86851382 christianity-as-mystical-fact-and-the-mysteries-of-antiquity


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86851382 christianity-as-mystical-fact-and-the-mysteries-of-antiquity

  1. 1. i ^<*n .•***» ****^
  3. 3. THE MEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY :> AS rOR, Lf noa and TILD-N FOUNDAI IONS R 1915 L Copyright, 1914 BY H. COLLISON The copyrights, the publishing rights, and the editorialresponsibility for the translations of the works of RudolfStciner, Ph.D., with the exception of those already pub-lished under the editorial supervision of Mr. Max Gysi,arc now vested in Mr. Harry Collison, M.A., Oxon. Ube linickcrboclscr ^ccss, tAcy/e |?ocb
  4. 4. PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITIONr^HRISTIANITY as Mystical Fact was the title given by the author to thiswork, when, eight years ago, he gatheredinto it the substance of lectures delivered byhim in 1902. The title indicated the specialcharacter of the book. In it the attemptwas made, not merely to represent histori-cally the mystical content of Christianity,but to describe the origin of Christianityfrom the standpoint of mystical^ contempla-tion. Underlying tjiis intention was thethought that atthe g^neisis of Christianitymystical facts ^€v^ %t work which can onlybe perceived by such contemplation. It is only the book itself which can makeclear that by "mystical" its author does notimply a conception which relies more onvague feelings than on "strictly scientificstatements." It is true that "mysticism" isat present widely understood in the former iii
  5. 5. iv Preface to the Second Editionsense, and hence it is declared by many to bea sphere of the human which soul-Hfe with"true science" can have nothing to do. Inthis book the word "mysticism" is used inthe sense of the representation of a spiritualfact, which can only be recognised in its truenature when the knowledge of it is derivedfrom the sources of spiritual life itself. Ifthe kind of knowledge drawn from suchsources is rejected, the reader will not bein a position to judge of the contents of thisbook. Only one who allows that the sameclearness may exist in mysticism as in a truerepresentation of the facts of natural science,will be ready to admit, that. the content ofChristianity ;HsViy;3ticiSm itt^yjalso be mys-tically described.: FQr;itis:not only a ques-tion of the conterlts df.the bbok, but first andforemost of tiiei metliix^s. of knowledge by : •means of wKicii^the stut^ffients in it aremade. Many there are in the present day whohave a most violent dislike to such methods,which are regarded as conflicting with theways of true science. And this is not onlythe case with those willing to admit other
  6. 6. Preface to the Second Edition vinterpretations of the world than their own,on the ground "genuine knowledge of ofnatural science," but also with those whoas believers wish to study the nature ofChristianity. The author of this book stands on theground of a conception which sees that theachievements of natural science in our agemust lead up into true mysticism. In fact,any other attitude as regards knowledge actu-ally contradicts everything presented by theachievements of natural science. The factsof natural science itself indeed cannot becomprehended by means of those methodsof knowledge which so many people wouldlike to employ to the exclusion of others,under the illusion that they stand on thefirm ground of natural science. It is onlywhen we are prepared to admit that a fullappreciation of our present admirable know-ledge of nature is compatible with genuinemysticism, that we can take the contents ofthis book into consideration. The authors intention is to show, by meansof what is here called mystical knowledge,"how the source of Christianity prepared its
  7. 7. vi Preface to the Second Editionown ground in the mysteries of pre-Christiantimes. In this pre-Christian mysticism we which Christianity throve, asfind the soil ina germ of quite independent nature. Thispoint of view makes it possible to understandChristianity in its independent being, eventhough its evolution is traced from pre-Christian mysticism. If this point of view beoverlooked, it is very possible to misunder-stand that independent character, and tothink that Christianity was merely a furtherdevelopment of what already existed in pre-Christian mysticism. Many people of thepresent day have fallen into this error, com-paring the content of Christianity with pre-Christian conceptions, and then thinkingthat Christian ideas were only a continuationof the former. The following pages are in-tended to show that Christianity presup-poses the earlier mysticism just as a seedmust have its soil. It is intended to empha-sise the peculiar character of the essence ofChristianity, through the knowledge of itsevolution, but not to extinguish it. with deep satisfaction that the author It isis able to mention that this account of the
  8. 8. Preface to the Second Edition viinature of Christianity has found acceptancewith a writer who has enriched the cultureof our time in the highest sense of the word,by important works on the spiritual life hisof humanity. Edouard Schure, author ofLes Grands Inities, ^ is so far in accord withthe attitude of this book that he undertookto translate it into French, under the title,Le mystere chretien et les my s teres antiques.It may be mentioned by the way, and as asymptom of the existence at the presenttime of a longing to understand the natureof Christianity as presented in this work,that the first edition was translated intoother European languages besides French. The author has not found occasion to alteranything essential in the preparation of thissecond edition. On the other hand, what waswritten eight years ago has been enlarged,and the endeavour has been made to expressmany things more exactly and circumstan-tially than was then possible. Unfortunately ^ This book is to be an English t^-anslation, by had inF. Rothwell, under the of The Great Initiates, A titleSketch of the Secret History of Religions, by EdouardSchur6 (Pub., Rider & Son, London).
  9. 9. viii Preface to the Second Editionthe author was obUged, through stress ofwork, to let a long period elapse between thetime when the first edition was exhausted,and the appearance of the second. Rudolf Steiner. May, 1 910.
  10. 10. CONTENTS PAGE Preface to the Second Edition iiiCHAPTER I. Points of View . . . i II. The Mysteries and their Wisdom . . . . io III. The Greek Sages before Plato in the Light of the Wisdom OF the Mysteries . . 39 IV. Plato as a Mystic . . 63 V- The Wisdom of the Mysteries and the Myth • • • 93 VI. The Mystery Wisdom of Egypt 127 VII. The Gospels . . . -147VIII. The Lazarus Miracle . . 159 IX. The Apocalypse of St. John . 177 X. Jesus and His Historical Back- ground . . . .198 ix
  11. 11. X ContentsCHAPTER PACK XI. The Nature of Christianity . 203 XII. Christianity and Heathen Wisdom . . .215 .XIII. St. Augustine and the Church 227 Notes ..... 239
  13. 13. Christianity as Mystical Fact POINTS OF VIEWNATURAL Science has deeply influenced modern thought. It is becoming moreand more impossible to speak of spiritualneeds and the life of the soul, without takinginto consideration the achievements andmethods of this science. It must be ad-mitted, however, that many people satisfythese needs, without letting themselves betroubled by its influence.But those whofeel the beating of the pulse of the age musttake this influence into consideration. Withincreasing swiftness do ideas derived fromnatural science take possession of our brains, I
  14. 14. 2 Christianity as Mystical Factand, unwillingly though it may be, our heartsfollow, often in dejection and dismay. It isnot a question only of the number thus wonover, but of the fact that there is a forcewithin the method of natural science, whichconvinces the attentive observer that thatmethod contains something which cannot beneglected, and is one by which any modernconception of the universe must be profoundlyaffected. Many of the outgrowths of thismethod compel a justifiable rejection. Butsuch rejection is not sufficient in an age inwhich very many resort to this way of think-ing, and are attracted to it as if by magic.The case is in no way altered because somepeople see that true science long ago passed,by its own initiative, beyond the shallowdoctrines of force and matter taught by ma-terialists. It would be better, apparently, tolisten to those who boldly declare that theideas of natural science will form the basis ofa new religion. If these ideas also appearshallow and superficial to one who knowsthe deeper spiritual needs of humanity, hemust nevertheless take note of them, for itis to them that attention is now turned,
  15. 15. Points of View 3and there is reason to think they will claimmore and more notice in the near future. Another class of people have also to betaken into account, those whose hearts havelagged behind their heads. With their reasonthey cannot but accept the ideas of naturalscience. The burden of proof is too muchfor them. But those ideas cannot satisfythe religious needs of their souls, —the per-spective offered is too dreary. Is the humansoul to rise on the wings enthusiasm to the ofheights of beauty, truth, and goodness, onlyfor each individual to be swept away in theend like a bubble blown by the materialbrain? This is a feeling which oppressesmany minds like a nightmare. But scientificconcepts oppress them also, coming as theydo come with the mighty force of authority.As long as they can, these people remainblind to the discord in their souls. In-deed they console themselves by saying thatfull clearness in these matters is denied tothe human soul. They think in accordancewith natural science so long as the experienceof their senses and the logic of their intellectdemand it, but they keep to the religious
