Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Star Wisdom, Moon Religion, Sun Religion
GA 353

I. Star Wisdom, Moon Religion, Sun Religion

13 March 1924, Dornach

We will continue our study of the Mystery of Golgotha. At the very outset it must be realised that happenings on the Earth are not determined by earthly conditions alone but by the whole Universe. It is difficult for the modern mind to grasp what this means, but without the knowledge that influences pour down unceasingly upon the Earth from cosmic space, no event of human life, however simple, can be understood. I have spoken about this on many occasions and I shall speak of it to-day in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha.

I told you that the Jews—I mentioned them as the fourth people in the evolutionary process1See the lectures in the first volume of this series: The Birth of Christianity, and Christianity and the Mysteries of Antiquity.—experienced the reality of the fourth member of man's being, namely the “I,” the Ego. This fourth member, which the Jews conceived to be the divine, innermost core of the human being, they called Jahve. And they saw a connection between Jahve and the universe of stars.

You know, of course, that Palestine was the birth place of Christianity. Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine, in a Jewish environment. The Jewish religion prevailed in Palestine and although the Romans were the political rulers, in those far-off lands they were not in a position to abolish the established religion. Jesus of Nazareth, therefore, grew up in the environment of the Jewish religion.

It will be easier for you to understand the character of the Jewish religion if I say something about the peoples who were living in Mesopotamia, that is to say, further to the East, namely, the Babylonians, the Assyrians. These peoples were neighbours of the Jews and their religion was connected essentially with the stars—it was a Star Religion. One often ears it said that the Assyrians “worshipped” the stars. They did not worship the stars but the instinctive wisdom of those times enabled them to know much more about the stars than is known nowadays, despite the claims of modern scholarship.

You may have read in the newspapers recently that this hitherto undisputed knowledge of the stars threatens to collapse as a result of the discovery that the Earth is not surrounded by empty, celestial space but that at a height of 400 kilometres there are solid crystals of nitrogen! It would seem, therefore, that science is finding confirmation of the “crystal heavens” spoken of in Greek antiquity. I mention this merely in parenthesis. Such things may bring home to scholars how little is really known about the world of stars.

And now imagine a being inhabiting the planet Mars. If such a being were to look downwards without a powerful telescope, he would not see any human beings on the Earth: he would simply see the Earth radiating a greenish light into cosmic space. Yet the Earth swarms with human beings who are in turn connected with Spiritual Beings. And just as the physical forces of the stars have an influence upon the Earth, so too the spiritual forces of the stars have an influence upon the Earth, above all upon man. The ancient, instinctive wisdom of the East revealed the existence of Spiritual Beings in the stars and it was to these Spiritual Beings, not to the physical stars, that men looked with veneration. In this sense the religion in Western Asia in those early times was a Star Religion. It was accepted as a matter of course that Spiritual Beings belonging to Saturn, Jupiter and the other heavenly bodies have a certain influence upon men and upon their earthly life. Now what the Jews had adopted from ancient religions was the teaching concerning the influence of the Moon; they paid little attention to the other heavenly bodies. Jahve or Jehovah was connected with the spirituality of the Moon. The Jewish religion in its earliest, original form taught that Jahve, or Jehovah, as a living reality within the human “I,” was connected with the spiritual forces of the Moon. This is not a mere legend, neither is it an idea born of religious superstition; it relates to something of which there is scientific evidence. During the pregnancy of the mother—a period of great importance for earthly existence—when the human being is still an embryo, he is essentially dependent on the Moon. This dependency of the human embryo on the Moon has long been known and the period of pregnancy computed as ten lunar months. It is only comparatively recently that the ten lunar months have been changed to nine solar months. But these ten lunar months, which have rightly been connected with the period of pregnancy, are in themselves an indication that the embryonic human being in the body of the mother is dependent on the Moon. What does this mean? In its earliest condition after fertilisation, the ovum really contains earthly substance that has been broken down, pulverised, and nothing whatever would arise from it if it were exposed to the influence of earthly forces alone! The development into a human embryo is only able to take place because influences from the Moon play down upon the Earth. It can truly be said that the forces of the Moon lead the human being into earthly life. And so in its veneration of Jahve as a Moon God, the Jewish religion was really pointing to this dependency of the human being upon the forces of the Moon when he is entering earthly existence.

