Old and New Methods of Initiation
7 January 1922, Dornach
Today I shall add to what has been said over the past few days, both, before and after Christmas, about the Being of Christ. Our angle of approach to the question of Christ will be to relate it in a brief sketch chiefly to the world-wide social question. Mankind has at the present time an urgent need to reach a global understanding. Yet whatever sphere of life we turn to, we find precious little of any such understanding. The need for an understanding is there. What is not there is any talent on the part of human beings to come to such an understanding. We see how attempts are made to consult one another about important aspects of life. We see congresses taking place everywhere. With regard to the matters being discussed at these congresses, what is to be found in the depths of human souls is quite different from the words which are exchanged there. In the words exchanged at these congresses there are appearances which are deceptive. These appearances are supposed to give the impression that individual human beings everywhere desire to come to terms with one another, or something similar. But such coming to terms cannot be achieved anywhere, because it is not actually individual human beings who are speaking with one another but members of various nations. Only the external appearance makes it seem as though individuals were speaking with one another. What is actually speaking through each one are the very varied beings of the different nations. And since it is in the very nature of human beings these days to notice only the verbal content of words and not the source of the words — not the soil in which they are rooted — since human beings fail to discern these fundamental aspects of life, it is simply not noticed that it is the folk daemons who are speaking with one another, rather than human being with human being.
We would be hard put to it to find clearer proof of the fact that Christianity is today not realized in the world. Christianity is not realized, for fully to understand Christ means: to find man as man within oneself. Christ is no folk god, no god of any race. Christ is not the god of any group of human beings. He is the god of the individual, in so far as the individual is a member of the human race as a whole. Only when we can understand the Christ-being, through all the means available to us, as the God of mankind, only then will Christ come to have what will certainly be the greatest possible social significance for the globe as a whole.
We have to understand very clearly that there are things which hold sway in the depths of the soul, things which do not find their way into those words that remain stuck in empty phrases as a result of the differences between the folk daemons. Out of the situation in which people are content to reside at present, it is not possible to bring about what can actually only be brought about today out of the profound depths of man's being. Today what is needed is profundity, a willingness to enter into the profound depths of man's being, if forces of advance, forces of fruitful progress are to enter into earth evolution. What can be heard today in every corner of the earth does not to any extent even touch the surface of all that is rooted in the human being. What ought now to enter into mankind is the quest for what is most profoundly rooted in the being of man.
Let us now show in a few simple outlines the main differences that exist in people's attitudes to what could lead to a recognition and an understanding of the question of Christ. I have often drawn the distinction for you between people of the West, people of the East, and people of the middle region between West and East. This distinction can be viewed from very varied standpoints. Justice can only be done to it if it is considered without any kind of prejudice and with the utmost impartiality, if we refrain from looking with sympathy or antipathy at one or other of these divisions, perhaps because we happen to belong to one or the other of them ourselves. Today all the people of the world must work together in order to bring forth true unity in Christ. It can certainly be said that in the most varied parts of the world, in the very depths of mankind, the impulse exists towards finding this unity. But the search must take us into the profound depths.
Turning first to what appears now in the civilizations of the West, we discover that the essential element in these western civilizations finds an expression in the type of spirituality which is valid today. This special spirituality of today has the characteristic of taking the form of abstractness; it celebrates its greatest triumphs in ideas and abstractions. These ideas, these abstractions, are most suited to gaining a knowledge of nature as it appears to our senses, and a knowledge of that aspect of social life which has to take place as a result of the forces of the sense-perceptible world. With these forces, which I shall call the western forces, it is quite possible to penetrate into the depths of the human being and of the universe. Above all, these forces of the West have provided the foundation for scientific thinking and have sought those impulses of social life which derive from scientific thinking and which mankind will need in the future in order to shape life on earth in a possible way. What follows will show this to be so. By no means all the treasures of western spiritual life have been brought to the surface.
