Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz
GA 130

III. Rosicrucian Christianity I

27 September 1911, Neuchatel

It gives me great joy to be here for the first time in this newly founded group bearing the great name of Christian Rosenkreutz,23Christian Rosenkreutz: A fourteenth century personality not given historical credence by external history but known to us from two anonymous rosicrucian legends ‘Fama Fraternitatis or Discovery of the Brotherhood of the highly commendable Order of the Rose Cross’; Cassel 1614; and ‘Confessio Fraternitatis or Confession of the commendable Brotherhood of the highly honoured Rose Cross’; Cassel 1615; according to which Christian Rosenkreutz was a German of noble descent who lived from 1378 to 1484. The name occurs for the first time in a document called ‘Chymical Wedding: Christian Rosenkreutz. Anno 1459’ written in 1604, handwritten copies of which were anonymously published in Strasbourg in 1616, the publisher being Johann Valentin Andreae who was inspired by Christian Rosenkreutz. See Rudolf Steiner ‘Die chymische Hochzeit des Christian Rosenkreutz’, an essay in the periodical ‘Das Reich’, Munich, 1917/18. In ‘Philosophie und Anthroposophie’, Gesammelte Aufsdtze (collected essays) 1904 – 18, GA 35; Dornach 1965. See also Johann Valentin Andreae ‘The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz Anno 1459’; Minerva Books, London. which gives me the opportunity for the first time of speaking about Christian Rosenkreutz at greater length. What is contained in the mystery of Christian Rosenkreutz? I cannot tell you all about this personality in one evening, so we shall speak about Christian Rosenkreutz himself today, and tomorrow we shall talk about his work.

To speak about Christian Rosenkreutz presupposes great confidence in the mysteries of spiritual life, confidence not only in the person but in the great secrets of the life of the spirit. The founding of a new group, however, also always presupposes faith in spiritual life.

Christian Rosenkreutz is an individual who is active both when he is in incarnation and when he is not incarnated in a physical body; he works not only as a physical being and through physical forces, but above all spiritually through higher forces.

As we know, man lives not only for himself but also in connection with human evolution as a whole. Usually when man passes through death his etheric body dissolves into the cosmos. A part of this dissolving etheric body always stays intact, however, and so we are always surrounded by these remaining parts of the etheric bodies of the dead, for our good, or also to our detriment. They affect us for good or ill according to whether we ourselves are good or bad. Far reaching effects emanate also from the etheric bodies of great individualities. Great forces emanating from the etheric body of Christian Rosenkreutz can work into our soul and also into our spirit. It is our duty to get to know these forces, for we work with them as rosicrucians.

Strictly speaking the rosicrucian movement began in the thirteenth century. At that time these forces worked extraordinarily strongly, and a Christian Rosenkreutz stream has been active in spiritual life ever since. There is a law that this spiritual stream of force has to become especially powerful every hundred years or so. This is to be seen now in the theosophical movement. Christian Rosenkreutz gave an indication of this in his last exoteric statements.24Christian Rosenkreutz gave an indication of this in his last exoteric statements: Rudolf Steiner is evidently referring here, as he did in an earlier lecture (Berlin 16th December 1904) to an utterance of Count de Saint Germain handed down in literature (see reference to page 47) according to which he said in Vienna in 1790: ‘I shall disappear from Europe towards the end of the century and proceed to the regions of the Himalayas. I shall rest; I must rest. In 85 years time I shall be seen daily.’ (Quoted from Isabella Cooper-Oakley in the periodical ‘Gnosis’ Vol. 1, no. 20 of 15.12.1903). In the year 1875, that is, exactly 85 years after this utterance, the Theosophical Society was founded.

