We have to remember that the Mysteries of ancient times were of such a nature and character that in the Mystery centres an actual meeting with the gods could take place. In the lectures recently given at the Christmas Foundation Meeting, I described how the human being who was an initiate or was about to receive initiation did truly meet with the gods.
And it was actually possible in those times to discover places that by their very locality were expressly fitted to induce such meetings with the gods.
The founding impulse for all the more ancient civilisations arose from such centres. Gradually, however, they disappeared, and from the fourth century onward were no longer to be found in their original form. Here and there we may come upon survivals, but the knowledge is no longer so exact or reliable. Not that initiation ever ceased; it was the form in which the candidates found their way that changed.
I have already indicated how things were in the Middle Ages. I have told you how here and there were individuals, living simple, humble, unpretentious lives, who did not gather around them a circle of official students in one particular place, but whose students were scattered in various directions in accordance with karma – with the karma, that is, of humankind or with the karma of some people or nation. I should like to tell you of a typical example, on that had very great influence, lasting from the twelfth and thirteenth, on into the fifteenth centuries:
Around AD 1200, there were a great number of people, especially younger people, who felt within them the urge for higher knowledge, for a union with the spiritual world – one may truthfully say, for a meeting with the gods. And the whole situation and condition of the times was such that very often it looked as though a person who was searching and striving in this way found his or her teacher almost by chance. In those days one could not find one’s teachers through books; it could come about only in an entirely personal way. But although it might look from without like a chance happening, in reality deep connections of destiny were at work in the event.
Rudolf Steiner, The Secret Stream, Hidden Centres of the Mysteries in the Middle Ages