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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Esoteric Instructions
GA 270

The Lesson in Berne

17 April 1924, Berne

My dear Friends! Formerly there were a number of different esoteric circles in the Anthroposophical Society. Within those circles the material of the general lectures, drawn as it is from the spiritual life of the world, was brought to the members in a manner that enabled spiritual striving, esoteric life to arise in them. As indicated yesterday in the meeting for members, since the Christmas Conference a basic esoteric impulse will flow through the entire Anthroposophical Society in the future. And so, in essence the esoteric in a deeper form will be nurtured further. And as you will find published in the next Goetheanum members newsletter, in order that what is discussed more exoterically can be developed more esoterically, for this reason the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum exists.

The School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum therefore will be an esoteric school in the best sense of the word, so that in the organization of its classes, in the whole way it is structured, it will increasingly strive to become what a modern Mystery Center ought to be. Hopefully circumstances will make this possible very soon.

The First Class, the only one established so far, is a beginning, which will develop as further classes are set up. Designating them classes was chosen for public use because people's state of soul is today no longer properly receptive to the kind of designation that used to be customary in earlier times. What matters, of course, is the content and not what it is called. That is why it is necessary for those who are accepted as members of the school to be properly aware of what it means to be a member.

The School of Spiritual Science has been through a period of trial and error. Before I myself became the leader of the Anthroposophical Society there were various initiatives to create at the Goetheanum a kind of free university that would endeavor to emulate ordinary universities in certain ways. It has to be said now that these initiatives failed and that indeed they could not have succeeded, but it was necessary for the attempts to have been made. Enough is enough, however, and from now on there will be no more such endeavors. The real purpose of the Goetheanum is that every individual shall be able to find there whatever it is his own soul intensely seeks in its spiritual striving and cannot find elsewhere. Someone whose soul is striving in a general way and not in connection with any specific subject must … be able to find there an entirely satisfactory outcome for his endeavors. Those, equally, who are involved in a particular art or science must be able to find esoteric guidance in the various Sections so that they can deepen their spiritual insights. That is why a number of Sections have been established, some of which have already begun their activities. In Dornach especially a beginning has been made with the General Anthroposophical Section, the Section that is there for any individual who is seeking to deepen the life of his or her soul.

It is important for our Anthroposophical Society to be able to encompass the larger circle of general membership. Anyone seeking Anthroposophy in any way must be able to become a member, especially now that we have recognized the Society to be an open and public one. No obligations are attached to becoming a member except those that arise as a matter of course out of Anthroposophy itself. For members of the school, however, because it must be an esoteric school in the real and true sense, certain obligations do arise. The esoteric undercurrent in the General Anthroposophical Society flows from the fact that the executive leadership1Vorstand is an esoteric institution, as I explained yesterday. As a result of this, everything that flows from the Executive Council will carry an esoteric undercurrent through the Society.

But so far as the school is concerned, every member must be conscious of being a true representative of Anthroposophy before the world. It must be clear to every member of the school that he or she has to be a true representative of Anthroposophy before the world. This means more than is generally understood and must be taken fully and deeply seriously. For example, it is not right to say that the school deprives certain people of their freedom by not accepting them as members. The leadership of the school must be allowed to be as free as anyone else. It, too, must be granted freedom of action and thus be permitted to determine which individuals it can recognize as members. The freedom must be mutual. There is no point in making critical remarks about the curtailment of freedom if one has not been accepted as a member of the school.

Furthermore, if a member of the school embarks on undertakings with which the leadership of the school cannot agree, so that it cannot regard that member as a true representative of the anthroposophical movement, it must be permissible for the leadership to cancel that person's membership. All this goes to show how very seriously membership of the school will have to be taken...

These exoteric measures will give the school a character that will enable truly esoteric substance to flow through it. Those who become members of it will have to regard Anthroposophy itself as crucial to their lives in the strictest sense.

Today we have gathered for a single Lesson of the First Class since it is assumed that those of you who are present will be able to make it possible to come at least occasionally to the Lessons that will take place regularly at the Goetheanum, where the content of the school is to be continuously elaborated. The aim increasingly will be to develop what has already started in the Medical Section, where Frau Dr. Wegman has begun to send out circular letters informing members who live too far away about what is flowing through the school. Today's Lesson will stand on its own, since I assume that most of you will be able to come to the Goetheanum, but I did want there to be something also for those who find it impossible to get to Dornach.


