18 September 1912, Basel
Today I should like first of all to call your attention to and place before your mind's eye two pictures drawn from the evolution of man during the last few thousand years. I shall first direct your attention to something that occurred about the middle and toward the end of the fifth century B.C. It is well known to all of you, but, as I said, we shall look back at it with the eyes of our soul.
We see how the Buddha had gathered a number of disciples and pupils around him in the land of India, and how, from what took place then between the Buddha and his disciples and pupils, there arose the great and mighty movement that began and flowed on for centuries in the East, throwing up mighty waves and bringing to countless people inner salvation, inner freedom of soul, and an uplifting of human consciousness. If we wish to characterize what happened at that time we need only envisage the main content of Buddha's teachings and actions.
Life as it is lived by man in his earthly incarnations is suffering because through the sequence of his incarnations he is always subject to the urge for ever new incarnations. To free oneself from this yearning for reincarnation is a goal worth striving for. This goal is to blot out of the soul everything that can call forth the desire for physical incarnation, with the aim of at last ascending to an existence in which the soul no longer feels the desire to be connected with life through the physical senses and physical organs, but to ascend and take part in what is called Nirvana. This is the great teaching that flowed from the lips of the Buddha, that life means suffering and that man must find a means to free himself from suffering so as to be able to share in Nirvana. If we wish to picture to ourselves in precise but familiar concepts the impulse contained in the wonderful teaching of Buddha, we could perhaps say that the Buddha directed the minds of his pupils through the strength and power of his individuality to earth existence; while at the same time through the infinite fullness of his compassion he tried also to give them the means to raise their souls and all that was within them from the earthly to the heavenly, to raise human thinking and human philosophy from the human to the divine.
We might picture this as a formula if we wish to characterize clearly and correctly the impulse that went out from the great sermon of the Buddha at Benares. We see the Buddha gathering around him his faithful pupils. What do we perceive in the souls of these disciples? What will they eventually come to believe? That all the striving of the human soul must be directed toward becoming free from the yearning for rebirth, free from the inclination toward sense existence, free to seek the perfecting of the self by freeing it from everything that binds it to sense existence, and connecting it with all that links it to its divine spiritual origin. Such were the feelings that lived in the disciples of the Buddha. They sought to free themselves from all the temptations of life and let their only link with the world be the perception of the soul shining into the spiritual that is experienced in compassion; to become absorbed in striving for spiritual perfection, free from all earthly wants, with the aim of having as little as possible to do with what binds the external man to earthly existence. In this mood the pupils of the Buddha wandered through the world, and it was in this manner that they glimpsed the aims and objectives of Buddhist discipleship.
And if we follow up the centuries during which Buddhism was spreading and ask ourselves what lived in the hearts and souls of the Buddha's adherents and what it was that lived in the dissemination of Buddhism, we receive the answer that these men were devoted to lofty aims, but in the midst of all their thinking, feeling, and perception the great figure of the Buddha was living, together with everything that he had said in such thrilling, significant words about the deliverance from the sorrow of life. In the midst of all their thinking and perception, the comprehensive, all-encompassing, mighty authority of the Buddha lived in the hearts of his pupils and successors down the centuries. Everything the Buddha had said was looked upon by these pupils and successors as holy writ.
Why was it that the words of the Buddha sounded like a message from heaven to his pupils and successors? It was because these pupils and successors lived in the faith and belief that during the event of the Bodhi-tree the true knowledge of cosmic existence had flashed up in the soul of the Buddha, and the light and sun of the universe shone into it, with the consequence that everything that flowed from his lips had to be thought of as if it was the utterance of the spirits of the universe. It was this mood as it lived in the hearts of the pupils and successors of the Buddha, the holiness and uniqueness of this mood that was all-important. We wish to place all this before our spiritual eye so that we may learn to understand what happened there half a millennium before the Mystery of Golgotha.
Now we turn our gaze to another picture from world history. For in the long ages of human evolution what is separated by about a century may really be considered contemporary. In the thousands and thousands of years of human evolution a single century is of little importance. Therefore we can say that if the picture we wish to place before our souls is historically to be put a century later, as far as human evolution is concerned it was almost contemporary with the event of Buddha that we have just described.
