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The Mission of Folk-Souls
GA 121

Lecture II

8 June 1910, Christiania

It was stated yesterday, that those beings who are to be considered as Folk-spirits, are at the stage at which they in their present existence work from within their ‘I’ upon their etheric or life-body, that therefore they are fashioning this body from out of the very inmost part of their soul.

Now of course it might be said: It must certainly be admitted that the work upon this etheric or life-body cannot be directly seen with external organs of perception, with physical eyes, but that this is something belonging to clairvoyant consciousness. But, if the activity of these beings, of these Folk-spirits plays a part in human life, then on the other hand we must be able to point out something which is to a certain extent visible externally, a kind of impression, a kind of reflection of this work of the Folk-spirits or Archangelic beings. Besides that, these beings must in a certain sense also possess a physical body. Their corporeality must be expressed in some form or other. And this physical form in which the work, the activity of these beings is expressed, must also in some way or other be indicated in the world in which man lives, for after all, the human body must also be concerned in the work of these spiritual beings.

Let us begin with the etheric or life-body of these beings, and with the work which they accomplish in it. Here we must in the first place turn to the researches made by clairvoyant consciousness. Now where does clairvoyant research find something which may be designated as the etheric body of these Archangelic beings, of these Archangels? and how are we to understand this work? You all know that the features of the surface of the earth vary in different parts, and that in the different parts of our earth there are very different conditions for the unfolding of the characteristics peculiar to the various peoples. The materialist will say that the climate, the vegetation, or perhaps the water of a country and other things determine the characteristics and peculiarities manifested by the people of that country. It is not to be wondered at that one whose consciousness is limited to the things of the physical world should speak thus, for he only knows what he can see with his eyes; but to clairvoyant consciousness it is quite another matter.

Anyone who with clairvoyant consciousness travels through different countries in various parts of the earth knows that the peculiar form of vegetation, the characteristic configuration of the rocks, does not exhaust what he knows about this particular country. When we speak of a peculiar aroma, or, of an aura of a certain part of our earth, it is comprehensible that for a materialist we are only speaking of an abstraction. To clairvoyant consciousness there arises over every part of our earth a peculiar spiritual cloudlike formation which we must designate as the etheric aura of that special part of the earth. This etheric aura is quite different over the land of Switzerland from what it is over the land of Italy, and again different over the lands of Norway, Denmark or Germany. It is true that every man has his own etheric body, and it is also true that a kind of etheric aura towers up over every part of the surface of our earth. This etheric aura differs very considerably from other etheric auras, for example from that of man. If we observe a living human being, we find that his etheric aura is united to him as long as he lives, that is, from his birth to his death. It is united to his physical body, and only alters in so far as the man during his lifetime goes through a development, when he rises higher as regards intelligence, morals, etc. But then we always see that this etheric aura of man alters from within, it develops certain parts which shine out from within. The case is different with those etheric auras which can be perceived over the various countries. Certainly these preserve throughout long periods a fundamental tone, they have something which continues throughout long ages. But in these etheric auras there are also changes which take place quickly, and these distinguish them from human auras which alter slowly and gradually, and when they do alter, the alteration only takes place from within. The auras over the various countries alter in the course of the evolution of humanity on the earth when one people leaves its dwelling place and takes possession of another part of the earth. The essential is, that the etheric aura over a certain part of the earth does not only depend upon what rises out of the ground, so to speak, but upon the last inhabitants of that territory. So that those who wish to follow the destinies of our human race in their true form on earth, endeavor to follow the interpenetration of this particular part of the etheric auras of the different parts of our earth. The various etheric auras of Europe altered very much at the time which we designate as the period of the migrations of the peoples. You may already see, that in the etheric aura over any particular part of the earth there is something which can be altered, which may indeed change suddenly, and that this change may even be brought about from outside, in a certain sense. Every one of these etheric auras is in a certain respect a fusion of what comes from the ground and of what has been brought there by the migrations of the peoples. When we consider this aura we must clearly understand that, in a certain respect, the saying which is so lightly quoted in Theosophy, but which is never really understood, at least not in all its depths, holds good in the widest sense; everything seen outside in the world with physical consciousness is only maya or illusion. It is often mentioned among theosophists, but is seldom observed in such detail, as to play a part in one's life. It is rather quoted in an abstract form, but if concrete connections are sought for, it is forgotten and only material consciousness comes into play. In truth that which mysteriously confronts us in the part of the earth inhabited by a certain people, is the etheric aura of that particular part of the earth. That which confronts the physical eyes in the green vegetation, in the peculiar configuration of the earth and so on, is fundamentally only maya or external illusion; it is a condensation, as it were, of what is at work in the etheric aura. Albeit, only that part of the external is dependent upon this etheric aura upon which it—that is to say, a living organizing principle can have an influence. The Archangels, who have the spiritual laws within them, cannot intervene in the physical laws. Where, therefore, only the physical laws work and come into consideration, as in the relations of mountain and plain, in the contours of the ground and so on, in all cases where that which determined the great changes of the people depends upon the physical conditions, there the influence of the Archangels does not extend; they have not as yet gone far enough in their evolution to be able to intervene in physical conditions. Because they are unable to do this, but are in this matter dependent, they are compelled at certain times to wander over the earth; and they embody themselves, as in a physical body, in that which is represented by the configuration of the land, in that therefore, which is ruled by physical laws. The etheric body of the people cannot as yet enter in there, it cannot as yet extend into it and organize it. Therefore the ground is sought out, if it proves to be suitable, and from this union between the etheric body which is worked through by spiritual soul-forces, and the physical piece of ground, there arises that which we meet with as the peculiar charm appertaining to the characteristics of a people, that which a man who is not clairvoyant can merely feel in a country, but which a man who observes country and people with clairvoyant consciousness, is able to see.

