TURNING POINTS IN SPIRITUAL HISTORY
Among the fundamental principles underlying Spiritual Science and to which your attention has been drawn in previous lectures, the most prominent is the idea of Reincarnation. According to this generally unpopular and little understood concept, it is maintained that human individuality is constrained to manifest again and again in a single personality, during its enfoldment in the course of repeated earth-lives. It has been previously pointed out that many and diverse questions are associated with this conception, and that such is the case will become more and more apparent as we proceed.
What deep meaning, we might ask, underlies the fact that the span of man’s life on earth is destined to recur, not once only, but many times, and that during each successive period between rebirth and death human individuality persists. When we study the evolution of mankind in the light of Spiritual Science, we find therein a progressive purport, a design of such nature that each age and each epoch presents in some fashion a different content, and we realize that human evolution is ever destined to maintain a definite upward trend. Thus do we become aware of a profound latent significance, when we know that the varied influences which act upon mankind are indeed potent and become absorbed over and over again by the Ego during the course of human development. A condition which is only possible because man, with all that comprises his being, is brought into contact not once alone, but recurrently, with the great living stream of evolution.
When we regard the whole evolutionary process as a rational progression, ever accompanied by fresh contents, there dawns a true comprehension of those Great Spiritual Beings who set the measure of progress. We are then able to realize the import and proper relation of these outstanding leaders, from whom have come new thoughts, experiences and impulses destined to further the advancement and progressive evolution of humanity.
During this Cycle of Lectures I shall speak of many such Spiritual Beings who have acted as guides to mankind, and at the same time bring forward and elucidate various matters connected with this subject. The first human individuality to claim our attention from such a point of view is Zarathustra, about whom, although there is much discussion in these days, little is known; for as far as external investigation goes his history is especially problematical, as it is shrouded in mystery and unrecorded in ancient documents.
When we consider the characteristics of such a personality as Zarathustra, whose gifts to mankind, as far as they are preserved for us, seem so strange to our present age, we at once realize how great is the dissimilarity in man’s whole being at different periods of earthly progress. Casual reflection might easily lead to the conclusion, that from the very beginning humanity has always had the same ideas concerning morality, the same general thoughts, feelings and conceptions as those which exist in our time. From previous lectures, however, and from others which will follow, you will know through the teachings of Spiritual Science that during man’s development great and important changes take place, especially as regards the life of the human soul, the nature of human apprehension, emotions and desires. Further, you will realize that man’s consciousness was very differently constituted in olden days; and that there is reason to believe that in the future yet other stages will be reached in which the conscious condition of mankind will vary considerably from its normal state to-day.
When we turn our attention to Zarathustra we find that we must look back over an extremely long period. According to certain modern researches, he is considered to be a contemporary of Buddha; the approximate date of his life being fixed at some six to six and a half centuries before the birth of Christianity. It is, however, a remarkable and interesting fact that other investigators of late years, after carefully studying all existing traditions concerning Zarathustra, have been driven to the conclusion that the personality concealed beneath the name of the ancient founder of Persian religion must have lived a great many centuries before the time of Buddha. Greek historians have stated over and over again that the period ascribed to Zarathustra should be put back very many, possibly five to six thousand years before the Trojan War [the date of which has been placed at about 1200 B.c.]1.
From the above, and from what has been learned through research in many directions, we can now feel certain that historical investigators will in the end be unwillingly forced to acknowledge that the claims of Grecian scholarship regarding the great antiquity of the Zarathustran era, as indicated by ancient tradition, are justly founded and must be accepted as authentic. Spiritual Science, in its statements and theories, fully concurs with the old Greek writers who already in olden days had fixed the period of the founder of Persian religion so far back in time. We have, therefore, good reason for maintaining that Zarathustra, living as he did thousands of years before the birth of Christianity, was doubtless confronted with a very different class of human consciousness from that which exists in our present age.
It has often been pointed out, and we will again refer to this matter, that in ancient times the development of human consciousness was such that the old ‘dream state’, or ‘clairvoyant condition’ (we will avoid misusing this term, as is so often done in these days), was in every way perfectly normal to man, so that his conceptions and ideas were such that he did not contemplate the world from that narrow perceptual point of view that is so prevalent to-day.
We can best picture the impressions made by the world upon the consciousness of the ancients, if we turn our thoughts to that last enduring remnant of the old clairvoyant state, namely, dream consciousness. We all know those fluctuating dream pictures that come to us at times, the most of which carry no meaning, and are so often merely suggestive of the outer world, although there may now and then intrude some higher level of conscious thought; dream visions, which in these days we find so difficult to interpret and to understand. We might say that our sleep consciousness runs its course pictorially in ever-changing scenes, and which are at the same time symbolical. For instance, many of us have had the experience that events connected with some impressive happening -- say, a conflagration -- have been after a time once more figuratively manifested to us in a dream. Let us now consider for a moment this other horizon of our sleeping state, where clings in truth that last remnant of a conscious condition belonging to a by-gone age in the grey and distant past.
The consciousness of the ancients was such that in reality they lived in a life of imagery. The visions which came to them were not merely indefinite unrelated creations, for they had reference to an actual outer world. In olden days primitive man was capable of intermediate conscious states, between those which prevail when we sleep and when we are awake; then it was that he lived in the presence of the Spirit-World, and the Spirit-World entered into his being. To-day this door is closed, but in those ancient times such was not the case. It was while in this intermediate condition that man became aware of visions which resembled to some extent dream pictures, but were definite in their manifestation of a spirit life and of spiritual achievement existing beyond the perceptual world. Although in the Zarathustran era, such visions had already become somewhat confused and vague, there was nevertheless still close contact with the world of spirit, therefore these ancients could say from direct observation and experience: ‘In the same way as I realize this outer physical world and this perceptual life, even so do I know that there exists another conscious condition belonging to a different region -- a spiritual realm -- related to that which is material, and where I do of a verity experience and observe the workings of the Divine Spirit.’
