The Apocalypse of St. John
25 June 1908, Nuremberg
We have said repeatedly that our epoch will end, when the seventh age has passed away, by the War of All against All, but this war must really be pictured quite differently from the way we have been accustomed to think of war. We must bear in mind the foundation, the real cause of this war. This foundation or cause is the increase of egoism, of self-seeking and selfishness on the part of man. And we have now progressed so far in our considerations that we have seen what a sharp two-edged sword this “I” of man is. He who does not fully realize that this “I” is a two-edged sword will scarcely be able to grasp the entire meaning of the evolution of humanity and the world. On the one hand this “I” is the cause that man hardens within himself, and that he desires to draw into the service of his “I” his inner capacities and all the other objects at his disposal. This “I” is the cause of man's directing all his wishes to the satisfaction of this “I” as such. Its striving to draw to itself as its own possession a part of the earth which belongs to all, to drive away all the other Egos from its realm, to fight them, to be at war with them, is one side of the “I.” But on the other hand the must not forget that the “I” is at the same time that which gives man his independence and his inner freedom, which in the truest sense of the word elevates him. His dignity is founded in this “I,” it is the basis of the Divine in man.
This conception of the “I” offers difficulty to many people. It has become clear to us that this “I” of man has developed from a group-soul nature, from a kind of all-inclusive universal “I” out of which it has been differentiated. It would be wrong if man were to crave to go down again with his “I” into some sort of universal consciousness, into some sort of common consciousness. Everything which causes a man to strive to lose his “I” and dissolve it into a universal consciousness, is the result of weakness. He alone understands the “I” who knows that after he has gained it in the course of cosmic evolution it cannot be lost; and above all man must strive for the strength (if he understands the mission of the world) to make this “I” more and more inward, more and more divine. True Anthroposophists possess nothing of the empty talk which continually emphasizes the dissolution of the “I” in a universal self, the melting into some sort of primeval sea. True Anthroposophy can only put forward as the final goal, the community of free and independent Egos, of Egos which have become individualized. It is just this that is the mission of the earth, which is expressed in love, that the Egos learn to confront one another freely. Love is not perfect if it proceeds from coercion, from people being chained together, but only when each “I” is so free and independent that it need not love, is its love an entirely free gift. It is the divine plan to make this “I” so independent that as an individual being in all freedom it can offer love even to God. It would amount to man being led by strings of dependence if he could in any way be forced to love, even if only in the slightest degree.
Thus the “I” will be the pledge for the highest goal of man. But at the same time, if it does not discover love, if it hardens within itself, it is the tempter that plunges him into the abyss. For it is that which separates men from one another which brings them to the great War of All against All, not only to the war of nation against nation (for the conception of a nation will then no longer have the significance it possesses to-day) but to the war of each single person against every other person in every branch of life; to the war of class against class, of caste against caste and sex against sex. Thus in every field of life the “I” will become the apple of discord; and hence we may say that it can lead on the one hand to the highest and on the other hand to the lowest. For this reason it is a sharp two-edged sword. And he who brought the full Ego-consciousness to man, Christ Jesus, is, as we have seen, symbolically and correctly represented in the Apocalypse as one who has the sharp two-edged sword in his mouth.
We have represented it as a high achievement of man that just through Christianity he has been able to ascend to this concept of the free “I.” Christ Jesus brought the “I” in all its fullness. Hence this “I” must be expressed by the sharp two-edged sword which you already know from one of our seals. And the fact that this sharp two-edged sword proceeds from the mouth of the Son of Man is also comprehensible, for when man has learnt to utter the “I” with full consciousness it is in his power to rise to the highest or sink to the lowest. The sharp two-edged sword is one of the most important symbols met with in the Apocalypse.
