28 December 1910, Stuttgart
In the introductory lecture yesterday our attention was drawn to the fact that certain events in the more ancient history of mankind can be rightly understood only when we not merely observe the forces and faculties of the personalities themselves, but when we realise at the outset that through the personalities in question, as through instruments, Beings are working who allow their deeds to stream down from higher worlds into our world. We must realise that these Beings cannot take direct hold of the physical facts of our existence because, on account of the present stage of their development, they cannot incarnate in a physical Body which draws its constituents from the physical world. If, therefore, they desire to work within our physical world, they must make use of the physical human being — of his deeds, but also of his intellect, his powers of understanding. We find the influence and penetration of such Beings of the higher world the more clearly in evidence the farther back we go in the ages of the evolution of humanity. But it must not be imagined that this downpouring of forces and activities from the higher worlds into the physical world through human beings has ever ceased; it continues even into our own time.
To the spiritual scientist who for years now has been absorbing principles which lead his feelings and ideal to accept the existence of higher worlds — to him a fact such as this will certainly, from he outset, be to some extent comprehensible; for he is accustomed always to draw the connecting threads which link our knowledge, our thinking, our willing, with the Beings of the higher Hierarchies. But from time to time the spiritual scientist is also in the position of having to guard against the materialistic conceptions which are so prevalent in the present age and make it impossible for those who stand aloof from the development of the spiritual life even to enter into what has to be said about the working of higher worlds into our physical world.
Fundamentally speaking, it is considered an antiquated attitude in
our time even to speak of the influence of abstract ideas in the events
of history. Many people to-day regard it as quite impermissible, in face
of the genuinely scientific approach, to speak of certain ideas,
abstract ideas which properly speaking can live only in the wind, taking
effect in the successive epochs of history. A last semblance, at least,
of belief in the influence of abstract ideas — although how
they are to work is incomprehensible precisely because they are abstract
ideas! — was still in evidence even in the 19th century, in
Ranke's exposition of history 10Leopold von Ranke, 1795–1886. See Rudolf
Steiner, Karmic-Relationships: Esoteric Studies, Vol. II, lecture
XIV. But even this belief in ideas as factors in history is
gradually being discarded by our progressively materialistic
development, and in a certain respect to-day it is regarded as the sign
of an enlightened mind in the domain of history to believe that all the
characteristic features of the several epochs merely represent the
convergence of physically perceptible actions, outer needs, outer
interests and ideas of physical human beings. The time is now past when
spirits such as Herder, as if through a certain inspiration, still
portrayed the development of human history in a way which enables one to
perceive that it is based on the assumption, at least, of the existence
of living powers, living super-sensible powers manifesting through the
deeds and the lives of men. 11J. G. Herder, Ideen zur Philosophie der
Geschichte der Menschheit, written between 1784 and 1791. Tr. by T.
Churchill; Outline of a Philosophy of the History of Man.
(London, 1803.) Those who want to be accounted very clever
to-day, will say: “Well yes, a man such as Lessing certainly had
many really intelligent ideas, but then, at the end of his life, he
wrote nonsense such as you find in The Education of the Human
Race, where the only way in which he could help himself out of his
difficulties was by linking the strict conformity to law shown by the
flow of historical development with the idea of reincarnation.” In
the last sentences of The Education of the Human Race, 12G. E. Lessing. The last
paragraphs of The Education of the Human Race, published in 1780,
are as follows:
“But ... why should not every individual man have existed more than once upon this world?
“ Is this hypothesis so laughable merely because it is the oldest? Because the human widerstanding, before the sophistries of the Schools had dissipated and debilitated it, lighted upon it at once?
“Why may not even I have already performed those steps of my perfecting which bring to man only temporal punishments and rewards ?
“And once more, why not another time all those steps, to perform which the views of Eternal Rewards so powerfully assist us?
“Why should I not come back as often. as I am capable of acquiring fresh knowledge, fresh expertness ? Do I bring away so much from one, that there is nothing to repay the trouble of coming back?