In the fifth century B.C. we see another individuality
gradually gathering pupils and adherents around himself in ancient
Greece. Again this fact is well known. But if we are to come to an
understanding of the last centuries it is a good thing to picture this
individuality in our minds. We see Socrates in ancient Greece gathering
pupils around himself, and indeed we need to mention Socrates in this
connection even if we only consider the picture drawn of Socrates by the
great philosopher Plato, a picture which in its essentials seems to be
confirmed by the great philosopher Aristotle. 1Socrates, Athenian
philosopher, 470–399 B.C. Our information about him
comes mainly from the works of Plato and Xenophon, the more sympathetic
and much better known picture being drawn from Plato. Socrates is not
known ever to have written a word, his instruction having been all given
orally, in the form of dialogues.
Plato's picture of Socrates is contained mostly in his Protagoras, Meno, Symposium, Gorgias, and the three dialogues recounting the death of Socrates: The Apology, the Crito, and the Phaedo. Plato, 427–347 B.C.
Aristotle, 384–322 B.C. A pupil of Plato, he never knew Socrates personally, but credits him with many philosophical innovations, especially the use of logic and dialectic. If we consider the striking picture of Socrates as presented by Plato, then we can also say that a movement began with Socrates that then spread into the West. Anyone who visualizes the whole character of Western cultural development is bound to conclude that the Socratic element was a determining factor for everything in the West. Although the Socratic element in the West spreads through the waves of world history more subtly than the Buddhistic element in the East, we are still entitled to draw a parallel between Socrates and the Buddha. 2Gautama Buddha, c. 563–483 B.C. His dialogue with his pupil Sona is recorded in Vinayapitaka I, page 182 in the edition of H. Oldenberg (in German). But we must certainly make a clear differentiation between the pupils and disciples of Socrates and the pupils and disciples of the Buddha. When we consider the fundamental difference between the Buddha and Socrates we may indeed say that we are confronted with everything that differentiates the East from the West.
Socrates gathers his pupils around himself, but how does he feel in relation to them? His manner of treating these pupils has been called the art of a spiritual midwife because he wished to draw out from the souls of his pupils what they themselves knew, and what they were to learn. He put his questions in such a manner that the fundamental inner mood of the souls of his pupils was stirred to movement. He transmitted nothing from himself to his pupils, but elicited everything from them. The somewhat dry and prosaic aspect of Socrates' view of the world and the way he presented it comes from the fact that Socrates actually appealed to the independence and to the innate reasoning power of every pupil. Though he wandered through the streets of Athens in a rather different way from the way the Buddha walked with his pupils, there is nevertheless a similarity. On the one hand the Buddha revealed to his pupils what he had received through his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, and by allowing what he had thus received from the spiritual world to stream down to his pupils he enabled what had lived in him to live on in his pupils and remain active for centuries. On the other hand, Socrates did not make the slightest claim to go on living as Socrates in the hearts of his pupils. When he was talking with his pupils Socrates did not wish to transmit anything at all of himself into their souls. He wished to leave it to them to draw out from themselves what they already possessed. Nothing of Socrates was to pass over into his pupils' souls, nothing at all.
We can think of no greater contrast than that between the Buddha and Socrates. The Buddha was to live on in the souls of his pupils, whereas in the souls of the pupils of Socrates nothing more was to live on than what the midwife has given to the child who comes into the world. Thus the spiritual element in the pupils of Socrates was to be drawn forth by the spiritual midwifery of Socrates when he left each person on his own, drawing forth from each one of them what was already there within him. That was the intention of Socrates. So we could characterize the difference between Socrates and the Buddha in the following way. If a voice from heaven had wished to state clearly what the disciples of Buddha were to receive through the Buddha, it might well have said, “Kindle within yourselves what lived in the Buddha, so that through him you can find the path to existence in the spirit.” If we wish to characterize in the same way what Socrates wanted we should have to say, “Become what you are!”
If we bring these two pictures before our souls, ought we not to say to ourselves that we are here confronted with two different streams of development in human evolution, and that they are polar opposites? They do meet again in a certain way, but only in the farthest distance. We should not mix these things together but rather characterize them in their differentiation, and only then indicate that there is at the same time a higher unity. If we think of the Buddha face to face with one of his pupils we could say that he is trying to kindle in the souls of his disciples what is necessary to lead them upward to the spiritual worlds through what he himself had experienced under the Bodhi tree. This may be recognized in the form of his discourses, with their sublime words and their endless repetitions, repetitions that should not be omitted in translation. The words are chosen in such a way that they sound like a heavenly proclamation from the heavenly world coming from beyond the earth, spoken through his lips out of the direct experience of what had happened during his enlightenment, words which he wished to pass on to his followers.
