Background to the Gospel of St. Mark
X. Rosicrucian Wisdom in Folk-Mythology
10 June 1911, Berlin
There is no doubt that the Spiritual Science we have been studying for many years is beginning to make more and more headway in the world and to find increasing understanding in the hearts and minds of our contemporaries. It might be useful occasionally to speak of how the ideas of Spiritual Science are being made known and many of you would be glad to know what effect the spiritual nourishment you have yourselves received has had upon others at the present time. It is only now and then that I can speak of this spread of spiritual-scientific thought in the outer world, but it will be some satisfaction to you to know that we can see how the spirit inspiring us all is finding entry in various countries. I could see, for instance, that our ideas were beginning to find a footing when I was lecturing in the south of Austria, in Trieste, recently. Then, when I gave a course of lectures in Copenhagen 1The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind. (Obtainable from Rudolf Steiner Press.) only a few days ago, there too it was evident that the spirit we are trying to cultivate under the symbol of the Rose Cross is gaining more and more ground. Signs such as these make it clear that there is a need and also a longing for what we call Spiritual Science.
It is fundamental to the spirit informing our Movement that we should refrain from any agitation or propaganda and far rather pay heed to the great, all-embracing wisdom needed by the hearts and souls of modern men if they are to feel any security in life to-day. It is our duty to make these spiritual thoughts into real nourishment for our souls. You will certainly have understood enough of the great law of Karma to know that it is by no chance or accident that an individual feels urged to come down into the physical world at this particular time. The souls of all of you here have felt the longing to incarnate in a physical body at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century because of a desire to experience what can be achieved in the present physical environment.
Let us look at our own epoch and see how its spiritual aspect appears to souls which, like yours, have been born into it. At the turn of the century conditions were very different from what they had been fifty or sixty years earlier. Human beings who — like all of you here — are growing up at the present time, attempt now and then to hear about the spiritual guidance and leadership of the world, about the spiritual forces and influences pervading the external world in the different kingdoms of nature and penetrating into the souls of men. But for the last fifty years a soul longing and searching for spiritual nourishment has found very little. This longing has been present in the depths of men's souls, although it may have been a very faint voice, easily silenced. Nevertheless the longing is there and everyone is seeking for spiritual nourishment, whatever his position in life and whatever use he may make of his faculties. No matter in what department of science you may be working to-day, you learn only external, material facts; they can be utilised very cleverly and ingeniously to advance modern culture but they are no help at all towards understanding what the spirit may reveal. No matter whether you are an artist or are engaged in some practical work, you will find little that can pass into head or hand to give you not only energy and impetus for your work but also security and comfort in life. By the beginning of the nineteenth century people had forebodings that in the near future very little spiritual nourishment would be left. During the first half of the century, when vestiges of an old spiritual life were still present, although in a different form, many people felt that there was something in the air presaging the complete disappearance of the ancient treasures of the spirit handed down by tradition from olden times. Yet it is precisely the legitimate progress of culture during the nineteenth century that will completely wipe out the spiritual traditions handed down from the past.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, many voices are to be heard speaking in this strain and I will quote one example of a man who lived during that period and had a wide knowledge of the old form of theosophy, but who also knew that owing to the course of events in that century it was bound to disappear; at the same time he was convinced that a future must come when there would be a revival of this old theosophy but in a new form. I am going to read you a passage written towards the end of the first half of the nineteenth century, in 1847. Its author was a thinker of a type no longer in existence to-day — men who were still sensitive to the last echoes of those old traditions which have now been lost for a considerable time.—
‘It is often difficult to learn among the older theosophists what the real purpose of theosophy is ... but it is clear that along the paths it has taken hitherto, theosophy can acquire no real existence as a science nor achieve any result in a wider sphere. Yet it would be very ill-advised to conclude that it is a phenomenon scientifically unjustifiable and also ephemeral. History itself decisively disproves this: it shows how this enigmatic phenomenon could never make itself really effective in the world but for all that was continually breaking through and was held together in its manifold forms by the chain of a never-dying tradition. ... At all times there have been very few in whom this insistent speculative need has been combined with a living religious need. But theosophy is for these few alone. ... The important thing is that if theosophy ever becomes scientific in the real sense and produces obvious and definite results, these will gradually become the general conviction, be acknowledged as valid truths and be universally accepted by those who cannot find their way along the only possible path by which they could be discovered.
