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The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls
GA 121

8. The five post-Atlantean Civilizations. Greek and Teutonic Mythology

14 June 1910, Oslo

If we wish to study the development of Germanic-Nordic history and the spiritual impulses embodied therein, we must first of all bear in mind the fundamental character of Teutonic mythology. In the last lecture I pointed out that this Teutonic mythology, despite its many points of similarity with other mythologies, is nevertheless something quite unique. It is true, however, that among the Germanic peoples and tribes of Europe there was a large measure of agreement on fundamental conceptions of mythology so that in the regions far to the South it was possible for a uniform view of mythology to exist and, on the whole, a similar understanding of the kindred relationships between those mythologies. At one time there must have been identical understanding of the unique character of the Teutonic mythology throughout all the countries where this mythology, in one form or another, existed. The common features of Teutonic mythology are very different from the essential characteristic of Greek mythology, to say nothing of the Egyptian. Everything in Teutonic mythology is interrelated and differs widely from the substance of Graeco-Roman mythology. At the present time it is not easy to understand this essential element because—on account of certain intellectual assumptions which are outside the scope of the present lecture—there is a general tendency today to embark on the study of comparative religion. But this is a field in which it is possible to perpetuate the greatest nonsense. What happens as a rule when a person compares the mythologies and religions of various peoples with one another? He compares the superficial aspects of the stories of the gods and attempts to demonstrate that the figure of a particular god which appears in one mythology is also found in a like manner in another mythology, and so on. To anyone who knows the real facts this comparative study of religions shows a most disquieting trend in the anthropological studies of the present day, because it is everywhere the practice to compare externals. The impression created by the comparative studies of religions upon one who knows the facts is comparable to the impression made by someone who declares: “Thirty years ago I made the acquaintance of a man; he wore a uniform consisting of blue trousers, red coat, and some kind of head-gear, and so on.” Then he rapidly adds: “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 therefore be compared with one another in respect of their essential being, he could be greatly mistaken, for a totally different person might be wearing that uniform at those different times. The essential thing is to know what sort of man is concealed behind the uniform. This parallel may seem farfetched, yet in comparative religion it is tantamount to comparing Adonis to Christ. One is merely comparing externals. The apparel and the characteristics of the Beings in the various legends may be very similar or even alike, but the point is to know what is the nature of the divine-spiritual Beings concealed behind them. If completely different Beings are present in Adonis and in Christ, then we are merely comparing externals and the parallel has only superficial value. Nevertheless this comparative method is extremely popular at the present day. Therefore the results of the extensive research in the comparative study of religion with its purely external approach are not of the least consequence. The point is, rather, that one should learn to know to some extent from an understanding of the specific differences of the Folk Spirits the manner in which a particular people arrived at its mythology or other teachings about the gods, or even at its philosophy.

We can scarcely understand the fundamental character of Teutonic mythology unless we review once more the five successive ages of civilization in the post-Atlantean epoch. These five ages of civilization were brought about by migrations from West to East, so that at the end of these migrations the most mature, the most advanced human beings pushed forward into Indian territory and founded there the sacred primeval Indian civilization. The next civilization, and nearer to our own age, was the Persian which was followed by the Egypto-Chaldean-Babylonian, then the Graeco-Latin civilization and finally by our own.

The essential nature of these five civilizations can only be understood if one realizes that in past ages those who participated in them, including also the Angels, the Folk Spirits or Archangels and Time Spirits, were all quite different from one another. Today we propose to devote more attention to the way in which the human beings who participated in these civilizations differed from one another.

