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The Mission of Folk-Souls
GA 121

Lecture VIII

14 June 1910, Christiania

If we wish to study the development of Germanic Scandinavian history and the spiritual impulses therein described, it will be necessary first of all to keep in mind the fundamental character of its mythology; and your attention was drawn in the last Lecture to the fact that this Germanic Scandinavian mythology, notwithstanding its many points of similarity to other mythologies and concepts of the gods, is nevertheless something quite unique. It is true that a very far-reaching fundamental kernel of mythological ideas extends over all the Germanic peoples and tribes in Europe so that, even far to the South, a uniform view of mythology, and on the whole a similar understanding of those relationships is possible. There must at one time have been a similar understanding of the unique character of the Germanic Scandinavian mythology throughout all the countries in which this mythology, in one form or another, was outspread. That which the mythologies of the Germanic Scandinavian peoples have in common, is very different from the essentials of the Greek mythology, to say nothing of the Egyptian; so that all that is similar in the Germanic mythology is interrelated, and is at the same time widely divided from what is the essential in the Greek and Roman mythology. But it is not at the present day easy to understand this essential element, because — on account of certain preconceived ideas, (to, speak of which here would lead us too far) — there is to-day a certain longing, a certain desire, simply to compare the religions of the various peoples with one another. There is at the present time great enthusiasm for comparative religion and comparative mythology, but it is a domain in which it is possible to do most foolish things. What happens as a rule when a person compares the mythologies and religions of the various peoples with one another? He compares the external details in the stories of the gods and tries to prove that the figure of one particular god appears in one mythology, and it appears in a like manner in another, and so on. To one who really knows the facts under consideration this comparing of religions is a most disquieting tendency in our present-day science, because everywhere only the mere externals are compared. The impression made by such comparisons of religions on one who knows the facts is somewhat as though someone said: ‘Thirty years ago I made the acquaintance of a man; he wore a uniform made in such and such a way, blue trousers, a red coat and such or such a covering on his head, and so on.’ And then he quickly goes on to say: ‘Then twenty years ago I became acquainted with a man who wore the same uniform, and ten years ago I met another who also wore the same uniform.’ Now if the person in question were to believe that because the men with whom he became acquainted thirty, twenty, and ten years ago wore the same uniform, they could be compared with one another as regards their essential nature, he might make a great mistake, for a person of quite different character might be wearing that uniform at those different times; and the essential thing is to know what sort of man is in the uniform. This comparison may seem far-fetched, and yet it is the same when in comparative religion one takes Adonis and compares him with Christ. That is comparing merely the outer uniform. The apparel and the qualities of the Beings in the various legends may be very similar, or even alike, but the point is to know what divine spiritual Beings are clothed in them; and if completely different Beings are in Adonis and in Christ, then the comparison has only the value of a comparing of the uniform. Nevertheless this comparison is extremely popular at the present day. Therefore in many cases it is not of the least consequence what the science of comparative religion, with its entirely external methods, can at the present time bring to light. The point is rather, that one should learn to know to some extent, from the differentiation of the Folk-spirits, the manner in which this or the other people arrived at its mythology or other teachings regarding the Gods, or even at its philosophy.

We can scarcely understand the fundamental character of the Germanic Scandinavian mythology, unless we touch once more upon the five successive ages of civilization in the post-Atlantean epoch. These five ages of civilization were brought about by the migrations which took place from the West to the East, so that after this migration was finished, the most mature, so to speak, the most advanced human beings passed into Indian territory and there founded the sacred primeval Indian civilization. Later, nearer our own age, the Persian civilization was founded, then the Egyptian-Chaldæan-Babylonian, then the Græco-Latin civilization, after which followed our own.

