The Colchis Mysteries refer to a very important center of initiation near the Black Sea which had a major impact in the preparations of the middle-European culture for the age of the consciousness soul and fructification by the Christ Impulse in the fifth cultural age.
Rudolf Steiner only mentions this Mystery Center a few times but does not cover it explicitly in lectures as he does with the other Mysteries, see Mystery School tradition. Its importance can be deduced though from
- early phase (BC): what is described by the Wotan Impulse (which took place much earlier, bringing intellectuality into the Druidic Mysteries) (1923-09-10-GA228)
- later phase (and certainly centuries AD):
- the Individuality of Wotan-Buddha that was working in the Colchis Mysteries where the teachings of Buddhism were taught in a form for the European people and permeated with Christianity. (1912-05-29-GA155)
- "in the 7th and 8th centuries there was a very important centre of initiation in the neighbourhood of the Black Sea, in which the Buddha taught, in his spirit body .. the Buddha taught those pupils there who were capable of receiving higher knowledge" (1912-12-18-GA130)
- the important illustration of Francis of Assisi. The latter is a specific case of an initiate who received the Christ Impulse in the Colchis Mysteries. This impacted his next incarnation, where he did not teach in the classical meaning but instead worked through his moral power, his soul filled with the Christ Impulse as his etheric and astral bodies were under the influence of the Christ Impulse in the Earth's ether and astral atmosphere.
- "The characteristic quality of Francis of Assisi and of the life of his monks — which has so much similarity with that of the disciples of Buddha — is due to the fact that Francis of Assisi himself was a pupil of Buddha" (1912-12-18-GA130)
The Bodhisattva from the White Lodge teaching at the Colchis Mysteries was the Individuality of Wotan-Buddha. Since the fifth century BC he worked only from the spiritual world, haven risen from Bodhisattva to Buddha in his last incarnation. However before that he worked as Wotan through Sieg in the Northern stream in Europe, see also the
- location: area of the Black Sea, current Georgia, location see Colchis
- certainly "far into the Christian era", students were instructed in doctrines that proceeded from Buddhism, but permeated by the impulses which came into the world through Christianity" (1912-05-29-GA155)
- terminology: Rudolf Steiner uses 'Colchis Mysteries', sometimes also erroneously Colchian or Colchean Mysteries are used
- initiation of Francis of Assisi in an earlier incarnation (1912-05-29-GA155)
- also described in 1923-09-10-GA228 in the context of the Wotan Impulse and Trotten Mysteries (adding the Mercury Mysteries to the ancient Druidic Sun and Moon Mysteries)
Schema FMC00.432 shows a geographical view on the Current Postatlantean epoch, with the center of culture over millenia moving across the Southern most advanced stream described extensively by spiritual science. Meanwhile the Northern stream developed differently, as expressed in the Northern Scandinavian and Germanic mythology and ancient Mystery tradition, with initiation centers such as the Hibernian, Druidic and Trotten Mysteries (see Schema FMC00.437).
For more on the northern and southern streams, see Christ Impulse - meeting of two streams#Southern and Northern streams
Also shown are for reference are the Gobi desert and Tibet, see the migrations on Schemas FMC00.205 and variants on Atlantean epoch. For the geographical movement of the epicentrum of cultural height across the globe, see Schema FMC00.211 on Human races.
Observe that the Colchis Mysteries were located near the Black Sea in current Georgia, which is exactly on the border of the north and south streams as tentatively (and not exactly) indicated on the schema. See also Schema FMC00.437.
Schema FMC00.437 provides a simple overview positioning key Mysteries of the Northern stream, with - in red - a few of the important Mystery Centers as described by Rudolf Steiner (see quotes and references on the right). The dotted line represents the Southern stream in the fourth cultural age of the current Postatlantean epoch. The arrows represent the impulse for the age of the intellectual soul coming from the Colchis Mysteries (to both south and north).
Lecture coverage and references
Mysteries of Colchis, on the Black Sea.
Connected with this development of the Bodhisattva up to Buddha, there was something else of which we must not lose sight, namely, the fact that the individuality which had passed through many incarnations as Bodhisattva and then risen to the rank of Buddha, when it became Buddha had to dwell for the last time in a physical body on Earth. Thus he who is raised from Bodhisattva to Buddha enters into an incarnation which for him is the last. From this time onwards, such an individuality only works down from spiritual heights, he still works, but only spiritually. Thus we now have the fact that the individuality of Buddha has only worked down from spiritual heights since the fifth century before Christ.