But all this lies in the womb of the future which we do not wish to anticipate. For the moment let us be thankful for the beautiful presentation given by Oetinger, which will certainly be appreciated in wide circles.’
This shows what a man such as Rothe of Heidelberg felt about the theosophical spirit in 1847. The passage is from his Preface to a treatise on Oetinger, a theosophist living in the second half of the eighteenth century.
What, then, can be said about the spirit of theosophy? It is a spirit without which the genuine cultural achievements of the world would never have been possible. Thinking of its greatest manifestations, we shall say: Without it there would never have been a Homer, a Pindar, a Raphael, a Michelangelo; there would have been no depth of religious feeling in men, no truly spiritual life and no external culture. Everything that man creates he must create from out of the spirit. If he thinks that he can create without it he is ignorant of the fact that although in certain periods spiritual striving falls into decline, the less firmly rooted a thing is in the spirit the more likely it is to die. Whatever has eternal value stems from the spirit and no created thing survives that is not rooted in it. But since everything a man does is under the guidance of the spiritual life, the very smallest creation, even when used for the purposes of everyday life, has an eternal value and connects him with the spirit. We know that our own theosophical life has its source in what we have called the Rosicrucian stream; and it has often been emphasised that since the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Masters of Rosicrucian wisdom have been preparing conditions that began at the end of the nineteenth century and will continue in the twentieth. The future longed for and expected by Rothe of Heidelberg is already the present and should be recognised as such. But those who caused this stream to flow into souls, at first in a way imperceptible to men, have been preparing conditions for a long, long time. In a definite sense what we have called the Rosicrucian path since the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is present in our Theosophical Movement in a more conscious form; its influence has flowed into the hearts and minds of the peoples of Europe and sets its stamp upon them.
From what has happened in European culture, can we form an idea of how this spirit has actually taken effect? I said just now that it has worked as the true Rosicrucian spirit since the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; it was always present although only at that time did it assume Rosicrucian form. This Rosicrucian spirit goes back to a very distant past — it had its Mysteries even in Atlantean times. The influence has been taking effect for long ages, becoming more and more conscious as it streamed into the hearts and souls of men.
Let us try to form some idea of how this spirit made its way into humanity. We meet together here and our studies help us to perceive ways in which the human soul develops and gradually rises to regions where it can understand the spiritual life, and perhaps actually behold it. Many of you have for years been trying to let concepts and ideas which mirror the spiritual life stream into your souls as spiritual nourishment. You know how we have tried to acquire some understanding of the riddles of the world. I have often described the different stages of the soul's development and how it can rise to the higher worlds; how a higher part of the Self must be distinguished from a lower part; how man has come from other planetary conditions, having passed through a Saturn-, a Sun- and a Moon-evolution, during which his physical, etheric and astral bodies were formed; and how finally he entered into the period of Earth-evolution. I have told you that there is something within us that must receive its training here on the Earth in order to rise to a higher stage. We have also said that the development of certain beings — the Luciferic beings — was retarded during the Old Moon-period and they later approached man's astral body as tempters, and also in order to impart to him certain qualities. I have often told you too how man must overcome certain tendencies in his lower self and through this conquest rise into the spheres to which his higher Self belongs, into the higher regions of the spiritual life. Words of Goethe must be remembered:
And as long as thou knowest it not,
This Dying and Becoming,
Thou art but a troubled guest
Upon the dark Earth!
The degree of development that is possible to-day and can give strength, assurance and a genuine content to life is within our reach if we acquire knowledge of the manifold nature of man and realise that his constitution is not a haphazard medley but consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body and Ego. We have formulated definite ideas, for example of the temperaments, by studying the process of education and the development of the physical body up to the seventh year, of the etheric body up to the fourteenth and of the astral body up to the twenty-first year. By studying the mission of Truth, of Prayer, of Anger, our ideas of the three bodies, of the sentient soul, intellectual or mind-soul and consciousness — or spiritual soul, do not remain mere abstractions but impart meaning, clarity and content to our existence.
