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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Christian Mystery
GA 97

XII. Adept Schools of the Distant Past

7 March 1907, Düsseldorf

The spiritual science movement has not developed in our time as the wilful action of an individual or of someone or other. It has to do with the whole of human evolution and as such must be considered to be one of the most important cultural impulses. To gain insight into this mission of the spiritual science movement we need to enter into the past and future life of humanity. Individuals have gone through a process of evolution from the time when they first came down out of the keeping of the godhead and became individual souls, and humanity as a whole has also gone through a process of evolution.

Just consider the differences, the changes and development to be seen in the earth's surface through the millennia—how thoroughly everything has changed. ‘Humanity’, as we are wont to call it, is only the outcome of the ‘fifth root race’, as it is called. A different, earlier humanity preceding it was the fourth root race whose continent, Atlantis, lay somewhere between present-day Europe and America. Our forebears on Atlantis looked very different. They also had a completely different civilization. The ancient Atlanteans did not have a fully developed rational mind and way of thinking but were instead provided with subtle, somnambulant clairvoyant powers. Logic, rational thinking capable of making connections, science and art as we know them today did not exist in ancient Atlantis, for human beings then had a very different way of forming ideas, thinking and feeling. They would not have been able to make connections, calculate, count or read the way we do today. But somnambulant clairvoyant powers of the spirit lived in them. They were able to understand the language of nature, what God said to them in the lapping of the waves, what the woods were murmuring, and what the subtle scents of flowers brought to expression. They understood this language of nature and were in harmony with all nature. No legislation, no jurisdiction then served to make neighbour communicate with neighbour. No, the Atlanteans would go outside and listen to the sounds of the trees and the wind and they would tell them what they should do.

The memory of ancient Atlantis or Niflheim [home of mists] has survived most beautifully in folk legends such as the Nibelungenlied105Middle High German epic poem from the early 13th century, based on the legends of Siegfried and the Burgundian kings. which have never been works of fiction produced at random. The word Nibel or Nifl indicates that the Rhine and all the rivers in the area are waters remaining from the masses of mists in ancient Atlantis. The wisdom that has survived from Atlantis is referred to as the treasure that lies hidden in the waters. We must also look for the nursery of the ancient adepts in that continent. Individuals went there who had the abilities needed to become pupils of the great minds we now call the ‘masters of wisdom and of the harmony of inner feelings’.106Rudolf Steiner was referring to highly evolved individuals who are of the greatest possible importance to humanity. 'These sublime entities have already followed the path which the rest of humanity still has before it. They now work as the great 'teachers of wisdom and of the harmony of man's inner feelings/ (From a letter to a member, Berlin 2 January 1905). See also Rudolf Steiner/Marie von Sivers Correspondence and Documents 1901–1925 (GA 262). Tr. C. von Arnim. London and New York: AP & RSP 1988.

The location of the adept school, which had its flowering during the fourth sub-race on ancient Atlantis, must be sought in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Pupils were taught in a very different way there than they are today. It was then possible to have a tremendous influence go from one human being to the other with the power that still lay in words at that time. Today, a little bit of feeling for the inner, spiritual, occult power of words still survives among the people. You simply cannot compare the power words have today with the power they had at that time. It was something quite tremendous. The word in itself would awaken powers in the pupil's soul. A mantra such as we have it today does not have anything like the power which words had at that time, when they were not so full of thoughts. Powers of soul would arise in the pupil under the influence of those words. We might call it human initiation through the language of nature, with tremendous power. A definite language was then also spoken by burning substances such as incense.

The connection between the teacher's and the pupil's soul was much more direct in that place. Any written signs existing at the adept school of ancient Atlantis imitated natural processes. They were drawn in the air with the hand, and had an effect, also a lasting effect, on the mind and spirit of the people at that time. They would awaken powers in the soul.

Every race thus has its mission in human evolution. The mission of our own, the fifth main or root race, is to bring the manas element into the four elements of human nature, that is to awaken insight and understanding by means of concepts and ideas. Every race has its mission. The mission of the Atlantean race was to develop the I. Our own, the fifth root race of the post- Atlantean period, has to develop manas, the spirit self.

