The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Mission of Folk-Souls
GA 121

Lecture VII

12 June 1910 p.m., Christiania

If you follow the spirit of the studies we have made here during the last few days, you will find it comprehensible that not only a guiding and directing of the events on our Earth and above all in human evolution takes place through the Beings and forces of the various hierarchies, but that the Beings of these hierarchies themselves go through a sort of evolution, a sort of development. In the last lectures we spoke of how the Beings of this or that hierarchy intervene and guide, how for instance the Spirits of Form in normal and abnormal development organize the races.

Now let us ask ourselves the following: Do these spiritual Beings with whom we are now dealing also progress in their own development? As regards certain spiritual Beings we can during our own period of evolution witness the spectacle that they are, so to speak, progressing a stage further in their own development. Since the Atlantean catastrophe, ever since the post-Atlantean development began, we are living in an age in which certain Archangels, certain Beings of the hierarchy of the Archangeloi are ascending into the Hierarchy of the Archai, or Spirits of the Age. It is extremely interesting to notice this, for when we observe how the Folk-spirits, the Folk-souls whom we designate as Archangels ascend to a higher rank, then only do we obtain a correct conception of what is actually going on in the great world. This ascent is connected with the fact that into that distribution of humanity, which we must look upon as the division into races, there has been sent, since the Atlantean epoch, a second stream of humanity, of peoples. We must, as a matter of fact, look back very far indeed, back to early Atlantean times, if we want to find the period when the division into the five principal races of which we have spoken took place, if we wish to enquire when those men came to that particular spot in Africa where they then formed the black or Ethiopian race; when those other peoples came to Southern Asia, who compose the Malay race. We should have to look back to early Atlantean times. But later on other streams were sent after these early ones.

While therefore the Earth was already colonized with the foundations of these races, others were sent afterwards to those colonized parts of the Earth. Thus we have to do with a later stream, with a stream which came in later Atlantean times. If we wish to comprehend what was thus accomplished in Europe, Africa and America, in the way of the division of races, whilst Atlantis was gradually crumbling away, and what was then sent later on, towards the end of the Atlantean epoch, and part of which was only sent during the post-Atlantean evolution, — then we must clearly understand that we are dealing with that mighty stream of humanity which pushed forward into Asia, into Indian territory, and that, as has often been pointed out, bodies of people remained at the different points, from which then the various peoples of Asia, Africa and Europe arose. We have to deal therefore with an earlier division and a later advance, — with a second stream. The purpose of this second stream was, that companies of peoples who were each under the guidance of an Archangel were sent out from the West to the East. But these Archangels who were the guiding spiritual powers of these tribes that were sent out, were at different stages of development, in other words, they were nearer to or further away from the rank of a Spirit of the Age.

We have to look in the Far East for that stream of peoples whose Archangel was the first one to attain the rank of a Spirit of the Age. It was that stream of peoples who formed the ruling class of that land and laid the foundations of the first post-Atlantean civilization after their Archangel had become the Spirit of the Age, after he had been promoted to the first Spirit of the Age or Archai of the post-Atlantean age of civilization. Now this Spirit of the Age guided the primal sacred culture of India and made it the leading one in the first post-Atlantean age of civilization. The other peoples of Asia who were gradually developing, were for a long time under the guidance merely of Archangels.

Those peoples of Europe who had remained behind when the migration from West to East took place, were also under the guidance of Archangels for a long time after the Archangel of India had risen to the rank of an Archai and then acted through intuition upon those great Teachers of India, the Holy Rishis, who because they were aided by this exalted and important Spirit were able to fulfill their high mission in the manner already described. This Spirit of the Age worked on for a long time, whilst the people lying to the north of ancient India were still under the guidance of the Archangel. When the Spirit of the Age of India had fulfilled his mission, he was promoted to the guidance of the entire evolution of post-Atlantean humanity.

