Anthroposophical Spiritual Science

AS MODERN MYSTERY WISDOM

♦ Anthroposophical spiritual science enables fulfilment of the deepest longings of people to understand the meaning of life, the origin of universe, the true nature of their own being, the mysteries of birth and death, and the deeper evolutionary causes for the present moral, social, and environmental crisis.

♦ Anthroposophical spiritual science is not based upon belief in authorities as was the case in the past, but on the ability of understanding. For that reason it is no longer a secret teaching of the old Mysteries for the chosen ones, but an 'open secret' for all those who have sufficiently developed their capacities of logical thinking and are willing to set foot on this lengthy and not-so-easy path of 'enlightenment'.

♦ Anthroposophical spiritual science contains metamorphosed fruits of all four Mystery streams of ancient times. However, this new form of Mysteries is no longer connected to a special place but it can come into existence in any place where a group of people enables mystery wisdom to flow into everyday life.

New Mystery Wisdom as the Resurrected Mysteries of the Past

The true essence of anthroposophical spiritual science can be grasped only when we recognise it as "a science of initiation originating in the necessity of the day. A science of initiation has existed always. Anthroposophy springs from the same foundation as ancient science, but in the course of human evolution ages succeed each other and vary in their demands. In the course of history the whole constitution and mood and tendency of the human soul undergoes changes. And thus the science of initiation arising out of the modern spirit is in some respects peculiar to this age, just as there was an initiation science of the Middle Ages, of Ancient Greece and of yet older periods of human evolution." [1]

Initiation is the procedure of acquisition of knowledge about the true nature of the world and man. To begin with "we must clearly understand that the nature of the ancient Mysteries, and also their nature of initiation varied in different parts of the Earth, and among different peoples. In the very beginning initiation was so distributed that one people understood one form, and another people another" [2] form of initiation. These variations were the outcome of the different knowledge which has been passed to pupils in the process of initiation. Here we have the main cause for the variety of mystery centres in the past. Nevertheless, we can group them into four so-called 'mystery streams' which were nurturing and passing down to the generations of pupils the mysteries of spirit, or the mysteries of soul, or the mysteries of life, or the mysteries of matter.

In ancient times these Mysteries were not only the places of initiation, but also centres from which originated inspirations and instructions for the arrangements of all aspects of spiritual and practical life. "The Mystery centres were the source of all the knowledge which flowed into the masses of the people, and of the impulses determining their activities. The old traditional conceptions, which were incorporated later on into various religions and became matters of faith, may be traced back to primeval wisdom. The Mystery centres really fulfilled the functions alike of churches, places of learning and schools of art." [3]

In spite of such tremendous importance of Mysteries for all areas of the life of old civilisations they "had to come to an end for the sake of the freedom of mankind; they existed only so long as the human being was 'under age'. This began in Greece; instead of Delphi, Ephesus and Samothrace – the last great Mysteries – came Plato and Aristotle. They represent independently thinking human beings. The emancipation of the individual began with the logic of Aristotle. Today the individual is free – can be free – if he wants to be.

As independence developed, the demise of old civilizations and cultural forms began – especially during the last centuries. Today nothing can be managed with the old forces. New Mysteries need to arise in society which have to reckon with an individual ego that has become independent." [4] This is the reason why anthroposophy came into existence.

The independence of the modern person is enabled due to the fact that the teaching of modern mystery wisdom "cannot in any way be said to be based upon belief in authority. The teacher of anthroposophy desires to stand in no different relation to his pupil than does a teacher of mathematics to his students. Can it be said that the student of mathematics depends upon his teacher simply out of belief in authority? No! And can it be said that the student of mathematics does not need the teacher? Some people may argue that he does not, because he may have discovered how to teach himself from good books. But this is simply a different situation from the one where student and teacher are sitting in front of each other. In principle, of course, self-instruction is possible." [5]

Nowadays it is not just possible, but self-education by means of books has become the main way of the attainment of the insights about spiritual realities of existence. This means that "every human being, provided he reaches a certain stage of clairvoyance, can discover the spiritual truths for himself but this would be a much lengthier path. It would be senseless to say: My own inner being must be the sole source of all spiritual truths. If the teacher knows the mathematical truths and imparts them to his pupil, the pupil is no longer called upon to have belief in authority for he grasps these truths through their own inherent correctness and all he needs is to understand them. So is it with all occult development in the sense of modern mystery wisdom. The teacher is the friend, the counsellor, one who has already lived through the occult experiences and helps the pupil to do so himself. Once a man has had these experiences he need as little accept them on authority as in mathematics he need accept on authority the statement that the three angles of a triangle are equal to 180º. In new mysteries there is no authority in the ordinary sense. It is far rather a matter of what is required for shortening the path to the highest truths." [6]

There is another reason for such an approach to the spiritual world, based on understanding instead of faith. Among recent historical events, the scientific-industrial revolution has had tremendous impact on the changes of the basic conditions of human life. Along with this development there came into existence also a new understanding of the world. For that reason anthroposophical spiritual science lays great stress on the striving "to develop a knowledge and perception of the spiritual worlds which is no less exact, no less conscientious in the sense of exact science, than was the best tendency and striving of the natural scientific age" [7] of the nineteenth century.