“Is this a reason against it? Or, because I forget that I have been here already? Happy is it for me that I do forget. The recollection of my former condition would perrnit me to make only a bad use of the present. And that which even I must forget now, is that necessarily forgotten for ever?
“Or is it a reason against the hypothesis that so much time would have been lost to me? Lost? — And how much then should I miss? — Is not a whole Eternity mine? "
Tr. F. W. Robertson (1872).
Reprinted (1927) by Anthroposophical
Publishing Co. Lessing has actually expressed what is described by Anthroposophy on the basis of occult facts — namely, that souls who lived in ancient epochs and then absorbed active, living forces, carry over these forces into their new incarnations, so that behind physical happenings there is not an abstract onflow of ideas but an actual and real onflow of the spirit. As I said, a clever ass will insist that in his old age Lessing hit upon ideas as confused as that of reincarnation, and that these ideas must he ignored. — This reminds one again of the bitterly ironic yet brilliant note once written by Hebbel in his diary, to the effect that a fair motif would be that a master, taking the subject of Plato in his school, has among his pupils the reincarnated Plato, who understands what the master is teaching so little that he has to be severely punished!
The conception of the historical evolution of humanity has lost much of the earlier, spiritual insight, and Spiritual Science will really have to guard against the onslaught of materialistic thinking which comes from all sides and regards communications which are based on the spiritual facts as so much lunacy. That things have come to a pretty pass is shown, for example, in the fact that all those mighty pictures, those grand symbolical conceptions which emanated from the old clairvoyant knowledge and are expressed in the characters of legends and fairy-tales, have interpreters of the very oddest kind. The most curious production in this domain is undoubtedly Solomon Reinach's little book Orpheus, which has caused a certain furor in many circles in France. Everything from which the ideas of Demeter, of Orpheus, and of other mythological cycles are supposed to have sprung, is traced back in this book to purely materialistic happenings and it is often utterly grotesque how the historical existence of this or that figure, standing, let us say, behind Hermes or Moses, is alleged to have originated, and with what superficiality an attempt has been made to explain these figures as the inventions of poetic license, of human fantasy. According to Solomon Reinach's method it would be easy, sixty or seventy years hence, when outer memory of him will have faded somewhat, to prove that there never was such a man, but that it was simply a matter of popular fantasy having transferred the old idea of Reinecke Fuchs to Solomon Reinach. According to his method this would certainly be possible. The absurdity of the whole book is on a par with what is said in the Preface — that it has been written “for the widest circles of the educated public, even for the very young.” “For the very young” — since he emphasises that he has avoided everything that might cause a shock to young girls — although he has not avoided tracing back the idea of Demeter to a pig! He promises, however, that if his book gains the influence he hopes for, he will write a special edition for mothers, which will include everything that must still be withheld from their daughters. — That is the kind of thing we have come to!
One would like to remind students of Spiritual Science particularly, that it is possible to prove on purely external grounds that spiritual powers, spiritual forces have worked through human beings right up to our own century — and this quite apart from the purely occult, esoteric research with which we shall be mainly concerned here. But in order that we may understand how it is possible for Spiritual Science to maintain, on purely external grounds, that super-sensible powers exercise sway in history, let me point to the following.
Anyone who gains a little insight into the development of modern humanity, let us say in the 14th and 15th centuries and on until the 16th, will realise how infinitely significant in this outer development was the intervention of a certain personality, one in respect of whom it can be proved from completely external evidence that spiritual, super-sensible Powers worked through her. In order to throw a little light on the occult understanding of history, we may ask the question: What would the development of modern Europe have been if at the beginning of the 15th century the Maid of Orleans had not entered the arena of events? Anyone who thinks, even from an entirely external point of view, of the development that took place during this period, must say to himself: Suppose the deeds of the Maid of Orleans were erased from history ... then, according to the knowledge obtainable from purely external historical research, one cannot but realise that without the working of higher, super-sensible Powers through the Maid of Orleans, the whole of France, indeed the whole of Europe in the 15th century, would have taken on an altogether different form. Everything in the impulses of will, in the physical brains of those times, was directed towards flooding all Europe with a general conception of the State which would have extinguished the folk-individualities and under this influence a very great deal of what has developed in Europe during the last centuries through the interplay of these folk-individualities would quite certainly have been impossible.
