The Modern Path






Rudolf Steiner said there are three paths leading to the spirit, and of these three one stands out. It is “the path that is right for modern humanity: the Rosicrucian path.” [1] 


"[Rosicrucians are] a worldwide brotherhood claiming to possess esoteric wisdom handed down from ancient times. The name derives from the order’s symbol, a rose on a cross, which is similar to the family coat of arms of Martin Luther. Rosicrucian teachings are a combination of occultism and other religious beliefs and practices, including Hermeticism, Jewish mysticism, and Christian Gnosticism. The central feature of Rosicrucianism is the belief that its members possess secret wisdom that was handed down to them from ancient times.” [2]

One of Steiner's acolytes has described how Rosicrucianism arose in Germany during the 17th Century. 

“[A] number of strange, not to say startling booklets were printed in Germany concerning a mysterious Brotherhood ‘of the Rosy Cross’, causing what is still often termed the Rosicrucian furore.” [3]

The name and symbol of Rosicrucianism were reflected in the name of the group’s supposed founder, Christian Rosenkreutz (in German, Rosen means roses and Kreutz means cross). What a fabulous name! How fitting! Christian, roses, cross. 

Steiner accepted Rosenkreutz as a real historical figure, a man who has walked the Earth: 

“[A]t the end of the Graeco-Roman period, in the thirteenth century, humanity was for a short period cut off from any clairvoyant capacity. This is why a great conference of the wisest people [i.e., spiritual masters] was held at that time, the ‘College of the Twelve’. The first seven [embodied] the seven Atlantean evolutionary stages [i.e., phases of our evolution on Atlantis]. Four other wise masters embodied the first four sub-races of our epoch [i.e., branches from the "root race" of our period] ... The twelfth represented all that followed. Among these twelve was a boy, the thirteenth, whom they took into their midst; and all twelve poured out their wisdom upon him ... He lived only a short while under this mighty influence, but during this time was able, through what he had taken up from the others, to become their teacher ... Then he died and was reborn in the fourteenth century as Christian Rosenkreutz. He then lived for a hundred years, and since then has been the teacher not only of the twelve wise men, but of all humanity. He has the task of protecting humanity against the luciferic influence [i.e., the sway of Lucifer]”. [4]

Without quite meaning to, Steiner often created tests for us. Here’s one: If you can accept the story he spun about C. Rosenkreutz, you might want to become an Anthroposophist. But if the story strikes you as improbable — perhaps, indeed, ridiculous — you may decide to walk (or perhaps run) away.

Pressing on: Although Steiner believed in the actual existence of Christian Rosenkreutz, historical scholarship has reached a different conclusion. Referring to the three “booklets” that caused the Rosicrucian furor, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITTANICA says:

The Fama Fraternitas of the Meritorious Order of the Rosy Cross (1614), The Confession of the Rosicrucian Fraternity (1615), and The Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreuz (1616) recount the travels of Christian Rosenkreuz, the putative founder of the group, who is now generally regarded as a fictional character rather than a real person.” [5] 

Steiner almost invariably accepted myth as truth while rejecting real knowledge such as the products of modern science and scholarship.






Contradicting himself, as was his habit, Steiner sometimes said that Rosicrucianism is not the only path appropriate for modern people. He said there are three paths altogether, and modern people — by which he meant contemporary Europeans — can choose between two of them. Here are the paths:

“1. The Eastern way, also called Yoga. Here, an initiated man living on the physical plane acts as the Guru of another, who entrusts himself to his Guru completely and in all details. This method will go best if during his occult development the pupil eliminates his own self entirely and hands it over to his Guru, who must even advise him on every action he may take. This absolute surrender of one's own self suits the Indian character; but there is no place for it in European culture.

“2. The Christian way. Here, in place of individual Gurus, there is one great Guru, Christ Jesus Himself, for everyone. The feeling of belonging to Christ Jesus, of being one with Him, can take the place of surrender to an individual Guru. But the pupil has first to be led to Christ by an earthly Guru, so that in a certain sense he still depends on a Guru on the physical plane.

“3. The Rosicrucian way, which leaves the pupil with the greatest possible independence. The Guru here is not a leader but an adviser; he gives directions for the necessary inner training. At the same time he takes good care that, parallel with the occult training, there is a definite development of thinking, without which no occult training can be carried through ... [O]ne activity — logical thinking — goes through all worlds. Logic is the same on all three planes [i.e., the physical plane, the soul plane, and the spirit plane]. Thus on the physical plane you can learn something which is valid also for the higher planes; and this is the method followed by Rosicrucian training  ... Here, then, the Guru is only the friend and adviser of the pupil ... But he [the pupil] will of course still need a Guru....

