6 October 1911, Karlsruhe
Yesterday I tried to give you a picture of a form of Initiation which ought not to exist, according to our valuation of human nature. This Initiation, as we have seen it in Jesuitism, leads to the acquisition of certain occult faculties, but if we bring a cleansed and purified occult vision to bear upon these faculties, they cannot be considered good. It will now be my task to show that the Rosicrucian way is characterised by all that high regard for human nature which we recognise as equally our own. But we must first be clear on certain points.
From explanations given previously in various forms, we know that the Rosicrucian Initiation is essentially a development of the Christian Initiation, so that we can speak of it as a Christian-Rosicrucian Initiation. In earlier lecture-courses the purely Christian Initiation; with its seven degrees, and the Rosicrucian Initiation, also with seven degrees, have been compared. But now we must note that with regard to Initiation the principle of the progress of the human soul must be strictly maintained.
We know that the Rosicrucian Initiation had its proper beginning somewhere about the thirteenth century. At that time it was recognised by those individualities who have to guide the deeper destinies of human evolution as the right Initiation for the more advanced human souls. This shows that the Initiation of the Rose-Cross takes full account of the continuous progress of the human soul and must therefore pay particular attention to the fact that since the thirteenth century the human soul has developed further. Souls which are to be led to Initiation in our day can no longer adopt the standpoint of the thirteenth century. I want especially to point this out because in our time there is such a strong desire to label everything with some mark or other, with some catchword. From this bad habit, and not for any justified reason, our anthroposophical movement has been given a label which could lead gradually to something like a calamity.
It is true that within our movement the principle of Rosicrucianism can be found in all completeness, so that we can penetrate into the sources of Rosicrucianism. So it is that persons who by means of our anthroposophical training penetrate into these sources can properly call themselves Rosicrucians. But it must be emphasised just as strongly that outsiders have no right to designate as Rosicrucian the anthroposophical stream we represent, simply because our movement has been given — consciously or unconsciously — an entirely false label. We are no longer standing where the Rosicrucians stood in the thirteenth century and on through the following centuries, for we take into account the progress of the human soul. Hence the way indicated in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, as the way best adapted for gaining access to the Higher Worlds must not without further explanation be equated with what may be called the Rosicrucian way. Through our movement we can penetrate into true Rosicrucianism, but our movement extends over a far wider domain, for it embraces the whole of Theosophy; hence it should not be labeled Rosicrucian. Our movement must be described simply as the spiritual science of today, the anthroposophical spiritual science of the twentieth century. Outsiders, particularly, will fall — more or less unconsciously — into some kind of misunderstanding if they describe our movement simply as Rosicrucian. But an outstanding achievement of Rosicrucianism since the dawn of modern spiritual life in the thirteenth century has been to establish a rule which must also be ours: the rule that all modern Initiation in the deepest sense of the word must recognise and treasure the independence of the most holy element in man's inner life, his Will-centre, as indicated yesterday. The occult methods there described are designed to overcome and enslave the human will and to set it on a predetermined course; hence a true occultism will rigorously avoid them.
Before characterising Rosicrucianism and present-day Initiation, we must mention a decisively relevant point: the Rosicrucianism of the thirteenth, fourteenth and even of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has again had to be modified for our time. The Rosicrucianism of those earlier centuries could not reckon with a spiritual element which has since entered into human evolution. Without this element today we can no longer understand rightly the fundamentals of all those spiritual streams which arise from the ground of occultism, including therefore any theosophical stream. For reasons we shall see more exactly in the course of these lectures, the teaching of reincarnation and karma, of repeated earth-lives, was excluded for many centuries from the external, exoteric teachings of Christianity. In the thirteenth century the teaching of reincarnation and karma had not yet entered, in the highest sense, into the first stages of Rosicrucian initiation. One could go far, up to the fourth or fifth degree; one could go through what was called the Rosicrucian studium — the acquiring of Imagination, the reading of the occult script, the finding of the philosopher's stone — and one could experience something of what is called the mystical death. One could reach this stage and acquire exceptionally high occult knowledge, but without needing to achieve full clarity concerning the illuminating teachings of reincarnation and karma.
