Munich, March 7, 1909
It is now my task to speak to the various groups about the more intimate aspects of reincarnation and various matters related to it because deep inside we must become more and more familiar with this subject matter and allow it to penetrate our being. In this context, we will also have to say a few things about the significance of the topic for the life of all humanity. Although we will also little by little discuss relevant questions of importance to the present age, we shall have to take very ancient times as our starting point. This is necessary because the method of inquiry in Spiritual Science differs from that employed by other theories of life or by the disciplines studying social problems. We in Spiritual Science treat the facts of life first in a general way, and then we elaborate on the details.
First of all, we express our world view in the most elementary sense through the statement that the human innermost core — an individual's divine ego — continues to develop from one life to another in successive incarnations. In the second instance, however, such a statement covers the question of reincarnation only in a very elementary way, and that is why we now want to speak about these things in greater detail and in a more intimate sense. Just saying that the ego of a human being hurries from one incarnation to another is not enough; there are many other phenomena connected with the subject of reincarnation, and only a discussion of how they are related to life itself will shed the right light on the issue. Let us begin to characterize reincarnation from this point of view by looking back into ancient times.
We have often talked about the fact that humanity must consider its ancestors to have come from ancient Atlantis, a former geographical region situated between what is today Africa and Europe on the one hand and America on the other. All the souls that are present today had already been incarnated in Atlantis, but in bodies that were in part considerably different from the ones we are accustomed to seeing. The Atlantean humanity had its own special form of leadership, and the soul-forces — indeed all the faculties — of the Atlanteans differed greatly from those of human beings. Hence, leadership as we know it today was nonexistent. In Atlantis, for example, there were no churches, ceremonial centers, or schools in the modern sense, but there existed an intermediate institution between ceremonial center and school; that is what we call the mystery sanctuaries or centers. Leadership of the Atlanteans with respect to learning and the conditions of external life was vested in these sanctuaries, and one could say that the spiritual leaders were at the same time kings of the Atlantean tribes. Initiates, whose mission can be circumscribed by a word of later coinage, by the word oracle, imported knowledge and exercised leadership in the mysteries. We therefore designate the great centers of Atlantean culture as the “Atlantean Oracles.”
We have to get a clear understanding of the function of these oracles. They had to impart knowledge to human beings about the spiritual world behind the physical world. Knowledge such as this is different from ordinary knowledge in many ways; to stress only one difference, spiritual knowledge is not confined to space as is our present knowledge of the physical world. Anyone who, for example, knows about the mysteries of Mars also knows a great deal about the spiritual mysteries of the entire universe. All the heavenly bodies of our solar system are interconnected, and as such they are the exterior expression of spiritual beings. The individual who knows these spiritual beings also knows the forces that are at work from one planet to another as well as in the spiritual world during the time between death and rebirth. And so it was the primary task of one oracle in Atlantis to transmit and proclaim to human beings the mysteries of Mars, whereas the primary task of another was to communicate the mysteries of Jupiter, and so on; and these compartmentalized insights made it possible to lead certain sections of the population. We shall speak about the reason for this at another occasion since our task today is a different one.
The Atlanteans were divided into groups, and part of the whole developmental process was that one group of human beings had to be governed especially by the forces that could be acquired through the knowledge of Mars. Other groups had to be governed by the forces acquired through the knowledge of Venus, or Mercury, and so on. In ancient Atlantis there were actually human beings alive whom we could call “Jupiter People” or “Mars People,” and there were seven oracle centers because the populace in ancient Atlantis was divided into seven groups according to racial characteristics. The names applicable to these oracle centers corresponded to the names of the planets, but they were assigned to the oracles at a later time. The leadership of, and supreme sovereignty over, all other oracles was vested in what we may designate as the Atlantean Sun Oracle. Whatever oracles existed in the post-Atlantean periods — in Greece, Egypt, Asia, all were successors of the Sun Oracle in Atlantis. This is true also for the Apollo Oracle in Greece. The initiate who headed this Sun Oracle was the guardian of the deepest mysteries of our solar system. Together with his subordinates, he was called upon to investigate the nature of the spiritual life on the sun itself. His role was to proclaim to Atlantean humanity the secrets of the whole planetary system and to exercise supreme authority over the other oracle centers.
