AN EXTRAORDINARY AND INSPIRING NEW BOOK
BY SERGEI O. PROKOFIEFF
Rudolf Steiner and the Masters of Esoteric Christianity is a fitting and revelatory capstone to a life of extraordinary dedication to the beating heart—the very life—of Anthroposophy. It is also valedictory. Written in Sergei Prokofieff’s final years, it is clear, straightforward, luminous; it unfolds naturally, without haste, with magisterial clarity, and in perfect control of its material.
Prokofieff’s first book, Rudolf Steiner and the Founding of the New Mysteries, the first of more than forty books, in a sense already contains the seed of the last. For the New Mysteries brought into the world by Rudolf Steiner are in fact the Mysteries of Esoteric Christianity. Without this compass, Anthroposophy as Rudolf Steiner brought it into the world cannot be understood. To comprehend Rudolf Steiner as a Master of Esoteric Christianity, and Esoteric Christianity as the heart and life-blood of Anthroposophy, this is the essential book.
For those who may not know his name, Sergei Prokofieff, who died on July 26, 2014, was a true servant and, one might say, a Master of Anthroposophy, dedicated to revealing the true, esoteric Christianity by which, as he might put it, Anthroposophy lives. Russian born, but from the 1980s living in the West, in Dornach, Prokofieff brought to the research, study, practice, and interpretation of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings a deep, unwavering commitment to the task of unveiling the esoteric, living Christianity that is at the very foundation of Anthroposophy.
The story of the Masters begins in Berlin, at the turn of the twentieth century, when Rudolf Steiner is asked to give a lecture to the Theosophical Society on Nietzsche and then to follow it with two lectures of his own choosing. These two lectures already broached themes of esoteric Christianity and were, in fact, Christian and Rosicrucian in essence. They subsequently became the first properly anthroposophical/theosophical books, namely, Mystics at the Dawn of the Modern Age and Christianity as Mystical Fact.
All three lectures were very well received. Moreover, Rudolf Steiner, who was already familiar from his Vienna days with Theosophy, felt at home, perhaps unexpectedly, with the theosophists he met. The upshot was that he was asked to become the general secretary of the German Section.
Right away, he was faced with the reality that Theosophy, having first been Western (founded in New York) and Rosicrucian (Blavatsky’s first book, Isis Unveiled, was Rosicrucian in inspiration), was now explicitly Eastern (non-Christian) and showing signs of becoming anti-Christian. These signs, within a few years, would manifest in the proclamation of Krishnamurti as at once Christ and the Maitreya Bodhisattva.
It should not be forgotten that Rudolf Steiner was esoteric Christian and Rosicrucian from the beginning—from his days as an altar boy to his encounter with the Rosicrucian herb-gatherer Felix Kogutsky (who led him to M [the Master]), his Goethean studies, and his apprenticeship with the philosophies of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, as well as with those whom they had studied, namely, Meister Eckhart, Paracelsus, Jakob Boehme, and other Rosicrucians. More important perhaps, Rudolf Steiner had already undergone the initiatory Christ experience he describes in his Autobiography:
The Christianity that I had to find was not in any of the existing confessions. After the severe, inner struggles during that time of testing, I found it necessary to immerse myself in Christianity and, indeed, in the world where spirit itself speaks of it.
My relationship to Christianity should make it clear that my spiritual science cannot be attained through the kind of research ascribed to me by many people. They suggest that I have assembled a theory of spirit based on ancient traditions. They suppose that I have elaborated Gnosticism and other such teachings. The spiritual insight attained in Christianity as Mystical Fact is brought directly from the world of spirit itself. I examined the records of history and incorporated them into that work only because I wanted to demonstrate, both to the lecture audience and to the book’s readers, the harmony between history and what is perceived spiritually. But I took nothing from historical documents for the book’s content unless I had first experienced it in spirit.
