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Things in Past and Present in the Spirit of Man
GA 167

IV. Secrets of Freemasonry

4 April 1916, Berlin

Today I would like to pass over to the occult side of the lecture which I gave eight days ago. In the first place, we have seen that certain occult streams are significant for human life, these occult streams which bring themselves to expression in certain occult brotherhoods. You will have seen from the more externally presented ideas of the last lectures that in a quite special coloring in West Europe, particularly in the British lands, such occult brotherhoods are used in order to achieve certain external goals.

That which is designated by the name occult brotherhoods is a very complicated situation. However, this complicated situation builds itself on a foundation which educates human beings in a certain direction through the fact that it unites them in a kind of cult and certain symbols are given over to them and in this way they are united, as it were, in a service which comes to expression in certain symbols. Many people today think in a very light-hearted manner about the significance of the ceremonies and symbolic matters which are connected with certain occult brotherhoods, and they tend to dismiss them as a laughing matter. However, some people, for example Goethe, attached a great deal of importance to the fact that something of a definite nature exists in such ceremonial situations. Goethe knew this very well and he brought it to expression in one way or another. He was grateful that in the course of his life he did not go through a normal school system, but achieved a later education through being connected with certain orders.

We know that since the beginning of the 15th century we lived in the 5th-post-Alantean period and this was preceded by the 4th which started in 747 B.C. and ended in 1413 A.D. In this period people were so configured that their ether body was much more receptive than it is in the time since the 15th-century. This ether body could perceive much more of that which was around it. When the ether body perceives, then it sees the elementary world, that which is of an elemental nature, elemental beings in plants, animals and minerals. When people in those centuries were still able to speak of cobbies and gnomes which they could perceive in certain mountains and which approached them from certain mines, today's people, when they hear about it call this situation just poetical. However, to the people in these centuries, this is not poetical; they still knew something about the presence of an elementary world behind the physical world. You can see from external documents that people in past ages did possess a different sort of perception. In the Hamburg Museum, for example, you can find a certain picture which presents the original first chapter of Genesis in which you have the Fall into Sin, the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

We know from our studies that the tempter was Lucifer and Lucifer is not a being who can be seen with present day physical eyes, but must be seen with the awakened etheric body, with the awakened clairvoyance, and then he manifests himself as that particular being who was left behind during the Moon Evolution. We already had our physical body during the Moon evolution, but it was not physically visible but etherically visible. In reference to this, present day man is a reflection of that which was already present as head upon the moon, but the rest of the human body was not attached to the head as it is today but was attached in the form of a spinal column coming from the head and presented as serpent-like form. If one wants to represent Lucifer as he is left behind from the Moon development, one has to represent him with a human head and with a spinal column attached to it, namely, in the serpent form. This is exactly how the painter, Master Bertram, represented Lucifer in his Hamburg picture in the 13th, 14th century. We can see that at that time human beings still had a perception of the elementary world.

Those symbols which form the foundation for certain occult brotherhoods also arose in the 4th post-Atlantean period. At that time these symbols were perceived in a living way. Goethe realized that this type of symbolism could be made fruitful for external life. In his book Wilhelm Meister you can read how the education was so led that the human being grew up in a certain type of symbolism. Goethe wanted people to learn about the four reverences which human beings should experience through symbols: the reverence for the spiritual world, the reverence for the physical world, the reverence for other people and the reverence which can then be built up out of these three reverences, namely the reverence for oneself.

Now, the question is: How does Goethe want to develop people for the reverence of the spiritual? He wants to teach them certain gestures: crossed arms over the breast with the gaze turned upwards. In this position they should acquire a reverence for that which can have an influence upon human beings from the spiritual. He intended to combine this gesture with the acquisition of the feeling for reverence for that which is above. Now the question arises: why does this have a certain significance? That has a certain significance because when the human being really experiences the reverence of the spirit, which he receives; and when he, himself, puts his physical hands together behind his back, then the ether hands cross themselves in the front. And when he directs his physical glance downwards, then his ether eyes turned upwards. The natural gesture for the ether eyes is turned upwards and for the ether hands, crossed in front. And this is something which the ether body actually carries out when this reverence for the spiritual is present.