But, Buddhism continued. It was able to influence in a certain way not only Asiatic life, but the spiritual life of the whole of the then known world. You know how Buddhism spread in Asia. You know how great is the number of its followers there.
But in a more hidden and veiled form it also spread into the mental life of Europe; and we have particularly to point out that the portion of the great teaching of Buddha relating to the equality of Man was especially acceptable to the population of Europe, because this population was not arranged on the plan of caste divisions, but rather upon the idea of the equality of all human beings.
On the shores of the Black Sea there existed an occult school which lasted far into the Christian era.
This school was guided by certain human beings who set themselves as their highest ideal that part of the teaching of Buddha which we have just described, and through their having taken into themselves the Christian impulse along with it, were able in the early centuries of Christianity to throw new light upon what Buddha had given to humanity. If I were to describe to you this occult school on the Black Seas as the occultist or spiritual investigator sees it — and you will understand me best if I do this — I must do it in the following manner:
People, who to begin with had external teachers in the physical world, came together there. They were instructed in the doctrines and principles which had proceeded from Buddhism, but these were permeated by the impulses which came into the world through Christianity. Then, after the pupils had been sufficiently prepared, they were brought to where the deeper forces lying within them, the deeper forces of wisdom could be brought forth, so that they were led to clairvoyant vision of the spiritual world and were able to see into the spiritual worlds. The first thing attained by the pupils of this occult school, was, for example, the recognition of those who no longer descended to the physical plane. But this they could only do after they had been accustomed to it by the teachers incarnated in the physical body.
In this way they came to know Buddha. Thus, these occult pupils learned to know Buddha face to face, if one may so speak of his spiritual being.
In this way he continued to work spiritually in the occult pupils and thus his power worked down to the physical plane, although he himself no longer descended to physical embodiment in the physical world.
Now the pupils in this occult school were grouped according to their maturity into two unequal divisions, and only the more advanced were chosen for the smaller division.
- Most of these pupils were able to become so clairvoyant that they came in touch with a being who strove with all his might to bring his impulses through to the physical world, and although he himself did not descend into this world they learned all the secrets of Buddha and all that he wished to have accomplished. Most of these pupils remained as such, clairvoyants, but ...
- ... there were some who, in addition to the qualities of knowledge and of psychic clairvoyance, had developed the spiritual element to a remarkable degree, which cannot be separated from a certain humility, a certain highly evolved capacity for devotion. These, then, attained to where they could receive the Christ-impulse in an advanced degree precisely in this occult school. They could also become clairvoyant in such a way that they became the specially chosen followers of Saint Paul and received the Christ-impulse directly in life.
Thus from this school proceeded two groups, as it were,
- one group which possessed the impulse to carry the teaching of Buddha everywhere, although his name was not mentioned in connection with it,
- and a second group which, in addition, received the Christ-impulse.
Now the difference between these two kinds did not appear very strongly in that particular incarnation, it only appeared in the next. The pupils who had not received the Christ-impulse but who had only gained the Buddha-impulse, became the teachers of the equality and brotherhood of Man; on the other hand the pupils who had also received the Christ-impulse, in the next incarnation were such that this Christ-impulse worked up further so that not only could they teach (and they did not consider this their chief task) but they worked more especially through their moral power.
One such pupil of the occult school on the Black Sea, was born in his next incarnation as Francis of Assisi. No wonder, then, that in him there was the wisdom which he had received, the knowledge of the brotherhood of mankind, of the equality of all men, of the necessity to love all men equally, no wonder that this teaching pulsated through his soul and also that his soul was permeated and strengthened by the Christ-impulse.
Consider the life of Francis of Assisi; notice what a remarkable course it took. He was born in the year 1182. We know that the first years of the life of a human being are devoted principally to the development of the physical body. In the physical body is developed chiefly that which comes to light through external heredity. Hence there appeared in him first of all that which originated through external heredity from the European population.
These qualities gradually came out, as his etheric body developed from the seventh to the fourteenth year, like any other human being. In this etheric body appeared primarily that quality which as the Christ-impulse had worked directly in him in the mysteries on the Black Sea.
