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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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From Beetroot to Buddhism
GA 353

IV. Star wisdom, moon and sun religions

12 March 1924, Dornach

Today we'll continue with our study of the Mystery of Golgotha. I have told you that further evolution must be such that what happens on earth depends not only on the earth but on the whole world. The notion of such dependence of earth events on the whole world is difficult for modern minds to accept. Yet we cannot really understand even the simplest event in human life unless we know that influences are reaching the earth all the time from cosmic space. I have spoken of this to you with regard to quite a number of different things. Today I must speak of it in relation to the Mystery of Golgotha.

I have spoken of the Jews as the fourth nation in the process of evolution. They really discovered the fourth aspect of human nature, the human I. They saw it to be the divine element in man and called it Yahveh. And they also established a certain relationship between this Yahveh, the cosmos and the starry heavens.

You know that Christianity had its origin in Palestine. Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine, in a Jewish environment. The Jewish religion was dominant there; politically they were under Roman rule, but in countries as far away as Palestine the Romans were not able to abolish the local religion as well. The Jewish religion was thus part of the environment in which Jesus of Nazareth lived.

What was the nature of this religion? You'll find it easier to understand if I first tell you some more about the people I mentioned before I spoke of the Jews—the Babylonians, Assyrians, who lived in Mesopotamia, which lies further to the east, in Asia. These people, neighbours of the Jews, had a well-developed star religion. Today people will say that the people in Assyria venerated the stars. They actually did not venerate the stars but having the instinctive wisdom of their age they knew more about the stars than people do today.

People think they know everything about the stars today, but you may have read recently that this certain knowledge of the stars is in danger of being lost. The discovery has been made that the earth is not surrounded by empty space. At an altitude of 400 kilometres, the earth is surrounded by nitrogen crystals! We have to assume, therefore, that modern scientists will gradually come to see that the ancient Greeks had the right idea with their crystalline heaven. Things like this make truly intelligent modern people see how little we really know about the world of stars.

You only have to consider the following. Imagine an inhabitant of Mars—astronomers believe Mars to be inhabited. Looking down at the earth he would not see human beings. Unless our Mars dweller has highly sophisticated telescopes he will not see human beings; he will see the earth shining out into cosmic space, giving off a greenish light. Yet the earth is alive with human beings, who are connected with spiritual entities. The same holds true for the other stars. And just as the physical forces of the stars have an influence on the earth, so do their spiritual powers also have an influence on the earth, and above all on the human being. The Orientals with their ancient, instinctive wisdom knew very well that there are spiritual entities in the stars. In their own way they venerated those spirits, not the physical stars. The religion of the Near East was a star religion in this sense. People believed for instance that there were spiritual entities on Saturn and that these had a certain influence on human beings. Jupiter would have spiritual entities, and so on, and all these spirits would have a certain influence on human life on earth.

The Jews took little interest in the other stars but took the idea of the moon influence from those ancient religions. They saw their Yahveh in relation to the spiritual aspects of the moon. In the original Jewish religion Yahveh, who lives in the human I, was dependent on the moon.

This, gentlemen, is no mere legend, nor is it mere religious superstition, for it can be shown to be true, using scientific methods. During a period that is important for their existence on earth, during pregnancy, when they are still embryos in the womb, human beings are entirely dependent on the moon. This is something that has been known for a long time, and the period of pregnancy was therefore reckoned to be ten lunar months. It is quite a recent development to convert the lunar to solar months, making it nine months. This idea of the ten lunar months, which was entirely the right idea for the period of pregnancy, still reflects the fact that human beings are dependent on the moon during the embryonic period.

The question is, in what way are they dependent on the moon. It is something I have spoken of before. You see, the fertilized ovum initially contains earth matter that has been destroyed, pulverized, and nothing would ever come of it if it were subject only to earth forces. It only becomes something because the moon has an influence on the earth. And we may indeed say that human beings enter into life on earth through the powers of the moon. The Jews, who saw Yahveh as a moon god, really wanted to show that human beings depend on moon powers when they enter upon the earth.

The Babylonians, Assyrians further to the east assumed there were other influences as well as those of the moon. They would say, for instance, that Jupiter had some effect on whether a person grew clever as he developed or remained stupid, and so on. The Jews were not interested in such lesser effects. They venerated the one God, and that was a moon god. It is generally considered a great advance in religious life that the Jews progressed from many gods to one God.

Jesus of Nazareth also met this one God, Yahveh, venerated by the Jews, in the Jewish religion that was part of his environment. He was instructed in this, as it were.