To start with, it is perfectly true that today's natural science could only be founded on those fundamental forces of man's being which can be most adequately expressed in the spirituality of abstractness and ideas. But it is also true that in everything that has been revealed there is another essential element as well. What has been revealed in the thought processes of natural science, and the social thought processes that go with it, can indeed be taken right up to the spiritual realm. A progression can be made from the laws of nature to a recognition of the spiritual beings within nature. These beings of nature are divine and spiritual. And if Christianity is to be understood in a way that befits mankind's most current needs, it will have to be permeated with that very spirit which has so far only poured itself out into natural science and its social consequences through the forces of the West. Any world conception gained out of these forces of the West can only be satisfying if it can be expressed in clearly defined, sharply contoured concepts and ideas. Human beings will need such clear, sharply defined concepts for the future of the earth. They will have to learn to present the highest spiritual content to mankind in terms which are every bit as clearly defined as are the natural and social concepts arising out of the forces of the West.
Let us turn now to the forces of the East. Here, what is made clearest to us is the following: If, out of the forces of the East, we want to attempt to describe Christianity, or indeed anything divine and spiritual, in sharp, clearly-defined terms, our efforts will be invain. Starting with Russia and going eastwards through Asia, the whole of the East brings forth forces in its peoples which are not capable of rising up to spiritual, divine realms in sharply defined concepts. The forces here are suitable for rising up to the spirit out of the depths of feeling.
In order to describe Christianity in a manner befitting the West we need philosophy, we need a concept of the world which is clothed in modern thought forms. But to describe Christianity with the forces of the East we cannot find such thought forms if we remain at the level of outer nationality. If we remain in the external, sense-perceptible world we have to grasp other means. For instance, we have to describe the feelings which are found as soon as we start going further and further eastwards, even in the regions of central Europe bordering on the East. Look at the living rooms of simple people and see the altar with the Mother of God in the corner. See how the image of the Mother of God is greeted by visitors as they arrive. Everywhere the first greeting is for the Mother of God, and only then are greetings exchanged with the people in the room. This is something that emanates from all the forces of the human being, with the exception of those of abstract ideas. There exists a radical contrast between West and East in the inmost feelings for what is divine and spiritual. Yet all these forces are root forces which can develop further, which can put forth leaves and shoots and finally bear fruit, if only they can come to a fundamental understanding of themselves.
The West is capable of reaching a conception and a feeling of the Father God in a manner which befits the new human spirit, a conception and a feeling beside which those other divine spiritual beings, the Son and the Spirit, can stand. But above all it is the task of the West to contribute to the world concepts and feelings about the Father God which are different from those possible in earlier times, when only vague presentiments could be achieved in this respect. On the other hand, if the forces mainly present in the East are developed — the forces which can only be described suitably in what might be called a non-intellectual way with the help of external gestures — if these forces are developed with the feelings and will impulses they entail, and if they take up also the forces streaming towards them from the West, they will be able to come to a fitting concept and a fitting feeling of the Son God. In this way mankind's development into the future can only be rightly understood when the things that are achieved in the different regions of the earth are taken to be contributions to a total outcome.
Especially the more outstanding spirits in the West — though mostly they are not aware of this themselves — may be seen to be struggling for a concept of the Father God, a concept arising from the foundations of natural science. And in the East we see in the external gestures of the people, in what comes out of their feelings and their will, how they are wrestling for an understanding of the Son God, the Christ. The middle region stands between these two extremes. This is shown clearly by what has been developing more recently in the culture of the middle region. It is characteristic of modern theology in Central Europe that it is uncertain in its understanding of the Father and also in its understanding of the Son, the Christ. Endeavours to find such an understanding are taken immensely earnestly. But this very earnestness has caused the endeavours to be split in two separate directions. On the one hand we see knowledge developing, and on the other we see faith. We see how knowledge is to contain only what applies to the sense-perceptible world and everything that belongs to it. And we see how faith, which must not be allowed to become knowledge, is allotted everything that makes up man's relationship to what is divine and spiritual. These divergent endeavours express the quest, a quest which cannot achieve an adequate concept and feeling for either the Father God or the Son God without joining forces with the other regions of the earth, with East and West.
