1478

Manicheism


by Rudolf Steiner

A lecture for members of the Theosophical Society

Berlin, 11th November 1904 – GA 93

Translated by John M. Wood

We have been asked to say something about Freemasonry. This cannot be understood, however, until we have examined the original spiritual currents related to Freemasonry, which can be seen as its sources. An even more important spiritual current than Rosicrucianism was Manicheism. So first we need to speak about this much more important movement and then, at a later time, we can shed a light on Freemasonry.

What I have to say on this subject is connected with various things which influence the spiritual life of today and will influence it in time to come. And to illustrate how one who is actively engaged in this field constantly comes across something — if only obliquely — I would point out, by way of introduction, that on many occasions I have described the problem of Faust (Note 1) as of particular importance for modern spiritual life. And that is why the modern spiritual movement is brought into connection with the problem of Faust in the first number of Luzifer. (Note 2) The allusion I made to the problem of Faust in my essay in Luzifer is not without a certain reason.

In order to bring the things with which we are concerned into connection with one another, we must start from a spiritual tendency which first manifested in about the third century A.D. It is that spiritual movement whose great opponent was St. Augustine, (Note 3) although before he went over to the side of the Catholic Church he was himself an adherent of this faith. I am speaking about Manicheism, which was founded by a person who called himself Mani (Note 4) and lived about the time of the third century A.D. This movement spread from a part of the world which was then ruled by the kings of the Near East; that is to say, from a region of Western Asia Minor. Mani was the founder of a spiritual movement which, although at first only a small sect, became a mighty spiritual current. The Albigenses, Waldenses and Cathars (Note 5) of the Middle Ages are the continuation of this current, to which also belong the Knights Templar, of whom we shall speak separately, (Note 6) and also — by a remarkable chain of circumstances — the Freemasons. Freemasonry really belongs to this stream, though it is connected with others, for instance with Rosicrucianism. (Note 7)

What outer history has to say about Mani is very simple. (Note 8)

It is said that there once lived a merchant in the Near East who was very learned. He compiled four important works: first, Mysteria, secondly, Capitola, thirdly, Evangelium, and lastly Thesaurus. It is further related that at his death he left these writings to his widow who was a Persian. This widow, on her part, left them to a slave whose freedom she had bought and whom she had liberated. That was the said Mani, who then drew his wisdom out of these writings, though he was also initiated into the Mithraic mysteries. (Note 9) Mani is called the ‘Son of the Widow’, and his followers are called the ‘Sons of the Widow.’ However, Mani described himself as the ‘Paraclete’. (Note 10) the Holy Spirit promised to mankind by Christ. We should understand by this that he saw himself as one incarnation of the Holy Spirit; he did not mean that he was the only one. He explained that the Holy Spirit reincarnated, and that he was one such reincarnation.

The teaching which he proclaimed was opposed in the most vigorous fashion by Augustine after he had gone over to the Catholic Church. Augustine opposed his Catholic views to the Manichean teaching which he saw represented in a personality whom he called Faustus. (Note 11) Faustus is, in Augustine's conception, the opponent of Christianity. Here lies the origin of Goethe's Faust, and of his conception of evil. The name ‘Faust’ goes back to this old Augustinian teaching.

One usually hears it said about Manichean teaching that it is distinguished from western Christianity by its different interpretation of evil. Whereas Catholic Christianity regards evil as an aberration from its divine origin, the defection of originally good spirits from God, Manicheism teaches that evil is just as eternal as good; that there is no resurrection of the body, and that evil, as such, will continue for ever. Evil, therefore, has no beginning, but springs from the same source as good and has no end.

If you come to know Manicheism in this form it will seem radically unchristian and quite incomprehensible.

Now we should like to study the matter thoroughly according to the traditions which are supposed to have originated from Mani himself, and so see what it is all about. An external clue is given us in the Manichean legend; just such a legend as the Temple Legend, which I recounted to you recently. All such spiritual currents connected with initiation are expressed exoterically in legends, but the legend of Manicheism is a great cosmic legend, (Note 12) a super-sensible legend.

It tells us that at one time the spirits of darkness wanted to take the kingdom of light by storm. They actually reached the borders of the kingdom of light and hoped to conquer it. But they failed to achieve anything. Now they were to be punished — and that is a very significant feature which I beg you to take account of — they were to be punished by the kingdom of light. But in this realm there was nothing which was in any way evil, there was only good. Thus the demons of darkness could only have been punished with something good. So what happened? The following: The spirits of light took a part of their own kingdom and mixed it with the materialised kingdom of darkness. Because there was now a part of the kingdom of light mingled with the kingdom of darkness, a leaven had been introduced into the kingdom of darkness, a ferment which produced a chaotic whirling dance, whereby it received a new element into itself; i.e. death. Therefore, it continually consumes itself and thus carries within itself the germ of its own destruction. It is further related that just because of this, the race of mankind was brought into existence. Primeval man represents just what was sent down from the kingdom of light to mix with the kingdom of darkness and to conquer, through death, what should not have been there; to conquer it within his own being.

