From Anthroposophy

This topic page covers the three related topics of

  • the early arabic influence on European culture (in the period between approx. 600 to 1200 AD)
  • the reconquista in Spain (between the 8th and 15th century)
  • the crusades (period 1095-1291)

Note: The page may be split up later as the contents is developed further.

Early Arabic influence on Europe

Rudolf Steiner describes how advanced the Arabic culture was in the period around the 6th and 7th century, and how different compared to the culture in the Central European cultural basin. This brought the basis of intellectural research and scientific thought into Europe, and influence flowing into Europe through Spain in the period centered around the six centuries between approx 600 and 1200BC.

This has to be positioned as one of various influences that came together in the Central European cultural basin in the fourth Greco-Latin cultural age of the intellectual soul, preparing the stage for the current fifth cultural age of the consciousness soul.


The Reconquista (or also the 'reconquest of al-Andalus') was the successful series of military campaigns through which the European Christians pushed back the Arabic Muslim influence from Spain and Portugal (and hence Europe) following the earlier Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

It covers a period of more than seven centuries (!) between the Battle of Covadonga (ca 718-722) and the Battle of Poitiers (732), and the Granada War (ca 1482-1492), with a milestone and turning point in 1212 with the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.



Early Arabic influence on European culture

  • terminology: in his lectures, Rudolf Steiner uses the terms 'Arabism' and 'Arabian stream' and 'Arabic culture' and 'Moorish' next to 'Islam' and 'Mohammedanism', to distinguish the broader cultural influence of that time with the religion of the Islam, though of course the two were related. Focus is on the Arabic cultural influence that came into Europe, hence on this site we use the term 'Arabic influence'
  • "the great Impulse for the human head, for the intellect, came through the Arabs" .. who brought into Spain around 600 AD a renewed Moon or Jehovah culture that entered Europe and enriched civilization until the 13th century (1911-03-13-GA124).
    • This is an example of a repetition of an earlier age .. "speaking scientifically what meets us in Arabism is a synthesis of all that was taught by the priests of Egypt and Chaldea, and in the Jehovah religion of the ancient Hebrews" .. "however in a union of this kind there is not only a compression, but there is also always something excluded and left behind" .. in this case "everything which led to clairvoyant perception was excluded from it. What remained was merely a matter of intellectual research, of a combining of thought". "Something filtered into Europe along with the Arabs by which all the old ideas that had prevailed among the Egyptians and Chaldeans were stripped of their clairvoyant imaginative content and given abstract forms. From this sprang the marvellous science which the Arabs brought from Africa to Europe by way of Spain." (1911-03-13-GA124).
  • at the center of such impulses always lie a network of spearpoint Individualities, see Impulses from waves of reincarnating souls and illustrations Schema FMC00.493 and Schema FMC00.497 (and Schema FMC00.243A) on the Karmic relationships topic page that provide examples for the Renaissance (15th century Italy Florence) and Idealism (18th century Germany)
    • Several important Individualities of this timeframe and context are described by Rudolf Steiner in the Karmic Relationship lectures, stating "It is of general importance that these Arabs established a community after death, which had the task to preserve a line of progress neglecting the Christ impulse, and they reincarnated as scientists during the 19th century." (1924-03-09-GA235). Examples given are
      • KRI 6 - Harun al Rashid (766-809), Caliph of Baghdad, an "an organiser in the grandest style" gathered at his illustrious court (held in high esteem even by Charlemagne) the most eminent spiritual and intellectual figures of his time, some of which were initiates. He developed a kind of universal academy were the highest of art and science were joined into a great organic whole. Architecture, poetry, astrology, geography, history, anthropology—all of these were brilliantly represented by the most illustrious of men. (1924-09-01-GA238). He reincarnated as Lord Bacon of Verulam - see Schema FMC00.510.
      • KRI 7 - Tariq ibn Ziyad (Gebel al Tarik) (unknown - ca 720) initiated the Muslim conquest of Visigothic Hispania (present-day Spain and Portugal) in 711–718 AD, conqueror of Gibraltar (711) and Spain (712-713). Reincarnated as Charles Darwin (1809-1882).
      • Others in this karmic relationship network and impulse:
        • KRI 17 (counsellor of Harun al Rashid, later Amos Comenius), KRI 8 (later Laplace), KRI 9 (later Woodrow Wilson), KRI 1 F. (Th. Vischer , earlier 8th century incarnation as Arabian-Moorish conqueror in Sicily). See Schema FMC00.241A for an overview.
      • for more info see: KRI - Karmic Relationships Individualities as part of Karma research case studies and related Karmic relationships, and Discussion Note 1 below.
  • spreading of Islam: founded in Mecca and carried further in Medina, then "Islam spread with great rapidity in the second half of the first Christian millennium, from Asia initially towards Syria and the Black Sea, then through Africa over to Italy, Spain and the west of Europe" (1924-03-19-GA353) and (from 1924-03-16-GA235)
    • spreads into the regions of Damascus, Baghdad and so forth, over the whole of Asia Minor .. northwards from Arabia and across Asia Minor. The Arabs continually lay siege to Constantinople .. knock at the doors of Europe.
    • spreads across the North of Africa and into Spain, and takes hold of Europe as it were from the other direction.


  • refers to the re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), then called the Muslim Al-Andalus, by Spanish Christian kingdoms following the earlier Muslim conquests
  • important battles
  • major cities:
    • Malaga, Granada
    • Cordoba, Sevilla,
    • Badajoz, Merida, Lisboa
    • Valencia, Cuenca
  • Spanish medieval religious-military knights orders
    • 12th century in the Crowns of León and Castile: Order of Santiago, Order of Alcántara, and Order of Calatrava
    • 14th century in the Crown of Aragon: Order of Montesa
    • Knights Templar founded around 1120


  • the period between 1100-1300, referenced by the 'period of the Crusades', is especially important for the change that came about internally in human consciousness through a mixture of influences. This should be distinguished from the Crusades themselves (though there is a link). (1924-09-17-GA346, see Book of Revelation#1924-09-17-GA346)
  • The military expeditions undertaken by European Christians in the 11th to 13th centuries to recover the Holy Land from Muslims provided a template for warfare in other areas that also interested the Roman-Catholic Church.
    • These included not only the Reconquista itself (the 12th and 13th century conquest of Muslim Al-Andalus by Spanish Christian kingdoms) but also the 12-15th century German Northern Crusades expansion into the pagan Baltic region; the suppression of non-conformity, particularly in Languedoc during what has become called the Albigensian Crusade and for the Papacy's temporal advantage in Italy and Germany that are now known as political crusades. (source: wikipedia page Crusades)


Schema FMC00.510: illustrates two Individualities described in Rudolf Steiner's Karmic Relationships lectures of 1924. The KRI stands for Karmic Relationship Individuality, the unique ID for each Individuality, as per Schema FMC00.241A. The illustrations of personalities/incarnations were taken from the internet public domain. For ancient times the origin of these representations is not always necessarily trustworthy or documented, one can even argue they were made up (but then even more interesting the 'coincidence'), nevertheless and despite all reservations, the purely visual side-by-side may trigger a feeling of correspondence.

The series of Schema FMC00.510 and its variants FMC00.510A etc is supporting illustrative material to the quote from 1907-05-29-GA099: "highly developed Individualities have great similarity of stature and form of the physical body from one incarnation to another .. "it is said that such a man is not born in a different body". See also Raphael and Novalis in Schema FMC00.503.

illustrates two Individualities described in Rudolf Steiner's Karmic Relationships lectures of 1924. The KRI stands for Karmic Relationship Individuality, the unique ID for each Individuality, as per Schema FMC00.241A. The illustrations of personalities/incarnations were taken from the internet public domain. For ancient times the origin of these representations is not always necessarily trustworthy or documented, one can even argue they were made up (but then even more interesting the 'coincidence'), nevertheless and despite all reservations, the purely visual side-by-side may trigger a feeling of correspondence. The series of Schema FMC00.510 and its variants FMC00.510A etc is supporting illustrative material to the quote from 1907-05-29-GA099: "highly developed Individualities have great similarity of stature and form of the physical body from one incarnation to another .. "it is said that such a man is not born in a different body". See also Raphael and Novalis in Schema FMC00.503.

Lecture coverage and references


title: History of the Middle Ages - Arabic Influence in Europe

A common prejudice is expressed in the maxim: Human evolution moves forward in regular succession, the unfolding of historical events makes no leaps. This is connected with another prejudice; for we are also told that Nature makes no leaps. This is repeated over and over again; but it is untrue both for Nature and for History. We never see Nature making mighty progress without leaps. Her progress is not gradual; on the contrary, small processes are followed by important results, and the most important of all result from leaps. Many cases could be enumerated in which Nature advances in such a way, that we can observe a transition of forms into their exact opposite. In History this is particularly important, because there we have two significant occurences, which gradually prepared, but then ebbed away, only to make their eventual advance in a forward leap:

1. The founding of the free cities at the beginning of the Middle Ages. 2. The great inventions and discoveries at the end of the Middle Ages.

History moves very quickly forward at the change from the 11th to the 12th century. New forms of society evolve from old ones. From the fact that many men left their homes, to settle in the cities, sprang up—throughout Germany, France, England, Scotland, and as far as Russia and Italy—cities with new conditions of life, new organisations, laws and constitutions. At the end of the Middle Ages we find the great discoveries, the voyages to India, America, etc., and the world-wide invention of printing. All this shows us what a radical change has been affected through the birth of the new spirit of Science—through Copernicus.

Two incisions were made by this; and if we are to study the Middle Ages thoughtfully, these two occurances must be place in the right light. They appear as leaps, but such an event is gradually prepared, until with the force of an avalanche it breaks forth, and rushes forward in a flood. If we pursue them step by step, it will become clear that these two events had been prepared in the life of the Germani. We shall see through what circumstances it was that such great power was given to the Franks, such influence over the configuration of European relationships. For this purpose we must understand the character of that race, the necessary metamorphosis of industrial relationships, and the powerful penetration of Christianity in the 4th century. These two things indicate the alteration in the life of the Germani. They condition the evolution of the Middle Ages. It would be useless to follow all the wanderings of the Germani, to see how Odoacer dethroned the last West Roman Emperor, how the Goths were driven out of Italy by the Emperor Justinian, how the Longobards seized possession of Northern Italy—we see the same circumstances enacted over and over again.

In the southern regions, where the Germani found political and industrial conditions already firmly established, the idiosyncrasies of their own tribes disappeared; they lost all significance. We hear nothing more of the Goths, Gepidae, etc., they have vanished, even to their names. In contrast to this, the Franks had arrived at free, not yet fixed, condition, where serious appropriation was as yet non-existent, and through this political configuration, the Franks became the ruling race.