Now how does what may be called the work of the Archangels, the Folksouls, take place in this etheric body which rises above the ground? What is the work of the Archangel, how does he work into the human beings who move about upon this ground and live within this cloud of the Folk-spirit? He works into it in such a way that his power expresses itself in three ways in man. It is the etheric aura of the people that works into them, weaves through them, is active within them. Indeed this etheric aura works into the human being in such a way that three parts in him are affected by it. Through the mingling of these three parts arises the peculiar character which belongs to a man who lives in this etheric aura of the people. What part of man does this affect? It acts on a threefold nature in the temperaments. It acts on the temperaments which are themselves immersed in the emotional life of man, those that work in the etheric body of man, but not on the so-called melancholic temperament. The etheric aura of the folk acts upon the choleric, the phlegmatic and the sanguine temperaments; on the whole, therefore, the power of the etheric aura of the folk flows into these three temperaments. Now these three may be mingled in many different ways and may co-operate differently in different human individuals. You may think of an endless variety of ways in which the three forces co-operate, when one influences another, or conquers it, etc. Thus arise the many configurations which we meet with, e.g., in Russia, in Norway or Germany. That which works into the temperaments constitutes the national character of man. The difference existing in this respect between the several individuals, is only caused by the degree of the mingling. National temperaments are therefore mingled according to the interpenetration of the folk aura.

Thus we find the Folk-spirits at work all over the earth. But they also have their own paths to follow; for this working into the temperaments is not to them the essential thing for their own affairs, they only do this because the forces in the world mutually affect one another. They do it first of all as their own intentional acts, as that which it is their mission to do. But besides this the affairs of their own ‘I’ also come into consideration. These consist in the fact, that they themselves advance in their evolution, that they themselves pass over the earth and embody themselves in one or another region of the earth. This is their own affair. The other, what they do in the temperaments of man, is something they do besides their calling. Naturally man himself also advances through their work; it reacts upon him. Hence human work reacts upon the Folk-spirit. Later on we shall see the significance of the individual human beings to the Folk-spirit. That is important. But the essential thing is that we should be able to follow one of these Folk-spirits; and see how he embodies himself in the world, lives again for a time in the spiritual world, and then embodies himself again somewhere else. When we observe these occurrences we are still only observing the affairs of the egos of these beings. Now in order to form quite a concrete idea, picture to yourselves the human etheric body embedded in the folk's etheric body; picture the interaction of the human etheric body and folk's etheric body and imagine further that the folk's etheric body is reflected in the folk temperament in the mingling of the temperaments of the single individuals. You then possess the secret of how the Folk-spirit shows himself to us in his way within a folk. Now after we have said this, we have in reality exhausted the most important work of the true Archangel or Folk-spirit. We should have not nearly exhausted the characteristics of a people if we were only to take into consideration the character possessed by an individual belonging to the people. The Archangelic Beings, who are the true Spirits of tribal tree, have that task.

