Basel, 1 October, 1911
Wherever we, as human beings, have striven for knowledge, whether as mystics or realists or in any way at all, the acquisition of self-knowledge has been demanded of us. As has been repeatedly emphasized on other occasions, however, this knowledge of the human soul is by no means as easy to achieve as many people believe — anthroposophists sometimes among them. The anthroposophist should be constantly aware of the hindrances he will encounter in his efforts. The acquisition of self-knowledge is absolutely essential, however, if we are to reach a worthy goal in world existence and if our actions are to be worthy of us as members of humanity.
Let us ask ourselves why must self-knowledge be so difficult for us. Man is truly a complicated being, and if we speak of his inner life, his life of soul, we should not begin by regarding it as something simple and elementary. We should rather have the patience and perseverance, the will, to penetrate always more deeply into this wonderful structure, this organization of the divine-spiritual powers of the world, which can appear as man.
Before we investigate the nature of this self-knowledge, two aspects of the life of the human soul may present themselves to us. Just as the magnet has north and south poles, just as light and darkness are present in the world as the principle poles of the light, so there are two poles in man's life of soul. Both these poles can appear when we observe a person placed in two contrasting situations in life. Suppose we are watching someone standing on the street who is entirely lost in the contemplation of some strikingly beautiful and impressive natural phenomenon. We see how still he is standing, moving neither hand nor foot, never turning his eyes away from the spectacle presented to him, and we are aware that he is engaged in making an inner picture of what he sees. We say that he is absorbed in contemplation of what surrounds him. That is one situation; here is another. A man is walking along the street and feels that someone has insulted him, injured him. Without much thinking, he is roused to anger and gives vent to it by striking the person who insulted him. We are there witnessing a manifestation of forces springing from anger, a manifestation of impulses of will, and we can easily imagine that if the action had been preceded by thought no blow need have been struck. We have now pictured two extremely different deeds. In the one there is only the forming of a mental picture, a process from which all conscious will is absent; in the other there is no thought, no forming of a mental picture, and immediate expression is given to an impulse of will. These two things present us with the two extreme poles of the human soul. One pole is surrender to contemplation, to forming mental pictures, to thought, in which the will has no part; the second pole is the impelling force of will without thought. We have arrived at these facts simply by exoteric observation of outer life.
We can go into these things more deeply, and we come then into those spheres in which we can find our bearings only by summoning the findings of esoteric research to our aid. Here another polarity confronts us — that of sleeping and waking. We know the esoteric significance of the relationship between sleeping and waking. From the elementary concepts of anthroposophy we know that in waking life the four members of a man's being — physical body, etheric body, astral body, and I — are organically and actively interwoven but that in sleep the physical and etheric bodies remain in bed while the astral body and I are poured out into the whole great world bordering directly on our physical existence. We could also approach these facts from a different point of view. We might ask what there is to be said about contemplation of the world, forming mental pictures, thinking, and the will and its impulses during waking life on the one hand and during sleep on the other.
You see that if one penetrates more deeply into this question it becomes evident that in his present physical existence man is, in a certain sense, essentially always asleep. He sleeps differently during the night, however, from the way he sleeps during the day. You can be convinced of this in a purely outer way, because you know that one can wake in the esoteric sense during the day, that is to say, one can become clairvoyant and see into the spiritual world. The ordinary physical body is asleep to this observation, and one can rightly say that it is an awakening when man learns to use his spiritual senses. In the night, of course, we are asleep in the normal way. One can therefore say that ordinary sleep is sleep in relation to the outer physical world; daytime consciousness at the present time is sleep in relation to the spiritual world.