The men who, in ancient India for example, founded the ancient Indian civilization—which then found its literary expression in the Vedas and later Indian literature—were totally different from the Graeco-Latin peoples. They were different from the Persian, from the Egypto-Chaldean peoples and most of all from those peoples who were being prepared in Europe for the fifth post-Atlantean civilization. In what respect did they differ? The entire make-up of the members of the ancient Indian peoples was completely different from that of the inhabitants of all the countries lying further West. The peoples of ancient India had reached a high stage of evolution before they developed the ‘I’. In all other aspects of evolution they had made great strides. Behind them lay a very long period of development, but they had lived through it in a kind of dim consciousness. Then the ‘I’ entered in—they awoke to consciousness of the ‘I’. Amongst the Indians this came comparatively late, at a time when the people was already to a certain extent very mature, when the had already undergone what the Teutonic peoples still had to undergo when they had developed their ego. Bear this carefully in mind. The Teutonic peoples had to experience with their fully developed ‘I’ what the inhabitants of ancient India had passed through in a dim state of consciousness, without a developed ego-consciousness.

Now what was the nature of the development which humanity could undergo in the post-Atlantean epoch? In the old Atlantean times human beings were still endowed with a high degree of the old dim clairvoyance with which they saw into the divine spiritual world. They had an insight into the hidden workings of that world. Now imagine yourselves for a moment in old Atlantis before the migrations towards the East had begun. The air was still permeated with water vapour and misty exhalations. The soul of man was different too. He could not yet differentiate between the various external sense perceptions; at that time he found the spiritual content of the world seemingly diffused around him like a spiritual aura. Thus he possessed a certain natural clairvoyance which he had to overcome. This was achieved by the operation of the forces to whose influence human beings were subject when migrating from West to East. In the course of these migrations man underwent many different stages of spiritual development. There were peoples who, during their migration eastward, at first slept through, as it were, the period of emergence from the old clairvoyance and had already reached a higher stage of development when their ego was still in a dim state of consciousness. They went through various stages of development, but their ‘I’ was still in a dull, dreamlike condition. The Indians were the furthest evolved when their ego awoke to full self-consciousness. They were so far advanced that they possessed a rich inner soul-life which no longer showed any traces of that elementary stage in soul development which still persisted for a long period of time in the peoples of Europe. The Indians had already undergone that elementary stage a long time before. They awoke to self-consciousness when they were already endowed with spiritual powers and spiritual capacities which enabled them to penetrate deeply into the spiritual worlds. Whence all the activity and positive influence of the various Angels and Archangels on the human souls had become a matter of complete indifference to the more advanced members of the Indian people in their efforts to emerge from their old twilight conditions of clairvoyance. They had no direct consciousness of the work of the Archangels and Angels and all those spiritual Beings who were active, particularly in the folk spirit. All the work of these higher Beings upon their souls, upon their astral and etheric bodies, was accomplished at a time when they were not yet ego-conscious. They awoke to ego-consciousness when their souls had already reached a very high stage of development. The most advanced among them were able, after a brief development, to read again in the Akashic Record all that had formerly taken place in the evolution of humanity, so that they gazed out into their spiritual environment, into the Cosmos, and could read in the Akashic Record what was taking place in the spiritual world and what they had undergone in a dim twilight state of consciousness. They were unconsciously guided into higher spheres. Before their ego-consciousness had awakened they had acquired spiritual capacities that were much richer than those of the Western peoples. Thus the spiritual world could be directly observed by these men. The most advanced among those who guided the Indian people had risen to such high spiritual levels that, at the time when their ego awoke, they were no longer dependent upon the ego in order to observe how human development sprang forth, so to speak, from the Spirits of Form or Powers, but were more intimately associated with the Beings we call Spirits of Movement or Mights and those above them in the second Hierarchy, the Spirits of Wisdom or Dominions. These Beings were of special interest to them. The spiritual Beings of lower rank were, on the other hand, Beings whose domain they had already shared in former times and who therefore were no longer of particular importance to them. Thus they looked up to what later on they called the sum-total of the Spirits of Movement and of the Spirits of Wisdom, to that which was later characterized by the Greek expressions Dynamis and Kyriotetes. They beheld again these Beings and called them “Mula-prakriti”, the sum-total of the Spirits of Movement, 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 became ego conscious at such a late stage of development. They had already undergone what the later peoples still had to experience through their ‘I’.

