Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz
VII. The Christ Impulse as Living Reality I
18 November 1911, Munich
Anthroposophically orientated Spiritual Science is based on occult science, as we have often emphasised, which brings us knowledge of the forces underlying the various epochs, and also enables us to understand what is at work in the cultural periods of our own epoch. So we must speak of these inner forces of our own time, whenever and wherever we meet, in order to understand the tasks of Spiritual Science in relation to what is at work beneath the surface of life, and so that occult research can help us direct our lives in harmony with the great goals of mankind.
In order to speak about contemporary occult trends it would be a good thing to start from the point where deep, occult research can lead us to what is also taking place in the super-sensible world in our time. By way of introduction we must also take into account what we have right in front of us at present, though we can only give a general sketch of it and not go into any details. Many things can only be spoken of without embarrassment in Anthroposophical gatherings, for ours is a time of dogmatism and abstraction. The strange thing is that this basic characteristic is not recognised in exoteric life, and people believe generally that their thoughts and actions are free from dogma, when in fact they are extremely dogmatic. They think they are basing themselves on reality, although they are really lost in the wildest abstractions. Therefore it is worthwhile bringing Anthroposophically orientated Spiritual Science, with its realities, to the attention of wider circles, to open up the possibility for an understanding of our epoch, though it will probably be a long time before the outside world wants to develop a deeper understanding for these things. We do not see how tied up in dogmas and abstractions our civilisation is, until we stop looking at it from the abstract point of view and begin seeing it in a really living way. One then finds a trend of thought whose chief characteristic consists in the laying down of ready-made dogmas that enlightened people are required to accept, whilst imagining they are being genuinely discriminating. Something of the sort is evident in the so-called monistic movement, though it is not justified in calling itself monistic. It gets its chief dogmas from modern natural science, in fact that particular branch of it which, strictly speaking, likes drawing its knowledge by means of purely external methods. If this natural science were to keep to its own field of activity, it could do important work; instead of this it leads to the formation of a new religion. Men take the facts of materialistic natural science and turn them into abstract dogmas. And anyone who is of the opinion that he is right because he is convinced of these dogmas himself, believes that the others have lagged a long way behind. They completely ignore the whole life of human individuality, and strive only to cram their heads with what the external world outlook considers as dogmas, and to regard the conclusions drawn from abstractions as the most important thing. This leads to the formation of sects whose adherents cling to expert opinions, principles and dogmas which they then advocate as the thing.
All that comprises the Anthroposophically orientated spiritual movement represents the opposite of this. This movement does not set out to follow a number of doctrines but to place the worth of the human individuality in the foreground.
Anthroposophically orientated Spiritual Science leads to the kind of social life that is based on a mutual interchange founded on the sort of confidence that each personality has in the other. Human beings should and will come together who have trust in one another. And in joint tasks one ought to say: You are the right person, not because you adhere to this or the other principle, but because you can achieve this or that and do not disturb the other people in the course of your work. Nothing could be worse than this, that the bad modern habit of forming sects should take hold of Anthroposophical life. It is not only when you are in full agreement with your neighbour that you should listen to him, but, if you are not, you should still reserve freedom and mobility for yourself and for him, and, with this recognition of individualities, work educationally in the Anthroposophical movement. Our time has very little understanding for this sort of thing. It aims at generalities. What is right for one can make the other man appear a fool. In the Anthroposophical movement we must make a clean sweep of that. If this attitude were not prevalent in the outside world of materialism, men would hasten of their own accord to understand human individualities in our own way, and then a scientific spirituality would soon appear that would be bound to lead to a world conception of a spiritual kind. But men are rigid with dogmas and therefore cannot reach it.
