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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Christian Mystery
GA 97

XXI. Who are the Rosicrucians?

16 February 1907, Leipzig,

The name ‘Rosicrucian’ has an indefinite, vague air for anyone who studies the theosophical literature, as if there were a secret behind it. Many consider it to be a term for people who involved themselves in possible and impossible magic in the 18th century. Reading the works of people who want to study the Rosicrucians scientifically and historically one feels the kindly shrug of the shoulders when they write such things as: ‘There was a kind of brotherhood once that had noble ideals and ideas of moral progress.’ They may also refer to their symbolic formulas. But it is emphatically stated again and again in learned works that the Rosicrucians are degenerate. If the Rosicrucians had ever been what those people say they are, Rosicrucianism would be something that is utterly wrong. In reality it is one of the greatest treasures humanity has. Their secrets have never appeared in books. If something did come out, it was due to betrayal or the like, and such things might then easily be taken for foolishness or superstition. Such a view has nothing to do with what Rosicrucianism actually was. Rosicrucianism may be found encompassed in a book published in 1616. The author was called Johann Valentin Andreae. The title of the book was The chymical wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz.162Andreae, Johann Valentin (1586–1654), German protestant theologian. ‘The chymical wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, Anno 1459’, written in 1603. was published anonymously in Strassburg in 1616. See Steiner R. A Christian Rosenkreutz Anthology, essay written in 1917 (in GA 35); P. M. Allen compiler and editor. Blauvelt: Rudolf Steiner Publications 1968. It describes the progress of someone who was becoming a Rosicrucian. Later Andreae published a book where it was impossible to tell if it was meant to be serious, a joke or a retraction.163Andreae's later works, including the allegorical Die Christburg (1626), were more pietistic.

Today we shall discover the things that may be said in public about the true nature of Rosicrucianism. There has always been initiation. People are at different stages of development. Some are far advanced and initiated into the most profound secrets of the world, people who know something about the way worlds evolve, how the earth evolved, and how human beings gradually reach higher and higher levels of development. When it is said that an initiate ‘has the knowledge’, this is often taken too lightly. To know the real secret of man, to know the future of man, is the greatest thing anyone can learn. Yes, there is a knowledge that actually has a deadly effect on someone who is unprepared. If it were simply told today, humanity would be lost. It would be split, with the greatest part destroyed, whilst a smaller part would benefit from the knowledge. The secret can never be elicited from initiates by anyone who does not have the right to know; not even if you were to torture them and make them into martyrs. No initiate would ever reveal the ultimate secret of the world to anyone who does not have the right to know. The very thought of having to reveal the secret would drive him mad or kill him. Let me give you a picture that gives the whole development connected with this secret in perspective—it is of an avenue that gets narrower and narrower, seemingly, though one day the great secret will be revealed to all humanity.

Rosicrucianism is one way of gaining initiation. It was established by Christian Rosenkreutz.164See lectures Rudolf Steiner gave in Neuchatel on 27 and 28 October 1911. In Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz (in GA 130). Tr. P. Wehrle. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1984. There are different ways of initiation. One was taught by the ancient Rishis in India; it is the Oriental yoga way. Then there was the gnostic Christian way, and the Rosicrucian way is the third. All three ways take people to the summit of initiation. But it is not usually taken into account that the mental and physical constitution of Indians and Europeans is utterly different. It would in fact be impossible for a European body to take the Indian way. People also fail to realize the difference in external influences. It is possible to see that in India, for example, some diseases—cholera, smallpox—take a very different course; they are different in hot compared to cold countries. The environment is completely different and therefore has a different influence on all the enveloping bodies of man. It was peculiar to think, therefore, to say that Europeans could go through yoga training. It was an error. People did not know, however, that the Rosicrucians had followed a way of development from the 14th century.

The Rosicrucian way is certainly not un-Christian. For many people who are firm and ardent Christians the gnostic Christian way is the right one they will reach the highest peaks by this route. But the number of such people is getting less. Rosicrucianism holds the most profound secrets of Christianity but also makes it possible to remove all the doubts raised in human minds today by popular or also less popular views. No one is protected from the most dreadful doubts today, which are coming to people from every direction. Christian training would not enable them to meet these doubts in the right way, protect and defend themselves from them. Do not take this lightly. If someone were to say, for instance, that he does not read Haeckel but stays firmly in the confines of his Christian view of the world, this would not achieve anything. We live in a world where people are full of our civilization. We are using natural laws when we go by train or use the newly developed sources of light.165New York had the first electric street lighting in 1882. However much a person may shut himself off—the thoughts that live in the spiritual environment come to him from every railway engine, every artificial flame. If someone were to limit himself entirely to reading the Bible, his astral body, his soul body, would nevertheless be surrounded by all kinds of destructive inner feelings during the night. You would not know what was making you nervous. Someone who knows the thoughts that reach us at an unconscious level does know. It is not a matter of materialistic science as such, but the whole atmosphere of mind and spirit in which we live. In the 12th century people still felt religious ardour, with the Church the spiritual and external focus of their lives. Having laboured hard, people would seek refuge in the house of the spiritual powers and find peace there. This has now changed. Rosicrucian training takes account of these facts, of everything modern man has to face.

