A Different Country? The 13th Century and Today (2)

This article was first published in New View magazine #111 April-June 2024

Part 1 of the article is here: http://threeman.org/?p=3182

IN the presence of Rudolf Steiner during his visit to Britain in the late summer of 1923, on 2 September the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain was founded, and Daniel N. Dunlop proposed that Rudolf Steiner become its president for life, which Steiner accepted. After a lecture he held later that day, Steiner gave this verse to the members of the Society in Britain:

I gaze into the darkness. In it arises Light – living Light.

Who is this Light in the darkness? It is I myself in my reality.

This reality of the I does not enter into my life on earth; I am but a picture of it.

But I shall find it again when, with good will for the Spirit,

I shall have passed through the Gate of Death.

The Goetheanum, at Dornach, Switzerland, the fruit of ten year’s hard work destroyed by arson on 31 December 1922, had lain in ruins since the beginning of the New Year. The situation in a postwar Germany beset by hyperinflation was absolutely dire – hunger, poverty, corruption, crime, decadence, extremist political violence – and nationalist attacks had prevented Steiner from lecturing there in 1923. But he felt that the summer school at Penmaenmawr, north Wales, in particular was one of the most significant episodes in the story of the anthroposophical movement and frequently referred to it as such. Seeds were planted there, not least in relation to the anthroposophical medical work, which were very positive for the future: light in the darkness.

Our present circumstances today in 2024, on the surface, look very grim. Doomsayers abound. For some three decades, many have been predicting catastrophe for humanity and nature as a whole through a climate crisis centred on ‘greenhouse gases’, notably CO2, allegedly caused by ‘man-made’ (now renamed anthropogenic) ‘global warming’ (now renamed ‘climate change’). With each passing year, their warnings have become ever more shrill, to the point where we are now being urged to eat insects instead of animals, because animals’ gaseous methane emissions are adding to ‘climate change’. Others have warned that since the banking crash of 2007-2009, we have been standing on the edge of a financial precipice which might collapse beneath us at any time. Then there are those who have been telling us over the past ten years or so that ‘democracy’, which looked so triumphant in the 1990s, is now tottering, through corruption and apathy, towards authoritarianism. The techno-utopian Transhumanists and their techno-dystopian opponents, from their differing optimistic and pessimistic perspectives, both declare that humanity will be replaced in this century by artificial intelligence and cyborgs. Most recently, the political instruments of the global elite urge us to prepare for war against Russia, and possibly China, apparently forgetting that this is not 1939 and that those two countries, like the West, possess nuclear weapons supposedly capable of destroying much if not all life on the planet. Clearly, in such circumstances, one needs cool nerves.

Steiner pointed out many times that disasters and catastrophes in the modern age, such as the First World War, which he lived through, have occurred and will go on occurring because of the onset of materialism in our thinking around the year 1600, its subsequent application to all aspects of culture and our failure to wake up to this fact. In particular, he urged that without awareness of the activities of spiritual beings, including those of the human so-called ‘dead’, historical and contemporary events could not be understood. The spiritual world, after all, is not ‘up there’ or ‘over there’ or ‘beyond’, it is all round us; we are moving through it all the time, but we don’t see it, just as we don’t see the objects in our bedrooms when we lie asleep in our beds. We are not conscious of them, but they are there nevertheless.

In daily life, when we look at another person, we see the body, but we do not see the soul, the spirit, the ‘I’ (the kernel, the essential self of the human individuality) and yet they are invisibly associated with the person’s body. Likewise, when we observe the planets in the heavens, we see the ‘heavenly bodies’ of Mars, Jupiter or Saturn, for example, but we do not physically see the spiritual beings associated with those planetary bodies. Both modern and ancient spiritual science, however, speak of the existence of spiritual beings associated with the heavenly bodies and not only with the planetary bodies we can actually see but also with the regions or spheres which the orbits of those planetary bodies delineate. In other words, the planet is but an indicator of a zone, region, layer, or sphere – if we imagine our solar system rather like an onion with thick layers – and the beings of our solar system have their habitations in the layers of the onion but are able to move freely throughout the various layers.


                                                        The Saturn-Jupiter conjunction Dec. 2020

The 800-year cycle of Saturn and Jupiter

Saturn is the planet traditionally associated with the past, with restriction, limits and boundaries  and with the beginning of the solar system, while Jupiter is traditionally associated with the future, with prosperity and expansion of all kinds). The 60-year invisible equilateral triangle patterns formed by the meetings of these two giants (3 meetings, or conjunctions, every 60 years) rotate around the Zodiac over a period of approximately 800 years, as noted by Renaissance astronomers such as Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler.1 They recognised this 800-year periodicity as signifying the birth of a new and particular historical and cultural impulse. Approximately every 400 years there is a particularly close conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter. These ‘super-close’ conjunctions mark the midpoint, or the onset of the descending phase of the 800-year cycle of conjunctions.