The essential nature of these five civilizations can only be understood when one knows, that the men who played a part in them, the Angels, the Folk-souls or Archangels, and Spirits of the Age were all quite different from one another in the ages that are past. To-day we shall pay special attention to the way in which the human beings who took part in these civilizations differed from one another. For instance, the men who in old India founded the ancient Indian civilization — which then acquired a literary form in the Vedas and the later Indian literature — were fundamentally different from the Græco-Latin peoples, they were even different from the Persian, from the Egyptian-Chaldæan, and most of all from those peoples who were growing up in Europe in preparation for the fifth age of civilization of the post-Atlantean epoch. In what way did they differ? The entire structure of the human beings who belonged to the ancient Indian peoples was absolutely different from that of the inhabitants of all the countries lying further West. If we wish to form an idea of what this difference consisted in we must realize that the peoples of ancient India had advanced very far in human evolution before they received the ‘I’. As regards everything else in human evolution they had made very great progress. A long, long human development lay behind them, but they had passed through it in a sort of twilight. Then the ‘I’ entered in, — the consciousness of the ‘I’. Among the Indians this came comparatively late, at a time when the Indian people was already to a certain extent mature, when it had already gone through what the Germanic Scandinavian peoples still had to go through when they already possessed their ‘I’. You must keep that well in mind.* The Germanic Scandinavian peoples had to experience, with their fully-developed ‘I’, what the inhabitants of ancient India had passed through in a dull state of consciousness, without the ‘I’ being present.

[* EDITORIAL NOTE: The Ego of the West awoke earlier and in a lower state of evolution. The old Indian took longer to develop the Ego, and remained longer in a state of dim clairvoyance, during which time he developed a richer soul life, and therefore awoke at a higher state than the Westerner, but this fact prevented the Easterner from interesting himself at the time of Christ in the Angels and individual Spirit, the Christ. The Indian obtained the subjective Ego long before the objective Ego. See further elucidation in Lecture 9.]

Now what was the nature of the development which humanity could undergo in the post-Atlantean epoch? In the old Atlantean epoch human beings were still endowed with a high degree of dim clairvoyance. With this old dim clairvoyance they saw into the divine spiritual world, they saw the events which took place in that world. Now transfer yourselves for a little while into the ancient land of Atlantis before the migrations towards the East had begun. The air was still permeated with water-vapor and clouds of mist. But the soul of man was different too. He could not yet even distinguish the various external sense-perceptions from one another; at that time it was as though he found the spiritual contents of the world spread out around him like a spiritual aroma, a spiritual aura. Thus there was a certain clairvoyance, and man had to get away from this clairvoyance. This was brought about by the action of the forces into whose domain the human beings came when they migrated from the West to the East. In the course of these migrations many different soul-developments took place. There were peoples who, during their wandering towards the East, at first slept as it were through the stepping-forth out of the old clairvoyance, and had already reached a higher stage of development while their ‘I’ was still in a dull state. They went through various stages of development, and yet their ‘I’ was still in a dull, dreamy condition. The Indians were the farthest evolved when their ‘I’ awoke to full self-consciousness. They were already so advanced that they possessed a very rich inner soul-life, which no longer showed any of those conditions that were still experienced for a long time by the peoples of Europe. The Indians had gone through those conditions a long time before. They awoke to self-consciousness when they were already furnished with spiritual forces and spiritual capacities by means of which they could penetrate to a high degree into the spiritual worlds. Hence all the work and activity of the various Angels and Archangels upon the human souls, and their exertions to lift them out of their old dim states of clairvoyance, had become a matter of complete indifference to those among the Indian people who had advanced. They had not directly observed the work of the Archangels and Angels and of all those spiritual Beings who worked particularly in the Folk-spirit. All that had been accomplished in their souls, their astral and etheric bodies, at a time when they were not consciously present. They awoke when their souls already possessed a very high degree of maturity; they awoke when the most advanced among them could, by going through a slight development, already read again in the Akashic Record all that had formerly taken place in the evolution of humanity; so that they gazed out into their surroundings, into the world, and could read in the Akashic Record what was taking place in the spiritual world, and what they had gone through in a dull, dim state of consciousness. They were unconsciously guided into higher domains; they had, before their ‘I’-consciousness awoke, acquired spiritual capacities that were much richer than the soul-capacities of the Western peoples.