“Among Europeans, the Christian way is best suited to those whose feelings are most strongly developed. Those who have more or less broken away from the Church and rely rather on science, but have been led by science into a doubting frame of mind, will do best with the Rosicrucian way.” [6]

One of the main differences between the paths, Steiner said, is the relationship between the seeker and his/her guru. But no matter which path you take, you need a reliable guru: 

"[A seeker] would find himself plunged into the stormy sea of astral [i.e., soul] experiences if he were left to fend for himself. For this reason he needs a guide who can tell him from the start how these things are related and how to find his bearings in the astral world. Hence the need to find a Guru on whom he can strictly rely.“ [7]

You may surprised to learn that,  if you choose the Christian way, you need a guru aside from Christ himself. Can’t you forge your own personal relationship with Christ? No, Steiner said — because by Christianity he meant Gnostic Christianity. We’ll return to this point, below. [8]

In theory, the Rosicrucian way emphasizes thinking, in particular logic. This is striking, since Steiner often disparaged thinking, intellect, and logic. [9] But the affirmation of logic Steiner advanced in this instance is largely illusory. Steiner taught that at best, logic can take us a short distance toward our cosmic goals. To get farther than logic can take us, we need “living thinking,” which is something quite different. [10] Steiner said that real thought, “living” thought, is implanted in our souls before we are born. We ourselves are miniature versions of the entire cosmos: We carry everything in the cosmos within ourselves. [11] Thus, real thinking means gazing inward, intuitively, grasping the truths that come built into our “etheric bodies” — immaterial bodies that Steiner said we all have. The great truths that are written in the “cosmic ether”  — a sort of spiritual gas that permeates everything [12] — were written into our etheric essence before birth:

“The cosmic ether, which is common to all, carries within it the thoughts; there they are within it, those living thoughts of which I have repeatedly spoken in our anthroposophical lectures, telling you how the human being participates in them in pre-earthly life before he comes down to Earth. There, in the cosmic ether, are contained all the living thoughts there are; and never are they received from the cosmic ether during the life between birth and death. No; the whole store of living thought that man holds within him, he receives at the moment when he comes down from the spiritual world — when, that is, he leaves his own living element, his own element of living thought, and descends and forms his ether body. Within this ether body, within that which is the building and organising force in man, are the living thoughts; there they are, there they still are.” [13]

The sort of “thinking” Steiner describes bears almost no relation to logic or normal reasoning; it is hardly thinking at all, in any normal sense. Your brain is not really a thinking tool, according to Steiner. At most, the brain and nervous system work like a mirror, reflecting the living thoughts of the cosmos. The brain does not create these thoughts; just the opposite, the thoughts create the brain. The brain then “excretes” the nerves, in a process that nearly stops productive natural processes:

“[T]hese [living] thoughts which we take from the universal cosmic ether build up in us, first of all, our brain [i.e., they create the brain], and then in the wider sense, our whole nerves-and-senses system. For it is the living thinking that forms our brain ... [I]n the brain, a beginning is actually made in the direction of a stoppage of Nature processes; matter is continually being secreted and then falling away. The matter that has fallen away, the matter that has been excreted and become useless, is the nerves. And the nerves...become in consequence endowed with a faculty that resembles the faculty possessed by a mirror. They acquire the faculty of enabling the thoughts of the surrounding ether to be reflected in them ... This means that the thinking, and the forming of mental pictures, which belongs to the superficial life of soul is nothing else than the reflection of the thoughts that live in the cosmic ether.” [14]

True, deep “soul life” does not merely reflect the thoughts that are present in the ether. True, deep soul-thinking is the internal, intuitive experiencing  of living thoughts. It is the heartfelt inhabiting  of living thoughts, approaching the living thoughts from the inside. We have a superficial soul life and a deep soul life. Brain-reflected living thoughts are part of our superficial soul life; deeply experienced living thoughts, thoughts that we live, are part of our profound soul life.

“This soul life that manifests in thinking, feeling and willing more than a reflection, it is really just like a reflection in a mirror. It is all obliterated when we fall asleep. The really permanent soul-life is behind; it makes its descent and passes through repeated earth-lives [i.e., multiple incarnation on Earth].” [15]

Our permanent soul life arises from, and returns to, the Great Beyond. We visit the Beyond when we sleep, and we live in it wholly after we die. Thereafter, we make additional descents into physical existence, being reborn over and over in the process of evolutionary reincarnation. If we are good, we will reincarnate at higher and higher stages; if we are bad, we will decline through lower and lower stages.

All of this may or may not sound right to you. It is, in any case, what Steiner said (without, I can’t help noting — this is my danged brain trying to “think” again — giving us the slightest evidence to support his statements).