What is meant by ‘descending’ here? Each 800-year cycle passes through four phases: Saturn and Jupiter conjunctions occur for approximately 200 years in Fire signs of the Zodiac, then for 200 years in Earth signs, followed by 200 years in Air signs and finally, 200 years in Water signs – always in this order. The new historical and cultural impulse launched by a new 800-year cycle always begins with a Fire sign (Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius). Over 400 years this new impulse builds in momentum to a certain peak and then begins gradually to fade over the following 400 years. In 1603 a new 800-year cycle began (in Sagittarius); we are still in that cycle today, but the super-close Saturn-Jupiter conjunction of December 2020 was important because with that conjunction the two giants began to meet in Air signs, which they will do for the next approximately 200 years. Four years ago, we therefore entered the descending arc of the historical impulse that had begun in c.1603. We can see this impulse as the impulse of materialistic natural science that began with the likes of Bacon, Galileo, Kepler and Newton.

The previous 800-year cycle had begun (again in a Fire sign, Sagittarius) in October 809. In the West, we can see that the impulse that began at that time was that of the political power of the Papacy in relation to the ‘new’ Roman Empire, founded when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne ‘Roman Emperor’ on Christmas Day 800; (the term Holy Roman Empire was not used until 1254). This universalist impulse of Papacy and Empire reached its mid-point, or high point 400 years later with the conjunction of April 1206. Two years earlier, in the so-called 4th Crusade, the ancient Byzantine Empire – the direct successor to the Roman Empire in that it had been founded by the Emperor Constantine I (‘the Great’) who had moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium and first renamed the city Nova Roma (New Rome) in 324 and then in 330 Constantinople, after himself – was extinguished by the Crusaders of the West as a favour to the Venetians and their Doge (Duke), Enrico Dandolo (1120–1205), who had long wanted to see the Byzantine Empire destroyed; he had been blinded there in his younger days. He was a man, incidentally, whom Steiner identified as “an incarnation of the ahrimanic spirit”.2 So, the older form of universalism, the old Roman Empire, which had been transferred to the East by Constantine and had come to represent a continuation of the Greek (Orthodox) rather than the Latin (Roman Catholic) spirit, was extinguished by the Catholic Crusaders of the West and many of the relics, works of art and precious documents of Constantinople were transferred to Venice and other places further West.


                                                                             Pope Innocent III  r. 1198-1216

In the Christian world from 1204 onwards, the ‘newer’ universalist impulses of the Italian Papacy (most of the Popes were Roman or Italian aristocrats) and of the Western Roman Empire of the Germans were dominant. But that moment of the apparent triumph of Latin Christianity over the Greek ‘Romans’ of the East in 1204 – Rome’s triumph over its old rival Constantinople – proved to be the moment when the cosmic scales began to swing the other way into the second half of the 800-year cycle that had begun in Rome, with the Pope’s coronation of Charlemagne in the year 800. 1206 was the beginning of the end of the newer universalist impulses of Papacy and Empire, even though the two most prominent rulers of the next 20 years were very outspoken representatives of those same universalist impulses: (see pics.) Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) and Frederick II, who was King of Germany from 1212 and Roman Emperor from 1220 until his death in 1250.3


                                                                                 Frederick II, 1194-1250

                            King of Sicily from 1198, King of Germany from 1212

King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor from 1220, King of Jerusalem from 1225.

Outsize figures of tremendous ambition and overweening claim for the institutions they ruled, the two men frequently clashed with one another. Frederick was excommunicated several times by the Popes and was called preambulus Antichristi (predecessor of the Antichrist) by the Vatican and by his contemporaries stupor mundi (the astonishment of the world), so from 1220 to 1250 a man was Roman Emperor in the West who his contemporaries clearly felt was extremely unorthodox and radical, a most unusual genius in some ways but also immoral, or even amoral, not least because of his bizarre ‘scientific’ experiments on live human beings and his employment of Muslims and Jews at his court.

While the universalist claims of Papacy and Empire, which arguably had their roots in the Pope’s coronation of Charlemagne in 800, seemed in the ascendant in the West c.1206, with both Pope and Emperor making claims of their sovereignty over almost everyone in Europe, in the East universalism was also about to rise to its zenith, in a way that would make the claims of Pope and Emperor seem insignificant. This would combine with another fact of cosmic history that is referred to by Steiner many times but had been known of by European esotericists for at least four or five centuries before him – the cycle of the rulerships of seven archangels over approximately 350-400-year periods throughout history. Archangels are normally associated with groups (tribes, clans, peoples, nations) of human beings, as distinct from Angels, who ‘guide’ individuals, but there are seven named Archangels, each associated with a particular planetary sphere, who have the special task of guiding those peoples who have a particular ‘leading role’, for about 350-400 years, within larger historical epochs of 2160 years which relate to the apparent passage of the Sun through the Zodiac.4 In 1190 (according to Rudolf Steiner, but 1171 according to Abbot Johannes Trithemius of Sponheim in 1508)5 the Archangel Samael, associated with the planet Mars, took over the rulership of humanity from the Archangel Raphael, associated with Mercury. The 13th century then, was the first century of the age of the Mars Archangel Samael.

