Rosicrucian initiation

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Rosicrucian initiation was founded in the 15th century by Christian Rosenkreutz after he himself had gone through those initiatory experiences alluded to in Johann Valentin Andreae's Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. The Rosicrucian schooling is the appropriate initiatory path for the consciousness-soul age in which we presently stand. It replaces the medieval Christian initiation, which today is only practicable for a few people, because - as with all earlier initiation paths - it requires a temporary, usually even longer-lasting separation from outer life. The path of the Rosicrucians, on the other hand, can be followed in the midst of quite normal everyday life, whose duties and requirements one fulfils as usual, as it was already outlined by Christian Rosenkreutz:

„At the end of his account of the "Chymical Wedding", Andreae hints at how Christian Rosenkreutz has "come home". In all the externals of the world, he is the same as he was before his experiences. His new situation in life differs from the old only in that henceforth he will carry his 'higher man' within him as the governor of his consciousness, and that what he will accomplish may become that which this 'higher man' may work through him.“ (Lit.:GA 35, p. 384)

The anthroposophical path of initiation is directly based on the Rosicrucian initiation.

The foundation of the Rosicrucian path of initiation

Rudolf Steiner reports on the deeper reasons that led to the founding of the Rosicrucian initiation, to which Anthroposophy is also committed:

„Christian Rosenkreutz went to the Orient in the first half of the fifteenth century to find the balance between the initiation of the East and that of the West. One consequence of this was the definitive establishment of Rosicrucianism in the West after his return. In this form, Rosicrucianism was to be the strictly secret school for the preparation of what would have to fall to esotericism as a public task at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when external natural science would have come to the provisional solution of certain problems.

Christian Rosenkreutz described these problems as:

  1. The discovery of spectral analysis, which revealed the material constitution of the cosmos.
  2. The introduction of material evolution into the science of the organic.
  3. The realisation of the fact of a state of consciousness other than the ordinary through the recognition of hypnotism and suggestion.

It was only when these material realisations had matured within science that certain Rosicrucian principles were to enter from the secret scientific into the public communication.

For the time until then, Christian mystical initiation was given to the Occident in the form in which it flowed through the initiator, the "Unknown from the Upper Country" in St. Victor, Meister Eckhart, Tauler, etc.“ (Lit.:GA 262, p. 23)

„In 1459 the actual founder of the Rosicrucian current himself attained that stage by which he had the power to affect the world in such a way that from him that initiation could be brought to the world.“ (Lit.:GA 98, p. 45)

The further development of the Rosicrucian initiation from the Middle Ages to the present day

The heavenly and earthly Eve, the mother of all creatures in heaven and on earth. The Star of the Wise Men from the East. A page from the work "Die Geheimen Figuren der Rosenkreuzer" (The Secret Figures of the Rosicrucians), printed in 1785.

The Rosicrucian path of initiation, as originally given by Christian Rosenkreutz, was directed towards the direct contemplation of the spiritual driving forces of nature as revealed through alchemy and astrologyThe souls of the spiritual disciples were thereby prepared in the incarnations of that time in such a way that a more spiritual path is possible today, as it is also followed in anthroposophy:

„In order to delve further into the matter, let us discuss the difference between the teaching of Christian Rosenkreutz in earlier times and later times. In the past, this teaching was more natural-scientific, today it is more spiritual-scientific. For example, in earlier times one spoke more of natural processes and called this science alchemy, and in so far as these processes took place outside the earth, this science was called astrology. Today we proceed more from the spiritual viewpoint. If, for example, we look at the successive post-Atlantean cultural epochs, the ancient Indian culture, the ancient Persian culture, the Egyptian-Chaldean-Assyrian-Babylonian culture, the Greek-Latin culture, we learn from this observation the nature of the human soul's development. The medieval Rosicrucian studied the processes of nature, which he regarded as the earth processes of nature. For example, he distinguished three different natural processes, which he regarded as the three great processes of nature.