Now we must see how these developed in the empire of the Franks, that which we call the Merovingian kingdom. It was actually nothing but many small kingdoms, formed in the most natural way. The Merovingians remained as victors, after they had overcome the others who were originally their equals. All these kingdoms had been formed in the following way: some little tribe wandered in, subjugated the inhabitants and divided the land in such a way that all the members received small or large properties. Thus all dominion was based on land ownership. The most powerful received the largest domain. For the tilling of these properties, a great number of people were employed, some taken from the inhabitants, but part were prisoners of war, made into workers. Simply through this difference between the ownership of less of more land, were power relationships developed. The largest landowner was the king. His power was based on his property—that is the characteristic trait. Out of these powerful relationships, the relationships of rights were formed, and it is interesting to observe how this came about. Certainly we find among the Germanic tribes, laws founded on customs evolved in ancient times, before we have any knowledge of them. Among the smaller tribes all the people assembled to administer justice; later, the members of the tribe only came together on March 1st, to take counsel about their concerns. But now the great landowner was not responsible to the others for what he did on his own property. True, we find a conservative clinging to the old prescriptive laws among the different tribes. We find them preserved for long periods among the Saxons, Thuringians and Frisians, also among the Cheruscans, whose tribe kept them longer than has been generally believed. It was different where large landowning had developed, because the proprietor, absolute in his own domain, became also irresponsible. This irresponsibility gave rise to a new legal position, in which the jurisdiction of power, the authority of the police, was exercised. If another man committed an offence, he was called to account for it; if the irresponsible one did it, the same offence was looked upon as lawful. What was illegal among those without power, was legal among the powerful. They were able to change might into right.

Now, in this way the Franks could farther extend their power, and, especially in the northeast, could conquer great territories. At a time when war followed war, the less powerful were dependent on the protection of the mightier. Thus arose the fief and vassal system, which called forth a selection of powerful men. Then an arrangement for transferring certain rights by means of contracts sprang up.

The great landed property, the king's estate, required special legal conditions, which could be transferred to others by the king or the owner. Together with the land, the jurisdiction and the police authority would be transferred. King's law and the law of the small vassal came into being. As the result of this innovation we see the development of a powerful official class, not on a basis of stipend, but of land owning. Such justiciaries were the highest judges. In the beginning, when they still had to take into consideration the rights of powerful tribes, they were bound to respect ancient laws. Gradually, however, their position became that of an absolute judicature, so that, in course of time, side by side with the kingdom, there was formed in France a kind of official aristocracy which grew to be a rival of the kingship.

Thus in the 6th century, a rivalry developed between the sovereign and the new nobility, and this attained the greatest significance.

The original governing race, which sprang from the Merovingians, the large land owners, was succeeded by the Carlovingians who had originally belonged to the official aristocracy. They had been mayors of the palace to the ruling race, which had been overthrown by the rivalry of the aristocratic officials. Essentially, therefore, it was the possession of large property that was the basis of power relations; and the strongest moral current of the church, had to initiate its rule in this roundabout way through the large land owner.

It was the characteristic feature of the Frankish Church that, to begin with, it represented nothing but a number of large land owners; we see the rise of bishoprics and abbacies, and of vassals who placed themselves under the protection of the Church, in order to receive fiefs from it. Thus, side by side with the large, worldly land owners, clerical proprietors also arose. This is the reason why we see so little depth, and why the spiritual element which we find in Christianity is essentially due to foreign influence. It was not the Frankish race, but men of the British Isles who succeeded in creating those mighty currents which then flowed out eastwards. In the British Isles, many learned men and pious monks were deeply engaged in work. Real work was being done, as we may see, in particular, by the resumption of Platonism and its alliance with Christianity. We see mysticism, dogmatism, but also enthusiasm and pathos, issuing from here.


From here come the first missionaries: Columba, Gallus and Winfried-Boniface, the converter of the Germans. And because these first missionaries had nothing in their mind but the spiritual side of Christianity they were not inclined to conform to the conditions of the Frankish tribes. Theirs was the healing virtue, and they found, especially through Boniface, their chief influence exercised among the East Germani. For this reason, Rome acquired an increasing influence at this time in the empire of the Franks. Two heterogenous elements combined together: the rugged force of the Germani and the spiritual strength of Christianity. They fitted in to each other in such a way that it seems wonderful how these tribes submitted to Christianity, and how Christianity itself modified its nature, to adapt itself to the Germani. These missionaries worked differently from the Frankish kings, who spread Christianity by force of arms. It was not forced into their souls as something alien; their places of worship and sacred customs were preserved; their practices and personalities so respected that old institutions were made use of to diffuse the new content. It is interesting to notice how what is old becomes the garment, what is new becomes the soul. From the Saxon tribe we possess an account of the Life of Jesus: all the details concerning the figure of Jesus were clothed in Germanic dress. Jesus appears as a German duke; his intercourse with the disciples resembles a tribal assembly. This is how the life of Jesus is presented in Heiland.

Ancient heroes were transformed into saints; ancient festivals and ritual customs became Christian. Much of what appears today as exclusively Christian was transferred at that time from heathen customs. In the Frankish empire, on the contrary, we see in ecclesiastical Christianity a means of consolidating power; a Frankish code of law begins with an invocation to “Christ, Who loves the Franks above all other peoples.” In the days when the British missionaries represented the moral influence of Christianity, the influence of the Roman Church also increased considerably. The Frankish kings sought alliance with the papacy. The Longobards had seized possession of Italy, and harassed the bishop of Rome, in particular. They were Aryan Christians. That was why the Roman bishop turned first to the Franks for help, at the same time tendering his influence to the Franks. So the Frankish king became the protector of the pope; and the pope anointed the king. Hence the Frankish kings derived their exalted position, their dignity, from this consecration by the pope. It was an enhancement of what the Franks saw in Christianity.

All this took place in the west, in the 7th centure. This alliance between the papacy and the Frankish authority, formed a gradual preparation for the subsequent rule of Charlemagne.

Thus we see the accomplishment of important spiritual and social changes. This alone, however, would not have led to an event which proved to be of the greatest importance, a material revolution: the founding of cities. For something was lacking in the Frankish Christian culture, although it had efficiency, intellect and depth.

That which we call Science, purely external Science, did not exist for them. We have followed a merely material and moral movement. What Science there was among them had remained at the same level as at their first contact with Christianity. And just as the Frankish tribes took no interest in the improvement of their simple agriculture, and never thought of developing it economically, similarly the Church only sought to build up its moral influence. Primitive tillage offered no special difficulties, such as, in Egypt, have led to the evolution of physics, geometry and technical science. Everything here was simpler, more primitive; thus the financial trading, which was already in use, gave place again to barter.

[Arabic influence]

So European culture needed a new stimulus, and cannot be understood without taking this stimulus into account.

Out of Asia, form the far East, whence Christianity once came, came now this new culture, from the Arabs. The religion founded there by Mahomet is, in its content, simpler than Christianity. The spiritual content of Mohammedanism is, essentially, based on simple monotheistic ideas confined to a divine fundamental Being, whose nature and form is not closely investigated, but to whose will men surrender, because they have faith. Hence this religion produces proud confidence in this will, a confidence which leads to fatalism, to a complete self-surrender. This is how it became possible for these tribes to extend Arabian rule, in a few generations, over Syria, Mesopotamia and North Africa, as far as to the realm of the Visigoths in Spain, so that, as early as the turn of the 7th to the 8th century, Moorish rulers were established there, and implanted their own culture in place of that of the Visigoths.

Thus something quite new, of an entirely different nature, flowed into European culture. The spirit of Arabism culture was not filled with dogma concerning angels and demons, etc., but precisely with that which was lacking in the Christian Germanic tribes namely, with external science. Here we find all such sciences—medicine, chemistry, mathematical thinking—well developed. The practical spirit brought over from Asia to Spain found employment now in seafaring, etc. It was brought over at a moment when an unscientific spirit had established its kingdom there.

The Moorish cities became centers of serious scientific work; we see here a culture which cannot fail to be admired by all who know it.

Humboldt says of it: “This depth, this intensity, this exactitude of knowledge is unexampled in the history of culture.”

The Moorish intellectuals had width of outlook and depth of thought; and not only did they, like the Germani, embrace Greek science, they developed it farther. Aristotle also continued to live among them, but with the Arabs, it was the true Aristotle who was honoured, with a wide outlook, as the father of Science. It is interesting to see how the Alexandrine culture, started in Greece, continued its existence here, and with this we tough upon one of the most remarkable currents in the human mind. The Arabs laid the foundations of objective science. From them, this flowed, in the first place, into the Anglo-Saxon monasteries in England and Ireland, where the old energetic Celtic blood now dwelt. It is strange to see what active intercourse had been introduced between them and Spain, and how, where profundity of mind and capacity to think were present, science revived through the medium of the Arabs.

And it is a remarkable phenomenon that the Arabs who, to begin with, took possession of the whole of Spain, were soon outwardly conquered by the Franks under Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. By this victory the physical strength of the Franks overcame the physical strength of the Moors. But the spiritual strength of the Arabs remained invincible; and just as, once, Greek culture rose triumphant in Rome, so Arab culture conquered the West, in opposition to the victorious Germani. Now, when the science which was needed to extend the horizon of trade and world intercourse, when city culture, arose, we see that it was Arab influence which made themselves felt here. Quite new elements flowing in sought to adapt themselves to the old.

We see expressed by Walther von der Vogelweide the perplexity which may assail anyone who follows, with an open mind, the conflicting currents of the Middle Ages. The poet saw how the Germanic tribes were striving for power, and how an opposing current was flowing from Christianity.



Note: the lecture describes waves in periods of 600 years, linked to the planets as "Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, according to the old-not the new sequence". See also note below quote B of Book of Revelation#1924-09-17-GA346.

. See also:

There is another way in which an earlier is seen to affect a later, and this is shown through the fact that we can distinguish smaller epochs. Thus, what took place in pre-Christian times during the ancient Hebrew civilisation appears again in a certain way in post-Christian times—overpassing the Christ-Impulse as it were-ideas which had been prepared within the religion of Jehova appeared again, and, in spite of other factors being present, had an effect on these later times.

Were I to explain symbolically what I cannot deal with adequately to-day owing to the short time at my disposal I might say:—If we feel that the religion of Jehova is represented by the symbol of the moon in contradistinction to the sun, we might expect that a similar belief, overpassing Christianity, would re-emerge at a later day. This did occur, and if such things are not accepted in an external sense or smiled at for they are deeply connected with the symbolism of religions—we may say that the old moon religion of Jehova appeared again in the religion of the half-moon, the Crescent, that its influence, which had preceded the Christ-Event, was carried over into post-Christian times.

The repetition of an earlier age in a later is seen with overwhelming results in the last third of the Greco-Latin period, which is reckoned by us in an occult sense as continuing to about the 12th-13th century. This means that after having been separated from it by a period of six hundred years, we have a kind of repetition of the moon religion of Jehovah in the religion brought by the Arabs from Africa into Spain.