How such a global working together in the spirit should take place can be seen especially in the beginnings made by the Russian philosopher Vladimir Soloviev. 1 Vladimir Soloviev, 1853-1900. The quotation in German is from Die geistigen Grundlagen des Lebens, Part One (The Spiritual Foundations of Life), Selected Works translated by H Kohler, Stuttgart 1922. This Russian philosopher has taken western thought forms into his own thinking. If you are thoroughly familiar with the thought forms of the West, you will find them everywhere in Soloviev's work. But you will find that they are handled differently from the way in which they are handled in the West. If you approach Soloviev with a thinking prepared in the West you will have to relearn something — not about the content of thoughts, but about the attitude of the human being towards the content of thoughts. You will have to undergo a complete inner metamorphosis.
Take what I regard as one of the cardinal passages in Soloviev's work, a passage he has invested with a great deal of human striving towards a knowledge of man's being and his relationship with the world. He says: Human beings must strive for perfection. This endeavour is expressed in the way they strive for the truth. By uniting truth ever more and more closely with their souls they will become ever more and more perfect. Without this movement towards perfection human life would be worthless. Human beings must have the prospect of reaching the highest pinnacles of perfection through truth, as otherwise their lives would be null and void. At the same time they must have a part in immortality, for a striving for perfection destined only to be forfeited in death would be a fraud of universal proportions.
This is expressed by Soloviev in words and thought forms which imitate those of the West, or rather the thought forms are borrowed and the word forms imitated. But the way in which it is expressed, and the way the impulse to express it is present — this is impossible in the West. You will not find it expressed in this way by any western philosopher. Just imagine Mill or Bergson saying such a thing! It is unimaginable. These are the things for which we must develop a sense nowadays. We must develop a sense for the living sources from which words flow. The content of words is growing ever more insignificant in comparison with world concepts. A sense for the living source of things is what has real significance.
We can today only imagine a person to be capable of speaking in the way Soloviev does if he still has a true experience of what every one of his compatriots does before the icon of the Mother of God. Such a person must stand immersed in his people, a people capable of bringing proof without having to base it on abstract, logical foundations, a people for whom proofs based on mere abstract logic are less important than those which come out of the whole human being.
We feel in these words of Soloviev how, coming from the East, what is said comes out of the total being of man, not just out of mere intellectual human understanding. Because Soloviev speaks and thinks and feels out of the very foundations of his people, the whole of his world conception tends in the direction of the Christ. Because he has also taken on, as something from outside, the thought forms of the West, his world conception at the same time tends in the direction of the Father God as well as the Christ. Thus we discover in him something which it is almost impossible to find anywhere in the present, and that is a fundamental, clear distinction in the feelings of a human being between the way to the Father God and the way to Christ, the Son God. In a spirit such as Vladimir Soloviev we find a hint of what must come about in the future. For what must come about is a working together of the different regions of the earth, and this cannot come about if any one region imagines itself to be in possession of the whole.
Mankind came forth out of a unity. If we go back into the obscure, remote antiquity of human evolution we come to an archetypal wisdom which was still instinctive and which, because of this, still filled the whole human being. Throughout the whole of the earth people communicated with one another, not yet by means of the logical content of language but externally, by means of the then still existing inner capacity to communicate in gestures, of which today we no longer have the faintest idea. People communicated with one another by means of something which today, if at all, remains only in those remnants of the treasure-house of language which we call interjections. Naturally, if you exclaim: Whew! or sigh: Oh! you will be understood world over. This kind of understanding resembles the communication that took place at the time of instinctive archetypal wisdom. Today we no longer know how to feel in language as a whole what the archetypal wisdom felt in it. All that remains for us is our feeling or the interjections which, of course, we only use occasionally. In parenthesis let me add that it is quite in keeping that, out of people's dissatisfaction arising from the whole chaos of our spiritual life, authors are starting to write novels in interjections. This does happen nowadays. I am not quoting, but simply mention that you can find prose passages today which read: Ah! Oh! Wow! Eh! Then the writer begins: Once there was — and then come more interjections. Some recent novels are tending in this direction. As symptoms they are not without significance. As I said, this just in passing.
