29 December 1910, Stuttgart
Certain things that have been said in giving a brief glimpse into the occult course of human evolution will have indicated to you that the succession of incarnations as determined by the individual character and development of human beings, is modified through the intervention of spiritual forces from the higher Hierarchies. Reincarnation is by no means such a simple process in the evolution of humanity as a certain easy-going way of thinking likes to assume. It is, of course, a fact that man incarnates again and again, that the innermost core of his being appears over and over again in new incarnations; it is also true that there is a causal connection between earlier and later lives. Moreover there is the law of karma which gives expression to this causal connection. But over and above all this there is something else which is essential for understanding the historical course of the evolution of mankind. The course of human evolution would have been quite different if nothing except the causal connections between one incarnation and the next, or between the earlier and the later incarnations of the human being came into consideration. Other forces of great significance intervene perpetually in human life, in every incarnation, to a greater or less extent, and use the human being as an instrument. This applies particularly in the case of leading personalities in history. Hence it follows that purely individual karma is modified through the successive incarnations, and this is what actually happens.
Limiting ourselves for the time being to the Post-Atlantean period, we can speak of a law according to which, in the epochs up to the present time, the influences of other worlds are connected with man's individual karma A diagram is the only means of indicating what form these influences take and how they are related to the human individuality. Let us imagine (see diagram) that the oval form in the middle represents the human ego, the kernel of human nature. We now indicate the other members of man's being, leaving aside for the moment the division of the soul into sentient soul, intellectual soul and consciousness soul. Here, then, schematically, we have astral body, etheric body and physical body.
Because we are speaking of Post-Atlantean evolution only, we will try to envisage, from the many descriptions given, the essential elements in the future of man. We are now living in the middle of the Post-Atlantean epoch — in fact somewhat beyond the actual middle. lt is only necessary here to recapitulate very briefly what has been said on other occasions: that the Greco-Latin culture-epoch was the period of development paramountly of the intellectual or mind-soul, and that our present period is that of the development of the spiritual soul, the consciousness soul. The Babylonian-Egyptian culture-epoch brought the sentient soul especially to development; the preceding Persian epoch, the sentient body or astral body; and the far-off Indian epoch, the etheric body. The adaptation of the physical body to Post-Atlantean conditions of earthly existence had already been achieved during the last epochs preceding the great Atlantean catastrophe. So that when we now add to the diagram the other members of man's being we can say: in the Post-Atlantean epoch development proceeds during the ancient Indian period paramountly in the etheric body, during the ancient Persian period in the astral body, during the Egypto-Chaldean period in the sentient soul, during the Greco-Latin period in the intellectual soul, and during our own period in the consciousness-soul — that is to say, in the fifth member of man's being if we count each of the soul-members separately. In a sixth culture-epoch man will develop still further and his soul-nature will grow in a certain way into Manas, the Spirit-Self; in a seventh period — the last Post-Atlantean culture-epoch — man will grow into Life-Spirit or Buddhi; and what has been able to grow into Atma will actually unfold only after the great catastrophe by which the whole Post-Atlantean epoch will be brought to an end.
These things we know from the Lecture-Course on the apocalypse. 16See Rudolf Steiner, The Apocalypse of St. John But we must now take account of the fact that during the first, the ancient Indian epoch, man's development proceeded at a level below the realm of the ego itself. The ancient Indian, pre-Vedic culture was essentially an inspired culture, a culture which streamed as it were into the human soul without that activity of the ego which we know to-day as our life of thought and ideation. Since the Egyptian period, man has had to be active in his ego, to turn his ego, via the senses, to the surrounding world in order to receive its impressions; he has had himself to participate actively in this further development. The ancient Indian culture was acquired more passively, through surrender to what streamed into men like inspiration. It will therefore be understandable that this ancient Indian culture must be attributed to a kind of activity different from that carried out by the human ego to-day; what is now the activity of the ego had, so to speak, to be substituted in the ancient Indian soul by higher Beings who came down into human beings and inspired the human soul.
