Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz
II. The Christ Impulse in Historical Development II
19 September 1911, Locarno
I am very happy to be speaking to you today — among these peaceful mountains and within view of the wonderful lake about matters appealing to our deepest interests, that is, revelations, realities of the life of the spirit. And the most obvious fact that strikes those of us who have gathered here today to visit our Alpine friends, is this: that a number of our friends have withdrawn up here, not necessarily for the sake of solitude, but at least for the peace and charm of the mountains. And if we then ask ourselves what our hearts are looking for, we might find that it is something very similar to man's present-day longing for the spirit. And perhaps it is no illusion to assume that in the world outside the same impulse is at work as the one that spurred you on to come up here into the solitude of the mountains.
Man knows, or senses dimly, that there is spirituality in all that surrounds us in nature, in forest and crag, wind and storm; the kind of spirituality which, according to a well-known figure in the West, is more ‘Consistent than man's activities’, and his feeling and thinking. We cannot help sensing that in everything that surrounds us as forest and crag, mountain and lake, the spirit is coming to expression. And in Spiritual Science we become more and more aware that there is spirit in everything that expresses itself in nature round about us and in the firm earth beneath us. Looking back into the ancient past we can tell ourselves that we descend from a spiritual past and are the children of ancient times. Just as we create our works of art, exploring what we can make of the material to hand, in just such a way did our ancestors create their implements and tools. And the phenomena of nature are the product of the work of the ancient gods in times long past. And if we permeate ourselves with such a feeling, the whole of nature will gradually become for us what it has always been for Spiritual Science. Even though it will seem a maya, it will become the kind of maya that is beautiful and great, for the very reason that it is the creation of the divine-spiritual. So when we go out into nature we are among memorials reminding us of the spiritual activity that took place in ancient pre-earthly times. Then we are filled with that tremendous enthusiasm that deepens our feeling for nature and can fill us with warmth.
When we can enhance our feeling for nature through Spiritual Science we should also feel that it is in a certain respect a privilege to have the good fortune to be within the spirit of nature. And it is a privilege. For we can and ought to bear in mind how many people there are who are unable to get close to the creations of nature in their present incarnation. How many people there are today, especially in cities, who no longer have the chance of feeling the uplifting quality of the divine in nature! And when we look at nature with a power of observation that has been enhanced by spiritual science, then we know the intimate connection that exists between what we feel for nature and what we call morality — moral life being the highest thing we can strive for in this life.
It is a paradox perhaps, but it is true to say that those people who live in towns and have to forget what oats, wheat and barley look like, unfortunately get separated in their hearts, too, from the deepest moral sources of their existence.
If we bear this in mind, then we will certainly regard it as a privilege to be able to be close to the sources of nature's spirit, for a feeling like this of itself leads to another which, supported by Spiritual Science, must become known in the world: that is, the truth of reincarnation. To begin with we take it on trust, this truth concerning man's repeated earth lives. But how can a soul stand firm at the present time, when it sees what very different paths of life people tread, and experiences all the glaring but inevitable inequalities in the world. Then the human being who is privileged to be near the well-springs of nature, not only feels that he has every reason to be happy in knowing the truths of Spiritual Science, but he also feels a great responsibility, a great obligation towards this knowledge of the spiritual life. For what is the greatest thing that these souls will be able to bring to the gate of death, these souls who today have the privilege of enjoying peace and health in nature? What will be their finest contribution?
If we look for a moment at what is taught us by the spiritual powers that are closer to us now than they were in the nineteenth century, what can we learn? We can learn, without any doubt, that we can take something different with us into our following incarnations, in our deepest soul, in our deepest feeling, if we imbue ourselves with Spiritual Science, than we could if we kept aloof from it. Nowadays we are certainly not expected to take in as an abstract theory what Spiritual Science can give us. What your souls receive, what enters into you like a theory, is there so that it can come alive in you. And this happens with some people in this incarnation and with others in the next. It will become real, immediate life, the life we cannot conceive of unless we devote ourselves to that prophetic vision which prompts us to ask: where does this development lead? With all its fruits it leads straight into outer life. And what we can only express in the form of words today, will become vision, vision in the young, vision in the old, vision that brings blessing.