Imagine the deed of the Maid of Orleans blotted out from history, France abandoned to her fate without this intervention, and then ask: Without this deed, what would have become of France? And then think of the role played by France in the whole cultural life of humanity during the centuries following! Add to this the facts which cannot be refuted and are confirmed by actual documents concerning the mission of the Maid of Orleans. This young girl, certainly not highly educated even by the standards of her time, suddenly, before she is twenty years old, feels in the autumn of 1428 that spiritual Powers of the super-sensible worlds are speaking to her. True, she clothes these Powers in forms that are familiar to her, so that she is seeing them through the medium of her own mental images; but that does not do away with the reality of these Powers. Picture to yourselves that she knows that super-sensible Powers are guiding her will towards a definite point — I am speaking to begin with, not of what can be told about these facts from the Akasha Chronicle, but only of what is confirmed by documentary evidence.
We know that the Maid of Orleans confided her vision first of all to a relative who — one would almost say, by chance-happened to understand her; that after many vicissitudes and difficulties she was introduced to the Court of King Charles who, together with the whole French Army, had come to his wit's end, as the saying goes. We know too, how after every conceivable obstacle had been put in her way, she finally recognised and went straight to the King, who was standing among such a crowd of people that no physical eye could have distinguished him. It is also known that at that moment she confided to him something— he wanted to test her by it — of which it can be said that it was known only to him and to the super-sensible worlds. You also know from ordinary history that it was she who, under the unceasing impulse and urge of her intense faith — it would be better to say, through her actual vision — and in face of the greatest difficulties, led the armies to victory and the King to his crowning.
Who intervened at that time in the course of history? — None other than Beings of higher Hierarchies! The Maid of Orleans was an outer Instrument of these Beings, and it was they who guided the deeds of history. It is possible that someone may say to himself: “If I had guided these deeds I would have guided them more wisely!” — because he finds one thing or another in the procedure of the Maid of Orleans at variance with his own way of thinking. Adherents of Spiritual Science, however, should not wish to correct the deeds of gods through human intellect — a very common practice in our so-called civilisation. There have also been people who quite in the Spirit of the present age, have wanted, as it were, to unburden modern history of the deeds of the Maid of Orleans. A characteristic modern work with this materialistic trend has been written by Anatole France. One would really like to know how materialistic thinking manages to reconcile itself with much irrefutable evidence — I am still speaking only of actual historical documents. And so because we are in Stuttgart and I sometimes like to take account of local matters, I want to quote from a document to which reference has already been made here.
Those who belong to Stuttgart certainly know that there once lived here a man 13August Friedrich Gfrörer, 1803—1861. who carried out important research on the Gospels. As spiritual scientists we certainly need not agree with the things — some of them extremely clever — that were brought forward by Gfrörer — that was his name — and we may be quite sure that if he had heard what is now being given in the domain of Spiritual Science he would have used terms he was often wont to apply to his opponents — whom he, with his stubborn-headedness, by no means always let off lightly. He would have said that these Theosophists, too, are people who are “not quite right in the head.” But this was before the time when, as is the case to-day, historical documents can be passed over for purely materialistic reasons if they happen to deal with inconvenient facts and obviously point to the working of higher forces in our physical world. And so I will again quote from a short document — a letter published in the first half of the 19th century. I will read you just a few paragraphs from this letter, which was quoted by Gfrörer at that time in justification of his belief. I will read a passage characterising the Maid of Orleans, and then ask you to think of the implications of such a vivid description.