A very special task devolved on the Initiate of the Sun Oracle. It was to guide humanity in such a way that when the great catastrophe culminating in the submergence of Atlantis was over, the human race would be able to propagate and establish what we have often discussed as the postAtlantean cultures. Specifically, the task of the Great Initiate of the Sun Oracle was to prepare human beings during the Atlantean time in such a way that they could enter the ancient Indian, Persian, Egypto-Babylonian-Hebraic, and Graeco-Roman cultures. To put it differently, the Great Initiate had to see to it that enough suitable soul material was available for these cultural epochs.
We must now inform ourselves a little about the task of this Great Initiate of the Sun Oracle. What were the essential features of Atlantean culture? Certainly it was quite different from later cultures. In ancient Atlantis, an individual belonging to the highest level of cultural life — the levels at which today's great leaders in, say, scholarship, art, industry, or commerce can be found — was one who possessed extraordinary clairvoyant faculties and who was especially skilled in the use of magical powers. The qualities usually attributed to a leader or to a scholar were nonexistent in those days, or they were known only in the most primitive form. But although modern arithmetic, counting, logical reasoning, and intellectual deduction were unknown to the Atlanteans, they did possess primitive clairvoyant faculties and powers with which they could pierce into the spiritual worlds. Without the modern ego-consciousness, the Atlanteans saw into the spiritual world, and those whose vision was the most penetrating became the pillars of Atlantean culture. We have already stressed that the Atlanteans were able to manipulate certain inner forces of nature, for example the seed forces of plants; they propelled their vehicles with them, just as we utilize coal to propel our vehicles.
To repeat, the leaders of the Atlantean culture were not the people who tried, as the leaders of our time try, to unlock the secrets of the universe with their intellectual powers; rather, the leading individuals in Atlantis were those who excelled as clairvoyants and magicians. And those human beings who had the first rudimentary inkling about arithmetic, counting, logical reasoning, and intellectual deduction were in a certain sense despised because of their simplicity and were not considered as belonging to the aristocracy of cultural life. But it was precisely those human beings who possessed the very first rudimentary knowledge of the aforementioned skills and who were the most lacking in clairvoyant and magical powers whom the Great Leader of the Sun Oracle gathered from all regions. Yes, he assembled the most simple and, in a sense, the most despised people of ancient Atlantis — those who had first developed intellectual capacities. But those who were then at the highest level of cultural life and who were the acknowledged masters of a dimmed clairvoyance were not suitable material to be led through and beyond the great Atlantean catastrophe. No, the call of the Initiate went out to the simple people.
Incidentally, it may be said that we are living in an epoch today when a similar call is once again going out to humanity. To be sure, this appeal is what is appropriate for today, a time when humanity sees only what is in the physical world. The call to humanity issues from unknown depths of the spirit, depths that humanity will gradually become acquainted with, asking that humanity prepare itself for a new culture of the future, which will be permeated with clairvoyant powers. As with Atlantis, a catastrophe will occur, and afterwards a new culture imbued with spiritual capacities will arise, and it will be linked to what we call the idea of the universal brotherhood of humanity.
But today, as in Atlantean times, the call cannot go out to those who stand at the highest levels of cultural life because they will not understand. The Atlantean clairvoyants and magicians, who were in a way destined to die out with their culture, occupied a position similar to that of people in contemporary life who occupy the highest positions in the realms of scholarship and external industrial life—the great inventors and discoverers of our time. No matter how much the present leaders feel there is still to be done, they nevertheless occupy the same position as their Atlantean counterparts. Contemptuously they look down on those who are beginning to feel something of the spiritual life to come. The consciousness of this fact must be awakened in the soul of anyone whose cooperative efforts in the theosophical workshops are to be strengthened. When leading representatives of modern culture look contemptuously down at these small circles, those who are participating diligently in the preparation of future conditions must say to themselves that the intellectual giants of today cannot be counted on to lead the way in this task. It is precisely the people who are held in contempt because they are not considered to have reached the heights of contemporary erudition who are being assembled today, just as the leader of the Sun Oracle once gathered around him the simple of Atlantis. These disdained people are being assembled to prepare the dawn of a new culture whereas erudition of the modern form will bring about the twilight of our culture. This is mentioned in passing to fortify those who have to endure and hold their own against the attacks of the people who consider themselves to be on the cutting edge of contemporary culture.
