Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz
I. The Christ Impulse in Historical Development I
17 September 1911, Lugano
We shall begin by discussing something of a general character. And since we are a small intimate circle, we can then elaborate on any aspect that especially interests you. I would like to make some general statements about the being of man in connection with World Being, with the Macrocosm. And I will not approach it so much in the style of my book Theosophy — you can all get sufficient knowledge from that — but I invite you to consider especially man's inner nature.
If now and then we contemplate ourselves as human beings, we are immediately struck by the fact that we experience the world about us through our senses, and then think about the impressions we have received. We constantly observe these two attributes of man's being. If, for instance, we have put the light out at night and review the day's impressions before going to sleep, we are conscious that all day long the world has worked upon us. Now only the memory pictures of the day's impressions surge up and down in our souls. We know that we are thinking about them, our soul is now within the after-effects of what has taken place in us through the outer impressions. Apart from trivial matters, we call these memories of the day our own individual impressions. It is only because we are intelligent, individual human beings, beings with an intellect, that we are capable of receiving impressions of the world in this way.
Now, in our spiritual life this individual aspect is closely connected with external impressions. During the day, whilst we observe the world, our sense impressions and our thoughts intermingle. And at bedtime, when we no longer have any fresh sense impressions, but let those we have had pass through our soul, then we know very well that these are our pictures of what is outside. Our impressions of the outer world merge with what we are as individuals. They become one. Now, as we all know, one can make this inner, individual element within us more and more alive, more and more exact, by the means already known to us and described for instance in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. What you can experience first of all in your inner life, is that you feel you are not absolutely dependent in your thoughts on the external world. If, for instance, someone can think about what happened on Saturn, Sun and Moon, then he has higher thoughts of this kind. For of course nobody can have external impressions of what happened on old Saturn, old Sun and old Moon. We do not even need to go so far. If we ask ourselves in a quiet moment: ‘How many of my concepts have changed since my youth?’ this in itself is taking an independent individual stand with regard to the world. When we form views about life, we feel ourselves becoming more independent in our intellect. Becoming independent in the individual element of the intellect is of great importance for the human being. For what does this mean? What does it mean for the human being to grasp general truths about life — not just in theory — but through experience, even of things that are independent of external impressions? It means that he is becoming more independent in his etheric body. That is the first step of a long process. At the beginning he does not even notice that to some extent he is lifting out his etheric body; ultimately he can make it completely independent of the physical body.
Whilst the beginning is just a tiny step towards becoming independent, the end is a total drawing out of the etheric body and a perceiving with it. We then have perceptions in the environment with this independent etheric body. We can even perceive in this way when we are not yet very advanced in inner mystical experience. We can grasp this and to a certain extent understand it if we remember what our perception is like in the physical body. With our physical body we perceive by means of our senses, which are independent. Our eyes are independent and so are our ears. We can perceive the world of colour and the world of sound independently. We can no longer do this when we perceive with our intelligence. In the case of intelligence everything is a unity, nothing is divided into separate spheres. We cannot perceive with etheric eyes and etheric ears as though they were separate sense realms, we perceive the etheric world in general. And when we begin to say something about it we can describe how etheric experience works as a comprehensive whole. I will not discuss how much further this experience can lead, but only point out that when the human being perceives how general truths are formed he can perceive something of the etheric elements.
Whoever perceives the etheric world and can gradually realise that a higher world of this kind exists, can have an inner conviction that an etheric body is the basis of the physical body. As soon as we speak of such a being as an etheric body we must take our lead from significant disclosures and from direct experience. As soon as we know that the physical body is interpenetrated by an etheric body we will readily understand the occultist describing in his way that paralysis is an abnormal occurrence of what otherwise happens through normal training. It can happen that a man's etheric body withdraws from his physical body. Then the physical body becomes independent. Paralysis could possibly result, for the physical body has been deprived of its enlivening etheric body. But we do not need to go as far as the appearance of paralysis, for we can understand its appearance in everyday life even better. For example, what is a lazy person? He is someone who has a weak etheric body from birth or who has let it grow weak through neglect. We try to correct it by relieving the physical body of its leaden heaviness and by some means making it lighter. A thorough cure, however, can only arise by way of the astral body, for it can stimulate the etheric body to fresh life. But you have to realise something else. The etheric body is actually the bearer of our whole intellect. When we go to sleep at night all our thought pictures and memories actually remain in the etheric body. The human being leaves his thoughts behind in the etheric body and does not return to them until morning. By laying aside the etheric body we lay aside the whole web of our experiences.