In the year 1785 the collected esoteric revelations of the rosicrucians appeared in the work: The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians25The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians: Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, 3 books, Altona 1785 – 88 (anon.). Book I contains an essay by Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus: “Aurcum Seculum Redivivum”, which had already appeared in 1621. by Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus.26Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus: Anagrammatic pseudonym of the paracelsist Hadrianus a Munsicht (Adrian von Mynsicht: Mynsicht is also an anagram of the surname Symnicht, originally Seumenicht, an alchemist) whose distinction it is to have been the first person to produce antimonoxydkali. He was born in Braunschweig the son of a pastor and lived from about 1590 – 1638. See C.S. Picht, Hinricus Madathanus, in “Die Drei”, Stuttgart 1927, Vol. VII No. 4. In a certain limited sense this publication contains references to the rosicrucian stream active in the previous century which was expressed for the first time in the works collected and put together by Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus. Another hundred years later we see the influence of the rosicrucian stream coming to expression again in the work of H. P. Blavatsky, especially in the book Isis Unveiled.27H.P. Blavatsky ... Isis Unveiled: 2 volumes, New York 1877. Much of the meaning of this image has been put into words. A considerable amount of Western occult wisdom is contained in this book that is still a long way from being improved upon, even though the composition is sometimes very confused. It is interesting to compare The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians by Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus with the works of H.P. Blavatsky. We must think especially of the first part of the publication, which is written in Symbols. In the second part Blavatsky deviates a little from the rosicrucian stream. In her later works she departs entirely from it, and we must be able to distinguish between her early and her later publications, even though something of H.P. Blavatsky's uncritical spirit already appears in the early ones. That this is said can only be the wish of H.P. Blavatsky who is not in incarnation now.

When we look at the characteristic quality of human consciousness in the thirteenth century we see that primitive clairvoyance had gradually disappeared. We know that in earlier times everybody had an elementary clairvoyance. In the middle of the thirteenth century this reached its lowest point, and there was suddenly no more clairvoyance. Everyone experienced a spiritual eclipse. Even the most enlightened spirits and the most highly developed personalities, including initiates, had no further access to the spiritual worlds, and when they spoke about the spiritual worlds they had to confine themselves to what remained in their memories. People only knew about the spiritual world from tradition or from those initiates who awakened their memories of what they had previously experienced. For a short time, though, even these spirits could not see directly into the spiritual world.

This short period of darkness had to take place at that time to prepare for what is characteristic of our present age: today's intellectual, rational development. That is what is important today in the fifth post-Atlantean cultural epoch. In the Greco-Roman cultural epoch the development of the intellect was not as it is today. Direct perception was the vital factor, not intellectual thinking. Human beings identified with what they saw and heard, in fact even with what they thought. They did not produce thoughts from out of themselves then as we do today, and as we ought to do, for this is the task of the fifth post-Atlantean cultural epoch. Man's clairvoyance gradually begins again after this time, and the clairvoyance of the future can now develop.

The rosicrucian stream began in the thirteenth century. During that century personalities particularly suitable for initiation had to be specially chosen. Initiation could take place only after the short period of darkness had run its course.

In a place in Europe that cannot be named yet28In a place in Europe that cannot be named yet—though this will be possible in the not very distant future: this place was not named later, either. —though this will be possible in the not very distant future—a lodge of a very spiritual nature was formed comprising a council of twelve men who had received into themselves the sum of the spiritual wisdom of olden times and of their own time.. So we are concerned with twelve men who lived in that dark era, twelve outstanding individualities, who united together to help the progress of humanity. None of them could see directly into the spiritual world, but they could awaken to life in themselves memories of what they had experienced through earlier initiations. And the karma of mankind brought it about that in seven of the twelve all that still remained to mankind of the ancient Atlantean epoch was incarnated. In my Occult Science it has already been stated that in the seven holy Rishis of old, the teachers of the ancient Indian cultural epoch, all that was left of the Atlantean epoch was preserved. These seven men who were incarnated again in the thirteenth century, and who were part of the council of twelve, were just those who could look back into the seven streams of the ancient Atlantean cultural epoch of mankind and the further course of these streams. Among these seven individualities each one of them could bring one stream to life for their time and the present time. In addition to these seven there were another four who could not look back into times long past but could look back to the occult wisdom mankind had acquired in the four post-Atlantean epochs. The first could look back to the ancient Indian period, the second to the ancient Persian cultural period, the third to the Egyptian-Chaldaean-Assyrian-Babylonian cultural period and the fourth to the Greco-Roman culture. These four joined the seven to form a council of wise men in the thirteenth century. A twelfth had the fewest memories as it were, however he was the most intellectual among them, and it was his task to foster external science in particular. These twelve individualities not only lived in the experiences of Western occultism, but these twelve different streams of wisdom worked together to make a whole. A remarkable reference to this can be found in Goethe's poem The Mysteries.29Goethe's poem ‘The Mysteries’: see Rudolf Steiner's lecture ‘The Mysteries. A Christmas and Easter Poem by Goethe’, Cologne, 25th December 1907; Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co. London, 1946.