We must be clear that human thinking progresses and now embraces forms of thought which, if only we follow them out logically — and this can easily be done on the external, exoteric level — lead unconditionally to a recognition of repeated earth-lives and so to the idea of karma. The words spoken through the lips of Strader in my second Rosicrucian drama, The Soul's Probation, are absolutely true: namely that a logical thinker today, if he is not to break with everything that the thought-forms of the last century have brought in, must come finally to a recognition of karma and reincarnation.
This is something deeply rooted in present-day spiritual life. Just because this knowledge has been slowly prepared and has these deep roots, it emerges little by little, as though independently, in the West. It is indeed remarkable how the necessity of recognising repeated earth-lives has independently made itself felt — though certainly only by outstanding individual thinkers. We need only call attention to certain facts which are quite forgotten, intentionally or unintentionally, in our present-day literature. Take, for example, what comes out so wonderfully in Lessing's Education of the Human Race. We see how Lessing, that great mind of the eighteenth century who at the zenith of his life gathered up his thoughts and wrote the Education of the Human Race, came as though by inspiration to the thought of repeated earth-lives. So does the idea of repeated earth-lives find its way, as though by inner necessity, into modern life. It has to be taken into consideration, but certainly not in the way that ideas of this kind are considered in our history books or in cultured circles nowadays. For in such cases resort is had to the familiar formula that when a clever man grows old, excuses must be made for him. So it is said that although we may appreciate Lessing in his earlier works, we must allow that in later years, when he came to the idea of repeated earth-lives, he had become somewhat feeble.
In more recent times the idea occurs sporadically. Drossbach, a nineteenth-century psychologist, spoke of it in the only way then possible. Without occultism, simply by observing nature, he tried in his own way as a psychologist to establish the idea of repeated earth-lives. Again, in the middle of the last century, a small society offered a prize for the best essay on the immortality of the soul. This was a remarkable occurrence in German spiritual life, and is very little known. Moreover, the prize went to an essay by Wiedenmann which tried to prove the immortality of the soul in the sense of repeated earth-lives: certainly an imperfect attempt, but it could not be otherwise in the fifties of the last century, when the necessary thought-forms had not developed far enough. One could quote various other instances where the idea of repeated earth-lives springs up, as though in response to a postulate, a demand, of the nineteenth century. Hence in my little book, Reincarnation and Karma, and also in my book, Theosophy, the ideas of repeated earth-lives and of karma could be worked out in relation to the thought-forms of natural science, but with reference to human individuality in contrast to the animal species.
We must, however, be clear on one essential point: there is an immense difference between the way in which Western men have come to this idea simply through thinking, and the way in which it figures in Buddhism, for instance. It is most interesting to see how Lessing came to the idea of repeated earth-lives. The result can of course be compared with the idea of repeated earth-lives in Buddhism, and even given the same name; but the way taken by Lessing is very different and is not generally known. How did he come to this idea?
We can see this quite clearly if we go through the Education of the Human Race. There is no doubt that human evolution gives evidence of progress in the strictest sense. Lessing argued that this progress is an education of humanity by the Divine Powers. God gave into men's hands a first elementary book, the Old Testament. Thereby a certain stage of evolution was achieved. When the human race had gone further, it was given the second elementary book, the New Testament. And then Lessing sees in our time something that goes beyond the New Testament: an independent feeling in the human soul for the true, the good, and the beautiful. This marks for him a third stage in the education of the human race. The thought of the education of mankind by the Divine Powers is worked out in a lofty style.
Lessing then asks himself: What is the one and only way to explain this progress? He cannot explain it otherwise than by allowing every soul to participate in each epoch of human evolution, if human progress is to have any meaning at all. For it would have no meaning if one soul lived only in the epoch of Old Testament civilisation and another soul only in the New Testament epoch. It has meaning only if souls are taken through all the epochs of civilisation and share in all the stages of human education. In other words, if the soul lives through repeated earth-lives, the progressive education of the human race makes good sense. So the idea of repeated earth-lives springs up in Lessing's mind as something that belongs to human destiny.