In the 4th post-Atlantean period, people knew about this because they were themselves able to perceive the movements of the ether body; and as far as Goethe was concerned, this was the way of growing into the spiritual life. In a similar way, when he wanted to have reverence for the bodily aspect, the earthly aspect, there was another position; and again for the third aspect if he wanted to have reverence for other people, then the gesture was: outstretched hands and the gaze directed left and right and this would bring to expression reverence for every similar configurated soul; after that he could acquire for himself reverence for his own soul. Now, this direct knowledge of these gestures is correct. It is not just something arbitrary, but is something connected with the spiritual organization of man. This has, in the main, been lost since the 14th century.

What follows from that? Previously, before the 14th century, one could lead these people to gestures of that nature and also more complicated gestures. They would only need to accompany that with something which they could easily awaken to an inner life. After that, in our 5th post-Atlantean period, the situation is such that gestures as Goethe wanted to present can be brought to young people if you give them the corresponding instructions and Goethe also wanted this. However, the complicated gesture language which is involved in sign, grip and word is spread out within the secret brotherhoods, and the realities in them could not be brought to people since the 14th and 15th century; that could no longer happen. However, this process which belonged to the 4th period continued into the 5th post-Atlantean period through the brotherhoods. In the three subsequent grades, they have come among other symbolical things, the grip and word however this continued among souls who were differently invigorated from those souls in the earlier periods. These people could no longer combine anything real with the sign, grip and word, because they could not bring to themselves that which was corresponding in the ether body. It was merely an external aspect as far as the soul was concerned. Previously in the age of the Intellectual Soul, there was a possibility of it having a real substantial content, but when man began to develop the Consciousness Soul, he began to focus upon the physical brain intellect and the sensitivity of the ether body receded.

Now, the question is: What occurred? I ask you to pay attention to what results from this You find that the occult brotherhoods continue these practices into the 5th post-Atlantean period. They take in people and familiarize them with certain corresponding symbols. These people learn certain signs through the fact that they bring their body into a certain position; they learn certain grips by taking hold of someone else's hand in a way that is not the usual way; they learn to express certain words which signify a certain activity of the ether body, etc. I only want to mention the elementary aspects. Thus people have learned sign, grip and word since the 15th, 16th century, but they are so configurated now that their Consciousness Soul is the active aspect and the sign, grip and word do not work into this Consciousness Soul; it remains as an entirely external sign. However, you must not believe that when sign, grip and word are transmitted to people, that they do not have an action upon the ether body. They do have an action. With sign, grip and word, a man does take up that which was once united with sign, grip and word. You instruct a number of people in sign, grip and word and through that you bring something into their unconscious which they cannot have in their consciousness, but this is not appropriate for our present stage of evolution which requires that one imparts that which can be understood by the intellect through the intellect to human beings. First you must bring it to the intellect and this actually is the content of spiritual science. In the 1st place you must stand within the spiritual scientific movement some way and then after certain time has elapsed after being in the spiritual scientific movement, then you can be led to receive sign, grip and word. Then one is prepared to see something which one knows about, something which one can at least understand. However, as a general rule, this is not done in these occult brotherhoods. People are taken up in the first grade or any other occultism and sign, grip and word and many other things are transmitted to them. In that way one is able to work upon their unconsciousness. Now what is the consequence of that?

The consequences that you can adapt these people to become tools for all sorts of plans, because when you are able to work over the ether body in such a way that be does not understand what is going on, you eliminate those forces which would otherwise be present his understanding. In the case of these brotherhoods can become a tool for those who want to execute their own plans. Those brotherhoods continue to further certain political goals or to set up a dogma such as Krishna Murti Alcione being the physical carrier of Christ Jesus. And those who are prepared in this way become instruments to carry this out into the world. However, those who have been able to study my book Theosophy or Occult Science and are able to grasp it, can never be damaged through any transmission of symbols. We see that in a very extensive way in the British lands there is no sort of explanation given or instruction which proceeds the symbolic aspect. When I say explanation it does not mean saying: ‘this symbol indicates this and that symbol indicates that’, because you can give all sorts of nonsense in that way. But this instruction must be so arranged that the mysteries can be revealed from the study of the whole process of earth and human development, and then one can permit the symbolism to arise out of that.

