A Bodhisattva (or Mahatma) is an Eastern term for a highly developed being providing spiritual guidance of mankind in the Postatlantean epoch. They are ensouled down to their physical and etheric body by an Archangel, so they carry the 'spark of buddhi'.
A circle of twelve bodhisattvas makes up the White Lodge, whereby the bodhisattvas stand in direct connection with the Christ being as central source of all divine wisdom.
The bodhisattvas operate from the buddhi plane, do not always incarnate, and are also teachers for souls in the spiritual worlds (and not only on earth). They work on the cosmic plan (see Occult atom) and spiritual guidance of mankind.
For an explanation on the differences between a Bodhisattva, Buddha and the teachers of humanity (re also Schema FMC00.117 below), see Three classes of Buddhas.
FMC00.309 shows the only known portraits of masters Morya and Koot Homi.
Herman Schmiechen (1855-ca1925), a german theosophist and portrait painter, arrived in London in 1884 and, on request of Helena Blavatsky, painted portraits of the Mahatmas or Masters. Seemingly Blavatsky assessed the picture of master Koot Hoomi as excelled. Sources state the paintings may have been altered afterwards, but in any case several copies were made by Schmiechen. The copies he made for 1905 for Rudolf Steiner were ritually used in the German esoteric sections. More info on Portraits of the Masters on theosophy.wiki.
FMC00.117 provides a reference table of incarnations of Boddhisatvas part of the White Lodge. The table makes the distinction between names listed as Bodhisattvas part of the twelve, or incarnations of historical figures that may link to these same individualities or their direct helpers.
Lecture coverage and references
References in GA093A, GA117, GA118
1909-08-31-GA113 to be shortened
It is felt and recognised by spiritual science, wherever it is truly cultivated that with Christ, something very special entered into the evolution of the earth. Wherever true spiritual science is studied, it is felt and recognised that there is one thing which runs through all the Beings of whom we are now speaking. And what we then described as their wisdom had poured down in other ages from the same one Being, who is the great teacher of all civilisations.
The Being who was the teacher of the holy Rishis, of Zarathustra, of Hermes — the Being whom we may designate as the great teacher, who in the different ages manifests Himself in the most various ways — the Being who as is natural, at first remains entirely concealed from external vision — is designated, by means of an expression borrowed from the East, as the totality of the Bodhisattvas. The Christian conception would designate it the Holy Spirit.
The Bodhisattva is a Being who passes through all civilisations, who can manifest Himself to mankind in various ways. Such is the Spirit of the Bodhisattvas. All the ages have looked up to the Bodhisattvas. The holy Rishis, Zarathustra, Hermes and Moses looked up to them — it matters not how they named the Being in whom they perceived the embodiment of the Bodhisattva principle. The Bodhisattva can be given this one name, ‘The Great Teacher,’ and to him those individuals looked who wished to receive and could receive the teachings of the post-Atlantean era.
This Bodhisattva spirit of the post-Atlantean era has taken human form many times, but one such interests us in particular. A Bodhisattva took on that radiant human form of the being of Gautama Buddha — it does not for the moment concern us in what other fashion he was also manifest. And it signified an advance of this Bodhisattva when it was no longer necessary for him to remain in the upper spiritual realms, when his development in the spiritual worlds was such that he could master his physical corporeality to the extent of becoming man as Buddha. A Bodhisattva advancing in human existence is Buddha. The Buddha is one of the human incarnations of the all-embracing Wisdom figures underlying the evolution of the earth. In the Buddha we have the incarnation of that great Teacher who may be called the essence of wisdom itself. The Buddha is the Bodhisattva who has become an earth being.
And it is unnecessary to believe that a Bodhisattva incarnated in only the Buddha; for one of the Bodhisattvas has incarnated either wholly or in part in other human personalities. Such incarnations are not all similar; it must be quite clear that just as a Bodhisattva lived in the etheric body of Gautama Buddha, so such an one also lived in the members of other human individuals; and because the being of that Bodhisattva who inherited the astral body of Zarathustra streamed into the members of other individualities, for instance, Hermes, we may — but only if we understand the matter in this sense — call other individualities who also are great teachers an incarnation of a Bodhisattva. It is permissible to speak of ever-recurring incarnations of the Bodhisattva, but we must understand that behind all the men in whom the incarnation took place the Bodhisattva stood as a part of that Being who is the personified All-Wisdom of our world.
In this sense, then, we gaze upon the Wisdom-element which in olden times was imparted to mankind from the Luciferic worlds. When we gaze upon this we are looking at the Bodhisattvas.
[difference with Christ-Jesus follows here- removed]
Wherein, then, does the difference consist between the Christ, between that Being to whom we must ascribe such a central position, and a Bodhisattva? It consists in this, that the Bodhisattva is the Great Teacher, the incarnation of wisdom, which pervades all the civilisations, which incarnates in many different ways; but the Christ is not only a teacher — that is the essential point — Christ is not only a teacher of men. He is a Being whom we can best understand if we expand to the sphere where in dazzling spiritual heights we can find Him as an Object of Initiation and where we may compare Him with other spiritual beings. There are regions of spiritual life where, freed of all the dust of earth, we may find the sublime Bodhisattva being in his spiritual essence and where we may find the Christ stripped of all that He became on the earth or in its vicinity. There we find the origin of humanity, the source whence all life proceeds: the primeval, spiritual source. We find not only one Bodhisattva, but a series of Bodhisattvas.
