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Mystery Centers
GA 232

Lecture VII

7 December 1923, Dornach

I had to speak to you last time of the Ephesian Mysteries of Artemis in order to draw your attention to certain connections between that which in the course of human evolution has become known, and that which today can be re-discovered through insight into the spiritual world. In order to amplify the theme already treated, I should like to speak today of another Mystery Centre which also stands in a certain sense at the starting-point of modern spiritual life, in that it has given impulses to this modern spiritual movement, and yet has taken over much from the older spiritual movements in which the primeval wisdom of man was enshrined. I wish to speak of those Mystery Centres and their keynote-giving impulses, once to be found on the island of Ireland, the Mysteries of Hibernia concerning which indications are given in my Mystery Plays.

It is relatively much harder to approach in the Akashic Record (to which I have often referred in my writings), it is relatively much harder to approach the ancient Mystery Centres of Hibernia, that much-tried island to the West of England, to call up in meditative vision the pictures which are imprinted in the Eternal Record, than it is in the case of the other Mystery Centres. For when these Mystery Centres of Hibernia are approached with inner vision one receives the impression that the pictures of these Centres possess extraordinarily repelling forces, forces which push one back. Yet if one goes forward with some degree of courage in such matters these repelling forces are through such courage not so hard to overcome as in other similar cases; they offer nevertheless, even to a courageous spiritual gaze resistance which produces, I might say, a kind of bewilderment. So that it is only against obstruction that one can arrive at that which I shall now describe. You will see during the next few days why there had to be such obstruction to knowledge.

In these Mystery Centres there were of course Initiates, who had received the old primeval wisdom of humanity, and who, moved and inspired up to a certain stage by this primeval wisdom, could attain to a kind of insight of their own. And there were pupils, candidates for Initiation, in the particular way in which instruction was given in that place, who were led on to the Cosmic Word. Now, if we look into the preparation which, first of all, the candidates received in Hibernia, we find that this preparation consisted in two things. The first was, that those who were to be prepared were led to face in their souls all the difficulties of knowledge. All that which, I may say, may be the torture of the path of knowledge—not that path of knowledge which leads into the depths of existence, but that path which simply requires that we shall intensify our everyday consciousness as strongly as is possible to each one of us—all the difficulties which offer themselves to the ordinary consciousness on this path of knowledge were brought before the souls of the pupils. All the doubts, all the troubles, all the inner striving and the frequent catastrophes of this inner striving, the becoming disillusioned through Logic and Dialectic, be these ever so good, all this had to be gone through. The pupils had to go through all that we experience as difficulties if we have really gained knowledge and then wish to put it into words.

You can realize that it is one thing to have attained a truth and quite another thing to be able to express it, to formulate it. Treading earnestly the path of knowledge we always have the feeling that that which we can clamp into words is something no longer strictly true, it is truth wedged between all kinds of cliffs and pitfalls.

All that can be thus experienced, which he only knows who has really trodden the path of striving after knowledge, all this was to be experienced by the pupils.

The second thing that they had to experience in their souls was how little of that which by the usual way of consciousness can become knowledge contributes to human happiness, how little Logic, Dialectic, Rhetoric can contribute to human happiness. On the other hand it was shown to these pupils that man, if he would keep his balance in life, must take part in that which to a certain extent will bring him joy and happiness. Thus the pupils were driven on the one side near to one abyss, and on the other side near to another abyss, and always forced as if to doubt and to wait till a bridge had been built for them over each abyss. And they were so deeply initiated into the doubts and difficulties of knowledge that by the time they were led from this preparation actually to enter the Cosmic Mysteries they had come to the conclusion: if it must be so, then we will renounce all knowledge, we will renounce all that cannot bring happiness to man.

In all cases in the ancient Mysteries men were subjected to stern tests, and were actually brought to the point where in the most natural and simple way they developed feelings which ordinary commonplace reasoning considers as without foundation. It is easy to say: No one wishes to renounce knowledge, it stands to reason that man desires to get knowledge, even if it presents great difficulties. This is what people quite naturally say who do not know the difficulties, and who are not led systematically into these difficulties as were the pupils of the Mysteries in Hibernia.

