American Chapters - Section II
Rudolf Steiner’s “Mexican Mysteries” Revisited
This section cross-links to the text ofInner Impulses of Evolution, GA 161; the relevant portion is quoted entire at the end of this section
Having covered theimplications of Rudolf Steiner’s far-reaching indications on Mesoamerica in the preceding section, it is now time to look a little more closely at those indications themselves. Introducing the general reader to those catalytic indications regarding the inner nature and spiritual destiny of America might seem straightforward in one respect; they are very, very sparse. Many of them – and what I consider to be the most significant ones - are bundled up within a pair of lectures given in 1916. The lecture of Sept. 18, 1916 had to be repeated on Sept. 24, as there seemed to be general befuddlement on the part of too many in the audience. It is not known if things fared any better at that latter date, since that lecture is essentially a repeat of the former one.
A lot of ink has been spilled by various commentators who have drawn various conclusions form Steiner’s remarks on the “Mexican Mysteries”. Few, if any, of them reveal any conscientious examination of the source material or familiarity with the relevant cultures or contemporary research or literature about them. None offer observations which are not paraphrases of Steiner’s own remarks. Whatever the faults of this piece, I believe I will not be repeating those mistakes. I hope to break the Imaginal logjam that has piled up around this subject.
Intriguingly, what Steiner does not say about America is just as fascinating as what he does have to say about it – and it is this absent portion which is profoundly perplexing. In this area of investigation, as in no other, does he demand the inner participation of the reader, and leads him or her beyond his or her previous limits of understanding. Deep implications are folded inbetween what he does say and what he does not say. Even if one can read between the lines, it is riddles that emerge! To do more than search for factoids or justification of previous (mis)conceptions demands intense inner work – original work – on the part of the one whose curiosity is provoked by Steiner’s indications.
Provoked is a good word for it. In 1916, the time from which these core lectures date, America was still a savage backwater for one who stood upon the tall shoulders of European civilization. The USA had not yet emerged from its isolationism to tilt the balance in the Great War. Steiner never shrunk from a harsh evaluation of our historical record and of the future perils which it indicates, but his complex appreciation of our ancient foundations was not assisted much by the rudimentary state of the archeological and anthropological sciences in his day (although there were resources which he did not make full use of, as we shall see).
The benefits of cross-culturalism and scientific archeology were still to come. Some of his statements have not withstood the test of time, and this in itself is confounding for those who take his word as holy writ. But this need not concern us overmuch: no one who has ventured opinions on the nature of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica has survived unscathed. For example, only recently has the Mayan hieroglyphic script begun to be deciphered; many a textbook has had to be rewritten as a result, many a popular theory relegated to crackpot status, many a famous authority proved wrong - yesterday‘s science can easily end up on today’s scrap heap. Steiner fares well as measured against such precedents. In addition, he never claimed to be continually in the state of clairvoyant seership, and he easily allowed as how errors were possible even then. Whether RS was correct on all counts and in every respect is not of central concern to me; what is the focus in this piece is the extent to which his indications can be grounded in contemporary scholarship and, reciprocally, how his indications can bring additional meaning to the myriad details within that extensive body of knowledge.
What is most provocative in his observations is that which he sees as the core event in America’s destiny, the aftereffects of which are duly noted by scholars but whose causes are searched for within a cripplingly limited field of view. The consequences of over-specialization provoked one wag to remark: “If all you have is a hammer, soon everything starts looking like a nail.” Steiner, in these lectures, speaks to the meaning of history. He approaches the subject from the direction of its significance; from the whole to the parts: he tells the story, he is not content to remain with the details. His understanding of the deep cycles and hidden currents of history allows him to go where the facts themselves are mute. His ability to talk, walk, and act with the gods themselves grants him a singular and broad perspective. His method may not be able to tell us everything we might wish to know, but it is at least a flexible addition to the inquirer’s toolbag. We shall see where its use may take us. Out of his firm grounding in the European Esoteric Tradition (please not “Western”, especially in the context of this investigation!) and as applied to the events in Mesoamerica at the time of Christ, he makes some astounding assertions: assertions which are totally unprecedented – even for him. Deeply positive, they are made only this once – another puzzle which begs for attention.
For those familiar with Steiner’s legacy, it is this latter point which is most frustrating, for RS is famous not only for the allusive style of his statements, but also for the way in which he continually circles back upon them from different vantage points throughout his career. As a great mass of his public utterances has been recorded and published, it is possible, for one so inclined, to collate his observations on a given subject and piece together a rather well-rounded impression of his perspectives on just about any given topic. Oftentimes, an isolated observation may seem to be offensive to common sense or to the conventional wisdom, or several statements from different sources may seem to bluntly contradict each other. Only later might they reveal a higher reconciliation after some sustained reflection and recourse to yet other diverse references. In this way, a more mobile, well-rounded, and lifelike perspective is gained for complex topics not easily reducible to a list of attributes or a single definition. Steiner, like any good old-world taskmaster or musical artist, makes one work for one’s supper; he honors the plastic nature of living reality.
With regards to Steiner’s essential comments about Spiritual America, we have no recourse to a fund of nuanced references. They stand alone with little corroboration from either himself or accepted academic scholarship, although a scrupulous and unbiased examination of the existing data do allow of alternate interpretations which are fully congruent with Steiner’s statements. We shall indicate some of them here. Steiner himself was adamant that no one accept his statements as authoritative; each listener or reader was under the obligation to test and try them out for themselves in the crucible of discrimination, conscience, and experience, especially since his transcribed lectures were published unreviewed and uncorrected by him (that includes the ones being discussed here). Yet what is one to do when confronted by his assertion that in the years 30 – 33 AD, in Mexico, a conflict was waged over the process of the sacrificial death of Christ, and that the successfulresults of this encounter were decisive for the future of earth-evolution? One cannot easily coopt this datum into whatever conceptual framework one may have already formulated; one must either confront it and its corollaries with a decisive intent, or find a way to dismiss it out of hand.
In this installment we shall concentrate upon examining Steiner’s text and matters closely related to it. Following sections will address broader and deeper issues utilizing inside perspectives of American Traditions.
Steiner was a European, and while he lived and worked for the entire future of Earthly evolution, he worked for this from inside his own European culture.. Although he had a cosmic Vision second to none and a Commission that was staggering in its scope, he was not all things to all people. His mission was firmly contexted within the Traditions of Central Europe. Most of his many, if brief mentions of America are brutally critical and deplore its materialistic tendencies, and are made with respect to the West’s influence upon European culture. On any subject he stretched the envelope of his Inspiration to its limits, bringing in the most wide-ranging influences. He also set up a crafty system of koan-like trip-wires within his legacy so that those who came afterwards would find themselves committed to expanding the scope and application of that Inspiration. This writer is one who has gotten himself involved in one such a web.
The concerns of people in Australia or South America had little relevance for the ordinary European of 1916. It is different nowadays. Our net of relationships and influences is much wider than it was then. Activated by the dynamic of profound respect for Dr. Steiner on the one hand, and “What in the $^#*& is he talking about, anyway”, on the other, I have worked the dialectic and, as a result of decades of inner work, research in the scholarly literature, Traditional lore of Western spiritualities, and the rubbing of shoulders with Native Americans, their culture, and their Ancestors, all the while pervaded by the living Being of the American Land, certain understandings have developed from Steiner’s indications. Hence this work-in-progress. I hope that those who read it will be encouraged to do their own work, correct me on any mistakes, and dare to offer their own unique observations. Future editions of this piece will incorporate and acknowledge any such contributions.
This struggle in America over the Deed of Christ – circumstances surrounding the pivotal event in, not just human, but planetary history, according to Steiner - what considerations must we bring to bear in order to be able to understand it? Here we are not totally hamstrung by our meagre knowledge about the exact details in Mexico two thousand years ago, for we are able to know quite a bit about the macrocosmic nature and mission of Christ, thanks to an immense amount of very consistent material left to us by Rudolf Steiner. Revealing the mission of Christ was front and center for him, and above all he dedicated his life to this cause. As a result of sifting through his indications and of doing the work of bringing them into relation with modern developments, it is possible to see where he was going with this, and what some of the implications might have been for any particular set of circumstances in different cultures…including the Mesoamerican ones. I have derived additional perspectives from the magical-Celtic UnderWorld work of R. J. Stewart; they have been invaluable in facilitating my entry into the inner worlds of the Mesoamerican shaman.
First of all, a review of his indications. We know from the Bible that the Birth of Jesus was attended by a concerted effort to thwart it. Herod’s massacre of the Innocents and the flight into Egypt are well known. Christ is said to have later descended from the realm of the Father and to have conjoined with the person of Jesus, there to have lived for the three years of public life. Steiner brings a wealth of detail to bear on all this, but the outlines of devotional faith hold steady and are brought into even clearer relief as a result. We also know from the Mythos that Christ died on the Cross, descended into Hell, and rose again on the third day. If, as Steiner indicates, a titanic struggle in Mexico took place during the years 30 – 33 AD, this means that it was not the Birth of Christ but the purpose of his sacrificial Death that was under attack in the Western Hemisphere. And what was this, that was so important about this deepest portion of his arc of incarnation, that aroused such furious opposition? What was it that happened in hell on Easter Saturday? The Bible does not go into detail on this, and neither does Steiner. Yet this is of the utmost importance, for it is out of what transpired during the decisive activity of the Easter Saturday “pralaya” as he passed into the Earth that Easter Sunday and the Resurrection unfolded! Even Jesaiah Ben-Aharon, in his discussion of this matter in his highly significant Spiritual Event of the Twentieth Century, admits of no access to this process.1Indeed, the anthroposophical method in general simply does not go there. The Steinerian map is bounded by warning signs consisting mainly of parroted quotations from Steiner regarding the baleful lower-Threshold realm of “subnature” (Eastern-derived systems simply ignored it). Whether this is all for the best or if it reflects RS’s long-term intentions is a matter for another discussion. Regardless, these realities are inescapable for Americans, and hence, by extension, for the rest of the world, although everyone and every region needs to find their relationship to them from out of their own situation.
Here we enter into deep mysteries – American Mysteries. Not the Cosmic mysteries of the Father, but into the Chthonic Earthly mysteries. They are different, and go far deeper than the turbulent interface regions. All around us they are revealing themselves as people from the most diverse backgrounds responding to the resurgence of powers from within the Earth. This is not exactly the same as what the Old Religions once dealt with, nor are they in opposition to what has been acquired since. The gist of this Steiner implies, but the times did not allow him to speak forthrightly about it. Christ came from the Father and died from the Father: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” speaks for itself. He left the connection with the Father-God behind and fell into the arms of the Earth-Mother. From Her he received his regeneration; his rebirth. We have significant hints of this if we juxtapose our own culture’s Pieta sculpture with Christmastime’s Madonna and Child imagery.
All of this the American races knew, and it was not a hidden mystery, except for the technical details of their initiatory shamanic pathways. They knew the upsides and the downsides, the ins and the outs of the ways of the Earth. They were neither Edenic noble savages or doomed atavistic races. They were human beings, subject to all the confusions of the Fall, but their circumstances were different, their wisdom was different, and their orientation was different than in Europe. They knew about how things happen when you go “down.”
Steiner knew that Christ’s ally in Mexico was an initiate experienced in UnderWorld realities and that the transformative encounter with Shadow and Double which every shaman undergoes was undergone on the most transpersonal, archetypal, and planetary fashion by Christ in his descent into the plutonian depths (a European analogue of this is the ancient Rite of the Sacrificial King as practiced within the cultures of the Celts). There were those others who drew their personal power from unregenerate realms of planetary Double; deep impacted realms of twisted and thwarted energies. From even the most casual forms of pop psychology we all know what happens when core internal energies are not allowed expression or when impacted patterns are challenged; this is the realm of the microcosm within each individual. Christ worked on the most macrocosmic levels imaginable – within the Earth. For the Earth has had its developmental problems, too - as have we all. Not everything has been dealt with in ways which merits hindsight’s satisfaction, and over the course of aeons, the toxic residue had reached a point where something had to be done. Speaking of the compromised religions and spiritualities of the pre-Christian era, even the Pagan Priestess Dion Fortune has said: “…we must not forget that Christianity came as a corrective to a pagan world that was sick unto death with its own toxins.”2
Steiner minces no words when it comes to describing the excesses of corrupt Aztec culture oar the depths of its dark roots. He balances this with a stunning revelation of the unsuspected wealth within the Mesoamerican experience, although he does not follow though by reconciling these two extremes of that spiritual spectrum.
Let us begin by scrutinizing his observations and reviewing some of the problems which surface as a result of a critical analysis. How far did Steiner go in his indications, and how far can we go with them?
First of all, the language. For instance: “Vitzliputzli.” This agent’s name provokes no immediate associations, and a casual search for references in the dictionaries and lexicons is fruitless. All RS’s terminology for the Mesoamerican deities derives from the Aztec records (as interpreted by the unappreciative Spanish, one must remember!), but the events to which he refers date from boththe early Olmec-Mayan-Teotihuacan era and the late-classic Aztec; 1st C. A.D., and 16th C. A.D., respectively. Evidence from the latter is presumed to indicate trends in the former. Between the two, however, are vast gulfs and shifts which were not even suspected in Steiner’s day, gulfs more drastic in many respects than those between, say, 1stand 16th C. Italy, England, or Greece. Additionally, there is still no record of anywritten language for the critical Teotihuacan civilization, and the prolific but enigmatic Maya script was mute for all researchers in Steiner’s day – as it was even for the Maya themselves until very recently. The curtain of history had fallen with a mighty thunderclap upon that act in the world’s drama! A tangental question: was this a recapitulation of Mesoamerica’s Atlantean roots?
The language of the most recent English translation of Steiner’s Inner Impulses of Evolution is confounding in this regard, and glosses over the problems involved in pursuing his indications. Let us note the spelling of significant names, from the German original to the English translation:
Amerika – America, Dschingis-Khan – Genghis Khan, Taotl – Teotl, Tezkatlipoka – Tezcatlipoca, Jahve – Jehovah, Mexiko – Mexico, Quetsalkoatl – Quetzalcoatl.
For any of these, there is no loss in translation, only the elimination of a mild quaintness. Yet when we come to the following:
Vitzliputzli – Huitzilopochtli
we note that the term has not been translated, but left in its original and unfamiliar form. It is no mystery that Huitzilopochtli is and has always been standard English and Spanish usage for the original Nahuatl form of the name – and transliterated by standardized convention into German as “Vitzliputzli” - yet the editors did not follow this practice. Why not?
Perhaps because Huitzilopochtli was the demon-god and culture-hero of the Aztecs to whom multitudes were sacrificed in ritual murder, before whose temple the famously immense skull-rack with its countless trophies was displayed, and whose cult fueled an ideology of permanent war? How could this have been the same person whom Steiner describes as the saviour of the Christ-impulse? Better to retain the unfamiliar form of the name, one which carries with it no unpleasant associations or difficult questions….
Yet sidestepping of this problem does not contribute to the solving of any others, while pursuance of it does, as we shall see.
For one living in 1916 there was every reason to assume that Mesoamerican cultures stretched back uninterruptedly from the Aztec times of the 16th C. back into pre-Classic cultures of the 1stC. and beyond, and that the gods and deities which were worshipped by those whom the Spanish met and chronicled were the same who occupied the pantheon during the American Turning Point of Time. A default presumption, to be sure, and one proven since to be mostly wrong, but the one to which Steiner’s age subscribed. Hence, in lieu of any other convenient options (but for reasons which will become clear) Steiner selects the name of the Aztec’s unchallenged culture hero and war-god – Huitzilopochtli – and applies it to our mysterious avatar. Regardless of his sources, any of them would have informed him straight off that Huitzilopochtli was a demonic entity of the first order. Why, then, would he have used that baleful name without a caution? His window of opportunity to speak of such things must have been narrow, indeed, and he must have trusted in those who came after to do our Thinking and in the course of science’s work in contributing clarifying details. That’s us.
Using the name “Huitzilopochtli” may have been an inevitable choice for him, but one which we, a century later, should be very cautious about employing. Under the circumstances, and without a better option, those of us in the English-speaking world could do worse than to use the German form of the name, since it does separate the early from the late aspect rather decisively. Later on, we will consider another option, one that comes from the Maya.
Nonetheless, there are some significant insights that can be developed by pondering the factors which played into the metamorphoses of our 1stC. initiate as Steiner describes him into that of the terminal culture which appropriated his legacy for its own legitimization. Was Steiner aware of this possibility? Most probably. But little has been done to consider the implications of this metamorphosis – implications that are avoided by “Vitzliputzli”.
Furthermore, since Steiner is unspecific as to exactly where in Mexico or in which of its many cultures this remarkable deed of Christ’s advocate took place, we are unable to infer from him whether this person was Olmec, Zapotec, Mayan, or other. In a later section we will consider an Izapan hypothesis.
Another problem of language is reflected in the matter of “Taotl” whom Steiner describes as the supreme and most ancient god of the Mexican pantheon, the bearer of the Atlantean legacy (also, from another time: “Taotl is a Being who as a cosmic, universal spirit weaves in the clouds, lives in the lightning and the thunder.”3) While we concur with the commentator Dr. Koslik in his thesis that this is the same as the generic nahuatl language “teotl” suffix4, this does not assist us much, for the question remains: “Who was the deity to whom Steiner refers – as it appeared in the 1st C. A.D.?” Could this be the significant “Storm God” of Teotihuacan (the name pulled out of a hat by modern researchers) who persisted as the most ancient god Tlaloc of the Aztecs, whose shrine shared the top of Tenochtitlan’s much-later 16th C. Templo Mayor pyramid together with Huitzilopochtli’s? At any rate, it is a leap to capitalize the “T” in “Taotl”, for “teotl” not a proper noun, but a qualifying suffix signifying the god-aspect of any other being (e.g.: Ometeoltl, Huehueteotl, Tlazolteotl, Cinteotl, etc.). To derive anything more than the most general speculations from this similarity is unwarranted, just as increasing the resolution on a halftone photograph past a certain point does not yield any additional information; it only increases the grain. One might just as easily draw conclusions from an apparent similarity of “teotl” to the “turtle” of Turtle Island, or from the rather loosely-tethered speculations regarding the generic “Tonantzin” of Guadaloupana lore.
Yet the intuition may have noticed something in these circumstances. Steiner’s attempt to indicate something significant by pointing to such features should be taken seriously. Perhaps “teotl” does have implications of exceedingly ancient roots, since the first two deities mentioned belong to the most ancient rank of world-forming beings.
Furthermore, to associate “teotl” with the “Great Spirit” of Native American lore is probably not too far from the mark, as far as it goes, but we should be leery of thinking that we really know anything specific or substantial as a result: there were hundreds of cultures who believed in a Great Spirit of one sort or another. The only thing we can be very sure of is that those conceptions varied widely. Onward into the fog…which just might begin to dispel under the effect of our persistent attention.
Second, as we have alluded, there is the almost inevitable if subtle conflation of the time-periods involved; a situation that continues to bedevil modern researchers. Let us note the back jacket cover statement that appeared in the first English edition of Steiner’s lecture-cycle, as it nicely illustrates the problem:
“…We hear of how…forces, opposed to humanity, threatened to reach a tragic climax in the bloody Aztec mysteries of ancient Mexico, until they were thwarted by the heroic efforts of a Mexican Sun-initiate.”
This statement reflects a total confusion of two entirely different sets of circumstances. Steiner clearly indicates that the crisis and its successful resolution took place in the first part of the 1stC. A.D. He further states that all succeeding crises, whatever their scope or danger, were nothing compared to what they would have been if the prototypical 1stC. crisis had not been successfully challenged. The negative aspect of the much-later Aztec phenomenon was merely an echo, a feeble afterthought of certain retrograde Mesoamerican tendencies. Yet the fabulous Aztec episode in history is substituted for the unknown, but essential one which took place a millennia-and-a-half before! The simple historical fact that the Azteca entered Mesoamerica in the 14th Century (circa 1332 A.D.!, from out of unidentified northern wastelands), and only began their trajectory of Empire a hundred years later – much like the Inca, who also only enjoyed ascendance for a mere score of decades – has difficulty registering for those who prefer to think that the history of the Americas only began in earnest in 1492.
The problem here – and it is a problem of which academics and scholars are keenly aware – is: to what extent can we understand the seminal early-CE Olmec-related cultures by what wethink we know about the late-CE cultures of the Aztec and Maya? I say think we know because of the paucity of original sources of information: the Spaniards were excellent and voluminous chroniclers, but all of it was in the service of conquest and Inquisition, when it was not outright genocide.
So: Huitzilopochtli/Vitzliputzli. What are we to make of this? We shall have to tease at this knot from multiple directions. We have indicated one of them: the direction of time, where aspects of a highly-charged matter seem to change and invert, given time.
Another vector is illustrated by the case of the Spaniard’s conquering Jesus…who was this? Would the Jesus Christ of c. 30 A.D. recognize himself in the imperial apocalyptic Jesus encountered by the heretics and pagans caught up in the meat-grinder of European hegemony? I suggest that similar processes were at work on both sides of the Atlantic. The question of exactly what these might have been will have to be postponed for the time being.
Third, there is the matter of sources. Where did Steiner get his historical information, upon which his Imaginations are based? One may grant that Steiner had privileged sources of information not available to the non-initiate while also maintaining that he did not always speak as one or draw exclusively on those resources. In many cases, an initiate may be no more well-informed than any other educated contemporary. In others, an initiate may be without even a simple opinion, preserving his/her credibility by wisely remaining silent. Even on the same subject, one such may mix sources, as do we all on occasion, being solid on the essentials but fuzzy on the details.
In the case of Steiner’s extended remarks about ancient American spirituality, one may feel that Steiner was under a difficult obligation to speak distinctly about certain crucial features of its history. Obstructive forces were present then as they were at other points in his career. Additionally, any supportive context of historical science and archeological detective work was rudimentary. For every mystic, visionary or crackpot who may have been lucky enough to hit a nail or two on the head with their unbounded fantasies about “Lost Worlds”, there are scores who have struck out. Facts are stubborn things for those who invest in grandiose visions! Rudolf Steiner had a difficult row to hoe!
The store of facts at Steiner’s disposal was meagre, and he cannot be seriously faulted for accepting, in part, the authority of the few who wrote about such things in his day. And there was no consensus as to who were the professionals; all the authorities were self-appointed. Few bothered to consult with Indigenous Wisdom-Keepers, and fewer still found avenues for expression of what they might have thereby learned. The compartmentalization of specialization was well on the way to sequestering behind almost insurmountable barriers what real cross-culturalizing knowledge there was.
On the subject of pre-Colombian Mexico, it is known that Rudolf Steiner had two sources of exoteric information available to him: Eduard Seler5and Charles William Heckethorn.6 The first was – and still is – a giant in his field of Mesoamerican studies (primarily regarding the Aztecs), and a contemporary of Rudolf Steiner’s; a Berliner. Although modern scholars have developed his work, refuting some of his work in the process, there is none who does not acknowledge a great debt of gratitude to him and his influence in the field. (He was one of the first to develop his ideas from a dispassionate scientific examination of the source material, instead of starting by looking for evidence which might used to support speculative agendas.) Many of the surviving Mexican codices were first examined and commented on by him; his work product is very large. Unfortunately, Steiner seems to have made a poor choice in his selection of whom to rely upon as an authority. While probably correct in his fine-detail criticism of contemporary scientific trends (his criticism of the then-infant field of psychology and psychotherapy was based in part upon his prescient intuition that it would soon tend to degenerate into a manipulated technology for behavior-modification and mind-control accommodation to increasingly inhuman conditions, a prediction largely born out by society’s dependence upon pharmaceutical accommodation to of depression, anxiety, and other situation-induced disorders, extending even into childhood), this seems to have led him to avoid engagement with the founders of these developing fields. Similarly, there is a reference in which he states:
“There was a personality who lived in the later period of Mexican civilisation and was connected with the utterly decadent, pseudo-magical Mystery cults of Mexico; with an intense thirst for knowledge he studied everything with close and meticulous exactitude. My attention was attracted to him through having made the acquaintance some years ago of a curious man who is still engaged in a primitive form of study of the decadent superstitions of the Mexican Mysteries. Such lore is of negligible importance, because anyone who studies these things at the present time is studying pure superstition; it has all become decadent today….”7
It seems likely, from the textual and societal context, that this “curious individual” might have been Eduard Seler, although any hard evidence of such an encounter is lacking. It would be consistent for Steiner if it was, for he also declined association with Freud, Jung, and Krishnamurti, not to mention the great assortment of first-generation atomic scientists, who were all very active in Central Europe during this time. The mentors whom he lauds are not the ones whom history has made popular or who stand at the head of significant modern cultural trends. What it seems he did do in our present instance, however, is take the bulk of his information about the outer aspects of Mexican (Aztec, to be precise, although this was not a distinction many cared to make in Steiner’s day) life and spiritual practice from the very dubious Heckethorn.