Even as there is a Bodhisattva who underlies our seven successive civilisations, so there was a Bodhisattva underlying the Atlantean civilisations, and so on. We find in these spiritual heights a series of Bodhisattvas, who were, for their age, the great teachers and instructors not only of mankind but also of those beings who do not descend into the region of physical life.
We find them there as the great teachers there they gather that which they are to teach, and in their midst is One Being Who is great not only because He teaches, and that is the Christ. He is not alone great because He teaches, rather is He a Being Who works upon the Bodhisattvas who surround Him by manifesting Himself to them. He is seen by the Bodhisattvas and He reveals His Glory to them. The Bodhisattvas are what they are through being great teachers; the Christ is to the world what He is, through His own Being, through His own Essence. He needs only to be seen, and the manifestation of His own Being needs only to be reflected in His surroundings, for the teachings to spring forth. He is not only a Teacher; He is Life, a Life that pours itself into the other beings, who then become teachers.
The Bodhisattvas are mighty teachers because from their spiritual heights they enjoy the bliss of being able to see Christ. And when in the course of the evolution of our earth we find incarnations of the Bodhisattvas, we speak of great teachers of mankind, because the Bodhisattva principle is the most essential in them. The Christ does not only teach; we learn of Christ in order to understand Him, in order to recognise what He is. Christ is more an object than a subject of learning. The difference between Christ and the Bodhisattvas is that He is to the world what He is, because the world is blessed by sight of Him. The Bodhisattvas are to the world what they are because they are great teachers. Therefore if we wish to look up to the living being, to the life-source of our earth, we must look at the incarnation in which was embodied not a Bodhisattva (in which this fact was the most important feature of the incarnation) but a Being who did not Himself leave any teaching behind, but who gathered round Him those who spread Gospels and teachings concerning Him over the whole world. The point of prime importance is that no document exists written by Christ Himself, but that teachers surround Him and speak about Him, so that He is the object and not the subject of the teaching. It is a remarkable circumstance and one of utmost importance with reference to the Christ event that nothing has been received from Him Himself, but that others have written about His Being. It is therefore not to be wondered at that we are told we can find all the teachings of Christ in other faiths also; for Christ is in nowise merely a teacher. He is a Being who desires to be understood as a Being; He does not wish to sink into us only through His teachings, but through His life. We may gather together all the teachings in the world that are accessible to us, and we shall even then not have sufficient to enable us to understand the Christ. If men of the present day cannot turn directly to the Bodhisattvas, and with the spiritual eyes of the Bodhisattvas look up to Christ, then they must learn from these Bodhisattvas what can eventually make Christ comprehensible. If therefore we wish not only to become participant in Christ, but to understand Him, we must not only look at what Christ has done for us, but we must learn of all the teachers of West and of East, and we must account it a holy thing to become familiar with the teachings of the whole known world; we must devote ourselves to the sacred task of understanding the Christ in His completeness by means of the highest teaching.
[link to Rosy Cross]
There is a fourth individuality named in history behind whom for those who have the proper comprehension, much lies hidden — an individuality still higher and more powerful than Skythianos, than Buddha or than Zarathustra. This individuality is Manes, and those who see more in Manichaeism than is usually the case know him to be a very high messenger of Christ. It is said that a few centuries after Christ had lived on the earth, there was held one of the greatest assemblies of the spiritual world connected with the earth that ever took place, and that there Manes gathered round him three mighty personalities of the fourth century after Christ. In this figurative description a most significant fact in connection with spiritual development is expressed.
Manes called these persons together to consult with them as to the means of reintroducing the wisdom that had lived throughout the changing times of the post Atlantean age and of causing it to unfold more and more gloriously in the future. Who were the personalities brought together by Manes in that memorable assembly? (It should be remembered that such an event can only be witnessed by spiritual sight.) He called together the personality in whom Skythianos lived at that time, and also the physical reflection of the Buddha who had then appeared again, and the erstwhile Zarathustra who was wearing a physical body at that time. Around Manes was this council, himself in the centre and around him Skythianos, Buddha and Zarathustra. And in that council a plan was agreed upon for causing all the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas of the post-Atlantean time to flow more and more strongly into the future of mankind; and the plan of the future evolution of the civilisations of the earth then decided upon was adhered to and carried over into the European mysteries of the Rosy Cross. These particular mysteries have always been connected with the individualities of Skythianos, of Buddha and of Zarathustra. They were the teachers in the schools of the Rosy Cross; teachers who gave their wisdom to the earth as a gift, in order that through it the Christ Being might be understood. Hence in all spiritual Rosicrucian schools the deepest reverence is paid to these old initiates who preserved the primeval wisdom of Atlantis; to the re-incarnated Skythianos, in whom was seen the great and honoured Bodhisattva of the West; to the temporarily incarnated reflection of the Buddha, who also was honoured as one, of the Bodhisattvas; and finally to Zarathustra, the reincarnated Zarathustra. These were looked up to as the great Teachers of the European Initiates. Such presentations must not be taken in the sense of external history, although they elucidate the historical course of events better than any external description could do.