All those people who have not yet been able to approach the warmth and light of Spiritual Science and to acquire the fruits of Spiritual Science for themselves, will feel the blessing of such vision! Everything that can exist in the way of outer personality will in the future have that fire in it for which our present-day theories are the fuel. It is just a handful of people who have the will to be the real bearers of what, in the future, will have to reach all those who are in need of it, that is the real, genuine fruits of human love and human compassion. We do not study Spiritual Science for the sake of our own satisfaction but so that we can acquire gentle hands that have the power to bless, and gentle eyes from which power can shine forth, so that we can give out all that springs forth from the eyes, all that we call spiritual vision. Those people in particular who have this attitude, and who have the good fortune to live so close to nature should pay heed right now to the way everything is changing at the present time! It is changing, in fact it is changing throughout the cosmos.
It is wrong to say nature makes no leaps. Nature is perpetually making leaps, from leaf to blossom, from blossom to fruit. When the chick develops out of the egg, that is a leap. To say that nature makes no leaps could not be further from the truth. There are leaps everywhere, sudden transitions. And we are living in such a time of transition. During our lifetime there has been a year of great importance: 11a year of great importance: the year 1899: 1899 marks the end of a period lasting from 3112 BC. to 1899 AD., which in Indian is called Kali Yuga, meaning ‘The Dark Age’. the year 1899. The turn of the twentieth century is significant for the whole of cultural development because it is the time when the stream that came from the East and mingled with Western culture ceased in order to make way for what can be drawn from the life of nature to enliven the deepest levels of our life of soul.
Those men whose spirit is awakened will be able to see beings of a new order in the processes of nature. Whilst the human being who has not yet become clairvoyant will increasingly be able to experience that despite all his melancholy feelings concerning the continual death process, there is something of a rejuvenating quality in nature, the human being whose clairvoyant faculties have awakened will see new elemental beings issuing out of dying nature. Whilst in outer physical nature relatively little will be seen of the great change at the turn of the twentieth century, the spiritually awakened soul will feel: times are changing, and we human beings have the task of preparing spirit knowledge. It will become more and more important to observe such things and carry them in our consciousness. For men are free either to take up such things for the salvation of humanity or to let them pass them by, which will lead to disaster.
That is to say, at the turn of the century a relatively new kingdom of nature-beings will come into being, arising from nature like a spiritual spring, and human beings will be able to see and experience this. And further: though it would show great apathy of soul if a person were unable to perceive the sprouting forth of springtime, there is more to come. Those people who will grow able to experience as a fact of nature what has just been described, will preserve these impressions in quite a different way than through ordinary memory. They will carry beyond the threshold the new elemental spirits that stream towards them, as the seeds carry their life through the winter into spring. What was experienced in spring and what was experienced in autumn, this bursting forth of nature in the spring and this melancholy in autumn, had no connection one with the other in the past. What the cosmos gives out from its memory enables us to carry over something of what we have experienced in the autumn into the spring. If we let the elemental forces of autumn work in us, then we can feel in a new way what will be given us in the future. Everything will acquire something new in the future, and it is our duty to prepare ourselves through our knowledge of the spiritual to understand it. For Spiritual Science has not come into the world through the personal whims of men, but because new things are happening in the heavens, that can only be perceived when men take up the results of spiritual research. This is why the theosophical movement has come into being.
In the life of morality it is the same as it is in nature: the life of the soul will experience a transformation. Certain things will happen of which men have as yet no idea. I would just like to mention one example. There will be more and more people, especially children, who will have the experience that when they intend doing something or other in the future, a voice will speak in their souls urging them to refrain from action and listen to what is to be told them from the spiritual world. Something will come to meet them, appearing before their eyes like a vision. First of all they will be strangely touched by these visions. When they have made a greater contact with Spiritual Science they will then realise that they are seeing the karmic counterpart of the deeds they have just done. The soul is being shown: you must strive to take yourself in hand so that you can take part in the evolution of the future. And it is also being shown that there is no such thing as a deed without an after-effect. And this will be a driving force bringing order into our moral life. Moral impulses will be put into our souls like a karma, in the course of time, if we prepare ourselves to open our spiritual eyes and our spiritual ears to what can speak to us from the spiritual world.