Heckethorn is referenced in a footnote for the German edition of GA 171 as a source for Steiner’s information, upon the evidence that he had a copy of a famously curious book by the man in his library. Although this alone would not be proof that he relied on it, the peculiar tone and selected strange details of Mexican religious practice are too similar to be simple coincidence. Most of what Steiner had to say on the subject could be paraphrased from Heckethorn’s brief descriptions, and, conversely, much of Heckethorn finds its way into Steiner’s text. Heckethorn has credibility in some circles: he is cited as a corroborating authority elsewhere by Anthroposophic editors; he is footnoted over fifteen times and quoted for over fifteen pages by Hella Weisberger in her edition of Steiner’s The Temple Legend series of lectures.8
Unfortunately, there is a tendency to accept uncritically anything associated with Steiner’s name by those who believe in him, and this tendency is most vexing in matters concerning his remarks concerning America – especially since this goes against his own explicit instructions to his followers. Hence it is incomprehensible to this writer that such a crank, even one as broadly versed as Heckethorn, could be cited as support for one such as Steiner, or that Steiner himself could have relied upon him for information. Yet it appears that he did, as a close comparison of Steiner’s and Heckethorn’s texts reveal.
Perhaps the simplest explanation should receive some consideration: Steiner made a mistake, due to overlapping prejudices which made him careless as to other issues such as enter into this affair. We shall look into this matter at some length, for the reader should not be expected to take this writer’s word for it. There may, of course, be better explanations. One partial explanation for Heckethorn’s credibility in Anthroposophic circles is that modern readers have simply not read the book, or gone outside of self-referential anthroposophic commentary for information or critical research. In the meantime, this is one of those difficulties that should not, but nevertheless does exist, and it is better to simply live with it, sustaining and not denying the tension, until such time as new information or new insights arise. The circumstances are as follows:
It need not be disputed that this book did actually exist as part of Steiner's library; it is quite reasonable and possible that it did: it enjoyed a huge vogue when first published in 1875, and again when it was revised and enlarged for an 1897 second edition. By 1904, when it appeared in a German edition, it was in some vogue. A serious researcher would not have wanted to be without it, for whatever reason, even if only as a curious specimen of its type.
However, from two different directions Heckethorn is suspect: from internal fault and from philosophical bias. That warning flags from one or the other would have failed to have alerted Steiner's attention is most improbable. Even the modern publisher calls it "entertaining", "opinionated", "slipshod", and states that: “It very well may be that Heckethorn had sources for all his weird suggestions, but their conspicuous absence raises the eyebrows of all but the most credulous.” (pp. 1-2). In the brief section devoted to Mesoamerican lore his style is particularly lurid, and well suited to the macabre nature of the subject – ritual human sacrifice. Little is said about anything else. Here it is as if the Middle-European culture was condemned for the excesses of the Nazis, while ignoring the legacies of Tauler, Erasmus, St. Francis, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Goethe – and Steiner. Surely the Mexicans had their equivalents! Surely Mexico had an equivalently rich history, since it was birthplace to one of the world’s five independently developing great civilizations (along with Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and Peru).
Regarding factual veracity, Heckethorn claims that the "religious system of the Mexicans" designated Viracocha as the creator. Notwithstanding the fact that there is no one "religious system of the Mexicans" - our present-day historical view spans well over two thousand years of many various and simultaneously-existing pre-Columbian cultures - Viracocha is a deity exclusive to the South American Andean cultures. There is no evidence to the contrary, and all we have from Heckethorn is his blithe assertion. One must give credit where credit is due, however, and it must be admitted that Heckethorn is right on the money in many of his tabloid-style speculations. He was a strange talent and curiosity.
At any rate, 4+ pages of text devoted to the subject out of a total of 356 pages devoted mainly to other matters can hardly be considered serious source material, especially as there is no documentation or references given for any of what Mr. Heckethorn has to say on the subject. But that is not germane to the issue of whether or not Steiner may have used it for a possible source for his comments.
It is in the area of bias that evidence appears which renders it mind-boggling that Steiner might have taken Heckethorn's ideas at face value. Note Heckethorn’s weird ideas on other subjects, subjects on which he does claim to be an authority, but ones on which Steiner was the actual authority:
"When the story of the Egyptian Horus had...been elaborated into the myth of Christ, the latter was at once fitted out with mysteries and initiations thereunto.... But the story of the Transfiguration on the Mount is an imperfect description of the holding of a quasi-masonic lodge...." (p. 103)
"In all the ancient mysteries we have seen a representation of the death of the sun; according to some writers, this ceremony was imitated in the Christian Mysteries by the symbolical slaying of a child, which, in the lower degrees, of course meant the death of Christ….
"Then the real mystery was unveiled, and the astronomical meaning of Christianity...was laid bare.... Thus to them the Seven Churches in Asia were the seven months from March to September.... Christ represented the sun, and His first miracle is turning water into wine, which the sun does every year; His agony in Gethsemane was the juice of the grape put in the wine-press; His descent into hell was the sun in the winter season; His crucifixion on Calvary (calvus = bald = shorn of His rays) His crossing of the equator in the autumn; and his crucifixion in Egypt (Rev. xi. 8) His crossing it in the Spring. The beheading of John the Baptist was shown to them to be John, Janus, or Aquarius, having his head cut off by the line of the horizon on the 29th August, wherefore his festival occurs on that day...." (p. 104-106)
Such is Heckethorn's comprehension of the Christian Mythos, which one as educated and initiated as Steiner could hardly have read even as entertainment, the caricature descending past farce and tragedy into utter banality; one which could not have served to lend credibility to Heckethorn’s judgements about matters so alien to all as those about ancient Mexico. One must also consider Steiner's harsh attitude concerning contemporary things Masonic in considering whether he would ordinarily have been predisposed to give this author's speculations any benefit of the doubt. Steiner knew enough about Masonic history and agendas to be able to have a completely well-formed judgement about Heckethorn's quasi-lunatic appreciation of them, which form a consistent theme in his monomaniacal world-view, as presented in his book.
Heckethorn was also a bald-faced racist in the old hypertrophied imperialistic mode:
"The true comprehension of Nature [for Heckethorn, Nature = the only and ultimate Reality = the astronomical facts pertaining to the Course of the Seasons] was the prerogative of the most highly developed of all races of men...the Aryan races....
"So highly favored, precisely because Nature in so highly favored a spot could only develop in course of time a superior type; which being, as it were, the quintessence of that copious Nature, was one with it, and therefore able to apprehend it and its fulness. For as the powers of Nature have brought forth plants and animals of different degrees of development and perfection, so they have produced various types of men in various stages of development; the most perfect being, as already mentioned, the Aryan or Caucasian type, the only one that has a history, and the one that deserves our attention when inquiring into the mental history of mankind. For even where the Caucasian comes into contact and intermingles with a dark race, as in India and Egypt, it is the white man with whom the higher and historical development begins." (pp. 5-6).
What can one say, except that similar biases were pervasive throughout the milieu of the time – including the more restricted circles of that age’s occultism? To what extent was Steiner at the mercy of such a weight of deformed speculation in his pronouncements concerning happenings in ancient Mexico? Rudolf Steiner, a turn-of-the-century Middle European of humble, rural, and conservative origins, and educated into the loftiest realms (and beyond!) of philosophical inquiry, does seem to have been without the temperamental sympathy for the more dramatic Mexican sensibilities. Was he perhaps insufficiently careful, even careless, in speaking of them without sufficient preparation? Was he perhaps incapable or unwilling to do so because that would have brought him into a closer - and uncomfortable - encounter with uncomfortable aspects of his own personality and of his Anthroposophical Society’s social dynamic; issues that would have involved direct confrontation with all kinds of Doubles, elements so entwined with matters intimately American?
Much energy has been expended trying to uncover root causes for the weak role of the Anthroposophical Society in the world and in America, and of the lack of congruence between the Anthroposophical Society and the sources of its Inspiration. A deep encounter with the root issues involved in the "Mexican Mysteries" can shed a reorienting light on the subject. But pursuing this topic would lead us too far afield, although most of our discussion will prove to be most relevant for one who might wish to consider its implications.
Returning to our discussion of sources, we can summarize by saying that Steiner had less backup than he – or anyone else in his position – would have liked. It was an unsatisfactory situation.
But Steiner had access to sources of information about ancient cultures other than physical remains. He, like the adepts, initiates, magi, and shamans of yore, could associate with the gods. When he accessed Mesoamerica on this level, he really plucked the plum from the pudding. To have located a civilization-shifting Christ-event in Mexico, contemporaneous with the Bible-referenced one in Palestine, is more than a stroke of genius. It is a solid communication from a full adept in the Tradition. Sustained reflection upon this item reveals an entirely different level of insight than is apparent in his other, more peripheral indications.
There are several ways of “proving” a proposition. One is by internal consistency and by consistency of correlates. One is by the support of factual evidence. One is by manifest elegance. And one is by the fertile and illuminating spin-offs that it may generate; the new vistas of inquiry which it may open up. Utility value, in other words. For the latter, the immediate issue is more a matter of “is the theory useful” rather than “is ittrue”. On all counts, Steiner’s basic thesis – that is all one can legitimately take it as, for one who had not personally proven it by the same inner access and experience as any initiate in that Tradition obtains – is worthy of serious consideration.
For instance, the conundrum of Teotihuacan’s simple existence, inscrutable to historians of all varieties, suddenly snaps into focus – and it requires no absurdities other than the relinquishment of the materialist superstition that the gods and spiritual forces of the world are unreal human projections. If one assumes, as historian Esther Pasztory does, that: “If one considers that gods and religion are human creations”, she herself, out of intellectual honesty, has to continue in the very same sentence to deny the efficacy of that proposition but without replacement: “this explanation of the phenomenon [of Teotihuacan] is inadequate both psychologically and sociologically.”9Her admittedly weak alternative (the compelling power of ritual in the employ of a showman) is unsatisfactory, but she, like all other researchers who have conscientiously grounded themselves in the material evidence, and hence are unwilling to indulge in seeming fancy, has nothing better to offer to explain the fact of Teotihuacan.
The vexing matter of Steiner’s sources looms especially large in a detail of ritual human sacrifice as it was practiced in pre-Colombian Mexico – and even into post-Colombian Mexico. As Dr. Koslik observes in his Introduction to the lecture-cycle, there is a contradiction between Steiner’s statement that it was the stomach that was removed, and all other sources, both Aztec codices and Spanish records, which testify that it was the heart that was the object of excision. This contradiction has not resolved itself with time, and becomes even more complicated by the fact that Steiner does not acknowledge anypractice of heart-removal, while Heckethorn, Steiner’s most evident source for his more circumstantial details, only refers to the accepted heart-removal. It remains completely unknown how Steiner arrived at his conclusion that it was the stomach that was excised. Dr. Koslik’s theory remains one that is least unsatisfactory, especially since he brings to our attention the very interesting statuette of Xolotl (the nahualli, or double, of Quetzalcoatl) that first came to the public’s attention in 1904. Interestingly enough, this was due to the agency of Dr. Seler.10Dr. Steiner might easily have seen it, since it may then have been exhibited in Stuttgart, Germany, where Seler observed it and where it is still on display.
Statements by Steiner conjoined with knowledge of Aztec practice strongly imply a link between the alleged rituals of human sacrifice allied with stomach excision and the presiding deity Quetzalcoatl. Without Steiner having any obvious opportunity of knowing that Xolotl and Quetzalcoatl were joined together at the hip, so to speak, the configuration of the figurine tends to vouch for the plausibility of his idea. Furthermore, it would be exceedingly unlikely that ritual stomach-excision was not practiced at some time in some place, since the inhabitants of that part of the continent were second-to-none in their sophisticated repertoire of torturing skills. On the other hand, the greenstone object is of late Aztec provenance, while Dr. Koslik’s suggestion of additional and deeply secret stomach-excision rituals would have to apply retroactively to the late-B.C. “Vitzliputzli”-era practices for which noevidence exists. Heart-sacrifice, on the other hand, has been a documented fixture of Mesoamerican ritual since Day One. The problem remains.
From a bundling of these considerations in two instances comes these additional perspectives:
The footnote #58 in the German edition of the lecture cycle in which Steiner’s difficult statement about stomach-excision takes place says, in part:
“Von hier stammt auch das van Rudolf Steiner erwahnte Detail, dass die
Priester den Opfern den Magen ausschnitten, was verschiedentlich - als angeblich nicht mit der Oberlieferung ubereinstimmend - beanstandet warden ist.”11
In English, it reads (including contextual material):
"Taotl: For external sources of information concerning the Aztecs and their customs, as well as concerning the names of their Gods, Rudolf Steiner used the book by Charles William Heckethorn, Geheime Gesellschaften, Geheimbunde und Geheimlehren, Leipzig 1900 (The Secret Societies, Secret Brotherhoods and Secret Teachings of All Ages and Countries)…. From here Rudolf Steiner obtained the detail that he mentioned that the priests cut out the victim's stomach, an assertion that is variously objected to as apparently not corresponding to the traditions that have been passed down to our time." (as translated for this paper by James Hindes)
I was amazed upon first reading this translation, for no other commentator on the subject has taken notice of the german original (the footnote does not exist in the English edition), nor referred to it as a possible explanation for Steiner’s remark and I, after some dozens or so readings of Heckethorn’s text, had noticed nothing of the sort. What was going on here? Going back to Heckethorn’s original English edition, I reread it with closer scrutiny. A light began to glow. What is most interesting about this passage is that it is misleading; Heckethorn does not mean to imply that the stomach was excised. What he does say is:
"The high priest then opened his [the victim’s] stomach with the knife,
and tearing out his heart, held it up to the sun, and then threw it before
the idol in one of the chapels on the top of the great pyramid where the
rite was performed."
An alternate translation of the critical German sentence reads:
"This is the origin of the detail mentioned by Rudolf Steiner that the priests cut open the victims' stomachs, which has been criticized on various occasions as apparently not in accordance with recorded tradition."
(Frank Thomas Smith)
This is more in accord with the gist of Heckethorn’s statement, but illustrates the pitfall the editor of Steiner’s text might have encountered.
While I do not have a copy of the German edition of Heckethorn's book to refer to, it is quite possible that Steiner made the same mistake as did his modern editors, especially if the translation into german was not sufficiently precise.
To belabor the obvious, what is clearly intended by Heckethorn is that the victim’s belly was cut open to allow access to the heart, not that the organ of the stomach was removed. In this one instance, Heckethorn’s description, along with other details not quoted here, corresponds exactly with all other reports. Here I believe we have a solution to “the question of the stomach" in Steiner's "Mexican Mysteries" lectures.
The other instance refers to the name “Vitzliputzli”:
It should be noted that the only other instance which I have been able to locate of a spelling identical to Steiner’s occurs in Heckethorn – he uses it seven times - with similar variants used by other sources (Sahagun, Koslik), e.g.; Uitzilopotchtli. Heckethorn chooses to use "Vitzliputzli" instead of the other variant he mentions only once: "Heritzilopochtli."
Unexamined in this regard are Eduard Seler's extensive german texts. Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, in his Alti Publishing edition of Treasures of the Great Temple, cites Sahagun's Florentine Codex references to "Vitzilopochtli."
Thus, it is even more obvious that "Vitzliputzli" and "Huitzilopochtli" are meant to refer to the same entity, at least by the 16th C. chroniclers – and by those that rely upon them.
As Heckethorn’s use of "Vitzliputzli" predates Steiner’s by some 16 years, I believe it reasonable to deduce that Steiner borrowed the form of the name from Heckethorn, with no obvious reservations about its associations with the Aztec warrior and culture-hero. I say “reservations”, because “Vitzliputzli” was a <good guy> at the beginning of High culture in Mesoamerica and “Huitzilopochtli” is a <bad guy> at the tail end of it, so some difficult work is entailed in tracing the devolution of one into the other. Steiner does not address this at all, but uses the name of the 16th C villain for the name of the 1st C. initiate. This creates a conceptual and imaginal knot that must be teased apart; a simple literalism simply will not do.
Thus, evaluating both considerations, I consider that the case that Steiner relied upon Heckethorn is strengthened, although the question of why he would have done so is no closer to solution. As I have tried to emphasize at all times, these details merely lend colour to the story of how Steiner came to tell this tale. On the main points of his description about Christ's activity in Mesoamerica, his seership was in full sail, and entirely reliable, as I can attest from my own investigations. For those who might entertain naïve notions that everything he said must have invariably derived from infallible supersensible perception, that conscientious testing of his reports is somehow tantamount to subversive disloyalty, or that uninformed opinion masquerading as belief or Faith is the same as knowledge, experience, or authority, I must confess a lack of sympathy with such notions.
Fourthly, we must deal with the overarching matter of Meaning, one which, although it encompasses all the foregoing, goes beyond them. Taking into account all those factors which we have discussed, we must decide what Steiner tried to express in the course of being constrained by them. Let us consider this in terms of the specific and fascinating instance of Quetzalcoatl, who is indeed frequently paired in the native lore with Tezcatlipoca. Our Steiner declares:
“…different mysteries were founded that were designed to counteract the excesses of the Taotl mysteries. These were mysteries in which a being lived…this being was Tezkatlipoka. That was the name given to the being who, though he belonged to a much lower hierarchy, was partly connected through his qualities with the Jehovahgod. He worked in the Western Hemisphere against those grisly mysteries of which we have spoken.
“The teachings of Tezcatlipoca soon escaped from the mysteries and were spread abroad exoterically. Thus, in those regions of the earth, the teachings of Tezcatlipoca were actually the most exoteric, while those of Taotl were the most esoteric, since they were only obtained in the manner described above. The ahrimanic powers sought to “save” humanity, however — I am now speaking as Ahriman though of it — from the god Tezcatlipoca. Another spirit was set up against him who, for the Western Hemisphere, had much in common with the spirit whom Goethe described as Mephistopheles [a.k.a.: Ahriman, with some Luciferic qualities]. He was indeed his kin. This spirit was designated with a word that sounded like Quetsalkoatl. He was a spirit who, for this time and part of the earth, was similar to Mephistopheles, although Mephistopheles displayed much more of a soul nature. Quetzalcoatl also never appeared directly incarnated. His symbol was similar to the Mercury staff to be found in the Eastern Hemisphere, and he was, for the Western Hemisphere, the spirit who could disseminate malignant diseases through certain magic forces. He could inflict them upon those whom he wished to injure in order to separate them from the relatively good god, Tezcatlipoca.”12
And, from elsewhere:
“Tetzkatlipoka was a kind of Serpent God with whom men felt themselves astrally connected.”13 (the alternate spelling is as it is in the texts. Steiner did not get this information on Tezcatlipoca from Heckethorn – another riddle.)
So: Meaning. What did Steiner intend to convey with these remarks? Are Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca to be considered as representatives of cosmically good and evil forces, respectively benefactor and villain, or as partners who work opposite sides of the same dynamic? An example of the former would be the Good Guys and the Bad Guys in the Hollywood Westerns, an example of the latter would be Plato and Aristotle. Unfortunately, his brief asides are just that: too brief. It is known that the Aztecs themselves definitely subscribed to the latter more sophisticated view
And which Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca are we talking about: the beings of popular 16th C. Aztec religion as perceived by the trampling Spanish, the original prototypes in core mythology and Ancestral Imagination going back to the Olmec, the beings themselves before they become projected into either – or the fabulous Quetzalcoatls and Tezcatlipocas of the poorly-informed European mind?14
To what extent does this latter include Steiner?
Although we may never know the answer to these questions, I suspect that he knew both more and less about these subjects than he is generally credited. Less, because he cannot be credited with scholarship that simply did not exist in his time, and more, because of his deep appreciation for the inner nature of the religious soul, and for the remarkably profound perception that stands, above and beyond all other lesser and annoying considerations, at the core of his American Vision. This essential perception we will examine in detail in the next installment.
There is, however, yet another Quetzalcoatl (Tezcatlipoca has receded from popular view). This is the Quetzalcoatl of year-2002 New Age and popular Chicano and Mexican culture. If there is a universally regarded, utterly positive and benevolent being in the American pantheon, it is Quetzalcoatl – and that this is so is attested by the pervasive presence in the historical record of his avatar Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl of Toltec fame.15 To further complicate matters, in the 18th and 19thC, there was considerable conviction that Quetzalcoatl was, in reality, none other than St. Thomas the Apostle, who, it was said, had gone to the Orient to proselytize to the heathen.
Tezcatlipoca may have been the focus of popular cults in unspecified pre-Columbian times, for all deities had had their places in the ritual calendar, but the assertion that his cult was the most popular is unsupported; it is unknown on what basis Steiner could have asserted this. On the other hand, it does apply most obviously to Quetzalcoatl! Is it possible that Steiner got his attributions reversed, or applied names deriving from one era to the inverted deity-aspects of other eras? In support of these possibilities is the fact that nowhere in modern evidence is Tezcatlipoca found depicted with major serpent aspect, whereas it is Quetzalcoatl who has as his most prominent motif that of the feathered serpent – in fact, that is what his name means; he was the Serpent-God ne plus ultra. On the other hand, the Mayan equivalent of Tezcatlipoca (K’awil, aka God K or GII) comes equipped with a significant serpent-foot (significantly deriving from 1st-C. Izapan representation – more on this later). Or have the attributions themselves reversed over the course of time, as we have seen take place with Vitzliputzli-Huitzilopochtli and that of Jesus Christ Himself…for who would recognize the Jesus of 1st. C. Palestine in the Jesus of 16th C. Inquisitional Spain, where the Jews and Muslims were expelled in 1492 with ascendant reactionary fervor, and on whose behalf the Conquistadors and Franciscans were sent to scour the New World? Many peoples on the receiving end of the Christian dispensation have had no difficulty - if they still survive – with conflating the Cross and the Swastika.
In Steiner’s favor, it must be said that the Mesoamerican deities were multi-valent: they were multifaceted in ways that are totally confounding for the “a place for everything and everything in its place” and strict hierarchical mentality of the European mind. Every deity gloried in multiply contradictory internal aspects and exchanged them in the many different kinds of relationships with those with whom it was partnered. Yes, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca were adversaries, but in indigenous mythology they also assisted each other in the creation of the world, being regents of successive world-ages. In favor of Steiner’s positive estimation for Tezcatlipoca, two of Huitzilopochtli’s common appellations were “Blue Tezcatlipoca” and “Tezcatlipoca of the South”, although these are attributions unknown in RS’s day – unless he had scanned specialist papers by Seler! Unfortunately, the significance and subtleties of such aliases has been mostly lost, and we simply do not know where Steiner came by his information, or what he meant by most of it. What we may confidently assume is that he did mean something significant when he spoke of these matters.
Ah…and determining what he meant from what he said has an additional complication: what he is recorded as saying cannot be considered a totally reliable document. Each and every volume of his compiled lecture-cycles is preceded by a disclaimer from him advising that the contents are compiled from uncorrected notes, and that the material cannot be considered definitive and authoritative.16 As mentioned at the outset, many listening to the material had trouble hearing it. What if the transcriber of the lectures was one of those people? If the material was difficult for Steiner to present, how must it have sounded to those in the audience?!
One last set of points: Rudolf Steiner’s indications are typically: 1. Highly nuanced, 2. inseparable from the immediate context, 3. not only well-informed but well-informed from an extremely insightful and unique vantage point, and 4. always directed towards a specific intent. In short, there is always a very precise point to be made; if the context alters, so also does the apparent judgement he is making. We see this in the instances where he addresses various aspects of Masonry, the legacy of Rome, the modern scientific method, the rise of individuality and self-consciousness, the influence of Arabic thought upon European civilization, and many others: there is no such thing as an unmixed blessing or a crisis devoid of possibilities. It is indeed unfortunate that Steiner did not have other, more relaxed opportunities in which to expand on his GA 171 comments, or to approach them from a direction which was not focused on various assaults upon European culture.