As you can imagine, when people venerate only the moon god, on whom human beings depend during the period when they are in the womb, they will obviously think that we bring the whole of our human nature, the way we are, and so on, with us when we come to earth. And this is what we find in the old Jewish Yahveh religion. If you had asked one of the ancient Jews who had got ill, let us say, why he got ill, he would say: 'Yahveh has willed this.' If his house was set on fire, he would say it was the will of Yahveh, and so on. He recognized only the one God through whom human beings entered into life on earth and would ascribe everything to him. This gave the Jewish religion a certain rigidity. All their lives people would feel dependent on what they had brought with them on coming to earth.

Jesus of Nazareth also got to know other religions where it was said that human beings are influenced not only by the moon but also by the other stars. The Gospels give a hint that there was a connection between the star religions of the East, of Asia, and the lands where the Jews lived and where Jesus of Nazareth was born. We hear that the wise men from the East saw a star that guided them to the place where Jesus of Nazareth was born.

Now the way we read it in the Gospels today is the result of a misunderstanding. The situation was that the wise men from the East had their star wisdom and saw from the position of the stars that an important event was going to happen. The star wisdom of the East, of Asia, thus touched Jesus of Nazareth at his birth, and the connection continued to exist.

The main aim of Jesus of Nazareth was to give human beings also an inner nature as they walk about on the earth. The Jews would say that everything came from Yahveh. But Yahveh only has a major influence until we are born; once a human being is born and walks about on the earth he does not merely continue in the Yahveh impulse. The most important thing Christ Jesus brought into the world was that human beings are not just like a ball that keeps rolling, continuing the momentum given by Yahveh when they were in the womb, but that they have an inner will during life and with this are able to make their own inherent nature, their individual nature, better or worse. This was a tremendous idea at the time. For, you see, the star wisdom had really been kept very much a secret, and no one knew about it in Palestine, let alone in Rome. Star wisdom had been kept a secret. It was a significant deed when Jesus of Nazareth, pointing first of all to the sun, not the other stars, said: 'Human beings are influenced not only by the moon but also by the sun.'

This was a major deed at the time. But you have to remember that such things should not be considered as mere theories but in their reality. What influence does the moon have when a human being is in the womb? Well, gentlemen, it is a spiritual principle, soul and spirit, that comes in from the moon. In his soul, a human being comes down from the moon which is in the world of heaven. And what did it mean when the Jews said: 'Yahveh is influencing the human being during pregnancy'? They meant that everything of a soul and spiritual nature in the human being came from the moon; the creator of the human soul was in the moon. When people walked around on earth, therefore, the Jews would say: 'Well, the physical aspect of the human being, anything material, comes from the earth; everything by way of soul and spirit comes from the wide world through the moon.' The human spirit truly enters into the human being through the moon. And what they really meant was that when they met another person they had to think: 'Your soul has entered into you through the moon, and anything that lives in your soul has been given to you via the moon gods.'

Jesus of Nazareth taught: 'Yes, that is true, the human being has such a soul; but this soul can still change as life goes on. Human beings have an element of free will. The human soul can change as life goes on.'

What made him say this? That is the big question. To answer it, we consider the following.

As you know, we distinguish the Jews from the rest of the earth's population. The difference has arisen because the Jews have been brought up in the moon religion for centuries, refusing in their hearts to accept any other influence. Here we have to consider a particular trait of Judaism if we want to understand the situation. Look where you may, the Jews have a great gift for music and very little talent when it comes to sculpture, painting, and the like. The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world, because out of the whole world beyond this earth they venerated only the moon, really, and hardly knew that they did so any more. Jewish and Greek nature are complete opposites. The Greeks were mainly concentrating on sculpture and painting and architecture—at least as far as sculpture went. The Jews are the musical people, the priest nation where the inner life is essentially developed; and that is due to gifts originally developed in the womb.

This characteristic was very highly developed at the time when Jesus of Nazareth lived. You see, the Jews we meet in Europe today have lived among other nations and acquired things from them. But anyone who is able to judge this can still distinguish the special nature of the Jewish spirit from that of other people. It does not mean they are less good, but there is a difference. How was it with the Jews? It was like this: they concentrated with all their heart and soul on the moon. Because of this they developed everything connected with the moon but not with the sun. The sun was completely forgotten. And if Jesus of Nazareth had continued in the Jewish way, he could not have taught anything but the moon religion. But he developed another impulse as life went on, and a direct spiritual influence came to him from the sun.