How does this relate to our time 800 years later? 1226 saw the first Saturn-Jupiter conjunction after the midpoint of the great Saturn-Jupiter conjunction cycle that began in 809. The 1226 conjunction occurred in Aquarius, an Air sign. What was the midpoint of the Saturn-Jupiter cycle through which we are living in the 21st century and which began in 1603? It was the December 2020 conjunction. The last Saturn-Jupiter conjunction to appear as close and as visible as the one at winter solstice December 2020 occurred in March 1226. In terms of Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions then, 1226 relates to 2020; these two conjunctions were both close to, or at, the midpoint of an 800-year cycle. The 809-1603 grand cycle can be described as that of the impulse of political and religious universalism, its rise and fall. The 1603-2398 grand cycle can be seen as that of the impulse of materialistic natural science, a universalist impulse of another kind, which seeks to universalise the claims of materialism in all areas of life, beginning with natural science in the 17th century. There is a resonance then, between the 13th and the 21st centuries. In 1226 and 2020 these two broad 800 year-long cultural impulses were at their peak but beginning to head downwards.

The Mongols and Mars

Astronomer Patrick Hartigan at Rice University in Houston,6 USA notes with regard to the 1226 conjunction that “[f]or perspective, Genghis Khan was still roaming Asia then.” A particularly interesting observation! Genghis Khan, who arguably could be called the most martial warlord who launched the most martial, even genocidal empire in recorded history, died the following year (1227) whilst on a campaign against the Western Xia (the Tangut kingdom of northwest China) who his forces subjected to genocide. Born in c.1162 just before the beginning of the Mars Archangel period began, Temüjin – the name comes from a root meaning ‘iron’7 – took the name Genghis Khan (‘master of the ocean’, i.e. ‘universal ruler’) and had been declared Great Khan of all the Mongols in 1206, the year of the previous Saturn-Jupiter conjunction and the turning point conjunction in the 800-year cycle from 809 to 1603. Steiner pointed out that two of the most significant things about the Mongol invasions of the 13th century – quite apart from their effects on the history of China and India – were the Black Death (and its many ramifications) throughout the vast continent of Eurasia some 100 years later and the ‘discovery’, or rather re-discovery, of America by Europeans in 1492;8 we can then realise the world-historical significance of the 13th century.

Map of Central Asian Mongol campaigns between 1216 and 1223.

Campaigns of Genghis Khan and his generals 1209-1227

In short, this was the time when humanity began to be aware of the world as a whole. The Mongols not only killed millions of people across Eurasia, often in the most brutal fashion, –and along with it a psychic shock wave that still rumbles in the subconscious of many cultures – but they also created the largest empire the world had ever known and the most extensive trade network in history to that point, which went from Korea in the East to what we now call Ukraine in the West, underpinned by their roads and postal service and ‘policed’ by their terrifying armies and the brutal but very clear laws of their empire. In fact, they created the first truly Eurasian political and economic system, which also facilitated many cultural contacts. In the Holy land at various times in the 13th century from 1220s onwards the Mongols confronted the forces of the Islamic Near East and the Christian Crusaders of Europe who launched six Crusades in the 13th century9 ostensibly to defeat the Muslims in Palestine. In the last year of the century the Mongols successfully raided in Syria and Palestine as far south as Gaza. In that tumultuous century, for the first time ever, three religious and cultural spheres were meeting each other on a large scale. In the Mongol armies were Mongol worshippers of their native sky god Tengri, Buddhists, pagans and animists of various kinds, Christian Nestorians, Persian and Central Asian Muslims, and Chinese Taoists and Confucians. East Asia was meeting the Middle East and Europe for the first time. Much of Asia, from East to West, was united under a single, universal ruler, while the Crusades, the first few at any rate, united European nobility more loosely, under the papal banner.

This meeting in the 13th century between Europe, the Middle East and the Far East would lead to much remarkable cultural, literary, and artistic fructification among those human spirits who were developed enough to sense something of the meaning of what was happening in this historic cultural confluence, which ostensibly was occurring for martial reasons but actually concealed something much deeper. Some 1250 years before, in the Holy Land, the Christ Event had occurred against the background of a dominant universal empire within which Romans, Greeks and Jews struggled to live together in Palestine. In the 13th century, this time along with Muslim Arabs, Egyptians and even Mongols and all those who came along with them, Romans (European Crusaders), Greeks (Byzantines) and Jews were struggling and striving with one another once more in the same region. Amidst all the conflict, much observation and mutual learning also went on. Out of all this came the great 13th century Gothic cathedrals of Europe, the poetry of the minnesängers and the troubadours, the songs of Walther von der Vogelweide (1170-1230), the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and numerous other cultural and artistic impulses, including Jewish kabbalah and Arabist-influenced Aristotelian thought. A number of versions of the tale of Barlaam and Josaphat (aka Bilawhar and Budhasaf – a Christianised version of the story of Gautama Buddha) appeared in numerous versions in European culture in the 13th century. The Austrian poet Rudolf von Ems (c. 1200-1254) wrote a version, which was described by the 19th century writer Heinrich Heine as “perhaps the flower of religious literary creativity in the German Middle Ages”. Marco Polo noted the similarity between the tale of “Sakyamuni Burkham” (as he called the Buddha) and St. Josaphat.10 The story would find its way into Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s play, La vida es sueño (Life Is A Dream – c.1630), a classic of Spain’s “Golden Age” of drama, not long after the end of the 800-year Saturn-Jupiter cycle. Finally, in 1265, soon after the end of the “short period of spiritual darkness”, the great Dominican philosopher and teacher Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), who both combated Islamic philosophical thought and also made use of precious Arab translations of Aristotle, began to write his key work Summa Theologica, which he worked on till the end of his life but did not finish. In this universal work he sought, not least through his understanding of Aristotle, to create a harmonising balance between reason and faith, which would sustain Christian theology in the face of the challenges of heresy, Islam and Nominalism. Aristotle too almost fell foul of the doctors of the Church, despite being regarded as one himself, but in later centuries he became an authority in European academic life. Nevertheless, this attempt by Aquinas to harmonise reason and faith soon came under sustained attack from Nominalist philosophers in the 14th century as the materialist impulses of Mars grew ever stronger in western philosophy. Nominalists had a utilitarian approach to universal concepts, regarding them as mere convenient labels without any spiritually real content.

