Karma of Untruthfulness II
25 December 1916, Dornach
Yesterday we began by considering the Baldur myth which, as we saw, goes back to ancient customs, and it is precisely such considerations that make clear for us how Christianity had to, and indeed should, link on to what mankind had previously understood. The three great festivals of the year, as they are still celebrated today, are very much linked with things which have slowly and gradually come about during the course of human evolution. We can only completely understand what still wants to express itself in the Christmas, Easter and Whitsun Mysteries if we do not shy away from linking these things with the thinking and feeling and experience of mankind gradually developing during the course of evolution. We saw how the Christ idea goes back to early, early times.
To understand this more exactly you only need to call before your soul what is contained in the book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Humanity. There you will learn how the foundation of the Christ idea can be traced back to the mysteries of the spiritual worlds. In the book is shown the path followed in the spiritual worlds by the Being Who underlies the Christ idea before He revealed Himself in physical human incarnation at a certain point in earthly evolution. In coming to grips with these concepts concerning the spiritual guidance of mankind it is possible to sense what connection, or even lack of connection, there exists between anthroposophical spiritual science and ancient Gnosis. To describe the path of Christ through the spiritual worlds in the way it is done in The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Humanity would not yet have been possible for ancient Gnosis. But this ancient Gnosis also had its own image of Christ, its Christ idea. It was capable of drawing sufficient understanding out of its atavistic or clairvoyant knowledge to comprehend the Christ in a spiritual way, saying: In the spiritual world there is an evolution; the hierarchies — or, as Gnosis put it, the aeons — follow one another; and one such aeon is the Christ. Gnosis showed how, as aeon after aeon evolved, Christ gradually descended and revealed Himself in a human being. This can be shown even more clearly today, and you may read about it in the book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Humanity.
It is good, in our spiritual scientific Movement, to feel many aspects of the deeper connections in order to free oneself of purely personal affairs. For in this fifth post-Atlantean period mankind has reached a stage in evolution at which it is very difficult for the individual to escape from his personal affairs. The individual is in danger of mixing up his personal instincts and passions with what is common to mankind as a whole.
Even the various festivals have deteriorated into purely personal affairs because mankind has lost the earnestness and dignity which alone make it possible to approach the spiritual world in the right way. It is perfectly natural in our fifth post-Atlantean period, in which man is supposed to comprehend himself to a certain extent and become independent, that there should exist such a danger of man to some extent losing his connections with the spiritual world. In earlier times man was aware of his connections with the spiritual world, yet unaware of certain other things, such as I pointed out yesterday. Today man is, above all, unaware of those things I have mentioned in these lectures by saying: People are no longer inclined to pay attention to them; they allow them to pass by without being concerned about them.
It is a good thing on occasions such as the Christmas festival to say to oneself: Spiritual impulses, both good and evil, play into the evolution of our world. We have seen how these impulses can be used in an evil way by individuals who know about them either for some personal, egoistic purpose, or in the interests of the egoism of a group. We must learn to adjust our feelings to more comprehensive affairs and more comprehensive conditions. Even though we cannot always advertise such feelings, we must nevertheless cultivate them.
I am now going to give you the opportunity — in connection with a certain matter — to, as it were, tear your soul away from any sort of personal interpretation of Anthroposophy and turn instead towards something general which is connected with our Anthroposophical Movement. If you understood properly what I said yesterday, you will say to yourself: That twentieth day of May in 1347, that May Whitsuntide when Cola di Rienzi accomplished his important manifesto in Rome, was repeated in a certain way at Whitsuntide in the year 1915. Those who have been following the events will soon notice, or would soon notice, that this May Whitsuntide was selected entirely purposely and entirely consciously by those who brought this about. It was known to these people that these old impulses would once again revive, and that the hearts and souls who succumb to the blindness of Hödr can be caught when Loki approaches them. But people can only be caught so long as they do not have the will to accustom themselves to look at, and be impressed by, connections that are perfectly obvious and comprehensible. One is only at the mercy of connections that remain in the unconscious so long as one is so tied up in personal matters that one cannot see proper connections — connections in the good sense — so long as one has no interest for those things which involve mankind as a whole, which are things that inevitably lead into the spiritual realm.
I explained to you that in Gnosis there was still an understanding of the Christ idea; that when Gnosis was rooted out the Christ idea degenerated into dogma and that, in the South, therefore, the genuine Christ idea more or less disappeared. Now spiritual science has the task, in accordance with spiritual evolution, of once again comprehending this Christ idea, of forming a Christ idea that is not an empty phrase but filled with content, with real content.