If we ask what it was that was brought from outside into the human soul in that age, what it was that was infused into the soul by Beings of the higher Hierarchies, we can answer: it was the came as that which man will attain at some future time as his own activity, when he has risen to the stage of Atma or Spirit-Man. In other words, the human individuality in the future will penetrate into Atma. This penetration will be achieved by the efforts of the soul itself, the efforts of the central core of man's being. And just as man himself will then be working in his own being, so did Beings of the higher Hierarchies once work into and upon the soul of the ancient Indian. To describe what took place in the etheric bodies of ancient Indian souls, we can say: it was a dim, half-slumbering ego-consciousness that was working there; Atma was working in the etheric body. It may rightly be said that the soul of the ancient Indian was an arena where superhuman work was performed; higher Beings were working in the etheric body of the ancient Indian. And what was then woven into the etheric body was an activity such as man himself will later an come to achieve in the way indicated, when Atma works in the etheric body.
In ancient Persian culture, Buddhi or Life-Spirit worked in the astral body, in the sentient body; and in Babylonian-Chaldean? Egyptian culture, Manas or Spirit-Self worked in the sentient soul. This latter culture, therefore, does not yet bear the stamp of the ego working with full activity within the soul itself. Although to a less extent than before, man was still a passive arena for the working of Manas in the sentient soul. It was in the Greco-Latin epoch that for the first time man entered into his own life of soul with full activity. It is in the intellectual soul that the ego first makes itself felt as an independent, inner member of man's being, and we can therefore say: In Greek culture the ego actually works in the ego, man as such works in man. In the course of these lectures we shall see that the essential and unique character of Greek culture is due to the fact that the ego is working in the ego.
But that culture-epoch already lies some time behind us; and whereas in the pre-Grecian epoch higher Beings came down in a certain way into the core of man's nature and worked within it, in our time we have to fulfil an opposite task. What we have developed and elaborated through our ego, what we are in a position to take in from the impressions of the outer world by dint of our own activity, we must, to begin with, be able to acquire in a purely human way; but then we must not remain at the point where the people of the Greco-Latin period came to a standstill, in that we unfold the human only, the purely human as such. What we work out for ourselves must be carried upwards md interwoven into what is still to come; we must take the direction upwards, as it were, to what is to come in later times: Manas or Spirit-Self. This, however, will not be until the sixth culture-epoch. We are now living between the fourth and the sixth epochs; the sixth gives promise that mankind will then be in a position to bear upwards into higher regions of existence what has been unfolded through the outer impressions received by the ego through its senses. In the fifth culture-epoch we are in a position only to set about giving a certain stamp to everything we acquire from outer impressions and from working on them — a stamp which will imbue everything with an impetus in the upward direction. In this respect we are in truth living in a period of transition, and if you recall what was said yesterday about the spiritual Power working in the Maid of Orleans, you will see that there was already in Operation in her something that takes the opposite direction to that of the influences of higher Powers in the pre-Grecian epoch. When, let us say, a man belonging to the ancient Persian culture received the influence of a super-sensible Power which used him as its instrument, this Power worked into and took effect in the very kernel of his being, and the man beheld and experienced what this spiritual Being inspired into him. When the man of our time enters into relation with such spiritual Powers, he can carry upwards what he experiences in the physical world through the work of his ego and the impressions it receives; he can give it all an upward orientation. Hence in personalities such as the Maid of Orleans, the revelations, the manifestations of those spiritual Powers who desire to speak to her, take place, to be sure, in the sphere to which she reaches, but something spreads itself in front of these revelations, without actually detracting from their reality but giving them a particular form — the form arising from what the ego experiences here in the physical world. In other words: the Maid of Orleans had revelations, but she could not behold them with the direct vision of the people of ancient times; the mental pictures she had known in the physical world — pictures of the Virgin Mary, of the Archangel Michael, arising from her Christian conceptions — interposed themselves between her own egohood and the objective spiritual Powers.
