When we study the great historical individualities of the past, such as those who have already claimed our attention during these lectures, namely, Zarathustra, Hermes and Buddha, we are brought face to face with incidents and facts which are of interest to us as human beings, because we feel that our whole soul life plays a part in the collective evolution of humanity. It is only when we look back to those great spiritual characters of by-gone times, who have helped to bring about the conditions in which we now live, that we can truly comprehend our present circumstances.
With regard to Moses, however, whose personality we are about to consider, the matter presents a wholly different aspect; for here we have the feeling that there is no limit to that direct influence exerted by all those events connected with his name, which yet continue to affect the spiritual content of our souls. We still feel, in our very bones, as it were, the workings of those impulses which emanated from this great outstanding patriarch. It seems to us that Moses is even now a living force in our thoughts and feelings, and as if when we analyse our ideas and motives according to his doctrine and sentiments, that we are in truth arraigning and searching our very souls. It is for this reason that all that persistent tradition which is directly associated with Moses, seems to us more vivid, more actually present, than that which is connected with those other great personalities to whom I have referred. It is therefore in a certain sense, less difficult to deal with this outstanding individuality, for through the Bible we are all familiar with this mighty figure, whose influence has endured even to the present time.
Although the conscientious researches which have been conducted by science during the past ten years and more, have to a certain extent touched upon the surface and here and there thrown new light upon the history of Moses -- in so far as it can be gleaned from the Bible -- nevertheless, when we look more deeply into the matter, we must admit that very little indeed has been altered with regard to the general impression which we have received from our own personal study of the Scriptures.
Whenever we refer to any matter connected with Moses, or to the great patriarch himself, we speak as if we were mentioning some subject well known throughout the widest circles; this fact somewhat simplifies the contemplation of the historical features. But on the other hand there are certain difficulties which arise, because of the manner in which the Bible tradition concerning Moses is expressed. This we at once realize when we call to mind the vicissitudes which accompanied the Biblical researches of the nineteenth century.
There is scarcely a single branch of human knowledge, or sincere scientific endeavour, even when we include the natural sciences, which claims in so high a degree our deep admiration and reverence, as do these investigations; and I feel that this point should be repeatedly emphasized. The industry, the discrimination, the devoted and unselfish scientific application, expended upon separate sections of the Bible, in order to educe from their character and style a definite knowledge of their alleged origin, is considered by those who have followed these researches closely as a work which has had no parallel during the nineteenth century.
All this investigation of the past hundred years has, however, a tragic side, for the further the researches were carried, the more did they tend to place the Bible beyond the reach of the people. Anyone who will consult the current literature concerning the results of these exhaustive studies can convince himself of this fact. The difficulty arose because the Bible was dissected and split up, particularly in the case of the Old Testament, in an attempt to show, for instance, that a certain passage occurring in one part of the Bible owed its origin to a different current of tradition to that of a passage in another part. Also, that during the course of time the whole subject matter had gradually become welded together, in a form which made it necessary for it to be first separated out in this scholarly manner, in order that it might be understood. Hence, in a certain sense, the outcome of these investigations must be looked upon as tragic, since they were fundamentally wholly negative in character and contributed nothing toward the continuance of that vivifying influence which the Bible is capable of exerting, and which has lived in the hearts and souls of mankind for thousands of years.
That movement towards true spiritual development, which we have termed Spiritual Science, is chiefly concerned with constructive activities and is not interested in mere criticism, as is so often the case with other sciences. In our time its most important task is to bring about once again an accurate and proper understanding of the Bible, and in this relation it puts forward the following question: -- ‘Is it not essential that we should first penetrate into the very depths of the import and significance which underlies the whole character of the ancient Biblical traditions, and then, only after these are fully and clearly understood, inquire as to their origin?’ Such a procedure is however, not easy, especially with reference to the Old Testament, and is particularly difficult in regard to those sections which deal with the great outstanding figure and personality of Moses.
We would now ask: -- ‘What is it that Spiritual Science has to say regarding the peculiar nature of those ancient Biblical descriptions?’ It tells us that those external events which are associated with this or that personality or nation, have been chronicled in the order and manner in which they actually occurred, as viewed from the stand-point of external history. Following this method, the personality of Moses is so depicted that his experiences in the physical world are represented just as they took place in relation to space and time.
It is only when we have made a profound study of the Bible through the medium of Spiritual Science, that we realize that a Biblical description concerned with external happenings and experiences may become merged in one of quite another nature; and it is often with difficulty that we can distinguish this change in fundamental character. We are told, for instance, of journeys and other worldly events which we accept as such; then, all unnoticed, as the account continues, we find ourselves confronted with a graphic narrative of a wholly different order. It seems to us that a certain journey is represented as continuing from one definite place to another, and as if we were expected to look upon the account of events depicted in the latter part of the narrative in the same light as the external physical happenings described at the beginning. In reality, however, the latter part of such an account may be actually a figurative portrayal of the soul-life of the particular personality to whom the story has reference. It then has no connection whatever with external worldly events, but depicts the soul experiences, struggles and conquests, through which this especial being is raised to a higher degree of soul development, greater enlightenment, a more advanced stage of activity, or to a mission concerned with the world’s evolution. In such case, descriptions of outside events pass over without any noticeable change directly into pictorial representations, which although remaining similar in style and character, have absolutely no significance with regard to external physical happenings -- but refer only to the inner experiences of the soul.
The above assertion will always remain ‘a mere assertion’ to those who are unable to utilize the methods of Spiritual Science and thus enter gradually and understandingly into the strange and unusual features associated with many of the graphic narratives found in the Bible; more particularly will this be the case with regard to those sections which deal with the patriarch Moses. When, however, we study this strange method of representation deeply, we notice that when at some certain point in a story the description of external physical events changes into one of soul-experiences, the whole style and fundamental character of the account alters, while a new element suddenly makes its appearance. If we ask ourselves: -- ‘How does it come about that we are able to perceive this change?’ we can only answer that we realize it because of a conviction that comes to us from the soul. This curious descriptive method, which we have just characterized, lies at the base of ancient religious historical narratives, more especially when they are concerned with personalities who have reached a high standard of discernment and understanding of the soul’s action and inner workings.