What does Rosicrucian training consist in? You will meet high ideals in it. Anyone wishing to take up this training must turn to someone who has the requisite knowledge. Even as he takes the first steps the pupil will realize what really matters. Rosicrucian training completely transforms the human being. It is only by gaining the faculties for the higher world that he can be a citizen of it.

Seven elements, activities, are part of Rosicrucian occult training: 1) proper study; 2) acquiring imagination; 3) learning the occult script; 4) finding the philosopher's stone; 5) gaining knowledge of man himself, the small world or microcosm; 6) gaining knowledge of the macrocosm; 7) knowing godliness. The sequence may vary, with a teacher perhaps taking 5) as the fourth step, for instance, to suit the pupil's individual nature. You will ask if genuine Rosicrucianism still exists today. Yes, it does, and it will achieve its greatest significance in the future. The Rosicrucian brothers also have signs of identification. Not many of them are able to present themselves in public; some work entirely in secret. Anyone who seeks them will find them; and if someone does not find them he may assume that the time is not yet right for him. It [the meeting] will inevitably happen, however. It may often seem to be pure chance. It may happen, for instance, that you have to sit in a railway waiting room for 3 hours because snow is blocking the line. A stranger approaches you seemingly quite by chance. You have found your teacher. This is just one instance which I mention to you.

1) Proper study. What does this involve? You will be taken into worlds of which ordinary people have no idea. It will be necessary to gain your bearings in those worlds. It is not for people who are divorced from reality, lacking a firm basis to their thinking. Absolute certainty in one's thinking is a precondition. The individual has to look around, endeavouring to look about him with sound eyes, and must also be able to shut off his senses. This is something not everyone appreciates, not even the greatest philosophers. Eduard von Hartmann, for example, said over and over again: ‘Something coming from the senses is always present when we think; thinking without anything relating to the senses is impossible.’166von Hartmann, Karl Robert Eduard (1842–1906). His Philosophie des Unbewussten (1869) was translated into English by Coupland , with a new edition in 1931. At the beginning of the second volume (1882) we read: ‘We think either in images, in which case we rake sensory impressions and transformations and combinations of them directly from memory, or we think in abstract terms. Abstract notions have, however, merely been abstracted from our sensory perceptions, and we may discard as much as we like in the process of abstraction, so long as something actually remains. This has thus been part of the whole before from which the abstraction was made. Abstract notions thus are merely residues of sensory impressions and therefore take sensory by nature.’ It is unbelievably arrogant to say that thinking without anything relating to the senses is impossible. Methods of developing a way of thinking free from sensory elements are now presented in the spiritual scientific literature and in lectures.

People who are found to be suitable are guided towards deeper knowledge. The elementary part of this knowledge is in fact open to many people. The way of study presented today, leaving aside the sense-related aspects of the world, consists in training one's thoughts. These then have nothing to do with the world we perceive around us through the senses. Wanting to enter even more deeply, one must put one's mind to more powerful thought training. I have endeavoured to give directions for such a way of thinking in the two books The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity - A Philosophy of Freedom and Truth and Knowledge. It is like this—when he begins to study these books at some depth, the reader will find that one thought follows another in a sequence that is determined by necessity. All people seeking to gain higher things are thus given the means for genuine growth in the spirit.

2) Developing powers of imagination. Here the way ideas are formed differs from ordinary thinking. Think of Goethe's words ‘All things corruptible are but a parable’. When you see someone with a smiling or worried face you'll not say ‘a crease is developing in that face’, or ‘a tear runs down his cheek’. What you'll say is that this shows a cheerful and this a sorrowful soul. The outer reveals the inner aspect; it is a simile, a likeness of what lives in the soul. Anyone will accept this in the case of human beings. Everyone knows the difference between a human head and a picture of it. A geologist may describe the earth for you, concerning himself only with its purely physical structure. People do not know that the earth's body is the body of a living entity, and that particular plants reflect the happy and the sad earth spirit. Goethe knew to tell of this; he knew how to see the earth as a body and knew what lived in it. In his Faust, he made the earth spirit say:

In life like a flood, in deeds like a storm
I surge to and fro,
Up and down I flow!
Birth and the grave,
an eternal wave,
Turning, returning,
A life ever burning.
And thus I work at Time's whirring wheel,
God's living garment I weave and reveal.