If you look into the principles that are upheld in monistic gatherings, you would soon see that none of these principles and dogmas are based on the outlook and results of present day science but on those of fifteen to twenty years ago. Thus, for instance, a personality distinguished in modern scientific circles said at a recent scientific meeting in Koenigsberg: ‘Facts of physics are all tending in a certain direction. People always used to speak of the ether as being in matter and outside, and it was taken for granted without taking the other known material sciences into account. But, after all, this has gradually met with justified doubt, and therefore we must now ask what the physicists should assume to be there in place of the ether.’ The answer was: Purely mathematical constructions, Hertz' and Maxwell' equations, conceptual formulae. According to these, light does not spread through space by means of ether vibrations, but, assuming them not to be there, it overcomes the non-material space as a vacuum in the sense of the equations referred to, so that according to this the transmission of light appears to be bound to concepts and ideas. It could quite easily happen that anyone who pointed to such hypotheses of the most up-to-date science in a monistic meeting could be mistaken for a mad theosophist, making the absurd proposition that thoughts are the bearers of light. Yet Max Planck 37Max Planck: 1858 – 1947, founder of the quantum theory. ‘Die Stellung der neureren Physik zur mechanischen Naturanschaung’ (The Position of Modern Physics with respect to the Mechanical World outlook), lecture held on 23.9.1910 at the 82nd session of German natural scientists and doctors in Konigsberg; Leipzig, 1910. of Berlin, a respected authority on natural science, declared this to be his scientific opinion. If, therefore the monists wanted to make progress in science, they would also have to accept this opinion of the experts. As this is not the case, a monistic religion will only be possible if its supporters believe they have a scientific basis, but do not know that their assumptions have long been superseded. People who think in a monistic way are only held together by the results of so-called intellectual research and its world conception, or the biased dogmas arising out of this. Whereas the Anthroposophically orientated theosophist complies with facts that cannot deprive anyone of his freedom or lead to the formation of sects, and each individuality can remain free.
An important aspect of the Anthroposophically orientated spiritual movement is that it gives an impulse for self-education in a way that hardly has its equal at the present time. We must understand what we ourselves are as a movement, and realise that this movement is based on foundations that can only be found within this movement and nowhere outside.
Facts of real life can show us this. There are many people who think we ought to take what Anthroposophically orientated Spiritual Science has to offer and give it out in philosophical terms, in the style of official science, to make Spiritual Science more acceptable to the representatives and followers of officialdom. But that cannot be done, because it is impossible to make compromises between the occult stream of Spiritual Science and any other movement that arises out of the characteristic outlook of our times, like the monistic one, for instance — that is, one that has a completely different basis. To bring about compromises between the two, even if only in form, is impossible. It is much more a matter of aiming at bringing a new impulse into the culture of the times. The others cannot even understand or explain their own basic facts, nor judge them one single step ahead, because they lack the courage to draw the conclusions arising from these facts. On closer examination we find incomplete thought processes in every sect, including scientific circles, and Spiritual Science must see these for what they are, for we know that a half truth or a quarter truth is worse than a total fallacy because it deceives the outside world which is not competent to judge. The Anthroposophist must enter the very nerve of the spiritual movement in order to understand the materialistic movement that sets the pace in the outside world, because it sometimes works with facts that are tending in the direction of spiritual truth, but are not fully developed.