In a deeper sense the following underlies his thinking. If a soul was incarnated at the time of the Old Testament, it took into itself whatever it could take; when it reappears in a later time it carries the fruits of its previous life into the next life, and the fruits of that life into the one following, and so on. Thus the successive stages of evolution are interlocked. And whatever a soul achieves is achieved not only for itself, but for all mankind. Humanity is a great organism, and for Lessing reincarnation is necessary in order that the whole human race can progress. Thus it is historical evolution, the concern of humanity as a whole, that he takes as his starting-point, and from there he is impelled to a recognition of reincarnation.
It is different if we trace out the same idea in Buddhism. There, a person is concerned merely with himself, with his own psyche. The individual says to himself: I am placed in the world of maya; desire brought me into it, and in the course of repeated incarnations I shall free myself as an individual soul from the necessity of living again on earth. This applies to the single individual; all the attention is centred on him. That is the great difference.
Whether a person looks at the process from within, as in Buddhism, or from without, as Lessing does, his gaze takes in the whole of human evolution. In both cases the same idea emerges, but in the West the path to it is quite different. While the Buddhist limits himself to concern for the individual, the man of the West is concerned with the whole of humanity. He feels himself bound up with all men as a single organism.
What is it that has taught Western man the necessity of realising, above all, that his concern is with all mankind? The reason is that into the sphere of the heart, into his world of feeling, he has received the words of Christ Jesus concerning human brotherhood: that it is beyond all nationality, beyond all racial characteristics, and that humanity is a great organism.
Hence it is interesting to see how Drossbach, although his thinking is still imperfect, because the scientific ideas of the first half of the nineteenth century had not yet produced the corresponding thought-forms, does not take the Buddhistic path, but a universal cosmic one. Drossbach starts from the thoughts of natural science and observes the soul in its cosmic aspect. He cannot think otherwise of the soul than as a seed which goes through an external form and reappears in other external forms, and so is reincarnated. With him, this idea turns into fantasy, for he thinks that the world itself must be transformed, whereas Lessing thought correctly of short periods of time. Wiedenmann, too, in his prize essay, brings the immortality of the soul into logical connection with the question of reincarnation.
So we see that these ideas appear quite sporadically, and it is right that in spite of faulty modes of thinking they should spring up in minds such as these, and in others also. The great evolutionary change which the human soul has undergone from the eighteenth to the twentieth century is such that everyone today who begins the study of world progress must above all assimilate those thought-forms which lead quite naturally to the acceptance and making credible of the ideas of reincarnation and karma. Between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries human thought was not sufficiently advanced to come by itself to a recognition of reincarnation. One has always to start from the stage reached by the most highly developed thought of the period. Today the starting point must be that form of thinking which, on the basis of natural science, regards the idea of repeated earth-lives as logical — which means hypothetically true. So do the times advance.
Without describing the Rosicrucian path in detail today, we will bring out what is essential both to it and to the way of knowledge at the present time. The characteristic of both is that everyone who gives advice and guidance for Initiation will value in the deepest sense the independence and inviolability of the sphere of the human Will. Hence the essential point is that through a special kind of moral and spiritual culture the ordinary interweaving of the physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego must be changed. And those directions which are given for the training of the moral feelings, as also those for concentration in thinking, for meditation — all this makes finally for the one goal of loosening the spiritual texture which binds together the physical and etheric bodies, so that the etheric body does not remain so firmly fitted into the physical body as it naturally is. All the exercises strive after this lifting out, this loosening, of the etheric body. Thereby another union between the astral body and the etheric body is brought about. It is because in ordinary life the etheric body and the physical body are so firmly united that the astral body cannot normally feel or experience what is going on in the etheric body. Because the etheric body has its seat within the physical body, our astral body, and our ego perceive only what the physical body brings them from the world and enables them to think of through the instrument of the brain. The etheric body is too deeply embedded in the physical body for it to be experienced in ordinary life as an independent entity, as an independent instrument of cognition, or as an instrument of feeling and willing.