These facts can be considered in yet another light. On deeper scrutiny one realizes that in the ordinary waking condition of physical life, man has, as a rule, little power or control over his will. The will quite detaches itself from daily life. Observe attentively what we call the human will, and you will see how little man has in his control during daily life regarding the will impulse. Only consider how little of all you do from morning to evening is really the outcome of your own thinking and forming of mental pictures, of your personal, individual decisions. When someone knocks at the door and you say “Come in!” that cannot be called a true decision of your own thinking and willing. If you are hungry and seat yourself for a meal, that cannot be called a decision made by the will, because it is occasioned by your condition, by the needs of your organism. Try to picture your daily life, and you will see how little the will is directly influenced from the human center. Why is this the case? Esoteric teachings show us that regarding his will man actually sleeps by day; that is, he does not really live within his will impulses at all. We can evolve better and better concepts and mental pictures, or we can become more highly moral, more refined individuals, but we can do nothing regarding the will. If we cultivate better thoughts we can work indirectly upon the will, but we can do nothing directly to the will that concerns life. This is because in our daily life our will is influenced only in an indirect way, namely, through sleep. When you are asleep you do not think; you do not form mental pictures. The will, however, awakes, permeates our organism from outside, and invigorates it. We feel strengthened in the morning because what has penetrated into our organism is of the nature of will. That we do not perceive this activity of the will, that we know nothing about it, becomes comprehensible if we consider that all conceptual activity sleeps when we sleep. To begin with, therefore, we will offer this suggestion for further contemplation, further meditation. You will see that the more progress you make in self-knowledge, the more you will find confirmation of the truth of the words that man sleeps in his will when he is awake and sleeps in his conceptual life when he is asleep. The life of will sleeps by day; the life of thought sleeps by night.
If man is unaware that the will does not sleep during the night, this is because he only understands how to be awake in his life of thought. The will does not sleep during the night, but it works then in a fiery element, works upon his body in order to restore what has been used up by day.
There are thus two poles in human beings, the life of observation and forming mental pictures and the impulses of will, and the human being is related in entirely opposite ways to these two poles. These are only the two poles, however. The whole life of soul lies in various nuances between these two poles, and we shall come nearer to understanding this soul life by bringing the microcosmic life of soul into relation to what we know as the higher worlds.
From what has been said we have seen that the life of forming mental pictures is one of the poles of one's soul life. This life of forming mental pictures is something that seems unreal to externally, materialistically minded people. We often hear the thought expressed, “Oh, mental pictures and thoughts are only mental pictures and thoughts!” This is intended to imply that if one takes a piece of bread or meat into one's hands, this is a reality, but a thought is only a thought. By this is meant that one cannot eat a thought, and thus a thought is not real but “only” a thought. But why? Basically, because what man calls his thoughts are related to what thoughts really are as a shadow-image of an object is to the thing itself The shadow-image of a flower points you to the flower itself, to the reality. So it is with thoughts. Human thinking is the shadow-image of mental pictures and beings belonging to a higher world, the world called the astral plane. You represent thinking rightly to yourself when you picture the human head thus (this is not absolutely correct but simply sketched schematically). In this head are thoughts, which I shall represent with these dashes. These thoughts that are in the head, however, must be pictured as living beings on the astral plane. Beings of the most varied kinds are at work there in the form of teeming mental pictures and deeds that cast their shadow-images into human beings, and these processes are reflected in the human head as thinking. Continuous streams move from your head into the astral plane, and these are the shadows that establish the life of thought within your head.
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As well as what we can call the life of thought, there is yet another life within the human soul. In ordinary life one distinguishes (this is not entirely correct, but I say it so that one can receive a concept from ordinary life) between a life of thought and a life of feeling. Feelings fall into two categories: those of pleasure and sympathy and those of displeasure and antipathy. The former are aroused by good, benevolent deeds; antipathy is aroused by evil, malevolent deeds. Here there is something more than and different from the mere forming of mental pictures. We form mental pictures of things regardless of any other factor. Our soul, however, experiences sympathy or antipathy only regarding what is beautiful and good or what is ugly and evil. Just as everything that takes place in the human being as thoughts points to the astral plane, so everything connected with sympathy or antipathy points to the realm we call Lower Devachan. Just as I could draw lines earlier between mental pictures and the astral world, so now in relation to feeling I can point upward to Devachan or the heavenly world. Processes in the heavenly world, or Devachan, are projected, mainly into our breast, as feelings of sympathy or antipathy for what is beautiful or ugly, for what is good or evil. In what we can call our experience of the moral-aesthetic world, we bear within our souls shades of the heavenly world or Lower Devachan.