This etheric body, however, is constructed so that when we investigate it in a Spiritual Scientific way we can quite clearly perceive that the human being is subjected to a far greater number of changes in the course of time than we would imagine. We all know, of course, that man has passed through a series of incarnations. It is not for nothing that we are incarnated again and again. Man's vision is limited. It is a general belief that man's Organisation has always been like it is today. In fact, the human Organisation changes from one century to another, only we cannot perceive this externally. In the frontal lobe of the brain there is an organ with delicate convolutions, that has only been developed since the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries. It is an organic form for the purely intellectual life of the present centuries. We can well imagine that it is impossible for a detail of this kind to alter in the brain without in fact the whole human Organisation altering, even if only slightly. So that in very truth the human Organisation shows signs of changes as the centuries pass by. But it is only through reading the Akashic Record that these changes can be confirmed. And that is where the changes in the etheric body can be best followed up. We see that the people of ancient Greece or ancient Egypt had etheric bodies that were quite different. All the movements in them were different.
Now, in order to arrive at a thought that can be fertile for us, I would like to make a short digression and draw your attention to the fact that even in ordinary life you can assume the existence of more than one world. The human being goes to sleep without knowing that he is in another world. But the fact that he is asleep and does not know anything about it does not prove that this other world does not exist. Other worlds do impinge in a certain way. The human being perceives with his senses when he is in the physical world but not when he withdraws into himself: then he has an intellectual world which borders on the physical. And he finds within himself, in addition to the already developed intellectual element, two other elements as well that are quite different again. Can the human being develop these other elements?
A simple reflection can show that there is a more characteristic world in the inner life than that of the mere having of thoughts. It is there whenever we say to ourselves: as human beings we feel ourselves to be moral. That is the world where we connect a feeling of sympathy or antipathy with certain definite experiences. This goes beyond intellectual experience. Someone shows goodwill to another and we are pleased, or he shows ill will and we are displeased. That is something quite different from what is experienced purely intellectually. Mere reflection does not produce in us the feeling of whether a deed is moral or not. A person can be highly intelligent in an intellectual way, without feeling the repulsive nature of a purely egotistical action. That is another realm of experience, which we also become aware of when we admire what is beautiful and elevating in works of art, or are repulsed by what is ugly. What elevates us in works of art cannot be grasped by the intellect but only by our life of soul. So we can say: something comes into our life in this way which is beyond the intellect. If an occultist observes a soul at the moment when it is experiencing aversion from an immoral deed, or pleasure in a moral one, he perceives a higher level of soul life. The mere having of thoughts is on a lower level of soul life than pleasure in or aversion from moral or immoral deeds. If the human being develops a more intensified feeling in this way for what is moral or immoral in his strengthened etheric body, this can be, seen to bring not only a constant increase of strength in his etheric body but an increase of strength in his astral body too, an especial intensification of the astral forces. So that we can say: a person who has particularly sensitive feelings about moral and immoral deeds will acquire especially strong forces in his astral body, whilst a person who only improves his etheric body intellectually — with exercises, say, that strengthen the memory — can certainly develop his clairvoyance very far, but he will not get beyond the etheric-astral world, because the intellectual element alone is active within him. If we want to get beyond the astral world we must do the kind of exercises in which we develop sympathy for moral deeds and antipathy for immoral deeds. Then we do indeed ascend to a world that is behind our world in a different sense than purely astrally. We then ascend to the heavenly world. So that we can say: in the cosmic world of the invisible, the heavenly world of the macrocosm corresponds to what relates in us to impressions of morality and immorality, and the astral world of the macrocosm corresponds to what relates in us to the intellectual sense perception of the physical world. All that develops within the intellectual element corresponds to the astral world, whilst what can be developed in relation to moral or immoral deeds corresponds to the heavenly world, the world of Devachan.