We know that it will take a long time before men learn to see in the spirit. But it will begin in the twentieth century, and a greater and greater number of people will acquire this capacity in the course of three thousand years. Humanity will devote itself to such things during the next three millennia. In order that these things can happen, however, the main streams of development — again under the direction of the spiritual guidance of humanity — will take their course in such a way that human beings will be able to come to an understanding of occult life as I have described it today.
There are two main streams. The first is known through the fact that
there is a so-called Western philosophy, and that the most elementary
concepts of the spiritual world arise out of the purest depths of
philosophy. And it is remarkable what we see when we make a survey of
what has gradually taken place within the science of Western culture. We
see how some people become purely intellectual, whilst others are rooted
in the religious life, yet at the same time are filled with what can
only be given by the vision of the spiritual world that is behind all
existence. On all sides we see spiritual life flowing out of Western
philosophy. I will only mention Vladimir Soloviev, 12mentioned the
Russian philosopher and thinker, a real clairvoyant, though he only saw
into the spiritual world three times in his life: once when he was a boy
of nine, the second time in the British Museum, and the third time in
the Egyptian desert under the starry heavens of Egypt. On these
occasions there was revealed to him what can only be seen by clairvoyant
vision. He had a prevision of the evolution of humanity. — there
welled up in him what Schelling 13Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling: 1775
– 1854. and Hegel 14Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
Hegel: 1770 – 1831. also achieved through sheer
spiritual effort. As they stood alone on the heights of thinking, we may
now place them on the summit which all educated people will eventually
reach. All this was said in the course of previous centuries,
particularly the last four centuries. When we survey this and work on it
with the methods of practical occultism, as has been done recently, in
order to make a special investigation into what the purely intellectual
thinkers from Hegel to Haeckel 15Ernst Haeckel: 1834
For above three notes, see Rudolf Steiner ‘The Riddles of Philosophy’, Anthroposophic Press, Spring Valley, New York, 1973. have worked out, we can see occult forces at work here too. And a very remarkable thing comes to light: we can speak of pure inspiration in the case of just those people who appear to have least of it. Who inspired all the thinkers who are rooted in pure intellectualism? Who gave the stimulus for this life of thought that speaks out of every book to be found even in the lowliest cottage? Where does all this abstract thought life in Europe come from, that has had such a curious outcome?
We all know, of course, how the great event took place. It happened that an important individuality in the evolution of mankind, one of the individualities that we call a Bodhisattva, incarnated in the royal house of Suddhodana. We all know that this individuality was destined to ascend to the next rank that follows after that of Bodhisattva. Each human being who progresses and reaches the rank of Bodhisattva must become a Buddha in his final incarnation. What does this rank of Buddha signify? What does it signify in the case of the particular Bodhisattva who attained the rank of Buddha as Gautama Buddha? It signifies that Buddha — as with every other Buddha — does not need to incarnate on earth any more in a body of flesh. And therefore Gautama Buddha was destined, like every Buddha, to work henceforth from the spiritual world. He must not appear again on the earth in physical form, but his achievements in the course of incarnations enabled him henceforth to send his influence into our civilisation.
The first great deed that the Buddha had to accomplish as a purely spiritual being was, as I indicated in Basle, 16as I indicated in Basle: Rudolf Steiner ‘The Gospel of St. Luke’, ten lectures, Basle, September, 1909; Rudolf Steiner Press 1975. to send his forces down into the astral body of the Jesus boy described in the Luke Gospel, which came to significant expression in the Christmas message: Divine beings are revealing themselves in the heights, and peace shall come to men on earth who have goodwill.
