The Occult Significance of the Bhagavad Gita
3 June 1913, Helsingfors
It is natural, though it is usually ignored by science, that man as he is simply cannot know one part of his being. As he looks out upon the world it shows itself, roughly expressed, as an ascending scale from the mineral kingdom through the plant and animal kingdoms up to man. It goes without saying that man must assume some creative force behind all the forms he perceives around him in the kingdoms of nature. The point is, however, that man gains knowledge of the world he lives in just because the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms are outside him and he can observe them. As to all man has within himself, however, he can only gain knowledge of that insofar as the same forces are at work in him as are active in the three kingdoms of nature outside him. The forces active within him which transcend those three kingdoms he cannot know by the usual methods of knowing nature — not in the least. It is just what man has within himself over and above the kingdoms of nature that enables him to build up systematically a knowledge of those kingdoms outside him. Just as little as the eye, whose purpose it is to see outwardly, can see itself, just so little can man gain knowledge of what in himself is there in order that he may acquire knowledge. This is a very simple idea, but sound.
It is impossible for the eye to see itself because it is there to see out, and it is impossible for those forces in man that are there to acquire outer knowledge, to acquire knowledge of themselves. Further, it is these very forces that represent what it is in man that makes him something more than an animal. Materialistic Darwinism disposes of this fact easily by simply leaving out of account the fact that this special human power of acquiring knowledge itself cannot be known by man's usual instrument for knowledge. Recognizing that this power is unknowable, science denies its existence and accordingly considers man only insofar as he is still animal. You see on what the peculiar fallacy, the illusion of materialistic Darwinism rests. Man cannot know in himself those forces that are the actual means of knowledge. But the eye can see another eye, and for this reason, other things being equal, it can believe in itself. With the faculty of knowledge this is not the case. It would be logically possible for a man to confront another man and perceive in him the knowing faculty that raises him above animals. Logically, that is. But even that is actually impossible, for the very reasons implied in what we have described previously about the effects of thinking.
What does ordinary knowledge involve in the external world? We saw that it involves a perpetual destruction of the nerve structures in the brain. This is an actual external process. The creative forces on the other hand — those that really distinguish man from the animal — cannot develop at all in our waking life when we normally acquire knowledge. In this life they must behave so as not to interfere with the wearing away of the nerve structures. Therefore in waking life these forces are at rest. They sleep.
We have recognized a great truth if we can thoroughly enter into the thought that all that would have to be known to realize the full fallacy of materialistic Darwinism, even on the physical plane, is actually asleep in our waking life; that what raises man above the animal is at rest and a destructive process is taking place. The creative forces that bring forth the animal organism are not so far perfected as those at work in the organism of man. In our waking life the latter are inactive, and the process that takes their place is perpetually destroying just what in man transcends the animal. These very creative forces are destroyed during waking life. They are not present at all, but during sleep they appear and begin building up again what has been destroyed. These creative forces that raise man above the animal can really be perceived in a sleeping man. So we should have to say that whatever it is that repairs in sleeping man the forces he spends in his waking life, must be the forces that raise him above the animals.
These forces are still unknown to external natural science, which is only beginning to surmise them. Science, however, is on the way and one day will reveal these forces by purely external methods. Indeed, there are already exceptions to the statement that the forces leading man out beyond the animal nature are ordinarily unobservable in him. When science once learns to distinguish these forces in man it will discover in the sleeping human body the physical evidence of man's transcending the animal kingdom. When it distinguishes the regenerative forces in man from what is present in the animal kingdom also, it will recognize how the creative forces active in the earth's life to raise man beyond the animal are awake only when man sleeps. From all this we can gather that in self-knowledge man's creative forces, the real human forces, can only be perceived by man when he becomes clairvoyant during sleep; that is, when in a condition otherwise like sleep he awakes clairvoyantly. In the fifth lecture we already indicated this fact.
Today I have said that to some extent, from the processes observable in sleeping man, science will after a time find indications of the forces whereby man transcends the animal, but they will only be indications. These forces, when they appear to clairvoyant consciousness today, are seen to be of such a nature that they cannot be revealed externally to the senses in their true form. It will be possible to indicate their existence by deductions from scientific facts. Apart from their not being perceptible in their essence there is quite another reason why it will become possible to discover them if not to perceive them. These human creative forces have a very special relation to all the other forces of nature. We are here approaching a difficult subject, but it may be possible to make it clear in the following way.