At the time which we designate as the Old Persian age, we have that Spirit of Personality, the Spirit of the Age, who was the guide or intuitor of the great Zarathustra or Zoroaster, the Zarathustra of ancient times. This again is an example of how an Archangel, a Folk-soul, rises to the rank of a Spirit of the Age, that is the very spectacle which, as we stated at the beginning of our lecture to-day, we are experiencing in our own time, that the Archangels work themselves up, through the mission they accomplish, to the rank of guiding and ruling Spirits of the Age.

A later rise in rank resulted from the Egyptian people and its Archangel on the one hand and from the Chaldean people and its Archangel on the other. Then took place the event in which the Archangel of the Egyptian people rose to the rank of a guiding Spirit of the Age, and undertook, so to speak, the guidance of that which formerly devolved upon the Chaldean Archangel; so that the leader in the Chaldæan-Egyptian age became the third mighty guiding Spirit of the Age who had gradually evolved himself up from the rank of the Egyptian Archangel. But that was also the age when another important development took place, which ran parallel with the Egyptian-Chaldæan civilization and with which is connected that to which we had to draw special attention in our last lecture.

We have seen that everything belonging to the Semitic tribes assumed special significance, and that from these Jahve or Jehovah had chosen one in particular and made that His own people. Hence, because He had elected one particular race to be His special people, He employed at first, while this race was gradually growing up, a sort of Archangel to be His representative with the people; so that in ancient times the gradually growing Semitic people had an Archangel who was under the continuous inspiration of Jahve or Jehovah, and who then later on grew up into a Spirit of the Age. Hence, besides the ordinary, evolving Spirits of the Age of the Old Indian, Old Persian and Old Chaldean peoples, there was yet another one who played a special part by working in a single people.

Thus we have a Spirit of the Age who in a certain respect appears in the mission of a Folk-spirit, one whom we must call the Semitic Folk-spirit. His was a very special task. This will be comprehensible to you if you call to mind that in reality this particular people was lifted out of normal evolution and had a special guidance, that so to say, special arrangements were made for the guidance of this people. Through these special arrangements this people had received a mission which was really of quite special importance and significance for the post-Atlantean epoch, and which was distinguished from the missions of all other peoples. One can best understand this mission of the Semitic people by taking it in connection with the missions of the various other peoples of the post-Atlantean epoch.

There are two spiritual currents in mankind. The one must be called, if we wish to designate it rightly, that which proceeds from plurality, which we might also say proceeds from Monadology, which therefore conceives the origin and source of existence as consisting primarily of a number of Beings and forces. You may look round wherever you will in the world, and you will see that, in some way or other, the peoples of the post-Atlantean epoch started from several gods. Begin with the trinity of ancient India, which was later expressed as Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Look at the German mythology; there you find the trinity of Odin, HSnir, LSdur, and so on. Everywhere you will find a trinity and this again divided into a larger number. You find this peculiarity not only where myths and teachings about the gods appear, but also in the philosophies, in which we meet with the same thing again as monadology. This is the current which, because it proceeds from a number, may assume the greatest possible variety. We might say, that in the post-Atlantean epoch, from the farthest East in India and in a wide curve through Asia across to Europe, this worship of a number, — which on the whole is expressed in our Anthroposophy by our recognition of a number of different Beings belonging to the various hierarchies, — has acquired its manifold representations and forms.

This worship of many had to be opposed by a synthetic, all-comprising movement which proceeded strictly from the Monon, Monism. The actual inspirers, the impulse-givers of all Monotheism and Monism, of the worship of a single Divinity, are the Semitic peoples. It is in their nature, and if you remember what was said in the last lecture you will know that it is in their blood, to represent the one god, the Monon.

If man were however to look out into the great cosmos, he would not get very far if he were always to emphasize that there is only unity, a Monon at the foundation of the world. Monism or Monotheism, considered alone, can only represent a final ideal, but it would never lead to a real understanding of the world, to a comprehensive and exact view of it. Nevertheless in the post-Atlantean age the current of Monotheism had also to be represented, so that the task was given to one people to introduce the impulse, the ferment for this Monotheism. This task was given to the Semitic people. Hence you see how the Monistic principle is represented by this people with a certain abstract severity, with an abstract relentlessness, and how all the other peoples, in so far as their different Divine Beings are comprised in unity, received the impulse for this from them. The Monistic impulse has always come from that quarter. The other peoples have pluralistic impulses.