There is still a third province in the life of the human soul that we must strictly distinguish from the mere preference for good deeds. There is a difference between standing by and taking pleasure in witnessing some kindly deed and setting the will in action and actually performing some such deed oneself. I will call pleasure in good and beautiful deeds or displeasure in evil and ugly deeds the aesthetic element, as opposed to the moral element that impels a person to do good. The moral element is at a higher level than the purely aesthetic; mere pleasure or displeasure is at a lower level than the will to do something good or evil. In so far as our soul feels constrained to give expression to moral impulses, these impulses are the shadow-images of Higher Devachan, of the higher heavenly world.
We can easily picture these three separate stages of activity of the human soul — the purely intellectual (thoughts, mental pictures, observation), the aesthetic (pleasure or displeasure), and the moral (revealed in impulses to do good or evil deeds) — as microcosmic images within human experience of the three realms which, in the macrocosm, the great world, lie one above the other. The astral world is shadowed in the world of thought, the intellectual world; the Devachanic world is shadowed in the aesthetic sphere of pleasure and displeasure; and the Higher Devachanic world is shadowed as morality.
Shadow-images of Beings of the Astral Plane
Sympathy and Antipathy:
Shadow-images of Beings of Lower Devachan
Shadow-images of Beings of Higher Devachan
If we connect this with what was said previously concerning the two poles of the human soul, we must experience the pole of intellect as that which dominates the waking life, the life in which man is intellectually awake. During the day man is awake regarding his intellect; during sleep he is awake regarding his will. Because at night he is asleep regarding his intellect, he becomes unconscious of what he is undertaking with his will. What we call moral principles and impulses are working indirectly into the will. In fact, man needs the life of sleep in order that the moral impulses he absorbs through the life of thought can come into effective activity. In his ordinary life today, man is capable of accomplishing what is right only on the plane of intellect; he is less able to accomplish anything on the moral plane, for there he is dependent upon help coming from the macrocosm.
What is already within us can bring about the further development of intellectuality, but the gods must come to our aid if we are to acquire greater moral strength. We sink into sleep in order that we may plunge into the divine will where the intellect does not intervene and where divine forces transform into the power of will the moral principles we receive, where they instill into our will what we could otherwise receive only into our thoughts.
Between these two poles, that of the will that wakes by night and that of the intellect that is awake by day, lies the sphere of aesthetic appreciation that is continuously present in man. During the day man is not fully awake; only the most prosaic, pedantic individuals are always fully awake in waking life. Human beings basically must actually dream by day, they must always be able to dream a little when awake; they must be able to give themselves up to art, poetry, or some other activity that is not concerned wholly with crass reality. Those who can give themselves up in this way form a bond that can enliven and invigorate the whole of existence. To give oneself up to such thoughts is to a certain extent like a dream penetrating into waking life. You know well that dreams enter into the life of sleep; these are real dreams, dreams that permeate the other consciousness in sleep. This is also something that human beings need by day if they do not wish to lead an arid, empty, unhealthy waking life. Dreams come during sleep at night in any case, and no proof of this is required. Midway between the two poles of night dreaming and day dreaming lies the condition that can live in fantasy.
So here again there is a threefold life of soul. The intellectual element in which we are really awake brings us shadow-images of the astral plane when by day we give ourselves up to a thought, wherein originate the most fruitful ideas for daily life and great inventions. Then during sleep, when we dream, these dreams play into our life of sleep, and images from Lower Devachan are shadowed into us. When we work during sleep, impressing morality into our will — we cannot perceive this directly, but certainly we can perceive its effects — when we are able to imbue our thinking during the night with the influence of divine-spiritual powers, then the impulses we perceive are shadowings from Higher Devachan, the higher heavenly world. These are the moral impulses and feelings that live within us and lead us to say that human life fundamentally is justified only when we place our thoughts at the service of the good and the beautiful, when we allow the very heart's blood of divine-spiritual life to stream through our intellectual activities, permeating them with moral impulses.
