The Search for the New Isis, Divine Sophia
II. The Quest for Isis-Sophia
24 December 1920, Dornach
In the festival of Christmas we have something given to us that directs the thoughts of all circles of Christian people straight to the very deepest problems of the evolution of man upon earth. Regard the events of history from whatever aspect you will, examine them and try to arrive at an understanding of evolution, search how you will for the meaning of man's evolution on earth, — in all history you will find no thought that has such power to lift the soul to the contemplation of the whole becoming of man as the thought of the Mystery of Golgotha, as the thought that is contained in the Christian festival.
If we look back to the beginning of man's evolution upon earth, and then follow it up through the thousands of years that preceded the Mystery of Golgotha, we shall find through that time that, no matter how great and grand the achievements of the peoples in the various nations, all these achievements constituted in reality a kind of preparation — they were a preparatory stage for that which took place for the sake of mankind at the Mystery of Golgotha. Again, if we study what has happened since the Mystery of Golgotha, there too we shall find we can only understand it when we remember that the Christ who went through the Mystery of Golgotha has taken active part in the evolution of man ever since.
Many things in human evolution may at first appear incomprehensible; but if we investigate them without narrow-mindedness or prejudice — for instance, prejudices of the kind which believe that unknown divinities come to man's help just where he considers that help is needed, without his having himself to move a finger, — if we leave aside such views, we shall find that even the most distressing events in the course of the world's history can show us how the evolution of the earth has acquired significance and meaning through the fact that Christ has passed through the Mystery of Golgotha. It is good if we study the Mystery of Golgotha — the Christmas Mystery is contained in it — from points of view which can reveal, as it were, the meaning of the entire evolution of man. We know the intimate connection between what takes place in the ethical-moral sphere of man's evolution and what takes place in nature, and a certain understanding of this link between life in nature and the world's moral order enables us to approach also another relationship which we have been contemplating for many years — namely, the relationship of the Christ to that Being whose outer reflection appears in the sun. The followers and representatives of the Christian impulse were not always so hostile as they often are today toward the acknowledgment of this relationship between the Sun-Mystery and the Christ-Mystery. Dionysius, the Areopagite, who has often been mentioned here, calls the sun God's monument, and in Augustine we continually find allusions — even in Scholasticism we find such allusions — referring to the fact that the outwardly visible stars and their movements are images of the divine-spiritual existence of the world. And we must grasp the Christmas Mystery in a far wider connection than is usually done, if we would grasp just that which concerns us most of all in view of the important tasks of the present age. I should like to remind you of something of which I have spoken repeatedly in the course of many years. I have told you how we look back upon the first post-atlantean age, filled with the deeds and experiences of the ancient Indian nation; how we look back upon the ancient Persian epoch of post-atlantean humanity; then upon the Egyptian-Chaldean, and upon the Greco-Latin, and at last come to the fifth epoch of the post-atlantean humanity, our own. Our epoch will be followed by the sixth and by the seventh. And I have drawn your attention to the fact that the Greco-Latin, the fourth epoch of post-atlantean humanity, stands, as it were, in the centre, and that there are certain connections — you can read of this in my little book The Spiritual Guidance of Mankind — between the third and the fifth epochs, that is between the Egyptian — Chaldean epoch and our own — and that there is also a certain connection between the ancient Persian epoch and the sixth, and between the ancient Indian and the seventh epoch of post-atlantean humanity. Certain things repeat themselves in a special way in each of these epochs of life.
Once I pointed out that the great Kepler, the successor of Copernicus, had a feeling that his solar and planetary system repeated — of course in a way suited to the fifth post-atlantean age — what was contained in the world-picture of the Egyptian Mysteries. Kepler expressed this in a certain connection very radically when he said that he had borrowed the vessels of the ancient Egyptian teachers of wisdom and carried them over into our modern times. Today, however, we will consider something which had a central place in the cults performed by the Egyptian Mystery-priests — the Isis-Mysteries. In order to call up before our minds the spiritual connection between the Isis-Mystery and that which lives in Christianity, we need only cast our eyes upon Raphael's famous picture of the Sistine Madonna. The Virgin is holding the child Jesus, and behind her are the clouds, which are really children's faces. We can imagine that the child Jesus has come down to the Virgin from the clouds, through a condensation, as it were, of the thin cloud-substance. But this picture which has arisen out of an entirely Christian spirit is, after all, a kind of repetition of what was revered in the Egyptian Isis-Mysteries, which portrayed Isis holding the child Horus. The theme of this earlier picture is entirely in keeping with that of Raphael's picture. Of course we must not be tempted to interpret this in the superficial way in which it has been done by many people since the 18th century and throughout the 19th century right up to our own days — namely, to consider the story of Christ Jesus and all that belongs to it merely as a metamorphosis, a transformation, of ancient pagan Mysteries. From my book Christianity as Mystical Fact you already know how these things must be considered, but in the sense in which it is explained there we can point to a spiritual relationship between that which arises in Christianity and the old pagan Mysteries.