Then there is yet another element in the human soul. There is a difference between feeling happy about moral deeds and feeling responsible enough to carry out what thus appeals to you, and to withstand doing what is not moral. A feeling of responsibility for his actions is the highest level a man can reach in the world today.
So the human being's soul stages can be set out like this:
- The sense man.
- The intellectual man, who relates to the first invisible world.
- The aesthetic man with moral feelings, who is attracted or repelled by moral and immoral deeds. This corresponds externally to the lower Devachanic world.
- The morally active man.
The actual carrying out of what he feels within himself to be the highest moral ideals corresponds externally to the higher Devachanic world, the world of reason, ruled by those beings who represent absolute reason in the world. When the human being can grasp that his moral impulses give a shadow picture of the highest world from which he comes, he has understood a great deal about the macrocosm.
So we have the physical world and the world of the intellect, the moral world or the heavenly world of lower Devachan, and the world of reason or higher Devachan. Cosmic worlds cast into us shadow pictures of the sense world: i.e. the intellectual world; intellectual clairvoyance; the aesthetic world; moral feeling; the world of reason; moral impulses for deeds. Through a kind of self-knowledge man can perceive these different stages within himself.
Now this whole configuration of the human being has altered in the course of time. In ancient Greek or Egyptian times the human being was not at all as he is today. In the Greek age man was so constituted that higher beings ruled over the soul element within him, and so he felt a kind of natural obligation towards those beings. We now live in the age when man is ruled by his intellect, and so he feels something like an aesthetic-moral obligation. In those olden times however, it would have been impossible for anyone to have thought it possible to act in a way contrary to a moral impulse that presented itself. In Greece they still felt pleasure and displeasure so strongly that they had to act accordingly.
Then came the modern age where men do not feel any obligation, even where the aesthetic element is concerned, as is expressed in the saying: ‘You cannot argue about tastes’ — though people who have a developed taste can probably agree among themselves.
What was felt in earlier times to be a necessity in the moral and aesthetic sphere is nowadays felt to be so in the intellectual sphere: to have a certain line of conduct so that you cannot think as you like but you have to conform to the laws of logic. This brings us, however, to the lowest level of human experience. At the moment we are at the transitional level, as we can well see. For if we look at the past millennia we see the physical body of man drying up more and more, until he has become quite different. One and a half millennia ago the physical body was considerably softer and more pliable. It has become harder and harder. On the other hand something quite different has occurred in the etheric body too, something that the human being could have less experience of because this etheric body has passed through an upward development. It is significant that we stand at the important moment when the human being must grow aware that his etheric body should become different. That is the event that will take place just in this twentieth century. Whilst on the one hand an intensification of the intellectual element is making itself felt, on the other hand the etheric body will become so much more independent that human beings are bound to become aware of it. For a period of time after the Christ Event people did not think as intellectually as they do today. Strengthening the intellectual element causes the etheric body to become more and more independent, so that it can also be used as an independent instrument. And during this process it can be seen to have gone through a hidden development which makes possible the perception of the Christ in the etheric body. Just as the Christ could formerly be seen physically, He can now be seen etherically, so that in this twentieth century a beholding of the Christ will occur like a natural event, in the way Paul saw Him. A number of people will be able to see the Christ in the etheric, which means that we shall know Him even if all the Bibles are destroyed. We shall not need any records then, for we shall see Him. And that is an event equal in importance to what occurred on Golgotha. In the centuries to come a greater and greater number of people will reach the stage where they can see the Christ. The next three millennia on earth will be devoted to the kind of development whereby the etheric body becomes more and more sensitive, so that certain people will experience this and other events. I will just mention one more event: there will be more and more people who want to do something and then have an urge to hold back. Then a vision will follow, and these people will perceive increasingly clearly: that which will happen in the future is the karmic result of what I have done. A few people who are ahead of the rest already feel such things. It happens especially with children.