It is not possible to specify here all the characteristics it brought with it. But it is important that we should impress on our souls the fact that in the religion of Mahomet the Christ-Impulse was at first disregarded, that in it we have really a kind of revival of the religion of Moses—the religion of the one indivisible God. Only into the idea of this indivisible God-head something was introduced that had come over from the other side—from the Egypto-Chaldean view-point—which preserved very exact traditions concerning the relationship of the starry heavens to worldly events.

Hence many of the thoughts and ideas found among the Chaldeans, Babylonians and Assyrians are found again in the religion of Mahomed, but permeated in an extra-ordinary way with what we might call the teaching concerning the indivisible divinity of Jehova. Speaking scientifically what meets us in Arabism is a synthesis of all that was taught by the priests of Egypt and Chaldea, and in the Jahve religion of the ancient Hebrews.

In a union of this kind there is not only a compression, but there is also always something excluded and left behind. Everything which led to clairvoyant perception was excluded from it. What remained was merely a matter of intellectual research, of a combining of thought, so that all the ideas connected with the Egyptian art of healing and Chaldean astronomy, which both among the Egyptians and the Chaldeans was the outcome of ancient clairvoyance, is found in an intellectual and individualistic form in the Arabism of Mahomet.

Something filtered into Europe along with the Arabs by which all the old ideas that had prevailed among the Egyptians and Chaldeans were stripped of their clairvoyant imaginative content and given abstract forms. From this sprang the marvellous science which the Arabs brought from Africa to Europe by way of Spain.

If Christianity brought an impulse mainly for the souls of men, then the great Impulse for the human head, for the intellect, came through the Arabs. Those who are not fully acquainted with the course of human evolution have no idea what the mental outlook, which appeared anew under the symbol of the moon, gave to humanity as a whole. Kepler and Copernicus would not have been possible without this Impulse which the Arabs brought to Europe. The whole method of thought, the manner in which different religious views were connected with the laying aside of the old clairvoyance, is seen again in our modern astronomy and modern science when the third period of culture celebrated its revival in our fifth age.

Thus we have to see the evolution of Man progressing

  • on the one hand, so that the Impulse of Christ reaches the people of Europe directly by way of Greece and Italy;
  • and, on the other hand, we see it taking a more southernly route which, leaving Greece and Italy on one side, unites with what came to us through the Arabs.

By the union of the religion of Christ with that of Mahomet there arose, during this most important period with which we are dealing, what really forms the content of our culture. From causes which cannot be gone into to-day, we must reckon a period of from six to six-and-ahalf centuries for such an impulse to develop; so that the renewed moon-culture actually arose, spread, and entered Europe six hundred years after the Event of Christ, and until the thirteenth century it enriched that Christian civilisation which had received its direct irnpulses by other paths.

Even those who only observe the external course of events know that, however much they are opposed to Arabism, Arabian thought and science entered even into the cloisters of Western Europe, and up to the middle of the thirteenth century (which again indicates something important) we have a blending of these two impulses—the Arabian and the direct Christ-Impulse.

We may say that the sun-symbol and the moon-symbol were merged into one from the fifth and sixth centuries until between the twelfth and thirteenth, this being again a period that lasted for about six hundred years. After this direct union had reached its goal something new arose which had been in gradual preparation since the twelfth and thirteenth century. It is interesting to note that even external sciences recognise that something inexplicable passed through the souls of the people of Europe at that time. External science calls it “inexplicable,” but occultism says that, following the direct Impulse of Christ, there was poured by spiritual means into the souls of men what the fourth period of post-Atlantean culture had to give. The age of Greece threw up a following wave of culture called the culture of the Renaissance, it enriched everything that already existed through the centuries that followed. This was because the age of Greece, which occurred in the middle of the seven periods of post-Atlantean civilisation, underwent a certain renewal in the culture of the Renaissance.

This points again to a period of six hundred years—that is up to our own time—in which this wave of Greek culture has to a certain extent been exhausted. We are living within this period. We are living today in an atmosphere (as we are again at the beginning of a sixhundred-year-long wave of culture) into which something new is pressing; an age which must again be enriched with something new from the Christ-Impulse. After the Moon-cult had its revival in the religion of the Crescent during the Renaissance, the time is now come when the Christ-Impulse, which continued as the direct stream, has to receive into it a neighbouring stream. Our age is powerfully attracted towards this neighbouring stream; only we must clearly understand what the addition of it to our civilisation means. All these things are absolutely in accordance with the correct progress of an occult system.

If we think of Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, according to the old-not the new sequence—we may expect, after the renewal of the Moon-wave during the Renaissance, the influx of another stream to which we can quite correctly assign the symbol of Mercury. We might therefore say theoretically when this symbol appeared that we were confronted with the influx into our culture of a wave of a kind of Mercury-influence, just as the wave of Arabism was called a Moon-influence.

If we understand the evolution of our own time aright we may describe Goethe as the last great mind who united in himself the fullness of science, of Christianity, and of the culture of the Renaissance; and we might expect that his soul would reveal a beautiful union of these—intellectualism enriched as it had been by Arabism and Christianity. If we study Goethe as we have been accustomed to do for some years past, it is easily seen that these elements did indeed meet within his soul. But in accordance with what has just been announced concerning the repeated cycle of six, and again six centuries, we might expect that nothing of the Mercury element could have appeared as yet in Goethe's soul, that could only appear as something new after his time. Now it is interesting to note that Goethe's pupil, Schopenhauer, reveals this Mercury influence. You can learn from some of my publications that Eastern wisdom entered into Schopenhauer's philosophy, especially in the form of Buddhism.

Mercury was regarded as the symbol of Buddhism, and following on the age of Goethe we have a revival of the Buddha-Impulse (in which Buddha stands for Mercury and Mercury for Buddha) in the same way as the moon is symbolic of Arabism.

We can now give a name to this neighbouring stream that entered the direct Christ-Impulse as a new tributary at the beginning of a new six-hundred-yearly epoch. We have to see in this neighbouring stream a revival of Buddhism only with the restrictions I explained in my public lectures on Buddha.1

We now ask: which is the direct stream of the culture of the future? The Christ-stream! It advances in a direct line.

And what neighbouring streams are there?

  • We have first the Arabian stream, which flowed into the direct stream, paused for a time, and then received purification through the culture of the Renaissance.
  • At present we are experiencing a renewed influx of the Buddha stream. When these facts are seen in their right light, we realise that we have to absorb certain elements out of the Buddha-stream which until now could not be received into our Western civilisation. We have to see how these elements of the Buddha-stream must pass into the spiritual development of the west. Such things, for instance, as the idea of reincarnation and Karma. These must be accepted.

But one fact must be firmly impressed on our souls: All these neighbouring streams will never be able to throw light on the central facts of our spiritual science. To question Buddhism or any other pre-Christian oriental religion that may have appeared as a revival in our time concerning the Christ, would be as sensible as for a European Christian to have questioned the Arabs of Spain concerning the nature of Christ! The people of Europe were well aware that no conception of the Christ could come from the Arabs. If they had anything to say their ideas would not accord with the real Christ-idea. The various prophets who arose as false Messiahs up to Schabbathoi Zewi were really the outcome of Arabism, and had no knowledge of the Christ-Impulse.

We must understand that

  • the neighbouring stream of Arabism had to be made fruitful by quite other elements, not by solving in any way the central mystery of Christ.
  • This must also be our attitude towards the stream which approaches us today, as the renewal of an ancient one, bringing us understanding of reincarnation and karma, but being incapable of imparting understanding of the Christ-Impulse. For this would be as absurd as to think the Arabs could impart a right conception of Christ to the people of Europe.

They imparted many ideas concerning false Messiahs to Europe up to the time of Schabbathoi Zewi, and such things will occur again, for human evolution only progresses when strengthened by seeing through such deceptions. We must penetrate ever more deeply and consciously into these connections. Facts will show that the spiritual science founded by European Rosicrucians, with Christ as its central idea, will be established in the souls of men against all opposition and all misleadings.


These earlier realities play strongly into later events. Just look at how Mohammedanism [Islam] has spread. Certainly Mohammed never said: Mohammed is your God—as it would have been said thousands of years earlier by an oriental ruler. He limited himself to what corresponded more to the times: There is a God , and Mohammed is his prophet. In people's consciousness he was God's representative—the second phase of imperialism. The manner in which Islam spread, however, corresponded to the first phase. For Muslims have never been intolerant towards other beliefs the way some others were. The Muslims were content to defeat the others and make them their subjects, just as it was in older times when a profession of faith was not required, for it was a matter of indifference what they believed if they just recognized God.


Still another element pierced through all the clouds of obscurity that covered the ancient traditions. Something else was passed on to these European sages, something that, it is true, had had its origin in the Orient but penetrated through the cloud cover and was understood by some individuals. This other mystery, which was linked with the mystery of the bread, was the mystery of the holy vessel in which Joseph of Arimathea had caught the blood flowing down from Christ Jesus. This was the other aspect of the cosmic mystery. Just as the bread was regarded a concentrated extract of the cosmos, so the blood was regarded as the extract of the nature and being of man. In bread and blood—of which wine is merely the outer symbol—this extract expressed itself for these European sages. They had truly stepped forth as if out of the hidden places of the mysteries and towered far above the masses of the European population who could only hear the facts of Palestine, and who, if they advanced to scholarliness, found their way only slowly into the abstract fantasy of Arabism. In these wise men, who distinguished themselves by something that was like the overripe fruit of Oriental wisdom and at the same time the ripest fruit of European perception and feeling, there developed what they called the Mystery of the Grail. But, so they told themselves, the Mystery of the Grail is not to be found on Earth.

People have grown accustomed to developing the kind of intelligence that found its highest form in Arabism. They are in the habit of not looking for the meaning of external facts, but are satisfied with being told of these outer facts from the aspect of sensory reality.

One must penetrate to an understanding of the Mystery of the Bread, which is said to have been broken by Christ Jesus in the same chalice in which Joseph of Arimathea caught His blood. As legend tells it, this chalice was then removed to Europe, but was preserved by angels in a region high above the surface of the earth until the arrival of Titurel9 who created for this Grail, this sacred chalice, a temple on Mont Salvat. Through the clouds of abstraction and narrations of mere facts, those who had become European mystery sages in the manner described above wished to behold in a sacred, spiritual temple the Mystery of the Grail, the mystery of the cosmos that had disappeared along with etheric astronomy and the Mystery of the Blood that had vanished along with the ancient view of medicine. For just as the ancient medicine had fallen victim to abstract thinking, the old etheric astronomy, too, had passed over into abstract thought.