It is also easy to say: Man is willing to renounce inner happiness as well as outer happiness and wishes only to pursue the path of knowledge. But to him who understands these things as they are, both these dicta, so often heard, are altogether beside the mark.

When the pupils had been prepared up to the grade required they were led before two colossal statues, before two great, mighty, majestic statues. The one was more majestic on account of its huge dimensions, the other was equally large but it was in addition impressive through its peculiar aspect. One statue was a male form, the other female.

Through these statues the pupils experienced the approach of the Cosmic Word. These statues were to them, as it were, the external letters by means of which they must begin to decipher the Cosmic Secret placed before men.

One of the statues, the male statue, was of wholly elastic material, compressible in every part. The pupils were made to press the statue in every part. Through this action, it revealed itself to them as hollow. It was in fact only the skin of a statue made of elastic material, so that after being pressed it regained the same shape.

Over this statue, over the head of this statue which was peculiarly characteristic, over the head there was something which represented the Sun.

The whole head was such that one saw it must really be as a Soul-Eye. The head as Soul-Eye represented microcosmically the content of the whole macrocosm. This manifestation of the whole macrocosm came to expression through the Sun in this colossal head.

One of the statues then made the impression directly upon the pupil: Here the macrocosm works through the Sun and forms the human head, which knows what are the impulses of the macrocosm and forms itself inwardly and outwardly according to these impulses of the macrocosm.

The other statue was such that first of all the eyes of the pupil fell on something like bodies of light raying inwards with light. And in the midst the pupil then saw a female form, standing wholly under the influence of these rays. And the feeling came to him that the head was created out of these rays. There was something indefinite about the head.

This statue was of another substance, a plastic substance, not elastic but plastic and extraordinarily soft. The pupil was made to press it also. Every pressure he made remained. Only always between one time when the pupil was tested before this statue and the next time the indentations he had made were corrected. So that whenever the pupils were led to the same ceremony before this statue the statue was always intact again. In the case of the other statue, the elastic one, the whole form recovered itself of its own accord.

The impression received in the case of the second statue was that it stood wholly under the influence of the moon-forces which permeated the organism and caused the head to grow out of the organism. An extraordinarily powerful impression was made on the pupils by what they thus experienced. They were often brought before this statue; each time the indentations were corrected. Often a group of pupils were led, at not too long intervals, before this statue.

When they were led before this statue on the first occasions soundless silence prevailed around them. They were led up to the statue by those already initiated and were then left, the door of the temple behind being shut. They were left in their solitude.

Then came a time when each pupil was taken by himself and made to test the statue, to experience for himself the Elasticity of the first, and in the second case the plasticity in which the indentations he had made remained. Then he was left alone by himself with the impression, which as I have already indicated was working powerfully, most powerfully upon him. And through all that he had formerly, gone through along the path which I have described to you, in which all difficulties as regards knowledge, all difficulties as regards happiness were experienced, there arose in the pupil a certain longing. Indeed, to experience such things signifies much more than the mere words which I now use express. Such experience signifies that one goes through a complete scale of sensations, and these sensations caused the pupil to have the most vivid longing when he was brought before these two statues, that what appeared to him as a great riddle should in some way or other become solved in his soul, that he should get to understand the nature of this riddle—on the one hand that he should understand the nature of this riddle, and on the other hand the problem as to what lay in the forms and in the whole manner in which he was to relate himself to them. All this worked in a deep, strangely deep way upon the pupils. And they stood before the statues in their whole soul and in their whole spirit as, I might say, a colossal question-mark. Everything in them was a question, Reason asked, the heart asked, the will asked, everything, everything asked. The man of today can still learn from these things, which were brought perceptibly before the mind in former ages, things which today can no longer be brought perceptibly before the mind in this way and used for Initiation, he can still learn what a scale of sensations one must go through in order really to approach the truth, truth which then leads into the secrets of the world. For even if the right way today for the student is to go through these things by an inner path of development, outwardly imperceptible to the senses, it still remains a fact that the modern student must go through the same scale of sensations, must struggle in himself through these sensations in inner meditative experience. Thus the same scale of sensations can be experienced by him which was gone through in the old manner of civilization, in those old times by men who were to be initiated.