This Isis-Mystery has as its chief content the death of Osiris and the search of Isis for the dead Osiris. We know that Osiris, the representative of the Sun-Being, the representative of the spiritual sun, was killed by Typhon, who is none other than the Ahriman of the Egyptians. Ahriman kills Osiris, throws him into the Nile, and the Nile carries the body away. Isis, the spouse of Osiris, sets out on her quest and finds him in Asia. She brings him back to Egypt, where Ahriman, the enemy, cuts the body into twelve parts. Isis buries these twelve parts in various places, so that from now on they belong to the earth.
This can show us how profound was the connection between the heavenly and the earthly powers in the conception of Egyptian wisdom. Osiris is, on the one hand, the representative of the Sun-Powers. After having passed through death he is, in various places simultaneously, the force which matures everything that grows out of the earth. The ancient Egyptian sage is quick to imagine how the Powers which shine down to us from the Sun, enter the earth and become part of the earth, and how, as Sun-Powers buried in the earth, they hand over once more to man what matures out of the earth. The Egyptian myth is founded upon the story of Osiris — how he was killed, how his spouse Isis had to set out on her quest for him, how she brought him back to Egypt and he then became active in another form, from out of the earth. One of the Egyptian pyramids depicts the whole event in a most significant manner. The Egyptians not only wrote down in their own particular writing what they knew as the solution to the great cosmic secrets, they also expressed it in their architectural constructions. They built one of these pyramids with such mathematical precision, that its shadow disappeared in the spring equinox owing to the position of the sun — the shadow disappeared into the base of the pyramid and only reappeared in the autumn equinox. The Egyptians tried to express in this pyramid that the forces which used to shine down from the sun are now buried in the earth and stimulate the forces of the earth, so that the earth may produce the fruit which mankind needs.
This, then, is the idea we find present in the minds and hearts of the ancient Egyptians. On the other hand, they look up to the sun, they look up to the lofty Sun Being, and they honour Him. At the same time, however, they relate how this Sun Being has been lost in Osiris, and has been sought by Isis, and how the Being has been found again and is able hereafter to continue his activity in a new and changed way.
Many things which appeared in the Egyptian wisdom must be repeated in a different form during the fifth post-atlantean age. We must learn more and more to contemplate, upon a spiritual-scientific basis, the Mysteries of the Egyptian priests in a form which is suited to our own age, in the light of Christianity. For the Egyptians, Osiris was a kind of representative of the Christ Who had not yet appeared. They looked upon Osiris as the Sun-Being, but they imagined that this Sun-Being had disappeared and must be found again. We cannot imagine that mankind could lose the Sun-Being, the Christ, Who has now passed through the Mystery of Golgotha; for He came down from spiritual heights, connected Himself with the man Jesus of Nazareth, and now remains connected with the earth. He is present, He exists, as the Christmas carol proclaims each year anew: “Unto us a Saviour is born.” It expresses thereby the eternal, not the transitory nature of this event — that Jesus was not only born once at Bethlehem, but is born continually; in other words, He remains with the life of the earth. The Christ, and what He means for us, cannot be lost.
My dear friends, it is not the Osiris, but the Isis legend that has to be fulfilled in our time. We cannot lose the Christ and what He gives in a higher form than Osiris; but we can lose, and we have lost, that which we see portrayed by the side of Osiris — Isis, the Mother of the Saviour, the Divine Wisdom, Sophia. If we wish to renew the Isis legend, we cannot take it in the form in which it has been transmitted to us — Osiris who is killed by Typhon-Ahriman and carried away by the waters of the Nile, who must be found again by Isis, in order that his body, cut into pieces by Typhon-Ahriman, may be sunk into the earth — no, my dear friends, we must somehow find the Isis legend again, the content of the Isis Mystery, but we must form it out of Imagination, suited to our own times. An understanding will come again for the eternal cosmic truths, when we learn to create in the world of Imagination, as the Egyptians did. We must find the true Isis legend.