What we present here as the life of the human soul, first from outer, exoteric observation and then from observation of a more mystical character, is revealed by deeper esoteric research. The processes that have been described in their more outer aspect can also be perceived in man through clairvoyance. When a man stands in front of us today in his waking state and we observe him with the clairvoyant eye, certain rays of light are seen streaming continually from the heart toward the head. If we wish to sketch this schematically, we must draw the region of the heart here and show the continuous streamings from there to the brain, flowing in the head around the organ known in anatomy as the pineal gland.
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These rays of light stream from the heart to the head and flow around the pineal gland. These streamings arise because human blood, which is a physical substance, is continually dissolving itself into etheric substance. In the region of the heart there is a continual transformation of the blood into this delicate etheric substance that streams upward toward the head and flows glimmeringly around the pineal gland. This process, the etherization of the blood, can be shown in the human being throughout his waking life. It is different now, however, in the sleeping human being. When a human being sleeps, the occult observer is able to see a continual streaming from outside into the brain and also in the reverse direction, from the brain to the heart.
These streams, however, which in sleeping man come from outside, from cosmic space, from the macrocosm, and flow into the inner constitution of the physical and etheric bodies lying in the bed, reveal something remarkable when they are investigated. These rays vary greatly in different individuals. Sleeping human beings differ greatly from one another, and if those who are a little vain only knew how badly they betray themselves to esoteric observation when they go to sleep during public gatherings, they would try their best not to let this happen!
Moral qualities are revealed distinctly in the particular coloring of the streams that flow into human beings during sleep; in a person of lower moral principles the streams are quite different from what is observable in a person of higher principles. Endeavors to disguise one's nature by day are useless. In the face of the higher cosmic powers, no disguise is possible. In the case of a man who has only a slight inclination toward moral principles the rays streaming into him are a brownish red in color — various shades tending toward brownish red. In a man of high moral ideals the rays are lilac-violet. At the moment of waking or of going to sleep, a kind of struggle takes place in the region of the pineal gland between what streams down from above and what streams upward from below. When a man is awake, the intellectual element streams upward from below in the form of currents of light, and what is of moral-aesthetic nature streams downward from above. At the moment of waking or of going to sleep, these two currents meet, and in the man of low morality a violent struggle between the two streams takes place in the region of the pineal gland. In the man of high morality and an outstreaming intellectuality, a peaceful expansion of glimmering light appears in the region of the pineal gland. This gland is almost surrounded by a small sea of light in the moment between waking and sleeping. Moral nobility is revealed when a calm glow surrounds the pineal gland at these moments. In this way a man's moral character is reflected in him, and this calm glow of light often extends as far as the region of the heart. Two streams can therefore be perceived in man — one from the macrocosm, the other from the microcosm.
To estimate the full significance of how these two streams meet in man, we must first consider what was said previously in a more external way about the life of the soul and how this life reveals the threefold polarity of the intellectual, the aesthetic, and the moral elements that stream downward from above, from the brain toward the heart; we must also grasp the full significance of what was said about turning our attention to the corresponding phenomenon in the macrocosm. This corresponding phenomenon can be described today as the result of the most scrupulously careful esoteric research of recent years, undertaken by individuals among the genuine Rosicrucians. (see Note 7 ) These investigations have shown that something corresponding to what has been described in connection with the microcosm also takes place in the macrocosm. You will understand this more fully as time goes on.
Just as in the region of the human heart the blood is continually being transformed into etheric substance, so a similar process takes place in the macrocosm. We understand this when we turn our eyes to the Mystery of Golgotha, to the moment when the blood flowed from the wounds of Jesus Christ. This blood must not be regarded simply as chemical substance, but by reason of all that has been described as the nature of Jesus of Nazareth, it must be recognized as something altogether unique. When it flowed from His wounds and into the earth, a substance was imparted to our earth which, in uniting with it, constituted an event of the greatest possible significance for all future ages of the earth, and it could take place only once. What happened with this blood in the ages that followed? Nothing different from what otherwise takes place in the heart of man. In the course of earthly evolution, this blood passed through a process of “etherization.” Just as our blood streams upward from the heart as ether, so, since the Mystery of Golgotha, the etherized blood of Christ Jesus has lived in the ether of the earth. The etheric body of the earth is permeated by what the blood that flowed on Golgotha became. This is important. If what has thus come to pass through Christ Jesus had not taken place, man's condition on the earth could only have been as previously described. Since the Mystery of Golgotha, however, there has existed the continuous possibility for the activity of the etheric blood of Christ to flow together with the streamings from below upward, from heart to head.