The first important process is the following: The formation of salt. Everything in nature that can precipitate, settle and fall out of a dissolution as a solid substance was called salt by the medieval Rosicrucian. But when the medieval Rosicrucian saw this formation of salt, his conception of it was quite different from that of man today. For the sight of such a process must have acted like a prayer in the soul of the man who looked at it, if he wanted to feel that it was understood. The medieval Rosicrucian therefore tried to make clear to himself what would have to happen in his own soul if this salt formation were also to take place in it. He thought: Human nature is constantly destroying itself through the urges and passions. Our life would be a continual decomposition, a putrefaction process, if we only gave ourselves over to the desires and passions. And if man really wants to protect himself against this process of decay, he must constantly devote himself to pure thoughts that lead to the spiritual. It was a question of the higher development of his thoughts. The medieval Rosicrucian knew that if he did not fight his passions in one incarnation, he would be born into the next incarnation with sickness, but that if he purified his passions, he would enter the next incarnation with healthy dispositions. The process of overcoming the forces leading to decay through spirituality, that is microcosmic salt formation. Thus we can understand how such a natural process could become the most pious prayer for the medieval Rosicrucian. In contemplating the formation of salt, the medieval Rosicrucians said to themselves with a feeling of the purest piety: divine-spiritual forces have worked here for thousands of years just as pure thoughts have worked in me. Behind the Maya of nature I worship the thoughts of the gods, the divine-spiritual beings. - The medieval Rosicrucian knew this and said to himself: "If I allow myself to be stimulated by nature to cherish such feelings, I make myself similar to the macrocosm. If I only look at this process externally, I separate myself from the God, I fall away from the macrocosm. - This is how the medieval theosophist or Rosicrucian felt.

Another experience was the process of dissolution: another natural process that could also lead the medieval Rosicrucian to prayer. Everything that can dissolve something else, the medieval Rosicrucian called Quicksilver or Mercury. Now the question arose again for the medieval Rosicrucian: What is the corresponding property in the human soul? Which soul property acts as in nature outside Quicksilver or Mercury? The medieval Rosicrucian knew that what corresponds to this Mercury in the soul signifies all forms of love in the soul. He distinguished lower and higher processes of dissolution, just as there are lower and higher forms of love. And so the sight of the process of dissolution again became a pious prayer, and the medieval theosophist said to himself: The love of the God outside has worked for millennia in the same way as love works within me.

The third important natural process for the medieval theosophist was combustion, that which occurs when an external substance consumes itself in flames. And again the medieval Rosicrucian sought the inner process that corresponds to this combustion. He saw this inner soul process in the fervent devotion to the divinity. And he called everything that can rise in the flame Sulphur. He saw in the stages of development of the earth the process of a gradual purification, similar to a process of combustion or Sulphur. Just as he knew that once the earth would be purified by fire, so he saw in fervent devotion to the Godhead also a process of combustion. In the earth processes he saw the work of the gods looking up to still higher gods. And so imbued with great piety and deeply religious feelings, he said to himself at the sight of the burning process: now gods are sacrificing to higher gods. - And when the medieval theosophist himself produced the combustion process in his laboratory, he felt: I am doing what the gods do when they sacrifice themselves to higher gods. - He only considered himself worthy of such a combustion process in his laboratory when he felt imbued with such a sacrificial spirit, when he felt within himself the desire to offer himself sacrificially to the gods. The power of the flame filled the medieval theosophist with great, deeply religious feelings, and he said to himself: 'When I see the flame outside in the macrocosm, I see the thoughts, the love, the sacrificial spirit of the gods. The medieval Rosicrucian himself carried out these processes in his laboratory, and then the experimenter surrendered himself to the contemplation of these formations of salt, the dissolutions and the burnings, during which he always gave himself over to deeply religious feelings, and he felt the connection with all the forces in the macrocosm. These processes of the soul evoked in him: firstly, thoughts of the gods, secondly, love of the gods, thirdly, sacrificial service to the gods. And then this medieval Rosicrucian discovered that when he carried out a salt-forming process, such pure, purifying thoughts rose up in himself. In a process of dissolution he felt inspired to love, he was permeated by divine love, in the process of combustion he felt kindled to sacrificial service, urged to sacrifice himself on the altar of the world.

That was what the experimenter experienced. And if you yourself, as a clairvoyant, had witnessed such an experiment, you would have perceived a change in the aura of the person who was performing the experiment. The aura, which before the experiment had been very mixed, which had perhaps been filled with desires, drives, to which the person concerned had given himself, became more monochrome through the experiment. First, in the experiment of salt formation: copper - pure thoughts of God -, then, in the experiment of dissolution: silver - love of the gods -, and finally shining gold - love of the gods or service to the gods - when burnt. And the alchemists then said that they had made of the aura the subjective copper, the subjective silver and the subjective gold. And the consequence of this was that he who had gone through such a thing, who really experienced such an experiment inwardly, became completely permeated with divine love. So a person permeated with purity, love and the will to sacrifice came out of it, and through this sacrificial service the medieval theosophists prepared a certain clairvoyance. Thus the medieval theosophist could see into the way in which spiritual beings behind the Maya caused things to come into being and to pass away again. And through this he also saw which forces of endeavour in the soul are beneficial in us and which are not. He got to know our own forces of creation and decay. The medieval theosophist Heinrich Khunrath, in a moment of enlightenment, called this process the law of origination and decay.