Let me illustrate this statement by saying that there is hardly to be found a single country in the Middle Ages in which a certain legend was not everywhere current, though at that time no one in Europe knew anything of Gautama Buddha, and the tradition of Gautama Buddha had been completely lost. Yet the following story was related (it is to be found in many books of the Middle Ages and is one of the widely disseminated stories of that period): Once upon a time there was a King in India to whom a son was born called Josaphat. Extraordinary things were prophesied about this child when he was born. His father therefore especially guarded him; he was only to know what was most precious, he was to dwell in perfect happiness, he was not to become acquainted with pain and sorrow or with the misfortunes of life. He was protected from everything of that sort. It happened, however, that Josaphat one day went out of the palace and passed in succession a sick man, a leper, an aged man and a corpse — so runs the tale. He returned deeply moved into the king's palace and chanced upon a man whose soul was filled with the secrets of Christianity and whose name was Balaam; Balaam converted Josaphat, and this Josaphat who had experienced all this, became a Christian.
It is not necessary to bring the Akashic records to our aid in order to interpret this legend, since ordinary philology suffices to reveal the origin of the name Josaphat. Josaphat is derived from an old word Joaphat; Joaphat again from Joadosaph; Joadosaph from Juadosaph which is identical with Budhasaph — both these last forms are Arabic — and Budhasaph is the same name as Bodhisattva.
So the European occult teaching not only knows the Bodhisattva, it also knows, if it can decipher the name of Josaphat, the meaning of that word.
This cultivation of occult knowledge in the West by means of legends contained the fact that there was a time when the being who lived in Gautama Buddha became a Christian. Whether this be a matter of knowledge or no, it is none the less true. Just as belated traditions may exist, as men may believe today that which was believed thousands of years ago, and which has been propagated by means of tradition — so they may also believe that it accords with the laws of the higher worlds for Gautama Buddha to have remained the same as he was six hundred years before our era. But it is not so. He has ascended, he has evolved and in the true Rosicrucian teachings the knowledge of this fact has been preserved in the form of the above legend.
Within the spiritual life of Europe we find him who was the bearer of the Christ, Zarathas or Nazarathos — the original Zarathustra — appearing again from time to time; in the same way we meet with Skythianos again and the third great pupil of Manes, Buddha, as he was after he had taken part in the experiences of later ages.
Thus the European who had some knowledge of initiation looked into the changing ages and kept his gaze fixed on the true figures of the Great Teachers. He knew of Zarathas, of Buddha, of Skythianos — he knew that through them wisdom was pouring into the civilisation of the future-wisdom which had always proceeded from the Bodhisattvas and which must be used in order to promote understanding of the greatest treasure of all comprehension, the Christ, Who is fundamentally a completely different Being from the Bodhisattvas and Whom we can understand only by gathering together all the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas. Therefore in the spiritual wisdom of Europe there is a synthesis of all the teachings that have been given to the world through the three great pupils of Manes and by Manes himself. Even though men may not have understood Manes, a time will come when European civilisation will take such form that there will be a feeling for what is connected with the names of Skythianos, Buddha and Zarathustra. They give to mankind the material whose study will teach us to understand Christ, and through them our understanding of Him will grow more and more complete. The Middle Ages certainly showed a strange form of reverence and worship to Skythianos, to Buddha and to Zarathustra when their names began to percolate through; in certain communities of the Christian religion anyone who wished to be taken for a true Christian had to utter the formula: ‘I curse Skythianos, I curse Buddha, I curse Zarathas!’ But what it was then thought necessary to curse will become the centre for those who will best make Christ comprehensible to man, a central point to which mankind will look up as it did to the great Bodhisattvas through whom the Christ will be understood. Today mankind can at the most bring two things to these teachings of the Rosy Cross — two things which may indicate a beginning of the power and greatness that will appear in the future in the form of the understanding of Christianity, Spiritual science of today will be the means of making one such beginning, by bringing the teachings of Skythianos, of Zarathustra, of Gautama Buddha to the world again, not in their old but in an absolutely new form, accessible to investigation from out its very nature. The elements of what we learn from these three great Teachers must be embodied into civilisation. From Buddha, Christianity had to learn the teachings of reincarnation and of Karma, but in the older religion they are to be found in an ancient guise, unsuited to modern times. Why are the teachings of reincarnation and of Karma flowing into Christianity today? Because the initiates have learned to understand them in a modern sense, just as Buddha himself after his fashion understood them — and Buddha was the great Teacher of reincarnation. In the same way we shall attain to an understanding of Skythianos, whose teaching deals not only with the reincarnation of men but with the powers which rule from eternity to eternity. So shall the central Being of the world, the Christ, be ever more and more understood. In this way the teachings of the initiates gradually flow into humanity. The spiritual scientist of today can only bring two things in as elementary beginnings compared to what must come about in the future spiritual evolution of mankind. The first element will be that which sinks into our innermost being in the form of the Christ-life; and the second will be an increasingly comprehensive understanding of the Christ by the aid of spiritual Cosmology. The Christ life in the inmost heart and an understanding of the world which leads to an understanding of Christ — these are the two elements. We may begin today, for we are only on the threshold of these things, by having the right feeling. We meet together for the purpose of cultivating right feeling about the spiritual world and all that is born out of it, as well as right feeling towards man. And as we cultivate this right feeling we gradually make our spiritual forces capable of receiving the Christ into our innermost being; for the higher and nobler our feelings become, the more nobly can Christ live within us. We make a beginning by teaching the elementary truths of our earth evolution, by seeking that which we owe originally to Skythianos, Zarathustra and Buddha and by accepting it as they teach it in our age, in the form they themselves know it, their evolution having progressed to our present age. We have reached a point in civilisation now where the elementary teachings of initiation are beginning to be disclosed.