The peoples belonging to the ancient Persian civilization were less highly developed. Their development was such that through their peculiar cognitive capacity, and through the awakening of their ‘I’ at a lower stage of evolution, they looked to the Powers or Spirits of Form. With these they were especially familiar; they could understand them to some extent and they were particularly interested in them. The peoples belonging to the Persian communities awakened to ego-consciousness one stage lower than the Indians, but it was a stage which the peoples of the West still had to reach. Hence the Persians were conversant with the Powers or Spirits of Form, known collectively as the ‘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 fitted to perceive clairvoyantly.

We then come to the Chaldean peoples. They were already aware of the Primal Forces, the directing Time Spirits, the Spirits of Personality. Now the peoples of the Graeco-Latin age also had a certain consciousness of these Primal Forces or Spirits of Personality, but in a different form. In their case there was an additional factor which may help to clarify our understanding. The Greeks were nearer to the Germanic peoples. They became ego-conscious at a higher stage than the Germanic-Nordic peoples. The working of the Angels and the Archangels in the human soul which the Northern peoples still experienced was no longer directly experienced by the Graeco-Latin peoples, though they still had a distinct recollection of it. The difference between the Germanic and Graeco-Latin peoples is that the latter still preserved a memory of the participation of Angels and Archangels in the development of their soul-life. On the whole they had no clear recollection of this stage for they were still in a state of diminished consciousness. But now in clairvoyant memory they recalled this experience quite distinctly. The creation of this whole world, the working of the Angels and Archangels, both normal and abnormal, in the human soul was known to the Greeks. They preserved in their souls vivid memory pictures of what they had experienced. Now memory is much clearer, takes on sharper outlines than the immediate experiences of the present moment. It is no longer so fresh, no longer so youthful; memory or recollection has sharper contours, sharper outlines. Greek mythology is a memory-picture in bold, clear outlines of the influence or positive activity of the Angels and Archangels upon the human soul. If we do not approach Greek mythology in this way, if we simply compare Greek names with other names in the various mythologies, if we do not take into account the influence of special forces, nor understand the Significance of the figures that appear as Apollo and Minerva and so on, then we are making a superficial study of comparative religion; we are only comparing externals. The manner or mode of perception in those days is the important point.

When we have grasped this, we realize that Greek mythology was built up from conscious memories. The Egyptians and Chaldeans had only a dim recollection of the activity of the Angels and Archangels, but they were able to perceive the world of Primal Forces. It seemed as if they were beginning to lose the memory of Angelic beings. Persian mythology, on the other hand, had completely forgotten the world of the Angels or Archangels, but at the same time men were able to 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 totally forgotten by the Indians. When they looked into the Akashic Record they perceived again the entire sequence of events of the earlier epochs and created pictures of the earlier events out of their knowledge which however was divine knowledge which they owed to more highly developed spiritual powers. This also helps to explain the great difficulty which the peoples of the East experienced in understanding the spiritual life of the West and that superior attitude which they adopted towards the spiritual life of the West. They arc prepared to accept the materialistic civilization of the West, but the spiritual culture of the West—unless they come to it indirectly through Spiritual Science—remains more or less closed to them. They had already reached a high stage of evolution at a time when Christ Jesus had not yet descended upon Earth. He only incarnated in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. That is an event which could no longer be grasped with the forces which the Indian people had developed. In order to apprehend the coming of Christ one needed faculties belonging to a less lofty station of the ‘I’—a dwelling of the ‘I’ in more humble forces of the human soul.

