Rudolf Steiner Archive 


Dornach, 24 December 1916

Today I would like to request you Note 1 ] once again, without exception, to refrain from taking notes. This applies to all three days. Note 2 ]

Most of you were present last Thursday at our discussion in Basel. Note 3 ] I now want to bring to your attention once more quite a short extract of what we talked about then, as I consider it not unimportant for these thoughts to become known to us.

I described how the wisdom about Christ was destroyed root and branch by dogmatism, namely, that wisdom which was present in Gnosis which itself was rooted out, since what remains of it now is no more than a fairly good number of fragments. Gnosis was a remnant of ancient wisdom arising out of an atavistic knowledge of the spiritual worlds in the days of early mankind. Those who possessed this ancient wisdom, which was still understood by the Gnostics at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, knew that it contained a view — the names were different then — of the hierarchies which underlie the creation of the world, and they were thus able to conceive of the significance of Christ. Together with Gnosis there disappeared the possibility of comprehending the Christ-Being as a cosmic being. Instead there remains dogma which has perpetuated certain incomprehensible concepts — the Credo and so on — about the Christ-Being.

What was important in centuries now gone by was not so much the wisdom about Christ as the fact itself, the fact that Christ turned towards the earth and fulfilled the Mystery of Golgotha. A true understanding of the Christ-Being will first have to be won through the new Gnosis, which is something entirely different from the old Gnosis, for it is anthroposophical Spiritual Science.

More important for our point of departure today is something else I introduced last Thursday, namely that in the North in very early pre-Christian times — I said 3000 years BC — there was a certain custom among peoples whom Tacitus called the Ingaevones. This custom was guided by Mystery priests in a Mystery centre focused on what is today Jutland, part of Denmark. This Mystery centre was able to work at that time and in those parts because all the climatic conditions in those colder regions differed from any in the southern, warmer regions — for all material conditions also have their own spiritual background. While the warmer regions were more suited to developing an understanding of the Christ-Being in Gnosis, the colder parts lent themselves more to evolving feelings about Jesus because of ideas still prevalent about ancient customs.

Thus it was that, in the South, Gnosis had more of an understanding of the Easter Mystery, the Christ Mystery. But the understanding, as I have said, was destroyed root and branch by dogma. In the North, in contrast, there was more of a comprehension of the Jesus Mystery, a feeling for the child who comes into the world to save mankind. This was based not so much on actual ideas, which had died out, but on feelings which live longer than ideas. The feeling of these ancient customs made comprehension possible. So it came about that in the South it was the task of the church to root out the Christ Mystery, whereas in the North it was its task to root out the Christmas Mystery, to transform it into something innocuous. Thus later, in the Middle Ages, the idea of Christmas came into being which, one might say, reckoned with the rise of bourgeois values of more recent times, which appeared increasingly as the age of materialism dawned. For bourgeois values in the widest sense are a concomitant of materialism. We have to be clear, though, that greater, more significant ideas, in the form of feelings, lived in Central Europe right into the eighth, ninth and even the tenth centuries, for these feelings originated from prevalent usages, such as processions and other folk customs.

Let me briefly sketch these ancient customs once again. Among the Ingaevones the life of the people was firmly guided by the Mystery centre which laid down the season when provision could be made for procreation. The union of man with woman was permitted only in the days of spring, around the first full moon after the spring equinox. It was approximately the time we now call Easter time. The remainder of the year was taboo as far as human reproduction was concerned, and those born at a time which showed that their conception had been out of season were regarded, in a way, as not quite proper people.

So the births of people conceived at the correct time all came together in the middle of winter, just after our present Christmas time. All those regarded by the Ingaevones as fully human had to be born at this time. The births had to fall at the time of the darkest winter days, when the trees were covered in snow and the people confined to their primitive homesteads. To use the language of today, every child was in a way a Christmas child, a child of the winter solstice.

This affected people's frame of mind and soul. Because nothing to do with procreation occurred at other times of the year, the old dream-conscious clairvoyance was preserved. And when the time of conception approached as the permitted spring days drew near, conditions of unconsciousness took over. Conception was brought about in a state of unconsciousness, not in waking consciousness. The woman who was conceiving was truly conscious, however, of the visionary appearance of a spiritual being descending from spiritual worlds to announce the coming child. These women even foresaw the face of the coming child. And this annunciation, as we saw, is echoed in the time of the Luke gospel in the annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel. We saw that there even exists a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon rune song which tells of what existed in the old consciousness and that on the Jutland peninsula there really was a Mystery centre which then migrated eastwards.