Let’s dig into the nitty gritty of Rosicrucian wisdom, as conveyed by R. Steiner. We should start with some history:

“In the year 1459, a lofty, spiritual Individuality, incarnate in the human personality who bears in the world the name of Christian Rosenkreuz, appeared as the teacher, to begin with of a small circle of initiated pupils ... The exalted Individuality who lived on the physical plane in the personality of Christian Rosenkreuz worked as leader and teacher of the Rosicrucian stream again and again in the same body, as occultism puts it [i.e., he was reincarnated and continued his work as teacher in the Rosicrucian movement] ... Until far into the eighteenth century, the wisdom of which we are here speaking was preserved within a strictly secret Brotherhood, bound by inviolate rules which separated its members from the exoteric [open; opposite of esoteric] world ... In the course of the centuries many people have endeavoured, in one way or another, to discover the Rosicrucian wisdom, but they did not succeed. Leibnitz tried in vain....” [16]

Some people have penetrated Rosicrucian secrets to some extent, Steiner said. Among these are Lessing, Goethe, and (surprise) Steiner himself, who penetrated quite deeply (according to Steiner). One essential Rosicrucian secret, Steiner said, concerns the human constitution. We have physical bodies, obviously, but above these we have three nonphysical bodies, and above these were have still higher “members” (Manas, Buddhi, and Atma). [17] Rosicrucian teachings on such matters are intricate and logical, according to Steiner, although the logic can be tortured. For example, we are made up of seven parts, ranging from the physical body to Atma. But Rosicrucians need to see this as nine parts, because of the mystic importance of the number three (which, multiplied by itself, is nine), so the seven become nine, or vice versa: 

“[T]he Rosicrucian method speaks of three times three members = nine, which is reduced to seven. We must, however, recognise the nine within the seven; otherwise we shall reach only a theoretical conception.” [18]

Our physical body is created by the nonphysical body that is closest to us, the etheric body, which is essentially a constellation of life forces. The etheric body, in turn, is created by our astral body, which is essentially a constellation of spiritual forces. 

“[T]he astral body is the builder of the etheric and physical bodies. Just as the physical body with all its organs has hardened out of the etheric body, so everything that streams and is active in the etheric body has been born out of the astral body. Out of what is the astral body itself born? It is born out of the universal astral organism which weaves through the whole of the cosmos.” [19]

You might start to notice that Rosicrucian wisdom, as described by Steiner, is basically indistinguishable from Anthroposophy and/or Theosophy. This is easily explained. Steiner said he gained his spiritual knowledge through the use of “exact clairvoyance.” What he mainly meant was that his views are right, they are “exact,” while all other views are wrong to one degree or another unless they exactly conform to his own views. Thus, to the extent that Rosicrucianism is correct, it offers the same wisdom that Steiner offered. [20]

Here is a quick digest of other Rosicrucian teachings, as formulated by Steiner. He laid out this information in a series of lectures delivered in May and June of 1907, while he was nominally a Theosophist. His version of Theosophy differed markedly from that of other leading Theosophists; as early as 1902, he began calling his version “Anthroposophy.” In 1913, he broke from Theosophy and established Anthroposophy as a separate movement. True Rosicrucianism, according to Steiner, includes the following:

   There is an elemental world below man, and a spiritual realm (or several such realms) above us. We go to the latter during sleep and after death. (Lecture on May 26, 1907)

   After we die, we go to the spirit realm where we prepare for our next earthly incarnation —  we take in wisdom and prepare for our next life in the physical realm. (Lecture on May 28, 1907)

   Our lives on Earth and elsewhere are heavily influences by karma, the destiny we create for ourselves. We should work to improve not only our individual karma but also the shared karma of humanity as a whole. (Lectures on May 29, 30, and 31, 1907)

   During the long process of reincarnation, humanity gradually evolves from a very low condition to a godlike state. This evolution began on or during Old Saturn and will continue to and beyond Future Vulcan. (Lectures on June 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, 1907)  [21]

All in all, the Rosicrucian secrets, according to Steiner, turn out to be the same fantasy that Steiner always pushed — that is, the doctrines of Anthroposophy. Of course, Rosicrucianism does indeed lie behind Anthroposophy, if only to a minor extent. Steiner patched together his doctrines using bits and pieces he scavenged from multiple sources. But the resulting crazy quilt is distinctly his own: He trimmed each piece to suit his vision, discarding the rest as products of inexact clairvoyance at best. Among the distinctive characteristics of "Rosicrucian” thought, Steiner-style, is — unfortunately — Steiner's racism. We create our own karma, destining ourselves to rise or fall in our future lives, which means, in part, rising and falling through a racial hierarchy. People who think badly (i.e., materialistically) create evil races, which become the repository of evil souls. (Because the following quotation is couched in such obtuse language, I’ll interject frequent translations. As always, check to see if you agree with my explanations of Steiner’s words.)