We shall be speaking, then, of twelve outstanding individualities. The middle of the thirteenth century is the time when a new culture began. At this time a certain low point of spiritual life had been reached. Even the most highly developed could not approach the spiritual worlds. Then it was that the council of the spiritual elite assembled. These twelve men, who represented the sum of all the spiritual knowledge of their age and the twelve tendencies of thought, came together in a place in Europe that cannot as yet be named.

This council of the twelve only possessed clairvoyant memory and intellectual wisdom. The seven successors of the seven Rishis remembered their ancient wisdom, and the other five represented the wisdom of the five post-Atlantean cultures. Thus the twelve represented the whole of Atlantean and post-Atlantean wisdom. The twelfth was a man who attained the intellectual wisdom of his time in the highest degree. He possessed intellectually all the knowledge of his time, whilst the others, to whom direct spiritual wisdom was also denied at that time, acquired their knowledge by returning in memory to their earlier incarnations.

The beginning of a new culture was only possible, however, because a thirteenth came to join the twelve. The thirteenth did not become a scholar in the accepted sense of that time. He was an individuality who had been incarnated at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. In the incarnations that followed he prepared himself for his mission through humility of soul and through a fervent life devoted to God. He was a great soul, a pious, deeply mystical human being, who had not just acquired these qualities but was born with them. If you imagine to yourselves a young man who is very pious and who devotes all his time to fervent prayer to God, then you can have a picture of the individuality of this thirteenth. He grew up entirely under the care and instruction of the twelve, and he received as much wisdom as each one could give him. He was educated with the greatest care, and every precaution was taken to see that no one other than the twelve exercised an influence on him. He was kept apart from the rest of the world. He was a very delicate child in that incarnation of the thirteenth century, and therefore the education that the twelve bestowed upon him worked right into his physical body. Now the twelve, being deeply devoted to their spiritual tasks and inwardly permeated with Christianity, were conscious that the external Christianity of the Church was only a caricature of the real Christianity. They were permeated with the greatness of Christianity, although in the outside world they were taken to be its enemies. Each individuality worked his way into just one aspect of Christianity. Their endeavour was to unite the various religions into one great whole. They were convinced that the whole of spiritual life was contained in their twelve streams, and each one influenced the pupil to the best of his ability. Their aim was to achieve a synthesis of all the religions, but they knew that this was not to be achieved by means of any theory but only as the result of spiritual life. And for this a suitable education of the thirteenth was essential.

Whilst the spiritual forces of the thirteenth increased beyond measure, his physical forces drained away. It came to the point where he almost ceased to have any further connection with external life, and all interest in the physical world disappeared. He lived entirely for the sake of the spiritual development which the twelve were bringing about in him. The wisdom of the twelve was reflected in him. It reached the point where the thirteenth refused to eat and wasted away. Then an event occurred that could only happen once in history. It was the kind of event that can take place when the forces of the macrocosm co-operate for the sake of what they can bring to fruition. After a few days the body of the thirteenth became quite transparent, and for days he lay as though dead. The twelve now gathered round him at certain intervals. At these moments all knowledge and wisdom flowed from their lips. Whilst the thirteenth lay as though dead, they let their wisdom flow towards him in short prayer-like formulae. The best way to imagine them is to picture the twelve in a circle round the thirteenth. This situation ended when the soul of the thirteenth awakened like a new soul. He had experienced a' great transformation of soul. Within it there now existed something that was like a completely new birth of the twelve streams of wisdom, so that the twelve wise men could also learn something entirely new from the youth. His body, too, came to life now in such a way that this revival of his absolutely transparent body was beyond compare. The youth could now speak of quite new experiences. The twelve could recognise that he had experienced the event of Damascus: it was a repetition of the vision of Paul on the road to Damascus. In the course of a few weeks the thirteenth reproduced all the wisdom he had received from the twelve, but in a new form. This new form was as though given by Christ Himself. What he now revealed to them, the twelve called true Christianity, the synthesis of all the religions, and they distinguished between this true Christianity and the Christianity of the period in which they lived. The thirteenth died relatively young, and the twelve then devoted themselves to the task of recording what the thirteenth had revealed to them, in imaginations—for it could only be done in that way. Thus came the symbolic figures and pictures contained in the collection of Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus, and the communications of H.P. Blavatsky in the work Isis Unveiled. We have to see the occult process in such a way that the fruits of the initiation of the thirteenth remained as the residue of his etheric body, within the spiritual atmosphere of the earth. This residue inspired the twelve as well as their pupils that succeeded them, so that they could form the occult rosicrucian stream. Yet it continued to work as an etheric body, and it then became part of the new etheric body of the thirteenth when he incarnated again.

