Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Ancient Myths, Their Meaning and Connection with Evolution
GA 180

Lecture II

Dornach, 5th January 1918.

It was my task yesterday to show how the special configuration of such mythologies as the Osiris Myth, the Greek mythology—and in a certain sense even the Old Testament teachings to which we will return presently—is connected with changes in the stages of human consciousness. We know of the development of consciousness in mankind, we know that we have to look back to earlier times of man's evolution in which there existed an old clairvoyance, a perceptibility of super-earthly things. It is well to look back at such things for this retrospection gives us orientation. Mankind is again to achieve vision directed to the super-sensible; it is to be achieved on the path of Spiritual Science, through spiritual scientific thinking. The realization of what each one can do, no matter where he stands in the world, can be helped by the will to orientate oneself for what is to come by considering what has been.

In a certain sense things take place in later times in connection with events of earlier times. We look back from our Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, in the development of which we are standing, to the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch, the Greco-Latin, and to the Third, the Egyptian; we come then already to the time in which it was natural for men to express in certain mythical pictures and imaginations what they thought and felt about cosmic mysteries. In another connection we have already stated that we in our Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch have to recapitulate in a sort of inverted way what had happened in the Third, the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, so that it emerges again differently. The booklet ‘The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind’, also refers, as you know, to this subject.

Now we saw yesterday that in the time of the Greco-Latin evolution, in the time that begins with the 7th or 8th century before our era, there was a kind of looking back of mankind, and this looking back to other states of consciousness in fact expressed in imaginative myths facts about the ruling spiritual beings, as we described yesterday. Men in the Fourth Epoch knew: when we look around us we see only the physical, on the other we can reflect. You know, moreover, if you have followed attentively what is said in my book The Riddles of Philosophy, that in Grecian times, and even much later, people saw Ideas—as it were—as Goethe still did, and that they could really say: we see them. Entirely abstract thinking has only come about in modern times. But at that time there was indeed a seeing of ideas, a seeing of spiritual realities, a living in spiritual realities.

In the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch this was no longer so in the full sense, but the people remembered that it had been so earlier. They said—and in fact this represented the truth:—there are, however, Beings in existence, who are not human beings, who live in super-sensible worlds and have still preserved life in the imaginative consciousness. The Greeks saw such Beings in the individuals of the Zeus-circle.

The Egyptians again said to themselves: that age in which men still lived directly with Imaginations was the age when Osiris wandered upon Earth. They meant of course not one Osiris, but it was believed that there had been a time in which men on earth lived in Imaginations. And this type of human soul which was able to live in Imaginations was described by saying: Osiris lived upon earth. Lost and slain had been this life-in-Imaginations. Osiris has been killed by his brother Typhon—that is, by that force of the human soul, which to be sure is still directed to the super-sensible, but will no longer evolve the Imaginative faculties. The ancient clairvoyance exists no more. The forces active in the old clairvoyance are now amidst the dead. Hence Osiris is the Judge of the dead; the human being meets him when he has passed through the portal of death. The figures of Osiris and Isis were brought into connection with the Death-Mystery by those people who set the Osiris myth into the centre of their thought. Moreover, in the details through which the Osiris myth has been elaborated there actually lies all that I have been stating. The point of time has also been specified in which according to the legend, Osiris was killed by Typhon.

And just as we could point to a quite definite heavenly constellation, which the Magi of the East knew as the constellation in which the new cosmic age was to approach (we have pointed out in the Christmas lectures that by a certain constellation of the ‘Virgin’ the Magi of the East knew that they were to bring their offerings to the new World-Saviour) so too have those whose thoughts centred on the Osiris myth looked back to quite definite star-constellations. They have said: Osiris was slain. They meant to say: the old life in the Imaginations vanished when the setting sun in autumn stood in seventeen degrees of Scorpio and in the opposite point of the heavens the full moon rose in Taurus or in the Pleiades. This constellation of the full moon rising in Taurus at a definite point of the year in connection with the Scorpio position of the Sun, this moment of evolution has been given by the followers of Osiris as that in which Osiris has vanished from the earth, that is, in which he was no longer there. These things naturally come about in such a way as to leave legacies behind. There have always been people, stragglers even up to recent centuries with Imaginative clairvoyance, but the point is to show when Imaginative clairvoyance disappeared from earth as a normal faculty of the human soul. And men were aware that in the ages when Imaginative clairvoyance prevailed on earth conditions were quite different from what they were later. And this too was plainly indicated in the Osiris-Isis myth. But it is just this that is so very little understood by those who explain the myth of Isis and Osiris.