It is a fundamental principle underlying the evolution of the human race, that in no case can any one quality be developed except at the expense of some other attribute; hence it came about that from epoch to epoch, the faculty through which in olden times mankind obtained a clear inner vision of the spiritual realms became ever less and less pronounced. Our present day exact methods of thought, our power of expression, our logic, all that we regard as the most important driving forces of modern culture did not exist in the remote past. Such faculties have been acquired during later periods at the expense of the old clairvoyant consciousness, and it is now for mankind to regain and cultivate this long-lost power. Then in the future of human evolution a time will come when in addition to man’s purely physical consciousness, his intellectuality and his logic, he will again approach the condition of the ancient seer.
We must differentiate between the upward and downward tendency of human consciousness. Evolution has a deeper meaning when we realize that in the beginning man was entirely of a spiritual realm, where he lived in the soul, and that when he descended into the physical world it was ordained that he should gradually relinquish his clairvoyant power in order that he might acquire qualities born of the existing purely physical conditions; such as intellectuality and logic. When this stage in his development has run its course he will again return to the world of spirit.
Regarding the circumstances connected with these curious clairvoyant states and experiences of the ancients we have no historical record. Zarathustra lived in that same remote age, and was one of those great leading personalities who gave immense stimulus to the advancement of culture and civilization. Such guiding personalities must ever draw from the creative source that which we may term Illumination, whereby they are initiated into the higher mysteries of the world, irrespective of the standard of normal human consciousness existing in their time. Other such outstanding personalities of whom mention will be made during these lectures are: Hermes, Buddha and Moses.
Zarathustra lived at least 8000 years before the present era, and those glorious gifts to civilization which emanated from his illumined spirit have been reflected in the great cultural progress of humanity. His influence has long ago been clearly recognized, and can be detected even to this day, by all who take note of the mysterious currents underlying the whole of human evolution.
We now realize that Zarathustra belonged essentially to those Great Ones in whose souls lived a measure of the spiritual elements of truth, wisdom and perception, far surpassing the customary standard of human consciousness of their period. His mission was to proclaim to his fellow men, in that part of the world later known as the Persian Empire, those grand truths which emanated from the superperceptual regions -- a world utterly beyond the apprehension of man’s normal consciousness in that dim and distant age.
If we would understand the true significance of Zarathustra’s teachings, we must remember that it was his task to present to a certain section of humanity, in an intelligible manner, a particular world aspect; while on the other hand, various movements which had been in progress among the peoples of other regions, had given a different trend to the whole sphere of man’s culture.
The personality of Zarathustra is of special interest because he lived in a territory, contiguous upon its South side to a country which was inhabited by Indian tribes, upon whom spiritual blessings flowed in quite a different manner. When we look forward from those by-gone times we find upon the selfsame soil where dwelt these ancient Indian tribes, the peoples among whom at a later period arose the poets of the Vedas. To the North, where spread the great Brahman Doctrine, is situated that region which was permeated throughout by the powerful and compelling teachings of Zarathustra. But that which he gave to the world was in many respects fundamentally different from the teachings of the great Ieaders among the Indians, whose words have lived on in the moving poetry of the Vedas, in their profound philosophy, and has reached yet an echo in that final glorious blaze of light -- The Revelation of the Buddha.
We can understand the difference between that which was born of the flow of thought from Zarathustra and the teachings of the ancient Indians, when we bear in mind that we may approach the region of the superperceptual world from two sides. Already in other lectures we have spoken of the path which man must traverse in order that he may enter into the spirit realms. There are two possible methods by which he may raise the energy of his soul, and the capacities latent in his inner being, so much above their normal level that he can pass out of this perceptual into the superperceptual world. The one method is that by which man enters or retires, more and more deeply into his soul, and thus merges himself in his very essence. The other leads behind the veil which is spread around us by our material state. Man can enter the superperceptual region by both these methods.
When we experience within our very being a deepening of all values of our spiritual feelings, conceptions and ideas -- in short, of our soul impulses; when in fact we creep more and more into ourselves, so that our spiritual powers become ever stronger and stronger; then can we, as it were, in some mystic way merge ourselves within and pass through all that we hold of the physical world to our actual spirit essence -- the soul Ego -- which Ego continues from incarnation to incarnation, and is not perishable but everlasting. When we have overcome our lusts and passions and all those experiences of the soul which are ours because we are of the body in a physical world, then can our true being pierce the surrounding veil and for ever enter the world of spirit.
On the other hand, if we develop those powers which will enable us not merely to be sensible of the outer world with its colours, tone sensations, heat and cold; and if we so strengthen our spiritual forces that we shall be aware of that which lies beyond the colours, the sound, the heat and the cold, and all those other earthly sense-perceptions which hang as a mist about us -- then will the enhanced powers of our soul take us behind the enshrouding cloud and into that boundless superperceptual region which is without confine and stretches ever into the infinite.