Because the etherized blood of Jesus of Nazareth is present in the etheric body of the earth, it accompanies the etherized human blood streaming upward from the heart to the brain, so that not only do these streams that I described earlier meet in man, but the human bloodstream unites with the bloodstream of Christ Jesus. A union of these two streams can come about, however, only if man is able to unfold true understanding of what is contained in the Christ impulse. Otherwise, there can be no union; the two streams then mutually repel each other, thrust each other away. In every age of earthly evolution, we must acquire understanding in the form suitable for that epoch. At the time when Christ Jesus lived on earth, preceding events could be rightly understood by those who came to His forerunner, John, and were baptised by him according to the rite described in the Gospels. They experienced baptism in order that their sin, that is to say, the karma of their previous lives, karma, that had come to an end, might be changed, and in order that they might realize that the most powerful impulse in earthly evolution was about to descend into a physical body. The evolution of humanity progresses, however, and in our present age it is important that man should learn to understand that the knowledge contained in spiritual science must be received and gradually be able so to fire the streams flowing from heart to brain that anthroposophy can be understood. If this comes to pass, individuals will be able to comprehend the event that has its beginning in the twentieth century: the appearance of the etheric Christ in contradistinction to the physical Christ of Palestine.
We have now reached the moment in time when the etheric Christ enters into the life of the earth and will become visible, at first to a small number of people, through a natural clairvoyance. Then in the course of the next 3,000 years, He will become visible to greater and greater numbers of people. This will inevitably come to pass; it is an event of nature. That it will come to pass is as true as were the achievements of electricity in the nineteenth century. A certain number of individuals will see the etheric Christ and will themselves experience the event that took place at Damascus. This will depend, however, upon such human beings learning to observe the moment when Christ draws near to them. In only a few decades from now it will happen, particularly to those who are young in years — already preparation is being made for this — that some person here or there has certain experiences. If only he has truly sharpened his vision through engaging himself with anthroposophy, he may become aware that suddenly someone has come near to help him, to make him alert to this or that. The truth is that Christ has come to him, although he believes that what he sees is a physical man. He will come to realize, however, that this is a super-sensible being, because it immediately vanishes. Many a human being will have this experience when sitting silently in his room, heavy-hearted and oppressed, not knowing which way to turn. The door will open, and the etheric Christ will appear and speak words of consolation to him. The Christ will become a living comforter to men. However strange it may as yet seem, it is true nevertheless that many a time when people, even in considerable numbers, are sitting together not knowing what to do and waiting, they will see the etheric Christ. He Himself will be there, will confer with them, will cast His word into such gatherings. We are now approaching these times, and the positive, constructive element now described will take hold of the evolution of humanity.
No word shall be said here against the great advances made by culture in our day; these achievements are essential for the welfare and the freedom of human beings. Whatever can be gained in the way of outer progress, however, in mastering the forces of nature, is something small and insignificant compared with the blessing bestowed upon the person who experiences the awakening in his soul through Christ, Who will now take hold of human culture and its concerns. What thereby awakens in human beings will be unifying, positive forces. Christ brings constructive forces into human civilization.
If we were to look into early post-Atlantean times, we would find that human beings built their dwelling places by methods quite different from those used today. In those days they made use of all kinds of growing things. Even when building palaces, they summoned nature to their aid by having plants and branches of trees interlace with one another, and so on. Today, human beings must build with broken fragments. We make all culture of the outer world with the products of fragmentation. In the course of the coming years you will understand even better how much in our culture is the product of destruction.
