Lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Dornach, 19th January, 1911. Translated by Walter F. Knox and published for the first time in English in 1927 by permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung. This lecture is number nine of fifteen in the lecture series entitled, Spiritual Science's Answer to the Large Questions of the Present Time, and published in German as, Antworten der Geisteswissenschaft auf den Grossen Fragen des Daseins. This lecture is also in the lecture series entitled, Turning Points in Spiritual History. It is contained in Volume No. 60 of the Complete Centenary Edition of Rudolf Steiner's works.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, this lecture has been made available to everyone.
By RUDOLF STEINER
AMONG the ideas advanced by Spiritual Science, that of Reincarnation occupies a foremost place. The idea that the human individuality has to manifest over and over again in a single personality in the course of the development of mankind on the Earth is at present but little understood, and, moreover, it is generally unpopular. As we have seen and shall still see, many questions arise in Spiritual Science, among them that of the meaning of repeated earthly lives.
When we study the evolution of human life on Earth in the light of Spiritual Science, we find that there is a very deep meaning behind the fact that the human individuality passes, not only once, but many times through earthly life. Every epoch and every age has its special content, its special characteristics, and all the varied possibilities which it offers have to be assimilated over and over again by the individual life-germs of man. This is possible because man, with all that composes his being, is connected not once and for all, but over and over again with the living stream of evolution. Looking upon this evolution as a rational progress into which new contents, new qualities are poured, we begin to realise the true significance of those Great Ones who have been the leading and guiding spirits of the different epochs. From each of these Great Ones, new qualities, new impulses for the progressive evolution of humanity have emanated and in the course of these lectures we shall be considering important questions connected with such leaders of mankind.
To-day our attention is turned to an individuality who, so far as historical investigation goes, is shrouded in mystery — an individuality lost in dim prehistoric ages, of whom no documentary records exist. I refer to the personality of Zarathustra.
A personality such as that of Zarathustra, whose gifts to humanity, in so far as they are preserved for us, seem so strange to the present age, makes us realise what great differences arise in the sum total of human nature during the various epochs. Superficial opinion may state that ever since man has been man, he has thought, felt and conceived ideas of morality exactly as he does to-day. But Spiritual Science shows us that the life of the human soul and the nature of man's thought, feeling and will, have undergone great changes in the course of human evolution. Human consciousness in olden times was of quite a different nature and we have reason to believe that, in the future, other stages of consciousness will be reached, again very different from the normal consciousness of to-day.
When we turn our attention to Zarathustra, we must look back over an infinitely long period of time. It is true that certain modern investigators have fixed the date of Zarathustra as contemporary with that of Buddha, which would mean that he lived some five or six centuries before the Christian era. It is however significant that our modern historians, after careful investigation of the traditions referring to Zarathustra, have been obliged to indicate that the personality hidden beneath the name of “Zarathustra,” the original founder of the Persian religion, must be placed a great many centuries before Buddha. Greek historians have repeatedly pointed out that Zarathustra must have lived about five or six thousand years before the Trojan War. We are prepared to state that historical research will, however unwillingly, eventually be forced to admit that the Greek tradition is correct in regard to the epoch in which Zarathustra lived. Spiritual Science, which is based on inner knowledge, agrees with the Greek tradition and it is therefore reasonable to indicate that Zarathustra, living as he did thousands of years before the birth of Christianity, was confronted by a consciousness entirely different from that of the present day.
I have often pointed out, and I shall explain it further, that human consciousness in ancient times was bound up with certain dream states, or rather clairvoyant states, in normal human life. Primeval man did not contemplate the world with the strong, clearly-defined sense perceptions of to-day. We shall best understand the way in which man of those primeval times took his environment into his consciousness, if we think of a last remnant of the ancient consciousness, still left to us in dreams. Everybody knows how dream images appear and disappear, how they emerge and fade away. To our present consciousness they are for the most part dream pictures, meaningless reminiscences of the outer world. Interwoven though they are with higher states of consciousness, they are incomprehensible to people of our time. Images, ever-changing pictures, symbols — of these our dream consciousness consists. Everyone has experienced how a fire, for instance, is symbolised in a dream. Think of the difference between a dream and ordinary waking consciousness. Such as it is, this dream state represents the remnant of a primeval consciousness of man. Man then lived in a world of images — images not vague or empty but proceeding from a real external world. In this ancient consciousness there were intermediate states between waking and sleep and in these states man was face to face with the spiritual world. The spiritual world actually entered into his consciousness. Nowadays the door into the spiritual world is locked against the normal consciousness of man, but this was not the case in olden times; for he then entered into those intermediate states between waking and sleep when the spiritual world appeared before him in dreamlike images. In these dreamlike images he saw the working and the weaving of the spirit behind the physical world of sense. He had direct experience of the spiritual world, although by the time of Zarathustra this was already indistinct and dim. A man of antiquity could say to himself: “I behold the outer physical world and the life of sense, but I also have experiences and perceptions in a different state of consciousness; I know that there is another world behind the world of sense — a spiritual world.”