The efforts in concentrated thinking, according to the instructions given nowadays — and given also by the Rosicrucians — the efforts in meditation, the cleansing of the moral feelings: all these finally produce on the etheric body the effect described in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. As we use our eyes for seeing and our hands for grasping, so eventually we shall use the etheric body with its organs, but for looking into the spiritual, not the physical, world. The way in which we gather together and concentrate our inner life works for the independence of the etheric body.
It is necessary, however, that we should first permeate ourselves, at least tentatively, with the idea of karma. And we do this when we establish a certain moral equilibrium, a balance of the soul-forces of feeling. A person who cannot to a certain extent grasp the thought that ‘in the long run I myself am to blame for my impulses’, will not be able to make good progress. A certain equanimity and understanding with regard to karma, even if only a purely hypothetical understanding, are necessary as a starting-point. A person who never gets away from his ego, who is so dependent upon his narrowly limited ways of feeling and perception that when things go wrong he always blames others and never himself; a person who is always filled with the idea that the world, or a part of his environment, is against him; a man who never gets beyond the results of applying ordinary thinking to whatever can be learnt from exoteric Theosophy — such a person will find progress particularly difficult. Hence it is well that in order to develop equanimity and calmness of soul we should make ourselves familiar with the idea that when something does not succeed, particularly on the occult path, we must blame not others but ourselves. This does most to help our progress. What helps least is always wanting to lay the blame on the world outside, or always wanting to change our training methods.
Our attitude in such matters is more important than perhaps appears. It is better to test carefully, at all times, how little we have learnt, and to seek the fault in ourselves when progress is not made. It is a quite significant advance when we can make up our minds always to seek the fault in ourselves. Then we shall see that we are making progress not only in farther off things but also in matters of external life. Those who have some experience in this field will always be able to testify that by accepting the blame for their own non-success, they have found something that makes precisely their external life easy and bearable. We shall get on much more easily with our environment when we can truly grasp this fact. We shall rise above much grumbling and hypochondria, above complaining and lamenting, and pursue our way more calmly. For we should reflect that in every true modern Initiation he who gives advice is under the strictest obligation not to penetrate into the innermost sanctuary of the soul. With regard to this most inward part of the soul, therefore, we have from the start to undertake something for ourselves, and we should not complain that we are perhaps not getting the right advice. The advice may be right and yet the results may not be satisfactory, if we fail to make the resolve I have indicated.
This equanimity, this calmness, once we have made our choice — and the choice should come only from a serious resolve — is a good ground for meditation concerned with thoughts and feelings. In everything founded on Rosicrucianism an important point is that in meditation and concentration we are always directed not to dogma but to the universally human. The deviation of which we spoke yesterday takes its start from subject-matter that is first given to the aspirant for holding in his mind. But what if this subject-matter had first to be tested by occult cognition? What if it were not in any way firmly established in advance? We must take our stand on Rosicrucian principles, one of which is that we are not in a position to decide about anything which is supported only by external documents, for example, the accounts of what took place as the Event of Golgotha. We must come to know these things first by the occult path; we may not assume them beforehand. Hence we should start from the universally human, from that which can be justified by every soul.