Light is destroying itself within our post-Atlantean earthly processes. Until the time of Atlantis the earthly process was a progressive process, but since then it has been a process of decay. What is light? Light decays, and the decaying light is electricity. What we know as electricity is light that is destroying itself within matter. The chemical force that undergoes a transformation within earthly evolution is magnetism. Yet a third force will become active, and if electricity seems to work wonders today, this third force will affect civilization in a still more miraculous way. The more of this force we employ, the faster the earth will tend to become a corpse and its spiritual part prepare for the Jupiter embodiment. Forces have to be applied to destroy the earth in order that man can become free of the earth and that the earth's body can fall away. As long as the earth was involved in a progressive process, this was not done, since only the decaying earth can use the great achievements of electricity. Strange as this sounds, it must gradually become known. We must understand the process of evolution to evaluate our culture in the right way. We shall learn thereby that it is necessary for the earth to be destroyed; otherwise, the spirit will not become free. We shall also learn to value what is positive, namely, the penetration of spiritual forces into our existence on earth.
We thus realize what a tremendous advance was signified by the fact that Christ necessarily lived for three years on the earth in a specially prepared human body in order that He might be visible to physical eyes. Through what came to pass during those three years, human beings have become ripe to behold the Christ Who will move among them in an etheric body, Who will enter into earthly life as truly and effectively as did the physical Christ in Palestine. If human beings observe such happenings with undimmed senses they will know that there is an etheric body that will move about within the physical world, but they will know that this is the only etheric body able to work in the physical world as a human physical body works. It will differ from a physical body in this respect only, that it can be in two, three, even in a hundred, a thousand places at the same time. This is possible only for an etheric, not for a physical form. What will be accomplished in humanity through this further advance is that the two poles I have mentioned, the intellectual and the moral, will more and more become one; they will merge into unity. This will come about because in the course of the next millennia human beings will learn increasingly to observe the etheric Christ in the world; more and more they will be permeated in waking life, too, by the direct working of the good from the spiritual world. Whereas now the will sleeps by day, and man is only able to influence it indirectly through thought, in the course of the next millennia, through what from our time onward is working in us under the aegis of Christ, it will come about that the deeds of human beings in waking condition, too, can be directly productive of good.
The dream of Socrates, that virtue be able to be taught, will come true; more and more it will be possible on earth not only for our intellect to be stimulated and energized by this teaching but, through this teaching, for moral impulses to be spread abroad. Schopenhauer said, “To preach morality is easy; to establish it is most difficult.” Why is this? Because no morality has yet been spread by preaching. It is quite possible to recognize moral principles and yet not abide by them. For most people the Pauline saying holds good, that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. This will change, through the moral fire streaming from the figure of Christ. Through this, the need for moral impulses on earth will be increasingly clear to man. Man will transform the earth in so far as he feels with ever-increasing strength that morality is an essential part of the earth. In the future, to be immoral will be possible only for people who receive immoral help, who are goaded in this direction, who are possessed by evil demons, by Ahrimanic, Asuric powers, and who strive for this possession.
This is the future condition of the earth: there will be a sufficient number of people who increasingly teach morality and at the same time offer a moral foundation, but there will also be those who by their own free decision surrender themselves to the evil powers and thus enable an excess of evil to be pitted against a good humanity. Nobody will be forced to do this; it will lie in the free will of each individual.
Then will come the time when the earth passes into conditions which, as in so much else, are only described in the great definitions of Oriental occultism, Oriental mysticism. The moral atmosphere will by then have gathered considerable strength. For many thousands of years Oriental mysticism has spoken of this moment in time, and since the coming of Gautama Buddha it has spoken especially strongly about that future condition when the earth will be bathed in a “moral-ether-atmosphere.” Ever since the time of the ancient Rishis it was the great hope of Oriental mysticism that this moral impulse would come to the earth from Vishva-Karman or, as Zarathustra proclaimed, from Ahura Mazdao. Oriental mysticism thus foresaw that this moral impulse, this moral atmosphere, would come to the earth from the being we call the Christ. It was upon Him, upon Christ, that the hopes of Oriental mysticism were set.
Oriental mystics were able to picture the consequences of that event but not the actual form it would take. They could picture that within a period of 5,000 years after the great Buddha achieved Enlightenment, pure Akashic forms, bathed in fire, lit by the sun, would appear in the wake of one Who could not be recognized through Oriental mysticism. A wonderful picture in very truth: that something would come to make it possible for the Sons of Fire and of Light to move about the moral atmosphere of the earth, not in physically embodied form but as pure Akashic forms within the earth's moral atmosphere. Five thousand years after Gautama Buddha's Enlightenment, so it was said, the teacher will also be there to make known to human beings what these wonderful forms are, these pure forms of Fire and Light. This teacher — the Maitreya Buddha — will appear 3,000 years after our time and will be able to teach people about the Christ impulse.