A Lodge of twelve Bodhisattvas is to be regarded as the Lodge directing all Earth evolution .. .. and from time to time sends one of the twelve Bodhisattvas to the Earth as a special emissary, as one of the great Teachers. The concept of ‘Teacher’ familiar to us at lower stages of existence can be applied, to these twelve Bodhisattvas. They are Teachers, the great Inspirers of one portion or another of what mankind has to acquire.
Whence do these Bodhisattvas receive what they have to proclaim from epoch to epoch? If you were able to look into the great Spirit-Lodge of the twelve Bodhisattvas you would find that in the midst of the Twelve there is a Thirteenth — one who cannot be called a ‘Teacher’ in the same sense as the Bodhisattvas, but of whom we must say: He is that Being from whom wisdom itself streams as very substance. It is therefore quite correct to speak of the twelve Bodhisattvas in the great Spirit-Lodge grouped around One who is their Centre; they are wrapt in contemplation of the sublime Being from whom there streams what they have then to inculcate into Earth evolution in fulfilment of their missions. Thus there streams from the Thirteenth what the others have to teach. They are the ‘Teachers’, the ‘Inspirers’; the Thirteenth is himself the Being of whom the others teach, whom they proclaim from epoch to epoch. This Thirteenth is He whom the ancient Rishis called Vishva Karman, whom Zarathustra called Ahura Mazdao, whom we call the Christ. He is the Leader and Guide of the great Lodge of the Bodhisattvas. Hence the content of the proclamation made through the whole choir of the Bodhisattvas is the teaching concerning Christ, once called Vishva Karman. The Bodhisattva who became Buddha five to six centuries before our era was endowed with the powers of Vishva Karman.
This mystery was portrayed in a symbol or in a picture wherever men had an inkling of the great secrets of evolution or acquired knowledge of them through Initiation. In the little known, enigmatic Trottic Mysteries of Northern Europe before the coming of Christianity, an earthly symbol of the spiritual reality of the Lodge of the twelve Bodhisattvas was created. Those who were Teachers were always associated with a community of twelve. It was for the Twelve to proclaim the message and there was a Thirteenth who did not teach but who through his very presence radiated the wisdom which the others received. This was the picture on Earth of a heavenly, spiritual reality. Again, in Goethe's poem Die Geheimnisse where the poet has given an indication of his Rosicrucian inspiration, we are reminded how Twelve sit around a Thirteenth who is not necessarily a great Teacher. Brother Mark, in his simplicity, is himself to be addressed by the Twelve as the Thirteenth — when the former Thirteenth shall have left them. He is to be the bringer, not of teaching, but of the spiritual substance itself.
1909-10-25-GA116 is titled 'The sphere of the bodhisattvas'
Thus in this incarnation of Apollo as Orpheus, we have again a sort of descent of a Bodhisattva — if we may use this Eastern term — to Buddha-hood. We might quote a number of such Beings who stand out from age to age as the great Teachers of humanity and who always had a very special experience at the time of their deepest descent. The Buddha experiences the bliss of inspiring the whole of humanity. That Bodhisattva, whose memory is preserved externally under the name of ‘Apollo,’ had an individual experience: he was to prepare the individuality, the quality of the Ego. He experiences the tragedy of the Ego; he experiences the fact that this ego is, in the present state of man as regards this attribute of his, not entirely with him. Man is struggling up to the higher ego. That was foreshadowed for the Greeks by the Buddha or Bodhisattva in Orpheus.
