taken away the Oriental garb. Theosophy today offers Rosicrucian wisdom. We have also spoken about the elementary Rosicrucian teaching in public lectures. 158E.g. lecture of 14 March 1907, printed in German in GA 55: Die Erkenntnis des Übersinnlichen in unserer Zeit. The main point is to gain a sum of concepts relating to the world that form a complete whole, in a strictly established, firm set of ideas. A system of thinking is created that is entirely sensible. A Rosicrucian had to be a sober, thinking individual. These teachings are truths accessible to the simplest hearts as well as intellectual minds. What is the aim of such study? It leads to insight into higher worlds—the astral world and then the spiritual or devachanic world—that are invisibly all around us.

Man has the same number of abilities to perceive as there are worlds around him. To begin with, these abilities are of course undeveloped. For someone born blind, gaining sight is like a new birth. In the same way, the appearance of yet another world is always like a new birth for the human being. The astral world—we call it that for specific reasons—is around us, and so is the spiritual or devachanic world. It would be arrogance for someone who does not know the higher worlds to insist that they do no exist. The astral world and the devachanic world both differ tremendously from the physical world we are able to see around us. We gain completely new impressions in the astral and again in the devachanic world. Yet although our perceptions in these worlds differ greatly from those we have in the physical world, the logic is always the same. Thinking is the same in all three worlds; it only changes in worlds that lie beyond. Having learned to think in one of these three worlds, the laws of this are the same also in the higher ones. The problem is, however, that in the physical world human errors are corrected from experience. In those other worlds there is no such easy correction, and we therefore need a solid standard of objectivity. You will be completely unsupported if you enter those worlds without this objectivity. This is why a guru was needed for initiation in earlier times. The guru had to be the ultimate authority in the soul of an individual who was being initiated into Indian yoga wisdom. In Rosicrucian training, the guru-pupil relationship is replaced by the support gained from trained thinking. The pupil must be his own guide. Because of this, study is an important part of training. Fundamental truths of theosophy have been written in Truth and Knowledge and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity for both the simplest hearts and people who aim higher. Reading those books it is necessary to be completely given up to inner work, letting one thought evolve from another.

The 2nd stage of the Rosicrucian path was imagination. A comprehensive method meant that one was then able to take the first step into the higher worlds. Experiencing imagination we perceive the deeper meaning of Goethe's words ‘All things corruptible are but a parable’. 159Faust 2, final chorus. Tr. Philip Wayne. London: Penguin 1959

Looking at a plant we can experience in its form and essential nature how true it is that the spirit of the earth, as it were, reveals itself in it when it is sad and when it is cheerful. It is a great truth that man is part of the earth just as a finger is part of the human body. Man is only part of the whole but he has the illusion of living a separate life. The finger is protected from such illusion because it cannot walk about on the human body. If you feel yourself to be an integral part of the earth, you have a feeling not only for the poetry but for the truth of Goethe's words of the earth spirit. 160Given in the next lecture. When human beings enter into the things which the earth spirit produces on its surface, many a plant will be the earth spirit's tears for them, and many a plant its smile.

Something else was brought to the pupil's awareness by all possible means. He would be told: ‘Look at the calyx with its organs of fertilization, chastely held up to the sun. The sun ray kisses the inner calyx. The plant innocently holds out its organs of fertilization to cosmic space. Think of this transformed and taken to a higher level. Consider the animal first, and the human being, and see how the human being veils the principle which the plant holds out to the sun. And then say to yourself: “One day man must reach a higher level where anything base will have gone from his organs. At this higher level he will offer to the sun the principle which today is the calyx of the plant. All drives and instincts will then have been purified, the human individuality will have overcome its natural desires.”’ In Rosicrucian wisdom this transformation was called the grail, the sacred chalice.

When a person has lived for some time with such ideas, he will be ready to move on to even higher experiences. The physical eye only sees the seed of the plant. When the soul has been prepared, it will be able to penetrate to the image that arises for it from the seed grain. A flame form will arise from the seed for that soul. The individual thus learns to see the spiritual aspect that is behind things; he comes to know that everything physical has been born from a world of the spirit.