Oriental mysticism thus unites with the Christian knowledge of the West to form a beautiful unity. It will also be disclosed that he who will appear 3,000 years after our time as the Maitreya Buddha will have incarnated again and again on the earth as a Bodhisattva, as the successor of Gautama Buddha. One of his incarnations was that of Jeshu ben Pandira, who lived a hundred years before the beginning of our era. The being who incarnated in Jeshu ben Pandira is the same one who will one day become the Maitreya Buddha and who from century to century returns ever and again in a body of flesh, not yet as Buddha himself but as Bodhisattva. Even in our age there proceeds from him who later will be the Maitreya Buddha the most significant teachings concerning the Christ being and the Sons of Fire — the Agnishvattas — of Indian mysticism.
Those things by which man can recognize the being who is to become the Maitreya Buddha are common to all genuine Eastern mysticism and to Christian wisdom. The Maitreya Buddha who, in contrast to the Sons of Fire, will appear in a physical body as Bodhisattva, can be recognized by the fact that at first in his youth his development gives no intimation of the nature of the individuality within him. Only those possessed of understanding will recognize the presence of a Bodhisattva in such a human being, manifesting between the ages of thirty and thirty-three and not before. Something akin to an exchange of personality then takes place. The Maitreya Buddha will reveal his identity to humanity in the thirty-third year of his life. As Christ Jesus began his lifework in His thirtieth year, so do the Bodhisattvas, who will continue to proclaim the Christ impulses, reveal themselves in the thirty-third year of their lives. The Maitreya Buddha himself, as transformed Bodhisattva, speaking in powerful words of which no adequate idea can be given at the present time, will proclaim the great secrets of existence. He will speak in a language that must first be created, because no human being today could find the words with which the Maitreya Buddha will address humanity. The reason human beings cannot yet be addressed in this way is that the physical instrument for this form of speech does not yet exist. The teaching of the Enlightened One will not stream into human beings as teachings only but will pour moral impulses into their souls. Such words cannot yet be uttered by a physical larynx; in our time they can be present only in the spiritual worlds.
Anthroposophy is the preparation for everything that will come in the future. Those who take the process of man’s evolution seriously resolve not to allow the soul's development to come to a standstill but to ensure that its development will eventually enable the spiritual part of the earth to become free, leaving the grosser part to fall away like a corpse — for human beings could frustrate the whole process. Those who desire evolution to succeed must acquire understanding of the spiritual life through what we today call anthroposophy. The cultivation of anthroposophy thus becomes a duty; knowledge becomes something that we actually experience, something toward which we have responsibility. When we are inwardly aware of this responsibility and have this resolve, when we experience the mysteries of the world so as to arouse in us the wish to become anthroposophists, then our experience is right. Anthroposophy must not, however, be something that merely satisfies our curiosity; it must rather be something without which we cannot live. Only when this is the case do we experience in the right sense; only then do we live as living building stones in that great construction that must be carried out in human souls and that can embrace all humanity.
Anthroposophy is thus a revelation of true world phenomena that will confront people of the future and will confront our own souls, whether still in a physical body or in the life between death and a new birth. The coming upheaval will concern us regardless of whether we are still living in the physical body or whether we have laid it aside. People must acquire understanding of the earth in the physical body if it is to take effect between death and a new birth. To those who acquire some understanding of Christ now in the physical body, it will make no difference, when the moment comes to behold Christ, whether or not they have already passed through the portal of death. But if those who now reject understanding of the Christ have already passed through the portal of death when this moment arrives, they must wait until their next incarnation, because such understanding cannot be acquired between death and a new birth. Once the foundation has been acquired, however, it endures, and then Christ becomes visible also during the period between death and the new birth. Anthroposophy is thus not only something we learn for our physical life but also has value when we have laid aside the physical body at death.