In the North the very thing that could take root there has disappeared, namely, the feeling for Jesus. As I said the day before yesterday, the feeling for Jesus was really formed in the North and lingered on into the eighth, ninth, tenth centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha. In ancient times the Christ-child was welcomed wherever a birth took place, wherever a worthy new member could be taken into the tribe, especially among the Ingaevones, while those born at the wrong time were out of place — of course I am not being pedantic. We then saw how, as external Christianity spread, all things connected with the ancient feeling for Jesus, even the myths and processions — in other words, any remnants of religious customs — were pushed aside. We also saw how, since the Middle Ages, strenuous efforts have been going on to obliterate all that spread from Jutland across Europe, especially Central Europe.
Situated in the region of Denmark was the chief Mystery centre which laid down and watched over the conditions which then appeared in the regulation of conception and birth. There it was that a general consciousness of the social connections of human beings grew up, connections that were also sacramental, a true social sacrament. The year as such was arranged as a sacrament and human beings knew they were contained within this sacrament of the year. For people in those days the sun did not for nothing go in different ways across the dome of heaven at different seasons, for what took place on earth was a mirror image of heavenly events. Where human beings as yet have, or can have, no influence, where elemental and nature beings still regulate what is now regulated by human beings in social life — there the sacrament can exist. Today, though people are not as yet aware of it, quite strong ahrimanic impulses live in individual human beings. I mean it when I say that people are not yet aware of this. These ahrimanic impulses are directed towards seizing from certain elemental nature spirits their sacramental influence on earthly evolution.
When modern technology has made it possible to warm large areas with artificial heat — I am not finding fault but merely telling you of something that will of necessity come about in the future — then plant growth, above all that of grain, will be taken away from the nature and elemental spirits. There will be heating installations, not only for winter gardens and smaller spaces for plants to grow, but for whole cornfields. Deprived of cosmic laws, grain will grow in every season, instead of only when it grows of its own accord — that is, when it grows through the working of the nature and elemental spirits. For the seeds this will be similar to what happened when the ancient consciousness of sacramental laws about conception and birth faded so that these events came to be spread over the whole year. The task of Mystery centres such as that in Denmark, which I described as regulating, as a sacrament, the social life of the people, was to search for ways in which spiritual beings could work in the social and sacramental field, just as they work on the sprouting and growing of plants in the spring and their fading in autumn. From this centre in Denmark there spread what we were able to find in the third millennium before the Mystery of Golgotha, but which then faded gradually to make way for something new, without which human beings would have been unable to ascend to the use of their intellect. These things are necessary and we ought to recognize them as such, instead of trying to meddle with the handiwork of the gods by saying: Why have the gods done it like this, why did they not arrange things like that? — which always means: Why have they not made things more comfortable for human beings!
So in Jutland, in Denmark, originated the receptivity for the feeling for Jesus. You see, it is important to think about what is happening, not only in connection with events which are more or less important, but also to consider the connections. But this thinking must be straight and true, not full of fantastic aberrations. Many people like to brood on the weird and wonderful, but proper thinking means to consider how actual events are linked and then to wait and see what arises in the way of understanding.
After all I have said in the last few days it might occur to you to ask the following question, and those of you who have already asked yourselves this question have definitely sensed in your soul something that is right. If you have not yet asked it, you could strive in future to ask yourselves this kind of question. For such questions are to be found everywhere when there is determination that there shall be truth, not only in what is said, but also in what is done. The World Logos, Whose birth we celebrate in the Christmas Mystery, can only be understood rightly if we think of It as being as general and universal as possible, if we think of this World Logos actually vibrating and pulsating in all things that happen, in every event. And when we have the humility and devotion to feel ourselves interwoven with this universal process, then we recognize the connections and links which hold sway.
What is the question our soul might place before us? In recent days you soul might have thought: We have now seen that in Gnosis there was an important Christ idea; it disappeared in the South and, in a certain way, was unable to make its way to the North. To meet it came the Jesus idea, which is linked as a feeling to the Mysteries of Jutland. This is what we have seen.
Having recognized this and having seen the links between these two, would it not be natural to have the desire to bring together what has been unable to come together? In the world evolution of the West the Christ idea has been unable to come together with the Jesus idea. Out of this must surely come the desire to unite them.
In all modesty, modern Anthroposophy is to take on this task. It is the affair of Anthroposophy to endeavour to do what is right in this matter and bring these things together to some extent in the constellation of the universe. So in attempting to describe how modern Anthroposophy, as a Gnosis brought forward into the present day, can once again understand the Christ, the wish might arise to unite this Christ idea with something that can live again in a certain place where once it lived as the feeling for Jesus in such an intense way. To do this, one would endeavour to speak about the Christ idea and how it fits in with the spiritual guidance of man exactly at that spot, or as near to that spot as possible, whence the feeling for Jesus originally emanated.