The achievements of Atlantis did not perish with it. The most important elements of everything that existed in the adepts' nursery was kept by a small core group of people when they left. This small group, guided by Manu, went into the area where the Gobi desert is today. There they recreated the earlier civilization and teaching, but now more for the thinking mind. The earlier powers of spirit were transformed into thoughts and signs. From there, from this centre, the different lines of civilization then went out like radii, like rays. First of all the wonderful, most ancient pre-Vedic civilization, where the wisdom that came streaming in was for the first time transformed into thoughts.

The second civilization to arise from the ancient adept school was the most ancient Persian civilization. The third was the Chaldean and Babylonian civilization with its wonderful star wisdom, the magnificent knowledge its priests had. The fourth civilization to come into flower was the Graeco-Latin with its personal colouring, and finally our own developed as the fifth. We are moving towards the sixth and seventh. I have thus identified our mission in human evolution. It is to transform into thoughts, to bring right down to the physical plane, the cosmic wisdom which has existed as such until now.

When an ancient Atlantean listened for the note that lay between the sounds he could hear around him, he would hear the name of something he had perceived to be the divine: Tao. In the Egyptian mysteries this note was transformed into thoughts, writings, signs—the Tao sign, the Tao books. Everything that exists as knowledge, writings, thought only came into the world in post-Atlantean times. It could not have been written down before, for it would have been beyond human understanding. We are now in the middle of manas development. Our race works to take cultivation of the intellect, and at the same time also of egotism, to its extremes. We may certainly say, even if it does sound grotesque: ‘There has never been so much power of understanding and so little inner vision in the world as there is now.’ Thought is furthest away from the inner essence of things, far removed from inner spiritual vision.

When a priest on Atlantis wrote signs in the air, the effect of this would above all be an inner experience in the pupil's soul. In the fourth, the GraecoLatin period, the personal aspect was more to the fore. The Greeks developed personal art. In Rome, the personal element came into government affairs and so on. In our time we live with egotism, a dry personal element, a dry intellect. It is, however, our mission to grasp the occult in the purest thought element. Grasping the spiritual in this, the finest distillate of the brain, is the true mission of our age. To make this thought so powerful that it will have something of an occult power—that is the task we have been given so that we may do what is needed for the future.

Massive fires destroyed ancient Lemuria, massive floods ancient Atlantis. Our own civilization will also perish, and this will be through the war of all against all—this lies before us. Our fifth root race will perish because of egotism taken to its extreme. But a small group of people will out of the power of thought develop the power of buddhi, life spirit, and take it on into the new civilization. Everything that is productive in the human being will grow and grow until his individual nature has risen far enough to reach the summit of freedom. Every individual will have to find a kind of guiding spirit in his inmost soul in our time, buddhi, the power of the life spirit. If we were to go into the future being able to take in civilization impulses only the way it has been done in earlier times, we would move towards humanity shattering into fragments.

What is it that we have in our present age? Each wants to be his own master. Egotism, selfishness is going to extremes. A time is coming when no authority will be accepted other than authority people are able to accept of their own free will, so that its power will base on freely given trust. The mysteries based on the power of the spirit are called ‘mysteries of the spirit’. The future mysteries built on a basis of trust, on the power of trust, are called ‘mysteries of the father’. We bring our civilization to its conclusion with them. This new impulse, the power of trust, must come, otherwise we shall shatter into fragments and shall have a general ego-based and egotistical civilization.

In the times of the mystery of the spirit, based on a power, authority and might of the spirit that did have its justification, individual great sages had wisdom in their possession. They could only initiate people who had gone through severe trials. We are now moving towards a future that will hold the mysteries of the father and have to make every effort to see that every individual is wise. Will this help against egotism and being shattered? Yes! For human beings can only be united if they gain the greatest wisdom, a wisdom in which there are no personal vagaries, opinions or standpoints but one common view. If people were to continue in the way of being different, having points of view, and so on, they would again and again go their separate ways. The most sublime wisdom, however, always creates the same view for all people. True wisdom is one wisdom that brings all people together again in the greatest possible freedom, with no coercion or authority. As the members of the great white brotherhood107In one set of lecture notes it says ‘of the white lodge’. are always in harmony among themselves and with humanity, so will all human beings be united in this wisdom at a future time. This wisdom alone will create the true idea of brotherhood. The mission of the science of the spirit therefore need be no more than to guide humanity towards this idea, now in the unfolding of the spirit self, later of the life spirit. The great goal of the spiritual science movement is to make it possible for human beings to be free and truly wise. Its mission is to let this truth and wisdom flow into human beings.