The Teutonic peoples not only preserved a memory of the working of the Angels and Archangels into the soul of man, but even at the time when Christ Jesus walked upon Earth were aware that they were still subject to these influences and that they participated in the activity of the Angels and Archangels who were still active in their souls. When they underwent these inner experiences of the soul the Graeco-Latin peoples recalled something which they had gone through in former times. The Germanic peoples responded to these experiences more personally. Their ego had awakened at the stage of existence when the Folk Spirits and those spiritual Beings who were still subject to the Folk Spirits were still active in their souls; hence these peoples were nearest to the events that took place in old Atlantis.

In old Atlantis man beheld the spiritual Powers and spoke of a kind of unity of the Godhead, because he enjoyed direct perception into the old primeval states of human evolution. At that time one could still perceive the dominion of the Spirits of Wisdom and of the Spirits of Movement, a dominion which the Indians of a later epoch perceived again in the Akashic Records. These Germanic peoples of the West had raised themselves one stage above this level of perception, so that they experienced directly the transition from the old perception to the new. They perceived an active weaving of real spiritual powers at a time when the ego was not yet awake. But at the same time they saw the gradual awakening of the ‘I’ and the penetration of man's soul by the Angels and Archangels. They were aware of this direct transition. They preserved a clairvoyant memory of an earlier weaving life, when everything was seen through the dim mists of Atlantis and when, from out of this sea of mist, there emerged what we have come to know as the divine-spiritual Beings immediately above man. The old Gods, however, who were active before the Gods intervened in the life of the human soul, and who could now be seen and with whom men felt themselves to be united, those divine Beings who were active in the very far distant past at the time of old Atlantis, were called the Vanir. After Atlantis men saw the weaving of the Angels and Archangels whom they called the Aesir. They were the Beings who as Angels and Archangels were concerned with the ‘I’ of man which then awoke at an elementary level. These Beings took over the leadership of the Germanic peoples. What the other peoples of the East had “slept through”, namely, the perception of how the soul, the inner life, was gradually developed by means of the various forces which were bestowed upon it by the normal and abnormal Angels and Archangels, this had to be experienced by the peoples of Europe beginning from the lowest stage. They had to be fully conscious in order that these soul-forces might gradually develop.

Thus Nordic man perceived the figures of the Gods, the divine Beings working directly upon his soul; he saw the human soul wresting its way out of the Cosmos. This was direct experience to him. He did not recall in retrospect how the souls of men had been ‘in-formed’ into their bodies; rather did he see all this as an immediate and present happening. He was there with his own ego; he was a conscious witness of it. Even until the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD he retained this feeling, this understanding of how the forces of the soul are gradually formed and crystallized into the body. In the first place he beheld the Archangelic Beings who worked in his soul and endowed him with his psychic potentialities, and the greatest of these Archangels was Wotan or Odin.1See Appendix. He saw him at work upon his soul and he saw how he worked into his soul. How did he perceive Wotan or Odin? Who or what was he? In what form did Nordic man learn to love Odin and above all to understand him? He learned to recognize him as one of those Archangels who in the past had decided to renounce their development to higher stages. He came to know Odin as one of the abnormal Archangels, as one of the great figures of renunciation in ancient times, who had assumed the office of Archangel when they took upon themselves the important task of working into the souls of men. Nordic ma experienced the activity of Odin at a time when he was still in the process of giving the gift of language to the incarnating soul of man. The manner in which Odin himself worked upon his peoples in order to endow them with language has survived in a remarkable way. It was described as a Divine Initiation. The means by which Odin acquired the power to give the gift of language to the Teutonic peoples is described as follows: before acquiring this capacity Odin had undergone Initiation by drinking at the spring of Mimir the magic draught of the Gods, that magic draught which once upon a time in the primeval past had been the draught of the Giants. This draught embodied not merely a generalized form of wisdom, but represented the wisdom that lives directly in the spoken sounds of speech. At his Initiation Odin won power over that wisdom which lives in sound. He learned how to make use of it when he underwent a long Initiation which lasted nine days and from which he was then released by Mimir, the ancient bearer of wisdom. Thus Odin became Lord of the power of language. This explains why the later saga traces the language of the bards or skalds back to Odin. Runic lore which in olden times was thought to be much more closely related to language than later literature and letters was also traced back to Odin. Therefore the manner in which the soul, indirectly through the etheric body, and interpenetrating the physical body, acquired the power of speech through the appropriate Archangel is expressed in the wonderful stories about Odin.

