Mystery School tradition

From Anthroposophy

This covers the tradition in the ancient Mysteries and Mystery Schools from the Atlantean epoch through the various cultural ages of the current epoch, with a distinction of Initiation before and after the Mystery of Golgotha, as also covered in the Mysteries of the Spirit, the Son and the Father and related to the Michaelic Stream.

The initiatory processes, rituals and traditions have always been tuned to the specific maturity of Man's bodily principles in each time period, and and very much related to the culture of the age and it's natural state of consciousness influencing the state of soul of 'how Man stood in the world'. For more context see also the Development of the I and the Current Postatlantean epoch.

The goal of the Mystery Schools has always been to establish, maintain and develop the link between humanity and it's spiritual guidance. This to assure Mankind is aware of the origin and future goal of evolution (see also Occult Atom). This therefore requires a deep connection with the spiritual reality, hence the focus on initiation as the various and evolving ways for Man to connect, reach into this spiritual reality and communicate with spiritual beings.

After the Atlantean oracles or mystery schools, in the current Postatlantean epoch we can distinguish a Northern and Southern stream, and the

  • Northern Mysteries - see Scandinavian and Germanic mythology - 'nature mysteries', intimately bound up with nature, the Earth's growth forces and the stars, how the whole evolution of the universe was connected with (what came from) the Earth.
  • Southern Mysteries or 'temple mysteries', based on the soul-experience and representation in symbols of the spiritual divine. For example gnostic wisdom, inspired by the cosmos, was connected with the world of the spirit and what took place in the far reaches of the universe.


  • The Southern stream and Northern stream, see also Christ Impulse - meeting of two streams#Southern and Northern streams
  • The Michaelic stream connecting the thread of Mystery School teachings across the ages
  • Sources of spiritual science providing a concise view on sources of the last 2500 years, from the Greek culture onwards
  • The purpose of ancient initiation was also to get the people over the fear of becoming mortal in their soul.
    • in ancient mystery schools initiation was a life or death procedure, with trials to concur fear of death. This required both skill and great courage. Those who did not make it were killed. The ones who surpassed all trials became 'newborn (1910-06-18-GA266/2)
    • Because of the prevailing group soul, the initiation of single person sufficied to have an effect on their surrounding (1921-06-28-GA205)
  • Midsummer and midwinter mysteries and the course of the year in ancient times (1922-12-23-GA219 and 1922-12-24-GA219)
  • Master lodges of the Mysteries include:
    • Turanian mysteries: School of Turanian Adepts (1907-02-18-GA096)
    • Externsteine near Teutoburg Forest in Germany - see
    • Druidic and Trotten mysteries:
      • mother lodge in Scandinavia 'Druid' or ‘Drottes’ Lodge (1904-09-30-GA093), Jutland Mystery center in Denmark (see 1916-12-GA173 lectures on Nerthus)
      • an important initiatiate School of Trotten Mysteries in the North of present-day Russia (1906-07-29-GA097)
    • important Lodge by the Black Sea, see also Colchis Mysteries (1912-05-29-GA155, 1923-09-10-GA228)
    • Mystery School in current Burgenland
      • .. where around 2500 BC, Gilgamesh was brought to the great Atlantean being, Xisuthros, who belonged to higher hierarchies and who during the Atlantean time lived in the sphere of humanity but was afterwards transported from the world of men to dwell in higher regions (see lecture extracts covering Gilgamesh and Eabani on Individuality of Rudolf Steiner)
  • Other
    • pagan Attis cult, (GA148, GA149, GA175 - see some references here, and wikipedia topic page)
      • and Phrygian Easter festival (note: Phrygia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now Asian Turkey)

Atlantean epoch

  • Atlantean oracles of the seven planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) - as well as the secret Vulcan Oracle
  • Turanian mysteries (1907-02-17-GA097 and 1907-02-18-GA096 on School of Turanian Adepts)
  • descriptions: see 1907-03-07-GA097

Current Postatlantean epoch

Northern stream

Southern stream

  • Persian Mysteries
    • Mythras cult and bull mysteries
  • Egyptian Mysteries: (see also Egyptian mythology)
    • Isis and Osiris cult
    • Hermes initiation
  • Mysteries of Adonis
  • Greek Mysteries:
    • Orphic mysteries (or Orpheus)
    • Ephesian (Mysteries of Artemis)
    • Eleusian
    • Chthonic
    • Samothracian mysteries (Kabiri)
  • other
    • school of St. Paul and Dionysius the Areopagite in the 1st century in Greece, tradition upto the 6th century
  • Europe in middle ages - before the fifth cultural age

Fifth cultural age

  • current Anglo-German cultural age:
    • Rosecrucian schooling
    • contemporary spiritual science after 1879
    • see more coverage in the Positioning section on Free Man Creator School

Inspirational quotes


.. the Mysteries are schools for the training of those faculties which enable the soul of man to have actual vision of the spiritual worlds. They are schools, where in a methodical and systematic way, man's soul is so guided and trained that he can finally perceive the higher worlds with spiritual eyes and ears.

Although modern scholarship knows little of the Mysteries, they are nevertheless still in existence today and are the means whereby Man can be led consciously to the spiritual worlds. And the whole content of spiritual science, everything that is communicated in spiritual science, is, in its essence, Mystery-wisdom.

The Man who so trains his soul that he can perceive in higher worlds, is an Initiate. Through all the ages there have been centres for developing the faculty of fully conscious clairvoyance ..