The 13th century and our time

Today, 800 years on from the 13th century, in an age driven more by economic competition than by military conflict, we see similar East-West cross-cultural influences arising even more intensively. China is part of the BRICS economic bloc alongside Russia, India and Iran, and has deepening economic relations with most of the countries of the Middle East and Europe as it develops its vast Eurasian transport infrastructure network known as the ‘Belt and Road’, or colloquially, ‘the New Silk Road’. Trains run from Shanghai to Düsseldorf and London. The Chinese state-owned COSCO Shipping company operates the port of Piraeus in Athens. China also conducts regular military exercises with Russia and China has a large military base in Djibouti at the southern entrance to the Red Sea as it develops its interests in Africa and the Indian Ocean region.


                                                              New (‘iron’) silk road map

The Chinese are not Mongols, of course. In the 13th century, they had a rich civilisation of millennia behind them and regarded the Mongols as barbarians. The Chinese were farmers and city dwellers; the Mongols were nomadic pastoralists. Nevertheless, from the esoteric perspective, all the peoples of northeast Asia such as the Mongols, Han Chinese, Tibetans, Manchurians, Koreans and Japanese have since Atlantean times all belonged to ‘the Mars race’, and it is no accident that they are known for martial arts.11 Despite the differences between the Chinese and the Mongols, we see nevertheless, how in waves of 800 years –, waves determined not by climate change and CO2 but by cosmic and spiritual forces – a certain kind of vigorous impulse has suddenly and rapidly spread across Eurasia from the Far East to Europe: the Huns in the 5th century, the Mongols in the 13th century, and the Chinese today in the 21st century.


                                                                              Mongol warriors

In the 13th century, the civilisation of the Islamic Near East, hard-pressed between the European Crusaders and the Mongols, came close to suffering collapse some 600 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed. The 600-year-old Abbasid Caliphate was destroyed when the Mongols took Baghdad, and there were efforts between the Christians and the Mongols to combine against the Muslims but they came to nothing, and eventually, most Mongols in Central and West Asia adopted Islam. The Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate defeated the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in Palestine (southeastern Galilee) in 1260 – it was the first time the Mongols had suffered a major defeat. Islam survived the Mongol storm.

Today, there are those who are concerned that the encounter between the ‘Christian’, the Sinic and the Islamic worlds in our time might result in another world war, centred this time on Israel and Palestine. They point to the serious plans being made in Israel by religious extremists to rebuild the Third Temple, which would involve the destruction of Islam’s third holiest site, the al-Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount.12 Some claim that a letter supposedly written by Albert Pike, a prominent mid-19th century American Freemason in 1871 to Giuseppe Mazzini, the Italian nationalist activist, prophesied that there would be three world wars in the future and that the third would break out in the Holy Land through a struggle between “Political Zionism” and “Islam”. This ‘prophecy’ has spread around much of the Internet, but researcher Terry Melanson has shown conclusively, however, that it is a fake that can be traced back to the famous arch-hoaxer, Léo Taxil13 (real name: Marie-Joseph Jogand-Pagès, 1854-1907).

Meanwhile, there are similarities between the Crusader territories in the Holy Land in the 13th century and the State of Israel today in that both were formed by considerable numbers of people from Europe – people from a different civilisation – who moved to what was then overwhelmingly the Muslim majority land of Palestine and took much of it by force (1098, 1948). In the early 13th century, the Crusaders expected to remain in the Holy Land, and in 1226 Emperor Frederick II managed to conduct the Sixth Crusade (1226-1229) without fighting and successfully negotiated the peaceful return of Jerusalem to the Crusaders (the city had been lost to Saladin in 1187). Yet by the end of the century, after the fall of Acre in 1291, the Crusaders had been forced out of the entire Holy Land, never to return.14 The foreign invaders were thus expelled after almost 200 years of occupation, but the Muslim world had also suffered a tremendous blow in the region: in 1258 the Mongols had utterly destroyed Baghdad, capital of the Muslim world since 750, bringing to an end the Arab “Golden Age”; this was another world-historical event.