From his fourteenth year, at the dawn of his astral life the Christ power became particularly active within him, in such a way that there entered into his astral body that which had been in connection with the atmosphere of the Earth since the Mystery of Golgotha. For Francis of Assisi was a personality who was permeated by the external power of Christ, owing to his having sought for the Christ power, in his previous incarnation, in that particular place of initiation where it was to be found.
We may say that Francis of Assisi heard these three things expressed very very often; they were continually in his mind during his initiation in the Mysteries of Colchis, on the Black Sea. And we may also say, that in the life he had to lead as Francis of Assisi, he preached very little about faith or love, but was himself their embodiment. Faith did not work, hope did not work; one must indeed have them, but only love is effective. It stands in the centre, and it is that which, in that single incarnation of Francis of Assisi, really carried the actual development of humanity forward in the moral sense towards the divine.
How did this love — which we know was the result of his initiation in the Colchis Mysteries — develop in St. Francis?
We have seen that in him appeared the knightly virtues of the ancient European spirit. He was a valiant boy. Valour, bravery, was transformed in his individuality, which was permeated by the Christ-impulse, into active practical love. We see the old valour, the old bravery resurrected once more in the love manifested in Francis of Assisi. The ancient valour transposed into the spiritual; bravery transposed into the spiritual is love.
... and so Christian Rosenkreutz, confronted by a world conception which is itself a maya, an illusion, had to come to grips with it. Christian Rosenkreutz had to save occultism in an age when all the concepts of science were themselves maya. In the middle of the sixteenth century, Copernicus' Book of the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres appeared. At the end of the sixteenth century the rosicrucians were faced with the necessity of comprehending the world system by means of occultism, for with its materially-conceived globes in space the Copernican world-system was maya, even as concept.
Thus towards the end of the sixteenth century one of those conferences took place of which we heard here a year ago in connection with the initiation of Christian Rosenkreutz himself in the thirteenth century. This occult conference of leading individualities united Christian Rosenkreutz with those twelve individualities of that earlier time and certain other great individualities concerned with the leadership of humanity. There were present not only personalities in incarnation on the physical plane but also some who were in the spiritual worlds; and the individuality who in the sixth century before Christ had been incarnated as Gautama Buddha also participated.
The occultists of the East rightly believe — for they know it to be the truth — that the Buddha who in his twenty-ninth year rose from the rank of Bodhisattva to that of Buddha, had incarnated then for the last time in a physical body. It is absolutely true that when the individuality of a Bodhisattva becomes a Buddha he no longer appears on the earth in physical incarnation. But this does not mean that he ceases to be active in the affairs of the Earth. The Buddha continues to work for the Earth, although he is never again present in a physical body but sends down his influence from the spiritual world.
- The Gloria heard by the shepherds in the fields intimated from the spiritual world that the forces of Buddha were streaming into the astral body of the child Jesus described in the St. Luke Gospel. The words of the Gloria came from Buddha who was working in the astral body of the child Jesus. This wonderful message of peace and love is an integral part of Buddha's contribution to Christianity.
- But later on too, Buddha influences the deeds of men — not physically but from the spiritual world — and he has co-operated in measures that have been necessary for the sake of progress in the evolution of humanity.
In the seventh and eighth centuries, for example, there was a very important centre of initiation in the neighbourhood of the Black Sea, in which the Buddha taught, in his spirit body. In such schools there are those who teach in the physical body; but it is also possible for the more advanced pupils to receive instruction from one who teaches in an ether-body only. And so the Buddha taught those pupils there who were capable of receiving higher knowledge. Among the pupils of the Buddha at that time was one who incarnated again a few centuries later. We are speaking, therefore, of a physical personality who centuries later lived again in a physical body, in Italy, and is known to us as St. Francis of Assisi. The characteristic quality of Francis of Assisi and of the life of his monks — which has so much similarity with that of the disciples of Buddha — is due to the fact that Francis of Assisi himself was a pupil of Buddha.
It is easy to perceive the contrast between the qualities characteristic of men who like Francis of Assisi were striving fervently for the spirit and those engrossed in the world of industry, technical life and the discoveries of modern civilisation. There were many people, including occultists, who suffered deeply at the thought that in the future two separate classes of human beings would inevitably arise. They foresaw the one class wholly given up to the affairs of practical life, convinced that security depends entirely upon the production of foodstuffs, the construction of machines, and so forth; whereas the other class would be composed of men like Francis of Assisi who withdraw altogether from the practical affairs of the world for the sake of spiritual life.