Thus the spiritual world could be directly observed by these men. The most advanced among those who led the Indian people had arrived so far that, at the time when their ‘I’ awoke, they actually no longer needed to observe how human development sprang forth, so to speak, from the Spirits of Form or Powers, but they were more intimate with the Beings we call the Spirits of Motion or Principalities, and those above them, the Spirits of Wisdom. They were especially interested in these. The spiritual Beings beneath these were on the other hand Beings in whose domain they had already been formerly, and who were therefore no longer of such particular importance to them. Thus they looked up to what later on they called the sum-total of all the Spirits of Motion and of all the Spirits of Wisdom, to that which was later described by the Greek expressions: Dynamis and Kyriotetes. They looked up to these and called them ‘Mula-Prakriti’, i.e., the sum-total of the Spirits of Motion; and ‘Maha-Purusha’, the sum-total of the Spirits of Wisdom, that which lives as if in a spiritual Unity. They could attain to this vision because those who belonged to this people awoke to the consciousness of their ‘I’ at such a late stage of development. They had already gone through what the later peoples still had to look at with their ‘I’.

The peoples belonging to the Persian civilization were less highly developed. Through their peculiar capacity of cognition, and because their ‘I’ awoke at a lower stage, they were able to occupy themselves particularly with the Beings of the Powers or Spirits of Form. With these they were especially familiar; they could in a certain respect understand them, and they were pre-eminently interested in them. The peoples belonging to the Persian communities awoke one stage lower than did the Indians, but it was a stage which the peoples of the West had still to reach, still had to work up to. Hence the Persians were acquainted with the Powers or Spirits of Form, whom they thought of collectively as ‘Amshaspands’. They were the radiations which we know as Spirits of Form or Powers, and which, from their point of view, the peoples of the Persian civilization were specially well able to observe.

We then come to the Chaldean peoples. They already possessed a consciousness of what we know as Primal Forces, as directing Spirits of the Age. They were aware of the Beings who should be understood as Primal Forces, as Spirits of Personality.

In another way again the peoples of the Græco-Latin age also had a certain consciousness of these Primal Forces or Spirits of Personality, but in their case there was also something else, and that was what may lead us a little further in our studies. The Greeks were a little nearer to the Germanic peoples. But still in them the ‘I’ awoke at a higher stage than it did in the Germanic Scandinavian peoples. That which in the Northern peoples was still experienced as being the work of the Angels or Archangels, was not experienced directly by the Græco-Latin peoples; but they still possessed a distinct recollection of it. You must therefore think of it thus, that the difference between the Germanic and the Græco-Latin peoples is, that the latter still had a recollection of how the Angels and Archangels had taken part in their soul-life which they had developed within them. On the whole they had not experienced this very clearly; they had gone through it while still in a state of dim consciousness. But now it came up within them as a remembrance. The creation of the whole world, the way in which the Angels and Archangels, both normal and abnormal, played a part in the human soul was known to the Greeks. What they had gone through was in their souls as a mighty memory-picture. Now memory is much clearer, it has more distinct outlines than what one is still living through. It is no longer so fresh, no longer so young; but what appears as memory, as remembrance, has sharper contours; sharper outlines. The influence or impulse of the Angels and Archangels on the human soul was among the Greeks awakened in the memory in firm, sharp outlines. That is the Greek mythology. If we do not look at it thus, if we only compare one name with other names that appear elsewhere, if we do not take the special forces into consideration and realize what the figures are that appear as Apollo and Minerva and so on, then we are only making a superficial study of comparative religion, we are merely comparing the uniforms. The important point is, the way in which they saw in those days.

After we have realized this, we shall admit that the Greeks built up their mythology from memories. The Egyptians and Chaldeans had only a dark, dim recollection of the action of the world of the Angels and Archangels, but they could look into the world of Primal Forces. It was just as though the Egyptians and Chaldeans were beginning to forget something. In the Persian mythology or sacred teachings we find a complete forgetting of the world of the Angels and Archangels, but on the other hand they could look into the world of the Powers or Spirits of Form. That which is to be found in Greek mythology had been forgotten by the Persians and completely forgotten by the Indians. They saw the whole process over again in Akashic Records and created pictures of the earlier occurrences out of their own knowledge, which, however, was a divine knowledge, obtained by more highly developed spiritual powers. From this you will also recognize that just for those very peoples of the East it would be particularly difficult to understand the Western spiritual life. It is for this reason that the peoples of the East closed themselves to Western spiritual life. They will certainly accept the Western material civilization, but the spiritual culture of the West — unless they come to it indirectly through Spiritual Science — remains more or less closed to them. They were already at a high stage at a time when there was as yet no Christ Jesus upon earth. He only came in the fourth post-Atlantean age of civilization. That is an event which could no longer be grasped by means of the forces which had developed out of the Indian people. For that one also required forces which were connected with a rather lower position of the ‘I’, in which it was in more subordinate soul-forces.