At a certain period in time, this whole trend of abstract thinking had reached its prime and had been brought to Spain by the Arabs. It was precisely in Spain where the Mystery of the Grail could not be found outwardly anywhere among people. Only abstract intellectual wisdom prevailed. Among the Christians, there was only narration of bare, external facts; among the Arabs, the Moors, there existed a fantastic development of the intellect. Only in the heights, above this Earth, hovered the Holy Grail. This spiritual temple, this Holy Grail, this temple that encompassed the mysteries of bread and wine, could be entered only by those who had been endowed by divine powers with the necessary faculties. It is not by chance that the temple of the Grail was supposed to be found in Spain, where one literally had to move miles away from what earthly actuality presented, where one had to break through brambles in order to penetrate to the spiritual temple that enshrined the Holy Grail.

It was out of such prerequisite feelings that the conception of the Holy Grail developed. The invisible Church, the super-sensible Church, which is nevertheless to be found on Earth—this was what concealed itself in the Mystery of the Grail. It was an immediate presence that cannot be discovered, however, by those who turn their mind indifferently to the world.

In ancient times, the priests of the mysteries went out into the world, looked around among human beings, and based on seeing their auras, concluded, Here is one we must receive into the mysteries; there is another one we must accept into the mysteries. People did not need to ask; they were chosen. Inner initiative on the part of the individual was not required; one was chosen and bidden to enter the sacred mystery centers. This age was over already around the eleventh, twelfth, and ninth and tenth centuries.


from RSH:

Not all the exusiai handed over the thought forces to the archai. They go on managing thoughts, but in such a way that they work more generally on human groups. On the other hand, the archai cause individual thinking.

This current flows from Arabia via North Africa, Southern Europe to Western Europe, while the retarded exusiai work more from Asia.

Both currents meet in east-west direction (migration of the peoples, invasions of the Huns, Mongols, and Turks); one can observe them in the crusades, too.

What does this mean? It means that certain Spirits of Form could not bring themselves to surrender the world of thoughts to the Archai; they retained it for themselves. And so, among the spiritual Beings who hold sway over human happenings, there are the normally evolved Archai in possession of the world of thoughts as well as backward Spirits of Form, backward Elohim Beings, who still retain some sway over the world of thoughts. Hence in the stream of spirituality holding sway above humanity, the Archai and the Spirits of Form, the Elohistic Beings, work together. The position is therefore as follows a man who through his karma is rightly qualified, receives the impulses at work in his thinking through the Archai. The result is that thinking, although it remains objective, becomes his personal asset. He elaborates the thoughts more and more as his own personal possession. Other individuals do not reach this point; they take over the thoughts either as the legacy bequeathed by their parents and ancestors, or accept them as conventional thoughts prevailing in their national or racial community, and so forth.

To this super-sensible fact which I have sketched for you is to be traced the whole interplay between individual personalities—who appear more and more frequently in that era of vanishing antiquity and the dawning Middle Ages—and those currents of thought which sway whole groups of men. This trend becomes apparent in actual geographical areas. Certain spiritually minded personalities in the Near East, belonging to Arabian culture, were the first to be influenced by the Archai, the Primal Powers. The gist of these thought-impulses spread especially across Africa, over to Spain, to the whole of Western Europe. This great stream of thought moves across Africa, through Spain, also influencing Southern Italy, and up into Western Europe. It is a highly stimulating current of thought, stemming from the impulses described. This current of thought lays hold of the Arabian-Spanish culture which then, at a much later period, still exercises a strong influence upon thinkers such as Spinoza, for example. It is an influence which still persists in nature-knowledge and can be observed in the thought-impulses of Galileo, Copernicus, and others. Whereas the impulses of the Archai are contained in these currents of thought, and in what becomes history as a result of them, we also see, forcing its way into world-happenings everywhere, trends which lie more under the influence of the backward Spirits of Form, who now, on their side, send impulses into men. And again we see a different stream of thought and happenings moving from Asia towards Europe. This current of thought found its extreme expression only later on, when the Turkish hordes surged over from Asia.


In later times this confused West-to-East and East-to-West fluctuation of the earthly reflection of higher spiritual impulses confronts us in the Crusades. Study how the Crusades develop, to begin with out of a certain impulse connected entirely with the Archai, and study what really powerful purposes led to the Crusades. Then study how the Crusaders succumb more and more to mass-opinions and how the suggestive power of these mass-opinions increases. The farther the Crusaders advance from West to East, the more firmly is the individual captured by mass-opinions. And then, when the Crusaders come into the sphere of Asiatic life, mass impulses spread a cover over what had been implanted by single individualities into other single individualities.

We see how men lose their personality We see how the soul-qualities of the Crusaders degenerate in the East. Under the sway of the mass-suggestions to which they have succumbed, they cannot develop the good, moral impulses they brought with them. They become morally decadent. And this moral decadence of good and earnest men who have travelled from West to East, allows the impulses which press from East to West and are rooted in Mussulman and Turk, to gain the ascendency.

Thus in the Crusades we see the second fluctuation in world history of a conflict from East to West and from West to East—a conflict that is the reflection of the other, the spiritual struggle between backward Spirits of Form and normally progressive Archai.


When we consider all that had developed directly out of Mohammedanism, we have before us a most remarkable picture. Mohammedanism was founded in Mecca and carried further in Medina.

  • It spread into the regions of Damascus, Baghdad and so forth, indeed, over the whole of Asia Minor, exercising the dominating influence I have described. This is the one direction in which Mohammedanism spreads—northwards from Arabia and across Asia Minor. The Arabs continually lay siege to Constantinople. They knock at the doors of Europe. They want to force their way across Eastern Europe towards Middle Europe.
  • On the other hand, Arabism spreads across the North of Africa and thence into Spain. It takes hold of Europe as it were from the other direction, by way of Spain.

We have before us the remarkable spectacle of Europe tending to be surrounded by Arabism—by a forked stream of Arabic culture.

Christianity, in its Roman form, spreads upwards from Rome, from the South, starting from Greece; this impulse is made manifest later on by Ulfila's translation of the Bible, and so forth. And then, enclosing this European civilisation as it were with two forked arms, we have Mohammedanism. Everything that history tells concerning what was done by Charles the Great to further Christianity must be considered in the light of the fact that while Charles the Great did much to promote Christianity in Middle Europe, at the same time there was flourishing over yonder in Asia that illustrious centre of culture of which I have spoken, the centre of culture around Harun al Rashid.

When we look at the purely external course of history, what do we find? Wars are waged all along a line stretching across North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula; the followers of Arabism come right across Spain and are beaten back by the representatives of European Christianity, by Charles Martel, by Charles the Great himself. Then, later, we find how the greatness of Mohammedanism is overclouded by the Turkish element which assumes the guise of religion but extinguishes everything that went with the lofty culture to which Harun al Rashid gave the impetus.

These two streams gradually die out as a result of the struggle waged against them by the warlike Christian population of Europe. Towards the end of the first thousand years, the only real menace in Europe comes from the Turks, but this has nothing much to do with what we are here considering. From now onwards no more is to be heard of the spread of Arabism.

Observation of history in its purely external aspect might lead us to the conclusion that Arabism had been beaten back by the European peoples. Battles were fought such as that of Tours and Poitiers, and there were many others; the Arabs were also defeated from the side of Constantinople, and it might easily be thought that Arabism had disappeared from the arena of world-history.

On the other hand, when we think deeply about the impulses that were at work in the sciences, and also in many respects in the field of art in European culture, we find Arabism still in evidence—but as if it had secretly poured into Christianity, had been secretly inculcated into it.

How has this come about?

You must realise, my dear friends, that in spiritual life, events do not take the form in which they reveal themselves in external history.

The really significant streams run their course beneath the surface of ordinary history and in these streams the individualities of the men who have worked in one epoch appear again, born into communities speaking an entirely different language, with altogether different tendencies of thought, yet working still with the same fundamental impulse.

In an earlier epoch they may have accomplished something splendid, because the trend of events was with them, while in a later they may have had to bring it into the world in face of great hindrances and obstructions. Such individuals are obliged to content themselves with much that seems trivial in comparison with the mighty achievements of their earlier lives; but for all that, what they carry over from one epoch into another is the same in respect of the fundamental trend and attitude of soul.

We do not always recognise what is thus carried over because we are too prone to imagine that a later earthly life must resemble an earlier one. There are people who think that a musician must come again as a musician, a philosopher as a philosopher, a gardener as a gardener, and so forth. By no means is it so. The forces that are carried over from one incarnation into another lie on far deeper levels of the life of soul.

When we perceive this, we realise that Arabism did not, in truth, die out. From the examples of Friedrich Theodor Vischer and of Schubert I was recently able to show you how the work and achievements of individualities in an earlier epoch continue, in a later one, in totally different forms.

Arabism most assuredly did not die out; far rather was it that individuals who were firmly rooted in Arabism lived in European civilisation and influenced it strongly, in a way that was possible in Europe in that later epoch.

Now it is easier to go forward from some historical personality in order to find him again than to go the reverse way, as in recent lectures—starting from later incarnations and then going back to earlier ones. When we learn to know the individuality of Harun al Rashid inwardly in the astral light, as we say, when we have him before us as a spiritual individuality in the 9th century, bearing in mind what he was behind the scenes of world-history—and when what he was had been unfolded on the surface with the brilliance of which I have told you—then we can follow the course of time and find such an individuality as Harun al Rashid passing through death, looking down from the spiritual world upon what is happening on earth, looking down, that is to say, upon the outward extermination of Arabism and, in accordance with his destiny, being involved in the process. We find such an individuality passing through the spiritual world and appearing again, not perhaps with the same splendour, but with a similar trend of soul.

And so we see Harun al Rashid appearing again in the history of European spiritual life as a personality who is once again of wide repute, namely, as Lord Bacon of Verulam. I have spoken of Lord Bacon in many different connections. All the driving power that was in Harun al Rashid and was conveyed to those in his environment, this same impulse was imparted by Lord Bacon in a more abstract form—for he lived in the age of abstraction—to the various branches of knowledge. Harun al Rashid was a universal spirit in the sense that he united specialists, so to speak, around him. Lord Bacon—he has of course his Inspirer behind him, but he is a fit subject to be so inspired—Lord Bacon is a personality who is also able to exercise a truly universal influence.

When with this knowledge of an historic karmic connection we turn to Bacon and his writings, we recognise why these writings have so little that is Christian about them and such a strong Arabic timbre. We discover the genuine Arabist trend in these writings of Lord Bacon. And many things too in regard to his character, which has been so often impugned, will be explicable when we see in him the reincarnated Harun al Rashid. The life and culture pursued at the Court of Harun al Rashid, and justly admired by Charles the Great himself, become the abstract science of which Lord Bacon was the bearer. But men bowed before Lord Bacon too. And whoever studies the attitude adopted by European civilisation in the 8th/9th centuries to Harun al Rashid, and then the attitude of European learning to Lord Bacon, will have the impression: men have turned round, that is all! In the days of Harun al Rashid they looked towards the East; then they turned round in Middle Europe and looked towards the West, to Lord Bacon.