It was a significant moment, therefore, when Christian Rosenkreutz, in the sixteenth century, called together a large group of occultists in preparation for the aforesaid conference, and described to them the two types of human beings that would inevitably arise in the future. First he gathered a large circle of people, later on a smaller one, to present them with this weighty fact.
Christian Rosenkreutz held this preparatory meeting a few years beforehand, not because he was in doubt about what would happen, but because he wanted to get the people to contemplate the perspectives of the future. In order to stimulate their thinking he spoke roughly as follows:
Let us look at the future of the world. The world is moving fast in the direction of practical activities, industry, railways, and so on. Human beings will become like beasts of burden. And those who do not want this will be, like Francis of Assisi, impractical with regard to life, and they will develop an inner life only.
Christian Rosenkreutz made it clear to his listeners that there was no way on Earth of preventing the formation of these two classes of men. Despite all that might be done for them between birth and death, nothing could hinder mankind being divided into these two classes. As far as conditions on the Earth were concerned it is impossible to find a remedy for the division into classes. Help can only come if a kind of education could be brought about that did not take place between birth and death but between death and a new birth.
[Mystery of Mars consummated by Gautama Buddha - section added here for context]
Therefore it was in order to find a practical solution to this problem that the aforesaid conference met at the end of the sixteenth century. This conference was well prepared by Christian Rosenkreutz in that the closest friend and pupil of Christian Rosenkreutz was Gautama Buddha, living in a spirit body. And it was announced at this conference that the being who incarnated as Gautama Buddha, in the spiritual form he now had since becoming Buddha, would transfer the scene of his activities to Mars. The individuality of Gautama Buddha was as it were sent by Christian Rosenkreutz from the earth to Mars. So Gautama Buddha leaves the scene of his activity and goes to Mars, and in the year 1604 the individuality of Gautama Buddha accomplished for Mars a deed similar to what the Mystery of Golgotha was for the earth. Christian Rosenkreutz had known what the effect of Buddha on Mars would signify for the whole cosmos, what his teachings of Nirvana, of liberation from the earth, would signify on Mars. The teaching of Nirvana was unsuited to a form of culture directed primarily to practical life. Buddha's pupil, Francis of Assisi, was an example of the fact that this teaching produces in its adepts complete remoteness from the world and its affairs. But the content of Buddhism, which was not adapted to the practical life of man between birth and death, was of great importance for the soul between death and a new birth. Christian Rosenkreutz realised that for a certain purification needed on Mars the teachings of Buddha were pre-eminently suitable. The Christ Being, the essence of divine love, had once come down to the earth to a people in many respects alien, and in the seventeenth century Buddha, the prince of peace, went to Mars — the planet of war and conflict — to execute his mission there. The souls on Mars were warlike, torn with strife. Thus Buddha performed a deed of sacrifice similar to the deed performed in the Mystery of Golgotha by the bearer of the essence of divine love. To dwell on Mars as Buddha was a deed of sacrifice offered to the cosmos. He was as it were the lamb offered up in sacrifice on Mars, and to accept this environment of strife was for him a kind of crucifixion. Buddha performed this deed on Mars in the service of Christian Rosenkreutz. Thus do the great beings who guide the world work together not only on the earth but from one planet to another.
Since the mystery of Mars was consummated by Gautama Buddha, human beings have been able, during the period between death and a new birth, to receive from Mars different forces from those emanating during Mars' cultural decline. Not only does a man bring with him into a new birth quite different forces from Mars, but because of the influence exercised by the spiritual deed of Buddha, forces also stream from Mars into men who practise meditation as a means of reaching the spiritual world. When the modern pupil of spiritual science meditates in the sense indicated by Christian Rosenkreutz, forces sent to the earth by Buddha as the redeemer of Mars stream to him.