This is why, years ago, in response to an invitation from Copenhagen I spoke particularly there about the path of Christ through the spiritual evolutions. Why did the need arise just at that time, to develop at that particular place the theme of the Christ idea as it is woven into The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Humanity? It is a statement, expressed not in spoken words but in the constellation! It is up to people to understand such things. There is no need to speak about it publicly everywhere, but one must understand that not only what is said but also what is done will bring things to expression, and that in these things the Universal Logos lives in a certain way.
It seems to be the case nowadays that people obviously bring more feeling to bear on what is not right, on what is evil, seen universally, than they do when, by expressing a real fact, one endeavours to incorporate something that is essentially good in the sense of human evolution. But the feeling one really wants to inspire, especially now in connection with the Christmas Mystery, is that of participation in the Anthrosophical Movement, the feeling of living within something that is above mere external maya. Also one hopes that people will take seriously the knowledge that what happens on the physical plane, the way things happen on the physical plane, is maya, and not reality in the higher sense.
Not until we feel that what takes place on the earth also, in a way, takes place in ‘heaven’ — to use a Christian expression — not until we feel that the full truth only comes about when we bring the two together in the human spirit — that is, in this fifth post-Atlantean period, the human intellect — are we seeing the full reality. The full reality lies in the bringing-together of what happens on earth and in heaven. Without this, we remain held fast in maya. We have, today, this great desire to remain held fast in maya because, in the fifth post-Atlantean period, we are far too exposed to the danger of taking the word for the fact. To a great extent words have lost their meaning, by which I mean the living soul-connection of the word with the reality that underlies the word. Words have become mere abbreviations, and the intoxication in which many people live with regard to words is no longer genuine ecstasy, because only a deepening as regards the spiritual world can make genuine the words we speak. Words will only regain real content when human beings fill themselves with knowledge of the spiritual world. Ancient knowledge is lost, and for the most part we speak in the way we do just because the ancient knowledge is lost and we are surrounded by maya, which gives us nothing but mere words. Now we must once again seek a spiritual life which gives the words their content. We live, in a way, in a mechanism of words, just as externally we shall gradually completely lose our individuality in a mechanism of technology until we are at the mercy of external mechanisms.
It is our task to bring together what lives in the spiritual world with what lives in the physical world. To do this we have to tackle very seriously the grasping of reality. In this materialistic age people are too much accustomed to living within narrow horizons and to seeing things confined within these horizons. They have even arranged their religion so comfortably that it gives them a narrow horizon. People today avoid wide horizons and do not want to call a spade a spade. That is why it is so difficult for them to understand how a karma could come about that is as terrible as that besetting Europe today. Everybody regards this karma — today, at least — from a narrow national standpoint, as it is called, although there is much that is untrue in this too. But at the foundation there lies the karma of mankind as a whole, something that is everybody's concern, which can be expressed in a single sentence with regard to one particular point — though there are many other points as well. People are inclined to pass by the very thing that matters. This thing that matters is the flight from truth into which souls have fallen today! Souls run away from the truth; they have a terrible abhorrence of grasping the truth in all its strength and intensity.
Consider the following: We have gradually built up a picture for ourselves of the evolution of mankind and we now know how to assess the fact that, during a certain period in this evolution, wars came upon the scene, that wars were what fired mankind. But it was a time when mankind believed in war. What do I mean when I say that it was a time when mankind believed in wars? What does it mean: to believe in wars? Well, a belief in wars is very similar to a belief in the duel, in the fight between two. But when does a duel have a real meaning? It has a meaning only when the two concerned are inwardly fully convinced that, not chance, but the gods will decide the outcome. If the two who take up their positions in order to fight a duel fully believe that the one who is killed or wounded will receive his death or wound because a god has sided against him, then there is truth in the duel. There is no truth in the duel if this conviction is lacking; then, obviously, the duel is a genuine lie. It is the same in the case of war. If the individuals who constitute the warring peoples are convinced that the outcome of the war is divine, that the gods govern what is to happen, then there is truth in the actions of war. But then the participants must understand the meaning of the words: A divine judgement will come about.
Ask yourselves whether there is any truth in such words today! You need only ask: Do people believe that actions of war express divine judgements? Do people believe this? Ask yourselves how many people believe that the outcome is divine! How many people truly believe this, how many honestly believe this? For among the many lies buzzing about in the world today are the prayers to the gods, or to God, offered up — naturally — by all sides. Obviously, in this materialistic age there cannot be a real belief that a divine judgement is going to take place. So it is necessary to look seriously and soberly at this matter, and admit that one is doing something without believing in its inner reality. One does not believe in this inner reality, and one believes all the less in this inner reality the further westwards one goes in Europe — quite rightly, because the further westwards one goes, the more does one enter western Europe, which has the task for the fifth post-Atlantean period of bringing about materialism.