There we have an example of how in spiritual matters we must distinguish between the objectivity of a revelation and the objectivity of a content of consciousness. The Maid of Orleans saw the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Michael in the form of a certain picture. We must not conceive these pictures to be the spiritual reality itself; nor must we ascribe direct objectivity to the form they take. But to say that they are mere invention would be nonsense. Revelations from the spiritual world did indeed come to the Maid of Orleans, revelations which in the sixth culture-epoch — and not until then — man will be able to see in the form in which they should be seen in the Post-Atlantean epoch. But although the Maid of Orleans did not see this true form, it did come down towards her. She brought the religious conceptions of her day to meet these revelations, clothed them as it were in this imagery; her world of mental images was evoked by the spiritual Power. The revelation is therefore to be regarded as objective. Even if in our time someone can show that subjective elements make their way into a revelation from the spiritual world, even if we cannot regard the actual picture which the Person in question forms for himself as objective, even if it is only a veil — we must not for that reason assert that the objective revelations themselves are veils. They are objective; but their content is conjured forth from the soul. We must distinguish between the objectivity of that content and the objectivity of the facts which come from the spiritual world. — I am obliged to stress this point because in this domain mistakes are made by those who acknowledge the reality of the spiritual world as well as by our opponents — contrasting mistakes, it is true, but of very common occurrence.
The Maid of Orleans is therefore a personality already working entirely in the spirit of our own epoch, when everything that we can produce on the foundation of our outer impressions must be directed upward to the spiritual. But what does this mean when we apply it to our own culture and civilisation? It means this. — We may direct our attention, naïvely to begin with, to our environment, but if we stop at that, if we have eyes for the outer impressions only, then we are not fulfilling our bounden obligation. We fulfil it only when we are conscious that these impressions must be related to the spiritual Powers behind them. When we pursue science in the manner of academic scholarship, we are not fulfilling our obligation. We must regard everything that we can learn about the laws of natural phenomena and the laws of the manifestations of the life of soul as though it were a language which is to lead us to a revelation of the divine-spiritual. When we are conscious that all physical, chemical, biological, physiological, psychological laws must be related to something spiritual that is revealing itself to us, then we are fulfilling our obligation.
So it is in respect of the sciences of our time and so it is in respect of art. The art we characterise as that of ancient Greece which contemplated the human being in a simpler, more direct way, always presenting the purely human, the working of the ego with the ego in so far as the ego expresses itself in the physical material — this art has had its day. In our time the urge has arisen instinctively in personalities of great artistic gifts, to present art as a kind of offering to the divine-spiritual worlds; that is to say, to regard what is clothed in musical tones, for example, as an interpretation of spiritual mysteries. In the history of culture viewed from its occult aspect, Richard Wagner will one day have to be so regarded, down to the very details of his art. He, particularly, will have to be regarded as a representative man of our fifth culture-epoch, as one who always felt the urge to express in what lived in him in the form of musical tones, the impetus towards the spiritual world; who looked upon a work of art as the outer language of the spiritual world. In him the remains of ancient culture and the dawn of a new culture face each other in sharp, even discordant, contrast in our time. Have we not witnessed how the purely human arrangement of the tones, the purely formal music which Richard Wagner wanted to surmount, was vigorously defended by his opponents because they were incapable of feeling that in him a new impulse was rising instinctively, like the dawn of a new day?
I do not know whether the majority of you are aware that for a long, long time Richard Wagner has had the bitterest, most rabid critics and opponents. These critics and opponents have had a certain guidance from the extremely ingenious work an music produced in Vienna by Eduard Hanslick, the author of the interesting little volume, Vom Musikalisch-Schönen (“On the Beautiful in Music.”). 17Published in Leipzig, 1854. I do not know whether you realise that with the publication of this book the old was set up in opposition, as it were, to the rising of a new dawn in history. Hanslick's book may become an historic memorial of recent times. For what was his aim? He says: One cannot make music in the way Richard Wagner makes it; that is not music at all, for music there sets out with the intention of pointing to something that lies outside music, to something super-sensible. Music is an “arabesque in tones” — this was one of Hanslick's favourite expressions. In other words, music is an arabesque-like interweaving of tones, and the musical-aesthetic enjoyment of it may consist in purely human delight in the way in which the tones resound in and after one another. Hanslick says that Richard Wagner is no musician, that he simply does not understand the essence of the musical, that the essence of music lies simply in the architecture of the tone-material. — What can one say about such a phenomenon? One can only say that Hanslick was pre-eminently a reactionary, a straggler from the fourth culture-epoch. Then — in that epoch — he would have been right; but what is right for one epoch is not valid for the next. From Hanslick's standpoint one can say: Richard Wagner is no musician. But then one would have to add: that epoch is now over; we must accept what springs from it, reconciling ourselves through the fact that music, as Hanslick understands it, is expanding into something altogether new.