There is one way leading to the Spirit-World which we may term the ‘Mystical Method’, and another which is properly called ‘The Method of "Spiritual Science"‘. All great spiritual personalities have followed these paths, in order to attain to those truths and revelations which it was their mission to impress upon humanity in the form of cultural progress. In primeval times man’s development was of such nature, that great revelations could only come to the people of any particular race, through one of these methods alone. But from that period on, in which the Greeks lived, that is, at the dawn of the Christian era, these two separate thought currents commingled, and became more and more one single cultural stream. When we now speak of entering the higher spheres, we understand, that he who would penetrate into the superperceptual region, develops both qualities of power in his soul. The forces necessary to the ‘Mystical Method’ are evolved within the inner being, and those essential to the course of ‘Spiritual Science’, are strengthened while man is yet conscious of the outer world. There is to-day no longer any definite separation of these two paths, as since about the time of that epoch marked by the life of the Grecian race, these two currents have run their course together -- in the one, revelation comes about through a mystic merging of man’s consciousness within his very being -- in the other, the veil is torn asunder by the enhanced power of his spiritual forces, and man’s awareness stretches outward into the great cosmos.
In olden times before the Grecian or Christian era, these two possible methods were in operation separately among different peoples, and we find them working in close proximity, but in divers ways, in the Indian culture which found expression among the Vedas, on the one hand, and that of Zarathustra, further North, on the other. All that we look upon with such wonder in the ancient Indian culture, and which later found expression through Buddha, was achieved by inner contemplation, and turning away from the outer world -- through causing the eyes to become less sensitive to physical colours, the ears to physical sounds, and bringing about a deadening of the sense organs in general to the perceptual veil -- so that the inner soul forces might be strengthened: -- Thus did man press on to Brahma, there to feel himself unified with that which ever works and weaves as the Inner Spirit of the Universe, -- In this way originated the teachings of the Holy Rishis, which live on in the poetry of the Vedas, in the Vedantic philosophy, and in Buddhism.
The Doctrine of Zarathustra was, however, entirely based upon the other method above-mentioned. He taught his disciples the secret of strengthening their powers of apprehension and cognition, in order that they might pass beyond the mists surrounding the outer perceptual world. He did not say to his followers, as did the Indian teachers: ‘Turn away from the colours, and from the sounds, and from all outer sense-impressions, and seek the path to the spiritual realms only through the merging of yourselves within your very souls’, -- but he spoke thus: -- ‘Strengthen your powers of perception, in order that you may look around upon all things, the plants, the animals, that which lives in the air and in the water, upon the mountains, and in the depths of the valleys, and cast your eyes upon the world.’ We know that the disciples of the Indian mystics regarded this earth upon which we live as merely maya (illusion), and turned from it in order to attain to Brahma. On the other hand, Zarathustra counselled his followers not to draw away from the material world, but to pass outward and beyond it, so that they might say: -- ‘Whenever we experience perceptual manifestations in the outer physical world, we realize that therein lie concealed and beyond our sense perceptions the workings and achievements of the spirit.’
It is remarkable that the two paths should have been thus united in early Grecian times, and just because in that period true spiritual knowledge was more profound than in our day (which we are inclined to regard as so amazingly enlightened!) all things found expression in imagery, and the images gave rise to Mythology. Thus do we find these two thought currents commingled and fostered in the Grecian culture -- The Mystical tending inward, and the Zarathustran outward into the great cosmos.
That such was the case becomes evident from the fact, that one of these paths was named after Dionysos, that mysterious god who was reached when man merged himself ever deeper and deeper within his inner being, there to find a questionable sub-human element, as yet unknown, and from which he first developed into man. It was this unclean and half-animal residue to which was given the name of Dionysos. On the other hand, all that comes to us when we regard our physical sense perceptions from a purely spiritual standpoint, was termed Apollo. Thus we find in ancient Greece, in the Apollo current of thought, the teaching of Zarathustra; and in the Dionysos current, the doctrine of mystical contemplation, side by side in contrast. In Greece they united and operated conjointly -- the Zarathustran and the Mystical Methods, those methods which had been at their highest level, working separately, in the days of the ancient Indians.
Here we might say, that already in olden times these two thought currents were destined to commingle in the coming Grecian cults of Apollo and Dionysos, and thenceforward they would continue as one; so that in our present cultural period, when we raise ourselves to a certain spiritual understanding, we find them still unified and enduring.
It is very remarkable, and one of the many riddles which present themselves to the thinking mind, that Nietzsche in his first work, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, gave evidence of a vague suspicion that in the Grecian creeds of Dionysos and Apollo, the Mystical current meets the stream of scientific spiritual thought.
A further matter of interest lies in the fact, that Zarathustra actually taught his disciples to recognize in detail, the hidden workings of the Spirit in all material things, and from this starting-point the whole of his gifts to culture emanated. He emphasized that it was not sufficient for man merely to say: -- ‘There before us spreads a material world, behind which ever works and weaves the Divine Spirit.’ Such a statement might appear at first sight full of significance, it leads, however, only to a general pantheistic outlook, and means nothing more, than that some vague nebulous spirit underlies all material phenomena. Zarathustra, like all other great personalities of the past who were exalted and had direct contact with the Spirit-World, did not present these matters to his followers and the people in any such indefinite and abstract manner; he pointed out, that in the same way as individual physical happenings vary in import, so is it with the latent spiritual factor, it being sometimes of greater and sometimes of less moment. He further stated that the sun, regarded purely from the physical point of view as a member of the stellar system, is the source of all earthly phenomena, life, and activity, while concealed within is the centre of spiritual existence in so far as we are immediately concerned.
These things Zarathustra impressed earnestly and clearly upon his disciples, and, using simple words, we can picture him as addressing them somewhat as follows: -- ‘When you regard man, you must realize that he does not only consist of a material body -- such is but an outer expression of the spirit which is within. Even as the physical covering is a manifestation in condensed and crystallized form of the true spiritual man, so is the sun which appears to us as a light-giving mass when considered as such, merely the external manifestation of an inner spiritual sun.’ In the same way as we term the human spirit element as distinguished from the physical, The Aura, to use an ancient expression, so do we call the all-embracing hidden spiritual part of the sun, The Great Aura (Aura Mazda); in contradistinction to man’s spiritual component, which is sometimes called the Little Aura.