Because all these things had transpired it was possible to avert the division of human beings into the two distinct classes, consisting on the one hand of men of the type of Francis of Assisi, and on the other of men who live wholly as materialists. If Buddha had remained in direct and immediate connection with the Earth, he would not have been able to concern himself with the ‘practical’ people, and his influence would have made the others into monks like Francis of Assisi. Through the deed of redemption performed by Gautama Buddha on Mars, it is possible for us, when we are passing through the Mars period of existence between death and a new birth, to become followers of Francis of Assisi without causing subsequent deprivation to the Earth. Grotesque as it may seem, it is nevertheless true that since the seventeenth century every human being is a buddhist, a franciscan, an immediate follower of Francis of Assisi for a time, whilst he is on Mars. Francis of Assisi has subsequently only had one brief incarnation on earth as a child; and he died in childhood and has not incarnated since. From then onwards he has been connected with the work of Buddha on Mars and is one of his most eminent followers.
reference to the Black Sea but not specific link to Colchis Mysteries in the quote below
For a while, Haroun al Raschid and his Counsellor journeyed onwards together in the super-sensible world, looking down from thence upon happenings in the civilised world further to the West, in Greece, in certain regions North of the Black Sea, and so forth. They looked down upon it all and among the events upon which their gaze fell was one of which much has been said in anthroposophical lectures, namely the 8th General Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in the year 869 A.D.
Neither Haroun al Raschid nor his Counsellor were willing to accept this — the Counsellor with less emphasis, but fundamentally it was so in his case too. They desired, first and foremost, that the world should be dominated by the impulse that had taken such firm root in Mohammedanism. The participants in this spiritual struggle in the 9th century A.D. confronted each other in resolute, intense opposition — Haroun al Raschid and his Counsellor on the one side and, on the other, the individualities who had lived as Aristotle and Alexander.
The aftermaths of this spiritual struggle worked on in the civilisation of Europe, are indeed working to this day. For what happens in the spiritual world above works down upon and into the affairs of the Earth. And the very opposition with which Haroun al Raschid and his wise Counsellor confronted Aristotle and Alexander at that time added strength to the impulse, so that from this meeting two streams went forth:
- one taking its course in Arabism
- and one whereby, through the impulses of the Michael Rulership, Aristotelianism was to be led over into Christianity.
After this encounter in the super-sensible world, Haroun al Raschid and his Counsellor continued along a path leading towards the West, watching and observing what was happening below on Earth. From this super-sensible existence, the one (he who had lived as Haroun al Raschid) concerned himself deeply with civilisation in Northern Africa, in Southern. Europe, in Spain, in France. During approximately the same period, the other (he who had been the wise Counsellor) concerned himself with the happenings of the spiritual life more towards the East, in the neighbourhood of the Black Sea, and thence through Europe as far as Holland and even England. And at roughly the same time, both were born again in European civilisation.
Ita Wegman in 'The Mysteries' (Nov/Dec-1929)
on The Colchian Mysteries
(to be shortened still)
To the south - east of the Black Sea may be found the home of a special kind of Mysteries, in which the pre-Christian impulses were united to Christian ones. A wonderfully enchanting natural character and a certain remoteness in these places brought it about that people could withdraw there from the world, wholly given up to a striving for cleanliness, purity and sacrifice courage. The tale of the Argonauts, in which heavenly and earthly elements are united in a marvellous fashion, refers to these Colchian Mysteries. For the ship in which the Argonauts set out was built by the ancients under the star - signs.
In primeval times the human soul was once in intimate association with the Macrocosm. What still lingers on in the detonation of a soul - being as astral body or stellar body was then still direct experience. One felt in the Colchian Mysteries that what was shining in golden light from thousands and thousands of stars was something which in its magnificent glory must be reattained by Man, who had become entangled in the earthly element.
The sublime ideal of these people was to become one with this golden fleece, to acquire a golden soup and go through a transfiguration. Not only by carrying out exercises for the virtues but by finding the path to real clairvoyance one perceived a soul's disposition in the colours of the aura. The soul's path appeared as a transformation of metal, for the copper - coloured psychic aura had to be transformed into the soul's chaste, pure, silver bride through the conquest of the dragon. To know one's own soul in bridal array was itself a certain stage.
But the goal of this development was the marriage of a soul's silver bride with the golden king. This took place when the inner Man became ruler over body, soul and spirit, and a real sense of sacrifice had developed out of true humility and purity. At the same time a large part was played in these Mysteries by a being whose task it was to marry the soul's pure, chaste bride to the golden king. This means bringing a purified human soul into line with the macrocosm from which it originates.
In different Mysteries this intermediary being bears different names. He is a guide to all souls, leading a soul down from the macrocosm into earthly existence, and leading an earthly being from stage to stage up to its cosmic origin.