Now if we understand what was said at the close of our last lecture, that after our present civilization will follow that which is characterized in our last lecture through the community of Philadelphia, we must particularly notice that from the sixth age will be taken those human souls who have to pass over into the following epoch. For, after the War of All against All — as we have already said — there will be expressed in the features all that is in our age being prepared in men's souls. The so-called seventh age will be of very little importance. We are now living in the fifth age of civilization; then follows the sixth, from which will proceed a number of people full of understanding for the spiritual world, filled with the spirit of brotherly love, which results from spiritual knowledge. The ripest fruit of our present civilization will appear in the sixth age. And that which follows it will be what is lukewarm, neither warm nor cold; the seventh age is something like an overripe fruit, which outlasts the War of All against All, but contains no principle of progress.
This was the case also when our culture originated. Let as think of the time before the Atlantean flood. We have said that it was in the last third of the Atlantean epoch — which men experienced on the land now covered by the Atlantic Ocean — when a small group was formed in the neighbourhood of the present Ireland, which had reached the highest stage of Atlantean civilization, and this group then migrated to the East, whence all later civilizations have proceeded. Let us keep this clearly in mind, let us think of this portion of the earth which now forms the ocean west of Ireland, let us think of a migration of people starting from there and going towards the East and from it a number of tribes proceeding, which then populate Europe. All that is contained in the population of Europe originated in this way. The most gifted portion of the Atlanteans wandered towards central Asia; from there proceeded the various civilizations up to our own, as we have described. So we see that our present civilization originated in a small group of Atlanteans.
Atlantis, however, had seven consecutive stages just as our own civilization has seven stages which we know as the ancient Indian, ancient Persian, Assyrian-Babylonian-Chaldean-Egyptian-Jewish, the Graeco-Latin, our own and two further ones. It was in the fifth stage when this emigration began; so that the specially chosen population of Atlantis which lies at the foundation of our culture is taken from the fifth Atlantean race, for in Atlantis we may speak of races. A sixth and a seventh followed. These were, so to speak the lukewarm races. They also survived the great flood but there was no living sprouting force in them. They were related to the fifth Atlanteans civilization somewhat as the bark which is lignified and hardened is related to the sappy stem. These two races which followed the actual root-race were incapable of developing, they were overripe, so to speak. You may still see stragglers of these old overripe races to-day, especially among the Chinese. This Chinese people is characterized by the fact that it has not identified itself with what was manifested in the fifth race, the root-race. It was when the etheric body entered into the physical body that man received the first germs which enabled him to say “I.” They had passed over that period; they had, however, thereby developed the high civilization which is known to-day but which was not capable of development. The fifth Atlantean race sent its people every-where, and they founded new civilizations, civilizations capable of growing and becoming more perfect. Indeed, this all developed from the ancient Indian civilization to our own. The sixth and seventh races of Atlantis allowed themselves to become hardened and therefore became stationary. As we have said, the Chinese civilization is a remainder of that ancient civilization. The old Chinese possessed a wonderful Atlantean heritage but they could not progress any further. Nothing remains uninfluenced from outside. You may examine ancient Chinese literature; it has been influenced from every direction, but its fundamental tendency bears the Atlantean character. This self-completeness, this capacity of making discoveries and going no further, could never bring the Chinese beyond a certain stage — all this proceeds from the character of Atlantis.
Just as it happened at that time with the fifth race, that it provided men who were capable of development and with the sixth and seventh, that they experienced a descent, so will it also be in our epoch. We are now looking with great longing towards the sixth civilization, to that which must be described as developing out of the spiritual marriage between West and East. The sixth stage will be the foundation for the new civilizations which will arise after the great War of All against All; just as our civilization arose after the Atlantean epoch. On the other hand, the seventh race of culture will be characterized by the lukewarm. This seventh age will continue into the new epoch, just as the sixth and seventh races of the Atlantean epoch continued into our epoch as races hardened and stiffening. After the War of All against All, there will be two streams in humanity: on the one hand the stream of Philadelphia will survive with the principle of progress, of inner freedom, of brotherly love, a small group drawn from every tribe and nation; and on the other hand the great mass of all those who are lukewarm, the remains of those who are now becoming lukewarm (Laodicea).