Now the peoples living further to the East, in Asia—the Babylonians, the Assyrians—recognised other planetary influences as well as those of the Moon. They said, for example: Whether a human being subsequently becomes wise or remains a dullard, depends to a certain extent upon the influence of Jupiter. But the Jews did not concern themselves with these other influences. They venerated the one God—a Moon God. The fact that the Jews turned from many Gods to one God is generally regarded as a great step forward in religious life.

Jesus of Nazareth heard much of the one God, the God Jahve, for the Jewish religion was all around him and He was instructed in its teachings.

You can understand why a people who venerated only the Moon God, the God whose influence upon the human being works above all during the period while he is in the mother's body, believed that a man brings the whole of his being with him when he comes to the Earth. And this found expression in the ancient Jahve religion. If an ancient Jew who had fallen sick were asked: Why has this befallen you?—he answered: It is the will of Jahve. If his house had been set on fire and he were asked: Why has your house been burnt?—again his answer would have been: It is the will of Jahve ... He attributed everything to the one God, Jahve, through whose power man is led into the earthly world, and he saw the will of Jahve in everything that happened. Hence there was a kind of frozen rigidity about the Jewish religion. Through the whole of his life a man felt that his existence was determined by what he had brought with him to the Earth.

Other religious teachings, as well as those of the Jews, came to the knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth. These other religions taught that many heavenly bodies—not only the Moon—have an influence upon the human being. There is an indication in the Gospels of a connection between the Star Religions of the East and the country inhabited by the Jews where Jesus of Nazareth was born. For the Gospels tell of the Wise Men from the East who had seen a star and were led by this star to the birthplace of Jesus.

The story as it stands in modern versions of the Gospels gives rise to misunderstanding. The truth of the matter is that with their knowledge of the heavenly constellations the Wise Men recognised from the position of the stars that a momentous event was about to take place. And so at the very birth of Jesus of Nazareth we have the indication of a link with the Star Wisdom of Asia, of the East. And this link remained.

The aim of Jesus of Nazareth was to enable man—while he is actually living on the Earth—to become aware of an inner reality of being, an inner selfhood. The Jews said: Everything comes from Jahve.—But in reality it is only until birth that the influence of Jahve holds sway, and once the human being is born, his life on the Earth is not simply a continuation of the Jahve impulse. The great truth brought by Christ Jesus was that during earthly life man is not like a rolling ball, impelled only by the impetus given by Jahve before his birth, but that he possesses an inner power of will by means of which he can ennoble or debase his own nature, his own personality. This was a truly epoch-making teaching. For the Star Wisdom had been kept very secret; nothing was known of it in Palestine, let alone in Rome. The Star Wisdom had been kept strictly secret and it was therefore profoundly significant that Jesus of Nazareth should have taught: It is not only from the Moon that influences pour down upon man; influences also pour down upon him from the Sun.

This was a momentous teaching. But such things must not be regarded merely as theories; they must be studied in the light of reality. What is it that the influence of the Moon really brings about while the human embryo still rests within the body of the mother? The being of soul, the being of soul-and-spirit comes from the Moon-sphere and passes into the physical body. Man descends as a soul from the heavens by way of the Moon. When the Jews said: Jahve has an influence upon the human being in the womb of the mother—what did this really indicate? It indicated the view: The soul-and-spirit of man comes from the Moon; there, in the Moon, is the Creator of the soul. The physical, material constitution of man comes from the Earth; but the soul-and-spirit comes from the great universe, entering into man by way of the Moon.—The Jews, therefore, maintained that the soul entered into man by way of the Moon and received its endowments and gifts from the Moon God.