After the writer of this letter has set forth what the Maid of Orleans accomplished, he continues:
“This and much more has the Maid brought about, and with God's help she will accomplish still greater things. The girl is of appealing beauty and manly bearing; she speaks little and shows remarkable sagacity; when she speaks she has a pleasing, delicately feminine voice. She eats little and abstains from wine. She takes pleasure in fine horses and weapons and admires well-accoutred and noble men. To be obliged to meet and converse with large numbers of people is abhorrent to her; her tears often overflow; she loves a happy face, endures unheard of toil, and is so assiduous in the manipulation and bearing of weapons that she remains uninterruptedly for six days — day and night — in full armour. She says that the English have no right to France, and therefore — as she says — God has sent her to drive them out and conquer them, but only after previous warning. For the King she shows the deepest veneration; she says he is beloved by God, is under special protection, and will therefore be preserved. Of the Duke of Orleans, your nephew, she says that he will be delivered in a miraculous way, but only after a demand for his release has been made to the English who hold him prisoner.
“With that, revered Duke, I bring my report to a conclusion. Still more wonderful things are happening and have happened than I can write of or describe to you in words. While I write this, the afore mentioned Maid has already gone to the neighbourhood of the city of Rheims in Champagne, whither the King has hastily set off for his anointing and crowning under God's protection. Most respected and powerful Duke, and greatly venerated master! I commend myself to you in all humility, while praying the Almighty to protect you and fulfil your desires. Written at Biteromis, the 21st day of June in the year 1429.
Your humble servant
Lord of Bonlaninth. Counsellor and
Chamberlain of the King of the French
and of the Duke of Orleans, Seneschal of
This letter 14Letter of Perceval de Boulainvilliers, 21st June, 1429. See: Procés de condamnation et de réhabilitation de Jeanne d' Arc, ed. Quicherat, Tome V, pages 114—21. (Paris, 1849) where the text is in Latin. The name Boulainvilliers is said to have been incorrectly rendered in several of the earlier translations. was written by one who knew the Maid and was in close contact with the King. It is indeed amazing when one discovers all these things on purely occult grounds and with occult means of proof — for they are indeed to be found in the Akasha Chronicle — and then sees how, in cases like this, actual historical documents can also be produced. In short, it seems almost madness to doubt what was working through the Maid of Orleans. And when we also take into consideration the fact that through her deeds the whole history of modern time assumed a different aspect, this gives us the right to say that here, verified by documentary evidence, we can see the direct intervention of the super-sensible worlds. When the spiritual researcher goes further and seeks in his own way for the one who was the real Inspirer of the Maid of Orleans, he finds something very remarkable as he investigates the successive epochs of time. He finds that the same Spirit who worked through the Maid of Orleans as his instrument at that time had inspired — in a quite different form, a quite different way — another personality who was a philosopher at the Court of Charles the Bald. This was Scotus Erigena, through whose philosophical and theological ideas in an earlier period Europe had been so deeply influenced. And so we see that the same Powers work in different epochs in a different way through human beings who are their instruments; that there is continuity, an onflowing stream of happenings in what we call history.
I showed you yesterday how a significant myth of Babylonian-Chaldean times points to the penetration of the spiritual worlds into men upon whom much depended for the third Post-Atlantean period, for the whole of historical development in ancient Chaldea, in ancient Babylonia. But we must now also observe from the standpoint of occult science the two personalities hidden behind the legendary names of Gilgamish and Eabani. In the Sense of occult history we have to see in them personalities who stand at the starting-point of the Babylonian-Chaldean epoch of culture. The impulses proceeding from them are to be discerned again in the development of the really spiritual culture of ancient Babylonia and Chaldea. — Now Gilgamish was a personality who had many incarnations behind him and may therefore be called an “old” soul within the evolution of humanity.
You know from the book Occult Science that during the Lemurian epoch of earth-evolution only very few human beings had outlasted, on the earth itself, the happenings of this evolution, that only a few remained on the earth during the Lemurian epoch; that before the actual danger of the mummification of everything human began, the majority of souls withdrew from the earth to other planets, continuing their life on Mars, Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, arid so forth. Then, from the end of the Lemurian epoch and during the Atlantean epoch, these souls gradually came down to the earth in order to incarnate in earthly bodies under the changed earthly conditions, and to appear in ever new incarnations. Thus there are souls who came down comparatively early from the planetary worlds and others who came down late; indeed not until the later periods of Atlantean evolution. The souls who came down early have therefore more incarnations behind them in earth-evolution than those who came down later; hence we can call these latter, in contrast to the former, “younger” souls — souls who have taken less into themselves.
