Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse
Kristiania, May 10, 1909
Now that we have seen what Theosophy has to say concerning the historical evolution of humanity, we will consider what the Apocalypse can tell us about it.
To understand this we must go beyond our culture back to the Greco-Latin cultural epoch, the fourth in our great post-Atlantean epoch. In spiritual science we calculate it to have begun in the eighth or ninth century of the pre-Christian age. Further back in the past we arrive at the Egypto-Chaldean cultural epoch, then the most ancient Persian age, concerning which the historical research of our day knows only the last faint echoes. Then we go further back to the primal holy age of the ancient Indian culture. In this way we finally arrive back at the time of the great Atlantean culture which is reported to us by all ancient religious writings. Before the great Atlantean water catastrophe, between Europe and America there existed the ancient Atlantean continent. That is where the precursors of humanity lived, those whom we call the Atlanteans.
We want to consider now the spiritual life of the Atlanteans; for, of course, the same souls who are present today lived there, but they were equipped with other soul abilities or states of consciousness that are of interest now to the spiritual researcher.
During the fullest blossoming of the Atlantean culture, we find the modern human being's capacity for perception present only in its first rudiments. The ancient Atlanteans did not see external objects as we do today, with sharply defined contours; they saw them rather surrounded by an aura. When they fell asleep at night, the external picture disappeared for them but they were conscious in the spiritual world. They had a dim form of clairvoyance. But they did not have any of what we today call counting and computation, the power of judgment or logical thinking. They had none of the mental abilities that our present-day culture has created; for example, they did not know about the power hidden in coal. Instead, they had magical abilities with which they could awaken the powers hidden in plant seeds and then put these powers in their service. In this way they possessed clairvoyant and magical powers. Those people in Atlantis best able to make use of their magical powers were the best technicians and engineers. What our present-day scholars and natural scientists represent, we can compare to the people most highly gifted with powers of clairvoyance in Atlantean times.
There were great mystery centers at that time. Our present-day mystery and occult schools work much more secretly than theirs did. The mystery centers of Atlantean times were generally known as both school and church. Piety and wisdom were cultivated at the same time. The leaders of that time can be called the great teachers of the mysteries. They taught in these Atlantean oracles of which there were seven. Students who had become sufficiently mature were initiated into the mastery of magical powers and into a conscious vision of the spiritual world. Unlike our culture, which is limited to the three lower kingdoms, Atlantean wisdom stretched over the physical earth and beyond to spiritual realities. Present-day science limits itself to the three kingdoms that do not go beyond the earth. However, through clairvoyant development, the Atlantean initiate also achieved a vision and experience of higher spiritual beings that work beyond the earth, even up to the region of the stars.
During those times there were mystery centers that were especially concerned with the various planets in our solar system and the spiritual powers standing behind them. For this reason there were Mars, Venus, Sun, Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn, and Moon oracles. However, the greatest and loftiest was the ancient sun oracle. The initiates of this sun oracle could survey all the other oracles and watch over them. The great sun initiate of the sun oracle stood at the top; he saw prophetically the water catastrophe of Atlantis. Therefore, he had the task of seeing to it that the culture was guided through and beyond the catastrophe.
Now those human beings who had possessed the best talent for clairvoyance were of no use at all for the post-Atlantean cultures. These new cultures required the selection of people who had nothing left of the ancient magic. Like a sunrise over the great post-Atlantean culture, they developed the individual spiritual capacities of thinking and judgment in their first primitive forms. The simplest people were precisely those best suited for the future.
They were led by the great sun initiate to a colony near present-day Ireland; later they were led to the middle of Asia. Those were the people whose consciousness was already then closest to our present-day consciousness. Furthermore, for the sake of this advanced population copies of etheric bodies of the greatest initiates of the Atlantean oracle were incorporated into those individuals who came from the various oracles with the best aptitude for present-day culture. This was necessary for the future.
It is a law of spiritual economy that what has once been achieved for humankind is not lost. If we were to survey the various oracles we would find everywhere what is achieved through occult training; the etheric body is transformed and organized through and through by the I. The etheric body of ordinary people who have not undergone this transformation dissolves at death into the world ether. However, with the highest initiate something different happens. An etheric body transformed in this way is preserved for the blessing and healing of humankind. The great sun initiate preserved the etheric bodies of the seven great Atlantean initiates as spiritual treasure and took them along to Asia. These were then imprinted into seven of the very best individuals so that they grew up endowed with the etheric bodies of the greatest initiates of ancient Atlantis. Through many generations the great sun initiate exercised his educational skills on the health and spiritual discipline of the people so that he developed, so to speak, the very best human material.
These seven individuals were in external life simple people; they had their I and their astral body for themselves, but in certain states of consciousness their speaking was inspired by higher powers. They were then sent by the great sun initiate down to ancient India, to those still longing to return to the true primal home of humanity and who characterized everything external as maya or illusion. That was the chorus of the seven holy Rishis. What this chorus harmonized together as a spiritual symphony was the primal wisdom of the pre-Vedantic age. We are looking into an age much more ancient than the Vedas. What is written in the Vedas is nothing more than an echo; it reaches us only in broken rays through the wisdom of the holy Rishis.
