My dear friends, we have reached an event in human history that is of the greatest imaginable importance. Human beings are making the resolve: We will renounce knowledge! It was in one of those simple gatherings of Rosicrucians that, on the occasion of a ritual arranged for the purpose – during the latter half of the fifteenth century – people’s knowledge of the stars was, in deeply solemn manner, offered up.
People stood before a kind of altar and said: “We resolve to feel ourselves at this moment responsible not for ourselves alone, nor for our community or our nation alone, not even for the people of our time alone; we resolve to feel ourselves responsible for all people who have ever lived on Earth, we resolve to feel ourselves belonging to the whole of humankind.
And we feel that what has really happened with human beings is that they have deserted the rank of the fourth hierarchy and have descended too deeply into matter. [ for the ‘Fall’ was understood in this sense.] And so that humanity may be able to return to the ran of the fourth hierarchy, may be able to find for itself of its own free will what in earlier times gods have tried to find for it and with it, let now the higher knowledge be offered up for a season.
And certain beings of the spiritual world, who are not of humankind, who do not come to Earth in human incarnation, accepted the sacrifice in order to fulfill therewith certain purposes of the spiritual world. Thereby was the impulse for freedom made possible for human beings.
Everything that takes place in the external life of the physical senses has its spiritual counterpart; we merely have to look for it in the right place. For it can happen that such a ritual, enacted – I will not say, in this instance, with full knowledge, but enacted by persons who stand in connection with the spiritual world, can have very deep meaning; from it can radiate impulses for a whole culture, for a whole stream of civilisation.
It is a fact that if we want to come to a clear knowledge of the fundamental colouring and tone of a particular epoch of history, we must look for the source in the spiritual; the spiritual spring whose forces stream through that epoch of time. Whatever, in the years that followed, showed itself to be of a truly spiritual nature was a kind of echo sounding on of this creative working out of unknown spiritual worlds. Side by side with external materialism that developed in the succeeding centuries, we can always find here and there individuals who are living under the influence of that renunciation of higher knowledge.
The Secret Stream, Rudolf Steiner