The being was called Hermes or Mercury and the Egyptians called him thrice great because he guides the transformation of a soul through three stages.
To the Greeks too came tidings of this wonderful cult. Jason was the hero who undertook to carry news of this initiation over to Greece, after being willing to pass through the initiation himself. He had to find a way across the surging sea of the passions to the tree which bears the soul of man within him, and which today we call the nervous system. Starting out from this tree, a person who can conquer the ever - wakeful finds the Golden Fleece. The dragon is never entirely asleep, for it has as many thousand eyes as the starry heaven has stars, and if one puts half of his being to sleep, the other half is then awake. And so indeed it is within the macrocosm, whose steller eye the bright day can never close entirely, only half. The dragon was overcome by Jason through his microcosmic initiation.
Near the Mystery center in Colchis was a sanctuary, situated on the Phasis.
[editor: see Phasis - seemingly linked to the Argonout story]
There, in silvery moonlight, people worshipped Artemisia, virgin fighter and pure goddess. She is mistress over animal figures because she is raised above the passions, which she spiritualizes. The house in which she is worshipped has no roof, for her statue has to stand in a courtyard, poured over by silvery moonlight and shone over by the golden gleam of stars. To this sanctuary of Artemisia also belonged a place where people worshipped the goddess who was always called the threefold transformation, or Hecate.
Where her sanctuary stands one obtains access to the Underwood, since she is ruler over the changes experienced by a soul when descending into the sheaths which of human nature, into man's threefold corporality. From his parents a human being only has the grosser body, while his folkhood puts around him a finer garment, the life - body, and the macrocosm the most delicate and radiant, the soul - body.
So whoever sought this macrocosmic initiation and allowed himself to be led put through Artemisia in silver moonlight into pre - natal existence had, when returning into his body, be let himself be guided into Hecate's magic garden. It was well protected and no one was allowed to step into it who was not initiatated. For in this garden were grown many poisonous plants, bringing death and disaster to uninitiated persons and yet begetting pictorial vision and healing for the initiated. These later had a pure heart and a knowing spirit, and understood how death and disaster might be transformed into revival and ensoulment.
In this garden also grew the plant "Colchium autumale", our meadow saffron, which has its name from the Mystery - centre of Colchis.
This was planted together with the white asphodel plant, above which one saw dead people hovering, and Minos holding his judgement of the dead. For as Rudolf Steiner told us, poisonous plants are poisonous by drawing into their life organism that element in a plant which otherwise remains outside and is cosmic, starry, astral. A poisonous plant draws to itself that same world in which dead people may be found, and it therefore belongs within Hecate's garden . The shades, that is human souls directly after their passage through the gate of death, before they have been purified, are also living in this world of Hecate.
They were perceived in certain conditions of consciousness into which people were brought in different Mysteries by moral exercises, but also by taking substances from metals or plant juices. To perceive souls who are still unpurified and copper - coloured, particular use was made of copper or, in Colchis, the meadow saffron.
This method of uniting more closely — for the purpose of initiation — Man's psychic or astral body with his etheric - body or human life - organism by administration of poisons was feasible in earlier times. Today, however, the consequences of such a measure would be illness, for the human organism has changed fundamentally in the course of the centuries. Life - processes are today more strongly bound to the physical organs and and psychic activities are increasingly bound to the innermost, moral centre of man's being, the ego.
That is why as regards the path of knowledge it is today more in keeping with the times to purify the soul through moral exercise from out of the ego, and gain more control of the life - organism or ether - body by allowing psychic exercises to become a habit. Administration of substances would by contrast work too strongly onto the physical body. For the nature of initiation is based on a soul's imprinting into it's life - organism what it has worked out for itself. Virtue becomes a self - evident habit of life, but vice must become apparent as a disturbance of the life - processes.
For this reason the cleansing and purification of the soul must precede initiation as a preparatory step. If anything here were omitted, illness would result. Healing of illness is as it were a reversal of this process, in that a life - organism asserts its inherently health against the astral and psychic element. The path of initiation lies in a balance between life, which is ever again restored, and knowledge, which leads towards death. If a person is so strong that he can overcome what is unpurified not only in himself but also in another person he then becomes a healer. The training of the Colchian Mysteries was designed for this purpose.