Because the Egyptian lived before the Mystery of Golgotha, he was permeated by luciferic powers. If luciferic powers are within man and stir his inner life, moving and weaving through it, then the result will be that the ahrimanic powers will appear to him as an active force outside. Thus the Egyptian who was himself permeated by Lucifer rightly sees a world-picture in which Ahriman-Typhon is active. Now, we must realise that modern man is permeated by Ahriman. Ahriman moves and surges within him, just as Lucifer moved and surged within the Egyptian world. And then, when Ahriman works through Lucifer, man sees his picture of the world in a luciferic form. How does it appear to him? This luciferic picture of the world has been made, it has become increasingly popular and has been adopted in all circles of thought that consider themselves progressive and enlightened.
If we would understand the Christmas Mystery, we must bear in mind that Lucifer is the power who wants to hold back the world-picture in an earlier stage. Lucifer is the power which tries to bring into the modern world-conception that which existed in earlier stages of evolution; he tries to give permanence to that which existed in earlier periods. All that was moral in earlier periods also exists of course today. But Lucifer strives to sever the moral forces as such (the significance of the moral forces lies in this: that they are there in the present, working as seeds for the future), Lucifer strives to sever all moral forces from the world-picture; he only allows the laws of nature, the necessary and natural aspect, to appear in this world-picture. Thus the impoverished human being of modern times possesses a wisdom of the world in which the stars move according to a purely mechanical necessity, devoid of morality; so that the moral meaning of the world's order cannot be found in their movements.
This, my dear friends, is a purely luciferic world-picture. Just as the Egyptian looked out into the world and saw in it Ahriman-Typhon as the one who takes Osiris away from him, so we must look at our luciferic world-picture, at the mathematical-mechanical world-picture of modern astronomy and of other branches of natural science, and we must realise that the luciferic element rules in this world-picture, just as the typhonic-ahrimanic element ruled in the Egyptian world-picture. Just as the Egyptian saw his outer world-picture in an ahrimanic-typhonic light, so modern man, because he is ahrimanic, sees it with luciferic traits. Lucifer is there, Lucifer is active there. Just as the Egyptian imagined that Ahriman-Typhon was active in wind and weather and in the snowstorms of winter, so modern man, if he wishes to understand things, must imagine that Lucifer appears to him in the sunshine and in the light of the stars, in the movements of the planets and of the moon. The world-conception of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler, is a luciferic conception. Just because it is in keeping with our ahrimanic forces of knowledge, its content — please note the distinction — its content is a luciferic one.
When the Mystery of Golgotha took place, the divine Sophia, the wisdom that sees through the world and enables man to comprehend the world, worked in a twofold way: — in the revelation to the poor shepherds in the fields, and in the revelation to the wise men from the East This was the twofold working of the divine Sophia, the heavenly wisdom. This wisdom, which was still to be found in its later form among the Gnostics, and which the early Christian Fathers and Teachers of the Church learned from the Gnostics and used to enable them to understand the Mystery of Golgotha — this wisdom could not be continued into our times, it was overwhelmed and killed by Lucifer, just as Osiris was killed by Ahriman-Typhon. We have not lost Osiris — the Christ — we have lost that which for us takes the place of Isis. Lucifer has killed it But the Isis-Being killed by Lucifer was not sunk into the earth, as Typhon sunk Osiris into the Nile; Lucifer carried the Isis-Being, the divine wisdom whom he had killed, out into the world's spaces; he sunk her into the world's ocean. When we look out into this ocean and see the stars moving only according to mathematical lines, then we see the grave of the world's spiritual essence; for the divine Sophia, the successor of Isis, is dead.