Evolution consists in one faculty being acquired at the expense of another, and thus as the epochs took their course, the faculty which man once possessed of understanding the spiritual world became less and less. Our clear reasoning and cognitional faculties, our present logical thinking which we regard as the most important feature of modern culture — these did not exist in those early times. They had to be developed by man in the epoch to which we now belong, at the expense of the old clairvoyant consciousness. Clairvoyant consciousness will have to be cultivated again in the future evolution of mankind, but in a different way. It has to be added to the purely physical consciousness that is bound up with the faculty of intellectual logic. A rising and a falling can be traced in the evolution of human consciousness and we see therein a deep purpose in man's development.
The old consciousness described above dates back to a prehistoric age of which there is no documentary evidence. Zarathustra himself belongs to this age of which, as yet, no historical traditions have reached us. He was one of those leading personalities who gave a stimulus for great steps forward in the civilisation of mankind. Whatever the level of human consciousness at the time, these leading personalities must always draw from the source which we may call Illumination, Initiation into the higher mysteries of the universe. Among such personalities were Hermes, Buddha and Moses, as well as Zarathustra, whom we are to study in the course of these lectures.
Zarathustra lived at least eight thousand years before our present era, and the gifts to civilisation which poured from his enlightened spirit shine forth clearly across the centuries. Those who penetrate into the inner currents of human evolution can detect them even after this lapse of time. Zarathustra was one of those whose soul had experienced Truth, Wisdom and Intuition to an extent far transcending the normal consciousness of the age. In that part of the Earth which later on was known as the Persian Empire, Zarathustra proclaimed mighty truths from the super-sensible worlds — regions lying far above the normal consciousness of the men of that time.
If we would understand the significance of Zarathustra's teaching, we must realise that his mission was to communicate a certain conception of the universe to one particular section of humanity, while other streams had, as it were, a different mission in human culture. The personality of Zarathustra is all the more interesting to us in that he lived in a part of the world directly adjoining on its South side another land whose people transmitted an entirely different order of spirituality to mankind. I refer to the peoples of India, from whom arose the Vedic poets. The region permeated with the mighty impulse of Zarathustra lies to the North of the land from which the great teaching of Brahma went forth. Zarathustra's message to the world was fundamentally different from the Brahministic teachings of the great leaders of ancient Indian thought. These Indian teachings have come down to us in the Vedas, and in the profound philosophy of the Vedanta, of which the revelations of Buddha represent, as it were, the final splendour.
We shall understand the difference between the two thought currents — the one proceeding from Zarathustra and the other from the ancient Indian teachings — when we consider that man can reach the spiritual world along two paths of approach. There are two ways by which we may raise the inner powers of the soul above their normal level so that we may pass from the world of the senses into the super-sensible world. One way is to penetrate deeply into our own souls, to immerse ourselves, as it were, in our inner being. The other way leads behind the veils spread around us by the physical world. Both ways lead into the super-sensible world. If in the intimate experiences of soul life we so deepen our feelings, ideas, and impulses that the powers of soul grow stronger and stronger, we can descend mystically into the “Self.” Passing through that part of our being which belongs to the physical world, we may indeed find our real spiritual essence — the imperishable essence that passes from incarnation to incarnation. When we pierce through the veil of the inner being with all the desires, passions and inner experiences of soul (which are only one part of us in so far as we live in a physical body) we then reach our eternal essence and enter a world of spirit. On the other hand, if we develop powers which not only perceive the physical world with its sounds, colours, sensations of warmth and cold — if we so strengthen our spiritual powers that they can penetrate behind the encircling veil of colour, sound, warmth, cold and other physical phenomena — then our strengthened spiritual forces will reach the super-sensible worlds, stretching before us into boundless distances, into infinity. The first way is that of the Mystic; the second the way of Spiritual Science. It was along one of these two ways that the great teachers attained to the revelations of truth which they had to inculcate into mankind as the basis of culture.