This clash between the old and the new can be observed in many domains, particularly in our own culture-epoch, and it is extraordinarily interesting to observe it especially in the various branches of science. It would lead much too far to attempt to show how there are reactionaries everywhere, as well as those who are striving to produce out of the different sciences what science ought to become: the expression of a divine-spiritual reality behind the phenomena. Spiritual Science should be the basic element which permeates the present time in order that the divine-spiritual may more and more consciously be made the goal and focus of our labours. Spiritual Science should everywhere awaken the impulses leading from below upwards, summoning human souls to offer up what is gained through external impressions for the sake of what is attained as we work our way to the higher regions of Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Man.
With this picture of human history, of occult history, before us we shall understand that a soul incarnated in the ancient Indian and then in the Persian epoch could be inspired by an individual Being of the higher Hierarchies, but that on passing into the Greco-Latin epoch this soul was alone with itself, inasmuch as the ego was then working in the ego. Everything that in the pre-Grecian age, in all the early cycles of Post-Atlantean civilisation, appears as divine inspiration, as a revelation from above — and this still holds good at the beginning of the Grecian epoch itself, in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, B.C. — everything that presents itself to us as inspired culture into which the spiritual content flows from outside, begins to be expressed more and more in the form of the purely human and personal. And this comes to its strongest expression in Greek culture. No previous age had seen — nor will any subsequent age see again — such an expression of the outer man living in the physical world as a self-based ego-being. The purely human and personal, entirely self-contained, comes to light as historical reality in the mode of life of the ancient Greek and in his creations. See how the Greek sculptor has woven the element of the human and personal into his figures of the gods! We can truly say that in a masterpiece of Greek sculpture man stands before us wholly as personality — in so far as it can be made recognisable in physical media. And if at the sight of a Greek work of art we were not able to efface the thought that the particular incarnation there expressed was preceded and will be followed by others — if we were to imagine for a single moment that in the form of an Apollo or a Zeus only one out of many incarnations is represented — then we should not have the true feeling for these masterpieces. In looking at them we must be able to forget that the human being is incarnated in successive earthly lives. In Greek works of art the whole personality has poured into the form of the single personality. This was the hallmark of the life of the Greeks.
On the other hand, when we go further back into the past, the forms become symbolic; they indicate something that is not purely human, something that man does not yet feel within his own self. In those times he could only express in symbols what was coming in from divine-spiritual worlds. Hence, in the archaic period, art was symbolic. — And when we see the form in which art then makes its way to the people who were destined to provide the material for our own, fifth culture-epoch — think only of earlier German art — we find that there we have to do, not with symbolism, nor with an expression of the purely human, but with an inwardly deepened life of soul. We see there that the soul cannot wholly permeate the outer human form. How could the figures of Albrecht Dürer be characterised otherwise than by saying that man's longing for the super-sensible world comes only to imperfect expression — imperfect in the Greek sense — in the outer configuration of the body Hence the deepening in the direction of the life of soul as art progresses to further stages.
And now it will no longer be incomprehensible to you that in the first of these lectures I said: what was incarnated at an earlier time appears in the physical world later on like a shadow-image. Beings of the higher Hierarchies streamed into the individuality of a man belonging, let us say, to the early Greek world, so that when we say “he was incarnated” we must not see this self-contained being only, but standing behind him an individuality of a higher Hierarchy. That is the picture we must have of Alexander, and of Aristotle, in the Greco-Latin epoch. We follow their individualities back into the past. From Alexander we must go back to Gilgamesh and say: in Gilgamesh is the individuality who then, projected as it were on the physical plane, appears as Alexander; behind this individuality is a Fire-Spirit who uses him as an instrument. And if we go back from Aristotle, we see the powers of the old clairvoyance working in Eabani, the friend of Gilgamesh. Thus we see how both old souls and young souls, with the old clairvoyance behind them, are placed right out on the physical plane in the Greek epoch. This confronts us vividly in the great woman mathematician Hypatia, in whom all the mathematical and philosophical wisdom of her time lived as personal ability, as personal erudition and wisdom. This was all embraced in the personality of Hypatia. And we shall understand that this individuality had to be born as a woman in order to bring together in a delicately concise form all that she had earlier received from the Orphic Mysteries — in order to impart to everything she had learnt from the Inspirers of those Mysteries the stamp of a personal style.