It is related, as you know, that when Isis discovered that her spouse, Osiris, had been slain, she departed on a search for the dead body. She found it at last in Byblos in Phoenicia and brought the corpse of Osiris from Phoenicia back to Egypt. A deep wisdom is expressed in such a myth, a wisdom of humanity's physiology. What sort of conditions were there then during the Osiris-time? During the Osiris-time there was not yet such a script as the later script. What prevailed in Egypt during the age of Osiris was a picture-writing and this was considered sacred. And how actually was the picture-script brought about? It was brought about inasmuch as the most important signs were taken, not from animal or earthly forms, but from the star-constellations, in fact from what clairvoyance saw in the star-constellations. If I were to make a comparison from something lately in our minds, I might say: You have heard in the ‘Dream of Olaf &Åsteson’ how he experiences the spirit-snake, the spirit-dog and the spirit-bull; he describes what he feels about them. Imagine to yourselves such pictures, but in a far more perfect form, as signs—such signs then are images of Imaginations. Such signs as the signs of the earliest writing were held to be holy. In such signs was cosmic wisdom contained for ancient times, this cosmic wisdom which in fact was at the same time a heavenly wisdom, inasmuch as men read the cosmic mysteries in the star-script, as the dead alone are able to do now. The gift of possessing a writing which is really a reproduction of Imaginations only belonged to humanity at a certain period of time, and then vanished. And the ancients knew: this imaginative way of writing existed in the age of Osiris. Together with the dying away of the old life of the world in Imaginations, the ancient picture-script disappeared and there arose that which has become the abstract script. This no longer expresses mysteries, but gradually, since it has become abstract, only serves to express the sense world—namely, the ordinary letter-script. Just as Osiris was looked on in those ancient times as the hero, as the divine hero of the Imaginative script, so is Typhon, his brother but his opponent, the hero of the abstract script of letter, developed from it.

This is also indicated profoundly in the Osiris-Isis myth. Over to Phoenicia must Isis go to find the corpse; that means to find the picture-script transformed into the letter-script—to find the corpse of Osiris. The letter-script was ‘found’, invented, as we say, in Phoenicia. From Phoenicia back to Egypt the abstract-script has come, whereas the Egyptians in their old mysteries in the Osiris-time had a picture-writing reflecting Imaginations. Thus the transition from the old concrete conception in the Imaginative-script to the newer concept in the abstract script has also found expression in the Osiris-Isis myth.

All these things lie in the course of mankind's evolution. We are there looking back to an older experience in Imaginations. Real physiological wisdom is, in fact, expressed in the myths. Thinking gradually passed over to abstractions—not immediately to the quite empty abstractions of today but to the somewhat fuller abstractions of about the 6th and 5th-centuries B.C.—in the work of Thales, with whom one generally begins the history of philosophy. (You can read of it in my The Riddles of Philosophy.)

But you can see from this that humanity has to look back to earlier evolutionary periods with quite different conditions of soul. Certain Brotherhoods of modern times know, to be sure, about these entirely different conditions, but they hold that such things should still be kept under lock and key. That is not right for the present day, but it is a little dangerous to talk of these things beyond a certain degree. Up to a certain degree, however, it is not only a case of should, these things must be spoken of today, because the knowledge of ancient conditions of human consciousness helps to give orientation for what is to develop as the new. If we have knowledge of what once existed, that can help us to further the necessary new conditions of evolution, although of an entirely different kind.

Now today you find in boys who develop to the age of puberty a change of voice. It is as we know, the expression in the boys of an organic process, which occurs differently in the female sex, and which apparently makes greater inroads into the human being in the case of the female, since the process reaches more directly into the physical. But that is not true. The influence on boys is just as strong, though it lies in a different sphere, so to say, and though externally it only comes to expression physically in the change of voice.