In primeval times the evolution of humanity was such that only one of the two ways was open to a particular people. Only later, in the Greek epoch (coinciding with the beginning of the Christian era) did these two currents mingle and gradually become a single current of culture. When we speak to-day of the ascent into higher worlds, it is right to state that the man who would make the ascent must to a certain extent develop both kinds of spiritual powers within his soul — the mystical powers on the path into the inner self and the powers developed by Spiritual Science as it penetrates the outer world. To-day these two paths are no longer strictly separate from one another, for it is part of the purpose of human evolution that the two currents should meet. Before the Greek and Christian eras these two methods of development were practised by different peoples living in regions not very far apart in space. We find traces of them in ancient Indian culture, in the Vedic songs and in the Zarathustrian civilisation to the North. All that we so greatly admire in the old Indian culture — which later on found expression in Buddhism — all this was attained through inner contemplation, by turning away from the outer world. The eye had to become insensitive to physical colour, the ear to physical sound, the senses to turn away from outer impressions, and finally, with his inner powers of soul made strong, man attained to Brahma. In Brahma, he felt himself united with the inner being of the Cosmos, moving and creative. And so there arose the teaching of the Holy Rishis which flowed into the Vedas and lived on in the Vedantic philosophy and in Buddhism.
The other path springs from the teachings of Zarathustra. Zarathustra handed down to his disciples the secret of how to strengthen the powers of understanding in order to penetrate the veil of the outer world of sense. Zarathustra did not teach as did the Indian mystics: “Turn away from colours, sounds and all the outer impressions of the senses, and seek the way into the spiritual worlds entirely by means of inner contemplation, in your own soul life.” On the contrary, Zarathustra taught: “Strengthen the powers of knowledge and understanding for everything that lives, be it plant or animal; understand all living things in air and water, on the mountain heights or in the valleys. Look upon this world!” We know that for the Indian mystic, this world was Maya — illusion; he turned from it in order to find Brahman; but Zarathustra taught his disciples rather to penetrate the world with understanding and to feel, behind the outer realm of physical phenomena, the reality of a spiritual power, active and creative. This is the other path.
It is remarkable how these two paths converge in the Greek age, where the understanding of things spiritual was far deeper than it is in our time. This understanding was expressed in symbolical imagery, in mythology. The two thought currents, the mystic path into the inner self and the other leading into the outer Cosmos, blended in Greek culture. One current derived its name from the mystical God Dionysus, the mysterious being who was to be found when a man descended more and more deeply into his inner being and there discovered the sub-human element which formerly he did not know, and from which he evolved into full manhood. This element, still unpurified, still partly animal, was known by the name of Dionysus. The other element, in which the eyes of spirit beheld the phenomena of the physical world, was expressed by the name of Apollo [See Chapter VI. of “The East in the Light of the West” by Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophical Publishing Company]. Thus we find the teachings of Zarathustra expressed in the cult of Apollo and the mystic doctrine of contemplation in the cult of Dionysus in Greece. In ancient times, these two currents arose separately, but in the Apollonian and Dionysian cults they were united and blended. If we, in our modern culture, undergo a true spiritual training, we can re-experience them both in one.
Nietzsche had an inkling of the significant difference between the cults of Apollo and Dionysus. True, he did not enter very deeply into the matter, but in his first Essay, “The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music,” he shows that the Apollonian and Dionysian cults of ancient Greece are represented on the one hand in the mystic current, and on the other in the current which is now expressed by Spiritual Science.