We see, therefore, how in the successive incarnations of human beings influences from the spiritual world bring about modifications. I can do not more than intimate that the individuality who incarnated as Hypatia, who brought with her the wisdom of the Orphic Mysteries and gave personal expression to it, was called upon in a subsequent incarnation to take the opposite path: to bear all personal wisdom upwards again to the divine-spiritual. Hypatia appeared at the turn of the 12th and 13th century as a significant, universal spirit of later history, one who had a great influence upon the knowledge that brings together science and philosophy. — Thus we see how the Powers operating in the course of history penetrate into the successive incarnations of particular individualities.
Observing the course of history in this way we actually see a kind of descent from spiritual heights until the Greco-Latin epoch, and then again an ascent. During the Greek epoch — and it has continued, naturally, into our own time — there is a gathering together of material to be acquired purely from the physical plane and then. a carrying up of it again into the spiritual world. For this, Spiritual Science should provide an impulse — an impulse that was already alive instinctively in a personality such as Hypatia, when she was incarnated again in the 13th century.
Now at this point, because the Theosophical Society is in a certain respect a veritable arena of misunderstandings, I want to emphasise that very many of these misunderstandings are pure inventions. there are people who like to read into what is said, for example, in the lectures given in our German Movement, a certain opposition to the original revelations of the Theosophical Movement in the modern age. I am therefore glad to take the opportunity of pointing out that what is given here from genuine Rosicrucian sources harmonises with mach that was originally given in the Theosophical Movement. This is an opportune moment for referring to the matter. It has been said by me, and enlarged upon quite independently of traditions, that certain personalities in later history are, as it were, shadow-images of earlier personalities portrayed in the myths, and behind whom there stand Beings of the higher Hierarchies. Such things should not be taken as though they contradicted those revelations which were given to the Theosophical Society through H. P. Blavatsky. For then, through sheer misunderstanding, one might very easily set oneself in opposition to the good old teachings which were transmitted through that extraordinarily useful instrument, H. P. Blavatsky. In connection with what we have been studying here, let me quote a passage from her later writings, where she refers to her earlier work, Isis Unveiled. The following passage will show you that what is said about contradiction is really sheer invention — there is no other way of putting it.
“But in addition to reiterating the old, ever-present fact of Reincarnation and Karma — not as taught by the Spiritualist, but as by the post Ancient Science in the world — occultists must teach cyclic and evolutionary reincarnation: that kind of rebirth, mysterious and still incomprehensible to many who are ignorant of the world's history, which was cautiously mentioned in Isis Unveiled. A general rebirth for every individual, with interludes of Kama Loca and Devachan, and a cyclic, conscious reincarnation with a grand and divine object for the few. Those great characters who tower like giants in the history of mankind, like Siddhartha Buddha and Jesus in the realm of the spiritual, and Alexander the Macedonian and Napoleon the Great in the realm of physical conquest are but the reflected images of human types which had existed — not ten thousand years before, as cautiously put forward in Isis Unveiled, but for millions of consecutive years from the beginning of the Manvantara. For — with the exception of the actual Avataras — as above explained, they are the same unbroken Rays (Monads), each respectively of its own special Parent-Flame, called Devas, Dhyan Chohans or Dhyani Buddhas, or again Planetary Angels, etc. — shining in aeonic eternity as their prototypes. It is in their image that some men are born, and when some specific humanitarian object is in view, the latter are hypostatically animated by their divine prototypes, reproduced again and again by the mysterious Powers that control and guide the destinies of our world.