If our souls are stirred by this message that angel beings hovered in the aureole above the angelic child, we should know that in this aura around Jesus the forces of the Nirmanakaya 17Nirmanakaya: terminology in Eastern science for the body of a Buddha after he has passed through perfection. See the Gospel of St. Luke lecture cycle, p. 73, where definition is given: ‘The body which such a Being assumes after he has passed through the stage of perfection’: ‘the Body of Transformation’. of the Buddha were active. Since then, the spiritual forces of the Buddha have been incorporated in the events connected with the highest individualities concerned with the Mystery of Golgotha. His forces work also in the world conception stream of the philosophers of the West. He himself is the driving force working out of the spiritual world into that life that has penetrated as far as intelligence and has then gone astray.
If we read Leibniz, 18Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: 1646 – 1716. See Rudolf Steiner ‘The Riddles of Philosophy’; Anthroposophic Press, Spring Valley, New York, 1973. Schelling and Soloviev today, and ask ourselves how they have been inspired, we find that it was by the individuality who was born in the place of Suddhodana, ascended from Bodhisattva to Buddha and then continued to work selflessly. In fact he continued to work in such a selfless way that we can go back in time today to a point when not even the name of Buddha was mentioned in the West. You do not find the name of the Bodhisattva who became Buddha, not even in Goethe! You know, though, that he lives in everything. He has met with so much understanding that he works on unnamed in Western literature. The Middle Ages knew about this, too, but they did not speak about it in this way then. They tell us something different.
In the eighth century there lived a man called John of Damascus 19John of Damascus who wrote a book in the form of a narrative: the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat. who wrote a book in the form of a narrative. What was it about? He relates that there once lived a great teacher who became the teacher of Josaphat, instructing Josaphat in the secret doctrine and the great Christian truths. And if you investigate all this you find truths concerning those things. You also find narratives from Buddhist literature. When we follow up our theme we come upon a legend, the one that relates that Buddha went on living, not in an earthly human form but in an animal form, that of a hare. And when a Brahman once happened to find a hare — which was the disguised Buddha — the Brahman complained to him about the misery of mankind outside in the world, and Buddha made a fire and roasted himself, in order to help mankind. The Brahman took him and transported him to the moon. When you know that the moon is the symbol of the wisdom that lasts forever, which lives in the human breast, then you see there is a consciousness of Buddha's sacrifice, which has been developed and presented in these old legends.
What is Buddha's task out there in the spiritual world? It is his task now and for ever-more to kindle those forces in our hearts that can give birth to great wisdom. This is how we must understand one force streaming through our world; it is the Buddha force. It is also represented in the form it has taken in our century, even though here it has been reduced to abstraction. We have to try however, to understand the occult significance of every spiritual form. To this force is added the other one whose source was the Mystery of Golgotha, and which combined with the Buddha force to make a necessary whole, in which we must also now partake in earthly life. This force, emanating from Golgotha, with which all men have to connect themselves, not only affects man's inner life but involves our whole earthly existence.
Whilst the Buddha stream, like any other stream, concerns all of us as human beings, in the case of the Christ Being we have a cosmic intervention. All Bodhisattvas are individualities who go through life here on earth, who belong to the earth. The Christ Individuality comes from the sun, and walked the earth for the first time at the baptism in the Jordan, dwelling in the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth for only three years. The uniqueness of the Christ Individuality was that it was destined to work for only three years in the earthly world. He is the same Being to Whom Zarathustra referred when he called Him Ahura Mazdao, He Who is behind the visible sun, the same Whom the Holy Rishis announced, and Whom the Greeks spoke of as the Being behind the pleroma. It is the Being Who has gradually become the spirit of our earth, the aura of our earth, since His blood flowed on Golgotha. The first person permitted to see Him without witnessing the physical event, was Paul.
