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Scythianus, who according to Rudolf Steiner is one of the highest initiates and the Bodhisattva of the West, is mentioned in the writings of several Church Fathers, including Cyril of Jerusalem, Hippolytus of Rome and Epiphanius of Salamis[1]. He is mentioned for the first time in the anti-Manichaean Acta Archelai by the otherwise unknown church father Hegemonius. According to this, Scythianus was a native of Scythia or Saracen who worked as a religious teacher and successful merchant in Alexandria and visited India around 50 AD.

Scythianus and his disciple Terebinthus

Cyril of Jerusalem († 387) reports on the life of Scythianus and his disciple Terebinthus:

„In Egypt lived a certain Scythianus, a Saracen; he had no relation either to Judaism or Christianity. He lived in Alexandria and imitated the Aristotelian way of life. He wrote four books. One was entitled "Gospel", an empty name; for it did not contain the life of Christ. Another was called "Chapters", a third "Mysteries", a fourth, which is still in circulation among them, "Treasure". His disciple was Terebinthus. When Scythianos made a plan to wander into Judea to pollute the land, the Lord sent him a deadly disease and prevented the plague.“

Cyril of Jerusalem: Catecheses to the Baptised (Procatechesis et Catecheses ad illuminandos) VI, 22

Terebinthus is said to have been the disciple of Scythianus and later to have taken the name Buddha. The implied connection to Buddha - though it cannot be the historical Gautama Buddha, who lived much earlier - is also mentioned in a 4th century letter by Marius Victorius[2].

„The disciple of wickedness, Terebinthos, inherited the money, the books and the heresy of Scythianus. He came to Palestine. But being recognised and condemned in Judea, he decided to go to Persia. In order not to betray himself by his name, he called himself Budda. Nevertheless, he had his opponents here too, namely the priests of Mithras. In many conversations and disputations he had with them, he was refuted. Driven into a corner, he finally took refuge with a widow. There he climbed onto a roof and called upon the demons of the air, which the Manichaeans still invoke to this day in the abominable fig ceremony[3]. But God struck him, he fell from the roof and gave up his spirit. Thus the second beast was put out of the world.“

Cyril of Jerusalem: Catecheses to the Baptised VI, 23

Scythianos as one of the highest Initiates and Bodhisattva of the West

According to Rudolf Steiner, Scythianus was one of the highest initiates on earth and "keeper of the ancient Atlantean wisdom, which went deep even into all that which are the secrets of the physical body". (Lit.:GA 113, p. 190) In the schools of the Rosicrucians he is regarded as the great Bodhisattva of the West:

„Therefore it is in all spiritual training of the Rosicrucian that one looks up with deepest veneration to those old initiates who preserved the ancient wisdom of Atlantis: to the re-embodied Scythianos, in him one saw the great venerated Bodhisattva of the West; to the respective embodied reflection of the Buddha, whom one likewise venerated as one of the Bodhisattvas, and finally to Zarathas, the re-embodied Zarathustra.“ (Lit.:GA 113, p. 192)

According to the legend documented above and also referred to by Rudolf Steiner[4], Scythianos and Therebinthus were predecessors of Mani.

„A great prophet, a mighty teacher of religion has become of the youth of Nain! In the third century A.D., Mani or Manes, the founder of Manichaeism, first appeared in Babylonia. A peculiar legend tells the following about him.

Scythianus and Therebinthus or Buddha were his predecessors. The latter was the disciple of the former. After the violent death of Scythianus, he fled with his books to Babylonia. He too fared badly; only an old widow accepted his teachings. She inherits his books and leaves them to her foster son, who is twelve years old and whom she has adopted as a seven-year-old slave boy. This son, who again can be called a "son of the widow", appears at the age of 24 as Manes, the founder of Manichaeism.“ (Lit.:GA 264, p. 229)

The source used by Steiner states:

