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The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls
GA 121

2. Normal and abnormal Archangels and Time Spirits. The Spirits of Language and of Modes of Thought

8 June 1910, Oslo

I stated yesterday that those Beings who are to be considered as Folk Spirits have reached a stage of development when they work from within the ‘I’ upon their etheric or life-body, when they fashion this body from out of the inmost depths of the soul.

Now it will be said, of course, that the work upon the etheric body is not immediately perceptible to the senses or to external observation but only to clairvoyant consciousness, and this must be admitted. None the less, if the activity of these Beings, of these Folk Spirits, invades the life of man, then there must be on the other hand some visible indication, some tangible evidence, some kind of impression or reflection of this work of the Folk Spirits or Archangelic Beings, in proof of this. Furthermore these Beings must also possess in a certain sense a physical body. They must be able to express their corporeality in some form or other. And these Beings whose activity is expressed in this physical form must give some indication of their presence in the world of man, for in the final analysis the human body must be associated with the work of these spiritual Beings.

Let us begin with the etheric body of these Beings and their work in the transformation of this body. Here we must first of all refer to the investigations of clairvoyant consciousness. Where does clairvoyant research find evidence for the existence of the etheric body of these Archangelic Beings? And how are we to understand this work? You all know that the surface of the Earth shows different configurations and that the different regions of the Earth provide widely differing conditions for the unfolding of attributes peculiar to the various peoples. The materialist believes that climate, vegetation, or perhaps water availability and other factors determine the distinctive features or characteristics of a particular people. That such is the outlook of the materialist is not surprising, for his consciousness is limited to the phenomenal world. Clairvoyant consciousness presents a different picture. Whoever is endowed with clairvoyant consciousness and visits the various countries is aware that his familiarity with the particular kind of vegetation, with the characteristic configuration of the rocks, does not exhaust his knowledge of that country or provide a complete picture of a particular geographical area. To speak of a particular aroma and aura associated with a certain region is, in the eyes of the materialist, to deal in unrealities. To clairvoyant consciousness there extends over every region of the Earth a peculiar spiritual cloud-like formation that we call the etheric aura of that particular region. This etheric aura varies according to the landscape: in Switzerland it is different from Italy and again different in Norway, Denmark or Germany. Just as every man has his own etheric body, so a kind of etheric aura hovers above every region of the Earth's surface.

This etheric aura differs considerably from other etheric auras, from that of man, for example. The etheric aura of the human being is part of him as long as he lives. It is united to his physical body and only undergoes modification in so far as man progressively develops during his lifetime and lifts himself to a higher moral and intellectual plane. Then we are always conscious that this etheric aura begins to be inwardly transformed, develops a certain inner light, a luminous quality. The etheric auras that can be perceived over the various countries are of a different nature. Admittedly they preserve a fundamental tone or quality which persists over long periods of time. But, at the same time, these etheric auras are prone to rapid changes, and in this respect they differ from the human auras which change slowly and gradually, and only from within. These auras extending over the various countries change in the course of human evolution when a people migrates and occupies new territory. The strange feature is that the etheric aura over a certain region depends in fact not only upon the etheric emanations from the soil, but also upon the people which was last domiciled there.

