Initiation in ancient Mysteries

From Anthroposophy
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  • Sun Hero <-> Chrestos <-> Buddhi
    • an initiate of the sixth degree was called a Sun Hero, these were to be found among all peoples. The soul a Sun Hero was no longer considered to be a single individual human soul, but one that had brought to birth in itself the universal soul streaming through the whole cosmos. This universal soul was called “Chrestos” in ancient Greece, and “Buddhi" in the Orient. He no longer represented the character of his people but that of all mankind in its development from the third epoch down into the current fifth postatlantean. When one has ceased to feel himself to be only the bearer of his individual soul and comes to experience the universe within himself, then he has created an image in himself of what as Sun Soul was united with the human body at that time. (1905-12-14-GA054, 1904-12-19-GA090F)
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Lecture coverage and references


In the Mysteries of the Persian religion already mentioned you will find a sevenfold initiation of those permitted admission to the holy secrets.

  • Those who had some knowledge of the most elementary secrets belonged to the first degree of initiation, and were given the symbolic name of the “Ravens.”
  • The second degree was that of the “Occult Ones,”
  • the third, that of the “Warriors” or “Fighters” for the sacred truth.
  • The fourth degree was that of the “Lions,” and
  • the fifth, the “Persians.” Only one in whom the consciousness of spirituality we call manas had awakened was considered to be a full “Persian,” an initiate of the fifth degree. A member of his people in the true sense of the word, he represented the destiny of his people.
  • If he advanced to the next degree of initiation, he no longer represented the character of his people but that of all mankind in its development from the third phase of evolution, that is, the middle of the Lemurian epoch, into the fifth phase, the post-Atlantean. Such an initiate was called a “Sun Runner” or a “Sun Hero,” and all Sun Heroes mentioned in ancient books are initiates of the sixth degree.
  • The last degree of initiation was that of the “Father,” which was connected with the future development of mankind.


What does the name “Sun Runner” signify?

If you were to look back into the primeval ages of our solar system, you would find that it arose from out a battle of chaotic heat; you would find that harmony in our world emerged out of disharmony, and that peace and law developed from non-peace and disharmony. The course of the sun is so regular that we cannot imagine that it might deviate and turn from its path even momentarily. Our universe is so firmly and harmoniously grounded that nothing can throw the sun off its destined course. In the path of the sun across the sky the ancient Persian initiate of the sixth degree saw his own inner destiny. The sun of his inner life, the sun of his spirit, had to shine for him with the same certainty as the outer sun, making it impossible for him to deviate from the path of the good and the wise. The human being who had reached the sixth degree of initiation had to be so permeated by this lawfulness that it was impossible for him to stray from the path. He was a Sun Hero, a Sun Runner. The goal of all previous degrees of initiation was to give this inner certainty to man.

Men who knew something about the Mysteries saw a deep harmony between human destiny and the course of the sun across the sky. They said that the sun makes the days grow shorter as autumn approaches, that everything withdraws into the earth. When Christmas arrives, a turning point is reached. The light increases, days grow longer and nature reawakens. So the birth of the light at Christmas time has been celebrated since the times when the light became the symbol of revelation in the world and man. In the East all men of the post-Atlantean epoch saw in the light the garment of the wise world order, of world wisdom.

Gazing into cosmic space today, we see the light shining steadfastly and harmoniously from the stars. In reality, however, the Spirits of Wisdom reveal themselves through the light, which in ancient religions was conceived of as the garment of cosmic wisdom. It was at first celebrated as the unity, the primeval wisdom, then as the duality of light and darkness, and finally as the trinity, the illuminated human being, the teacher and mediator, Mithras. But mankind could be blessed by this cosmic harmony only when a consciousness of it arose from the human heart itself. The external light, the light that is born out there in the universe, must today be born also in the human heart.

Christianity stands as the external mystical fact for the birth of the light. Christ brought to the earth what had existed from the beginning, although it was hidden from mankind throughout the ages we have been speaking of. Now, however, a new climax was reached. Even as the light is born anew at the winter solstice, so in the fourth post-Atlantean period the Savior of Mankind, the Christ, was born. He is the new Sun Hero who was not only initiated in the depths of the Mystery temples, but who also appeared before all the world so that it could be said, “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). When it was recognized that the Divine could descend into a personality, the festival celebrating the birth of the Sun Hero, the Christ, came to replace the festival celebrating the birth of the light.

What formerly was impossible could now be attained. Man could now give birth to light in his own soul. He could do this because the principle of light had incarnated in a human being for the first time. In this way the festival of the winter solstice was of necessity brought together with the Christ festival. The whole significance of the preceding evolutionary periods is determined by the establishment of the festival of the birth of Christ at the time of the festival of the winter solstice. Wisdom and light first appeared to men externally, but now, after the Christ event, the light must be kindled in man's own heart. Christ Himself must be born in man. It was for that reason that the Event of Palestine — a mystical as well as an historical fact — had to occur.