Mystery-truths are not the trifles certain mystic sects play around with today. Mystery-truths are grand and powerful impulses within human evolution. ... For the sake of self-knowledge it is necessary for mankind today to know what lived in such Mysteries. .. The mystery of mankind in its connection to all the mysteries of the cosmos, how it works when Man enters on the physical Earth into his physical existence, all this, at a certain period of earthly evolution, lay more deeply than anywhere else at the basis of these ancient northern 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

It is important to realize that the development of humanity was not limited to the key cultures highlighted in the descriptive labels given to characterize each cultural age. For example the Mayan and Jewish cultures also belong to the third 'Egypto-Chaldean' cultural age. Also the Chinese culture is not a focus in the descriptions of the development of humanity.

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.


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).


Schema FMC00.545 provides an overview of a selection of well known historical sites with remnants dating back from ancient cultures. Most belong to the Current Postatlantean epoch. Some contain remnants of ancient cultures from migrated cultures of the Atlantean epoch.

Sources of spiritual science have pointed out that certain sites date from Atlantean or Lemurian cultures or epochs [eg Externsteine (Germany) or Eastern Island], and quite some of them have been initiation sites or temples related to the ancient Mysteries.

See also Schema FMC00.214E on Atlantean epoch for the notes to that Schema, and compare the geographic location of underwater sites such as Yonaguni or Bimini Road.

Note and disclaimer: the intention of this Schema cannot be to be exhaustive, it merely provides a sample as an entry point and reference point for exploring further.

Various authors have gathered Rudolf Steiner's hints on this topic, see ao Gsänger, Wachsmuth. Recently also various documentaries have become available online that provide (irrespective of storytelling and interpretations) some beautiful imagery, eg BAM Builders of the Ancient Mysteries (2020) or Graham Hancock's Ancient Apocalyse (2022).


Lecture coverage and references

Coverage overview

Rudolf Steiner spends a whole series of lectures on the Mysteries in December 1923. They are published spread over GA232 and GA233, depending on the edition.

The cycle 1923-12-GA233 is called 'World History in the light of Anthroposophy'

  • Ephesian Mysteries of Artemis (1923-11-30-GA233?, 1923-12-02-GA323 also 1923-12-02-GA323)
    • extra on Mysteries Ephese in 1923-12-28-GA233
  • Hibernian Mysteries (1923-12-07-GA323, 1923-12-08-GA323, 1923-12-09-GA323)
  • Mysteries of the Samothracian Kabiri (1923-12-21-GA232) - these are also covered in 1924-09-05-GA346
  • Chthonic and Eleusinian Mysteries (1923-12-14-GA323)

further also

  • Mysteries of Hybernia and Ephese (1923-12-27-GA233)
  • Transition for ancient Mysteries to Mysteries of the middle ages (1923-12-22-GA233)

Furthermore the Karmic Relationship lectures 1924-GA23x discuss the School of Chartres.

Furthermore 1924-01-GA233A 'Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation' complementary covers:

  • middle-ages (1924-01-04-GA233A, 1924-01-05-GA233A)
  • Mysteries of Adonis - and the link to Easter and the festivals (1924-01-19-GA233A)
  • 18-19th century schools (1924-01-12-GA233A)

Source extracts


In those past ages teaching was a pouring out of wisdom; it came from within, not from outside the human being. Between that age and ours, there was an intervening age, the Atlantean epoch. In the middle of this age human beings could begin to see the outlines of things and beings. Everything was still enveloped in a vague mist of color, penetrated by sounds that had something to say, sounds that were wise. A teaching arose at that time, which was developed later into religious teaching. Vast ages ago there was a great school of adepts there. All that we learn today began with them, the Turanian adepts.

[Note: see ao Turanian stream#1910-09-01-GA123]

It has been transmitted down through the ages to the present day. Teaching was very different than it is today. We must bear in mind that humanity was in a stage of transition. The wisest of those people would be unable to count to five. But if one focused on the inner life, one could enlighten them and teach them wisdom through imagery. One could not have explained a doctrine of wis­dom to them; they would have failed to understand such a thing.

The people of that time did not have the kind of clear day con­sciousness we have. Rather, they could return easily to a state where God could illuminate them from within.

Teachers placed their stu­dents into a hypnotic trance. It was not the same hypnosis with which so much nonsense is done today, but it was something similar. The teachers used this sleep state to enlighten their students.

At that time they had an esoteric script, or esoteric language. There are mantras today that contain more than their thought value alone, but, com­pared to the sound and tone combinations of the past, they are mere shadows. These tone combinations were simple; but when such a tone was struck it reinstated a lost capacity to illuminate. That world of inner enlightenment then entered human beings synthetically, and they could see the spirits of the world at work just as before.

The disciples received formulas and certain signs from their teachers, and they then could perceive the secrets of the world directly. For exam­ple, this sign told them how a plant comes into being out of a seed.

[illustration of a spiral]

If not explained, a modern person would neither think of anything in particular nor feel anything when viewing this sign. It directly effected the people of that age, however, when they saw it or when it was formed in front of them. The formulas used at that time were taught to the peoples who came later by the founders of religions.

As we go farther back in time, the world soul was more unified.