“No more could be said at the time when Isis Unveiled was written; hence the statement was limited to the single remark that ‘There is no prominent character in all the annals of sacred or profane history whose prototype we cannot find in the half fictitious and half real traditions of bygone religions and mythologies.’ As the star, glimmering at an immeasurable distance above our heads in the boundless immensity of the sky, reflects itself in the still waters of a Lake, so does the imagery of men of the antediluvian ages reflect itself in the periods we can embrace in a historical retrospect.” 18See H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. III, p. 370. (London, 1897.)
As I said, I gladly seize the opportunity of emphasising the agreement of what it is possible to investigate at the present time with what was in a sense the original revelation. You know that it is a principle here to keep faith in a certain respect with the traditions of the Theosophical Movement; but the essential point — and I lay special stress upon it — is that nothing is repeated unless it has first been investigated and checked. Where agreement between what is already known and something from another source can be clearly shown, this should be done, for the sake of continuity in the Theosophical Society and in fairness; but nothing should simply be repeated without thorough examination. It is part of the mission of our German Section of the Theosophical Movement to bring our own, individual impulse into that Movement. But the examples given can show you how groundless is the misconception which crops up here and there that we always take a contrary view of things. We work faithfully onwards without constantly reiterating the old dogmas; we also test what is being presented to-day from other quarters. And we stand for that which can be said, with the best occult conscience, an the basis of the original occult investigations and the methods handed down to us through our own sacred Rosicrucian traditions.
Now it is of the greatest interest to show by the example of a particular personality how the knowledge that was inspired into humanity under the influence of higher Powers assumed in a man of the Greco-Latin epoch a character adapted to the physical plane. Thus we can show how Eabani, in the incarnation between the life as Eabani and the life as Aristotle, was able under the influence of the ancient Mystery-teachings, into which forces streamed from the super-sensible worlds, to imbibe the principles which in certain Mystery-schools were essential to the further development of the human soul. We will not speak of the particular characteristics of the different Mystery-schools, but will direct our attention to one kind of Mystery-school where, by the awakening of particular feelings, the soul developed to the stage of being able to penetrate into the superphysical world. In such Mystery-schools the feelings and impulses paramountly awakened were those capable of eradicating every trace of egoism from the soul. The soul came to realise that in truth it must always be egoistic when incarnated in a physical body. The whole range, the whole import of egoism an the physical plane were impressed into the soul; and such a soul felt shattered to the depths at having to admit: “Hitherto I have known only egoism; indeed, in the physical body I cannot be anything else than an egoist.” Such a soul was leagues away from the commonplace standpoint of people who are forever saying: “I want this, not for myself, but for someone else.” To overcome egoism and to acquire the urge towards the universal human and the cosmic is not such an easy matter as many people imagine. For it must be preceded by the complete elimination of every trace of egoism in the impulses of the soul. In the Mysteries to which I am here referring, the soul had to learn to feel pity and compassion for everything human, for everything cosmic — compassion born from the overcoming of the physical plane. It might then be hoped that such a soul would bring down again from the higher worlds the true feeling of compassion for every living creature and all existent beings.