Everything on earth is a likeness of what is happening in the inner earth. People walk about on the earth's body. From my body, the earth may say, grows the seed that gives human beings their bread. The words in John's gospel, ‘He who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me’, speak of one of the most profound mysteries in the way we look at the world.

Imagination is gained by seeing everything as a likeness. It is, however, necessary to learn logical thinking first. But in Rosicrucian training no one will choose a different image. Each feels that everything is in the image of the eternal. Here I must use dialogue to speak of something that lies behind an image that was taught in medieval temples and then in the Rosicrucian schools. The teacher would say to the pupil: ‘Look at the plant putting its root down in the soil and turning its flower, the seat of its organs of fertilization, to the light of the sun. The calyx is given a chaste kiss by the sunbeam and a new entity comes into existence.’ Even Darwin said that the root of a plant may be compared with the head.167Darwin, Charles (1809–1882). ‘Surely it is no exaggeration to maintain that a root tip which has the capacity for achieving movements of adjacent parts performs a function similar to that of the brain of a lower animal.’ Darwin C., assisted by Darwin F. The Power of Movement of Plants. New York 1892. Man is an inverted plant. His organs of reproduction are turned towards the centre of the earth in shame. The animal is between man and plant. These three realms of nature are shown in the image of a cross (Fig. 5).168Plato (c. 427–c. 347 BC) Greek philosopher. After living for a time at the Syracuse court, Plato founded the most influential school of the ancient world, the Academy, in Athens. The world's soul has been crucified on the cross of the world's body. Rudolf Steiner would frequently refer to these words from Timaeus (chapter 8), but always in the form given by the Viennese philosopher Vincenz Knauer, who was a personal acquaintance, in his Die Hauptprobleme der Philosophie in ihrer Entwickelung und teilweisen Lösung von Thales bis Robert Hamerling. Vienna 1892, S. 96 (the passage is underlined in the copy of the work in Rudolf Steiner's library): ‘We know from mythology, in Timaeus, that god placed this world soul in the universe in the form of a cross and stretched the world's body upon it.’ The passage in Timaeus says that god split the world's soul in two halves, ‘brought the two parts together in the form of the Greek letter chi (Χ) and made each into a circle, so that the two met with their ends opposite to the middle, and each also met itself. He gave both parts the uniform movement of the circular orbit that took place in that same space, but made one of these circles the inner one, and the other the outer one’ (quoted from German translation by Otto Apelt, Der philosophischen Bibliothek Band 179. Leipzig 1919). See also Rudolf Steiner's discussion of this in Christianity as Mystical Fact (GA 8) (1902).

human , animal and plant orientation
Fig. 5

Plato said: ‘The world's soul has been crucified on the cross of the world's body.’/p>

The Rosicrucian teacher would then ask his pupil to compare matter as it exists in flesh with the chaste matter of a plant, telling him that a time would come when human beings would be cleansed of their passions and desires, maturing to a stage and shining out towards the sun of the spirit where they will be as chaste and without desire as the chaste plant. With this ideal they will cleanse their flesh, so that fertilization becomes chaste and pure. Medieval schooling represented this ideal in the holy grail. The chalice is a sacred symbol of what human sensuality must become if it is to be like the calyx of a plant. It will then receive the kiss of the white dove—the chalice is shown with the dove above it.

To make the world thus spiritual, seeing man's environment in such images, raises him to the point of vision in astral images. Imagination is developed out of heart and mind and out of feeling.

3) Learning the occult script. The occult script reflects the inner currents in nature. One such sign is the vortex. If you were able to see the whole of the Orion nebula you would have two sixes intertwined. You see a world that is dying and one that is becoming in the nebula. Things are like this everywhere. When a plant sheds a new fruit, nothing from the old plant passes on to the new one. Nothing but powers cause a new plant to develop. And once again you would only see the vortex swirling inwards and out. In the same way you might see an old civilization spiralling into itself and a new one snaking out. This spiritual process can help us understand such a sign that is part of the script (Fig. 6).

spiral and sign of Cancer
Fig. 6

800 years before Christ was born the sun entered into the sign of the Ram or lamb. Every spring it moves on a distance. The spring equinox is now in the constellation of the Fishes. At that earlier time people thought the Ram brought all that was good, new strength and power in spring. They even connected the redeemer with this. In early Christian times, the cross and the lamb were their symbol for this. Before the sun was in the sign of the Ram in spring, it was in the sign of the Bull. The Egyptians venerated the sacred bull Apis at that time, the Persians the Mythras bull. After the Flood, the sun was in the sign of Cancer. Cancer was given this occult sign: (Fig. 6).