Now mankind is, of course, developing, and development is a part of mankind. So this Mystery centre could only exist in most ancient times, for, had it persisted, there would have been no development of the type of consciousness needed as the task of the fourth, and then of the fifth post-Atlantean period. To clairvoyant consciousness the custom is hardly to be found anywhere in northern regions, where it flourished, even in the second millennium BC, and it is seen to have disappeared fully by the first millennium BC. By then, human conception and birth were spread more or less over the whole year and there is no more knowledge of a coming-down out of cosmic worlds via the starry constellations, nor of how much depends for a person's destiny on earth on the constellation under which he is born. Human conception and birth are spread over the whole year.

Parallel with this development is the rise of a new consciousness, the rise of the possibility of freedom for the human being and so on.

One last thing remained, however. Something had existed in the region where Denmark is today; it migrated from tribe to tribe until it reached the East, where the Christ-Being was to be incarnated in one last body still seen in connection with the constellations. The first-born of many brothers became the last-born of those who were seen in connection with the starry constellations. In evolution the last remnant of the old always links up with what is new.

Because in northern regions the feeling had evolved that the human being appears on the earth during the consecrated season, it came about that here, too, surrounded by the echo of those atavistic feelings, the feeling for Jesus could evolve. Thus you will find in these northern regions that the paramount feeling and better understanding was for the Luke gospel, and that the Christmas Mystery worked more strongly than the Easter Mystery, which was imprisoned among the secrets of the church, whereas the Christmas Mystery became quite general.

I hinted last Thursday, and shall perhaps be able to follow through in more detail during these three days, that every three years special attention was paid to the one born first after the twelfth hour of the night that we now call Christmas Eve, the first-born of every fourth year, the first to be born after three years. This first-born was destined to undergo certain procedures until his thirtieth year. Until his thirtieth year he was kept apart and brought up by the Mystery priests. His soul was given a distinct direction. His soul was destined to undergo experiences in a quite special way during the first thirty years of his life. These experiences and procedures were to lead him — this is barely comprehensible today — in his thirtieth year to an inner understanding of the link between the human being and the surrounding spiritual world. Certain quite specific inner experiences during these thirty years were to lead him gradually to this point.

First of all this first-born was to understand, even as a tiny child, how the human being is linked to the spiritual world through his angel. Separated from the rest of the world, undisturbed by the concepts which usually enter a child's soul from his environment, he was to remain close to spiritual workings and spiritual events and, to start with, develop a profound awareness of his links with the angel-being who was his guide — his angelos. In this way this child was equipped with a soul which was taught something very special, about which we may perhaps speak during the next few days. This special learning was expressed by saying that the child had become a ‘raven’. This was a stage of initiation which was disseminated over wide regions and was contained particularly in the Persian Mithras initiation, of which I have spoken in past years. Then this soul was to ascend to an even more intense feeling for its connection with the spiritual worlds; this first-born was to relive in his soul the secrets of the spiritual worlds.

This would not be possible today, for our consciousness develops under different conditions. But, in those ancient times, when it was possible to develop a dream consciousness this was still perfectly possible. When the child had grown into a youth — it was always a boy, a girl did not count — he was given the leadership over individual districts, smaller sections of the tribe. Finally, he had to serve in the administration and government of smaller communities. But it is important to remember that these affairs of government were always conducted in such a way that the youth was ever protected from external influences, especially shielded from the influences of various egoisms; he was most carefully shielded from the influences of egoisms, from influences which came about on the basis of external experiences.

Thus it was achieved that, towards the end of these thirty years, he could take on the role of representative of the whole tribe. When he reached the age of thirty he was ready to absorb consciously the connections of man with the whole cosmos. He became what is called in the Mystery centres a ‘sun hero’. Now he was destined to rule the tribe for three years. None but a ‘sun hero’ could rule the tribe. He was permitted to rule for only three years. At the end of the three years something else, about which I shall speak, was done with him under the guidance of the Mysteries. In particular, in all the arrangements that emanated from the tribe of the Ingaevones, nobody was allowed to be king for longer than three years, and none was allowed to become king who had not undergone what I have described.

You see, forming in these tribes, as it were the skeleton, out of which the gospels later created the life of Christ Jesus. These communities lived in very ancient times. Only symbols of what had gone before come down to later ages. Thus the vision of the annunciation of the child to the mother came down to later ages as the worship of Nerthus, of Ertha. And the fact that the act of conception had to take place unconsciously in olden times is still hinted at in the Nerthus myth told by Tacitus a hundred years after the birth of Jesus. He describes how Ertha — who is male-female, not only female, for she is the same as the god Nerthus — arrives in her chariot; in other words, she is none other than the angel of the annunciation. Then those who have served her have to be drowned in the sea — slain. This is an echo of the submergence into unconsciousness of the act of conception in those ancient days.

