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Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts
GA 26

15. Heavenly History - Mythological History - Earthly History. The Mystery of Golgotha

In the spatial Cosmos we have the contrast of the Universal spaces and the Earthly centre. In the Universal spaces the stars, as it were, are scattered wide, while from the Earthly centre forces are streaming out in all directions into the far spread Universe.

To man as he stands in the world in the present cosmic epoch, it is only as a great totality that the glory of the stars and the working of the earthly forces can represent the finished work of the Divine-Spiritual Beings with whom he in his inner being is connected.

But there was once a cosmic epoch when the glory of the stars and the forces of the Earth were still a direct spiritual revelation of the Divine-Spiritual Beings. At that time, man in his dim consciousness felt the Divine-Spiritual Beings actively working in his own nature.

Another epoch of time ensued. The starry heavens became severed, as a corporeal existence, from the Divine-Spiritual working. There originated what we may call the ‘World-spirit’ and the ‘World-body.’ The World-spirit is a multitude of Divine-Spiritual Beings. In the former epoch these Beings had worked from the starry places inward to the Earth. All that had shone forth from universal space, all that had radiated by way of forces from the earthly centre, was in reality Intelligence and Will of the Divine-Spiritual Beings, who were working creatively upon the Earth and Earth humanity.

In the later cosmic epochs—after the Saturn and Sun evolutions—the working of the Intelligence and Will of the Divine-Spiritual Beings became more and more spiritually inward. That in which They had been actively present in the beginning became the ‘World-body’: the harmonious arrangement of stars in universal space. Looking back on these matters with a spiritual world-conception, we may express it thus: From the original spirit-body of the World-creative Beings, the World-spirit and the World-body were evolved. And in the ordering and movement of the stars, the World-body now shows what the Intelligent and Will-imbued working of the Gods once upon a time was like. For the cosmic present however, what was once the Divine Intelligence and Will living and moving freely in the stars, has become fastened in the fixed Laws of the starry universe.

Today, therefore, that which shines inward from the starry worlds to man on Earth is no longer an immediate expression of Divine Will and Divine Intelligence, but it is a sign that has come to stand:—a sign of what the Divine Will and Intelligence was, once upon a time, even in the very stars. Potent as it is to call forth wonder in the human soul, we must recognise in the sublime formation of the starry heavens a revelation of the Gods which is of the past; we cannot perceive in it their present revelation.

That, however, which in the shining of the stars is ‘of the past,’ is ‘present’ in the Spirit-world. And in this ‘present’ Spirit-world, man with his own true being dwells.

Studying the formation of the world, we must look back to an ancient cosmic epoch when the World-spirit and the World-body still worked as an undivided unity. Then we must envisage the middle epoch, in which they unfold as a duality. And at length we must think into the future—into the third epoch when the World-spirit will once again take up the World-body into its active working.

For the old epoch, it would have been impossible to ‘calculate’ the constellations and the courses of the stars; for these were then the expression of the free Intelligence and free Will of Divine-Spiritual Beings. Moreover, in the future they will once again become ‘incalculable.’

‘Calculation’ has a meaning only for the middle cosmic epoch.

And this holds good, not only of the constellations and the movements of the stars, but of the working of the forces which radiate from the earthly centre to the far-spread Universe. That which works ‘out of the depths’ also becomes ‘calculable.’

Everything strives from the older cosmic epoch towards the middle epoch, when the Spatial and Temporal becomes ‘calculable,’ and the Divine-Spiritual as manifestation of Intelligence and Will must be sought for ‘behind’ this ‘calculable’ world.

Only in this middle epoch are the conditions given for man to progress from a dim state of consciousness to one of free and bright self-conscious being, with a free Intelligence and a free Will of his own.

Thus there had to come the time when Copernicus and Kepler could ‘calculate’ the body of the world. For it was through the cosmic forces with which this moment was connected, that the self-consciousness of man had to take shape. The seed of man's self-consciousness had been laid in an older time; and now the time was come when it was far enough advanced to ‘calculate’ the far-spread Universe.

On the Earth, ‘History’ takes place. What we call ‘History’ would never have come about if the far spaces of the Universe had not evolved into the ‘hard and fast’ constellations and starry courses. In ‘historic evolution’ on the Earth we have an image—albeit thoroughly transformed—of what was once upon a time ‘heavenly History.’ Earlier peoples still had this ‘heavenly History’ in their consciousness, and were indeed far more aware of it than of the Earthly.