Jesus of Nazareth taught that in truth man has the soul within him but that the soul can change, can be transformed in the course of his life because he has freedom of will.

What underlay this teaching of Jesus of Nazareth? This question is profoundly significant and in order to find the answer we must consider the following:

The Jews are always distinguished in a certain way from other peoples of the Earth. The difference is due to the fact that throughout the centuries the Jews have been brought up in the Moon religion and have refused to recognise any other influence. Real understanding of these things requires a knowledge of certain characteristics of Judaism. There is abundant evidence that the Jews have a great talent for music; but on the other hand they have no outstanding gift for sculpture, painting and arts of this nature. The Jews have a flair for materialism but little aptitude for acknowledging the reality of the spiritual world. And this is because their veneration has always been paid to the Moon and the Moon only; the rest of the super-earthly universe has hardly entered their ken. The Jewish character and the Greek character are in complete contrast. The talent and inclination of the Greeks lay above all in the direction of sculpture, pictorial art, architecture—architecture which embodied the art of sculpture. The Jews have always been, and are by nature, a musical people, a sacerdotal people; they unfold more particularly the inner activity which has its source in the talents bestowed during embryonic life. At the time when Jesus of Nazareth lived, this tendency was very strongly marked. The Jews one meets in Europe to-day have of course been living among other peoples for a long time, and they have assimilated many traits from them. But anyone of discernment can readily distinguish the fundamental character of the Jews from that of other peoples. As I said, the hearts and minds of the ancient Jews were directed entirely to the Moon God. Therefore they developed the traits which are connected with the Moon, not those which are connected with the Sun. The Sun was completely forgotten. If Jesus of Nazareth had remained a Jew, even He could only have taught a Moon Religion. But a different impulse, a spiritual influence proceeding directly from the Sun entered into him in the course of His life.

As a result of this, He was “born a second time.” Eastern religions all knew what it meant to be born a second time, but to-day it is nothing more than a tradition and is no longer understood. At a certain moment in His life, Jesus of Nazareth knew that he had been born again, that the soul with which he had been endowed by the forces of the Moon while still within the mother's body had been quickened and filled with new life by the Sun ... And from that moment, He who had been Jesus of Nazareth was known among the initiated as Christ Jesus. It was said: Like all other Jews, Jesus of Nazareth became a man through the forces of the Moon; but because at a certain moment in his life the Sun influence poured into him, He has been born a second time—as CHRIST.

Obviously, an average man of to-day who cannot take these things in their spiritual sense, will never be able to make anything of them. Having no idea that the human being is united with his soul in the mother's body before birth, he thinks that the soul must come in some way from the external world. And he certainly can make nothing of the teaching that a Sun Being, a second “personality” as it were, entered into Jesus of Nazareth. Just as the first personality enters into the mother's body, so did the Sun Being enter into Jesus of Nazareth as a second personality.

The words used in the rituals of the Roman Catholic Church make no reference to what I have just told you. But at any celebration of High Mass you will see on the altar the Sanctissimum, the Monstrance containing the Sacred Host, and here (sketch on blackboard) rays are depicted. It is a representation of the Sun and the Moon. The very form of the Monstrance tells us that Christianity originates from a religious conception which, unlike that held by the Jews, recognises not only the influence of the Moon but also that of the Sun. Just as the influence working in the process of the birth of a human being is that of the Moon, so the influence working in Christ Jesus is that of the Sun.

Having heard this, you may imagine that it is possible for every human being to be born a second time and to receive the influence from the Sun during the course of his life. But the truth is rather different. What happened in the case of Christ Jesus was that the influence streamed directly to the “I,” the Ego. Upon which member of man's being does the Moon influence work during embryonic life? As you know, man is composed of physical body, ether-body, astral body, and the “I.” The Moon influence works upon the astral body: the astral body, of which a man is not normally conscious, is influenced by the Moon. But in Christ, the Sun influence poured into the “I”—the free and independent “I”!