  16. 16. 4 Christianity as Mystical Factsentiments in which they have been educated,and prefer to remain in darkness as to thesematters, —a darkness which clouds theirunderstanding. They have not the courageto battle through to the light. There can be no doubt whatever that thehabit of thought derived from natural scienceis the greatest force in modern intellectuallife,and it must not be passed by heedlesslyby any one concerned with the spiritualinterests of humanity. But it is none theless true that the way in which it sets aboutsatisfying spiritual needs is superficial andshallow. If this were the right way, theoutlook would indeed be dreary. Would itnot be depressing to be obliged to agree withthose who "Thought is a form of force. say:We walk by means of the same force byw^hich we think. Man is an organism whichtransforms forms of force into variousthought-force, an organism the activity ofwhich we maintain by what we call food,and with which we produce what we callthought. What a marvellous chemicalprocess it is which could change a certainquantity of food into the divine tragedy of
  17. 17. Points of View 5Hamlet. ** This is quoted from a pamphlet ofRobert G. Ingersoll, bearing the title, ModernTwilight of the Gods. It matters little ifsuch thoughts find but scanty acceptance inthe outside world. The point is that in-numerable people find themselves compelledby the system of natural science to take upwith regard to world-processes an attitudein conformity with the above, even when theythink they are not doing so. It would certainly be a dreary outlook ifnatural science itself compelled us to acceptthe creed proclaimed by many of its modernprophets. Most dreary of all for one whohas gained, from the content of naturalscience, the conviction that in its own sphereits mode thought holds good and its ofmethods are unassailable. For he is drivento make the admission that, however muchpeople may dispute about individual ques-tions, though volume after volume may bewritten, and thousands of observations accu-mulated about the struggle for existence andits insignificance, about the omnipotence orpowerlessness of natural selection, naturalscience itself is moving in a direction which,
  18. 18. 6 Christianity as Mystical Factwithin certain limits, must find acceptancein an ever-increasing degree. But are the demands made by naturalscience really such as they are described bysome of its representatives? That they arenot so is proved by the method employedby these representatives themselves. Themethod they use in their own sphere is notsuch as is often described, and claimed forother spheres of thought. Would Darwinand Ernst Haeckel ever have made theirgreat discoveries about the evolution of lifeif, instead of observing life and the structureof living beings, they had shut themselvesup in a laboratory and there made chemicalexperiments with tissue cut out of an or-ganism? Would Lyell have been able todescribe the development of the crust of theearth if, instead of examining strata and theircontents, he had scrutinised the chemicalqualities of innumerable rocks? Let us reallyfollow in the footsteps of these investigatorswho tower like giants in the domain ofmodern science. We shall then apply to thehigher regions of spiritual life the methodsthey have used in the study of nature. We
  19. 19. Points of View 7shall not then believe we have understoodthe nature of the "divine" tragedy of Hamletby saying that a wonderful chemical processtransformed a certain quantity of food intothat tragedy. We shall believe it as littleas an investigator of nature could seriouslybelieve that he has understood the mission ofheat in the evolution of the earth, when hehas studied the action of heat on sulphur in aretort. Neither does he attempt to under-stand the construction of the human brainby examining the effect of liquid potash ona fragment of it, but rather by inquiring howthe brain has, in the course of evolution,been developed out of the organs of lowerorganisms. one who is It is therefore quite true thatinvestigating the nature of spirit can donothing better than learn from naturalscience. He need only do as science does,but he must not allow himself to be misledby what individual representatives of naturalscience would dictate to him. He must in-vestigate in the spiritual as they do in thephysical domain, but he need not adopt theopinions they entertain about the spiritual
  20. 20. 8 Christianity as Mystical Factworld, confused as they are by their exclusivecontemplation of physical phenomena. We shall only be acting in the spirit ofnatural science if we study the spiritualdevelopment of man as impartially as thenaturalist observes the sense-world. We shallthen certainly be led, in the domain ofspiritual life, to a kind of contemplationwhich from that of the naturalist as differsgeology differs from pure physics and biologyfrom chemistry. We shall be led up to highermethods, which cannot, it is true, be those ofnatural science, though quite conformablewith the spirit of it. Such methods alone areable to bring us to the heart of spiritual de-velopments, such as that of Christianity, orother worlds of religious conceptions. Anyone applying these methods may arouse theopposition of many who believe they arethinking scientifically, but he will know him-self, for all that, to be in full accord with agenuinely scientific method of thought. An investigator of this kind must also gobeyond a merely historical examination ofthe documents relating to spiritual life. Thisis necessary just on account of the attitude
  21. 21. Points of View 9he has acquired from his study of natural his-tory. When a chemical law is explained, it isof small use to describe the retorts, dishes,and pincers which have led to the discoveryof the law. And it is just as useless, whenexplaining the origin of Christianity, to as-certain the historical sourcesdrawn upon bythe Evangelist St. Luke, or those from whichthe hidden revelation" of St. John is com- **piled. History can in this case be onlythe outer court to research proper. It is notby tracing the documents historical origin ofthat we shall discover anything about thedominant ideas in the writings of Moses or inthe traditions of the Greek mystics. Thesedocuments are only the outer expression forthe ideas. Nor does the naturalist who is man trouble aboutinvestigating the nature ofthe origin of the word "man," or the way inwhich it has developed in a language. Hekeeps to the thing, not to the word in which itfinds expression. And in studying spirituallife we must likewise abide by the spirit andnot by outer documents.
  22. 22. II THE MYSTERIES AND THEIR WISDOMA KIND manner of mysterious veil in hangs over the which spiritual needs weresatisfiedduring the older civilisations bythose who sought a deeper religious life andfuller knowledge than the popular religionsoffered. Ifwe inquire how these needs weresatisfied, we find ourselves led into the dim and the individualtwilight of the mysteries,seeking them disappears for a time from ourobservation. We see how it is that the popu-lar religions cannot give him what his heartdesires. He acknowledges the existence ofthe gods, but knows that the ordinary ideasabout them do not solve the great problemsof existence. He seeks a wisdom which isjealously guarded by a community of priest-sages. His aspiring soul seeks a refuge inthis community. If he is found by the sages 10
  23. 23. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 1to be sufficiently prepared, he is led up bythem, step by step, to higher knowledge, inplaces hidden from the eyes of outward ob-servers. What then happens to him is con-cealed from the uninitiated. He seems for atime to be entirely renioved from earthly lifeand to be transported into a hidden world. When he reappears in the light of day adifferent, quite transformed person is beforeus. We see a man who cannot find wordssublime enough to express the momentousexperience through which he has passed.Not merely metaphorically but in a most realsense does he seem to have gone through thegate of death and to have awakened to anew and higher life. He is, moreover, quitecertain that no one who has not had a similarexperience can understand his words. This was what happened to those who wereinitiated into the Mysteries, into that secretwisdom withheld from the people and whichthrew light on the greatest questions. This** secret" religion of the elect existed side byside with the popular religion. Its originvanishes, as far as history is concerned, intothe obscurity in which the origin of nations
  24. 24. 12 Christianity as Mystical F^actis lost. We find this secret religion every-where amongst the ancients as far as weknow anything concerning them; and wehear their sages speak of the Mysteries withthe greatest reverence. What was it thatwas concealed in them? And what did theyunveil to the initiate? The enigma becomes still more puzzlingwhen we discover that the ancients lookedupon the Mysteries as something dangerous.The way leading to the secrets of existencepassed through a world of terrors, and woe tohim who tried to gain them unworthily.There was no greater crime than the "be-trayal" of secrets to the uninitiated. The* traitor" was punished with death and theconfiscation of his property. We know thatthe poet y^schylus was accused of havingreproduced on the stage something from theMysteries. He was only able to escapedeath by fleeing to the altar of Dionysos andby legally proving that he had never beeninitiated. What the ancients say about these secretsis significant, but at the same time ambigu-ous. The initiate is convinced that it would
  25. 25. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 13be a sin to tell what he knows and also that itwould be sinful for the uninitiated to listen.Plutarch speaks of the terror of those aboutto be initiated, and compares their state ofmind to preparation for death. A specialmode of life had to precede initiation, tend-ing to give the spirit the mastery over thesenses. and Fasting, solitude, mortifications,certain exercises for the soul were the meansemployed. The things to which man clingsin ordinary life were to lose all their valuefor him. The whole trend of his life of sen-sation and feeling was to be changed. There can be no doubt as to the meaning ofsuch exercises and tests. The wisdom whichwas to be offered to the candidate for initia-tion could only produce the right effect uponhis soul if he had previously purified thelower life of his sensibility. He was intro-duced to the life of the spirit. He was tobehold a higher world, but he could not enterinto relations with that world without pre-vious exercises and tests. The relations thusgained were the condition of initiation. In order to obtain a correct idea on thismatter, it is necessary to gain experience of