The Great Initiate of the Sun Oracle gathered his simple people in a region approximately to the west of present-day Ireland. Now we have to get a clear picture of the situation. It took Atlantis a long, long time to come to its end. Great masses of people were continually moving from the West toward the East. In the various regions of Asia, Europe, and Africa there were tribes who had arrived at different times and had intermingled. Then the Great Leader of the Sun Oracle took His small group of chosen people and made His way to Central Asia, where he established a colony from which the currents were to emanate that would later found the post-Atlantean cultures. However, in addition to His simple people, the Great Leader has taken something else with Him. And here we arrive at one of the chapters of human evolution, the truth of which we can comprehend only if we draw on the inner assurance gained by a steadfast engagement in Spiritual Science.
The Great Leader inspected, as it were, the other oracle centers for the purpose of finding in them the most notable initiates. Now there is a certain method by means of which “spiritual economy,” as it may be called, can be put into practice. As you know, it is quite correct to say that the etheric body dissolves after a human being has died; what remains is an extract, and that is taken along. But the extract is only the elementary truth, which must be modified as one advances to higher levels of spiritual knowledge. It is not the case that the etheric bodies of all human beings are dissolved in the universal ether. Etheric bodies such as those possessed by the most notable initiates of the seven Atlantean Oracles are valuable. The spiritual achievements of these initiates were woven into their etheric bodies, and it would be against the principle of spiritual economy if the etheric bodies of the great initiates had simply been dissolved. They were to be preserved as prototypes for a later time, and it was incumbent upon the Great Initiate of the Sun Oracle to preserve the etheric bodies of the seven greatest initiates for this purpose. While leading His small group of simple people to Asia, He carried the etheric bodies of the seven most significant initiates of Atlantis with Him. Such a thing is possible through the methods that had been developed in the mystery centers. You have to visualize this as purely a spiritual process and not in the way as if one could wrap up etheric bodies and put them into boxes for safekeeping. What is certain, however, is that etheric bodies can be preserved for later times.
Over in Asia, the following happened. The simple people around the Leader propagated from one generation to another. Above all, these people had a tremendous devotion to and affection for their Great Leader. Their education was guided with wisdom and insight so that after many generations certain things occurred through one of the methods worked out in the mystery centers. Such methods are employed behind the scenes of external life, and we shall presently see how they take effect. Today's lecture will be the first in a series of several lectures designed to explain some of the details.
When a human being is descending to a new incarnation, he must envelop himself again with a new etheric body. Now, through the methods alluded to above, it is perfectly possible to weave into this new etheric body an old one that was preserved. And so after a diligent educational process, when the time had come, there were to emerge from the immigrants and their descendants seven individuals whose souls at their birth were sufficiently prepared to have the preserved etheric bodies of the seven greatest initiates of the Atlantean Oracles woven into their own etheric bodies. Thus, the preserved etheric body of the most important Saturn initiate was woven into that of one of the individuals gathered around the Great Leader of the Sun Oracle, the etheric body of the Mars initiate into another, the etheric body of the Jupiter initiate into a third, and so on. Hence the Great Leader of the Sun Oracle had seven individuals whose etheric bodies were interwoven with those of the most important initiates of the ancient Atlantean Oracles.
If you had met these seven individuals somewhere in everyday life, you would have found them to be simple human beings, for they were not the reincarnated egos of the Atlantean initiates; they were merely simple human beings possessing the new faculties of the post-Atlantean era. Their egos were not much different from the egos of those who became the bearers of the first primitive and simple culture immediately after the Atlantean catastrophe. What made them different was that their etheric bodies contained the forces of the seven great Atlantean initiates, so we are dealing here not with a re-embodiment of the ego, but rather of the etheric bodies of these great initiates. Thus we see not only that the ego but also that the second member of the super-sensible constitution — the etheric body — is capable of reincarnation. The seven individuals from among the followers of the Great Initiate of the Sun Oracle were inspired human beings simply by the fact that they had received these etheric bodies containing the forces and powers of the Atlantean era. At certain times their etheric bodies were capable of letting the forces stream into themselves that unveiled the mysteries of the Sun, Mars, Saturn, and so forth. Hence they appeared to be inspired individuals, but their utterances certainly exceeded anything their astral bodies or egos were able to understand.