During sleep, the astral bodies of all human beings are still somewhat similar; but during the Atlantean age, astral bodies were always the same. One could bring to all people one primal wisdom. After the great flood had passed over Atlantean humanity, a unified wisdom was no longer possible. One had to teach in India according to what the Indian body required, differently in Persia, differently in Egypt, differ­ently with the Greeks and Romans, and differently again with the ancient Germanic races. Nevertheless, within all true forms of reli­gion, the common element from which each had arisen continued to live.

In Atlantis enlightenment meant imparting life, not teaching. The sign of the spiral awakened an immediate feeling sensation. Today feelings must first be awakened by thoughts.

The seven peti­tions of the Lord's Prayer were also once given in the form of a scale of seven tones, together with seven specific colors and fragrances. In this way, disciples in Atlantis experienced the sevenfold essence of the human being.

Christ, the greatest of the religious teachers, poured this into the Lord's Prayer. Everyone who prays the Lord's Prayer is affected by it. It is not really a mantra, though it may have mantric powers. It is a "thought mantra." Of course, its greatest power was in the original human language, but because it is precisely a thought mantra, it will not lose its power even when translated into a thousand languages. We can digest food without knowing the laws of digestion; similarly, we have the fruit of the Lord's Prayer without knowledge. One who has the higher knowledge, however, will receive an entirely different fruit from it.

Religious truths followed such paths. Our souls were all asleep at one time within the soul of the world, which was then divided into many members and drawn down into many bodies. Spiritual percep­tion was darkened as was the possibility of invoking the original state. Religious teachings are only a weak echo in thoughts and words, especially the religious forms and rules derived from the spiritual world. The wisdom of the Old Testament still speaks of ideas, even the original ideas. A dim reflection of the original ideas lives in these ideas; but that ancient wisdom is not lost but still sleeps within our souls. Lifting it into clear consciousness is the task of spiritual sci­ence. After their final incarnation, when human beings have come to know all of the external world, they will be lifted to their original clairvoyance, bringing new enlightenment, in clear consciousness, with them.


is about the Esoteric School of Paul and Dionysius the Areopagite

If we have now understood this properly, we come to a deeper comprehension of the present human being and we are in a position to repeat and to understand better what has been taught in Esoteric Christianity from the beginning. This Esoteric Christianity has always been fostered alongside the outer Christian exoteric teaching.

I have often pointed out that Paul, the great apostle of Christianity, used his powerful, fiery gift of eloquence to teach Christianity to the people, but that at the same time he founded an esoteric school, the director of which was Dionysius, the Areopagite, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. In this Christian Esoteric School at Athens which was directly founded by Paul himself, the purest Spiritual Science was taught.

And now, having brought together the necessary material in the above observations, we shall be able to place before our souls what was taught there.

This school also taught that …


is called 'The European Mysteries and Their Initiates'

In ancient times a kind of natural clairvoyance was a common heritage of the European peoples. Indeed Man's consciousness as it is today has evolved from that earlier state of clairvoyant consciousness. With these ancient clairvoyant faculties, Man was able to perceive certain connections of his life, and what he so perceived was then expressed in the legends and myths which speak of goblins, elfin-beings, dwarfs and the like. Now these legends and myths are very different in character. They were based on what Man was able to see with his clairvoyant faculties, but when we study them we find on the one hand certain resemblances and on the other outstanding differences, simply because the clairvoyant powers of men were by no means the same. There is a much greater similarity in the more important mythological figures — the figures of Gods and Heroes in the sagas. These sagas, too, were the outcome of clairvoyance, but in a different sense.

The great mythological figures lead us back to the experiences of those who were Initiates in the ancient Mysteries. It is not easy for our present consciousness to form a true conception of these ancient Mysteries and their Initiates, for the nature of our education and the knowledge resulting therefrom does not conduce to an understanding of the nature of Initiation — far from it!

If we were to speak of the nature of the Mysteries and their Initiates in the language of current thought, we should say that the Mysteries are schools for the training of those faculties which enable the soul of man to have actual vision of the spiritual worlds. They are schools, where in a methodical and systematic way, man's soul is so guided and trained that he can finally perceive the higher worlds with spiritual eyes and ears. Although modern scholarship knows little of the Mysteries, they are nevertheless still in existence to-day and are the means whereby man can be led consciously to the spiritual worlds. And the whole content of spiritual science, everything that is communicated in spiritual science, is, in its essence, Mystery-wisdom.

The Man who so trains his soul that he can perceive in higher worlds, is an Initiate. Through all the ages there have been centres for developing the faculty of fully conscious clairvoyance and the aim of the present lecture is to give a cursory survey of the European Mysteries.

For this purpose we must go back to ancient pre-Christian times and try to visualise what went on in the occult schools of Initiation and how they influenced civilisation and culture in general. You have often heard how man to-day can be led to the Initiates, how his thinking, feeling and willing can be so trained that he can set out on the path leading to the 'Mothers'. This is the path which the pupils of all the Mysteries have had to tread in quest of fully conscious clairvoyance.

more on: Druidic and Trotten mysteries#1909-05-06-GA057


describes the Bull, Lion, Eagle initiation in ancient mysteries, in context of the different evangelists of the gospels

If we now wish to understand the position of the other Evangelists in this matter we must recall various points that have already been established in the previous lectures. We learned, for example, that there existed certain lofty spiritual beings who transferred their sphere of action to the sun when the latter detached itself from the earth; and it was pointed out that their outer astral form was in a sense the counterpart of certain animal forms here on earth.