Zarathustra taught his disciples to see the Spirit behind every physical phenomenon. The whole civilisation inspired by him was based on this principle. Now it is not enough to say that behind the world of the senses there is the Divine-Spiritual. Man may think he has discovered a great truth here, but it leads to nothing but a vague Pantheism. We may think we express a truth when we say: “God is at work behind every physical phenomenon” — but this is merely a conception of a nebulous spiritual power behind all things physical. A teacher like Zarathustra, who had actually ascended to the spiritual world, did not speak in this abstract and vague terminology to his disciples and his people. He showed that just as individual physical phenomena are different, so the spiritual essence behind them is at one time more evident, at another less. He taught how behind the physical Sun — the origin of all life and activity — there is the centre of spiritual life.
Let us try to condense into simple language the doctrines which Zarathustra tried to inculcate into his disciples. He spoke thus: “Man, as we perceive him, is not merely composed of a physical body, for this physical body is but the outer manifestation of the Spirit. Just as the physical body is nothing but the manifested crystallisation of the Spiritual in man, so the Sun, in so far as it is a body of luminous matter, is nothing but the external body of a spiritual Sun.” The spiritual part of man is spoken of as the “Aura” — or “Ahura,” to use the old expression — in distinction to his physical body and in the same sense the spiritual part of the physical Sun may be called the “Great Aura,” for it is all-embracing. Zarathustra called that which lies behind the physical Sun, Aura Mazda or Ahura Mazdao — the Great Aura. With this spiritual essence behind the Sun, all spiritual experiences and conditions are bound up, just as the existence and well-being of plants, animals and all that lives on Earth are bound up with the physical Sun. Behind the physical Sun lives the spiritual Lord and Creator, Ahura Mazdao. This is the derivation of the name “Ormuzd,” Spirit of Light. While the Indians searched mystically in the inner self to find Brahma, the Eternal, shining like a luminous centre in man, Zarathustra pointed his disciples to the great periphery, showing them that the mighty Spirit of the Sun, Ahura Mazdao, the Spirit of Light, dwelt in the physical body of the Sun. Ahura Mazdao has to face his enemy — Ahriman, the Spirit of Darkness — just as man, who bears within himself the enemies of his good impulses, strives to raise his real spiritual being to perfection and has to battle against his lower passions, desires, and the delusive images of lying and falsehood.
Zarathustra was able to transmute his conception of the universe from mere doctrine into real feeling, real vision. And so he was able to teach his disciples that within them was an active principle of perfection. Whatever their development might be at the time, they were taught to realise that this principle of perfection could raise them to higher and higher stages of existence. They were taught that passions and desires, lying and deceit within the soul lead to imperfection. Zarathustra taught of the attacks made upon Ahura Mazdao in the outer world by the principle of imperfection, by the evil which casts shadow into the light, by Angra Mainyus — Ahriman.
Zarathustra's disciples were thus enabled to realise that the great universe is reflected in each individual. The real significance of this doctrine lay, not in its theoretical concepts and ideas but in the feeling it called forth in man — a feeling which taught him of his relationship to the universe and made him able to say: “Here I stand — a little world, but a little world which is a replica of the great world. In human beings, the principle of perfection is opposed by evil; in the great universe, Ormuzd and Ahriman face one another. The whole universe is, as it were, a man grown immeasurably great and the highest human forces are Ahura Mazdao — their enemy, Ahriman.”
If man directs his attention truly to the physical world he must finally discover that all phenomena are part of the great cosmic process; he is filled with awe when spectro-analysis reveals the fact that the same substances which exist on Earth exist also on the farthest stars. In the light of Zarathustra's teaching, man felt himself in his spiritual being, part of the Spirit of the whole Cosmos; he felt himself emanating from this Spirit. Herein lies the great significance of the doctrine.