What these seven inspired individuals taught from various parts of the world sounded like a wonderful harmonious choir, and after the seven had been united in the Lodge of the Seven Rishis, they were sent to India to inspire that country's ancient culture. Much that was profound in this culture has been preserved in a magnificent form in the Vedas, 27The Vedas are the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. The Veda is the literature of the Aryans who invaded NW India about 1500 B.C. and pertains to the fire sacrifice central to their religious beliefs. and just as many wonderful ideas that give testimony to the deeply scientific nature of Indian culture have been preserved in the Upanishads, 28The Upanishads constitute the last section of the Hindu Veda and are said to have been composed around 900 B.C. As the wellspring of Hindu speculative and religious thought, they became the basis for the later schools of Vedanta. “Vedanta” literally means “The end of the Veda” and refers to how the Upanishads are to be taught and interpreted. in the Vedanta philosophy, and so on. However, the teachings of the ancient Holy Rishis, given in times when nothing was recorded, far exceed in beauty anything conveyed to us by the Indian scripts. What was written down in later times is at most a faint echo, for no records were kept of the primeval, sacred culture inspired by the Rishis; everything they taught was transmitted in a spiritual way through the mysteries.
We are interested today in learning how etheric bodies can be reincarnated, how the legacies of the ancient Atlantean epoch were transmitted by the Great Initiate of the Sun Oracle into the post-Atlantean era, and how they were then carried into the first culture of that era — into the resplendent Indian culture.
The mysteries of the Sun Oracle itself could not be directly revealed in ancient India, and that is why the seven Rishis spoke of a Being beyond their cognitive reach. They spoke of a Being who is the Leader of the Sun and directs its forces to the earth; they spoke of Vishva-Karman as a Being beyond the range of their knowledge. Vishva-Karman is none other than the Christ who was to appear later and whose coming had already been proclaimed in the ancient Indian culture.
The most important disciple of the Great Initiate of the Sun Oracle to receive the secrets of the Sun's essence was Zarathustra, who was subsequently to establish the second post-Atlantean culture. He was not the Zarathustra history talks about however. It was customary in ancient times that the successor of a great teacher or humanity took the name of his esteemed predecessor. No document contains any reference to the Zarathustra of whom we are now speaking; only his last successor is mentioned in history books. Yet it was the original Zarathustra who founded the primordial Persian culture and who was the first to point out to his Persian peoples that the sun not only possesses physical energy but also spiritual power that streams down to earth. In his endeavor to awaken in his people a realization of this truth, Zarathustra's argument was as follows: If we direct our eyes to plants and everything else around us that contains life, we have to ask ourselves what we would be without sunlight. But together with the physical sunlight, a spiritual force also streams down to earth under the direction of a great sublime Being. Just as a human being has his or her physical body and an aura — we call it the small aura — so the sun has its physical body and its aura. Ahura Mazdao, the “great aura,” consists of the group of great sun beings and their leader. Zarathustra spoke of this Ahura Mazdao, or Aura Mazdao — the Great Aura — and proclaimed the power of the sun aura by which the flow of evolution was made possible. However, Zarathustra also proclaimed that the forces of Ahriman would oppose the Sun Being. This then is what can be said about the external teachings of Zarathustra, but there is more to be said about him.
Zarathustra had some close disciples whom he initiated into the great mysteries of the world. We shall mention two of them in this context. To begin with the first, Zarathustra communicated to him all the wisdom necessary to bring about clairvoyance in the astral body, as well as the ability to perceive in one's present time frame simultaneously everything that is happening and all the mysteries spread out in both physical and spiritual space. To the second disciple Zarathustra transmitted what one might call the power to read the Akasha Chronicle, and this is nothing less than the clairvoyant power of the etheric body enabling the human being to perceive the successive phases of evolution in time. Thus, one disciple received the ability to perceive simultaneous events, and the other the vision of the Akasha Chronicle to perceive successive events that could lead to an understanding of the evolution of the earth and sun. By imparting these faculties to these disciples, Zarathustra had a profound effect on the continuation of culture in the postAtlantean era.
The first disciple was reincarnated as the great individual who was to inspire and inaugurate the new currents of Egyptian culture, the being whom we know by the name of Hermes or Hermes Trismegistos. Through processes that are known, the astral body of Zarathustra was transmitted to Hermes so that he could proclaim the message of the higher worlds and their mysteries and incorporate them into Egyptian culture. Thus by processes we will gradually learn to understand, the astral body of Zarathustra was preserved and was transmitted to one disciple when he was born again as Hermes. Hermes wore Zarathustra's astral body as if it were a garment.