Those, therefore, who wish to follow how the destinies of our human race are shaped on Earth, endeavour to follow the interpenetration of this aspect of the etheric auras which is peculiar to the different geographical regions. The various etheric auras of Europe underwent considerable change at the time of the migrations of the peoples. Thus the etheric aura of a particular, region is subject to change, to sudden transformations which may even have their source in external factors to some extent. Every one of these etheric auras is, in a certain respect, a fusion of the emanations from the soil and the inheritance of the migrations of the peoples. When we observe this aura we must clearly understand that the saying, everything in the external world apprehended by the senses is only maya or illusion, which is so freely quoted by Theosophists is seldom grasped in its fullest implications. Though often repeated, its implications are largely ignored, and it rarely leads to a change of attitude to life. It becomes virtually an empty phrase; in face of the stern realities of life it is forgotten and people cling to their old materialistic outlook. The green vegetation, the peculiar configuration of the landscape which we see around us is, in reality, only maya or illusion; it is a precipitation, as it were, of the active principle in the etheric forces. Indeed only that aspect of the external world is dependent upon this etheric aura, upon which this aura, i.e. a living, organizing principle, can exert an influence. The Archangels who embody the spiritual laws cannot intervene in the physical laws. Where, therefore, only physical laws are operative, as in the configuration of mountain ranges, in the contours of the landscape and so on, in all cases where physical conditions determine the great changes in a people, the influence of the Archangels cannot take effect. They are not sufficiently advanced in their evolution to be able to intervene in purely physical conditions. Because they are unable to do this, because they are not free agents, they are compelled at certain times to wander over the surface of the Earth, They incarnate somewhat after the fashion of a physical incarnation, in that which is represented by the configuration of the landscape, in that which is subject to physical laws. The etheric body of the people cannot as yet enter into this domain, cannot, as yet, penetrate into it and organize it. Therefore a suitable territory is selected and from this union of the etheric body now permeated with spiritual soul-forces, and the geographical area, is born that charm or fascination which a people radiates, which is dimly sensed by one who is not clairvoyant, but which a clairvoyant who sees into the secret hearts and minds of the people is able to discern.

Now how does the activity of the Archangels, the Folk Souls, work into the etheric aura that extends over a country? What is the function of the Archangel, how does he work into the people who inhabit this country and live within this aura of the Folk Spirit? This influence expresses itself in three ways. The etheric aura of the people interpenetrates, permeates man; it affects three aspects of his being. The interplay of these three aspects creates the peculiar characteristic of the person who lives in this etheric aura of the people. This etheric aura acts upon the three temperaments, the choleric, phlegmatic and sanguine temperaments, which are themselves rooted in his affective life, but not upon the so-called melancholic temperament. In general, therefore, the potent influence of the etheric aura of a people streams into these three temperaments. In the single individual these three temperaments may be variously commingled and interact in a wide variety of ways. There are infinite possibilities of interaction, as when one temperament influences another or dominates it, and so on. Here lies the source of the multiplicity of types we meet with in Russia, Norway and Germany. The national characteristics of an individual are determined by that which works into the temperaments. The difference between the several individuals depends entirely upon the extent to which the three temperaments are commingled. National temperaments, therefore, vary in accordance with the extent of the interpenetration of the folk-aura.

Thus the Folk Spirits are active everywhere. They follow, however, the path peculiar to them. The fact that they work into the temperaments is not vital for their own development; they only do so because they are involved in the interplay of cosmic and terrestrial forces. It is a volitional act, a necessary part of their mission. At the same time their own ego-development must be taken into account. They themselves must further their evolution, move across the face of the Earth and incarnate in a particular region. This is central to their mission; their influence upon the temperaments of men is of secondary importance. Naturally, man himself also benefits through their work; it reacts upon him. And equally, the activity of man reacts upon the Folk Spirits. We shall discuss later the significance of the individual human beings for the Folk Spirit. This is important. But it is essential that we should be able to follow the progress of one of these Folk Spirits and see how he incarnates on Earth, lives again for a time in the spiritual world and then incarnates again elsewhere. When we observe these recurrent changes we are still only observing the ego-interests of these Beings. Picture to yourselves quite realistically the etheric body of the human being embedded in the etheric body of the people; then picture the interaction of the human etheric body and the etheric body of the people, and think too of how the latter is reflected in the temperaments of the people, in the mingling of temperaments in the single individuals. Therein lies the secret of how the Folk Spirit or Nation Spirit reveals his character within a particular people. Having said this, we have, in effect, described the full scope of the most important work of the true Archangels or Folk Spirits.

We should by no means have exhausted the characteristics of a people if we were to take into consideration only the character of an individual member of this people. This is the function of the Archangelic Beings, who are the real Spirits of the indigenous groups of the same language-stock.