After the great War of All against All, gradually the evil stream will be led over to good by the good race, by the good stream. This will be one of the principal tasks after the great War of All against All; to rescue what can be rescued from those who after the great war will only have the impulse to fight one another and to allow the “I” to express itself in the most external egoism. Such things are always provided for in advance in the spiritual guidance of humanity.
Do not consider it a hard thing in the plan of creation, as something which should be altered, that humanity will be divided into those who will stand on the right and those who will stand on the left; consider it rather as something that is wise in the highest degree in the plan of creation. Consider that through the evil separating from the good, the good will receive its greatest strengthening. For after the great War of All against All, the good will have to make every possible effort to rescue the evil during the period in which this will still be possible. This will not merely be a work of education such as exists to-day, but occult forces will co-operate. For in this next great epoch men will understand how to set occult forces in motion. The good will have the task of working upon their brothers of the evil movement. Everything is prepared beforehand in the hidden occult movements, but the deepest of all occult cosmic currents is the least understood. The movement which is preparing for this, says the following to its pupils: “Men speak of good and evil, but they do not know that it is necessary in the great plan that evil, too, should come to its peals, in order that those who have to overcome it should, in the very overcoming of evil, so use their force that a still greater good results from it.” The most capable must be chosen and prepared to live beyond the period of the great War of All against All when men will confront those who bear in their countenances the sign of evil; they must be so prepared that as much good force as possible will flow into humanity. It will still be possible for those bodies, which are to a certain extent soft, to be transformed after the War of All against All by the converted souls, by the souls who will still be led to the good in this last epoch. In this way much will be accomplished. The good would not be so great a good if it were not to grow through the conquest of evil. Love would not be so intense if it had not to become love so great as to be able even to overcome the wickedness in the countenances of evil men. This is already being prepared for and the pupils are told, “You must not think that evil has no part in the plan of creation. It is there in order that through it may come the greater good.” Those who are being prepared in their souls by such teachings, so that in the future they will, be able to accomplish this great task of education, are the pupils of the Manichaean School. The Manichaean teaching is generally misunderstood. When you hear anything or read something about it, you find merely phrases. You may read that the Manichees believed that from the very beginning of the world there have been two principles: good and evil. This is not so, the teaching of the Manichees is what we have just explained. By the name “Manichaeism” should be understood the above teaching and its development in the future, and the pupils who are so led that they can accomplish such a task in future incarnations. Manes is that exalted individuality, who is repeatedly incarnated on the earth, who is the guiding spirit of those whose task it is to transform evil. When we speak of the great leaders of mankind we must also think of this individuality who has set himself this task. Although at the present day this principle of Manes has had to step very much into the background because there is little understanding for spiritual work, this wonderful and lofty Manichaean principle will win more and more pupils the nearer we approach the understanding of spiritual life.
Thus you see how the present-day humanity will pass into the new epoch beyond the War of All against All, just as that root-race of the Atlanteans lived over into our epoch and founded our civilizations. After the great War of All against All humanity will develop in seven consecutive stages. We have already seen how that which is said concerning the opening of the seven seals in the Apocalypse of John gives us the character of the seven consecutive civilizations after the great war. Then when this civilization — which can only be seen by the initiates in the astral world and in its symbolism — has run its course, a new epoch will begin for our earth development in which again new forms will appear. And this new epoch, which will follow the one just described, is symbolized in the Apocalypse of John by the sounding of the seven trumpets. Just as the epoch after the great War of All against All is characterized by the seven seals, because the seer can only see it to-day from the astral world, so by the sounding of the trumpets is characterized the stage of civilization which follows, because man can only perceive it from the true spiritual world where the tones of the spheres sound forth. In the astral world man perceives the world in pictures, in symbols, in Devachan he perceives it in inspiring music; and in this Devachan is contained the climax, as it were, of what is revealed concerning what follows the great War of All against All.
