Academy of Gondishapur

From Anthroposophy

The Academy of Gondishapur (Gundeshapur, or Jundi Sabur) was a center of highly developed intellectual science in Persia, current Iran) between approx. 600-900 and was the worldwide center of advanced intellectual thinking and new scientific impulses. It had a major impact on world history.

  • Soratic impulse: the intention of Sorat for the year 666 was to deluge humanity with a knowledge and a culture which the gods had intended for men only during the third millennium, by bestowing the consciousness soul prematurely on Man around 666, thereby side-tracking normal development by mingling the intellectual soul's development with that of the consciousness soul. In case the impulse would have succeeded, geniuses would have arisen with inspired knowledge that mankind will only have around 2493, and delivered great advances to humanity's unbalanced immature soul moods of that period (1918-10-11-GA184).
  • the impact still today due to the oriental spiritual stream of 'Arabism' (1925-03-GA026, LT177-179)


  • the impulse of Gondishapur resuscitated the neo-Persian influence and Zarathustra-impulse (see Persian cultural age), but although the original intentions of the Soratic impulse were shunted, still its effects remain as an influence in humanity today (1918-10-16-GA182)
  • at the Academy of Gondishapur, all major works of the greek culture, both philosophical and scientific, were translated into arabic. Great spirits incarnated and brought major advances in many areas of science such as medicine, aritmethic, astrology, etc. (re von Gleich, see 'Further reading' section below).
  • in the Karmic Relationships cycle, Rudolf Steiner discussed some of the important Individualities connected to the academy of Gondischapur such as Haroun El Rachid (KRID=6), his counceller (KRID=17), Gebel El Tarik (KRID=7), Muawiyah (KRID=9), an astronomer around Manan (KRID=8). These incarnated again in the personalities of Lord Bacon, Charles Darwin, Woodrow Wilson, Laplace, Amos Comenius.
  • prophet Mohammed (approx. 570-632), founded the Islam and this countered the impulse of Gondishapur (1918-10-12-GA184)
    • However the oriental spiritual stream thus created also did away with the spiritual and put a strong focus on the physical only (1904-06-24-GA092). Mohammed's clairvoyance saw the elemental world and led to a monotheistic and (ahrimanic) intellectual religion with a luciferic paradise that stands opposed to threefolded divinity (1924-04-24-GA316), christianity (1913-01-03-GA069), spiritual science (1915-04-11-GA272, 1920-06-09-GA300). In the middle ages, around the 13th century, this oriental spiritual stream met, fructified and clashed with the european culture and christian religion (1911-03-13-GA124, 1924-09-10-GA346).


Lecture coverage and references

1918-10-11-GA184 and 1918-10-13-GA184 and 1918-10-20-GA185 are to be added to the two main lectures of 12 and 16 October 1918 below


.. something of what was intended to happen, but was blunted in its effects, did indeed remain for humanity, inasmuch as out of those grand beginnings, fantastic Islam, pitiful Islam, emerged. But something further still happened to all that part of humanity in which the impulse of Jundi-Shapur had taken effect. From that neo-Persian influence by which, out of due time, the Zarathustra-impulse was resuscitated, humanity was given an ‘injection’, if I may use a homely expression. It was an injection reaching into its actual bodily constitution, and we are born with it to this day : it is an impulse actually identical with the one of which I spoke at the beginning. There was injected into humanity that sickness which, in its effect, leads to the denial of the Father God.

Please take me literally. Humanity — that is to say, civilised humanity — has a ‘thorn in the flesh’ today. St. Paul has much to say about this ‘thorn.’ [ See note 11 ] He speaks prophetically, as an especially advanced man; the thorn was in him already in his own day. To others it was given in the real sense only later on, in the seventh century. But its effects will become more and more widespread, more and more significant. A man today who surrenders wholly to this thorn, to this sickness — for in the physical body this thorn is an actual sickness — becomes an atheist, one who denies God, who denies the Divine. In every human being belonging to modern civilisation there is, fundamentally speaking, the tendency to atheism; the question is only whether a man lends himself to it. He has within him the sickness which incites him to deny the Divine, whereas if he obeyed the promptings of his true nature he would acknowledge God. His nature was, as it were, mineralised to a certain extent at that time, retarded in its development, with the result that we have within us the sickness which gives rise to the denial of Divinity.

This sickness has many consequences. Through it a bond of attraction is created between the soul of a man and his body stronger than that which formerly existed, stronger than that which arises from human nature itself. The soul is shackled more firmly to the body. Whereas through its essential being, the soul is not intended to share the destinies of the body, through this plan it would have taken a course leading to greater and greater participation in the destinies of the body, including those of birth, heredity and death.