Things are different going eastwards, however. I am not in the habit of constructing theories about such things or of saying such things lightheartedly. When I say something of this kind it is based on actual facts. It is nowadays already possible to make a remarkable discovery. Coming from the West to Central Europe you discover that here there exists a sporadic belief in divine judgement. In the West this is impossible unless it has been imported from Central Europe. But in Central Europe there are isolated individuals who have a kind of belief in destiny and who use the word ‘divine judgement’. And if you go right to the East where the future is being prepared, you will, of course, find numerous people who regard the approaching outcome as a divine judgement. For Russian people are not averse — as are the people of the West — to seeing a divine judgement in what takes place.
These things must be faced with full objectivity. Only then can we speak truly; only then do our words have meaning. Mankind has the task of learning to give meaning back to words.
Some time ago I drew your attention to what almost amounts to a religious cultivation of something that is entirely without thought or feeling, namely, the lack of desire to know that modern religions, when they speak of ‘God’, actually only mean an angel being, an angelos. When human beings today speak of ‘God’ they mean only their angel, the angel who guides them through life. But they persuade themselves that they are speaking of a being higher than an angel. It is maya that modern monotheism speaks of a single god for, in reality, seen from a spiritual point of view, mankind has the tendency to speak of as many gods as there are human beings on the earth, since each individual means only his own angel. Under the mask of monotheism is hidden the most absolute polytheism. That is why modern religions are in danger of being atomized, since each individual represents only his own idea of God, his own standpoint. Why is this? It is because, today, in the fifth post-Atlantean period, we are isolated from the spiritual world. Our consciousness remains solely in the human sphere.
In the fourth post-Atlantean period human consciousness reached some way into the spiritual sphere, namely, as far as the region of the angeloi. In the third post-Atlantean period it penetrated as far as the archangeloi. Only in this third period could such a thing as the Mysteries of Jutland, of Denmark come into being. What kind of a being was it who announced to each individual mother the coming birth of her child? It was the being about whom the Luke gospel speaks: an archangel, a being from the region of the archangeloi. One who can see only as far as the angeloi and calls an angel-being his god — regardless of whether he believes this is really God, for it is reality and not belief that matters — such a one is incapable of finding any connection that goes beyond the time between birth and death to those regions which are today hidden by external maya. In the third post-Atlantean period, however, he was still able to look into the region of the archangels, for there was still a living connection with that region. In the second post-Atlantean period, the ancient Persian period, what was open to human consciousness was still connected with the archai. Then man did not feel himself to be in what we today call nature. He felt himself to be in a spiritual world. Light and darkness were not yet external, material processes, but spiritual processes. In the original Zarathustra religion, in the second post-Atlantean period, this was so.
So mankind gradually came down to the earth. In the second post-Atlantean period his consciousness reached up into the region of the archai, so that he was then still able to say: As a human being I am not solely an articulated doll consisting of muscles and flesh — which is what modern anatomists, physiologists and biologists maintain — but a being who can only be understood in connection with the spiritual world, immersed in the living weaving of light and darkness, for I belong to the weaving of light and darkness.
Then came the third post-Atlantean period. Nature began to take hold of man in so far as it worked on him. For the processes of birth and death link the soul life of man with nature. For external maya these are natural processes. Birth, conception, death are natural processes for external maya. They are only spiritual processes for one who can see where spiritual reality intervenes in these natural processes, and that is in the region of the archangeloi. This connection was seen during the third post-Atlantean period.
Gradually, nature itself became reality for man. This was from the fourth post-Atlantean period onwards. Before that nature was not spoken of in the way we speak of it today. But man needed to step out of the spiritual world and dwell alone with nature, isolated to a certain extent from the spiritual world. But then he needed an event which would enable him once again to forge links with the spiritual world. In the second post-Atlantean period the divine element appeared to him in the region of the archai; in the third, in the region of the archangeloi; and, in the fourth, in the region of the angeloi. In the fifth post-Atlantean period he had to recognize the divine as man. This was prepared in the middle of the fourth period when the divine appeared as Man — in the Christ. What this means is that Christ must come to be understood ever better and better; He must come to be understood in His connection with the human being. For Christ appeared as Man so that man might find the connection of mankind with the Christ. Such things we must make especially clear to ourselves in connection with the Christmas Mystery. Mankind's connection with the spiritual world must be found in the way that has become possible since man stepped down from this spiritual world in order to dwell within nature. This was prepared, as a fact, during the fourth post-Atlantean period. Now, in the fifth post-Atlantean period, it must be understood — really understood!