You see, because of this he may be said to have been twice-born. All the early eastern religions had this aspect of being twice-born, which has since been forgotten, become merely an item of information. People no longer understand it. Jesus of Nazareth knew a particular moment when he felt: 'Now I am born again, as it were; just as in the womb I received my soul through the moon, so my soul has now been given new life from the sun.' Among initiates, the individual who was Jesus of Nazareth was known as Christ Jesus from that moment. And they would say: 'Like other Jews, Jesus of Nazareth has become a human being, a Jew, through the moon powers; but because he received the sun influence at a particular moment in his life he was born again as the Christ.'

Unless they are able to understand this in the spirit, modern people really cannot make anything of this. It does not mean anything to them that before birth, in the womb, human beings are united with their souls through the moon, so that their souls come from the outside world. It means even less to them that Jesus of Nazareth received a sun influence, and a second individual entered into him, as it were. Just as the first individual nature enters into the womb, so did Jesus of Nazareth draw sun nature into himself as a second individual nature.

The Roman Catholic religion has completely forgotten these things in the words it uses. But if you attend mass and it is a solemn mass, you will see the 'sanctum sanctorum', the monstrance, on the altar. The host inside, and here rays [Fig. 1]. What does it represent? It is the sun, and inside it the moon. The whole monstrance tells us in its form that Christianity arose from a view in which people acknowledged not only the moon, as the Jews did, but also the sun. As human beings are under the moon influence at birth, so was the Christ under the sun influence at his birth.

One might say that in that case every human being could be born twice, coming under the sun influence in the course of life. But it is not quite like that. The influence on Christ Jesus was directly on the human I. Where does the moon influence go when we are in the womb? Well, gentlemen, I told you that human beings consist of physical body, ether body, astral body and I. The moon influence is on the astral body, so that the astral body, which is at an unconscious level in the human being, is influenced by the moon. The sun influence in the Christ was on the I. The I, however, is independent.

Fig. 1

What would happen if the sun influence were the same as the moon influence on human beings? Well, as individual human beings we do not have much say where our birth is concerned. We are simply sent into the world at birth. If the sun influence were exactly the same as the moon influence we might receive it, say, at the age of 30 and we would have no say in it at all. We would suddenly be another person at the age of 30, and would actually forget what we did before. Just imagine that you would be going about as young people until you were 29, and then you would reach the age of 30 and you would all be reborn. You then meet someone who has not yet reached the age of 3021Strictly speaking 29, but Rudolf Steiner used the ages a bit loosely here, and in the light of what follows it seems better to make it 30. and he would say: 'Good morning, Erbsmehl!' 'Huh? I don't know him! I've only been here from today. I don't know anything about it.' That is how it would be if the sun would influence everyone in their 30th year, say. You'll find this highly improbable, gentlemen, but it is nevertheless true. It has merely been forgotten because history is always being falsified, so that people do not hear of this.

Something very similar to this existed in earlier times, though it was not as drastic as that. But in very early times, about 7000 or 8000 years ago, it really was the case that in India, for example, people would no longer know about the earlier part of their life once they reached the age of 30; they would then be completely new people. And others would be kind to them and say: 'Go to the local authority'—I am using modern terms—and there they would be told who they were and what their name was. This transformation gradually grew less and less marked, but it did happen. Even in ancient Egypt the situation would be that people simply did not remember their childhood when they were 50 years old, their memories only went back to the age of 30; they would hear about the rest from others, just as we hear from others in the family how we behaved as babies or at the age of 2. Historians do not tell us about humanity changing such a lot on earth, but it is nevertheless true.

Due to special circumstances Jesus of Nazareth was the last human being to receive the sun influence at a time when others could no longer do so. It says so in the Gospels, but people tend to misinterpret it. You see it says in the Gospels that Jesus asked John to baptize him in the River Jordan. A dove descended during the baptism. This was a sign of the sun influence. Sun nature thus entered into Jesus. And that was the last time. He was the last to receive this sun nature. Other people in his time could no longer do so because their bodies were no longer ripe for it. He was the last.

Let us go back to the people who lived in the ancient Orient. There everyone was able to say: ‘In the course of life the sun has an influence on the human being; a new nature is gained with this.’ At the time when Christ Jesus lived it was generally no longer possible to say so. The priests only knew it because they had heard about it from others, not from inner perception.