A great deal of damage has occurred in France through the occult literature of Eliphas Levi, whose books Dogma and Ritual of the Higher Magic and Key to the Higher Magic surely contained great truths beside terrible errors. However, these books are so arranged as can be done with our spiritual science, but they have to be taken up in a symbolic way. Just read Eliphas Levi. Now you can read them without danger because you have been specially prepared. You can read his book Dogma and Ritual of the Higher Magic and then you will be able to see how the whole methodology of symbolism is entirely different. Indeed, my dear friends, when one is instructed in symbols in a way that is found in this book, then you have prepared people so that you can use them in any way you see fit. Actually after Eliphas Levi, the situation became much worse through Dr. Onkaus, through Papus, who had such a terrible influence on the Court of St. Petersburg where he played a very fateful political role. Now, the situation is not to refute Papus—this may seem paradoxical because there are terrible things there—because you have a great deal that is also correct. However, the terrible danger lies in the way in which this is given to people. That which you find in Papus' books penetrate into the soul of weak people and that means preparing them to become complete sleepers in their intellect and then you can use them in whatever way you wish. At the present time, such people have a certain influence.

The teaching of Jacob Boehme, of which we have often spoken, was implanted in France in the 18th century by St. Martin, who is called the Unknown Philosopher. St. Martin translated Jacob Boehme's works into French and this was then translated back into German in a way which made his works much easier to understand than they were in the original German. St. Martin's book Errors and Truth was very beautifully translated by a very worthy German poet, Matthias Claudius. So you see that one can experience much of a curious nature in this field. Actually I have to mention the frivolous grasping of Christ in connection with the book entitled The Feet of the Master which Krishna Murti was supposed to have written, and how they thought that that was one of the greatest things that was ever presented. So you see that all sorts of things happen, this hypocritical deceit, the spreading of that spiritual stream which goes out from Papus and those people who call themselves Martinists. Actually one would like to protect the Unknown Philosopher who really strove very honestly after truth all that he tried to do which was necessary the service of the 18th century. All that is entirely different from the terrible nonsense and deceit which the followers of Papus are using when they take his name in vain just to further their ends. He was alright, but these people are terrible people, full of deceit, doing all sorts of things in the service of that which they themselves did not even know.

There are many things we have to know. We have to know that every occult brotherhood builds itself up on the basis of three grades. In the first grade when symbolism is used in the correct way, the souls advance so far that they acquire an inner experience of the fact that there is a knowledge which can be acquired independently of ordinary physical knowledge. Now, in the 1st place, when I say: correctly presented, I obviously mean that which is appropriate for our fifth post-Atlantean period. And in the first grade you must be able to acquire a certain totality of such knowledge independent of the physical. In our fifth period, everyone in the first grade ought to know something of that which exists my book Occult Science, and in the second grade everyone must know, that means, they must have an inner living knowledge of that which stands in my book How Does One Acquire Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. Then the person in the third grade who receives the significant symbols of sign, grip and word really knows what it means to live outside his body. This is the whole procedure which should be carried out. This actually was achieved right into the 8th and 9th centuries in certain areas in Europe. For example, this was completely reached by a large number of individuals in Ireland. This is also true in other areas of Europe, but not to the extent that it happened in Ireland. However, the preparation was different at that time because it was impossible to acquire what people today can acquire as a real science of the spirit. The science of the spirit can only appear to us now for many reasons, however, there always has been occult brotherhoods, and they work particularly out of pure symbolism.