  26. 26. 14 Christianity as Mystical Factthe intimate facts of the growth of knowledge.We must feel that there are two widely di-vergent attitudes towards that which thehighest knowledge gives. The world sur-rounding us is to us at first the real one.We feel, hear, and see what goes on in it,and because we thus perceive things with oursenses, we call them real. And we reflectabout events, in order to get an insight intotheir connections. On the other hand, whatwells up in our soul is at first not real to usin the same sense. It is "merely" thoughtsand ideas. At the most we see in them onlyimages of reality. They themselves have noreality, for we cannot touch, see, or hearthem. There is another way of being connectedwith things. A person who clings to the kindof reality described above will hardly under-stand it, but it comes to certain people atsome moment in their lives. To them thewhole connection with the world is completelyreversed. They then call the images whichwell up in the spiritual life of their soulsactually real, and they assign only a lowerkind of reality to what the senses hear, touch,
  27. 27. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 15feel,and see. They know that they cannotprove what they say, that they can onlyrelate their new experiences, and that whenrelating them to others they are in the posi-tion of a man who can see and who impartshis visual impressions to one born blind.They venture to impart their inner expe-riences, trusting that there are others roundthem whose though as yet spiritual eyes,closed, may be opened by the power of whatthey hear. For they have faith in humanityand want to give it spiritual sight. Theycan only lay before it the fruits which theirspirit has gathered. Whether another seesthem, depends on his spiritual eyes beingopened or not. There is something in man which at firstprevents him from seeing with the eyes of thespirit. He is not there for that purpose. Heis what his senses are, and his intellect is onlythe interpreter and judge of them. The senseswould ill fulfil their mission if they did notinsist upon the truth and infallibility of theirevidence. An eye must, from its own pointof view, uphold the absolute reality of itsperceptions. The eye is right as far as it goes,
  28. 28. 1 6 Christianity as Mystical Factand is not deprived of its due by the eye ofthe spirit. The latter only allows us to seethe things of sense in a higher light. Nothingseen by the eye of sense is denied, but a newbrightness, hitherto unseen, from radiateswhat is seen. And then we know that whatwe first saw was only a lower reality. We seethat still, but it is immersed in somethinghigher, which is spirit. It is now a questionof whether we realise and feel what we see.One who lives only in the sensations andfeelings of the senses will look upon impres-sions of higher things as a Fata Morgana, ormere play of fancy. His feelings are entirelydirected towards the things of sense. Hegrasps emptiness when he tries to lay hold ofspirit forms. They withdraw from him whenhe gropes after them. They are just "mere"thoughts. He thinks them, but does notlive inthem. They are images, less real tohim than fleeting dreams. They rise up likebubbles while he is standing in his reality;they disappear before the massive, solidlybuilt reality ofwhich his senses tell him. It is otherwise with one whose perceptionsand feelings with regard to reality have
  29. 29. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 17changed. For him that reality has lost itsabsolute stability and value. His senses andfeelings need not become numbed, but theybegin to be doubtful of their absolute author-ity. They leave room for something else.The world of the spirit begins to animatethe space left. At this point a possibility comes in whichma}^ prove terrible. A man may lose hissensations and feelings of outer reality with-out finding any new reality opening up beforehim. He then feels himself as if suspended inthe void. He feels as if he were dead. Theold values have disappeared and no new oneshave arisen in their place. The world andman no longer exist for him. This, however,is by no means a mere possibility. It hap-pens at some time or other to every one whois seeking for higher knowledge. He comesto a point at which the spirit represents alllife to him as death. He is then no longer in —the world, but under it, in the nether world.He is passing through Hades. Well for himif he sink not Happy if a new world open !up before him ! Either he dwindles away orhe appears to himself transfigured. In the
  30. 30. 1 8 Christianity as Mystical Factlatter case he beholds a new sun and a newearth. The whole world has been bornagain for him out of spiritual fire. It is thus that the initiates describe theeffect of the Mysteries upon them. Menippusrelates that he journeyed to Babylon in orderto be taken to Hades and to be brought backagain by the successors of Zarathustra. Hesays that he swam across the great water onhis wanderings, and that he passed throughfire and ice. We hear that the Mystics wereterrified by a flashing sword, and that bloodflowed. We understand this when we knowfrom experience the point of transition fromlower to higher knowledge. We then feel asif all solid matter and things of sense had dis-solved into water, and as if the ground werecut away from under our feet. Everythingis dead which we felt before to be alive. Thespirit has passed through the life of the senses,as a sword pierces a warm body we have seen ;the blood of sense-nature flow. But a newlife has appeared. We have risen from thenether-world. Tlie orator Aristides relatesthis: "I thought I touched the god andfelt him draw near, and I was then between
  31. 31. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 19waking and sleeping. My spirit was solight that no one who is not initiated canspeak of or understand it." This newexistence is not subject to the laws oflower life. Growth and decay no longeraffect it. One may say much about theEternal, but words of one who has notbeen through Hades are mere sound andsmoke." The initiates have a new concep-tion of life and death. Now for the first timedo they feel they have the right to speakabout immortality. They know that one whospeaks of it without having been initiatedtalks of something which he does not under-stand. The uninitiated attribute immortal-ity only to something which is subject to thelaws of growth and decay. The Mystics,however, did not merely desire to gain theconviction that the kernel of life is eternal.According to the view of the Mysteries, sucha conviction would be quite valueless, forthis view holds that the Eternal is not presentas a living reality in the uninitiated. If suchan one spoke of the Eternal, he would bespeaking of something non-existent. It israther the Eternal itself that the Mystics are
  32. 32. 20 Christianty as Mystical Factseeking. They have first to awaken theEternal within them, then they can speak of it.Hence the hard saying of Plato is quite realto them, that the uninitiated sinks into themire, and that only one who has passedthrough the mystical life enters eternity. Itis only in this sense that the words in thefragment of Sophocles can be understood:"Thrice-blessed are the initiated who cometo the realm of the shades. They alone havelife there. For others there is only miseryand hardship." one therefore not describing dangers when Isspeaking of the Mysteries? Is it not robbinga man of happiness and of the best part of hislife to take him to the portals of the nether-world? Terrible is the responsibility incurredby such an act. And yet ought we to refusethat responsibility? These were the ques-tions which the initiate had to put to himself.He was of opinion that his knowledge borethe same relation to the soul of the peopleas light does to darkness. But innocent hap-piness dwells in that darkness, and the Mys-tics were of opinion that that happinessshould not be sacrilegiously interfered with.
  33. 33. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 21For what would have happened in the firstplace if the Mystic had betrayed his secret?He would have uttered words and only words.The feelings and emotions which would haveevoked the spirit from the words would havebeen absent. To do this preparation, exer-cises, tests, and a complete change in the lifeof sense were necessary. Without this thehearer would have been hurled into emptinessand nothingness. He would have been de-prived of what constituted his happiness,without receiving anything in exchange.One may also say that one could take nothingaway from him, for mere words would changenothing in his life of feeling. He would onlyhave been able to feel and experience realitythrough his senses. Nothing but a terriblemisgiving, fatal to life, would be given him.This could only be construed as a crime. The wisdom of the Mysteries is like a hot-house plant, which must be cultivated andfostered in seclusion. Any one bringing itinto the atmosphere of everyday ideas bringsit into air in which it cannot flourish. Itwithers away to nothing before the causticverdict of modern science and logic. Let us
  34. 34. 22 Christianity as Mystical Fact therefore divest ourselves for a time of theeducation we gained through the microscopeand telescope and the habit of thought de-rived from natural science, and let us cleanseour clumsy hands, which have been too busywith dissecting and experimenting, in orderthat we may enter the pure temple of theMysteries. For this a candid and unbiassedattitude of mind is necessary. The important point for the Mystic is atfirst the frame of mind in which he approachesthat which to him is the highest, the answersto the riddles of existence. Just in our day,when only gross physical science is recognisedas containing truth, it is difficult to believethat in the highest things we depend upon thekey-note of the soul. Knowledge therebybecomes an intimate personal concern. Butthis is what it really is to the Mystic. Tellsome one the solution of the riddle of the uni-verse ! Give it him ready-made The Mys-!tic will find it to be nothing but empty sound,if the personality does not meet the solutionhalf-way in the right manner. The solu-tion in itself is nothing; it vanishes if thenecessary feeling is not kindled at its contact.