In this myth of Ertha in her chariot and the slaves who accompany her but are drowned as soon as their service is concluded, in this myth of Nerthus, we have in the feeling-life an echo of something that was formerly an astral reality, something that had been experienced astrally. Nerthus processions were held in some districts until quite recently in history, right into the early Christian centuries. There were Ertha processions even in Swabia. These were echoes of ancient days. Those who in olden times, through certain rites which still existed as an echo of ancient heathen times, knew something about these earlier millennia, felt and thought about these processions of Ertha in her chariot: This is what our ancestors did. And when that single event then occurred which was the life of Jesus, it was brought into connection with what had been more general in ancient times. This was then better understood in the feelings, at the level of the feelings.

Therefore the monks and priests made every effort to root out anything which might remind their flocks of these things. Such things were rooted out just as carefully in the North as was Gnosis in the South. Otherwise people would have known, by bringing together these ancient customs with the Mystery of Golgotha, that this Mystery, in so far as it is a Christmas Mystery, was not an ancient, natural custom brought into the present but rather that it was replaced in the feeling for the Christmas Mystery by something at a higher level of consciousness. But this was not to be known consciously. This was to be suppressed into the subconscious, for there are always certain powers who reckon with the unconscious. A great part of what happens in history comes about because things conscious and things unconscious are brought together by those who know how to bring such things together.

We rightly speak of what happens in going from the fourth to the fifth post-Atlantean period. But even in the transition from the third to the fourth there was a step forward in human consciousness towards increased ego-consciousness, increased waking consciousness. The ancient dream visions of the spiritual world have disappeared. In the North this was expressed by saying that the Vanir, Note 4 ] who were connected with what is given in visions, had been replaced by the Aesir, who are indeed gods for a well-developed day consciousness. This is what was said in the North during the fourth post-Atlantean period, until all such memories had been rooted out by the priests. In the fifth post-Atlantean period, when materialism, or rather ‘Christianityism’, appeared, these things had already disappeared. While in the South the Greeks had their gods: Zeus, Apollo and the others, the people of the North had the Aesir, Note 5 ] a word which is connected with esse, to be, which in turn is connected with being seen, being seen with the eyes. But during the third post-Atlantean period the ancient peoples who inhabited the North of Europe had the Vanir. These Vanir were far closer to the people. Nerthus, which became Nört in the North, is one of the Vanir, who announced every conception or birth. Now I said that what had existed earlier was always preserved in later times in symbols. Thus something that I have so far only sketchily described to you and which we may be able to go into more deeply in the next day or two, namely, the knowledge bound up with becoming ‘king’, becoming the ‘sun hero’, was carried over first into the cult-myth and then into the myth. We have to distinguish between the cult-myth and the myth as such. The cult-myth is something that is still performed in external customs like a ‘dream performance’ of what reminds people of the ancient clairvoyant visions.

Thus, at a time when what I described to you no longer worked, we have in the Baldur myth, the myth of the god Baldur which was performed in many tribes as a mystery play, an echo of what was involved in ‘becoming king’. First it existed as a reality. Later it was performed as a mystery play. Then it became a myth that was merely recounted. And finally it was rooted out by the monks and priests. Baldur is one of the Aesir, that is, he was one of the ruling spiritual powers at a time when man had already awakened to ego-consciousness. The Vanir had already faded, and yet Baldur remains as a representative of that being who was to become king, the first-born who came every three years.

It is told that, at a certain time in his life, Baldur had dreams announcing his death. Later these dreams came true. But this did not mean merely that he had felt the approach of his physical death. It meant that, having accomplished three years of service as king, he was raised from the consciousness appropriate for that, to a higher level of consciousness. Until then he had been shielded from contact with the outer materialistic world. A king such as this was to live within the priesthood so that all egoism should depart from his soul and none could enter in. He was not permitted to be king for more than three years. Towards the end of the three years Baldur sensed the approach of the end of his time of kingly dignity. This meant, according to the ancient beliefs, that he was ready for contact with the outside world. First he had to rule, but he had to do this solely in accordance with the wishes of the spiritual world. After that he was to become something else; he was to enter the outside world.

For someone who had never had such contact before this was, in truth, a kind of death. This is what was expressed in his dreams. The myth describes how the gods heard about these dreams and became uneasy. We must always think of the human element in relation to the divine element in the way that the two are united in the ancient Mysteries. When, towards the end of his time as king, Baldur felt the moment approaching, the gods — that is the Mystery priests — became uneasy and made all the creatures and all the conditions of the earth swear that they would not harm Baldur. They forgot only one insignificant little plant — mistletoe, the Christmas plant. Loki, the enemy of the Aesir, found the mistletoe. And he made use of it at the festival of the gods, that is, at the event of the god Baldur's first contact with the outside world.