Now, as you can readily imagine, this does not complete the picture of a people, for if the Archangel, the guiding Folk Spirit, did not contact other Beings on the same territory and did not work in conjunction with them in the etheric body of man, many of the characteristics of a people would not originate at all. Man is the stage upon which the Archangels meet with yet other Beings who cooperate with the Archangels and, so to speak, work in conjunction with them. From this cooperative endeavour something totally different emerges.

When, with clairvoyant consciousness, we study the different peoples, we find, strange to relate, besides the Archangelic Beings already described, other mysterious Beings who are related to the Archangels in certain respects, but who are otherwise totally different from them, in that they are more potent Beings than the Archangels themselves. In this weaving into the temperaments the Folk Spirit works in an extremely subtle and intimate way upon the individual human soul. But there are other Beings who exercise a much more potent influence. From our general knowledge of the Hierarchies we must be quite clear about these Beings; we shall then be able to name these other Beings who are perceived by clairvoyant consciousness. You must think of the sequence of the Hierarchies of Spirits in the following way:

  • Man
  • Angels
  • Archangels
  • First Beginnings, Archai or Spirits of Personality
  • Powers (Exusiai) or Spirits of Form
  • There are yet other Spirits of a higher order who do not concern us today.

    If you recall what we spoke of yesterday—and you will find a detailed description in the information contained in my books Cosmic Memory1Original title: Aus der Akasha Chronik. Published with the title of Cosmic Memory by Rudolf Steiner Publications, Inc., New York. (Obtainable from Rudolf Steiner Press, London. See the list of literature at the end of this volume.) and Occult Science—an Outline you will know that it was the Archangels who underwent their human stage on Old Sun. 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 today. That was their normal stage of evolution.

    Now there is a strange mystery attaching to evolution—the law of deferred development. In accordance with this law certain Beings remain behind at each stage of evolution, so that in the succeeding stage they have not reached their normal rank. They retain the characteristics which belong to earlier stages. Throughout the evolution of mankind there have always been Beings who remained behind and amongst them are also certain Spirits of Form or Powers. Their deferred development took a very singular form. Whilst they are Spirits of Form or Powers in terms of certain attributes, and by virtue of certain attributes are able to exercise the powers that belong at the present time solely to the Spirits of Form who have bestowed the ego upon man at the Earth-stage, they cannot, as yet, realize this completely because they do not possess the necessary attributes. They have remained behind, with the result that they did not undergo their Archangelic stage on the Old Sun, but are now experiencing it in the Earth-stage. Hence they are Beings who are now at the stage of the Folk Spirits, but endowed with quite different attributes. Whilst the Folk Spirits work in a subtle way into the life of man because they are two stages above him and are consequently still related to him, these Spirits of Form are four stages above the human stage. They possess, therefore, a vast array of potent forces which would not be suitable for working so intimately into man. They would act more vigorously and would have no other sphere for their activity than that in which the normal Folk Spirits work.

    The difficulty is that one must first learn to discriminate in the spiritual world. Those who imagine that a few ideas suffice for the understanding of the higher worlds are very much mistaken. With a few superficial ideas they would certainly contact the Archangels. But one must distinguish between the Archangels who have reached the Archangel stage in the normal way and those who ought to have reached that stage during the Old Sun condition of the Earth. Thus, other Beings are at work in the same domain as the Folk Spirits or Archangels, Beings who stand at the same level as the Archangels, but are endowed with very different, with more robust attributes such as are possessed by the other Spirits of Form and who are able therefore to penetrate deeply into human nature. In what respects has man been influenced by the Spirits of Form during his Earth existence? He could not have developed ego-consciousness if the Spirits of Form had not given the brain its present form. Beings such as these are able to work even into the configuration of the human form although they are only at the stage of the Archangels. They compete with the Folk Spirits in the domain where the Folk Spirits are active.

