Report on Virginia Sease's lecture in Montréal on 14 July 2014
- by Eric Philips-Oxford, based on notes taken by Louis Casgrain
As we experience the threat of potential war and the chaos surrounding us on a daily basis, we are prompted to ask the question: “Is there a plan in all this?” Although it would be hubris to claim to be able to give a full answer to this question, we can at least attempt to understand the exceptional destinies of beings who are true leaders of humanity. The fact that there are certain individuals who develop more quickly than others is in truth part of a greater plan, since these individuals are called upon to become teachers for mankind.
Rudolf Steiner spoke very little about Skythianos, and what he did say seems quite mysterious. Skythianos is one of the most important teachers of humanity and connects the remote past with the present and the future of mankind. Rudolf Steiner pointed to a great council which took place in supersensible world during the 4th century A.D. This council was called by Manes – or Mani (not to be confused with Manu, who is another being). Manes gathered 3 other leading individualities around himself: Buddha (who, after having risen to Buddhahood from the condition of Bodhisattva, was still in the sphere of the Earth), the individuality called Master Jesus (who is also the Zarathustra entity), and Skythianos (who was and remains the most hidden of these great individualities).
The purpose of this council was to ensure that the mystery wisdom connected with Atlantis would continue to thrive and to influence the development of humanity. During this council held in the supersensible world it was decided that a new spiritual impulse would be implanted into human evolution 4 or 5 centuries later, during the Middle Ages. This would be the Rosicrucian impulse, and together with Christian Rosenkreuz, these 4 other entities will always be present to guide earthly man’s evolution. The fundamental task of these great leaders of mankind was and remains the preservation of the wisdom of the Atlantean epoch. (c.f. lecture of August 31, 1909).
Skythianos worked from the far western region of Europe, and his impulse was gradually to spread through Europe all the way into what would later become Russia. Indeed, there were two great streams of humanity that originated out of Atlantis, and both started from the far western region of Europe (Ireland). The first of these was the southern mystery stream, whose leader was Manu. This stream made its way across Europe to Asia and became the ancient Indian culture. The second was the northern stream, led (or inspired) by Skythianos. It also moved eastward into Europe and as it spread generated several secondary mystery streams, such as the Nordic mysteries and the central European mysteries.
Skythianos’ first task was to establish the Hibernian mysteries for the purpose of preserving the ancient wisdom of Atlantean times. It was his goal to ensure that the close connection of human beings with the hierarchies which had existed on Atlantis not be lost. In time, other mystery centres were founded with the same mission, for example in northern and central Europe. As human beings became more and more immersed in physical reality, Skythianos lifted this centre into the etheric world, from which its influence streamed down into the Hibernian mysteries, thus establishing what we know as the Celtic mysteries.
The Atlantean peoples had had a high degree of clairvoyance and had enjoyed a direct perception of their connection with spirit beings. However, that clairvoyance could not develop beyond a certain point due to the increasing materialisation of conditions on earth. The faculty of clairvoyance was forced to withdraw into the most secret of the Western mystery schools. It is a characteristic of Skythianos that he remains concealed to the greatest degree from ordinary human consciousness.
Skythianos had the task of entering deeply into the mystery of the human body. It was actually only in the Middle Ages that the name “Skythianos” began to be used to refer to this great being, though it would seem that the name had originated even earlier. According to Rudolf Steiner, he who truly knows European mystery culture must raise his gaze upwards towards the being of Skythianos. This great teacher preserves the secret wisdom of Atlantis and the secret of the human body “from eternity to eternity” – meaning from before Old Saturn to beyond Vulcan.
During the 4th post-atlantean epoch, Skythianos’ extraordinary capacities and his power to observe everything that was happening everywhere on earth allowed him to view the Mystery of Golgotha as it was taking place. He could follow these events and inspire his pupils to be aware of what was going on in Palestine. He drew special attention to the 3 years during which the great Sun Spirit lived in the body of Jesus – from the baptism by John to the Crucifixion and beyond. The three essential elements he imparted to his pupils dealt with: Good Friday and the subsequent deposition of the body from the cross; Holy Saturday and Christ’s descent into the underworld to release the souls living there in “dull consciousness”; and Easter Sunday and the Resurrection. Prior to the Holy Saturday event, individuals were of course reincarnated but had lost the ability to travel consciously through the planetary spheres during the time between death and a new birth. This is why the Greeks said that it was better to be a beggar in this world than a king in the underworld. Their fear of death was more a fear of losing consciousness than it was a fear of the pain of death.