The Ottoman Turks would soon take the place of the Arabs as the main standard bearer for militant Islam. The ancestors of the Turks (Oghuz Turks) were originally from east central Asia and were related in language and religion (Tengriism) to the Mongols; according to some scholars, genetic evidence shows that Mongolia was actually the original homeland of the Turkic peoples. The Ottoman Turks migrated from central Asia to Anatolia (central Türkiye today) in the 13th century and by the very end of that century, the House of Osman had established itself as a principality in western Anatolia, from where in the next century the Osmanlis (Ottomans) would launch their attacks into the Balkans and eventually take Constantinople in 1453. Today, 800 years after their arrival in Anatolia, the Turks, having been blocked from joining the EU, are looking to bring together the Turkic peoples of Asia from Türkiye to Kyrgyzstan, in a loose confederative association.15


The Mongol Empire itself soon fell victim to the separative and warlike impulse of Mars. Civil war among the descendants of the Shengwu Huangdi – the ‘Holy Martial Emperor’ Genghis Khan – broke out some 33 years after his death, and by the time of the death in 1294 of his grandson Kublai Khan, who ruled from Dadu (in Mongolian – Khanbaliq, modern Beijing), this most universal of empires, the largest land empire in history, had already fragmented into four khanates: that of Kublai in East Asia and China, the Chagatai khanate in central Asia, the Golden Horde in northwest Asia and southern Russia, and the Ilkhanate in southwest Asia and Iran. Their struggles against each other and against their own enemies would determine much of the history of Asia throughout the rest of the 800-year Saturn-Jupiter cycle until the early 17th century.

The ‘heretics’ of the 13th century

In 1226, the year of the Saturn-Jupiter conjunction that corresponds to that of 2020, King Louis VIII of France led his armies on crusade against the Albigensian (Cathar) ‘heretics’ and their supporters among the nobility of the Languedoc region of southern France. There was something almost Asiatic and Buddhistic about the Cathars, who sincerely wished to remove themselves as soon as possible from what they saw as a world of pain, a veil of tears, a material realm of illusion which, they believed, had been constructed by a satanic Demiurge. The previous crusade in 1209-1216 had been a private affair conducted with the Pope’s blessing by the nobles of northern France16 greedy for land and treasure and, despite appalling bloodletting by the ‘crusaders’, had ended in failure with the death of the crusaders’ leader Simon de Montfort and the defeat of his son. The crusade of 1226-1229, however, was conducted by the king of France and lasted only three years. Despite the death of the king in 1226, the crusade was successfully concluded by his wife, Queen Blanche, with the utter defeat of the Cathars and their supporters and the beginning of a century of persecution of the Cathars until they were finally extinguished in 1321. The fortress of Montségur was the last Cathar stronghold to hold out, until 1244 when, after a year-long siege and eventual surrender, some 200 Cathars surrendered themselves to be burned alive at the foot of the mountain fortress.

But here too, we see the beginning of the end for the forces of orthodox universalism. The 13th century witnessed the Church’s almost desperate attempts to stamp out what it considered to be an increasing number of heretical groups: the Cathars, the Waldensians, the Bogomils, Fratelli, Apostolic Brethren, Brethren of the Free Spirit and others. There were various differences between these groups, but they all tended to focus on the individual coming to Christ rather than on merely accepting the authority of the Church and its doctrines, and many were millenarian in spirit, believing that the end of the Age or the end of the world was nigh. In this sense, these heretical groups of the 13th century were the forerunners of the European proto-Protestant and Protestant groups of later centuries. Steiner describes how the spiritual sphere of Mars in the spiritual world is that sphere where we experience the spiritual archetypes of the mineral, solid aspect of the physical world.17 The materialism with which our own age is still so sorely afflicted is deeply bound up with the spiritual sphere of Mars –- the planet that draws Elon Musk and so many others in our time who are keen to go to Mars.18 The impulse of the Mars sphere and the Mars Archangel is therefore one of separation, fragmentation and individuation: this can frequently bring conflict but also the courage that puts iron in the blood and enables the individual to stand up for ideals and against oppression. Furthermore, since the year 1604, the spiritual sphere of Mars has been undergoing a profound transformation.19

There was one group which, unlike the others mentioned above, did not become visible in the 13th century and if the Church had known of it, would no doubt have sought to suppress it. This was the beginning of the Rose Cross impulse somewhere in central Europe, most likely southwest Germany, around 1250. Steiner describes the process in a series of lectures given from September 1911 to December 1912:20 “The middle of the 13th century”, he says “was the beginning of a new culture. At this time a certain low point in spiritual life had been reached. Even the most highly developed could not approach the spiritual worlds”.21 This sense of a dark age in which genuine spirituality was almost unattainable was also shared at that time in Japan.