A glance into the great world, marveling at the revelation of light in the sun, feeling that what our eyes see of light is only the external veil of the light, its external revelation, or, as is said in Christian esotericism, the glory of light, and then yielding oneself up to the thought that behind the external sensible light something quite different is hidden — all this is fundamentally human. To think of, to gaze on, the light spread out through infinite space, and then clearly to feel that in this infinitely extended element of the light something spiritual must live, something which weaves this web of light in space; to concentrate upon these thoughts, to live in them — here we have something universally human, presented not through dogma but through universal feeling. Or again, to perceive the warmth of nature, to feel how through the universe, along with the warmth, something moves in which there is spirit. Then, out of certain relationships in our own organism with the feeling of love, to concentrate on the thought of how warmth can exist spiritually, how it lives pulsing through the world. Then, to sink oneself into what we can learn from intuitions given to us by modern occult teaching. Then to take counsel with those who know something in this realm as to concentrating in the right way upon world thoughts, cosmic thoughts. And further, the ennobling, the cleansing, of moral perceptions, whereby we come to understand that what we feel to be moral is reality. So we rise above the prejudice that these moral feelings are something transitory; we realise that they live on, are stamped into us as moral realities. We learn to feel the responsibility of being placed in the world as conscious beings, together with our moral feelings. All esoteric life is fundamentally directed towards universally human experiences of this kind.
I will now describe how far we can go through exercises which take their start in this way from human nature, if only we devote ourselves to a clear-sighted examination of our own human nature. From this beginning we come to a loosening of the connection between the physical body and the etheric body, and to a new kind of knowledge. We give birth as it were, to a second man within ourselves, so that we are no longer so firmly connected with the physical body as before. And in the finest moments of life we feel the etheric and astral bodies as though enclosed in an external sheath, and thereby know ourselves to be free from the instrument of the physical body. That is what we attain. We shall then be led to see our physical body in its true being, and to recognise how it affects us when we are within it. We become aware of the whole working of the physical body upon us only when we have in a certain sense come out of it, like the snake which after casting its skin can look upon the skin from outside, though feeling it as a part of itself. Through the first stages of Initiation we learn in like manner to feel ourselves free from the physical body, and learn to recognise it. At this moment quite special feelings will steal over us, which may be described as follows. (There are so many different experiences along the path of Initiation that it has not yet been possible to describe them all. In Knowledge of the Higher Worlds you will find much on the subject, but there is a great deal more.)
The first experience, open to nearly everyone who turns from ordinary life to pursue the path of knowledge, leads us to say, in accordance with our feeling: ‘This physical body as it is, as it appears to me, has not been formed by myself. Most certainly I have not made this physical body, through which I have been brought to be what I am in the world. Without this body, the Ego which I now regard as my great ideal, would not have arisen within me. I have become what I am only through having kept my physical body riveted upon me.’
At first all this gives rise to something like resentment, bitterness, against the Cosmic Powers. It is easy to say, ‘I will not cherish this resentment.’ But when there arises before us in melancholy majesty a picture of what we have become through being bound up with the physical body, the effect is overwhelming. We feel something like bitter hatred for the Cosmic Powers on this account. But now our occult training must be so far advanced that we overcome this hatred and on a higher level can say with our whole being, with our individuality which has already come down into repeated incarnations, that we ourselves are responsible for what our physical body has become. When we have mastered the bitterness, we experience the perception, already often described: ‘Now I know I am that very thing which appears there as the changed form of my physical being. That I am myself. But because my physical being was crushing me to death, I knew nothing of it.’
We stand here before the significant meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold. But if we come so far, if through the strenuousness of our exercises we experience what has just been said, then from out of what is common to human nature we recognise that we are as we are in our present form as the result of preceding incarnations. But we also recognise that we can experience the deepest pain and must work our way out beyond this pain to the overcoming of our present existence. And for every man who is sufficiently far advanced and has experienced these feelings in all their intensity, who has looked upon the Guardian of the Threshold, there arises of necessity an Imaginative picture, a picture not painted by constraint, as in Jesuitism, from passages in the Bible but a picture that each man experiences through having felt, in a general human sense, what he is. Through these experiences he will quite naturally come to know the picture of the Divine Ideal-Man, who like us lived in a physical body, and who like us in this physical body felt all that a physical body can bring about. The Temptation, and the picture of it as presented to us in the synoptic Gospels, the leading of Christ Jesus to the mountain, the promise of all external realities, the desire to cling to these outer realities, the temptation to remain attached to matter: in short, the temptation to remain with the Guardian of the Threshold and not to pass beyond him appears to us in the great Imaginative picture of Christ Jesus standing on the mountain, with the Tempter beside Him — a picture that would have arisen before us even if we had never heard of the Gospels. And then we know that he who wrote the story of the Temptation depicted his own experience of seeing, in the spirit, Christ Jesus and the Tempter. Then we know it is true in the Spirit that the writer of the Gospel has described something that we ourselves can experience even if we knew nothing of the Gospels. Thus we shall be led to a picture which is similar to the picture in the Gospels. We gain for ourselves what stands in the Gospels. Nothing is forced upon us; everything is drawn forth from the depths of our own nature. We proceed from the universally human and bring forth the Gospels afresh through our occult life. We feel ourselves at one with the writers of the Gospels.