In this way we have achieved some understanding of the riddles of the world. And although there are large numbers of people outside our circle who still, consciously or unconsciously, persist in materialism, there are nevertheless many souls who feel it necessary to their very existence to listen to expositions of the kind we have been able to give. Many of you would not have been present among us for years, sharing our experiences and activities if it were not a necessity of your very lives. Why are there souls to-day who understand these things and for whom the ideas and concepts developed here become a guide on their life's way? The reason is this. — Just as you have been born into the modern world with these longings, so our forbears in Europe — and this means very many of those present here to-day — were born during past centuries into a world and environment very different from those of the nineteenth century. Let us cast our minds back to the sixth, seventh or even the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of our era when many of those present here were incarnated, and think of the sort of things that souls then living might have experienced.
In those times there was no Theosophical Society where subjects such as those with which we are concerned were studied; the influence of the environment upon the souls of men took a very different form. People did not travel about giving lectures on spiritual-scientific subjects, but minstrels went from village to village, from city to city, proclaiming the spirit. These minstrels did not speak about theosophy, about the lower and higher Ego, about man's physical, etheric and astral bodies and so on. As they moved around the land their mission was to speak of the spirit in the way it was wont to be proclaimed at that time. The following story was told all over Middle and Eastern Europe. —
Once upon a time there was a King's son. During a ride one day he heard moans coming from a ditch, and following the course of the ditch in order to discover the source of the moans, he found an old woman. He dismounted, climbed down into the ditch and helped the old woman who had fallen into it, to get out. Then he saw that she had injured her leg and could not walk. He asked her how the accident happened and she told him: ‘I am old and I have to get up soon after midnight to go to the city and sell my eggs; on the way I fell into this ditch.’ The King's son said to her: ‘You cannot get home by yourself so I will put you on my horse and take you.’ This he did, and the woman said to him: ‘Although you are of noble birth, you are a kind and good man; and because you have helped me I will give you a reward.’ He guessed now that she was not an ordinary woman, for she said: ‘You shall have the reward which your kind soul has earned. Do you want to marry the Flower-Queen's daughter?’ ‘Yes!’ he replied. She went on: ‘For that you will need something that I can easily give you,’ and she gave him a little bell, saying: ‘If you ring this bell once the Eagle-King will come with his hosts to help you in the predicament in which you find yourself; if you ring twice the Fox-King will come with his hosts to help you in the predicament in which you find yourself; and if you ring three times the Fish-King will come with his hosts to help you in the predicament in which you find yourself.’ — The King's son took the little bell and returned home, announced that he was going to search for the Flower-Queen's daughter, and rode off. He rode a long, long way but nobody could tell him where the Flower-Queen lived with her daughter. By this time his horse was completely exhausted and could carry him no longer so that he was obliged to continue his journey on foot. He came across an aged man and asked him where the Flower-Queen lived. ‘I cannot tell you,’ the aged man replied, ‘but go on and on and you will find my father who may perhaps be able to tell you.’ So the King's son went on, year after year, and then found another, still more aged man. He asked him: ‘Can you tell me where the Flower-Queen lives?’ But the aged man replied: ‘I cannot tell you, but you must go on and on for many more long years and you will find my father who will certainly be able to tell you where the Flower-Queen lives.’ — So the King's son went on and at last found an old, old man and asked him if he could tell him where the Flower-Queen lived with her daughter. The old man replied: ‘The Flower-Queen lives far away, in a mountain which you can see from here in the distance. But she is guarded by a fearsome Dragon. You cannot get near at present for this is a time when the Dragon never sleeps; he sleeps at certain times only and this is one of his waking periods. But you must go a little further, to another mountain, and there you will find the Dragon's mother; through her you will attain your goal.’ So he went on and found the Dragon-mother, the very archetype of ugliness. But he knew that whether he could find the Flower-Queen's daughter would depend on her. Then he saw seven other dragons around her, all eager to guard the Flower-Queen and her daughter who had been long imprisoned and were destined to be set free by the King's son. So he said to the Dragon-mother: ‘I know that I must become your servant if I am to find the Flower-Queen.’ ‘Yes’, she said, ‘you must become my servant and perform a task that is not easy. Here is a horse which you must lead to pasture the first day, the second day and the third. If you can bring it home in good condition you may possibly achieve your object after three days. But if you fail, the dragons will devour you — we shall all devour you.’ The King's son agreed to this and the next morning he was given the horse. He tried to lead it to pasture but it soon disappeared. He searched for it in vain and was in despair. Then he remembered the little bell given him by the old woman, took it out and rang it once. A host of eagles gathered, led by the Eagle-King, looked for the horse and found it, so that the King's son was able to take it back to the Dragon-mother. She said to him: ‘Because you have brought the horse back I will give you a cloak of copper so that you can attend the Ball tonight at the court of the Flower-Queen and her daughter.’ Then, on the second day, he was again given the horse to take to pasture, but again it disappeared and he could not find it. So he took out the bell and rang it twice. Immediately the Fox-King appeared with a host of his followers; they looked for and found the horse and the King's son was again able to take it back to the Dragon-mother. She then said to him: ‘To-day you shall have a cloak of silver so that you can attend the Ball to-night at the court of the Flower-Queen and her daughter.’ At the Ball the Flower-Queen said to him: ‘On the third day ask for a foal of that horse and with it you will be able to rescue me and we shall be united.’ Then, on the third day, the horse was again handed to him to lead to pasture, and again it soon disappeared, for it was very wild. So he took out the bell and rang it three times, whereupon the Fish-King appeared with his followers, found the horse, and for the third time the King's son brought it home. He had now successfully performed his task. The Dragon-mother then presented him with a mantle of gold as his third garment in order that on the third day he might attend the Flower-Queen's Ball. He was also given as a fitting reward the foal of the horse he had cared for. With it he was able to lead the Flower-Queen and her daughter to their own castle. And around the castle, since there were others who wanted to steal her daughter, the Flower-Queen caused a thick hedge to grow to prevent the castle from being invaded. Then the Flower-Queen said to the King's son: ‘You have won my daughter and henceforth she shall be yours, but only on one condition. You may keep her for half the year but for the other half she must return beneath the surface of the earth and be restored to me. Only on this condition can you be united with her.’ So the King's son won the Flower-Queen's daughter and lived with her for half the year, while for the other half she was with her mother. —
This story, as well as others like it, was listened to by many people in those days. They listened and drank in what they heard but did not, like many modern theosophists, proceed to invent allegories, for symbolic or allegorical interpretations of such matters are valueless. People listened to the stories because they were a source of delight to them and a warm glow pervaded their souls as they listened. They wanted nothing more than this as they listened to the story of the Flower-Queen and the King's son with his bell and his wooing of the Flower-Queen's daughter.
There are many souls alive to-day who in those days heard such tales with inner delight, and the effects lived on in them. Their feelings and perceptions were converted into thoughts and experiences and their souls were transformed by new forces. These forces have changed into the longing for a higher interpretation of the same secrets, a longing for Spiritual Science. In those days the wandering minstrels did not go about saying that man strives towards his higher self and to that end must overcome his lower self which holds him back. They gave their message in the form of a story about a King's son who rode out into the world, heard moans coming from a ditch and thereupon performed a good deed. To-day we speak simply of a good deed, a deed of love and sacrifice. In earlier times the deed was described in pictures. To-day we say that man must develop a feeling for the spirit which will awaken in him an inkling of the spiritual world and create powers through which he can establish relationship with it. In earlier times this was expressed in the picture of the old woman who gave the King's son a bell which he rang. To-day it is said: Man has taken into himself all the kingdoms of nature and unites in harmony everything that lies outspread before him. But he must learn to understand how what is outspread in the external world lives within him and how he can overcome his lower nature, for only if he can bring what is at work in the kingdoms of nature into the right relationship with his own being can it come to his aid.