„Now that it has been established that Manichaeism arose from Mendaïsm, let us try to throw light on another message preserved by the Church Fathers concerning Mani. According to Epiphanius, Cyril Hierosolymitanus, Socrates and the author of the Acta Disputationis S. Archelai, with whom Theodoretus, Suidas and Cedrenus partly agree, Mani was not the actual founder of Manichaeism, but it had its forerunners in the person of a certain Scythianus and in his disciple Terebinthus, who later called himself Buddha. It is also said that anyone who wanted to renounce the heresy of Mani had to renounce Zarades (Zoroaster), Buddha and Scythianus at the same time. According to the Actis, the latter was a Scythian from Scythia - which is probably why he was called Scythian; his real name was not Scythianus - who appeared at the time of the apostles and began to spread the doctrine of the two principles. Finally, he is said to have been a Saracen and to have married a woman from the upper Thebais, because of her he settled in Egypt, where he became acquainted with the wisdom of the Egyptians. Epiphanius, Socrates and Cyrillus Hierosolymitanus report approximately the same. Only the former remarks that he came from the region of the Saracens, was educated in Arabia and had made journeys to India and Egypt, and the latter expressly says of him that he had nothing in common with Judaism and Christianity. He himself, or his disciple Terebinthus, had written four writings, which the latter, after his emigration to Babylon, had bequeathed to a widow on his death. Mani, who was a slave of this widow, came into possession of these writings through her, whose teachings he then claimed to be his own.” (Lit.: Chwolson, p. 130ff)

Elsewhere Steiner mentions that Buddha, Scythianus and Zarathustra were the three great disciples of Manes, obviously referring here to the individuality progressing through many incarnations and not to his specific incarnation as Mani.

„Thus, within the spiritual life of Europe, we find again from time to time the one who was the bearer of the Christ, Zaratas or Nazarathos, the Zarathustra; thus we find again Scythianus; thus we find again the third great disciple of Manes, also Buddha, as he was after having experienced the later times. Thus the European connoisseur of initiation always looked into the turning point of the times, looking up to the true figures of the great teachers. From Zaratas, from Buddha, from Scythianus, he knew that through them flowed into the culture of the future that wisdom which has always come from the Bodhisattvas and which is to be used to comprehend the most worthy object of all understanding, the Christ, who is a being fundamentally different from the Bodhisattvas, whom one can only understand if one takes together all the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas. Therefore, in addition to everything else, the spiritual wisdom of the Europeans also contains a synthetic synthesis of all the teachings given to the world by the three great disciples of Manes and Manes himself. Even if Manes has not been understood, a time will come when European culture will be shaped in such a way that people will again associate a meaning with the names of Scythianus, Buddha and Zarathustra. They will give people the teaching material to understand the Christ. Better and better people will understand the Christ through them. The Middle Ages, however, began with a strange veneration and worship of Scythianus, Buddha and Zoroaster, when their names had leaked out a little; it began with the fact that he who wished to profess himself a true Christian in certain Christian religious communities had to utter the formula: "I curse Scythianus, I curse Buddha, I curse Zaratas!" This was a widespread formula over many areas of the Christian age, by which one professed to be a true Christian. But what was believed to be cursed at that time will be the college of teachers who will make the Christ most comprehensible to humanity, to whom humanity will look up as to the great Bodhisattvas through whom the Christ will be comprehended. Today humanity can hardly offer these great teachers of the Rosy Cross two things, which can only mean the beginning of what in the future will stand great and mighty as the understanding of Christianity. This is to be done by the spiritual science of today; it is to begin to bring the teachings of Scythianus, Zarathustra and Gautama Buddha into the world, not in their old form, but in a thoroughly new form which can be explored today from within itself. We begin by incorporating into culture the elementary things we can learn from them. From the Buddha, Christianity has to learn the doctrine of re-embodiment and karma, even if not in an old way that is no longer up-to-date today. Why do the teachings of re-embodiment and karma flow into Christianity today? They flow in because the initiates can learn to understand them in the sense of our time as Buddha, the great teacher of re-embodiment, understood them in his way. In this way one will also begin to understand the Scythianus, who has not only to teach the re-embodiment of man, but who has to teach that which prevails from eternity to eternity. Thus more and more the essence of the world, more and more the essence of the centre of our earthly world, the essence of the Christ, will be comprehended. Thus more and more the teachings of the Initiates flow into humanity.“ (Lit.:GA 113, p. 194f)