1911-09-21-GA130 is called 'Buddha and Christ - The Sphere of the Bodhisattvas'
The powers and forces which draw man upwards again to the spiritual world fall into two categories: those which draw him upwards on the path of Wisdom, and those which draw him upwards on the path of Morality. The forces to which intellectual progress is mainly due all proceed from the impulse given by a great Individuality of the fourth post-Atlantean epoch who is known to you all, namely Gautama Buddha. It is a remarkable discovery of spiritual investigation that the most penetrating, most significant, thoughts conceived in our present epoch have proceeded from Gautama Buddha. This is all the more remarkable inasmuch as until the days of Schopenhauer — therefore by no means long ago — the name of Gautama Buddha was almost unknown in the West. This is very understandable, for when Gautama Buddha was born as the son of King Suddhodana, he rose from the rank of Bodhisattva to that of Buddha, and to become a Buddha means that the Individuality concerned does not incarnate again on Earth in a body of flesh. The Bodhisattva-Individuality who became Buddha five or six centuries before the beginning of the Christian era has not since incarnated, nor can he incarnate, in a physical body. But instead he sends down his forces from the higher worlds, from the super-sensible worlds, and inspires all bearers of culture who are not yet permeated by the Christ Impulse.
Consciousness of this truth was demonstrated in a beautiful legend written down by John of Damascus in the eighth century and well known throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. It is the legend of Barlaam and Joshaphat, which relates how he who had become the successor of Buddha (Joshaphat is a phonetic variation of ‘Bodhisattva’) received teaching from Barlaam about the Christ Impulse. The legend, which was subsequently forgotten, tells us that the Bodhisattva who succeeded Gautama Buddha was instructed by Barlaam and his soul was fired by the Christian Impulse. This was the second impulse which, in addition to that of Buddha, continues to work in the evolution of humanity. It is the Christ Impulse and is connected with the future ascent of humanity to Morality. Although Buddha's teaching is in a particular sense moral teaching, the Christ Impulse is not teaching but actual power which works as such and to an increasing degree imbues mankind with moral strength. [I Corinthians IV, 20.]
Just as Buddha-hood can be attained only on the physical plane, the qualification for meeting Christ in death can likewise be acquired by the human soul only on the physical plane. A Buddha is first a Bodhisattva, but he rises to the rank of Buddha during a physical incarnation and it is then no longer necessary for him to return to the Earth. Understanding of Christ in the sense just explained can be acquired only on the physical plane.
Before the Event of Golgotha the Bodhisattva who was the successor of Buddha was present on the Earth in order to prepare for that Event and give teaching to those around him. He incarnated in the personality of Jeshu ben Pandira , one century before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Thus we must distinguish between the Jeshu ben Pandira-incarnation of the Bodhisattva who was the successor of Gautama Buddha, and the incarnation at the beginning of our era of Jesus of Nazareth who for three years of his life was permeated by the cosmic Being we call the Christ.
The Bodhisattva who incarnated in Jeshu ben Pandira and in other personalities too, returns again and again, until in about three thousand years from now, he will attain Buddha-hood and as Maitreya Buddha live through his final incarnation. The Christ-Individuality was on the Earth in the body of Jesus of Nazareth for three years only and does not come again in a physical body; in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch He comes in an etheric body, in the sixth epoch in an astral body, and in the seventh in a mighty Cosmic Ego that is like a great Group-Soul of humanity.
When a human being dies, his physical, etheric and astral bodies fall away from him and his ego passes over to the next incarnation. It is exactly the same with the planet Earth. What is physical in our Earth falls away at the end of the Earth-period and human souls in their totality pass over into the Jupiter condition, the next planetary embodiment of the Earth. And just as in the case of an individual human being the ego is the centre of his further evolution, so for the whole of future humanity the Christ-Ego in the astral and etheric bodies of men goes on to ensoul the Jupiter-existence. We therefore see how starting from a physical man -on Earth the Christ gradually evolves as Etheric Christ, as Astral Christ, as Ego-Christ, in order, as Ego-Christ, to be the Spirit of the Earth who then rises to even higher stages together with all mankind.
What are we doing when we teach Spiritual Science to-day? We are teaching what Oriental wisdom so clearly proclaimed when the Bodhisattva who was then the son of King Suddhodana, attained Buddha-hood. In those Oriental teachings was expressed the realisation that it was the task of the next Bodhisattva — who would eventually become a Buddha — to spread over the Earth the knowledge that would reveal Christ to men in the true light. Thus the Bodhisattva who incarnated in Jeshu ben Pandira and again and again in others, became the great Teacher of the Christ Impulse. This is indicated very clearly in the legend of Barlaam and Joshaphat, which tells how Joshaphat (i.e. the Bodhisattva) is instructed by Barlaam, the Christian teacher. The Oriental occult teachings call this Bodhisattva the ‘Bringer of the Good’ — Maitreya Buddha. And we know from occult investigations that in this Maitreya Buddha the power of the Word will be present in a degree of which men of the present time can as yet have no conception. It is possible to-day through higher clairvoyant perception of the process of world-evolution to discover how the, Maitreya Buddha will teach after three thousand years have passed. Much of his teaching can also be expressed in symbolic forms. But to-day — because mankind is insufficiently mature — it is not yet possible to utter words such as those that will come from the lips of the Maitreya Buddha.