And so there are many such lines, and also colours. And so one learns the signs that take us into the forces and powers of nature. One learns to develop the will in the occult script.

4) Finding the philosopher's stone. This was felt to be a secret in the 18th century. Someone then also published something about it. It is something everyone knows. The philosopher's stone is at the same time the noblest thing man can attain to, can make of his organism in order to achieve higher development.

Let me give you a story from Vedanta philosophy for this.169It has not so far been possible to trace this. People once wanted to see if man could also live without eyes. After a year the individual concerned said: ‘Yes, I have lived, but as a blind person? He then tried to live without ears and a year later reported: 'Yes I have lived without ears, but as a deaf person.’ The voice was taken away and he lived as a mute person. Then his breath was to be taken away as well and that proved impossible. He could not live without breathing. Our breathing gives us the air we need to live. ‘And god breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’170Genesis 2: 7. We take in oxygen with every breath and release carbon dioxide. In the plant, the cycle goes the other way round. The plant uses carbon to build its body. This is why we find fossilized plants in coal after thousands of years. Man has carbon in him; he breathes in oxygen, and the carbon dioxide which is produced is removed. Animals do the same. The Rosicrucian school teaches a special way of breathing, so that the person learns the process which the plant carries out in itself. One day man will be able to transform his carbon himself; he himself will transform the blue blood that is streaming back into red blood. Now he takes in plant nature; one day he himself will do what the plant does today. The Rosicrucian says: ‘Today your body is made of flesh; one day you will create it yourself through the breath. Plant nature will appear in you, but you'll not sleep the way plants do but will be clairvoyant with it.’

This is the ideal man is moving towards—to build his body of carbon. Ordinary coal is the philosopher's stone. When man's body has become star-like it will not be black coal but transparent carbon, clear as water. These are not just chemical processes but sublime ideals. The Rosicrucian goes through it in stages, and later the whole of humanity will ascend to this level.

5) Knowing the human being as microcosm. In all the rest of nature, the world is spread out; man is an extract of it. Everything is spread out in the world in letters, and man is the word. In the early 19th century Oken171Oken, Lorenz (1779–1851), German naturalist and natural philosopher, professor of medicine at Jena, later at Munich and then Zurich. The quote: ‘The tongue is a cuttlefish’ was freely rendered by Rudolf Steiner, basing on Lehrbuch der Naturphilosophie. Jena 1831. Friedrich Frommann, 14. Buch: Zoologie, S. 424,466,496. and Schelling172Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von (1775–1854). German philosopher. presented the basic ideas of this, which were quite correct. They sought to gain understanding of the essence that lies in an organ. Oken got a bit grotesque when he said the tongue was a cuttlefish. Goethe said: ‘The eye is created by the light for the light.’173‘The eye owes its existence to light. Light creates an organ for itself from indifferent accessory animal organs, an organ to be like unto itself Thus the eye is created in the light for the light, so that the inner light may come to meet the outer.’ From the introduction to Goethe's Theory of Colour, An Outline. See Rudolf Steiner's Goethe the Scientist (GA 1). We only come to recognize the true nature of light when we find the principle in man that corresponds to light.

The teacher gives his pupil a leitmotiv, asking him to concentrate on a point, the organ that lies behind the root of the nose, and he comes to know the nature of dream consciousness in addition to his wide-awake conscious awareness. The human being gets to know the whole world when he deeply considers the spleen, liver and other things. When he has expanded his conscious awareness by thus entering into himself—it is dangerous to go broody—he will become one with the whole world.

6) Coming to know the macrocosm. Having perceived what I have just described, he will also perceive the creator behind all creation.

7) Getting to know godliness. At the 7th stage the individual reaches a point that calls forth universal feeling from the depths of the human soul and something he only has a right to know at this stage—the feeling of blessedness. It is only by gaining insight into macrocosm that he learns to enter into universal feeling. Entering into every individual thing in a clear and living way is godliness. There he discovers the soul that lies at rest behind nature. Someone once said to me: ‘I never thought a stone would feel anything if I split it.’ The spirit of the mineral world feels the greatest voluptuousness when a stone is split, a feeling of bliss. It may seem to us that the marble quarry is going through martyrdom; yet for the spirit of the stone is it the greatest bliss. Now you might ask why people are not told such details. Someone once said it would be most useful for people to know them. My reply was: 'People would want to gain things for themselves from this, and this secret must only be used in utterly selfless service to humanity.’

The Rosicrucians knew this secret, as do those who now walk this earth and serve human progress. They tell the things that will serve progress, they who know how the ‘chymical wedding’ may proceed.