The individuality of the thirteenth reincarnated as soon as the fourteenth century, roughly in the middle. In this incarnation he lived for over a hundred years. He was brought up in a similar way in the circle of the pupils and successors of the twelve, but not in such a secluded way as in his previous incarnation. When he was twenty-eight years old he formed a remarkable resolution. He had to leave Europe and travel. First he went to Damascus, and what Paul had experienced there happened again to him. This event can be described as the fruits of what took place in the previous incarnation. All the forces of the wonderful etheric body of the individuality of the thirteenth century had remained intact, none of them dispersed after death into the general world ether. This was a permanent etheric body, remaining intact in the ether spheres thereafter. This same highly spiritual etheric body again radiated from the spiritual world into the new incarnation, the individuality in the fourteenth century. Therefore he was led to experience the event of Damascus again. This is the individuality of Christian Rosenkreutz. He was the thirteenth in the circle of the twelve. He was named thus from this incarnation onwards. Esoterically, in the occult sense, he was already Christian Rosenkreutz in the thirteenth century, but exoterically he was named thus only from the fourteenth century. And the pupils of this thirteenth are the successors of the other twelve in the thirteenth century. These are the rosicrucians.

At that time Christian Rosenkreutz traveled through the whole of the known world. After he had received all the wisdom of the twelve, fructified by the mighty Being of the Christ, it was easy for him to receive all the wisdom of that time in the course of seven years. When, after seven years, he returned to Europe, he took the most highly developed pupils and successors of the twelve as his pupils, and then began the actual work of the rosicrucians.

By the grace of what radiated from the wonderful etheric body of Christian Rosenkreutz they could develop an absolutely new world conception. What has been developed by the rosicrucians up to our time is work of both an outer and an inner nature. The outer work was for the purpose of discovering what lies behind the maya of the material world. They wanted to investigate the maya of matter. Just as man has an etheric body, so does the whole of the macrocosm have an etheric macrocosm, an etheric body. There is a certain point of transition from the coarser to the finer substance. Let us look at the boundary between physical and etheric substance. What lies between physical and etheric substance is like nothing else in the world. It is neither gold nor silver, lead nor copper. It is something that cannot be compared with any other physical substance, yet it is the essence of all of them. It is a substance that is contained in every other physical substance, so that the other physical substances can be considered to be modifications of this one substance. To see this substance clairvoyantly was the endeavour of the rosicrucians. The preparation, the development of such vision they saw to require a heightened activity of the soul's moral forces, which would then enable them to see this substance. They realised that the power for this vision lay in the moral power of the soul. This substance was really seen and discovered by the rosicrucians. They found that this substance lived in the world in a certain form both in the macrocosm and in man. In the world outside man they revered it as the mighty garment of the macrocosm. They saw it arising in man when there is a harmonious interplay between thinking and willing. They saw the will forces as being not only in man but in the macrocosm also, for instance in thunder and lightning. And they saw the forces of thought on the one hand in man and also outside in the world in the rainbow and the rosy light of dawn. The rosicrucians sought the strength to achieve such harmony of willing and thinking in their own soul in the force radiating from this etheric body of the thirteenth, Christian Rosenkreutz.

It was established that all the discoveries they made had to remain the secret of the rosicrucians for a hundred years, and that not until a hundred years had passed might these rosicrucian revelations be divulged to the world, for not until they had worked at them for a hundred years might they talk about them in an appropriate way. Thus what appeared in 1785 in the work The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians30‘The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians’: see note 25. was being prepared from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century.

Now it is also of great importance to know that in any century the rosicrucian inspiration is given in such a way that the name of the one who receives the inspiration is never made public. Only the highest initiates know it. Today, for instance, only those occurrences can be made public that happened a hundred years ago, for that is the time that must pass before it is permissible to speak of it in the outside world. The temptation is too great that people would idealise fanatically a person bearing such authority, which is the worst thing that can happen. It would be too near to idolatry. This silence, however, is not only essential in order to avoid the outer temptations of ambition and pride, which could probably be overcome, but above all to avoid occult astral attacks which would be constantly directed at an individuality of that calibre. That is why it is an essential condition that a fact like this can only be spoken of after a hundred years.

