When men turned more and more to perishable earthly things, when they fettered themselves to them and thereby neglected their spirit, their spiritual capacity to comprehend diminished. The forming of right concepts became increasingly difficult, as they could no longer be grasped spiritually.
The fettering to what is earthly was done by the intellect which arises from the earthly, because it is formed from the thoughts of the perishable brain. It gradually pushed itself into the foreground, suppressed the spirit, and eventually took over the forming of concepts in place of the spirit. They became distorted concepts, which no longer fitted the word-designation concerned. The word in fact continued to exist, but the idea which should have been awakened through the word, and from which the spirit then formed the concept, was wrong.
For the intellectual power of imagination ends where the origin of the intellect is - in the World of Gross Matter, to which also belongs that which is earthly. This limit is given by Nature. Man cannot set or extend it himself. Any strengthening and refining of the intellect, however great and noteworthy, must halt at this gross-material-earthly boundary, which can only be crossed by the spiritual intuitive perception.
The effect of this was particularly damaging concerning those concepts which are of the greatest importance to spiritual development.
Let us first take as an example the word cross. The right picture for this word is the rectangular Cross with arms of equal length. It is the sign of Divine Truth. From discoveries and excavations it becomes clear that this Cross is an ancient symbol which was known on earth before Christ, and which can still be seen today in many churches, sometimes encircled with a ring, sometimes without the ring.
It is the selfsame Cross which appeared to Constantine I in the night before the decisive battle at Saxa Rubra (312). At the same time he intuitively perceived the words: "In this sign you will be victorious!" This was a challenge to establish under this heavenly sign an empire that would serve the Truth as Christ had brought It to men. But they did not understand the sign, and founded an empire which prepared the way not for the Heavenly Power, but for earthly power and glory.
A painting in an old manuscript of the 11th century shows how Constantine, under the sign of the equal-armed Cross, leads his troops into the battle of Saxa Rubra at the Mulvian Bridge near Rome.
This Cross must not be confused with the form of the Golgotha cross of suffering.
Jesus, Who came from out of the Truth, knew the Cross of Truth, and therefore He exhorted men to take up the Cross, that is, to live every day according to the Truth, and to look for It in the Laws of the Creator, to which the Laws of Nature also belong (Luke 9, 23; Mark 10, 21).
But what did men make of this concept? Let us first take the saying (in German): "He has the cross with him". As the meaning imputed to it is "He is a trouble to us", or in other words, "Someone disturbs us, is burdensome to us", it shows how the sublime meaning of the Cross has been distorted into the very opposite. But there is also profound truth in the distorted meaning of the Cross. There is certainly a reason when the Cross is compared to a burden. For the Truth does in fact weigh like a pressure on all who do not take it seriously or even deny it.
Concerning the saying (in German): "Since he has a wife in his house, the cross has moved in" - in other words, "trouble has moved in with her" - we also find the conception of the Cross distorted. What is meant here is that with the man's marriage suffering caused by his wife has entered his house.
And yet, if we take heed of its true meaning, there is in this saying something exalting and pure, something filled with promise and blessing. It is just through woman that marriage and home should become a source of power and joy, a place of natural recuperation for body and spirit, because through her naturally finer intuitive susceptibility to the rays from the Truth she is more receptive than man.
Thus where there is a woman in the house who opens herself in purity to the rays of the Divine Power, the blessing from the Cross of Truth cannot fail to come, if the man intuitively perceives and supports this lofty aspiration.
A further concept of special significance for spiritual life and for the way to Luminous Heights is the longing (literal translation from German - longing-seeking). It is implanted in the human spirit to enable it to find its way safely back to its spiritual home, to Paradise, which it left a long, long time ago. The true
conception of the word should awaken in the human spirit the longing seeking for the Truth, for the meaning of life, so that on its journey through Subsequent Creation it will not lose its way in the lowlands of the World of Matter. But what has man made of it? Longings of all kinds which are directed at persons and all manner of earthly things, and finally degenerate into a longing craving for earthly pleasures, for material goals that drag him down rather than lead him upwards!