And so what may have disappeared, outwardly speaking, from history, is carried from age to age by human individualities themselves. Arabism seems to have disappeared; but it lives on, lives on in its fundamental trend. And just as the outer aspects of a human life differ from those of the foregoing life, so do the influences exercised by such a personality differ from age to age.

Open your history books, and you will find that the year 711 was of great significance in the situation between Europe and the Arabism that was storming across Spain. Tarik, Commander of the Arabs, sets out from Africa. He comes to the place that received its name from him: Gebel al Tarik, later called Gibraltar. The battle of Jerez de la Frontera takes place in the year 711. Arabism makes a strong thrust across Spain at the beginning of the 8th century. Battles are fought, and the fortunes of war sway hither and thither between the peoples who have come down into Spain to join with the old inhabitants, and the Arabs who are now storming in upon them. Even in those days the “culture,” as we would say today, of the attacking Arabs, commanded tremendous respect in Spain. Naturally, the Europeans had no desire to subject themselves to the Arabs. But the culture the Arabs brought with them was already in a sense a foreshadowing of what flourished later in such unexampled brilliance under Harun al Rashid. In a man such as Tarik there was the attitude of soul that in all the storms of war wants to give expression to what is contained in Arabism. What we see outwardly is the tumult of war. But along the paths of these wars comes much lofty culture. Even outwardly a very great deal in the way of art and science was established in Spain. Many remains of Arabism lived on in the spiritual life of Europe. Spain itself soon ceased to play a part in the West of Europe. Nevertheless the fortunes of war swayed to and fro and the fighting continued from Spain; in men such as Spinoza we can see how deep is the influence of Arabist culture. Spinoza cannot be understood unless we see his origin in Arabism.

And then this stream flows across to England, but there it runs dry, comes to an end. We turn over the pages of history, and after the descriptions of the conflicts between Europe and the Arabs we find, as we read on further, that Arabism has dried up, externally at any rate. But under the surface this has not happened; on the contrary, Arabism spreads abroad in the spiritual life. And along this undercurrent of history, Tarik bears what he originally bore into Spain on the fierce wings of war. The aim of the Arabians in their campaigns was most certainly not that of mere slaughter; no, their aim was really the spread of Arabism. Their tasks were connected with culture. And what a Tarik had carried into Spain at the beginning of the 8th century, he now bears with him through the gate of death, experiencing how as far as external history is concerned it runs dry in Western Europe. And he appears again in the 19th century, bringing Arabism to expression in modern form, as Charles Darwin.


covers oa Three forms of Christianity and Islam. The Crusades

There was also another influence. Christianity arose at the beginning of our era, with Islam arising five or six centuries later. I drew Arabia for you the other day. If I draw Asia Minor again, we come to Arabia down here, with India over there. This would be Africa, with Egypt here. Here in Arabia, Islam came through Mohammed. Islam spread with great rapidity in the second half of the first Christian millennium, from Asia initially towards Syria and here to the Black Sea, then through Africa over to Italy, Spain and the west of Europe. The special characteristic of the Islamic religion is that it combines a fantasy element with one that is sober and rational. The main principle of Islam, which spread so rapidly in the seventh to ninth centuries, is that there is only one God, the one proclaimed by Mohammed.

We need to understand what it means in world history that Mohammed insisted on this principle of one God. Why did he stress this point so much? He knew the Christian faith; this does not have three gods, but it has three divine figures. People are no longer conscious of this. They do not realize that Christianity has from its very beginning not had three gods, but three divine figures—Father, Son and 'Holy Ghost'.


That was the original Christian belief. Going back to early Christian times we would find people still saying they were convinced of this. They would say: 'Yes, this healing spirit that brings health must act in two ways. In the first place it must act on the physical aspect that comes from the Father, because nature can fall into sickness. And it must act on the principle that comes from the Son, because the will, too, must be healed.' What they said, therefore, was that the Holy Ghost had to act in such a way that it arose from both the Father and the Son. That was the original belief held by Christians.

Mohammed may be said to have grown anxious, as it were. He saw that ancient paganism with its many gods would go into a decline and ruin humanity. He saw Christianity evolve and said to himself that this, too, held the danger of a multiplicity of gods, that is, three gods. He did not realize that these were three forms of the divine and he therefore went into opposition, emphatically saying that there was only one God, proclaimed by Mohammed and that everything else said about the gods was wrong.

This dogma was proclaimed far and wide with great fanaticism, and as a result the thought of three divine figures was completely absent from Islam. They would speak only of the one God whom they felt to be the father of all that exists. The thinking in Islam therefore also was that just as a stone does not grow to be what it is out of its own free will, as a plant does not have its own will but is given yellow or red flowers by nature, so everything in the human being, too, would grow out of nature. This gave rise to a rigid notion of destiny in Islam—we call it fatalism—that human beings have to submit to a wholly unconditional, predetermined fate. If they are happy, this is so because the Father God wills it; if they are unhappy, it is so because the Father God wills it. They have to submit to their fate. That was the religious aspect of Islam.

Mohammed saw everything in the human being to be the same as it is in nature, and this made it much easier for him to accept the whole of the ancient art and the whole of the old way of life than Christianity. Christianity was above all concerned with the healing of the human will. Islam was not concerned with this, seeing no reason for doing so. If it is determined that a person is to be evil, then that is the will of the Father God. Christians would say: "The pagans of old were mainly concerned with the Father God; we must set up the Son God against this.' Mohammed, and above all his followers, did not say this. They said: 'The pagans of old may have had many gods, but they also venerated nature, and the one God is at work in this.' Much of the old knowledge and art has therefore been preserved in Islam. In the ninth century, for example, Charlemagne,40 king of the Franks and later emperor, one of the greatest medieval rulers in Europe and a well-known historical figure, found it a great effort to learn his letters and was not yet able to write. His achievements in the arts and sciences were very little compared to those made under Harun al-Rashid who was Caliph of Baghdad at the time. Much of the art and science from earlier pagan times had been preserved there; it came to Europe later, from the south, through Spain.

Christianity spread from Rome. We might say that Islam, coming from Asia, skirted around it. Great battles were also fought between them. And the followers of Islam did something very strange. You know that if there is an army somewhere, much can be gained strategically by secretly moving around it and attacking from the other side. This is really what happened with Islam and Christianity. The followers of Islam skirted around Christian areas in the south and then attacked from the left flank.

But you see, if this had not happened, if all that had happened would have been the spread of Christianity, we would have no science today. The religious element of Islam was rejected, fought against. But the element that did not involve religious strife but preserved earlier knowledge and took it further did come to Europe with Islam. There the Europeans learned the things that have become part of modern science. Two things therefore live in the European soul today: we have the religion that has come with Christianity and the science that has come with Islam, though in a roundabout way. And our Christianity has only been able to develop the way it did because knowledge, science, has been influenced by Islam.

This aroused an ever greater desire in the European west to defend Christianity. Where ritual prevails you have less need to defend religion, for ritual has a great influence on people. Here the tendency coming from Rome was to make ritual less important, though it was retained. Dogma predominated and had to be defended all the time against the Muslim onslaught. The whole of the Middle Ages really passed over these struggles which were fought in the field initially and then in human minds. Everything we call European culture or civilization has gradually evolved in the second half of the Middle Ages. What did evolve there?

Over in the east, all the way to Russia and indeed Greece, Christians could do no other but remain true to the old traditions. This meant to perform outer acts, even if they were purely symbolic by nature. One had to take account of the natural world. And one was much more inclined to put the emphasis on the Father God rather than the Son God. Just as the destiny principle that came to Mohammed was to submit entirely to what the Father God ordained, so this Father God also emerged more strongly in eastern Christianity than the Son, the way the tenor of belief went. The strange shift in thinking that occurred was that the people in the east did hold firmly to the Christ, but they transferred the attributes of the Father God to the Christ. Something of a cloud was cast over it all here; people would speak less of the Son God; they would become Christians, recognizing the Christ to be their God, but they saw in him the attributes of the Father God. The view that evolved in this eastern religion was really: Christ, our Father. This notion of Christ, our Father, is to be found in the whole of the eastern religion.

Over here, in Europe itself, people wanted to fight Islam, the idea of only one God who did not have three forms, and so the concept of the three divine persons took a deep hold. Well, as you know, gentlemen, you can fight for a time; people may sit down together and be in continual dispute; one says one thing to another person, who then says something else. So they fight. But what is generally the result? They finally separate, each going his own way. The end of the dispute is that people agree to differ. It is extremely rare for agreement to be reached, especially if the dispute is of some magnitude. You'll remember how first there was a socialist party; that had many disputes. There was a right wing and a left wing. In due course the wings became separate party organizations. And that is how it was with the spread of Christianity. It spread. Over in Asia, that is in the East, people thought more of the Father God, though they held to the Christ; in Europe they made more of a distinction between the Father and the Son. They disputed and fought over the issue until the ninth or tenth century. Then came the great split. The eastern Church, called the Orthodox Church today because it has continued with the old, original things, separated from the western Church, the Roman Catholic Church. That was the time when the great division appeared between the eastern Church, eastern Christianity, and western Christianity.

This continued for a time. In the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries people got used to the idea of an eastern and a western aspect. But then something happened that in some respects upset it all again. It was the Crusades.

Mohammed had originally worked among the Arabs who were the first to take up Islam. The Arab people had a strong nature religion and therefore were prepared to understand the idea of the Father, and recognize the Father God. In the early days of Islam the idea developed of a Father God who worked through nature, including human nature.

Then, however, tribes came from the far regions of Asia. Their descendants today are the Turks. They fought wars against the Arab people. The strange thing about those Mongols, whose descendants are the Turks, is that they did not really have a nature god. Like the people of early civilizations they did not have the eye for nature which the Greeks later developed so strongly. The Turks came from their original homes with no feeling for nature but a tremendous feeling for a spiritual God, a God to be approached in thought only who could never be seen with one's eyes. This particular way of approaching the Godhead became part of Islam. The Turks accepted the Muslim religion of the people they conquered but changed it to fit in with their ideas. And whilst Islam had accepted much that came from earlier times, both art and science, the Turks really threw out anything that might be called art or science and really became hostile to art and science. They were the terror of the western peoples, a terror for all who had accepted Christianity.