It is extremely important that this should be borne in mind, and one who examines the continuation of the old Hebrew impulse can still see at the present day Monotheism ruling in its greatest extreme among the learned Rabbis, in their learned Rabbinism. It is the task of this particular people to give as an impulse that the world-principle can only be unity. Therefore we might say: All the other nations, peoples, and Spirits of the Age had an analytic task, the task of representing the world-principle as being composed of different Beings; for example, the most extreme abstraction of the Monon in India was soon divided into a trinity, as the one god of Christianity is divided into Three Persons. All the other peoples have the task of analyzing the foundations of the world and thus to fill their several parts with rich contents, to fill themselves with rich material for conceptions that may lovingly comprehend the phenomena. The Semitic people has the task of ignoring all plurality and synthetically devoting itself to the unity; hence, for example, through this very impulse, the power of speculation, the power of synthetic thought is the greatest imaginable in the Kabbalistic studies.

All that could possibly ever be spun out of the unity by the synthetic, inclusive activity of the ‘I’, has been spun out by the Semitic Spirit in the course of thousands of years. That is the great polarity between Pluralism and Monism, and that is the significance of the Semitic impulse in the world. Monism is not possible without Pluralism, and the latter is not possible without the former. Therefore we must recognize the necessity for both.

The objective language of facts often leads to quite different knowledge from that to which the sympathies or antipathies which reign here or there lead. Therefore we must thoroughly understand the several Folk-spirits. Whereas the leaders of the several peoples over in Asia and Africa had long since risen to the rank of Spirits of the Age or Spirits of Personality and some of them were even already expecting to transform themselves from Spirits of the Age to the next higher stage, to Spirits of Form, — just as for instance that Spirit of the Age who was active in old India had in certain respects already risen to the rank of a Spirit of Form, — the several peoples of Europe were still for a long time guided by their several Archangels. It was only in the fourth post-Atlantean age that the Archangel of Greece raised himself out of the various peoples of Europe (who were being guided by their Archangels), to a leading position, by becoming the chief Spirit of the Age of the fourth, the Greek age of the post-Atlantean epoch; so that we see the Archangel of Greece rise to the rank of an Archai, a Spirit of Personality. That for which this Archangel of Greece had prepared himself became manifest, when he had become the Spirit of the Age, in Asia, Africa and Europe, whose centre the Greek people had become. The Archangel of the Greeks developed into an Archai, the active Zeitgeist of the Egyptians and also that of the Persians had risen to be a sort of Spirit of Form. What we are now coming to is something exceptionally interesting in the course of post-Atlantean evolution. As a result of all the development which the Archangel of the Greeks had formerly gone through, he could pass comparatively quickly through that which enabled him to take a specially prominent position as Spirit of the Age. Hence, however, something of the greatest significance occurred in the fourth age of post-Atlantean civilization.

We know that at that time the event occurred which we describe as the reception by humanity of the Christ-impulse. The Christ-impulse was received, the Mystery of Golgotha took place. The impulse then given was, in the course of the following centuries and thousands of years, gradually to spread over the whole earth. This required not only the fact that this event took place, but it required certain guiding and directing Beings from the ranks of the hierarchies; and then occurred the most remarkable and interesting event, that — at a definite moment of time, which practically coincided with the coming to Earth of the Christ-impulse — the Greek Spirit of the Age renounced for this our present period his ascent into the region of the Spirits of Form, which would at that time have been possible to him, and became the guiding Spirit of the Age, who then acts on through the ages. He became the representative guiding Spirit of exoteric Christianity; so that the Archai, the guiding Spirit of the Greeks, placed himself in front of the Christ-impulse. Hence the Greek nation crumbled away so quickly at the time when Christianity developed, because it resigned its guiding Spirit of the Age that he might become the leader of exoteric Christianity. The Spirit of the Age of Ancient Greece became the missionary, the inspirer, or rather the ‘intuitor’ of the out-spreading exoteric Christianity. Here therefore we have before us the spectacle of a renunciation such as we have spoken of, in a concrete case. The Spirit of the Age of the Greeks, because he had fulfilled his mission in the fourth post-Atlantean age of civilization so exceptionally well, might have risen into a higher sphere, but he renounced that, and by so doing became the guiding Spirit of the out-spreading, exoteric Christianity, and in that capacity he worked further among the various peoples.