Human beings must find their way to an understanding of the fact of Christ, to an understanding of this in its connection with the whole of the spiritual world. There is so much today which is not understood about Christ, and so much which is not understood about Jesus. Yet these are the two constituent parts necessary for the understanding of Christ Jesus! Looking at the historical context we can see that the understanding for Christ disappeared when Gnosis was rooted out. Looking at the mysteries expressed in the Baldur myth we can understand how the feeling for Jesus was rooted out.
If we remain truthful we can see now, in the present, how external life corroborates what we find in history. For how many representatives of religion today believe in their hearts — not merely with their lips but in their hearts — how many believe in the true Resurrection, in the Mystery of Easter? They can only believe if they can comprehend it. How many priests do? Modern priests and pastors think themselves particularly enlightened when they succeed in disavowing the Easter Mystery, the Resurrection Mystery, if they manage somehow to discuss it to bits, to make it disappear through sophistry. They are delighted every time they discover a new reason for not having to believe in it.
First of all, the Christ idea, which is inseparable from the Resurrection Mystery, was made into dogma. Then gradually it became a subject for discussion, and the tendency now is to drop the Resurrection Mystery altogether. But the Mystery of the Birth is also not understood. People no longer want to have dealings with it because they do not want to accept its validity in all its profound depths as a mystery. They want to see only the natural side; they do not want to be aware that something spiritual came down. In the third post-Atlantean period human beings still saw this spiritual element descending, but then their consciousness was at a different level. What is today called modern religion, modern Christianity, really has no desire to comprehend either the birth or the death of Christ Jesus. Some still want to maintain a dogmatic connection. But a comprehension of these things that goes beyond mere words is today only possible through spiritual science. For this to be possible, the horizon of comprehension must be widened. But people today flee from the truth; they literally flee from what could lead them to an understanding of these things.
Only anthroposophical spiritual science is in a position to create out of itself — not by warming up ancient history — certain concepts which will now exist for conscious rather than atavistic understanding. Long ago these concepts existed atavistically; today, people no longer have any real feeling for them. Let me remind you of something I mentioned yesterday. The kingship of the ancient European tribes was connected with all those social institutions I mentioned as emanating from the Mysteries of Jutland. The first child born in the holy night in the third year was destined to be king. He was prepared for this in the way I explained and he grew up to be the man who could be king for three years. He had reached the stage I described when I said that he grew beyond his national limits — he stepped out of the context of his tribe. An individual of the fifth degree-called ‘Persian’ by the Persians — bore in every tribe the name of that tribe; he still stood within the group. The one who was to be king for three years had to be filled with the mystery of the ‘sun hero’. This was the sixth degree, and for this he had to have grown beyond his tribe or group and stand in the context of mankind as a whole. But he could only do this if his connections were not only earthly but also cosmic, if he was a ‘sun hero’, which meant that he lived in a realm governed not only by earthly laws but also by those laws with which the sun is interwoven. If man is to act on the earth he has to have contact with the earthly realm, and contact with this realm brings about a certain process. This process must be recognized. For by recognizing this process we gain an understanding for certain transitions, for certain things into which we need insight if we are to gain insight into reality.
In ancient times a man belonging to the tribe of the Ingaevones was called an ‘Ingaevoni’. But the one who ruled the tribe for three years as a ‘sun hero’ could not be called an Ingaevoni, because he had grown beyond his tribe. It would not have been truthful to call the ‘sun hero’ an Ingaevoni, because he had become something else. You see what an exact concept was attached to an earthly reality because the spiritual world was felt to be streaming in.
Nowadays, when we merely play with words instead of adhering strictly to concepts, who would take it into his head to say that it is untrue to call the Pope a Christian, since this is a paradox, just as it would have been paradoxical to call the king of the Ingaevones an Ingaevoni? If the Pope really wanted to be a ‘pope’, that is, if he really wanted to stand within the actual spiritual process, it would not be possible to take him for a Christian. We can only be Christians if the Pope is not a Christian. To say this would be to speak the truth.
Who would take it into his head today to want to think the truth about such important matters? And who would take it into his head to see in earthly things, which he recognizes as maya, the playing in of divine, of supernatural forces? This would be quite uncharacteristic of the present day. Only if we are forced do we recognize these things; only if forced do we bow to the laws of the cosmos. We are forced to recognize that the blade of wheat sprouts from the earth at a given season, develops ears which in turn produce new seeds; that there is a definite rotation so that what has come into being has to fade again in due season in accordance with the laws of nature. Even this we would not recognize if we were not forced to do so.