Let us imagine we have here the receiver of an air-pump, say a glass bell-jar, and suppose we succeed in making a really perfect vacuum inside it. That is very nearly possible ordinarily. Everyone whose intellect is bound to the world of sense will now say, “Inside there is no air, only an empty space; we cannot go any farther, there cannot be less than no air inside.” Actually that is not true. We can pump until no air at all is left, then go on pumping until we get a space still more empty of air than a vacuum. People dependent on the material will find it difficult to imagine this “less than nothing.” Or, suppose you have ten shillings in your pocket. You can gradually spend them until you have nothing left. In this domain of life there is a real “less than nothing.” It is often one of the strongest realities — you can go into debt for a few shillings. In practical life less-than-nothing is often more intensely real than the reality of possession.
It is remarkable what things are sometimes accepted as axioms, as obvious truths. Thus, you can read in many Western philosophic books that there can nowhere be less than nothing, that there is no such thing. Even more, it is sometimes said that nothing itself cannot exist. Yet, what exists in our illustration about debt exists also in the universe. All philosophic dicta about “nothing,” however pretentious the form they take, are really rubbish. They are themselves a kind of ill-defined nothingness. It is true that the physical something that surrounds us can be reduced to nothing, and then still further to less than nothing. This “nothing” actually is a real factor on all sides. We must imagine the world that surrounds us, which we know in the forces of nature throughout the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms, reduced down to nothing, then down to below nothing. Then it is that those forces arise that are creatively active in man when he sleeps. Natural science knows only the external side of these forces. In fact, it holds fast to a mere abstraction about them and therefore cannot enter into or appreciate them because ordinary science is to the reality in the forces of nature as the abstract number ten, for example, is to ten beans or ten apples. If we eliminate quality and say that all these are “ten” and nothing else, we are doing what natural science does, making no distinctions, touching only the surface of things. Suppose it gains the idea that regenerative forces must be present building up the organism again in sleep, then it will treat these forces as does a man who, when someone meets him saying, “I have fifteen shillings in my pocket,” replies, “Not so, you have fifteen.” The man leaves out of account the very thing that matters. Consequently science will confuse these forces with the ordinary natural laws, and will fail to recognize that higher laws are at work in them.
I mention all this to show what difficulties external science has and must have in getting to know the truth. It will draw certain conclusions and thus come near the truth. For some persons this will not be necessary, because science will gradually be supplemented by clairvoyant perception that does experience the difference between these forces and those active out in the three kingdoms of nature. At present I cannot deal fully with the superficial objection that animals also sleep. Such objections have little logical value but people do not notice it, nor their superficiality, for they judge according to concepts instead of the real nature of things. By introducing animal sleep into the argument one would speak the same fallacy as if someone were to say, “I sharpen my pencil with a knife and I also shave with a knife,” and another person replied, “That is impossible, knives are there to cut meat.” People are always making that kind of judgment. They think that a given thing must have the same function in different realms of nature. Sleep is an altogether different function in man from what it is in the animals.
I wanted to call your attention to forces at work in man's nature that we find at first in the regeneration of his organism as he sleeps. Now these forces are closely related to other forces, those that also develop in man with a certain unconsciousness. I mean the forces having to do with the propagation of the race. We know that up to a certain age man's consciousness is filled with a pure and straightforward unconsciousness of these forces; the innocence of childhood. Then at a certain age this consciousness awakens. From that time onward the human organism is permeated by an awareness of the forces afterward known as sensual sex-love.
What in earlier life lives as a sleeping force and only wakens with puberty, seen in its original and essential form is the very same as those forces that in sleep regenerate the outworn forces in man. Only they are hidden by the other parts of human nature in which they are mingled. Invisibly in man there are at work forces that can become capable of either good or evil only when they awaken, but that sleep, or at most dream, until the time of puberty. Since the forces that manifest themselves afterward must first be prepared, they are intermingled, though not yet awake, with the remaining forces in man even from birth onward. All this time his nature is permeated by these sleeping forces. This is what meets us in the child as such a wonderful mystery. It is the sleeping generative forces that only waken later on. One who is sensitive to these things feels something like a gentle breath of God in the activity of these forces withdrawn into reticence in childhood, whatever the naughtiness, obstinacy and other more or less unpleasant characteristics a child may have. These innocent qualities of the child are those of the grown-up person, but in childlike form. One who recognizes them as among the generative forces feels the breath of divine powers. While in later life they appear in man's lower nature, they are so wonderful because they really breathe the pure breath of God so long as they work in unconscious innocence. We must feel these things and be sensitive to them, then we shall perceive how wonderfully human nature is composed. The generative forces, sleeping during the most tender age of childhood, waken around the time of puberty, and from then on are still active in innocence when at night man sinks back into sleep.