We must give form to this legend, for it sets forth the truth of our times. We must speak of the dead and lost Isis, the divine Sophia, even as the ancient Egyptians spoke of the dead and lost Osiris. We must set out in search of the dead body of the new Isis, the dead body of the divine Sophia, with a force which, although we cannot yet rightly understand it, is nevertheless in us — with the force of the Christ, with the force of the new Osiris. We must approach luciferic science and seek there the coffin of Isis; in other words we must find in that which natural science gives us something which stimulates us inwardly towards Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition. This brings to us the help of Christ within — Christ, Who remains hidden in darkness if we do not illuminate Him with divine wisdom. Armed with this force of the Christ, with the new Osiris, we must set out in search of Isis, the new Isis. Lucifer does not cut Isis in pieces, as Ahriman-Typhon did with Osiris; on the contrary, Isis is spread out, in her true shape, in the beauty of the whole Universe. Isis shines out of the cosmos in an aura of many shining colours. We must learn to understand Isis when we look out into the Cosmos; we must learn to see this Cosmos in an aura of shining colours. But just as the Ahriman-Typhon cut Osiris into pieces, so Lucifer blurs and washes out the colours in all their clear distinctness, blends and merges into one single whole the parts which are so beautifully distributed over the heavens, the limbs of the new Isis which go to make the great firmament of the heavens. Even as Typhon cut Osiris in pieces, so Lucifer blends the manifold colours that stream down to us from the whole aura of the cosmos into a uniform white light that streams through the universe. It is that light which Goethe combated in his Theory of Colours, repudiating the statement that it contains all the colours, which in truth are spread out over the marvellous and manifold and secret deeds of the whole cosmos. But we must pursue our search until we find Isis, and when we have found her, we must learn how to place out into the universe what we are then able to discover and to know. We must having a living picture in our minds of all that we have acquired through the newly-found Isis, so that the whole heavens become for us spiritual again. We must understand Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan from within. We must bear out into the heavenly spaces that which Lucifer has made of Isis, just as Isis buried in the earth parts of the body of Osiris, cut into pieces by Typhon-Ahriman. We must realise that through the force of the Christ we can find an inner astronomy, which reveals to us once more the origin and life of the cosmos, as grounded in the force of the spirit And then, when we have this insight into the cosmos, awakened through the newly-found power of Isis, which is now become the power of the divine Sophia, then will the Christ, Who has united with the earth since the Mystery of Golgotha, become active within us, because then we shall know Him. It is not the Christ we lack, my dear friends, but the knowledge and wisdom of the Christ, the Sophia of the Christ, the Isis of the Christ.
This is what we should engrave in our souls, as a content of the Christmas Mystery. We must realise that in the 19th century even theology has come to look upon the Christ merely as the Man of Nazareth. This means theology is completely permeated by Lucifer. It no longer sees into the spiritual foundations of existence. External natural science is luciferic; theology is luciferic. Of course if we are speaking of the inner aspect of the human being we can just as well say that in his theology man is ahrimanic. Then in the same way we must say of the Egyptian that he is luciferic, just as we say of him that his perception of the external world is ahrimanic.
The Christmas Mystery must be grasped anew by modern man. Let him realise that first of all he must seek Isis, in order that Christ may appear to him. The cause of the misfortunes and troubles in modern civilisation is not that we have lost the Christ Who stands before us in a far greater glory than Osiris did in the eyes of the Egyptians. We have not lost Him and need not to set out in search of Him, armed with the force of Isis — what we have lost is the wisdom and knowledge of Christ Jesus. This is what we must find again, with the help of the force of Christ which is in us.
This is how we must look upon the content of the Christmas festival. For many modern people Christmas is nothing but an occasion for giving and receiving presents, something which they celebrate every year through habit. The Christmas festival has become an empty phrase like so many other things in modern life. And it is just because so many things have become a phrase, that modern life is so full of calamities and chaos. This is in truth the deeper cause for the chaos in our modern life.