In ancient times it was recognized that the ‘sun hero’ called to be the leader of the Ingaevones would cease to be so after three years. These laws were felt, just as were those of the growing plants. It is important to endeavour to think of all these things resounding in unison, in harmony. Only by doing so can one come to the truth and widen one's horizons. For the truth is not a child's game to be arranged according to personal interests. To adhere to the truth is a grave and holy act of worship. This must be felt and sensed. Yet the whole tendency today is none other than to make maya absolute and declare it to be the truth.
What is the historical criticism cultivated today in historical seminars? It is a neat paring down to the bare sense-perceptible facts, and this can only lead to error. For by striving to pare things down to the sense-perceptible facts we drift over into maya. But maya is illusion. So any science of history which endeavours to exclude every spiritual element and, instead, bring maya to the fore, must of necessity lead directly to maya. Just try, by using modern seminar methods applied in historical departments today, to pare things down to the truth by eliminating anything spiritual and accepting only what takes place on the physical plane, that is, only sense-perceptible facts, and you will find that you fall a victim to maya and never reach an understanding of history. Take a modern history book for which anything super-sensible is an absurdity and in which great care is taken to attach validity only to physical events, and you have in your hand the striving to bring maya to the fore. But maya is illusion. So you have to fall a victim to illusion; and this is exactly what you do. The moment you believe history as it is written today you become a victim of maya, of illusion.
But history has not always been written in this way. The way it was done in former times is scorned today. It is a terrible aspect of human karma that even in man's view of history the spiritual element is excluded. Let us look back to the time when the attitude of the fourth post-Atlantean period was dominant. History was told quite differently then. It was told in a way which makes today's professors turn up their noses and say: These fellows were totally uncritical; they let themselves be lumbered with all sorts of myths and sagas; they had no feeling for tidy criticism which would have shown them the facts as they really were. This is what historians say today, and of course also those who copy them. The people in those days were childish, they say. Of course they were childish when compared with today's notions! Let us listen to the old way of telling history, of telling what countless people with the attitude of mind of the fourth post-Atlantean period saw as history. Let us listen to this today and look at it as an example which we can use as a basis for what is to be said tomorrow:
Once upon a time there lived in Saxon lands an Emperor whom people called ‘Red Emperor’, the Emperor with the red beard: Otto of the Red Beard. This Emperor had a wife who came from England and whose heart's desire it was to endow a church. So Otto the Red decided to endow the archbishopric of Magdeburg. The archbishopric of Magdeburg was to have a special mission in Central Europe. It was to link the West with the East in such a way that this very archbishopric would be the one to bring Christianity to the neighbouring Slavs. The archbishopric of Magdeburg made good progress, carrying out charitable works over a wide area, and Otto of the Red Beard saw what good effects his endowment was having in the district. He was very pleased at this. He said to himself: My deeds are sufficient as a blessing in the physical world. He always longed for God to reward him for his benevolent deeds towards the people. That was his aim: that God might reward him because, after all, everything he did was done from piety.
Once he knelt in church in prayer which rose up to become a meditation, beseeching the gods to reward him, when he died, for his endowment, in the same way as he had found his reward on the physical plane, in all the good that had come about in the environment of the archbishopric of Magdeburg. Then a spiritual being appeared to him and said: It is true, you have endowed much that is good, you have acted with much benevolence towards many people. But you have done all this with a view to receiving the blessing of the divine world after your death, just as you are now enjoying the blessing of the earthly world. This is bad and it spoils your endowment.
Now Otto of the Red Beard was very unhappy about this and he spoke with this being who was — was he not? — a being from the ranks of the angeloi. We may feel this in the attitude of mind of the fourth post-Atlantean period. He spoke with this being and this being said to him: Go to Cologne where Gerhard the Good lives. Ask where you can find Gerhard the Good. If you can make yourself more virtuous through what Gerhard the Good will say to you, then perhaps you can avoid what I have just said will happen to you. This, more or less, was the conversation of Otto of the Red Beard with the spiritual being.
With a speed which those around him could not understand, the Emperor Otto made ready to journey to Cologne. In Cologne he called a gathering of the Burgomaster and all ‘wise and benign councillors’. One of those who came he recognized by his appearance as an unusual man, the one whom he had really come to see. He asked the Archbishop of Cologne, who had accompanied him, whether this was Gerhard the Good. And indeed it was. Then the Emperor said to the councillors: I wished to consult with you, but now I shall first speak apart with this man and then discuss with you what I have gleaned from him when I have spoken with him.