But still another feeling was to be developed — a feeling paramount among many others. If man is to penetrate into the spiritual world, he must realise that everything in that world differs from the things of the physical world. He who is to confront the spiritual world face to face must stand before it as before something completely unknown. Fear of the unknown is present there as an actual danger. Therefore in these Mysteries, in order to equip itself to banish all the feelings of fear, anxiety, terror and horror known to man, the soul must first experience them to their very depths. Then the pupil was armed for the ascent into the unknown purlieus of the spiritual world. The soul of the pupil of these Mysteries had to be so trained as to acquire an all-embracing, universal feeling of compassion and of fearlessness. This was the ordeal to be endured by every soul in those ancient Mysteries in which Eabani participated when he appeared again in the incarnation lying between his lives as Eabani and as Aristotle. This too he experienced. And it arose again in Aristotle like a memory of earlier incarnations. He was able to define the essence of tragedy precisely because out of such memories there arose in him at the spectacle of Greek tragedy the realisation that here was an echo, a reproduction carried outwards to the physical plane, of that Mystery-training wherein the soul is purified through experiencing compassion and fear. Thus the hero and the whole construction of a tragedy must present a spectacle which on a milder level evokes in the audience compassion with the face of the hero and fear in face of the destiny and terrible death that beckon him. And so the experiences undergone by the soul of the ancient mystic were woven into the succession of events in the tragedy, into the plot and movement of the drama: purification, catharsis, through fear and compassion, and like an echo, the man of the Greek epoch was to experience this an the physical plane. What was formerly a great educative principle was now be experienced through the medium of aesthetic enjoyment. And when what Aristotle had learnt in earlier incarnations rose up into his personal consciousness, he was the one able to give the unique definition of tragedy which has become classic and has had such an effect that it was still accepted by Lessing in the 18th century, and through the 19th century played a role which caused whole libraries to be written about it. As a matter of fact it would be no great loss if the larger part of these volumes had been burnt; for they were written in complete ignorance of what has just been said — that here we have to do with a projection down into art of something that belongs to the spiritual life. These authors had no inkling that Aristotle was communicating an ancient secret of the Mysteries when he said: A tragedy is a weaving together round a hero of successive actions, which are able to arouse in the spectator the emotions of fear and compassion in order that a catharsis may take place in his soul. 19Aristotle, The Poetics, VI. The several English renderings of this famous passalte differ slightly in wording. The following translation is by W. Hamilton Fyfe, in Aristotle's Art of Poetry (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1940): “A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action that is serious, has magnitude, and is complete in itself; in language with pleasurable accessories, each kind brought in separately in the various parts of the work; in a dramatic, not a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions.”
So we see that in what a single personality wills and says there is shadowed forth something that can be intelligible to us only when we look through the personality to the Being who Stands behind him, to the Inspirer. Not until we look at history in this way shall we be able to perceive what the personality, as well as the super-personal Powers, signify in history, and how there plays into the single incarnations something which Madame Blavatsky calls the interplay between personal, individual incarnations and what she means when she says: “But in addition to reiterating the old, ever-present fact of Reincarnation and Karma, occultists must teach cyclic and evolutionary reincarnation” ... and so on. She calls this “conscious” reincarnation, because in the case of most people to-day the ego is unconscious of successive incarnations, whereas the spiritual Powers who work into these incarnations from above consciously carry over their forces from one age into the other in accordance with cyclic law.
This example of what was revealed by Blavatsky in her earliest
period, from out of the Rosicrucian Mysteries, can be thoroughly checked
and confirmed by independent investigations. It will show you, however,
that the easy-going habit of conceiving the one incarnation merely as
the result of a preceding one, must be essentially modified. You will
also realise that reincarnation is a far more complicated nexus of facts
than is generally supposed, and can be fully understood only if the
human being is seen in connection with a higher, superphysical world
which penetrates continually into our world. lt can be said that in the
intermediate period which we call the Greco-Latin epoch of culture, men
were given time to experience an aftermath of all that had been laid
into the soul from higher worlds through long series of incarnations, to
let it echo for once in the purely human ego. What was lived out in the
Greco-Latin world was like a human and personal expression of endless
memories laid at an earlier time into these same individualities by
higher worlds. Shall we then wonder that the greatest Spirits of the
Greek world became specially conscious of this? Looking into their inner
life they said to themselves: “There it is all streaming forth,
worlds are stretching there into our personality; but these experiences
are recollections of what was poured into us in earlier times from
spiritual worlds.” — Read how Plato interprets human
knowledge as the soul's recollection of its past experiences. 20See Phaedo, 75; 76,
an the Platonic doctrine of reminiscence. “... But if the
knowledge which we acquired before but was lost by us at birth, and if
afterwards by the use of the scnses we recovered what we previously
knew, will not the process which we call learning be a recovering
of the knowledge which is natural to us, and may not this be rightly
termed recollection? ...”
(Tr. Jowett.) There you see how the works of a thinker such as Plato emanated from a deep and true consciousness belonging to the fourth Post-Atlantean epoch. Not until we are able to look with occult insight into the Spirit of the several epochs shall we understand what a single utterance of so outstanding a personality really signifies.