“What humanity thinks today, that will it be in the future [i.e., what we think now shapes what we will become]. A humanity that thinks materialistically will produce frightful beings in the future, and a humanity that thinks spiritual thoughts, so works upon and transforms the future organism that beautiful human bodies will proceed from it [i.e., evil thoughts create evil beings, but good thinking creates good bodies; we will become monstrous or beautiful depending on what we think now] ... We have two streams today, a great materialistic one which fills the earth, and the small spiritual stream which is restricted to but few human beings [i.e., most people think materialistically; only a few think correctly (by inference, the few good humans are mainly Steiner and his adherents)]. We should distinguish between soul-evolution and race-evolution. Do not think that if races pass over to a grotesque form that the soul too does the same [i.e., a race may descend and become horrible, but an individual soul may rise above the race’s general fate]. All materialistically thinking souls work on the production of evil race-formations, and what is done of a spiritual nature causes the bringing forth of a good race [i.e., materialistic thinking creates evil races; spiritual thinking creates a good race]. Just as mankind has brought forth that which has retrogressed in the animals, plants and minerals [minerals, plants, and animals evolved downward from us], so will a portion split off and represent the evil part of humanity [i.e., evil humans will be separated from good humans; they will evolve downward as evil races]. And in the body which meanwhile will have grown soft the inner badness of the soul will express itself externally [i.e., the soft or plastic human body will reveal the evil residing within the members of the evil race]. Just as older conditions which have degenerated to the ape species seem grotesque to us today, so do materialistic races remain at the standpoint of evil, and will people the earth as evil races [i.e., apes descended from us; evil races descend likewise; materialistic races are grotesque in terms of their evil ("at the standpoint of evil"); they will populate the Earth as evil races]. It will lie entirely with humanity as to whether a soul will remain in the bad race or will ascend by spiritual culture to a good race.” [22].








The Rosicrucian “path” emphasizes thinking and knowledge — as defined in occult ways. There are seven stages along the way. They intersect with some elements of the “Christian” path, as described by Steiner.

“[P]assing through states of humility and deep devotion represents the nature of the Christian initiation, and he who earnestly goes through it experiences his resurrection in the spiritual worlds. Today it is not possible for all to undertake this path, and so the existence of another method leading to the higher worlds has become a necessity. That is the Rosicrucian method ... It has seven stages, though not consecutive, it is a question of the pupil's own individuality [i.e., different people may reach the stages differently]. The teacher [i.e., guru] prescribes what seems to him adapted to his pupil, and much else forms a part that cannot be made public.

“The seven stages are the following: 

“1. Study.

“2. Imaginative knowledge.

“3. Inspired knowledge, or reading the Occult Script.

“4. Preparation of the Philosopher's Stone. 

“5. Correspondence between Macrocosm and Microcosm. 

“6. Living into the Macrocosm. 

“7. Divine Bliss.” [23]

Let’s review these seven stages briefly.

#1: Study  Studying involves learning to think properly. An especially good way to do this, according to Rudolf Steiner, is to read a couple of books by that eminent expert, Rudolf Steiner: 

“One who will press forward into the higher worlds must accustom himself to the kind of thinking in which one thought proceeds from another. A thinking of this nature is developed in my PHILOSOPHY OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY and TRUTH AND SCIENCE.” [24] 

Obviously, study and thought should be important components in almost any spiritual quest. Bear in mind, however, that if you strictly rely on a guru — even one who is more a friend than a leader — your journey will be largely predetermined. [25] The guru will help identify the right thoughts for you, the prepackaged “living thoughts” you should heed. Thus, your independence will be strictly circumscribed, and the thinking you accept will come principally from others, not yourself.

#2: Imaginative Knowledge  Among the thoughts you will need to accept is this: Imagination is an important source of spiritual knowledge. “Imaginative knowledge” goes beyond thought; it is information gained through use of a form of clairvoyance. A skeptic would call this fantasizing, but that’s where s/he would be wrong. 

“The pupil must educate himself to see in each single flower in the meadow he crosses, the outer expression of a living being ... Some flowers seem to be tears, others are the joyful expression of the earth's Spirit ... The teacher would say: Behold the flower chalice which receives the ray of the sun, the sun calls forth the pure productive forces which slumber in the plant and hence the sun's ray was called the ‘holy lance of love’ ... Imaginative knowledge works down on the etheric body and thence on to the blood ... The best educator is imaginative knowledge, if man is only strong and devoted enough for it to be able to work on him.” [26] 

Of course, the right form of imaginative knowledge consists of ideas that confirm the “truths” the guru wants you to comprehend and embrace. Your imagination or clairvoyance must be, ultimately, “exact” (meaning that it conforms to Steiner’s doctrines).

