24 August 1924, Torquay
When we look back over the historical evolution of mankind and see how event follows event in the course of the ages, we are accustomed to regard these events as though we might find in more recent times the effects and results of earlier ages, as though we could speak of cause and effect in history in the same way as we do in connection with the external physical world.
We are however bound to admit that when we do look at history in this way, nearly all of it remains unexplained. We shall not, for example, succeed in explaining the Great War simply as an effect of the events that took place from the beginning of the century until the year 1914. Neither shall we succeed in explaining the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century out of the events that preceded it. Many theories of history are put forward but they do not carry us very far, and in the last resort we cannot but deem them artificial.
The truth is that the events in human history only become capable of explanation when we look at the personalities who play a decisive part in these events, in respect of their repeated lives on earth. And it is also true that when we have given attention to this study for a considerable time, when we have observed the karma of historical personages as it shows itself in the course of their lives on earth, then and only then shall we acquire the right mood of soul to go into the matter of our own karma. Let us then to-day study karma as it shows itself in history. We will take a few historical personages who have done something or other that is known to us, and see how this deed or course of action may be traced from that which was written into their karma from their earlier incarnations.
It will in this way become clear to us that the things that happen in one epoch of history have really been brought over by human beings from earlier epochs. And as we learn to take quite seriously — it is too often considered as mere theory — all that is said about karma and repeated earth-lives, as we come to place it before us in precise and concrete detail, we shall be able to say: All of us who are sitting here have been on the earth many times before and we have brought with us into this present earth-life the fruits of earlier earth-lives.
It is only when we have learned to be quite earnest about this that we have any right to speak of the perception of karma as something that we know. But the only way to learn to perceive karma is to take the ideas of karma and put them as great questions to the history of man. Then we shall no longer say: What happened in 1914 is the result of what happened in 1910, and what happened in 1910 is the result of what happened in 1900, and so on. Then we shall try instead to understand how the personalities who make their appearance in life themselves bring over from earlier epochs that which shows itself in a later one. It is only on this path that we shall arrive at a true and genuine study of history, beholding the external events against the background of human destinies.
History sets us such a number of riddles! But many a riddle is cleared up if we set about studying it in the way I have described. People appear sometimes quite suddenly in history, shooting in as it were like meteors. You examine their education and upbringing — it affords no explanation whatever. You examine the age to which they belong — again you can find no clue to the problem of their appearance in this particular time. Karmic connections alone will afford the true explanation.
I will speak of one or two such personalities who have lived in times not very far distant from our own, and whose lives readily suggest the double question: What were their circumstances in an earlier earth-life, and what have they brought over from that earlier life that has made them as they are now?
Or again, let us take the case of personalities of an earlier age, who lived a long time ago in the history of evolution. Here we are anxious to know when they came again to earth, and what sort of people they were in a later incarnation. If in an earlier life they attained to fame and renown, we ask ourselves: What did they become when they returned? We would like to be able to add other lives to the one of which we read in history; perhaps they were historical characters a second time, or perhaps renowned in some other way: in any case we would like to know the connections.
Now connections of this kind are exceedingly difficult to investigate. Let me begin by giving you an idea of how, when we want to research into karmic connections, we have to look at the whole human being and not merely at what often strikes us at first sight as being particularly characteristic.
I should like here to give an example which may seem rather personal. I once had a Geometry teacher whom I loved dearly. It was not difficult for me to love him because during my boyhood I was exceedingly fond of Geometry. But this teacher was really quite unusual. He had a peculiar talent for Geometry that fascinated me, although people who are never deeply impressed by other human beings might have thought him dry and uninteresting. Notwithstanding this somewhat prosaic nature, however, he was a man whose influence could have a strongly artistic effect upon one. I always had an intense desire to unravel the secret of this personality and I tried to apply the methods of occult research by which this end can be attained.
I spoke in Torquay, and will only now repeat in brief, of how, if one progresses in the development of the occult forces of the soul in the way I described in the lecture here a year ago [Man as a Picture of the Living Spirit. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972.] and reaches the stage of empty consciousness, and if then this empty consciousness becomes filled with what resounds from the spiritual world, it is possible — if one adds to this experience such things as I spoke of in this morning's lecture — to have impressions, intuitions that are as exact as a mathematical truth and point from certain phenomena in the present life of an individual to an earlier life.