The profound thought which lies in this is that the kingdom of darkness has to be overcome by the kingdom of light, not by means of punishment, but through mildness; not by resisting evil, but by uniting with it in order to redeem evil as such. Because a part of the light enters into evil, the evil itself is overcome.

Underlying that is the interpretation of evil which I have often explained as that of theosophy. What is evil? Nothing but an ill-timed good. To cite an example which has often been quoted by me, let us assume that we have to do with a virtuoso pianist and an excellent piano technician, both perfect in their sphere. First of all the technician has to build the piano and then hand it over to the pianist. If the latter is a good player he will use it appropriately and both are equally good. But should the technician go into the concert hall instead of the pianist and start hammering away he would then be in the wrong place. Something good would have become something bad. So we see that evil is nothing else than a misplaced good.

When what is especially good at one time or another strives to be preserved, to become rigid and thus curb the progress of further development, then, without doubt, it becomes evil, because it opposes the good. Let us suppose that the leading powers of the lunar epoch, though perfect in their way and in their activity, were to continue to intermingle with evolution though they ought to have ceased their activity, then they would represent something evil in earth evolution. Thus evil is nothing else than the divine, for, at that other time, what is evil when it comes at the wrong season, was then an expression of what is perfect, what is divine.

We must interpret the Manichean views in this profound sense, that good and evil are fundamentally the same in their origin and in their ending. If you interpret it in this way you will understand what Mani really intended to bring about. But, on the other hand, we still have to explain why it was that Mani called himself the ‘Son of the Widow’ (Note 13) and why his followers were called the ‘Sons of the Widow’.

When we turn back to the most ancient times, before our present Root Race, the mode in which mankind acquired knowledge was different. You will perceive from my description of Atlantis — and also, when the next issue of Luzifer appears, you will see from my description of Lemuria (Note 14) — that at that time, and to a certain extent up to the present day, all knowledge was influenced by what is above mankind. I have often mentioned that that Manu (Note 15) who will appear during the next Root Race will for the first time be a real brother to his fellow men, whereas all earlier Manus were superhuman, divine beings of a kind. Only now is man becoming ripe enough to have one of his brother men as his Manu, who has passed through all stages with him since the middle of Lemuria. What is really taking place then, during the evolution of the fifth Root Race? This, that the revelation from above, the guidance of the soul from above, is gradually being withdrawn, so that man is left to go his own way and become his own leader.

The soul was always known as the ‘mother’ in all esoteric (mystical) teachings; the instructor was the ‘father’. Father and mother, Osiris and Isis, those are the two forces present in the soul: the instructor, representing the divine which flows directly into man, Osiris, he that is the father; the soul itself, Isis, the one who conceives, receives the divine, the spiritual into itself, she is the mother. During the fifth Root Race, the father withdraws. The soul is widowed. Humanity is thrown back onto itself. It must find the light of truth within its own soul in order to act as its own guide. Everything of a soul nature has always been expressed in terms of the feminine. Therefore the feminine element — which exists only in a germinal state today and will later be fully developed — this self-directing feminine principle which is no longer confronted by the divine fructifier, is called by Mani the ‘Widow’. And therefore he calls himself ‘Son of the Widow’.

Mani is the one who prepares that stage in man's soul development when he will seek for his own soul-spirit light. Everything which comes from Mani is an appeal to man's own spirit light of soul, and at the same time is a definite rebellion against anything which does not come out of man's own soul,out of man's own observation of his soul. Beautiful words have been handed down from Mani (Note 16) and have been the leading theme of his followers at all later times. We hear the words: You must lay aside everything which you have acquired as outer revelation by means of the senses. You must lay aside all things which come to you via outer authority; then you must become ripe to gaze into your own soul.

St. Augustine, on the other hand — in a conversation which made him into an opponent of the Manichean Faust — voiced the opinion: ‘I would not accept the teachings of Christ if they were not founded on the authority of the Church’. (Note 17) The Manichean Faust said, (Note 18) however: ‘You should not accept any teaching on authority; we only wish to accept a doctrine in freedom.’ That illustrates the rebellious self-sufficiency of the spirit light which comes to expression so beautifully in the Faust saga. (Note 19)

We meet this confrontation also in later sagas in the Middle Ages: on the one hand the Faust saga, on the other, the Luther saga. (Note 20) Luther carries on the principle of authority. (Note 21) Faust, on the other hand, rebels, he puts his faith in the inner spirit light. We have the saga of Luther; he throws the inkwell at the devil's head. What appears to him to be evil he thrusts aside. And on the other hand we have Faust's pact with the devil. A spark from the kingdom of light is sent into the kingdom of darkness, so that when the darkness is penetrated, it redeems itself, evil is overcome by gentleness. If you think of it in this fashion you will see that this Manicheism fits in very well with the interpretation which we have given of evil.