The other disciple was also reincarnated, and in him everything was meant to be revealed that is presented to the earth in the Akasha Chronicle. Since the etheric body of Zarathustra was to be woven into that of a disciple, a very special event had to take place to make this possible. The forces of the new etheric body somehow had to be illuminated in the disciple for his awakening. The Biblical story relates to us in a beautiful and marvelous way what this special event was. Allow your souls to visualize how it had to unfold.
You must first realize that this reborn disciple of Zarathustra possessed his own astral body and ego, and he was now to have the etheric body of Zarathustra woven into his soul. As a small child, he first had to feel how the forces of the etheric body of Zarathustra became active in him, and he had to feel this before the powers of judgment could be activated by his own astral body and before his own ego was able to interfere. So the special event that had to take place was some sort of initiation. The forces of Zarathustra's etheric body had to be awakened in this reborn disciple when he was a very small child, that is before his own individual development could come into play. For this reason, the child was placed into an ark of bulrushes that was then put into the water, so that he was completely cut off from the rest of the world and was unable to interact with it. That is when the forces of Zarathustra's etheric body that had been woven into him germinated and, as we said earlier, became illuminated.
I am sure you know by now that this reborn disciple of Zarathustra was none other than Moses. The Biblical story about his abandonment is really a presentation of that profound mystery behind the scenes of the external world dealing with the preservation of Zarathustra's etheric body and its reawakening in Moses. And this is how Hermes and Moses were able to guide the post-Atlantean culture through its recorded stages.
After hearing about these examples of the reincarnation of etheric bodies and of an astral body, we know it is insufficient to speak only of the reincarnation of the ego. Rather, the other members of the human constitution that we have become acquainted with—the etheric body and the astral body — can also be reincarnated. It is a principle of spiritual economy that what has once been gained cannot perish, but is preserved and transplanted on the spiritual soil of posterity. However, what we have described can be accomplished in another way. We shall see from an example that there are still other methods whereby the past is transported into the future.
You will remember a personality mentioned in the Bible: Shem, a son of Noah and progenitor of the Semitic people. Occult research confirms that there is an individual behind Shem that must be regarded as the tribal individuality of all Semitic peoples. When a number of human beings are to descend from a particular progenitor, a special provision must be made for this in the spiritual world. In the case of Shem, the provision was that an etheric body was specially woven for him from the spiritual world, which he was to carry. This enabled him to bear in his own etheric body an especially exalted being from the spiritual world, a being who could not otherwise have incarnated on earth because it was incapable of descending into a compact physical body. This being was capable of incarnating only by virtue of the fact that it could now enter the etheric body of Shem. Since Shem had his own physical, etheric, and astral body, as well as his ego, he was first an individual in his own right. Beyond that, however, he was an individual whose etheric body was interwoven with the etheric body of another high being of the spiritual world, specially prepared for the purpose of founding a nation, as characterized above. If clairvoyant perception had confronted Shem, it would have seen Shem himself, but with a second entity extending out of him like a second being, yet still united with Shem's etheric body. This higher being was not Shem, but it incarnated in Shem — the human being — for a special mission. Unlike ordinary human beings, this higher being did not undergo various incarnations, but descended only once into a human body. Such a being is called an avatar. An avatar does not feel at home in the world as a human being would; he descends but once into this world for the sole purpose of carrying out a certain mission.
The part of a human being that is indwelled by such an avatar being acquires a special character in that it is able to multiply. When a grain of seed is sown into the ground, the stalk grows from it, and the grain is multiplied into the ears of grain. In the same way, the etheric body of Shem multiplied into many copies, and these were woven into all his descendants. That's what happened, and thus the copies of the etheric body that had been specially prepared in Shem as the prototype were woven into the etheric bodies of his direct descendants.
But this etheric body of Shem was later used in yet another way. How this was done can best be placed before our souls by the visualization of an analogy. You may be a highly cultured European, but if you want to acquaint the Hottentots with your culture, you simply must learn their language. By analogy, the exalted beings that descend to earth to guide humanity must weave into themselves the forces by which they will be put into a position to communicate with human beings on earth. Now in the later phase of the evolution of the Semitic people, it became necessary that a very exalted being descend to earth in order to communicate with them and provide an impetus to their culture. Such a being was the Melchizedek of Biblical history who, as it were, had to "put on" the preserved etheric body of Shem—the very etheric body that was still inhabited by an avatar being. Once it was woven into him, Melchizedek was able to transmit to Abraham the impulse necessary for the continued progress of Semitic culture. Here, then, we have become acquainted with another unique way in which an etheric body develops in a particular human being and is subsequently allotted to a specially selected individuality for the fulfillment of a mission.