Now the wonderful way in which this teacher of mine worked in Geometry, his whole method of handling the subject, made me deeply interested in him. And this interest remained, even after his death at an advanced age. Destiny never brought me into actual contact with him again after I left the school in which he taught, but his personality stood before me in the spirit as a reality, until the day of his death and after his death; he stood there before me in particular clarity in all the detail of his bearing and actions.
Now what made it possible for me to receive out of his present life an intuition of his previous earth-life, or at any rate the previous earth-life of importance for him, was the fact that he had a club foot! One leg was shorter than the other.
When we remember that in the transition from one earth-life to another, what was head-organisation in the previous life becomes foot- or limb-organisation, and what was foot- or limb-organisation becomes head-organisation, then we shall readily understand that a bodily trait of this kind may have a certain significance, inasmuch as the life of the individual stretches across repeated earthly existences. This club foot enabled me to trace the individuality of my Geometry teacher back into the past. He was not a man of any renown but he was a person who made upon me at any rate and upon others too, a deep and lasting impression; he had an extraordinarily strong influence upon many lives. And I was able to discover, starting from the fact of his club foot, that a study of his personality led one back to the very same place in history where one has to look for Lord Byron.
Now Lord Byron too had a club foot. This is an external physical characteristic, but what is external and bodily in one life is, in another, a quality of soul-and-spirit; and this characteristic led me to recognise that the two personalities who were not now contemporaries (for my Geometry teacher lived later than Byron) had, in an earlier earth-life, been together. In the modern age they had lived as poet and geometrician, each a genius in his own line, the one becoming widely famous, the other making only upon a few individuals an intimate impression which influenced the shaping of their destinies. In an earlier life, however, in medieval times, they had been side by side; together they had listened to the legend of the Palladium, the holy treasure that had once been in Troy, had then come over with Aeneas and was regarded by Rome as the talisman upon which her fortunes depended. The Emperor Constantine afterwards took it across to Constantinople and the success and happiness of Constantinople in its history depended on this Palladium. The legend, looking prophetically into the future, went on to say that whoever acquires the Palladium, his shall be the rulership of the world.
This is not the time for me to enlarge upon the merits and content of the legend. I will only say that these two individuals who were at that time incarnated in what is to-day called Russia, undertook together, with warm enthusiasm, the journey to Constantinople in search of the Palladium. They were not able to obtain possession of it but they kept the enthusiasm alive in their hearts.
And now we can actually see how Lord Byron resolved to go in search of the Palladium in another guise when he took part in the Greek struggle for freedom. If you study carefully the life of Lord Byron, you will find that a great deal in this gifted poet is due to the fact that in an earlier earth-life he had been spurred on by enthusiasm for such an enterprise.
And again, as I look back upon my Geometry teacher with his modest, unassuming character, I can see how he owed his charm and endearing qualities in this life to the enterprise of that earlier time, although his part, then, had been a secondary one. Had he taken an equal share in it with the individuality who became Lord Byron, he would have been a contemporary of his again in the later life.
I bring this example before you in order that you may realise that we have to look at the whole human being if we want to investigate karmic connections; we have even, for example, to note bodily defects or deformities. If we find that a person has some distinguishing talent of a spiritual kind in one earth-life, let us say has been a great painter, we must not draw the abstract conclusion that he was a great painter in his former earth-life. What we see on the surface are only the waves thrown up by karma which flows in deeper waters below and has to do with body, soul and spirit. We must take the whole life into the horizon of our vision.
It will frequently happen that little characteristic actions of a person, such as the way he moves his fingers, will lead the way to karmic connections far sooner than any outstanding activities he may have undertaken and that are from every other aspect of more consequence. I once had the experience of being able to arrive at deep and intimate karmic connections in the case of a certain person by giving attention to quite an incidental peculiarity that made a strong impression upon me. He used to give lessons in a school, and on every occasion, before beginning his lesson, he took out his pocket handkerchief and blew his nose. He never by any chance began to teach without doing this. It was a deeply-rooted characteristic in him. The impression it made upon me was significant and I was able to read in it a pointer to important features of his former earth-life. It is in these signs that we have to find some significant trait in the person that will often take us back to the earlier incarnation.
And now I would like to show you how interesting from a historical point of view the question of karma becomes. Let us take a few concrete cases, for example, the case of Swedenborg, who appears in such a striking way in the 18th century. Last year I spoke of him in Penmaenmawr 1See: Lecture 7, The Evolution of Consciousness. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966. from quite a different standpoint. I spoke then of his spiritual qualities but I did not touch upon his karma.