We have spoken often enough of man's evolution through the periods of Saturn, Sun and Moon and of how he left behind him the other kingdoms of nature, retaining within himself the best of each in order that he might rise to a higher stage. To what stage has he evolved? To indicate what lives in the human soul Plato had already used the picture of the horse on which man rides from one incarnation to another. In the times of which we have been speaking the picture used was that of the bell which was rung to summon the representatives of the kingdoms of nature — the Eagle-King, the Fox-King and the Fish-King — in order that the being destined to become the ruler of these kingdoms might establish the right relationship with them.
Man's soul is unruly and can be brought into the right relationship with the kingdoms of nature only when it is tempered by love and wisdom. In earlier times this truth was presented in pictorial form and the soul was helped to understand what we to-day express differently. Men were told that the King's son rang the bell once and the Eagle-King appeared; twice and the Fox-King appeared; three times and the Fish-King appeared. It was they who brought back the horse. In other words: the tumults which rage in the human soul must be recognised; when they are recognised the soul can be freed from lower influences and brought into order.
In the modern age we say that man must learn how his passions, his anger and so on, are connected with his development from one seven-year period to another. In other words, we must learn to understand the threefold sheaths of the human being. In earlier times a wonderful picture was placed before men: the King's son was given a mantle, a sheath, every time he rang the little bell — that is to say, when he had subjugated one of the kingdoms of nature. To-day we speak of studying the nature of the physical body; in earlier days a picture was used — of the Dragon-mother giving the King's son a cloak or mantle of copper. We study the nature of the etheric body; in earlier times it was said that the Dragon-mother gave the King's son a silver cloak on the second day. We speak of the astral body with its surging passions; in earlier times it was said that on the third day the Dragon-mother gave the King's son a cloak of gold. What we learn to-day about the threefold nature of man in the form of concepts was conveyed through the picture of the copper, silver and golden cloaks. Instead of the pictures of the copper, silver and golden cloaks we speak to-day in terms which convey an understanding of how the solid physical body is related to the other sheaths of the human being as copper ore is related to silver and gold.
We speak to-day of seven classes of Luciferic beings whose development was retarded during the Moon-evolution and who set about bringing their influence to bear upon man's astral body. The minstrels said: When the King's son came to the mountain where he was to be united with the Flower-Queen's daughter, he encountered seven dragons who would have devoured him if he had not accomplished his task. We know that if our evolution does not proceed in the right way it will be corrupted by the forces of the sevenfold Luciferic beings. We say nowadays that by achieving spiritual development we find our higher Self. The minstrels said: The King's son was united with the Flower-Queen. And we say: A certain rhythm must be established in the human soul. You will remember that a few weeks ago I said that when an idea has arisen in the soul we must allow time for the idea to mature, and it will then be possible to detect a certain rhythm in the process. After seven days the idea has penetrated into the depths of the soul; after fourteen days the maturing idea can lay hold of the outer astral substance and allow itself to be baptised by the World-Spirit. After twenty-one days the idea has become still more mature. And only after four times seven days is it ready to be offered to the world as a gift of our own personality. This is the manifestation of an inner rhythm of the soul. A man's creative faculty can work effectively only if he does not try immediately to force upon the world something that occurs to him but is aware that the ordered rhythm of the external world repeats itself in his soul, that he must live in such a way that the Macrocosm is reflected in the Microcosm of his own being. The minstrels said: Man must bring the forces of his soul into harmony, must seek the Flower-Queen's daughter and enter into a union with her during which he spends half of the year with his bride and for the other half leaves her to be with her mother who lives in the depths. This means that he establishes a rhythm within himself and the rhythm of his life takes its course in harmony with the rhythm of the Macrocosm.
These pictures — and hundreds like them could be mentioned — stimulated the soul through the thought-forms they created; and the result is that souls living to-day have become sufficiently mature to listen to the different kind of presentation given by Spiritual Science. But before this could happen man had perforce to experience a sense of deprivation and intense longing. The spiritual longings of the soul had first to be engulfed in the physical world. This did in fact happen in the first half of the nineteenth century; and then, in the second half of the century, came the materialistic culture with its devastating effect upon spiritual life. But the longing grew all the stronger and the ideal of the spiritual-scientific Movement became all the more significant. In the first half of the century there were only few who in a kind of silent martyrdom felt that ideas once conveyed in the form of pictures in narratives still survived but only in a state of decline.