Such examples can be found up to the most recent times, and as we trace them, we gradually realize the truth of what occultism is able to say today about this subject matter. Occultism conveys to us that most human beings living at present no longer have etheric or astral bodies that were originally woven anew from the general fabric of the world Almost every human being has in his or her etheric and astral body a fragment that has been preserved from ancient times because the principle of spiritual economy is at work preserving useful elements for repeated utilization.
Let us mention two more examples from the modern age that can illustrate to us how mysteries are at work from one epoch to another. The first example is related to the personality who is discussed in my book Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age: Nicholas of Cusa. He called one of his writings De docta ignorantia, a Latin title that can be translated “Learned Ignorance”; yet it contains more erudition than many a book claiming to contain learned knowledge. There were certain reasons for the title. If you read other writings by Nicholas of Cusa, you will find that a prophetic presentation of the Copernican picture of the universe is woven into them in a curious way. Those who read carefully cannot fail to recognize it. Yet it was not until the time of Copernicus that the world was mature enough to accept this view of the universe in its actual form. Investigation into the connection reveals the following: One of the members of Cusa's super-sensible constitution contained an ancient individuality of the highest rank, and that made it possible for the astral body of Nicholas of Cusa to be preserved and then to be woven into the astral body of Nicholas Copernicus. The wisdom once possessed by Nicholas of Cusa could, as it were, be resurrected in Copernicus, and that is an example of how the astral body has reincarnated.
The second example deals with Galileo, who has been immensely important for modern thought, as many of you who have thought about the matter know. Without him, there would have been no physics in the modern sense because the whole mode of thinking in terms of physics today must be attributed to Galileo. Every schoolboy today will read in the most elementary books of Galileo's law of inertia, of continuity, which indicates that a body in motion tends to continue its movement until it encounters an obstacle. Thus, if we throw some object, it will travel forward by its own momentum until it is stopped by an obstacle or outer force. This is how we think today, and this is what children in school learn from their textbooks. However, people living before Galileo thought in a different manner. They thought that if a stone were thrown, its flight could not continue unless the air drove or pushed it from behind. So we see that the laws of falling bodies, of the pendulum, and of simple machines are all derived from Galileo.
Galileo received his insights through a certain inspiration. I need only to remind you of how he discovered the law of the pendulum by observing the swinging lamp in the Cathedral at Pisa—a stroke of genius. Many people had walked past this lamp without noticing a thing, but when Galileo observed it, the fundamental laws of mechanics dawned on him. A human being who can be inspired in such a profound way has an etheric body of enormous richness; to allow it to perish would contradict the law of spiritual economy.
It is for this reason that Galileo's etheric body too was preserved and reappeared after a comparatively short period of time in an individual whose achievements were also to be of great significance. It was woven into a personality who grew up in a remote peasant village in Russia, ran away from his parents, and journeyed to Moscow. The great talent of this young man became apparent very soon, and he rapidly absorbed the knowledge of his day in the schools of Russia and Germany, so that he had soon encompassed the total of the general knowledge available in the culture of his time. All he had to do was to accumulate the knowledge developed on earth since he had died — in his etheric body — as Galileo. And then this very same person became, so to speak, the founder of the whole classical literature movement in Russia, creating lasting literary treasures practically out of the void. But more than that, he also provided important stimuli to every scientific discipline related to physics and chemistry, and particularly to all areas of mechanics. This individual was none other than Michail Lomonosov, whose achievements and reforms were possible only because the etheric body of Galileo had been woven into him. Galileo died in the middle of the seventeenth century, and Michail Lomonosov was born early in the eighteenth century with Galileo's etheric body, representing one of those intimate reincarnations where a member of the super-sensible constitution of the human being other than the ego is reincarnated. Such things lead us toward a deep understanding of the entire evolutionary process and of many other factors that have developed in the course of time, leading to the conditions prevailing at present.