  • There was first, the form of the Bull spirit, the spiritual counterpart of those animal natures the essence of whose development lies in what could be called the nutritional and digestive organization. The spiritual counterpart is naturally of a lofty spiritual nature, however inferior the earthly image may appear. So we have certain exalted spiritual beings who transferred their sphere to the sun whence they influenced the earth sphere, appearing there as the Bull spirits.
  • Others appear as the Lion spirits, whose counterpart lives in animal natures pre-eminently developed as to their heart and organs of circulation.
  • Then we have spiritual beings who are the counterparts of what we meet in the animal kingdom as eagle natures, the Eagle spirits.
  • And finally there are those that harmoniously unite, as it were, the other natures as in a great synthesis, the Man spirits. These were in a sense the most advanced.

[initiation - Atlantean oracles and Postatlantean mysteries]

Passing now to the old initiation, we find that this offered the possibility of beholding, face to face, the exalted spiritual beings that had outstripped man. But the manner in which primitive men had to be initiated, in accord with the demands of those ancient times, depended upon the origin of their descent — that is, whether from Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus. Even in Atlantis, therefore, there existed oracles in manifold variety. Some had adjusted their spiritual vision primarily to the beholding of what we have described as the Eagle spirits, while others saw the Lion spirits, the Bull spirits, or the Man spirits: the initiation accorded with the specific traits of the candidate. This differentiation was one of the characteristics of the Atlantean age, and certain echos of it have persisted into our own Post-Atlantean time. Thus you could find Mystery temples in Asia Minor, or in Egypt, where the initiation took a form that brought about the vision of the lofty spiritual beings as Bull spirits, or as Eagle spirits. And it was in the Mysteries that outer culture had its source.

  • The initiates who saw the lion form in the exalted spiritual beings conjured up in the lion body a sort of image of what they had beheld; but they saw as well that these spirits take part in the evolution of man. That is why they assigned a human head to the lion body, a concept that later became the sphinx.
  • Those who saw the spiritual counterparts as Bull spirits bore testimony to the spiritual world by introducing a Bull worship, which led on the one hand to the Apis Bull worship in Egypt, and on the other, to the worship of the Persian Mithras Bull; for everything we find in the way of outer cult usages among the different peoples derived from the initiation rites. There were initiates everywhere whose spiritual vision was focussed principally on the Bull spirits, others attuned primarily to the Eagle spirits, and so on.

To a certain extent we can even indicate the differences in the various modes of initiation. Those initiated, for example, in such a way that the spiritual beings appeared to them in the form of Bull spirits were informed principally concerning the secrets connected with man's glandular system, with what pertains to the etheric principle. And there is still another branch of the nature of Man into which they were initiated: the human properties that are firmly attached to the earth — welded to it, as it were. All this was grasped by those initiated in the Bull Mysteries.

Let us try to experience the soul mood of such initiates.

  • From their great teachers they had learned, in effect, that Man had descended from divine heights, that the primordial human beings were the descendants of divine-spiritual beings and that therefore they traced the first Man back to his Father-God. Thus Man came down to earth and passed from one Earth form to another. These men were primarily interested in what was bound to the Earth, as well as in all that men had experienced when they had thought of divine-spiritual beings as their ancestors. That was the attitude of the Bull initiates.
  • The Eagle initiates constituted a different case. These envisioned those spiritual beings who bear a most peculiar relation to the human being; but in order to understand this a few words must be said concerning the spiritual character of the bird nature.

Animals rank below human beings by reason of their inferior functions, and they represent, as you know, beings that solidified too early, having failed to retain the softness and flexibility of their body substance until such time as they might have been able to embody in human form. But in the bird nature we have beings that did not assume the lowest functions: instead they overshot the mark in the opposite direction. They failed to descend far enough, as it were; they remained in unduly soft substances, while the others lived in substances that were too hard. But as evolution continued, outer conditions compelled them to solidify; hence they hardened in a manner incompatible with a nature that had descended to the earth, being too soft. That is a rough description in untechnical terms, but it gives the facts. The archetypes of these bird natures are those spiritual beings who likewise overshot the mark, who remained in a substance too soft, and who consequently were carried, as it were, beyond what they might have become at a certain point of their development. They deviated from the normal development in an upward direction, while the rest diverged downwards.

The middle position is in a certain sense occupied by the Lion spirits, as well as by the harmonious ones, the Man spirits, who grasped the right moment to incorporate.


We have already seen how the Christ event was received by those in whom there lived something of the old initiation. According to the nature of their specific initiation they had been able in the past to see into the spiritual world; and those who had received the Bull initiation — throughout a great part of Egypt, for example — were aware of the following: We can gaze up into the spiritual world, and therefore the lofty spiritual beings appear to us as the counterparts of the Bull nature in man.

It was definitely prescribed in each of these initiation Mysteries how the candidate should be led up into the spiritual world, and the rites varied according to the manner in which he was to enter it. There were Mysteries of many different shades, especially in Asia Minor and in Egypt, where it was customary to guide the initiates in such a way as to bring them eventually to the Bull nature, or to a vision of the Lion spirits, as the case might have been. With this in mind let us now consider those who, as a result of many different kinds of initiations in the past, had become capable of sensing the Christ impulse, of comprehending Christ in the right way.


translation A

In the ancient Egyptian mystery schools, those being prepared for initiation intended that the Incarnation was to be dedicated entirely to initiation, for it was a life or death procedure. They had to undergo trials that placed great demands on their courage, for example. They were shown things that could so stir up their fear that they fell over dead. If they lived through these trials, then they had arrived on the other shore, and were newborn. They had descended to the god in their inner being; they had encountered the drives, desires, and passion and their own bodies, and had victoriously withstood the encounter. They could now say of themselves : Ex Deo nascimur.