The 3rd stage is called reading the occult script in Rosicrucian training. The cosmic powers active in the world are revealed in certain currents and in colour and sound combinations. This occult script is written into the structure of the world. An example is the spiral we see as two intertwined vortices in the Orion nebula far out in the cosmos. At the microcosmic level, the incorporation of the human seed takes a corresponding form. The image of a double spiral is the sign of cancer in the zodiac. In occult script, it shows the transition from one stage of evolution to another. The sun's spring equinox was in fact in the sign of cancer when a new period of human evolution started in ancient India after the end of Atlantis.

Another sign in occult script is the triangle. This, too, is written into the macrocosm. At the microcosmic level the figure of the equilateral triangle with its centre marked is the symbol of balance restored between the three powers of soul. Harmonization of thinking, feeling and will gives rise to the higher power of love.

This 3rd stage, where conscious awareness of inspiration was gained, was followed by the development of rhythm in life and in breathing. In the language of the Rosicrucians this is called preparing the philosopher's stone. Later on it will be a stage in the evolution of humanity as a whole. Today people need oxygen to breathe. They exhale carbon dioxide, which is a poison. It is the other way round with plants, for they breathe in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. In the distant future man will consciously use the carbon which today is taken in with the food to build his physical body and no longer exhale it. The human body will then consist of an entirely different substance than it does today. It will be a soft, transparent form of carbon. Man's body will then have become the philosopher's stone. The symbol for this is the crystal clear diamond, which is also carbon.

The whole process was prepared for by bringing rhythm into our breathing and altogether into all vital processes. These are regulated from outside in plants and animals. But this no longer happens for modern man. He must create the rhythm for himself which nature gives to all its life forms. Strict adherence to such a rhythm was an important part of Rosicrucian training.

At the 5th stage of Rosicrucian training the pupil would have living experience of the correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm. Paracelsus said: ‘Everything that exists around us in space is related to us.’ The individual letters are in the world, 161‘For of this will I bear witness for nature: wanting to study it you must tread your books underfoot. Written works are studied by studying its letters, but nature is studied land by land, a land as often as a page. Thus is the codex of nature, and one must turn its leaves.’ Source as in note 151, but vol. 11, Die vierte Defension, Seite 145 f. München 1924. and man is the word. Man has everything that exists out there in the world in him on a small scale, in its essence. To know yourself so that you might know the world, that was the task set for this stage.

At the next, the 6th stage, the pupil had to enter into the macrocosm in a living way. Here the human being had to leave himself behind, abandoning all that was his own. He then truly came to know the macrocosm.

The highest stage that could be reached by a Rosicrucian was that of godliness. Here the initiate grew to unite with the whole universe, he knew the summit of human evolution which humanity is to reach in the far distant future. The Rosicrucian pupils would make every endeavour to prepare for this evolution.

A lower, passive nature lives in man and also an active element. If he develops in the way I have described he will overcome his lower nature and be reborn through the spirit. This aspect of human evolution has been put into words by Goethe:

So long as you don't have it,
this word: ‘Die and become!’
you're but a miserable guest
here on this earth.

The symbol for ‘to die’ is the cross, the symbol for a new birth are the roses. The human physical body is the cross. Everything connected with powers of growth is the passive element in us. This means above all the milk. In the blood, on the other hand, the human being develops an active element as he seeks to attain to higher things. That is the secret of the white and the red rose. Our higher nature seeks to find the balance between the white and the red rose. In Goethe's poem The Secrets the thirteenth is the image of someone who has reached this exalted level. We may therefore take the words spoken by this thirteenth as a guide for all Rosicrucian endeavour:

All power pushes forward far and wide
To live and work both here and there;
the stream that is the world, however, hems us in,
builds obstacles all round and carries us away.
Caught in this inner storm and outer strife
the mind does hear a word that's hard to understand:
Man needs to overcome and free himself
of the great power binding all creation.