Thus if we represent it in a diagram, we have our seven ages of civilization in the space between the letters a–b, so that we have the ancient Indian civilization as the first, the ancient Persian as the second, the Assyrian-Babylonian-Chaldean-Egyptian-Jewish, the Graeco-Latin,and our own as the fifth stage of the post-Atlantean epoch. The figure IV would be the Atlantean epoch, (a) the great flood by which this comes to an end, and (b) the great War of All against All. Then follows an epoch of seven stages (VI) which is represented by the seven seals, then follows another (VII) also containing seven stages, represented by the seven trumpets. Here again lies the boundary of our physical earth development.
Now the Atlantean civilization (IV), which preceded our own, was also preceded by other stages of civilization; for that of our own (V), which follows the Atlantean, is the fifth -Stage on our earth. Four stages of civilization preceded it. But we can scarcely call the first stage a civilization culture. Everything was still etheric and spiritual, all in such a condition that if it had developed further in this way it would not have become visible at all to sense organs such as ours. The first stage developed when the sun was still bound up with our earth. There were then quite different conditions, one could not speak of anything which looked like the objects now surrounding us. Then followed a stage characterized by the sun separating. Then one characterized by the moon leaving the earth; this was the third stage, which we call the ancient Lemurian. At this point the present man appeared on our earth in his very first form, concerning which I have pointed out that they were such grotesque bodily forms that it would shock you if you were to hear them described. After the Lemurian followed the Atlantean, and finally our own.
So you see that we have on our earth seven epochs of development. The first two were absolutely unlike our epoch.; the third partly ran its course in a region lying between the present Africa, Asia and Australia, in ancient Lemuria. In the very last Lemurian race there was again a small group of the most advanced. These were able to emigrate, and from them developed the seven races of the Atlanteans. The last Lemurian race founded the Atlantean races. The fifth of the Atlantean races founded our civilizations, of which the sixth will found the future civilization after the great War of All against All. And the very last of those civilizations will have to found that which is indicated by the seven trumpets. After that, what will happen? Our earth will then have reached the goal of its physical evolution. All the objects and all the beings upon it will then have been transformed. For if we have had to say that already in the sixth epoch men will show good and evil un their faces, we shall have to say all the more of the seventh that the form of man and the forms of all the other beings will be an expression of good and evil to a much higher degree than in the sixth epoch. All matter will bear the stamp of the spirit. There will be absolutely nothing in this seventh epoch that can be hidden in any way. Even those belonging to the sixth epoch will be unable to hide anything from him who has the necessary vision. An evil man will express his evil, a good man will express the good that is within him; but in the seventh epoch it will be quite impossible by speech to hide what is in the soul. Thought will no longer remain dumb so that it can be hidden, for when the soul thinks, its thought will ring forth outwardly. It will then be just as thought is already to the Initiates to-day. To them thought now rings out in Devachan. But this Devachan will have descended into the physical world, just as the astral world will have descended into the physical world in the sixth epoch. Even now the sixth epoch can be found in the astral world and the seventh in the heavenly world. The sixth epoch is the descended astral world, that is to say the images, the expressions, the manifestations of it. The seventh epoch will be the descended heavenly world, the expression of it. And then the earth will have reached the goal of its physical evolution. The earth, together with all its beings, will then change into an astral heavenly body. Physical substance as such will disappear. The part which until then had been able to spiritualize itself, will pass over into the spirit, into astral sub-stance. Imagine all the beings of the earth who up to that time have been able to express what is good, noble, intellectual and beautiful in their external material form; who will bear an expression of Christ Jesus in their countenances, whose words will manifest Christ Jesus, for they will ring out as resounding thoughts — all these will have the power to dissolve what they have within them as physical matter, as warm water dissolves salt. Everything physical will pass over into an astral globe. But those who up to that time have not progressed so far as to be a material and corporeal expression of what is noble, beautiful, intellectual and good, will not have the power to dissolve matter; for them matter will remain. They will become hardened in matter; they will retain material form. At this point in the earth's evolution there will be an ascent into the spirit of forms which will live in the astral and which will separate from them-selves another material globe, a globe which will contain beings unfit for the ascent because they are unable to dissolve the material part. In this way our earth will advance towards its future. Through the souls gradually refining matter from within, the substance of the earth will become more and more refined until it receives the power to dissolve. Then will come the time when the insoluble part will be ejected as a special planet. In the course of seven ages that which has hardened itself in matter will be driven out, and the power which drives it out will be the opposite force to that which will have forced the good beings upward.