In the Eightfold Path, Gautama Buddha gave the great intellectual teachings of right speech, right thinking, right action, and so on. The words uttered by the Maitreya Buddha will contain a magic power that will become moral impulses in the men who hear them. And if there should be a gospel telling of the Maitreya Buddha, the writer of it would have to use words differing from those used of Christ in the Gospel of St. John: “And the Word was made Flesh.” The evangelist of the Maitreya Buddha would have to testify: “And the Flesh was made Word.”
The utterances of the Maitreya Buddha will be permeated in a miraculous way with the power of Christ. Occult investigations show us to-day that in a certain respect even the external life of the Maitreya Buddha will be patterned on the life of Christ. In ancient times, when a great Individuality appeared and was to become a Teacher of humanity, signs indicating this showed themselves in the early youth of the child in question, in special talents and qualities of soul. There is however a different kind of development in the course of which a complete change in the personality becomes apparent at a certain point in his life. What happens is that when this human being has reached a certain age, his ego is taken out of his bodily sheaths and a different ego passes into his body. The greatest example of this is Christ Jesus Himself, of whom in his thirtieth year the Christ-Individuality had taken possession. All the incarnations of the Bodhisattva who will become the Maitreya Buddha have shown that in this sense his life will resemble that of Christ.
In none of the incarnations of the Bodhisattva is it known, either in his childhood or youth, that he will become a Bodhisattva. Whenever the Bodhisattva becomes Buddha there is evidence that at the age of 30 or 31, another individuality takes possession of his body. The Bodhisattva will never reveal himself as such in his early youth, but in his thirtieth or thirty-first year he will manifest quite different qualities, because another Being takes possession of his body. Individualities who will take possession of the personality of some human being in this way and will not incarnate as children, are, for example, individualities such as Moses, Abraham, Ezekiel.
So too is it in our present century in the case of the Bodhisattva who later on, in three thousand years time, will become the Maitreya Buddha. It would be so much occult dilettantism to assert that this Being would be recognisable in his early years as the Bodhisattva. It is between his thirtieth and thirty-first years that he first reveals Himself through his own power, without having to be proclaimed by others. He will convince the world through his own power and it would be well to realise that if the Bodhisattva were alleged in some quarters to be revealing himself in a human being under the age of thirty, that very fact would be evidence of the fallacy of such a statement. Claims of the kind have frequently been made. For example, in the 17th century a certain individual proclaimed himself to be an incarnation of the Messiah, of Christ. His name was Sabbati Zewi and hosts of people from all over Europe, from Spain, Italy and France, made pilgrimages to him in Smyrna.
It is certainly true that in our time there is a rooted disinclination to recognise genius in human beings. But on the other hand, mental laziness is very prevalent, with the result that people are only too ready to acknowledge some individual as a great soul, merely on authority. It is important to-day for Anthroposophy to be presented in such a way as to be based to the smallest possible extent on belief in authority.
Much that I have said today can be substantiated only by means of occult investigation. Yet I beg you not to give credence to these things because I say them, but to test them by everything known to you from history — above all by what you can learn from your own experience — and I am absolutely certain that the more closely you examine them, the more confirmation you will find. In this age of intellectualism, I do not appeal to your belief in authority but to your capacity for intelligent examination. The Bodhisattva of the 20th century will not rely upon any herald to announce him as the Maitreya Buddha, but upon the power of his own words; he will stand on his own feet in the world.
What has been said in this lecture may perhaps be summed up as follows.
In our period of evolution, two streams of spiritual life are at work; one of them is the stream of Wisdom, or the Buddha-stream, containing the most sublime teaching of wisdom, goodness of heart and peace on Earth. To enable this teaching of Buddha to permeate the hearts of all men, the Christ Impulse is indispensable. The second stream is the Christ-stream itself which will lead humanity from intellectuality, by way of aesthetic feeling and insight, to morality. And the greatest Teacher of the Christ Impulse will in all ages be the successor of that Bodhisattva who incarnates again and again and who, in three thousand years from now, will become the Maitreya Buddha. For the statement contained in Oriental chronicles is true: that exactly five thousand years after Gautama Buddha attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, the Maitreya Buddha will incarnate on Earth for the last time.
The succession of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas has no relation as such to the cosmic Being we call Christ; it was a Bodhisattva — not the Christ — who incarnated in the body of Jeshu ben Pandira. Christ incarnated in a physical body once, and once only, for a period of three years. The Bodhisattva appears in every century until his existence as Maitreya Buddha.
The Mystery of Gautama Buddha, as given exoterically in Oriental literature, was there dealt with, and we explained that he who seeks to become a ‘Buddha’ must in the course of evolution first become a ‘Bodhisattva.’ We explained further that the individual known to history as the ‘Buddha’ had previously been a Bodhisattva. He was a Bodhisattva until the twenty-ninth year of his physical existence, during which time he lived as the son of King Sudhodana. It was only in his twenty-ninth year, through inner soul-development, that he evolved from a Bodhisattva to a Buddha. There is a long sequence of Bodhisattvas in human evolution, and he who attained Buddhahood six hundred years before our era is one of these Bodhisattvas who guided human evolution. An individual who rises from the dignity of Bodhisattva to that of Buddha does not again incarnate in a physical body on earth.