Now, Zarathustra named all that lies hidden within and beyond man’s mere apprehension of the physical sun -- ‘Aura Mazda’ or ‘Ahura Mazdao’ -- and considered this element as important to our spiritual experiences and conditions, as is the physical sun to the wellbeing of plants and animals, and all that lives upon the face of the earth. There behind the physical sun lies the Spiritual Master -- The Creator -- ‘Ahura Mazdao’ or ‘Aura Mazda’, and from ‘Ahura Mazdao’ came the name, ‘Ormuzd’, or, ‘The Spirit of Light’.
While the Indians mystically searched their inner being, in order to attain to Brahma -- The Eternal -- who shines outward as a point of light from within man’s essence, Zarathustra urged his disciples to turn their eyes upon the great periphery of existence, and pointed out that there within the body of the sun, dwells the great Solar Spirit -- Ahura Mazdao -- ‘The Spirit of Light’. He taught them that, just in the same way as when man strives to raise his spirit to perfection, so must he ever battle against his lower passions and desires, against the delusive images suggested by possible deception and falsehood, and all those antagonistic influences within, which continually oppose his spiritual impulses. Thus must ‘Ahura Mazdao’ face the opposition of ‘The Spirit of Darkness’ -- ‘Angra Mainyus’ or ‘Ahriman’.
We can now realize how the great Zarathustran conception could be evolved from experiences born of sensations and sense contents. Through these, Zarathustra could advance his disciples to a point where he could make clear to them that: -- Within man there is a ‘Perfecting Principle’, which tells him that whatever may be his present condition this principle will work persistently within, and through it he may raise himself ever higher and higher; but at the same time there also operate impulses and inclinations, deceit and falsehood, all tending towards imperfection. This Perfecting Principle must therefore be developed and expanded, in order that the world may be destined to attain to wiser and more advanced states of perfection; it is the ‘Principle of Ahura Mazdao’, and is assailed throughout the whole world by Ahriman -- ‘The Spirit of Darkness’ -- who through imperfection and evil brings shadows into the light. By following the method above outlined, Zarathustra’s disciples were enabled to realize and to feel, that in truth each individual man is an image of the outer universe.
We must not seek the true significance of such teaching in theories, concepts and ideas; but in active vivid consciousness and in the sensations impressed when through it man realizes that he is so related to the universe that he can say: -- ‘As I stand here, I am a small world, and as such I am a replica of the Great Cosmos.’ Just as we have within us a principle of perfection, and another which is antagonistic, so throughout the universe is Ormuzd opposed by Ahriman. In these teachings the whole cosmos is represented as typical of a widespread human being; the forces of greatest virtue are termed Ahura Mazdao, while against these operate the powers of Angra Mainyus.
When a man realizes that he is in direct contact with the workings of the universe and the attendant physical phenomena, but can only apprehend the perceptual, then as he begins to gain spiritual experience, a feeling of awe may come over him (especially if he is materialistic in thought) when he learns through Spectrum Analysis, that the same matter which exists upon the earth is found in the most distant stars. It is the same with Zarathustranism, when man feels that his spiritual part is merged in that of the whole cosmos, and that he has indeed emanated from its great spirit. Herein lies the true significance of such a doctrine, which was not merely abstract in character, but on the contrary wholly concrete.
In this present age it is most difficult to make people understand (even when they have a certain sense for the spiritual that lies behind the perceptual) that it is necessary to a true and spiritually scientific view of the cosmos, that there be more than one central unity of spirit-power. But even as we distinguish between the separate forces in Nature, such as Heat, Light, and Chemical forces, so in the world of spirit must we recognize not merely one centralized power (whose existence is not denied) but we must differentiate between it and certain subservient uplifting forces, whose spheres of action are more circumscribed than are those of the all-embracing spirit. Thus it was that Zarathustra made a distinction between the omnipotent Ormuzd, and those spirit beings by whom he was served.
Before we turn to a consideration of these subservient spirit entities, we must draw attention to the fact that the Zarathustran theory was not a mere Dualism -- a simple doctrine of two worlds -- the worlds of Ormuzd and of Ahriman; but that it maintained that underlying this double flux of cosmic influence, is a definite unity -- a single power -- which gave birth to both The Realm of Light (Ormuzd) and to The Realm of Darkness (Ahriman). It is not easy to gain a right understanding of Zarathustra’s conception concerning this ‘Unity’ underlying Ormuzd and Ahriman. With reference to this point the Greek authors state that the ancient Persians worshipped, and regarded as a ‘Living Unity’, that which lay beyond the light, and which Zarathustra termed ‘Zervane Akarene’. How can we gain a comprehension of what Zarathustra in his teachings meant by ‘Zervane Akarene’ or ‘Zaruana Akarana’?
Let us consider for a moment the course of evolution; this we must regard as of such nature, that all beings tend towards greater and greater perfection. So that if we look into the future, we see more and more of the radiance from the Light-Realms of Ormuzd; but if we turn our eyes upon the past, we realize how the powers of Ahriman, which oppose Ormuzd, are circumstanced; and we then know that with the passing of time, these must be conquered and for ever ended.