If the Sun influence had ever worked upon man in exactly the same way as the Moon influence, what would have been the result? Think of the following:—As individuals we have no very decisive influence upon our own birth; our birth dispatches us as it were into the world. If the Sun influence were of exactly the same character as the Moon influence, we should simply receive the Sun influence at, say, the age of 30, and we should have no more say in this than we have in our birth. At the age of 30 we should suddenly become different persons, we should actually forget what we had been doing before that time. Just imagine what it would be like if you were to be going about until your 29th year and then, at 30, were to be born again! After this second “birth” you might come across someone not yet 30, who greeted you as an acquaintance. You would say: I know nothing about you ... I have only been here since to-day and I do not know you. That is what would happen if every human being at the age, say, of 30, were actually to receive the Sun influence. All this may seem very questionable but it is true nevertheless. It has simply been forgotten because history has been so greatly falsified. An exactly similar process was at work in very ancient times, although not in quite as drastic a form as I have described to you now ... In the very distant past, about seven or eight thousand years ago in India, men were like new beings when they reached the age of 30, and they knew nothing about their earlier life. Then the people around took charge of them and sent them to some “official” (I am using a modern term) who told them their names and who they were. This transformation was less and less marked as time went on, but in those olden times it did indeed take place. Even the ancient Egyptians who had reached, say, the age of 50, did not remember back to their childhood but only to their thirtieth year; they were told by the people around them about their earlier life, just as we are told to-day what we used to do when we were babies of one or two years old. History says nothing about this change that has come about in the life of man, but it is a fact.

The last human being destined to receive the direct influence of the Sun was Jesus of Nazareth; for others this was no longer possible. There is a hint about this Sun influence in the Gospels but it is always misinterpreted. The Gospels tell us that when Jesus of Nazareth went to the Jordan to be baptised by John, a Dove descended upon Him from heaven. The Dove is the symbol of the Sun influence, of the Sun Being who entered into Jesus. But He was the last, the very last. The bodily constitution of other men in His day was such that they were not able to receive the Sun influence. Jesus was the last.

In the ancient East, men could say with truth: The Sun influence comes to everyone in the course of his life, and when this happens he becomes a new being. This could no longer be said in the epoch when Christ Jesus lived, and the priests knew of it merely through tradition, not through their own vision.

In the ancient past, before the days of the Jews, veneration was paid to the Sun, because the Sun was known to be the source of this all-powerful influence during life. When no such influence was received, men ceased to venerate the Sun. By whom, then, was the Sun replaced? By Christ Jesus Himself! Before the founding of Christianity there had been a Sun Religion in which the Sun itself was the object of veneration. Christ Jesus was the last to receive this Sun influence, and thereafter men could do no other than point to Christ, saying: There, within Him, is the Sun Spirit!

Herein lies the great and fundamental change. It denoted a sheer revolution in thought to be able to say: Christ Jesus brought down upon the Earth that which was formerly in the Sun. In the first Christian centuries, Christ was always called the Sun and in the Gospels we still find the words: “the Sun, the Christ.” Later on, the meaning was entirely forgotten. At every High Mass the truth is visibly portrayed in the Monstrance; but if anyone says in so many words that what is represented there is a fact, he is denounced as a heretic. For the Christian Church has always considered it dangerous to proclaim truths which have to do with the Stars, and therefore also with the Sun.

Why is this so? Here again we must go back to the ancient Mysteries and compare them with Christianity. You know that the Mysteries were not open to everyone. I told you about the different stages. The Initiates were known as Ravens, Occultists, Defenders, Sphinxes, Spirits of the People, Sun Men, Fathers.3See Christianity and the Mysteries of Antiquity. These men knew that influences come from the stars and the initiated priests were careful to ensure that the knowledge was in the possession only of those who had actually been received into the Mysteries. For knowledge is a power! True, it is often suppressed ... but when the authority of the priesthood is strong, knowledge is certainly a power.