During the period when my statements about Christianity seemed to contradict my later comments, a conscious knowledge of real Christianity began to dawn within me. Around the turn of the century, this seed of knowledge continued to develop. The soul test described here occurred shortly before the beginning of the twentieth century. It was decisive for my soul’s development that I stood spiritually before the Mystery of Golgotha in a deep and solemn celebration of knowledge.
Against this background, Rudolf Steiner’s task in becoming the general secretary of the German Section was to ween it gradually from its Eastern sources, while at the same time infusing it with Western and Rosicrucian esoteric Christianity. From the beginning, he was led to understand from higher sources that Theosophy was the natural and appropriate spiritual vehicle for our age, but to fulfil this task its universal origins had to be recovered; a task esoteric Christianity could accomplish. Indeed, there were not two esotericisms, but only one; for, as Rudolf Steiner said in a lecture on April 12,1909: “There is no wisdom of the East that has not streamed into Western occultism; and in Rosicrucianism you will find absolutely everything that the great sages of the East have preserved…. The wisdom of the West must embrace all the teachings of the East … and—without allowing any of it to be lost—illuminate it with the light kindled within humanity by the Christ impulse.”
The great pivot in this task of returning Theosophy to its universal origins through the infusion of esoteric Christianity came with the Theosophical Congress of 1907 at which Rudolf Steiner was given permission to create his own “Western” Esoteric Section and teaching. And so, at the very first meeting of the Esoteric Section following the Congress, Rudolf Steiner announced: “At the head of our Western School there are two Masters: The Master Jesus and the Master Christian Rosenkreutz.…What is given through me on behalf of the Masters of the West goes independently alongside what Mrs. Besant teaches on behalf of the Masters of the East.”
The nature and mission of the five additional Masters—Mani, Scythianos, Gautama Buddha, the Maitreya bodhisattva, and Novalis—emerge in Prokofieff’s narrative in concert with his exposition of the great fruits of Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual research, including: Christ’s return in the etheric, the reality of and consequence of the two Jesus children, and the spiritual unveiling of the esoteric significance of the different Gospels. These are woven together with the other Christian Mysteries that open to us in our time, namely, the Michael Mysteries (Archangel Michael), the Sophia Mysteries (Divine Feminine Wisdom), and the Mysteries specific to Christ Jesus and the Mystery of Golgotha. These Mysteries, in some sense specific to Rudolf Steiner’s special mission, lead finally to a profound consideration of the spiritual individuality of Rudolf Steiner himself—to Rudolf Steiner as a true Master of Esoteric Christianity.
From this point of view, Prokofieff describes the “archetypal phenomenon” of Rudolf Steiner’s initiation as consisting of four aspects: First, “Not I, but the Christ in me,” exemplifying the highest stage of intuition, the receiving into himself the impression of the ‘I’ of Christ Jesus, which Prokofieff calls “the most important result of modern initiation.” Second, being overlighted by the Holy Spirit, whereby he was able to form a new connection to the cosmic sphere of the bodhisattvas. Third, the conscious experience of Sophia in her contemporary presence, enabling the spiritualization of the present Michaelic intelligence—the intelligence awakened in our time by the Archangel Michael that makes possible the entry into the spiritual world and the working with the etheric Christ. Fourth, the full spiritualization of the Michael intelligence through the path outlined in his Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. In Steiner’s words, “Michael wants a human being to become a free being who through the path of his concepts and ideas also finds an understanding of what comes to him from the spiritual world by way of revelation.” In this sense, the archetypal phenomenon of Rudolf Steiner’s initiation is available to anyone willing to undertake this path.
There is, of course, much more. What I have given here are only glimpses of what Prokofieff presents. Though this rich book is remarkably accessible, it requires deep reading and meditation to grasp its full significance. Every deep and life-changing book makes that demand of its readers. Reading this book with an open mind and an inner need to understand more deeply the significance of Anthroposophy as an esoteric Christian path and also—between the lines—Rudolf Steiner himself as a Master of Esoteric Christianity, the teacher of an esoteric Christianity of the present and the future, this book could be a life-changer.
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