The greatest avatar on earth was Christ Himself, who lived for three years in the three bodies of Jesus of Nazareth. Because Christ lived in the three bodies of the super-sensible constitution of Jesus of Nazareth, it was possible for the latter's etheric and astral bodies, and of the ego too in a lesser degree, to multiply in the same way as we have discussed it before. After the Mystery of Golgotha and as a result of the wonderful laws of spiritual economy, quite a few copies of the astral body and of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth were present as archetypes in the spiritual world. If an avatar enters a human sheath, the essence of the host is dispersed into many replicas. In contrast to the copies of Shem's etheric body, the copies of the astral and etheric bodies of Jesus of Nazareth had another special characteristic. The copies of Shem's etheric body could be implanted only into his own descendants whereas the copies of the etheric body and the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth could be implanted into all human beings of the most diverse peoples and races. A copy of the archetypal astral and etheric bodies of Jesus of Nazareth could be implanted in anyone who through his or her personal development had become ready for this transfer, no matter what race such an individual belonged to. And we see how in this subsequent evolution of Christendom, strange developments take place behind the external historical facade, and only such developments can render the external course of events intelligible.
Now, how did Christianity spread? We can say that in the first few centuries the dissemination of the idea of Christianity depended on what happened on the physical plane. In this era we see that Christianity is decidedly propagated through everything that lives on the physical plane. The Apostles stressed the fact that the propagation of Christianity was based on direct physical perception of eyewitnesses. "We have laid our hands into His wounds" was a statement of proof that the Christ had walked on earth in a human body. In other words, the stress was put on anything on the physical plane that could serve as documentation for the development of Christianity. Time and again during those first few centuries, it was asserted that those who had been disciples of the Apostles themselves were responsible for the continuing propagation of Christianity, and it was emphasized that they had known the immediate followers of the Lord Himself. So we see that people in this era relied, as it were, on eyewitness reports, and this continues in a still deeper sense up to the time of St. Augustine, who said: “I would not believe in the truth of the Gospels if the authority of the Catholic Church did not compel me to do so.” Why, then, did he believe? Because it was his conviction that the visible Church has propagated the Gospel on the physical plane from one decade and from one century to another. However, in the following centuries, from the fifth to the tenth, Christianity was propagated in a different way. Why and how? It is instructive to learn the answer to this question if we are interested in following the spiritual progress of human evolution.
You can visualize the method of propagation in this next period by considering, for example, the Old Saxon gospel epic entitled Heliand. In this work, a kind of initiate presents his readers with his version of the Christ idea and with his perception of the Christ-Being. The Heliand, the Savior, presented by this Saxon initiate is a super-sensible being. Yet, He is portrayed not within the context of the events in Palestine, but rather as a prince of a Germanic tribe. The disciples are individuals from Germanic lands, and the whole of Christianity is clothed in Central European imagery. Why was this done? It was done because the initiate who wrote the Heliand at the suggestion of Louis the Pious had clairvoyant faculties, so that he was able to see Christ in a way similar to Paul's perception of Christ at Damascus. Through the event at Golgotha the Christ-Being had united Himself with the astral body of the earth, thereby infusing His power into the aura of the earth; and when Paul became clairvoyant, he could clearly perceive: The Christ is present! Paul did not allow himself to become a believer merely on the strength of what was reported to have happened in Palestine. Only after he had seen the being that was woven into the earth with his own eyes did he change from Saul to Paul. In a similar vision, the Risen Christ, the eternal Christ living in the spiritual world after Golgotha, was revealed to the writer of the Heliand, and He was more important to him than was the historical Christ of Palestine. And so he presents Him in another setting because the spiritual Christ was more important to him than was the external image of the Christ. You may want to ask why the author of the Heliand was able to communicate such an image from clairvoyant perception. He was able to do this because a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth was woven into his own etheric body. This was the case because during these centuries — starting with the fifth or sixth and ending with the ninth or tenth century — the etheric bodies of those who were destined to do something for the advancement of Christianity were interwoven with a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth, and one of these special individuals was the writer of the Heliand.