  35. 35. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 23A approaches you. divinity It is eithereverything or nothing. Nothing, if you meetit in the frame of mind with which you con-front everyday matters. Everything, if youare prepared, and attuned to the meeting.What the Divinity is in itself is a matterwhich does not affect you; the importantpoint for you is whether it leaves you as itfound you or makes another man of you.But this depends entirely on yourself. Youmust have been prepared by a special educa-tion, by a development of the inmost forcesof your personality for the work of kindlingand releasing what a divinity is able tokindle and release in you. What is broughtto you depends on the reception you giveto it. Plutarch has told us about this education,and which the Mystic offers of the greetingthe divinity approaching him; For thegod, as it were, greets each one who ap-proaches him, with the words, Know thy-self,* which is surely no worse than theordinary greeting, Welcome. Then we an- swer the divinity in the words, Thou art,*and thus we affirm that the true, primordial,
  36. 36. 24 Christianity as Mystical Factand only adequate greeting forhim is todeclare that he is. In that existence we reallyhave no part here, for every mortal being,situated between birth and destruction, mere-ly manifests an appearance, a feeble and un-certain image of itself. If we try to grasp itwith our understanding, it is as when wateris tightly compressed and runs over merelythrough the pressure, spoiling what it touches.For the understanding, pursuing a too defi-nite conception of each being that is subjectto accidents and change, loses its way, nowin the origin of the being, now in its destruc-tion, and is unable to apprehend anythinglasting or really existing. For, as Heraclitussays,we cannot swim twice in the same wave,neither can we lay hold of a mortal beingtwice in the same state, for, through theviolence and rapidity of movement, it isdestroyed and recomposed; it comes intobeing and again decays; it comes and goes.Therefore, that which is becoming can neitherattain real existence, because growth neitherceases nor pauses. Change begins in thegerm, and forms an embryo; then thereappears a child, then a youth, a man, and an
  37. 37. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 25old man; the first beginnings and successiveages are continually annulled by the ensuingones. Hence it is ridiculous to fear one death,when we have already died in so many ways,and are still dying. For, as Heraclitussays, not only is the death of fire the birth ofair, and the death of air the birth of water,but the same change may be still more plainlyseen in man. The strong man dies when hebecomes old, the youth when he becomes aman, the boy on becoming a youth, and thechild on becoming a boy. What existedyesterday dies to-day, what is here to-daywill die to-morrow. Nothing endures or is aunity, but we become many things, whilstmatter wanders around one image, onecommon form. For if we were always thesame, how could we take pleasure in thingswhich formerly did not please us, how couldwe love and hate, admire and blame oppositethings, how could we speak differently andgive ourselvesup to different passions, unlesswe were endowed with a different shape,form, and different senses? For no one canrightly come into a different state withoutchange, and one who is changed is no long^.it
  38. 38. 26 Christianity as Mystical Factthe same; but if he is not the same, he nolonger exists and changed from what he iswas, becoming something else. Sense-per-ception only led us astray, because we do notknow real being, and mistook for it that which is only an appearance." Plutarch often describes himself as aninitiate. What he portrays here is a condi-tion of the life of the Mystic. Man acquiresa kind of wisdom by means of which hisspirit sees through the illusive characterof sense-life. What the senses regard asbeing, or reality, is plunged into the streamof "becoming"; and man is subject to thesame conditions in this respect as all otherthings in the world. Before the eyes of hisspirit he himself dissolves, the sum-total ofhis being is broken up into parts, into fleetingphenomena. Birth and death lose their dis-tinctive meaning, and become moments of ap-pearing and disappearing, just as much as anyother happenings in the world. The Highestcannot be found in the connection betweendevelopment and decay. It can only be, » Plutarchs Moral Works, On the Inscription EJ at elphi, pp. 17-18.ap
  39. 39. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 27sought in what is really abiding, in what looksback to the past and forward to the future. To find that which looks (i. e. the spirit)backwards and forwards is the first stage ofknowledge. This is the spirit, which is mani-festing in and through the physical. It hasnothing to do with physical growth. It doesnot come into being and again decay as dosense-phenomena. One who lives entirelyin the world of sense carries the spirit latentwithin him. One who has pierced throughthe illusion of the world of sense has the spiritwithin him as a manifest reality. The manwho attains to this insight has developed anew principle within him. Something hashappened within him as in a plant when itadds a coloured flower to its green leaves.It is true the forces causing the flower togrow were already latent in the plant beforethe blossom appeared, but they only becameeffective when this took place. Divine,spiritual forces are latent in the man wholives merely through his senses, but theyonly become a manifest reality in the initi-ate. Such is the transformation which takesplace in the Mystic. By his development
  40. 40. 28 Christianity as Mystical Facthe has added a new element to the world.The world of sense made him a human be-ing endowed with senses, and then left himto himself. Nature had thus fulfilled hermission. What she is able to do with thepowers operative in man is exhausted; notso the forces themselves. They lie as thoughspellbound in the merely natural man andawait their release. They cannot releasethemselves. They fade away to nothingunless man upon them and develops seizesthem, unless he calls into actual being whatis latent within him. Nature evolves from the imperfect to theperfect. She leads beings, through a longseries of stages, from inanimate matter,through all living forms up to physical man.Man looks around and finds himself a chang-ing being with physical reality, but he alsoperceives within him the from which forcesthe physical reality arose. These forces arenot what change, for they have given birthto the changing world. They are within manas a sign that there is more life within himthan he can physically perceive. What theymay make man is not yet there. He feels
  41. 41. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 29something flash up within him which createdeverything, including himself, and he feelsthat this will inspire him to higher creativeactivity. This something is within him, itexisted before his manifestation in the flesh,and will exist afterwards. By means of ithe became, but he may lay hold of it andtake part in its creative activity. Such are the feelings animating the Mysticafter initiation. He feels the Eternal andDivine. His activity is to become a part ofthat divine creative activity. He may sayto himself: *I have discovered a higher egowithin me, but that ego extends beyond thebounds of my sense-existence. It existedbefore my birth and will exist after mydeath. This ego has created from all eternity,it will go on creating in all eternity. Myphysical personality is a creation of thisego. But it has incorporated me within it,it works within me, I am a part of it. WhatI henceforth create will be higher than thephysical. My personality is only a meansfor this creative power, for this Divine iswithin me. " Thus did the Mystic experiencehis birth into the Divine.
  42. 42. 30 Christianity as Mystical Fact The Mystic called the power that flashedup within him a daimon. He was himselfthe product of this daimon. seemed toIthim as though another being had enteredhim and taken possession of his organs, abeing standing between his physical person-ality and the all-ruling cosmic power, thedivinity. The Mystic sought this —his daimon. Hesaid to himself: "I have become a humanbeing in mighty Nature, but Nature did notcomplete her task. This completion I musttake in hand myself. But I cannot accom-plish it in the gross kingdom of nature towhich my physical personality belongs. Whatit is possible to develop in that realm hasalready been developed. Therefore I mustleave this kingdom and take up the buildingin the realm of the spirit at the point wherenature left off. I must create an atmosphereof life not to be found in outer nature." This atmosphere of life was prepared forthe Mystic in the Mystery temples. Therethe forces slumbering within him were awak-ened, there he was changed into a highercreative spirit-nature. This transformation
  43. 43. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 31was a delicate process. It could not bear theun tempered atmosphere of everyday life.But when once it was completed, its resultwas that the initiate stood as a rock, risingfrom the eternal and able to defy all storms.But it was impossible for him to reveal hisexperiences to any one unprepared to receivethem. Plutarch says that the Mysteries gave deepunderstanding of the true nature of the dai-mons. And Cicero tells us that from theMysteries, "When they are explained andtraced back to their meaning, we learn the na-ture of things rather than that of the gods." ^From such statements we see clearly thatthere were higher revelations for the Mysticsabout the nature of things than that whichpopular religion was able to impart. Indeedwe see that the daimons, i.e., spiritual beings,and the gods themselves, needed explaining.Therefore initiates went back to beings of ahigher nature than daimons or gods, andthiswas characteristic of the essence of thewisdom of the Mysteries. Plutarch, On the Decline of the Oracles; Cicero On theNature of the Gods.