There is a tremendous difference between what trained clairvoyants experience and what is described here as something that will come about in the natural course of events. Since time immemorial the trained clairvoyant experienced the Christ by means of certain exercises. On the physical plane, if I meet a man, he is there is front of me; with Clairvoyant vision I can perceive him in quite different places and we do not actually meet. It has always been possible to see the Christ clairvoyantly. But to meet Him, now that He stands in a different relationship to humanity, that is, that He helps us from out of the etheric world, is something which is independent of our clairvoyant development. From the twentieth century onwards, in the next three thousand years, certain people will be able to meet Him, meet Him objectively as an etheric form. That is very different from experiencing a vision of Him through inner development.
This places the exalted Being that we call the Christ altogether in a different series of evolution from that of the Buddha. The Bodhisattva who became Buddha, was born into the royal house of Suddhodana and became Buddha in the twenty-ninth year of his life, so that he did not need to undergo further incarnations. When such a being, a Bodhisattva, becomes a Buddha or Master, this signifies a higher form of inner development that any human being can pass through. The esoteric training of a human being is a start in the direction that can lead to Buddha-hood. That has nothing to do with what happens round about us human beings. Such people appear at certain times to help the world forward. But those events are different from the Christ Event. Christ did not come from another human individuality, He came from the macrocosm, whilst all the Bodhisattvas have always been connected with the earth.
So we have to be clear that in so far as we speak about Bodhisattvas or Buddhas we do not come near to the Christ. For Christ is a macrocosmic being who became connected with the earth for the first time through the baptism by John. That was the physical manifestation. Now the etheric manifestation is coming, then will come the astral one and a higher one still after that. Human beings will first have to be far advanced before they experience this higher stage. What human beings can experience belongs to the general laws of the earth. The Being whom we call by the name of Christ or by other names will also bring about what we can describe as the saving of all the souls on earth for the Jupiter existence, whilst everything else will fall away with the earth. Anthroposophy is not something arbitrary, but something of importance that had to come into the world. The world must learn to understand the Christ Being who lived for three years on the earth. That was at the beginning of our present era.
In my book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Humanity you will find details about the two Jesus boys. The Christ Event was prepared for by a personality connected with the sect of the Essenes, Jeshu ben Pandira, who was born a hundred years before the two Jesus boys were born in Palestine. So you have to distinguish between them and Jeshu ben Pandira, of whom Haeckel, 8Jeshu ben Pandira, whom Haeckel, among others, has spoken of in a most derogatory way: Ernst Haeckel, 1834 – 1919, German natural scientist. His remarks about Jeshu ben Pandira are in his work ‘Die Weltratsel’ (‘World Secrets’); Bonn, 1899. among others, has spoken in a most derogatory way. The Matthew Gospel, 9The Matthew Gospel, in the main, originated from ... Jeshu ben Pandira: Matthai was a pupil of Jeshu ben Pandira. See Rudolf Steiner's ‘The Gospel of St. Matthew’, twelve lectures; Berne, September, 1910; Rudolf Steiner Press 1965. in the main, originated from this most exalted person, Jeshu ben Pandira, as a preparation for what was to come.
In what way should we understand the relationship of Jeshu ben Pandira to Jesus of Nazareth?
To begin with the individualities have nothing to do with one another, except that one prepared the way for the other; as individualities they are in no way related. The facts are that in one of the Jesus boys, the one described in the Luke Gospel, we have a somewhat indefinable individuality, so far difficult to understand in that He could speak immediately after birth in such a way that His mother could understand Him. He was not intellectual, this individuality of the Luke Gospel, but tremendously vital and elemental in the realm of moral feelings. The astral body of this being was influenced by the individuality of the Buddha.