This is what I wished to impart to you today as an understanding of humanity and a handle in answering many questions. Self-knowledge is difficult because man is such a complex being. The reason for this complexity is that he is connected with all the higher worlds and beings. We have within us shadow-images of the great world, and all the members of our constitution — the physical, etheric, and astral bodies and the I — are worlds for divine beings. Our physical, etheric, and astral bodies and I form one world; the other is the higher world, the world of heaven. For the divine-spiritual beings, the higher worlds are the bodily members in high, divine-spiritual worlds.
Man is so complex because he is truly a mirror-image of the spiritual world. Realization of this should make him conscious of his intrinsic worth. From this knowledge, however, that although we are pictures of the spiritual world we nevertheless fall far short of what we ought to be — from this knowledge we also acquire, in addition to consciousness of our worth as human beings, the right attitude of modesty and humility toward the macrocosm and its gods.
Rudolf Steiner's Answers to Questions at the End of the Lecture
Question: How are the words used by St. Paul, “to speak in tongues” (I Cor. 12:10), to be understood?
Answer: In exceptional human beings it can happen that not only is there present the phenomenon of speaking in the waking state but something otherwise present only in sleep-consciousness flows into this speaking. This is the phenomenon about which St. Paul spoke. Goethe spoke about it in the same sense; he has written two most interesting treatises about this phenomenon.
Question: How will one understand Christ's words of consolation?
Answer: Human beings will feel these words of consolation as though they arise in their own hearts. They can also be received through physical hearing.
Question: What is the relationship of chemical forces and substances to the spiritual world?
Answer: There are in the world a number of substances that can combine with or separate from each other. What we call chemical action is projected into the physical world from the world of Devachan — the realm of the harmony of the spheres. In the union of two substances according to their atomic weights, we have a shadowing of two tones of the harmony of the spheres. The chemical affinity between two substances in the physical world is like a shadowing from the world of the harmony of the spheres. The numerical ratios in chemistry are really an expression of the numerical ratios of the harmony of the spheres, which has become dumb and silent owing to the densification of matter. If one were able actually to bring material substance into etheric dilution and to perceive the atomic numbers as the inner formative principle, one would hear the harmony of the spheres.
We have the physical world, the astral world, the Lower Devachan, and the Higher Devachan. If one thrusts the body down lower even than the physical world, one comes into the sub-physical world, the lower astral world, the lower or evil Lower Devachan, and the lower or evil Higher Devachan. The evil astral world is the province of Ahriman and the evil Higher Devachan the province of the Asuras. If one drives chemical action down beneath the physical plane, into the evil Devachanic world, magnetism arises. If one thrusts light down into the sub-material — that is to say, a stage deeper than the material world-electricity arises. If what lives in the harmony of the spheres is thrust down farther still, into the province of the Asuras, an even more terrible force, which it will not be possible to keep hidden very much longer, is generated. One can only hope that when this force comes — a force we must conceive as being far, far stronger than the most violent electrical discharge — one can only hope that before some discoverer gives this force into the hands of humanity, human beings will no longer have anything immoral left in them.
Question: What is electricity?
Answer: Electricity is light in the sub-material state. Light is there compressed to the utmost degree. An inward quality, too, must be ascribed to light; light is itself at every point. Warmth can extend itself in the three dimensions of space. In light we must speak of a fourth dimension; it can extend itself in a fourfold way; it has the quality of inwardness as a fourth dimension.
Question: What happens to the earth's corpse?
Answer: As the residue of the ancient Moon evolution we have our present moon that circles the earth. Similarly, there will be a residue of the earth that will circle Jupiter. Then these residues will gradually dissolve into the universal ether. On Venus there will no longer be any residue. Venus will manifest, to begin with, as pure warmth, then it will become light, and then it will pass over into the spiritual world. The residue left behind by the earth will be like a corpse. This is a path along which man must not accompany the earth, however, because he would thereby be exposed to dreadful torments. There are, however, many beings who will accompany this corpse, since they themselves will by that means develop to a higher stage.Reflected as sub-physical world: Astral World ............. the province of Lucifer Lower Devachan ........... the province of Ahriman Higher Devachan .......... the province of the Asuras
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