My dear friends, my brothers and sisters, ever since esoteric striving became a part of human evolution there has existed within this esoteric striving a call, a challenge, a summons.2Aufforderung This call, which became more exoteric during Grecian times, can be heard properly by a human being when he becomes still in his heart and soul, and then allows the influence of the stars above to work on him, the stars that resting there in the world-all, that take on forms there in their grouping-together, and through the peacefulness of their forms bring the words of heaven into a sort of script, that the person gradually will decipher. When he gives himself up in quietness of soul and in stillness of heart to the impressions of the fixed stars, when he similarly gives himself up to the movements of the Sun, the Moon, and the other not resting but wandering stars, when he so deepens himself in the movements of the circumference, where certainly what wields authority in the stars, which are only markers for spiritual authorities, for reigning powers of earth-existence, when he allows all this to work on his mind and heart, all that happens in the wandering movement of the planets, and when a person deepens himself in what lives around him entering his own organism as earth, water, air, and fire, when the person really deepens himself in the world-all and gazes upon the spirit in the world-all, and when he infuses himself with all that can whisper to him, the resting-star spirits, the wandering-star spirits, the elementary spirits, in this way he deepens himself in the call, the challenge, the summons which through eons has gone out to people striving esoterically.

Let’s bring this to our souls today, as it resounds there from the heights, from the circling, from immediate surrounding area:

O Man, know yourself!
So sounds the word of worlds.
You hear it soul-forcefully,
You feel it spirit-powerfully.
Who speaks so world-mightily?
Who speaks so heart-inwardly?
Does it work streaming through space
Into your sense’s self-experiencing?
Does it sound weaving through time
Into your life's evolving stream?
Are you the one, who yourself
In sensing space, in experiencing time
Creates the word, feeling yourself
Estranged in space’s soul-emptiness,
As you lose the power of thinking
In time’s destroying stream?

So it sounds forth from the threefold world-all. O Man, know yourself! Above all it sounds when the person comes to that situation in his conscious existence which is called the threshold to the spiritual world. At this threshold to the spiritual world a person notices how everything that surrounds him in the external, sense-perceptible world has greatness, beauty, and majesty, as well as much that is hideous, how he cannot live as an earthly person if he does not have a sense for all that color upon color lives in nature, for all that radiance on radiance unfurls in star-existence, for what arises and maintains itself living in all that surrounds him on earth. When he immerses himself in all this, and he ought to want to immerse himself in it, he begins to notice that however beautiful and great and majestic all this may be, the root, the source of his own existence is not in any of it. He must take note that he must look elsewhere for the connection with the source and root of his own existence. For this purpose, the threshold is there.

On this side there is color upon color, effect on effect, force on force, life on life. this is the world merely of a person’s externality, not the world of his roots, the source of his existence. Over here initially is the light bright world, but over there, when a person looks across, there is darkness. But the person gets a feeling over there, where darkness still reigns, that actually there is true light there, there I must cross over into this true light. And this true light can only be attained when the person is prepared to attain it, when the person takes on the specific attitude and disposition in his soul, that thereby prepares himself to receive properly what as light streams out of the darkness and specifically what first gives him an image of himself.

Then the person becomes aware that a spiritual being is standing at this threshold, a being known to a person as the Guardian of the Threshold, which he has to approach. One must feel and sense everything that the Guardian wants us to feel and sense, for without having come up to and passed by this Guardian, it is not possible to attain any genuine inner knowing. And all actual inner knowing that appears to have been attained without a sense of the Guardian of the Threshold is not genuine inner knowing. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, take into your hearts something that can give you a preliminary sense of this earnest figure who stands there between not knowing and knowing:

First come to know the earnest Guardian,
Who stands before the gates of spirit-land,
Denying entry to your sensory force
And to your intellect’s might,
For in weaving of sense
And in forming of thought
Out of space’s absence of being,
Out of time’s illusory powers,
The truth of your own self
You must first forcefully master.

More than anything else it is important to be able to say to oneself to the greatest extent, “I am not yet a human being. I must become a human being through what I shall develop and unfold within myself.” Clothed in pictures initially, is what in a person initially must remain hidden from himself. For as a person descends into the earthly world, he is tucked into all the forces of heredity. The forces of heredity hold what draws us downward. There is willing, taken over almost completely by the forces of heredity, enmeshed in the physical forces of heredity, when a person follows his trials and tribulations. There is feeling, that will drive a person into every misgiving and all kinds of indolence, into all sorts of doubts about the spiritual world. And there is thinking, that specifically is dead, is the corpse of real true thinking, that was our own before we descended from pre-earthly existence into earthly life. These three appear to a person in the form of three beasts that rise up out of the abyss, standing behind the Guardian of the Threshold in front of the light-bearing darkness. Three beasts rise up, making the person aware of what he certainly is, if he fails to activate the spiritual in himself.