If the medical branch of natural science means to go seriously into bodily research, it cannot ignore the sphere, the concepts and the results of occult investigation. The psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud 38Sigmund Freud: 1856 – 1939, founder of psychoanalysis. in Vienna, which enjoys a large and still growing circulation, gives us an instructive example of the difficulties arising in this sphere. It began by investigating the life of the soul in both the physically and the mentally ill, in an attempt to discover certain psychic causes there, in the long-forgotten early years, for example, because there was a definite feeling that what is still there in the unconscious has its lasting effect on later life too. An ingenious doctor of this school, Dr. Breuer, 39Dr. Breuer: Joseph Breuer, Viennese surgeon. See Rudolf Steiner ‘An Autobiography’, Steinerbooks, New York, 1977, and also lecture of 10th November 1917 in ‘Psychoanalysis in the Light of Anthroposophy’, Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1946. tried to put the patients into a condition of hypnosis, and then let them make a kind of confession, so that he could probe into the depths of their souls. You all know that it is a great relief to talk about what is oppressing you. People were often cured by these hypnotic confessions, or they were well on the way to it. Even without hypnosis Freud often achieved the same results by means of well chosen questions. Apart from this he discovered that happenings of a largely unconscious kind are revealed in dream life, and out of this a kind of dream interpretation arose in the school of psychoanalysis. If someone were now to say that here is a good opportunity to strike a compromise between Spiritual Science and the results of these efforts, such an opinion can only be called a fallacy, because despite the quarter truth contained in it he would soon become aware that the direction in question leads to the wildest errors and that it would be preferable to keep to purely materialistic interpretations. Spiritual Science, when properly understood, has to reject such things. The point is that the ideas about the soul's dream life and the resulting theory are steeped in coarse, sense-bound thinking, and it is therefore not possible on this basis to turn it into a spiritual truth. For in order to do that one needs the spiritual foundations that Spiritual Science has to offer, otherwise one gropes around in obscure hypotheses and theories and explains them in a materialistic way. And that is the way things have turned out in the Freudian school. They certainly got as far as the symbolism of dreams, but wove into them the thoughts of the materialistic age, whilst Schubert's 40Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert: 1780 – 1860, natural philosopher. ‘Die Geschichte der Seele’ (History of the Soul) Stuttgart. 1839. and Volkelt's 41Johann Volkelt: 1848 – 1930: ‘Die Traum-Phantasie’ (Dream Pictures) Stuttgart 1875. See also Rudolf Steiner ‘Riddles of Philosophy’, Anthroposophic Press, Spring Valley, New York, 1973. correct conception could be started on in Leipzig but not developed. They thought of the dream as a symbol of sexual life, because our time is incapable of realising that this area is the lowest revelation of innumerable worlds that rise far above our world in spiritual significance. By so doing they are turning it into something that gives an irresponsible flavour to a whole field of investigation, and, in consequence, brings about the most serious errors. Therefore the only thing that Spiritual Science can say about the Freudian school is that it has to reject its research on the grounds that it is dilettante. If it would first of all make itself thoroughly acquainted with spiritual investigation, these truths would produce quite different results. People would then begin to see that our age is an intellectual age, an age of dogma, that drives people into a wild chaos of instincts and passions and is satisfied with what is merely intellectual and abstract.
In the example of the Freudian school therefore, we see an area of soul life being shown in a wrong light and dragged down by the worst kind of materialism by trying to relate all the phenomena to sex, a procedure of which one could say that it arose out of the personal inclination of the scientists themselves, only they are not conscious of it, and it is dilettante into the bargain.
We must feel how necessary it is that spiritual investigation rejects half and quarter truths and only adopts those it can defend with its own principles, for we realise that Spiritual Science can work out of its own strength. It is important to stress that my first books did not grow out of theosophy, yet people outside find it strange that I nevertheless became a theosophist later on. That is a short-sighted, narrow-minded view, however. The books have this about them that despite their strictly scientific attitude they do not have dealings with what is regarded as official science, or assume the style that believes itself capable of making general definitions.
Spiritual Science should draw abundant life from the foundations of occultism, make no compromises and show a courage that is lacking in the domains outside. Whoever refuses to make any compromises of this kind, acquires a reputation of being inadequate in the eyes of those people who always want one to give way, but do not do so themselves. As opposed to this, Spiritual Science stands in the world as a spiritual movement firmly established on its own basis, and its members must always be conscious of this fact, and see it to be a vital element of this spiritual movement. It sometimes happens that people with special interests come into Spiritual Science, but where Spiritual Science and spiritual investigations are concerned it is not a case of special interests. Each individual can follow these up for himself, and he should not expect Spiritual Science to follow after him. Spiritual Science must penetrate into our whole cultural situation and have the courage to carry out its task in life with consistency in an age that is justifiably called intellectual.