The individuality hidden behind the name Gilgamish was an old soul, and a younger soul was incarnated in Eabani, at the starting-point of the Babylonian civilisation. Indeed, in connection with human souls being younger or older in this sense, something very remarkable discloses itself — something that might almost be said to cause astonishment even to the occultist. If someone has reached the point to-day of giving a little credence to the truths of Spiritual Science, but otherwise still clings to the prejudices and criteria of the external world, it will seem plausible to him that modern philosophers or scholars, for example, should be accounted among the older souls. But, strangely enough, occult research finds just the opposite; and for the occultist himself it is surprising to find that in Kant, for example, there lived a young soul. Yes, the facts show that it is so ... it cannot be gainsaid. It can also be intimated here that younger souls — the majority at any rate — incarnate in the coloured races, so that it is the coloured races, especially the negro race, which mainly brings younger souls to incarnation. The characteristic quality of that kind of thinking which comes to expression in erudition, in the materialistic science of to-day, calls for younger souls. And it can be shown that in the case of many a personality where one would not in the least expect it, the preceding incarnation was in an uncivilised race. That again is what the facts tell us! It must be kept strictly in mind, for it is so. Naturally this does not in the least detract from the significance or value of the opinions we have formed about the world around us; nevertheless it must be grasped in order fully to understand the essentials here. In this sense, in Eabani we have to do with a young soul and in Gilgamish with an old soul in ancient Babylonia. The whole nature of an old soul will enable it early in life to grasp not only the essential element, the essential factor, in the existing culture, but also that which strikes into it as a new impulse, opening up a wide vista into the future.
There will be many, of course, who will protest if one tries to make it plausible to them that the Theosophists whom they are wont to look down upon are, generally speaking, older souls than people who deliver scientific lectures. Investigation shows, however, that this is so; and although spiritual research must not be misused for the purpose of forcing people to change their criteria of judgment, or of scoffing at what is after all part of the very make-up of our civilisation, nevertheless the truth must be faced fairly and squarely. Gilgamish, then, was a personality who, owing to his particular condition of soul, participated in the most progressive spiritual elements and spiritual factors of the age — in everything that threw light far into the future and at that time could be attained only if such a personality went through a kind of initiation. Through the imparting of something that can be received only through a certain initiation, Gilgamish was to be enabled to provide a kind of leaven for the Babylonian culture. He had to experience an initiation up to a certain degree.
Let us think of this Gilgamish at the point where he stood in the evolution of humanity before this initiation. He was a man of the third Post-Atlantean epoch. But in this epoch twilight had already fallen over the natural human clairvoyance, over what men were able to achieve through forces that were innate in them. These forces were no longer present to the degree that could enable any great number of men to look back into their earlier incarnations. If we were to go farther back, into the second or into the first Post-Atlantean epoch, we should find that the majority of human beings then on the earth could look back into their earlier incarnations, into the course of their soul-life before their present birth. But that faculty had been lost. In the case of Gilgamish, the Being who was to reveal himself through him, and who could do so only by leading him presently to a kind of initiation, kept a guiding hand upon him from the outset and set him at the place where he came to recognise his own position in the history of the world. As it were through super-sensible events, presented to us in the pictures of the myth I outlined to you yesterday, a friend was placed at the side of Gilgamish, a friend whose barbarity and uncivilised nature are indicated by the statement that his outer form was half animal. It is said that this friend had skins of animals on his body, which means that he was still covered with hair like the men of primeval times, that his soul was so young that it built for itself a body which showed the human being still in a savage state. Thus the more advanced Gilgamish had in Eabani a man at his side who, because of his young soul and the bodily Organisation conditioned by it, still possessed ancient clairvoyance. This friend was given to Gilgamish in order that he might find his own bearings in life. With the help of this friend he was then able to achieve certain things, such as the retrieval of that spiritual Power presented to us in the myth in the picture of Ishtar, the Goddess of the city of Erech. I told you how this Goddess had been stolen by the neighbouring City and that for this reason Gilgamish and Eabani together waged war against this city, vanquished its king and brought the Goddess back.