We see them there formed up. One as a bony shell, a bony ghost, is certainly an elementary embodiment, an incarnation of insubstantial, dead thinking, that lives however in the elemental realm. We learn to know that thinking is dead in us. Before birth it was alive, and it will be alive after death. The person’s physical body is a sort of grave, in which thinking is entombed as a mummy. The person takes this thinking, that for him as a physical person is his own, as a reality. It was indeed real before it became a corpse. … But there, the person was in pre-earthly existence. The more a person is aware that thinking in true reality is a bony ghost, the more he acquaints himself with the earthly human being.

The more a person learns to know that feeling, that becomes milder and more harmonious through spirituality, in which the person carries it up, the more he becomes aware that feeling dependent on the forces of heredity is a hate-filled beast with split mouth, sarcastic appearance, the more a person learns to know that willing is like a terrible consuming beast, then the more he will be called inwardly to say, “I am not yet a human being; I must become one by attending to the spiritual powers. I must seek to bring my thinking to life, to internalize my feelings, to spiritualize my willing.

At the same time, that truly gives great difficulties, for as we stand in physical life thinking, feeling, and willing weave themselves into the whole of our humanity. They flow into one another. In a diagram we could depict them like this: [left side of diagram] Thinking would be here [blue], not entirely separate but partly mingled with feeling [green], which in turn is partly mingled, not entirely separate from willing [red]. And thereby can a person maintain himself in physical life, by interweaving thinking, feeling, and willing with one another in his being. When the person comes over into the spiritual world, thinking, feeling, and willing split apart, and it is as though the person separates into three beings. And he pointedly has separated thinking, feeling, and willing from one another. [see right side of drawing]

splitting of thinking feeling and willing

The person becomes one with the world, overflowing into the world. While at one with his body, feeling unified in physical-earthly existence, because he is in a finite organic individual body, he gets the impression that he is a unity within his ego, his “I”. But through the earnest impulse that goes out from the Guardian of the Threshold, the person feels himself as a trinity. In going out into the world he feels himself in a certain manner divided up, divided up so that between thinking and feeling a space open up in between, not outwardly sensed but qualitatively there. A person observes, or rather feels, when he is at one with the world, that between the thinking-being and the feeling-being there is a sort of gap, a space.

In a remarkable way we have thus come to realize that knowing, in the true sense of the word, is to live out into the world. Just as here on earth we are one with our heart or our stomach, just so are we one with sun and moon once we have stepped across the threshold. They are our organs. We become one with the sun and the moon, and the person as he is here on earth becomes the external world. What is now inside becomes foreign, as now stones, plants, and animals are foreign. Here on earth, you do not say, “I am a mountain, I am a river.” You say, “There is a mountain, there is a river.” And when you have crossed the threshold, you don't say, “I have a heart and lungs within me.” In the same way that you speak about mountains and rivers here you speak about heart and lungs once you have crossed the threshold. You point to them as they stand outside you, but you feel the sun and moon to be part of your inner being. You feel the sun to be part of your inner being between thinking and feeling, and you feel the moon to be part of your inner being between feeling and willing. [see right side of diagram]

This is a fact of life, that in a certain manner a person can rise to, even if he is not yet clairvoyant, but rather inwardly deepens sound human understanding, and actualizes standing at the threshold alongside the earnest Guardian. It is a meditation, and is extraordinarily effective, this feeling that somehow can place the person outside himself into world existence-awareness, not in a generalized, blurred way but quite concretely, as if poured out into the cosmos, bearing the sun and moon within himself.

But over the sun there is thinking, over the moon we have feeling, and under the moon we have willing. Another way of saying this is: Over beyond the sun thinking spreads out into the starry heavens, into the zodiac [drawing on the blackboard] of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and so on. Feeling overlies the circling orbits of the sun and the planets. Willing overlies the earth, for willing is totally bound to the earth, to the gravity of the earth, to the elements earth, water, air, and fire, over which we have the moon. This is how one can put oneself out into the world.

A person’s way of comprehending the world today, when he speaks of many elements, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and so forth, would have been regarded by a person still under the influence of the Mysteries as the corpse of the world. Even a Greek in ancient times would have said to a modern person, “Not only do you pick the human organism to pieces by dissecting it in the clinical laboratory, you also dismember the world as a whole with your science because you conduct science only from the earthly point of view.