In the Germanic and Scandinavian countries the action of the Angels and Archangels in the human souls did not exist as a recollection, but in such a way that, even at the time when Christ Jesus walked upon earth, the people could still see that this work was going on, they could perceive that they participated in the affairs of the Angels and the Archangels who were still working in their souls.

The Græco-Latin peoples could in these experiences of the soul, remember something they had gone through formerly. This the German peoples lived within, it was their own direct personal concern. Their ‘I’ had wakened at the stage of existence when the Folk-spirits and those spiritual Beings who even yet are under the Folk-spirits, were still at work in their souls. Hence these peoples were nearest to that which we know as the events that took place in old Atlantis.

In old Atlantis man looked up to the spiritual Powers and spoke of a sort of Unity of the Godhead, because he really looked up with direct perception into the old primal states of development of humanity. At that time one could still see, as it were, the ruling of the Spirits of Wisdom and the ruling of the Spirits of Motion, and this again was observed later by the old Indians in the Akashic Records. These peoples of the West had raised themselves about one stage higher than this standpoint, so that they experienced in the immediate present the transition from the old vision to the new. They looked into a weaving and life of real spiritual Powers, at a time when the ‘I’ was not yet awake. But at the same time they saw the ‘I’ gradually awaking and Angels and Archangels setting to work in the soul. They perceived this direct transition. They had a remembrance of an earlier weaving and an earlier life, of a time when they saw everything in an ocean of mist, as it were, and when out of this sea of mist there came forth to them what we have learnt to know as the divine spiritual Beings immediately above man. The old gods, those who were active before the gods intervened in the life of the human soul, who could then be seen, and with whom men felt themselves united, those Divine Beings who were active in a very far-distant past, in the time of old Atlantis, were called Vanas.

Man then passed on further from the old Atlantean epoch, and saw the weaving of the Angels and Archangels, whom they called the Asa. Those were the Beings who as Angels and Archangels busied themselves with the ‘I’ of man, which then awoke at its lowest stage; those Beings were placed at the head of these peoples. What the other peoples of the East slept through, — viz., seeing how the soul worked its way up by means of the various forces which were bestowed upon it by the normal and abnormal Angels and Archangels, — had to be gone through by the peoples of Europe beginning from the lowest stage; they had to be consciously present, in order that these soul-forces might gradually develop.

Thus, therefore, the figures of the gods, which placed themselves before the souls of the Germanic Scandinavian peoples, were the figures of the gods who worked directly upon his soul, and that which he could observe by direct perception, as the development of the human soul out of the cosmos, that was something which he directly experienced. He did not look back in remembrance at the manner in which the souls worked themselves into the bodies, he saw this more as though it were just happening then. It is his own evolution and he with his ‘I’ is present in it. He understood this down to the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries after Christ. He had preserved a comprehension of how the soul-forces gradually formed themselves, crystallized themselves into the body. At first he gazed upon the Archangel Beings who worked in his soul by giving him what were to become his soul forces, and he found there as the most predominant of these Archangels, Wotan or Odin, and he saw him at work upon his soul, he saw how he worked into his soul. What did he see there? How did he perceive Wotan or Odin? What did he recognize him to be? As what did he learn to love him, and above all to understand him? He learned to recognize him as being one of those Archangels who once upon a time reached the point of renouncing the ascent to higher stages. He learned to know Odin as one of the abnormal Archangels, as one of the great Renouncers of antiquity, who had assumed the office of an Archangel when undertaking the important mission of working into the souls of men. The Germanic Scandinavian experienced Odin in his activity at a time when he still went about the work of inoculating speech into the souls. The manner in which Odin himself worked upon his peoples in order to make speech possible to them has been preserved in a wonderful way It was described as a divine initiation. The way in which Odin gained the power to endow the souls of the Germanic and Northern peoples with languages is thus described Odin, before he had acquired this capacity, had gone through what is represented to us as the initiation by means of the Potion of the Gods, that divine Potion which once upon a time in the primeval past belonged to the giants. This Potion contained not merely abstract wisdom, but it represents to us the wisdom which expresses itself directly in sound. Odin at his initiation obtained power over the wisdom which expresses itself in sound, he learned how to use it when he went through a long initiation which lasted nine days, from which he was then released by Mimir, the ancient bearer of Wisdom. Thus Odin became Lord of the power of Speech. It was for this reason that the later sagas trace the language of the poets, the language of the skalds, back to Odin. The art of reading runes, which in olden times was thought of as being much more closely related to speech than the later kind of writing, was also traced back to Odin. Hence the way in which the soul — indirectly, through the etheric body, whilst making itself at home in the physical body — acquired speech through the corresponding Archangel, is expressed in the wonderful stories related about Odin.