It was explained in the course of the lectures referred to above how Buddha was manifest at the birth of the Jesus of the Gospel of St. Luke in that he united himself with the etheric body of him who is known as the Nathan Jesus; and it was shown that this is a different Jesus from the one spoken of in the first part of the Gospel of Matthew.
The attainment of Buddha-hood by the son of King Sudhodana must be regarded as the close of an ancient evolution. It was in fact the same stream of evolution as is connected with the Holy Rishis of India. As soon as a Bodhisattva attains Buddha-hood a successor always appears in his place. This is mentioned in an ancient Indian legend where it tells that the Bodhisattva, before he came to earth as the son of King Sudhodana when he was to attain the dignity of Buddha-hood, and while still in spiritual realms, passed on his Bodhisattva crown to his successor.
Ever since that time there has been a successor to the Bodhisattva who then attained Buddha-hood; and the new Bodhisattva, who continued working as such, had a special task for human evolution. The task appointed to him was to guide spiritually the movement then making itself felt among the circles of the Therapeutac and the Essenes. There his influence worked. In the follower of Gautama Buddha we have to recognize the spiritual guide of the Essenes. During the reign of King Alexander Jannai (circa 125-77 B.C.), this Bodhisattva sent a particular individual to lead the Essenes; he was, therefore, the leader of the Essenes about a century before Christ. He is well known to occultism and to the external literature of the Talmud. Thus, a century before our era, before the appearance of Christ on earth, there was an individuality, who has nothing to do with the Jesus of the Luke-Gospel and nothing to do with the Jesus of the Matthew-Gospel, who was a guide and leader in the Essene Community. He is known under the name of Jesus, the son of Pandira, Jeschua ben Pandira. Jewish literature has fabricated many things regarding this individual, and these fables have recently been revived. He was a great and noble personality, and must not be confused, as is done by some students of the Talmud, with Jesus of Nazareth. We recognize this Essene forerunner of Christianity in Jesus, son of Pandira, and we know that he was stoned to death by those who, at that time, saw blasphemy in the teachings of the Essenes. After being accused of blasphemy and heresy he was stoned and hanged on a tree, so that this disgrace might be added to the punishment already inflicted. This is an occult fact, and is also to be found in the literature of the Talmud.
In this Jeschua ben Pandira we have to recognize a personality under the protection of the Bodhisattva who succeeded the Bodhisattva, son of Sudhodana, who later became Buddha. The matter is absolutely clear; we have to recognize here a kind of preparation, a neighbouring stream to the main stream of Christianity, springing from the successor of that Buddha. He is the present Bodhisattva who will one day become the Maitreya Buddha, and who sent his messenger among the Essenes to bring that to pass which will be described in the succeeding lectures.
Thus we have to seek the name ‘Jesus’ in the individual of Whom the Gospels of Matthew and Luke speak; but we have also to seek it a hundred years before our era in the circle of the Essenes, in that noble personality regarding whom all that the Talmud literature relates is calumny; who was accused of blasphemy and heresy, stoned, and hanged upon a tree.
We have to realize that Jesus ben Pandira was in no way related to the personality or individuality of either the Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew or of the Gospel of Luke, or any other Gospel; he lived a hundred years before the Christ Event, and vas stoned and hanged upon a tree. It is most important that he should not be confused with the Jesus of the Gospels.
Of Jesus ben Pandira it need only be stated that neither occult knowledge nor any clairvoyant faculties are necessary to prove his existence, for information in regard to this can be had from the Hebrew Talmud. Confusion with the actual Jesus has occurred at various times, even as early as the second century of the Christian era. Having stated emphatically that Jesus ben Pandira is not to be identified with the Jesus of the Evangelists, it is nevertheless necessary to establish the real historical connection of these two personalities. This is only possible by means of occult investigation; the connection between them only emerges after a study of the evolution of mankind and those who guide it.
Gazing upwards to those beings who lead human development, we come at last to a group of high individualities who, according to Eastern terminology, are called Bodhisattvas — for it is in the East where knowledge of them has been established. There are many Bodhisattvas; they are the great teachers of mankind. From the spiritual worlds they infuse into humanity through the Mystery schools what according to the degree of human ripeness is appropriate to each epoch. Bodhisattvas succeed one another throughout the ages. Two of them are of special interest to present humanity, one, who as son of King Sudhodana became Buddha; and the other, his successor in this dignity, who is still a Bodhisattva. Both Oriental wisdom and clairvoyant investigation agree that the latter's mission will extend over the next two thousand five hundred years, when this Bodhisattva will rise to the higher rank of Buddha as did his predecessor. This, the present Bodhisattva will then be exalted to the dignity of Maitreya Buddha. In the long line of Bodhisattvas we have to recognize the great guiding teachers of evolution, but they should not be confused with the source of their teaching, the source from which they themselves draw what they bestow upon humanity. Rather we have to picture a collegium of Bodhisattvas, and the centre of this collegium is the living source whence this teaching is derived. This living source is none other than He Whom we call the Christ, from Whom all Bodhisattvas receive what in due course they hand on to humanity. A Bodhisattva devotes himself principally to teaching, but upon attaining Buddha-hood he ceases to descend into incarnation, and his mission becomes different. In accordance with all Eastern philosophy it can be said that Gautama Buddha, who, in his last incarnation, was the son of King Sudhodana, has since then only experienced incorporation as far as the etheric body. In the course of lectures on the Gospel of Luke we explained what the next task of this Buddha was.
