All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. The great initiates.
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All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
The great initiates. Includes bibliographical references and index. He traces the great spiritual deeds of Rama, Krishna, Hermes, Pythagoras and Plato, in order to show the unification of all these impulses in Christ The Great Initiates presents the perennial wisdom to be found in the lives and accomplishments of figures of extraordinary stature.
The aliveness, the freshness, the excitement of discovery that breathes through The Great Initiates well explains its continuing popularity after nearly threequarters of a century.
According to a recent report, since its first publication in Paris in it has gone through new editions. It is estimated that it has been purchased by approximately , persons, and -- counting its translations into many other languages, including Russian -- it has been read by somewhere between three and four million people.
Today, without advertising effort beyond a brief listing in the trade catalogue of the Paris publisher, the French edition continues to sell about 3, copies annually. Compared with the record of many modern American bestsellers, these figures may not seem particularly impressive.
However, the fact that after seventy-two years The Great Initiates is still read and continues to sell in appreciable quantities, shows that many people in various parts of the world still enjoy this book.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this continued interest in The Great Initiates is that it is certain to make a very definite impression upon the reader. He may or may not enjoy it, but he will not easily forget it. In a certain sense, The Great Initiates is a pioneer work. It is a protest against what he called "a false idea of truth and progress" current in his time, and in ours as well. It is his constructive answer to "the stagnation, disgust and impotence" resulting from a one-sided view of life, a pernicious evil still at work in human affairs today.
It reflects the lives and deeds of men of extraordinary stature, "the fire-pillars in the dark pilgrimage of mankind," Carlyle called them. In these pages one witnesses spiritual adventure of a depth and intensity rarely experienced by creative human beings, even in their most exalted moments.
This aliveness, this freshness, this excitement of discovery which breathes through The Great Initiates may well explain its continuing popularity after nearly threequarters of a century. As a young boy he experienced certain events which, as he described them many years later, "left traces upon my thoughts, to which my memory returns ever and again.
On the walls of one of the buildings the ten-year-old boy saw a remarkable series of frescoes, depicting the world of undines, sylphs, gnomes and fire-spirits. Before these representations of what men of the Middle Ages called the Elemental Beings, here shown in vivid, wonderful artistic form, the boy was transported, as it were, into another world, the world of creative fantasy. For, as Carlyle wrote, "Fantasy, being the organ of the Godlike, man thereby -- though based, to all seeming, on the small Visible, -- does nevertheless extend down into the infinite deeps of the Invisible, of which Invisible, indeed, his Life is properly the bodying.
From this time, "the infinite deeps of the Invisible" seemed to draw the boy ever and again into the cathedral at Strasbourg. There, in the hush of the crypt, the majesty of the great nave, the glory of the music, the awe-inspiring mystery of the service, the holy calm of the candle-flames, the wreathing fragrance of incense smoke ascending into the dimness, he felt a kind of inner satisfaction, a longing fulfilled.
Something of the spirit of the great mystics, Meister Eckhart and Johannes Tauler, whose lives were connected with this place, touched the soul of the boy, and he felt the transforming peace of the Friends of God of Strasbourg.
Finally the moment came when the world of the spirit opened itself before his enraptured eyes. One afternoon he was sitting in a corner of the lofty gallery of the cathedral, gazing in deep absorption at the light streaming through a great rose window. Like Dante when face to face with the Celestial Rose of the Paradise, the boy beheld the Figure of the Risen Christ, surrounded by an aureole of sublime glory.
In that instant, cathedral, men, women -- all his earthly surroundings -vanished, swallowed up in a heavenly influx. The beauty of the Venus di Milo, of Dionysus, of the wounded Amazon, penetrated deeply into the boy, awakening in him a love and appreciation for the world of ancient Greece, which was to play so significant a role in his later work.
Eventually he received his degree in law at the University of Strasbourg, but he never entered into practice. He visited Germany, remaining there for a few years, during which time he wrote Histoire du lied, published in In this book he expressed his love for music and poetry, which had been enhanced by his personal acquaintance with Richard Wagner, then living in Munich.
In Florence he continued working on his Wagner book, entering whole-heartedly into the life of the literary and artistic circles of the city. In Margherita Albana Mignaty he discovered a soul to whom the unseen world was as immanent as the physical. This direct relationship with the spiritual world was the result of the death of her child, which had taken place some years before. He referred to her as his Muse, and saw in her "a spirit that moves mountains, a love which awakens and creates souls, and whose sublime inspiration burns like a radiant light.
Her reply was profoundly simple: "When I wish to penetrate to the very depths of a subject, I shut myself in my room and reveal myself to myself. Every morning I went to the Uffizi library to consult the ancient authors who had dealt with the Mysteries of Eleusis to which, from earliest youth, I had been irresistibly attracted. The municipal library, standing in the heart of Florence, behind the Museum, on the banks of the Arno, not far from the Palazzio Vecchio which proudly erects its slender campanile, sentinel-like, above the elegant city -all this was a favorable setting for my meditations.
One day, lost in the labyrinth of the mysteries contained in the pages of Plato and Porphyry, Iamblichus and Apuleius, my inner vision suddenly extended its bounds beyond the horizon.
But what terrifying vistas are produced by this enigma when stated for the whole of humanity! From what abyss has humanity escaped, only to plunge into what annihilation, or into what Eternity? What relation does mankind bear to the cosmic powers working behind the apparent chaos of the universe, in order to produce so marvelous a harmony? In the dense darkness where the alarming materialism of our age wallows, it is no longer a matter of merely restoring the link between the visible and the invisible for individuals, but of demonstrating how fruitful is the working of the omnipotent Beyond in the history of all humanity.