You see, the region where Christianity arose, in Palestine, with Jerusalem, was particularly sacred to the Christians. Many made pilgrimages there from all parts of the West, which called for great sacrifices. Many people were extremely poor and it was hard for them to get the means together for the journey to Palestine to visit the Holy Sepulchre, as it is called. And they made the journey! When the Turks came, the journey became dangerous, for the Turks extended their rule to Palestine and maltreated the Christian pilgrims. The Europeans then wanted Jerusalem to be freed so that people might go there. They wanted to set up their own European rule in Palestine and therefore undertook those great campaigns called the Crusades. These did not achieve what they were meant to achieve but they reflect the war, the battle, between western Christianity and also eastern Christianity on one hand and Turkish Islam. Christianity was to be saved in the face of a Muslim religion grown Turkish.

Many people then went to Asia to fight. What did they find there? The Crusades started in the twelfth century and continued for some centuries, and so they were in the middle of the Middle Ages. What was the first thing the people who went to Asia as Crusaders would see? They saw that the Turks are fearsome enemies to face. But when a Crusader looked around a bit on days when there was no fighting, he might find some strange things. He might have met an old man who had withdrawn to his poor hovel somewhere and did not concern himself with Turks, Christians or Arabs but had shown remarkable faithfulness in continuing the culture, the wisdom and religious knowledge of earlier pagan times. The Turks had paid no regard to this. Official civilization had eradicated it; but there were many such people. And so the Europeans got to know much of the old wisdom that no longer existed in Christianity. This they brought with them to Europe on their return.

Imagine how things were at the time.

  • Earlier on, Arabs had come to Europe via Italy and Spain, bringing their art and a scientific thinking that spread and has become our modern science.
  • Now the ancient wisdom from the East was brought back and the two became mixed.

As a result, something special developed in Europe.

You see, the Roman Church adopted the ritual, using it less, however, than the eastern Church did. It adopted the ritual but also went strongly into teaching. But in the old Church teaching, religious instruction was connected with the person. It remained such until the time of the Crusades. Instruction consisted in what was proclaimed from the pulpit and approved by the Councils that were held. And apart from this there was also the 'New Testament', as it was called, the Bible. People who were not priests were, however, forbidden to read the Bible, and this was strictly enforced. It was considered a terrible thing for someone to want to read the Bible in those earlier times before the Crusades. It was not permitted. The lay people, the faithful, therefore had only what the priests taught, they did not have access to the Bible.


The story of Harun al Rashid in the Karmic Relationship lectures


Now it is quite easy to realise that had Christianity alone been at work, European culture would have taken a quite different form. In an outer, political sense it is of course true that Europe repulsed the waves of Mohammedanism - or better said, of Arabism.

But anyone who observes the spiritual life of Europe will realise, for example, that our modern way of thinking—the materialistic spirit on the one side and science with its clear cut, arabesque like logic on the other—would not have developed had Arabism not worked on, despite its setbacks. From Spain, from France, from Sicily, from North Africa, mighty and potent influences have had their effect upon European thinking, have moulded it into forms it would not have assumed had Christianity alone been at work. In our modern science there is verily more Arabism than Christianity!

Later on, as a result of the Crusades, much Eastern culture—by then, of course, in the throes of decadence—came directly to the ken of the European peoples. Many of the secrets of Eastern culture found their way to Europe through this channel.

In Western civilisation, above the stratum of Christianity, lie those elements of oriental spiritual life which were absorbed into Arabism. But you see, none of this is really understandable when perceived only from the outside; it must all be perceived from within. And from within, the spectacle presented to us is that although wars and victories brought about the suppression of Arabism and the bearers of Mohammedanism, the Moors and so forth, nevertheless the souls of these people were born again and continued to work. Nothing whatever can be gained from abstract accounts of how Arabism made its way to Europe from Spain; insight can only arise from a knowledge of the inner, concrete facts.

We will consider one such fact. At the time of Charles the Great in European history—it was at the end of the 8th and beginning of the 9th centuries—Harun al Rashid was living over in Asia, in Baghdad, in an entourage of brilliant oriental scholarship.

  • Everything then existing in the way of Western Asiatic learning, indeed of Asiatic learning in general, had been brought together at the Court of Harun al Rashid. True, it was all steeped in Mohammedanism, but everything in the way of culture—mathematics, philosophy, architecture, commerce, industry, geography, medicine, astronomy—was fostered at this Court by the most enlightened men in Asia. People today have little conception of the grandeur and magnificence of what was achieved at the Court of Harun al Rashid.
  • First and foremost there was Harun al Rashid himself—not by any means a ruler of mediocre intelligence or one who merely for the sake of self glorification called to his Court the greatest sages of Western Asia, but a personality who in spite of unwavering adherence to Mohammedanism was open and receptive to everything that oriental civilisation had to offer.
  • At the time when Charles the Great was struggling with difficulty to master the rudiments of reading and writing, much brilliant learning flourished at the Court of Baghdad. The conditions in which Charles the Great lived are not comparable in any way with those brought into being by Harun al Rashid.

This was at a time when many regions of Western Asia and wide territories in Africa had already adopted Mohammedanism, and the brilliant learning cultivated at the Court of Harun al Rashid had spread far and wide.

  • But among the wise men at that Court—men deeply versed in geography, in nature lore, in medicine and so forth—was many a one who in still earlier incarnations had belonged to ancient Mystery Schools. For men who were Initiates in an earlier life do not always give direct evidence of this in another incarnation. In spite of having been an Initiate in earlier Mysteries, it is only possible for a man in any given epoch to absorb the spirituality and develop the constitution of soul which the body of that particular epoch allows. Seen in its essential nature, the life of the soul does not tally with the intellectual ideas of the psyche in man prevailing at the present time. The soul lies at a far deeper level than is usually imagined.

The seer who is able to carry out such investigations is led back, to begin with, not to Christian but to non-Christian incarnations. It is natural here—for it tallies approximately with the indications given of the length of the intervals between successive lives on Earth—to go back to the very widespread spiritual movement of Mohammedanism, or Arabism, which arose about half a millennium after the founding of Christianity. Starting from Asia, Christianity spread across to Spain and thence to all Western Europe, having had a slight influence upon civilisation in North Africa; it also spread across Eastern and Middle Europe, but in its expansion was flanked, as it were, by Arabism which, with the impulse of Mohammedanism active within it, forced its way on the one side through Asia Minor and on the other side through Africa across to Italy and Spain. And the many wars of which history tells bear witness to the bitter conflict waged between European civilisation and Arabism. Here again it is important to ask: What are the concrete facts underlying the evolution of the human soul?

We will now consider some of these concrete facts. For example: at the time when Charlemagne was ruling in very primitive conditions of civilisation in Europe, brilliant spiritual culture was being developed at the Court of Harun al Rashid over in Asia. At this Court were gathered the greatest minds of that time, men of outstanding brilliance, whose souls were deeply imbued with oriental wisdom but who also combined with this wisdom the culture that had come over from Greece. The spiritual life cultivated at the Court of Harun al Rashid embraced Architecture, Astronomy (as it was then understood), Geography, Mathematics, Poetry, Chemistry, Medicine, and the most illustrious representatives of all these branches of learning living at that time had been brought together there.

Harun al Rashid was an energetic and active patron, a personality who provided the foundations for a truly wonderful centre of culture in the eighth/ninth century A.D. And at this Court of Harun al Rashid there was a remarkable personality, one who in the life spent at the Court would probably not have given the impression of being an Initiate. But he himself, as well as the Initiates, knew that in an earlier life on Earth he had been one of those who were most highly initiated. Thus in a later incarnation, at the Court of Harun al Rashid, there lived a personality who did not appear outwardly as an Initiate but who had been an Initiate in an earlier life. The others at the Court had at least some knowledge of this nature of Initiation-life in days of antiquity. The personality of whom I am speaking was a magnificent organiser—as we should say nowadays, using a rather unworthy expression—of all the sciences and arts at the Court of Harun al Rashid.

We know that Arabism in its external aspect spread under the impetus of Mohammedanism across Africa, Southern Europe, Spain and farther into Europe. We know too of the wars and conflicts that were waged. But the campaigns came to an end. It is usually considered that Arabism was driven out of Europe by battles such as those fought by Charles Martel, at Xeres de la Frontera. But there was a tremendously strong spiritual impulse in, Arabism, and the remarkable thing is that when it was outwardly beaten back as a political and belligerent power in Europe, the souls of eminent Arabists, when they had passed through the gate of death, were intensely concerned in the spiritual world with the question of how the influence of Arabism could be made effective in Europe. In the spiritual world the outer form of things is not of primary importance. Between two successive incarnations of an individuality there may be little outer resemblance; the significance lies in the inner nature and character. This is a difficult idea for our contemporaries to grasp. In an age when it can be held against a man that he once wrote not unfavourably about Haeckel and subsequently wrote in a different vein regarded by pedants as contradictory, [Dr. Steiner is here referring to criticisms of his own writings on the subject of Haeckel.] when such a lack of insight is in evidence, there will be little understanding of how outwardly different individuals can be in two successive lives on Earth, although the same fundamental impulse is at work in both.

The development of the great Arabist souls between death and a new birth was such that in the spiritual world they remained connected with the impulse that had streamed from the East to the West; they remained connected with their own deeds. In the external world, civilisation advanced; forms of culture quite different from those characteristic of Arabism made their appearance. But the souls of individuals who had been eminent figures in Arabism came again to the Earth and without carrying over Arabism in its outer form, bore its inner impulses into a much later age. They appeared as the bearers of culture in the sphere of language, in the habits of thinking and feeling and in the impulses of will of a later age. But in the souls of these men the impulse of Arabism was working on, and it is not difficult to see that the stream of spiritual life dominating the last two thirds of the nineteenth century was deeply influenced by minds that were the product of Arabism.


You all know that about six hundred years after the founding of Christianity, Arabism, inspired by Mohammed, began to spread abroad. In Arabism, Mohammed founded a body of doctrine which in a certain sense was at variance with Christianity. To what extent at variance? The concept of the three forms of the Godhead—Father, Son, Spirit—is of the very essence of Christianity. The origin of this lies away back in the ancient Mysteries in which a man was led through four preparatory stages and then through three higher stages. When he had reached the fifth stage, he came forth as a representative of the Christ; at the seventh and highest stage as a representative of the Father. I want only to make brief mention of this.


Those who were true knowers in the first Christian centuries were able to say: As well as the Father God there is God the Son, the Christ God. The Father God rules over whatever is predetermined in man because it is born with him and works in him as the forces of Nature. It is upon this principle that the Hebrew religion is based. But by the side of it, Christianity places the power of the Son which during the course of man's life draws into his soul as a creative force, making him free and enabling him to be reborn, realising that in his earthly life he can become something that was not predetermined by the Moon forces at birth.—Such was the essential impulse of Christianity in the first centuries of its existence.