Now we come to the ancient Persian culture. In place of the seven Indian teachers came the first Zarathustra. He was himself an initiated student of the great sun initiate, who stood behind the Rishis. Because of this he could proclaim the great teaching concerning the spiritual being of the sun, concerning Ahura Mazdao. We see here how the great teachers of humanity guided the evolution of human development in wisdom.
From the beginning the ancient Indians were protected from falling into materialism. Their longing for clairvoyance, for the spiritual, for the feeling of connectedness with God was still too great. The Persians, on the other hand, were farmers and fighters. Therefore, in order not to fall into materialism, they had to receive the teaching concerning the great Ahura Mazdao, the spirit of the sun, the highest being. Zarathustra initiated one of his students in such a way that he brought the student's astral body to a higher stage of development. With another student he developed the etheric body to the highest stage of clairvoyant consciousness so that the student became able to read the Akashic chronicle by means of this etheric body which is, of course, always the vehicle for our memory.
Now, the first of these two students was reborn as Hermes, the great impulse giver for the Egyptian culture; his astral body was especially well developed. When he was reborn as the Egyptian Hermes, he bore within himself the astral body of the great Zarathustra and was therefore able to work with the intentions of Zarathustra.
The other student also became one of the most important personalities of post-Atlantean culture when he was born again as Moses. That is why Moses already as a child had to be brought to the point where his etheric body and I could be wholly influenced by Zarathustra's etheric body. For this reason he had to be placed in a basket deep in the water at a tender age; 1In Exodus 2:3 we read: “And when she could hide him no longer she took for him a basket made of bulrushes, and daubed it with bitumen and pitch; and she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds at the river's brink.” RSV. this is a symbol for his calling. And so he became the great Akashic visionary who could write down the pictures he perceived in the Akashic chronicle. These are the majestic images found in Genesis. In these ways events of the past are led over into the future — behind the scenes of the physical, external development of humankind.
Zarathustra was also able to become the greatest teacher of the fourth post-Atlantean cultural epoch. Living in the Near East in the sixth century before Christ's birth he was known as Zarathos or Nazarathos. He was the teacher of the most important Greek teachers and initiates — Pythagoras, for example, was his student.
These four post-Atlantean cultures were inspired by the great sun oracle of ancient Atlantis, and the culture of the ancient Hebrew nation continued to develop uninterupted on a parallel course — a subgroup of this Hebrew nation always living contemporaneously with one of the named cultural epochs. The ancient Indian culture was initiated in the secrets of the spiritual world and the planetary states; the ancient Hebrew ... [gap in the manuscript.] Then, living contemporaneously with the Persian culture of Zarathustra, the Hebrew ancestors developed a teaching much like that in Persia concerning Ormuzd and Ahriman, a teaching concerning good and evil. The third, the Egypto-Chaldean culture, then followed. The exodus out of Egypt under Moses' leadership took place at the same time. Then the Greco-Latin culture developed during the time of the great Hebrew initiate-prophets, Elijah, Jeremiah, and so forth. Already in primal ancient times these prophets had been given the idea of the great being, Ahura Mazdao, announced to them by Melchizedek. In this way, the same nuances were at work simultaneously in the Hebrew culture as in the other nations through the epochs.
Now, such cultures always had their second blossoming. That of Hermes soon encountered a decline. It had contained deep mysteries for the ancient Egyptian culture but had fallen in the worst way and entered into the most terrible decadence as black magic. The ancient Indian culture had fallen into decadence the least.
So we see how all that had appeared successively was still maintained in the ancient Hebrew nation. In various groups they preserved the feeling and the states of consciousness of various other cultures. These groups could be addressed with the names of the ancient cultures, according to how their states of consciousness had been maintained.
When the writer of the Apocalypse speaks of the “community at Ephesus” he means the representative of the first, the Indian culture; the Persian finds its representative in the “community at Smyrna”; the Egypto-Chaldean in the name of the “community at Pergamon”; and finally, the fourth, the Greco-Latin culture in the “community of Thyatira.” He was able to address the representatives of the four ancient cultural epochs in concurrently existing groups.
Then he looked further into the future and saw our cultural blossoming in the “community at Sardes.” The “community” following ours — for which we are consciously preparing through the theosophical movement — he characterizes with the name “Philadelphia.” After that, humanity will finally reach the “community at Laodicea,” where new impulses can no longer be brought forward. When we work and act in the fifth epoch as conscious representatives of the theosophical spiritual life we are introducing the age of Philadelphia or brotherhood.
The seven spirits of God, the seven stars, are what we find in theosophical teachings concerning the evolution of the earth through the planetary states. These teachings should lead us up to an understanding of the secrets of the stars and their spirits. In this way we enter consciously the community of Philadelphia when we absorb the teachings of spiritual science.