Similar Archangels are to be found amongst the companions of Odin: Hönir who gave the power of thought and Lödur who gave that which is intimately connected with race, namely pigmentation and the character of the blood. These two Beings, therefore, are Archangels more in the normal line. In Vili and Ve, on the other hand, we have Archangels of abnormal development. They are Beings who work more in the inner life, in the hidden recesses of the soul as I pointed out in the last lecture. But an ego which is itself at an abnormal stage of evolution when it witnesses the cultivation of the subordinate forces of the human soul, feels itself to be intimately related to an abnormal Archangel. Odin, therefore, is not regarded as an abnormal Archangel, but rather as the kind of Archangel whose renunciation is akin to that of the Western peoples who arc more aware that their inner development had been deferred, whereas the Eastern peoples by-passed certain stages of their psychic development until they awakened to ego-consciousness. Hence there lives especially in the soul of the Teutonic peoples all that is associated with the Archangelic forces of Odin stirring in the primitive depths of the human soul.

When we stated that the Angels are responsible for transmitting to the individual human beings the achievements of the Archangels, so also an ‘I’ which awakens at such an elementary level of soul-life is particularly concerned in seeing that the intentions of the Archangels are communicated to that ego. Hence Germanic-Nordic man has an interest in an Angel-being who is endowed with special power, but who at the same time is closely related to the single human being and his individuality. And that Being is Thor.2See Appendix. We can only recognize Thor when we see in him a Being who could have risen to far higher rank had he followed the normal course of evolution, but who renounced advancement comparatively early and remained at the stage of a Angel in order that, at the time when man awoke to ego-consciousness in the course of his soul's evolution, he could become the guiding Spirit in the spiritual life of the Teutonic peoples. What gives the immediate feeling that Thor is related to the individual human ego is that what was to be transmitted to every individual ‘I’ from the spiritual world could, in fact, be transmitted. If we bear this in mind we shall also understand more clearly the fragmentary information that has come down to us. It is important to have a right understanding of these individual Gods. Germanic-Nordic man perceived and himself experienced this imprinting of the soul in the body. He witnessed the integration of the ego into the body and the birth of ego-consciousness.