Then see, my dear brothers and sisters, that still in the ancient Egyptian Mysteries it was still clearly known that one cannot learn anything of natural science by simply observing what is outside in nature. It was rather done only by one taking each thing, this was unequivocally made clear to each person in the First Degree of Initiation in the Mysteries, only by the person taking each thing inside himself, so to speak remembering each thing, just as it had appeared in pre-earthly existence-awareness. The science of nature is truly what simultaneously incorporates the earthly and the pre-earthly.

And in the Second Degree one was told that in the earthly world one can of course learn geometry, the science of measuring, and arithmetic. For these human soul-activities are drawn from the physical. They present the super-sensible in the physical. This was not unveiled in the First Degree for it was considered dangerous. In the First Degree it was considered appropriate to describe the spiritual world to the pupil. Therefore, the science of nature was taught in the First degree, but in such a way that the pupil was reminded of the living thinking that existed within him before he came down into earthly life.

In the Third Degree the person learned, solely by approaching the portal of death, that he may not thirst after blood, that he could find human existence outside physical existence, as in the physical body with blood. Naturally when you open modern books, you will find this interpreted that one may not thirst after killing or stabbing another person, not that a person may not thirst after blood. But truly there is no need to reach the teachings of the Third Degree of Initiation in order to understand this.

Then comes a further degree in which the adept will be given the name Christ-Bearer.3Christophoros in Greek For the spirit of Christ was known by man in all the mysteries of the ages. There he was brought out first in what at that time was called chemistry. The spiritual nature of stuff is grasped when a person has gone through the portal of death. And chemistry instruction from the earthly point of view, before the pupil absorbed what he is outside his physical body, and also our present method of teaching chemistry, would have been regarded as the work of the devil in ancient Egypt. To the ancient Egyptian all chemists, all modern chemists, would have been sons of the devil, for it was known that things in nature were linked together with spirit. And it was well and completely known, even in those olden times, where instinctive clairvoyance pulsed through initiation science, that a person undoubtably is linked to the supersensible world.

For those who belong to the School of Spiritual Science and the Anthroposophical Society, the way they learn ought to resemble the way people learned from an initiate in the ancient Mysteries. If initiated in this way, as well as for those who learn from an initiate, a gathering like the one we are now having is given its wholly spiritual, esoteric character. People must partake of this spiritual atmosphere with all their consciousness. To this end it is yet necessary that direct participation in the fullest sense of the word ever and again include bringing meditative content in various forms before the members of the school.

One such set phrase should now be given to us, one of those formulas through which we can gradually prepare ourselves to press forward across the threshold, whether with our ordinary healthy common sense or with initiation awareness.

What should be trotted forth to the person, what he himself should place inwardly with mantric rhythm before the soul, out of the speech of the spirit translated into speech that is useful on earth, can be given in the following words. [The first two lines were written on the blackboard.]

O Man, touch inwardly in your body’s whole existence,
How earth forces for you in existence-awareness are pillars.

We feel an object with our fingers and call this touching. Imagine, my brothers and sisters, that you were to touch with your whole body instead of only with hand and arm. But you are not touching anything specific in your surroundings, you are touching with the whole of yourself, you are touching the earth with your whole body in such a way that the sole of your foot is the surface with which you touch and you are feeling-out and touching the way you are being supported by the forces of the earth by using the whole of yourself as the organ of touch. Unconsciously this is what we are doing all the time as we walk about or stand still, but we don't notice it. But when a person calls, summons these things in human life into consciousness, when you actually delve into your earthly experience, as it actually lets you experience it, when you touch and taste it somewhat, then you have the first feeling that must be meditated. [Writing continued.]

O Man, live inwardly in your touching’s whole sphere,
How water ways for you in existence-awareness are sculptors.

Now imagine, as you continue on in this mantric formulation, how what was at first an organ of touching and tasting is now something that is felt. This is a further step inwards. Previously you merely used your body as an organ of touching, now you experience it, live into it as an organ of touching. Just as when a person first touched and then felt, as a person forms a fist out of his hand he gets an inner feeling, touched and then felt, as you curl your hand into a fist, you have an inner feeling. Similarly, you feel and experience the touching and become aware, as you experience this touching, how something begins to move within you, something that the fluids and liquids within you constantly do as sculptors as they circulate. There the sculpting forces of a human being are inwardly experienced, the sculpting forces sent out by the etheric body.

Such things are attained while the meditation is carried out in the corresponding manner. In the first line we have touch within. Here feeling, touching, is an activity. [touch within was underlined.] In the third line touching has become a noun. [Touching's was underlined.] This repetition of that feeling, now metamorphosed, is what gives the mantra its mantric character.