Swedenborg is a very remarkable figure. Until he was more than 40 years old he was a great and notable scholar, of such repute that the Swedish Academy of Science is even now still occupied in bringing out the numerous scientific works he left behind — purely scientific works. When we know that Arrhenius, for example, has concerned himself with their publication, we shall conclude that they must be un-spiritual in the very highest degree. Otherwise Arrhenius would scarcely interest himself in them! Nobody could say that up to his fortieth year Swedenborg had anything whatever to do with spiritual matters in his knowledge and learning. Then, all of a sudden, he began — as the scientists put it — to go crazy, to give out imposing and magnificent descriptions of the spiritual world as he had seen it. It was something entirely new in Swedenborg's life, shooting in like a comet.
We ask ourselves: What can there have been in an earlier earth-life to produce such a result?
Or again, take a personality like Voltaire. I am choosing a few great personalities whose lives leave us with unanswered questions. Voltaire is one who may be called an absolutely incommensurable person. We are puzzled to know how this strange character, now scornful and contemptuous, now pious not to say unctuous, could grow up as a product of his age, or again how he could have the tremendous influence he did have upon it.
With what irony does destiny work! Voltaire had a deep influence upon the King of Prussia; and this connection between Voltaire and the King of Prussia was a most significant factor in the destiny of the spiritual life of Europe. One cannot help asking: What really lies behind all this in the deeper background of history?
We may take still a third case, and one not without meaning for our own day, when many things are thrusting themselves upon our notice from the background of existence. Take the case of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, who died in the 16th century. When we follow the remarkable destiny of the Jesuit Order that he founded, we are compelled to ask the question: What kind of life had Ignatius Loyola after he passed through the gate of death? And if he has come again, what part has he played in the more recent history of mankind? There you have questions which, if they can be answered, may well throw a light upon the background of very much that has happened in history.
Intuitive vision led one back, for example, to a soul who lived in the 5th century A.D., not long after St. Augustine, and who was educated in the schools of Northern Africa, as was St. Augustine himself. In these schools, the personality of whom I am speaking became acquainted with all that proceeded from the Manichean wisdom and from the wisdom of the East which had, of course, undergone such great changes in a later age. In subsequent wanderings he came across to Spain and there absorbed what may be called early Kabbalistic doctrine, teachings which open out a vista of great cosmic relationships. Education and experience thus equipped him with an extraordinary wide outlook, and at the same time with knowledge that sprang from two main sources — one already in decadence and the other just beginning to flourish. The result was to give him in one respect a deepened life of soul, but at the same time to leave him in uncertainty and doubt.
After many travels on earth, this personality passed at length through the gate of death; and at a definite point between death and rebirth his karma brought him in touch with a particular Genius, a particular spiritual Being belonging to the world of Mars.
You know that in the period between death and a new birth a human being builds up spiritually the karma he has afterwards to bring into physical embodiment in later earth-lives. Now not only do other human souls with whom he is karmically connected share in this work with him, but the Beings, too, of the various spiritual Hierarchies. These Beings have tasks to fulfil as the result of what a human soul brings over from earlier earth-lives. And so this soul of whom I am speaking was engaged in building up his karma for the next life on earth. Now it happened that through all he had received and done, through all he had thought and felt in earlier lives, especially in the life that was particularly significant and of which I have just given you a brief sketch, he was brought very near to a spiritual Being belonging to the world of Mars. He acquired thereby a strongly aggressive nature, but on the other hand also a wonderful gift of speech; for Mars Beings prepare from out of the cosmos all that belongs to speech and language and place it into the karma of human beings. Wherever artistic skill and fluency in speech show themselves in the karma of a human being, these are to be traced to the fact that his karmic experiences have brought him into the vicinity of Mars Beings.
The individuality of whom I am speaking had been in the company of one particular Mars Being — a Being who now began to interest me intensely when I had recognised him in connection with this soul. The individuality himself appeared again on earth in the 18th century, as Voltaire. Thus Voltaire bore within him from his earlier earth-life the learning of the schools of Northern Africa and of Spain, elaborated and transformed through the fact that the shaping of his karma had taken place with the help of this particular Mars Being.
When you consider Voltaire's great gift of language and on the other hand his instability in many things, when you consider his writings, not so much their content as his manner and habit of working, you will come to understand how it all follows quite naturally from the karmic influences I have described. And when we observe how Voltaire comes over from his earlier earth-life with his aggressiveness, his fluency of language, his power of satire, his only partially concealed lack of integrity, yet at the same time his genuine and ardent enthusiasm for truth — when we study all this in connection, first, with his former incarnation and then with his association with the Mars Being, the personality of Voltaire and still more from an occult point of view this. Mars Being, will begin to be of great interest to us.