Here we have an ancient Christmas festival, and the mistletoe custom linked with Christmas is still today a memory of this ancient custom which had to do with establishing a new king in place of the old. The contact of the old king with the material world is depicted in the mystery play and the myth. All created things have sworn not to harm Baldur. They are now used by the gods who throw them at Baldur and shoot them at him. Nothing — no plant, no animal, no illness, no poison — can harm him. Only Loki has discovered the mistletoe, which he has brought amongst the community of gods — that is, the priests — and given to the blind god Hödr. Hödr says: What shall I do with the mistletoe? I am blind and cannot see where Baldur is standing, I cannot shoot at him as the other gods do. But Loki showed him the direction and he shot at Baldur with the mistletoe twig. Baldur was wounded and died.

So Hödr is the one who appears as the representative of the outside, material world, in so far as this material world is not comprehended in its connection with the spiritual world but lives like a parasite. ‘Höd’ is the ancient name for battle or war, while ‘Baldur’, as it still exists today, can be traced back to another designation of which the best, still preserved, appears in Anglo-Saxon. As I showed recently, ‘Tag’ appears at an earlier stage of the sound shift as ‘day’. ‘Bal day’ is a possible name, even though Anglo-Saxon. It means ‘shining day’, which expresses Baldur's connection with daytime consciousness, that consciousness which did not come to mankind until the fourth post-Atlantean period. Hödr is a representative of matter, of darkness, but also of battle and conflict. Baldur is the representative of understanding, of knowledge, of light — namely, that light which shines in the human soul in the state of consciousness which has developed since the fourth post-Atlantean period.

So in the Baldur myth we have a special version of the Christmas Mystery. Awareness of the connection between the Baldur myth and the Christmas Mystery was also rooted out by the monks and priests. For Baldur has some of the good qualities of Lucifer, and Hödr has some of the good qualities of the later Mephistopheles-Ahriman. I do not mean ‘good’ in the moral sense but rather in the sense of what is necessary for evolution. Such things, too, are connected with evolution as a whole. During the fourth post-Atlantean period it was still possible for a human being to be guided into the spiritual world in the ancient way as was the case in the old northern Mysteries. This had to be changed as time went on, for the tentative way, later only present in an atavistic form, the tentative, clairvoyant way — still with a certain echo of dream consciousness, which was fitting for the fourth post-Atlantean period — could not resist the more robust demands of the materialistic age. This relationship of ancient clairvoyance from the fourth post-Atlantean period to what came later is expressed in the myth depicting the contrast between Baldur and Hödr. What is working here, what is behind the fact that Baldur — the representative of human consciousness, which can be illuminated by the divine — can be killed through the influence of the evil power of Loki over Hödr, the god of battle, of war and of darkness? Behind all this lies the fact that in our age, as it has been for a long time and as it will still be for some time to come, there must always be a working together of light and darkness. To try and make people believe that anything in the physical world, the world of maya, can be totally good, is nothing but religious egoism. Every light has its shadow, and a thorough comprehension of this fact is extremely important and significant.

Let us take an example. Under the influence of the Christmas Mystery it will be possible for us to go more deeply into a number of matters we have discussed recently. So let us take an example. I have often suggested that if Spiritual Science comes to be taken up more fully by people then, for instance, it will influence medicine, the art of healing. Certain more physical methods of healing will be found for sicknesses of the soul, and more spiritual methods for bodily illnesses. I told you why this is not yet possible: It is simply because the sins have been created by the law and not the law by the sins. Note 6 ] So long as the laws work in such a way that materialistic medicine is considered to represent them — and that is the case today — so long will individuals, however thorough their insight, be unable to do anything and, indeed, they ought not to do anything. But a time will come in the not too distant future when medicine, the art of healing, will incorporate the impulses which come from spiritual knowledge. I merely want to point this out for the moment, since I am actually leading up to something else. Knowledge of the healing forces is inseparable from knowledge of the forces of sickness. One cannot be taught without the other. No one in the world can gain knowledge of the healing forces, without at the same time learning about the forces of sickness. So you can see how important it is for people to be morally good through and through as regards such serious matters. For someone who can heal a person's soul can also make a person's soul sick in the same degree. Therefore such truths may not be imparted by the gods to man until a stage of morality has been reached at which the healing medicine cannot be transformed into poison.

This applies not only to the situation in which we are dealing with abnormal states of body or soul but also to what goes on in social life. In what has been said in recent lectures you will have seen quite clearly that impulses work in the social life of human beings, good and bad impulses, which can be guided by those who understand such things, and are indeed often guided in rather extraordinary ways. You will realize that it is simply necessary for this to be so, for mankind must learn on its own account how to achieve the good. I know very well how little these things are taken seriously, even in our circles, and how narrow-minded are the excuses and objections. But this also has to be so at present.

