Rudolf Steiner’s "Mexican Mysteries" Reviewed

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Rudolf Steiner’s “Mexican Mysteries” Reviewed

Chapter III of American Chapters

Stephen Clarke

Dec. 5, 2004


The Situation – p. 1

Steiner’s Context – p. 4

Christ-Activity in the Pre-Columbian Far West – p. 5

Scrutinizing the Text, Images 1 & 2 – p. 8

Steiner’s Sources Examined – p. 16
A Possible Answer to a Vexing Riddle – p. 21
Meaning and Significance – p. 24

Coda and Summary – p. 28

Endnotes – p. 34

Supplementary material as included with Steiner’s texts – p. 37
Images, 3 to 28 – p. 51
Rudolf Steiner’s lecture-materials on the Mexican Mysteries – p. 76
Legends of Coyolxauhqui and Huitzilopochtli, Images 29 to 42, and themes – p. 115
Steinerian and Mesoamerican UnderWorlds – p. 126
Selections from R. J. Stewart – p. 137
Bibliography & Images credits – p. 144

The Situation

Having referred to the implications of Rudolf Steiner’s far-reaching indications on Mesoamerica throughout the preceding sections, it is now time to look a little more closely at those indications themselves (the full texts of which are quoted herein). Introducing the reader to those disturbing indications regarding the inner nature and spiritual destiny of America might seem straightforward in one respect; they are sparse. Many of them - and the majority of the most penetrating ones - are bundled up within a pair of similar lectures given in 1916. The lecture of Sept. 18, 1916 had to be repeated on Sept. 24, as there seemed to be general befuddlement on the part of too many in the audience. It is not known if things fared any better at that latter date, since that lecture is essentially a repeat of the former one. There is no record of any follow-up lectures dealing with the topics raised, nor of any immediate activity provoked in listeners by the material.

Also included in this Chapter are treatments of closely-related subjects by modern informed specialists. They are included to illustrate and expand upon certain aspects of Steiner’s comments and attitude, but ones which are not unique to his system – ones that are accentuated in this area but which I feel illustrate trends more widely, if more diffusely spread elsewhere in the more speculative fringes of modern spirituality. In-depth discussion of Steiner’s more provocative implications takes place elsewhere.

Some ink has been spilled by various later commentators who have drawn various conclusions form Steiner’s remarks on the “Mexican Mysteries”.1 Few reveal any conscientious examination of the source material, familiarity with the relevant cultures, or research into the contemporary literature or scholarship. Most offer observations which are simply paraphrases of Steiner’s own remarks. Whatever the faults of my analysis, I will not be repeating those mistakes: I break through the imaginal logjam that has piled up around this subject.

Intriguingly, what Steiner does not say about America is just as fascinating as what he does have to say about it – and it is this absent portion which is profoundly perplexing. In this area of investigation, as in no other, he demands the inner participation of the reader, and leads him or her beyond his or her previous limits of understanding. Deep implications are folded inbetween what he does say and what he does not say, and even if one reads between the lines, it is riddles that emerge! To do more than search for factoids or justification of previous (mis)conceptions demands intense inner work – original work – on the part of the one whose curiosity is provoked by Steiner’s indications.

Provoked is a good word for it. In 1916, the time from which these core lectures date, America was still a savage backwater for one who stood upon the tall shoulders of European culture, and the USA had not yet entered to tilt the balance in the Great War. Steiner never shrunk from a harsh evaluation of our historical record and of the future perils which it indicates, and his complex intuition of our ancient foundations was not well served by the rudimentary state of the archeological and anthropological sciences of his day (although there were resources which he did not make full use of, as we shall see).

Temperamentally, he was not sympathetic to the nuances of boisterous life in the Far West, and this tends to make appreciation of his insights difficult. For instance, he decried the coarse influences of jazz, the only truly American art form.

The benefits of inter-culturalism and inter-disciplinary scientific archeology were still to come. Some of his statements have not withstood the test of time, and this in itself is confounding for those who take his word as holy writ. His personal attitudes have frequently been taken as a given by novice acolytes. But these need not concern us overmuch, for few who have ventured opinions on the nature of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica have survived unscathed and the modern scholars maintain by adhering to an exceedingly cautious empiricism, or by eschewing eccentricity. For example, only recently has the Mayan hieroglyphic script begun to be deciphered; many a textbook has had to be rewritten as a result, many a popular theory relegated to crackpot status, many a famous authority proved wrong - yesterday‘s science can easily end up on tomorrow’s scrap heap. For decades, the dogma was that the Mayan temple-cities were arenas set aside for strictly ceremonial use, tended only by peaceful astronomer-kings, the surrounding populace admitted only during special events. We now know that they were thriving urban centers and that celebrating or planning war with neighboring feudal lords was a major and more-or-less constant preoccupation.