But now to a folk, as you may easily suppose, there belongs much besides this. Why? If the Archangel, the guiding Folk-spirit, did not meet with other Beings on the same piece of ground, and did not work in conjunction with them in the etheric body of man, many of the attributes of a people would not originate at all. Man is the scene of action for the meeting between the Archangels and yet other Beings who co-operate with the Archangels, and so to speak, work in conjunction with them. Now from this co-operative work arises something else in addition. Clairvoyant consciousness, when it studies the peoples, finds, strange to say, besides the Archangelic Beings already described, other mysterious Beings who are in certain respects related to the Archangels, but who in other respects are completely different from them, above all, in that they are able to employ much greater forces than can the Archangels themselves.

The Folk-spirit acts in an exceptionally delicate and intimate way upon the several human souls in this interweaving into the temperaments; but there are yet other Beings who act upon them in a much stronger, more powerful manner. We must once for all be quite clear as to these Beings, from our general knowledge of the Hierarchies; we shall then, so to speak, find the names of these other Beings who are observed by clairvoyant consciousness.

You must think of the Hierarchies of Spirits in the following way:

  1. Man,
  2. Angels,
  3. Archangels,
  4. First Beginnings, or Spirits of Personality, Archai,
  5. Powers, or Spirits of Form.

We should then come to yet others, which we do not, however, wish to take into consideration to-day. If you remember what we spoke of yesterday—and you will also find it described in detail in the Akashic Record and in my book Occult Science,—you will say that of these Beings it was the Archangels who went through their human stage in the old Sun period. At that time those Beings whom we call Spirits of Form or Powers, who are now two stages higher than the Archangels, were at the Archangel stage; they were Beings such as the Folk-spirits we have described to-day. That was then their normal stage of evolution. There is, however, a remarkable mystery in evolution; it is the law of the lagging behind of certain Beings, the law which brings it about that at every stage certain Beings remain behind, so that at the following stage they have not attained their normal height, but actually have the character they should have had at the earlier stages. Now throughout the evolution of our humanity there have always been beings who have remained behind. Among these laggards are also some of these Spirits of Form or Powers, and they have remained behind in a very singular way, namely so, that although in respect of certain attributes they are Spirits of Form or Powers, and by means of certain attributes can do what at the present day can only be done by the Spirits of Form who have bestowed the ‘I’ upon man at the earth stage, they cannot, however, as yet do this completely, because they do not possess all the necessary attributes. They have so lagged behind that they did not go through their Archangel stage upon the Sun but are going through it now during the earth period, so that they are Beings who are now at the stage of Folk-spirits, but possess quite different attributes. Whereas the Folk-spirits work into human life in an intimate way because they are only two stages higher up than man and consequently are still related to him, these Powers, these Spirits of Form, tower four stages above the human stage. They possess on that account very many and mighty powers that would not be suitable for working so intimately into man. They would act more robustly, but no other domain have they for their activities than that in which are the normal Folk-spirits, the Archangels. That is the difficulty, one must first learn to discriminate in the higher world. Those who imagine that in the higher worlds they can manage with a few ideas, are very much mistaken. The man who, with a few superficial ideas, ascends into the higher worlds, would certainly find the Archangels. But one must discriminate whether these are Beings who have now normally reached the Archangel stage, or those who ought to have attained that stage during the Sun-state of our earth. There are therefore in the same domain as the Spirits of the Peoples or Archangels, other Beings at work who belong by rank, so to speak, to the Archangels, but are gifted with very different, much robuster attributes, such as are possessed by the other Spirits of Form, and who can on that account penetrate deeply into human nature. For what have the Spirits of Form made of man during the earth existence? just think how man could not have said ‘I’ to himself if the Spirits of Form had not formed the brain into that which man possesses at the present day. Therefore Beings such as these are able to work even into the physical form, although they are only at the stage of the Archangels. They enter upon a sort of trial of strength with the Folk-spirits on the very ground upon which the latter are active.