In earthly History there lives the intelligence and will of men—in connection, to begin with, with the cosmic Will and Intelligence of the Gods; then, independent of them.

In heavenly History, on the other hand, there lived the Intelligence and Will of the Divine-Spiritual Beings who are connected with mankind.

When we look back into the spiritual life of nations, we come to an age of far-distant antiquity when there was present in man a consciousness of being and willing in communion with the Divine-Spiritual Beings—so much so that ,the History of men was heavenly History. The man of that age, when he came to speak of ‘origins,’ did not relate earthly events but cosmic. And even in relation to his own present time, that which was going on in his earthly environment seemed to him so insignificant beside the cosmic processes that he gave his attention to the latter only, not to the former.

There was an epoch when humanity was conscious of beholding the history of the heavens in mighty and impressive revelations, wherein the Divine-Spiritual Beings themselves stood before the soul of man. They spoke, and man in Dream Inspiration hearkened to their speech; they revealed their forms, and in Dream-Imagination man saw them.

This heavenly History, which for a long time filled the souls of men, was followed by the mythical History, generally regarded in our time as a poetic creation of the ancients. Mythical History combines heavenly events with earthly. ‘Heroes,’ for instance,—super-human beings—appear on the scene. They are beings at a higher stage in evolution than the human being. In a given epoch, for example, man had developed the members of human nature only so far as to the Sentient Soul, but the ‘Hero’ had already evolved what will one day appear in man as Spirit-Self. In the existing conditions of the Earth, the ‘Hero’ could not incarnate directly, but he could do so indirectly by diving down into the body of a human being, and thus becoming able to work as a man among men. Such beings are to be seen in the ‘Initiates’ of an earlier time.

To understand the true position of the facts in this world process, we must not imagine that in the successive epochs mankind ‘conceived’ of the processes and events in just this way. But that which actually took place, as between the more spiritual, ‘incalculable’ and the corporeal, ‘calculable’ world, underwent a change. Long after the world-relationships had actually changed, human consciousness in this or that nation still held fast to a world-conception corresponding to a far earlier reality. To begin with, this was due to the fact that the consciousness of men, which does not keep pace exactly with the cosmic process, really continued to behold the old condition. Afterwards there came a time in which the vision faded, but men still held fast to the old by tradition. Thus in the Middle Ages an in-playing of the heavenly world into the earthly was still conceived out of tradition, but it was no longer seen, for the force of Imaginative picture-seeing was no longer present.

In the earthly realm, the different peoples evolved in such a way as to hold fast to the content of one or other world conception for varying periods of time. Thus, world conceptions which by their nature follow one upon the other are found living side by side. Albeit, the variety of world conceptions is due not to this alone, but also to the fact that the different nations, according to their inner talents, did really see different spiritual things. Thus the Egyptians beheld the world in which beings dwell who have come to a premature standstill on the path of human evolution and have not become earthly Man. The Egyptians too saw man himself, after his earthly life, in the midst of all that he had to do with beings such as these. The Chaldaean peoples, on the other hand, saw more the way in which extra-earthly spiritual Beings, both good and evil, entered into the earthly life to work there.

The ancient ‘Heavenly History’ properly speaking, which belonged to a very long epoch of time, was followed by the epoch of Mythological History, shorter, but, in comparison to the subsequent period of ‘History’ in the accepted sense, none the less very long.

It is, as I explained above, only with difficulty that man in his consciousness takes leave of the old conceptions wherein the Gods and men are thought of in living interplay and co-operation. Thus the period of Earthly History in the proper sense has long been present; it has in fact been present since the unfolding of the Intellectual or Mind-soul. Nevertheless for a long time men continued to ‘think’ in the sense of what had been before. It was only when the first germs of the Spiritual Soul evolved, that they began therewith to pay attention to what is now called ‘History in the proper sense.’ And in this Human-Spiritual element, which, loosed from the Divine-Spiritual, becomes ‘History,’ the free Intelligence and the free Will can be experienced consciously by men.

Thus the World-process in which man is interwoven, runs its course between the fully calculable and the working of the free Intelligence and the free Will. This World-process manifests itself in all conceivable intermediate shades of co-operation between these two.