Now, one could ask about the evil that was encountered on the path to the inner god: does that also come from the gods? Here we must always say that it was originally something divine; that only we human beings made it into something evil.

The path of ecstasy was followed in the Druid mysteries. Those being initiated united themselves with the spirit that held sway every where in nature: Per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus.

In the Rosicrucian path the two paths are united; that is, from each was taken what is beneficial for us. The modern human being can no longer be initiated unconsciously. Since the advent of the Christ-principle, the human being must be present with his or her waking consciousness.

The meditations given to us by the Masters of Wisdom and Harmony of Feelings are all directed toward the Christ, even though His name might not appear in them...

translation B

In ancient mystery schools, candidates resolved to devote their incarnation entirely to initiation, for it was a do or die procedure. They had to undergo trials that required great courage. Terrifying things were shown that killed some of them. But if they survived, they had come to the other shore and were reborn. They had descended to the God within them, had encountered drives, desires and passions in their bodies and had passed the test. Then they would say of themselves: Ex Deo nascimur. Well, one could ask: Does this evil that one encounters on the way to the inner God also come from the Gods? Here we must tell ourselves that it was originally something divine which we made into something evil.

Men trod the path of ecstasy in the Druidic mysteries. The candidate united himself with the spirit that worked everywhere in nature: Per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus.

These two paths are united in the Rosicrucian path, that is, what's good for us is taken from both. One can no longer initiate a modern unconsciously. Since the breaking in of the Christ-principle, a man must be there with his waking consciousness.

The meditations that the masters of wisdom and of the harmony of feelings have given us are all directed towards the Christ, even if his name doesn't occur in them. The words: In the pure rays of light are arranged in such a way that if one makes oneself deaf and blind for one's immediate environment, one slowly lifts one's etheric body out of the physical one, and thereby one unites oneself with the Christ-etheric aura, which is now our earth's aura. If we would lift ourselves out of the body without our meditation's content, then our soul would be alone with itself. But now it's permeated by Christ and it experiences what Paul called “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”

In the pure love for all beings. These words remind us that all soul things are woven out of love. This meditation is a slow dying of the lower ego. And we have the connection between the two paths in this dying into Christ and coming to life in him in: In Christo morimur. It's a conscious coming to life in the Christ spirit. That's why we've added the word Sanctum to the words Per Spiritum.


[Northern Mysteries - connection with Earthly, vs South Gnosis and cosmos]

These northern Mysteries were founded on something utterly different from the foundation of the Mysteries of Asia Minor, the Mysteries of the South. These Mysteries of the North were founded on something that was more intimately bound up with the life of the stars, with nature, with the Earth's growth forces, rather than that which was shown in the symbols of a temple.

Mystery-truths are not the trifles certain mystic sects play around with today. Mystery-truths are grand and powerful impulses within human evolution. Just as we cannot find our way back today through anthroposophy to gnosis, to the ancient gnostics, neither can mankind return to what the ancient Mysteries of the North once meant for human evolution. It would be a foolish misunderstanding to believe that such Mystery-truths are being revealed now because of a desire to return in some way to what lived in them. For the sake of self-knowledge it is necessary for mankind today to know what lived in such Mysteries.

For what in the northern Mysteries involved the whole evolution of the universe was connected with what came from the Earth, whereas the gnostic wisdom inspired by the cosmos was connected with what took place in the far reaches of the universe. The mystery of mankind in its connection to all the mysteries of the cosmos, how it works when Man enters on the physical earth into his physical existence, all this, at a certain period of earthly evolution, lay more deeply than anywhere else at the basis of these ancient northern Mysteries.

more on: Nerthus#1916-12-21-GA173


talks about the evocation of the kabiri in the Samothracian Mysteries. The same is also stated in 1922-12-04-GA218: a picture of the godhead appeared in the sacrificial smoke. See also evocation in

Then the pupil understood why on the altar there were placed before him three symbolic vessels or jars.

We once made use of a copy of these vessels here in an Eurhythmy presentation of Faust, and as you saw these three vessels, so they were seen in the Samothracian Mysteries, the Northern Greek Mysteries; but the essential thing was that through these vessels, these pitchers, in their whole symbolic form, a sacrificial ritual, a ritual of consecration took place.

A kind of incense was put into these three vessels, which was then kindled, and when the smoke poured out, three words of which we shall speak further tomorrow were uttered with mantric power by the celebrant. These words were uttered [sung] into the smoke which rose up above the vessels, and then there appeared the forms of the three Kabiri They appeared because the human breath breathed out through the mantric words, fashioned itself, and then imparted its form to the rising smoke, the incense arising from the substance which was incorporated into these symbolic vessels. While the pupil learnt to read in this way what was written in the smoke by his, own breathing, he learnt to read, at the same time, what the mysterious planets spoke to him from out of the great universe.

Now he knew that

  • the form assumed by the first of the Kabiri through the mantric word and its power represented the reality behind Mercury; in
  • the form assumed by the second Kabiri he learnt the reality of Mars; and
  • in that of the third Kabiri he learnt the reality of Apollo, the Sun.

Note: in a verse exchanged by Rudolf Steiner to Ita Wegman about their earlier incarnations together, it is mentioned ..