Another such renunciation occurred on another occasion, and this second renunciation is particularly interesting, especially to those who call themselves Anthroposophists. Whereas over in Asia and right down to the Egyptians and Greeks the several Archangels develop into the Spirits of the Age, we have on the whole in Europe various peoples and tribes who are guided by their several Archangels. Thus whereas the corresponding Archangels who were once upon a time sent from the West towards the East, had ascended to the rank of Spirits of the Age, we still have an Archangel in Europe who worked in the Germanic and above all in the Celtic peoples; in those peoples who, at the time when Christianity started, were still spread over a great part of Western Europe, as far as the present Hungary, across South Germany and the Alps. These peoples had the Celtic Folk-spirit for their Archangel. The peoples belonging to the Celtic Spirit were also spread far up towards the north-east of Europe. They were guided by an important Archangel who, soon after the Christian impulse had been given to humanity, had renounced becoming an Archai, a Spirit of Personality, and decided to remain at the stage of an Archangel and to be subordinate in future to the various Spirits of the Age who should arise in Europe. Hence also the Celtic peoples as one combined people dwindled away, because their Archangel had practiced a special resignation and had undertaken a special mission. That is a characteristic example of how in such a case the ‘remaining-behind’ helped to inaugurate special missions.

Now what became of the Archangel of the Celtic peoples, when he had renounced becoming a Spirit of Personality? He became the inspiring Spirit of esoteric Christianity; and in particular of those teachings and impulses which underlie esoteric Christianity; the real true esoteric Christianity comes from his inspirations. The secret, hidden place for those who were initiated into these Mysteries was to be found in Western Europe, and there the inspiration was given by this guiding Spirit, who had originally gone through an important training as Archangel of the Celtic people, renounced his further ascent, and had undertaken another mission, that of becoming the inspirer of esoteric Christianity, which was to work on further through the Mysteries of the Holy Grail, through Rosicrucianism. Here you have an example of a renunciation, a remaining behind of one of these Beings of the hierarchies, and at the same time you have a concrete example in which you can at once recognize the significance of thus remaining behind. Although this Archangel could have risen to the rank of an Archai, he remained in that of an Archangel and was able to lead the important current of esoteric Christianity, which is to work on further through the various Spirits of the Age. No matter how these Spirits of the Age may work, this esoteric Christianity will be a source for everything which may again be changed and metamorphosed under the influence of the various Spirits of the Age. Thus we have another example of how such a renunciation taken place, whilst on the other hand we are experiencing in our age the mighty spectacle of Folk-spirits being promoted to the rank of Spirits of the Age.

Now in Europe we have the various Germanic peoples. These peoples who originally were guided by one Archangel, were destined to come gradually under the guidance of many different Archangels, in order to form individual peoples in various ways. It is of course exceedingly difficult to speak impartially of these things, — difficult only for the reason that in certain respects passion and jealousy may easily be aroused. Hence certain mysteries belonging to this evolution can only be lightly touched upon. From among the number of those Archangels proceeded the Archai who is the guiding Spirit of the Age of our fifth age of civilization in the post-Atlantean epoch. He took the precedence long, long after one of the Archangels of the Germanic peoples had gone through a certain training. The Spirit of the Age who was the Folk-spirit in the Græco-Latin age became that Spirit of the Age who, as you know, was at a later time occupied in spreading exoteric Christianity. Later Roman history was also guided by a kind of Spirit of the Age, who had risen from having been the Archangel of the Roman people and had united his activity with that of the Christian Spirit of the Age. Both of these were the teachers of that Archangel who guided the Germanic peoples, who had been one of their guiding Archangels and had then raised himself to be the Zeitgeist, or the Spirit of the Age of the fifth post-Atlantean age of civilization.