Perhaps this put the councillors' noses out of joint somewhat, but we shall not go into this. So the Emperor took aside the councillor known in Cologne as Gerhard the Good and asked: Why do people call you Gerhard the Good? He had to ask this question, for the angel had pointed out that it all depended on whether he could recognize why this man was called Gerhard the Good. For he was to be healed through him. Gerhard the Good answered: People call me Gerhard the Good because they are thoughtless. I have not done anything special. But what I have done, which is something quite insignificant and about which I shall not tell you, has become known to some extent and, because people always want to invent phrases, they call me Gerhard the Good. The Emperor said: Surely it cannot be as simple as all that, and it is extremely important for me and my whole reign that I discover why people call you Gerhard the Good. Gerhard the Good did not want to disclose anything, but the Emperor pressed him ever harder till Gerhard the Good said: Very well, I will tell you why they call me Gerhard the Good, but you must not tell anyone else, for truly I see nothing special in it:
I am a simple merchant, I have always been a simple merchant, and one day I prepared to set out on a journey. First I journeyed on land for a while, and then at sea. I travelled as far as the Orient where I purchased very many valuable materials and valuable objects for very little money. I planned to sell these things elsewhere for double, treble, or even four or five times the price, for this is the custom among merchants; this was my business, my trade. Then I continued my journey by ship. But we were blown off course by an unfavourable wind. We had no idea where we were. So I found myself off course in the wind on the open sea with a few companions and all my costly objects and materials. We came ashore and from this shore a cliff rose up. We sent out a scout to climb the cliff to see what was beyond it, for we had been stranded on the shore. The scout saw a great city beyond the cliff; it was obviously a great trading city. Caravans were approaching along roads from all sides and a river flowed past it. The scout returned and showed us the way to approach the city from a spot where we could make fast our ship.
Here we were, in a city totally strange to us. Soon it became obvious that we Christians were surrounded by heathens. We saw a busy market. I thought to myself that I would be able to sell all sorts of things in the market, for the bargaining was lively. But I did not know the customs of the country. Then I saw coming towards me along the street a man who looked trustworthy. To him I said: Could you help me to sell my wares here? The man evidently felt that I too looked trustworthy and said: Where have you come from? I told him I was a Christian from Cologne. He said: Despite that, you seem quite respectable. Hitherto I have entertained the worst suspicions about Christians, but you do not seem to be a monster. I shall assist you and will find you lodgings. After that you may like to show me your wares.
When the merchant, Gerhard the Good, had settled in his lodgings, the heathen man he had met came one day, inspected his wares and found them exceptionally costly. He said: Though there are quite a few rich people in the town, none of them is rich enough to buy all this. I am the only one to possess anything equivalent to these wares. If you want to sell them to me, I can give you what they are worth, but I am the only one who could do this. The merchant from Cologne wanted to see for himself, so the heathen offered to show him that he did indeed possess wares of an equivalent value to those extremely costly pieces gathered from all over the world.
So Gerhard went to the home of the heathen, where he saw immediately that he was dealing with a most important citizen of the town. First the heathen led him to a chamber in which twelve youths lay chained. They were prisoners, starving and wretched. He said: See, these are twelve Christians whom we took prisoner on the high seas where they were drifting aimlessly. Now come and see the rest of the wares. He took him to another room and showed him the same number of miserable old men. Gerhard's heart bled more for the old men than it had for the youths. Then he showed him a number of women — fifteen, I believe — who had also been taken prisoner. And he said: If you give me the wares I will give you these prisoners. They are exceedingly valuable and you can have them.
Then Gerhard, the merchant from Cologne, discovered that one of the women was exceedingly valuable because she was a daughter of the King of Norway who had been shipwrecked with her women — only some of the fifteen, the others were from elsewhere — and taken prisoner by the heathen. The other women were from England, as were the youths and old men. They had set sail with William, the son of the King of England, to fetch his Norwegian bride. When he had collected his Norwegian bride from Norway they had met with misfortune and been washed out to sea. William, the King's son, had been separated from the others. They did not know what had befallen him. As far as they were concerned he was lost. But the others, the women and the King's daughter from Norway, the twelve noble youths, the twelve noble old men, and the English women who had accompanied William to collect his bride, had all been shipwrecked and fallen into the hands of this heathen prince. He now wanted to sell them to Gerhard in exchange for his oriental wares. Gerhard wept bitter tears, not on account of the wares but, on the contrary, because he was to receive such valuable commodities in exchange for them. With his whole heart he agreed to the deal. The heathen prince was much moved and thought to himself: These Christians are not at all the monsters I thought them to be. He even equipped a fully provisioned ship so that Gerhard might take the youths and the old men, the King's daughter and the maidens across the sea with him. In parting from them all he was much moved and said: On account of you I shall henceforth be very just to all Christians who come into my care.