For all these reasons, scrutiny can only hover about Steiner’s text; it would be a mistake to parse it too closely. Yet, sympathy – simpatico – can reveal as much in its way as analytical scholarship does in its own fashion. Steiner’s methodology of training in Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition is, essentially, only a disciplined development of becoming inwardly responsive to the “objective subjectivity” of the Other - an intensive listening, in other words, of which the initial stages are Information and Interest. Without good Information, one’s Imagination is bound to go haywire, as has happened to Le Plongeon and Thompson with the Maya, but without Imagination, one does not go anywhere. Let us see where the dynamic interplay between the two can take us.
There is now the requisite critical mass of evidence from all fields of exoteric investigation into Mesoamerica that theories deriving from practice in the Mesoamerican spiritual Traditions themselves, as well as those deriving from practice in equivalent European-derived esoteric disciplines can find a fruitful synesthesia. Steiner’s indications are an excellent place to start – notwithstanding the previous cautions, for these are based in a profoundly original and far-seeing point of view. Almost all of my objections amount to a caution against hasty conclusions, sloppy thinking, and naïve associations on the part of the reader. In the first section we have looked into the fit between RS’s larger-scale indications and what is generally known about Mesoamerican spirituality and history, and their significance for us in 21st-C. USA. Later, we will look into the theoretical and practical utility of his observations as they relate to the shamanic practice of our 1st. C. culture-hero.
Coda and Summary
Premise: The Deed of Christ was an event of both of planetary and personal significance, and: Elements of the positive American Mystery Tradition proved triumphant in the parallel events of 1st C. CE in Mexico, in which our initiate’s sacred shamanism was decisive in allowing the Deed of Christ to proceed.
Conclusion: there are streams of essential Christianity present in local indigenous Traditions which, although they may have no traceable historical links to the forms originating in the Middle Eastern locale, nonetheless are an integral part of a future global culture of the Risen Christ.
Also: it is incumbent and proper for us, as spiritual citizens of this country, to familiarize ourselves with, and begin to access out of the peculiar forms of consciousness fostered by Rudolf Steiner’s initiatives, those treasures held in trust for us in these times of crisis.
Crucial to an effective appreciation of these facts is an intuitive grasp of the method of working of this mysterious person who is known only by the name used by Steiner; the same name used by the 16th C Aztecs for their culture-hero: Huitzilopochtli/Vitzliputzli.
Here we have an instance of one of the obstacles set in place to deter and dissuade inquiry. Another is white middle-class guilt, which is a Threshold Guardian of an especially poignant and pernicious sort. There are others, some originating from ethnocentric elements within European culture itself.
All these, however, need be no more than annoying distractions, for as the adversarial forces continue to mobilize in furthering the Advent of Ahriman, so also are the powers of sacred magic rising to met the challenge. Anyone who can meet them is welcome to do so.
Here, in this continent especially, these sacred powers take the form of those belonging to the domain of the Mother and the Goddess, for it was at her hands, and by their agency that Christ received his Resurrection in the UnderWorld. During the time between the Friday events of the Death of Christ on the Cross – attended, significantly, by the women of his entourage - and the laying of his body in the Tomb, and his reappearance to Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday, he was lost to biblical sight. Even in the esoteric Traditions of Europe, little is known, and less said. Yet in the West, the realm of the UnderWorld was always at the focus of the greatest attentions of their magi. Of course, progressive and retrograde forces swirled within those InnerWorlds, and within the areas of the body of the Earth that corresponded to them.
Alien terrain for those accustomed to contemplating experientially distant celestial realms by philosophical means, the chthonic UnderWorld seethes with powerful tides of intimate Will. The adepts of the West – and our 1st. C. initiate most of all – were magicians; shamans; their transformational magic was spirituality of the Will, their arena the overlapping planetary and personal Doubles.
In Cuicuilco, the dark magician draws upon deep chthonic powers and energies, seeking to overwhelm the human order. His visions are those of Atlantis, his lineage is of those who lived there. The volcano Xitle is the cauldron. Early 1st C. Cuicuilco is a large metropolis, ascending to empire.
Across the Valley of Mexico, lake Texcoco in its basin, lies Teotihuacan, some way up a feeder valley. Two towns of 5,000 souls each, it is conscious of its placement. Are its inhabitants Mexica gnostics, local variants of Zarathustrian warrior-agriculturalists, Essene-type apocalyptics, or some unique brand of collective visionaries? Regardless, they held the selfless occult balance to the inherently out-of-balance schemes breeding in Cuicuilco. How long had the two been squaring off, what feints, circlings, and pre-echoes had occurred in times past, leading up to this crucial time?
As his magical apotheosis approaches, the dark wizard encounters an unanticipated obstruction. Gradually he realizes that he faces significant opposition, and that it comes from the outpost of Teotihuacan. No longer a minor irritant or stray thread, there is something coming from that area that constitutes a serious threat to his occult agenda. His sight becomes focused upon an individual whom we shall call “our initiate.”
This person had originally hailed from distant Izapa, where significant impulses for the Olmec civilization had emanated; spiritual impulses above all, although the 260-day calendar system had also originated from that latitude. Nourished by that venerated center, our initiate had journeyed to the Highland Basin of Mexico to fulfill his destiny, one that his people had long prepared for one like him.
Welcomed in Teotihuacan, our initiate began to garner his inner and outer forces. Militarily, there was no hope of a frontal attack. Additionally, he realized that means create ends, and that there was no future for half-measures. It would need to be a struggle on the Inner Planes, where forces upholding both conflicting tendencies were strongest and most capable of access. Yet even there, and most especially there, our initiate had allies; allies from other races and streams of evolution, ones who were not honored or allowed by the dark wizard.
So, as the dark shaman raised his power in Cuicuilco to a pitch from which it could not be withdrawn, our initiate of sacred magic also raised his power, a power which was not his, but a power which was the inherent divine power coursing through all creation. The dark shaman’s power could only be a portion of this, and, when the two currents faced each other off, there could only be one result – as long as our initiate did not falter in his trust. Falter he did not, and the power raised in Cuicuilco, having reached a critical state, did not vent in directed focus, but burst its limits and destroyed its entire locale.
In contradistinction to the barely public events in Palestine occurring at the same time, with few, if any, comprehending the occult realities of what was happening, in Mexico at this time, it was a fully public drama. That our white shaman would triumph so decisively and extravagantly over his opponent was an omen of such profundity that no one could deny it for centuries. No coercion, stratagems, or environmental crises were necessary to induce multitudes to come to Teotihuacan, and, indeed, in the course of a few decades, Teotihuacan became how it is remembered by all: the central locus in Mesoamerica of the Turning Point in Time…”The Birthplace of the Gods.”
As the fully enacted Rite of the Sacrificial King was in climax in Palestine, there were those who served it loyally in Mexico. And serve it well they did.
As these events became landmarks in the past, the impulse arose to venerate the memory and Ancestry of our initiate. And, so, what we know as the Ciudadela arose in the second century of Teotihuacan’s career. A center of initiation into the pathway of our initiate, its Temple represented the power flowing along the central axis of all the worlds – worlds which our initiate had joined in balance and flowing harmony at the decisive moment – as the Feathered Serpent: Quetzalcoatl, as the Aztecs over a millenium later would term it. The emblem of personal attunement for them was the Xuihcoatl, or Fire Serpent - as was, in similar fashion, the Cross for those across the Atlantic - and so we see Huitzilopochtli, his gruesomely distorted Aztec echo, still wielding the Xiuhcoatl as his sceptre. Hence we find representations of the Fire Serpent alternating with those of the Feathered Serpent around the famously magnificent walls of the Ciudadela. An version of this same totem occurs in the ubiquitous Manikin Sceptre, emblematic of the serpent-footed God K’awil, wielded by the Mayan adepts of the southern reaches.
Yet such a power as the Central Fire cannot be accessed by rote or technique; only by need, releasing sacrifice of one’s own heart, and responding grace. Hence, such an attempt as would seem reasonable and inevitable – the attempt to institutionalize such an impulse – was bound to meet with concerted opposition from more experienced minds. Thus the later addition of another pyramid erected immediately in front of the Ciudadela, blocking its frontal aspect, is evidence of conflicting tendencies in the honoring of the legacy of the past.
These internal divisions increased over time, held together against the relentless undertow of lower human nature only by the pellucid nature of its founding event and its continuing Inspiration. Many aspects of a noble impulse solidly implanted within its mythos are evident: an anonymous priesthood and ruling class, generous and non-coercive living conditions for at least the vast majority of its 200,000 inhabitants, an at least outwardly stable and long-lasting social order, the lack of an overly-large power center in its warrior class, the generally benign nature of its sacred rituals, the elevation of goddess-entities to positions of major – even ultimate - prominence, evidence of high and plastic art-forms throughout all sectors of the metropolis, a multi-cultural life that graciously included barrios for most of the known regional cultures of the day, ambassadorial outposts in distant areas which acted as centers for cultural influence, and, lastly but not at all least, an enduring reputation for purity and intensity of vision that was never presumed to be equaled.
Yet it struggled to maintain itself at this generally successful level of intention. Human sacrifice was never not a part of its religious life, although it never reached the pitch of paranoid frenzy attained at the time of the Conquest. Certain impulses of regimentation and standardization were probably premature and not employed without unfortunate side-effects. Its empire was maintained and expanded by means of military conquest – recent investigations have revealed previously unexpected dominating influences from Teotihuacan in the formation of Classic Maya civilization. The Atlantean monumentality of its public works can seem overwhelming to our modern sensibilities – was it so for those who lived there? Our initiate, though pure at the time of the decisive event, could not insure continuance of this purity; such insurance does not exist, and attempts to fix a spiritual impulse in time and space always prove counterproductive – to say the least. Yet Teotihaucan succeeded remarkable well; so well that is, that there are no precedents or imitators for such a grand experiment in social engineering.
And when it failed to work as intended, those in charge still had the guts to pull the plug and enlist the population in a last gesture of social deconstruction. Hence the wide-scale evidence for ritual destruction of its ceremonial centers on both a city-wide and local level. The deconsecration was so effective that never again was Teotihaucan ever reoccupied on a consistent basis, although even the much-later Aztec rulers paid homage to it by making regular ritual processions to “The Birthplace of the Gods.”
In the later Toltec civilization, which was headquartered in Tula, not too far to the northwest of the Valley of Teotihuacan, an attempt of a still-undefined nature was made to resurrect the impulse which had given rise to such a magnificent culture. Although it is not known for certain how successful – or unsuccessful - they were, it can be presumed that it was not done as effectively as before: Tula reigned for only half as long as did Teotihuacan. Yet the most famous personage in all Mesoamerica: Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, was he who attempted to lift the Toltec impulse to the highest possible level by reembodying the impulse of his Ancestral predecessor. Famous for his attempts to limit the expanding practice of human sacrifice and other excesses, he ran afoul of entrenched interests, and, duplicating the archetypal trajectory of all reformist heroes, he was exiled – but not without a promise/threat of return.
When the third-generation Aztecs barbarians arrived (as émigré Anasazi?) to attempt to appropriate the legacy of our initiate and his high culture, the impulse was so exhausted that only the most inverted and perverted remnants had survived above ground. Perhaps Cortez actually was the returned Quetzalcoatl, come to clean the Temple of Culture in the only possible way: by tearing it down until not a stone rested upon a stone. Afterwards, what appeared out of the ashes was the same goddess who was the basis for this cycle in the first place; the Mother, the Great Goddess, Spider Woman, now divest of all devouring aspect, as the cornucopia of all grace and succor: La Guadaloupana.
For, as the task of our initiate was to clear the way for the passage of the Son of the Father to reestablish the cosmic axis mundi by passing through death and receiving resurrection from the Mother, so did the Teotihuacanos worship the Great Mother above all others. They were Christians in the truest, but most novel, fashion. What was attempted in the heretical sects of Europe was the norm in Mesoamerica, whereas the inevitable deviancies of later Mesoamerica cultures were totally uncontextable for the Europeans who first encountered them. Double met Double in a collision of mutual incomprehension unprecedented in human history.
The riddle of the crucifixion of the dark magician referred to by Steiner (this is not a form of sacrifice or torture known to be employed by Olmecs) finds a solution if one considers this as being an inner-plane event, where one loosing touch with the Central Flame in such a decisive struggle is dismembered throughout the Four Directions (i.e.: the Cross of the Elements).
Inquires and responses welcomed; send to: to Stephen Clarke, firstname.lastname@example.org, c/o Southern Cross Review, or through his All Our Relations group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AllOurRelations/
Stephen Clarke is of 54 years, a BMW/MBZ Service shop owner, a 30-yr. New Mexico resident, and president of his local Santa Fe Anthroposophical Society Branch. He attends church at a local Pueblo sweat lodge.
1 Jesaiah Ben-Aharon: The Spiritual Event of the Twentieth Century. Temple Lodge, 1993, 1996, p. 46:
“The result of what we lost sight of in the sub-earthly depth below…”
Dion Fortune: The Mystical Cabalah. Samuel Weiser, Inc. 1996 (from 1935).
3 Rudolf Steiner: Karmic Relationships, Vol. II, GA 236, lecture 12 of May 29, 1924. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974, p. 193. This is the only known description of “Taotl” by RS outside of Inner Impulses.
6S outside of Inner Impulses. T. H. Meyer, in his Clairvoyance and Consciousness - The Tao Impulse in Evolution (Temple Lodge, 1991) gets a lot of good mileage out of “Taotl” – “Tao” similarities, but his intuition on the subject must remain as interesting speculation as it is derivative of Steiner and supporting scholarship is nonexistent.
4 Dr. Frederic Koslik, Introduction to the English-language edition of Inner Impulses.
5 Eduard Seler: Gesammelte Abhandlungen, 1902 – 1923, Berlin.
6 Charles William Heckethorn – The Secret Societies of All Ages and Countries: Embracing the
Mysteries Andanavia, the Cabalists, Early Christians, Heretics, Assassins, Thugs, Templars, the Vehm and Inquisition, Mystics, Rosicrucians, Illuminati, Freemasons, Skopzi, Camorristi, Carbonari, Nihilists, and Other Sects. Kessinger Publishing Co, from 1875 & 1897 (2nd ed.). German edition published 1900.
77 Steiner: Karmic Relationships, Vol. II, p. 192. This derogatory reference to the history of the
“personality” mentioned is one of the very few references by Steiner to the “Mexican Mysteries” outside of GA 171, although it and its context is repeated almost verbatim in several later Karmic Relationships lecture-cycles. The reference to the “curious man” is unique to this citation, however.
88 Rudolf Steiner: The Temple Legend - From the Contents of the Esoteric School, (GA 93). Lectures
from May 23, 1904 to January 2, 1906. Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997. This is an almost equal curiosity, as there are many more reputable sources of information on the Masons than Heckethorn.
99 Esther Pasztory: Teotihuacan – An Experiment in Living. U. of Oklahoma Press, 1997, p. 201. Also:
“The gods signify the personified powers of nature”: p. 206. She does have an excellent section
on Seler: pp. 64 – 72. Overall, the book is in a class by itself, notwithstanding the limitations noted.
1010 Seler: The Green Stone Idol of the Stuttgart Museum. From Collected Works in Mesoamerican
Linguistics and Archeology, Labyrinths, 1993 (from the German of 1904). Quetzalcoatl is the deity of Venus as Morning Star, whereas Xolotl is the deity of Venus as Evening Star.
1111 Editor, Innere Entwicklungsimpulse der Menschenheit. Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1984. Magen: the organ
of the stomach, Bauchweh: belly, Unterlieb: abdomen. Steiner uses magen in all his references.
1212 Steiner: Inner Impulses of Evolution, lecture of Sept. 18.
1313 Steiner: Karmic Relationships, Vol. VII, GA 239, lecture 3 of June 9, 1924. Rudolf Steiner Press,
1973, p. 49. This is the only known reference by Steiner to Tezcatlipoca outside Inner Impulses.
14 Benjamin Keen: The Aztec Image in Western Thought. Rutgers U. Press, 1971. Fascinating
portraits and documentation of the volatile perception of Aztec reality and how it would shift as it reflected trends and fads in European politics, culture, and philosophy. It seems that the history of the subject has been that speculation has been in inverse proportion to the amount of information available, careening between rational reduction and romantic projection.
15The revered ruler of Toltec Tula, d. c. 976 A.D. after being deposed by agents of Tezcatlipoca, or
perhaps survived in exile to Yucatec Chichen Itza. Aztec prophecy conflated his return with that of Cortez, with disastrous consequences. See also Tony Shearer’s Lord of the Dawn, Naturegraph Publishing, for a good exposition of this modern enthusiasm, significant in the genesis of the Harmonic Convergence of 1987.
16 “”But it must be borne in mind that faulty passages do occur in these reports not revised by myself.”:
Inner Impulses in Evolution, GA 171: Rudolf Steiner, 1916, Dornach. Anthroposophic Press, 1984. The
English edition contains seven lectures, from Sept. 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, and Oct. 1, 1916. The German edition of GA 171 contains additional lectures from Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, 7, 14, 15, 21, 28, 29, and 30, 1916: this group is entitled Goethe and the Crisis of the Nineteenth Century. An additional lecture from Dec. 10, 1916 is also grouped with GA 171, although it appears as part of The Problem of Faust, GA 273. No mention is made in the English edition of the abridgements of associated material.
General Mesoamerican background:
The Olmec World – Ritual and Rulership: Coe, Michael D., and Richard A Diehl, David A. Freidel,
Peter T. Furst, F. Kent Reilly, III, Linda Schele, Carolyn E. Tate, and Karl A. Taube: The
Art Museum, Princeton U. & Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995. Splendid essays and color photography by the best in the business. The Olmec is the Ur-civilization in Mesoamerica and this volume reflects the current high state of scholarship in the field.
Mexico: Coe, Michael D. Thames and Hudson, fourth edition, 1994.
An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: Mary Miller &
Karl Taube. Thames and Hudson, 1993.
This Tree Grows Out of Hell – Mesoamerica and the Search for the Magical Body: Ptolomy
Tompkins, Harper SanFrancisco, 1990.
The Flayed God: Roberta H. & Peter T. Markman, Harper Collins, 1992. On Quetzalcoatl: pp. 63
– 96, ff.
Shamanism and Sacred Magic:
Meditations on the Tarot: Anonymous, Chapters 1 – 5 especially. Back in print from Jeremy P.
Tarcher/Putnam, 2002 (from 1985).
The UnderWorld Initiation: R. J. Stewart. Mercury Publishing, 1998 (from Aquarian Press, 1985).
Religions of Mesoamerica – Cosmovision and Ceremonial Centers: David Carrasco. Harper
Owning Your Own Shadow: Robert A. Johnson. HarperSanFransisco, 1993.
Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on Mesoamerican practices: the “Mexican Mysteries”
The Influence of Luciferic and Ahrimanic Beings on Historical Development. The Clear Perception of the Sensory World and Free Imaginations as the Task of Our Time. Genghis Khan and the Discovery of America
Dornach, September 17, 1916
Yesterday, we tried to characterize the forces that permeated Greece and Rome in order to obtain an idea of the influences that have been carried over from the fourth into the fifth post-Atlantean age, and we gave some indication of where we have to look today for signs of continued activity of the forces of the fourth post-Atlantean age. I want to ask you now to turn your attention once again to our description of the civilizations of Greece and Rome.
In the way it developed, the civilization of Greece was a source of great disappointment to the luciferic powers. One can, of course, only say these things out of imaginative cognition, and this will also be true of what is to be presented to you today. The development of Greek civilization was a great disappointment to the luciferic powers because they expected something quite different from it. Think what this means. They had expected the civilization of Greece, the fourth epoch of post-Atlantean times, to bring into being for them all they had striven for during Atlantean times. On Atlantis they had developed certain activities, certain influences and forces and they had expected to see the fruits of their labors appear in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. What was it they were really looking for?
To speak of such a matter lets us look right into the luciferic soul. We come to know this luciferic life that continually strives, hoping that certain results may ensue, but that continually meets with fresh disappointment. A logician would naturally ask, “Why do not these luciferic powers stop trying? Why do they not see that they must be forever and repeatedly disappointed?” Such a conclusion would be human, not luciferic, wisdom. At any rate, the luciferic powers have yet to come to his conclusion. On the contrary, it is their practice to redouble their efforts whenever they experience disappointment.
What was it, then, that the luciferic powers expected from this fourth post-Atlantean age? They wanted to obtain mastery of all the soul forces of the Greek people, those soul forces that were, as we have seen, directed to carrying over the ancient imaginations of the Chaldean-Egyptian period, and to incorporate them into the creations of their own fantasy. The luciferic powers made it their endeavor to work so strongly on the human beings of the Greek civilization that their imaginations, refined and distilled to fantasy, should fill their whole being. The Greeks would then have lost themselves in a soul world, in an everyday thinking, feeling and willing that would have consisted entirely of those subtle imaginations that had become complete fantasy.
If the Greeks had developed nothing in their souls but these imaginations refined to fantasy, if these enticing imaginations had come to fill their souls completely, the luciferic powers would have been able to lift the Greeks and a great part of humanity out of human evolution to place them in their own luciferic world. This was the intention of the luciferic powers. From the Atlantean epoch on, it had been their hope to achieve in the fourth post-Atlantean age what they had failed to do in Atlantis. Humanity, at the stage it had then reached, would have been incorporated into the cosmos. They wanted nothing less than to create for themselves a separate world were earthly gravity did not exist but were human beings would dwell with absolute supersensible lightness, entirely given up to a life of fantasy. It was the hope of the luciferic beings to create a planetary body, which would contain those members of humanity who had reached this highest development of the fantasy life. They made every endeavor to lead the souls of the Greeks away from the earth. Had they succeeded, these souls would gradually have forsaken the earth. The bodies that still came to birth would have been degenerate. Egoless beings would have been born, the earth would have fallen into decadence and a special luciferic kingdom would have begun. This did not come to pass. Why?
This condition did not come about because, mingled with the “self-deifying madness” of Greek poetry, to quote Plato, was the genius and greatness of Greek philosophy and wisdom. The Greek philosophers — Heraclitus, Thales, Anaximenes, Anaximander, Parmenides, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle — saved Greek civilization from being completely spiritualized in a life of fantasy. They kept the Greeks on earth, providing the strongest forces that kept Greece within earthly evolution. In considering the course of history, we must always take into account the forces that lie behind physical reality and are the true causes of all that happens. It was, then, in this way that Greece was preserved for earthly evolution.
Now, the luciferic beings would have been unable to achieve anything at all without the help of the ahrimanic beings. In all their intentions and hope they reckoned on their support. Indeed, it must always be that two forces strive together in this kind of working. Just as the luciferic beings were disappointed in Greece, so were the ahrimanic beings disappointed in Rome and the way it developed. The luciferic beings wanted to lead Grecian souls away from the earth-planet and the ahrimanic beings wanted to contribute their efforts to the end that the Roman civilization would assume a particular form. The ahrimanic beings exerted their strongest efforts in Rome, just as the luciferic beings did in Greece. They calculated that a certain hardening would arise on earth brought about by an entirely blind obedience and subjection to Rome. What did the ahrimanic powers want to accomplish in Rome? They wanted to establish a Roman Empire that would extend over the whole of the then known world, embracing within it every human activity. It would be directed entirely from Rome with the strictest centralization and the utmost development of the rule of might. They sought to establish a widely flung state machinery that would include and make subject to it all religious and artistic life. Its goal would be to stamp out all individuality. Every people and human being would comprise merely some small part of this mighty state machine.
Thanks to the clarity of its philosophers, however, Greece was not lulled into the luciferic dream, nor could Rome be hardened as these ahrimanic powers desired, because in Rome, too, something was working against them. This was described in the last lecture as Roman ideals, but the legal, political and military ideals that were then developing could not have withstood Ahriman alone. Within the Roman civilization the ahrimanic powers gathered for a stupendous onslaught. That attempt was like a repetition of their attempt made in Atlantean times, and it developed infinitely strong powers and forces. It was only from another side that Ahriman's intention was hindered. It was, at first, prevented by something that, at first sight, might be regarded as a lower trait in the Roman character, but that was not the case. As a matter of fact, the Romans had need of what I may have seemed to describe in the last lecture with some antipathy. They needed their ruthlessness, stubborn egoism, that continuous stirring up of emotions, to be able to march against the ahrimanic powers. Roman history — I beg you expressly to note this — is not a revelation of the ahrimanic powers. Although they stand in the background, it is a fight against them. If it is all confused and self-seeking, seeming to tend more and more toward a politicalization of the whole world, it is because only in this way could Ahriman's mechanizing be resisted.