A detour – Japan in the 13th century

Before continuing with the Rose Cross theme, let us first cast a sideways glance at 13th century Japan that will provide further evidence of the nature of the 13th century. At the end of the 12th century, as the Age of Mars was dawning across the world, the samurai warrior class had firmly established its control over Japan, supplanting the rule of the Emperor and his courtiers who remained only nominally in charge. The centre of power had shifted from the imperial capital in Kyoto in central Japan to the samurai stronghold of Kamakura, just south of what is today Tokyo. For most of the 13th century (1203-1333) the samurai family of the Hōjō regents (shikken) ruled Japan on behalf of the Emperor. One Emperor, Go-Toba, rose against them in 1221 but was easily defeated and exiled. In 1232, the Hōjō regency council imposed Japan’s first military code of law, the Goseibai Shikimoku, which remained in force for 635 years. In 1274 and 1281, the Hōjō regency, with ‘a little help’ from divine winds (kamikaze) – seasonal typhoons – managed to beat off two attempted invasions by large Mongol invasion fleets. Japan remained independent and not subject to the Mongols – a fact of world-historic significance. Direct universal rule in Japan – that of the Emperor – was undermined and defeated by the samurai warriors decades before the barons in England temporarily imposed their will on King John and made him sign the Magna Carta document of rights in 1215. In Japan, the warriors ruled in the monarch’s name while paying him lip service. These were signs of the new Mars Age.


Buddha statue in the 13th cent. samurai capital, Kamakura,

with cherry blossoms, the symbol of the samurai


It is symptomatic that in the ‘Mars culture’ of Japan in the 13th century, several new sects of Buddhism emerged at that time. None of them featured the complex esotericism of earlier schools – all were marked by great simplicity of practice: the Sōtō Zen sect founded by Dōgen (1200-1253) in the 1230s, with its central practice of shikan taza – seeking satori (enlightenment) simply sitting facing a blank wall, focusing only on one’s breath; the Nichiren shōshū sect founded in 1253 by Nichiren (1222-1282) urged its followers to focus on chanting only the title of the vast Lotus Sutra: Namu myōhō renge kyō (Devotion to the Ineffable Dharma of the Lotus Sutra) and to aggressively proselytise other sects in debate by the technique of shakubuku (‘break and subdue’); the Jōdō and Jōdō Shinshū sects founded by Hōnen (1133-1212) and Shinran (1173-1263) respectively both emphasised the fact that humanity was now living through the Mappō (the final, degenerate age of the Buddhist cycle of Time, when people find it hard to live according to the Buddhist Law – Dharma), so Buddhists could only depend devotionally on tariki (the power of the Buddhas and the saints) not jiriki (one’s own power) and could only seek to constantly keep in mind (13th century ‘mindfulness’!) and chant the name of Amitābha Buddha (the Buddha of Infinite Light in the West) endless times: Namu Amida Butsu (Devotion to Amitābha Buddha), in order to be saved and be reborn in his ‘Pure Land’ (Jōdō). Such practices of the new Japanese Buddhist sects were all characterised by simple acts of will, which reflected the new Age of the Mars Archangel, and not by knowledge of sutras, philosophy, precepts, or by techniques of imagination, visualisation, symbolic gestures and postures etc as in the older Buddhist sects that were reflective of the previous Ages of the Mercury (Raphael) and Jupiter (Zachariel) Archangels.

The Beginnings of the Rose Cross in the 13th century

In the Christian West there were certain parallel developments among new sects that the Church was wary of, such as the Order of the Franciscans (founded 1209), or else actively persecuted, such as the Waldensians and Cathars (the Albigensian Crusades (1209-1229), and also teachings such as those of the hugely popular and respected Italian preacher, Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202) who taught, on the basis of his millenarian interpretation of the Book of Revelation, a doctrine of Three Ages: the notion that after the Age of the Father and the Age of the Son, from around the year 1260, humanity would soon enter the final Age, that of the Holy Spirit when the Church would become unnecessary, and when infidels and Christians would unite. This notion of the Age of the Holy Spirit would have huge resonance in Europe among religious radicals, especially in the religiously fervent 16th and 17th centuries.

In both East and West then, in the middle of that 800 year-long cycle of Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions, people felt that their era was a momentous and very difficult time in history. The coming of the awesome Mongols who destroyed so many kingdoms, including the venerable ones of China, Arabia, and Russia – Genghis Khan called himself “the punishment of God”22 – seemed to bear that out. The dark period of spiritual void in the first half of the 13th century of which Steiner spoke came to an end, however, around 1250-1260, the very time when the unitary Mongol Empire split, and in Europe, hidden and in a secret, unnamed place, the seeds of the Rose Cross movement began when, according to Steiner, “a 13th came to join the 12” and to be initiated by them. This initiation “could take place only after the short period of darkness had run its course.”23 (Nb. this was in the middle of the 13th century) : a pious and fragile youth who had been incarnated at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and who would later be known as Christian Rosenkreutz was educated and brought up by 12 initiates who represented the seven ages of Atlantis, the subsequent four post-Atlantean epochs,24 and the intellectual knowledge attainable by the culture of the 13th century. These 12 “were conscious that the external Christianity of the Church was only a caricature of the real Christianity. They were permeated with the greatness of Christianity although in the outside world they were taken to be its enemies. Each individuality worked his way into just one aspect of Christianity. Their endeavour was to unite the various religions into one great whole. They were convinced that the whole of spiritual life was contained in their 12 streams, and each one influenced the pupil to the best of his ability. Their aim was to achieve a synthesis of all the religions…”25 The youngster grew greatly in spiritual stature but physically, he wasted away until he lay near death. The 12 gathered in a circle around him, ministering to him, praying over him. After a while, he awoke, transformed in body and spirit. Over a few weeks he then revealed to them what he had learned from them but in the light of a new revelation he had received: the vision of the etheric Christ such as Paul had seen on the road to Damascus. “This new form was as though given by Christ Himself. What he now revealed to them, the 12 called true Christianity, the synthesis of all the religions, and they distinguished between this Christianity and the Christianity of the period in which they lived.26