Something had to take the place of sun veneration. In earlier times, before the time of the Jews, people had venerated the sun because they knew that the sun had this tremendous influence during their lifetime. Now they were no longer able to venerate the sun because they no longer received its influence. Who took the place of the sun? Christ Jesus himself! Christianity was such that people had a sun religion as well as their star religion; it pointed directly to the sun. When Christ Jesus had received this sun influence as the last human being to do so, people could only point to him and say: 'The sun spirit dwells in him.'

This was a tremendous change. It was an unbelievable revolution to think that Christ Jesus had brought down to earth the element which until then had only been seen in the sun. In the old days, and in the early days of Christianity, the Christ was therefore always called the Sun. You still find the term 'the Sun, the Christ' everywhere in the Gospels, for people knew about this. Later it was forgotten. You can see it in the monstrance at every solemn mass. But when someone actually says that it is so, for you can see it, he is considered a heretic and persecuted as a misbeliever. For it was always considered dangerous in the Christian Church to tell the truth about the stars and also about the sun.

Well, gentlemen, why should that be so? Here we must go back to the ancient mysteries and compare them with Christianity. You see, not everyone would be admitted to the ancient mysteries. I have told you the stages of initiation—Raven, Occultist, Defender, Sphinx, and so on. They knew that the influence came from the stars. And the priests of the mysteries watched with care that not everyone would be enlightened and enlightenment was only found with them, in the mysteries. For knowledge certainly is power, though this is often suppressed. But when the priesthood still had power, then knowledge was power.

Star wisdom had been lost. And then came Christ Jesus. He brought it back, though in a new form, saying: 'You must bring the sun god down to earth.' He brought back the sun religion. And if it had happened that he had gained the day with his teaching, the whole of the ancient star religion would have been there again, as sun influence. This was very often the case in the early days of Christianity. The ancient mysteries had come into flower again. Christ Jesus brought a tremendous revolution, making the knowledge of the ancient mysteries known to all. And this would have been for all people on earth. Well, every effort to get people to accept these things I am telling you was in vain. In the fourth century the Roman emperor Julian, called the Apostate,22Julian the Apostate (331?–363), Roman emperor (361–63). wanted to bring back the old star religion. He was murdered when on a campaign in Persia. What happened in Rome can be told as follows.

Star worship, which had really been brought back by Christ Jesus, was called superstition in Rome, and indeed worse than superstition, belief in the devil. The very thing to give true insight into the spiritual aspect of the world was given a bad name; it was cast aside, as it were. People were to believe only in the external, historical event concerning Christ Jesus in Palestine which was proclaimed by the Church. In the eyes of the faithful, this made the Church the highest authority in questions of belief. You see, Christianity did not reach Europe in its true form via Rome, only an amended Christianity did so that limited itself to the external event in Palestine and left aside the whole cosmic context. How did this come about?

Rome really began with a band of robbers who had gathered there. And something of this attitude remained an influence for a long time. Rome therefore always wanted to grab religious as well as worldly dominion. This was a definite trait. The Pope has taken the place of the pagan high priest of ancient times, the Pontifex Maximus, taking only his title. During the Middle Ages the Pope gradually took the position of the Roman emperors, gaining dominion of the world as well as dominion of people's minds. On one occasion only, at the beginning of the eleventh century, a German emperor tried to do something similar with regard to Julian who was called the Apostate, the dissenter. This was Henry II.23Heinrich II (973–1025), king from 1002, emperor from 1014, canonized by the Pope in 1146. It is most interesting. Henry II was initially seen as a kind of saint, being an excellent representative of the Christian faith. He reigned from 1002 to 1024, and was called Henry the Saint. You will still find him listed among the saints in a Roman Catholic priest's breviary. But he, too, wanted to speak of the old truths. He wanted to preserve the view that the sun spirit lived in Christ Jesus. He wanted a non-Roman Holy Church, an ecclesia catholica non romana. Remember this was at the beginning of the eleventh century. If he had succeeded in establishing a non-Roman Catholic Church, Christianity in Europe would have had its cosmic significance, and religious life at the time would have given people true knowledge of the spirit. But Rome, religious and Caesarean Rome, won the day, and the Roman Catholic Church continued to rule. Emperor Henry II wanted to have Church and State completely separate.