Mohammedanism set its face against this impulse in its far-reaching decree: There is no God save the God proclaimed by Mohammed. It is a retrogression to the pre-Christian principle, but clothed in a new form—as was inevitable six hundred years after the founding of Christianity. The God of Nature, the Father God—not a God of freedom by whom men are led on to freedom—was proclaimed as the one and only God. Within Arabism, where Mohammedanism was making headway, this was favourable for a revival and renewal of the fruits of ancient cultures, and such a revival, with the exclusion of Christianity, did indeed take place in the Orient, on a magnificent scale. Together with the warlike campaigns of Arabism there spread from East towards the West—in Africa as it were enveloping Christianity—an impulse to revive ancient culture.

[Harun al Rashid]

Over in Asia, Arabism was cultivated with great brilliance at the Court of Harun al Rashid—at the time when Charles the Great was reigning in Europe. But whereas Charles the Great hardly progressed beyond the stage of being able to read and write, of developing the most primitive rudiments of culture, great and illustrious learning flourished at the Court of Harun al Raschid. It cannot, perhaps, be said that Harun al Raschid in himself was an entirely good man, but he possessed a comprehensive, penetrating and ingenious mind—a universal mind in the best sense. He gathered at his Court all the sages who were the bearers of whatever knowledge was available at that time: poets, philosophers, doctors, theologians, architects—all these branches of learning flourished at the Court of Harun al Rashid, brought thither by his genius.

At this Court there lived a most distinguished and significant personality, one who—in an incarnation earlier than the one at the Court of Harun al Rashid—had been an Initiate in the true sense. You will ask:

Does an Initiate, then, not remain an Initiate as he passes through his incarnations?

It is possible for a man to have been a deep Initiate in an earlier epoch and then, in a new epoch, he must use the body and receive the education which this later epoch has to offer. In such a case the forces deriving from the earlier incarnation will have to be held in the subconsciousness and whatever is in keeping with the current civilisation will have to be developed. There are men who seem, outwardly, to be products of the particular civilisation in which they are living; but their manner of life enables one to perceive in them the existence of deeper impulses; in earlier times they were Initiates. Nor do they lose the fruits of Initiation; out of their subconsciousness they act in accordance with its principles. But they cannot do otherwise than adapt themselves to the conditions of the existing civilisation.

The personality of whom tradition says that he made magnificent provision for all the sciences at the Court of Harun al Raschid was only one of the most eminent sages of his time, with a genius for organisation so outstanding that he was virtually the source of much that was achieved at the Court of Harun al Rashid.

The spread of Arabism continued for many centuries, as we know from the wars waged by Europe in an attempt to keep it within bounds. But that was not the end of it: the souls who were once active in Arabism passed through the gate of death, developed onwards in the spiritual world and remained connected, in a sense, with their work. This was what happened in the case of the Individualities of Harun al Rashid and of the wise Counsellor who lived at his Court.

To begin with, let us follow Harun al Rashid. He passes through the gate of death and develops onwards in the spiritual world. In its external form, Arabism is repulsed; Christianity implants itself into Middle and Western Europe in the exoteric form it has gradually acquired. But although it is impossible to continue to be active in the old form of Mohammedanism, of Arabism, in Europe, it is very possible for the souls who once shared in this brilliant culture at the Court of Harun al Rashid and there received the impulse for further achievements, to work on. And that is what they do.

We find that Harun al Rashid himself reincarnates in the renowned personality of Francis Bacon, Lord Bacon—the distinguished Englishman whose influence has affected the whole of modern scientific thinking, and therewith much that is to be found in the minds of human beings to-day. Harun al Rashid could not disseminate from London, from England, a form of culture strictly aligned with Arabism ... this soul was obliged to make use of the form of Arabism that was possible in the West. But the fundamental trend and tendency of what Bacon poured into European thinking is the old Arabism in the new form. And so Arabism lives in the scientific thinking of to-day, because Francis Bacon was the reincarnated Harun al Rashid.

The sage who had lived at his Court also passed through the gate of death, but he took a different path. He could not come down into a stream of culture as materialistic as that into which Francis Bacon could enter; he had inevitably to remain within a more spiritual stream. And so it came about that in the epoch when the influence of Francis Bacon was also taking effect, another individuality was working—in this case in Middle Europe—one who in his life of soul encountered what had issued from the soul of the reborn Harun al Rashid. We see the Bacon stream pouring out from England to Middle Europe, from West to East, bringing Arabism in the form it had acquired in its sweep across Spain and France. It is comprehensible, therefore, that the tenor and content of this soul should differ from the tenor and content of that other soul—who passed through the gate of death, during the period of existence in the spiritual world directed its gaze toward Eastern and Middle Europe, and was reborn in Middle Europe as Amos Comenius. He resuscitated what he had learned from oriental wisdom at the Court of Harun al Rashid inasmuch as in the seventeenth century he was the one who with much forcefulness promulgated the thought that the evolution of mankind is pervaded by organised spirituality.

It is often said, superficially, that Comenius believed in the Kingdom of a Thousand Years. That is a trivial way of putting it. The truth is that Comenius believed in definite epochs in the evolution of humanity; he believed that historical evolution is organised from the spiritual world. His aim was to show that spirituality surges and weaves through the whole of Nature; he wrote a “Pan-Sophia.” There is a deeply spiritual trend in what he achieved. He became an educational reformer. As is known, his aim in education was to achieve concrete perceptibility (Anschaulichkeit) but a thoroughly spiritual perceptibility, not as in materialism. I cannot deal with this in detail but can only indicate how Arabism in its Western form and in its Oriental form issued from what arose in Middle Europe from the meeting of the two spiritual impulses connected with Bacon and Comenius.

Many aspects of the civilisation of Middle Europe can become intelligible to us only when we see how Arabism—in the form in which it could now be re-cast—was actually brought over from Asia by individuals who had once lived at the Court of Harun al Rashid. This shows us how human Individuality is an active factor in the evolution of history. And then, by studying examples as striking as these, we can learn from them how karma works through the incarnations. As I have said on various occasions, what we learn from this study can be applied to our own incarnation. But to begin with we must have concrete examples.


In that case, my dear friends, that which was destined after all to find expression in the course of earthly evolution could never have come to expression in the fullest sense: I mean the Consciousness Soul. The human beings of whom I am now speaking stood in the last stage of evolution of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul. In the 14th and 15th century, the Consciousness Soul was to arise, which, if it found extreme expression, would lead all civilisation into intellectualism.

The population of Europe in its totality, in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries, was by no means in a position merely to submit to the outpouring of a conception such as was held by the people whom I have now described. For if they had done so, the evolution of the Consciousness Soul would not have come about. Though it was determined in the councils of the Gods that the Consciousness Soul should evolve, nevertheless it could not evolve out of the mere independent activity of all European humanity. A special impulse had to be given towards the development of the Consciousness Soul itself.

And so, beginning in the time which I have now described, we witness the rise of two spiritual streams.

  • One was represented by the quasi-Arabian philosophers who, working from Western Europe, influenced European civilisation very strongly—far more so than is commonly supposed.
  • The other was the stream which fought against the former one with the utmost intensity and severity, representing it to Europe as the most heretical of all.

For a long time after, this conflict was felt with great intensity. You may still feel this if you consider the pictures in which Dominican Monks, or St. Thomas Aquinas alone, are represented in triumph—that is to say, in the triumph of an altogether different conception which emphasised above all things the individual and personal being of man, and worked to the end that man might acquire his thoughts as his own property. In these pictures we see the Dominicans portrayed, treading the representatives of Arabism under foot. The Arabians are there under their feet—they are being trodden underfoot.

The two streams were felt in this keen contrast for a long time after. An energy of feeling such as is contained in these pictures no longer exists in the humanity of today, which is rather apathetic. We need such energy of feeling very badly, not only for the things for which they battled, but for other things as well.


This profound secret of the descent of the pan-Intelligence in the evolution of humanity was known in a few Mystery Centres over in the East. And so, within these particular Oriental Mysteries, a few chosen pupils could be initiated into this secret by certain deeply spiritual, highly developed men. Through dispensations of a nature which it is difficult for the earthly intellect to comprehend, the illustrious Court of which I have spoken at the Goetheanum and in other places, came into touch with this secret of which certain Oriental Mysteries were fully cognisant. In the eighth and at the beginning of the ninth century, under the leadership of Harun al Rashid, this Court wielded great power over in Asia. Harun al Rashid was a product of Arabian culture, a culture tinged with Mohammedanism. The secret of which I have spoken found its way to some of Harun al Rashid's initiated Counsellors—or to those who possessed at least a certain degree of knowledge—and the brilliance of his Court was due to the fact that it had come in touch with this secret. At this Court were concentrated all the treasures of wisdom, of art, of the truths of religious life to be found in the East—coloured, of course, by Mohammedanism. In the days when, in Europe, at the Court of Charlemagne who was a contemporary of Harun al Rashid, men were occupied in collating the first rudiments of grammar and everything was still in a state of semi-barbarism, there flourished in Baghdad that brilliant centre of Oriental, Western Asiatic spiritual life. Harun al Rashid gathered around him men who were conversant with the great traditions of the Oriental Mysteries. And he had by his side one particular Counsellor who had been an Initiate in earlier times and whose spiritual driving forces were still influenced by the previous incarnations. He was the organiser of all that was cultivated at the Court of Harun al Rashid in the domains of geometry, chemistry, physics, music, architecture, and the other arts—above all, a distinguished art of poetry. In this renowned and scintillating assembly of sages, it was felt, more or less consciously: the earthly Intelligence that has come down from the Heavens upon the Earth must be placed in the service of Mohammedan spiritual life!

And now consider this: from the time of Mohammed, from the time of the early Caliphs onwards, Arabian culture was carried from Asia across North Africa into Europe, where it spread as the result of warlike campaigns. But in the wake of those who by means of these campaigns spread Arabism as far even as Spain—France was affected by it and, spiritually, the whole of Western Europe—there also came outstanding personalities. The wars waged by the Frankish kings against the Moors, against Arabism, are known to all of you ... but that is the external aspect, that is what happens in external history ... much more important is it to know how the spiritual streams flow on perpetually within the evolution of mankind.

Harun al Rashid and his wise Counsellor passed through the gate of death. But after their life between death and rebirth they continued to pursue their earthly aims in remarkable ways. It was their aim to introduce Arabian modes of thinking into the European world with the help of the rudiments of the Intelligence now spreading in Europe. And so after Harun al Rashid had passed through the gate of death, while his soul was traversing spiritual, starry worlds, we see his gaze directed unswervingly from Baghdad across Asia Minor, to Greece, Rome, Spain, France and then northwards to England. Throughout this life between death and rebirth his attention was directed to the South and West of Europe. And then Harun al Rashid appeared again in a new incarnation—becoming Lord Bacon of Verulam. Bacon himself is the reincarnated Harun al Rashid who in the intervening time between death and rebirth had worked as I have just described.