This reaching maturity by the human being is today—in fact since the times when Osiris was dead for the outer world—almost a physical process. It was not merely a physical process in the ages when Osiris lived, no, it was a soul process. The boy of fourteen or fifteen years—as you know we have already spoken of other experiences at the time of puberty—experienced not only that his voice changed, but that what today only enters, presses into, the region of the voice, extending from the sexual essences of the organism, in those ancient times pressed also into the thoughts, the conceptual world of the young boy. We must deal with such things truthfully; the voice apparatus is simply pervaded with the sexual essences of the organism. Today the voice breaks; in those days the thoughts ‘broke’ too, since it was still the ancient Imaginative time. In those times the young boy before the age of puberty had certain Imaginations; it was a living process and all knew that the child up to nine or ten years of age had Imaginations—Imaginations of spiritual events in the atmosphere. (Today there are still slight remains of this in almost every child of tender age, it is only that people pay no attention to it, or talk the children out of it as being foolish nonsense.) In the air spiritual events are taking place around us all the time. The air is not only what physical science describes, but spiritual events are taking place. These spiritual events, essentially events of the etheric world, were perceived by children in full Imaginations up to the time of puberty. And when puberty entered—not only for the voice, but the life of concepts—the human being felt something in him (it was in fact that which shot up out of the forces which are usually called in physiology the sex forces), felt something in him of which he said: what I saw as a child through the Imaginations in the atmosphere, now comes to life in me again, it is perception, it lives in me. That took place. The man was aware that he had taken something into himself out of the atmosphere. Formerly he had seen it outside; now he felt it within him.

For woman too, in those ancient times, there had been, before puberty, a perception in Imaginations of what was outside in the atmosphere. But after puberty that which in the case of boys merely emerged in the feeling of an alteration in their mental life, in the case of the woman was like an ascent of still more inward Imaginations: it was the human image that the woman perceived within her again and again in Imagination. And then she said to herself: what I now perceive Imaginatively, is the same as I experienced in childhood before puberty, out in cosmic space, as Imaginative pictures. Both sexes, only in different ways, experienced the fact that they actually knew in the soul: in me something is born which cosmic space has fructified in me.

There you have a still more concrete form of the Osiris-Isis-myth: it is universal wisdom in so far as it is won from the atmosphere, but it is in organic connection with man, the deeper layers of the human spirit. You can get an idea of it if you seek it in the following way. You see, men think nowadays in an abstract way, inasmuch as they desire to know through the head what the world contains of laws and so on. In these old times men were clear that in this way, merely through head knowledge, one cannot know, but one knows through the whole human being. One knows what goes on outside in space, goes on etherically, by having perceived it formerly as it were, outside, and then after puberty pictured or felt it inwardly. How do you perceive then today, with the abstract perception that you have? You discover something which you see with the senses; then you think it over afterwards. That happens in rapid succession. With those mysteries, through which man in ancient times penetrated into the laws of the atmosphere present in Imaginations, it was a different matter. As child, up to puberty, he perceived, he only perceived; afterwards he worked this over inwardly. One might say it is only a perceptive process and a thinking process spread out in time; whereas today it is placed at man's own discretion to observe abstractly and to reflect, conceive abstractly. Over the whole life was spread what we now crowd together in a few moments as regards the outer physical world, perceive, conceive. That was something which in his relation to the world man thought of as spread out over the whole of human life between birth and death. To the age of puberty he perceived certain things, afterwards he reflected upon them. Such an age was once in existence.

But now think. People said to themselves: ‘this perceiving and reflecting, this is connected in a certain way with the day, with the rising and setting sun. With the rising sun, one wakes, gets up, begins to perceive and to think; with the setting sun this ceases, since one lies down to sleep.’ Thus people connected perceiving and thinking with the day; and what was spread out over the whole life between birth and death they brought into connection with more widely extended cosmic events in the heavens. Just as it depends on the sun, on the ordinary rising and setting of the sun, that I can perceive and think, so does it depend on greater, more extended star constellations which appear after centuries, after millennia, what man develops in perceiving and thinking of the kind that I have described. And as in those old times people connected the ordinary perception and thinking with the day, with sunrise and sunset—indeed as people do today though they don't think so and even believe they go by the clock—so they connected matters concerning more comprehensive cosmic mysteries with the other star-constellations, with the other events in the heavens.