If we are to understand in the true historical sense such things as are presented to us in these old myths, we must investigate their occult background. Behind this rape of the City Goddess there lies something similar to the rape of Helen, who was carried off to Troy by Paris. We must realise that there are good grounds for what is stated in my little book, Blood is a very special Fluid. It is pointed out there that in the peoples of ancient times there was a kind of collective consciousness. A man did not merely feel his personal ego within his skin, but he felt himself as a member of the tribe, of the city-community. Just as the individual human soul is felt to be the centralising factor for our organism as a whole, uniting fingers, toes, hands, legs, so did man in very ancient times feel himself a member of the group-soul. Something of the kind still persisted in the early city-communities, even in ancient Greece. One common spirit, a folk-egohood, a tribal egohood, lived and weaved through the single personalities of the tribe or folk. But whatever could come to men's consciousness from this collective egohood had to be under the guidance of the Mysteries in the secret temples, where the priests directed the common spiritual affairs of a city or a tribe. And it is not a mere figure of speech, but in a certain sense an actual reality, to say that such a temple-sanctuary served as a dwelling-place for the city-ego, for the group-soul. There this group-soul had its habitation, and the priests of the temple were its servants. It was they who received the instructions of this group-soul through inspiration — through what was known as an Oracle — and bore them out into the world in order that one thing or another might come to pass. For we must think of the Oracles exactly in the sense I have indicated.
Now the direction of these temple-sanctuaries was bound up with certain secrets, and many conflicts in ancient times arose because the temple-priests of one city were carried off by the neighbouring city, so that in this way, together with the priests, the most important secrets of a city came into the hands of the neighbouring one. There you have the reality behind the picture of the abduction of Ishtar, the city Goddess, the group-soul of Erech, by the neighbouring city. The priests, the trustees of the temple secrets were made prisoners, because the neighbouring city hoped in this way to come into possession of the holy secrets and therewith of the power of the city in question. That is the real background.
In the condition of soul at first prevailing in him, Gilgamish could not himself be aware of such things; he did not see their full implications. But a younger soul could be for him as it were the clairvoyant sense which enabled him to recapture the temple treasure for his own city. Gilgamish now realised that in human life, especially in times of transition, there is such a thing as is described in the legend of the blind man and the cripple: each is helpless alone, but together they can make progress inasmuch as the blind man carries the cripple on his shoulders and the cripple lends the blind man his power of sight. In Gilgamish and Eabani, whose respective gifts differed so greatly, we see the same kind of co-operation transformed into the spiritual. In the historical facts of ancient times we find this at every turn. And it is important to understand it, for only then do we realise why it is that myths and sagas so often tell of friends who have to achieve something together — friends who are generally as unlike in their nature of soul as were Gilgamish and Eabani. But what Gilgamish also acquired through his friend Eabani was this: he was as it were “infected” by Eabani with a clairvoyant power of his own, so that to a certain extent he could look back into his own earlier incarnations. This would certainly have been beyond his normal faculties. And now let us picture vividly how Gilgamish must have been influenced by this vision of his past incarnations.
What was he able to experience from the moment when it became possible for him to look back into what his soul had lived through in earlier incarnations? At first it all seemed alien to him. He could not penetrate fully into what he himself had been in these earlier incarnations; he did not, as it were, recognise himself. So it would be with any human being if he began to look back into his previous incarnations. In most cases things would be different from what they are in the vain imaginings which are always so much in evidence when there is talk of some person or other being an incarnation of this or that individual. We may well come across a person who cites a whole series of great names in history as those of his former incarnations ... in fact numbers of people are convinced that they were never below the rank of a queen or a princess! In these matters, which should be treated with great earnestness, there must be no unlawful play of fancy, no misusage.