But the other, the one who had been his wise Counsellor, chose a different direction—from Baghdad across the Black Sea, through Russia and then into Middle Europe. The two individualities took different paths and directions. Harun al Rashid passed to his next earthly goal as Lord Bacon of Verulam; the wise Counsellor during his life between death and a new birth did not divert his gaze from the sphere where influences from the East can be increasingly potent, and he appeared again as Amos Comenius (Komenski), the great educational reformer and author of “Pan-Sophia.” And from the interworking of these two individualities who had once been together at the Court in Baghdad there subsequently arose in Europe something which unfolded—more or less at a distance from Christianity—in the form of Arabism derived from influences of that past time when the Intelligence had first fallen away from Michael on the Sun.

What came outwardly and physically to expression in wars was, as we know, repelled by the Frankish kings and the other European peoples. We see how the Arabian campaigns which with such a powerful initial impetus were responsible for the spread of Mohammedan culture, were broken and brought to a halt in the West; we see Mohammedanism disappearing from the West of Europe. Nevertheless, divested of the outer forms it had assumed and the external culture it had founded, this later Arabism became modern natural science, and also became the basis of what Amos Comenius achieved for the world in the domain of pedagogy. And in this way the earthly Intelligence, ‘garrisoned’ as it were by Arabism, continued to spread right on into the seventeenth century.

Here we have indicated something that lies as sub-strata of the soil into which we to-day have to sow the seeds of Anthroposophy. We must ponder deeply over the inner and spiritual reality behind these things.

In Europe, while this stream was flowing over from Asia as the spiritual continuation of that Illustrious Court of Baghdad, Christianity was also developing and spreading. But the spread of Aristotelianism in Europe was fraught with great difficulties. The natural science of Aristotle had been carried to Asia by the mighty deeds of Alexander and the impulses flowing from Hellenistic spiritual life, but here it had been seized upon by Arabism. In Europe, within the expanding Christian culture, Aristotelianism was at first known in a diluted form only. Then, in the manner which I have already indicated, Aristotelianism joined hands with Platonism—Platonism, which was based directly upon the ancient teachings of the Greek Mysteries.

But at the very outset, Aristotelianism spread in Europe by slow degrees while Platonism took the lead and prompted the establishment of schools, one of the most important being the School of Chartres. At Chartres, the scholars of whom I spoke yesterday—Bernard Sylvestris, Bernard of Chartres, John of Salisbury and, foremost among them all, Alanus ab Insulis—were all working in the twelfth century. In this School men spoke very differently from those whose teachings were merely an echo of Arabism. The teachings given in the School of Chartres were pure and genuine Christianity, illumined by the ancient Mystery-wisdom still remaining within reach of men. And then something of immense significance took place. The leading teachers of Chartres, who with their Platonism had penetrated deeply into the secrets of Christianity and who had no part in Arabism, went through the gate of death. Then there took place, for a brief period at the beginning of the thirteenth century, a great ‘heavenly conference.’ And when the most outstanding of the teachers—foremost among them Alanus ab Insulis—had passed through death and were in the spiritual world, they united in a momentous cosmic deed with those who at that time were with them but who were destined in the very near future to come into earthly existence for the purpose of cultivating Aristotelianism in a new way. Among those preparing to descend were individualities who had participated with deep intensity of soul in the working of the Michael Impulse during the time of Alexander. And at the turn of the twelfth century we may picture, for it is in keeping with the truth, a gathering-together of souls who had just arrived in the spiritual world from places of Christian Initiation—of which the School of Chartres was one—and souls who were on the point of descending to the Earth. In the spiritual realms, these latter souls had preserved, not Platonism, but Aristotelianism, the inner impulse of the Intelligence deriving from the Michael Age in ancient times. Now, in the spiritual world, the souls gathered together ... among them, too, were souls who could say: We were with Michael and together with him we witnessed the Intelligence streaming down from the Heavens upon the Earth; we were united with him too in the mighty cosmopolitan Deed enacted in earlier times when the Intelligence was still administered from the Cosmos, when he was still the ruler and administrator of the Intelligence.


We will now turn our attention to these two individuals, Harun al Rashid and his wise Counsellor—remembering that in the 8th and 9th centuries at the Court of Charlemagne in Europe, men of the highest social rank (including Charlemagne himself) were only just beginning to make their first attempts at writing; at the same Court, Eginhart was endeavouring to formulate the early rudiments of grammar. In days when everything in Europe was extremely primitive, over in Asia much brilliant spiritual culture was personified in Haron al Rashid whom Charlemagne held in great veneration. But this was a kind of culture which knew nothing of Christ nor wished to have anything to do with Christianity; it preserved and cultivated the best elements of Arabism and also kept alive ancient forms of Aristotelian thought—those forms which had not made their way to Europe, for it was chiefly Aristotelian logic and dialectic which had spread so widely in the West and were the principles upon which the work of the Church Fathers and later on that of the Schoolmen was based. As a result of the achievements of Alexander the Great, it was the more mystical and scientific knowledge imparted by Aristotle that had been cultivated in Asia where it had all come under the influence of the tremendously powerful intelligence of Arabism—which was, however, held to be a revealed, an inspired intelligence.


Let us take a certain period—the 8th and the beginning of the 9th century A.D. We see the personality of Charlemagne, for instance, carrying Christianity in all directions among the non-Christian peoples who were still living in Europe at that time, though he does so by methods of which we with our present humanitarian ideas cannot always approve.

Now among the non-Christian people of that time those especially are interesting who were influenced by the streams that came over from Asia through northern Africa to Europe, proceeding from Arabism and Mohammedanism. In this connection we must understand Mohammedanism in the wider sense of the term.

Something over 500 years after the Mystery of Golgotha we see the rise of all the old elements of Arabian world-conception in Arabism, Mohammedanism and much that was connected with these. We see above all a rich and varied scholarship, but a scholarship that was given an unchristian shape. We see all this spread out of Asia by powerful and warlike campaigns through northern Africa to the west and south of Europe. Then gradually this stream dies away and is lost so far as the more outer world is concerned. But it by no means dies away in the inward development of the spiritual life. When the more external spread of Arabism into Europe is already dying out, we see this same Arabism continuing to spread in a more inward way. This is one of the places where we have to look from external history towards the spiritual background. You will remember what I said in our last lecture on karma, that in considering the successive earthly lives of individual human beings, we cannot draw conclusions from the external attitude and features of a man as to the nature of his former life on earth. It is the more deeply inward impulses that matter. Thus it is with the important personalities of history—it is the more inward impulses that matter.

We see the results of former civilisation-epochs carried into later ones by the personalities of history, i.e., by the human beings themselves, but we also see them changing in the process. And by studying the external aspect we may not immediately recognise these impulses in the new form in which a human being carries and expresses them in a new incarnation. Let us now consider a deeply inward stream of this kind.

When Charlemagne was spreading Christianity—if we may say so, in a somewhat primitive manner—in the then primitive civilisation of Europe, there lived in the East a personality who stood really on a far greater height of culture, I mean Harun al Rashid.

At his court in Asia Minor, Harun al Rashid gathered the most eminent spiritual and intellectual figures of his time. Illustrious was the court of Harun al Rashid, and held in high esteem even by Charlemagne himself. Architecture, poetry, astrology, geography, history, anthropology—all of these were brilliantly represented by the most illustrious of men. Some of these men still carried in them much of the knowledge of ancient Initiation-Science.

Harun al Rashid himself was an organiser in the grandest style. He was able to make a kind of universal academy of his court where the several departments of what the East at that time possessed in art and science were joined into a great organic whole. And side by side with him there stood above all one other personality, who truly bore within him the elements of ancient Initiation.


Note 1 - Two tandems and the Greek-Arabic connection

see also: Impulses from waves of reincarnating souls#Note 2 - Important Individualities as 'spearheading' Impulses


This note will compare the influence of the tandem 'KRI 6 and KRI 7' with that of another tandem 'KRI 36 and KRI 37' - see Schema FMC00.241A.

Of course the tandems are mere the 'flags' or spearpoints to denote an impulse, as described above (see Impulses from waves of reincarnating souls and illustrations Schema FMC00.493 and Schema FMC00.497 (and Schema FMC00.243A) on the Karmic relationships topic page that provide examples for the Renaissance (15th century Italy Florence) and Idealism (18th century Germany)).

One could similarly denote

  • the Renaissance by Ficino (philosophy & arts) de Medici (mecenas sponsor)
  • and Idealism by Goethe/Schiller/Novalis (arts) and Fichte/Hegel (philosophy)

The Schemas above show a network of no less than 25-30 important Individualities around these, and even that is just the very top of the iceberg, as the cultural wave or impulse is carried by hundreds and thousands of souls.

The link between both 'tandems' is also described by Rudolf Steiner in the Karmic Relationship lectures:

  • (Arabic) - The first tandem 'Harun-Tariq' combined the contents (strong knowledge) with the conquest (cultural influence). In this case the Arabic influence was brought, infused, into European culture bringing a new element that was not available or lost in the Central European cultural basin. Copied from above: Reconquista#Early Arabic influence on European culture
    • KRI 6 - Harun al Rashid (766-809), Caliph of Baghdad, an "an organiser in the grandest style" gathered at his illustrious court (held in high esteem even by Charlemagne) the most eminent spiritual and intellectual figures of his time, some of which were initiates. He developed a kind of universal academy were the highest of art and science were joined into a great organic whole. Architecture, poetry, astrology, geography, history, anthropology—all of these were brilliantly represented by the most illustrious of men. (1924-09-01-GA238). He reincarnated as Lord Bacon of Verulam - see Schema FMC00.510.
    • KRI 7 - Tariq ibn Ziyad (Gebel al Tarik) (unknown - ca 720) initiated the Muslim conquest of Visigothic Hispania (present-day Spain and Portugal) in 711–718 AD, conqueror of Gibraltar (711) and Spain (712-713). Reincarnated as Charles Darwin (1809-1882).
  • (Greek) - The second tandem 'Aristotle-Alexander the Great' similary combined contents (aristotelism) with conquest (cultural influence). From wikipedia:

Alexander the Great spent most of his ruling years conducting a lengthy military campaign throughout Western Asia, Central Asia, parts of South Asia, and Egypt. By the age of 30, he had created one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered to be one of history's greatest and most successful military commanders.

Rudolf Steiner describes how these two streams above, the Greek and the Arabic, are linked.

Other KRI

.. that had incarnations in this timeframe (on top of those mentioned above under Aspects)

  • The karmic connection of Franz Schubert (1797-1828) and his friend and patron Joseph von Spaun (1788-1869) points back to a Moorish-Arabian incarnation of Schubert and a Castilian one of Spain in the ninth century. At that time, the later Schubert cared for the later Spaun with devotion.
  • Voltaire (1694-1778) previous significant incarnation was within the Arabian-Islamic culture (North Africa, Spain), influenced by an older form of Jewish Cabbalism (1924-05-29-GA236)

Related pages

References and further reading