Now we know that the ego is incarnated in the pulsation of our blood and that everything within has its counterpart without, that everything microcosmic has its parallel in the macrocosmic. The work of Odin who gave speech and runic wisdom, who worked indirectly through the breathing, has its counterpart in the movement of the wind in the macrocosm. The regular inhalation of the air through our respiratory organs which transform the air into words and speech corresponds to the movements and currents of the wind in the macrocosm outside. Just as we feel within ourselves the power of Odin in the transformation of air into words, so too we must perceive his presence and activity in the ambient winds. But those who still preserved a certain degree of clairvoyance really saw the presence of Odin everywhere in the cosmic element of the air, saw how he formed speech by means of his breath. This Nordic man perceived as a unity. Just as that which lives in us and organizes our speech—that is to say, in the form in which speech existed amongst the Nordic peoples—penetrates into the ego and sets the blood pulsating so too the inner organization of speech in man finds its parallel in the macrocosm in thunder and lightning. The gift of speech precedes the birth of the ego in man. Hence the ‘I’ is everywhere felt to be the son of Odin to whom we owe the gift of speech. Thor plays an active part in the implanting of the individual ego, and in the microcosm the pulsation of the blood corresponds to the thunder and lightning in the macrocosm. Thus, in the macrocosm, the parallel to the pulsation of the blood in man is the thunder and lightning in the sighing winds and the weaving clouds. Germanic-Nordic man sees this clairvoyantly as a unity; he perceives that the soughing of the wind and the flashing of the lightning are intimately related to the breathing. He sees how the air he inhales passes into the blood stream and sets the ‘I’ pulsating. Today this is looked upon as a physical process, but to Germanic-Nordic man it was an astral experience. He felt the kinship of the inner fire of the blood and of outer lightning. He felt the pulse-beat in his blood and knew it to be the pulse-beat of the ‘I’. He was aware of this inner pulsation and knew that it would recur. But he paid no heed to the external physical process. All this was seen clairvoyantly. He felt that it was the deed of Thor which caused the pulse to beat and made the blood return again and again to the same source. He felt the Thor-force in his ‘I’ as the hammer of Thor returning ever and again into his hand; he felt the power of one of the mightiest Angels who had ever been honoured or 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 together the physical body is described in the Teutonic mythology where it says that the ‘I’ is that which holds together the soul and body in the formative stage. Germanic-Nordic man sees the weaving of the body and soul from within, and in later years he still understands how, originating in the astral, his inner life becomes integrated, how the inner answers, so to speak, to the outer. He could still respond when he learned from the Initiates that man was built out of the Cosmos. He was able to look back to earlier stages, to what had been told him about the events which reflected the relationship between the Angels and the Archangels, to those earlier stages when man was born out of the macrocosm in physical-spiritual form. He was able to perceive how the individual was built up out of the macrocosm and how he was an integral part of it. He sought in the macrocosm for those occurrences which are reflected in the microcosm. He could distinguish in the human microcosm, the microcosmic North, the cool realm where human thoughts are woven and whence the body is supplied with the twelve cranial nerves. He sees the weaving spirit in what he calls Nebelheim or Niflheim; he sees the twelve rivers which converge to form physically the twelve cranial nerves. He sees how the forces that issue from the microcosmic South, from the human heart, counteract the forces from above. He looks for them outside in the macrocosm and understands when he is told that they are called Muspelheim. Thus, even in the Christian era, it was still possible for him to comprehend the microcosm in terms of the whole macrocosm. And one could go back further still and show him how man gradually originated out of the macrocosm as extract of the whole world. He was able to look back into that time and he could understand that these events have a long ancestry, which he himself still sees as a working of the Angels and Archangels into his soul. He realizes that these events have a long ancestry and the conceptions he thus acquires we encounter in the old Teutonic Genesis, as the origin of mankind out of the entire macrocosm.

From Ginnungagap, the primeval abyss of Teutonic mythology, a new Earth emerges after having passed through the three earlier incarnations of Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon. The emergent world without form and void comes forth again out of Pralaya where the kingdoms of nature are not yet differentiated and men are still undivided and completely spiritual beings. It was then clear to Nordic man how the later conditions have developed out of this original abyss.

Now it is interesting to see how the events of those times are portrayed in Teutonic mythology in the form of imaginative pictures, events which we in our anthroposophical teachings describe in more sophisticated terms, using concepts in place of images. In Anthroposophy we are given a description of the events which took place when the Sun and Moon were still united, of the separation of the Moon and of the evolutionary transition to the later “Riesenheim”. Everything which existed during the Atlantean epoch is described as a continuation of earlier epochs and as the particular concern of the Teutonic or Germanic people.

Today I only wanted to give an idea of how the Germanic peoples awakened to the ego while still at an elementary stage of evolution and how Nordic man perceived in full consciousness the Folk Soul, the soul of Thor and so on. I wanted to show how, as an ego-being, he was able to respond immediately to the in-weaving of still higher Beings who, however, come from an entirely different realm from those we find among the Eastern peoples.

Tomorrow we shall attempt to explore the lesser-known branches of Teutonic mythology. We shall discover how they are harbingers of that which dwells in the Folk Souls and we shall see what is the nature of our Western Folk Souls.