It was my task at one time to follow this Mars Being and through this Being certain events on earth received great illumination. We meet in history with the remarkable figure of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Ignatius Loyola was, to begin with, a soldier. He was stricken with a severe illness and in the course of it was inwardly impelled to carry out all kinds of soul-exercises which were the means of filling him with such spiritual strength that he became able to set himself the task of rescuing the old Catholic Christianity from the spread of Evangelicalism. And thanks to the forces he had acquired through having a wounded leg — that is the interesting point — he succeeded in founding the Order of the Jesuits, which introduces occult exercises of the will in a most powerful manner into practical religious life. What we may think of this from other points of view is not here our concern. Ignatius Loyola, in establishing the Jesuit Order, sought to represent the cause of Jesus on earth on a grand scale, in a purely material way, through the training of the will.
Anyone who studies the remarkable life of Ignatius Loyola cannot fail to conceive a certain admiration for it. And now if we pursue the matter further with the occult insight of Intuition, we come to something very significant.
Ignatius Loyola was the means of starting the Jesuit Order which has done more than anything else to bring Christianity right down into the earthly, material life, accompanied, however, with a strong spiritual power. The Jesuit Order has one rule which goes altogether against the grain in men of the present age but which, notwithstanding, has contributed more to its effectiveness than any other factor. Besides the usual monastic vows, besides the exercises, besides everything else that a candidate has to undergo before he can become a priest, the Order of the Jesuits has in addition this rule, namely that there shall be unconditional subjection to the command of the Pope of Rome. Whatever the Pope orders to be done, it is never asked in the Jesuit Order what opinions there may be about it. It is simply carried out because the Jesuits are convinced that higher things of the Spirit make themselves known through the Pope and that it behoves them, in unconditional obedience to Rome, to carry out the commands of this higher authority. A doubtful and precarious rule: nevertheless it implies a great selflessness that is present in Jesuitism and again signifies a tremendous increase of strength, for everything a man does with intense energy, putting forth all his force and acting not on his own authority nor out of emotion — everything a man does in this way gives him extraordinary strength. It is a strength that moves, so to speak, in the lower clouds of material existence, but it is none the less a spiritual force. It is in truth a remarkable phenomenon.
And now, if we follow up these extraordinarily strange and imposing facts, we come to discover that the same Mars Genius who plays a part in the life of Voltaire, accompanied the life of Ignatius Loyola from the moment when he passed through the gate of death. The soul of Ignatius Loyola was perpetually under the super-sensible influence of this Mars Genius.
As soon as Ignatius Loyola had passed through death, things were immediately quite different for him than they are for other men. Other men do not at once lay aside the etheric body at death but only a few days later and have a brief retrospective vision of the past earth-life before entering upon the journey through the soul-world. In the case of Ignatius Loyola this retrospective vision lasted for a very long time. And by reason of the special kind of exercises that had been working in his soul, a close and intimate connection was able to be established between the soul of Ignatius Loyola and the Mars Genius. For a strong and active affinity, an elective affinity so to speak, existed between this Mars Genius and all that had gone on in the soul of the sick soldier, who through the injury to his foot had been forced to take to his bed and from being a soldier had become a man who could not use his leg. All these circumstances had had a deep and powerful effect upon Loyola and when we look at the whole man it becomes clear. These circumstances led Ignatius Loyola into connection with the Mars Genius whom I had learned to know on another path of investigation. And what took shape through this connection made it possible for Ignatius Loyola to have this significant retrospect of his life which continued on and on for a long time, whereas in the ordinary way it lasts for only a few days after death. Loyola was able thereby to establish a retrospective connection as it were with those who came after him in the Jesuit Order. He remained united with his Order in the retrospect of his own life.
To this connection with its founder are due the forces that held the Order together, the forces that determined its strange and abnormal destiny and can be seen in its subjection in unquestioning obedience to the Pope — in spite of the repeal of this rule by the Pope himself — and in spite of the persecutions that went on! But on the other hand all the things that the Jesuits themselves accomplished in the world are to be traced to the singular connection of which I have spoken.
Now this example, if we follow it further, can shed a wonderful light over certain historical events and connections. After Ignatius Loyola's death, his soul remained always in the vicinity of the earth — for one is near the earth so long as this retrospect lasts. Even if the retrospect is extended it cannot last many centuries for when it extends at all over any long period it is quite abnormal — but abnormal things do constantly occur in the great world-connections. And comparatively soon after his earth-life was over, Ignatius Loyola appeared again in the soul of Emanuel Swedenborg.