#3: Inspired knowledge  The “Occult Script” is sort of a movie you make in your head by splicing together the imaginative pictures you have created. Of course, Steiner didn’t say it quite this way; instead, he said: 

“The third stage is Reading in the Occult Script, that is, not only seeing isolated pictures but letting the relationship of these pictures work upon one. This becomes what is called occult script. One begins to coordinate the lines of force which stream creatively through the world forming them into definite figures and colour-forms through the imagination. One learns to discover an inner connection which is expressed in these figures and this acts as spiritual tone, as the sphere-harmony, for the figures are founded on true cosmic proportions. Our script is a last decadent relic of this old occult writing....” [27] 

The movie you create should be essentially indistinguishable from the true super-worldly production embodied in the Akashic Record, a celestial storehouse of wisdom accessible only through clairvoyance. [See "Akasha".]

#4: Preparation of the Philosopher's Stone  The “Philosopher’s Stone” was originally conceived to be the magical substance sought by alchemists for changing base metals into gold. The Rosicrucian version of this, according to Steiner, is a process of changing yourself so that you no longer have to depend on plants to create oxygen for you to breathe. Through a special Rosicrucian procedure, you develop a new organ that converts carbon into oxygen. 

“What is today done by the plant externally, will later on, through a future organ which the pupil is already developing through his training, be effected in man himself ... [H]e will have become akin to the plant, whereas now he is of a mineral nature ... [H]ence his body will later on be more plant-like, then he can turn towards the holy love lance [Steiner’s picturesque way of referring to sunlight] ... This is the Alchemy which leads man to build up his own body as does the plant today. One calls this the preparation of the 'Philosopher's Stone' and carbon is its outer symbol ... The teaching [on how to perform this alchemy] can only be given from teacher to pupil, it is wrapped in deep secrecy, and only after he is completely purified and made ready can the pupil receive this mystery. If it were to be made public today, then men in their egoism would gratify their lowest needs through the misuse of this highest mystery.” [28] 

In Steiner's career as a self-appointed spiritual savant, he revealed the meaning of a great many occult (secret, hidden) beliefs and practices. He pulled off the veil of secrecy (or claimed he did). But on some occasions he drew a line, saying This far, but no further. If he revealed many secrets, he preserved (or claimed he preserved) many other secrets. He trafficked in mystery.

#5: Correspondence between Macrocosm and Microcosm  Steiner taught that Rosicrucians taught that man is a microcosm, a miniature copy of the entire universe, which is the macrocosm. Everything outside yourself also exists inside yourself. This is how living thoughts come to be inside you: Everything that you are came from the cosmos, the macrocosm. 

“The human body is, as it were, pieced together from what was spread outside it, each separate member of your physical body, etheric body and astral body was somewhere outside in the universe. This is the macrocosm in the microcosm. Your very soul was outside in the Godhead. Whatever is within us corresponds to something which is outside, and we must learn to know the true correspondences in ourselves.” [29]

#6 & #7: Living into the Macrocosm, Divine Bliss  Once you understand the correspondences between yourself and the cosmos, you can find everything within yourself, and you can attain communion with the cosmos, which will lead you to divine bliss. But realize that when you gaze inwardly, you are not focusing on yourself: You are actually gazing outward: 

“[Y]ou learn about the macrocosm through sinking yourself into your own body. This is no mere brooding within yourself! You should not say: God is within and I will seek Him. You would only find the puny human being whom you yourself magnify into God! ... The universe is full of beautiful and marvelous things, one must be absorbed in these ... [W]e learn to read the book [that is the] microcosm and the book [that is the] macrocosm from beginning to end ... [I]t fuses the human being with the whole universe ... If a man has reached this point, he voluntarily performs all his deeds in accordance with the will of the whole cosmos and this is what is known as Divine Bliss.” [30]

Since I so rarely affirm any of Steiner's teachings, perhaps I should say at this point that I find the notion of fusing with the cosmos and attaining divine bliss quite appealing. And, indeed, I agree with Steiner that we are made of stuff coming from out of the cosmos; we are thus united with it, in a sense. As Carl Sagan said, we are star stuff, made of elements forged in the heart of stars. [31] I’ll go a step further: I agree that we must not sink into ourselves, in self-absorption. We should seek knowledge and connections that transcend our puny egos. So, in my view, what Steiner has said here is attractive and it even contains seeds of truth. Unfortunately, it also contains bushels of fantasy: performing alchemy on ourselves, reading occult script, relying on imagination and/or clairvoyance, rising and falling through higher and lower racial forms... Steiner has painted a picture that is, in part, quite pretty; but it is also, in part, quite ugly. Steiner’s picture corresponds, more or less, to pictures painted by various other mystics. But Steiner has given us no reason to think that his picture is true, and in fact he has given us numerous reasons to think it is false..