Transition for ancient Mysteries to Mysteries of the middle ages


relates the way how students were taught in the past, with a narrative describing various aspects such as how students were taught to 'feel' the meaning of the six pointed star and the two etheric streams with their body, see the link between their body and the macrocosmos (eg nerves relation to the moon and sun), etc.


Then came the mysteries which are reflected in the modem mass. The Catholic mass, the Armenian mass and other masses arose from the half new mysteries in a very complicated way, and even though they have become externalized, they still contain the complete initiation principle. What man can perceive when magical words awaken within him began to be present in these half new mysteries, instead of the god's presence in the ancient mysteries and the presence of forces which the gods sent in the semi-ancient mysteries. These words enable one to acquire very profound knowledge of the inner nature of sound, and intense feelings resound in them.

During the time of the half new mysteries human language and cultic language were two different things, and remnants of the latter are still present in individual religious confessions. In this cultic language everything depends upon rhythm, a deep understanding of sounds and an understanding of the way that sounds from the priest's mouth penetrate human hearts. The intonation of magical cultic words in sacred places enabled people to ascend to the forces of the gods for the first time.

  • The first human period — ancient mysteries — the gods descend.
  • Second human period — semi-ancient mysteries — the gods send their forces down.
  • Third human period — half new mysteries — man learns a magical language and begins to ascend to the forces of the divine world through the intonation of magical words.

This is why words were intoned during the third period of acts of consecration of man. The Kabiri element lived in all religious cults which arose during this third period. For the Kabiri services and sacrifices which were celebrated in Samothrace were brought into all of the half way new ceremonies in the act of consecration of man and into all the ceremonies which belong to This.

Let's place the Kabiri altar at Samothrace before our souls. The Kabirs who stood upon it as external relics were sacrificial urns that contained no ferments, but substances which men find if they can penetrate the inner spiritual aspect of matter. The sacrificial urns contained such substances. The sacrificial substances in the urns were ignited, and smoke ascended. The magical language created an Imagination of the intoned words in the rising smoke. Thus the way up to divine forces was outwardly visible in the sacrificial smoke. The priests who were surrounded by this smoke knew that they were in the right atmosphere for carrying out a transubstantiation.

As Aristotle explained to Alexander, the substances were mixed in such a way that a sacred Imagination emerged from the sacrificial smoke, and this showed one the way to the, gods. If people found this way, the priest's transubstantiation was a right one and the act of consecration of man was executed correctly. Those who celebrated and participated in it knew that it was an organ of cognition. For when the ceremonially shaped, magical words and prayers flamed up in the sacrificial smoke and streamed up to the gods, an apocalyptic revelation came down from above as a gift of grace. This was the third stage in the development of apocalyptic things and of an act of consecration of man.


is on the School of Chartres. For an illustration of the four areas listed below, see Schemas FMC00.260B (table) and FMC00.260 (BBD illustration)

  • .. from the 6th, 7th or 8th century onwards — there was no direct connection with the spiritual world, nevertheless a certain awareness of this connection still found a haven of refuge, if I may put it so, in isolated centres of learning. In isolated centres of learning men still spoke, in knowledge, in the way they had spoken in the first Christian centuries. Nay more, it was possible for single, chosen human beings to receive deep inner impulses from the way in which the spiritual world was spoken of, — impulses enabling them, at certain times at least, to break through into the spiritual world. There were indeed isolated centres where teachings were given in a manner of which the people of today can have no conception.
  • This only came to an end in the 12th, 13th century .. Human beings on the earth had lost, to some extent, the connection with the spiritual world. And in those who lived above — who, while on earth, had still experienced such a connection, — the earthly conditions which they now beheld called forth a strangely painful feeling. They saw the slow death of what they themselves had still experienced on earth. Then from the super-sensible world they enthused-inspired-inspirited — certain individualities in the world of sense, so that here or there at any rate there might arise a home and centre for the real connection of man with the spiritual world.
  • Even until the 7th or 8th century — in a kind of echo of pre-Christian Initiation — Christianity was taught in centres that had remained as the high places of knowledge, relics of the ancient Mysteries. In those centres human beings were prepared, not so much by way of instruction, but by an education towards the Spirit — a training both bodily and spiritual.
    • 1- They were prepared for the moment when they might have at least a delicate vision of the spirituality that can manifest itself in the environment of man on earth. Then they looked outward to the realms of mineral and plant-nature and to all that lives in the animal and human kingdoms. And they saw, springing forth like an aura and fertilised in turn out of the cosmos, the spiritual-elemental beings that lived in all Nature. Then above all there appeared to them as a living Being, whom they addressed as they would address a human being — only it was a being of a higher kind, — the Goddess Natura. She was the Goddess whom they saw before them in her full radiance, in full reality of soul. They did not speak of abstract laws of Nature, they spoke of the creative power of the Goddess Natura, working creatively in all external Nature. She was the metamorphosis of Proserpine of antiquity. She was the ever-creating Goddess with whom he who would seek for knowledge must in a certain way unite himself. She appeared to him — appeared to him from every mineral, from every plant, from every creeping beast, from the clouds, the mountains, the river-springs. Of this Goddess who alternately in winter and in summer creates above the earth and beneath, — of this Goddess they felt: She is the hand-maid of that Divinity of whom the Gospels tell. She it is who fulfils the divine behests.
    • 2 - And when the seeker after knowledge had been sufficiently instructed by the Goddess about the mineral and plant and animal natures, when he was introduced into the living forces, then he learned to know from her the nature of the four Elements: — Earth, Water, Air and Fire. He learned to know the waving and weaving within the mineral and animal and plant kingdoms of the four Elements which pour themselves in all reality throughout the world: — Earth, Water, Fire, Air. He felt himself with his etheric body interwoven with the life of the Earth in its gravity, Water in its life-giving power, Air in its power to awaken sentient consciousness, Fire in its power to kindle the flame of the I. In all this he felt his human being interwoven, and he felt: This was the gift of instruction from the Goddess Natura — the successor, the metamorphosis of Proserpine. The teachers saw to it that their disciples should gain a feeling, an idea of this living intercourse with Nature — Nature filled with divine forces, filled with divine substance. They saw to it that their pupils should penetrate to the living and weaving of the Elements.
    • 3 - Then when they had reached this point, they were introduced to the planetary system. They learnt how with the knowledge of the planetary system there arises at the same time the knowledge of the human soul. “Learn to know how the wandering stars hold sway in the heavens, and thou shalt know how thine own soul works and weaves and lives within thee.” This was placed before the pupils.
    • 4 - And at length they were led to approach what was called “The Great Ocean,” — but it was the Cosmic Ocean, which leads from the planets, from the wandering stars, to the fixed stars. Thus at length they penetrated into the secrets of the I, by learning the secrets of the universe of the fixed stars.