Now a person steps up further, not merely to grasping the touching experience by living into it, but rather to inner grasping of life itself, to inner grasping in water of the etheric itself working. A person goes yet another degree inwardly and feels inwardly, as he touched inwardly earlier, he feels inwardly now life itself within him. A person envisions it, realizes it in this way. [Writing continued.]

O Man, feel inwardly in your living’s whole weave,

Again, we have the experience as an activity [In the third line live was underlined.], and now life is a noun. [In the fifth line living’s was underlined.] We have ascended with constantly changing activity from the physical body, which is at work entirely in the earthly realm. Here [in the first line] the objective is touching. In the next line [the third] it is experiencing activity, and here it is inwardly feeling the activity. [The word feel in the fifth line was underlined] It is placed in the fullness of life like a noun.

How air powers

—in breathing—

for you in existence-awareness are nurturers.

We have ascended as far as the air and shall now rise even further to where we enter into our fire nature, our warmth nature. [Writing continued.]

O Man, think inwardly in your feeling’s whole stream,

Again, we have the verb feeling becoming a noun. [In the seventh line feeling's was underlined.]

How fire-mights4Feuermächte for you in existence-awareness are helpers.

All of this can now be summarized in the single sentence we come to next.

O Man, look within yourself into the elemental realm.

The elements are earth, water, air, and fire.

Let us now ascend further from all that surrounds us in the elemental world and proceed to the powerful activity that comes towards us from the circling round about, from the sun, the moon and the circling planets. In later Lessons we shall look in more detail at the way we participate in the movements of the circling planets and the connection this has with the being of man. Today the mantric formulation is more general. We are to ascend in meditation from an experience of the elemental world to an experience of the circling with these words: [writing continues]

O Man, just so let rule in the depths of your soul

The wandering stars' world-guiding might.

And this is summarized in the words:

O Man, bring yourself into being, into motion5erwese dich through world’s circling.

Bring yourself into being means to fashion yourself, to make yourself into a being.

Then we ascend to what we can feel especially in the existence of our head when we turn our attention to the fixed stars, those stars that depict the shapes, for example, of the zodiac and that regulate the existence of the world. Here we feel how all that quietly lives and weaves in our head is an after-effect of what we see up there among the fixed stars heralding heaven. We can ascend to this if we continue our mantra as follows: [writing continued]

O Man, inwardly hold in the work of your spirit

The resting stars’ heaven-heralding words.

In summary:

O Man, fashion yourself through heaven's guardians.6Hüter

Fashion yourself through heaven's guardians, through those beings you discern through the words and the script of the fixed stars to be the ones who heed, herd, and help guard the world.

My dear brothers and sisters, such things are there in order that they may work on in the soul, work on in such a way that the inner structure of such mantras comes to be felt as inner harmony, and that such mantras, as they are repeated over and over again in the soul, so that the soul in this finally strives and weaves and continues and thereby finds the way across to the serious Guardian in the proper manner. Finding him improperly and being swept back into the physical world, a person can easily be disconcerted in the physical world, by confusing what applies to the spiritual world with what applies to the physical world. [At this point the shorthand report has a long sentence which cannot be deciphered.]

We will let work on our souls that which makes us appreciate how true, genuine, honest awareness is gained at the threshold to the spiritual world where we, as we approach this threshold, become aware of such earnestness. We will let work on us what has already been spoken here today.

O Man, know yourself!
So sounds the word of worlds.
You hear it soul-forcefully,
You feel it spirit-powerfully.
Who speaks so world-mightily?
Who speaks so heart-inwardly?
Does it work streaming through space
Into your sense’s self-experiencing?
Does it sound weaving through time
Into your life's evolving stream?
Are you the one, who yourself
In sensing space, in experiencing time
Creates the word, feeling yourself
Estranged in space’s soul-emptiness,
As you lose the power of thinking
In time’s destroying stream?

Then, however, comes the inner courage that arises and persists in the words:

O Man, touch inwardly in your body’s whole existence,
How earth forces for you in existence-awareness are pillars.
O Man, live inwardly in your touching’s whole sphere,
How water ways for you in existence-awareness are sculptors.
O Man, feel inwardly in your living’s whole weave,
How air powers for you in existence-awareness are nurturers.
O Man, think inwardly in your feeling’s whole stream,
How fire-mights for you in existence-awareness are helpers.
O Man, look within yourself into the elemental realm.

O Man, just so let rule in the depths of your soul
The wandering stars' world-guiding might.
O Man, bring yourself into being, into motion, through world’s circling.

O Man, hold inwardly in the work of your spirit
The resting stars’ heaven-heralding words.
O Man, fashion yourself through heavens’ guardians.