The further we advance, and the more deeply we become immersed in the study of Spiritual Science, the greater is our faith in this singular style of representation; but just because of the strangeness of this method it is, in some ways, far from easy to gain a clear comprehension of the true meaning of certain passages which occur in the graphic delineation of Moses. On the one hand, we have the Bible with its apparently straightforward narrative, but on the other, there are difficulties due to the curious way in which the account is presented, when the subject matter is of an especially profound character. This fact has resulted in the customary interpretations being much too liberal in many cases.
When, for instance, we consider the conception of ancient Hebrew history, as advanced by the philosopher Philo, who lived at the time of the founding of Christianity, we realize at once that he endeavoured to portray the whole record of the old Jewish nation as if it were an allegory. Philo aimed at a figurative representation in which the entire history of this ancient race becomes a sort of symbolical account of the soul-experiences of a people. In so doing, Philo went too far, and for this reason: he did not possess that judgment and insight, born of Spiritual Science, which would have enabled him to discern and to know when the descriptions concerning external events glided into portrayals relative to soul-life.
As we proceed it will be realized that in Moses we have a personality who influenced directly the active course of human evolution, and whose mission it was to enlighten mankind concerning matters of the utmost import and significance. When we experience that deep sense, so pregnant with meaning, through which we become aware that his deeds even yet touch a chord within our souls, then do we feel that a full and clear comprehension of the Moses-Impulse is to us a necessity. We will, therefore, without further preamble, enter at once upon the question of his great Mission. The true object of his life’s work cannot, however, be fully understood unless we presuppose that the Bible narrative was based upon actual and specific knowledge of a certain fundamental change in man’s psychic condition, to which we have already referred when considering the individualities of Zarathustra, Hermes and Buddha. We then drew attention to the fact that during the course of evolution the soul-life of man has gradually undergone a definite modification, from a divine primordial clairvoyant state to that of our present-day intellectual consciousness.
I must once again bring back to your minds a statement made in previous lectures, namely, that in primeval times the soul of man was so constituted that during certain intermediary conditions between that of sleeping and being awake, he could gaze upon the Spirit-World, and that things thus observed, and which were truly of the spiritual realms, manifested as pictures or visions; and it is these visions that in many cases have been perpetuated in the form of mythological legends of by-gone times.
In reply to the question: -- ‘How can the reality of this ancient clairvoyant consciousness be proved externally, and without the aid of Spiritual Science?’ we would say that the answer is to be found in the results of certain precise and painstaking investigations which have been carried on even in our time, but which have not as yet received general recognition. We would point out that comparatively recently some of our mythologists during their researches into the origin of ancient mythical visions, legends, etc., which have arisen among certain separate and distinctive peoples, have been forced to assume the existence of an altogether different conscious state in order to account for these ancient myths and concepts.
I have often referred to an interesting book, entitled The Riddle of the Sphinx, by Ludwig Laistner, a mythologist who must be ranked as the most prominent among the modern investigators in this field of research. The Riddle of the Sphinx is regarded as one of the most important works of its kind. Laistner draws attention to the fact that certain myths appear to form a sequel to events typical of experiences in a dream world. He did not advance so far as the study of Spiritual Science, and he was quite unaware that he had in reality laid the foundation stone of a true knowledge and understanding of the Ancient Mythologies. We ( annot, however, regard Myths and Legends merely in the light of transfigured typical dreams, as Laistner has done, but we must recognize in them the products of a by-gone condition of human consciousness in which man could apprehend the Spirit-World in pictorial visions, that later found expression in mythical imagery.
It is impossible to comprehend the old fables and legends, unless we start with the hypothesis that they were evolved from a different form of conscious state; and it is just because this basic assumption has been lacking that they are so little understood. This prehistoric soul-state has now given way to our present intellectual consciousness, which latter may be briefly characterized as follows: -- We alternate between a condition of sleeping and of being awake. In our wakeful state we seize upon those impressions which come to us from the external world, through the medium of our senses; these ideas we group together, combining them by means of our intellect. This material form of intellectual consciousness, which acts through our power of understanding and intelligence, has now superseded the ancient clairvoyant soul-state. We have thus characterized a particular episode of history, and presented it in the aspect which it assumes when we make a profound study of the evolution of mankind.
There is yet another factor which underlies the manner in which Bible narratives are expressed. It appears that a special mission was assigned to each nation, race and tribe in connection with the evolution and development of man; and that the ancient clairvoyant forms of consciousness manifested in different ways according to the capacity and temperament of the various peoples. It is for this reason that we find fundamentally among the mythologies and pagan religions of divers nations such uniformity of tradition concerning this old clairvoyant state.
We thus realize that we are not dealing with just one abstract idea, or unit, in this ancient conception of the world; for the most varied missions were assigned to Nations and to Peoples who differed very greatly from one another; and thus it came about that the universal consciousness found expression in many and varying forms. If we would indeed understand all that the evolution of mankind implies, then we must take into consideration the fact that it does not merely consist of a meaningless succession of civilizations, but that throughout the whole course of man’s progress and development there is found interwoven both significance and purport. Hence we find that a certain order of conscious-state may reappear and be found active in some later civilization because, like a fresh page, or a new-born flower, it has something to add to that which has gone before; for the whole meaning and purpose of human evolution implies ever recurrent and successive forms of manifestation.
We can best understand the people of a nation from the stand-point of Spiritual Science when we realize that all races, be they Ancient Indians, Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, or Romans, had a definite mission to fulfil, and that each nation gave expression in some special and distinctive manner to that which was active and could live in man’s consciousness. We cannot rightly comprehend these different peoples unless we are in a position to apprehend and to realize the nature of their mission from their individual characteristics. The whole evolution of mankind proceeds in such manner that to each nation a certain time is apportioned and when this period draws to a close, the nation’s work is done. It is as if the hour had struck, the seeds had brought forth their fruit, and the task was ended. It may, however, happen that with this or that race certain peculiarities of temperament, or natural disposition, corresponding to a former period may persist. In such a case this particular nation has, as it were, overpassed the appointed time when a new mission should be entered upon, and take the place of that which was before. Thus it is that certain singular and distinctive national traits may endure and become active at a later period, the while the objective course of human evolution substitutes some fresh purpose for that which was previously determined.