The first and chief thing brought about by this contact between these Spirits coming from these two directions, is speech, that which could not come about without the whole structure and form of the human body. In the structure of man you have the activity of these other Folk-spirits, who are connected with the powers of Nature as well as with man. We must not therefore ascribe our speech merely to those Beings who work so intimately into the folk temperament, and who as Beings two stages above man, imprint their configuration upon a people. The Beings who give language have great strength, they are really ‘Powers’, they are active upon the earth because they have remained on earth, whilst their other companions work in the ‘I’, from the sun into universal space. Before the appearance of Christ Jesus, Jahve or the Jehovah-Being was worshipped by man, and afterwards he worshipped the Christ-Being as the One Who works in universal space. As regards the Spirits of Language we must admit that man particularly likes just that part of speech which has remained with the earth.

We must accustom ourselves to quite different ideas. Man is accustomed to apply his own ideas to the whole universe. He is naturally quite wrong to look upon the fact of these high Beings having remained behind in evolution like a school-girl left behind in her class. They do not remain behind because they have not studied, but for reasons pertaining to the great Wisdom which rules the world. If certain Beings had not renounced their normal evolution, and instead of going on further with the Sun, continued their evolution on the earth, then that which we call speech could not have arisen on the earth. In certain respects man ought to love his language, for the very reason that, so to speak, out of love high Beings remained behind with him and renounced certain attributes in order that man should be able to evolve in accordance with what wisdom decrees. Just as we must look upon the ‘hurrying forward’ as a kind of sacrifice, so must we also look upon the ‘remaining behind’ at earlier epochs of evolution as a sort of sacrifice, and we must clearly understand that man could in no wise have attained certain attributes if such sacrifices had not been made.

Thus, we see how in the etheric body of man, and in that of the Folk-spirit under consideration, two different sorts of Beings exchange work with each other: the normally developed Archangels, and those Spirits of Form who have remained behind at the Archangel stage and have renounced their own evolution, in order to embody in man during his life on earth, his national language. They had to have the power so to transform the larynx, so to transform the entire instrument of speech that it should produce a physical manifestation, and that is speech itself. We must therefore look upon what confronts us as national feeling, national temperament, and its language, as being united in a co-operative work. That which man is able to express in words, that by which he shows himself to be a member of his people, that which he sounds forth into the air, that it is which those Spirits of Form who are united with the Folk-spirits can only bring about, because they with their great forces and powers remained behind at the stage of the Archangels. Therefore a co-operation of this sort takes place in the domains, in the realms where the Folk-spirits are active.

A similar co-operation is however to be found in yet another domain. I pointed out yesterday, that there are yet other forces at work; these are the First Beginnings, the Archai, or Spirits of Personality, who during the earth existence represent what is called the Zeitgeist, or Spirit of the Age. These work so, that from their own ‘I’, from their soul organization, they work into the physical body, so that they set the forces of the physical body in motion. We must therefore presume, that if at a certain time something appears as a result of the activity of the Zeitgeist, something which manifests itself in the Spirit of an Age by which mankind progresses, that this corresponds to a working with physical forces within our earth existence. You can very easily perceive this, you need only think it over in order to understand that real physical preliminary conditions are necessary in order that this or that should arise in the spirit of the age; Kepler, Copernicus or Pericles could not have lived in any other age, or under other laws. Personalities grow forth from quite definite conditions of the times, from those conditions which at a definite epoch of time are formed and organized by the physical work of higher Beings. These are in reality the physical conditions, naturally they are physical conditions, which we must not conceive of as being material blocks, but as certain configurations in the physical part of our earth in general. Sometimes these configurations stand out in strong relief; at other times when the Spirit of the Age is using his influence in any particular way, a quite definite physical constellation has to come about. Only remember that on one occasion, when some children were playing in a glass-cutter's workshop with some pieces of glass that were cut in a certain way, these pieces were so combined that one could observe the optical effect as a telescope, so that the inventor of the telescope only needed to realize his observation of this law of the telescope.