The Star Wisdom had, however, been lost. And now came Christ Jesus who brought it to life again—but in a new form—teaching that the Sun God must now have his place upon the Earth. If Christ's teaching had gained the victory, knowledge of the Sun influence and indeed of the ancient Star Religion in its entirety would again have been present in the world. Moreover in the early Christian centuries this was in many ways the case. There was a certain revival of the ancient Mystery teachings. But Christ Jesus had brought about the great and fundamental change in that He placed as a reality before all the world what had previously been guarded as a close secret in the Mysteries. Thereafter it would have been within the reach of all human beings, but no effort succeeded in spreading the knowledge.

A certain Roman Emperor, Julian, called the “Apostate” tried to introduce the ancient Star Religion once again but he was murdered while on a journey to Persia

What happened in Rome was this. The Star Wisdom that had in truth been brought again to the world by Christ Jesus was denounced as superstition—and not only as superstition but as a creed of the devil. The very means, therefore, of leading men to a real knowledge of the Spiritual was denounced and practically exterminated. People were expected to believe only in the external, historical event of the presence of Christ Jesus in Palestine—in the form in which the Church proclaimed it.

Consequently the Church became the supreme authority for all believers in the matter of how and what they should think. It was not by way of Rome that real Christianity came to Europe; what Rome brought to Europe was a changed Christianity—a Christianity which accepted only the outer event in Palestine and ignored the whole cosmic setting of that event.

Why did it happen so? As I told you, Rome originated from a band of brigands who had once gathered together,2See Christianity and the Mysteries of Antiquity; also Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History. and echoes of their mode of life persisted for a very long time. Rome has always striven for power in worldly affairs and in the religious life at the same time. And in the course of the Middle Ages, the Pope took the place ... well, not of the ancient High Priest, the “Pontifex Maximus,” for it was only the name that continued ... the Pope assumed the position that had once been held by the Roman Emperors.

At one period—it was at the beginning of the eleventh century—an attempt was made by a certain German Emperor to achieve something in the same direction as Julian who had been called the Apostate. It is a very interesting story. Henry II was a good and faithful advocate of Christianity and was looked upon as a kind of saint. He reigned as Emperor from 1002–24. In history, too, he is known as Henry “the Saint” and he still figures among the saints named in the breviary of Catholic priests. Henry II was one who wished to point to the ancient wisdom, to preserve for Christianity the conception that in Christ Jesus there had lived the Sun Spirit. He wanted to establish an Ecclesia catholica non Romana, that is to say, a Catholic Church that is not Roman. This attempt was made at the beginning of the eleventh century. Lutherism came considerably later. If Henry II's attempt to establish a “Catholic Church that is not Roman” had succeeded at that time, the whole cosmic setting of Christianity would have come to the knowledge of Europe and through the religious life men would have been led to a truly spiritual science. But Rome conquered—that is to say, semi-religious, semi-imperial Rome. No Ecclesia catholica non Romana came into being and the Ecclesia catholica Romana lived on. The aim of Emperor Henry II had been to separate the Catholic Church entirely from the sphere of worldly dominion.

It would have been a momentous deed, for if it had succeeded, the subsequent, very widespread persecution of heretics and heresies would never have taken place. Such persecutions are simply the outcome of authority exercised over men's thoughts. But in reality, nobody can have permanent authority over thoughts. Authority over thoughts can only be exercised when a human being is subject to the sway of worldly power, when he is obliged to attend particular schools where certain doctrines are inculcated into him, when he is put into a certain class which influences his point of view, and the like. Thoughts, in reality, cannot be made to submit to authority. No Church could ever have worked harmfully without the help of the worldly dominion to which man is subject as a physical being. For the Church can only teach; the response must come from human beings themselves. That is the principle which Henry II tried to establish. But as I said, the victory was won by Rome—by the ancient, imperial power working in the person of the Pope. The power of worldly dominion was very great in the days of Henry II. And if the attempt to establish a “Catholic Church that is not Roman” had succeeded at that time, the teachings of the Church would have remained apart from the sphere of worldly dominion.