The initiated one died “relatively young”, but his life (etheric) body remained within the spiritual atmosphere of the earth, from where it could inspire the 12 and their pupils “so that it could form the occult Rosicrucian stream”, and it became once again part of the new etheric body of the 13th when he reincarnated again in the next century, in the year 1378.27 According to the first Rosicrucian Manifesto, Fama Fraternitatis (1614), after travelling for years in the Near East, N. Africa and Spain, he returned to Germany and in 1413, aged 35, started to teach his own pupils of the Fraternity of the Rose Cross in ‘the House of the Holy Spirit’ and send them out into the world, where they worked outwardly as unpaid medical doctors. In 1604, one year after the close conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter of 1603 which began the new 800 year cycle in the Fire sign of Sagittarius, one of the members of the small Rosicrucian circle in Tübingen, southwest Germany, Johann Valentin Andreae, aged just 17, wrote down the inspired work, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, which was published in 1616 in Strasbourg. In that same year 1604, according to the Roscrucian legend in the Fama Fraternitatis, the tomb of Christian Rosenkreutz was discovered.

From its seed-like beginnings at the end of that short period of great spiritual darkness in the 13th century which had begun with the Age of the Mars Archangel (the sack of Constantinople, the Albigensian Crusade, the Mongol invasions across Eurasia…), a completely new spiritual and social impulse that sought to unite Spirit and material Nature – on the basis of the individual’s free research and efforts – now, 400 years later in the early 17th century, began to emerge into the light and make itself known. What the 12 had learned from the 13th in the 13th century, the new Christian knowledge revealed by the young Christian Rosenkreutz, they put into the form of symbols and passed on to their pupils. Eventually, these symbols were published in the early 17th century by the alchemist Adrian (or Hadrian) Seumenicht (1603-1638) alias Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus in a book titled The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians, which was republished in 1785 in Altona, near Hamburg (Altona was then ruled by Denmark). They represented Rosicrucian wisdom expressed in an outer pictorial symbolic form appropriate for the early 17th century. With Anthroposophy, Steiner sought to recast Rosicrucian wisdom in a cognitional form appropriate for our time that works with natural objects and mantras.28

The Rosicrucian alchemists of the 17th century meditated on the deeper meaning of salt, mercury and sulphur on the path of spiritual development and understood the role of these three in relation to natural processes of salt formation, dissolution and combustion.29 They knew also how these processes in the macrocosm relate in turn in the microcosm to spiritual purification of all that putrefies the soul, spiritual love that dissolves all hatred and coldness, and spiritual sacrifice that devotes us to God just as in past aeons of the world the lesser gods made sacrifices to the gods above them and Christ Jesus sacrificed Himself for us and for the greater glory of His Father. These qualities of purification of thought, the dissolving power of love, and the will to sacrifice self to what is higher we can see in three of the characteristic movements that appeared in Europe in the 13th century: the Dominicans with their focus on the purification of thought, the Franciscans with their empathy for all beings, and the Cathars, who gladly sacrificed themselves for each other and for God.

After the intense darkness of the first half of the 13th century a living light emerged in the twelvefold initiation of the young individuality who became Christian Rosenkreutz. In his lectures on esoteric Christianity and Christian Rosenkreutz, Steiner describes how in an event unique in history twelve streams of knowledge were synthesised, harmonised and bestowed upon the ‘I’ of this young human individuality: the wisdom of Atlantis and of the four post-Atlantean epochs up to his own time, as well as the experience of beholding Christ in the etheric world such as Paul had had on the road to Damascus. This living light that would become Christian Rosenkreutz was not intended for the world of the Middle Ages but for the modern age that began in the early 15th century. From the Rosicrucian manifestos of 1614-15 we learn that Christian Rosenkreutz started his European ‘school’ in the year 1413 when he was 35 years old. What began with his initiated I, after the darkness of the 13th century, was destined gradually to permeate modern culture and unite science, art and religion and, according to Steiner, Christian Rosenkreutz has reincarnated again in each century since then to help his impulse develop and benefit humanity. When, with good will for the spirit, we shall have passed through the desert of materialism that is our modern age and witnessed the transformation of the martial spirit,30 we shall surely find Christian Rosenkreutz waiting to welcome us in the age that is to come.