When this was gone through, the pupils were led through a kind of probation in which both experiences worked together, on the one side, that which they had previously gone through in the preparation stage on the ordinary path of knowledge and on the ordinary path of happiness, and on the other side, what had become in them a great question of the whole mind, indeed of the whole man. These then had to work together.

And now, because they had inwardly realized the working together of these experiences, they were led as far as possible at that time before the Cosmic Mysteries of the Microcosm, and of the Macrocosm, before something of that Union which we have touched upon in these lectures, which formed the content of the Artemis Mysteries of Ephesus, a part of which was brought before the pupils during a kind of Probation-time. Thereby the great question in the minds of the pupils became intensified. So that the pupil, through the tremendous deepening which his mind experienced and endured, was actually led in this question form to the Spiritual world. In actual fact his experience brought him into that region which the soul experiences when it feels: I stand now before the Power which guards the Threshold.

In earlier times of humanity there were the most different kinds of Mysteries, and men were led in the most different ways to that which we must feel in the words: Now I am standing on the threshold of the spiritual world. I know why this spiritual world is guarded from ordinary consciousness, and I know wherein lies the Being of the protecting Power, the Guardian of the Threshold.

After the pupils had gone through this time of Probation they were led again before the statue. They then received a quite remarkable impression, an impression which in actual fact shook their whole inner being. I can only represent the impression to you by rendering what was practised in that ancient language into modern speech.

When the pupils had advanced as far as I have described each one was again taken singly before the statue. But now the initiating priest, the Initiator, remained with the pupil in the temple. And now the pupil saw, after he once again in soundless silence had listened to that which his own soul could say to him after all his preparation and testing, after a still longer time had elapsed, he saw his initiating priest as if rising above the head of the first statue. And it then appeared as if the sun were further back, and in the space between the statue and the sun the priest appeared as if covering the sun. The statues were very large so that the priest, relatively small in size, only appeared here above the head of the statue, the rest of him was below, to a certain extent covering the sun. Then came forth as if out of a musical-harmonic (the ceremony began with a musical-harmonic) the speech of the initiator. And when the pupil was at this stage it seemed to him as if the words which sounded from the lips of the Initiator were pronounced by the statue. And the words sounded to him as follows:

Ich bin das Bild der Welt
Sieh wie das Sein mir fehlt
Ich lebe in deiner Erkenntnis
Ich werde in dir nun Bekenntnis.

I am the Image of the World
Behold, I lack Being
I live in thy knowledge
I become now in thee Consecration.

This too, made, as you may imagine, a powerful impression on the pupil for he had been prepared for it through that Power which came to meet him in the form of this statue, and which said to him:—

Ich bin das Bild der Welt
Sieh, wie das Sein mir fehlt
Ich lebe in deiner Erkenntnis
Ich werde in dir nun Bekenntnis.

I am the Image of the World
Behold, I lack Being
I live in thy knowledge
I become now in thee Consecration.

Through his preparation as regards the difficulty of the ordinary path of knowledge, he was also prepared to accept this Image as something which released him from those difficulties, even though he could not overcome in himself doubt as regards knowledge, and he was brought to have the feeling that he could not overcome these knowledge doubts. He was prepared inwardly, through the fact that all this had passed through his soul, to cling, as it were, with his whole soul to this Image, to live with the Cosmic Power which was symbolized through this Image, to live with this Cosmic Power, to give himself, so to speak, up to it. He was prepared for this because he experienced that which now came from the mouth of the priest and which seemed to him as if this statue were simply the written character which placed before the pupil the meaning which lies in these four lines.

After the priest had stepped back and the pupil was left again in soundless silence, after the priest had gone out leaving the pupil alone, a second Initiator came after a little time. This one then appeared over that second statue and again out of a musical-harmonic resounded the voice of this priest-initiator. And this voice pronounced the words which I give to you as follows:—

Ich bin das Bild der Welt
Sieh, wie Wahrheit mir fehlt
Willst du mit mir zu leben wagen
So werd ich dir zum Behagen.

I am the Image of the World
Behold, I lack Truth,
If thou wilt dare to live with me
I will be thy Consolation.