Let us look at another conception, whose wrong application has already caused much suffering and unhappiness: freedom.
True freedom must not be interpreted as earthly freedom; it cannot be compared with an outward liberty and independence. How easily does this give rise to the desire to become free from all ties, and to follow selfish ways at the expense of one's fellow-men, which finally end in lack of consideration, licentiousness and tyranny. Just let us think of living a completely unrestrained life, of letting oneself go completely, of freeing oneself from any outer and inner feeling of shame.
True freedom lies in the spiritual field. It is here that the endeavour to free oneself from all fetters of spiritual enslavement must begin, whether they be some propensity, some craving, some impure desire, or any outside views or wrong traditions which have been taken over.
This can only be done when man gets to know and acts in accordance with the Will of God, Which is interwoven with His Laws.
He who swims against the stream soon tires, is driven back and is endangered. He who swims with the stream makes it easy for himself and advances. This is a lawfulness that also applies to what is spiritual.
He who opposes the Laws of Creation, who disregards them by his unjust actions and thoughts, binds his spirit to threads of fate that will obstruct and impede him, and may eventually ruin him - he will no longer be spiritually free. The selfsame Laws that return good for good will bring him bad fruit as harvest, if he has scattered the seed for it in the form of evil thoughts and deeds.
But he who lives with the Laws, who adapts himself to them, heeds and fulfils them, becomes free of inner ties and entanglements, and this means inner freedom, spiritual freedom. With this inner freedom, if it is really genuine, man has all the helps he needs. He will then also cope more easily with any outer constraint that oppresses him.
The conception of Love also is today but a caricature of that ideal Love which Christ taught men, that Love which helps and supports, and does only what is of spiritual benefit to the other, even if it be with just severity. This ideal Love has become a love of weakness, softness and indulgence, which out of sheer wrong consideration no longer pays attention to the real goal, spiritual advancement, and does only what pleases the other. It is just in the relationship between men that genuine love is of fundamental importance.
Also man has formed a conception of the punishment of God that does not correspond with reality. How often is it said: "That is the punishment of God!" But God does not punish personally! It is always left to the free decision of man to determine the punishment, which is then carried out by the Laws of God, the Laws of Creation.
How the carrying out of a punishment proceeds is clearly shown by the Law of Sowing and Reaping, of Cause and Effect (Reciprocal Action). Man only needs to give purity to his thoughts, in order not to have to harvest bad fruit. But if he thinks or does evil the Laws of Creation will mete out to him a multiple of the same.
But since he is often struck by hard blows of fate which he cannot explain, because he has perhaps given the cause for them in former earth-lives, he is easily tempted to make God responsible for the punishment, that is for the consequences of his behaviour, without considering that he is thereby committing a blasphemy and an injustice.
Reward and punishment for man lie always in the weaving of Creation, whose Laws incorruptibly mediate the fruit which in his free volition he wants to have.
In conclusion, let us turn to the most sacred of all concepts: GOD!
A concept that allows us to divine the inconceivable Greatness, the immeasurable Power, the Perfection and Omniscience of the Creator, and which should awaken within us reverential love and humble adoration!
How have men of the earth over and over again for hundreds of years disregarded, abused, defiled and often enough debased to an empty everyday expression and a thoughtless form of salutation just this most sublime of all concepts. In the debasing of the concept of God the spiritual decline of mankind manifests most clearly.
May these few examples of distorted concepts stand for many another, and provide the incentive to strive and form the concepts as is right according to the Laws of Creation, so that the great decline which already prevails in the world of concepts is brought to a halt.
We shall thereby gradually bring about a healthy and harmonious basis for the upbuilding of spiritual and earthly values, whereas the distortion and falsification of concepts produce disharmony and confusion, which in time will make themselves felt, in both psychic and earthly respects, to be hindering and damaging in all fields.
Here too the words of Christ are to serve us as the guiding principle, namely to take up the Cross, that is to say, to serve the Truth. We must try to become familiar with the Laws and Commandments coming from the Truth, thus from God, and to find and follow His Will in them.
Copyright 1985 by Herbert Vollmann, Vomperberg, Tyrol. All rights reserved.