When the Jesus of the Gospel of Luke was born — the Nathan Jesus of whom Luke tells, and who is not to be confused with the Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew — the Being of the Buddha, who was then incorporated as far as the etheric body, entered into the astral body of the Nathan Jesus. It is therefore possible to say that having incarnated as Gautama Buddha, this Being did not come again as a teacher, but was henceforth present as a living force. He had become an actual force working from the spiritual world into our physical world.
To teach is one thing; to work as a living force with the forces of growth is something quite different. A Bodhisattva is a teacher up to the moment he attains Buddha-hood, from then onwards he becomes a vital force, filling with constructive power everything with which he is concerned. In this way the Buddha entered the organism of the Nathan Jesus as described by Luke. From the sixth century B.C. it is to the Buddha's successor, the coming Maitreya Buddha, that humanity must look for its teacher. His chosen instrument was the circle of the Therapeutæ and Essenes, and he poured down his inspiration especially through his disciple, Jesus, the son of Pandira, the purest, the most noted, the most exalted of them all. Thus we have to realize that the content of this Bodhisattva-teaching streamed forth into humanity through the Essenes.
The actual sect of the Essenes, as regards its profounder teaching, disappeared comparatively soon after the Christ Event, as external history testifies. Hence it need not sound improbable when I say that they were employed as a means for bringing down from the spheres of the Bodhisattvas what was necessary to prepare humanity to grasp the mighty event of the coming of Christ. The most important teaching man had received to aid him in the understanding of the Christ Event had its source in these communities. Jesus ben Pandira was chosen to receive inspiration from that Bodhisattva who was destined to become the Maitreya Buddha, and whose influence was active among the Essenes; he was inspired to impart a teaching that was to make comprehensible the Mystery of Palestine — the Mystery of Christ. External history knows little of the Essenes, more exact information regarding them is only possible with the aid of occult investigation; hence in a society like this I can speak without hesitation of secrets known to the Essenes and Therapeutæ that are needful to an understanding of the Gospel of Matthew.
Today there is a deep rift between the humanity of the East and the humanity of the West. And those who do not go deeply enough into these matters cannot see how East and West are divided, and how the East is waiting for the new Bodhisattva to bring them in his own way something of which the West has only the vaguest idea. The nationalistic struggles of today have not yet been sufficiently overcome throughout the Earth by the universal consciousness which must flow essentially from the Christ impulse. Men will never discover how to rise to this common humanity, this genuine Christ impulse, and will never be able to understand what a potential Bodhisattva would have to say, until they have developed enough spiritual longing in them to create a bridge for a world-wide understanding between East and West.
I am touching here on a theme we must go further into tomorrow — a theme that will show how different the present time is from the days when man waited expectantly for the coming of a Bodhisattva. Now, before the Bodhisattva can speak to men, he has himself to wait until they are ready to understand the words he will use, for men have now entered the epoch of freedom.
This entry into the epoch of freedom, in relation to our present theme, will be a subject for tomorrow. But all that mankind has to go through, in order to find the innermost impulse in the spiritual world above, is connected with many apparently insignificant cultural systems and symptoms of our civilisation.
Forgive me for intermingling the great with the trivial, but trivial symptoms can sometimes throw light on the great. A few days ago I said that in this region, where Imaginations take so firm a hold on the spirit, we get the disturbance of motor-cars. I added that I was not saying anything against motor-cars, for in Anthroposophy we cannot express reactionary views, and when necessary I am obviously very fond of travelling by car myself. One must take the world as it is. But anything one-sided must always be balanced by its opposite. Thus there is no harm in motoring — provided we take it, and everything of that kind, with a heart attuned to the spiritual world. Then, if other things besides cars come to disturb us, we shall be able to press on by dint of our own strength and freedom, for freedom had to come, and it must lead us back to the Bodhisattva.
- Bernard Lievegoed, in 'Battle for the soul' mentions Bodhisattvas come from the sphere of Mercury and have the rank of an archangel, and each comes forth to taken upon him the guidance of the development of humanity for a period of 5000 years. He makes the distinction with another circle of twelve, who are highly developed human Individualities who can raise their consciousness at least as high as the second hierarchy.
References and further reading
- Elisabeth Vreede and Thomas Meyer: 'The Bodhisattva Question [...] and the Mystery of the Twentieth-century Master'
- Karl-Heinrich Meyer-Uhlenried: 'Rudolf Steiner und die Bodhisattva-Frage' (2003)
- Preslav Pavlov and Filip Filipov: 'The Lodge of the Bodhisattvas and the Question of the 20th Century Bodhisattva'