The Rosicrucian path, as described by Steiner, includes various meditations. Here’s one:

“I raise my eyes

To the black wooden Cross

And surrender myself with my soul

Into the power of the World Spirit;

As the black Cross gives itself

Wholly to the light.”  [32]

Hints of Christian gnosticism lie in this meditation: there is a “Cross,” which is surely Christ’s cross; but the cross is black, mysterious, unknown; and the highest divinity is not in any simple way God; it is, rather, “the World Spirit” (the Godhead); and the process of finding spiritual salvation or advancement hinges on illumination, knowledge — the central claim of gnosticism. [See "Gnosis"] There is also a clear emphasis on submission (“I...surrender myself”), which runs contrary to Steiner’s claim that Rosicrucianism stresses independence. Following the Rosicrucian path means accepting particular religious beliefs, specifically (according to Steiner) the doctrines propounded by Steiner — although Steiner spoke in terms of science, knowledge, and independence, rather than religion and belief. 

The dark cross is central to the “Rosicrucian” meditations, as laid out by Steiner:

“Imagine the Cross arising from burning wood. Then, on the Cross, the seven reddish roses, separate from it, and gradually becoming illuminated:

First Rose, lighting up: the left half of the head

May your warmth warm through me.

Second Rose, lighting up: the right half of the head

May your light shine through me.

Third Rose, lighting up: left hand

May your awakeness stream through me.

Fourth Rose, lighting up: right hand

May your peace pour through me.

Fifth Rose, lighting up: left foot

May your ray move powerfully through me.

Sixth Rose, lighting up: right foot

May your raising up penetrate me.

Rose, lighting up: above

I am in your sphere.”  [33]

Aside from being Christ’s cross, what does the rosy cross signify? And what are the seven roses?

“The Rosicrucians are a brotherhood that has fostered a genuinely spiritual Christianity within the spiritual life of Europe ever since the 14th Century. This Rosicrucian Society which, ignoring all outer historical forms, has endeavored to bring to light the deepest truths of Christianity, always called its members 'Christians of St. John.' If we come to understand this term the whole spirit and trend of the following lectures will be — if not mentally comprehended, at least imaginatively grasped.

"As you know, the Gospel of St. John — that mighty document of the human race — begins with the words:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and a God was the Word.

"The same was in the beginning with God.” [34] 

The Word is Christ; or, more properly, Christ is the living embodiment of God’s Word. And each of us has within us (remember the living thoughts) a spiritual essence that is attuned to the Christ essence: 

“And that is precisely what the Johannine Christians of the Rosicrucian Society deemed of greatest import and significance: that there is in every human soul something directly related to the events in Palestine as brought about through Christ Jesus.” [35] 

Steiner called this responsive essence within us the “ego” or the “I.” One's “higher ego” is the portion of the "I" that resides in the spirit realm. The "higher ego" of mankind as a whole is humanity’s shared spirit-dwelling “I.” 

“Those who called themselves the Johannine Christians and whose symbol was the Rose Cross held that precisely what was reborn for mankind as the secret of its higher ego has been preserved — preserved by the close community which grew out of Rosicrucianism. This continuity is symbolically indicated by that sacred vessel from which Christ Jesus ate and drank with His disciples, and in which Joseph of Arimathia caught the blood that flowed from the wound — the Holy Grail which, as the story is told, was brought to Europe by Angels. A temple was built to contain this vessel, and the Rosicrucians became the guardians of what it contained, namely, the essence of the reborn God.” [36]

According to Steiner, the myth of the quest for the Holy Grail — a quest undertaken by King Arthur and his knights — is the search for God’s living Word, the knowledge of God’s essence. This is the gnostic search, the quest for mysterious divine knowledge. 

“In the beginning was the mystery of the higher ego; it was preserved in the Grail; with the Grail it has remained linked. And in the Grail lives the ego united with the eternal and immortal, just as the lower ego [i.e., the part of the "I" that descends to Earth] is bound to the ephemeral and mortal. He who knows the secret of the Holy Grail knows that from the wood of the Cross there springs ever new life, the immortal ego, symbolized by the roses on the black wood of the cross.” [37] 

We see Steiner, here, bending Bible texts to his own vision. The Bible, the Word of God Steiner refers to, says “In the beginning was the Word” and “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible does not say “In the beginning was the mystery of the higher ego.” Do Steiner’s words improve on the Bible, telling us more than the Bible does? Steiner certainly tells us something different; whether this is an improvement may be a matter of opinion. 