The teaching was not abstract but very concrete. Even when people of our time have a certain feeling for the Spiritual behind the physical world it is very difficult to make them realise that there must necessarily be more than one central spiritual power. But just as there are different natural phenomena — heat, light, chemical forces and the like — so there are different orders of lower spiritual Powers, subordinate forces whose realm of activity is more limited than that of the One All-Embracing Power. Zarathustra made a distinction between Ormuzd and other lower spiritual beings, who were his servants. Before we turn to consider these lower spiritual beings, let us realise that the doctrine of Zarathustra is not mere dualism, a teaching of the two worlds of Ormuzd and of Ahriman. He taught that underlying these two currents in the universe there is one power whence both the realm of light (Ormuzd) and the realm of darkness (Ahriman) proceed. Old Greek writers tell us that the unity behind Ormuzd and Ahriman was worshipped by the ancient Persians as the LIVING UNITY, but it is difficult to re-create this idea nowadays. Zarathustra calls this Zervane Akarene — that which lies behind the light. To get at some conception of the meaning of this, let us think of the course of evolution. We must conceive of all creation as travelling towards greater and greater perfection, so that if we look towards the future, the Ahura of Ormuzd grows clearer and clearer. Looking into the past, we see the Ahrimanic powers in opposition to Ormuzd; in course of time, however, their existence must cease. In all these things we must understand that a survey of the future and of the past leads to the same point. It is very difficult for the man of to-day to realise this. Let us think of a circle, by way of illustration. If we start at the lowest point and pass along one side, we arrive at the opposite, the highest point. If we pass along the other side, we also arrive at the same point. If we enlarge the circle, we have further to go, and the curve of the arc becomes flatter and flatter. Draw the circle larger and larger, and the arc eventually becomes a straight line; thereafter both lines lead to infinity. But before this, with a smaller circle, we arrive at the same point along both sides. Why should we not assume that the same result obtains when the sides of the circle are flat and its fines straight? In infinity, the point must then remain the same on the one side as on the other. Therefore to conceive of infinity, we may imagine a line continuing indefinitely on both sides — in effect, a circle.
This is an abstract conception of what underlies the Zarathustrian doctrine of Zervane Akarene — Zaruana Akarana. Taking the concept of Time, we look into the future on the one side and into the past on the other. Time, however, is welded into a circle; the completion takes place in infinity. This is symbolically represented as the serpent biting its own tail; into the serpent the Power of Light which grows brighter and brighter, is woven on the one side, and on the other the Power of Darkness, which appears to grow deeper and deeper. While we ourselves remain in the centre, Ormuzd and Ahriman, Light and Shadow, are intermingled, and into all this is woven the self-contained, mysterious “Zaruana Akarana” — Time.
This ancient conception of the universe did not merely state vaguely: Outside and behind the world of the senses which works upon eyes and ears, there is “Spirit.” A kind of alphabet, records of the spiritual world were revealed. Suppose we to-day take a page of a book. We see letters on it and we build up words from these letters, but we must first have learnt to read. Those who have not learnt to read in the spiritual sense, cannot understand Zarathustra; they cannot read the sense of his teaching but merely see signs and symbols. Only those who know how to build up these signs into a doctrine to which their souls respond can understand Zarathustra.
Now behind the world of the senses, in the ordered grouping of the stars, Zarathustra perceived a symbolic writing in cosmic space. Just as we have a written alphabet, so Zarathustra saw in the starry worlds of space, a kind of Alphabet of the spiritual worlds, a language through which they became articulate. Thus arose the science of penetrating into the spiritual world and of reading and interpreting the constellations. He knew too, how to decipher the signs in which the Cosmic Spirits inscribe their activities into space. Their language is the grouping and movement of the stars. Zarathustra and his disciples saw that Ahura Mazdao creates and manifests by describing an apparent circle in the heavens, in the sense of our Astronomy, and this circle was for them the outward sign of the way in which Ormuzd manifested his activity to man. Zarathustra showed — and this is a most important point — that the Zodiac is a line which returns on itself, forming a circle as the expression of the rotation of Time. In the highest sense, he taught that while one branch of Time goes forward into the future, the other turns backwards into the past. Zaruana Akarana, the self-contained line of Time, the circle described by Ormuzd, the Spirit of Light, is what was later called the Zodiac. This is the expression of the spiritual activity of Ormuzd. The course of the Sun through the Zodiac is the expression of the activity of Ormuzd. The Zodiac is the expression of Zaruana Akarana. Zaruana Akarana and Zodiac are one and the same word, like Ormuzd and Ahura Mazdao. Two things must here be remembered.