Many painters of the Italian Renaissance have depicted this descent of Christ into hell, showing how Christ breaks down the doors of hell and causes a myriad of little demons to scurry for cover in crevices and caves while Christ leads Abraham, Jacob, Moses and others out of the netherworld.
When the Resurrection took place on Easter Sunday, Christ, in the Resurrection Body, was at first an etheric entity, as is shown by the fact that Mary Magdalen did not recognize him but initially took him to be the gardener. Skythianos could perceive all these events and impart them to his pupils. By the 4th and 5th centuries, these pupils had become the individualities we know as the Celtic monks of the Irish tradition. Columba, Gallus, Alcuin and others spread the stream of Celtic Christianity throughout Europe. They had had an experience of Christ at the time of the Golgotha event and were aware of what had happened there. Sergei Prokofieff has investigated this matter in his book entitled “The Spiritual Sources of Eastern Europe and the Future Mysteries of the Holy Grail.”
During an earlier incarnation, two special pupils had been initiated by Skythianos into the mysteries of 1.) The human being, and 2.) The human body. The first of these two initiations involved the mysteries of the flesh and the blood, and the individuality thus initiated later became Joseph of Arimathea. The second pupil, initiated into the mysteries of the flesh, was Nicodemus. According to mystery knowledge, both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were present at the deposition from the cross. Joseph of Arimathea actually entered the grave that received the body of Christ.
Another tradition is based on the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus (which was eventually not included in the canon of books of the New Testament). According to the Gospel of Nicodemus, on the day before the Resurrection, Joseph of Arimathea was captured and thrown into an underground prison. On Easter Sunday, Christ appeared to him and offered him a chalice – symbolizing the mystery of the blood. Owing to his high degree of spiritual development, Joseph of Arimathea was able to perceive the chalice (i.e. the human heart) while in his prison cell, and this actually brought about a transformation of his own blood. He was then given the following task: upon his release from prison he was to found a community of Guardians of the Grail. These mysteries of the Grail (mysteries of the flesh and the blood) thus traveled from Hibernia (Ireland) to Central Europe and finally to Eastern Europe. Each of the places where individual Celtic monks established residency became a centre for this mystery Grail stream.
Rudolf Steiner mentions how the mystery stream of Skythianos working through these monks reached Russia and how a Grail mood was established there. In this way the Slavic peoples took in the impulse carried by Skythianos and Joseph of Arimathea, and this created within them a predisposition towards an inner Grail consciousness. They held their souls open to receive the Christ impulse.
Six or seven centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha, there existed a culture on the steppes north of the Black Sea which included the Sarmatian and Scythian tribes. These were nomadic peoples who lived according to a matriarchal social structure. They also had some connection with the early Greek colonies, as reported by the Greek historian Herodotus. The Celts also later made their way into this same region.
Herodotus recounts in detail some of the Scythian mythology, such as the story of Heracles. This great hero goes in search of mares he has lost. As he travels to find these lost horses, he comes to a range of mountains east of the Dnieper River. There he meets with a female creature called the Mixoparthenos, whose form is that of a woman with two serpents for legs, the heads of which curve back upwards. She is forced to hold these serpents in her hands to keep her balance. (This mythological figure can be found engraved in thousands of places in that part of the world: in gold, silver, and bronze; on coins, plates, swords and other weapons, etc. At the time, this was a living imagination, a symbol of balance.) Heracles is forced to mate with this creature in order to regain possession of his lost mares. From this union three children are born, the youngest of whom is named Scythos. Scythos is the only one strong enough to bend Heracles’ bow, and subsequently becomes king and the progenitor of the Scythian people.
The Scythians thrived on the north shore of the Black Sea, and acted as link between the cultures of Europe and that of the Caucasus. A mystery centre was established there led by Scythos, who received into himself the being of Skythianos. Although the two remained distinct entities, we can say that Scythos was inspired by the being of Skythianos, and that the two were thus interconnected. In a lecture given on November 9, 1914, Rudolf Steiner states that the culture of the Eastern Slavic peoples evolved under the guidance of one of the great initiates of the West.