We will now picture to ourselves that the path into the future and that into the past each lead to the same point; a conception which present-day man finds most difficult to grasp. Let us take as an example a circle; if we pass along the circumference from the lowest point in one direction, we come to the opposite point above, if, however, we go along the other side, we come to the same point. When we consider a larger circle, then the circumference is flatter, and we must traverse a greater distance in each case. We will now suppose a circle to expand ever more and more, then ultimately the path on either side becomes a straight line, and is infinite. But just before the circle becomes infinite we would reach the same point whether we went by the one path or the other. Why, then, should not the same happen when the circumference is so flattened that the periphery becomes a straight line? In this case the point at infinity on the one must be identical with that on the other, and therefore we must be able to travel to it, from the lowest point in one sense (say, positive), and return as if coming from the opposite (negative) direction. This means that when our conception is infinite, we have a straight line extending without limit on either side, but which is in reality the circumference of an infinite circle.
The abstraction given above lies at the basis of Zarathustra’s conception of what he termed Zaruana Akarana. Here, with regard to time, we look in one direction into the future, in the other into the past, and when we consider an infinite period time closes in upon itself as in a circle. This self-contained and infinite time circle is symbolically represented as a serpent eternally biting its own tail, and into it is woven upon the one side, The Power of Light, shedding upon us continually a greater and greater radiance; and upon the other, The Power of Darkness, becoming ever more and more profound. When we are midway, then is the light (Ormuzd) intermingled with the shadows (Ahriman); all is interwoven in the self-embracing infinite Flux of Time, ‘Zaruana Akarana’.
There is something more about this ancient cosmic conception; its basic ideas were treated seriously, there were no mere vague statements such as: -- ‘Without and remote from all that is material in this perceptual world, beyond those things which affect our eyes, our ears, and sense organs in general -- abides The Spirit’. But it was definitely asserted, that in everything which could be seen and apprehended, therein could be discerned something of the nature of spirit signs, or a manifestation of the Spirit-World.
If we take a sheet of paper upon which are inscribed alphabetical characters, these may be combined into words; but we must first have learnt how to read. Without this ability no one could read about Zarathustra; for they would merely perceive certain characters which could only be followed with the eyes. Actual reading can only take place after it is clearly understood how to connect such characters with that which is within the soul. Now, Zarathustra discerned a written sign underlying all that was in the perceptual world, particularly in the manner in which the stars are grouped in the universe. Just as we recognize written characters upon paper, so did Zarathustra descry in the starry firmament something similar to letters, conveying a message from the Spirit-World. Hence, arose an art of penetrating into the World of Spirit, and of deciphering the signs indicated by the arrangement of the stars, and of finding a method of reading and construing from their movements and order, in what manner and way those spiritual beings that are without, inscribe the facts concerning their activities in space.
Zarathustra and his disciples had a paramount interest in these matters. To them it was a most important sign that Ahura Mazdao, in order to accomplish his creations and to reveal his message to the world, should (in the language of Modern Astronomy) ‘describe a circular path’. This fact was regarded as a sign traced in the heavens indicating in what manner Ahura Mazdao worked, and the relation which his activities bore to the universe as a whole. It is important that Zarathustra was able to point out that the constellations of the Zodiac, taken together as forming a closed curve in space, should symbolize a continuous and also retroactive time flux; and we can realize that there is indeed a most profound significance underlying the statement, that one branch of this time-curve stretches outward into the future, while the other leads backward into the remote past. Zaruana Akarana is that bright band of stars, later known as the Zodiac, that self-contained time-line ever traversed by Ormuzd, The Spirit of Light. In other words, the passage of the sun across the constellations of the Zodiac is an expression of the activity of Ormuzd; while the Zodiac itself is the symbol of Zaruana Akarana. In reality, Zaruana Akarana and The Zodiac are identical terms, just in the same way as are Ormuzd and Ahura Mazdao.
There are two special circumstances to be considered in this connection. First, when the passage of the sun through the Zodiac takes place while it is light, as in the summer. At such time the solar radiance falls full upon the earth, bringing with it the power emanating from those spiritual forces ever flowing outward from the Light-Realms of Ormuzd. That part of the Zodiac traversed by Ahura Mazdao in the daytime, or during the summer, denotes the manner in which He works and weaves unhindered by Ahriman. On the other hand, those Zodiacal constellations which lie far beneath the horizon -- dark regions through which we might picture the passage of Angra Mainyus -- are symbolical of the Kingdom of The Shadows.
We have stated that Zarathustra regarded Ormuzd as associated with the bright sections of the Zodiac (Zaruana Akarana), while he looked upon Ahriman as connected with the gloom. In what way do the activities of Ormuzd and Ahriman find expression in our material world? In order to understand this point we must realize that the effect of the solar rays is different in the morning from that at noon; varying as the sun ascends from Aries to Taurus, and again during its descent toward the horizon. The influence exerted is not the same in winter as in summer, and differs with every passing sign of the Zodiac. Zarathustra regarded the changing aspects of the sun in connection with the Zodiacal constellations as symbolical of the activities of Ormuzd proceeding from different directions, and from which came those spiritual beings that are both His servants and His sons, and who are ready at all times to execute His commands. These are the ‘Amschaspands’ or ‘Ameschas Pentas’, subservient entities, to each of whom is allotted some special duty.
While Ormuzd controls all active functions in the Light-Realms, the Amschaspands undertake that specific work which finds expression in the transmission of the sun’s light when in Aries, Taurus, Cancer, etc. But the true vital activity of Ormuzd is manifested in the full radiance of the sun, shining throughout all bright signs of the Zodiac, from Aries to Libra or Scorpio. Following the Zarathustran line of thought, we might say: -- ‘It is as though the evil powers of Ahriman came through the earth from those dark regions where abide his servants -- his own Amschaspands -- who are opposed to the good genii standing by the side of Ormuzd.’ Zarathustra actually distinguished between twelve different subservient spirit entities; six or seven on the side of Ormuzd, and five or six on that of Ahriman. These are regarded as typical of good or evil genii (Amaschas Pentas -- lower spirits), according as to whether their influence comes with the sun’s rays from the bright Signs of the Zodiac, or emanates from those which are in gloom.