Fundamentally, the Crusades were pursuing the same aim. It is commonly said that the Crusades were undertaken in the service of Rome, that because the wicked Turks had conquered Jerusalem the pilgrims there could no longer perform their devotions in safety. Then Rome intervened and sent Peter of Amiens out into Europe to preach. Numbers of men were urged to come together in a Crusade to the East, to Jerusalem, and a great band of Crusaders gathered as the result of this preaching under the leadership of Peter of Amiens and Walter the “Penniless.” (Perhaps you can guess why he was called the “Penniless.” He was like all of us here, for we could not raise enough money between us to pay the cost of a crusade to Asia!) But this whole band of Crusaders perished on the way and nothing was achieved.

Then came others, under the leadership of Godfrey of Bouillon. These men were not in the service of Rome but their aim had certain points in common with that of Henry II. They wanted to do away with the element of worldly dominion. (Dr. Steiner makes a sketch on the blackboard.) Here is Italy, here Greece, here the Black Sea, here Asia, here Palestine, here Jerusalem. The aim of the first real Crusade was that Jerusalem, not Rome, should stand as the centre and citadel of the Christian religion. This was again an attempt to make the Ecclesia, the Church, independent of worldly dominion.

None of these attempts succeeded. Roman princes and nobles again found their way into the later Crusades. The story can be read in any history book.

And so this basic principle of Christianity, enshrining the great thought that in Christ Jesus the Sun Force itself was brought down to the Earth and that realisation of this makes every human being free ... “Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free ...”—this whole conception has remained in oblivion through the centuries and true Christianity must be discovered again to-day through Spiritual Science. It is not surprising that the representatives of Christianity in the form it has now assumed, oppose the Christianity which genuinely adheres to Christ Jesus and teaches the same realities as He Himself taught. This is what Anthroposophy does. Again it is not surprising that those who only know Christianity in its present form often have an aversion to it. This aversion, however, it not to be laid at the door of Christianity itself. Christianity has brought about tremendous progress in the social life. Slavery was gradually abolished, for one thing. And without Christianity there would have been no science as we know it to-day. Most of the really epoch-making discoveries were made by monks (the air-pump produced by the worthy Burgomaster Guericke von Magdeburg is one of the exceptions). Copernicus was a dignitary of the Catholic Church; and the schools and academies of learning were all dependent upon the monks.

But something else must also be remembered.—The monasteries were not, at first, welcome in the Church, because the monks had preserved a good deal of the ancient knowledge. Among the monks (only they were not allowed to speak) there did indeed exist knowledge of the ancient Star Wisdom. Ample evidence of this can be found by anyone who looks for it. It was through monasticism, not through any external regime that knowledge of the kind of which I gave you an example in the last lecture, had been preserved and it was not until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that it was completely swept away. The Middle Ages were by no means as “dark” an epoch as people generally believe. It is only what comes within the range of ordinary observation that is “dark.” In secret there was a great deal of wisdom, only it is not understood to-day.

We can truly say: The greatest thought enshrined in Christianity is that the Sun Force in all reality came down upon the Earth.

Not until then did history, as we know it to-day, really come to birth. For whereas in olden times men in the East possessed a glorious Star Wisdom, they attached no value to “history.” Those who were knowers and sages in the East always declared: It is there, in the Heavens, that the act of Creation takes place. They did not concern themselves to any great extent with the life and doings of human beings on the Earth.—True, something in the nature of history appears when the Jews come upon the scene, but it is history that begins with Star Wisdom—for the story of the “seven days of Creation” is pure Star Wisdom. Later on, events become chaotic, a medley. True history—and true history divides the whole process of evolution on the Earth into the pre-Christian and the post-Christian—really begins when Christianity is born.