    The first and major effect of this contact between these Spirits with their different approaches is the birth of language which could not arise without the fully developed form and structure of the human body. In the structure of man we see the activity of these other Folk Spirits who are associated with the forces of Nature and with man. We must not ascribe the birth of language solely to these Beings who subtly work into the folk temperament and who, as Beings two stages above man, imprint their formal configuration upon a people. The Beings who are responsible for language are Beings of great creative energy for they are in reality ‘Powers’, i.e. Spirits of Form. They exercise effective influence upon the Earth because they have remained on Earth, whereas their colleagues, the normal Spirits of Form, work in the ‘I’, work from the Sun into the cosmic spaces. Before the advent of Christ Jesus men worshipped Jahve, or the Jehovah Being; thereafter they worshipped the Being of Christ as the One who shed His Spirit upon them from the Cosmos. As to the Spirits of language, we must say that man cherishes precisely that aspect of language which has remained on Earth. We must learn to accustom ourselves to new points of view. Man is in the habit of projecting his own ideas into the universe. He would be wrong to regard the sacrifice these higher Beings have made in their evolution after the fashion of a schoolgirl who has failed to gain promotion. They do not remain behind because they have neglected their studies, but from motives of higher wisdom which is omnipresent in the world. If certain Beings had not renounced their normal stage of development on Old Sun and had not undergone their evolution on Earth, we should never have known the birth of language on Earth. In certain respects man should feel deep affection for his native language because it was from motives of love that higher Beings remained behind with him and renounced certain attributes in order that man should be able to evolve in accordance with the decrees of higher wisdom. Just as we must regard “hurrying forward” as a kind of sacrifice, so we must also look upon “remaining behind” at earlier stages of evolution as a kind of sacrifice and we must clearly realize that man could not have acquired certain attributes if such sacrifices had not been made.

    Thus we see how two kinds of Beings of different rank work alternately in the etheric body of man and in that of the Folk Spirit in question, namely, the Archangels who have followed a normal development and those Spirits of Form who have remained behind at the Archangel stage and have sacrificed their own evolution in order to implant in man during his life on Earth his native language. They had to be endowed with the power to transform the larynx and the organs of speech in such a way that these organs could manifest physically as speech. National sentiments, national temperament, together with the national language must be seen as the result of the cooperation of these Beings. Language, speech and national characteristics, these can be compassed solely by the Folk Spirits in conjunction with the Spirits of Form, because with their greater energy and superior powers the latter had remained behind at the Archangel stage. Cooperation of this nature takes place therefore in the realms where the Folk Spirits are active. Similar cooperative activity is also to be found in yet another domain.

    I pointed out yesterday that other forces also are active—the First Beginnings, the Archai or Spirits of Personality, who during the Earth-existence represent what is called the Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age. These work in such a way that from their own ego, from their psychic organization, they work into the physical body and thus activate the forces of the physical body. If, at a certain moment, something arises as a result of the activity of the Zeitgeist, something manifests itself in the Spirit of an Age which furthers the progress of mankind, we must assume that this corresponds to the utilization of physical forces in our Earth life. A moment's reflection will show that definite prior conditions of a physical order are necessary in order to provide for certain contingencies in the Spirit of the Age. Kepler, Copernicus and Pericles could not possibly have lived in any other age or under other circumstances. Personalities are the product of the specific conditions of their time, conditions which at a definite moment of time are created and determined by the higher Beings working on the physical plane. Now these physical conditions must not be regarded as isolated phenomena, but as particular configurations in the physical constitution of our Earth. Sometimes these configurations stand out in bold relief; at other times, when the Spirit of the Age directs his influence in a certain direction, physical objects will inevitably take on a quite definite pattern. You will recall that on one occasion, when for the first time specially polished lenses were used, some children playing in the glass polisher's workshop assembled them in such a way as to create the optical effect of a telescope, so that the inventor of the telescope, having discovered from observation the underlying principle, only needed to apply it to achieve practical results. This is an historic fact. Imagine the number of physical processes involved before this result could be achieved. The lenses had first of all to be invented, polished and then assembled in the appropriate manner. Chance would account for this, you might say, but only on condition that you refuse to acknowledge the law that operates in such circumstances. This concatenation of outward circumstances is the work of the Archai, the Primal Forces. Their work is the consequence of focusing their activity at a particular place, an activity which otherwise, as Spirit of the Age, is expressed in a variety of ways. Think of how many inventions would remain forever unknown if this work of the Archai had not taken place in their etheric bodies. It is really the work of the Archai which acts in this way and is directed to this end.