How then can we picture Socrates with his pupils? They confront each other in such a way that when Socrates is trying to make clear to his pupils the relation of man to the divine using the simplest rational considerations of everyday life, he shows them the logical connection between these considerations. The pupil is always directed to the most prosaic everyday matters, and his task is then to apply ordinary logic to what he has grasped as knowledge. Only once is Socrates shown as having risen to the height at which he could, as we might say, speak as Buddha spoke to his pupils. Only once does he appear like this, and that is at the moment when he was approaching death. When just before his death he spoke about the immortality of the soul he was surely speaking then like one of the highest of the enlightened ones. Yet at the same time what he said could only be understood if one takes into account his entire life experience. It is for this reason that what he said then touches our heart and soul when we listen to his Platonic discourse on immortality in which he speaks somewhat as follows, “Have I not striven all my life to attain through philosophy all that a man can in order to become free from the world of sense? Now when my soul is soon to be released from everything material, ought it not to penetrate joyfully into the world of spirit? Should I not be ready to penetrate with joy into that for which I have inwardly striven through philosophy?”
Anyone who can grasp the whole mood of this dialogue of Socrates in the Phaedo finds himself experiencing a feeling similar to that experienced by the pupils of the Buddha when they listened to his sublime teachings, so that it is possible to say that in spite of the difference, the polar difference between these two individualities, at a particular moment they are so sublime that even in this polar difference a certain unity appears. If we direct our vision to the Buddha we shall find that the discourses of Buddha as a whole are such that they arouse a feeling which one has with Socrates only in the case of the discourse on the immortality of the soul. I am referring to the soul-mood, the spiritual tension of this dialogue. But what is poured forth in the other discourses of Socrates which are always directed to a man's own reason is not often met with in the Buddha, although it is occasionally to be found. It sometimes sounds through. One can actually experience it as a kind of metamorphosed Socratic dialogue when on one occasion the Buddha wishes to make clear to his pupil Sona that it is not good to stay only in the realm of the material and enmeshed in sense-existence, nor yet to mortify the flesh and live like the old aescetics. It is good to pursue a middle path. Here the Buddha confronts his pupil Sona and speaks to him somewhat in the following manner, “See here, Sona, would you be able to play well on a lute whose strings are too loose?” “No,” Sona is forced to reply, “I shall not be able to play well on a lute whose strings are too loose.” “Well, then, will you be able to play well on a lute whose strings are too tight?” “No,” Sona must answer, “I shall not be able to play well on a lute whose strings are drawn too tight.” “When will you be able to play well on the lute?” Buddha then asks him. “When the strings are drawn neither too loosely nor too tightly.” “So it is also with man,” rejoined the Buddha. “If he is too much attached to the life of the senses he cannot wholly listen to the voice of reason. Nor will he truly listen to reason if he spends his life mortifying himself and withdrawing from earthly life. The middle path which must be taken also when stringing the lute must likewise be followed in relation to the mood of the human soul.”
This is just the way Socrates talks to his pupils, making an appeal to their reason, so that this dialogue of the Buddha with his pupil could equally well have been devised by Socrates. What I have given you is a “Socratic dialogue” carried on by the Buddha with his pupil Sona. But in just the same way that the discourse of Socrates to his pupils just before his death, a discourse that I have called Buddhistic, was unusual for Socrates, so is a dialogue of this kind rare in the case of the Buddha. We must never fail to emphasize the fact that we can reach the truth only by making characterizations of this kind. It would be easier to make a characterization if we were to say something along these lines, “It is through great leaders that humanity moves forward. What these leaders say is essentially the same thing though it takes different forms. All the individual leaders of mankind proclaim in their teachings different aspects of the same truth.” Such a statement is of course quite true, but it could scarcely be more trivial. What is important is that we should take the trouble to recognize things in such a way that we look for both the differentiations and the underlying unity; that we should characterize things according to their differences, and only afterward look for the higher unity to be perceived in these differences.