How do we imagine the interworking of good and evil? We have to explain it as the harmonisation of life with form. (Note 22) How does life change over into form? Through coming up against resistance, through not manifesting all at once in one particular shape. Take note, for instance, how life in a plant — let us say a lily — speeds on from form to form. The life in the lily has fashioned, has elaborated, the form of the lily.

When this form has been created, life overcomes it and passes over into the seed to be reborn as the same life in a fresh form. And so life strides onward from form to form. Life itself is formless and could never perceptibly manifest its vital forces. The life of the lily, for instance, exists in the first lily and progresses to the second, third, fourth and so on. Everywhere there is the same life which appears in a limited form, spreading and interweaving. The fact that it appears in a limited form is a restriction imposed upon this universal flowing life. There would be no form if life were not restricted, if it were not arrested in its flowing force which radiates in all directions. It is just what remains behind, which, from a higher stage, appears like a fetter; it is just out of this that form evolves in the great cosmos.

What comprises life is always set in the framework of a form which was life in an earlier time. Example: the Catholic Church. The life which existed in the Catholic Church from St. Augustine until the fifteenth century was the Christian life. The life therein is Christianity. Ever and again this pulsating life emerges anew (the mystics). Where does the form come from? It is no less than the life of the old Roman Empire. What was still alive in the old Roman Empire has frozen into form. What was at first a Republic, then an Empire, what lived in outward appearance as the Roman State, surrendered its life, frozen into form, to the later Christianity; even its capital city, Rome, was previously the capital city of the Roman Empire, and the Roman provincial officers have their continuation in the presbyters and bishops. What was previously life later becomes form for a higher stage of life.

Is it not the same with human beings? What is human life? The fructification from above (Manas fructification), implanted into man in mid-Lemurian times, has today become his inner life. The form is what is carried over, as seed, from the lunar epoch. At that time, in the lunar period, the life of man consisted of the development of the astral body; now this has become the sheath, the form. Always the life of a former epoch becomes the form of a later epoch. In the harmonisation of form and life that other problem is expressed too: the problem of good and evil, through the fact that the good of a former epoch is joined to the good of a later epoch, which is fundamentally nothing but a harmonisation of progress with the things which hinder progress. That is what, at the same time, makes material existence possible, makes it possible for things to appear in outward form. It is our human existence on the solid mineral plane: soul life and what remains of the life of an earlier epoch hardened into a restrictive form. That, too, is the teaching of Manicheism regarding evil.

If we now pose the question from this point of view: What are Mani's intentions, what is the meaning of his statement that he is the Paraclete, the Spirit, the Son of the Widow? It means no less than that he intends to prepare for the time in which the men of the sixth Root Race will be guided out of their own being, by their own soul's light, to overcome outward forms and convert them to spirit.

Mani's intention is to create a spiritual current which goes beyond the Rosicrucian current, (Note 23) which leads further than Rosicrucianism. This current of Mani's will flow over to the sixth Root Race and has been in preparation since the founding of Christianity. It is just at the time of the sixth Root Race that Christianity will be expressed in its most complete form. Its time will truly have come. The inner Christian life, as such, overcomes every form, it is propagated by external Christianity and lives in all forms of the various confessions. Whoever seeks Christian life will always find it. It creates forms and destroys forms in various religious systems. It does not depend upon a search for conformity in the outward forms in which it is expressed, but it depends upon experiencing the inner life stream which is always current under the surface. What is still waiting to be made is a form for the life of the sixth Root Race. That must be created beforehand, it has to be there so that Christian life can be poured into it. This form has to be prepared by human beings who create an Organisation, a form, so that the true Christian life of the sixth Root Race can find its place therein. And this external form of society must derive from the intention which Mani has fostered, from the small group whom Mani has prepared. That must be the outer form of Organisation, the congregation in which the spark of Christianity will first be truly kindled.

From this you will be able to conclude that Manicheism will endeavour, first and foremost, to preserve purity in outer life; for its aim is to produce human beings who will provide an adequate vessel in the future. That is why such great stress was laid on absolute purity of mind and of life. The Cathars were a sect which rose like a meteor in the twelfth century. They called themselves Cathars because ‘cathar’ means ‘pure one’. They strove for purity in their way of life and in their moral attitude. They had to seek catharsis (purification) both inwardly and outwardly in order to form a community which would provide a pure vessel. That is what Manicheism was striving for. It was less a question in Manicheism of the cultivation of the inner life — for life will flow onwards through other channels — but rather the cultivation of the external form of life.