In the modern movement for a science of the spirit, one began with the most elementary teaching. Much that is important has been unveiled in the years since the movement started, and even more important things will be gradually unveiled. The work of the movement is therefore to let the wisdom of the great white brotherhood that had its origin in Atlantis flow out gradually. Such work has always been preceded by a long period of preparation. The great and unique event of the coming of Christ Jesus was thus prepared for by all the work of the founders of religions—Zarathustra, Hermes, Moses, Orpheus, Pythagoras. All their teaching had the same goal—to let wisdom come to human beings, though always in the form most appropriate for the people concerned. And it is not what the Christ said that was really new. The really new thing that came with the coming and teaching of Christ Jesus was that Christ Jesus had the power to bring to life everything which until then had only been teaching.

Through Christianity, humanity has gained the power that all may be united in acknowledging the authority of Christ Jesus and yet be utterly individual, and that human beings can unite and be brothers in their faith in Christ Jesus, his coming, his divinity. Between the mysteries of the spirit and those of the father we thus have the mysteries of the son, with the school of St Paul its planting site, the school put in the care of Dionysius the Areopagite. The school had its flowering under him, for Dionysius taught those mysteries in a very special way, whilst Paul spread the teaching exoterically.

Let us now provide an explanation from another direction, so that we may understand what it means to say: the mysteries of the father are coming. The teachers of the ancient Atlantean adept school were not human beings but spirits higher than man. They had completed their development on earlier planets. And these teachers, coming from ancient planetary evolutions, taught the mysteries of the spirit to a small select band. In the mysteries of the son, Christ Jesus himself would appear as the teacher on special occasions. He, too, was a teacher who was not human but a god. It will not be until we have the mysteries of the father that the teachers will be humans. Individuals who have developed faster than the rest of humanity will be the true masters of wisdom and of harmony. They will be called the fathers. In the mysteries of the father, therefore, the guidance of humanity will be no longer in the hands of spirits who have come down from other worlds, but in the hands of human beings themselves. This is the important point.

To prepare people to be a core group for this goal, to prepare them for a common wisdom, for authority based on trust, and to develop understanding, initially for a small core group of people—that is the mission of the science of the spirit. The evolution of material civilization reached its high point in the 19th century. This was the time when the science of the spirit first came into the world. A counter impulse to materialism, going in the opposite direction, toward the spirit, was created by this means and therefore existed. The science of the spirit is nothing new, nor the spiritual scientific movement—it merely continues what was there before. Materialism, egotism cause humanity to shatter into fragments, with individuals seeing only their own interests. Wisdom must bring human beings together again who have been separated by this. In utter freedom, with no coercion, people are brought together in wisdom. That is the mission of the spiritual scientific movement in our time. We must clearly understand that we need to gain wisdom in very real terms. We all know the story of the stove whose mission it is to get the room warm. We may present this to the stove in the most moving words, asking it to get the room warm, but it will not do so. It is only if we turn it on that it can fulfil its mission. And so there is little point in just talking about brotherhood and love of one another. Insight alone will take us closer to our goal. For every individual and for humanity as a whole, the road to wisdom, to brotherhood, can only be found through insight.

We have now considered this road, going through three kinds of mysteries. Science of the spirit must make it possible for a small core group of people to understand what has been said, so that understanding may come alive in the masses in the sixth race. This is the mission which the science of the spirit must accomplish. A small part of the fifth root race will anticipate evolution; it will spiritualize manas and unfold the spirit self. The greater part, however, will reach the summit of selfishness. The core group which develops the spirit self will be the seed for the sixth root race, and the ones who are most advanced among them, the masters who have come from the ranks of humanity, as we call them, will then guide the human race. This is the goal of the movement for spiritual insight.