Rosicrucianism, the quest for the Grail, gnosticism, Anthroposophy — these all become one in Steiner’s teachings. The roses on the cross may be seen as drops of Christ’s blood, or divine beauty, or the efflorescence of mystery knowledge — they are all these, since all these are one and the same, according to Steiner. The number seven always has a deep, occult significance, Steiner said: We evolve through seven major evolutionary stages, for instance. 

“Seven is the number of perfection. Observation of man himself will make this clear.” [38]

Steiner taught that the most important historical occurrence was the Christ Event — the incarnation and ministry of Christ in the body of Jesus. Everything that happened on Earth before the Christ Event led up to it and then became obsolete after it occurred. This is why the Yoga path is not appropriate for civilized, high-race humans today; it embodies obsolete thinking. This is also why the two paths truly fitted to civilized, high-race humans today are twin aspects of the holy, Christian, gnostic quest: 

“That which dwelt as the Christ in Jesus of Nazareth was the higher divine ego of all humanity, of the reborn God Who, in Adam, as His image, became earthly [i.e., Adam and all humans share the image of Christ, the God who entered a human body; Christ entered into Adam, as it were]. This reborn human ego was perpetuated as a holy secret, was preserved under the symbol of the Rose Cross, and is now proclaimed as the secret of the Holy Grail, as the Rose Cross.” [39]

Perhaps the best way to summarize what we have learned is to quote one of Steiner’s leading spokesmen today, Christopher Bamford, who has served as the editor-in-chief of SteinerBooks. [40] 

“Rudolf Steiner spoke of three ways: what he called the way of ‘yoga’; the ‘Christian’ or ‘Christian-Gnostic’ way; and the ‘Rosicrucian’ way. The three ways are not mutually exclusive but overlap in many ways. They may be said to be distinguishable, but not necessarily divisible ... The yoga way (as interpreted by Steiner) begins with the embodied being and uses the breath and different parts of the meditation. The Christian path works more with the interaction of soul and spirit...and tries to hold love as its beginning and end. ‘Thinking’ (in the sense of ‘living thinking’) lies at the heart of the Rosicrucian practice. Steiner himself practiced and taught all three ways.” [41]

There’s a built-in contradiction for Steiner to have followed all three ways. The Yoga way is obsolete, he said. But perhaps his immense soul transcended past and present and thus found wisdom in all sorts of traditions and thinking. Anything is possible, I suppose.

— Roger Rawlings




















Use this link to go to the second part of

"Rosy Cross".








[1] Rudolf Steiner, MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1985), p. 94.

In a larger sense, Steiner taught that there are just two paths, only one of which leads upward. There is the white path leading to spiritual truth and the black path leading to perdition. [See, e.g., "White/Black" and "Guardians".] The three paths discussed here are essentially subdivisions of the white path.

[2] "Rosicrucian." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 07 Sep. 2009. 

Note that some versions of, or alternatives to, the basic Rosicrucian cross show seven roses, not just one. Steiner had a great deal to say about the occult significance of the number seven.

[3] Andrew J. Welburn, introduction to Rudolf Steiner's CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 1.

[4] Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE MISSION OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 306-307.

Some Anthroposophists contend that Steiner was initiated by Christian Rosenkreutz. 

“Rudolf Steiner himself speaks of two initiatory encounters ... The first is with the herb gatherer Felix Koguzki and the other with the Master ‘M.,’ traditionally taken to be Christian Rosenkreutz.” — Chrisopher Bamford, afterword to Rudolf Steiner's THE SECRET STREAM: CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ AND ROSICRUCIANISM (SteinerBooks, 2000), p. 248. 

Others are less sure of M's identity, although links to Rosicrucianism are suspected. 

“Steiner informed the French occultist Edouard Schuré that at about this time in his life [before turning 21] he had been ‘initiated’ by the ‘M.’ Anthroposophists say they do not know who ‘M’ was ... The impersonality and the letter are reminiscent of the Tibetan ‘Masters’ ... ‘M’ — if he was of flesh and blood — may have followed a more Western path, particularly a revived Rosicrucianism ... The term ‘M’ is also reminiscent of the mythical ‘Book of M’ of Christian Rosenkreutz over two centuries later, and indeed, Steiner saw Anthroposophy as a spiritually complete Rosicrucianism.” — Geoffrey Ahern, SUN AT MIDNIGHT (James Clarke & Co., 2009), pp. 28-29.

[5] "Rosicrucian." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 07 Sep. 2009. 

Note that “Rosenkreutz” is sometimes spelled without the “t”: Rosenkreuz.