There was a great deal to be done, but above all it was necessary that a strong individualizing and intermingling of the various folk-elements should take place in Europe. This was only possible because, whilst over in Asia and Africa the Archangels had long since ascended to Spirits of the Age, in Europe the guidance was still carried on by the Archangels themselves, because the several small peoples were guided by their Folk-souls and, without troubling about the Spirits of the Age, were completely devoted to the impulses of the Folk-spirits themselves. At the time when the Christian impulse passed over humanity, there was in Europe an intermingled activity of several Folk-spirits who were filled with a sense of freedom; every one of them went his own way and therefore made it difficult for a guiding Spirit of the Age to arise for the fifth age of civilization, to lead the several Folk-spirits. In order to make possible that people which occupies the country of France there was an intermingling of the Roman, Celtic and Frank folk-elements, and on account of this the whole guidance naturally assumed a different form. It passed from the several guiding Archangels, — who had received other tasks, — over to others. (In the case of the guiding Archangel of the Celts, we have said what his mission was; and in the same way we could state what were the missions of the Archangels of the other peoples.) Hence among the peoples which arose through such interminglings came other Archangels, who entered upon their office when the various elements intermingled. Thus in fact for a long time even in the Middle Ages, in Central and Northern Europe the leadership was chiefly in the hands of the Archangels who were only gradually influenced by that common Spirit of the Age who went in front of the Christ-impulse. In many cases the several Folk-spirits in Europe became the servants of the Christ Spirit of the Age. The European Archangels placed themselves in the service of this universal Christ Spirit of the Age whilst the several peoples were hardly in a position to allow any of the Archangels to rise to the rank of a Spirit of the Age. Only in the sixteenth to the seventeenth century (beginning from about the twelfth century), was preparation made for the development of the guiding Spirit of the Age of the fifth post-Atlantean age, under whose guidance we still are to-day. He belongs just as much to the great directing Spirits of the Age, as those who were the great directing Spirits of the Age during the Egyptian-Chaldæan-Babylonian, Old Persian, and Indian ages of civilization. But this Spirit of the Age of our fifth post-Atlantean age of civilization worked in a very unique manner. He had to make a kind of compromise with one of the old Spirits of the Age who worked before the Christian-impulse, viz., the Egyptian Spirit of the Age, who, as we have heard, had in a certain respect risen to the rank of a Spirit of Form. Thus it comes about that our fifth post-Atlantean age of civilization, in which we now are, is really ruled by a Spirit of the Age who is in a certain way very much under the influence and impulses of the old Egyptian civilization, and of a Spirit of Form who is only at quite an elementary stage.

That caused the many rifts and divisions in our age. Our Spirit of the Age in the fifth post-Atlantean age of civilization is striving in a certain respect to raise himself up to spiritual heights and to raise the fourth post-Atlantean age of civilization to a higher stage. But that includes the materialistic tendency and inclination, and according as the various Archangels, the various Folk-souls, have greater or less inclination towards this materialistic tendency, does a more or less materialistic people arise under the guidance of this Spirit of the Age of the fifth post-Atlantean age of civilization, and the people itself gives a more or less materialistic shade to the Spirit of the Age. On the other hand an idealistic people is one which gives the Spirit of the Age a shade which is in the direction of Idealism.

Now from the twelfth to the sixteenth century something gradually developed, something which in a certain respect worked beside the Christian Spirit of the Age, — who is the on-working Greek Spirit of the Age, — so that in fact, in a wonderful manner, that which we call the Christian Spirit of the Age, — who was united with a real Archai of the fifth post-Atlantean age of civilization, — streamed into our culture; and besides this, the influence of old Egypt was also active, whose Spirit of the Age had raised himself to a certain rank among the Spirits of Form. Now for the very reason that such a triad is at work in our whole culture, it has become possible for the many different kinds of culture and the various Folk-souls to appear in our fifth age. It became possible for the Spirit of the Age to manifest the most varied colors and shades in his activity. The Archangels, who received their orders from the Spirit of the Age, worked in very many different ways.