That is an historical fact. Just think however, what physical occurrences were necessary, in order that all this might take place. The lenses had first to be invented, cut, and put together in the corresponding manner. You may, here, very well use the word ‘chance’, but you may only do so if you also refrain from comprehending the law which operates in such occurrences. These physical conditions are brought together by the Archai, the Primal Forces. The reflection of their work is that which draws together into one spot on the earth that which otherwise, as Spirit of the Age, works in a variety of ways. Just imagine what would have become of many physical things in modern times, if this work of the Archai in their physical bodies had not taken place. It is really the work of the Archai which acts in this way and in this direction. Now if the Archai act thus and direct the Spirit of the Age, we may enquire again, ‘How do these Spirits of the Age really guide human progress by means of intuition?’ They do it in such a way that a human being is stimulated as if by chance, by something that takes place in the physical world. This is not merely legendary, it does sometimes occur. I need only remind you of the swinging lamp in the Cathedral at Pisa, where by observing the regularity of the swing of the lamp Galileo discovered the law of the pendulum, and how later Kepler and Newton were stimulated to make their discoveries. We could relate hundreds and thousands of cases in which physical events and human thought were brought together, by which it could be perceived how the Archai or Primal Forces give through intuition the ideas which go forth into the world as the ideas of the age, which then influence man in his development, regulate his progress and permeate it with law.

But in this domain also, those Beings who have normally become Spirits of Personality during our earth existence, work in conjunction with others, who, because of their having remained behind upon the Moon are now not Spirits of Form or Powers as they ought to be on the earth, but are also only now working as Spirits of Personality. Thus those Beings who made their renunciation not upon the Sun stage but only that of the Moon, are now Spirits of Personality, but they do not possess the attributes they ought normally to have; that is to say, they do not give intuitions in the same way as do the normal Spirits of Personality, but as do the belated Spirits of Form. They do not stimulate from outside, leaving it to man himself to observe what is brought about in the physical, but they stimulate inwardly, they work within the brain and give a certain tendency to thought. Hence the thought of man at the different epochs is stimulated from within, so that each epoch has a distinct kind of thought. This is connected with the delicate formations of thought, with inner constellations. Here the belated Spirits of Form who have the character of Spirits of Personality, work within man and produce a certain kind of thought, a quite definite form of ideas. Hence it comes about that man is not only guided from epoch to epoch according to the will of the intuiting Spirits of Personality by whom he allows himself to be stirred to do this or that, but he is urged along as if by inner forces so that the thought manifests itself physically from within, just as in the spoken language there is manifested that which, on the other hand, remained behind as Spirit of Form. Thus in the method of thought there is a manifestation of those Spirits of Form who appear in our age as Spirits of Personality. These, therefore, are not those delicately working Spirits of Personality who allow a man to do as he will, but those who take possession of him and forcefully push him on. Hence in those men who are stimulated by the Spirit of the Age you can always observe these two types. In those persons who are stimulated by the true Spirits of the Age who are at their normal stage, you may see the true representatives of their time. We may look upon these as men who had to come, and at their activities as something which could take place in no other way. But there are other persons, in whom are active those Spirits of Personality who are in reality Spirits of Form. Those are the other Spirits whom we have just named as the Thought-Spirits, those who during the old Moon-cycle moved forward to their present standpoint.

Now man is the scene of action upon which all this works together. This co-operation is shown through the fact that speech and thought enter into reciprocal relations, that not only the Spirits who are at the same stage enter into reciprocal relations, but the normal Archangels also, who govern the national feeling and temperament enter into reciprocal relations with those just described, not only therefore with the Spirits of Form who are at the Archangel stage, but also with those Spirits of Personality who are in reality belated Spirits of Form.

These two kinds appear in human nature and in human being. This relation is one extremely interesting to study when with occult knowledge and occult power of vision one goes from one people to another. Then one can see how the normal Folk-Spirits act, and how they then receive their orders from the Spirits of the Age. But these Folk-spirits work within man together with the Spirits of Language and also with the Thought-spirits who work into the thoughts of man. Within man there are not only normal and abnormal Archangels, but also Archangels in contradistinction to the abnormal Spirits of Personality who from within govern the work of thought in a particular age.