Thus through the Mystery of Golgotha something took place that has brought a completely new course of events into our earthly evolution. Before that time, the greatest variety of concepts could be assimilated through the many different religions. What crossed over from the Buddha religion, when the being of Buddha streamed into the astral aura of Jesus, and what I told you concerning the soul seeing and feeling new things in nature, means nothing short of this: that just as the Christ Being descended through the baptism into the physical body, dwelt within it until the Mystery of Golgotha, and was therefore here physically on the physical plane, He will now, in the same way, begin working in the etheric world. So we can speak of a physical incarnation from the event of the baptism by John until Golgotha, and now of an etheric reappearance.
The etheric Christ will be perceived through the development of the etheric body, and also through impressions of autumn which the human being weaves into himself. Why was Christ here in a physical body? It was so that man could develop higher in order to acquire the capacity to perceive the Christ more and more in the etheric.
To sum up: we began this lecture with the elemental spirits manifesting themselves in nature. We continued with those particular visions that impel us to pause in our actions and listen to the inner word. And in all these occurrences grouping themselves round a central point we see that those human beings who find the right path to the spiritual world — and this does not mean trained clairvoyants, who have always been able to find the Christ, but human beings through their natural development — will be able to see the Christ as an etheric vision: see Him Who will only take part in world events from out of the etheric. We see that all these occurrences group themselves around the future Christ event. And if we look at the whole of spiritual development in its progressive stages, we see that the Buddha who sacrificed himself in the fire of love is the inspirer of our Spiritual Science.
Those people who give careful thought to the reading of, for instance, The Soul's Probation, 20‘The Soul's Probation’, which I was able to have performed in Munich: the second of Rudolf Steiner's four mystery plays, first performed in Munich in the summer of 1911. See ‘Four Mystery Plays’ (1910 – 13); Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1983. which I was able to have performed in Munich, and who become aware of where all the mysterious forces are to be found that point to what is in surrounding nature, and who also pay heed to the wisdom of the future — even if the wisdom of the future is often the folly of the present, as the wisdom of the present is often the folly of the future — these people will become aware that there will be a kind of chemistry pervaded by the Christ Impulse, and a kind of botany pervaded by the Christ Impulse, and so on. The world does not consist of lifeless molecules. All that is spread out in nature comes from the spirit. Even a flower is an etheric being, and on the other hand the spirit has come into the earth from outside through this flower. In all the forms that spring forth out of the earth we can see meaning of the highest order. Then we shall not only know by faith, but we shall understand.
This has brought us to the second stream which has to unite with the first. The coming years will bring many surprises to the earth. In everything that will occur in this way we shall be able to see the Christ Principle, whilst we shall become aware of the Buddha impulse in a more inward way. This is why unless we have an understanding of these sublime measures taken by the spiritual guidance of the world we shall not see clearly how to seek the Christ Impulse, nor perceive that it is He Who, in the course of history, leads one individuality over into the other. What is there to offer the thinking man's thirst for knowledge in the sort of phenomenon that is to be found in the West, where all the thinking is expressed more in the style of — let us say Galileo, to name an example — or again, in the East, where it is expressed in the manner of Vladimir Soloviev? When we see this, we acknowledge how objectively the Christ works. Similarly, we can see the Christ Impulse in everything that happens outside in the world.
Great things will happen in the next epochs of culture. What only arose as a dream 21dream of ... Socrates: in the platonic dialogues ‘Menon’ and ‘Protagoras’. of the great martyr Socrates in the fourth epoch, will become reality. What was this mighty impulse of Socrates? He wanted it to come about that whoever experiences a moral precept and understands it so thoroughly that it becomes one with his feeling, should also be a moral person, carrying his morality into his actions. Consider what a long way from this we still are, what a lot of people can say: such and such must happen — but how few have the inner power, the moral strength to do it! Moral principles will have to be so clearly understood and moral feelings so positively developed that we cannot inwardly know something without having the impulse to carry it out with enthusiasm. For this really to mature in the human soul, so that a moral impulse does not stop at the stage of understanding, but has inevitably to become a deed, men will have to live their way into these two particular streams. Then, under the influence of the two streams, human beings will develop in increasing numbers who are capable of carrying the feeling for the acknowledgment of morality, through into action.