1. See Irma von Lorentz, Sternenrthymen in der Geschichte (Star Rhythms in History) 1986, pp. 111-123.

2. R. Steiner lecture of 16 July 1918, GA 181.

3. See map 1200-1250: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Roman_Empire

4. Every 72 years the Vernal (Spring) Point (Equinox) – i.e. the relationship between the Earth, the Sun on the Spring Point day, and the constellation ‘behind’ the Sun on that day passes through one degree of the Zodiac. When the constellations are considered to be 30 degrees each in span then 30 x 72 years = 2160 years i.e. it takes 2160 years for the Spring Point (SP) to ‘move’ through one constellation or sign of the Zodiac. Today, the SP is at about 5° of Pisces and will therefore enter Aquarius in about the year 2375.

5. In his book A Treatise on the Seven Secondary Causes i.e. Intelligences, or Spirits, Who Move the Spheres In Accordance with God, published in 1515 and presented to Emperor Maximilian I. Trithemius insisted  that each of the seven planetary rulerships always lasts 354 year and 4 months.


7. Legend has it he was born holding a blood clot in his hand.

8. The shock of the encounter with the Mongols led Europeans to try to find out where they came from. The 21-year-old Venetian Marco Polo thus ended up at the court of Kublai Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson, in 1275. Polo’s book about his travels in Asia to the Mongol court and its account of China and ‘Xipangu’ (Japan) were read by many in Europe, including one Christopher Columbus…

9. The first was the 4th Crusade, in 1204, which sacked Constantinople. The last was the 9th Crusade, sometimes called Lord Edward’s Crusade, after Prince Edward of England who led it. There were no more Crusades after that. The Crusades therefore ended in the 13th century.

10. The Travels of Marco Polo (Penguin, 1958) p. 257.

11. In his 1910 lecture cycle The Mission of Folk Souls, (Collected Works GA 121) Rudolf Steiner described the origins of the five main races of humanity and their relation to spiritual centres focused on planetary oracles. After its relocation from Atlantis, the Mars oracle was established in northeast China, in the region of what later became Beijing. Before they adopted Buddhism, the Tibetans too were known for their martial abilities and several times defeated the forces of the Chinese empire. The peoples of southeast Asia were guided by the Venus oracle; they are ‘the Venus race’ (see lecture cycle GA 121 above).

12. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), the most significant leader of the worldwide Chabad Lubavitch sect of Hasidic Judaism, apparently told Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he would be the last Prime Minister before the coming of the Jewish Messiah and would hand over to the Messiah. The Rabbi urged him to accelerate the arrival of the Messiah. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgeWVgNGeAA and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T5t22DZjlQ


14. In 1917 British and French troops did return, however: in the secret 1916 arrangement between Britain and France (the Sykes-Picot talks) the two countries agreed that Palestine and Jerusalem should be ruled jointly between them, but later, the British persuaded the French that the city should be under ‘international’ control and then in September 1918, under British control. Eventually, the region and the city came under the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, which was given to Britain and lasted until British withdrawal in 1948.

15. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/turkic-council-eyes-forming-united-states-of-turkic-world/2192579 and: https://thediplomat.com/2023/11/organization-of-turkic-states-seeks-to-unite-europe-with-asia/

16. See Part 1 of this article, New View #109, Oct. – Dec. 2023, pp. 20-27.

17. See R. Steiner, Theosophy (1904) Chapter Three: 3. The Spiritland – The First Region, and R. Steiner lecture of 1 April 1913, (Collected Works GA 141, titled Between Death and Rebirth).

18. Steiner pointed out that this connection between materialism and Mars is the deeper reason why Christian Rosenkreutz sent the spirit of Gautama Buddha to the Mars sphere c.1600 where, in the year 1604, Buddha performed for the inhabitants of that sphere a task similar to that of Christ Jesus on earth in the Mystery of Golgotha. There is no space here to enter further into this topic.  See R. Steiner, Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz (RSP, 1984), pp. 173- 85. Lecture of 18.12.1912.(GA 130)

19. See n. 18 above.

20. Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz (GA 130: German title: Esoterische Christentum und die geistige Führung der Menschheit).

21. R. Steiner, lecture of 27 Sept. 1911, Neuchâtel (in GA 130).

22. “O people, know that you have committed great sins, and that the great ones among you have committed these sins. If you ask me what proof I have for these words, I say it is because I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.” As quoted in Tarikh-i Jahangushay [History of the World Conqueror] by Ala-ad-Din Ata-Malik Juvaini (ca. 1252-1260), translated by J.A. Boyle (1958), p. 105.

23. R. Steiner lecture of 27 September 1911, GA 130.

24. The Indian (Age of Cancer), the Persian (Age of Gemini), the Egypto-Chaldean (Age of Taurus) and the Greco-Roman (Age of Aries). The 12th was a man “who possessed intellectually all the knowledge of his time, while the others…. acquired their knowledge by returning in memory to their earlier incarnations.” – R. Steiner, lecture. of 27.9.1911, Neuchâtel. (GA 130)

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. This date was given in the Confessio Fraternitatis, the second of the published Rosicrucian Manifestos, in 1615.

28. See R. Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds – How Is It Achieved? (1904).

29. See R. Steiner lecture of 28.9.1911, in GA 130.

30. See n. 18 above: R. Steiner lecture of 18.12.1912 in GA 130.

For Part 1 of the article, go to: http://threeman.org/?p=3182