Goethe had the subservient spirits of Ormuzd in mind when he wrote the following words at the beginning of Faust in the ‘Prologue of Heaven’:
‘But ye, God’s sons in love and duty,
Enjoy the rich, the ever-living Beauty!
Creative Power, that works eternal schemes,
Clasp you in bonds of love, relaxing never,
And what in wavering apparition gleams
Fix in its place with thoughts that stand for ever!’2
(Trans: BAYARD TAYLOR)
From the above it is apparent that the conception which Goethe formed of ‘God’s sons’ as the servants of the Highest Divine Power, is similar to Zarathustra’s concept concerning the Amschaspands, of which, as already stated, he recognized twelve different kinds. Again, subservient to these Amschaspand entities, according to Zarathustranism, are yet lower orders of spiritual powers or forces, among which some twenty-eight separate types are usually distinguished. These are the so-called ‘Izarads’ or ‘Izeds’; the number of different classes into which they may be divided is, however, indeterminate, being variously estimated from twenty-four up to twenty-eight, and even as high as thirty-one. There is yet a third division of spiritual powers or forces, termed by Zarathustra ‘Ferruhars’ or ‘Frawaschars’. According to our conceptions, the Ferruhars have the least influence of any upon our tendencies and dispositions in the material world, and are regarded as that spiritual element which permeates the great macrocosm, and underlies all perceptual physical activity. They are the reality behind everything of which we are conscious and appears to us as merely external and material.
While we picture the Amschaspands as controlling the twelve forces which are at work during all physical effects engendered by the action of light, and the Izeds, as governing those which influence the animal kingdom, so do we consider the Ferruhars, in addition to possessing the quality above-mentioned, as spiritual entities having under their guidance the ‘Group-Souls’ of animals.
Thus did Zarathustra discern a specialized realm beyond this perceptual universe -- a perfectly organized superperceptual world -- and his concept was absolutely definite, and in no sense of the nature of an abstraction. Behind Ormuzd and Ahriman he pictured Zaruana Akarana, further the good and bad Amschaspands, below these the Izeds, and lastly the Ferruhars.
Man, as he is fashioned, is a replica in miniature of the great universe, and therefore all forces operative in the cosmos must be present in some manner within his being. Just as the benevolent powers of Ormuzd are expressed during that inner struggle to attain to perfection, and the unclean forces of Ahriman are in evidence while there is gloom and temptation, so do we find also the trace of other spiritual powers -- those of the lower genii.
I will now make a definite statement, which when viewed from the standpoint of modern cosmic ideas, is liable to awaken bitter feeling, namely: -- I assert that before long it will be discovered and recognized by external science, that a superperceptual element underlies all physical phenomena, and that latent spirit exists in everything that comes within the limits of our sense perceptions. Further, that science will be driven to admit, that in the physical structure of man there is much that is a counterpart of those forces which permeate and spread life throughout the whole universe, and which flow into the body, there to become condensed.
Let us go back to the Zarathustran Doctrine, which in many ways is similar to that of Spiritual Science. According to its concepts, Ormuzd and Ahriman are regarded as influencing mankind from without. Ormuzd being the source of inward impulses toward perfection, while Ahriman is ever in opposition. The Amschaspands also exert spiritual activity, if we consider their forces as being, so to speak, condensed in man, then it should be possible to trace and recognize their action to the point of physical expression.
In Zarathustra’s time, anatomy, as we understand it to-day, did not exist. Zarathustra and his disciples, by means of their spiritual insight, actually saw the cosmic streams to which reference has been made; they appeared to them in the form of twelve cosmic outpourings, flooding in upon man, there to maintain activity. Thus it came about that the human head was regarded by Zarathustra’s followers as a symbol of the inflowing of the seven good, and five evil, Amschaspands. Within man we have a continuance of the Amschaspand flux; how, then, is this flux to be recognized at this much later period? The anatomist has discovered that there are twelve principal pairs of brain nerves, which pass from the brain into the body. These are the physical counterparts, as it were, of the twelve condensed Amschaspand out-flowings, namely, twelve pairs of nerves of extreme potency in bringing about either the highest perfection, or the greatest evil. Here, then, we find reappearing in our present age, but transformed into material terms, that concept which had come to Zarathustra from the Spirit-World, and which he preached to his disciples.
There is, however, in all this a point of controversy. It is so easy for anyone in our day to maintain that the statements of Spiritual Science become wholly fantastical when it is alleged that Zarathustra, speaking of twelve Amschaspands, had in mind something connected with the twelve pairs of nerves which are in the human head! But the time will come when the world will gain yet another item of knowledge, for it will be discovered in what manner, and form the spirit, which permeates and lives throughout the universe, continues active in man.
The old Zarathustranism has arisen once again in our modern physiology. For in the same way as the twenty-eight to thirty-one Izeds are the servants of the Amschaspands, so are the twenty-eight spinal nerves subordinate to those of the brain. Again, the Izeds, who are present in the outer universe as a spirit flux, enter the human body, and their sphere of action is in those nerves which stimulate the lower soul-life of man; in these nerves they crystallize, as it were, and assume a condensed form. And where the Ized-flux, as such, entirely ceases, and the term ‘nerve’ can no longer be applied, is the actual centre where our personality receives its crowning touch. Further, those of our thoughts which rise slightly above mere cognition and simple brain action, are typical of the Frawaschars or Ferruhars.