All this alone, however, would not have been of much avail. Rome had also received Christianity, which in Rome would have assumed a form that would have given Ahriman a splendid opportunity to achieve his aim since, through the spiritual decline of a Roman rule that had been transformed into a papacy, the mechanizing of culture could have been accomplished. So another external power had to be brought against Ahriman, who works with much more external means than Lucifer. Ahriman, as we have seen, diverted the forces of Christianity to his own service. Another power had to be brought against him. This was the onslaught of the Germanic tribes caused by the migration of peoples in Europe. Through this onslaught on Rome, the mechanizing of the world under a single, all-embracing Roman Empire was hindered. If you will study all that took place in the migration of these peoples, you will find that you can get a true insight into it when you see it from this point of view. Whenever the migration of peoples occurs in the Roman world, Roman history is not thereby brought to an end, but the ahrimanic powers, combated throughout their history by the Romans, are repelled.
Thus did Ahriman meet with his disappointment, as Lucifer had met with his. But they will take up their tasks again in the fifth post-Atlantean age with all the more determination. Here is the point at which we must gain an understanding of the forces that are operative in our age, insofar as such an understanding is possible today.
The fourth post-Atlantean age extends both backwards and forwards from its central point in 333 A.D. It ended about 1413 A.D. and it began about 747 B.C. These are of course, approximate dates. I have just told you that the disappointment of Lucifer and Ahriman in the forms the Greek and Roman civilizations had assumed, has led them to make still stronger efforts in our fifth post-Atlantean age. Their efforts are already at work in the human forces that have been active from the fifteenth century. It does not matter whether something occurs a few decades earlier or later. In outer physical reality, which takes on the form of the “great illusion,” things are sometimes misplaced.
The fact that the Roman civilization could be retained in the evolution of humanity as it was due to the events brought about by the migrations of the peoples. If Rome had developed in such a way that a great all-embracing mechanized empire had arisen, it would only have been habitable for egoless human beings who would have remained on earth after Lucifer had drawn out their souls on the path of Greek culture and art. You see how Ahriman and Lucifer work together. Lucifer wants to take men's souls away and found a planet with them of his own. Ahriman has to help him. While Lucifer sucks the juice out of the lemon, as it were, Ahriman presses it out, thereby hardening what remains. This is what he tried to do to the civilization of Rome. Here we have an important cosmic process going on — all due to the intention and resolve of luciferic and ahrimanic powers. As I have said, they were disappointed. They have continued their efforts, however, and our fifth post-Atlantean age has yet to learn how strong these attacks are. They are now only beginning but they will become stronger and stronger. This age must learn, too, that the necessity to understand these attacks will become ever greater. At the beginning of an age the backward beings cannot work strongly. As yet, we are only in the beginning, and even though it became manifest only later, the luciferic and ahrimanic powers began to exert their forces before the expiration of the fourth post-Atlantean age.
To understand how these powers work in the fifth post-Atlantean age, we must turn our attention for a moment to what is intended for man in the right and normal course of his evolution. It is rightfully intended that he shall take a further step forward. The step taken by humanity in the fourth post-Atlantean age is revealed in the culture of the Greeks and in the political development of the Romans, and it was through the battle with Lucifer and Ahriman that what was intended actually came about. These opposing forces are always such that they fit into the progressive plan of the world. They belong to it and are needed there as opposing forces. But what special qualities are the men of the fifth post-Atlantean age, our own, to develop?
We know that this is the age of the development of the consciousness soul and that, to accomplish this, a number of forces — soul and bodily forces — must be active. First, a clear perception of the sense world is necessary. This did not exist in earlier times because, as you know, a visionary, imaginative element continuously played into the human soul. The Greeks still possessed fantasy but, as we have seen, after fantasy and imagination had taken possession of humanity, as it did of the Greeks, it then became necessary for men to develop the faculty to see the world of external nature without the illumination of a vision standing behind it. We need not imagine that such a vision has to be a materialistic one. That point of view is itself an ahrimanically perverted perception of sense reality. As indicated before, observation of sense reality is one task incumbent upon the human soul in our fifth post-Atlantean age.
The other task is to unfold free imaginations side by side with the clear view of reality — in a way, a kind of repetition of the Egypto-Chaldean age. To date, humanity has not progressed too far in this task. Free imaginations as sought through spiritual science means imaginations not as they were in the third post-Atlantean age, but unfettered and undistilled into fantasy. It means imaginations in which man moves as freely as he does only in his intellect. That, then, is the other task of the fifth post-Atlantean age. The unfoldment of these two faculties will lead to a right development of the consciousness soul in our present epoch.
Goethe had a beautiful understanding of this clear perception, which, contrary to the materialistic point of view, he described as his “primal phenomenon” (Urphänomen). You will find that this has been dealt with at length in Goethe's writings, and I have spoken of it in my explanation of the primal phenomenon. His is a clear, pure perception of reality and of his primal phenomenon. Goethe not only gave the first impulse for perceptions free of any visions but also for free imaginations.* What he has given us in his Faust, even though it has not yet gone far in the direction of spiritual science, and in comparison with spiritual science is still more or less instinctive, is nevertheless the first impulse to a free imaginative life. It is no mere world of fantasy, yet we have seen how deep this world of fantasy really is that develops in free imaginations in the wonderful drama, Faust.
(This distinction between pure perception free of memory pictures and visions on the one hand and an objective imagination which begins with brain-free thinking on the other is developed in Boundaries of Natural Science, Anthroposophic Press, 1983)
So, over against this primal phenomenon, we have what Goethe calls typical intellectual perception. You will find it described in detail in my book, The Riddle of Man. This mode of thought must continue to develop. The men of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, however, must not merely behold reality. They must be able to live with reality. They must get busy, like Goethe, and, working in quite a different way from that of the materialistic physicists, really make such use of their laboratory apparatus that it produces the primal phenomenon for them. They will then have to devise some way of getting the primal phenomenon into practical life. As you know, it is at home in, and holds sway throughout, nature. The intentions of humanity that come from free imaginations will have to be included in this primal phenomenon of nature. On the one hand, men will have to direct their gaze quite selflessly to the outer world to work in it and to gain knowledge of it. On the other, by powerful application of their personalities, they will have to bring it all into inner movement in order to find the imaginations for outer activity and outer knowledge. Gradually, the consciousness soul and its culture will achieve this transformation.
There will certainly be onesidedness in this cultural epoch. That goes without saying. Our cognition will direct its efforts only outwards, as in Bacon, or only inwards, as in Berkeley. We have already spoken of this. The imaginative life welling up from within will not unfold without all manner of disturbing influences. But even now we can point to moments in this development when someone feels this free imaginative life springing up in his soul. In these beginnings it is still in great measure unfree, but we may see how so significant a man as Jacob Boehme, quite soon after the fifth post-Atlantean age began, felt how it was trying to develop in his soul. He brought this to expression in his Aurora, and we can feel as we read it how imaginative life was working within him. It must become free; Boehme still feels it to be a little unfree. Nevertheless, he knew it was a divine creative thing that was working in him. So Boehme was, in a sense, at the opposite pole to Bacon, whose endeavor always directed his attention to the external world. Jacob Boehme, however, was entirely engrossed in the world within, and described this world beautifully in the Aurora:
“I declare before God,” he says because he is speaking of his inner soul, “that I do not know how it comes to pass in me.” He means by this how the imaginations arise in him. “Without feeling the impulse of the will, I also don't know what I have to write.”
This is how Boehme speaks of the uprising of imaginations in himself. He detects the beginning of forces that must grow continually stronger in the men of the fifth post-Atlantean age.
“I declare before God that I do not know how it comes to pass in me. Without feeling the impulse of the will, I also don't know what I have to write. The spirit dictates to me in a great and marvelous knowledge what I write, so that often I do not know whether I am in this world with my spirit, and I rejoice exceedingly that sure and continuous knowledge is thus vouchsafed to me.”
Boehme describes the instreaming of the imaginative world. We can see that he feels harmony and rest in his soul, and he describes how men's souls shall, in the normal and right progress of their evolution, let themselves be taken hold of by these inner forces, which are to grow stronger in them in the fifth post-Atlantean age. But one must take possession of them in the pure inner being of the spirit and thereby avoid devious paths. In the seventeenth century one had to speak of these forces much in the way that Boehme, who spoke as a man completely and utterly devoted to divine righteousness, did.
The entire aim in the work of the luciferic and ahrimanic powers in the fifth post-Atlantean age, concerning both the perception of the primal phenomenon and the development of free imaginations, is to hinder these forces from arising in man. The luciferic and ahrimanic powers are working in this fifth post-Atlantean age to disturb these forces in the human soul, to employ them to a wrong end, thus bringing men's souls out of the earth sphere to establish a new sphere of their own. Many things must work together to disturb the right, quiet and slow unfolding of these forces. Note well that I say the quiet and slow unfolding because the entire period of 2,160 years, starting in 1413 A.D., should be used for the gradual unfoldment of the forces I have named, that is, free imaginations and the gradual development of working with primal phenomena. At intervals — by fits and starts, as it were — the luciferic and ahrimanic powers throw the whole weight of their opposition against this right evolution. When we bear in mind that everything is prepared for by the world beyond the earth long before it happens, we shall then not be surprised to find preparations being made to bring the strongest possible forces of opposition against the normal evolution of humanity.
We have already seen how the luciferic and ahrimanic powers poured what they had developed in Atlantean times into Greece and Rome. Now, in an altered form, they have tried to repeat these efforts before the arrival of the fifth post-Atlantean age. You will not be surprised when I say that for this fifth post-Atlantean age, too, a powerful impetus had to be present bearing along with it the after workings, in a luciferic and ahrimanic sense, from Atlantis. We know that the Atlantean influences spread out from a region that was called Atlantis even by Plato. Let us make a diagram and imagine Atlantis here, then over here on the right would be Europe and Asia, and here on the left would be America. The old Atlantean forces, including the old luciferic and ahrimanic forces, spread out from Atlantis. Some part of these Atlantean forces, however, was held back, and it came to work in our fifth post-Atlantean age as luciferic and ahrimanic forces. That is, some part of the good forces, which were good and right in Atlantean times, have been carried over to our time to become luciferic and ahrimanic forces. Only the center was transferred to another region.
Atlantis, as we know, is gone and the center transposed to Asia. You must imagine it on the reverse side of my drawing and the effects of the old Atlantean culture spreading out from it as a preparation for the fifth post-Atlantean age.
Its intent was to lucifericize and ahrimanicize it. It was actually the descendants of the old Atlantean teachers who were now working from a place in Asia. A priest there had been educated to behold — to have a belated vision, as it were, of what the Atlanteans called the “Great Spirit,” and to receive his commands. These the priest communicated to a young man of remarkable energy and strength who, by virtue of this authority, received the name “The Great Ruler of the Earth” from his community. This was Genghis Khan. The Great Spirit, through his follower and through that priest, gave to Genghis Khan the command to summon all the powers of Asia to spread the influence that would lead the fifth post-Atlantean age back into a luciferic form. These forces — and they were far more powerful than the forces established in Greek culture — were all employed to this end. Free imaginations were to be changed into old, visionary imaginations. Every effort was to be made to lull the soul of man to sleep in a dim and dreamy experience of imaginations instead of a free experience filled through and through with clear understanding.
With the help of the special forces that had been preserved from Atlantis, it was the intended purpose to carry an influence into the West that would make its culture visionary. Then it would have become possible to separate the souls of men from the earth and to form a new continent, a new planetary body with them. All the unrest and disturbance that came into the evolution of modern man through the Mongolian invasions, everything connected with them that has gone on working into the fifth post-Atlantean epoch — all this unrest, which was prepared long ago, is nothing more than the great attempt that is being made from Asia to bring about a visionary European culture. It would cut it off from the conditions of its further evolution and lead it altogether away from the earth, just as the East has experienced again and again this feeling of being filled with vision and of wanting to be estranged from the earth.
Something was needed to counterbalance this tendency. An opposite trend had to be created as a counterforce that moves in the direction of the normal evolution of mankind. The influence of Genghis Khan's priest was intended to bring about a kind of buoyancy and lightness in the human race that would draw man away from the earth. Over against this, a corresponding heaviness had to come to man from the weight of the earth; this was provided through the discovery of the western world. America, with all that it holds, was discovered and thereby earth heaviness, the desire to remain on earth, was given to man. The discovery of America and everything connected with it, and the way man carried his life into the many new places of the earth, all this, when seen in wider connections, shows itself as a counterbalancing force to the activity of Genghis Khan. America had to be discovered so that man might be brought to grow closer to the earth, to grow more and more materialistic. Man needed weight and heaviness to counterbalance the spiritualization that was the aim of the descendants of the “Great Spirit.”
Along with this normal process whereby the scene of action of man's life was extended to America, we find the other forces, the ahrimanic powers of the “Great Spirit,” intervening again. An influence came from America to Europe, and another came to permeate America from Asia. Thus, normal forces developed through the discovery of America and also powerful ahrimanic onslaughts. They worked less strongly at first, but will continue to work in our time and on into the future. We must learn to recognize these ahrimanic forces.
What Rome had achieved in the Church and in the ecclesiastical state was grasped by the ahrimanic influence. While it is comparatively easy to see how the luciferic influence worked on Genghis Khan — we have exact knowledge of the fact that a priest was initiated by the follower of the “Great Spirit” — it is much more difficult to say how the ahrimanic spirit worked. This is because the ahrimanic influence is dispersed and scattered. But you need only study how Spain, strictly Roman Catholic as it was, was fascinated by all the treasures of gold that were discovered in America. What a hold it had upon her! You can observe how strong the specter-like working of the old Romanism still was in such a ruler as Ferdinand of Castile or Charles V, the ruler of the kingdom over which the “sun never set.” Study the reaction of Europe to the gradual discovery and opening up of America and you will see what temptations came from that direction. Taken all in all, it is a history of temptation woven in with a history that runs a normal course.
Please do not go about saying that I have presented the discovery of America as an ahrimanic deed. In reality, I have said the very opposite. I have said that America had to be discovered and that the entire event was necessary to the progress of the world. Ahrimanic forces entered, however, and set themselves in violent opposition to what was happening quite rightly in the normal course of progress. Things are not so simple that we can say, “There is Lucifer, and there is Ahriman; they act and behave in such and such a way, and divide the world between them.” Things are by no means so simple as that.
We find, therefore, many forces working together when we set out to listen to them in their field of action behind the physical plane. These forces take possession of other forces. They try to seize the forces in man that have continued on from the fourth post-Atlantean epoch in order to distort them and make them serve their ends. Look at a man like Machiavelli. You will find in him the symbol for the politicizing of thought that begins in the Renaissance. He is a veritable revelation of the whole process. He was a great and powerful spirit but one who, under the onslaught of the forces of which I have told you, brings to a new life again the complete attitude of thought and mind that has its source in the heathen Rome of ancient times. You have a true picture of Machiavelli when you study the history of his time and see him, not as a single personality, but as the outstanding expression of many who think in the same way. In him you can observe these forces trying to charge forward with all speed, bringing to their assistance the atavistic — and thus luciferic — forces that have been left behind. Had things gone as Machiavelli intended, all of Europe would have become nothing but a political machine. Opposing the violent onslaught of such forces are the forces that work in the normal direction. Over against a figure like Machiavelli, who was purely political and turned all man's thought into political thinking, we can place another great figure, Thomas à Kempis, who was also Machiavelli's contemporary. He stands entirely within the slow and gradual evolution, working slowly and gradually. He was anything but a man of politics.
So we can follow the several streams in history. We shall find normal streams, and we shall also find currents that flow from earlier times and are made use of by the forces of which I have told you. Many forces work together in history and it is important to observe and study their connections. A man like Jacob Boehme felt free imaginations rising within him. We can say of such a man that he fortified himself against the attacks of Lucifer and Ahriman through the whole character of his life of soul and succeeded in going undisturbed along the straight path of evolution.
East of Europe, however, in all the culture of the East, we find an untold number of people who suffer greatly under the disturbing influence of Lucifer. His influence is, as we know, to draw man again and again away from the earth, to draw him right out of his physical body so that the shall perpetually fall into a state where he becomes no more than a vision of himself and is completely soul. That is the tendency that has been grafted onto Eastern Europe.
The feeling of being drawn in the other direction was given to the West. The world of imagination was pulled down into the heavy physical body so that what should rightly be free imagination working merely in the soul becomes instead something that rams the soul down into the organism, thereby causing the organism also to live on imaginations. You can hardly find a more telling description of what I mean than in the words of Alfred de Musset in which he attempts to give us a picture of the condition of his soul. De Musset is one who feels the presence of the imaginative life in himself, but the also feels the onslaught upon this life of imagination that seeks to thrust it right down into the bodily nature. This life of imagination, which does not belong in the bodily nature but should develop freely, hovering in and existing purely as a thing of the soul, is there taken hold of by earthly gravity and by what belongs to the body. In his book, Elle et Lui, which he was led to write from his relation with Georges Sand, you will find a fine description of his soul life. I would like to quote here a passage that will serve to show how he feels himself to be placed within an imaginative life that is the scene of conflict and dispute. He says:
Creation disturbs and bewilders me; it sets me trembling. Execution, always too slow for my desire, starts my heart beating wildly. Weeping, and restraining myself with difficulty from crying out, I give birth to an idea. In the moment of its birth it intoxicates me, but next morning it fills me with loathing. If I try to modify and change it, it only gets worse and escapes me altogether. It would be better for me to forget it and wait for another. But now this other comes upon me in such bewilderment and in such boundless dimensions that my poor being cannot grasp it. It oppress me, tortures me, until it can be realized. Then come the other sufferings, the birth throes, really physical pains that I am quite unable to define. Such is my life when I let myself be ruled by this giant artist who is in me.
Note the contrast with Boehme, who feels the God in him. With de Musset it is a giant artist.
I were better that I live as I have resolved, committing excesses of very kind in order to kill this gnawing worn, which others modestly call inspiration and I quite often openly call illness.
Almost every single sentence of this quote can be matched with a sentence in our quotation from Boehme. How singularly typical! Remember what I said just now, that normal evolution seeks to progress slowly. We shall have more to say about this tomorrow. Here, as described by de Musset, it is a Wild charge; it cannot be fast enough. The picture he gives us as he surveys himself is marvelous. “Creation disturbs and bewilders me; it sets me atremble,” he says, because this to will go faster and faster and comes storming in upon him from the ahrimanic side, disturbing what is still trying to progress slowly.
“Execution, always too slow for my desire, starts my heart beating wildly.” Here you have the whole psychology of the man who wants to live in free imaginations and is distressed and vexed by the onslaught of ahrimanic forces.
“Weeping and restraining myself with difficult from crying out...” Think of it! The imaginations work so physically in him that he feels like crying out when they find expression in him.
“I give birth to an idea. In the moment of its birth it intoxicates me, but next morning it fills me with loathing.” This because it comes from his organism and not from his soul!
“If I try to modify and change it, it only gets worse and escapes me altogether. Better I forget it and wait for another.” Here he wants perpetually to go faster, faster than normal evolution can go.
“But now this other comes upon me in such bewilderment and in such boundless dimensions that my poor being cannot grasp it. It oppresses me, tortures me, until it can be realized. Then come the other sufferings, the birth throes, actual physical pains that I am quite unable to define.” Then, when he beholds this giant artist that works within him, he says he would rather follow the life he has marked out for himself; that is, have nothing to do with this whole imaginative world, because he calls it an illness.
Now take by way of contrast, the saying of Jacob Boehme, “I declare before God, I myself do not know how it comes to pass in me.” Here you have an expression of joy and bliss. Confusion and bewilderment, on the other hand, can be heard in the words of de Musset, “Creation disturbs and bewilders me; it sets me trembling. Execution, always too slow for my desire, starts my heart beating wildly.”
With Boehme all is of the soul and, when he wants to write, he does not feel as though a giant artist, who makes him unhappy, were dictating to him, but a spirit. He feels that he is transported into the world where the spirit dictates to him. He is in this world and he is supremely happy to be there because a continuous stream of knowledge is given him that flows slowly and steadily on. Boehme is inclined to receive this slow stream of knowledge. He does not find it too slow because he is not overwhelmed by the swift attacking force I have described to you. On the contrary, he is protected from it.
If time permitted, we could present many more instances of ways in which individual human beings are situated in the world process. The examples I have selected are from those whose names have been preserved in history but, in a sense, all of mankind is subject to these same conditions in one way or another. I have only chosen these particular examples in order to express what is really widespread, and by taking special cases I have been able to give you a description of it in words. If you will try to make a survey of what we have been saying, you will then be able to understand much of what has come about in the course of evolution.
It would be quite possible in this connection to study many other phenomena of life. If, however, we confine ourselves today to the spiritual life, and moreover to that special region of the spiritual life comprising knowledge and cognition, we shall be able to find in it qualities that are characteristic of modern man, the recognition of which will make many things in life comprehensible. Since it is not possible to say much about the external life of today, owing to the existing prejudices and because men's souls are so deeply bound up with the conditions of the times in which they live, you will readily understand that it is only in a limited way that I can speak of the things that are carrying their influence right into the immediate present. It cannot be otherwise, as I have frequently made clear to you. I would like, however, to indicate certain phenomena of our time that are less calculated to arouse passions and emotions. Let me describe some phenomena that I will select from the life of cognition and feeling. I think you will find them underlying all I have been saying about the forces at work in this fifth post-Atlantean epoch. We will first consider these phenomena in a purely historical way in order afterward to see their relation to these forces.
Let us take first a phenomenon in which we all necessarily feel the deepest interest. The kind of understanding men have of the nature and being of Christ is of great significance, and so we will select examples of various kinds of understanding of His nature and being that lie near at hand. We have first of all a modern instance in Ernest Renan's The Life of Jesus, which appeared in the 19th century and went rapidly through many editions. I believe the twentieth appeared in 1900 after his death. Then we have The Life of Jesus, which is really no life of Jesus at all, by David Friedrich Strauss. Then we have — we cannot say, a life of Jesus, but coming from the east of Europe it is a view and conception of Christ that is of deep significance. It is not a life of Jesus but an understanding of Christ that culminates in what Soloviev wrote about Him and His part in the evolution of the earth. How significant are these three expressions of the spiritual life of the nineteenth century: The Life of Jesusby Renan, The Life of Jesus by Strauss, which is no life of Jesus at all and we shall presently hear why, and Soloviev's conception of the meaning of the Christ event in the evolution of the earth, for it is true, at any rate, to say that all of his work culminates in the Christ idea.
What is the fundamental premise of Renan's description of Jesus' life? If you want to appreciate rightly Renan's book, to understand it as a document of the times, then you must compare it with the earlier presentations of Jesus' life. Nor do you need to read only the literary accounts of His life; you can also look at the paintings of artists. You will find that the representation of the life of Jesus always takes the same path. In the early centuries of Roman Christianity, it was not only Christianity that was taken over from the East but also the manner in which Jesus was presented. The Greek art of pictorial representation was there in the West, as we know, but the ability to portray the Christ remained with the East. The Jesus countenance that is characteristic of Byzantine art was found repeatedly in the West until, in the thirteenth century, national impulses and ideas began to arise — those national ideas and impulses that later work themselves out in the way I have indicated in these last lectures.
Owing to the national impulse, a gradual change came about in the traditional stereotyped Jesus countenance that had been portrayed so long. Each of several nations appropriated the Jesus type and represented Him in its own way, and so we must recognize many different impulses at work in the different representations. Study, for example, the head of Jesus as painted by Guido Reni, Murillo and Lebrun, and you will see how strikingly the national point of view steals in. These are only three instances that one could select. In each case there is a strong desire to represent Jesus in a national way. One has the impression that in Guido Reni's paintings, to a far greater degree than was the case with his predecessors, we can detect the Italian type in the countenance of Jesus; similarly, in Murillo's representations, the Spanish; in Lebrun's, the French. All three painters show evidence as well of the working of church tradition; behind every one of their paintings stands the power of the Church.