As with the individual, so is it also in social life: Certain impulses can be steered and guided to one side or the other. In social life, in particular, it is still possible nowadays to make use to a considerable extent of the unconscious, for every age has its unconscious aspect. As soon as you start to reckon with the unconscious or the subconscious it is possible to achieve effects which differ considerably from what can be done consciously, for today's consciousness will not achieve its natural connection with the cosmos until the sixth post-Atlantean epoch. Today, those who reckon with the unconscious bring things over from the fourth post-Atlantean epoch in either a mephistophelean or a luciferic way. Now, it fits in well with our present endeavours in these grave times to apply general truths of this kind to specific situations, for it is appropriate not just to play theosophical games but to gather serious knowledge which affects reality, even though this serious knowledge might make demands as to the degree of prejudice existing in our feelings. Also, we are in accord with a feeling for Christmas if we make the decision to approach the earnestness of life. Nowadays we cannot allow ourselves to indulge luxuriously in sentimental Christmas-tree feelings, for a true Christmas mood involves feeling one's way to its connection with the grave and shattering experiences of the present time.

You can see, particularly in people's everyday lives, what happens if they are being influenced at a subconscious level. You can hypnotize an individual person, so that once he is hypnotized he is in your power, and you can make him do things he would never even consider doing in a waking state. You can hypnotize him, which means putting him into a state of consciousness belonging to ages long past, and you may have all sorts of intentions for doing so. In the same way it is possible to hypnotize whole communities. An individual person is stronger in the physical world than is a group, and it is therefore necessary to lower his consciousness considerably more in order to work through him while he is in this other consciousness. In the case of a community or group of people the lowering of consciousness need not even be noticeable, for it can be far more slight. Yet certain things would not be achieved by continuing to speak, for instance, in the way we speak with one another. Therefore I must stress again and again: I shall never consider speaking other than in difficult concepts which require intellectual understanding, so that each person is forced to follow the line of thought and form concepts of what is being said. If we take the fifth post-Atlantean period and its requirements seriously, there can be no question of wishing to bring about any kind of intoxication, or of intending to work on anything other than the intellect. Even someone who knows nothing of Spiritual Science, but has a certain awareness of what it means to be in the fifth post-Atlantean period, will respect the inner freedom of the human being and speak in a way which does not dupe the feelings or create disturbances in the soul.

It would be different with a person who wanted to achieve effects different from those I have described, that is, if someone wanted to make use of a lowered consciousness, which can be achieved far more easily with a crowd than with an individual, since for a crowd no hypnosis is needed. You know how a crowd, a group, can be seized by a certain intoxication if it is handled in a suitable way. I have said on earlier occasions that I have met orators who knew by instinct how to speak in a way which does not directly address the intellect but uses slogans and telling images to speak to a consciousness that is somewhat askew, somewhat delirious. As I said, the approach has to be stronger in the case of an individual, but for a crowd no more is needed. I have given you examples of this.

It is entirely fitting to contemplate these things in a mood of inwardness which befits these days, for they are deeply bound up with the Christmas and Easter Mysteries. I described some time ago how I was moved in my youth when I met with such an effect in a certain situation. I have recounted this example quite often: My karma led me at the right time to hear the sermons of a very important Jesuit father. Note 7 ] I could watch as a certain image was intensified in the people by means of particular words; I saw them being convinced in a manner that did not involve their intellect but brought about a certain kind of delirious mood. Let us look at the example. The Jesuit was preaching about the necessity of believing in the Easter confession and he said, in effect, the following: Well, of course non-believers think that the Easter confession was instituted by the Pope or the college of cardinals. What an idea, my dear Christians! Someone who maintains that the Easter confession has been established by the Pope and the priests might be compared with somebody watching a trooper standing beside his cannon, with an officer next to him giving orders. The trooper only has to light the fuse and the cannon goes off. My dear Christians, compare the trooper with the Pope in Rome and the officer giving the orders with God! Just imagine the officer standing there shouting ‘Fire’, and the trooper lighting the fuse without any will of his own. The cannon goes off. This is what the Pope does. He listens to God's commandments. God commanded — the Pope was like the trooper who lit the fuse — and there was the Easter confession. Would you say that the trooper standing by the cannon and lighting the fuse had also invented the gunpowder? It is as unlikely that you would say the trooper invented the gunpowder as it is that you would maintain that the Pope invented the Easter confession! And all the people were convinced, of course! It was perfectly obvious.

In certain communities these things have to be learned, namely, how to describe things in pictures, how to use images, bring about intensifications, and employ comparisons. This is a special art which is diligently practised in the grey brotherhoods. But there is no need to belong to a grey brotherhood in order to practise such an art. One can be dependent in one way or another on the grey brotherhoods, perhaps without even knowing how dependent one is, and then one can use these methods.