Our present period is connected in a remarkable manner with the Doctrine of Zarathustra. Through his teachings and by means of his spiritual archetypes, Zarathustra was enabled to enlighten his people regarding those regions which spread beyond the perceptual world, while his imagery was ever as a flowing contact with that which lies hidden behind the veil. With reference to this great doctrine it is most significant that after it had acted as an inspiration to humanity for a long period, always tending to promote greater and greater effort in various directions of cultural progress -- only to lose its influence from time to time -- there should arise once more, in our day, a marked tendency toward a mystical current of thought.
It was the same with the Greeks after the two methods of approach to the Spirit-World had commingled, for they also, at times, showed a preference for either the mystical or the Spiritual Scientific thought current. It is owing to the modern predominating interest in mysticism that many people find themselves drawn towards the Indian Spiritual Science, or Method of Contemplation. Hence it is, that the most essential and deeply significant aspects of Zarathustranism -- in fact, its very essence -- hardly appear in the spiritual life of our time, although there is abundant evidence of the nature of Zarathustra’s concepts and his methods of thought. But all that lies at the very base, and is absolutely vital to his doctrine, is in a sense lost to our age.
When once we realize that in Zarathustranism is contained the spiritual prototype of so many things which we have rediscovered in the domain of physical research (numerous examples of which might be quoted), and of others that will be rediscovered later, then will a fundamental chord in our culture give place to one which will be founded upon the old Zarathustran teachings. It is remarkable that the profound attention which Zarathustranism paid to macrocosmic phenomena caused the world to recede, as it were, or appear of less moment; while in nearly all other beliefs with which a flood of mystical culture is associated, the outer world plays an important part, this is also the case in our materialism.
That great fundamental concept concerning two opposing basic qualities, and which recurs again and again throughout the religious doctrines of the world, we regard in the following manner; we consider it as symbolized by the antithesis of the sexes -- the male and the female -- so that in the old religious systems which were founded upon mysticism, the Gods and Goddesses were in reality, antithetical symbols of two opposing currents which flow throughout the universe. It is amazing that the teachings of Zarathustra should rise above these conceptions, and picture the origin of spiritual activity in so different a manner, portraying the good, as the resplendent, and the evil as the shadows.
Hence, the chaste beauty of Zarathustranism and its nobility, which transcends all those petty ideas which play so ugly a part in our time, when any endeavour is made to deepen man’s conception of spiritual life. Where the Greek writers state that the Supreme Deity in order to create Ormuzd, must also create Ahriman, so that He should obtain an antithesis; then, since Ahriman opposed Ormuzd, we have an example of how one primordial force is conceived as set against another. This same idea finds expression in the Hebrew, where evil comes upon the world through the woman -- Eve -- but we find nothing in Zarathustranism concerning ills that the world suffered through the antithesis of the sexes.
All those hateful ideas which are disseminated throughout our daily literature, pervading our very thoughts and feelings, distorting the true significance of the phenomena of disease and health, while failing to comprehend the intrinsic facts of life, will disappear, when that wholly different concept, the antithesis exhibited by Ormuzd and Ahriman -- a conception so lofty and so powerful when compared with present-day paltry notions -- is once more voiced in the words of Zarathustra, and enters to permeate and influence our modern culture. In this world, all things pursue their appointed course, and nothing can hinder the ultimate triumph of Zarathustran conceptions, which will, little by little, insinuate themselves into the life of the people.
When we look upon Zarathustra in this way, we realize that he was indeed a Spirit, who in bygone times brought potent impulses to bear upon human culture. That such was the case becomes evident, if we but follow the course of subsequent events which took place in Asia Minor, and later among the people of Assyria and Babylonia, on down to the Egyptian period, and further even to the time of the spreading of Christianity. Everywhere we find in different lines of thought something which may be traced back, and shown to have its origin in that Great Light, which Zarathustra set blazing for humanity.
We can now understand how it was that a certain Greek writer (who wished to emphasize the fact that some among the Leaders had always given their people instruction in matters that they would only require at a later period in their culture) should have stated, that while Pythagoras had obtained all the knowledge that he could from the Egyptians concerning the methods of Geometry, from the Phænicians concerning Arithmetic, and from the Chaldeans concerning Astronomy -- he was forced to turn to the successors of Zarathustra, in order to learn the secret teachings regarding the relation of humanity to the Spirit-World, and to obtain a true understanding of the proper conduct of life. The writer who made these statements regarding Pythagoras further asserts that the Zarathustran method for the conduct of life leads us beyond antitheses, and that all antitheses can be considered as culminating in the one great contrast of Good and Evil, which opposing condition can be finally absorbed, only by the purging away of all evil, falsehood and deceit. For instance, the worst enemy of Ormuzd is regarded as that one which bears the name of Calumny, and Calumny is one of the outstanding characteristics of Ahriman. The same writer states that Pythagoras failed to find the purest and most ideal ethical practice, namely, the one directed toward the moral purification of man, among either the Egyptians, the Phænicians, or the Chaldeans; and that he had again to turn to Zarathustra’s successors, in order to acquire that lofty conception of the universe which leads mankind to the earnest belief that through self-purification alone may evil be overcome. Thus did the great nobility and oneness of Zarathustra’s teachings become recognized among the ancients.