In the soul of a man born in the year 1803, echoes of the old wisdom of past times were still reverberating. Something closely akin to theosophical ideas was a living reality in him. His soul was completely engrossed in what we to-day call the spiritual-scientific solution of the riddle of world-existence. His name was Julius Mosen. His soul was able to survive only because for most of his life he was bedridden. Soul and body could not adjust themselves to each other because owing to the way in which Mosen had grasped these ideas without being able to penetrate them spiritually, his etheric body had been drawn out of his physical body which was paralysed as a result. His soul had nevertheless risen to spiritual heights. In 1831 he wrote a remarkable book, Ritter Wahn. He had learnt of a wonderful legend still surviving in Italy, an old Italian folk-legend. As he studied it he became convinced that it enshrined something of the spirit of the universe, that those who created its imagery were filled with the living spirituality of the World Order. The result was that in 1831 he wrote a truly wonderful work — which, needless to say, has been forgotten, in common with so much that is the product of spiritual greatness.
Ritter Wahn sets out to conquer death and on his way he comes across three old men — Ird, Time and Space. Julius Mosen hit on the German word Ird to translate the Italian il mondo, because he knew that there was something particularly significant in it. Ird, Time and Space are the names of the three old men who, however, can be of no use to Ritter Wahn because they are themselves subject to death. Ird denotes everything that is subject to the laws of the physical body, and so to death; Time, the etheric body, is by its very nature transitory; and the third, the lower astral body, which gives us the perception of Space, is also subject to death. Our individuality passes from incarnation to incarnation; but according to the Italian folk-legend, Ird, Time and Space represent our threefold sheath.
Who is ‘Ritter Wahn?’ Each of us, passing from incarnation to incarnation, looks out upon the world and faces maya, the great Illusion; each of us, in that we live a life in the spirit, goes forth to conquer death. On this quest we meet the three old men who are our three sheaths. They are indeed very old! The physical body has existed since the evolutionary period of Old Saturn, the etheric body since the period of Old Sun, and the astral body since the period of Old Moon. The Ego, the ‘I’, has been embodied in men in the course of the Earth period itself. Julius Mosen depicts Ritter Wahn seeking to overcome death. He uses the Platonic image of a rider on horseback — an image that was known all over Middle Europe and still farther afield. Ritter Wahn rides out in an attempt to conquer the heavens with materialistic thinking — like those who cling to the sense-world and are imprisoned in illusion and maya. But when through death they enter the spiritual world, what happens is faithfully described by Julius Mosen. Such human beings have not lived out their lives to the full and long to come down again to the Earth in order that their souls may continue to evolve. So Ritter Wahn returns to the Earth. He sees the beautiful Morgana, the soul, which is destined to be stimulated by whatever is earthly and — like the Flower-Queen's daughter — represents the union with what man can acquire only through schooling on Earth. He falls a victim to death through being again united with the Earth and the beautiful Morgana. This means that he passes through death in order that he may raise his own soul, represented by Morgana, to higher and higher stages during each succeeding incarnation.
It is from pictures like these which carry the stamp of their thousands of years’ life that ideas stream into artists of the calibre of Julius Mosen. In his case they were given expression by a soul too great to live healthily in a physical body during the approaching age of materialism and Julius Mosen had consequently to endure the silent martyrdom imposed on him by his passionate soul. — Such was the impulse at work in a man living in the first half of the nineteenth century. It will become active again but in such a way as to kindle human powers and forces; and it will enable us to have some understanding of what is meant by the spirit of Rosicrucianism — the spirit that must make its way into the souls of men.
We can now surmise that what we ourselves are cultivating has always existed. Were we to imagine that anything in the world can prosper without this spirit working in men we should be succumbing to the delusions suffered by Ritter Wahn.