Now the merchant Gerhard from Cologne set off across the sea, and when they came to the point where the configuration of the land showed that the passages to London and to Utrecht must separate, he said to his travelling companions: Those who belong to England may sail that way. Those who belong to Norway, the King's daughter with her few women, may come with me to Cologne and I shall see whether the one whose bride she was to be has perhaps been found so that he may come and collect her.
In Cologne Gerhard kept the King's daughter in accordance with her standing. She was most lovingly cared for by his family. Only at first — Gerhard the Good permitted himself to remark — was his wife's nose put slightly out of joint when he arrived with the King's daughter. But soon she loved her like her own daughter. These things are quite understandable. She grew up like a daughter of the house and was cared for lovingly. Her only great sadness was that she never stopped weeping for her beloved William, for she naturally presumed that if he had been saved he would scour the world to find her. But he did not come. The family of Gerhard the Good loved her, and Gerhard had a son, so he thought to himself that this beautiful maiden might become a wife for his son. Of course, in accordance with opinions at that time, this could only happen if the son could be raised up to an equal standing. The archbishop of Cologne declared himself prepared to make the son a knight. Everything was done in a suitable way. Gerhard was very rich and everything went well. Tournaments were held and after waiting still another year in case William should turn up — the King's daughter had begged for this — preparations were made for the wedding.
During the wedding a pilgrim appeared, a man with a beard so long that it was plain to see that much time had passed since it had last seen a blade. And he was very sad. Gerhard the Good was filled with pity at the sight of the pilgrim and asked him what was the matter. It is impossible to say, said the pilgrim, for from now on he must carry his sorrow through the wide world; from today he knew that his sorrow would never cease. For the pilgrim was William who had lost all his companions, had found land at last, had wandered about and arrived at the very moment when his bride was almost married to Gerhard's son in Cologne. Then Gerhard said: Of course you shall have your rightful bride; I shall speak with my son. Since the bride loved her lost bridegroom, William, more than Gerhard's son, everything was arranged and, after her marriage to William had been celebrated in Cologne, Gerhard accompanied William, the heir to the throne of England, with his bride to England. There he left them. Since he was known in London as a merchant he walked about the town and heard that a great meeting was in progress. Everything was in turbulence and it was plain to see that a revolution might break out. He heard that this was because there was no heir to the throne. The heir had disappeared years ago. He had quite a number of supporters in the land, but all the others were in disagreement and the meeting was now to decide on a new heir.
Gerhard donned his best robe and went to the meeting. He was allowed in on account of his best robe — which was exceedingly splendid because he was such a rich merchant. There he found four-and-twenty men discussing who should replace the beloved heir, William. Gerhard saw that the four-and-twenty were the selfsame men he had rescued from the heathen prince and had sent to London at the point where the ways to London and Utrecht parted. They did not recognize him immediately. They told him that William had been lost — William, whom they loved above all others. But then they recognized each other. Now Gerhard explained that he would bring William to them. So the matter was settled. I need not describe to you the joy which now broke out all over England. At first, in the meeting, before they knew who Gerhard was about to bring to them, but having recognized him as the one who had saved them, they even wanted to declare Gerhard himself king. Now William became King of England. Then William wanted to confer on Gerhard the Duchy of Kent, but he did not accept this. Even from the new Queen, who had for so long been his foster daughter, he refused the gold treasures she wished to bestow on him, accepting only a ring and a few other trinkets to bring to his wife as keepsakes from their foster daughter. So he departed for home.
All this has now unfortunately become known here — said Gerhard the Good to Otto the Red — and that is why people call me Gerhard the Good. But it is not for people, or even myself, to judge whether what I did was good or not. Therefore it is nonsense for people to call me Gerhard the Good, for the words can have no meaning.
Otto the Red, the Emperor, listened attentively and realized that other attitudes than the one he had developed were possible and existed, even in the heart of a merchant of Cologne. This made a deep impression on him. He returned to the council meeting and said to the councillors: Gentlemen, you may go home, for I have learned all I needed to know from Gerhard the Good. This put the noses of the wise and benign councillors thoroughly out of joint, but the attitude of soul of Otto the Red was entirely transformed.
This is how a story — history — was told in those days. What is told here is criticized, obviously, by the historians of today, whose aim is to pare history down to the facts of the physical plane, facts which have their feet on the ground. Not only this event but many others also were told, when the feeling for history was still that of the fourth post-Atlantean period, with the inclusion of not only the physical facts but also with the meaning they had in relation to the spiritual world. There was an interweaving between what happened on the physical plane and what flowed through it, giving it meaning.
There is very deep meaning in the story of Otto the Red and Gerhard the Good.
I wanted to tell you this story, which was once seen as history, so that tomorrow we can use it, among other things, as a foundation for further discussions which will widen our horizons still further.