  44. 44. 32 Christianity as Mystical Fact The people represented the gods and dai- mons in images borrowed from the world of sense-reality. Would not one who had pene- trated into the nature of the Eternal doubt about the eternal nature of such gods as these? How could the Zeus of popular imagination be eternal if he bore within him the qualities of a perishable being? One thing was clear to the Mystics, that man arrives at a conception of the gods in a different way from the conception of other things. An object belonging to the outer world compels us to form a very definite idea of it. In contrast to this, we form our con- ception of the gods in a freer and somewhat arbitrary manner. The control of the outer world is absent. Reflection teaches us that what we conceive as gods is not subject to outer control. This places us in logical un- certainty; we begin to feel that we ourselves are the creators of our gods. Indeed, we ask ourselves how we have arrived at a concep- tion of the universe that goes beyond physi- cal reality. The initiate was obliged to ask himself such questions; his doubts were justi-Lfied. "Look at all representations of the
  45. 45. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 33gods, " he might think to himself. "Are theynot Hke the beings we meet in the world ofsense? Did not man create them for him-self, by giving or withholding from them, inhis thought, some quality belonging to beingsof the sense- world? The savage lover of thechase creates a heaven in which the godsthemselves take part in glorious hunting,and the Greek peopled his Olympus withdivine beings whose models were taken fromhisown surroundings." The philosopher Xenophanes (b.c. 575-480)drew attention to this fact with a crude logic.We know that the older Greek philosopherswere entirely dependent on the wisdom ofthe Mysteries. We will afterwards provethis in detail, beginning with Heraclitus.What Xenophanes says may at once be takenas the conviction of a Mystic. It runsthus: "Men who picture the gods as created intheir own human forms, give them humansenses, voices,and bodies. But if cattle andlions had hands, and knew how to use them,like men, in painting and working, theywould paint the forms of the gods and
  46. 46. 34 Christianity as Mystical Factshape their bodies as their own bodies wereconstituted. Horses would create gods inhorse-form, and cattle would make gods likebulls." Through insight of this kind, man maybegin to doubt the existence of anythingdivine. He may reject all mythology, andonly recognise as reality what is forced uponhim by his sense-perception. But the Mysticdid not become a doubter of this kind. Hesaw that the doubter would be like a plantwere it to say: "My crimson flowers are nulland futile, because I am complete within mygreen leaves. What I may add to them isonly adding illusive appearance." Just aslittle could the Mystic rest content with godsthus created, the gods of the people. If theplant could think, it would understand thatthe forces which created its green leaves arealso destined to create crimson flowers, anditwould not rest till it had investigated thoseforces and come face to face with them.This was the attitude of the Mystic towardsthe gods of the people. He did not denythem, or say they were illusion; but he knewthey had been created by man. The same
  47. 47. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 35 same divine element, which are atforces, thework in nature, are at work in the Mystic.They create within him images of the gods.He wishes to see the force that creates thegods comes from a higher source than these ; itgods. Xenophanes alludes to it thus "There :is one god greater than all gods and men.His form is not like that of mortals, histhoughts are not their thoughts. This god was also the God of the Mysteries.He might have been called a "hidden God,"for man could never find him with his sensesonly. Look at outer things around you, youwill find nothing divine. Exert your reason,you may be able to detect the laws by whichthings appear and disappear, but even yourreason will not show you anything divine.Saturate your imagination with religious feel-ing, and you may be able to create imageswhich you may take to be gods, but yourreason will pull them to pieces, for it willprove to you that you created them yourself,and borrowed the material from the sense-world. So long as you look at outer things inyour quality of simply a reasonable being,you must deny the existence of God for God ;
  48. 48. 36 Christianity as Mystical Factishidden from the senses, and from that rea-son of yours which explains sense-perceptions. God Hes hidden spellbound in the world,and you need His own power to find Him.You must awaken that power in yourself.These are the teachings which were given tothe candidate for initiation. And now him the great there began forcosmic drama with which his life was boundup. The action of the drama meant nothingless than the deliverance of the spellboundgod. Where is God? This was the questionasked by the soul of the Mystic. God is notexistent, but nature exists. And in natureHe must be found. There He has found anenchanted grave. It was in a higher sensethat the Mystic understood the words "Godis love." For God has exalted that loveto its climax, He has sacrificed Himself ininfinite love, He has poured Himself out,fallen into number in the manifold of nature.Things in nature live and He does not live.He slumbers within them. We are able toawaken Him; if we are to give Him exist-ence, we must deliver Him by the creativepower within us.
  49. 49. Mysteries and Their Wisdom 37 The candidate now looks unto himself. Aslatent creative power as yet without existence,the Divine is living in his soul. In the soulis a sacred place where the spellbound godmay wake to liberty. The soul is the motherwho is able to conceive the god by nature. Ifthe soul allows herself to be impregnated bynature, she will give birth to the divine. Godis born from the marriage of the soul with —nature, no longer a "hidden,* but a mani-fest god. He has life, a perceptible life,wandering amongst men. He is the godfreed from enchantment, the offspring of theGod who was hidden by a spell. He is notthe great God, who was and is and is tocome, but yet he may be taken, in a certainsense, as the revelation of Him. The Fatherremains at rest in the unseen the Son is born ;to man out of his own Mystical know- soul.ledge is thus an actual event in the cosmicprocess. It is the birth of the Divine. It isan event as real as any natural event, onlyenacted upon a higher plane. The great secret of the Mystic is that hehimself creates his god, but that he firstprepares himself to recognise the god created
  50. 50. 38 Christianity as Mystical Factby him. The uninitiated manhas no feelingfor the father of that god, for that Fatherslumbers under a spell. The Son appears tobe born of a virgin, the soul having seeminglygiven birth to him without impregnation.All her other children are conceived by thesense-world. Their father may be seen andtouched, having the life of sense. The DivineSon alone is begotten of the hidden, eternal,Divine, Father Himself.
  51. 51. IllTHE GREEK SAGES BEFORE PLATO IN THE LIGHT OF THE WISDOM OF THE MYSTERIESNUMEROUS facts combine to show us that the philosophical wisdom of theGreeks rested on the same mental basis asmystical knowledge. We only understandthe great philosophers when we approachthem with feelings gained through study ofthe Mysteries. With what veneration doesPlato speak of the "secret doctrines* in thePhcedo. "And it almost seems, " says he, "asthough those who have appointed the initia-tions for us are not at all ordinary people,but that for a long time they have been en-joining upon us that any one who reachesHades without being initiated and sanctifiedfalls into the mire but that he ; who is purifiedand consecrated when he arrives, dwells withthe gods. For those who have to do with 39
  52. 52. 40 Christianity as Mystical Factinitiations say that there are many thyrsus-bearers, but few really inspired. These latterare, in my opinion, none other than those whohave devoted themselves in the right way towisdom. I myself have not missed the oppor-tunity of becoming one of these, as far as Iwas able, but have striven after it in everyway." It is only a man who is putting his ownsearch for wisdom entirely at the disposal ofthe condition of soul created by initiationwho could thus speak of the Mysteries. Andthere no doubt that a flood of light is ispoured on the words of the great Greekphilosophers, when we illustrate them fromthe Mysteries. The relation of Heraclitus of Ephesus(535-475 B.C.) to the Mysteries is plainlygiven us in a saying about him, to the effectthat his thoughts "were an impassable road,and that any one, entering upon them with-out being initiated, found only "dimness anddarkness," but that, on the other hand, theywere "brighter than the sun" for any oneintroduced to them by a Mystic. And whenit is said of his book, that he deposited it in