Now one who, like Gilgamish at that time, begins to look back on his successive incarnations, may also now and then be veritably astonished. Gilgamish himself looked back to incarnations when he was still involved in all kinds of conditions determined by the sway of the group-soul. To be sure he had, in a certain respect, as a person, worked his way out of these connections; through Eabani he had also come to know for the first time the whole import of what is symbolised in the myth through the figure of the city Goddess. But when he looked back there was much in his earlier incarnations that did not please him, that went against the grain. He found, for example, that in these incarnations his soul had had unusual friendships, human connection, of a kind which in his present life he would have regarded as shameful. Thus, in face of what the City Goddess had revealed to him indirectly, through Eabani, he began in a certain way — as the myth indicates — to upbraid, to reproach his own soul. In the myth it is said that he reproaches the Goddess about her lovers, for he is jealous of them. He is looking as it were across the horizon of his own soul and the visions are living realities before him, as real as human beings who stand around someone in the physical world, eliciting feelings of sympathy or antipathy towards them. In the reproaches leveled by Gilgamish against the Goddess we perceive that he is really speaking in terms of what is happening in his own soul. Thus, for example, when it is said that he reproaches the Goddess about her previous relationship with one who is called Ishullanu (Ischlanu) in the myth, this signifies that his own friendship with a certain person who had been his master's gardener in the preceding incarnation was not pleasing to him. 15See Thompson, op. cit., p. 33. (Gilgamish is reproaching Ishtar):
Lovest thou, too, Ishullanu, the gardener he of thy Sire, Bringing delights to thee ceaseless, while daily he garnish'd thy platter...."
(From the Sixth Tablet.) What took place in the soul of Gilgamish and which first imparted to it that inner content, that inner realisation, which he needed in order to become the inaugurator of the Babylonian civilisation — all this is shown to us in the picture of the regaining of a certain clairvoyance, of the ascent into super-sensible worlds which, because he was an old soul, were in a certain sense lost to him. This is shown to us in the myth.
And then Gilgamish was to undergo a kind of initiation by being led back to that kind of vision which his own soul had possessed during Atlantean incarnations. What the myth presents as the journey over the sea, and the wanderings of Gilgamish to the West, is nothing else than the inner path towards initiation by which his soul is led upwards to spiritual heights where it can perceive its ancient Atlantean surroundings, when, still clairvoyant, it had gazed into the spiritual world. The myth tells that an this, his spiritual journeying, Gilgamish was brought to the great Atlantean Being, Xisuthros, This was a Being who belonged to certain higher Hierarchies and who during the Atlantean time lived in the sphere of humanity but was afterwards transported from the world of men to dwell in higher regions. Gilgamish was to meet this personality in order that through beholding him he might come to know the condition of souls when they are able to look into the spiritual worlds. Thus he was to be led upwards again into the spiritual spheres by being transported in his life of soul into Atlantean times. And when he is bidden not to sleep for seven nights and six days, this signifies nothing else than an exercise which was to make the soul capable of penetrating fully into the corresponding spiritual regions. When we are now told that he was not able to endure the test, Isis again signifies something of great importance, namely that Gilgamish is represented as a personality who was brought to the very brink of Initiation — who was destined, as it were, to look through the portal of Initiation into the mysteries of the spirit but owing to the conditions of the times was not able to penetrate fully into their depths. In short, this is intended to indicate that the inaugurator of the Babylonian civilisation had remained at the portal of Initiation, that he could not look with full clarity into the higher worlds, with the result that he gave Babylonian culture the stamp that is a sign of no more than a glimpse into the secrets of Initiation.