My dear friends, if in this community, we could acquire the right feelings for everything which has become words, has become a phrase in modern life, and if these feelings could enable us to find the impulses needed for a renewal, then this community, which calls itself the anthroposophical community, would be worthy of its existence. This community should understand how terrible it is in our age that such things as the Christmas festival should be kept up as a mere phrase. We should be able to understand that in future this must not happen, and that many things must be given a new content, so that instead of acting out of old habits, we act out of new and fresh insight If we cannot find the inner courage needed for this, then we share in the lie which keeps up the yearly Christmas festival merely as a phrase, celebrating it without any true feeling. Do we really rise to the highest concerns of humanity when we give and receive presents every year at Christmas out of habit? Do we lift ourselves up to the highest concerns of humanity when we listen to the words — which have also become a phrase — spoken by the representatives of this or that religious community? We should forbid ourselves to continue in this inner hollowness of our Christmas celebrations. We should make the inner decision to give true and worthy content to such a festival, which should raise mankind to the comprehension of the meaning of its existence. Ask yourselves, my dear friends, whether the feelings in your hearts and souls, when you stand before the Christmas tree and open the presents which are given out of habit, and the Christmas cards containing the usual phrases — ask yourselves whether there are living in you feelings that can raise mankind to an understanding of the sense and meaning of its evolution on earth! All the trouble and sorrow of our time is due to this — we cannot find the courage to lift ourselves above the phrases of our age. But it must happen, a new content must come — a content which can give us entirely new feelings that stir us mightily, even as those were stirred who were true Christians in the first Christian centuries, and who knew that the Mystery of Golgotha and the appearance of Christ upon the earth was the highest which man could experience. Our souls must again acquire something of this spirit
Oh, my dear friends, the soul will attain to altogether new feelings if it is willing to experience the new Isis legend within modern humanity. Lucifer kills Isis and transfers her body into the cosmic spaces, which have become a mathematical abstraction, or the grave of Isis; then comes the search for Isis, and her discovery through the impulse given by the inner force of spiritual knowledge, which places into the lifeless sky that which stars and planets reveal through an inner life, so that they appear as monuments of the spiritual powers that surge through space. We look in the right spirit towards the ‘manger’ when we first let the powers that surge through space kindle our feeling, and then look at that Being Who came into the world through the Child. We know that we bear this Being within us, but we must understand Him. Just as the Egyptians looked from Isis to Osiris, so we must learn to look again to the new Isis, the holy Sophia. The Christ will appear in spiritual form during the 20th century, not through an external happening, but inasmuch as human beings find that force which is represented by the holy Sophia. The present age has the tendency to lose this Isis-force, this force of the Mary. It was killed by all that arose with the modern consciousness of mankind. New forms of religion have in part exterminated just this view of the Mary.
This is the Mystery of modern humanity. The Mary-Isis has been killed, and she must be sought, just as Osiris was sought by Isis; but she must be sought in the wide space of heaven, with that force that Christ can awaken in us, if we give ourselves to Him in the right way.
Let us picture this rightly, let us immerse ourselves in this new Isis legend which must be experienced, and let us fill our souls with it Only then shall we experience in a true sense this Holy Eve of Christmas, leading us into Christmas Day, the Day of Christ My dear friends, this anthroposophical community can become a community of human beings united in love because of the search in which they set out together. Let us realise this most intimate and dear task, let us go in spirit to the manger and bring to the Child our sacrifice and our gift, in the knowledge that something altogether new must fill our souls, in order that we may undertake the tasks which can lead mankind out of barbarism into a new civilisation.
To this end it must really be so among us that one helps the other in love, so that a real community of souls arises in which envy and all such things disappear, and in which we do not look each at our own particular goal, but face together, united in love, the great goal which we have in common. The Mystery which the Christmas Child brought into the world contains this — to look at a goal in common, without discord among us. For the common goal implies union and harmony. The light of Christmas should shine as a light of peace, a light that brings peace outside, only because first of all it sheds an inner peace into the hearts of men. We should understand this and say together: Let us realise this and work together with love in the great task. Then, and only then, shall we understand Christmas. If we cannot realise this, we shall not understand Christmas. Let us remember that when we do sow discord, this discord hinders us in understanding the One who appeared among us on Christmas Eve. Can we not pour this Christmas Mystery into our souls, as something which unites our hearts in love and unity? We cannot do this, my dear friends, unless we understand what Spiritual Science really means. Nothing will grow out of this community if we merely bring into it ideas and impulses we have collected from all comers of the world, where phrase and routine hold sway. Let us remember that our community is facing a difficult year, that all forces must be gathered together, and let us celebrate Christmas in this spirit Oh, my dear friends, I should like to find words which appeal deeply to the heart of each one of you on this evening. Then each one of you would feel that my words contain a greeting which is at the same time an appeal to kindle Spiritual Science within your hearts, so that it may become a force which can help humanity to raise itself up again from its terrible oppression.
These, my dear friends, are the aspects from which I have gathered the thoughts which I wished to give you. Be sure that they are meant for each one of you, as a warm Christmas greeting, as something which can lead you into the New Year in the very best way. In this spirit, accept my words as a warm and loving Christmas greeting.
Des Gottes Weisheit
Sie hat Luzifer getötet
Und auf der Weltenkräfte Schwingen
In Raumesweiten fortgetragen.
In Menschen wirkend;
Es wird Luzifer entreissen
Und auf des Geisteswissens Booten
In Menschenseelen auferwecken
Des Gottes Weisheit
Wisdom of God:
Lucifer has slain her,
And on the wings of the world-wide Forces
Carried her hence into Cosmic space.
Working in man:
Shall wrest from Lucifer
And on the boats of Spirit-knowledge
Call to new life in souls of man
Wisdom of God.