  53. 53. The Greek Sages Before Plato 41the temple of Artemis, this only means thatinitiates alone could understand him. (Ed-mund Pfleiderer has already collected the his-torical evidence for the relation of Heraclitusto the Mysteries. book Die Philosophie Cf, hisdes Heraklit von Ephesiis im Lichte der Mys-terienidee. Berlin, 1886.) Heraclitus wascalled "The Obscure,* because it was onlythrough the Mysteries that light could bethrown on his intuitive views. Heraclitus comes before us as a man whotook life with the greatest earnestness. Wesee plainly from his features, if we know howto reconstruct them, that he bore within himintimate knowledge which he knew that wordscould only indicate, not express. Out ofsuch a temper of mind arose his celebratedutterance, "All things fleet away," whichPlutarch explains thus: "We do not diptwice into the same wave, nor can wetouch twice the same mortal being. Forthrough abruptness and speed it dispersesand brings together, not in succession butsimultaneously. A man who thus thinks has penetrated thenature of transitory things, for he has felt
  54. 54. 42 Christianity as Mystical Factcompelled to characterise the essence of tran-sitoriness itself in the clearest terms. Sucha description as this could not be given,unless the transitory were being measured bythe eternal, and in particular it could not beextended to man without having seen hisinner nature. Heraclitus has extended hischaracterisation to man. "Life and death,waking and sleeping, youth and age are thesame; this in changing is that, and that againthis." In this sentence there is expressedfull knowledge of the illusionary nature ofthe lower personality. He says still moreforcibly, "Life and death are found in ourliving even as in our dying. " What does thismean but that it is only a transient point ofview when we value life more than death?Dying is to perish, in order to make way fornew life, but the eternal is living in the newlife, as in the old. The same eternal appearsin transitory life as in death. When we graspthis eternal, we look upon life and deathwith the same feeling. Life only has a specialvalue when we have not been able to awakenthe eternal within us. The saying, "Allthings fleet away," might be repeated a
  55. 55. The Greek Sages Before Plato 43thousand times, but unless said in this feeling,it is an empty sound. The knowledge ofeternal growth is valueless if it does notdetach us from temporal growth. It is theturning away from that love of life whichimpels towards the transitory, which Heracli-tus indicates in his utterance, "How can wesay about our daily life, We are, when from the standpoint of the eternal we know that*We are and are not? " Fragments of (Cf.Heraclitus, No. 81.) "Hades and Dionysosare one and the same," says one of the Frag-ments. Dionysos, the god of joy in life, ofgermination and growth, to whom the Dionys-iac festivals are dedicated is, for Heraclitus,the same as Hades, the god of destructionand annihilation.Only one who sees deathin life and life in death, and in both theeternal, high above life and death, can viewthe merits and demerits of existence in theright light. Then even imperfections becomejustified, for in them too lives the eternal.What they are from the standpoint of thelimited lower life, they are only in appear-ance, — "The gratification of mens wishes isnot necessarily a happiness for them. Illness
  56. 56. 44 Christianity as Mystical Factmakes health sweet and good, hunger makesfood appreciated, and toil rest." "The seacontains the purest and impurest water,drinkable and wholesome for fishes, it is un-drinkable and injurious to human beings."Here Heraclitus is not primarily drawingattention to the transitoriness of earthlythings, but to the splendour and majesty ofthe eternal. Heraclitus speaks vehemently againstHomer and Hesiod, and the learned men ofhis day. He wished to show up their way ofthinking, which clings to the transitory only.He did not desire gods endowed with quali-ties taken from a perishable world, and hecould not regard as a supreme science, thatscience which investigates the growth anddecay of things. For him, the eternal speaksout of the perishable, and for this eternal hehas a profound symbol. "The harmony ofthe world returns upon itself, like that of thelyre and the bow. " What depths are hiddenin this image! By the pressing asunder offorces, and again by the harmonising of thesedivergent forces, unity is attained. How onesound contradicts another, and yet, together,
  57. 57. The Greek Sages Before Plato 45they produce harmony. If we apply this tothe Spiritual world, we have the thought ofHeraclitus, Immortals are mortal, mortals immortal, living the death of mortals, dyingthe life of the Immortals." It is mans original fault to direct his cogni-tion to the transitory. Thereby he turnsaway from the eternal, and life becomes adanger to him. What happens to him, comesto him through life, but its events lose theirsting if he ceases to set unconditioned valueon life. In that case his innocence is restoredto him. It is as though he were from theso-called seriousness of life able to return tohis childhood. The adult takes many things which a child merely plays,seriously withbut one who really knows, becomes like achild. "Serious" values lose their value,looked at from the standpoint of eternity.Life then seems like a play. On this accountdoes Heraclitus say, "Eternity is a child atplay, it is the reign of a child." Where doesthe original fault lie? In taking with theutmost seriousness what does not deserve tobe so taken. God has poured Himself intothe universe of things. If we take these
  58. 58. 46 Christianity as Mystical Factthings and leave God unheeded, we take themin earnest as "the tombs of God." Weshould play with them like a child, and shouldearnestly strive to awaken forth from themGod, who sleeps spellbound within them. Contemplation of the eternal acts like aconsuming fire on ordinary illusions aboutthe nature of things. The spirit breaks upthoughts which come through the senses,it fuses them. This is the higher meaning ofthe Heraclitean thought, that fire is the pri-mary element This thought is of all things.certainly to be taken at first as an ordinaryphysical explanation of the phenomena ofthe universe. But no one understands Hera-clitus who does not think of him in the sameway as Philo, living in the early days ofChristianity, thought of the laws of the Bible."There are people," he says, "who take thewritten laws merely as symbols of spiritualteaching, who diligently search for the latter,but despise the laws themselves. I can onlyblame such, for they should pay heed to both,to knowledge of the hidden meaning and toobserving the obvious one." If the questionis discussed whether Heraclitus meant by
  59. 59. The Greek Sages Before Plato 47*fire" physical fire, or whether fire for himwas only a symbol of eternal spirit whichdissolves and reconstitutes all things, this isputting a wrong construction upon histhought. He meant both and neither ofthese things. For spirit was also alive, forhim, in ordinary fire, and the force which isphysically active in fire lives on a higherplane in the human soul, which melts in itscrucible mere sense-knowledge, so that outof this the contemplation of the eternal mayarise. It is very easy to misunderstand Heracli-tus. He makes Strife the Father of things, but only of "things," not of the eternal. Ifthere were no contradictions in the world, ifthe most multifarious interests were notopposing each other, the world of becoming,of transitory things, would not exist. Butwhat is revealed in this antagonism, what ispoured forth into it, is not strife but har-mony. Just because there is strife in allthings, the spirit of the wise should passover them like a breath of fire, and changethem into harmony. At this point there shines forth one of the
  60. 60. 48 Christianity as Mystical Factgreat thoughts of Heraditean wisdom. Whatis man as a personal being? From the abovepoint of view Heraditus is able to answer.Man iscomposed of the conflicting elementsinto which divinity has poured itself. Inthis state he finds himself, and beyond thisbecomes aware of the spirit within him, the —spirit which is rooted in the eternal. Butthe spirit itself is born, for man, out of theconflict of elements, and it is the first whichhas to calm them. In man, Nature surpassesher natural limits. It is indeed the sameuniversal which created antagonism forceand the mixture of elements which is after-wards, by its wisdom, to do away with theconflict. Here we arrive at the eternaldualism which lives in man, the perpetualantagonism between the temporal and theeternal. Through the eternal he has be-come something quite definite, and out ofthis, he is to create something higher. He isboth dependent and independent. He canonly participate in the eternal Spirit whomhe contemplates, in the measure of the com-pound of elements which that eternal Spirithas effected within him. And it is just on
  61. 61. The Greek Sages Before Plato 49this account that he is upon to fashion calledthe eternal out of the temporal. The spiritworks within him, but works in a special way.It works out of the temporal. It is thepeculiarity of the human soul that a tem-poral thing should be able to work like aneternal one, should grow and increase inpower like an eternal thing. This is why thesoul is at once like a god and a worm. Man,owing to this, stands in a mid-position be-tween God and animals. The growing andincreasing force within him is his daimonic —element, that within him which pushes outbeyond himself. "Mans daimon is his destiny.* Thusstrikingly does Heraclitus make referenceto this fact. He extends mans vital es-sence far beyond the personal. The per-sonality is the vehicle of the daimon, whichis not confined within the limit of the per-sonality, and which the birth and death forof the personality are of no importance.What is the relation of the daimonic ele-ment to the personality which comes andgoes? The personality is only a form for themanifestation of the daimon.