When he had reached the Buddha stage, Buddha did not need to incarnate on earth any further. As long as he was a Bodhisattva he continued to incarnate. After he had become Buddha he was active from the higher worlds, and his activity flowed through — the astral body of the Jesus of the Luke Gospel. The forces emanating from Buddha are in the astral body of this Jesus boy. Thus the Buddha stream is contained within the Jesus of Nazareth stream.
On the other hand, what is told in Eastern writings and is also known to be correct by Western occultists, is that in the moment when the Bodhisattva becomes Buddha a new Bodhisattva appears. In the moment when Gautama Buddha became Buddha this Bodhisattva individuality was taken from the earth, and a new Bodhisattva became active. He is the Bodhisattva who is to become a Buddha in due time. In fact the time is exactly determined when the successor of Gautama Buddha, Maitreya, will become a Buddha: five thousand years after the enlightenment of Buddha beneath the bodhi tree. Roughly three thousand years after our time the world will experience the Maitreya Buddha incarnation, which will be the last incarnation of Jeshu ben Pandira. This Bodhisattva, who will come as Maitreya Buddha, will also come in a physical body in our century in his reincarnation in the flesh — but not as Buddha — and he will make it his task to give humanity all the true concepts about the Christ Event.
Genuine occultists recognise the incarnations of the Bodhisattva, the Maitreya Buddha-to-be. In the same way as other human beings, this individuality will also go through a development of the etheric body. When humanity becomes more like him who is to become the Maitreya Buddha, then this individuality will go through a special development that in a certain respect in its highest stages will be something like the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth: he will undergo an exchange of individuality. In both cases another individuality comes in. They grow up as children in the world, and after a certain number of years their individuality is exchanged. It is not a continuous development, but a development that undergoes a break, as was the case with Jesus. In His case there was an exchange of individuality of this kind in the twelfth year and then again at the baptism by John. This kind of exchange occurs, too, with the Bodhisattva who is to become the Maitreya Buddha. These individualities are suddenly as it were fructified by another. The Maitreya Buddha, in particular, will live with a certain individuality until his thirtieth year, and then an exchange will occur in him, as we find with Jesus of Nazareth during the baptism in Jordan. We will always recognise the Maitreya Buddha, however, in that nothing will be known of him prior to the exchange of individuality, even though he is present. And then he will suddenly reveal himself.
The leading of an unknown life is the characteristic of all Bodhisattvas that are to become Buddhas. The human individuality in the future will have to be more and more self-reliant. It will be a characteristic of his that he will pass unknown in the world for many years, and it will only be possible to recognise him then through the fact that he works from out of his own inner strength as a self-reliant individual. For thousands of years past, and now by occultists of the present day, it is recognised as an essential that the nature of his being remain unknown throughout his youth until the time of the birth of the intellectual soul, indeed even until the birth of the consciousness soul, and that he will come into his own with the help of nobody but himself.
That is why it is so important to be to a certain degree uncompromising. Any true occultist would find it strange for a Buddha to appear in the twentieth century, as every occultist knows that he can only come five thousand years after Gautama Buddha. However a Bodhisattva can and will be incarnated.
It is part of an occultist's basic knowledge that the Maitreya Buddha will be unknown in his youth. That is why I have been emphasising for years that we should bear this principle of occultism in mind: before a certain age nobody should be given the duty from certain central places to speak about occult matters. This has been stressed for years. When younger people speak, they may do this for good reasons, but they do not do it as an occult duty.
The Maitreya Buddha will make himself known through his own power. He will appear in such a way that he can receive no help except from the power of his own soul being.
To approach true theosophy, understanding for the whole of earth development is a necessity. Those who do not develop this understanding will destroy the life in the modern theosophical movement. 10the modern theosophical movement: see Marie Steiner's preface, p. 1.