The symbol of the purity that can even carry the sin of the world, and develops healing powers thereby, was the Golden Fleece. Hecete's garden in which poisonous plants are growing may be considered a counter - picture of the Golden Fleece: it is like a symbol of those unpurified soul - forces which, if not guided and cleansed in the right way, can only bring man disaster.
The operation of administering substances obtained from poisonous plants was in Colchis a kind of healing art. This could only be practiced by knowledgeable people, because by means of it one could achieve death, disaster, madness and infirmity, but also healing from serious illnesses, or knowledge ( ibid )
Mention may also be made of the most important plants from Hecate's garden ( apart from "Colchicum autumnale" and "Asphodelus ramosus", which we have named already ): deadly nightshade, "Atropa belladonna", which has the capacity to produce or heal madness, call up visions or drive them away, according as the medicament has been applied and the preparation has taken place; then "Solanum insanum" the root of which, suitable prepared, calls forth fantasies lasting for days on end, a kind of dampening of consciousness, leading to experiences of the supersensible world in a semi - conscious condition ( excess of this medicament brings death ): also "Mandragora officinarum", mandrake, a popular means of dampening consciousness down, whereas it works in precisely the opposite way if applied by means of healing, e.g. alleviating pain; or "Lavandula stoechas", a good plant that was used as an antitoxic medicament.
Many other plants might be named in this way, but let these few examples suffice to show that what was hidden in Hacate's garden has significance right up to the present time.
 - The addition of the intellectual component into the Mysteries
However in the overview of the Mysteries of the Northern stream, see Druidic and Trotten mysteries, the Wotan impulse is also described as an important addition to the Druidic mysteries that preceeded.
The origin of this Wotan impulse is linked to a Mystery Center by the Black Sea (whilst also describing Sieg as the founder of the Trotten mysteries).
Very little information is available about this Mystery Center by the Black Sea, other then 1912-05-29-GA155 above.
However Ita Wegman also wrote a short essay about the Colchis Mysteries, where she links Colchis to the Argonout story and the location Phasis. From the medical contents of her essay we may assume she might have talked about this with Rudolf Steiner.
However now an interesting correlation can be found. In the below extract on the Argonaut story, see Greek mythology#1904-10-14-GA092, we find the following. Hereby a few sentences from this extract, relevant in the current context
About the eighth century BC, a very important epoch sets in .. If you think of the cultural ages of our fifth epoch — of the ancient Veda culture, then of the ancient Persian culture, of the Chaldean-Egyptian culture, if you think even of the time of the Druid culture, you will find that an objective, dispassionate science of knowledge did not exist.
It first emerged at the dawn of the fourth cultural age , which one can place in about the eighth century BC. With it there dawned an objective knowledge, completely detached from all the rest of the contents of the human mind.
A purely intellectual knowledge first dawned in Greece. This intellectual knowledge had been prepared step by step, and emerged, bound up with the rest of human activity, under the influence of the beings I have mentioned; it was fully released in the fourth cultural age of the fifth epoch.
Those who were initiated in the Mysteries of that time, confronted by the external wisdom, looked upon the ancient wisdom, which had formerly been at the disposal of mankind, as something lost, something which men must seek to regain.
The above is relevant and interesting because it can be linked to what is described on
is on the sun initiation of the Druid priest and his moon science
We obtain a right perspective of this Druid culture — and it is quite correct to use this expression — only when we realize that its essence is to be found in an epoch preceding that which echoes to us from those mythological conceptions of the North that are connected with the name of Wotan or Odin. What is associated with the name of Wotan really lies later in time than this epoch when the Druid culture was in its prime.
In the orbit of wisdom that points to the divine name of Wotan or Odin we must recognize something that comes over from the East, proceeding in the first place from Mysteries in the proximity of the Black Sea. The spiritual content of these Mysteries flowed from the East towards the West, in the certain “colonizing” Mysteries, emanating from the Black Sea and proceeding westwards, were founded in the most varying ways.
We must imagine the Druid civilization spread out over a great portion of Northern and Central Europe about 3.000 or 3.500 years ago. Men had nothing at all similar to writing. They had only this cosmic writing. Then into all this there spread from the East, to begin with from a Mystery in the region of the Black Sea, what is now contained as an insoluble riddle for the ordinary consciousness in the Norse Mythology, associated with the name of Wotan.
For what is Wotan?