But do not let us imagine that this intellectuality ought to merge, as such, with spiritual life, for we have to take our start from facts that are reached by clairvoyant means. We find, then, that the life of the soul has three basic elements. There is, firstly, the life of concepts, intellectuality, which to begin with only comes to expression in perception. When we consider intellectuality by itself, we notice that it is bound in the widest sense to the material world from which man draws his mental images. These images themselves, of course, are super-sensible. From the very connection between the life of mental imagery and the life of perception we see that the former is connected with the physical plane. If we involve ourselves in difficult thoughts and think to such an extent that we get tired, then we sleep well, provided that only the life of thought and not the life of feeling was engaged in the activity. Therefore we can grasp the statement that the life of thought is a super-sensible process, and is connected with the next element, the astral world. It is from the astral plane that those forces come that awaken and maintain the life of thought in the human soul.
The second element consists of the waves of feeling that pass through our soul, such as pleasure and displeasure, joy and pain, sorrow, love, dislike, and so on. The flow of thought and feeling is intimately connected with our ego, and these rob us of our sleep because their emotional unrest prevents us entering the astral plane. We can understand therefore that this brings us into connection with lower Devachan, which does not accept our emotions if they are impure but rejects them from that part of the astral world that is lower Devachan.
Morality and will impulses are the third element. The man who can look back on good deeds in his day's review can experience a moment of bliss before falling asleep. He is in the pleasant situation in which he can say: If only it were possible to prolong it, to enjoy the enlivening power of it, and that it could take hold of our whole soul life as a fructifying force! This enables us to understand what occult investigation tell us: That will impulses refer us to higher Devachan, where they are accepted only if they issue from a pure will and are suitable for this spiritual world. Thus our life of mental images and concepts, our intellectuality, is closely connected with the astral world, our life of feeling with lower Devachan and our life of will with higher Devachan.
In addition to these we have our life of sense perception on the physical plane. These four elements develop at a different rate in human incarnations during the various cultural epochs.
When we consider the occult background, we see how the life of perception comes to the fore in the Greco-Roman era, how the Greek and the Roman was completely attuned to the physical world that he esteemed so highly. Our time, the fifth cultural epoch, is that of thinking, of intellectuality. This is why the abstract sciences are flourishing. The coming sixth age will retain intellectual life, in the same way as we in the fifth have retained the life of perception, and will in addition express itself in the feeling life of the soul. The environment will affect people so that it causes them pleasure and displeasure, joy and pain, sympathy and antipathy, to a degree that as yet can only be felt by the occultist who is capable of overcoming mere intellect, and understanding certain connections of life with real feeling, without lengthy logical reasoning. The occultist feels displeasure over illogical things, joy and peace of soul over logical things. If he defends something that he immediately sees to be right, he has to prove it nowadays with a lengthy argument, in order to be understood. The occultist feels pain especially vividly when he reads the newspaper, because it is just in the daily papers that one frequently finds illogicality incarnate. You have to read them, nevertheless — choosing as carefully as you can — in order to keep in touch with the outside world. You should not choose in the way the professor of the Chinese language did, who told his colleague one day, in a great state of agitation: I have just this moment discovered — it was the year 1870–71 — that Germany has been at war with France for half a year, because I only read the Chinese newspapers.
In the last post-Atlantean epoch, the seventh era, the sense for morality will develop, that is, the sense for the will impulses. Remarkable progress will come about through this. Occult investigations, even those of the present-day, show us that someone can be very clever and intellectual without being moral. Nowadays intellectuality and morality exist alongside each other. Little by little, however, the curious fact will emerge that a person's cleverness will be killed off by his immorality, so that in the far future an immoral person will actually be stupid or will have to become so. A moral era is coming in which the morality of our whole soul life and the intellectuality of those later times will become one.
