Ancient Myths and the New Isis Mystery
7 lectures, Dornach, January 4–13, 1918 (CW 180);
1 lecture, December 24, 1920 (CW 202)
“In the course of my recent public lectures in Switzerland, I have repeatedly said that the knowledge, the way of thinking currently prevailing and indeed deeply rooted in the human soul, is ill suited to deal with social and moral life. Present conditions can be restored to a healthy state only if people are able to find their way back to a thinking, a grasp of the universe, that will give what lives in the soul a direct link with reality.” — Rudolf Steiner (Jan. 4, 1918)
The ancient myths were an expression of great truths about the nature of the universe and human development. Through mysterious, lively images, they describe a people’s knowledge of their origins, their place in the cosmos, and their particular state of consciousness. Because our modern consciousness has become so abstract, these stories challenge us to exercise another kind of consciousness if we want to experience their truths and reunite with the realities behind them.
In these lectures, Steiner looks at the Egyptian, Greek, and Hebrew myths and illustrates how the myths expressed the consciousness of the people of that time. He sees in the Osiris-Isis story an expression of the loss of a direct experience of the suprasensory world. He shows the connection between this loss and the challenge we face today to bring new life to our abstract ways of knowing.
Steiner then offers a remarkable story, a new Isis legend. In the Egyptian myth the veiled Isis states, “I am the All; I am the Past, the Present, and the Future; no mortal has yet lifted my veil.” In the New Isis legend as told by Rudolf Steiner, the Isis figure states, “I am the Human Being, I am the Past, the Present, and the Future. Every mortal should lift my veil.” This extraordinary story is a challenge to modern humanity to awaken to a new consciousness of the spiritual forces at work in our lives and in society, and to bear this new spirit within us with ever greater understanding and a sense of responsibility.
These lectures are a tremendous inspiration to transform our head knowledge into heart knowledge and to lift the veil to spirit and know our place in the past, present, and future.
About the Author
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up. As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.