A course of events of this nature is especially noticeable with the Egyptians, and we have already become acquainted with their peculiar characteristics during the lecture devoted to Hermes. The Egyptians had been assigned a lofty mission in connection with the collective progress and development of humanity; and all that was embodied therein was perfected and fulfilled, while the seeds of that which was to follow had been laid in the Egyptian civilization. The people of this great nation, however, retained their original temperament and singular characteristics and were therefore not of themselves capable of formulating and undertaking a new mission. Hence it came about that the control and government of the succeeding community passed into other hands. The source out of which the fresh movement evolved was fundamentally Egyptian, but the mission itself was destined to assume a different character.
Here we note something akin to a change of tendency in the whole purport of man’s evolution, and in order that we may understand the circumstances, it is necessary that we immerse ourselves deeply in the study of all that pertained to the growth and development of the Egyptian mission. When Moses had acquired all the knowledge and information possible concerning this matter, he pondered deeply and the souls of his people were stirred. It was, however, not his task to carry on the ancient Egyptian mission; he must evolve therefrom some entirely new plan which he might instil into the course of human evolution. It is because his concept was so mighty, so comprehensive and so penetrating in its nature, that the personality of Moses exerted so powerful an Influence upon the whole history of mankind. The way in which the Moses Mission was evolved out of the past evolution of the Egyptian people is even in our day of the greatest interest, while its example and study yet bear abundant fruit. That knowledge and understanding which came to Moses from the Egyptians, and which was enhanced through his contact with the lofty and eternal course of spiritual development has ever reached outward, until it has now become active in our soul-life.
Hence, the impression we have gained of Moses is that of a personality not directly dependent upon any particular period, or upon any special mission, for that wisdom which was his to impart to humanity. We regard him as one whose soul must have been stirred by those eternally surging waves of Divine influence, that ever find new channels through which to reach deep down into the evolution of mankind, so that man may be productive and bring forth goodly fruits. It is as if the ever-lasting germ of wisdom implanted in the soul of Moses, found its fitting soil, and ripened, in the light of that knowledge which came to him from the Egyptian civilization.
The Bible account of the finding of Moses enclosed in an Ark, shortly after his birth (Ex. ii. 5), is a symbolical description according to the ancient mode, from which we are to understand that in Moses we are concerned with a soul that drew upon eternal sources for the most lofty of those concepts which it proffered to humanity. Anyone who understands the singular form in which such religious narratives are developed, knows that this particular style is always indicative of some matter of deep significance. During former lectures of this series, we have learnt that when man desires to raise his capacity of apprehension to the higher level of the spiritual spheres he must pass through certain stages of soul development, during which he completely shuts himself off from the external world, and also from that ever wakeful call emanating from the lowest forces of the soul.
Let us suppose that we wished to express figuratively, that at birth some personality entering upon earth life came upon the world endowed with certain Divine gifts which would later raise him to great heights in his relation to mankind. We might well indicate this concept by developing a narrative telling us that it was essential that this being should, shortly after birth, pass through some material experience of such nature as to cause all his sense perceptions and powers of external apprehension to be for a time entirely shut off from the physical world.1 Viewed in this light the Bible story concerning the discovery of Moses becomes quite intelligible.
We read that the daughter of the Egyptian King Pharaoh [sent her maid to the river to fetch the Ark, in which was the child] and that she herself named him Moses -- ‘Because,’ she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’ (Ex. ii, 10.) Those who are aware of the true meaning of the name ‘Moses’, know that it signifies this act, as is indicated in the Bible. From this graphic narrative we are to understand that the daughter of Pharaoh, who is here symbolical of Egyptian culture, guided the influx of external life into a soul touched with the attributes of eternity. At the same time we find intimated in a wonderful manner that the imperishable message which Moses was destined to bring to humanity was as one might say, enfolded and lay within an outer shell encompassed and enveloped by the old Egyptian culture and mission.
Next follow descriptions of external events which occurred during the life-development of Moses; and we realize once again from the form in which they are presented, that they have reference to actual outer happenings. All that we read concerning the vicissitudes of Moses, especially where mention is made of his grief and distress over the bondage of his people in Egypt, may be regarded as an actual account of mundane events. As the story continues, it merges almost imperceptibly into a graphic portrayal of his inner soul-life and soul-experiences. This occurs at that place where it is stated that he fled away and was finally guided to a priest of Midian whose name was Jethro or Ruel. (Ex. ii, 15 to 20.)
Anyone having the knowledge and discernment necessary in order to discover the existence of a story of this nature underlying what, at first sight, would appear to be an ordinary spiritual narrative, would at once realize from the very names alone that the account changes its whole character at this point and passes over to a description of soul-events. We do not mean to suggest that Moses did not actually set out upon a journey to some temple sanctuary or abode of priestly learning; but rather that the whole narrative has been most ingeniously developed and told in such manner that external happenings are deliberately intermingled with the soul-experiences of the great patriarch. Thus do we find that all outer life-experiences mentioned at this point are suggestive of the trials and tribulations against which Moses struggled in order to attain to a more exalted soul-state.
What, then, is the actual significance of Jethro? From the Bible we learn that he was one of those mysterious individualities whom we meet again and again when we study the evolution and development of the human race. Beings who stand supreme in having won their way through toil and effort to that lofty standard of knowledge and discernment which can only be acquired, slowly and gradually, through veritable experience of the soul’s inner conflicts. It is in this wise alone that man may gain true understanding of those grand spiritual heights where lie the paths ever traversed by such exalted ones. Moses became, to a certain extent, a disciple of Jethro, and through this association his mission was destined to receive a direct impulse. Now, Jethro was one of those incomprehensible beings who withhold their innermost nature from the apprehension of mankind, though acting on occasion as teachers and leaders of men. In these days there is much doubt and incredulity regarding the reality of such mystic personalities, but that they have indeed existed becomes evident to every earnest student of the historical development of humanity.