Now it is extremely interesting,—I have said that conditions will be touched upon which you must meet with your spiritual understanding, which must be clothed in ordinary words because no language has as yet been created which would make all this credible and clear; one has to express everything in words which can depict the facts somewhat figuratively, which however correspond to an important fact in the evolution of humanity,—it is extremely interesting and important to follow the evolution of humanity in more recent times; it is important to know that a reciprocal agreement was once arrived at between one of the guiding Spirits of the Peoples, who is a normal Archangel, and one of those Spirits who work inwardly as Spirits of the Thought-forces, an abnormal Spirit of Personality, and in a certain historical epoch the serious and important result of this agreement is to be seen. In order to make this agreement more especially complete, a harmonious relationship was established with the corresponding abnormal Archangel, who was the guiding Spirit of Language at that time; so that there was a point in the evolution of mankind, when so to speak, the normal and abnormal Archangels worked together and when, besides this, there worked in as an additional impulse the kind of thought which was brought about from within by an abnormal Spirit of Personality. The agreement made between these three parties was reflected in one particular people. That was the Indian people, who introduced the post-Atlantean civilization in the first post-Atlantean age. It was during this Indian civilization that the constellation arose in which these three Beings were able to work most harmoniously together. The consequence of that is all that we may call the historical rôle of this Indian people. Even in those ages of which the historical traditions still remain, the effects of what was formerly concluded in that agreement still continued to work. That is the reason why the ancient sacred language of the Indians acted with such power and produced those mighty historical effects in civilization, and why it could act so powerfully even in succeeding times. This power was brought in by the abnormal Archangels who worked in the language. The power of the Sanskrit language rests upon the agreement of which I have just spoken. And again the unique Indian philosophy, which as creative thought acting from within man has not yet been equaled by any other people in the world, also rests upon it; the inner completeness of thought belonging to the Indian culture rests also upon this agreement. In all other parts of the world we observe different conditions; but in all of them there could at that time be observed what has just been described. Hence it is so infinitely fascinating to follow up these trains of thought, which take the peculiar form they do, because they have not proceeded from the predominance of the normal Archangel over the abnormal one, but from their harmonizing so completely, because each thought was actually absorbed by the temperament of the people and was lovingly spun on into details at that time when the Indian people represented the first blossom of the culture of the post-Atlantean epoch. And the language worked on in this way because the conflict had not arisen there which would have taken place everywhere else, because such a cooperation took place between the Archangel of the normal evolution and the Archangel of the abnormal evolution. Thus one may say that this language, poured forth from the purest temperament, is itself a product of that temperament. That is the secret of the first civilization of the post-Atlantean epoch. That, however, is what must be observed in all other peoples, namely, that in them an unique co-operation takes place between these three forces, between the normal Folk-spirit or Archangel, the abnormal Archangel, and that which acts inwardly in the abnormal Spirit of the Age, who works, not as a Spirit of the Age, but from within, and finally that which the true Spirit of the Age has to convey inwardly to the nation.

The true knowledge of a people comes from listening to these forces within, and weighing the share which each factor has in the constitution of the people. Hence it has become difficult for persons who do not take the occult forces of human evolution into consideration, really to define the word ‘folk’. Examine the several books in which in any, part of the world the conception of a ‘folk’ is defined, and you will see what curious definitions there are, and how greatly they differ from each other. They have indeed to differ, because one writer feels more what comes from one side, from the normal Archangels, another what proceeds from the abnormal Archangels, and again a third that which comes from the several personalities of the people. Each one feels something different and uses that in his definition. That is just what Spiritual Science has made clear to us, that these definitions need not always be wrong; but they are always bathed in maya, in illusion. From what a writer says it can be seen that he only observes maya, and that he leaves unnoticed the various forces at work.

Hence one will naturally always obtain very different conceptions, if from the anthroposophical standpoint one observes a people like the Swiss, who live in one and the same country and speak three languages, and on the other hand peoples who speak one language only.

As to why some folks act more under the influence of the Spirit of Personality, that is to say, why their life is especially made up of the cooperation of the several personalities, we shall have to speak later. Peoples whose existence is more under the influence of the abnormal Spirit of Personality are also to be found on the earth; those Spirits of Personality do not work for the further progress of evolution. You need only study the character of the North American people, there you have a people absolutely founded on this principle.

Thus you will see, that we shall only understand the history of the world, in so far as it consists of the histories of peoples, if we follow up the normal and abnormal Archangels, the normal and abnormal Spirits of Personality in their reciprocal positions, and in their co-operative work, and at the same time follow up their work in peoples that succeed each other in the course of the world's history.