When the Sun passes in summer through the light, his full powers fall upon the Earth; they are the forces of spiritual light sent forth by Ormuzd from his realm of light. The signs of the Zodiac through which Ormuzd passes in the summer or in the daytime reveal his activity unhampered by Ahriman. The signs of the Zodiac below the horizon are symbolical of the realm of shadow through which Ahriman passes. What, then, are the expressions of Ormuzd (who represents the light part of the Zodiac) and of Ahriman (the dark part), in their activity on Earth? Now there is a difference between the influence of the Sun in the morning and at noon time. When Ormuzd ascends from Aries to Taurus, the effect of his rays is not the same as when he is descending. His rays differ in summer and in winter and they differ with every sign through which the Sun passes. The course of the Sun through the signs of the Zodiac revealed to Zarathustra the many sides of the activity of Ormuzd, and he beheld here the expressions of spiritual beings who are, as it were, the servants, the “sons” of Ormuzd, who execute his commands. These subservient powers, each having their own special activity, are the “Amschaspands” or “Ameschas Pentas.” While Ormuzd represents the collective activity of the Zodiac, the Amschaspands have to perform the specialised activities expressed in the raying forth of the Sun from Aries, Taurus, Cancer, and so forth. The activity of Ormuzd is expressed in the raying of the Sun through all the light signs of the Zodiac — from Aries to Libra or Scorpio. According to Zarathustra, Ahriman works from the centre of the Earth, from the darkness where his servants, the Amschaspands, dwell; they are the opponents of the good genii surrounding Ormuzd. Zarathustra distinguished twelve orders of spiritual beings, six or rather seven, on the side of Ormuzd; six, or rather five, on the side of Ahriman. They are symbolised as good and evil genii, or subservient spirits, according to whether the Sun's course runs through the light or the dark signs of the Zodiac. Goethe was thinking of these helpers of Ormuzd when he wrote at the beginning of Faust, in the Prologue in Heaven: —
“But ye, pure
The Amschaspands of Zarathustra are the same beings to whom Goethe refers as the “pure children of God,” who serve the highest Divine Power.
There are twelve Amschaspands or genii; below, there are other spiritual powers of which the teaching of Zarathustra distinguished twenty-eight grades. The number is approximate, for it varies between twenty- four, twenty-eight, and thirty-one. These subordinate powers are called Izerads or Izods. What class of beings are these? If we think of the Amschaspands as the twelve great powers in Space, then the Izods are the subordinate forces behind the lower activities of Nature, and of these, there are from twenty-four to thirty-one. There is yet a third group of spiritual powers — powers which, in our sense, are not really active in the physical world as such. They are called by Zarathustra, Ferruhars or Frawashars. The twelve forces behind which the Amschaspands live are active in all the physical activities of light upon the Earth: behind the Izods we must imagine the forces affecting the animal kingdom. The Frawashars are to be thought of as the spiritual beings guiding the group-souls of the animals.
Thus Zarathustra saw a real super-sensible world behind the world of sense: Ormuzd and Ahriman, behind them Zaruana Akarana, below them the Amschaspands, good and bad. Now what are the Izods and Frawashars? According to Zarathustra they are the spiritual essence pervading the macrocosm, the living essence (das Wesenhafte) of the external physical phenomena we perceive with our senses. Man, as he stands in the world, is a replica of this greater world; therefore he contains within himself all the powers which ensoul the greater world. Just as we have recognised Ormuzd in the struggle of man towards perfection, and Ahriman in man's impure instincts and impulses, so we can also find in man the imprint of the other spiritual beings, the lesser genii.
And now I have to speak of something which may appear extraordinary to-day to the usual conceptions of the Cosmos held by man. The time, however, is not far distant when even external science will discover that there is super-sensible element behind all physical phenomena, a spiritual world behind the world of the senses. It will then be realised that the physical body of man in all its parts, is an image of the whole Cosmos The Cosmos pours itself into, and densifies within the physical body of man. Thus, according to the conception of Zarathustra — which much resembles that of Spiritual Science — we can say that both Ormuzd and Ahriman work upon man: Ormuzd as the impulse towards perfection, and Ahriman as the impulse in opposition to this. But the spiritual activities of the Amschaspands are also at work in man. We must think of these beings as so far densified in man that they are physically manifest.