The account of the experiences of Moses while a disciple of this great wise priest, opens with a description of his meeting with Jethro’s seven daughters [in the land of Midian. Ex. ii, 15, 16] near-by to a well (a symbol betokening: -- source of wisdom). Anyone who would comprehend the deeper significance underlying a graphic narrative of this nature must above all remember that mystical descriptions of every period have symbolically portrayed all such knowledge and power as the soul itself may display in the form of female figures -- even down to Goethe, who in the closing words of Faust, alludes to the ‘eternal feminine’. Thus in the seven daughters of Jethro, we recognize the seven human soul-forces, over which that priestly character ever exercised control.2
We must bear in mind that in those ancient times when man’s consciousness was still quickened by the old clairvoyance, other views prevailed regarding the nature of the human soul and its various powers. The only way in which we can form any conception of this primordial consciousness is by starting with our current ideas as a basis. We speak in these days of man’s soul and its powers of thinking, feeling and willing, as if these forces were within us, contained, as one might say, in the very soul itself; and this concept is essentially correct, as viewed from the stand-point of intellectual consciousness. Primeval man, however, under the influence of his gift for clairvoyant vision, regarded the soul and its workings from a different aspect. He was not aware of any centralized system in this connection and did not look upon his powers of thought, feeling and will, as forces whose mid-point of activity is situated in the Ego and which determine the oneness and individuality of the soul, but regarded himself as wholly subservient to the Macrocosm and its several forces; while each separate source of energy within his soul seemed linked with specific and divine spiritual beings. This concept may be compared to one in which we might conceive our thought activities as prompted and maintained by some spiritual soul-power other than that which stimulates and influences the faculties of feeling and will. We would thus picture separate currents of spiritual energy as flowing inward from the Macrocosm, and activating our powers of thought, feeling and willing. Although in these days we form no such conception, it was thus that primeval man regarded his soul, not as a centralized unit in itself, but rather as a theatre in which the divine spiritual powers of the cosmos might unceasingly play their several parts. In connection with Moses, reference is made to seven such forces, which are conceived as ever active upon the stage of soul-life.
We have only to turn to Plato in order to realize that man’s outlook upon the evolution of human consciousness changed and became in general ever more and more abstract and intellectual. Plato conceived ‘Ideas’ to be living entities, leading an existence such as in our time could only be thought of in connection with matter; while each separate soul-force is pictured as possessing an attribute which plays its part in the theatre of the soul’s totality. Gradually the conceptions formed regarding the capacity of the soul became increasingly abstract while the Unity of the Ego assumed more and more its rightful place in man’s concepts.
Strange as it may appear, in the medieval conception of the seven liberal arts,3 we can still recognize in abstract form characteristics typical of the symbolic representation of the seven active spiritual forces of soul-life in the seven daughters of the Midianite priest, Jethro. The manner in which the seven liberal arts were evolved and brought to light was as a last dim echo (touched with a modern trend of thought) of that consciousness which recognized that seven distinct faculties persist, and are ever active in the scenes staged in the theatre of man’s soul.
When we consider the above concepts, we begin to realize that while, from the spiritual standpoint, Moses was confronted with the collective aspect of these seven human soul-forces, nevertheless, his chief mission was to implant one particular soul-influence in the form of an impulse deeply and fully in the course of human evolution. This it was possible for him to do, because it lay in the blood and in the temperament of his people to manifest an especial interest in that outstanding soul-power, the activities of which have been felt right on down to our own time, and which it was his task to instil. We refer to that dominant soul-energy which unites all those forces, previously regarded as separate and detached, in one centralized and homogeneous bond of inner soul-life -- the life of the true self -- the Ego. We are next told that one of the daughters of Jethro married Moses; this means that within his soul one of these forces became especially active, so much so indeed, that owing to its influence it became for a long period a dominating power in human evolution, reducing all other soul-forces to a unified Soul-Ego.
Statements such as the above must be made with the greatest reserve, for in our present age mankind has no adequate faculty, or organ, wherewith he may realize that many Biblical descriptions which apparently represent external happenings are presented solely for the purpose of drawing attention to the fact that at the time at which the events portrayed took place, a particular soul was undergoing some experience of inner development; in other words, was especially concerned with, and attracted to, its individual mission. It is also apparent that one special attribute which the old Egyptians did not possess, namely, that inspiration which Moses drew from the human Ego-force at the mid-point of man’s soul-powers was for him the criterion [to which he referred his judgment].
We can therefore with reason assert that the true mission of the ancient Egyptian nation was to found a culture based upon the practise and methods of primeval clairvoyance. All that is best of those things which have been handed down to us from the Egyptian civilization, has sprung from the singular nature of those peculiar psychic powers, once possessed by the Egyptian priests and the leaders of the people. But the time came when with regard to the old Egyptian mission, one might say, that the cosmic clock had run down, and the call must go forth to mankind to unfold and develop those soul-forces which it was ordained should, for a long period, supersede that ancient passive clairvoyant condition in the future evolution of humanity.
Ego-consciousness, intellectuality, rationalism, reason and understanding, with their spheres of action in the external perceptual world were destined to replace the old clairvoyant consciousness in the human race yet to come. I have already stated how, in the future of mankind, the clairvoyant power, and the intellectual consciousness, will be found united. Even now, humanity is advancing toward a time when these two conscious states will be universally interwoven and co-active throughout the human race.