Now let us look at what is to come about during the sixth Root Race. Good and evil will then contrast very differently from the way that they do today. What will be evident to all mankind in the fifth Round (Note 24) — that the outer physiognomy which each one acquires will directly mirror what Karma has made out of him — that will express itself spiritually in the sixth Root Race like a prelude to this event. Among those on whom Karma has bestowed an excess of evil, it will become particularly evident on a spiritual level. On the one hand there will be human beings possessing mighty inner forces of good, who will be gifted with great love and goodness; but, on the other hand, the opposite will also be seen. Evil will be present as a disposition without any disguise in a great many people, no longer cloaked or hidden from view. The evil ones will extol evil as something of particular worth. A glimmering of this delight in evil and the demonic pertaining to the sixth Root Race is already in evidence in certain men of genius. Nietzsche's ‘blonde beast’, (Note 25) for example, is a portent of this.

The unalloyed evil must be cast out of the stream of world evolution like dross. It will be relegated to the eighth sphere. (Note 26) Today we stand immediately at the threshold of a time when good must consciously come to terms with evil.

The sixth Root Race will have the task of drawing evil back into the continuing stream of evolution through kindness. Then a spiritual current will have been born which does not oppose evil, even though it manifests in the world in its demonic form. The consciousness will have been established in the successors to the ‘Sons of the Widow’ that evil must be included again in evolution and be overcome, not by strife, but only through charitableness. It is the task of the Manichean spiritual stream forcefully to prepare for this. This spiritual stream will not die out, it will make its appearance in many forms. It appears in forms which many can call to mind but which need not be mentioned today. If it were to function merely in the cultivation of an inner mood of soul, this current would not achieve what it should do. It must express itself in the founding of communities which, above all, will look upon peace, love and passive resistance to evil as their standard of behaviour and will seek to spread this view. For they must create a receptacle, a form, for the life which will continue to exist even without their presence.

Now you can understand how it is that Augustine, the leading spirit of the Catholic Church, who developed the form of the Church very precisely in his City of God, who worked out the form for contemporary life, was of necessity the most violent opponent of that kind of form which is preparing for the future. Two polar opposites confront one another, Faust and Augustine: Augustine, who based his work on the Church, on the form belonging to his day, and Faust, who strives to prepare in man a sense for the form of the future.

That is the contrast which developed in the third and fourth centuries A.D. It is still present and finds expression in the struggle of the Catholic Church against the Knights Templars, the Rosicrucians, Albigenses, Cathars and so on. All of them are eliminated from the physical plane, but their inner spirit continues to be active. This contrast manifests again later in modified but still violent form in two currents born out of Western culture, that of Jesuitism (pertaining to Augustine) and that of Freemasonry (Note 27) (Manicheism). Those who lead the battle on the one side are all conscious of what they are doing — they are the Catholics and Jesuits of the higher degrees. Of those, however, who are on the other side, who lead the battle in the spirit of Mani, only very few are conscious; only those at the head of the movement are conscious of it.

Thus Jesuitism (belonging to Augustine) and Freemasonry (Manicheism) confront one another in later centuries. They are the offspring of ancient spiritual currents. That is why you have in both these currents a continuation of the same ceremonies connected with initiation that you find in the old currents. The initiation into Jesuitism has the four degrees: Coadjutores temporales, ScholaresCoadjutores spirituales, Professi. The degrees of initiation in the true occult Freemasonry are similar. The two run parallel to one another but they point in quite different directions. (Note 28)


Source for the text.
Re-checked shorthand notes by Franz Seiler; notes by Mathilde Scholl; longhand notes by Marie Steiner von Sivers.

About the text
All sources concur that we are here dealing with a shortened version of this lecture. The conclusion especially is preserved in only a very fragmentary fashion. In a handwritten copy of the notes of Mathilde Scholl there is a marginal reference to the fact that the contents of this lecture were later included in the third degree of the section dealing with cult and symbolism of the Esoteric School. The main value that these notes have for us today is that they form the only full account of Manicheism in the whole of Rudolf Steiner's work. As literary source material Rudolf Steiner made use of the work of Eugen Heinrich Schmitt: Die Gnosis — Grundlagen der Weltanschauung einer edleren Kultur, Vol. 1, Leipzig, 1903, a book which Rudolf Steiner had in his private library and which he had commended in his periodical: Luzifer (see note 2). In the chapter of this work dealing with Manicheism the extracts which Rudolf Steiner used for his lecture were marked by him. This lecture was held in the same year when the first fragments of the original Manichean manuscripts from Turfan were published.

Thanks to the Rudolf Steiner Archive




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