    Now if the activity of the Archai takes this form and is responsible for directing the Spirit of the Age, the question arises: how do these Spirits of the Age intuitively sense the progress of mankind? They create a situation in which man appears to be stimulated fortuitously by external circumstances. It must not be accounted as pure fiction if this sometimes occurs. I need only remind you of the swinging lamp in the cathedral at Pisa where, by observing the regular oscillations of the lamp, Galileo discovered the law of the pendulum and how, later on, Kepler and Newton were stimulated to make their discoveries. I could quote innumerable cases of the coincidence of external events and human thought which would explain how the prevailing ideas of an age are intuitively sensed by the Archai, ideas which influence man's development, determine his progress and subject it to law. In this domain also, those Beings who have normally become Spirits of Personality during our Earth-existence, work in conjunction with other Beings, who, because they remained behind on the Old Moon, are at present not Spirits of Form or Powers as they ought to be on Earth, but are now for the first time working as Spirits of Personality.

    Thus those Beings who remained behind in their evolution not at the Old Sun stage, but only at the Old Moon stage, are now Spirits of Personality. They do not possess the attributes which they should normally have, i.e. they do not “intuit” in the manner of the backward Spirits of Form. They do not stimulate man from without; they work more subtly, they leave it to man himself to observe the changes in his physical being; they stimulate inwardly, fashion the inner configuration of the brain and encourage a certain trend of thought. Hence the thought-life of man at different epochs is motivated from within, so that each epoch has its own definite mode of thought. This depends upon the delicate configurations of the thought-life, upon its inner patterns. Here the backward Spirits of Form who preserve the characteristics of the Spirits of Personality work within man and create a certain way of thinking, a quite specific pattern of ideas. Thus, from epoch to epoch, man is not only guided according to the will of the intuiting Spirits of Personality who induce him of his own volition to follow a certain course of action, but he is impelled as if by inner forces, so that thought starts from within and manifests itself externally in a physical form, just as language, on the other hand, is a manifestation of the backward Spirits of Form. Thus the way of thinking is an expression of those Spirits of Form who in our age are known as Spirits of Personality. These are not, therefore, Spirits of Personality who work in a subtle and intimate way and leave man to his own devices; they take possession of him and drive him irresistibly on. Hence you can always find in those men who are stimulated by the Spirit of the Age, these two types. Those persons who are stimulated by the true Spirits of the Age at their normal stage of development are the true representatives of their time. We can look upon them as men who were destined to appear; we feel certain that their activities were predestined. There are also others, however, in whom are active those Spirits of Personality who are, in reality, Spirits of Form. Those are the Spirits whom we called the ‘Thought Spirits’, who during the Old Moon cycle advanced to their present rank. Man is the stage upon which the activities of these Beings are coordinated. This is demonstrated by the mutual interaction between language and thought, by the reciprocal relationship not only between the Spirits at the same stage of development, but also by the reciprocal relationship between the normal Archangels who determine national sentiment and temperament and those just described—i.e. not only between the Spirits of Form who are at the Archangel stage, but also between those Spirits of Personality who, in reality, are ‘backward’ Spirits of Form.