Those of you who dwell in the North will be interested in something which in our next studies we shall have to go into more closely. The following question will especially interest you: How did that Archangel work, who was once upon a time sent up to Norway with the northern, the Scandinavian peoples, and from whom the various Archangels of Europe — especially those of Western, Central and Northern Europe — received their inspirations? In the world outside it would be reckoned as folly that the very spot in the continent of Europe should be indicated, from whence at one time the greatest impulses streamed forth in all directions, the spot which was the seat of sublime Spirits before the Celtic Folk-Spirit as Celtic Archangel had founded a new Centre in the noble citadel of the Grail. From that spot which in ancient times was the centre for the outpouring of the spirituality of Europe, there also streamed forth that which was first of all given to the Archangel of the Northern peoples as his mission. To the external world it would, as I say, appear folly, if we were to indicate the spot from which radiates that which works into the various Germanic tribes, as that part which now lies over Central Germany, but is really situated above the earth. If you were to draw something like a circle, so that the towns of Detmold and Paderborn were to lie within it, you would then arrive at that neighborhood from whence poured forth the mission of the most exalted Spirits who extended their mission to Northern and Western Europe. Hence, because the great centre of inspiration was there, later on the Saga said that Asgard had actually been situated on this part of the earth's surface. There, however, in the distant past, was that great centre of inspiration, which later on transferred its chief activity to the centre of the Holy Grail.

The peoples of Scandinavia, with their first Archangels, were at the same time given quite different tendencies, tendencies which at the present time are really only still expressed in the unique form of the Scandinavian mythology. If we compare, in the occult sense, the Scandinavian mythology with other mythologies which have reigned upon the earth, we may know that this Scandinavian mythology represents the primal tendencies of the Archangel who was sent up here to the North, the primal tendencies which have retained their original form, such as we would have to see in a child, when particular talents, latent genius, etc., remain at the stage of childhood. In the Archangel who was sent to Scandinavia we have those tendencies which were expressed later in the unique form of the Scandinavian mythology. Hence the great significance of the Scandinavian mythology for the comprehension of the real, inner being of the Scandinavian Folk-soul. Hence also the great significance which the understanding of this mythology has for the further development of this Archangel, who certainly had within him, in a certain way, the tendency to rise to the rank of an Archai. But to that end several things are necessary. It is necessary that in quite a definite way those tendencies should develop which in certain respects have to-day withdrawn behind the dim and shadowy influence of that Spirit of the Age who had placed himself in front of the impulse of Christianity. Although several things in the Germanic-Scandinavian mythology may appear curiously like the presentations of the Greek mythology, it must nevertheless be said that there is no other mythology on the earth which, in its remarkable construction and unique development, gives a more significant or a clearer picture of the evolution of the world than this Scandinavian mythology, so that this picture may be taken as a preparatory stage for the Anthroposophical picture of the evolution of the world.

In the way in which it has been developed out of the tendencies of the Archangel, Germanic mythology is in its pictures most significantly like that which, as the Anthroposophical picture of the world, is gradually to grow for humanity. The point in question will be, how those tendencies which once upon a time an Archangel brought with him into the world, may be developed after he has had the advantage of being educated by the Christ — Spirit of the Age. These tendencies will be able to become an important part in the guiding Spirit of the Age, if at a later stage in its development, this people understands how to bring to perfection the tendencies it has received at an earlier epoch.

This gives only a slight indication of an important problem, an important evolution of a European Archangel; we have indicated, in how far he has the foundations for a Spirit of the Age. At this point we shall stop for a little while, and then continue our studies in such a manner that, from the configuration of the Folk-soul, we shall endeavor to enter into an esoteric study of Mythology; and, in doing so, the description of the very interesting character of the Germanic and especially also of the Scandinavian mythology, will be brought before us as a special chapter.