I felt that this remark about method was one that I had to make because in spiritual studies it usually is in accord with reality. It would be so easy to say that all religions contain the same thing and then concentrate on this one thing and then characterize it by saying, “All the various religious founders have presented only the same one thing in different forms.” But if we do make this characterization, it will remain infinitely trivial, however beautiful the words in which we express it. It would be just as unproductive as if we wished from the beginning to characterize two such figures as the Buddha and Socrates in the light of some abstract unity without seeking to perceive the polar difference between them. But if we trace them back to their forms of thought the matter will quickly be understood. Pepper and salt, sugar and paprika, are all put on the table to add to the food — they are all one, that is to say they are condiments. But because this can be said of them it does not mean that we must say all these condiments are the same and sugar our coffee by adding salt or pepper to it. What is unacceptable in life should not be accepted in spiritual matters. It would be unacceptable to say that Krishna and Zarathustra, Orpheus and Hermes are fundamentally only variations of the “one thing.” It is no more useful to make a characterization like this than it would be to say that pepper and salt, sugar and paprika are all different variations of one essence, since they are all equally condiments for food. It is important that we should grasp this point about method, and that we should not accept what is comfortable in preference to the truth.
If we visualize these two figures, the Buddha and Socrates, they will seem to us like two different, polar opposite configurations of the evolutionary streams of mankind. And when we now link these two within a higher unity as we have done, we may add to them a third in whom we also have to do with a great individuality around whom gather pupils and disciples — Christ Jesus. If among those pupils and disciples who gather around Him we fix our attention first on the Twelve, then we find that the Gospel of Mark in particular tells us with the utmost clarity something about the relation of the master to his pupils, in the same way as we characterized the relation with the greatest clarity we could between Buddha and Socrates in a different domain. And what was the clearest, the most striking and concise expression of this relationship? It is when the Christ — and this is indicated on several occasions — faced the crowd that wished to hear Him. He speaks to this crowd in parables and imagery. And the Gospel of Mark pictures this in a simple and grandiose manner when it describes how certain profound and significant facts about world events and human evolution are indicated to the crowd through parables and imagery. Then it is said that when He was alone with his disciples He interpreted this imagery to them. In the Gospel of Mark we are on one occasion given a specific example of how the Christ spoke to the crowd in imagery and then interpreted it to His pupils.
And He taught them many things in parables, and said to them in His teaching, “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened as he sowed that one part fell by the path and the birds came and devoured it. And another part fell on stony ground, where there was not much soil, and it immediately shot up because it did not lie deep in the soil. And when the sun rose it was scorched and withered because it had no root.
“And another part fell in thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
“And another part fell in the good ground and brought forth fruit, which sprang up and grew and yielded thirty-fold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” And when he was alone, his company together with the Twelve asked him about the parables. (Mark 4:2-10.)
And to his more intimate pupils he spoke as follows, “The sower sows the word.
“But in the case of those who heard the word that was sown by the path, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that had been sown among them.
“Those who hear the word that was sown on stony ground receive it immediately with joy. These have no root in themselves but are children of the moment. Then when they are afflicted or persecuted because of the word they immediately are confused and stumble.
“When by contrast it is sown among thorns some hear it, but then worldly cares, the temptation of riches, and other kinds of desires enter and choke the word, and it remains without fruit.
“Where it is sown on good ground there are people who hear and receive the word, and it yields fruit, thirty, sixty and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:14-20.)
Here we have a perfect example of how Christ Jesus taught. We are told how Buddha taught, and how Socrates taught. Of the Buddha we can say in our Western language that he carried earthly experience up into the heavenly realm. It has often been said of Socrates that the tendency of his teaching can best be characterized by saying that he brought philosophy down from the heavens to earth in appealing directly to human earthly reason. In this way we can picture clearly the relation of these two individualities to their pupils.
Now how did Christ Jesus stand in relation to His pupils? His relationship to the crowd was different from that toward His own pupils. He taught the crowd in parable whereas for His intimate pupils He interpreted the parables, telling them what they were capable of understanding, of grasping clearly through human reason. So if we want to characterize the way Christ Jesus taught, we must speak of this in a more complex manner. One characteristic feature is common to all the Buddha's teaching; so the personal pupils of the Buddha are all of one kind. Similarly the entire world can become pupils of Socrates since Socrates wished only to elicit what lies hidden in the human soul. His disciples are therefore all of the same kind and Socrates has the same relationship to all. Christ Jesus, however, has two different kinds of relationships, one kind to His intimate pupils and another to the crowd. How may this be understood?