    These two kinds of Beings are reflected in the make-up and being of man. It is extremely interesting to observe this relationship when, with occult knowledge and insight, we study the different peoples. We are then able to follow the way in which the normal Folk Spirits work and take their directions from the Spirits of the Age; how these Folk Spirits work in the inner being of man in conjunction with the Spirits of language and also with the Spirits of thought who work into the thoughts of man. Within man there are not only normal and abnormal Archangels, but also the Archangels in contrast to the abnormal Spirits of Personality who from within determine the pattern of thought of a particular epoch. I have already mentioned that I proposed to touch upon conditions which you must accept with your spiritual understanding and which must be clothed in ordinary language because no language has as yet been invented which would make all this clear and credible. I am therefore obliged to use a terminology which is somewhat figurative. None the less MY description of the situation accords with an important fact in the evolution of mankind. It is most interesting and instructive to follow the evolution of humanity in recent times and to discover that a mutual agreement was once arrived at between one of the guiding Folk Spirits who is a normal Archangel, and an abnormal Spirit of Personality who works in the inner being of man as Spirit of the Thought-forces. The far-reaching consequences of this agreement are reflected in a particular epoch of history. In order to make this agreement fully effective a harmonious relationship was established with the corresponding normal Archangel who was the guiding Spirit of language at that time. Thus there was a moment in the evolution of mankind when the normal and abnormal Archangels worked together and when; furthermore, the mode of thinking which was brought about from within by an abnormal Spirit of Personality, was super-added. The harmonious relationship between these spiritual Beings is reflected in the ancient Indians of the first post-Atlantean epoch. It was owing to the concatenation of circumstances at the time of the ancient Indian culture that these Beings were able to work in closest harmony. This is the source of the historical role of the Indian people. The prolonged effects of this concerted action could still be felt in those later epochs when records of ancient Indian tradition were still extant. That is the reason why the sacred Sanscrit language exercised such a powerful influence and had such telling effects upon culture, both in the past and in later epochs. This power was the work of the Archangels who were responsible for language. The strength of the Sanscrit language depends upon that harmonious relationship of Beings of which I have just spoken. It accounts for the uniqueness of Indian philosophy which, as creative thought expressive of the inner life, is unsurpassed by any other people, and it also explains the inner perfection of thought so characteristic of the Indian culture. In all other continents different conditions prevailed. The picture I have just presented refers only to the Indian culture of that epoch. Hence it is so infinitely fascinating to follow up these trains of thought which assume their characteristic pattern because they have resulted, not from the predominance of the normal Archangel over the abnormal Archangel, but from the harmonious interaction of these Beings, because every thought was literally assimilated by the temperament of the people and elaborated with loving care at the time when the Indian people represented the first flowering of the post-Atlantean culture. And the language preserved its powerful influence because conflict had not arisen there which otherwise might have arisen, because the normal and abnormal Archangels acted in concert. Thus language, the spontaneous overflow of a pure, uncorrupted temperament, is itself an expression of that temperament. That is the secret of the first post-Atlantean civilization.

    And we must also bear in mind that in all other peoples these Beings or forces cooperate in their diverse ways—the normal Folk Spirit or Archangel, the abnormal Archangel and the abnormal Time Spirit who works through the brain (working. not as a normal Time Spirit, but from within the body); and finally the true Time Spirit who transmits intuitively the thought-life to the people. We shall really understand a people when we feel intuitively the activity of these Beings or forces and estimate; the contribution each makes to the constitution of a people. It is difficult, therefore, for those who do not take into consideration the occult forces in the evolution of mankind, to provide a satisfactory definition of the word ‘folk’. If you look up the word ‘folk’ or ‘people’ in a book on ethnology you will find the strangest assortment of definitions. The authors must of necessity give different interpretations because one will respond more to what stems from the normal Archangels, another to what stems from the, abnormal Archangels and a third to what stems from the several personalities of the people. Each has a different response which will modify his definition. But we have learned through Spiritual, Science that these definitions need not of necessity be false; they are simply subject to maya or illusion. A writer's statements will betray how far he is the victim of Maya or how far he has left out of account the various forces at work. If, from the anthroposophical standpoint, we compare a people such as the Swiss who occupy the same territory and are trilingual with peoples who are uni-lingual we shall inevitably have widely different conceptions of what constitutes a people.

    We shall discuss later why it is that in some peoples the Spirit of Personality is the more active agent, that is, why their mode of life is determined by the cooperation of the several personalities. We shall also meet with peoples on Earth whose life is largely determined by the abnormal Spirit of Personality. These Spirits of Personality do not contribute to the further development of the peoples. A study of the character of the North American people shows a people who, for the time being, are under an abnormal Spirit of Personality. We shall therefore only understand world history, in so far as it consists of the history of peoples, if we observe the normal and abnormal Archangels, the normal and abnormal Spirits of Personality in their mutual relationships and cooperative activity and at the same time follow up their influence upon the successive peoples in the course of the world's history.