Now, I would like to point out that it is especially significant when pure symbolism is worked in a community which in fact has not arrived at its complete maturity; and that is how these terrible evil conditions occur. Under the Empress Catherine of Russia something was received from Voltairism by the followers of Paul and others in Russia who attempted to implant certain secret brotherhoods into Russia from the West. That has had a great influence upon the whole spiritual development of Russia since that time; a much greater influence than you would believe. Naturally such influences group themselves in various directions. For example, these influences work in literature through novels and politics through political writings. However, those influences become very significant for the subsequent development through certain channels which are always present. And everything which is significant in the spiritual life of Russia right up to Tolstoy leads, in the main, back to that which occurred in the time of which I just spoke, to the implanting of certain occult brotherhoods towards Russia from Western Europe.

Now, I have told you that a certain foundation is present, the foundation is that which the occult brotherhoods accomplished through these three grades. However, there are people who advanced to the so-called higher grades. Here we have a domain which is subject to a great deal of vanity, because there are brotherhoods in which people can be brought to the 90th degree or higher. Just imagine what it means to carry such a high order in yourself. The idea of the 33rd degree, however, results from a mistake springing from complete ignorance in a so-called Scottish high grades which are based upon three grades which follow in the way in which I just described. Thus you have the three grades which have their deep significance. However 30 others follow after these three grades. If you are already in the third grade and you are able to achieve the experience of living outside your body, then just imagine where you would have advanced when you are able to go through 30 more grades. This rests, however, upon a grotesque ignorance, because they do not know that in occult science things are not read in the decimal system, but in the following way. When you write the 33rd degree, in reality that signifies, according to the system of memory which is applicable there, that 33 really means 3x3=9. This played a great role with Blavatsky. In her Secret Doctrine you will find a long debate about the number 777. There are people who have fantasized all sorts of things about what this number 777 means. However, it actually is 7x7=49, 49x7=343, 7x7x7=343. That is what it really means. Because the people could not read 33 correctly, they read it as 33 instead of reading it as 9.

Now, let us forget all these vanities and continue. First you have the three grades as a foundation. Then there are six more degrees which follow after the first three degrees. And, when you pass through these six additional degrees, then you have experienced something of great significance. However, in our present age, these additional six degrees cannot be completely fulfilled; it is a pure impossibility. They cannot be completely fulfilled because human beings in our 5th post-Atlantean period are not advanced enough to experience all that can actually be experienced; that will come later, that will come gradually. You must know that since the year 1413 we stand in the 5th post-Atlantean period. This will last 2160 years and will be ended in the year 3573. Hence we really stand in the beginning of our period and in the course of this 5th period a great deal will happen. This must occur through the development of spiritual science. This, however, can only reveal itself gradually step by step. Today we can impart only the great lines of it and we can also learn many details about it, but a great deal will only come when it has strengthened itself on the resistances; and these resistances will become greater and greater.

Today we live in a relatively idealistic spiritual age compared with that which will come in the future. We are living at the end of the 2nd post-Christian Millennium and it will not be long until we reach the year 2,000 and then mankind will have to experience something of a special nature. Things which are preparing themselves very gradually right now are so prepared that there are two polarities which we are going to meet as time goes on. Two polarities are being prepared, one pole from the East and another from the West. In the East things will gradually develop in such a way that another kind of thinking will dominate. Whenever a child is born, one will attempt to say: “What comes of this child? We have to deal with a hidden spiritual being who wants gradually to develop this child.” You will want to solve the riddle of this child, and in the first place you will unite a kind of cult dealing with the growing up of this child. This sort of thing prepares itself in the East. Naturally it will pass over towards Europe and the consequence will be that an immense reverence will develop for that which one calls genius, a seeking for genius. This is what will come from the East. However this will affect only the smaller portion of mankind. The larger part of mankind will be influenced from America, from the West, and this proceeds along an entirely different line of development.