The most important element in human culture, regarded from our modern stand-point, received its first impulse through Moses; hence, that sense of persistency in connection with the Moses-impulse which still exists in our soul-life and power. To Moses was granted a certain capacity for intellectual thought and action, controlled by reason and understanding; and this ability [and his wisdom] were instilled into him in a singular and unusual manner; because all those concepts and ideas which came to him and were destined to manifest and bear fruit in some particular way at a later period, must first be implanted in a fashion conforming with the peculiar methods in vogue in those ancient times. Here we come upon a remarkable fact, namely, that later generations of mankind were directly indebted to Moses for their power of expanding and developing their understanding and intellect through the medium of their Ego-consciousness; so that they might reason and ponder upon the world, and gain enlightenment through inner intellectual contemplation while yet fully awake.
The manner in which a consciousness of intellectuality came to Moses must have been through flashes of intellectual awareness, similar in nature to the old clairvoyant manifestations. He was indeed the recipient of that first initial impulse toward the new order of reasoned judgment and understanding, while at the same time he possessed the old clairvoyant power, being in fact, under the influence of the last of its promptings. All that knowledge and enlightenment which was acquired by later generations independently of clairvoyance was accessible to Moses through its aid. His understanding, his discernment and intuition in the sphere of pure reason came to him when his soul passed into that same clairvoyant condition which he had experienced when under the influence of the old Midianite priest. We have the incident of the burning bush, which glowed with fire of such nature that it was not consumed. In this case, the spirit of the cosmos manifested before Moses in an entirely new manner, which was beyond the clairvoyant knowledge of the Egyptians to explain.
Everyone who is acquainted with the essential facts knows that, during the course of development, man’s soul reaches a point when the aspect of external objects gradually undergoes a change, so that they appear interwoven with that mysterious background of archetypes from which they emanate. The spectacle of the ‘burning bush’, so magnificently portrayed in the Bible, is recognized by all who are advanced in spiritual discernment as an instance of man’s apprehension of the Spirit-World.
We now realize that the enlightenment which Moses received in clairvoyant form must have been of the nature of a new consciousness proceeding from the great spirit of the cosmos, that spirit which is ever active and weaves throughout the whole material world. Ancient peoples believed in a plurality of cosmic forces, these they conceived as operating in man’s soul in such manner that the soul’s power did not represent a unit, for the forces were manifold in nature, while the soul was regarded merely as the scene of their active expression. It was for Moses to recognize a cosmic spirit of a very different order -- one that did not manifest as a soul-power owing its origin to divers spirit influences which, although exhibiting a certain similitude, find ultimate expression in varied form. That spirit of the cosmos, which it was ordained that Moses should apprehend, was of wholly other character, for its revelation can alone take place in the innermost and holiest mid-point of soul-life, the Ego. There works the spirit of the universe -- in the place where man’s soul is conscious of its very centre.
When the human soul feels that the Ego is linked with the weaving and the life of the spirit, in the same way as the people of old realized that their being was truly related to the cosmic forces, then can it apprehend those things which were first revealed to Moses through his clairvoyant powers. And these revelations must be regarded as forming the cosmic basis from which came the great impulse he gave to mankind. That primal impulse enabling humanity through its reasoning faculties and understanding alone [unaided by the old clairvoyance], to associate and compare physical phenomena, and to recognize in them factors underlying all continuity in the material world.
In these days, if we consider the centre of our soul-life, it appears to be of extremely poor content, in spite of the fact that this content represents our most intense life experiences. Certain people, especially those of a highly gifted and talented character, as for instance, Jean Paul, have felt, sometime during the course of earthly existence, that they were actually confronted with their true centre of being. Jean Paul, in his autobiography, tells this story: -- ‘Never shall I forget an inner vision which I once experienced and which I have not as yet described to anyone. In this vision I was present at the birth of my true conscious self, and I clearly recollect both the time and the place of this occurrence. It was one morning when I was a very young child; I was standing in the doorway of our house, and as I looked toward the left, in the direction of the wood-shed, there suddenly came to me an inner vision flashed down as lightning from Heaven, of the words: -- “I AM AN I” (Ich bin ein Ich) -- and these words remained for a space shining brightly. In that moment, and in that place, my Ego had looked upon itself for the first time, and the gaze would endure forever. Illusion due to defect of memory is hardly conceivable in this case, since no outside incidents on topics could mingle extraneous matter with an event which could only take place in the secret and most holy seclusion of man’s innermost being, and the very novelty of which caused minor details to be deeply impressed upon my memory.’
This ‘secret and most holy seclusion’ appears to be the most intense and powerful condition of our soul-life, but mankind cannot be so aware of this particular soul-state as of many another, for it is lacking in [conscious] plentitude. When man withdraws himself to this central point, then does he indeed realize that through those wondrous words -- ‘I AM’ -- so earnest and so forceful, but withal so meagre in actual word content, there ever resounds the dominant tone of his innermost soul-being.
That spirit from the cosmos, which Moses clearly apprehended as an homogeneous unity, is unceasingly active in that abode of ‘secret and most holy seclusion’. No wonder, when this cosmic essence was first revealed to Moses that he cried out: -- ‘If I am appointed to the task of standing before the people in order to inaugurate a new civilization based upon the consciousness of self -- who will believe me? -- In whose name shall I proclaim my mission?’ And the answer came: -- ‘Thou shalt say “I AM THAT I AM.”’ This profound asseveration signifies that the name of the Divinity Who reveals Himself in the ‘secret and most holy seclusion’ of man’s nature, cannot be otherwise proclaimed than with words which designate the consciousness of self-being. In the phenomenon of the burning bush, Moses discerned the Jahveh, or Jehovah-nature, and we can well understand that from the moment when the name -- Jahveh -- broke in upon his consciousness as ‘I AM’, there came a new current, a new element into the course of human evolution, and which was destined from that time on to supplant the old Egyptian civilization. The ancient culture had merely served to develop the soul of Moses, in order that he might be in a position to truly appreciate and to cope with those most exalted personalities and difficult situations which it would be his lot to encounter during the course of his life experiences.