Contrarily, you will find a resistance to this far reaching power of the Church, which we recognize in the art of Murillo, Lebrun and Reni, in the works of Rubens, Van Dyke and Rembrandt — a resistance to it and a working in freedom out of their own pure humanity. Considering art in respect of its representations of the Jesus countenance, you have here direct artistic rebellion. You will now see that there is no standing still in this progression in the representation of Jesus because the forces that are at work in the world work also right into this domain. We can see how the breath of Romanism hovers over the paintings of the nationally minded Lebrun, Murillo and Reni, and how in Rubens, Van Dyke and especially Rembrandt, the opposition to Romanism comes to such clear expression in their paintings of faces, not of Jesus alone but also of other Biblical characters. So we see how all the spiritual activities of man gradually take form among the various impulses that make themselves felt in human evolution.
Similarly, you would find that in the times when painting and representative art have given place to the word, for since the sixteenth century the word has had the same significance in such matters as pictorial representation had in earlier times, you will find that the figure of Jesus, of the Christ, is again continually changing. It is never fixed and constant but is always conceived according to how the various forces flow together in writers. Standing there before us as the latest products, let us say, we have the Jesus of Renan, the Jesus of Strauss, who is no Jesus, and the Christ of Soloviev. These are the latest products and how vastly different they are!
The Jesus of Renan is entirely a Jesus who, as a man, lives in the land of Palestine as a human historical figure. Palestine itself is marvelously depicted. With the aid of the best of modern scholarship it is described in such a way that one has before one the complete Palestinian landscape with its people. Wandering about this realistically rendered landscape and among its people is the figure of Jesus. The attempt is made to explain this Jesus figure on the basis of this landscape and its inhabitants; to explain how he grows up and becomes a man, and to explain how it was possible for such a man to arise in this land. The outstanding character of Renan's description will only be revealed when we compare it with earlier accounts and representations. These take the inner course of the events described in the Gospels and place them in a landscape that is really nowhere in particular. The facts as they are described in the Gospels are simply related over and over again and the landscape in which they occurred is totally disregarded. It is depicted in such a way that it might be anywhere.
Renan, however, goes to work to portray the Holy Land in a realistic, detailed way so that Jesus becomes a true Palestinian in this Holy Land. Christ Jesus, who should belong to all of mankind, becomes a Jesus who lives and walks in Palestine as an historical figure who is to be understood in relation to the Palestine of the years 1 to 33 A.D., that is, understood from the customs, views, opinions and landscape of the country — a right proper, realistic description. For once, Jesus was to be shown as an historical person and was to be described as any other in history. For Renan, it would have been meaningless to portray an abstract Socrates who might have lived anywhere, anytime, and it would have been equally meaningless for him to portray an abstract Jesus who might have lived anywhere on earth. In complete accord with the science of the nineteenth century, he sets out to depict Jesus as an historical figure living between the years 1 and 33 A.D., and made absolutely comprehensible by the conditions prevailing in Palestine at that time. Jesus lived from the year 1 to 33 A.D. He died in 33 A.D., just as any other man might have died in this or that year. If He continues to work in the world, it is in the same way any other dead person might have continued to work. Fitted completely into the modern point of view, Jesus was an historical personality accounted for by the milieu in which He lived. That is what Ernest Renan gives us in his Life of Jesus.
Now let us turn to the Life of Jesus that is in reality no life of Jesus by David Friedrich Strauss. I have said it is no life of Jesus. Strauss also works as a highly cultured and learned man. When he sets out to investigate anything, he does so with thoroughness akin to that of Renan in his domain. Strauss, however, does not turn his attention to the historical Jesus. He is, for him, only the figure to which he attaches something quite different. Thus, Strauss investigates all that was said of Jesus insofar as He was the Christ. He examines what is said about His miraculous entry into the world, His wonderful and miraculous development, His expression of great and special teachings, and how He undergoes suffering, death and resurrection. These are the accounts in the Gospels that Strauss selects for investigation.
Naturally, Renan, too, used the Gospels but he reduced them to what he, from his detailed and exact knowledge of Palestine, could conceive of the life of Jesus. This approach has no interest at all for Strauss. He tells himself that the Gospels relate this or that concerning Christ, who lived in Jesus. Then he sets out to investigate the extent to which what is related of the Christ has also been living as myth in other parts of the world, for instance, how the story that is told of a miraculous birth and the development of Jesus Christ is to be found in various other folk myths, as is also the Mystery of Golgotha, which is referred now the one god and then to another. Thus, Strauss sees in the figure of the historical Jesus only the opportunity for concentrating the myth forming activity of mankind into one personality. Jesus does not concern him at all. The only value He has for Strauss is that the myths, which are distributed all over the world, are concentrated in this single man Jesus. They are all hung on Him, as it were. These myths, however, all spring from a common impulse. All of them bear witness to the myth forming power that lives in mankind. Where does this myth forming power arise?
As Strauss sees it, in the course of mankind's earthly development, from the times of the first beginnings of the earth to its final end, mankind has and always will have a higher power in it than the merely external power that develops on the physical plane. A power runs right through mankind that will forever address itself to the super-earthly; this super-earthly finds expression in myths. We know that man bears something supersensible within him that seeks to find expression in myth since it cannot be expressed in external physical science. Thus, Strauss does not see Jesus in the single individual, but rather the Christ in all men — the Christ who has lived in and through all men since their beginning, and who has brought it about that myths are told of Him. In the case of Jesus it is only that His personality gives occasion for the myth forming power to develop with extreme force and strength. In Him it is concentrated. Strauss, therefore, speaks of a Jesus that is in reality no Jesus, but he fastens upon Him the spiritual Christ force that lives in all humanity. For Strauss, mankind itself is the Christ, and He works always before and after Jesus. The true incarnation of the Christ is not the single Jesus, but the whole of humanity. Jesus is only the supreme representative for the representation of the Christ in mankind.
The main thing in all this is not Jesus as an historical figure, but an abstract mankind. Christ has become an idea, which incarnates in and through all mankind. That is the kind of highly distilled thought that a man of the nineteenth century is able to conceive! The element of life in the idea has become the Christ. He is conceived entirely as an idea and Jesus is passed by. This is a life of Jesus that is no more than a record of the fact that the idea, the divine, incarnates continually in all humanity. Christ is diluted down to an idea, is thought of merely as an idea.
So much for the second life of Jesus, The life of Jesus by David Friedrich Strauss. So we have Ernest Renan's Life of Jesus. which sets forth the historical figure of Jesus amidst the individuals around Him as well as by Himself. Then we have in Strauss's book the “idea of Christ,” which runs through all mankind. In this highly distilled form, however, it remains a mere abstraction.
When we come to Soloviev, behold, Jesus is no more, but only the Christ. Nevertheless, it is the Christ conceived as living. Not working in men as an idea, with the consequence that its power is transformed in him into a myth, but rather working as a living Being who has no body, is always and ever present among men, and is, in effect, positively responsible for the external organization of human life, the founder of the social order. Christ, who is forever present; a living Being who would never have needed a Jesus in order to come among men. Naturally, you will not find this so radically expressed in Soloviev, but that is of no account. It is the Christ as such Who stands always in the foreground — the Christ, moreover, as the living One who can only be comprehended in imagination, but by this means can be truly understood as a real and actual supersensible Being working on earth.
There you have the three figures. The same Being meets us in the nineteenth century in a threefold description. The Life of Jesus by Ernest Renan, completely realistic; realistic history a fortiori; Jesus as an historical figure; a book that is written with all the learning of the nineteenth century. Then came David Friedrich Strauss with this idea of mankind, working on, running through all mankind, but remaining an idea, never awakening to life. Lastly, Soloviev's Christ; living power, living wisdom, altogether spiritual.
A realistic life of Jesus by Renan; an idealistic life of Jesus by Strauss that is also an idealistic presentation of the Christ impulse; a spiritual presentation of the Christ impulse by Soloviev.
Today, I want to place before you, side by side as three expressions of modern life, these three ways of cognizing the figure of Jesus Christ. Tomorrow we shall see how they take their place among the various impulses that we have recognized as working in mankind.
The After Effects of the Atlantean Mysteries in America and Asia
Dornach, September 18, 1916
It is extraordinarily difficult to speak of the conditions that were alluded to in the previous lecture because, in more recent times, in our age of materialistic thinking, the ideas and concepts for doing so are largely lacking. They must first be acquired through spiritual science. The information that can be given is, therefore, more in the nature of indications. Moreover, there is a further reason, which is determined by the whole development of our modern culture. This further reason that causes certain difficulties in treating conditions that are hidden behind the threshold of knowledge from modern man is that, on the whole, he has become somewhat lacking in courage. If one wishes to avoid actually using the word cowardly, one cannot say it differently. He has become weak in courage. The modern person much prefers his knowledge to give him nice pleasant feelings, but that is not always possible. Knowledge can fill us with inner satisfaction even when it does not convey exactly pleasant matters, because these — well, unpleasant things belong to truth. In every case one should find satisfaction in truth since even regarding the most terrible truths one can experience a kind of feeling of upliftment. As I have said, however, modern man is much too weak in courage for that; he wants to feel uplifted in his own way. This, too, is connected with secrets of modern existence that will become clearer in the course of such studies as we are now undertaking.
The particular faculties of which we have spoken, namely, the unfolding in our thought and deed of free imaginations and an attitude toward the world based on the primal phenomenon, can only be acquired by modern man when a veil is drawn over certain processes that are occurring, when they don't easily reveal themselves. Thus, it is also a necessary part of the evolution of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch that man does not understand certain things that thrust themselves into our sense world from the subsensible and supersensible worlds. Most important events that are enacted around us before our very eyes are, in fact, not understood at all by modern man. In a way, he is protected from understanding them because he can only properly evolve the two faculties mentioned above under this protection. Foundations for his understanding of these events, however, have already begun to be laid. They have now progressed so far that evolution cannot continue to advance without reference being made, with a certain care and caution, to these matters.
Modern man, with his experience of what happens around him and of what he himself does and sets going, has but feeble reflections of what is surging and welling up in his own subsensory nature. At best, it emerges from time to time in frightening dream pictures, but they, too, are only feeble. What is happening in the subsensible is unknown to the man of today, and under normal circumstances he knows little of the supersensible. Beneath what we modern people experience in the soul lies something that one can only describe as eruptive forces. It can be compared precisely with the world one experiences when standing on volcanic ground; you only have to set fire to some paper to have smoke burst out everywhere. If through the smoke you could see what is swirling and bubbling down below, you would then indeed realize what sort of ground you were actually standing on.
It is the same with modern life. We observe that Ernest Renan writes his Life of Jesus, and we see it as we see a solfatara or volcanic landscape. We see what David Friedrich Strauss writes, and we describe it as calm and peaceful. We see what Soloviev writes and we describe that too as calm and peaceful. All of this is written calmly as if we have not yet lit a piece of paper to see the eruptive impulses of humanity living and working beneath the soil.
A great deal has really been said with these few words. It only needs to be systematically thought through and you will see that it is so. What we described at the end of our observations yesterday we see is like living over a volcano. It is, however fully in accord with the purpose of evolution to see things so peaceful and harmless. That is good because beneath this peacefulness and harmlessness the very faculties that we need in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch are being developed. In most people they are not developed consciously, though in spiritual science the endeavor must be made to do so. Hence, it becomes necessary from time to time to indicate with care and caution the things one becomes aware of when one kindles that little piece of paper. Why is all this so? In the first place, because the ahrimanic powers have something quite different in mind for the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. In the fourth post-Atlantean culture they were greatly disillusioned through the Roman evolution, as we described in the last two lectures. They did not attain their goal and therefore have prepared still worse onslaughts for our fifth post-Atlantean epoch, for they mean to try again to achieve their purpose.
Now I have already mentioned that something is coming to expression from two sides, even geographically, that will burst like a storm into our calm and peaceful evolution in this fifth post-Atlantean epoch, predisposed as it is to calm and peace. I pointed to one of these directions when I told you how Genghis Khan was inspired by the priest who had seen a descendant of the “Great Spirit” of old Atlantis. I also indicated how a certain ahrimanic attack was launched from the West through all that followed the discovery of America. It has been overcome in a certain respect but continues to live on in it as a resistant force. One must not think that things that are not seen are not there. Because what the ahrimanic powers took in hand in the Western Hemisphere did not come to outer physical earthly reality, our fifth post-Atlantean culture has been saved from the first attacks. But it goes on living in a sort of spectral form. It is there and impresses itself into men's impulses. People know nothing of it, however, and are unaware that it lives in and inserts itself into their impulses. Now it is only through placing pictures side by side that I can really lay a foundation for concepts that you must gradually create and form for yourselves in meditation. It would not be easy to find concepts in the present fund of ideas to explain what actually lives in the urges and impulses below the threshold. They push up, to be sure, into the ordinary soul life but they are normally covered over and unperceived in modern normal life.
Upon the soil of the Western Hemisphere that was now trodden through the discovery of America, quite special conditions had gradually been taking shape in the course of past centuries. The general population inhabiting those parts was far from attaining the qualities that had meanwhile been developed in the Eastern Hemisphere of Europe and Asia. A people lived in the West who stood far removed from the intellectual capacities that had evolved in the Eastern Hemisphere, but among them were a great number of individuals who had been initiated into certain mysteries. Before the discovery of America, there were mysteries of the most varied kind in the Western Hemisphere and they had a large following for the teachings that came from them. Like a single central power whom all followed and obeyed, a kind of spectral spirit, a descendant of the “Great Spirit” of Atlantis, was revered. This spirit had gradually assumed an ahrimanic character because he still worked with forces that had been right in Atlantis or were already ahrimanic there.
When the Atlantean spoke of his “Great Spirit,” he expressed it, as we have seen, in a word that sounded something like the word “Tao,” which is still preserved in China. An ahrimanic, caricatured counterpart appeared in the West as opponent of the “Great Spirit Tao” but he was still connected with him. He worked in such a way that he could only be made visible through atavistic, visionary perception but whenever they desired his presence, he always showed himself to those persons connected with the widespread mysteries of this cult so they could receive his instructions and commands. This spirit was called by a name that sounded something like Taotl. Taotl was thus an ahrimanic distortion of the “Great Spirit” — a mighty being and one who did not descend to physical incarnation. A great many men were initiated into the mysteries of Taotl but the initiation was of a completely ahrimanic character. It had a quite definite purpose and goal, which was to rigidify and mechanize all earthly life, including that of humans, to such a degree that a special luciferic planet, which has already been referred to in these studies, could be founded above earthly life. The souls of men could then be drawn out to it, by force and pressure.
As we described yesterday, what the ahrimanic powers were striving for in the civilization of Rome was only a feeble echo of what those who, under the leadership of Taotl, set out to attain, and this in much fuller and wider measure by means of the most frightful magical arts. The goal they aimed to achieve was to make the whole earth a realm of death, in which everything possible would be done to kill out independence and every inner impulse of the soul. In they mysteries of Taotl the forces were to be acquired that would enable men to set up a completely mechanized earthly realm. To this end, one had, above all, to know the great cosmic secrets that relate to what works and lives in the universe and reveals its activities in earthly existence. You see, this wisdom of the cosmos is fundamentally in its wording, always the same, because truth is always the same. The point is, however, whether or not it is received in such a way that it is employed rightly.
Now this cosmic wisdom, which was intrinsically not evil but held holy secrets hidden within it, was carefully concealed by the initiates of Taotl. It was communicated to no one who had not been initiated correctly by the Taotl method. When a candidate had been initiated in the correct way, the teaching concerning the secrets of the cosmos was then imparted to him. Now, it was necessary for him to receive these secrets through initiation in a quite definite mood of soul. He had to feel in himself the inclination and desire to apply them on earth in such a way that they would set up that mechanistic rigid realm of death. It was thus that he had to receive the secrets. Nor were they communicated except on one special condition. The wisdom was imparted to no one who had no previously committed a murder in a particular manner. Moreover, only certain secrets were communicated to the candidate after the first murder, but further and higher secrets were imparted to him after he had committed others.
These murders, however, had to be committed under quite definite conditions. The one to be murdered was laid out on a structure that was reached by one or two steps running along each side. This scaffold-like structure, a kind of catafalque, was rounded off above and when the victim was laid upon it, he was bent strongly back. This special way of being bound to the scaffold forced his stomach outward so that with one cut, which the initiate had been prepared to perform, it could be cut out.
This kind of murder engendered definite feelings in the initiate. Sensations were aroused that made him capable of using the wisdom later imparted to him in the way that has been intimated above. When the stomach had been excised, it was offered to the god Taotl, again with special ceremonies. The fact that the initiates of these mysteries lived for the quite specific purpose that I have indicated to you, imparted a definite direction to their feelings. When the candidates to be initiated had matured on this path and had come to experience its inner meaning, they then learned the nature of the mutual interaction between the one who had been murdered and the one who had been initiated. Through the murder, the victim was to be prepared in his soul to strive upward to the luciferic realm, whereas the candidate for initiation was to obtain the wisdom to mould this earthly world in such a way that souls would be driven out of it. Through the fact that a connection was formed between the murdered and the initiated — one cannot say “murderer,” but “initiated” — it was made possible for the initiated to be taken with the other soul; that is, the initiated could himself forsake the earth at the right moment.
These mysteries, as you will readily admit, are of the most revolting kind. Indeed, they are only in accord with a conception that can be called ahrimanic in the fullest sense. Nevertheless, certain feelings and experiences were to be created on earth by their means. Now, naturally, the evolution of the earth would not continue if, over a considerable part of its surface, mankind and an interest in mankind should completely die out. The interest in humanity, however, did not quite die out even there because other and different mysteries were founded that were designed to counteract the excesses of the Taotl mysteries. These were mysteries in which a being lived who did not come down to physical incarnation but also could be perceived by men gifted with a certain atavistic clairvoyance when they had been prepared. This being was Tezcatlipoca. That was the name given to the being who, though he belonged to a much lower hierarchy, was partly connected through his qualities with the Jehovah god. He worked in the Western Hemisphere against those grisly mysteries of which we have spoken.
The teachings of Tezcatlipoca soon escaped from the mysteries and were spread abroad exoterically. Thus, in those regions of the earth, the teachings of Tezcatlipoca were actually the most exoteric, while those of Taotl were the most esoteric, since they were only obtained in the manner described above. The ahrimanic powers sought to “save” humanity, however — I am now speaking as Ahriman though of it — from the god Tezcatlipoca. Another spirit was set up against him who, for the Western Hemisphere, had much in common with the spirit whom Goethe described as Mephistopheles. He was indeed his kin. This spirit was designated with a word that sounded like Quetzalcoatl. He was a spirit who, for this time and part of the earth, was similar to Mephistopheles, although Mephistopheles displayed much more of a soul nature. Quetzalcoatl also never appeared directly incarnated. His symbol was similar to the Mercury staff to be found in the Eastern Hemisphere, and he was, for the Western Hemisphere, the spirit who could disseminate malignant diseases through certain magic forces. He could inflict them upon those whom he wished to injure in order to separate them from the relatively good god, Tezcatlipoca. The powerful onslaughts were thus prepared in the West that were to be made upon the world of human impulses.
Now at a certain time a being was born in Central America who set himself a definite task within this culture. The old, original inhabitants of Mexico linked the existence of this being with a definite idea or picture. They said he had entered the world as the son of a virgin who had conceived him through super earthly powers, inasmuch as it was a feathered being from the heavens who impregnated her. When one makes researches with the occult powers at one's disposal, one finds that the being to whom the ancient Mexicans ascribed a virgin birth was born in the year 1 A.D. and lived to be thirty-three years old. These facts emerge when, as stated, one examines the matter with occult means. This being set himself a quite specific task.
At this same time in Central America another man was born who was destined by birth to become a high initiate of Taotl. This man had in his previous earthly incarnations been initiated as described above and through the fact that he had many, many times repeated the procedure involving the excision of the stomach, which has been described to you and which there is no need to recapitulate, he had been gradually equipped with a lofty earthly and super-earthly knowledge. This was one of the greatest black magicians, if not the greatest ever to tread the earth; he possessed the greatest secrets that are to be acquired on this path. He was faced directly with a momentous decision as the year 30 A.D. approached, namely whether or not, as a single human individual, to become so powerful through continuous initiation that he would come to know a certain basic secret. Through knowledge of this secret he would have then been able to give such a shock and impetus to the coming evolution of man on earth that humanity in the fourth and fifth post-Atlantean epochs would have been thrown into terrible darkness, with the result that what the ahrimanic powers had striven for in these epochs could have come into existence.
Then a conflict began between this super-magician and the being to whom a virgin birth was ascribed, and one finds from one's research that it lasted for three years. The being of the virgin birth bore a name that, when we try to transpose it into our speech approximates Vitzliputzli. He is a human person who, among all these beings who otherwise only moved about in spirit form and could only be perceived through atavistic clairvoyance, in actual fact became man, so the story goes, through his virgin birth. The three year conflict ended when Vitzliputzli was able to have the great magician crucified, and not only through the crucifixion to annihilate his body but also to place his soul under a ban, by this means rendering its activities powerless as well as its knowledge. Thus the knowledge assimilated by the great magician of Taotl was killed. In this way Vitzliputzli was able to win again for earthly life all those souls who, as indicated, had already received the urge to follow Lucifer and leave the earth. Through the mighty victory he had gained over the powerful black magician, Vitzliputzli was able to imbue men again with the desire for earthly existence and successive incarnations.
Nothing survived from these regions of what might have lived on if the mysteries of Taotl had borne fruit. The forces left over from the impulse that lived in these mysteries survived only in the etheric world. They still exist subsensibly, belonging to what would be seen if, in the sphere of the spirit, one could light a paper over a solfatara. The forces are there under the covering of ordinary life, which is like the surface crust of a volcano.
So, on one side, what came from the inspirer of Genghis Khan entered into the forming of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch and, on the other, what worked on as the ghost or spectre of the events that had taken place in the Western Hemisphere. No more than a feeble echo was left of this when the Europeans discovered America. But it is even known in ordinary history that many Europeans who set foot on Mexican-American soil were murdered by the decadent priesthood, which, though no longer as evil as in earlier times, still cut out the stomach, as I described. This was the fate of many Europeans who trod the soil of Mexico after the discovery of America, and the fact is even known to history.
In Vitzliputzli these people revered a Sun being who was born of a virgin, as I have said. When one investigates it occultly, one finds that he was the unknown contemporary in the Western Hemisphere of the Mystery of Golgotha. One can, indeed, also describe these things superficially as modern people like to do to avoid giving pain. If, however, one desires real knowledge, the one must cast a fleeting glance upon these concrete facts of the past, as we have done today. Yes, when we regard this modern human soul, we see how below, in the direction of the subsensible, and how above, in the direction of the supersensible, it is exposed to great and serious dangers, and how forces play in that remain unknown. Yet it is good that they remain unknown because it is only in this way that the fifth post-Atlantean epoch can develop. The veil must be lifted now so that consciousness may be added to what still remains unconsciousness, because enough time has passed since America has been discovered. Otherwise, if consciousness did not gradually enter, these forces would become paramount, and the relatively beneficent conditions of the time of unconsciousness would turn around and become the curse of humanity. After all, many things, which in the way they have made their appearance have proved a benefit, bear the inherent tendency to become a curse to mankind.
I wished to indicate to you by means of this description the sort of things that are surging and seething beneath the surface. Now let us leave this sub-earthly region and again consider the earthly, but without trying to make any immediate connections in thought between the two realms; we can do that later. Let us consider the question as to how that most remarkable and brilliant Life of Jesus by Ernest Renan was written in such a way that Jesus is depicted as a man who went about on earth as I have described. Such a gifted personality as Renan was not conscious of the ground on which he wrote precisely this life of Jesus. Such a work was written out of quite definite impulses but they remain in the unconscious. The impulses out of which this book was written can be considered collectively as one fundamental impulse or instinct that so far has produced only what is good — within certain limits, relatively good — because it is an excellent work of its kind. Many other things have been done out of this same instinct. I have only chosen this one example in the sphere of knowledge but one could also choose examples from life. Here, however, one would come into spheres where people are easily irritated.
Renan's book is written out of a fundamental impulse that tries to attain a specific object, namely, to observe purely externally what we know as man, to view him solely as he is when placed out into the world. I have chosen this example of the life of Jesus because, actuated by this instinct, Renan here approaches the most sacred personality of humanity and describes Him in such a way that He stands before us only as outer personality. Should it go on increasing indefinitely, where would this natural impulse eventually lead us? It would lead to a point where men would no longer be inclined to look into their own souls when they observe the world. Renan has gone so far that he no longer trusts himself to look into his own inner self when he speaks of Christ Jesus. He speaks only of the historic figure and endeavors to perceive Him externally. This comes from the instinct to lose oneself gradually in mankind and so come to see each person in the world only outwardly, no longer responding to what is reflected into one's soul from another human being.