If we wish to understand the reason for this we must recognize clearly in our souls that the whole turning point of evolution had been reached at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. The end of the period during which clairvoyance was the common possession of humanity was approaching. The further we go back in human evolution the more was the ancient clairvoyance that enabled men to see into the spiritual worlds the common possession of all mankind. How did they see into these worlds? Their vision took the form of perceiving the secrets of the cosmos in pictures, which were either conscious or unconscious imaginations. It was a dreamlike clairvoyance in the form of dreamlike imaginations, not in the rational concepts that people today make use of in the pursuit of knowledge. Both science and popular thinking which today make use of prosaic reasoning power and judgment were absent in those ancient times. In confronting the external world men did indeed see it, but they did not analyze it conceptually. They possessed no logic, nor did they make deductions in their thinking. Actually it is difficult for a man of today to imagine this because today one thinks about everything. But ancient man did not think in this way. He passed by objects and formed mental images of them; and in the intermediate state between sleeping and waking when he looked into his dreamlike imaginative world and saw pictures he was able to understand his mental images.
Let us envisage the matter more concretely. Picture to yourselves how, many thousands of years ago, ancient man would have observed his environment. He would have been struck by the fact that a teacher was present who explained something to his pupils. A man of former times would have stood there and listened to the words the teacher was saying to his pupils. And if there had been several pupils present he would have heard how one receives the word with fervor, another takes it up but soon lets it fall, while a third is so absorbed in his own egoism that he does not listen. A man of former times would not have been able, for example, to have compared these three pupils in a rational manner. But when he was in the intermediate state between waking and sleeping, then the whole scene would have appeared again before his soul in the form of a picture. And he would have seen something, for example, like this: how a sower walks scattering seed; and this he would have really seen as a clairvoyant picture. He would have seen how one seed is thrown in good soil where it comes up well, a second seed he throws on poorer soil, and the third on stony soil. A smaller crop comes up from what was sown on the poor soil and nothing at all from the stony soil. Such a man of earlier times would not have said, as the man of today would, “One pupil takes up the words, another does not take them up at all,” and so on. But in the intermediate state between sleeping and waking he saw the imaginative picture, and with it the explanation. He would never have spoken of it in any other way. If he had been asked to explain the relation of the teacher to his pupils he would have told about his clairvoyant vision. For him that was the reality, and also the explanation. And that is the way he would have talked.
Now the crowd facing Christ Jesus possessed indeed only the last remnant of ancient clairvoyance. But their souls were still well versed at listening to what was told to them in the form of pictures about the coming into being and the evolution of mankind. When Christ Jesus spoke to the crowd He spoke as if He were speaking to people who still retained the last heritage of ancient clairvoyance and took it with them in their ordinary life of soul.
Who, then, were His intimate disciples? We have heard how the Twelve consisted of the seven sons of the Maccabean mother and the five sons of Mattathias. We have heard how throughout the whole history of the Hebrew people they had advanced to the point where they could vigorously assert their immortal ego. They were indeed the first whom Christ Jesus could choose Himself, appealing to that which lives in every human soul, living in it in such a way that it can become the new starting point for human development. To the crowd he spoke on the assumption that they would understand what they had preserved as a heritage from ancient clairvoyance. To His disciples He spoke on the assumption that they were the first who would be able to understand a little of what we today can say to human beings about higher worlds. It was thus a necessity for Christ Jesus during the whole of the turning point of time to speak in a different way when He was addressing the crowd from when He was speaking to His intimate pupils. The Twelve whom He drew to Himself He placed in the middle of the crowd. It was the task of Christ Jesus' closer circle of pupils to acquire that understanding, that rational understanding of things that belonged to the higher worlds and of the secrets of human evolution that in later times would become the common property of mankind. If we take what He said as a whole when He interpreted the parables for His pupils, we can say that He spoke also in a Socratic manner. For He drew forth what He said from the souls of each one of them, with the difference that Christ Jesus spoke of spiritual matters while Socrates spoke rather about the circumstances of earthly life and made use of ordinary logic. When Christ spoke to His intimate pupils about spiritual matters He did so in a Socratic manner. When the Buddha spoke to his disciples and expounded spiritual matters he showed how this was possible through illumination and through the sojourn of the human soul in the spiritual world. When Christ spoke to the crowd He spoke of the higher worlds in the way in which they formerly were experienced by ordinary human souls. He spoke to the crowd, as one might say, like a popular Buddha; to His intimate disciples He spoke like a higher Socrates, a spiritualized Socrates. Socrates drew forth from the souls of his pupils the individual earthly reason, whereas Christ drew forth heavenly reason from the souls of His disciples. The Buddha gave heavenly enlightenment to his pupils; Christ in His parables gave earthly enlightenment to the crowd.