From the view of nature, the law of upward evolution and descent became clear to the medieval theosophist. The science he thus acquired was expressed in certain signs, in imaginative images and figures. It was a kind of imaginative cognition. What was characterised yesterday as "The Secret Figures of the Rosicrucians" is a result of what we have just discussed.

This is how the best alchemists worked from the fourteenth to the eighteenth and still to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Nothing has been printed about this truly moral, ethical, intellectual work. What is printed about alchemy deals only with purely external experiments, is written only by those who practised alchemy as an end in itself. The false alchemist set out to form substances. He saw in the experiments of burning the substances only the gain of the material result. The right alchemist, however, did not care at all about the material he finally obtained. All that mattered to him were the inner experiences of the soul during the forming of the substance, the thoughts that were in him, the experiences that he had within himself. It was therefore a strict law that the medieval theosophist who produced gold and silver in his experiments was never allowed to make a profit for himself. He was only allowed to give away the metals produced. Today's man no longer has the right idea of these experiments. He has no idea of what the experimenter could experience. The medieval theosophist could experience whole dramas of the soul in his laboratory, for example, when antimony was extracted, the experimenters saw very significant moral things in these processes.

If these things had not happened at that time, we would not be able to practise Rosicrucianism today in the spiritual scientific sense. What the medieval Rosicrucian experienced in the sight of natural processes is a sacred natural science. What he experienced of spiritual sacrifice, of great joys, of great natural processes, also of pain and sadness, of uplifting and joyful events during the experiments he undertook, all had a redeeming and liberating effect on him. But all this now rests in the innermost subsoil of the human being, everything that was put there for him at that time. How do we find these hidden forces that led to clairvoyance? We find them by studying spiritual science and by devoting ourselves entirely to the inner life of the soul through serious meditation and concentration. Through such inner development the occupation with nature gradually becomes again a sacrificial service. To achieve this, people must go through what we now call spiritual science. Thousands of people must devote themselves to spiritual science, lead an inner life, so that in the future the spiritual truth behind nature may again be perceived, so that one may again learn to understand the spiritual behind the Maya. Then in the future, even if at first a still small group, will be allowed to experience the event of Paul before Damascus and perceive the ethereal Christ who comes supersensually among men. But first man must come again to the spiritual sight of nature. Those who do not know the whole inner meaning of the Rosicrucian work may believe that humanity is still on the same level as it was two thousand years ago. Until this process has been gone through, which is possible only through spiritual science, man will not come to spiritual vision.“ (Lit.:GA 130, p. 71ff)

Rosicrucian Initiation and Anthroposophy

„We know from the various disputes that have taken place up to now that the Rosicrucian initiation is essentially an extension of the Christian initiation in general, so that one can speak of it as a Christian-Rosicrucian initiation. And in earlier cycles of lectures the purely Christian initiation with its seven stages and the Rosicrucian initiation with its likewise seven stages have been contrasted. But now it must be pointed out that the principle of the progress of the human soul must be maintained even in the face of initiation. We know that the Rosicrucian Initiation really began about the time of the thirteenth century, and that at that time it had to be recognised by those individualities who had to direct the deeper destinies of human development as the correct initiation for the more advanced human soul. From this it must be evident that the initiation of the Rosicrucian generally reckons with the further development of the human soul, and that it must therefore take special account of the fact that since the thirteenth century this development of the human soul has again taken its course, and that the souls who are to be initiated today can no longer stand on the standpoint of the thirteenth century. I would like to refer to this in particular because in our day there is so much longing to attach some kind of label, some kind of buzzword, to everything. Out of this bad habit - not for any justifiable reason - a label has arisen for our anthroposophical movement in particular, which could gradually lead to a kind of calamity. True as it is that within our current what must be called the principle of Rosicrucianism can be fully found, so that within our anthroposophical current one can penetrate into the sources of Rosicrucianism, - true as it is on the one hand that those who penetrate into the sources of Rosicrucianism through the means of our present anthroposophical deepening, But on the other hand it must be emphasised that outsiders in particular have no right to call the kind of anthroposophical movement we represent the Rosicrucian movement, for the simple reason that in doing so - whether consciously or unconsciously - our movement is given an entirely false label. We no longer stand on the standpoint on which the Rosicrucians stood from the thirteenth century through the following centuries, but we reckon with the progress of the human soul. For this reason, what is shown in my writing "How does one attain knowledge of the higher worlds?" as the most suitable path up into the spiritual spheres, must not be confused without further ado with what can be called the Rosicrucian path. Thus, through our current one can penetrate into true Rosicrucianism, but one must not call the sphere of our spiritual current, which encompasses a much wider area than that of the Rosicrucians, namely that of the whole of Theosophy, a Rosicrucian one; our current must be called the 'spiritual science of today' par excellence, the anthroposophically oriented spiritual science of the twentieth century.“ (Lit.:GA 131, p. 57ff)