We would here mention that the statements made in this lecture are supported in every case by independent historical research; and we should carefully weigh all assertions coming from the representatives of other sciences, and judge for ourselves, whether or no they are in accord with our fundamental concepts. For instance, take the case of Plutarch, when he said that in the sense of Zarathustranism, the essence of Light as it affects the earth, is regarded as of supreme loveliness, and that its spiritual counterpart is Truth. Here is a definite statement made by an ancient historian, which is in complete agreement with all that has been said. We shall also find as we proceed that many historical events become clear and understandable when we take into consideration the various factors to which we have drawn attention.
Let us now go back to the ancient Vedantic conception; this was based upon the mystical merging of man within his very being; but before he can attain to the inner Light of Brahma, he must meet with, and pass through, those passions and desires which are induced by wild semi-human impulses that are within him, and which are opposed to that mystical withdrawal within the spirit-soul, and into the eternal inner being. The Indian came to the conclusion that this could only be accomplished, if pending his mystic merging in Brahma, he could successfully eliminate all that we experience in the perceptual world which stimulates sensuous desires, and allures through colours and through sounds. Just so long as these play a part during our meditations, so long do we keep within us, an enemy opposed to our mystical attainment to perfection.
The Indian teacher said: -- ‘Put away from yourselves all that can enter the soul through the powers that are external; merge yourselves solely within your very being -- descend to the Devas -- and when you have vanquished the lower Devas, then will you find yourselves within the kingdom of the Deva of Brahma; but shun the realm of the Asuras, whence come those malignant ones who would thrust themselves upon you from the outer world of Maya; from all such you must turn away, whatsoever may befall.’
Zarathustra, on the other hand, spoke to his disciples after this fashion: -- ‘Those who follow the leaders among the people of the South can make no advance along the path which they have chosen, because of the different order of their search after those things which are of the Spirit; in such manner can no nation make headway. The call is not alone to mystic contemplation and to dreaming, but to live in a world which provides freely of all that is needful -- man’s mission lies with the art of agriculture, and the promotion of civilization. You must not regard all things as merely Maya, but you must penetrate that veil of colours, and of sounds, which is spread around you; and avoid everything that may be of the nature of the Devas, and which because of your inner egoism, would hold you in its grasp. The region wherein abide the lower Asuras must be traversed, through this you must force your way, even up to the highest; but since your being has been especially organized and adapted to this intent, you must ever shun the dark realms of the Devas.’
In India, the teaching of the Rishis was otherwise, for they said to their followers: -- ‘Your beings are not suitably organized to seek that which lies within the Kingdom of the Asuras -- therefore avoid this region and descend to that of the Devas.’
Such was the difference between the Indian and Persian culture. The Indian peoples were taught that they must shun the Asuras and regard them as evil spirits; this was because through the method of their culture they were only aware of the lower Asuras; the Persians, on the other hand, who found only low types of Devas in the Devas regions were adjured by their leaders thus: -- ‘Enter the Kingdom of the Asuras, for you are so constituted that you may attain even unto the highest of them.’
There lay within the impulse that Zarathustra gave to mankind a great fervour, which found expression when he said: -- ‘I have a gift to bestow upon humanity which shall endure and live throughout the ages, and will smooth the upward path, overcoming all false doctrines, which are but obstacles diverting man from his struggle toward the attainment of perfection.’ Thus did Zarathustra feel himself to be the servant of Ahura Mazdao, and as such he experienced personally the opposition of Ahriman, over whose principles his teachings should enable mankind to achieve a sweeping victory. This conviction he expressed in impressive and beautiful words, to which reference is found in ancient documents. These, however, were necessarily inscribed at a later date; but what Spiritual Science tells us concerning Zarathustra and his pronouncements comes from other sources. Throughout all his telling adjurations there rings forth the inner impulse of his mission, and we feel the power of that great passion which overcame him, when, as the opponent of Ahriman and the Principle of Darkness, he said: -- ‘I will speak! draw nigh and listen unto me, ye that come with longing from afar, and ye from near at hand -- mark my words! -- No more shall he, the Evil One, this false teacher, conquer the Spirit of Good. Too long hath his vile breath bemingled human voice and human speech. But now I will denounce him in the words which The Highest -- The First One -- has put into my mouth, the words which Ahura Mazdao has spoken. To him who will not harken unto my words, and who will not heed that which I say unto you -- to him will come evil -- and that, ere ever the world hath ended its cycles.’
Thus spoke Zarathustra, and we can but feel that he had something to impart to humanity, which would leave its impress throughout all later cultural periods. Those among us who have understanding and will but pay attention to that which persists in our time, even if only dimly apparent, who will note with spiritual discernment the tenor of our culture, can even yet, after thousands of years, recognize the echo of the Zarathustran teachings. Hence it is that we number Zarathustra among Great Leaders such as Hermes, Buddha, Moses, and others, about whom we shall have much to say in subsequent lectures. The spiritual gifts possessed by these Great Ones, and the position which they occupied among men, are indicated, and fitly expressed in the following words: --
‘God sends us Spirits that shine as stars,
From the spheres of eternal love.
May we behold that glorious light,
They reflect from the realms above.’3
Notes for this lecture:
1. Square brackets indicate editorial insertions.
2. Doch ihr, die echten Göttersöhne,
Erfreut euch der lebendig reichen Schöne!
Das Werdende, das ewig wirkt und lebt,
Umfass euch mit der Liebe holden Schranken,
Und was in schwankender Erscheinung schwebt,
Befestiget mit dauernden Gedanken.
3. Es leuchten gleich Sternen
Am Himmel des ewigen Seins
Die gottgesandten Geister.
Gelingen möge es alien Menschenseelen,
Im Reiche des Erdenseins
Zu schauen ihrer Flammen Licht!
Turning Points in Spiritual History