Here, the natural impulse of primal phenomenon perception is carried to an extreme: The outer world is to be perceived without stirring the inner life in any way. The one-sided perfecting of this impulse aims at a human society in which people only see each other externally when they meet. I many respects the immediate present shows us how far the impulse has gone because it is already assumed today that people are to be understood less and less from their inner qualities of soul and more and more purely externally. The false cultivation of the idea of “nation,” in particular, stamps a man with nationality — an external condition when compared with the inner soul nature. He is then judged in accordance with this nationality and is thereby moulded in life so that he comes to be regarded only as belonging to a certain nation rather than for his own character and qualities. This is one of the forces that does great service to his natural impulse. By these means earthly humanity would tend to be enclosed increasingly within national boundaries, which would become impassable in the future. Thus, out of this first impulse, the picture of each human being arises as he stands merely externally in the world.
Now let us look at the other impulse. It would be such that through it one would consider inner experience only, paying no attention to the external man and perceiving only what can be lived through inwardly, what can be directly felt in the soul. If one makes this impulse a criterion of knowledge regarding the figure of Christ Jesus, then interest in the Jesus figure would naturally decline and would center only on the Christ being. Should this impulse spread, there would be no interest in Jesus as an historical figure but only in study of the Christ being. It is the opposite of the other impulse and it, too, is now striving to become general in earthly humanity. Should it succeed, people would pass one another by, each brooding inwardly over himself in a rich life of soul. They would pass each other without even feeling the need to understand the individual character of those around them. Everyone would only desire to live in the home of his own soul, as it were. In the sphere of knowledge this impulse inspired Soloviev in his treatment of the most sacred Being of humanity. He had interest only in the Christ and not for the historical Jesus.
You see the two extremes toward which modern man is tending. The one is the impulse, the instinct, only to view the world from outside, to carry the primal phenomenon to an extreme. The other is to conceive of the world only inwardly in free imaginations. All this is in its beginnings and up to the present has developed in admirable, beneficent ways, but is also has a strong tendency to become the reverse. Just as Renan's Life of Jesus is a masterpiece of external description, so are Soloviev's representations of the Christ Being the highest that could have been created in this sphere in the present day. They are wholesome impulses. Nevertheless, they represent the urge that, in its one-sided cultivation, would drive back each man into his own house.
In contrast, a knowledge must arise through the science of the spirit, a knowledge that can be embraced in two statements that I should especially like to inscribe into your souls today. The first is: A man can never come to a really good, upright, strong personal inner life without having the warmest interest in other men. All inner life that we seek remains false and seductive if it does not go hand in hand with a kindly interest in the character and qualities of other people. We ought straightway to take it for granted that we find ourselves inwardly as man when we take an interest in the characteristics of others. Entering with love into the individualities of other people, which is at times united with a deep experience of the tragedy of life, is what can bring us to self-knowledge. The self-knowledge we seek through delving into ourselves will never be true. We deepen our own inner nature by meeting other people with full interest. But this statement as it has now been expressed here, implies something that cannot be directly carried into effect because it must interact with the other statement.
The other statement is: We never gain a true knowledge of the outer world if we do not resolve to examine the universally human in ourselves and learn to know it. Therefore, all natural science of modern times will be a purely mechanical science and knowledge, not true but false, inverted, unless it is based on the knowledge of man. In the science that was described by me as “occult science” in the book An Outline of Occult Science, the knowledge of the outer world was sought for together with the knowledge of the human being. We find the inner through the outer, the outer through the inner.
I will bring forward next time what remains to be said regarding certain present-day phenomena as they come to light in other works such as the so-called Life of Jesus by David Friedrich Strauss. Today, I should only like to add that when, twice seven years ago, our impulse to form a theosophical movement began to work — the movement later became anthroposophical — the intention was that all the activity that went on in this movement would be founded on these two principles: The withoutshould kindle self-knowledge; the within should teach knowledge of the world. In these two statements, or rather in their realization in the world, lies true spiritual insight into existence and the impulse to real human love, to a love filled with insight. A realization of what lies in these statements should be sought for through our Society. If in these twice seven years all had come to pass that has been striven for, if the opposing powers in our time, had not been strong enough to hinder many things, then today I should have been able to speak of certain secrets of existence quite differently from the way in which it is possible to do so. Then this Society would have become ripe enough for things to be said in its midst today that could be spoken nowhere else.
In that case, there would also be a guarantee that these secrets of existence would be safeguarded in the right way. What has happened in our Society has shown, however, that it is precisely in the matter of safeguarding things that it fails, fails through all manner of contrary interests that have attached themselves to the movement. There is really no longer a safeguard today — at least, no thorough safeguard that what is said among us is not made use of, and, as frequently has happened, clothed by many persons in such feelings, in any way they please in the outer world. Since this is so, when we examine the Society, we find that, in looking back over the twice seven years, in many respects it has remained behind. Such introspection should not lead to a loss of courage but it should lead us to be discontent with revelling in the possession of a certain degree of knowledge, and also to developing that deep earnestness in life that will lead us to accept truth in the form in which it must be communicated in our age. When it is possible for outstanding members of our movement who are writers to think in the manner revealed recently, then it is clear that other and deeper impulses must now awaken within the souls of those who find themselves in our Society than have awakened hitherto. We do not join together merely to possess agreeable facts of knowledge. Rather should it be that we unite together in order to carry on a sacred service to truth in the interest of mankind's evolution. Then, indeed, the right knowledge will come to us. Then these facts will not be restrained by all sorts of prejudices.
At any rate, let us receive at least into our hearts this ideal that perhaps even yet such a Society may arise as is necessary in the wide world of prejudice — a Society that permeates and interpenetrates our times. What I am saying is naturally not directed in the slightest degree toward anyone in particular, nor toward any single soul among us. Its intention is solely to emphasize the ideal of knowledge of our epoch, the ideal of the service of mankind we should recognize as necessary. With the same warmth with which I spoke here about eight days ago. I should like again today to stress what must not be forgotten in our circle, namely, that it is essential to modern humanity for a group of people to exist to whom it is possible to speak in the most open and candid manner of the whole content of truth that needs to be revealed today without stirring up prejudicial emotions! We must accept it as our Karma that enmity has lifted up its head in our circle, enmity from out of the unintelligent feelings, ideas and customs of the time. We should not be deceived for a moment: this is our karma. Then, from the very recognition of it the impulse for the right will arise. In particular, we must not so often forget as quickly as we do what we receive, nor let so much of what is put into concise sentences embracing truths separately explained, merely pass over us. Rather, let us preserve it all in our hearts. In our circle the longing to forget often what is most important of all, is widely diffused. So we have not yet become the living organic Society that we need, or rather that humanity needs. To achieve this it is necessary above all that we should acquire a memory for what we can learn through life in the Society.
Atlantean Impulses in the Mexican Mysteries. The Problem of Natural Urges and Impulses, The Problem of Death
Dornach, September 24, 1916
As a continuation of yesterday's lecture, certain things must be said that are connected with subjects spoken of here a week ago. As a number of friends who were not then present are here for a special meeting, I will repeat certain matters in the lectures still to be given. This may be useful, because from remarks that have been made to me, it is obvious that important points have been misunderstood.
At the very outset let us be quite clear that the course of evolution as we have learned to know it in connection with great cosmic happenings proceeds both in these great cosmic phenomena and in the phenomena of human historical development. The so-called fourth post-Atlantean epoch, during which the Greco-Roman culture developed and attained its greatness, must be of particular interest to us in our age. As you know, from the standpoint of the science of the spirit this fourth epoch lasted until the beginning of the fifteenth century A.D. With the dawning of the fifteenth century, trends began to manifest in European culture of which we heard, for instance, in yesterday's lecture.
When we picture the nature of the Greco-Roman epoch, it appears to us as a kind of recurrence or revival of what spread over the earth as human culture during the period of Atlantis. It has often been said that the thoughts, the perceptions, and also the social life of the Greeks become intelligible when we regard this fourth post-Atlantean culture — although Atlantean culture was, of course, much more elemental and instinctive. It assumed a more spiritual form in the culture of Greece and Rome. What had been direct experience in Atlantis was transposed into reality in Greece through fantasy, imagination and thoughts, and through the will, which, in turn, was inspired, by fantasy and imagination. We must realize that this Greco-Roman culture constituted a deep disillusionment for the luciferic and ahrimanic powers. The luciferic and ahrimanic powers of the hierarchy standing nearest to the human hierarchy, desired that the Atlantean culture, as it had been in Atlantis, should simply re-appear in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. In other words it was the intention of the luciferic and ahrimanic powers that everything that had constituted the essential nature of Atlantean culture should be merely repeated during the Greco-Roman age. (You can read about this in An Outline of Occult Science or in the book, Cosmic Memory.)
This plan was frustrated inasmuch as humanity was raised to a higher stage consistent with the post-Atlantean era. What was essentially new and great in Greek and Roman culture constituted a spiritual disillusionment for the luciferic and ahrimanic powers. Through their different influences these powers desired to educate the Greeks and so to develop their powers of fantasy that the souls of men would gradually have become weary of the earth, would lose their inclination to incarnate further on the earth, and would tend to withdraw, as souls, from the earth in order to found a realm and planet of their own. The effect of this influence was annulled through the leadership of those powers we call the normal hierarchies, whereby the quality of fantasy and imagination in the Greeks, which also influenced their social life, was transformed into joy in the earthly. The Greek received into his nature such a joy in the life of earth and of the senses that he had no desire to live merely in the world of imagination where his soul would be alienated from earthly existence, but inclined rather to the attitude expressed in the well known words, “Better to be a beggar on the earth, than a king in the realm of shades.” This joy in life between birth and death enabled the normal powers to avert from the Greeks the danger inherent in the plan of the luciferic powers, namely, to lead away the souls of men so that the bodies still to be born on the earth would have gone about without egos, and the souls would have departed to a special planet of their own.
In Roman culture, on the other hand, Ahriman's aim was to help Luciferic by shaping the Roman Empire and what followed it in such a way that it would have become a great earthly mechanism for ego-less human beings. In this way he would have been of assistance to Lucifer. Whereas Lucifer's desire was to extract the juice of the lemons for himself, as it were, Ahriman, working in the Roman Empire, set out to thoroughly squeeze the lemons and to create an entirely mechanistic state organization. Thus do Ahriman and Lucifer play into each other's hands. The plan was frustrated by the development in a preeminently egoistic sense in the people of the Roman Empire of the concept of Civis, the citizen. Human egoism, be it remembered, can only develop in physical existence on the earth. Thereby Ahriman's plan to make men into ego-less beings was frustrated. It was precisely the bleakness, the lack of fantasy in Roman culture, the egoism in Roman politics and system of rights that thwarted Ahriman's plan.
The Greek and the Roman epochs were a great disillusionment for Ahriman and Lucifer. Once again they had not attained their goal. The destiny of Ahriman and Lucifer is that they work with their forces in earth evolution and repeatedly make the greatest efforts to hold back the wider progress of evolution; they try to establish a realm for themselves, and have again and again to suffer disillusionment. As I have said before, to ask why Lucifer and Ahriman are unable to perceive that their strivings will ultimately be of no avail is to judge the spiritual by human standards. Lucifer and Ahriman have a faculty of judgment different from that of man. We cannot judge from the human standpoint what is observed in the spiritual world. If we do so, we should soon be considering ourselves much cleverer than a god, or a being belonging to some higher hierarchical order. As we know, Lucifer and Ahriman, although they are retarded spirits, belong to a hierarchical order higher than that of man. It is therefore understandable that they are repeatedly disillusioned, but their strivings always begin anew.
Then came the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, which has definite tasks in the stream of progressive spiritual evolution. Whereas the Greek life of fantasy, and the egoism of Rome were to develop in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, the task of the fifth epoch was to develop the gift of material perception. I have characterized this by calling the ideal of material perception, in the sense of Goethe's “primal phenomenon,” the pure perception, the pure beholding of external reality. This faculty could not operate in earlier times because then the perception of material reality was invariably mingled with what came from atavistic clairvoyance. Men did not see the pure phenomenon, and they did not see pure external, material existence as such. They saw external existence veiled in the phantasmagoria of visionary clairvoyance. If people would observe a little more closely they would realize, even from history, that this is so. Plato did not consider sight as being so passive a faculty as we consider it in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. Plato, the Greek, says expressly: Sight consists in a kind of fire going out from the eye to the objects. Plato, therefore, still knew something about the activity in sight. This activity had to be laid aside, forgotten, lost, in order that a different faculty belonging to the fifth epoch might arise. This faculty of the fifth epoch, which lasts from the beginning of the fifteenth century until the fourth millennium, consists in the development of the gift of free imagination that arises in complete inner freedom. On the one side, the primal phenomenon; on the other free imagination.
Goethe spoke of the primal phenomenon and also of free imagination. References to what he says in Faust have been made on many occasions. Here we have the beginnings of what must engross evolution in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. The fifth epoch will thereby receive its stamp. But in this same epoch human beings will have to battle against attacks of the luciferic and ahrimanic powers that will be stronger than those launched in the days of Greek and Roman culture. Again in this later epoch the aim of the luciferic and ahrimanic powers is to alienate the souls of men from earthly life on the one hand, and on the other so to mechanize earthly life itself, to make its outer form so entirely mechanistic, that it would be impossible for the ego of man to live in the social order of the earth. He would therefore take leave of it to enter a life apart from the earth upon a separate planet.
When we speak of the attacks of luciferic and ahrimanic powers, such things as are here indicated are prepared long beforehand. These attacks begin actually to operate first during the fourth or fifth century of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, but behind the curtains of world history, even before the beginning of this fifth epoch, complete and intense preparation was made by the luciferic and ahrimanic powers. Their plan was to bring all human faculties and human forces of will under the sway of a longing to be alienated from the earth, to leave the earth and build up a separate planetary body, while the earth was to be deserted and left desolate. As I say, the very strongest attacks have been undertaken. Think of what gave to culture its basic tone in the epoch of Atlantis. Lucifer and Ahriman wish, during the post-Atlantean period, to interpose the old Atlantean culture everywhere so that the faculties imparted by the progressive powers are rendered primitive for the fifth post-Atlantean epoch and human beings will desire to depart. The attempt, therefore, consisted in placing everything that developed into a service of a world beyond the earth, as I have indicated. Thus, from two sides, from that of Lucifer and that of Ahriman, the spirit reigning in ancient Atlantean life was to be revived in order that the impulses connected with that ancient life might enter into the evolution of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch.
You will remember that in Atlantean times the impulses within the souls of men were turned to the Great Spirit who was designated by a word or sound of which an echo still exists in the Chinese Tao. Such was the designation of the Great Spirit in the time of Atlantis. The luciferic and ahrimanic striving consists essentially in bringing what had come later and what was still to come, into the service of the Tao, into the service of the Great Spirit. This was not, of course, the Great Spirit as he had reigned in Atlantis, but a being who had come after him, a kind of little son. Lucifer and Ahriman strove to resuscitate Atlantean impulses by reckoning, not with the normal powers of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, but with the impulses that had remained behind in the service of the Great Spirit Tao. The only possibility of achieving this end was to transfer the impulses that had worked in the culture of the now submerged Atlantis to the regions that had emerged after the Atlantean flood. Thus a part of what had succeeded the Great Spirit passed over to the East, to Asia, as it were, where certain mystery cults were gradually established during the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries A.D.
These mystery cults assumed a certain character inasmuch as they were a renewal, a revival, of the ancient cult of Tao in its original form, not in the form in which it still exists among the degenerate Chinese who have intellectualized it. These mystery cults in Asia were a revival of that kind of initiation that led to actual perception of the elemental spiritual, living and weaving beneath the material world of the senses, and to actual perception of the One Great Spirit. Certain priests of these Asian mysteries were initiated into the ancient Atlantean cult, which naturally led to delusions because it was unsuited to this later epoch. One of these priests had attained such an advanced stage in his initiation in Asia that he possessed full knowledge of the nature of the Atlantean impulses and was able to hold actual converse with the successor, the unlawful successor, of the Great Spirit Tao. It was he, who, in Asia, transmitted the inspiration he had received through the Great Spirit, to an external, worldly power, to a pupil who then became known in history as Genghis Khan.
Genghis Khan was the pupil of a priest who had been initiated into these Asian mysteries, and he instilled into Genghis Khan the following. The time has now come for divine justice to scour the earth. The charge has been laid upon you to put this divine justice into operation, and you must now place yourself at the head of all those men who, starting out from Asia, can enact divine justice all over the earth. Similar attempts modeled on the campaign of the Huns and so forth, had failed, but now, essentially through the impulse give by this Asian priesthood, the Mongol campaign was set in motion. This campaign was intended to carry into European culture influences that would have caused the souls of men to believe in divine justice, to fall under its sway, and gradually to take leave of the earth without any inclination to return. So the culture of the earth would have been destroyed. This was the inner purpose of the Mongol onslaughts that spread from Asia, and which, as you know, were not overthrown by physical deeds.
Remarkably, at the battle of Liegnitz in the thirteenth century, the Mongols were not conquered but remained the victors. Then, quite inexplicably, they turned back toward Asia without advancing further into Europe. So here too there is actual external evidence that a counterstroke, manifesting in a spiritual way, was put into operation. As has been said, the Europeans had not conquered the Mongols in Silesia; the Europeans had themselves been conquered. Although the Mongols were the victors, they turned back to Asia. But, in a sense, just because the purely external onslaught did not come to pass, or did not go very far, the impulses remained in Europe in the state of distillation in which they would have to operate in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. So, in the cultural impulses that came over from the East, there is clearly and yet to be perceived what was intended to be brought to Europe as an aftermath of the mysteries of the Great Spirit.
Another part of the mystery culture of ancient Atlantis made its way, not toward the East, but toward the West, to the lands of America discovered later on by the Europeans. There the more ahrimanic part of the irregular post-Atlantean culture lived itself out. Whereas the luciferic part lived on more in Asia, the ahrimanic part worked more in America. Within America impulses were to arise that could then percolate from the West. Just as those other impulses could work from the East, so these could infiltrate from the West in order that the ahrimanic attack might be made in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch.
Hence, in the West, the more ahrimanic side of the outlived Atlantean mystery culture was promulgated. This led to the establishment of mysteries that inevitably make a most repulsive impression upon those who have grown up in the tender culture of modern times, and do not like to hear the truth but only blessedness, as it is often called. These post-Atlantean mysteries developed especially on the soil of Mexico. Mysteries were established there, but they spread over a large part of the America the Europeans had not yet discovered. If their impulses and workings had been victorious, these mysteries would have driven souls away from the earth. By this means the service performed by Ahriman, the squeezing out of the lemons, would have become effective. The earth would gradually have become desolate, having upon it only the forces of death, whereas any living souls would have departed to found another planet under the leadership of Lucifer and Ahriman.
In order to execute the ahrimanic part of this task, it was necessary for the priests of those ahrimanic Atlantean mysteries to acquire faculties possessing the highest degrees of control and mastery over all the forces of death in earthly working. These forces would have made the earth; together with physical man — for the souls were to depart — into a purely mechanistic realm, a great dead realm in which no ego could have a place. These faculties would have had to be connected also with mastery of the mechanistic element in everything living, of the mechanistic elements in all life. For this reason these mysteries had to be instituted in a truly devilish form because such forces as would have been needed for the powerful aims of Ahriman can only arise when initiations of a special kind are attained. Such were these initiations of the ahrimanic post-Atlantean era in America. Everyone who was to attain a certain degree of knowledge was made to realize that this knowledge is acquired through certain faculties of perception that can only be engendered through an act of murder. Thus nobody whom had not committed murder was admitted to a certain degree of this initiation. The murder was performed under special circumstances. Steps led up to a kind of catafalque, a scaffold-like structure. The one to be murdered was tied to this and his body bent in such a way that his stomach could be excised with a single cut. This operation, the excision of the stomach, had to be performed with great dexterity. Certain experiences arose from the act of having cut into the living organism with such consummate skill, and under such special conditions. These experiences had to be acquired and through them a certain degree of knowledge concerning the mechanization of the earth could then be attained. Every time higher stages of initiation were to be reached, further murders had to be committed.
This cult was dedicated to the successor, the son of the Great Spirit, in the form he had assumed in America, and who was designated by a sound that approximates Taotl. Taotl is an ahrimanic distortion of the successor of Tao. This being, Taotl did not appear in a physical body but only in an etheric form. His arts, which were essentially impulses for the mechanization of earthly culture and of all earthly life, were acquired through these initiations I have described to you.
Now these initiations had a definite purpose. As has been said, the initiate acquired actual powers of black magic, the application of which would have led to the mechanization of the culture of the earth and to the expulsion of all egos, so that the bodies born would no longer have been capable of bearing an ego. But as forces in the world are in perpetual interaction, he who possessed such powers would also have become earth-bound; the initiate himself would have been permanently fettered to the earth forces. His act bound him to forces of which you will be able to learn something tomorrow at the performance of the scene from Faust, if you will follow attentively what the Lemurs represent. By these practices the initiate united himself with the earth forces and with everything that causes death on the earth. Thereby, he would himself have lost his soul. He saved himself from this fate by bringing it about that, as a result of the excision of the stomach, the soul of the one whom he murdered had lost his desire to come to the earth again and also the soul of the victim was enabled, through the intention of the murderer, to draw the murderer's soul into the realm that was to be founded beyond the earth. The soul of the initiated murderer was thus also to be drawn into the kingdom of Lucifer and Ahriman.
Many opposing sects were founded with the object of countering this devilish cult. One such sect was that of Tezcatlipoca. He too was a being who did not appear in a physical body but who was known to many of the Mexican initiates, in spite of the fact that he lived only in an etheric body. Tezcatlipoca was a being akin to Jahve or Jehovah. The aim of his cult, working in opposition to those of Taotl, was to establish a Jahve religion suited to the terrible conditions prevailing in Mexico. Tezcatlipoca was a spirit akin to Jahve.
Another sect venerated Quetzalcoatl. He, too, was a being who lived only in an etheric body. Quetzalcoatl was a being of whom we may say that he was connected with the Mercury forces. He was connected with medical art of a certain character. Such beings are always described by those who can perceive them through clairvoyance in such a way that the description conveys the impression of the actual reality. When Quetzalcoatl is described as a figure with a serpent-like body, as a green feathered serpent, this indicates to those who understand such matters that he was an actual being, but one who appears only in an etheric body. This cult continued through many millennia. It was widely practiced, not in public but within the precincts of certain Mexican mysteries, in order that the necessary post-Atlantean cultural impulses might be developed in secret in an ahrimanic form.
A third movement also developed in those regions. Counter-movements were necessary, and had there been none, the influences of these forces upon the culture of Greece and Rome, and later upon the culture of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, would gradually have become so strong that they would have proved invincible to the progressive powers. Thus, a further counter-movement developed as a result of the birth of a being who lived in a physical body in contrast to those beings who only manifested in etheric bodies. The name given to this Being may be expressed by a combination of syllables that approximate Vitzliputzli. Vitzliputzli was a human being, a being who appeared in a physical body. In Vitzliputzli the spiritual individuality lived who, within a human body, took up the fight against the mysteries I have been describing. Among the Mexicans it was said of Vitzliputzli that he was born of a virgin who had conceived by the heavenly influence of a bird having drawn near to her. If by occult means, so far as it is possible, we investigate the life of Vitzliputzli in the Western Hemisphere we find this remarkable fact. He lived at the time when, in the Eastern Hemisphere, the Mystery of Golgotha was taking place, namely, between the years 1 and 33 A.D. That is the remarkable fact. Vitzliputzli was able to make short shrift of the most important initiates of the Mexican mysteries against whom he waged violent war.
It was human being, an initiate, not one of the three spirits, but an initiate, against whom Vitzliputzli fought. Vitzliputzli, a supersensible being but in human form, battled with every means at his disposal against the initiate who had been responsible for the greatest number of murders, who had attained the greatest power, and of whom it can be said that if his aim had been realized, it would have betokened the victory of this ahrimanic post-Atlantean culture. Vitzliputzli fought against him and — as already said, this can only be discovered by occult means — in the year 33 A.D. succeeded in causing this mightiest black magician to be crucified. Thus, in the other hemisphere of the earth, an event parallel to the Mystery of Golgotha took place, inasmuch as the greatest black magician of all was crucified by the action of Vitzliputzli who had appeared on the earth for this purpose. As a result, the power of these mysteries was thereby broken so far as the fourth post-Atlantean epoch was concerned. It was subsequently revived, however, and history tells of the fate suffered by numerous Europeans who went to America after the discovery of that continent. Many Europeans met their death at the hands of Mexican priest-initiates who bound them to scaffold-like structures and cut out their stomachs with expert skill. This is a matter of historical knowledge, and it was an aftermath of what I have been describing to you.