What is all this based on? It is based on the fact that a different kind of soul life is present when we speak with one another in a manner suited to the fifth post-Atlantean period, for then we direct ourselves to the intellect and not to a kind of delirium which would be brought about if we used some of the means I have just sketched. In the fifth post-Atlantean period we have to learn to withstand Hödr, we have to learn to withstand the remnants of an earlier time that resemble the mistletoe which has become a parasite in the plant world. We have to learn to withstand Hödr, the unconscious one, the blind one, the passionate one, the delirious one.

We can only win this capacity by making our understanding such that we feel quite isolated from the world, whereas those who develop a delirious type of consciousness immediately attract to themselves cosmic effects; they draw cosmic effects down into the present. With the consciousness of the fifth post-Atlantean period we stand in isolation on the earth. In a delirious consciousness, cosmic effects are drawn into the soul. And these, of course, have to be utilized in an appropriate way. Let us take an actual case.

Someone who today wants to work on others, on those whose consciousness is delirious, with the aim of achieving a particular end, can do the following: He can remember when something similar existed in an earlier age when the starry constellations were also similar. Now since everything goes in waves in the world, so that a particular wave returns to the surface after a certain time, in order to achieve certain effects he can make use of an event which under similar cosmic conditions is like a copy of an earlier event; he can make it a copy of an earlier event. Let us assume that someone wants to achieve something by influencing others in their delirious consciousness, by carrying out certain procedures involving certain facts. He goes back in history and recalls something which happened at an earlier date under a similar starry constellation.

Assume someone wants to bring something about on a day in the spring of a particular year. Having established that it is Whitsuntide, he goes back through time until he finds an event that is similar to the one he wants to bring about. And it must fall in a year when the date of Whitsun fell approximately on similar days of the month. Then the starry constellation will also be roughly the same. By utilizing all this it will then be possible to work on those in a delirious state of consciousness. In a sense it will be possible, by bringing about a state of delirious consciousness under a particular starry constellation, to hit the target of a group of people who are always a kind of Baldur in the fifth post-Atlantean period; in other words, to play Loki with blind Hödr, or through blind Hödr.

Now let us take an actual case: In an earlier age Whitsuntide fell on 20 May 1347. At this time on a particular day the heralds, flourishing their trumpets, marched with a crowd — it does not matter that their relationship to the Whitsun Mystery differed from ours today — leading Cola di Rienzi, Note 8 ] who made the proclamation, from that important place in Rome under that very starry constellation which fell on 20 May, which was to give him the title of tribune of Rome. The impression he made was comparable to the impression made on a group or crowd in a state of delirious consciousness. For the crowd believed that Cola di Rienzi had brought the Holy Ghost; and utilization of the starry constellation of the time made it possible, though for a very short time only, for him to achieve what he intended.

A remarkable copy of this event took place under the same starry constellation in 1915 when, not Cola di Rienzi, but Signor d'Annunzio Note 9 ] called together a crowd on the same spot in a very similar way! Again a delirious consciousness was affected by ideas and symbols which conjured up pictures that were eminently suitable for speaking to this delirious consciousness. I am not criticizing anybody's consciousness but merely reporting facts — facts which, if you like, have been pushed as far as possible down into the unconscious. But this does not alter their effectiveness. On Whitsun-day 1915 the same happened in Rome as had happened on Whitsun-day 1347, which also fell on 20, 21 May. One day makes no difference. On the contrary, the constellation was all the more identical. At Whitsun 1915 there was a repeat performance of what had happened under Cola di Rienzi in 1347. The new event was thus particularly effective, for it was borne on the same vibrations, the same waves, the same conditions.

History will only be understood when such facts are known, when it is known what can be achieved with the help of such facts. Regardless of what the influences were, Signor d'Annunzio, through the life he had led so far, had the potential of succumbing to all sorts of influences, and he had the strength to put these influences to use. Let me remark merely that, because of his earlier poetry, this poet was called by a number of critics representing the healthy side of Italy ‘The singer of all shameful degeneracy’. In ordinary life his name was Rapagnetta, which I am told means ‘little turnip’, but he called himself d'Annunzio.

Under this starry constellation Signor d'Annunzio gave a speech Note 10 ] which you may judge for yourselves because I am going to read it aloud to you to the best of my ability. To put you in the picture: There were two parties in Italy at that time, the Neutralists and the Interventionists, and Signor d'Annunzio set himself the task of transforming all the Neutralists into Interventionists. The Neutralists wanted to preserve neutrality, and Giolitti, Note 11 ] a man who had been very active in Italian political life for a long time, was for neutrality. That speech by d'Annunzio, which was like a repetition of the one made long ago by Cola di Rienzi under the same starry constellation, went as follows:


Yesterday you presented a noble show to the world! Your never-ending, well-ordered procession resembled those solemn processions of ancient days which gathered here in the temple of Jupiter Maximus; and every street through which such power marches, such power coupled with such dignity, becomes a Via Sacra. Invisible in your midst you drew, on an invisible carriage, the statue of our great mother.