Mankind today has forgotten that such instructions were ever given; but they were:

  • A living knowledge of this kind was cultivated until the 7th or 8th century in the last relics of the ancient Mysteries.
  • And as a doctrine, as a theory, it was still cultivated even until that turn of the 14th and 15th centuries of which we have so often spoken. In certain centres we still see these old teachings cultivated, though with the   greatest imaginable difficulties. They were well-nigh shadowed-down to concepts and ideas; yet the concepts and ideas were still living enough to kindle, in one man and another, the upward vision of all the realities of   which I spoke just now.

●In the 11th and especially the 12th century, reaching on to the 13th, a truly wonderful School existed. In this School there were teachers who still knew how the pupils in preceding centuries had been led to a conscious experience of the Spirit. It was the great School of Chartres. Here there flowed together all the conceptions that had issued from the living spiritual life which I have described.


is on the school of Chartres


Note 1 - Rudolf Steiner's new Mysteries and the Foundation Stone

At the end of 1923, Rudolf Steiner made a pivotal move by connecting his Personality and thus Individuality to the re-founded Anthroposophical Society, whereas upto then he had been a teacher of the movement, without taking earthly responsibilities for the society. This re-founding of the Anthroposopical Society is referenced through the ritual event of the Foundation Stone whereby a Foundation Stone meditation was given by Rudolf Steiner. This was to be a new start in the anthroposopical movement, to provide the new mysteries for our age also through the society.

The Foundation Stone (event, intentions, meditation) and the events of the next decades within the Anthroposophical Society have been subject of much study and debate.

For literature on the topic, see 'Further reading' section below, and also Polarization and polemics within the anthroposophical movement.

Some still adhere faithfully to the original intentions and see this as what is needed in the world as the 'new mysteries'. For others the whole initiative clairly failed due to what happened within the Anthroposophical Society after the death of Rudolf Steiner, relating it to the maturity (and karma) of individuals specifically and community in general.

Irrespective of which position one takes, it is interesting to observe a lack of objective analysis and positioning that combines the two dimensions required: 'perspective based on insight' with the 'reality context' of one century since 1922.

See contemporary commentary in coverage on: Druidic and Trotten mysteries#.5B4.5D - Commentary on Rudolf Steiner in 1923-1924 .28and 1923-09-09.29

Note 2 - Schema FMC00.545 epoch remnants or 'old stones'

Alignment to solstices and equinoxes

Ancient cultures were much more connected with the macrocosmos and path of the Sun and Moon. A characteristics of ancient sites and stone monuments is that they are aligned with the solstices and equinoxes (which happen simultaneously around the world across time zones as these astronomical events are based on our planet’s orbit around the Sun and tilt on its axis).

See also: Rhythm of a year


  • Newgrange: during the winter solstice, a beam of sunlight exactly illuminates a small room inside the mound at dawn
  • Chaco Canyon (New Mexico): during summer and winter solstices, a stone called the Sun Dagger is exactly illuminated at mid day

