The Great Initiates

The Great Initiates:  A Study of the Secret History of Religions by Edouard Schure

The Great Initiates

A Study of the Secret History of Religions

Edouard Schure

“All powerful initiators have perceived the radiance of central truth, but the light which they drew from it was refracted and colored according to their genius, their mission, their particular time and place.”

Like many of us, Edouard Schure (1841 to 1929) measured the value of his life by his relationships. He pointed to three that were most significant, the three that were profound sources of inspiration – with the German composer Richard Wagner, Greek mystic Marguerita Albana Mignaty, and Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

These three relationships were an important part of Shure’s journey as a poet, playwright and music critic who would come to devote ten years of his life to a book about the history of religions – a book that since its first French publishing in1889 has been read by millions the world over. How he came to write such a book is best explained in his own words as he describes being lost one day in Greek philosophy and being suddenly struck by the idea:

“What is mankind’s origin? What is humanity’s destination? . . . I was filled with the impulse to trace the connection between the revelation of Eleusis and that of the Christ . . . Was it not necessary to reconstruct the living chain of the various religions, to restore to Hellenism and Christianity their original unity, to reconcile once again the whole tradition of East and West? At that instant as in a flash I saw the light that flows from one mighty founder of religion to another . . . Those great prophets, those powerful figures we call Rama, Krishna, Hermes, Moses, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato and Jesus appeared before me in a homogenous group. How diverse in form, appearance and color! Nevertheless through them all moved the impulse of the eternal Word.”

An impassioned Christian, Schure was convinced, “Christianity need not change its tradition, but it must understand its origins, its spirit and its significance . . . Only the certainty of the immortal soul can form a solid basis for earthly life, and only the (peaceful coexistence) of the great religions, brought about by a return to their common source of inspiration, can secure the brotherhood of peoples and the future of mankind.”

Edouard Shure’s The Great Initiates presents a chronological unfolding of the world’s religious thought giving equal attention to each of the great initiates leading up to and, he believed, culminating in Christ – Rama, Krishna, Hermes, Moses, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato and Jesus.

Rudolf Steiner, who published The Great Initiates in English in 1961, spoke directly to its value to today’s reader: “Today we possess a rich, scholarly literature concerning many of the personalities about whom Schure speaks . . . But his brilliant description gives something essentially different . . . It will appeal to souls who yearningly lift their eyes to the great guides of human intuition . . . and to the horizon of eternal ideas.” In Schure’s examination of man’s religious development, Steiner saw nothing less than “the true history of mankind.”

The Gleam of Light Team

The Great Initiates
Edouard Schure
1961, Rudolf Steiner Publications, Inc.

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