Blessed be the Roman mothers I saw in the procession yesterday, the mothers who bore their sons in their arms and wore on their foreheads the mark of resigned courage and silent sacrifice.

Is there any need for exhortations when the very stones are eloquent? The people of Rome were prepared to tear up the paving stones trampled by the horses which ought long since to be standing firm at the borders of Istria, instead of remaining here, humbled by shame, to defend the nests of poisonous creatures, the houses of traitors! What must have been the sadness of our young soldiers! — What a show of discipline and self-denial they gave, when they protected, against the just anger of the people, those very men who denigrate and slander them, humiliating them before their brothers and before the enemy. Let us cry: “Long live the army!” That is the call of this hour! Of all the vile actions committed by Giolitti and his pack this is the vilest: the denigration of our arms and of our national defence. Until yesterday they got away with the dissemination of doubt, suspicion, and disregard for our soldiers — our handsome, good, strong, brave, impetuous soldiers, the flower of our people, the reliable heroes of tomorrow. With what heavy hearts did they fix their bayonets in order to repulse the very people whose only purpose was to avenge them!

O my admirable comrades! Today every good citizen is a soldier for the freedom of Italy! Through you and with you we are victorious, we have brought confusion to the ranks of the traitors. Hear, O hear! The crime of high treason has been declared and proved, and publicly announced. The dishonourable names are known; punishment is needed!

Do not be taken in, do not be moved to pity. A rabble like that has no twinges of conscience, no remorse. Who can teach another taste to the beast who is accustomed to the filth in which he rolls and the trough from which he gorges?

On the twentieth of May in the solemn gathering of our union, Note 12 ] we shall not tolerate the shameless presence of those who, for months, have been negotiating the sale of Italy with the enemy. Clowns may not be permitted to clothe themselves in the tri-coloured mantle, and bellow from unclean throats the holy name of the fatherland. Write out your list of proscription without pity. It is your right, it is your duty! Who saved Italy in her hour of darkness, who but you, her people, pure and profound?

Never forget that! The others may escape punishment only by flight! Let them go! This is the only leniency permitted towards them. Was not a certain one, even this morning, still inclined to join in the plots whose net is being spun among the blossoming rosebeds of the villa on the Pincio Note 13 ] — now to be confiscated — by the fat German spider who lives there? We never believed for one minute, of course, that a ministry formed by Herr Bülow could have received the approval of the King — or rather, that the King could have become an accomplice to such a thing.

In his great heart the King has heard the exhortation of Camillo Cavour: The hour of the House of Savoy has come!

The hour has come. It tolls under the high heavens which arch over your Pantheon, O Romans, and over this eternal Capitol! Here, where the plebeians held the meetings of their council; here, where every increase in the empire of Rome was consecrated, where the consuls exacted the levies and received the oaths of the soldiers; whence the magistrates of the republic departed to take over command of the armies and control the provinces; where Germanicus set up the trophies of his victory over the Germans; where the triumphant Octavian solemnly confirmed Roman dominance over the whole of the Mediterranean basin; here, at this place, the starting point and the goal of all our victories, we celebrate the voluntary sacrifice, we cry the words of consecration and desire: Long live the war, long live Rome, long live Italy, long live the army and the fleet, long live the King! Glory and victory!’

Thus spoke the new Cola di Rienzi. Then he received the #8224 presented to him as a special souvenir of Nino Bixio. This #8224 stemmed from ancient days and had been treasured by the Podrecca family. The #8224 is presented — pardon me, but this is really true — by the editor of Asino! Asino is a particularly obscene satirical journal. But d'Annunzio takes hold of the #8224, kisses it solemnly, strides through the crowd and enters — not, like Cola di Rienzi, a horse-drawn triumphal chariot, for times have changed — he enters a motor car, having first commanded all the church bells to be rung. The delirious consciousness must not be allowed to fade too soon. All the bells are rung to keep it going a little longer. Then d'Annunzio halts his car at the telegraph office and sends a telegram to the editor of Le Gaulois who answers — I am sorry I do not know how to pronounce this in French so I shall have to say it in the German way — who answers to the name of Meier:

‘Rome, 1 p.m., great battle fought. Have just spoken on the Capitol to an enormous, delirious crowd. The bells are sounding the alarm, the cries of the people rise up to the most beautiful sky in the world. I am drunk with joy. After the French miracle I have now witnessed the Italian miracle.’