In the companions of Odin we have similar Archangels: HSnir who gave the imaginative faculty, and LSdur who gave that which still touches the race most closely, the color of the skin, and the character of the blood. In these two Beings we have Archangels, belonging more to the normal side, so to speak. To the abnormal side belong the Beings appearing as Villy and Ve. These are Beings who work still more intimately, within the soul, as I explained in the preceding lecture. But the ‘I’ which is itself at an abnormal stage of evolution, where it is present even when the subordinate soul-powers are being developed, feels itself to be intimately related to an abnormal Archangel. Odin is not perceived as an abnormal Archangel, but rather as one whose remaining behind is somewhat like the way the Western souls remained behind, who experience more consciously in their ‘I’ that which remained behind when the migration through those countries took place, — whereas the Eastern souls passed beyond certain stages of soul-life, before they decided to awake. Hence there lived above all in the souls of the Germanic Scandinavians all that is bound up with those agitating and working Archangel-forces of Odin, which are at work in the primitive depths of the soul-life.

Whereas we have said that it is the Angels who carry down into the individual human beings that which the Archangels bring about, so also an ‘I’ which awakes at such an early elementary stage of soul-life, is above all interested in having the affairs of the Archangels carried into it, as it were. Hence the Germanic Scandinavians have an interest in an angelic figure who possesses special power, but who at the same time is closely related to the separate human being and his individuality. That angelic figure is Thor. Thor can only be recognized by knowing that in him one must recognize a Being who might indeed have been very advanced if he had evolved himself normally further, but who made the renunciation comparatively early, and remained behind at the stage of the Angel, in order that at the time when in the course of the soul's evolution the ‘I’ should awake, he might become Guide in the soul-world of the Germanic Scandinavian countries. What one feels so directly in Thor as being related to the individual human ‘I’ is, that that which was to be carried into every single ‘I’ from the spiritual world, could actually be so carried in. If we bear this in mind we shall also better understand many things that have been handed down. For us it is a question of being able to understand these individual Gods correctly. The Germanic Scandinavian man perceived and experienced this imprinting of the soul into the body. He was present when the ‘I’ membered itself into the body and took possession of each single human being.

Now we know that the ‘I’ pulsates in the blood of the physical body and that everything within corresponds to something without, everything microcosmic to something macrocosmic. The work of Odin who gave speech and Runic Wisdom, who worked indirectly through the breathing, corresponds to the movements of the wind outside in the macrocosm. The regular penetration of the air through our respiratory organs, which then transforms the air into word and speech, corresponds in the macrocosm outside to the movements and the currents of the wind. Just as it is true that we must feel the ruling of Odin within ourselves in the transforming of air into words, so it is true also that we must see him ruling and working in the wind outside. But one who still possessed the old Germanic Scandinavian capacities, to which especially belonged a certain degree of clairvoyance, really saw this. He could see Odin everywhere ruling in the wind, he saw how he formed speech by means of his breath. This the Northern man perceived as unity. Just as that which lives in us and organizes our speech, — that is to say, in the way speech existed among the Scandinavians, — just as that presses through into the ‘I’ and produces the pulsation of the blood, so does that which organizes itself into speech correspond outside in the macrocosm to thunder and lightning. Speech is there before the’I’ is born. Hence the ‘I’ is everywhere felt to be the son of that Being who gives speech. In the imprinting of the separate ‘I’ Thor is specially concerned, and that which in the microcosm corresponds to the event in the macrocosm, is the pulsation of the blood. That therefore which outside in the macrocosm corresponds to the pulsation of the blood in man, is what as thunder and lightning goes through the sighing winds and weaving clouds. That again is seen by the Germanic Scandinavian in his clairvoyance as unity, and he sees that the movement of the wind, the flashing of the lightning outside is inwardly connected with the weaving of the air he breathes in. He sees how that passes over into the blood and then causes the ‘I’ to pulsate. That is looked upon as a material occurrence at the present day, but it was still an astral one to the Germanic Norseman. He saw the inner relationship of fire and lightning, with that which goes through the blood. He felt the pulse-beat in his blood and he knew that it was the beating of the ‘I’; he knew: ‘That which thus beats I am able to perceive, and I shall be able to perceive it again in a little while;’ but he did not notice the outer material event. All that was clothed in clairvoyant perception. He perceived that which caused his pulse to beat and made him return again and again to the same places, as being the act of Thor. He felt the Thor-force in his ‘I’ as the constant returning of the hammer of Thor into the hand of Thor, he felt the force of one of the most powerful Angels that had ever been known and revered, because he was a mighty Being who was seen to have remained behind at the Angel stage.