Steiner fares well as measured against such precedents. In addition, he never claimed to be continually in the state of clairvoyant seership, and he easily allowed as how errors were possible even then. Whether he was correct on all counts and in every respect is not of central concern in this; what is the focus here is the manner in which his indications can be grounded in contemporary scholarship and, reciprocally, how his indications can bring additional meaning to the cloud of disassociated details within that extensive body of knowledge. In spite of a great deal of entirely probably theories about the ground-level organization of Mesoamerican societies, few venture to envision an overarching picture of how their motivating world-views operated, competed, and changed with time and conditions.

What is most provocative in his observations is that which he sees as the core event in America’s2 destiny, the aftereffects of which are duly noted by scholars but whose causes are searched for within a cripplingly limited field of view. The consequences of the typical modern syndromes of over-specialization and compartmentalization are evident. Steiner, in these lectures, speaks to the meaning of history. He approaches the subject from the direction of its significance; from the whole to the parts: he tells the story, he is not content to remain with the details. His sense of the deep cycles and hidden currents of history allows him to go where the facts themselves are mute. His ability to talk, walk, and act with the gods themselves grants him a singular and broad perspective. His method may not be able to tell us everything we might wish to know, but it is at least a flexible addition to the inquirer’s toolbag. We shall see where using it may take us. Out of his firm grounding in the Middle-European Esoteric Tradition (in this section, I try and reserve the term “West” for what is local to the Americas) and as applied to the events in Mesoamerica at the time of Christ, he makes some astounding assertions: assertions which are totally unprecedented – even for him. Deeply positive at heart, they are never referred to again in the course of his furiously busy and extensive lecturing – another puzzle which begs for attention.

A large portion of his work is still not published in English, and there are no doubt midden-piles of uncollated notes, letters, reminiscences, and what-not that is extant in around and about Europe. Even though searches in the index of his Gesamtausgabe – the Index of Complete Collected Works - for major keywords related to the topics at hand reveal no unturned stones, it remains possible and hopeful that something of value may still turn up – an effort in cultural archeology for some enterprising soul!

For those familiar with Steiner’s legacy, it is this point about the singular nature of his Mexican Mystery comments which is most perplexing, for RS is famous not only for the allusive style of his statements, but also for the way in which he usually persists in circling back upon them from different vantage points throughout his career, in different places and to different audiences, at different times. As most of his public utterances have been recorded and published, it is possible for one so inclined to collate his varied observations on a given subject and generate a rather well-rounded impression of his perspectives on just about any given topic. This is a great benefit: oftentimes, an isolated observation may seem to be offensive to common sense or to the conventional wisdom, or several statements from different sources may seem to bluntly contradict each other. Only later might they reveal a higher reconciliation after some sustained reflection and recourse to yet other diverse references. In this way, a more mobile, well-rounded, and lifelike perspective is gained for complex topics not easily reducible to a check-list of attributes or a capsule definition. Steiner, like any good old-world taskmaster, makes one work for one’s supper; he honors the plastic nature of living reality, and this demand that the listener or reader do more than simply listen or read is an integral part of his teaching method.

With regards to Steiner’s essential comments about Spiritual America, we have no recourse to a fund of nuanced references, and his requirement that the reader participate in the process of constructing his or her own cognition of the subject is thus given little assistance. They stand alone with little direct corroboration from either himself or accepted academic scholarship, although scrupulous and unbiased examination of the existing data does allow of alternate interpretations which are congruent with Steiner’s statements, and if Steiner’s statements are treated in similarly generous, “Imaginative” according to the technical lexicon of his anthroposophy - fashion.

Steiner himself was adamant that no one accept his statements as authoritative: each listener or reader was under the obligation to test and try them out for themselves in the crucible of discrimination, conscience, and experience - especially since his transcribed lectures were published unreviewed and uncorrected by him (such disclaimers are frequently included in the forwards to their printed editions; that includes the ones here under discussion). Yet what is one to do when confronted by his assertion that in the years 30 – 33 AD, in Mexico, a conflict was waged over the process of the sacrificial death of Christ, and that the successful results of this encounter were decisive for the future of earth-evolution? One cannot easily co-opt this datum into whatever conceptual framework one may have already formulated; one must either confront it and its corollaries with a decisive intent, or find a way to dismiss it out of hand. Examination of this statement using a variety of perspectives indicates that this core insight is of the highest value and accuracy, standing out from the rest of the contextual material in which it is embedded, much of which it must be admitted is of a very different quality.

Not only is this an inherently complicating and confusing element, but the extent to which later followers and commentators have neglected to make this essential discrimination has muddied the waters considerably for the conscientious researcher.

In this installment we shall concentrate upon examining Steiner’s text and matters closely related to it. Following sections will address broader and deeper issues involving inner perspectives of local American Traditions.

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