By these means the ahrimanic impulse was inculcated into the etheric nature of the Western world. As I have said, this impulse in the fourth epoch was broken as a result of the crucifixion of the great initiated black magician by the deed of Vitzliputzli. Nevertheless, so much force remained that a further attack could have been made upon the fifth epoch, having as its aim so to mechanize the earth that the resulting culture would not only have culminated in a mass of purely mechanical contrivances but would have made human beings themselves into such pure homunculi that their egos would have departed. The Europeans were meant to acquire knowledge of this world, and indeed the modern age begins with the people of Europe being drawn to America. Whereas on the one side the campaigns of Genghis Khan and his successors were to have executed as it were a divine justice, on the other side, there was prepared an atmosphere of wild, ahrimanic, elemental forces into which the Europeans were to enter. In such matters complete cooperation takes place between Ahriman and Lucifer. For example, the Europeans were not to go over to that other world with disinterested, unselfish feelings but with hankerings and greed for something concerning which they gave way to all kinds of delusions. Later on it was possible to coarsen what was at first clothed in wonderful fantasy, inasmuch as the discovery by the Europeans of the wealth of external nature in America gave an intense stimulus to their hankerings and greed. But to begin with this was to take a more idealistic form. Thus, here again we have an example of cooperation between the luciferic and ahrimanic forces that always work hand in hand.
A successor of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, had settled in China as a ruler after the Mongols had stormed over to Europe. To Kublai Khan in China there came from Europe a Venetian, Marco Polo. At the court of Kublai Khan, who was himself under the influence of the initiation I have previously described, Marco Polo was deeply and fundamentally influenced. He wrote a book of just such a kind as to excite the imagination of the Europeans concerning the Western Hemisphere. Marco Polo's Travelsspoke of a magic land in the West, which stirred up longings to discover it. It was this book that induced Christopher Columbus to set out on his voyage to America. So you see how greed was guided into a world of fantasy. Things work together with extraordinarily clever foresight. You must realize that there is plan in world history in which the evil powers also come into the picture, and that the methods with which history is studied today enable us merely to observe historical life from the external aspect. The only possibility of acquiring real knowledge is to connect the right facts in the light of the science of the spirit, such as the discovery of America at a definite point of time, and the stirrings of desire for a land of fantasy, this desire being, in its turn, an impulse capable of attracting souls away from the earth.
The fitting mood for discovering America at a definite epoch is created by the description of this land of fantasy associated with the stirring up of desire. It is a mood that worked especially upon the subconscious forces in the souls of men, and it was able to work on further in the cultural life. We must think of Marco Polo and his book as being definitely connected with what instigated Christopher Columbus to travel to the West. It is well known that his wish was to discover the magic land; indeed, this is mentioned in ordinary history.
I have here described how the ahrimanic and luciferic impulses work in order to make their attacks upon the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. Now, this fifth epoch is such that the human beings lives in a middle sphere of the life of soul. Man's life of soul in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch must be protected from direct perception of the ahrimanic forces. True, man must learn through the science of the spirit to enter their domain, but external life must be protected in order that the powers that were mentioned both yesterday and today may unfold. These forces that have been brought to the earth in the concrete way that has been described, work below the level of the ordinary normal consciousness. Knowledge of man's life of soul is not attained by saying, as a generalization: There is a realm of consciousness, and there is a realm of subconsciousness, and natural urges and impulses work upward out of the subconscious. It is necessary to know how these urges and impulses are brought into existence on the earth, and to understand the concrete facts. In many domains we see aftermaths in the consciousness that is unfolded by the human soul in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. We can picture the ahrimanic forces that originated in the way described as being active below the threshold of consciousness like lava, like volcanic forces under a soil that emits smoke if one sets fire to paper above it. This shows that beneath the soil there are terrifying forces that pour from every aperture under such circumstances. So it is with the forces of the soul. Beneath what is known to consciousness there are forces that have been influenced by what I have described. Then they press upward. Sometimes they reveal themselves only slightly, but at other times they force their way upward. In the super consciousness the luciferic forces are discharged into the soul as lightning and thunder discharge when the air is to be purified. There is little consciousness of these luciferic forces in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch; during this epoch man's consciousness functions in a middle realm.
Investigations into what is thus working in the subconscious reveal that ahrimanic and luciferic attacks come from two directions, and that culture is really created by an interworking between the normal progressive hierarchies and the luciferic and ahrimanic forces. Now just because culture acquires a specific character in this way, human beings in the several regions of the earth are led in different ways to the great problems of life. I shall speak further of the aspect of knowledge and what then passes into the sphere of the social life.
We may assume that certain ahrimanic forces flow into the European culture from the realm of the subconscious in the wake of the impulses of which we have heard. These ahrimanic forces guide in a definite direction impulses that, in their turn, proceed from the good and progressive powers. It can be said that problems of two kinds, strivings for knowledge of two kinds, have arisen. But we must not say that human life has taken on a certain coloring as a result of the ahrimanic forces alone because interworking has taken place between the ahrimanic forces and the normal progressive forces. The minds of men were directed primarily to two problems. First, the problem of natural urges and impulses and second, the problem of birth. These expressions are derived, of course, from the most conspicuous phenomena. A great deal is embraced by these problems but I shall speak only of certain matters.
Let us think of the problem of natural urges and impulses. Under the influence of the forces I have described, human contemplation and striving is directed to a perception, to an experiencing, of man's natural urges and impulses. The mind is directed to these impulses and a certain view of life gradually unfolds. The problem of natural urges and impulses transforms itself into the problem of happiness or prosperity, which assumes a definite character. Hence in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, especially in the culture of the West, you find strivings in connection with the problem of prosperity, strivings directed to the creation of prosperity in life. Such striving is influenced by the forces I have described. Investigations are made, for example, into what can be done in order that the life of human beings on earth may be as happy and prosperous as possible. The establishment of earthly prosperity becomes and ideal. I do not say that ahrimanic forces alone are at work here; the good progressive forces are also present.
Thought about happiness and prosperity is, of course, quite justified. But under the influence of Ahriman it has assumed a certain character as a result of a really devilish tenet. This tenet defines the good in such a way that the good is a said to manifest actually through happiness or prosperity, through the happiness indeed of the greatest number, and connected therewith is the misery of the minority, just as if one were to describe an organism by suggesting that it develops only to the knees and dies off from there down. In such identification of happiness with the good, with virtue, there is an ahrimanic impulse. The Greeks, as represented by their greatest individuals, were impervious to such identification of the concept of prosperity with that of the good. But ahrimanic influences produced a mentality in humanity in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch that seeks for the good in prosperity, in happiness. It is from this point of view that you must study the philosophy of Saint-Simon, and all the different efforts to discover principles of national economy, especially in Western Europe; only so will you be able to understand them. Even the thought of Rousseau is not free from this impulse. Such matters must be studied concretely and objectively.
Side by side with the problem of natural urges and impulses is that of sensory existence, existence in the material world of the senses. In the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, the culture resulting from sensory existence ought, in reality, to be ennobled, but the ahrimanic powers desired to get this culture under their own control. Hence, their aim to produce a mentality that considers truth to be found in sensory existence alone. To this extent ahrimanic impulses are active in all that is embraced in the problem of sensory existence, of existence in the world of the senses. This problem of sensory existence is closely connected with the problem of birth, just as the problem of happiness and prosperity is connected with that of natural urges and impulses. In order to vindicate sensory existence and to cause men, through instinct, to regard all evolution as a material process, the genesis of the human being in birth was related directly to the evolution of the animals. There you can see the thread leading over to the problem of birth. Thinkers and seekers in the fifth epoch since the fifteenth century, have been deeply engrossed in the question of the birth processes of the human being. Those who understand the connections know the implications of the problem “How does man enter the earth?” Thought has been directed to the question of whether the soul passes over as soul from father and mother to the child, or whether the soul is implanted by supersensible powers. To tackle the problem of birth in the widest sense is the task of the post-Atlantean era; it is a problem that arises in complete conformity with normal and regular progress, but it became ahrimanic by being made materialistic, inasmuch as man was placed at the apex of the animal world and, compared with the importance attached to sensory existence, the soul was left out of consideration.
Thus we see streaming in from the one side impulses that strive to distort the problem of natural urges into the problem of prosperity in a way that does not accord with the forces of the good and the moral. To make the problem of natural urges into the problem of the good and the moral would be to work in the direction of the normal forces of progress, for to develop the good and the moral in its full range out of the problem of natural urges would be to discover how to spiritualize this problem of man's natural urges and impulses. That is the normal task of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. It should rightly be worked out in great imaginations, of which examples are to be found in Goethe's Faust. Also as a result of ahrimanic influences, the problem of birth was diverted to study of evolution in the world of the senses alone. The problem of natural urges was diverted to the problem of material prosperity, and the problem of birth to the problem of evolution in sensory existence.
Bearing all these things in mind, we see how the ahrimanic powers stream into the culture of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. I have already said that because ahrimanic forces stream in on the one side, and luciferic forces on the other, the strivings of men become specialized. If things had happened otherwise, four great problems would have filled the feelings of men in all their work and productive activity down to the very tilling of the soil. The first of these problems is that of natural urges and impulses; the second the problem of birth; the third the problem of death, which is concerned not only with how the human being comes to the earth through birth but also how he leaves the earth through the gate of death. The fourth is the problem of evil.
That man's concern with these four problems has not been equally distributed over the fifth epoch is due to the fact that on the one side Ahriman has diverted the problem of natural urges into that of prosperity, and the problem of birth into that of material existence in the world of sense, thereby averting the true solution of these problems. Again, on the other side, Lucifer has directed the thought of the culture that is more Eastern in character to the problem of death and the problem of evil. You can see how fundamentally the whole of Russian spiritual life is dominated by the problems of death and evil, just as the spiritual life of the West is dominated by the problems of natural urges and of birth. In the writings of Soloviev, the most powerful Russian thinker of modern times, it is everywhere apparent that his mind is concerned on the one side with the problem of death, and on the other with the problem of evil. Just as the problem of the natural urges becomes that of prosperity, so in considering the problem of evil, man's thought is turned to the question of sin, of the sinful life. Hence the problem of sin, of redemption, of cleansing from sin, has nowhere been tackled so profoundly as it has been tackled in the East. But at the same time there has been something irregular in the endeavors made to solve this problem. The problem of evil and the problem of sin have been used by luciferic powers in order that, by directing thought to sin, and to sin in the bodily carnal life, the souls might be alienated from earth life.
Whereas in the West, Ahriman makes every effort to enchain man in sensory existence on the earth, to found a kingdom where the good is thought to lie in prosperity, and where the natural urges of men therefore find satisfaction, from the East comes abhorrence of sin, as a result of which souls are to be diverted from the earth, alienated from the earth by Lucifer. From the East attention is directed to the problem of sin and the problem of death. Hence, much contemplative thought in the East is directed to how death is overcome by what came to pass in Christ Himself. Impulses for life are sought in the Resurrection. Implicit in what I said a week ago, that the East turns more to the Christ and the West more to Jesus, there is this truth: that the East has need of the Risen One, the Spirit who is not made manifest in material existence but who overcomes material existence. This is the problem of death. In a treatise that is probably one of the most beautiful writings of Soloviev, he says that if death as a physical phenomenon, a physical fact, were to signify an end of human life, man would resemble all the other animals; he would not be man at all, he would be an animal. Through death the human being resembles the animals. Through the evil of which he is capable, he becomes even worse than the animals. This is a direct indication that Soloviev's thinking is influenced by the problem of death, and by the problem of sin and evil. But we find everywhere contemplation about knowledge concerning the soul, such as how the soul is not affected by death, and external life is arranged in such a way that, even in its justifiable expressions, it tends to take a path leading away from the earth. That is why in the East there are so many sects that subdue and mortify the bodily nature, which flood the body with death, as it were, striving to lead the life of natural impulses and the act of birth ad absurdum, through leanings to sacrifice and the like.
In the West there is the danger of becoming enchained within the life of the senses, whereby this life would become egoless. For if prosperity alone were to be established on the earth, the ego would never dwell there. If the good could only be established by the spread of prosperity over the earth, a state of things would arise such as came to pass in old Atlantis. In the middle period of Atlantean culture, too, great impulses were given that would have led to a state of prosperity in their further course. In the form and effects of what men first felt as an impetus of the good, they perceived a vista of prosperity, and so they gave themselves up to prosperity, devoted themselves wholly to it. The earth had to be purged of Atlantean culture because men had preserved from the good the element of prosperity alone. In the post-Atlantean era, Ahriman strives by direct means to institute a culture of mere prosperity. This would mean pressing out the lemon, the doing away with it! Egos would no longer be able to live if prosperity were the only aim pursued by culture. In short, prosperity and the good, prosperity and virtue are not concepts that can be substituted for one another.
We are gazing here into profound secrets of life. A justified element in the founding of culture, an element that inevitably leads to a certain form of prosperity among men, is so distorted that prosperity per se is set up as the goal. And a culture that would certainly enable the human soul, even in life, to rise above and to know both death and evil is distorted in such a way that contact with what can produce death and evil is avoided from the outset, and the bodily nature is shunned. This was to satisfy the aims of Lucifer.
In this way we must endeavor to understand how real and concrete forces work in human existence, and what is at work beneath and above the conscious life of soul in the culture of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. If you recognize this leitmotif you will be able to understand many things. Only you must not give way to the delusion that everything luciferic and everything ahrimanic must for these reasons be avoided. That would be the very way to succumb to these forces! Everyone who lives together with humanity must realize that Lucifer and Ahriman have been granted their places in the world. If errors could not take place, the human being would never reach inner freedom; freedom could never come to man if he were incapable of forming the erroneous conception that prosperity and the good are identical; he would then have no opportunity of rising above this error. If man were incapable of living under the delusion that through subjugation of the external, earthly life, victory can be snatched from death and from evil, he would never in reality overcome death and sin. It is necessary for these things to pass into the life of man.
We must see to it that the woeful doctrine, “Ah! that is luciferic and must be avoided; that is ahrimanic and must be avoided,” does not obsess us, but that we confront these powers in the right way knowing that it is not for us to steer clear of Lucifer but to conquer his forces for progressive human culture. Nor must we simply steer clear of Ahriman, but conquer Ahriman's forces for the progressive culture of humanity. For into our culture these forces must be received. The battle lies in the fact that Ahriman's aim is to snatch the souls away. The task of humanity is to receive Ahriman together with his strong forces — all those forces of intellect, for instance, which are preeminently forces of intellect but they can also assume a form that is more akin to feeling — those forces that have been applied, for instance, to the problem of how a state is established. Think of the numbers of people who have wrestled with this problem, some more theoretically, some more practically. The most intense efforts have been made to solve this problem. Such forces must be wrested into the good service of humanity, and must not be made ahrimanic by resolutions to have nothing to do with Ahriman, or refusals to be concerned with what, in social problems, for instance, is alleged to proceed from Ahriman. That would lead to nothing.
It is the same as regards Lucifer. The impulse of perception, of feeling, given us by the science of the spirit must help us to confront in the right way the forces that are actually present in the world. Those who are unwilling to do this are like a man who says, “Evil elements! Oh no, I don't like them; I don't like them at all!” Of course, both attitudes are one sided, but we must remember that the working together of the evil and the good, the union of the evil and the good, make the elements fruitful in the state of balance we must bring about in life by learning to be master of the ahrimanic and the luciferic forces. In this state of balance lies the impulse that must be inculcated into life, and that it is the task of the science of the spirit to transmit.
Supplementary material included with the English edition of Steiner’s GA 171 lectures.
FOREWORD to the English edition of 1984:
The cycle of lectures now being published for the first time in English has always presented some difficulties because of the two lectures on the Mexican Mysteries, which form an important part of it. In these lectures Rudolf Steiner provides some historical material that not only cannot be confirmed — like the prehistorical material given in Occult Scienceand elsewhere — but appears to be even contrary to what is available to conventional archaeologists and historians. In particular, there are two major areas where at first sight Steiner would seem to have been in error, and there appear also to be some errors in detail about the characteristics of some Mexican deities cited by name. It is certain therefore that critics of Rudolf Steiner will cite these anomalies and label them errors, in the process attempting to discredit the kind of spiritual investigation engaged in by him. To the best of my knowledge — which is admittedly not complete — in no other lectures given by Steiner at any time are there any comparable divergences from accepted historical fact. With regard to the other material taken from the Akasha Chronicle it must be said that much of it is startling and of very great interest. But this is impossible to check or confirm from the historical and archeological material available to us, but there is also nothing in the historical record that can be said to refute it.
In view of the fact that these lectures have long been available in German, and some use has been made of them in English language publications such as Carl Stegman's The Other America, it seems necessary now to come to grips with these apparent anomalies or errors. Rudolf Steiner gives the name of Vitzlipochtli to a great initiate of the white path who succeeds in having a powerful black magician crucified at the same period of time when Christ Jesus was crucified on the Hill of Golgotha. This name, as it was transcribed in 1916 in Dornach where the lectures were given, is so close to that of the evil god of the Aztecs some 1300 years later that the two names must be regarded as the same. This evil god (Uitzlipochtli or Huitzlipochtli) required human sacrifices, which were accompanied by the tearing out of the hearts of the victims. Steiner gives a different name to the evil god and says nothing here of the heart, but insists that it was torn out; and he even adds that this continued to be true in the time of the Spanish Conquest at the beginning of the 16th century A.D., for which also all evidence of any kinds is lacking.
It is by no means impossible that all Steiner's statements are perfectly correct, but that evidence is unavailable because of the maintenance of absolute secrecy in such dreadful mystery rites as these. It is also more than possible that a bellicose conquering people changed, over the period of some thirteen centuries, the image of their god man of the period of the Mystery of Golgotha into an evil god of war. In addition, over the same period the tearing out of the stomach (the seat of the will) could have become the tearing out of the heart (the seat of the feeling). It is not necessary for us to be able to prove or confirm what Steiner tells us from the Akasha Chronicle, but it does seem worthwhile trying to show that what he says is not inconsistent with, and not contrary to what is revealed by the very sparse surviving records, literary archeological — and it is entirely fair to stress the many centuries that elapsed between the events referred to by Steiner and the Spanish Conquest when most of the information was assembled by Spanish investigators, who obtained it by questioning the Aztecs of that period.
It was therefore decided to ask Frédéric C. Kozlik, docteur-ès-lettres, an anthroposophist who is familiar with the Mexican historical and archeological material, to write an introduction for these two lectures, mentioning such evidence as he has been able to assemble that may be considered to support Steiner's statements, particularly those that appear to be contrary to what is officially accepted as history, and presenting such arguments as seemed fitting to him to show why it is quite possible even for an erudite scholar to accept what Steiner says in preference to going along with the official history, so often called by Steiner a fable convenue. It may be noted that in an article written subsequent to this introduction Dr. Kozlik suggests that two different rites existed in Mexico, one involving the excision of the heart and the other of the stomach. His article was published in #11 of the Goetheanum News, March 11, 1984.
The introduction which follows was translated by me from his rather dense and packed French that I have in places, with his approval and collaboration, simplified and even paraphrased to make it, as we hope, more readily comprehensible by a non-specialist readership. Dr. Kozlik wishes to make it clear that he is not trying to prove anything that Dr. Steiner said, but only to offer hypotheses consistent both with the evidence and with Steiner's revelations. It will be for the readers themselves to determine how far they are willing to go along with him on the basis of what he has presented.
Colmar, March, 1984
Stewart C. Easton
INTRODUCTION to the English edition of 1984:
The lectures of 18th and 24th September, 1916 on pre-Columbian America, to which this introduction is devoted, contain one obvious and central contradiction: on the one hand there is the universally accepted knowledge that on the occasion of human sacrifices it was the heart that was plucked out, while Steiner on the other states clearly that it was the stomach. So in all that follows we shall have two purposes in mind. It is not our intention to make use of all the documents that are available to us, but rather to deal in a precise manner with a few of them which seem to provide some confirmation of Steiner's statements. We shall then conclude by providing the reader with some thoughts of a methodological nature about the study of the oral and visual evidence for pre-Columbian Mexican spirituality.
Before embarking on the subject itself it seems to us to be most important to consider at some length a few of the characteristics of the existing documents. First of all, they are very scarce, and they contain many gaps. The architectural remains, the stonework and crafts in general have provided some substantial information on Middle American culture, whereas the written documents, what we may call in general the conceptual material, is very poor. Three, or possibly four Maya manuscripts survive, which may or may not be correctly deciphered, as against 27 others destroyed by Fray Diego de Landa in 1562, all the documents described for example by Alonso Ponce in 1588, some or all of which he may have seen, together with all those described by José de Acosta in 1590 and Pedro Sanchez de Aguilar in 1639. Most of the manuscripts assembled by later collectors such as the Frenchman Abbé Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg were lost, as well as those destroyed in 1847 during the civil war in Yucatan, the so-called “war of the castes.” Such a total of manuscripts is beyond computation, and to these must be added the numberless chronicles destroyed in Upper Yucatan in 1870.
The Mexican manuscripts in the strict sense of the word have experienced similar vicissitudes, though from a historical viewpoint they were even more spectacular. The fifteen “codices” in our possession, even if we include other texts such as the monumental collection of Sahagun and the Annals of Cuauhtitlan, are only a few remnants of what at one time was a vast corpus. Itzcoatl, the fourth Aztec king (1427-1440) commanded all the documents of the subject peoples to be destroyed, while Juan de Zumarraga, the first bishop of Mexico, was responsible for the auto-da-fe in 1528 of a “small mountain” of manuscripts heaped up by missionaries in the marketplace of Tezcoco.
Even though we examine with the greatest care the few crumbs that remain in the hope of extracting as much information from them as possible, it must be recognized that for purely statistical reasons they cannot provide any kind of a overall panorama of the cultural reality of Mexico in the historical sense of the term. And this remains true even when we take into account also such useful material as is to be gleaned from the iconography of the stonework or general ornamentation, which is necessarily fragmentary. However ingenious those investigators who rely on these documents may be, they will never be able to extract from them what is not there — and there can be no doubt that what is missing is the greatest part of Mexican culture. For this reason it is not logically possible to use this tiny fragment of pre-Columbian history for the purpose of trying to refute the work of a spiritual investigator.
We shall now proceed to a point by point comparison between the indications given by Steiner in his two lectures on the subject, and the various documents that are available. The most important is the Codex Florentin of Sahagun (here abbreviated to Sah.) in the remarkable Anglo-Nahuatl edition of Anderson and Dibble published from 1950 to 1961 by the University of New Mexico at Santa Fe (General History of the Things of New Spain).
Steiner places the original Meso-American mysteries long before the beginning of our era. For this epoch, which covers the pre-classical and probably also the classical periods, all documents are therefore lacking. Moreover, we many easily imagine that the iconography evidence, as for example for the second period of Teotihuacan, will scarcely offer us any indications because of the secret character of this high (if degraded) initiation. It seems hopeless to expect to find external traces of this initiation in view of the fact that most Mexican art was of a public nature, whether employed for the ornamentation of the temples or for such artisinal products as pottery. Since the veil of secrecy regarding initiation could have been lifted only as the result of a betrayal, it is in the highest degree unlikely that anything bearing on it could have survived. And it was precisely at the period we are discussing that the Mysteries reached their highest point, not when the cult of Taotl was in decline. It my well be that there was such a decline after the destruction of the great black magician mentioned by Steiner, and that this was accompanied by the growth of theocracy — for which the architectural and theological vigor of Teotihuacan II and III provides evidence. With regard to objects having an esoteric character and for this reason not public, the case might be different. We shall return to this point later, while always keeping in mind Juan de Zumarraga's boast that he destroyed 20,000 “idols.”
The only indications that it would be reasonable to look for are oral traditions from very much earlier transcribed into the Nahuatl language at a time when such knowledge was no longer forbidden. It is of course a well known fact that the failure to commit oral literature to writing has the effect of preserving it better than when it is, as we say, “fixed” in writing. Even if transmission by word of mouth involves numerous changes, especially in a period when an earlier original spirituality is in decline, nevertheless oral transmission does still contain an inner impulse necessarily lacking in a written document.