What, then, will they have used to dissolve matter? The power of love gained through the Christ-principle. Beings become capable of dissolving matter through taking love into their souls. The more the soul is warmed by love the more power-fully will it be able to work on matter; it will spiritualize the whole earth and transform it into an astral globe. But just as love dissolves matter, as warm water dissolves salt, so will the opposite of love press down — again throughout seven stages everything which has not become capable of fulfilling the earth mission. The contrary of divine love is called divine wrath, that is the technical expression for it. Just as in the course of the fourth stage of civilization this love was imprinted in humanity, just as it will become warmer and warmer through the last stages in our epoch, the sixth and seventh, so on the other hand there is growing that which hardens matter around itself the divine wrath. This effect of the divine wrath, this expulsion of matter is indicated in the Apocalypse of John by the outpouring of the seven vials of divine wrath. Imagine what the whole condition will be; the substance of the earth will become finer and finer, the substantial part of man will also become more and more spiritual, and the coarsest parts will only be visible in the finer part like the skins or shells sloughed off, for example, by reptiles or snails. These harder parts will thus become more and more incorporated in the substance which is growing finer. In the last epoch, the epoch of the sounding of the trumpets, you would with spiritual vision see how men consist of delicate, spiritualized bodies; and how those who have hardened the material principle in themselves have preserved in themselves what to-day are the most important constituents of matter; and how this will fall as husks into the material globe which will be left after the epoch indicated by the sounding of the trumpets.
This is prophetically described in the Apocalypse of John, and it is important to develop a feeling in our souls about this knowledge of what is coming, so that it may fire our will. For what will man have made of himself when the sixth and seventh epochs are over? What will he have made of his body? If we now observe the human body we find that it is not yet the expression of the soul within; but it will gradually become an expression of what the soul experiences within. Man's outer body will thus become an expression of the good by his receiving the highest message, the highest teaching there is on this earth; and this highest teaching is the message of Christ Jesus on the earth; the highest that can be given to us is the message of Christ Jesus. We must take it up thoroughly, not merely with the understanding; we must take it into our innermost being, just as one takes nourishment into the physical body. And as humanity develops further it will take up the joyful message into its inner being more and more. It is just this reception of the message of love which it will have to regard as the result of the earth's mission. The power of love is contained in the Gospels, the whole power of love, and the seer can say nothing else than: “In the spirit I see a time before me when that which is in the Gospel will no longer be outside in a book but when it will be devoured by man himself.”
Our earth evolution depends upon two things. Our earth was preceded by what we call the Cosmos of Wisdom, and that was preceded by what we call the Cosmos of Strength, of Power (certainly the word does not convey much, but we must use it because it has become customary). Wisdom and strength have been received as a heritage from previous stages of evolution, from the ancient Moon and the ancient Sun. We shall see that during our earth evolution this is also expressed by our naming the first half after the representative of the Sun forces, Mars, for we only need note at this point that within our earth evolution we have in Mars that which implanted iron in the earth; in Mars we see the bringer of strength. And in that which rules the second half of the earth evolution we have the representative of the ancient Moon evolution, Mercury, which embodies in the earth the heritage received from the Moon, wisdom. Thus the earth evolution consists of two parts, Mars and Mercury. It has received as a heritage two mighty forces. That which it has inherited from the cosmos of strength is expressed in Mars, and that which it has inherited from the cosmos of wisdom is expressed in Mercury. The mission of the earth itself is to bring love. Love is to be gloriously manifested as the result of the earth evolution. This is a very profound thought expressed by the writer of the Apocalypse. It is the profound thought underlying the whole of the earth evolution.