We shall now see that the nature of external Babylonian culture was indeed such that it confirms what has just been said. Whereas, for example, everything points to the fact that Hermes was a personality who gazed into the very depths of the holiest secrets of Initiation and could therefore become the great inaugurator of ancient Egyptian culture, it must be said that the Babylonian culture was prepared in the way I have just described: through a leading personality who had in his soul all those qualities which develop when penetration into the innermost essence of Initiation has not been fully achieved. Hence historical development in ancient Babylonia gives clear evidence of an external culture and an inner, esoteric culture running parallel to one another. Whereas in the life of ancient Egypt there was greater interplay between these two aspects, in the ancient culture of Babylonia they fell apart. And within what must be regarded as the Babylonian culture inaugurated by Gilgamish, there was enshrined the content and substance of the most sacred, most hidden Mysteries of the Chaldeans.
The Initiates of these Mysteries were indeed initiated into the innermost secrets, but this influence flowed through the external culture only as a tiny stream. This external culture proceeded from the impulse given by Gilgamish. Everything that has been said points to the fact that Gilgamish, as a personality, had not actually reached the point where he could have experienced complete Initiation. But just because at the time in which he was working he did not give effect to his own, personal impulses, did not impart his own personal forces to the world, he was very specially able to let one of the spiritual Beings we place in the rank of the Fire-Spirits, the Archangeloi, work through him. Such a Being did indeed work through Gilgamish, and it is in a Fire-Spirit that we must see the source of the ordering of Babylonian life and its impelling forces, for which Gilgamish was the instrument. So we shall rightly conceive of this Gilgamish in a picture that suggests the symbol of the ancient centaur. Such ancient symbols correspond more closely to reality than is generally supposed. A centaur — half man, half animal — was always intended to represent how in the more mighty of men of old the highest spiritual manhood and that which united the single personality with the animal organisation in a certain sense actually fell apart. Gilgamish gave the impression of a centaur to those who were capable of judging what he was, and it is the same to this day.
Remarkably enough, this picture of the centaur is cropping up again in the field of modern scientific thought. There has recently been published a book which sets out to base itself entirely on scientific facts, and yet goes to work with a certain absence of prejudice, hence it does not produce such an amateurish, senseless hotch-potch as do those who call themselves Monists. The author makes a genuine effort to understand man, and how, as an independent being of soul-and-spirit, he is related to the physical organism. And then this author, who bases himself on natural science, comes out with a remarkable picture. Quite certainly he was not thinking of the centaur when he conceived this picture, but referring to what results from natural-scientific ideas about the relation of the soul to the body, he says: This may be likened to a horseman riding upon his horse. The facts of natural science, when rightly understood, compel one to say: The soul is independent and uses the body as its instrument, as a rider uses his horse. — Yes, the centaur is here again; things will develop rapidly, and before people are aware of it, spiritual-scientific ideas will take root in our contemporaries under the compulsion of the facts of natural science itself. Not long ago I was talking to a philosopher who sets great store by materialistic ideas, and he said to me: “Of course the picture of the centaur arose because the old inhabitants of Greece saw certain tribes coming down from the North on their horses, and as it was generally misty, they thought that horse and rider were a single form. With all their superstition they might easily imagine this.”
That is a really ingenuous idea — perhaps not exactly philosophical — but certainly ingenuous! This picture of the centaur, which did not arise because the Greeks could not distinguish the rider how his horse but because the earlier peoples inevitably thought of the spiritual being of man as independent of the bodily nature — this idea of the centaur is again cropping up in our time out of the very concepts of natural science. It must therefore be said that despite all materialistic ideas we are coming to the point to-day when materialism itself, if only it will take the facts as they really are, will lead by and by to what Spiritual Science has to say from its occult sources. But if, in line with our studies, we want to focus our occult observation upon a figure such as Gilgamish — who has already become an object of interest to external research — we must realise that there we have to do with penetration by a Being of the spiritual Hierarchies. So that while we must in truth see every human being, in respect of his spirituality, in the picture of the centaur, in the case of one who works as Gilgamish worked, we must recognise, in addition, that the spiritual part of the centaur is directed by higher Powers who are sending down their forces to further the progress of humanity. And we shall find an going farther back into history that this is revealed even more clearly. We shall also see how modification takes place in the course of the ages up to our own time and how spiritual forces, when they work through human beings, assume constantly different forms the nearer we come to the immediate present.