Man lives his life between birth and death in such a manner that in the ‘calculable’ the bodily foundation is created for the unfolding of his inner soul-and-spirit nature, which is free and incalculable. He goes through his life between death and new birth in the incalculable, but in such a way that the calculable there unfolds, in thought, ‘within’ his existence of soul and spirit. Out of this calculable element he thereby becomes the builder of his coming life on Earth.

That which cannot be calculated is manifested forth on Earth in ‘History,’ but into it the calculable is incorporated, though only to a slight extent.

The Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings oppose themselves to the order which is established between the incalculable and the calculable by the Divine-Spiritual Beings who have been united with man from the very beginning; they oppose the harmonising of the Cosmos by the Divine-Spiritual Beings through ‘measure, number and weight.’ Lucifer cannot unite anything calculable with the nature that he has given to his being. His ideal is a cosmic and unconditioned activity of Intelligence and Will.

This Luciferic tendency is in keeping with the cosmic order in the realms in which there should be happenings that are free. And Lucifer is there the competent spiritual helper of the unfolding of humanity. Without his assistance freedom could not enter into the human life of spirit and soul which is built on the foundation of the calculable bodily nature. But Lucifer would like to extend this tendency to the whole Cosmos. And in this, his activity becomes a conflict against the Divine-Spiritual order to which man originally belongs.

At this point Michael steps in. With his own being he stands within the incalculable; but he balances the incalculable with the calculable, which he bears within him as the cosmic Thought that he has received from his Gods.

The position of the Ahrimanic Powers in the world is different. They are the exact opposite of the Divine-Spiritual Beings with whom man is originally united. At the present time these latter are purely spiritual Powers who possess absolutely free Intelligence and absolutely free Will, but in this Intelligence and Will they create the wise insight of the necessity of the calculable and the unfree—the cosmic Thought out of whose lap man is to unfold as a free being. And in the Cosmos they are united in love with all that is calculable—with the cosmic Thought. This love streams from them through the Universe.

In complete contrast with this, there lives, in the greedy desire of the Ahrimanic powers, cold hatred against all that unfolds in freedom. Ahriman's efforts are directed towards making a cosmic machine out of that which he allows to stream forth from the Earth into universal space. His ideal is ‘measure, number and weight’ and nothing else than these. He was called into the Cosmos that serves the evolution of humanity, because ‘measure, number and weight,’ which is his sphere, had to be unfolded.

The world is truly understood only by one who comprehends it everywhere with respect to spirit and body. This must be carried right into Nature, with respect to such Powers as the Divine-Spiritual who work in love and the Ahrimanic who work in hatred. In Nature's cosmic warmth which comes in spring and works more strongly towards summer, we must perceive the love of the Divine-Spiritual Beings working through Nature; in the icy blast of winter we must become aware of Ahriman's working.

At midsummer, Lucifer's power weaves itself into the love that works in Nature:—into the warmth. At Christmas the power of the Divine-Spiritual Beings with whom man is originally united is directed against the frost-hatred of Ahriman. And towards spring the Divine Love working in Nature continually softens down the Ahriman-hatred there.

The appearance of this Divine Love which comes each year is a time of remembrance, for with Christ the free element of God entered into the calculable element of Earth. Christ works in absolute freedom in the calculable element, and in this way He renders innocuous the Ahrimanic which craves for the calculable alone.

The Event of Golgotha is the free cosmic deed of love within Earthly History, and it can only be grasped by the love which man develops for its comprehension.

(About Christmas, 1924)

Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (in connection with the foregoing on the subject of Heavenly History, Mythological History, Earthly History, the Mystery of Golgotha)

140. The cosmic process in which the evolution of mankind is interwoven—reflected, in the consciousness of man, as ‘History’ in the widest sense—reveals the following successive epochs: a long epoch of ‘Heavenly History’; a shorter epoch of ‘Mythological History’; and the epoch, relatively very short, of ‘Earthly History.’

141. Today, this cosmic process is divided, into the working of Divine-Spiritual Beings in free Intelligence and Will which none can calculate, and the ‘calculable’ process of the World-body.

142. Against the calculable order of the World-body the Luciferian Powers stand opposed; against all that creates in free Intelligence and Will, the Ahrimanic.

143. The Event of Golgotha is a cosmic deed, and free. Springing from the Universal love, it is intelligible only by the love in Man.