Since there were many others who had a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into their own etheric body, we can readily see that human beings in these centuries lived in imaginations that were closely related to the events in Golgotha. All those who created the original artistic portrayals of the Savior on the cross and of Mary with the Jesus Child had been inspired to do pictorial representations of anything connected with the event in Golgotha by one and the same thing: a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth was woven into the etheric body of each of these individuals. If the paintings of the events in Golgotha seemed like representations of a type, this points to the fact that all the artists were clairvoyant; what they created was then transmitted to posterity by the forces of tradition. In these early centuries, not all the inspired individuals destined to propagate the idea of Christianity were, of course, artists. Take, for example, John Scotus Erigena, 29John Scotus Erigena (c. 810–c. 877) was an Irish scholastic philosopher. the scholastic philosopher, who in the days of Charles the Bald wrote the famous De Division Naturae. He, too, had a copy of the etheric body of Jesus woven into his own etheric body.
If human beings were born during the period from the fifth to the tenth centuries who had a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into their own etheric bodies, human beings living in the period from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries received copies of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth rather than copies of His etheric body. Only by considering this fact do we fully understand some of the important personalities of that time. How will a personality whose own astral body is interwoven with a copy of the astral body of Jesus appear to the outside world? After all, the ego of Jesus is not incarnated in such an individual; each personality retains his or her own ego. Ego judgment can cause many an error to creep into the life of such an individual; but because the copy of the great prototype has been woven into his or her astral body, devotion, all the feelings, everything in short that permeates and weaves through this astral body will come to the fore as the intrinsic essence of the astral body, even though it may perhaps be at variance with the ego itself. Think of Francis of Assisi. There you have a personality into whose astral body a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth was woven. You may have found many extremes in the biography of Francis of Assisi, and if you did, you should consider that they were caused by his ego, which was not on the same level with his astral body. But the moment you study his soul under the assumption that his ego was not always capable of making the right judgments about the wonderful feelings and the humility contained in the astral body, then you will understand him. A copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth was reincarnated in Francis of Assisi, and this was the case with many individuals of that time — Franciscans, Dominicans, and all other personalities of that time who will be intelligible only when studied in the light of this knowledge. For example, one of those personalities was the renowned St. Elisabeth of Thüringen.
And so what has happened in the external life of our existence becomes fully intelligible only when we see how spiritual impulses are conveyed in each era and how they are propagated in the course of time.
When Christ incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, something like an imprint of the ego was made in the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth. When the Christ-Being entered the astral body, we can easily conceive that something like a replica of the ego could be produced in the surrounding parts of the astral body. This copy of the ego of Christ Jesus produced many duplicates that were preserved, so to speak, in the spiritual world. In the case of a few individuals who were to be prophets for their own age, something was woven into their ego. Among them were the German mystics who proclaimed the inner Christ with such fervor because something like a copy of the ego of Christ was incarnated in them — only a copy or image of Christ's ego, of course. Only human beings who prepare themselves gradually for a full understanding of the Christ and who understand through their knowledge of the spiritual worlds what the Christ really is, as He surfaces time and again in ever changing forms during the course of human evolution — only those human beings will also gradually gain the maturity necessary to experience Christ in themselves. They will be ready to absorb, so to speak, the waiting replicas of the Christ-Ego, ready to absorb the ego that the Christ imprinted in the body of Jesus.
Part of the inner mission of the universal stream of spirituality is to prepare human beings to become so mature in soul that an ever-increasing number of them will be able to absorb a copy of the Ego-Being of Christ Jesus. For this is the course of Christian evolution: first, propagation on the physical plane, then through etheric bodies, and then through astral bodies that, by and large, were reincarnated astral bodies of Jesus. Now the time is at hand when the ego-nature of Christ Jesus will increasingly light up in human beings as the innermost essence of their souls. Yes, these imprinted copies of the Christ Jesus individuality are waiting to be taken in by human souls—they are waiting!
And now you see from what depths the universal stream of Spiritual Science flows into our souls. Spiritual Science is not a theory, not the sum total of concepts given merely for the intellectual enlightenment of human beings; it is a reality, and it intends to offer realities to the human soul. Those who wish to gain a spiritual understanding of Christianity and experience it within themselves will strive to make a personal contribution so that either in the present or in a later incarnation a copy of the Christ Jesus individuality can be woven into their own egos. A person who understands the true, inmost essence — the actuality — of the universal stream of Spiritual Science will prepare himself or herself not just for knowledge, but rather for an encounter with actual reality. You must develop a feeling that we in our world movement are not concerned with the mere communication of theories, but rather with preparing human beings to accept facts. We are also concerned that human beings receive what is waiting in the spiritual world and what they have the power to receive, provided they prepare themselves for this task in the right way.