How does it come about that these two streams unite in humanity so that the Christ can be taken up from within through the Buddha? It is because the position of Bodhisattva has never been unfilled. As soon as the Bodhisattva became Buddha, another attained to the rank of Bodhisattva. And it was attained by the particular individuality who is known to have lived as an Essene about a hundred years before Jesus of Nazareth. This personality has been sadly slandered and misunderstood, by the writer Celsus, 22Celsus: Roman philosopher. In the middle of the second century AD. he wrote ‘The True Word’, the first polemic against Christianity. for example, and particularly by Haeckel in his Riddles of the World. He was the personality who carried out his task a full hundred years before the Mystery of Golgotha, and he is known as Jeshu ben Pandira, one of the incarnations of the Bodhisattva who succeeded Gautama, the Bodhisattva who became Buddha. He will continue to work as a Bodhisattva until three thousand years have gone by, and then, when about five thousand years will have taken their course after the Buddha became enlightened under the bodhi tree, he will become a Buddha also. Every serious occultist knows that five thousand years after the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha under the bodhi tree that individuality who lives on as Bodhisattva will have become Maitreya Buddha. He will have incarnated frequently before that time comes. And then, when the five thousand years are over, a teaching will arise that will be the teaching of Maitreya Buddha, Buddha of the Good, where the spoken word works at the same time morally. Words are not powerful enough at the present time to describe the reality of this. It can only be perceived in the spiritual world, and human beings will first of all have to be mature enough to receive it. What will be special about the Maitreya Buddha is that he will have to repeat in a certain way what took place at the event of Golgotha.
We know that the Buddha individuality entered into Jesus of Nazareth and now only works into earth evolution from outside. All those individuals who live as Bodhisattvas and will later on become Buddhas have the particular destiny on earth, as every serious occultist can see, of being in a certain respect unknown in their youth. Those who do know something of them may see them as gifted people, but do not see that the being of the Bodhisattva is working in them. It has always been like this, and it will be like this in the twentieth century, too. It will only become recognisable during the time that lies between the thirtieth and the thirty-third year — the same span of time as there was between the baptism in Jordan and Golgotha. Then a change takes place in the human being, and to a certain degree he sacrifices his individuality and becomes the vehicle for another, as the Jesus individuality made way for the Christ.
The Bodhisattva incarnations, which are those of the future Maitreya Buddha, occur in unknown people. They work as individuals relying on their own inner strength. The Maitreya Buddha will also work out of his own inner strength, and against the stream of general opinion. He will remain unknown in his youth. And when in his thirtieth year he has sacrificed his individuality, he will appear in such a way that morality will work through his words. Five thousand years after the Buddha was enlightened beneath the bodhi tree his successor will ascend to the rank of Buddha, and will be the bringer of the word that works morally. We now say: ‘In the beginning was the Word’. We shall then be able to say: ‘In the Maitreya Buddha the greatest teacher has been given us, and he has appeared in order to make apparent to men the full extent of the Christ Event. His unique quality will be that he, the greatest of teachers, will be the bringer of the most exalted Word.’
As it happens so often that great things that should be brought into the world in the right way are so badly misunderstood, we must try to prepare ourselves for what should come. And if we want to approach the spirit at the point where the spirit of nature also speaks to us morally, then we may say to ourselves: all Spiritual Science is in a certain respect a preparation to help us understand what has been said about past events when we discussed the changes that take place in the course of time.
New times were dawning when John proclaimed the Christ. In a certain sense we can also speak today of new times, in preparation for which it is necessary for our hearts to change. Despite all the machinery of civilisation that will appear in the outside world, men's hearts must change in such a way that souls care about the spiritual world that will make itself known in a new way, just at this time in which we live. Whether a glimpse of it will become visible here in this life, or at the gate of death, or at a new birth — we shall not only see this new world but work from out of this new world. And the best that is often in us will come to realisation because, from beyond the gates of death, beings send these forces into us from the other world. And we shall also be able to send these forces, if we go through the gate of death having acquired what we recognise to be the necessary change for our time, about which I have permitted myself to speak to you today.