Whence came the minstrels of the seventh, eighth or even thirteenth centuries, wandering as they did through the world to create thought-forms that would enable souls in our own day to have a different kind of understanding? Where had these minstrels learnt how to bring such pictures to men? They had learnt from the centres we think of to-day as the Rosicrucian schools. They were pupils of Rosicrucians. Their teachers said to them: You cannot now go forth into the world and clothe your message in concepts and ideas, as will have to be done later on; you must speak of the King's son, of the Flower-Queen and of the three cloaks, in order that from these pictures thought-forms may come into being and live in the souls of men. And when these souls return to Earth they will understand what is needed for their further progress. — Messengers are continually sent out from the centres of spiritual life in order that in every age what lies in the depths of the spirit may be made accessible to men.
It is a superficial view to believe that such tales can be invented by human fancy. The old tales which give expression to the spiritual secrets of the world came into being because those who composed them gave ear to others who were able to impart the spiritual secrets. Consequently we can say with truth that the spirit of all humanity, of the Microcosm and the Macrocosm, lives in them.
The minstrels were sent out to tell their stories from the same centres whence we to-day draw the knowledge on which the culture needed by humanity is based. Thus it is that the spirit in which mankind is rooted moves on from epoch to epoch. The Beings who in pre-Christian times imparted instruction to individuals in the temples, teaching them what they had themselves brought over from former planetary evolutions — these Beings placed themselves under the leadership of Christ, the unique Individuality who became the great Teacher and Guide of mankind. Stories which have come down through the centuries and have inspired in the whole of Western culture thought-forms expressing in pictures the same teaching about Christ as we give to-day, make it quite clear that in the period after the Mystery of Golgotha the spiritual leadership of mankind, working through its centres of learning, was vested in Christ. All spiritual leadership is connected with Him. If we can make ourselves conscious of this fact we shall be turning our gaze to the light we need in order to understand the longings of human souls incarnated in the nineteenth century.
If we think deeply about souls who reveal the longings of earlier times, we shall recognise with a sense of profound responsibility that they waited for us to bring their longings to fulfilment. Julius Mosen, the author of Ritter Wahn and Ahasver, and others like him, were the last prophets of the West because the teachings once given by messengers from the holy temples in the form of pictures to prepare souls for later ages, were living realities to them. And their yearning is indicated in words written by Rothe of Heidelberg in 1847: ‘... if theosophy ever becomes scientific in the real sense and produces obvious and definite results, these will gradually become the general conviction, be acknowledged as valid truths and be universally accepted by those who cannot find their way along the only possible path by which they could be discovered ...’ At that time a man who had these yearnings — thinking not only of himself but also of his contemporaries — could only say with resignation that all this lay in the womb of the future which he had no wish to anticipate. In 1847, men who were cognisant of the secrets of the Rosicrucian temples had not yet spoken in a way that could be generally understood. But what lies in the womb of the future can become living power if there are enough souls who realise that knowledge is a duty — a duty because we must not give back undeveloped souls to the World-Spirit. Were we to do that we should have deprived the World-Spirit of forces implanted in us. If there are souls who recognise their duty to the World-Spirit and endeavour to understand the riddles of the world, the hopes cherished by the best men of earlier times will be fulfilled. They looked to us, who were to be born after them, and longed that theosophy should become scientifically acceptable and lay hold of the hearts of men. But these hearts must exist! And that depends upon people who have identified themselves with our spiritual-scientific Movement being convinced of the need for spiritual illumination of the riddles of existence. It depends upon every single soul among us whether the longings of which I have spoken prove to have been empty dreams on the part of those who had hoped for the best in us or to have been dreams now brought to fulfilment.
When we see the barrenness of science, art and every domain of social life we must tell ourselves that we need not succumb to it but that there is a way out. For again an age has dawned when voices from the holy temples are speaking — not in pictures and stories but proclaiming truths which many people still regard as theories but which can and must become sources of life and nourishment to the soul. Each individual can resolve with the highest powers of his soul to receive this source of life.
This is what we must impress upon our souls as the epitome of the meaning and spirit of the guidance of mankind. If we allow this thought to be active in our souls it will be an impulse in us for many months. We shall find that it can grow into an impressive structure — quite independently of the words used to express it. My words may well be imperfect but it is the reality in the thought that matters, not the form in which it is expressed. This reality can live in every single soul. The totality of truth is present in every soul as a seed and can be brought to blossom if the soul devotes itself to the development of that seed.