According to the “U” shaped diagram often used by Werner Glas to illustrate the sequence of the seven cultural epochs of the post-atlantean era, we see how there is a correlation between the 3rd and 5th epochs, between the 2nd and 6th epochs, and between the 1st and 7th epochs. We also see from this diagram how the 4th epoch stands alone:
Rudolf Steiner at one time did call the 7th cultural epoch the “American” cultural epoch, but did so only once, so we do not feel justified in using that terminology here.
We shall once again point out the fact that the 4th period had to stand alone. What is to develop in our 5th post-atlantean cultural epoch is logical thinking, which is then to begin to evolve into a higher state of consciousness. In order for this logical thinking to appear in human evolution in our 5th epoch, a seed had to be planted during the 3rd period, the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, the period of the development of the sentient soul. And a means had to be found to transform it into the consciousness soul.
During the 3rd post-atlantean period a remarkable musical element flowed into human evolution. Rudolf Steiner describes this music as having developed thanks to the working of Skythianos, who in this way influenced the leaders of the European peoples. This music, half singing, half recitative, was accompanied by pipe-like instruments. The last remnants of this lived on in the Greek and Celtic bards. And indeed, it was this particular music which prepared the human soul for the development of the logical thinking of our 5th period.
The myth of Apollo and Orpheus harks back to this strange kind of musical experience. All consciousness comes from the sphere of light, as do music and song. The Orpheus myth speaks of this Skythianos-inspired experience belonging to the 3rd period (2907 BC -747 BC) in a way that could be understood by the people of the 4th post-atlantean period: Orpheus, whose singing and harp playing charms even the Gods, travels to the underworld to retrieve his loved one, Eurydice, who had been bitten at the heel by a serpent. The hound of hell lets him pass, and he sings with such pathos that the gods of the underworld allow him to lead Eurydice back to earth – provided, however, that he not look back at her. On his way back to the upper world, Orpheus, not hearing anything behind him, is afraid he has been tricked and turns around. He returns once again to the netherworld and plays so movingly that even the stones weep.
Why was Orpheus not to look back? It is because the forces implanted in mankind during the 3rd period by Skythianos had to remain dormant during the 4th period until they could re-emerge, transformed, in the 5th epoch. It was then that the Rosicrucian impulse would have to develop.
During all these developments, Manes, Buddha, Zarathustra/Master Jesus and Skythianos were present. Although he indicated that there was an interweaving of the activity of Master Jesus and that of Skythianos, Rudolf Steiner always refrained from revealing many details concerning the being of Skythianos – discretion is indeed the very characteristic of this great being.
Skythianos works at present by creating a pathway towards Christian Rosenkreuz, the being who is the leader of humanity from 1413 to 3573. In the present age of Michael, Christian Rosenkreuz is our earthly helper while Michael is our spiritual helper. Christian Rosenkreuz’ task is to bring human beings to the realization that they are responsible for their own spiritual development and for the transformation of the earth.
The development of the consciousness of the individual human being is to go through two fundamental steps: 1) study; 2) the development of the higher levels of consciousness (Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition). But the development of the earth is to be accomplished through such practices as biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine, three-folding of the social order, etc.
There is a collaborative working between Skythianos and Christian Rosenkreuz. Skythianos is the guardian of the mysteries of the physical body, and the great challenge of mankind lies precisely in the mystery of the human physical body. Just because modern science can do something with the physical body does not mean that it should do so. At some future point, the etheric forces will have to penetrate into the physical body to such a degree that they will begin to transform it, and then the physical body will possess different faculties and possibilities. One step in this direction can be seen in the art of eurythmy.
In the 6th epoch, Skythianos will replace Christian Rosenkreuz as the leader of humanity. He will then carry as his fundamental impulse the mystery of the Word. It is essential that we establish the “I” consciousness during our 5th period – for in the 6th epoch human beings will be incapable of saying words injurious to other human beings or to beings of other kingdoms of nature, such as animals. Skythianos is connected with the power of recitation and the music of the word.