Thus man's nature falls into two parts. In every human being two persons confront us — the one that we are from the time we waken until we go to sleep, the other, from going to sleep to waking again. In our waking state we are continually at pains to wear and worry our nature down to the animal level with all that is not pure knowledge, pure spiritual activity. What raises us above humanity holds sway like a pure, sublime force within the generative powers as they were during innocent childhood, and then in sleep it is awakened in the regeneration of what is worn away in waking life. So we have in ourselves one person who is related to the creative forces in man, and another who destroys them.
The deeply significant thing in the double nature of man is, that behind all that the senses perceive we have to surmise another man, one in whom the creative forces dwell. This second man is really never there in a pure, unmixed form; not during waking life nor even in sleep because in sleep the physical and etheric bodies still remain permeated by the after-effects of waking life, by the disturbing and destructive forces. When at last the latter have been removed altogether, we wake up again.
So it has been since what we call the Lemurian Age, the beginning, strictly speaking, of present-day mankind's evolution. At that time, as is described in greater detail in my Occult Science the Luciferic influence on man set in; and from this influence there came, among other things, what today compels man continually to wear and tear himself down to the animal nature. The other element that exists in human nature, which man as he is now does not yet know — the creative forces in him — all this came into play in the early Lemurian time before the Luciferic impulses entered. Thus we rise in thought from man ‘become’ to man ‘becoming;’ from man created to man being re-created. In so doing we have to look out into that distant Lemurian time when man was as yet wholly permeated by the creating forces. At that time man came into being as he is today. If we follow the human race from that epoch onward, we have this double nature of man continually before us in all that has happened since. Man then entered a kind of lower nature.
At the same time, as we can see clairvoyantly by looking back into the Akashic record, there appeared beside ordinary people, who themselves were permeated by the human creative forces, something like a brother- or sister-soul; a definite soul. It was as though this sister-soul was held back, not thrown into the current of human evolution. It remained permeated through and through by human creative forces only, and by nothing else. Thus, a brother- or sister-soul (in that ancient time there was no difference) — Adam's brother-soul — remained behind. It could not enter the physical process of mankind's development. It lived on, invisible to the physical world of man. It was not born as men are born, in the flowing stream of this life, because if it had entered into birth and death it would have been in the processes of physical human life. It could only be perceived by those who rose to the heights of clairvoyance, who developed those forces that awaken in the state we otherwise know as sleep. In that state man is near to the forces that live and work in purity in the sister-soul.
Man entered his evolution, but holding sway above this life there lived, in sacrifice, a soul that throughout all the processes of human life never came down in bodily form. It did not strive like ordinary human souls for birth and death in successive incarnations, and it could only show itself to them when in their sleep they attained clairvoyant vision. Yet it worked on mankind wherever they could meet it with special clairvoyant gifts. There were men who either by nature or special training in schools of initiation had this power and were able to recognize the creative forces. Wherever such schools are mentioned in history we can always find evidence that they were aware of a soul accompanying mankind. In most instances it was only recognizable in those special conditions of clairvoyance that expand man's spiritual vision into sleep consciousness.
When Arjuna stood on the battle-field with the Kurus and Pandus arrayed against each other, when he felt all that was going on around him and deeply realized the unique situation in which he was placed, it came about that this soul we have mentioned spoke to him through the soul of his charioteer. The manifestation of this special soul, speaking through a human soul, is none other than Krishna. For what soul was it that could instill into man the impulse to consciousness of self? It was the soul that had remained behind in the old Lemurian age when men entered his actual earthly evolution.
This soul had often been visible in manifestations before, but in a far more spiritual form. At the moment, however, of which the Bhagavad Gita tells us, we have to imagine a kind of embodiment, though much concealed in Maya of this soul of Krishna. Later on in history a definite incarnation takes place. This soul actually incarnated in the body of a child. Those of our friends to whom I have spoken of this before know that at the time when Christianity was founded two children were born in different families, both from the house of David. The one child is mentioned in St. Matthew's Gospel, the other in St. Luke's. This is the true reason for the external discrepancies between the two Gospels. Now this very Jesus Child of St. Luke's Gospel is an incarnation of that same soul that had never before lived in a human body but is nevertheless a human soul, having been one in the ancient Lemurian age. This is the same that revealed itself as Krishna.
Thus we have all that the Krishna impulse signifies incarnated in the body of the Luke Jesus child. What was there embodied is related to the forces that are asleep in every child in their sublime purity and innocence, until they awaken as the sex-forces. In this child they can manifest themselves and be active until the age of puberty when man ordinarily becomes sexually mature. But the body of this child that had been taken from common humanity would no longer have been adapted to the forces related to the innocent sex-forces in the child. Thus the soul in the other Jesus child, which was the soul of Zarathustra, that had passed through many incarnations and reached its eminence by hard work and special striving, passed over into the body of the Luke Jesus child, and from then on dwelt in that body.