You'll have to admit this would have been a tremendous achievement, for there would have been none of the persecution of heretics that followed. All such persecution comes entirely from the desire to control people's thoughts. In reality it is not possible to control thoughts. Just think about it. Can anyone truly control your thoughts? They can only be controlled if there is State control, forcing people to go to particular schools where they are taught specific things, and forcing them to belong to a certain class. The class then gives them their opinions, and so on. Thoughts cannot be controlled. No Church could ever become harmful unless assisted by a government that controls people as physical beings. A Church can only teach, and it is up to people whether they accept its teaching. That was the situation Henry II wanted to create. But, as I said, the old Caesar, the Caesar in the Pope, won the day. As you know, temporal rule, the State, was very powerful at that time. We may think this a bad thing, but the fact is that in Henry II's day temporal rule was tremendously powerful. If it had proved possible to establish a non-Roman Catholic Church, the teaching of the Church would have been separate from temporal affairs.

The Crusades had essentially the same aim.24The first Crusade was from 1096 to 1099, with Godfrey of Bouillon (d. 1100) establishing the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099. It is generally stated that they were at the behest of Rome, and they are usually described like this. When those horrible Turks had conquered Jerusalem, pilgrims to that city could no longer say their prayers in peace. Then Rome sent out Peter the Hermit25Peter the Hermit (c. 1050–c. 1115), French soldier and then monk, bom at Amiens. to preach that people should go on a Crusade; the aim was to get many people to join up and go to Asia, to Jerusalem. A large army of Crusaders was raised and led by Peter and by Walther von Habenichts.26Walther von Habenichts (the name means 'have-not', the 'pauper'), French knight who joined the Crusade in 1095 and was killed in the battle with the Turks at Nicaea. You can imagine why he bore that name, he was indeed as much a have-not as we all are. We, too, could not manage to raise the funds for a Crusade to Asia. The whole army of Crusaders perished on the way, however; it did not achieve anything.

But then others set out under Godfrey of Bouillon. They did not serve Rome, and their aims were similar to those of Henry II. They wanted temporal rule to be set aside. So here we have Italy [drawing on the board], here Greece, the Black Sea, Asia, Palestine, Jerusalem. This was where the Crusade was to go, and Jerusalem was to be the centre of the Christian religion. Rome was to be deposed from the first real Crusade onwards. These Crusades were actually against Rome. And again the aim was to make ecclesia, the Church, independent of temporal rule.

None of this succeeded. Romance princes were involved in later Crusades. You can read about it in the history of the Crusades.

What happened was that this whole foundation of the Christian faith, with the magnificent idea that Christ Jesus brought the power of the sun down to earth, and that everyone who recognizes this can thus become free—'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free'27John 8:32—has essentially remained unknown throughout human evolution. Today we must rediscover true Christianity through the science of the spirit. It is not surprising that those who represent Christianity as it is today turn against a Christian faith that truly goes back to Christ Jesus and teaches what he taught. Their aversion does not, however, relate to Christianity. In the social sphere, Christianity has brought tremendous progress in that slavery has gradually disappeared. And indeed, gentlemen, if it were not for Christianity, we also would not have the whole of modern science. Most of the major discoveries were made by monks. Only the air pump came from Guericke, good burgomaster of Magdeburg.28Otto von Guericke (1602–86). Copernicus,29Nicolas Copernicus (1743–1543), canon of Frauenburg Cathedral, founder of modern astronomy. who developed the Copernican system, was a canon. And all schools were really run by monks.

There was something else, however. You see, monasteries were not all that popular in the Church of old, because the monks had retained much of the old knowledge. Among the monks—who were not allowed to open their mouths, however—you could find knowledge of the old star wisdom. You just have to look for it. The things I have told you about—last time I did you a drawing to show how men and women were told apart even as late as the seventeenth century—were passed on through the monasteries in the past, not through the temporal powers. And it was really only in the seventeenth or eighteenth century that monastic tradition was finally put down. The Middle Ages were not as dark as is generally thought. Only the things one is generally aware of were dark. But secretly people had a great deal of wisdom; it is just that modern people fail to understand this, even when they read the old writings. You'll remember I told you that no one knows today what the term 'mummy' really means.30See note 7. I explained this to you.

And it is indeed the case that the great idea of Christianity is the one that speaks of the sun's power coming down to earth.

You see, gentlemen, it is only because of this that history, as we know it, developed. In the Orient they had great star wisdom but thought nothing of history. The people who had the knowledge in the ancient East always said that creation was out there in the distant heavens. They did not concern themselves much with anything human beings did on earth. The Jews did have a kind of history, but it was a history that began with the star wisdom, for the 'seven days of creation' are star wisdom. And then there was chaos. Real history, with the whole of Earth evolution divided into the pre-Christian and Christian eras, only came with Christianity.

This is what I was able to tell you today. I'll add a little more next Saturday.