We have lost the ability to invest the whole of language with what we today only invest in interjections. Consider the following: ‘Anthropos’ means man, human being. ‘Anthropoid’ means man-like, that is, the higher animals. The final syllable, ‘oid’, is connected with the word which means ‘like, similar to’. Now there is a remarkable connection between Greek and, for instance, German. In German the final syllable meaning ‘like’ is ‘ig’. This is pronounced ‘ich’. If we speak this final syllable by itself, we have the German word for ego, for our own being. This is one kind of etymological truth. The ‘ich’ in the human being is what strives in its totality to become like the universe. ‘Ich’ is like, is similar to, everything; microcosm compared with macrocosm. Of course to go into things in this way cannot be done in the superficial manner in which etymology and linguistics are conducted nowadays. One has to go down to a more profound level and gain a sense for the way in which the sounds are connected with one another.
I brought this up merely to show one of the facets of what we must do to enter into language in search of a far more alive content than exists nowadays in the languages of the world. We must strive not to take words merely as words but to seek out their living roots. We must learn to understand that two people can say the same thing and yet mean something quite different, depending on the way of life from which it stems. We shall need such a deepening of our feelings in order to enter into the kind of global working together which will be necessary if mankind is to set out once more on the upward path.
It is not enough to address Christ as: Lord, Lord! Christ must become something which fills the whole human being. This can only happen if we support our understanding with something which comes to meet us when we look towards the archetypal wisdom of the world and remind ourselves that that wisdom made mankind into a totality. It was, though, a totality in which all individuality was lost. But evolution progressed. Human beings became ever more individualized. They felt more and more that they were approaching the point at which each one feels separated from all the others, for that alone guarantees the experience of freedom. So something had to be poured out into human evolution which might once more bring unity to the whole earth. This was the Christ-being. The Christ-being will only be fully understood when we gain from it a feeling for the impulse to bring about a social unity of human beings over the whole earth. Or looked at the other way round: Only the Christ-being, fully understood, can lead to a right social impulse throughout the world.
We look to the archetypal wisdom, which developed out of instinctive foundations to a certain high degree of vision — not our vision but an ancient vision. We find this vision in its final phase expressed in the archetypal symbol of what the three wise men, the three Magi from the East, brought to Christ Jesus. What led them to Christ Jesus was the most ancient and, at that time, the highest wisdom of mankind. And at the same time we are told by another evangelist how the individual human being, out of the inmost forces of his soul, as though in a dream — for the individual is alone when he dreams, even though he may be in company with others — is also led to Christ Jesus, how the shepherds in the field, dreaming in their solitary souls, are led to Christ Jesus: the first beginning of a new age. By the fourth century AD mankind had lost the wisdom of the Magi from the East. At the time of the Mystery of Golgotha the highest archetypal wisdom — about to fade — meets and mingles with something that appears at first utterly devoid of wisdom, something which must be developed ever further, until in the end it can take root in every individual human being, uniting all mankind.
In his youth, Augustine 2 See Lecture One, Note 4 endeavoured to save the last remnants of the wisdom brought to Christ Jesus by the Magi from the East. But Augustine had already received it in a form to which he could not confess in the long run. It was even then too degenerate. So he had to turn to what had been present at the beginning of evolution, to what will have to progress ever further and further, to what must be sought in order that mankind may once again find unity over the whole face of the earth.
If we pursue these hints — for that is all they are for the moment — in the right way, they will give us forces which will lead ever more profoundly into an understanding of the Christ-being, to an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. This is what I wanted to add to what we have been saying about the Being of Christ.