We touch here upon a wonderful mystery. We see how into the body of the Luke Jesus child there enters the soul of man as he was before he descended into the course of earthly incarnations. We understand that this soul could hold sway in the human body only until the twelfth year of its life. After that another soul must take possession, the Zarathustra soul that had gone through all the transformations of mankind. This wonderful mystery is enacted, that the innermost essence and self of man, which we have seen hailed as Krishna, permeates the Jesus child of the Luke Gospel. In this child are the innermost forces of humanity, the Krishna forces, for indeed we know their origin. This Krishna root takes us back into the Lemurian time, the very primeval age of man. At that time it was one with humanity, before ever the physical evolution of mankind began. In later time this root, these Krishna forces, flowing together and uniting in the unknown and unseen, worked to bring about the unfolding of man's inner being from within. Concretely embodied, this root is present within a single being, the Luke Jesus child, and as the child grows up it remains active beneath the surface of life in this special body after the Zarathustra soul has entered it.
In the thirtieth year, in the moment the Bible describes as the Baptism in Jordan, there comes toward this special human body what now belongs to all mankind. This is the moment indicated in the words, “This is my well-beloved Son, this day have I begotten Him.” Christ now comes toward the physical body from the other side. In the body that stands before us there, we have in concrete form what yesterday we thought of abstractly. What belongs to all mankind comes to the body that contains what, through another impulse, has brought the inner being of man to the highest ideal of individual strength, and will carry it to yet greater heights.
I think when you consider all that has been said today, leading up as it does to a certain understanding of that great moment pictorially represented as the baptism by St. John, you will have to admit that our anthroposophical outlook takes nothing away from the sublime majesty of the Christ-Idea. On the contrary, by shedding the light of understanding upon it much is added to all that can be given -to mankind exoterically. Today I have endeavored to present the matter in such a way as to give it sense and meaning for those who can consider it with an open mind, in the light of external human history. That is not the way, however, by which this secret was found. Someone might ask, in view of the lectures about St. Luke's Gospel I delivered years ago in Basel, when for the first time I drew attention to the different genealogies of the two Jesus children, “Why did you not explain then all you have added to it now?” That depends on the whole way these things were discovered. Actually, this truth has never yet been found in one single and complete whole by the human understanding. It was not discovered in the form I have tried to convey it today. The truth itself was there first, as I indicated in a lecture a few days ago, and the rest followed of its own accord, adding itself to the main body of this piece of knowledge about the two Jesus-children. From this you may gather that in the Anthroposophical Movement for which I am permitted to stand before you, there is nothing of the nature of intellectual or logical construction. I do not mean to lay this down as a general rule for everybody, but I do regard it as my own personal task to say nothing that is given by the intellect as such but to take things in the way they are directly and immediately given to occult vision. Only afterward are they permeated with the power of understanding, The truth about the two Jesus-children was not discovered by external historical research, but from the beginning it was an occult fact. Afterward the connection with the Krishna mystery was revealed.
You see in this how the science of man will have to work into the occult realm in the age we are entering; how the fundamental impulses of earthly evolution will gradually be understood and realized by individual persons, and how this will throw more and more light on all that has happened in the past. True science will not only speak to the intellect, but will fill the whole soul of man. It is just when we make ourselves acquainted with occult facts that we have a feeling for the real majesty, the greatness and wonder of these facts. Truly, the more deeply we penetrate the world of reality the more we have this feeling of wonder. Not only our intellect and reason but our whole soul is illumined when we let the truth come to us in this way. Especially at such a point as this, that wondrous event when the whole inwardness of humanity lived in a human body; when a soul that had developed upward to this point through the whole course of earthly life took possession of this body; then from outside there came into this body during three years of its life something that was vouchsafed to all mankind from the great universe beyond. Truly this can stir our souls to their depths. The spiritual age that is dawning will in time make it possible to deepen points like this still more.
One thing is essential to the coming spiritual age. We must learn to take a different attitude toward the great riddles and secrets of the cosmos, to approach them not as in the past with reason and intellect alone, but with all the faculties of our soul. Then we shall ourselves become partakers in the whole of human evolution. It will be for us like a fountain of sublime, all-human consciousness. We shall have fullness of soul. We shall feel that we may belong to that humanity that over all the earth is to develop such impulses as have been the subject of our thoughts today.