Although man has within his soul all the four elements mentioned, sense perception predominated over all others in the Greco-Roman era, and intellectuality is added to this to a greater degree in the present; in the one before the last, the sixth period, emotion will predominate, and in the seventh, the last cultural epoch, it will be morality, and in a way we can only dream of today. We cannot even imagine what it will be like as Socrates could, who considered that virtue could be both taught and learnt. All this, however, will become reality by the seventh epoch, for the tendencies that are already clearly perceptible in occultism foretell this.
Intellectuality, then, is the chief spiritual characteristic of our age, but there is a difference between the way it comes to expression in the materialistic thinking of the world and in Spiritual Science. Man is connected through his intellect with the astral plane, but he will only be conscious of this — and he will only make the right use of it — when he has developed clairvoyance. This will begin in an ever-increasing number of human beings in the course of the twentieth century. Progress will only be made in this direction when men not only develop a heightened intellect for themselves but also lift it up into the astral world. The human being who has advanced to intellectual clairvoyance in this way can and will approach the etherically visible Christ more and more clearly in the course of the next three thousand years. In bygone times, however, when man was mainly connected with the physical plane, Christ could only appear in physical incarnation. In the present age of the intellect He can appear only in etheric form. Spiritual Science wishes to prepare mankind for this in such a way that it acquires a proper understanding and makes proper use of the clairvoyant faculties that are slowly appearing and will be used for vision later on, in the course of natural development. And this will ensure that in the second half of our intellectual age the Christ will be seen clairvoyantly in His etheric form.
The age of feeling will develop the soul further in a different respect, enabling it to enter the lower Devachanic world in a conscious way. Christ will appear as a form of light to a number of human beings in the lower Devachanic world, revealing Himself through sound, and from His astral body of light He will fill their receptive souls with the Word that was active in astral form in the beginning, as is expressed by John in the opening words of his Gospel.
In the age of morality a number of human beings will perceive the Christ revealing Himself from higher Devachan in His true Ego that surpasses all human egos in inconceivable greatness, and with such splendour that It can bestow on man the highest possible moral impulses. Such is the connection between the impulses of the different cultural epochs and the soul of man. From higher and ever higher worlds will come the forces that flow into man and become active within him.
Perception in the physical world is wonderful indeed; even more wonderful is the intellect when it attains predominance and forms a connection with the astral world, and even greater still are the feelings and morality that are connected with the Devachanic world.
Thinking this through logically you will realise the logic in this course of development, because life confirms it on all sides. The Anthroposophist faces these stages of development consciously, not only in broad sweeps and universal truths but also in the individual details of human development. In the abuses of the outer world the striving towards dogma of the intellectual element is very prominent, but in spiritual knowledge the intellect has to become spiritualised so that it can understand the more advanced results of occult investigation. This is more clearly illuminated in the fact that in the Greco-Roman era, through the Mystery of Golgotha, we are presented in physical form with that which then developed further so that with its impact on the human soul it could lead humanity upwards. It is necessary above all that man learns to understand what this Christ Impulse signifies for our world. It has to be stressed that this Christ Impulse is a living reality that is streaming into mankind, and that Christ did not give the world a doctrine or a theory but the impulse for new life. Let us take a serious look at this.
Since the Saturn stage, throughout the Sun and Moon stage, man has developed his physical, etheric and astral bodies. The ego could only appear on earth in a body that was sufficiently prepared for it and then develop further under the nurturing influence of the Christ Impulse because Christ is macrocosmically what our ego is to us microcosmically. The four principles of the macrocosm are connected in manifold ways with our four lower principles including the most important of these, the ego. In our present cultural period the higher human principles can already be glimpsed in our development. Life-spirit, spirit-self and spirit-man will be developed in us out of the higher spirit worlds through the macrocosmic principles. Not through the fourth macrocosmic principle, however, but through the help of beings that have no macrocosmic significance of their own but only microcosmic significance, really working as teachers among mankind, as they have themselves advanced by one or more principles beyond man himself. On the other hand Christ is a macrocosmic being at the fourth stage of His macrocosmic development, as man is microcosmically at the fourth stage.