The aim of the sages of Jundi-Shapur — in a more amateurish form it is also the aim of certain occult societies in our own time — amounted to nothing else than this: to make man very great, very wise, on the Earth, but, by instilling this wisdom, to lead his soul to partake of death, so that when he had passed through the Gate of Death he would have no inclination to participate in spiritual life or in subsequent incarnations. The intention was to sever man from his further evolution, and so win him for the aims of certain Beings in a quite different world. It was to preserve him as he is in his life on Earth, in order to divert him from the purpose of that earthly existence, which purpose he was meant to discover only slowly and by degrees, thereby finally attaining to Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man.

The human soul would have become more intimately bound up with the Earth than had been intended. Death, which is foreordained for the body only, would in a certain respect have become the destiny of the soul as well. This was prevented by the Mystery of Golgotha. Man did become related to death, but through the Mystery of Golgotha he has been given a means of protection against it. Although, on the one side, a certain stream in world-evolution brought about a relationship between the soul and the body stronger than that originally prescribed for man, in order to maintain the balance Christ linked the soul with the spirit more strongly than had been originally planned. Through the Mystery of Golgotha the human soul was brought nearer to the spirit. [ See note 12 ]

1921-05-01-GA204 and 1921-06-05-GA204

If we become aware that such views were still present in the Apocalypticer and in the souls of all the men of his time, it will enable us to look into his prophetic soul, which could survey the future in such broad strokes, in order to look at the way he looked at what poured over the Christianity which had become a semblance of itself in two directions around the year 666.

Here his prophetic eye fell upon that doctrine which had already arisen in the east in 666, and which goes back to that Muhammedanian mystery culture which knows nothing about the Son. This Islamic mystery culture doesn't know anything about the world structure to which I referred; it doesn't know about the two kingdoms, the realm of the Father and the realm of the Spirit; it only knows one rigid thing; only the Father exists for it, there is only one God. And everything else is his prophet — mainly Muhammed. This point of view makes Islam the polar opposite of Christianity. This viewpoint leads to the will to eliminate all freedom for all times to come, to the will for determinism, and this cannot be otherwise if one only thinks of the world in connection with the Father God.

However, the Apocalypticer feels that man cannot find himself like that. Man cannot be permeated by the Christ like that; he can't grasp his humanity if he only grasps this ancient teaching about the Father. The outer human form becomes Maya for a world conception which is so strongly closed off within; for man becomes man by taking hold of himself, by making Christ alive in himself and through the fact that he can fit himself into the spiritual order of things and into the realm of the spirit which is entirely free of nature. Thereby he becomes a man; but he doesn't become a man if he falls back into the view which only reckons with the Father God.

1925-03-GA026, LT177-179

in the Academy of Gondishapur it was also taken hold of by that Oriental spiritual stream which we may describe as 'Arabism'.

Arabism in one aspect of its nature, is a premature unfolding of the consciousness soul. Through the soul-life working prematurely in the direction of the consciousness soul, the possibility was given in Arabism for a spiritual wave to go forth, extending over Africa to southern and western Europe, and filling certain of the men of Europe with an intellectualism that should not properly have come until a later stage. In the seventh and eighth centuries, southern and western Europe received spiritual impulses which ought to have come only in the age of the consciousness (or spiritual) soul.

This spiritual wave was able to awaken the intellectual life in man, but not the deeper founts of experience whereby the soul penetrates into the world of Spirit.

And now, when in the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries Man exercised his faculty of knowledge, he could but reach down to those levels of the soul where he did not yet impinge upon the spiritual world.

Arabism, entering into the spiritual life of Europe, held back the souls of men, in knowledge, from the spirit-world. Prematurely it brought that intellect into activity which was only able to apprehend the outer world of nature.

This Arabism proved very powerful indeed. Whosoever was taken hold of by it, was seized by an inward — though for the most part quite unconscious — pride. He felt the power of intellectualism, but not the impotence of intellect by itself to penetrate into reality. Thus he gave himself up to the externally given reality of the senses, which places itself before the human being of its own accord. And it did not even occur to him to approach the spiritual reality.

The spiritual life of the Middle Ages found itself face to face with this position. It possessed the sublime traditions about the spiritual world. But the soul-life was intellectually so impregnated by the hidden influence of Arabism, that medieval knowledge found no access to the sources from which the contents of the great tradition had after all proceeded.


Related pages

References and further reading

  • Sigismund von Gleich: 'Geisteswissenschaftliche Entwicklungslinien im Hinblick auf den Impuls von Gondi-Schapur' (1925, 1983)
    • this booklet is a rich and excellent read, and given von Gleich published this in 1925, one can wonder in how much he received support from conversations with Rudolf Steiner to guide his research and writings
  • Karl Hummel: 'Die Anfänge der iranischen Hochschule Gundischapur in der Spätantike (1963)
  • Heinz Herbert Schoeffler or Schöffler: The Academy of Gondishapur (Translated by Harold Jurgens, in DE 1979 as 'Die Akademie von Gondischapur: Aristoteles auf d. Wege in d. Orient')