Let us once more go back to the first portion of the Atlantean epoch, to the time of which we said that the air was still saturated with water. Man was still organized for a water existence. Only in the middle of Atlantis had he progressed so far that he forsook the water and trod upon solid ground. Up to the middle of the earth's evolution we must regard water as the vehicle of human evolution, just as afterwards solid earth. It was only comparatively late that the solid earth became the field of human evolution. It is only half the truth if we speak of the whole of Atlantis as consisting of dry land. In many respects it was not covered, let us say, by the ocean, but by something between air and water, air-saturated with water. And this water-air was the element in which man lived. Only later did he become capable of living in clear air and standing on solid ground. That was, comparatively speaking, not long ago; so that if we survey the earth's evolution, we may say, expressing it symbolically: On the one hand we have earth and on the other hand water — that is the earlier period. From the water emanates one of the forces, and from the earth emanates the other force, up to the first half of evolution. In the middle of the fourth period we speak of the Mars forces, of the forces given by water, so to speak, and we speak of the Mercury forces in the later time when the solid earth gives the supporting forces. This fits quite accurately into the conception that man is supported in his entire earth mission by two pillars. They represent two parts of the earth's mission, the two heritages man has received from earlier periods. And above them is symbolized what is to be attained through the earth itself, namely love, which is there gloriously revealing itself, which is supported by these heritages. Thus the writer of the Apocalypse really describes it just as it presents itself to those who ascend. Therefore, when we observe what lies beyond the earth and what confronts us when earthly substance dissolves into the spiritual, this is symbolically indicated by what we see in the fourth seal. See Dr. Steiner's Occult Seals and Symbols. Of course it has to appear reversed, because it represents what belongs to the future. We see the two forces which the earth has received as heritage from the cosmos of wisdom and the cosmos of strength, and we see all that appears as the fulfilment of the earth's mission, as the force of love which man develops. The whole appears to its as the personification of the man of the future. The man of the future here confronts us symbolically, supported by these forces, permeated by this power. The message of love, the book before him, is a book which influences him not only from without but he has to devour it. Here we behold before us the mighty picture which appears at this stage. “And I saw another mighty angel” (that is, a being which is presented thus, because he is already above the present man), “descend from the spiritual spheres” (that is how it is seen by the Seer) “clothed with a cloud, and his countenance was like the sun and his feet like pillars of fire” — these are the two forces of which we have spoken, which the earth has received as a heritage. “And he had in his hand a little book opened; and his right foot was set upon the sea and his left upon the earth. ... And I said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall pain thee in thy belly, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey. And I took the little book from the hand of the angel and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey.” Here we have the feeling arising in the seer when he directs his gaze to the point when the earth passes from the physically material into the astrally spiritual, when the earth mission is attained. And when the seer sees this he learns what is really connected with this message of love, which entered in as an impulse in the fourth age, he learns even in the present life, as the Apocalyptist learnt, what bliss is and the bliss that may lie before humanity. But he learns it in his present body; for if a being wished to live with man, however high he might be, he would be obliged to incarnate in the flesh. And in many respects the present body, just because it offers the spirit the possibility of rising high, also gives the possibility of suffering. While, there-fore, the soul is able to ascend — the soul of the seer — as the Apocalyptist has described, into spiritual regions, in order to receive the Gospel of Love, and in spirit is able to feel the bliss sweet as honey, yet the seer lives in a present-day body, and in accordance with this he must say that the ascent produces in the present body the antithesis of that bliss in many respects. He expresses this by saying that although the little book is at first sweet as honey when he eats it, it gives him severe pains in the belly. But this is only a small reflection of the “being crucified in the body.” The higher the spirit rises, the more difficult it is for it to dwell in the body, and this is the symbolical expression for these pains: “being crucified in the body.”
Thus we have briefly sketched what will happen in our earth evolution, what lies in front of man in his earthly evolution. We have arrived at the point when man is changed into an astral being; when the best parts of the earth disappear as physical earth and pass over into the spiritual; when only something like a separated portion will through the divine wrath fall into the abyss. And we shall see that even there the last stage at which salvation would not be possible has not yet been reached, although that which is in the abyss is pictured by the most frightful symbols, by the seven-headed and ten-horned beast and by the two-horned beast.