Without making any comments or taking sides I simply wanted to point out certain facts in order to show, by the way in which they are connected, how things happen that are hardly noticed by our unobservant contemporaries. I wanted to show that although the ‘singer of all shameful degeneracy’, as he was called in Italy, probably did not believe very strongly in the miracle of Whitsun, he nevertheless succeeded very well in working on certain unconscious impulses by using a repetition of an event which made available considerable forces within a delirious consciousness. This man, who in his own country is called ‘the singer of all shameful degeneracy’ and who has succeeded in writing a novel which trumpets forth his relationship with a famous woman in the most contemptible way — this man found another whole series of effective images in another long speech, this time in the Constanzi theatre. The image of the cannon, which I have already mentioned, is rather less significant. I cannot read the whole speech to you as this would take too long. Let me give you a passage from the beginning and another from the end. It begins:

‘Romans, Italians, brothers in faith and in yearning, my new friends, and my companions of old!’

Well, so he says ‘of old’!

‘Your greetings of warm kindness, of generous recognition, are not intended for me. It is not the homecomer in me you are welcoming, I know, it is the spirit that leads me, the love that fills me, the idea that I serve.

Your welcome goes through me and beyond me to a higher goal. I bring you the tidings of Quarto, Roman tidings to the Rome of the Villa Spada and of Vascello.

This evening the daylight has not gone from the Aurelian walls and it will not go: the glimmer remains on San Pancratio.

Let us this evening confront cowardice with heroism and remember that sixty-six years ago today the leader of men led his legion, already destined to become the June miracle, from Palestrina back to Rome. Let us this evening confront shame with fame and remember that fifty-five years ago at this very hour the thousand on the march from Marsala to Salemi were bivouacking, their muskets stacked together, eating their bread or sleeping quietly. In their hearts they carried the stars and the words of their leader which still sound vital and commanding to this day: “If we unite, our task will be easy. To arms!” It was the call of Marsala, which continued with the robust threat: “Those who do not arm are cowards or traitors!” If he, the saviour, could but descend from the Janiculus into the plain, would he not brand with one or the other of these signs and charge with shame all those who secretly or publicly work towards disarming Italy, shaming our fatherland, returning it to a state of servitude, nailing it back on its cross or leaving it to die in a bed that has sometimes seemed to us a grave without a cover?

Some need fifty years to die in their beds, some need fifty years to complete their disintegration in their beds. Is it possible we would allow strangers in our midst or from without, enemies who live in our house or who have entered it forcibly, to impose this kind of death on a people who yesterday raised with a shudder of power an image of their highest myth upon their shore, a monument of their true will, their Roman will, O citizens? For three days now an indefinable stink of treachery has been seeking to suffocate us.’

And so it goes on. Then, at the end we find a new, warmed-up version of something we know so well from the gospels. Note 14 ] D'Annunzio of all people dares to speak the following words:

‘Blessed are they who have more, for all the more shall they give, all the more shall their enthusiasm be inflamed! Blessed are they who have for twenty years a pure spirit, a hardened physique, a courageous mother!

Blessed are they who refrained, waiting and trusting, from squandering their strength, preserving it instead with a warrior's discipline!

Blessed are they who scorned unfruitful dalliance, saving their virginity for this first and last love!’

D'Annunzio of all people says: ‘Blessed are they who scorned unfruitful dalliance, saving their virginity for this first and last love!’

‘Blessed are they who shall tear out the hate rooted in their breast with their own hands and then offer their sacrifice!

Blessed are they who yesterday still resisted the event, yet today silently accept it as a profound necessity, desiring now to be no longer the last but the first!

Blessed are the young men who hunger and thirst for glory, for they shall be satisfied!

Blessed are the compassionate, for they shall wipe away the shining blood and bind up the lustrous pain!

Blessed are the pure in heart, blessed those who return victorious; for they shall see the new countenance of Rome, the re-crowned head of Dante, the triumphant beauty of Italy.’

So even in our own time such things are sometimes said! And it is so important, my dear friends, not to pass by these things. For not all people act in accord with the One Whose birth we celebrate in the holy night — not those who scream out such beatitudes into the world. To belong, not to the darkness, but to the light which has entered into the world: This is a feeling with which to fill our souls at the time of this holy feast. To dedicate ourselves to the light, instead of to that inattentiveness which brings us only darkness: This, too, can be something in these grave times which it is important for us to inscribe in our souls on Christmas Eve.

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We are a small nonprofit with the expenses of a large website. Your generous financial gifts make this venture possible. If you can't contribute now, please visit our Help Out page for additional ways to support our work in the future. Thank you!

External Links