  62. 62. 50 Christianity as Mystical Fact One who has arrived at this knowledgelooks beyond himself, backwards and for-wards. The daimonic experiences throughw^hich he has passed are enough to proveto him his own immortality. And he can nolonger limit his daimon to the one functionof occupying his personality, for the lattercan only be one of the forms in which thedaimon is manifested. The daimon cannot beshut up within one personality, he has powerto animate many. He is able to transformhimself from one personality into another.The great thought of reincarnation springsas a matter of course from the Heracliteanpremises, and not only the thought but theexperience of the fact. The thought onlypaves the way for the experience. One whobecomes conscious of the daimonic elementwithin him does not recognise it as innocentand He finds that in its first stage. it hasqualities. Whence do they come? Whyhave I certain natural aptitudes? Becauseothers have already worked upon my dai-mon. And what becomes of the work whichI accomplish in the daimon if Iam not toassume that its task ends with my personal-
  63. 63. The Greek Sages Before Plato 51ity? I am working for a future personality.Between me and the Spirit of the Universe,something interposes which reaches beyondme, but is not yet the same as divinity. Thissomething is my daimon. My to-day isonly the product of yesterday, my to-morrowwill be the product of to-day; in the sameway my Hfe is the result of a former and willbe the foundation of a future one. Just asmortal man looks back to innumerable yes-terdays and forward to many to-morrows, sodoes the soul of the sage look upon manylives in his past and many in the future. Thethoughts and aptitudes I acquired yesterdayI am using to-day. Is not the same with itlife? Do not people enter upon the horizonof existence with the most diverse capacities?Whence this difference? Does it proceedfrom nothing? Our natural sciences take much credit tothemselves for having banished miracle fromour views of organic life. David Frederick und Neuer Glaube, con-Strauss, in his Altersiders it a great achievement of our daythat we no longer think that a perfectorganic being is a miracle issuing from no-
  64. 64. 52 Christianity as Mystical Factthing. We understand its perfection when weare able to explain it as a development fromimperfection. The structure of an ape is nolonger a miracle if we assume its ancestors tohave been primitive fishes which have beengradually transformed. Let us at least sub-mit to accept as reasonable in the domainof spirit what seems to us to be right in thedomain of nature. Is the perfect spirit tohave the same antecedents as the imperfectone? Does a Goethe have the same ante-cedents as any Hottentot? The antecedentsof an ape are as unlike those of a fish as arethe antecedents of Goethes mind unlikethose of a savage. The spiritual ancestry ofGoethes soul is a different one from that ofthe savage soul. The soul has grown as wellas the body. The daimon in Goethe hasmore progenitors than the one in a savage.Let us take the doctrine of reincarnation inthis sense, and we shall no longer find itunscientific. We be able to explain shallin the right way what we find in our souls,and we shall not take what we find as ifcreated by a miracle. If I can write, it isowing to the fact that I learned to write. No
  65. 65. The Greek Sages Before Plato 53one who has a pen in his hand for the firsttime can sit down and write offhand. Butone who has come into the world with "thestamp of genius," must he owe it to amiracle? No, even the "stamp of genius"must be acquired. It must havebeen learned.And when it appears in a person, we call it adaimon. This daimon too must have been toschool it acquired in a former life what it puts ;into force in a later one. In this form, and this form only, did thethought of eternity pass before the mind ofHeraclitus and other Greek sages. Therewas no question with them of a continuanceof the immediate personality after death.Compare some verses of Empedocles (b.c.490-430). He says of those who accept thedata of experience as miracles:Foolish and ignorant they, and do not reach farwith their thinking,Who suppose that what has not existed can come into being,Or that something may die away wholly and vanish completely;Impossible is it that any beginning can come from Not-Being,
  66. 66. 54 Christianity as Mystical FactQuite impossible also that being" can fade into nothing;For wherever a being is driven, there will it continue to be.Never will any believe, who has been in these matters instructed,That spirits of men only live while what is called life here endures,That only so long do they live, receiving their joys and their sorrows,But that ere they were born here and when they are dead, they are nothing. The Greek sage did not even raise thequestion whether there was an eternal part inman, but only enquired in what this eternalelement consisted and how man can nourishand cherish it in himself. For from the out-set it was clear to him that man is an inter-mediate creation between the earthly and thedivine. It was not a question of a divinebeing outside and beyond the world. Thedivine lives in man but lives in him only in ahuman way. It is the force urging man tomake himself ever more and more divine.Only one who thinks thus can say withEmpedocles
  67. 67. The Greek Sages Before Plato 55When leaving thy body behind thee, thou soar- est into the ether,Then thou becomest a god, immortal, not subject to death. What may be done for a human life fromthis point of view? It may be introducedinto the magic circle of the eternal. For inman there must be forces which merelynatural life does not develop. And the lifemight pass away unused if the forces re-mained idle. To open them up, thereby tomake man like the divine, —this was the taskof the Mysteries. And this was also themission which the Greek sages set beforethemselves. In this way we can understandPlatos utterance, that "he who passes un-sanctified and uninitiated into the worldbelow will lie in a slough, but that he whoarrives there after initiationand purificationwill dwell with the gods." We have to dohere with a conception of immortality, thesignificance of which lies bound up within theuniverse. Everything which man under-takes in order to awaken the eternal withinhim, he does in order to raise the value of theworlds existence. The fresh knowledge he
  68. 68. 56 Christianity as Mystical Factgains does not make him an idle spectatorof the universe, forming images for himselfof what would be there just as much he did ifnot exist. The force of his knowledge is ahigher one, it is one of the creative forces ofnature. What up within him spiritu- flashesally is something divine which was previouslyunder a spell, and which, failing the know-ledge he has gained, must have lain fallowand waited for some other exorcist. Thus ahuman personality does not live in and foritself, but for the world. Life extends farbeyond individual existence when looked atin this way. From within such a point ofview we can understand utterances like thatof Pindar giving a vista of the eternal:* Happy is he who has seen the Mysteriesand then descends under the hollow earth.He knows the end of life, and he knows thebeginning promised by Zeus." We understand the proud traits andsolitary nature of sages such as Heraclitus.They were able to say proudly of themselvesthat much had been revealed to them, forthey did not attribute their knowledge totheir transitory personality, but to the eter-
  69. 69. The Greek Sages Before Plato 57nal daimon within them. Their pride had asa necessary adjunct the stamp of humihtyand modesty, expressed in the words, "Allknowledge of perishable things is in perpetualflux like the things themselves." Heraclituscalls the eternal universe a play, he could alsocall it the most serious of realities. But theword "earnest " has lost its force through beingapplied to earthly experiences. On the otherhand, the realisation of "the play of theeternal" leaves man that security in life ofwhich he is deprived by that earnest whichhas come out of transitory things. A different conception of the universefrom that of Heraclitus grew up, on the basisof the Mysteries, in the community foundedby Pythagoras in the 6th century B.C. inSouthern Italy. The Pythagoreans saw thebasis of things in the numbers and geometri-cal figures of which they investigated thelaws by means of mathematics. Aristotlesays of them: "They first studied mathe-matics, and, quite engrossed in them, theyconsidered the elements of mathematicsto be the elements of all things. Now asnumbers are naturally the first thing in mathe-
  70. 70. 58 Christianity as Mystical Factmatics, and they thought they saw manyresemblances in numbers to things and todevelopment, and certainly more in numbersthan in fire, earth, and water, in this way onequality of numbers came to mean for themjustice, another, the soul and spirit, another,time, and so on with all the rest. Moreoverthey found in numbers the qualities andconnections of harmony and thus everything ;else, accordance with its whole nature, inseemed to be an image of numbers, andnumbers seemed to be the first thing innature." The mathematical and scientific study ofnatural phenomena must always lead to acertain Pythagorean habit of thought. Whena string of a certain length is struck, a par-ticular sound is produced. If the string isshortened in certain numeric proportions,other sounds will be produced. The pitchof the sounds may be expressed in figures.Physics also expresses colour-relations infigures. When two bodies combine into onesubstance, always happens that a certain itdefinite quantity of the one body, expressiblein numbers, combines with a certain definite
  71. 71. The Greek Sages Before Plato 59quantity of the other. The Pythagoreans*sense of observation was directed to sucharrangements of measures and numbers innature. Geometrical figures also play a sim-ilar role. Astronomy, for instance, is mathe-matics applied to the heavenly bodies. Onefact became important to the thought -lifeof the Pythagoreans. This was that man,quite alone and purely through his mentalactivity, discovers the laws of numbers andfigures, and yet, that when he looks abroadinto nature, he finds that things are obeyingthe same laws which he has ascertained forhimself in his own mind. Man forms theidea of an ellipse, and ascertains the laws ofellipses. And the heavenly bodies move ac-cording to the laws which he has established.(It is not, of course, a question here of theastronomical views of the Pythagoreans.What may be said about these may equallybe said of Copernican views in the connectionnow being dealt with.) Hence it follows asa direct consequence that the achievementsof the human soul are not an activity apartfrom the rest of the world, but that in thoseachievements the cosmic laws are expressed.