Thus, we are faced with an historical event, a great mystery that is little understood. The event that occurred in Palestine took place literally as it is described in the Gospel of St. John, and it is also a mystical fact. To conceive of this event otherwise is to misunderstand it. But if it is comprehended in this way, it will also be understood why from this moment onward God can be thought of as a personality, and the Trinity, which previously was thought of differently, can now be understood in the form of three Divine Persons. Christ had now become a Person, thus proving that the Divine can be realized in man. He was the First on earth in Whom the Divine had dwelled, and henceforth this could become a constant, indestructible ideal for man.

All the great teachers of wisdom — the Egyptian Hermes, the ancient Indian Rishis, Confucius, the Persian Zarathustra — have spoken the Divine Word. In Jesus the Christ, however, the Divine Word Itself walked on earth in a living shape for the first time. Before this time there was on earth only the Path and the Truth. Now we have the Path, the Truth and the Life. The great difference between earlier religions and Christianity consists in the fact that Christianity is the fulfillment of the previous religions, that in Christ we are not concerned with a great teacher of wisdom — teachers of wisdom were present in all other religions — but with a human personality who at the same time must be revered as a Divine Personality. Herein is to be found the importance of the disciples' message, “We have laid our hand into His wounds, we have heard His message.” The emphasis is placed on the appearance, on the direct impression. It does not merely listen to the word but considers the personality. The conviction prevailed that Christ was, in a unique fashion, the Cosmic Sun Hero.

If we comprehend this, we also understand that the ancient festival of the winter solstice signified something different from the present Christmas festival. In Egypt we find Horus, Isis and Osiris, the archetypal image of what also lives in Christianity. In ancient India we have the birth of Krishna by the holy virgin. We find echoes of this myth everywhere, but what is important in Christianity is what I have just expressed. That is the fact that not only the Threefoldness, but the Fourfoldness has become sanctified, that Holiness has descended right down into the personality. Previously, Holiness was divine and dwelled in unattainable heights above men. The ancient Rishis revered it as the indefinable, unutterable Brahman; the ancient Zarathustrian pupils saw it in the duality of good and evil; in Egypt we have the triad of Isis, Osiris and Horus. The fact that the Divine has dwelled among men, that it has become Personality, however, was the secret of the fourth post-Atlantean period. The most important event for the men of this age is the fact that the Christmas festival, which always represented the birth of an initiate, now represents the birth of the greatest Sun Hero, of Christ Himself. Thus these two facts of necessity sound together in the world's course.

When we look at the fourth post-Atlantean period and compare it with the time in which we ourselves are living, we see that the Divine has descended still further. Today it has taken on a peculiar form, which must be understood if we wish fully to decipher the Christmas festival. Let us go back to the fourth post-Atlantean period, back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries A.D. You will find full comprehension of the real personality of Christ by those who knew this mystery. The personality of Christ is comprehensively described, for instance, in the poem, The Heliand, which puts Christ into a German setting. The Christ as personality is firmly implanted within mankind so that the conditions of other countries can be connected with His deed of redemption.

But another mood also arises. The belief in this archetypal image of mankind has been shaken. Something has appeared that in some ways signifies progress since a much larger part of humanity participates in the course of the further development of Christianity. But these people have ceased to grasp the fact that the center of their thinking, feeling and willing lies in the individual personality of Christ. Fewer and fewer men dare admit to themselves that it is not a question of doctrine, but rather of the Personality of Christ. This finally dissolves into a veneration of an abstract ideal that is conceived by the intellect and toward which men then come to strive.

Summing up, at the time of the first post-Atlantean period the Divinity was Brahman; during the second, it was the duality of light and darkness; in the third, it was the trinity. Then, during the time of the fourth post-Atlantean period, the trinity descended into a person on earth, and now this Personality has descended even further to the stage of mere intellect, which has dissolved it so that it is revered only as an abstract ideal.

In our own fifth post-Atlantean period the time is being prepared that must come, bringing with it a belief in the new initiates, the Fathers. The initiates of the seventh degree are called the Fathers, as we have said, and in spiritual science we speak of the knowledge of the Masters, because it will be to the Masters, as the great leaders of mankind, to whom mankind will look in gratitude and veneration. The fifth post-Atlantean period repeats the three preceding periods in the great process of Advent. The three weeks of Advent symbolize these earlier periods, and man must once again pass through briefly the way the birth of the light was experienced at Christmas.