Characteristics of stones

Related pages

References and further reading

  • Hermann Beckh: 'From the Mysteries: Genesis – Zarathustra' (2020)
    • includes: Our Origin in the Light (Genesis 1–9) (1924); Zarathustra (1927) and From the World of the Mysteries (1927), and more.
  • Hans Wohlbold (1877 - 1949)
    • Mysterienweisheit: Menschheitsentwicklung vom Mytos zum Christentum (1927)
  • Guenther Wachsmuth: 'Mysterien - und Geisteschichte der Menschheit' (1938)
    • with over 130 illustrations
    • Ch. 1: Ireland, Malta
    • Ch. 2: Mexico, Toltecs
    • Ch. 3&4: Egypt
    • Ch. 7: Druids, Mithras cult, northern and southern mysteries
  • Hans Gsänger (1906-1976)
    • see profile page on:, from which the following excerpt (edited internet translation)
      • ".. the subject that wouldn't let him go until his end of life was the history of the mysteries of humanity in the light of Rudolf Steiner's explanations. He started traveling and publishing. ... and as has he needed new knowledge he studied history, religious history, archeology and mythology. Numerous essays and monographs were created. He collected a readership around him that burned to travel with him. He undertook well over 30 trips, and .. in the face of the holy sites, he found words that only the Genius Loci could inspire. Fellow travelers came from his generation and formed a travel community, familiar with eachother and loyal to his death."
    • his books are in the 'Further reading' sections on the topic pages for the different Mysteries (Greek, Hibernian, ..), but there are also:
      • 'Atlantis. Der Beginn der Mysterien' (1975)
      • 'Mysteriengeschichte der Menschheit. Von der Atlantis bis zur Gegenwart' (1977)
  • Bernard Lievegoed: Mystery streams in Europe and the new mysteries (1982)
  • Markus Osterrieder: 'Sonnenkreuz und Lebensbaum: Irland, der Schwarzmeer-Raum und die Christianisierung der europäischen Mitte' (1995)
  • Ita Wegman: The Mysteries (1995, compiled and translated by Crispian Villeneuve)
  • Frank Teichmann (1937–2006)
    • 'The Origins of the Anthroposophical Society in the Light of the Ancient Mysteries' (2020 in EN, in DE as 'Die Entstehung der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft auf mysteriengeschichtlichem Hintergrund')
    • 'The Sacred Mysteries of Egypt. The Flowering of an Ancient Civilisation' (2016 in EN, in DE in 1999 as 'Die ägyptischen Mysterien. Quellen einer Hochkultur')
    • Die griechischen Mysterien: Quellen für ein Verständnis des Christentums
    • series: 'Der Mensch und sein Tempel' (The human being and his temple)
      • Ägypten
      • Megalithkultur in Irland, England und der Bretagne (1983)
      • Griechenland (1980)
      • Chartres


  • S.F. Dunlap (1825-1905): The Mysteries of Adoni (1861)
  • Dudley Wright: The Eleusian mysteries and rites (1919)
  • George E. Mylonas: 'Eleusis and the Eleusinian mysteries' (1961)
  • Walter Burkert (1931-2015)
  • Michael B. Cosmopoulos (editor): 'Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology and Ritual of Ancient Greek Secret Cults' (2003)
    • Albert Schachter: 'Evolutions of a Mystery Cult: The Theban Kabiroi'
  • Grace F. Knoche: The mystery schools (1999, in NL in 2001 as 'De mysteriescholen door de eeuwen heen')
  • Hugh Bowden: 'Mystery Cults of the Ancient World (2010)
  • Guy Maclean Rogers: The Mysteries of Artemis of Ephesos (2012)
    • freely available online on
  • Jan N. Bremmer: 'Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World' (2014)
    • freely available in PDF on

School of Chartres

  • Karl Heyer: Das Wunder von Chartres (1926)
  • Gottfried Richter: Die Herrlichkeit der Kathedrale (1982)
  • Rene Querido: 'The Golden Age of Chartres: The Teachings of a Mystery School ' (1987)
  • Frank Teichmann: Chartres; Kathedrale und Schule (1991)
  • Michael Ladwein: Chartres: Ein Führer durch die Kathedrale (1998, in NL 2000 as 'Chartres: complete gids voor de kathedraal')

Rudolf Steiner

School of Spiritual Science
  • Johannes Kühl, Bodo v Plato: 'The School of Spiritual Science: An Orientation and Introduction' (2010)
  • Johannes Kiersch: 'A History of the School of Spiritual Science - The First Class' (2006)
The Foundation Stone
  • Rudolf Steiner
    • The Foundation Stone Meditation: see GA260
    • The Christmas Conference for the Foundation of the General Anthroposophical Society 1923-1924
  • Valentin Tomberg Studies on the Foundation Stone Meditation
    • published in critical years of world history (1936-1939), were written just a few years after Tomberg's spiritual awakening. They penetrate into the Mystery of Christs Second Coming by offering the reader access from within to the Foundation Stone meditation given to humanity by Christ through Rudolf Steiner. More info here.
  • Willem Zeylmans van Emmichoven: The Foundation Stone (2002 in EN, original in DE as 'Der Grundstein' (1956) and translated in NL as 'De grondsteen' (1977, 1989)
    • analysis of the text by Rudolf Steiner on the day of the laying of the foundation stone for the new anthroposophical society in 1923.
  • Mark Willan: 'Dornach: The centre for spiritual science?' (2001 with update 2006)
  • Peter Selg: 'Rudolf Steiner's Foundation Stone Meditation: And the Destruction of the Twentieth Century (EN in 2013)
  • Bill Trusiewicz: 'The Foundation Stone Meditation as the Being of Isis/Sophia: Some Results from Working with the Foundation Stone Meditation' (published 2017 in Starlight Journal of the Sophia Foundation; and Being Human, see online here)
  • Adriana Koulias: 'The Foundation Stone Meditation: as a protection against evil' (2019)
  • The Foundation Stone Meditation and the Challenges of Our Time (2021)
    • editors: Arie van Amerigen, Christiane Haid
    • fourteen contributions, for list of essays, see contents here


  • Sergei O. Prokofieff:
    • Rudolf Steiner and the Founding of the New Mysteries (1994)
    • Foundation Stone Meditation: A Key to the Christian Mysteries (2006)
    • Relating to Rudolf Steiner: And the Mystery of the Laying of the Foundation Stone (2008)