  72. 72. 6o Christianity as Mystical FactThe Pythagoreans said: "The senses showman physical phenomena, but they do notshow the harmonious order which these thingsfollow." The human mind must first findthat harmonious order within itself, if itwishes to behold it in the outer world. Thedeeper meaning of the world, that which bearssway within it as an eternal, law-obeyingnecessity, thismakes its appearance in thehuman soul and becomes a present realitythere. THE meaning of the universe isREVEALED in the soul. This meaning is notto be found in what we see, hear, and touch,but in what the soul brings up to the lightfrom its own unseen depths. The eternallaws are thus hidden in the depths of thesoul. If we descend there, we shall find theEternal. God, the eternal harmony of theworld, is in the human soul. The soul-element is not limited to the bodily substancewhich is enclosed within the skin, for what isborn in the soul is nothing less than the lawsby which worlds revolve in celestial space.The soul is not in the personality. The per-sonality only serves as the organ throughwhich the order which pervades cosmic space
  73. 73. The Greek Sages Before Plato 6imay express itself. There is something of thespirit of Pythagoras in what one of theFathers, Gregory of Nyssa, said: It is saidthat human nature is something small andlimited, and that God is and it infinite,is asked how the finite can embrace theinfinite. But who dares to say that the in-finity of the Godhead is limited by the boun-dary of the flesh, as though by a vessel?For not even during our lifetime is the spirit-ual nature confined within the boundaries ofthe flesh. The mass of the body, it is true,is limited by neighbouring but the parts,soul reaches out freely into the whole ofcreation by the movements of thought." The soul is not the personality, the soulbelongs to infinity. From such a point ofview the Pythagoreans must have consideredthat only fools could imagine the soul-forceto be exhausted with the personality. For them, too, as for Heraclitus, the essen-tial point was the awakening of the eternalin the personal. them meant Knowledge forintercourse with the eternal. The moreman brought the eternal element within himinto existence, the greater must he neces-
  74. 74. 62 Christianity as Mystical Factsarily seem to the Pythagoreans. Life intheir community consisted in holding inter-course with the eternal. The object of thePythagorean education was to lead the mem-bers of the community to that intercourse.The education was therefore a philosophicalinitiation, and the Pythagoreans might wellsay that by their manner of life they wereaiming at a goal similar to that of the cultsof the Mysteries.
  75. 75. IV PLATO AS A MYSTICTHE importance of the Mysteries to the spiritual life of the Greeks may berealised from Platos conception of the uni-verse. There is only one way of understand-ing him thoroughly. It is to place him inthe light which streams forth from theMysteries. Platos later disciples, the Neo-Platonists,credit him with a secret doctrine which heimparted only to those who were worthy, andwhich he conveyed under the seal ofsecrecy." His teaching was looked upon asmysterious in the same sense as the wisdomof the Mysteries. Even if the seventh Pla-tonic letter is not from his hand, as is al-leged, it does not signify for our presentpurpose, for it does not matter whether itwas he or another who gave utterance to the 63
  76. 76. 64 Christianity as Mystical Factview expressed in this letter. This view is ofthe essence of Platos philosophy. In theletter we read as follows: "This much Imay say about all those who have writtenor may hereafter write they knew the as if —aim of my work, that no credence is to beattached to their words, whether they ob-tained their information from me, or fromothers, or invented it themselves. have Iwritten nothing on this subject, nor wouldanything be allowed to appear. This kindof thing cannot be expressed in words likeother teaching, but needs a long study ofthe subject and a making oneself one withit. Then it is as though a spark leapedup and kindled a light in the soul whichthereafter is able to keep itself alight.*This utterance might only indicate the writ-ers powerlessness to express his meaningin words, —a mere personal weakness, — if theidea of the Mysteries were not to be foundin them. The subject on which Plato hadnot written and would never write, must besomething about which all writing would befutile. It must be a feeling, a sentiment, anexperience, which is not gained by instan-
  77. 77. Plato as a Mystic 65taneous communication, but by making one-self one with it, in heart and soul. Thereference is to the inner education whichPlato was able to give those he selected.For them, fire flashed forth from his words,for others, only thoughts. The manner of ourapproach to PlatosDialogues is not a matter of indifference.They will mean more or less to us, accord-ing to our spiritual condition. Much morepassed from Plato to his disciples than theliteral meaning of his words. The place wherehe taught his listeners thrilled in the atmos-phere of the Mysteries. His words awokeovertones in higher regions, which vibratedwith them, but these overtones needed theatmosphere of the Mysteries, or they diedaway without having been heard. In the centre of the world of the PlatonicDialogues stands the personality of Socrates.We need not here touch upon the historicalaspect of that personality. It is a questionof the character of Socrates as it appears inPlato. Socrates is a person consecrated byhis dying for truth. He died as only aninitiate can die, as one to whom death is 5
  78. 78. 66 Christianity as Mystical Factmerely a moment of life like other moments.He approaches death as he would any otherevent in existence. His attitude towards itwas such that even in his friends the feelingsusual on such an occasion were not aroused.Phasdo says this in the Dialogue on the Im-mortality of the Soul: Truly I found myselfin the strangest state of mind. I had nocompassion for him, as is usual at the deathof a dear friend. So happy did the manappear to me demeanour and speech, in hisso steadfast and noble was his end, that Iwas confident that he was not going to Hadeswithout a divine mission, and that even thereit would be as well with him as it is with anyone anywhere. No tender-hearted emotionovercame me, as might have been expectedat such a mournful event, nor on the otherhand was I in a cheerful mood, as is usualduring philosophical pursuits, and althoughour conversation was of this nature; but Ifound myself in a wondrous state of mindand in an unwonted blending of joy and griefwhen I reflected that this man was about todie." The dying Socrates instructs his dis-ciples about immortality. His personality,
  79. 79. Plato as a Mystic 67which had learned by experience the worth-lessness of Hfe, furnishes a kind of proofquite different from logic and argumentsfounded on reason. It seems as if it were nota man speaking, for this man was passingaway, but as if it were the voice of eternaltruth itself, which had taken up its abode ina perishable personality. Where a mortalbeing is dissolving into nothing, there seemsto be a breath of the air in which it is possiblefor eternal harmonies to resound. We hear no logical proofs of immortality.The whole discourse is designed to lead thefriends where they may behold the eternal.Then they will need no proofs. Would it benecessary to prove that a rose is red, to onewho has one before him? Why should it benecessary to prove that spirit is eternal, toone whose eyes we have opened to beholdspirit? Experiences, inner events, Socratespoints to them, and first of all to the ex-perience of wisdom itself. What does he desire who aspires afterwisdom? He wishes to free himself fromwhat the senses offer him in every-day per-ception. He seeks for the spirit in the sense-
  80. 80. 68 Christianity as Mystical Factworld. Is not this a fact which may becompared with dying? ** For, " according toSocrates, who occupy themselves "thosewith philosophy in the right way are reallystriving after nothing else than to die and tobe dead, without this being perceived byothers. If this is true, it would be strange if,after having aimed at this all through life,when death itself comes they should be in-dignant at that which they have so longstriven after and taken pains about."To corroborate this, Socrates asks one ofhis friends: "Does it seem to you befitting aphilosopher to take trouble about so-calledfleshly pleasures, such as eating and drink-ing? or about sexual pleasures? And do youthink that such a man pays much heed toother bodily needs? To have fine clothes,shoes, and other bodily adornments, — do youthink he considers or scorns this more thanutmost necessity demands? Does it notseem to you that it should be such a manswhole preoccupation not to turn his thoughtsto the body, but as much as possible awayfrom it and towards the soul? Thereforethis is the first mark of the philosopher, that
  81. 81. Plato as a Mystic 69he, more than all other men, relieves hissoul of association with the body. On this subject Socrates has somethingmore to say, i. e., that aspiration after wis-dom has this much in common with dying,that it turns man away from the physical.But whither does he turn? Towards thespiritual. But can he desire the same fromspirit as from the senses? Socrates thusexpresses himself on this point: "But howis it with reasonable knowledge itself? Is thebody a hindrance or not, if we take it as acompanion in our search for knowledge? Imean, do sight and hearing procure man anytruth? Or is what the poets sing meaningless,that we see and hear nothing clearly? . . .When does the soul catch sight of truth?For when it tries to examine something withthe help of the body, it is manifestly deceivedby the latter." Everything of which we are cognisant bymeans of our bodily senses appears and dis-appears. And it is this appearing and dis-appearing which is the cause of our beingdeceived. But when with our reasonable in-telligence we look deeper into things, the
  82. 82. 70 Christianity as Mystical Fact eternal element in them is revealed to us. Thus the senses do not offer us the eternal in its true form. The moment we trust them implicitly they deceive us. They cease to deceive us if we confront them with our thinking insight and submit what they tell us to its examination.^ But how could our thinking insight sit in judgment on the declarations of the senses,unless there were something living within it which transcends sense-perception? There-fore the truth or falsity in things is decidedby something within us which opposes thephysical body and is consequently not sub-ject to its laws. First of all, it cannot besubject to the laws of growth and decay.For thissomething contains truth within it.Now truth cannot have a yesterday and ato-day, it cannot be one thing one day andanother the next, like objects of sense.Therefore truth must be something eternal.And when the philosopher turns away fromthe perishable things of sense and towardstruth, he is turning towards an eternal ele-ment that lives within him. If we immerseourselves wholly in spirit, we shall live wholly