We next come to the conference between Moses and Pharaoh. It is easy to see that when these two came together, they could not understand one another. The account is intended to convey the idea that all those things regarding which Moses spoke proceeded from an entirely changed order of human consciousness, and must, therefore, have been quite unintelligible to Pharaoh, in whom the old clairvoyant Egyptian culture alone continued active. That such was the case, is evident from the way in which the records are expressed -- for Moses spoke a new language. He clothed his speech in words which emanated from the Ego-consciousness of the human soul, and were, therefore, incomprehensible to Pharaoh, who could only follow the old train of thought.
Up to that cosmic hour, the Egyptians had had a mission to fulfil, based upon the powers of a by-gone clairvoyant conscious state -- but the time allotted to that mission had passed. Henceforth, the race, if it should continue to live on, would still remain endowed with the same temperament and national characteristics which it had heretofore possessed. It had found no means whereby it might raise itself and cross the sheer boundary which separated the old epoch from the new. But at this very time it was ordained that the Hebrew people would arise, and that Moses should point out a way. In remembrance of the events connected with the ‘passing over’ by Moses and his people from that period which was ended to that which was to come, there has ever since been celebrated The Feast of the Passover, and this festival should constantly remind us that it was Moses who was blessed with the understanding and the wisdom that made possible the transition from the old order of consciousness to the new. The Egyptians could not span this gulf, and while as the nation tarried, the waves of time swept onward. It is in the manner outlined above, that we must regard the relation of Moses to the Egyptians, and to his people.
The Hebrew race was by nature thoroughly adapted to receive that great enlightenment which it was the Mission of Moses to impart. What was its actual character? It was ordained that the old clairvoyant state should give place to an intellectual reasoning consciousness. It has been pointed out in previous lectures that clairvoyant consciousness is in no way connected with our external corporeal nature, and that it unfolds freely just at those times when man, through his soul training, has released himself from his external bodily instrument in order that he may be active and untrammelled in his soul-life. The intellectual consciousness is associated with the brain and the blood, and its means of expression lies in the human organism.
The continued spiritual development of that conscious state which had previously hovered, as it were, over the physical structure had, up to the time of Moses, been brought about solely through the relation existing between master and pupil; but it must now accommodate itself to a new condition in which it would be directly connected with, and confined to, the physical organism, and to the blood which would flow in the veins of the people from generation to generation. It was for this reason that the enlightenment which Moses was destined to give to humanity, so as to bring about an impulse toward an intellectual culture, could only be instilled into a nation in which the blood of the race would continue to flow vigorously throughout future generations, and therefore of such nature was the instrument chosen to receive the basal principles of the new cognitive faculty.
The new reasoning consciousness, the seeds of which were implanted by Moses, was not destined to live on merely in the spirit, for it had been ordained that the people thus chosen should be taken away from the Egyptian nation, in the midst of which they had been made ready, and that henceforth isolated and as a separate race they must develop through centuries to come those external methods and means which would in future form the basis of an intellectual culture, that should continue on throughout all coming ages.
We thus realize that the world’s history is full of significance and purport, and that the spiritual element is closely related to all external physical agents. It is clear that the author of the Bible narrative is at great pains to present the account of the transition of the ancient Egyptian culture to that of Moses in its true light and meaning as an episode in the history of the world. We have, for instance, the story of the passing of the Children of Israel through the Red Sea. Concealed beneath this narrative lies a wonderful truth relative to the evolution of mankind, but which is only to be understood by those who clearly comprehend the whole nature of this incident.
In connection with the Egyptians, we find proof of that link which necessarily exists between the soul-powers and that which is termed the clairvoyant faculty. We obtain the clearest insight into this matter when we take the animal organism as our starting-point, but I am sure you will not assume that by so doing, I would suggest that man’s nature resembles that of the animal kingdom. We must first imagine that the whole outlook and soul-life of the brute creation is dreamy and torpid, compared with the intellectual soul-state of man. Now, although primeval human clairvoyance most certainly cannot be directly compared with the soul-life of animals, from which it differs radically, nevertheless, we can clearly trace a definite relation between the instinctive existence and soul-life of the brute creation and that of the ancient soul-life of man. Although often exaggerated, there is a certain amount of truth underlying those stories which tell of animals leaving districts subject to earthquakes and volcanic disturbances, days before an eruption takes place. It has certainly happened, in some cases, that while human beings who regard and apprehend all things through the medium of their intellect have remained unmoved, the animals in the neighbourhood have been aroused. Anyone who has a knowledge of Spiritual Science knows that brute nature is so closely interwoven with all life in its immediate environment, that we can, in a sense, assert that animals possess a measure of instinctive understanding, which through its rudimentary powers controls and regulates their existence. This faculty is no longer found in man, because he has developed a higher intellectual quality, through which he is able to form reasoned concepts and ideas concerning all things which come within his cognizance; but this very logical capacity has, in effect, torn asunder that close tie with Nature herself, which he once enjoyed.
We must picture that in primeval times man was the possessor of a similar instinctive cognition to that above mentioned, in connection with the old clairvoyant state and also in conjunction with his relation to the external phenomena of Nature -- a kind of intuition -- whereby the ancients were enabled to say: -- ‘Such and such events are about to occur, hence we must take certain steps to prepare ourselves in advance.’ Just in the same way as some people, who are suitably constituted, raise themselves through striving of soul to a higher power of discernment and attain to an order of apprehension concerning matters connected with Nature for which no cause or reason can be assigned.
He who uses the forces of his soul and through its attributes and its virtues wins power to utter statements which are beyond the scope of his intellectual consciousness, feels uncomfortable when people come to him and say: -- ‘Why is that so? Give us proof of your assertions.’ Such persons never realize that knowledge of this nature comes by quite a different path from that which is born of logical reasoning. It is a striking and pertinent fact that Goethe, when he looked out of a window could often predict, hours in advance, what kind of weather was in store. If we conceive faculties of this nature as existing among the ancients and manifesting in such a way that through direct contact with the Spirit-World, the people of old were enabled to be closely associated with creation and the Phenomena of Nature (but in a manner entirely different from that which is the case to-day), then, we can realize and picture at least one fundamental feature of the old clairvoyance relative to the practical conduct of life. In olden times mankind did not possess meteorological observatories, there were no weather-forecasts published in newspapers or in other ways, as there are to-day; but the ancients were endowed with a sense of perception which clearly foretold what would occur, and they governed their actions in accordance with the impressions received.