We have here arrived at a very astounding fact, but it is also extremely illuminating. Think of the light it sheds upon history! The Order of the Jesuits continues in existence ... but the one who held it together up to a certain moment of time has become an entirely different person ... he appears in the individuality of Emanuel Swedenborg. He became the spirit of Emanuel Swedenborg, and since that time the Jesuit Order has been guided by altogether different impulses from those of its founder. We may frequently see in history how in the course of karma the founder of some undertaking or movement, or the persons who are deeply united with it, become separated from the movement they have founded and the movement passes over to quite other forces. So we learn how little meaning there is from a historical point of view to trace back the Jesuit Order to Ignatius Loyola. External history does so. Inner knowledge can never do so, for it sees how the individualities separate themselves from their movements.
In its external course, many a phenomenon in history is traced back to this or that founder. If, however, we come to know the later earth-life of the founder of some undertaking we may find that he has long ago separated himself from it. A great deal of what is set down as history simply loses all meaning when we are able and ready to face the occult facts that stand behind the evolution of karma.
That is one thing that emerges. The other is as follows.
The soul of Ignatius Loyola, now the soul of Swedenborg, entered an organism that had acquired its quite unusual soundness of head through the fact of the injury to the leg from which Loyola had suffered in the former life. And this soul that had remained all the time in the vicinity of the earth, was not able, to begin with, to come down fully and completely into the new earthly incarnation. The body remained, up till the fortieth year, a remarkably healthy body with a sound and healthy brain, a healthy etheric body and a healthy astral body. With these sound and healthy organisations Swedenborg grew to be one of the greatest scholars of his time; but it was not until his early forties, when he had been through the period of the Ego-development and was entering on the development of the Spirit-Self, that he came under the influence of the Mars Genius of whom I have spoken. During the first forty years of Swedenborg's life this influence had been somewhat suppressed; but now he came directly under it and from this time on it is the Mars Genius that speaks through Emanuel Swedenborg, in all the spiritual knowledge he has of the universe.
And so in Swedenborg we have a man of genius, who gives us brilliant and magnificent description of the lands of the Spirits, albeit in pictures that are somewhat questionable. Thus has the mighty spiritual will of Ignatius Loyola found transformation.
It is always the case that if we follow up the real and actual karmic connections, we discover, as a rule, something that startles and astounds us. The ingenious speculations one so often hears about repeated earth-lives are ingenious speculations and nothing more. When investigation is really exact, the result is usually very startling, for the evolution of karma that moves forward from earth-life to earth-life is hidden deep, deep down below all that is experienced and lived out by man between birth and death.
I wanted to give you this example in order that you may see how deeply may be hidden that which flows in karma from earth-life to earth-life. You have seen it in a personality who is well known to us all. Only by investigating these hidden factors shall we arrive at the true explanations. And if you now study the life of Emanuel Swedenborg, knowing the connections of which I have told you, you will find how things become clear to you, one after another.
In the early years of this century I was several times in London. On the occasion of one of these visits I was prompted to make myself acquainted with an extraordinarily significant personality — to begin with, simply in his writings. And as in those days there were rather longer intervals between the journeys than there are now, I obtained from the Theosophical Library the books he had written — the books that is to say, of Laurence Oliphant.
Laurence Oliphant is a remarkably interesting and significant personality: he strikes you in this way directly you begin to study his writings. These books deal with the similarities to be found in different religions, with spiritual religions, and so forth; and all of them bear evidence of a deep understanding of how in the various processes of his body and soul, man is connected with the secrets of the universe. When you read Oliphant's writings you have the impression: Here is a picture of man in his earth-life that owes its inspiration to deep cosmic instincts. The processes of the earthly life of man that are connected with birth, embryonic life, descent and so forth, are described in such a way as to show how man, as microcosm, is wondrously rooted in the macrocosm.