The way in which the spiritual force holds the physical body together, is expressed in the Germanic Scandinavian mythology where it says, that the ‘I’ is that which, when the soul and body are woven, holds them both together. The Germanic Scandinavian man sees the weaving of the body and soul, from within; and later on he still understands the way in which, coming from the astral, his inner being unites itself with him; he understands how the inner answers, so to say, to the outer. He could also understand when Initiates told him how the world forms itself into man.

Then he understood how to go back to the earlier stages, to that which was told him about the events which represent the relation of the Angels to the Archangels, to the earlier stages when man was born out of the macrocosm in a physical-spiritual way. He was able to see how the individual human being was built up out of the macrocosm and how he rests in it.

He sought in the macrocosm for those occurrences which take place microcosmically in such a way, that out of the human North, out of the cool domain of the spirit, are woven the thoughts of man, and that from thence the human body is supplied with the twelve brain-nerves in the head. He sees this process which microcosmically have become the twelve brain nerves. He sees the weaving Spirit in what he calls ‘Nebelheim’ or ‘Niflheim’ (Home of Mist), he sees the twelve brain-nerves of man; he sees how that which comes from the human South, from the heart, works towards that which comes down from above; he seeks for it outside in the macrocosm and understands when he is told that it is called ‘Muspelheim’.

Thus even in the Christian centuries he still understood how to comprehend the microcosm from the whole macrocosm; and one can go back still further for him, by showing how man gradually originated out of the macrocosm as an extract of the whole world. He is able to look back into that time and he can understand that these events have a past, which he himself can still see as a working of Angels and Archangels into his soul. He can perceive that these events have a past, and the conceptions which he thus acquires are what we meet with in what is known as the old Germanic Scandinavian Genesis, as the origin of humanity from the entire macrocosm.

Where the Germanic Scandinavian Chaos begins, in Ginnungagap, is about the time when the earth begins to form itself anew after it has gone through the three earlier states, Saturn, Sun and Moon, when it emerges again from pralaya, when the kingdoms of nature are not yet differentiated, and men are as yet quite spiritual beings. Then the man of the North understands how the later conditions formed themselves out of that one.

Now it is interesting to see how in the Germanic Scandinavia mythology events which took place in those times, are depicted in pictures of imaginative form, events for which we, in our anthroposophical teachings, only make use of riper expressions, viz., concepts instead of those former pictures. The events which took place when the sun and moon were still united, are described to us. The going forth of the moon is described, and how evolution then passes over into what later becomes ‘Riesenheim’ (Home of Giants). Everything which existed during the Atlantean epoch is described to us as a continuation of what had happened formerly and which were the affairs of the Germanic Scandinavian people themselves.

I only wanted to-day to give an idea of how the Northern ‘I’ awoke while it was still at a lower stage of evolution, and how the Northern man looked into the Folk-soul, into the soul of Thor and so on. I wanted to call forth a feeling of how the ‘I’ was then present, of how it was able to acquire a direct interest in the inweaving of still higher Beings, who, however, came from quite another quarter than those we find among Eastern peoples. We shall to-morrow try to find access to the more remote parts of the Germanic mythology. We shall recognize how those remote parts are precursors of that which dwells in the Folk-souls, and we shall see what is the nature of our Western Folk-souls.