I would ask you to give thought to these three pictures: Over there in the land of the Ganges there is the Buddha with his pupils — the antithesis of Socrates; over there in Greece is Socrates with his pupils — the antithesis of the Buddha. And then four or five centuries later there is this remarkable synthesis, this remarkable combination. Here you have before your souls one of the greatest examples of the regular, lawful development of human evolution. Human evolution proceeds step by step. Many of the things taught in years past in the early stages of spiritual science may have been thought by some people to be a kind of theory, a mere doctrine as, for example, when it was explained that the human soul should be thought of as the combined action of the sentient soul, intellectual soul and consciousness soul. Some people certainly make their judgments too quickly, indeed, a good deal more quickly even than those who take something that is merely a first draft and regard it as the finished product, a draft that was still awaiting further development. Such different judgments which we have actually experienced are all right as long as it is drawn to the attention of anthroposophists how they ought not to think. Sometimes we are confronted with blatant examples of how not to think, although many people believe we should indeed think like that. For example, this morning someone gave me a fine example of an odd kind of thinking which I am quoting here only as an example, though it is one that we should very much take to heart for the reason that we as anthroposophists should not only take notice of the world's shortcomings but should actually do something towards the consistent perfecting of the soul. So if I take what was told me this morning as an example, I do this not for a personal but for a spiritual reason that has wide application.
I was told that in a certain area of Europe a gentleman is living who at one time a long time ago had printed some pointless statements about the teachings that appear in Steiner's Theosophy as well as about his general relationship to the spiritual movement. Now it happened today that an acquaintance of this gentleman was criticized because his acquaintance, that is this particular gentleman, had published something like this. To which the acquaintance replied, “Why, my friend has just begun to study the writings of Dr. Steiner in an intensive manner.” Yet this friend years before had passed judgment on these writings, and it is offered as an excuse that he is just beginning now to study them! This is a way of thinking that ought to be impossible within our movement. When some time in the future people write historically about our movement the question will certainly be asked, “Could it possibly be true that it occurred to someone to propose as an excuse that a man is only now beginning to acquaint himself with something on which he passed judgment years ago?” Such things are an integral part of anthroposophical education, and we shall make no progress unless it becomes generally accepted that such things must be unthinkable, absolutely unthinkable in our anthroposophical movement. For it is a necessary part of our inner honesty that we must be simply unable to think in this way. We can make no step forward in our search for truth if it is possible for us to pass such a judgment. And it is a duty for anthroposophists to take note of these things and not pass them by in an unloving manner while at the same time talking about the “universal love of mankind.” In a higher sense it is indeed unloving toward a man if we forgive him something of this kind because we thereby condemn him to karmic meaninglessness and lack of existence after death. By drawing his attention to the impossible nature of such judgments we make easier his existence after death. This is the deeper meaning of the matter.
So we should not take it lightly when the truth is put forward in the first place in a simple manner, namely, that the human soul is composed of three members, the sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul. Already in the course of the years it was emphasized how this fact has a much deeper significance than a mere dividing of the soul into three parts. It was pointed out how the various postAtlantean cultures gradually developed: the ancient Indian, the primeval Persian and the Egypto-Babylonian-Chaldean cultures, the Greco-Latin culture and then ours. And it was shown how the essential characteristic of the EgyptianBabylonian-Chaldean cultural epoch is the specific development of the true sentient soul of man. Similarly in the Greco-Latin era there was the specific culture of the intellectual soul, and in our era of the consciousness soul. So we are confronted with these three cultural epochs, which have their influence on the education and evolution of the human soul itself. These three soul members are not something that have been theoretically thought out, but are living realities developing progressively through successive epochs of time.