I was filled with the impulse to trace the connection between the revelation of Eleusis and that of the Christ. At that instant, as in a flash I saw the Light that flows from one mighty founder of religion to another, from the Himalayas to the plateau of Iran, from Sinai to Tabor, from the crypts of Egypt to the 6.
Those great prophets, those powerful figures whom we call Rama, Krishna, Hermes, Moses, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato and Jesus, appeared before me in a homogeneous group. How diverse in form, appearance and color! Nevertheless, through them all moved the impulse of the eternal Word. To be in harmony with them is to hear the Word which was in the Beginning.
It is to know and experience the continuity of inspiration in history as an historical fact. It was as if I had found my Novum Organum.
This work, coming to me from the very center of things, was sufficient to last me for the rest of my life, and far more. Nothing could be further from the truth. His penetration into the spiritual world involved a constant inner struggle, and the entire task of writing the book required ten years of strenuous work.
He wrote on the Greek dramas, the Druids. Joan of Arc and other great figures of French history, the poetry of Shelley, the magic of Merlin, and repeatedly on the work of Richard Wagner. Among the people of many countries who flocked to Bayreuth for this great cultural event was the philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. As he wrote, "Science is concerned only with the physical and material world; ethical philosophy has lost the leadership of the minds of men; religion.
In place of true faith and love, he observed the theological skepticism of men like David Friedrich Strauss, who described the Resurrection of the Christ as ein welthistorischer humbug, and Ernst Renan, the ex-seminarist, who exclaimed about Christianity, "O divine comedy! His firm conviction was, "Today neither the Church, imprisoned in its dogma, nor science, locked up inside matter, any longer knows how to make men whole. Science need not change its method, but it must broaden its scope; Chrisianity need not change its tradition, but it must understand its origins, its spirit and its significance.
He observed that "Art and literature have lost the sense of the divine. A large part of our youth has become interested in what its new masters call Naturalism, thus degrading the beautiful name of Nature, for Naturalism is the systematic negation of the soul and the spirit.
In the autumn of came the news of the death of Margherita Albana Mignaty. To the very end of his long life, her spiritual presence was his constant comfort, his strength, his consolation in sorrow, his joy and inspiration, and with deepest reverence, appreciation and gratitude he often spoke of all that she meant, of all that she had brought to him Without you, this book would never have appeared.
Nevertheless, after a short time, subsequent editions multiplied and kept increasing from year to year. At first the ideas appeared startling to the majority of readers. Slowly and surely The Great Initiates continued on its way through the gloom, winning its success by its own strength.
Letters of interest and appreciation poured in from all parts of the world, coming to me from five continents. During the First World War innumerable letters accumulated at my home, the most sincere of them from the battlefront. He concluded: "Since The Great Initiates has continued on its upward path despite tradition and prejudice, I must conclude that there is a vital power in its principal idea.
This idea is none other than a clear and determined reconciliation between science and religion, whose dualism has sapped the foundations of our civilization, and threatens us with the worst catastrophes. This reconciliation can be effected only by a new composite view of the visible and invisible world by means of spiritual insight and inner vision.
Only the certainty of the immortal soul can form a solid basis for earthly life, and only the concord of the great religions, brought about by a return to their common Source of inspiration, can secure the brotherhood of peoples and the future of mankind. Through his friendship with Rudolf Steiner, for the first time in his life he found himself in the physical presence of a man whose spiritual stature and insight were akin to those figures he had described in his book.
However, I was rather indifferent when Rudolf Steiner came to meet me. Such an impression I had experienced only twice before in my life, and then much less strongly, with Richard Wagner and with Margherita Albana Mignaty.
Immediately two things became clear to me, even before Rudolf Steiner started to speak. For a long while I had lived in spirit with initiates of the past, whose history and development I had attempted to describe. And here at last, one stood before me on the physical plane. When he spoke about the appearances and happenings in the supersensible world, it was as if he was completely at home there.
In familiar language he told us what took place in those unfamiliar regions He did not describe; he saw the objects and happenings, and made them visible in such a way that those cosmic events appeared to one like real objects on the physical plane. When one listened to him, one could have no doubt of his spiritual insight, which was as clear as physical vision, only much more comprehensive. Writers well known in the Russian literature of the period were present, including the poets K.
Balmont and N. Minski, the novelist, Dimitri S. Mereshkovski and his wife, Znadia N. This knowledge was among the most profoundly moving inner experiences of my soul I arranged it as to language for dramatic presentation.
He saw in this Mystery of Eleusis the startingpoint of true dramatic art. I can hardly express what inner satisfaction I felt when Steiner made this clear to me, and further, what encouragement I received to continue the work I had been doing. For it is one of those very cherished moments in the creative life of the artist when he meets someone who recognizes and knows that he is drawing what he says from spiritual vision
He received his degree in law at the University of Strasbourg, but he never entered into practice. The discovery of Wagner's "music drama" Tristan and Isolde impressed him sufficiently to seek—and obtain—Wagner's personal acquaintance. In France, he published his first work Histoire du Lied —a history of the German folk song, which earned him some recognition in the country of his family. With the publication of the essay Richard Wagner et le Drame Musical , he established himself as a major French Wagner expert and advocate of the time. His nationalism is reflected in his remarks of this time—and later in his life—in a comparison of glorified Celtism France and a negatively viewed "Teutonism" Germany.
The Great Initiates: A Study of the Secret History of Religions