Even more, spiritual science "is actually a continuation of that modern striving for knowledge which has led to the results of natural science with its achievements of external scientific knowledge. This anthroposophy by no means denies, but maintains that the results of external science need to be supplemented and completed, in the present stage of the development, by a science extending into the higher spiritual worlds. In that sense it is a continuation of the true striving of our age for the knowledge of the world, and despite the triumphs of natural science it may well be said by those with a heart and an understanding of the experiences of the modern world, that the need of men for the knowledge of the higher worlds is being proclaimed" [8] in every domain of modern life.

We can look at this situation in the following way: "Just as we see the external features and physiognomy of a man confronting us but do not know him well until we become his friend – entering into his life with heart and soul until we know him from within – so it is with the natural science that we have attained so far. For it shows the external features or physiognomy of the world, and the need of the world and of humanity today is to gain a knowledge that not only shows those things but enters into the spiritual and soul-life of the universe. It is that which this higher knowledge of initiation reaches; something that perceives the spiritual and soul-being in all the universe and in the human being himself. In that sense and to develop to its real completion, the fundamental striving for knowledge – this science of initiation – is springing from the needs and from the spirit of the age in which we live and whose tasks we have to accomplish." [9]

The Main Tasks of the Modern Mystery Wisdom

Anthroposophical spiritual science can be accepted by human beings only on the basis of "the deepest and most serious demands of human evolution. We are not concerned in anthroposophy with those ideals which originate in man's subjective nature, but rather with what is being deciphered from the spiritual history of the evolution of humanity; and from this spiritual history one can clearly see that the science of initiation – that is, the science which brings over its knowledge from beyond the threshold of the spiritual world – is absolutely necessary for the further evolution of mankind." [10]

Nowadays we are confronted with the signs of serious ecological, social and moral crisis. Although there are many good descriptions of the symptoms and even some very obvious causes for the present global crisis (e.g. extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of few), people cannot "easily perceive, from following up events in a purely external way, how necessary it is to infuse spiritual knowledge into the evolution of humanity." [11] Due to dominant habits of thinking and feeling many modern people are not inclined to see the causes of the present global crisis from the perspective of spiritual evolution of humanity – from the perspective enabled by anthroposophical spiritual science.

We cannot expect to solve any global problem if we do not understand underlying causes for its occurrence. And for this purpose we need the new science of initiation, "the power of looking into the spiritual world, which is not revealed through physical perception, or through the external understanding connected with the instruments of the physical body." [12]

But we do not need to attain this capacity by ourselves. "Just as it is not given to every man to become a painter so it is with this science. Everyone with a healthy and unbiased artistic sense can understand and appreciate a painting, and in the same way those who through the science of initiation have attained knowledge of the spiritual world, can describe that knowledge to their fellow men. And when once shown it can be understood by those who will exercise the simple unbiased faculties of thought and judgment normal to our present stage of development; such people can then take their stand upright as human beings equal to the tasks of life in the present age." [13]

Therefore with anthroposophical spiritual science "we are not setting up a system that is applicable in theory only; we are speaking of teachings which can be put to use in practical life by anyone who desires to know the foundations of the science of worlds and to allow the spiritual truths to flow into everyday life. Modern mystery wisdom must not stream only into the head, nor only into the heart, but also into the hands, into our manual capacities, into our daily actions. It does not take effect as sentimental sympathy; it is the acquisition, by strenuous effort, of faculties enabling us to work for the well-being of humanity." [14] Thus it is possible for anthroposophical spiritual science to flow directly into practical life, as the examples of Waldorf schools, biodynamic farms and other anthroposophical initiatives demonstrate.

"This can only be achieved if we consider the following: Certainly, we must know heaven (the spiritual world), and certainly we must know the earth (the physical world). But then we must also look at the human being, in whom, among all the beings around us, heaven and earth work together to create a unity. We must look at the human being! For humanity contains infinitely more secrets than the worlds that we can perceive with our external organs of perception, that we can explain with an intellect bound to the senses. The task of present-day initiation knowledge is to come to know the human being spiritually. The initiation science wants to come to know everything for this reason: in order to understand the human being through knowledge of the whole world, through knowledge of the whole cosmos." [15]

Therefore spiritual science came into existence with the aim to enable us to attain a true understanding of our own being and the world that surrounds us. It should be more than evident that, without an understanding which includes beside the physical the soul-spiritual realities of our existence, we cannot hope to solve modern problems which are confronting us everywhere, including those in relation to human nutrition. These problems are numerous and in the course of time they are only increasing. This will continue until we really attain a holistic understanding of the human being and all natural kingdoms. Thus all depends on our own effort to attain a proper understanding of the world we live in and the riddles of human existence.

   NOTES

  1. Rudolf Steiner, London, 14.04.1922; Knowledge and Initiation, rsarchive.org
  2. Rudolf Steiner, Berne, 07.09.1910; The Gospel of St. Matthew, Anthroposophical Society, London, 1946
  3. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 25.06.1922; Human Questions and Cosmic Answers, rsarchive.org
  4. Manfred Schmidt-Brabant, The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, Temple Lodge, 1996
  5. Rudolf Steiner, Munich, 22.05.1907; Theosophy of the Rosicrucian, rsarchive.org
  6. As above
  7. See note 1
  8. See note 1
  9. See note 1
  10. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 14.12.1919; The Mysteries of Light, of Space, and of the Earth, rsarchive.org
  11. As above
  12. See note 2
  13. See note 1
  14. See note 5
  15. Rudolf Steiner, London, 30.08.1922; The Mystery of the Trinity, rsarchive.org