In the time of Zarathustra there was, of course, no science of anatomy in our sense of the word, but he and his disciples, with their spiritual conception of the world, saw the twelve currents of the Amschaspands as a reality. They saw these currents flowing towards man and working in him. The human head was to them the visible expression of the activities of the seven good and five evil currents of the Amschaspands. How is this truth expressed at the present time? To-day, the anatomist has discovered the existence of twelve pairs of cerebral nerves which are repeated in the body. These are the physical counterparts, the frozen currents, as it were, of the Amschaspands. There are twelve pairs of nerves and by their means man can either attain the highest perfection or sink to the greatest evil. Thus the spiritual teaching given by Zarathustra to his disciples appears again, materialised, in our own age. People may regard it as so much fancy on the part of Spiritual Science to say that Zarathustra was referring to the twelve pairs of cerebral nerves when he taught of the Amschaspands, but the world will have much to learn besides this, for it will be found that all the moving and weaving Cosmos works on further in man. The ancient teachings of Zarathustra are indeed revived in modern physiology. The twenty-eight to thirty-one Izods occupy the same subordinate position to the Amschaspands as do the twenty-eight nerves of the spine to the nerves of the brain. The spinal nerves which stimulate the soul life of man are created by the spiritual currents of the Izods outside; they work into us and crystallise, as it were, into the spinal nerves. And in that which is not of the nature of the nerves but which makes us individuals, which does not now pour in from outside, but lives within — there dwell the Frawashars or Ferruhars. They live in those thoughts which transcend the merely physical activity of the brain and nerves.
There is a remarkable connection between the tendencies of our own time and the doctrines which Zarathustra gave in spiritual pictures flowing behind the veil of the world of sense. There is, however, one significant thing to be remembered. The teachings of Zarathustra influenced the thought of the people for a very long time and then for a while they receded into the background. Sometimes it was the mystical way of thought which predominated, sometimes the occult, after Greek thought had in a measure united the two currents. Nowadays there seems to be a tendency to the mystical way. Many feel drawn towards Indian occultism with its tendency towards introspection and this explains the fact that little heed is paid to the essential features of the doctrines of Zarathustra in the spiritual life of to-day. There is a great deal of ancient Persian thought in our own spiritual life, yet in a sense, its most essential features, the very core of the doctrine of Zarathustra, is lost to our age. When we realise once more that the teachings of Zarathustra are the spiritual prototypes of countless examples of physical research, then the key-note of our present day culture will be replaced by another. Now one important feature in almost all other mystical currents of culture is missing in the religion of Zarathustra. The reason for this is its entire preoccupation with macrocosmic phenomena. Other religious systems have accentuated the contrasts presented by the division of the sexes. In most old religious systems, Goddesses and Gods are contrasting symbols of the two streams active in the world. The religion of Zarathustra rises above this conception in the symbols of Goodness as Light and Evil as Darkness. Hence the sublime purity of this religion and the nobility which lifts it above ideas which play an ugly part in any endeavour to deepen the thought life of our time. Even the Greek writers stated that the highest Godhead had perforce to create Ahriman as well as Ormuzd in order that there might be the necessary contrast. This implies that one Primal Power was set over against another. In the Hebrew religion, woman, Eve, is the symbol for the evil which came into this world. In the religion of Zarathustra there is no element of sex antagonism. The ugly things which nowadays enter so largely into our daily literature, pour into our thoughts and feelings and so unpleasantly accentuate the chief causes of health and disease without touching upon the essentials of life — all these will disappear when the “heroic” conception of Ormuzd and Ahriman is understood, when the true Zarathustrian influence spreads in present-day culture, clothed in the words of its great founder. These things pursue their own course in the world and nothing can arrest the progress of the truth inherent in the culture of Zarathustra. If we follow the progress of culture in Asia Minor, down to later times among the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, and even up to the Christian era, we find traces of concepts derived from the illumination of the great Zarathustra. And we shall not wonder at the view expressed by a Greek writer, that the great spiritual leaders of the races imparted to the people part of a future culture of which they stood in need. This Greek writer pointed to Pythagoras, showing what he had learned from his great predecessors — Geometry from the Egyptians, Arithmetic from the Phoenicians, Astronomy from the Chaldeans — and how he had turned to Zarathustra's doctrines to learn from them the sacred teaching of the relations of man to the spiritual world and the true conduct of life. The same writer asserts that the conduct of life laid down by Zarathustra leads man above all minor conflicts, that they all culminate in the one great conflict between Good and Evil, where victory can only be gained by purification from evil, lying and falsehood. The worst enemy of Ormuzd bears the name of “Calumny” — one of the chief qualities of Ahriman. The Greek writer tells us that Pythagoras could not find the highest moral idea (the moral purification of man) among the Egyptians from whom he learnt Geometry, nor among the Phoenicians from whom he learnt Arithmetic, nor among the Chaldeans from whom he learnt Astronomy; but that he had to turn to the followers of Zarathustra to understand the heroic conception of the universe, since purification alone can vanquish evil. This shows the high value placed upon the noble teachings of Zarathustra in olden times.