Through the works of the rosicrucians the etheric body of Christian Rosenkreutz became ever stronger and mightier from century to century. It worked not only through Christian Rosenkreutz but through all those who became his pupils. From the fourteenth century onwards Christian Rosenkreutz has been incarnated again and again. Everything that is made known in the name of theosophy is strengthened by the etheric body of Christian Rosenkreutz, and those who make theosophy known let themselves be overshadowed by this etheric body, that can work on them, both when Christian Rosenkreutz is incarnated, and when he is not in incarnation.

The Count of Saint Germain was the exoteric reincarnation of Christian Rosenkreutz in the eighteenth century.31The Count of Saint Germain was the exoteric reincarnation of Christian Rosenkreutz in the eighteenth century: Rudolf Steiner mentioned the connection between these two figures before, in a lecture of 4th November 1904, in ‘A Christian Rosenkreutz Anthology’. This name was given to other people, too, however; therefore not everything that is told about Count Saint Germain here and there in the outside world applies to the real Christian Rosenkreutz. Christian Rosenkreutz is incarnated again today. The inspiration for the work of H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, came from the strength radiating from his etheric body. It was also Christian Rosenkreutz's influence working invisibly on Lessing32Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: 1729 – 81. In his work ‘The Education of the Human Race’, Lessing discusses the concept of reincarnation. that inspired him to write The Education of the Human Race (1780). Because of the rising tide of materialism it became more and more difficult for inspiration to come about in the rosicrucian way. Then in the nineteenth century came the high tide of materialism. Many things could only be given very incompletely. In 1851 the problem of the immortality of the soul was solved by Widenmann33, 34Widenmann ... Drossbach: in 1849 Maximilian Drossbach, 1810 – 84, wrote the article ‘Wiedergeburt, oder die Losung der Unsterblichkeitsfrage auf empirischen Wege nach den bekannten Naturgesetzen’ (Reincarnation, or the Solving of the Problem of Immortality by Empirical Means according to the known Laws of Nature). Without disclosing his name he offered a prize of 40 ducats of gold for the best exposition of the idea expressed in this article. This prompted the writing of the article by Gustav Widenmann (1812 – 76) ‘Gedanken uber die Unsterblichkeit als Wiederholung des Erdenlebens’ (Ideas on Immortality as the Repetition of Life on Earth), Vienna 1851, which won the prize. This short article was recently published anew in cornbination with an essay by C.S. Picht ‘Das Auftauchen der Reinkamationsidee bei dem Arzt und Philosophen Gustav Widenmann um 1850’ (The Emergence of the Concept of Reincarnation in Gustav Widenmann, doctor and philosopher around 1850), im Verlag Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart, 1961. through the idea of reincarnation. His text was awarded a prize. Even around 1850 Drossbach wrote from a psychological point of view in favour of reincarnation.

Thus the forces radiating from the etheric body of Christian Rosenkreutz continued to be active in the nineteenth century too. And a renewal of theosophical life could come about because by 1899 the little Kali Yuga had run its course. That is why the approach to the spiritual world is easier now and spiritual influence is possible to a far greater degree. The etheric body of Christian Rosenkreutz has become very strong, and, through devotion to this, man will be able to acquire the new clairvoyance, and lofty spiritual forces will come into being. This will only be possible, however, for those people who follow the training of Christian Rosenkreutz correctly. Until now an esoteric rosicrucian preparation was essential, but the twentieth century has the mission of enabling this etheric body to become so powerful that it can also work exoterically. Those affected by it will be granted the experience of the event that Paul experienced on the road to Damascus. Until now this etheric body has only worked into the school of the rosicrucians; in the twentieth century more and more people will be able to experience the effect of it, and through this they will come to experience the appearance of Christ in the etheric body. It is the work of the rosicrucians that makes possible the etheric vision of Christ. The number of people who will become capable of seeing it will grow and grow. We must attribute this re-appearance to the important work of the twelve and the thirteenth in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

If you can become an instrument of Christian Rosenkreutz, then you can be assured that the smallest detail of your soul activity will be there for eternity.

Tomorrow we will come to speak about the work of Christian Rosenkreutz. A vague longing for Spiritual Science is present in mankind today. And we can be sure, that wherever students of rosicrucianism are striving seriously and conscientiously, they are working creatively for eternity. Every spiritual achievement, however small, brings us further. It is essential to understand and revere these holy matters.