[6] Rudolf Steiner, AT THE GATES OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1986), lecture 12, GA 95.

[7] Ibid.

[8] An alternate name for the “Christian” path is the “Christian-Gnostic” path. Steiner referred to “the occult form of Christian-Gnostic wisdom.” — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), p. 10. [For more on Gnosticism, see “Gnosis”.]

[9] Contradicting the affirmation of logic we find here, Steiner more typically derided logical use of the brain. For instance, 

“Logic does not apply when we come into a sphere that can no longer be comprehended by physical means. We finally have to realize that our physical logic works neither in the realm of philosophy nor anywhere else where we concern ourselves with other than physical forms of existence." — Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 84.

[10] There is a logical contradiction between advocating logic and advocating “living thought.” The latter is not a process of rational thinking but the recovery of concepts implanted in our souls before birth. We do not think any “living thought” on our own; we do not reach a “living thought” through logic.

[11] See “The Center”.

[12] In 19th century physics, a universal ether was posited: It was thought to be the medium through which light is propagated. [See "ether", ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.] The concept was later discarded, but Steiner held on to his own spiritualistic version of the theory. 

[13] Rudolf Steiner, CURATIVE EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 2, GA 317. 

For more on the incarnation of the etheric body, see "Incarnation."

[14] CURATIVE EDUCATION, lecture 2.

"[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE: Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.

[15] CURATIVE EDUCATION, lecture 1.

[16] Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 2.

Note: This is essentially a later edition of  THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN.

[17] See “What We Are”.


[19] Ibid., p. 25.

[20] What are the real teachings of Rosicrucianism, as distinct from Steiner’s Theosophical/Anthroposophical take? It’s a little hard to say, since the teachings are secret, and there have been various Rosicrucian orders. In general, Rosicrucian doctrines correspond in some ways to Steiner’s teachings on the human constitution, but not to his teachings on evolution through planetary stages (which Steiner derived mainly from Theosophy). Rosicrucians place emphasis on spiritual development, which for them usually requires a process or reincarnation; in Steiner's teachings, reincarnation is an absolute reality and requirement. Interest in alchemy has been high among Rosicrucians; Steiner's alchemical teachings are, if anything, more esoteric but otherwise similar. Holistic medicine and natural healing constitute another area of common interest. Most fundamentally, Steiner shared the Rosicrucian interest in Gnostic Christianity. Explications of Rosicrucianism you might consult are ROSICRUCIAN MANUAL, by H. Spencer Lewis, THE TRUE AND INVISIBLE ROSICRUCIAN ORDER, by Paul Foster Case, WISDOM OF THE MYSTIC MASTERS, by Joseph Weed, and THE ROSICRUCIANS, by Christopher McIntosh. Perhaps the most reliable and learned is THE ROSICRUCIAN ENLIGHTENMENT, by Frances A. Yates.

For an explication of planetary stages, see "Matters of Form" and "The Planets".

[21] See “Everything” and “Steiner Static”.



The same text, in slightly different wording, can be found in ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM, pp. 159-160.


[25] Remember that Steiner said the seeker must “find a Guru on whom he can strictly rely.“ — AT THE GATES OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1986), lecture 12, GA 95.

[26] THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN, pp. 161-163. In ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM, this information appears on pp. 162-163.

Steiner identified imagination as one of three related forms of clairvoyance. The others are inspirations and intuition. [See the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]


[28] Ibid., pp. 164-165.

[29] Ibid., p. 165.

The Godhead may be considered the highest God, living apart, or it may be considered the creative force that is extended throughout Creation. The Godhead can be considered the origin, as God can be seen as the goal of evolution. [See "God" and "All".]

[30] Ibid., pp. 165- 166.

While in this passage Steiner refers to God, he more often referred to multiple gods and denied that monotheism presents an accurate view of reality.  

“Monotheism or monism can only represent an ultimate ideal; it could never lead to a real understanding of the world, to a comprehensive, complete view of the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 115.


“The fate of individual human beings may not now be connected in a deep way with the rest of the universe, but the matter out of which each of us is made is intimately tied to the processes that occurred immense intervals of time and enormous distances in space away from us. Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic materials we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interiors of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.” — Carl Sagan, CARL SAGAN'S COSMIC CONNECTION (Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 190.

[32] Rudolf Steiner, START NOW! (SteinerBooks, 2004), p. 197.

[33] Ibid., pp. 195-196.

[34] Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN (Anthroposophic Press, 1948), lecture 1, GA 112.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), p. 43.

[39] THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN, lecture 1.

Steiner’s convoluted language and thought may result from the profundity of the spiritual truths he intimated. Or not.

[40] I am writing these words on Sept. 8, 2009.

[41] START NOW!, p. 188.