So you should keep macrocosmic and microcosmic principles apart, but be clear about the fact that the four first macrocosmic principles include of course all the higher microcosmic principles. Thus the microcosmic beings work as teachers and seek to carry mankind forward through their teaching, whereas Christ, working as a macrocosmic reality, is not a teacher like the other teachers of humanity, for He united Himself with the earth as a reality, as power, as very life.
The loftiest teachers of the successive epochs are the so-called Bodhisattvas who already in the pre-Christian era pointed to Christ in His full reality of being; again in the Christian era they point to Him as a power Who is now united with the earth. Thus the Bodhisattvas work both before and after Christ's physical life on earth. He, who was born as the son of a king in India 550 years before Christ, lived and taught for twenty-nine years as a Bodhisattva, and then ascended to the rank of Buddha; thereafter he was never again to appear on the earth in a body of flesh, but from then onwards he worked from the spiritual world. When this Bodhisattva became Buddha he was succeeded in that very moment by the new Bodhisattva whose mission it is to lead mankind to an understanding of the Christ Impulse. All these things had come to pass before the appearance of Christ on the earth, for about the year 105 BC. there was living in Palestine a man still to this day defamed in rabbinical literature, Jeshu ben Pandira, and he was an incarnation of this new Bodhisattva. Jesus of Nazareth is an essentially different Being, in that when He reached the age of thirty He became the bearer of Christ at the baptism by John in the Jordan.
It was Jeshu ben Pandira from whom the Essene 42Essene teachings: Essenes, Jewish secret Order, about 150 BC. to 70 AD. See also Rudolf Steiner ‘The Fifth Gospel’; Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1968. teachings were mainly derived. One of his pupils bore the name of Matthew, and he too pointed to the Mystery of Golgotha. Jeshu ben Pandira was stoned by his enemies and his corpse was hung on a cross as a further mark of contempt. His existence can be established without the help of occult research for plenty is said about him in rabbinical literature, although the information is either misleading or deliberately falsified. He bore within him the individuality of the new Bodhisattva and was the successor of Gautama Buddha. The name of his pupil Matthew passed over to later pupils, and the content of the Gospel known by that name had already been in existence since the time of the first Matthew, in the form of a description of the rituals contained in the ancient mystery-scripts. In the life of Christ Jesus the essential content of these mysteries became reality on the physical plane. What were previously only pictures from the mysteries, seeds as it were of subsequent happenings, now became reality. Thus the Christ Mystery had already been known prophetically, had indeed been enacted in the ceremonies of the ancient mysteries, before it became, once and once only, an actual event on the physical plane.
The Bodhisattva who once lived as Jeshu ben Pandira comes down to the earth again and again in a human body and will continue to do so in order to fulfil the rest of his task and particular mission which cannot as yet be completed. Although its consummation can already be foreseen by clairvoyance, no larynx exists that is capable of producing the sounds of the speech that will be uttered when this Bodhisattva rises to the rank of Buddha. In agreement with oriental occultism, therefore, it can be said: Five thousand years after Gautama Buddha, that is to say, towards the end of the next three thousand years, the Bodhisattva who is his successor will become Buddha. But as it is his mission to prepare human beings for the epoch connected paramountly with the development of true morality, when, in the future, he becomes Buddha, his spoken words will contain the magic power of goodness. For thousands of years, therefore, oriental tradition has predicted: Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha who is to come, will be a bringer of goodness by way of the word. He will then be able to teach men the real nature of the Christ Impulse, and in this age the Buddha stream and the Christ stream will flow into one. Only so can the Christ Mystery be truly understood.