But everything must be linked. The earlier must always be carried over into the later, and in the same way the later must be foreshadowed in the earlier. In what cultural epoch do Socrates and the Buddha live? They live in the epoch of the intellectual soul; both have their task and their mission in that epoch.
The Buddha has the task of preserving the culture of the sentient soul from the previous, the third epoch, into the fourth. What the Buddha announces and his pupils take up into their hearts, is something destined to shine over from the third post-Atlantean period — the period of the sentient soul — into the era of the intellectual soul. In this way the era of the intellectual soul, the fourth post-Atlantean cultural period, could be warmed through by the glow and the light of the teachings of Buddha, by what was brought forth by the sentient soul, permeated as it was by clairvoyance. The Buddha was the great preserver of the sentient soul culture, bringing it forward right into the culture of the intellectual soul. What then was the mission of Socrates, who appeared somewhat later in time?
Socrates in the same way stands in the midst of the era of the intellectual soul. His appeal is made to the single human individuality, to something that can truly emerge only in our fifth cultural age. It was his task to foreshadow, though in a still abstract form, the era of the consciousness soul in the era of the intellectual soul. The Buddha preserves what came from the past, so that his message appears like a warming, shining light. Socrates anticipates what in his own time lies in the future, the characteristics of the consciousness soul era. So in his age it seemed to be somewhat prosaic, merely rational, even arid. Thus the third, fourth and fifth cultural epochs are telescoped in the fourth. The third is preserved by the Buddha, the fifth is anticipated by Socrates. West and East have the task of pointing up these two different missions — the East preserving the greatness of the past, while the West in an earlier era is anticipating what is to appear in a later one.
From the very ancient times in human evolution when the Buddha appeared time and again as the Boddhisattva, there is a straight path until the time when the Bodhisattva ascended to Buddhahood. There is a great and continuous development that comes to an end with the Buddha, and this really is an end because the Buddha undergoes his last incarnation on earth and never again descends to it. It was a great age that came to an end then, since it brought over from very ancient epochs what constituted the culture of the sentient soul of the third post-Atlantean cultural era and let it shine out again. If you will read the discourses of the Buddha from this point of view you will gain the right mood of soul and as a result the era of the intellectual soul will be valued by you in a different way. You will then return to the discourses of Buddha and say, “Everything here is of such a nature that it speaks directly to the human mind, but in the background is something that escapes from this mind and belongs to a higher world.” This is the reason for that special rhythmic movement that ordinary rational men find objectionable which we find in the repetition of Buddha's discourses. This we can begin to understand only when we leave the physical for the etheric, entering in this way the first super-sensible element behind the material. Anyone here who understands how much is active in the etheric body which stands behind the physical will also understand why so much in Buddha's discourses is repeated again and again. The repetitions must not be deleted from the discourses since such deletion takes away that special mood of soul that lives in them. Abstract-minded persons have done this in the belief that it is doing something helpful if they eliminate the repetitions and stick to the content. But it is important that they should be left just as the Buddha gave them.
If now we consider Socrates as he was, without all the wealth of material provided by the discoveries of natural science and the humanities since his day, and observe how he approaches the things of everyday life, we shall see how a man of the present time, when fortified by all the material of natural science, will find everywhere the Socratic method active in it. We expect it and need it. So we have a clear line beginning with Socrates and continuing into our own era, and this will grow ever more perfect in the future.
Thus there is one stream of human development that goes as far as the Buddha and ends with him; and there is another stream that begins with Socrates and goes on into the distant future. Socrates and the Buddha stand next to one another like the nuclei of two comets, if I may be allowed such an image. In the case of the Buddha, the light-filled comet's tail encircles the nucleus and points far back into the indeterminate perspectives of the past; in the case of Socrates the comet's tail of light encircles the nucleus in the same way but points far, far into the indeterminate distances of the future. Two diverging comets going in succession in opposite directions whose nuclei shine at the same time, this is the image I should like to use to illustrate how Socrates and the Buddha stand side by side.
Half a millennium passes, and something like a uniting of these two streams comes into being through Christ Jesus. We have already characterized this by putting a number of facts before our souls. Tomorrow we shall continue with this characterization so that we can answer the question, “How can we best characterize the mission of Christ Jesus in relation to the human soul?”