This was especially the case with the old Egyptians, among whom the faculty of sense-perception was developed to a very high degree. They had no knowledge of our modern science or of our analytical methods, but nevertheless they knew how to comport themselves so as to be in living harmony with the whole surrounding world. But because the cosmic hour had struck for the Egyptian culture, this faculty, once so prominent, fell into decadence, and the Egyptian people became ever less and less capable of understanding and dealing with the facts and realities of Nature, and could no longer foretell from the grouping and interaction of external elements and factors, what should be their attitude and mode of conduct. But humanity was now destined to learn how to investigate and to study the arrangement and interrelations of these external elements, and it was Moses who would impart the impulse, but the impulse that he gave came even then from his old clairvoyant consciousness.
While Moses and his people stood upon the shore of the Red Sea, he realized, through an understanding somewhat similar to our own, but which still unfolded clairvoyantly, that exceptional natural circumstances, namely, an unusual combination of an East Wind and ebbtide together with a channel-like passage, made it possible at the right moment, for him to lead the Israelites across shallow waters. This historical fact has been graphically portrayed in order that we may realize that Moses was indeed the founder of a new and universal mode of intellectual apprehension that is still active in our day, and through which mankind will once more learn to bring the practical affairs of life into harmony with the existing order of Nature, even as was done by that great patriarch.
The Egyptians were a nation whose hour was spent; they could no longer foretell what would come to pass. The power of the old instinctive faculties which were theirs in by-gone times had waned, and they found themselves once more in a position as in the past when a decision must be made. In by-gone times they would have cried out: -- ‘It is too late! We cannot now make the passage.’ But that innate gift of discernment which they had so long enjoyed had all but vanished, and they knew not how to live in the new intellectual conscious state. Therefore they stood before the Red Sea helpless and bewildered, the old clairvoyant consciousness could no longer be their guide [they followed] and disaster overtook them. Here we find the new Moses-element in direct contrast with the old, and we see that the ancient clairvoyant faculty had so far declined that it could no longer be relied upon; and because it was unsuited to the new age it was the forerunner of calamity.
When we look beneath the surface of such apparently external graphic narratives as the above, and come upon the matter which the narrator really has in mind, we find that the stories oft-times characterize great turning-points in the evolution of mankind; and we realize that it is no light task to deduce from the peculiar descriptions found in the ancient writings, the true significance of the various personalities mentioned, such for instance, as Moses in the circumstances we have just quoted.
It is clear from what follows later in the account that at that time when it had to be decided whether Moses should, or should not, lead his people to Palestine, he still relied entirely upon the old clairvoyance, and that in his case, his intellectual enlightenment was fundamentally dependent upon this faculty. It was because the blood that flowed in the veins of the Jewish people made them by nature especially suitable to the task of laying the foundation of the impending movement toward intellectuality, that it was ordained that they should be led forth and guided to the Promised Land. The knowledge and wisdom which Moses acquired through his clairvoyant powers sufficed to impart the necessary impulse -- but could not be of itself of the new culture; for this new cultural faculty was destined to manifest in ways which would be the antithesis of the old order of clairvoyant consciousness.
From the Bible account it is evident that Moses felt that his call was merely to lead his people to a certain place; he was not to take them into the Promised Land; the last stage of the journey must be left to those who were destined to embrace the new order of intellectual development.
Although Moses was the prophet of the Lord, who manifests in our very Ego-being, we are nevertheless given to understand that it was only in virtue of his clairvoyant faculty that he could become conscious of the Mighty Word of the Great Spirit of the cosmos. When at last he was left to himself with the task of succouring his people, he fled to his tent in order that through his clairvoyant powers he might once more be in the actual presence of his God. Then it was that a Voice said: -- ‘Because thou canst not carry out all that is betokened by those thoughts which come to thee with visions, henceforth must another be the leader of thy people.’ The words of this decree shed a radiance around the great patriarch, for they implied that Moses with his clairvoyant faculty, was a prophet the like of whom would no more be seen in Israel. We are to understand that Moses was the last among the ancients to be endowed with the old order of psychic discernment. Henceforth would a form of intellection wholly independent of this gift spread its influence among all fitting peoples, and man’s actions and cognition be based on power to reason and tradition alone. Thus might the Ego, the verity of which had already become recognized by those who had understanding of the fundamental factors of the new culture, be made ready that it might absorb a new principle.
It was through the Mission of Moses that mankind was first led to realize that the most positive feeling which man can experience of the absolute reality of the all-pervading cosmic Spirit, that Divine Principle which is ever active and interwoven throughout the whole earth, is centred in the ‘I AM’ -- the very mid-point of the human soul. But in order that these two simple words may be fraught with the uttermost import, the ‘I AM’ must first store within itself full measure of a content that shall once again embrace the world. To compass this end necessitated yet another mission, which mission is expressed in those deeply significant words of St. Paul: -- ‘Yet not I, but Christ liveth in Me’ (Gal. ii, 20). Now, Moses had brought humanity up to the point of establishing a true culture of man’s Ego. This new-born intellection was destined to live on throughout the ages yet to be, a gift from above, a form of civilization, a ‘receptacle’, so to speak, for the coming content. It was essential that the centre of our being should first unfold in the bosoms of the ancient Hebrew people. Henceforth, would this divine ‘receptacle’ be filled with all that springs from a true understanding of The Mystery of Golgotha, and the events which took place in Palestine. Thus would the Ego receive its new content, which itself would be a creation of the Spirit-World. We can most easily recognize all that came of that fresh in-pouring, and that owed its origin to the preparation and development of the Hebrew people, when we refer to the book of Job. We cannot, however, rightly understand the wonderful tragedy therein portrayed, unless we take into account the peculiar characteristics of the Jewish race.