The birth of the light will be followed by life in the light. Christians, therefore, should not see in the Christmas festival something that passes. It is not a memorial festival commemorating what has occurred in the past. The Christmas message does not say, “Christ has been born, Christ was born.” It says, “Today Christ is born.” Today is always emphasized. This is significant. The emphasis on today should be understood in the sense in which Christ has spoken, “I am with you always even unto the end of days.” This confronts us anew each year and reveals to us the connection between man and the heavens. It shows us that what has occurred in the heavens must also take place in man. Just as the course of the sun cannot be altered a fraction without causing chaos, so likewise man must keep to his path. He must attain to that inner harmony and rhythm that is exemplified in Christ, Who was incarnated in Jesus and Who will be active in the Fathers whose guidance man will follow in future ages.

This is the connection between man and the heavens. Not only is the sun to travel its unchanging course in the heavens, gaining new forces at the winter solstice. It will also bring about in man a birth of the light out of his deepest soul that will be a resurrection, a Sun Heroship of the fifth postatlantean cultural age. For this reason do we have the Christmas saying, “Peace to men on earth who are of good will.” Inner peace will bring the evolution of mankind into a rhythmical course, just as the sun has acquired a regular rhythm in its course. In the course of the sun we see an image of the eternal circular course of the cosmos. It has overcome its chaos and has attained peace. In this sense, Christmas is a festival of peace, streaming forth a mood of peace and harmony. When this is brought about, it will be celebrated in the right sense. In the tolling of the Christmas bells we hear not only the sounds of the church, but also the striving of the whole of mankind as it works and has worked toward its further development since the time when the earth with its spirituality arose from the great cold.


In looking up to the sun, the sages and their followers said, “You are the image of what the soul born in me will become.” The divine world order revealed itself in its great glory to these wise men. This is also expressed in the Christian view when it says there shall be glory in divine heights. “Glory” means “revelation.” “Today God reveals Himself in the Heavens.” This is what “Glory to God in the Highest” means. It is the expression of the glory permeating the world. This world harmony was presented as the great ideal for those who, in earlier times, were to be leaders of mankind. In all times and wherever a consciousness of these things was alive, it was the Sun Hero who was spoken of.

There were seven degrees of initiation in the ancient Mystery Temples. I shall cite them for you with their Persian names.

  • In the first degree, man went beyond everyday feeling and attained to a higher soul experience and cognition of the spirit. Such a man was designated a Raven. The Ravens were those who communicated to the initiates in the temples what happened in the outside world. This was the case in the medieval saga of the Emperor Barbarossa who, surrounded by the earth's treasures of wisdom, awaits inside the earth the great moment when mankind is to be rejuvenated by a newly deepened Christianity. Here also the Ravens are the messengers. Even the Old Testament speaks of the Ravens of Elijah.
  • Those initiated into the second degree were called the Occult Ones,
  • those of the third, the Warriors, and
  • those of the fourth, the Lions.
  • The initiates of the fifth degree were called by the name of their people — Persian or Indian, for example — because only these initiates were true representatives of their peoples.
  • The initiate of the sixth degree was called a Sun Hero,
  • that of the seventh, bore the name Father.

[Sixth degree: Sun Hero]

Why was the initiate of the sixth degree called a Sun Hero?

Such a one, who had climbed the ladder of spiritual knowledge to that stage, had so far developed his inner life that the pattern of its course followed the divine rhythm of the universe. His feeling and thinking no longer contained anything chaotic, unrhythmical or disharmonious, and his inner soul harmony was in accord with the external harmony of the sun. This level of development was demanded of the initiates of the sixth degree, and as a result, they were looked up to as holy men, as examples and ideals. Just as it would be a great disaster for the universe if the sun were to leave its path for only a quarter of a minute, similarly, it would have been just as great a disaster if it had been possible for a Sun Hero to stray only for a moment from his path of high morality, soul rhythm and spirit harmony. He who had found as sure a path in his spirit as the sun outside in the universe, was called a Sun Hero, and they were to be found among all peoples.

Our scientists know little about these things. To be sure, they see that sun myths are crystallized around the lives of all the great founders of religions. But they do not know that in the initiation ceremonies the leaders were raised to Sun Heroes, and it is not at all remarkable when materialistic research rediscovers these customs of the ancients. Sun myths connected with Buddha and even with Christ have been searched out and found. Here you have the reason why they could be found in these myths. They had been put into them in the first place because they represented a direct imprint of the sun rhythm and were the great examples that should be followed.

The soul of such a Sun Hero who had attained this inner harmony was no longer considered to be a single individual human soul, but one that had brought to birth in itself the universal soul streaming through the whole cosmos. This universal soul was called “Chrestos” in ancient Greece, and the sublime sages of the Orient knew it by the name, “Buddhi.”

When one has ceased to feel himself to be only the bearer of his individual soul and comes to experience the universe within himself, then he has created an image in himself of what as Sun Soul was united with the human body at that time. Then he has achieved something of tremendous significance for the evolution of mankind.

see also: Love#Buddhi


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