Now I was very soon led in this study to a point where the figure of the dead Laurence Oliphant stood before me, but not in a form which suggested that I had here to do with the individuality as he was then living after death; it was rather that what was contained in these writings (which may be described as setting forth a kind of cosmic physiology, a cosmic anatomy) began to come alive, began to spiritualise; and a figure appeared, not all at once entirely clear, but unquestionably there before me on many different occasions. I was able to make occult investigations into the matter and I could never do otherwise than bring the figure into connection with what came to me from reading Oliphant. It was very often there before me. At first I was often unable to satisfy myself as to what this figure wanted, what its manifestations meant. The whole manner of its appearance however, left me in no doubt whatever that it was none other than the individuality of Laurence Oliphant; and it was likewise clear to me that this figure had had a long life in the time between death and a new birth — that is to say, the birth as Laurence Oliphant — probably only broken by one earth-life that was not very significant for the rest of the world. What might not then be hidden in the personality of Laurence Oliphant! In short, this appearance of the figure of Laurence Oliphant suggested significant questions of karma.
When I entered on an investigation of the karma, a spiritual Being became manifest who is engaged in the elaboration of human karma, in the same way as the Mars Being of whom I told you in connection with Voltaire and with Ignatius Loyola.
Now one may get to know such Genii in the most varied ways. They are especially present when it is a question of undertaking spiritual investigation into that which appears, primarily, in physical manifestation among men on earth. I was always drawn to this kind of research. My Philosophy of Spiritual Activity leads, as you know, to a treatment of the life of will from a cosmic standpoint. Such matters always interested me deeply. Then, again, the questions that now arise out of the tasks of the Anthroposophical Movement lead to investigations of karma — I do not say our task is exhausted in the investigation of karma for this can always only be a part of it — and the investigations of karma lead once more to Genii such as the Mars Genius of whom I have told you. These Genii are, however, also to be met with on the path of another kind of research to which I have alluded and the results of which appear in the book that Dr. Ita Wegman and myself have worked out together in the sphere of medicine. 2Fundamentals of Therapy: an Extension of the Art of Healing through Spiritual Knowledge. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1967. When one seeks in this way for an Initiate-knowledge of nature, one comes in a similar way to Mercury Genii; these Mercury Genii approach one because they play a special part in the karma of human beings. When man is passing through the life between death and a new birth, he is first of all purged in respect of his moral qualities; this takes place under the influence of the Moon Beings. Through the Mercury Beings his illnesses are transformed into spiritual qualities. In the Mercury sphere the illnesses a man undergoes in life are transformed by the Mercury Genii into spiritual energies, spiritual qualities. That is an exceedingly important fact and one which leads further, namely to the investigation of questions of karma in matters that are in any way connected with disease.
Now the investigations which I described in Torquay led me into close contact with the spirit of Brunetto Latini, the teacher of Dante. When one penetrates into these spiritual worlds in the manner described, it also becomes possible to stand before individualities in the form in which they lived in a particular epoch. Thus one can stand face to face with Brunetto Latini, the great teacher of Dante in the 13th century. Brunetto Latini still possessed a knowledge whereby nature was seen, not in the abstraction of natural laws, but as under the influence of living spiritual Beings. On the way back to his native town of Florence from his post as Ambassador in Spain, Brunetto Latini heard all kinds of reports that troubled and disturbed him, and in addition he had a slight sunstroke. In this condition and under the influence, too, of the pathological disturbances, glimpses came to him of nature in her creative work, of cosmic creation, and of the connection of man with the planetary world. What he was able to see was wonderful and sublime and no more than a shadow-picture of it subsequently found its way into the great work of Dante — the Divine Comedy.
But now if we follow this Brunetto Latini, we find that in a critical moment, when the knowledge was like to suffocate him, when it seemed to him that he might go astray from true knowledge and fall into error — in this critical moment, Ovid became his guide, Ovid, the Roman author of the Metamorphoses which contain such wonderful visions of the old Greek age, though expressed in the prosaic, characteristically Roman style.
And so we meet the individuality of Ovid together with Brunetto Latini. If we have a true grasp of the connection we can see Brunetto Latini, in the pre-Dante time, actually together with Ovid. Ovid is with him. And now, precisely in connection with the scientific, medical researches of which I was speaking, Ovid revealed himself as Laurence Oliphant. The long life since the Ovid time, passing but once to earth again in the interval and then as a woman in an incarnation that had little significance for the world outside, came at length to this fulfilment. The content of the soul is transplanted into modern times, and Ovid appears again as Laurence Oliphant.
Nor is it Brunetto Latini alone but other personalities too of the Middle Ages who assert that Ovid was their guide. At first it sounds like a tradition that simply gets carried on. In reality, Ovid was the guide in the spiritual world for many Initiates, appearing again as Laurence Oliphant with his sublime treatment of physiology and pathology. This connection between Laurence Oliphant and Ovid is of most far-reaching import and is one of the most illuminating examples one could possibly find.