We are told that Job, albeit he was a righteous man who believed in his God was, nevertheless, convinced that the Almighty was actually the true source of all his afflictions. He experienced disaster after disaster to his property, his family, and his own person. So that the Lord appeared to manifest in such a manner that Job might well have doubted whether indeed the Great Spirit of the cosmos was really active in man’s Ego. Matters went to such a length that Job’s wife could not understand why her husband, in spite of all that had befallen him, should continue to trust in the Almighty. She therefore spoke to him in words of paramount import, thus: -- ‘[Dost thou still retain thine integrity?) curse God, and die.’ (Job ii, 9.) What is the underlying meaning of this significant allegorical tragedy, and of the words: -- ‘Curse God, and die’? It is here implied that, -- If the God Whom you regard as being the very source of your existence visits you with sorrow and adversity, you may turn from Him; but of a verity death will be the lot of the one who would do this thing, for he who turns away from his God, places himself without the pale of the living course of evolution. The friends of Job could not believe that he had committed no transgression, for surely in the case of a righteous person should equity prevail. Even the narrator himself cannot make clear to us the justness of the circumstances, for he can only say that Job, who was thus stricken with misery and distress, nevertheless received compensation in the physical world for all that he had lost and suffered.
Throughout this deeply significant allegory as depicted in the book of Job there is, as it were, an echo of the Moses-consciousness; and in the story it is made clear that the Spirit brings to us enlightenment and ever manifests in man’s innermost being. But during the course of earthly existence, the Ego must live in contact with physical things. Hence it is that there are moments of transgression in which man may weaken, and lose his feeling of unity with the vital source of life. From the Christ-Impulse, humanity has learnt that compensation for suffering and affliction is not to be sought in the physical world alone. We now know that in every case when man is overcome by bodily distress -- in sorrow and in pain -- then, if he but remain steadfast, he may indeed triumph over that which is material. For his Ego is not merely illumined by the ultimate source of all that is spread throughout space and time, but is of a verity so conditioned that it may yet absorb the mighty power of the eternal.
We find the same uplifting thoughts underlying St. Paul’s words: -- ‘Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal. ii, 20). Moses had brought humanity so far that it could realize that all things that live and weave throughout the cosmos, manifest in deepest and most characteristic form in the Ego. Man may comprehend the world, if it be pictured as a simple unit proceeding from some great universal Ego centre. If we would indeed receive the eternal spirit within our being, then must we not regard temporal things; nor take heed only of the Jehovah-Unit hidden and beyond all that is of space and time; but look also to that spontaneous and glorious benefaction -- The Christ-Source -- which underlies and is concentric with all unity.
Thus do we recognize in Moses the personality of one who paved the way for Christianity; and we have learnt in what manner he instilled into humanity a consciousness of self, a consciousness which throughout the development of all future generations would be as a store-house to be filled with the substance of eternity; which means that it was yet to become a fitting receptacle replete with the essence of the Christ-Being. It is in this way that we picture the patriarch Moses in his relation to the progress and evolution of mankind. History ever reveals its deepest truths when subject to thought and reflection of the above nature.
In a previous lecture devoted to Buddha, we drew attention to the fact that from time to time some outstanding personality arises, through whose agency the eternal fount of wisdom springs once more into life, thus causing humanity to advance yet another step in its growth and development; and when we ponder upon the circumstances connected with this or that great figure, there comes to us a sense of his true relation to the collective evolution of mankind.
When we regard the development of the human race from this stand-point, we find that we are involved in its progress in a vital sense, and it is at once apparent that the Spirits of the cosmos have some fixed and definite purpose associated with our existence, the object of which becomes more and more discernible as life proceeds. It is through the earnest consideration of the example and works of lofty spiritual individualities, together with profound meditation concerning outstanding events in the world’s evolution and the history of mankind, that we may gain that sense of power, confidence of soul and unswerving hope, through which alone we may take our proper place in the totality of human evolution. If we regard the history of the world in this manner, we feel anew the beauty of Goethe’s words, and we realize that the greatest benefit which can accrue to us through the study of universal history is the awakening of our enthusiasm. But it must be an enthusiasm which is not mere blind admiration and wonder, for it should prompt us to implant in our souls the seeds which are borne to us from the past, so that they may bring forth goodly fruits in the time yet to come.
The words of the great poet live again, in somewhat modified form, when, through the contemplation of those grand outstanding personalities and events of olden times we realize this glorious truth: --
‘The age is as a field in flower,
Where wondrous growth and life proceed;
Fresh buds unfold with every hour --
Lo! all is fruit and all is seed.’4
Notes for this lecture:
1. The underlying suggestion here involved is, that the fact that it is necessary that the perceptual faculties be held in abeyance for the time being, indicates that this particular personality, already possessed other faculties of a spiritual order, which being thus freed would become operative. [Ed.]
2. The seven human soul-forces to which reference is here made, are those cosmic-influences which act through the soul in connection with the seven principles of man’s organism. These ‘seven principles’ are as follows: --
(1) The Physical body. (2) The Etheric or Life Body. (3) ‘The Astral Body. (4) The Ego or Body of Consciousness, which sets about transforming the first three by acting upon the psychic principles. Within the Ego is:
(5) Atma. Spirit-man as transmuted Physical Body.
(6) Buddi. Life-spirit as transmuted Etheric or Life Body.
(7) Manas. Spirit-self as transmuted Astral Body.
The latter, Manas, is partly developed; but of Atma and Buddi there is merely a seed.
Vide, Investigations in Occultism by Rudolf Steiner. Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, London and New York. [Ed.]
3. In the Middle Ages, the Liberal Arts (artes liberales) were considered to be seven in number, namely, music, grammar, rhetoric,logic, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. Plato and Aristotle, distinguished between the practical arts, and the so-called liberal arts, which latter were concerned with progress of an ethical or literary character. [Ed.]
4. Die Zeit, sie ist eine blühende Flur,
Ein grosses Lebendiges ist der Menschheit Werdegang,
Und alles ist Frucht und alles ist Same!
Turning Points in Spiritual History