„At the time when the spiritual current of Christianity was becoming obscured because Christianity was externalising itself, the current that we call the Rosicrucian current came to life in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was given the task of cultivating the ancient wisdom, of guarding the treasures of the primordial wisdom, while outside in the world Christianity became more and more externalised and faded in its true form. Where outside only outer forms and ossified dogmas were valid, there was only abjuration and cursing for the real spiritual life; abjuration and cursing for that which was considered the highest and holiest in the Mysteries and was revered. Thus one could often hear the words in those days: I curse Scythianus, I curse Boddha, I curse Zarathas. - These are the three names of those who were venerated quite secretly and within the mysteries and mystery schools of the Rosicrucians as sacred master names.

Zarathas is the same personality as Zarathustra, not the Zarathustra of whom history speaks, but that high individuality who founded the ancient Persian culture and was the teacher of the secret schools of that time. Scythianus, an ancient, highly developed personality, who in a later incarnation led the occult schools in Inner Asia and later also became the teacher of the inner schools of Europe. Boddha or Buddha is one and the same personality.“ (Lit.:GA 109, p. 143)

„Here lies something of what also leads into the deeper starting points of occultism and will show you that with those peoples whose sign lies, so to speak, in the Venus character, the main starting point - also in occult training - must be taken from where breathing is the most important thing. On the other hand, in everything that lies more in the West, the starting-point must be taken from a deepening and spiritualisation of that which lies in the world of the senses. In the higher stages of cognition, in imagination, inspiration and intuition, those folk-tribes which are situated towards the West have this quite in the sense in which the Jupiter spirit originally modifies the character. That is why there have always been these two centres in the evolution of humanity: that centre which was governed more by the spirits of Venus, so to speak, and that centre which was governed more by the spirits of Jupiter. The spirits of Jupiter were particularly observed in those Mysteries in which last came together - as those will know who took part in my Munich lecture cycle of last year - the three individualities, the three spiritual entities of the Buddha, of Zarathustra or Zaratha in his later incarnation, and of that great leader of humanity whom we call by the name of Scythianus. This is the College which, under the guidance of one still greater, has set itself the task of investigating the mysterious forces which must be trained for the evolution of humanity, the starting point of which has been taken from that point which was originally connected with the Jupiter forces and was predetermined in the map of the earth mentioned above.“ (Lit.:GA 121, p. 116)

At the fall of Atlantis, Scythianus led the northern flow of peoples through Europe to Asia, while the southern flow was led by the great solar initiate, Manu.

„The post-Atlantean cultures emerged from two currents. Apart from the one that went west and populated what is now America, two streams of emigrating people, led by their leaders, poured eastward, one in a northerly direction, the other in a southerly direction.

The northern one, of which certain parts remained in Europe, penetrated further into Asia. While new cultures were being prepared and were taking place there, the European population lived through the centuries as if waiting. Their forces were, as it were, held back for what was to come. They were influenced in their essential cultural elements by that great initiate who chose this field all the way to the Siberian regions, and who is called the initiate Scythianus. He inspired the leaders of the European primitive culture, which was not based on what came to humanity as thinking, but on a receptivity for an element that stood in the middle between what one could call recitative-rhythmic language and a kind of chanting, accompanied by a peculiar music that no longer occurs today, but was based on an interplay of pipe-like instruments. It was a peculiar element whose last remnant lived in the bards and skalds. Everything that the Greek myths of Apollo and Orpheus relate has developed from there. In addition, practical skills were developed in Europe through settlement, building and so on.

The other masses of peoples crossed over to Asia under the leadership of the great sun initiate. The most advanced post has formed the first post-Atlantean culture under the leadership of the Rishis.“ (Lit.:GA 117, p. 112)


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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  1. Epiphanius of Salamis: Panarion 66: „Against Manichaeans
  2. Marius Victorinus: Liber ad Justinum Manichaeum, in: Migne J.-P. (ed.): Patrologia Latina 8, 1844, p. 999-1010
  3. Catecheses VI, 33
  4. Cf. in addition (Lit.:GA 93, p. 310ff)