Then there arises within us another feeling, a next step along the occult path. We feel how the Tempter has grown into a powerful Being who is behind all the phenomena of the world. Yes, we learn indeed to know the Tempter, but by degrees we learn in a certain way to value him. We learn to say: ‘The world spread out before us, whether it be Maya or something else, has its right to exist; it has revealed something to me.’ Then comes a second feeling, a quite definite one for every person who fulfils the conditions of a Rosicrucian initiation. The feeling arises: ‘We belong to the Spirit Who lives in all things, and with Whom we have to reckon. We cannot in the least comprehend the Spirit if we do not surrender ourselves to it.’ Then fear comes over us. We experience fear such as every real knower must undergo; a feeling for the greatness of the Cosmic Spirit who pervades the world. We are in the presence of this greatness and we feel our own powerlessness. We feel also what we might have become in the course of the earth's history, or in that of the Cosmos. We feel our own impotent existence so far removed from Divine existence. We feel fear in face of the ideal we must come to resemble, and of the magnitude of the effort which should lead us to that ideal. As through esotericism we must feel the whole magnitude of the effort, so must we feel this fear as a struggle we take upon ourselves, a wrestling with the Spirit of the Cosmos. When we feel our own littleness, and the necessary struggle laid upon us to attain our ideal, to become one with that which works and weaves in the world — when we experience this with fear, then only may we lay fear aside and betake ourselves to the path, to the paths which lead us to our ideal. And if we feel this completely and rightly, there comes before us yet another significant Imagination. If we had never read a Gospel, if mankind had never had such an external book, a spiritual picture would rise before our clairvoyant sight.
We are led out into the solitude which stands clearly before the inner eye, and we are brought before the picture of the Ideal Man who in a human body experienced all the immeasurable fears and anguish that we ourselves can taste in this moment. The picture of Christ in Gethsemane stands before us, as He experienced fear to an overwhelmingly intensified degree, the fear that we ourselves must feel on the path of Initiation, the fear that wrung from His brow the Bloody Sweat. That is the picture we encounter at a certain point on our occult path, independently of all external documents. So we have, standing before us like two great pillars on the occult path, the story of the Temptation experienced spiritually, and the scene on the Mount of Olives experienced spiritually. And then we understand the words: Watch and pray, and live in prayer, so that you will never be tempted to remain standing at any one point, but will continually stride forward.
This means that first of all we experience the Gospel; we experience everything so that we could write it down just as the writers of the Gospels have described it. For we do not need to take these two pictures from the Gospel; we can take them out of our own inner consciousness; we can bring them forth out of the Holy of Holies of the soul. No teacher is needed to come and say: ‘You must place before yourself in imagination the Temptation, and the scene on the Mount of Olives.’ We need only bring before ourselves that which can be developed in our consciousness through meditation, purification of our common human feelings, and so on. Then, without constraint from anyone, we call forth the Imaginations which are contained in the Gospels.
In the Jesuit spiritual movement the pupil had the Gospels given to him first, and afterwards he experienced what the Gospels describe. The way we have indicated today shows that when a man has taken the path of the spiritual life, he experiences occultly that which is connected with his own life, and thereby can experience through himself the pictures, the Imaginations, of the Gospels.