The Mystery from which this Wotan culture proceeded was a Mercury Mystery, a Mystery that added to the impulses of Sun and Moon the impulse of Mercury. One might say that that old civilization was there in a sun-and Moon-radiant innocence and simplicity, untouched by what could be told to mankind through the Jupiter impulses. Only away in the East these Jupiter impulses were already present.
From thence they now spread, colonizing, towards the West. Wotan-Mercury carried his influence westward.
Here at the same time we have thrown light upon the fact that Wotan is described as the bringer of the Runes, the Runic art of writing. He was the bringer of what Man drew forth from himself in the first primitive way of intellectuality as an art of deciphering the universe. This is the very first entry of intellectualism, the Wotan impulse. Thus one might say that the Mercury, the Wotan-nature, was now added to the Sun-and Moon-natures.
Wherever this Wotan impulse worked itself out fully, everything that was present from earlier experiences was influenced by it. It all received a certain impulse from this Wotan element.
And now from the East the Wotan civilization brought this very illness. The Wotan civilization indeed was felt as an illness. But it also brought, with a power grown truly great and gigantic, what had formerly appeared as an abnormality, an unhealthy introspection. Into the midst of what had formerly been taken only from the cosmic writing, it brought the Rune. So that Man now transferred his intellectual element into the signs he made. It brought in all that was felt as a Mercury culture. Thus it was no wonder that what proceeded from the Wotan culture, distilled from the best forces that were in it, viz., the Baldur-Being, the Sun-Being, was felt and thought of as one united not with life, but with death. Baldur had to go to Hel, into the dark forces of Death, the dwelling-place of Death.
Moreover, to begin with, men pondered most, as we can see from the traditions of the Edda, not on the question of how this Baldur, son of the Wotan forces, should be freed from Hel (for this is really a later conception) but on the question of how he should be healed. And at length they said: We have many means of healing, but Baldur, the intelligence proceeding from the Runes of Wotan — for this there are no remedies, and it can only lead to death.
Thus we see once more what I have pointed out to you from so many points of view in the study of human evolution. In olden times the instinctive knowledge of mankind knew nothing of the significance of death, for men remembered the pre-earthly life and knew that death is only a transformation. They did not feel death as any deeper incision than this. Above all there was no such thing as the tragedy of death. This only entered in when the Mystery of Golgotha approached, which became indeed a redemption from the fear of death. In the Baldur legend you see the most visible description of how, with the entry of intellectualism, there comes that mood of soul which reckons with deaths, and you see what thus entered into human evolution.
Thus what had been seen in the death of Baldur, who could not rise again, was only healed once more in the way of soul and spirit, when the Christ-figure who could rise from death was placed over against him.
It is wonderful how in the North, through the influence of the Mercury-forces on the Sun-and Moon-forces, the perception of the Christ-impulse was prepared. In Baldur, the God who falls into death and cannot rise again, we see the forerunner, in the North, of Christ, who also falls a victim to death, but who can rise, because He comes directly from the Sun. Baldur, on the other hand, the Sun-force coming from Wotan, is the Sun-force reflected back by Mercury, radiating forth from the signs which man makes out of his intellect.
The link is clear: what was introduced in the Greek Mysteries of the Southern stream as an intellectual impulse, was released also in the Northern stream through what is called there the Wotan impulse. That is the link that can be made with the Mercury impulse and the Argonout story, which therefore both have in common. And this makes sense as both Northern and Southern streams had to be prepared (for their later meeting, as we know from broader study) and for the Christ Impulse, as both lecture extracts state explicitly.
The fourth cultural age is the age of the intellectual soul, and both streams would meet at the end of this cultural age, around the 9th century. See Christ Impulse - meeting of two streams.
And now we can read Ita Wegman again:
To the south-east of the Black Sea may be found the home of a special kind of Mysteries, in which the pre-Christian impulses were united to Christian ones. ... The tale of the Argonauts, in which heavenly and earthly elements are united in a marvellous fashion, refers to these Colchian Mysteries.
Hence this is another example where a chain of lecture extracts needs to be brought together so together the image of the different puzzle pieces emerges.
References and further reading
- wikipedia page for Colchis
- Hans Gsänger: Der Schwarzmeer-Raum und seine Mysterienimpulse in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (1971)
- Markus Osterrieder: 'Sonnenkreuz und Lebensbaum: Irland, der Schwarzmeer-Raum und die Christianisierung der europäischen Mitte' (1995)