And now, after all these preparations, after indeed he had been led to experience inner happiness, inner fullness—I would rather say “inner fullness of joy” instead of “happiness,” because the German word “Gluck” does not give the right meaning—after the pupil, through all that he had experienced, had been brought to feel the necessity that man should come to this inner fullness of joy, now that he, hearing what the second statue said to him, had felt this necessity, he was again on the point, not only almost but actually on the point of recognizing the Cosmic Power which spoke through this second statue as that Power to which he wished to devote himself.

Again the Initiator vanished. Again the pupil was left alone, and during this silence and solitude each one really felt in himself—at least it appeared that each one felt something which may perhaps be expressed in the following words I stand on the threshold of the spiritual world. Here in this physical world there is something we call knowledge, but it has really no value in the spiritual world. And the difficulties which we have in the physical world with regard to knowledge are only the physical reflection of the worthlessness of the knowledge which in this physical world one can gain of the super-sensible, of the spiritual world. So he had the feeling: Many say to me here in the physical world, ‘You must renounce the inner fullness of joy, you must tread the path of asceticism in order to enter the spiritual world,’ but that is really illusion, that is deception. For that which appears in this second statue says itself expressly: “Behold, I lack Truth.” Thus the pupil, on the threshold of knowledge came near to the feeling: One must struggle through to the inner joyful fullness of soul, of mind, shutting out that which here in the physical world through weak human striving, bound up with the physical body, is longed for as truth. The pupils had indeed the feeling that on that side of the threshold things must look quite otherwise than here on this side, that much that is valued on this side is worthless on that, and that even such things as knowledge and truth present a wholly different appearance on the other side of the threshold.

All these were experiences which called forth in the pupil the consciousness that he had reached beyond many illusions and disappointments in the physical world. But there were also feelings which from time to time were like inwardly active flames of fire. So that he felt himself as if consumed by inner fire, as if inwardly annihilated. And the soul swung backwards and forwards between one feeling and the other. The pupil was, so to speak, tested in the balances of knowledge and happiness. While he went through this inner experience it was to him as if the statues themselves desired to speak. He had now attained something like the Inner Word. It was as if the statues themselves would speak. One statue said: I am knowledge. But what I am has no Being. And now the pupil was wholly filled one might say with this feeling of radiating fear: What man has of ideas is only Idea; there is no Being in it. Let man exert his human head—so the pupil felt—he certainly reaches ideas but he never reaches Being. Ideas are illusion, not Being.

And the other statue, as if speaking, said: I am Phantasy, but what I am has no Truth. Thus the two statues confronted the pupil, the one statue represented that ideas have no Being, and the other that the images of Phantasy have no Truth.

I beg you to understand here that nothing dogmatic is being presented to you, no phrases are being coined to express any truths or knowledge. The point is to give the experiences of the pupil in the sanctuaries of Hibernia. The content of that which stands in these sentences is not to be announced as a truth, but that which in the moment of Initiation the pupil experienced in the Hibernian Mysteries must now be written down.

All this the individual pupil experienced in absolute loneliness. His inner experience was so powerful that his outer senses functioned no longer. They functioned no longer. After a time he no longer saw the statue. But he read as in letters of flame on the place upon which he was gazing something indeed which was not outwardly physical, but which he saw with terrific clearness. He read there where he had seen before the head of the Knowledge-statue, he read the word “Science,” and there where he had seen the head of the other statue he read the word “Art.”

After he had experienced this he was led back through the Temple door. The two Initiators again stood by the temple. One of them directed the head of the pupil towards that which the other Initiator pointed out—the Form of Christ.

And at the same time there fell words of warning. The priest who had directed him to the Christ-picture said to him: “Receive the Word and the Power of this Being into thy heart.” And the other priest said: “And receive from Him what the two Images wished to give thee—Science and Art.”

These were, so to speak, the first two Acts of the Hibernian Initiation, the peculiar way in which, in Hibernia, the pupils were led to the actual experience of the innermost Being of Christianity.

And this stamped itself quite deeply into the souls and minds of the pupils. And now, after they had imprinted this into themselves, they could proceed further on their Path of Knowledge. What has to be said, and can be said of this, we shall study in the next few days in connection with other matters.