What I have said may be illustrated by quotations from historical documents. Plutarch, for instance, says that Zarathustra teaches the worship of Light because Light is the greatest factor for the well-being of the Earth and the highest spiritual factor is Truth. This is in complete agreement with what has been said.
Let us now return again to the ancient Vedic conceptions. They were the result of a mystic descent into the inner being. Before man can penetrate to the inner light of Brahma, he meets with his own passions, his wild and semi-human impulses. These oppose his entry into the true life of spirit and soul. The Indian mystics realised that the mystic union with Brahma could only be attained by the elimination of all the impressions of the physical world, that the sensuous appeals of colours and sounds must cease. So long as these elements enter into meditation, the opponents of the attainment of perfection are there. The Indian mystic would have said: “Cast away all that may enter the soul from the outer powers; deepen yourself in the innermost core of your own soul; descend into the realm of the Devas, and when you have vanquished the lower Devas you will find the kingdom of Brahman. But shun the world of the Asuras, those beings who would fain penetrate into you from the world of Maya, the outer world. These must on no account be allowed to enter.”
And now listen to what Zarathustra taught his disciples: “The peoples of the South are differently constituted and they seek the spiritual world in another way. Their way would not help a nation whose mission is not only to dream and meditate in this wonderful world, but to teach mankind the art of Agriculture and the conquest of savagery. Do not look upon external things merely as Maya; you must penetrate behind this veil of colour and sound around you. Shun all that threatens to keep your soul within the bonds of egoism, shun all that bears the stamp of the Deva qualities! Make your way through the realm of the lower Asuras and ascend to the higher. Your nature is such that you can do this if you will!” In India the Rishis had taught that man was not so organised as to enable him to seek what lies in the realm of the Asuras, and that he should therefore shun their world and enter that of the Devas.
This is the difference between the Indian and Persian cultures. The Indian peoples were taught that the Asuras are evil spirits and must be avoided, for the organisation of the Indians was such that they only could know the lower Asuras. The Persian peoples, on the other hand, knew only the lower Devas and were therefore taught: ‘Penetrate to the realm of the Asuras and you will be able to rise from there to the realm of the higher Asuras.’
The impulse which Zarathustra gave to the men of his epoch lay in the fact that he had a gift for mankind which could work on through all the ages — a gift which would make clear the upward path and conquer all the false doctrines deceiving man on his path to perfection. Zarathustra therefore looked upon himself as the servant of Ahura Mazdao, and as such, he personally knew the opposition of Ahriman. His teaching was intended to aid mankind to a heroic conquest of the Ahriman principle. We find his words recorded in the documents of a later era. Inspired by the inner impulse of his mission, and fired by the passion with which he felt himself the antagonist of Ahriman, he said: “I will speak! Harken, ye who journey from afar, and ye that come from near at hand, with longing to hear. Mark well my words! No longer shall the Evil One, the false leader, conquer the Spirit of Good. Too long has his evil breath permeated human speech. I will refute him with the speech which the Highest, the Primal One has put into my mouth. I will speak what Ahura Mazdao says to me. And he who hears not my words nor understands their meaning as I speak them will experience much evil ere the end of the world-cycles!” Thus spake Zarathustra.
May we realise from these words that Zarathustra's message to mankind can be felt and experienced through all later epochs of culture. Those of us who have ears to hear the dim echoes still living in our time, will, if they listen with spiritual ears, hear the faint tones of Zarathustra's words to mankind thousands of years ago. For those who have ears to hear, the message of Zarathustra and other great Leaders of whom we shall speak in these lectures, may be summed up in the following words: “These God-sent Spirits shine as stars in the heavens of Life Eternal. May it be vouchsafed to every soul to behold their radiance in the realms of earthly life.”