We might say that the present time is doing very well compared with that which will come in the future when the Western development blossoms more and more. Very shortly, when one will have written the year 2000, there will come from America not a direct prohibition, but a kind of prohibition against all thinking, a sort of law which will have the aim of suppressing all individual thinking. On the other hand there is the beginning achieved in this direction of suppressing all individual thinking into pure materialistic thinking where one does not need to work upon the soul on the basis of external experiments, in which the human being is handled as if he were a machine. Now, I hope you will not misunderstand me, my dear friends, because in this domain a great deal is precisely sinned against on the so-called spiritual side. For example, you can experience the following: People will come and say: “Yes, I have been exposed to all sorts of things in medicine and I was not healed; so I went to a healer who treated me quite spiritually.” Then I asked him what the healer did with him and he answered: “There are evil spirits in my body and I must pray them out of myself.” I asked if this helped. “No, I became worse and worse.” I ask you to just imagine how the situation stands. Do not just imagine that this person has said something incorrect. It is quite correct that there were spiritual beings in him that were the cause of what happened to him. But precisely because that healer told him something correct, this damaged the human being.

Now, just think of it in this way. A scamp destroys a machine. He is the cause of the machine no longer running. How can I bring this machine back into proper working order? According to the method of your spiritual healer, I must get hold of this scamp and give him a thorough thrashing so that he will run away and then everything should be in order. Obviously the spiritual healer told you that as soon as the evil spirits have gone away your machine is in order. However, just as little as the machine is now in order because the scamp was thrashed and has run away, so now I must work putting machine back order. And so it is with the person who was sick. Of course, this spiritual healer was able to drive the evil spirits out, but the damage had been done and now you must heal the body. You can see that so much has been sinned against from this other side, because today people have lost the ability to think. For example we have machines today which add and subtract; everything is convenient. Now, in the Future you will not get a law passed which says you must not think. No. What will happen is that things will be done the effect of which will be to exclude all individual thinking. This is the other pole to which we are proceeding. This is connected with the development of the West.

You have to develop a certain counter weight against this tendency in the world development; and Anthroposophical Spiritual Science is this counter-weight. What do we have instead? We have these brotherhoods in which these people take up in the first grade and were given symbols. Then they were promoted to the second grade, then into the third where they actually learn the symbolic without any spiritual science being taken up by them. And if you were to ask these people if they are satisfied that they have learned certain ceremonies, hand grips, certain signs and that certain symbolic activities occur in the temple room; they will say: “Ah, we are very happy with that. We do not need to do any more thinking; each person can interpret it for himself in the way he wants.” However, the situation is that we ask by real knowledge into the ether body and people are produced in such a way that in their ether body they have a comprehensive knowledge, not in their physical body, not in their conscious knowledge but in their ether body. They have an immense knowledge particularly when I have been brought to the third degree; they have an immense unconscious knowledge, a knowledge which has been transmitted to them through symbols can be applied honestly or dishonestly in a significant way.

You really have two occult directions, one pole carries the cosmic Christian character, the other carries the Church Christian character. Just as with the Freemasons you have to reckon with the cosmic Christian character of the symbolic brotherhoods, so with the Jesuits you have to reckon with the Church symbolic branch, because the Jesuits are led through three grades with a certain symbolism and learn to acquire precisely through this symbolism a great effect in their speech. Hence the Jesuit speakers are so very effective because they know how to build a speech up in such a way that one can work upon the uneducated masses. They gradually learn to insert certain intensities one after another into their presentation. These people go through their three grades in their own way.

Now, all occult brotherhoods are not Freemasons. There are all sorts of varieties such as the Illuminatum in Germany, and in addition to the three lower grades, you have the three upper grades. In certain brotherhoods you have members who are in the upper grades forming a sort of communion with members in the upper grades of other brotherhoods. You know that the Jesuits battle against the Freemasons and vise versa. However, the upper orders of the Freemasons and the upper orders of the Jesuits build a special brotherhood; they build a state within a state. Just imagine what you can work in the world where on the one side you have the upper grades of a Freemason community which serves as an Instrument in order to produce certain work, setting up an understanding with the upper grades of a certain Jesuit community and and then working together in order to produce certain objectives. Such an apparatus was set up in the land which exists Northwest of Europe between Holland and France. This did not happen recently but some time ago special effects went out which used the one stream as well as the other, and was able to produce a great deal of effectiveness.

Now it is getting late so I will end this lecture by saying that in eight days I will give you still more concrete ideas about this field. Today I had to keep the abstract sides of the situation mind. We had to know all about this in order to perceive what is really working in this realm of the external world.