The Five Basic Rules of the Rosicrucians

Towards the end of the account of the Chymical Wedding, on the seventh day, Christian Rosenkreutz are given five rules which are fundamental to the Rosicrucians:

„I. You, Sir Knights, should take it seriously that you do not want to ascribe your Order to any devil or spirit, but only to God, Eternal Creator and His Servant of Nature at all times.

II. That ye hate all whoredom, fornication, uncleanness: And with such vices do not pollute Eternal Order.

III. that you will only come to the aid of those who are worthy and in need of it through your gifts.

IV. That you do not desire to use such honour for worldly splendour and high esteem.

V. That ye live no longer than God wills. We must laugh enough at this last article, which may well have been added only as a joke.“ (Lit.: Andreae, Dies VII)

Rudolf Steiner comments on these five basic rules thus:

„In five sentences is summarised what guides souls who wish to work in human life in the sense of Christian Rosenkreutz. They should not think from any other spirit than that which reveals itself in the creation of nature, and they should find the work of man by becoming the continuators of the work of nature. They should not place their work at the service of human instincts, but make these instincts the mediators of the works of the spirit. They should lovingly serve human beings, so that in the relationship of human being to human being the working spirit reveals itself. They should not allow themselves to be distracted by anything of value that the world is able to give them, in their striving for the value that the spirit is able to give to all human work. They should not, like bad alchemists, fall into the error of confusing the physical with the spiritual. Such think that a physical means of prolonging life or the like is a supreme good, and forget that the physical has value only so long as it proves by its existence to be the rightful revealer of the spiritual which lies at its foundation.“ (Lit.:GA 35, p. 383f)

The Seven Steps of Rosicrucian Initiation

The Rosicrucian initiatory path comprises seven stages:

„What the disciple has to complete in the Rosicrucian training for the purpose of entering the spiritual world are the following seven stages. The disciple does not have to go through these in the order in which I shall enumerate them. The teacher will, according to the individuality of the disciple, select from one or the other what is necessary for the disciple, and will thus have to give the disciple in question a kind of course of instruction, a kind of inner course of development. But here we must enumerate the stages of the Rosicrucian training. There are seven:

  1. What is called "study" in the Rosicrucian sense.
  2. What is called the acquisition of so-called imaginative knowledge.
  3. What one calls the appropriation of occult scripture.
  4. What one calls either with the undemanding word: Rhythmisation of life, or also, and in the true sense: the preparation of the philosopher's stone. That is something that exists, which is just not that foolish thing you can read about in books.
  5. What is called the knowledge of the microcosm, that is, of one's own human nature.
  6. What is called: the going up into the macrocosm or the great world outside.
  7. What is called: the attainment of godliness (Gottseligkeit).

The succession in which the disciple passes through these stages depends entirely on his individuality. But he must go through them in the elementary Rosicrucian training.“ (Lit.:GA 55, p. 183f)

On the path of spiritual training, the first thing that happens on conscious entry into the microcosm (Step 5) is the encounter with the lesser Guardian of the Threshold, who opens up to the spiritual disciple the view of his true inner nature, with which only real self-knowledge shines forth and the transformation of his own inner being can begin. The spiritual disciple becomes mature in that he can also meet the greater Guardian of the Threshold some time later when he crosses over into the macrocosm (Step 6).


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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