Steiner begins by speaking of Taotl:
“Before the discovery of America, there were mysteries of the most varied kind in the western hemisphere.... Like a single central power whom all followed and obeyed, a kind of spectral spirit was revered.... This spirit was called by a name that sounded something like Taotl.”
The Florentine manuscript contains in several places the word teutl (e is the vowel preferred by modern scholars) god, or teteuh, gods, in the categorical meaning of the term.
“First Chapter, which telleth of the highest of the gods (teteuh).
“Second Chapter, which telleth of the god (teutl)...” (Sah. I).
The same word is used by the Aztecs in addressing Cortés: “May the god (in teutl) deign to hear...” (Sah. XII).
In taking account of Steiner's indications we are faced with a process of abstraction that developed in the course of time, by which the “single central power” spoken of by Steiner and common to all the mysteries has become the collective “concept” of the gods. Such a process extending over thousands of years seems plausible to us.
The second point, which we shall examine, concerns Uitzilopochtli (or Vitzliputzli, as the name was transcribed in Steiner's account). In the lecture of September 18th the words appear: “At a certain time a being was born in Central America who set himself a definite task within this culture. The old ... inhabitants of Mexico ... said that he had entered the world as the son of a virgin, who had conceived him through super earthly powers, inasmuch as it was a feathered being (called in the lecture of 24th September a “bird”) from the heavens who impregnated her.” The later lecture also makes it clear that “Vitzliputzli was a human being, a being who appeared in a physical body.”
So it is a question here of the incarnation of a spiritual being who was not a human being in the usual sense of the term. It was only his incarnation in a physical body that made him similar to men. This corresponds very exactly with what is to be found in the Codex Florentin (Sah. I):
“First Chapter, which telleth of the highest of the gods whom they worshipped ... Uitzilopochtli ... was only a common man...”
The legend to which Steiner refers forms an integral part of the Codex (Sah. III):
“And once... feathers descended upon her — what was like a ball of feathers.... Thereupon by means of them Coatlicue conceived [Uitzilopochtli].”
The following are the principal features of the mission of Uitzilopochtli, as Steiner gives them, in connection with the great initiate of the Toatl cults, whom he does not name:
“At this time in Central America a man was born who was destined by birth to become a high initiate of Taotl... This was one of the greatest black magicians, if not the greatest ever to tread the earth...”
“Then a conflict began between this super-magician and the being to whom a virgin birth was ascribed, and one finds from one's research that it lasted for three years.... The three-year conflict ended when Vitzliputzli was able to have the great magician crucified, and not only through the crucifixion to annihilate his body but also to place his soul under a ban, by this means rendering its activities powerless as well as its knowledge. Thus the knowledge assimilated by the great magician of Taotl was killed.”
The continuation of the legend quoted by Steiner deals with the way Uitzilopochtli came into the world (Sah. III).
“At Coatepec ... there lived a woman named Coatlicue, mother of the Centzonuitznaua. And their elder sister was named Coyolxauhqui... Coyolxauhqui said to them: `My elder brothers, she hath dishonored us. We [can] only kill our mother...' And upon this the Centzonuitznaua... when they had expressed their determination that they would kill their mother, because she had brought about an affront, much exerted themselves... But one who was named Quauitlicac... informed Uitzilopochtli [who was not yet born]. And Uitzilopochtli said to Quauitlicac `...I already know [what I shall do'...
“Then Quauitlicac said to him: `...At last they arrive here'... And Uitzilopochtli just then was born... He pierced Coyolxauhqui, and then quickly struck off her head... And Uitzilopochtli then arose; he pursued, gave full attention to the Centzonuitznaua; he pursued all of them around Coatepetl. Four times he chased them all around... he indeed destroyed them; he indeed annihilated them; he indeed exterminated them ... And only very few fled his presence.”
It is startling to recognize how well these lines agree with what Steiner has given, and how fifteen centuries of oral tradition have only slightly altered the facts made available by occult investigation. According to Steiner's indications regarding the differences between white and black magic, the latter includes a strong dose of egoism, and permits the magician to investigate his own future for selfish aims (a practice, as Steiner often pointed out, forbidden to true occultists). The legend confirms this element of black magic when it speaks of the foreseeing of the birth of the man who is to fight against the forces of evil, and of the attempt made to prevent his incarnation. This is clearly shown in the dialogue between Quauitlicac and Uitzilopochtli who, though not yet born, is fully conscious of his own mission. The three-year struggle indicated by Steiner has a good correspondence with the four times that the Centzonuitznauas were chased around Coatepetl, before they were finally wiped out. Since the great Taotl initiate would naturally be supported by a powerful troop of helpers all equally devoted to evil, the legend confirms that this was indeed the case when it speaks of how the Centzonuitznaua — i.e., the multitude of the Uitznaua — were “exterminated,” and “very few fled his presence” (i.e., not all), thus confirming that the mysteries continued to exist, even though, as indicated by Steiner, they had lost the greater part of their power.
One further remark on this subject, to be taken into consideration only as a possibility, a hypothesis. Steiner does not indicate the name of the great initiated black magician. The legend, however, is most explicit on the matter. The feminine personage (this would be part of the alteration over the centuries) who was the first to wish to prevent Uitzilopochtli from coming into the world, and who was the first to be killed (pierced, as the legend says, in this suggesting the crucifixion) since she was the principal enemy, is Coyolxauhqui (Coyolli meaning fish-hook and xauhqui meaning adorned or decorated). Might this not be the name, or a corruption of the name of the great black magician? And indeed it may be easily imagined that a personage of this kind did not take part personally in the struggle against Uitzilopochtli and his forces, but was only the inspirer of the war waged by his (her?) troops to preserve his knowledge and power intact against the most deadly of his enemies.
The only real contradiction in our hypothesis results from the reversing of the time sequence. According to Steiner it was at the end of the Three Years' War that the black magician was put to death, whereas in our quotation the death of Coyolxauhqui occurred before the final disastrous conflict. This could be a question of one more alteration, or one could perhaps entertain the hypothesis that the magician's name was Uitznaua, or, more likely, a variant of this name-Uitznaua being a plural word designating a Mexican tribe.
The Aztec rites at the period of the Conquest were only a vestige of what was “flourishing” at the beginning of our era. In view of the particular character of these rites it is in keeping with them that a demonical character should have been attributed to Uitzilopochtli. As Sahagun says, “Uitzilopochtli was ... an omen of evil.” (Sah. I). But their transitory character by comparison with the original orientation of these rites in the past might well have resulted in an all-embracing syncretism, combined with fear and veneration toward Uitzilopochtli. And indeed the documents do give evidence of this mixture. The “diabolical” Uitzilopochtli is at the same time the god of a paradise that is fervently desired. As Cortés says in his Third Letter: “They all desired to die and go to `Ochilibus' (Uitzilopochtli) in heaven, who was awaiting them...” This attitude is also to be found in their desire to be impregnated by this divinity as demonstrated in numerous religious ceremonies. “And of those who ate it, it was said, “they keep the god.” (Sah. III).
Steiner's third statement gives us information about Tezcatlipoca:
“Many opposing sects were founded with the objective of countering this devilish cult (of Taotl). One such sect was that of Tezcatlipoca. He too was a being who did not appear in a physical body, but who was known to many of the Mexican initiates, in spite of the fact that he lived only in an etheric body.”
Compare this with the story as told by Sahagun:
“Third Chapter, which telleth of the god named Tezcatlipoca ... he was considered a true god...” (Sah. I). “...even as an only god they believed in him ... he was invisible, just like the night, the wind. When sometimes he called out to one, just like a shadow did he speak.”(Sah. III).
By contrast with Uitzilopochtli who was both god and man, Tezcatlipoca is a real, veritable god, a clear confirmation of what Steiner says. This is reinforced by a striking agreement: The initiate (that is, “one,” i.e., aca (somebody) perceives “just like a shadow” (can iuhquj ceoalli, literally, only like shadow), that is to say, the etheric, the etheric body being remarkably suggested by the nahuatl term. Ceoalli means “the shadow made by the body when it intercepts the light;” not a shadow in the abstract sense, but something that is similar to the physical without actually being physical.
Let us continue with Sahagun:
“When he (Tezcatlipoca) walked on the earth, he quickened vice and sin. He introduced anguish and affliction. He brought discord among people.... But sometimes he bestowed riches — wealth, heroism, valor....” (Sah. I).
Since the point of view here is the same as that attributed to Taotl, it is natural that Tezcatlipoca should be seen as spreading evil in all its forms. But as in the case of Uitzilopochtli it is clear that there has been a noticeable syncretism, as may be seen in the way “sometimes” Tezcatlipoca (in quenman) benefits human beings.
Quetzalcoatl is the fifth being mentioned by Steiner:
“Another sect venerated Quetzalcoatl. He too was a being who lived only in an etheric body.” (24/9). “He had much in common with the spirit whom Goethe described as Mephistopheles.” (18/9).
Bearing in mind that the great temple of Teotihuacan, belonging to the period with which we are concerned, was dedicated in part to Quetzalcoatl, we read as follows in Sahagun:
“Fifth Chapter, which telleth of the god named Quetzalcoatl.... Quetzalcoatl — he was the wind.” (Sah. I).
“Third Chapter, which telleth the tale of Quetzalcoatl, who was a great wizard.... This Quetzalcoatl they considered as a god; he was thought a god.... And the Toltecs, his vassals, were highly skilled. Nothing was difficult when they did it.... Indeed these (crafts)... proceeded from Quetzalcoatl.... And these Toltecs were very rich; they were wealthy. Never were they poor. They lacked nothing in their homes.” (Sah. III).
While taking note of the use of the same word “wind” (ehecatl) to characterize the substance of both Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, a substance that we have identified as “etheric” in the sense indicated by Steiner, we may think we are also in the presence of a resume of the gifts acquired by Faust by virtue of his position as “vassal” of Mephistopheles — the word maceualli meaning “vassal” just as well as its more usual meanings of “merit” or “reward.”
We find also in the legends the antagonism between Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, as indicated by Steiner. For example in the Annals of Cuauhtitlan there is mention of “Quetzalcoatl vanquished by the sorcery of Tezcatlipoca,” again equating him with Taotl as well as referring to his defeat, as described by Steiner. This antagonism may also be seen in certain rites, as when, for example, a priest playing the part of Quetzalcoatl “kills” the statue representing Uitzilopochtli:
“And upon the next day the body of Uitzilopochtli died. And he who slew him was (the priest known as) Quetzalcoatl. (Sah. III).
The mention in the Codex Florentin of the vassals of Quetzalcoatl, that is to say of a kind of clan devoted to this divinity, implies the existence of a division of opinion among the Mexicans. It is possible to glimpse this dichotomy in the prayer addressed to the “good” Tezcatlipoca:
“O lord of the war ... pity me; give me what I require as my sustenance, my strength, of thy sweetness, thy fragrance.” (Sah. III).
Then, a few lines later, we learn that:
“And also of Totlacuan (Tezcatlipoca) they said that he also gave men misery, affliction ... he stoned them with plagues, which were great and grave...”
Having in mind the text of Steiner it would seem that we are here faced with an attribution of the evil deeds of Quetzalcoatl to Tezcatlipoca. But as the point of view adopted in the Codex is primarily that of Taotl, it is in keeping with this that, as was the case of Uitzilopochtli, the enemy should be clothed with the attributes of evil.
Another important agreement between Steiner and the traditions is provided by the cosmogony: the first era (Four Ocelot) of the great ages was presided over by Tezcatlipoca, then the second (Four Winds) was rules by Quetzalcoatl, in this in conformity with the “sending” of Quetzalcoatl, in order to combat the already existing influence of Tezcatlipoca.
We shall now broach the subject of the ritual of the excision — of the stomach, according to Steiner; of the heart, according to what is to be found in all the widely known documents on the subject. But before continuing, let us mention one detail that is in fact of crucial importance; we have found in Steiner's personal library a book in which the tearing out of the heart is related. As Steiner all through his life gave evidence of a capacity for reading that is quite extraordinary, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that he knew about this rite of the tearing out of the heart.
In 1904, in #22 of the ethnological review Globus, Fischer for the first time, as far as we know, brought to the attention of the world a figurine in nephritic stone, which we reproduce here [image removed from this text and reproduced in the Images section of this piece].
This statuette of unknown origin, now in the Linden Museum of Stuttgart, shows two openings hollowed out one above the other. The upper orifice, which penetrates into the body to a distance of 80 mm, begins at the sternum and ascends at an angle of about 45º and constitutes a cavity that is almost spherical. Its opening has a diameter of 16 mm and when it is 5 mm into the body it is enlarged to 22 mm. Fischer, as well as Seler in his 1904 communication to the Congress of Americanists, confirms that this is a cavity that reminds us of the rite of the tearing out of the heart. We indeed share this opinion, especially in view of the fact that the usual method for plucking out the heart is via an incision under the sternum, the priest having to thrust his hand upwards to grasp the heart. That this was his method of taking hold of it is confirmed by the inclination upwards of about 45º of the cavity, and its roundness corresponds likewise to the global form of the heart.
The second cavity, less deep than the first — penetrating only 40 mm into the body — is oval, and its opening has the dimensions of 11.5 by 18 mm. It also becomes wider in the interior. From being 10 mm at the orifice its diameter is widened to 28 mm. By contrast with the upper cavity — that of the heart — it ascends only very slightly. Seler, not having any definite argument to put forward, supposes that the second cavity merely indicates the absence of the navel or umbilical cord. Now bearing in mind the way in which the first cavity corresponds to the heart and the manner in which it was torn out, from an anatomical point of view it is clearly the stomach that corresponds to this ovoid cavity — the stomach, unlike the heart, being directly accessible as soon as the excision is made. Hence the depth, as well as the very slight upward inclination by comparison with the heart. We may also make the observation that the two organs, slightly off center toward the left in the human body, correspond very well to the two openings made one above the other.
The detailed analysis made by Seler of this figurine, which is carefully and totally covered with symbols, arrives at the conclusion that the statuette — aside from its connection with Xolotl and Tlaloc — represents Tlauizcalpantecutli, the god of the planet Venus. But an unusual feature, and noted as such by Seler, is that this is here a divinity with the attributes of Quetzalcoatl. Unusual though this may be it is not, however, unique, for the Codex Borgia — as Seler points out in the same analysis — shows Quetzalcoatl emerging from the mouth of the god of the Wind as the planet Venus. And as the Wind god is Quetzalcoatl himself we have here a kind of double within the duality Quetzalcoatl-Venus. The nephritic figurine therefore presents us, in what is certainly very esoteric symbolism, an unexpected link, as far as our present documents are concerned, between Quetzalcoatl, god of the planet Venus, and the tearing out of the stomach — a conjecture that we go so far as to regard as almost certain. And since the planet Venus is among other things the seat of the Luciferic forces this idol is a noteworthy illustration of the Ahriman-Lucifer duality linked to the tearing out of the stomach as it is also to the tearing out of the heart. This is, from an occult point of view, an insignificant inference from the indications given by Steiner.
There remains one last problem which, for the moment, is still awaiting solution: the indication by Steiner that Europeans were put to death by having their stomachs torn out — and the remarks with which Steiner follows this statement constitute the real riddle here. “The fact is even know to history,” he tells us and “this is a matter of historical knowledge.” Though we cannot pretend to resolve this contradiction, we may propose two directions for research along the lines we have followed here. Either Steiner is quoting some historical work without naming it — perhaps a book available only in German — which tells of the association mentioned above. Or else Steiner, after examining some iconographic elements of the documents concluded that the stomach was the organ referred to when it was tacitly traditionally accepted as being the heart.
In the new (1984) German edition of the present cycle the editor tells us that Rudolf Steiner's library contained a book by Charles V. Heckethorn entitled Geheime Gesellschaften, Geheimbünde und Geheimlehren, in which both the excisions, the heart and the stomach, are referred to, and these were said to have been practiced on the Spaniards as well as on others. However, this book, which is not a historical but a popular work, contains descriptions that are very approximate and no doubt partly imagined; and it is clear that Heckethorn has not read Sahagun's work edited by Bustamente in Spanish in 1829 and in French by Siméon in 1888. In view of the fact that Steiner provides very precise descriptions that are not those given by Heckethorn, nor those that have come down to us in any historical documents known to us, we do not believe that Steiner, as the editor says in a footnote, relied on this book, especially when we keep in mind that it is absolutely not a “historical” reference book. So the problem remains still unsolved.
To conclude we should like to begin the second part of our discussion by outlining a number of reflections on the subject of the methodology of the study of what are commonly called “mythologies.” It is possible in a schematic but not altogether incorrect manner to separate two fundamentally different tendencies. The first adopts an anthroposophical viewpoint, held by only an almost negligible minority of officially recognized scholars. These hold that mythologies are the remnants of what were once clairvoyantly perceived facts, that is to say, a perceptible and comprehensible universe, formerly perceived in pictures. This approach was inaugurated by Steiner on the basis of his own personal investigations, which he only later compared with what had survived from ancient cultures. Today the anthroposophist, or someone who wishes to follow this path but lacks the capacities possessed by Steiner, aside from using his awakened sensibilities which can indeed be of real help to him, can only place the totality of what Steiner has taught about the spiritual world over against the mythological facts as they are revealed by the various traditions.
The second path is the one taken by almost all current studies. The spiritual world is invariably regarded as nothing but the subjective creation of the individual, and no effort is therefore made to look for anything truly suprasensible. Looked at from a strictly logical point of view, which ought to predominate in any scientific study, it is entirely legitimate to regard mythical facts as purely subjective, in the absence of clear, controlled and understandable suprasensible perceptions. But such premises must they always be looked upon solely as working hypotheses, and never as untouchable dogmas overruling all other considerations. Indeed the difference between hypothesis and dogma is fundamental. A hypothesis as such never loses sight of its contrary hypothesis, and results alone can eventually eliminate one of the premises. Another unscientific defect may be noted in the attribution of an exclusively subjective character to mythologies: from the point of view of logic the inability to perceive the suprasensible cannot lead one to affirm that such perception does not exist! A man blind from birth cannot do otherwise than recognize that for him colors do not exist. But the same blind man would commit an egregious error in elementary logic if he were to conclude that in the case of everyone else colors are also subjective and not perceived, and if he were to insist also that the names given to colors are therefore meaningless! Although this example may be a little crude it is nevertheless a fair picture of the abnormal situation in which every science that claims to be serious finds itself at the present time.
A second feature of this orientation is its conceptual framework which results in a poverty of concepts that most of the time drives one to despair. Thus Coyolxauhqui is abstractly associated with both “moon” and “goddess” to make her “goddess of the moon.” But what does this association mean in reality? The unlikely ceremony of flaying (practiced in the Mexican rites) is supposed to be a “commemoration” of the simple process of husking the ears of corn — and this, in spite of the varied and extraordinary social consequences, the frenzied emotions of the participants, and the outlandish reversal of the natural order of things involved in a rite of this kind!
A well-known reaction to this type of excessively naive speculation exists today in all those tendencies comprised under the general name of structuralism, especially in the works of Levi-Strauss, who looks upon mythology as nothing but imaginative pictures constructed out of the social and geographical realities of a given epoch. If we examine closely the “studies” of Levi-Strauss we find they are based on a kind of fundamental dogmatism. They give the illusion of being impeccably scientific, but in fact they lead to a bewildering series of vicious circles. Instead of regarding materialism as simply a working hypothesis yet to be proved, materialism is put forward as a dogma, and conclusions are then deduced from the original dogmatic content. The logical worth of this kind of procedure can be illustrated from the following picture. Let us imagine an ethnologist blind from birth who is investigating a tribe made up persons with more or less seriously defective eyesight, who are the distant descendants of ancestors whose sight was normal. His informant will tell him about the round shape of the sun and explain that it is the source of heat, the latter being the only aspect of the sun that is perceptible to the blind ethnologist. Since the ethnologist denies the existence of any other kind of perception than his own he will seek to “explain” the round shape of the sun by taking under consideration all the other facts he can find associated with the sun — what the structuralists call the infrastructures. It is easy to imagine that there may be “real” facts in the sense in which the ethnologist conceives of them, which will permit him to associate the source of heat with the round shape of the sun. His learned work of explanation will certainly be coherent and in a certain way irrefutable, but it will be at the same time absurd, the round shape being simply the result of ordinary perception, shared by everyone except the ethnologist! Broadly speaking, that is the “scientific” edifice which is all we possess to explain the entire realm of mythology!
The objection might be raised that we are doing no better than the men whose work we are criticizing. Instead of the dogma of subjectivism we are substituting an equally dogmatic objectivism. Yet in fact there is a crucial difference. We are dealing here with two different conceptual frameworks, one provided by materialism and the other by anthroposophy, neither of them being of course perfected and completed systems. Faced with the data of mythology the first approaches them in a negative way, dogmatically rejecting what they claim to be, namely descriptions of real and not subjective facts, such as life after death, spirits, divinities and the like. By contrast the second approaches them positively. It tries to approach the data of mythology by entering into this material from within, so to speak, making use of a series of concepts which correspond exactly to the mythological symbols, not in an arbitrary manner but as the necessary complement to the percepts of which the symbols themselves are the reflected images. One can then raise the objection that the Steinerian system is just as subjective as the mythologies, and therefore lacks all objective validity. Aside from the fact that once the Steinerian system is known this objection might well disappear, the difference between the two conceptual systems might also be demonstrated objectively. This could be done on a statistical basis, the general principle applicable to all research that makes use of models.
The most coherent model is regarded as that which takes in the largest number of phenomena, and is therefore superior to any other model that covers fewer facts. Take, for example, the Aztec rite of flaying. Is there at the present time any serious psychological system that is coherent and applicable over a wide range of phenomena that can offer any explanation of how it could be that the unlikely sequence of tortures, murders, and rites so repulsive as to be scarcely imaginable, should have been the commemoration of the husking of a plant??? This pretended similarity between the flaying of a human being and the husking of a plant is surely an idea so far-fetched as to be totally worthless. Anthroposophical concepts are of course not waiting passively to be made use of for mythological studies, including studies of the kind just mentioned. But when the first steps in this direction have been taken, only then will the time come when we can talk of a confrontation between the facts and the fundamental teachings of anthroposophy — not a confrontation between anthroposophy and the present materialistic edifice constructed from the beginning out of pure dogmatism, but an undogmatic examination of the material and non-material remains (for example mythology, popular stories and the like) just as they were at the time of their original discovery. This examination should not be based on the dogmatic notions prevalent at that time, which, as far as present day popular and scholarly opinion is concerned, have indeed endured to this day.
Materialism possesses no concept capable of being applied in a positive manner to Uitzilopochtli, who was both a god and at the same time only a man. It is obliged to flatten out the original texts, thus implicitly showing its contempt for their authors; and it can only condescendingly refrain from paying any attention to what appears to it as at most a piece of poetic imagery — for example, Tezcatlipoca appearing like a shadow. This bespeaks neither a true scientific spirit, nor does it show any sign of a true respect for others. When will all this change?
*Lecture given Sep. 11, 1916 contained in volume 272 of the bibliographic survey of Steiner's works. It has not been published in English translation.
Dr. Koslik, d. Sept. 22, 1989, was director of the “Paul of Tarsus” branch of the Anthroposophical
Society in Alsace, France.
And from the back cover of the English-language Anthroposophic Press edition:
“The history presented in most modern textbooks is a collection of external facts, arranged chronologically, which seem to have occurred without rhyme or reason. Rudolf Steiner takes these facts fully into account in this work, but he also goes beyond them to describe the inner impulses at work which make the intense drama of human development understandable.
“These lectures take us to ancient Greece to witness the struggle with the spirit of groundless fantasy, and to ancient Rome and the struggle against the forces of centralized political domination. We hear of how these two forces, opposed to humanity, threatened to reach a tragic climax in the bloody Aztec mysteries of ancient Mexico, until they were thwarted by the heroic efforts of a Mexican Sun-initiate.
“Steiner also describes the effects of these ancient conflicts — both physical and spiritual — as reflected in European history. The Knights Templar and their persecution by Philip the Fair, the run-in between Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII, and the healing wisdom of the Rosicrucians and in the works of Goethe are all dealt with. It is thus possible, through these lectures, to concretely experience part of the on-going drama of human development.”