You see, a deep logic, a deep wisdom lies in these things. With superficialities one cannot get at the facts. But something else too is bound up with it. These ancient peoples—and we could speak of others besides the Egyptians and the Greeks—these ancient peoples knew that the more inward-lying forces of human nature are connected with what come to expression in celestial happenings, in star-constellations. That decadence of man which is expressed in the modern attitude to the sex problem, and that greatest decadence which is expressed in the most modern attitude to sexual problems, of this nothing was yet known to those ancient peoples of the ages of which one must speak when one deals with these things. For them it was something very different when they had the feeling: it is the sexual essences which are suffused into the human being when the voice breaks and therewith the thoughts break too—or when the other appears of which I have spoken. That the divine was then pouring itself forth in man—that was the conviction of the ancients. Hence what is only viewed in a pernicious sense today is found in all old religious rites: the sex-symbols, the so-called sex-symbols, point thus to this connection—we can call it the connection between the atmosphere with its air-events and the human processes of knowledge which take place during the whole human life between birth and death.

‘Through my eye, through my ear’—so said these people—‘I am connected with what is brought by the day. Through the deeper, more inwardly lying forces, I am connected with something quite different, with the secrets of the air, which, however, are only perceived in Imaginative experience.’ And this Imaginative experience in its concrete form I have described for you with reference to these early times.

The Old Testament conception in these matters was different inasmuch as it put doctrine in the place of actual experience. The Egyptian of the Osiris-age, especially of the earlier Osiris-age, said as follows: ‘The true human being only enters me with puberty, for I then take in what formerly I saw in Imaginations. The air transmits to me the true man.’ In the doctrine of the Old Testament this was transformed into the conception: The Elohim or Jahve have breathed into man the living breath (Odem), the air. There the essence was lifted out of the direct living experience and became doctrine, theory. This was necessary, for only so could mankind be led—and that is the meaning of the Old Testament—be led from that living in union with the outer world, which still had an inner connection between the microcosm, man, and the macrocosm, the world, to their further evolution (of which I will speak later). As this connection gradually vanished, it was necessary to fall back on just such a doctrine as that of the Old Testament.

But now there came the time of the death of Osiris—and therewith the time too in which, while one thing became finer, the other thing, as it were, became coarser. How is that to be understood? Well, you can imagine it thus: When we go back into the old Osiris-time, then the human being saw or felt before puberty the Light-Imaginations within the outer air (see sketch)—if I speak for the one sex—

Thus he saw in his environment the Light-Imaginations in the air up to the time of puberty. Afterwards he had the feeling that they had entered into him, and the changes occurred of which we have spoken. For the child the air was everywhere filled with Light phenomena; for the grown man, the matured man, the air was certainly still there, but he knew that as child he had seen something else in it. He knew that the air was at the same time the bearer, the mother, of light. He knew that it was not true that when he looked out into the air there was nothing in it but what was shown physically. Beings live in it which are to be perceived in Imagination.

Air Beings

These Beings were for the Greeks the Being of the Zeus-circle. Thus man knew that there were Beings in the air. But all this—the fact that human states of consciousness became changed—all this is connected with the fact that even objective things became different in the finer substantiality. Naturally, for the modern clever man it is an outrage if one says such things. I know it is an outrage, but nevertheless it is true: the air has become different. Naturally it has not changed in a way that can be tested by chemical reagents; nevertheless the air has become different. The air has lost the strength to express the Light-Imaginations; the air has—one could say—become coarser. It has actually become different on earth since that ancient time. The air has become coarser. But not only the air, but man himself has become coarser. That which formerly lived spiritually in the essences which permeated the larynx and the rest of the organism, that has also grown coarser. So that in fact if one speaks today of the sexual-essences one speaks of what is different from what one would speak of in ancient times. Everyone in older times knew: ‘The perception of the day is connected with my personality; the other, which I experience from the atmosphere, experience with my whole life, that, however, is connected with mankind as such, that goes beyond the individual man.’ Hence they also sought to fathom the social mysteries under which men live together, through the link which bound them with the macrocosm, they sought for social wisdom through the star-wisdom. But what lived in man as social wisdom bound him in fact to the celestial. This came to expression in the most everyday concepts. A human pair before the death of Osiris would never have felt anything else than that they had received a child from heaven. That was a living consciousness and corresponded also with truth. And this living consciousness could develop because man knew that he received out of the air-filled space what he himself experienced.

Of all this the coarse dregs, so to say, have been left. As in the air the coarse sediment has remained behind of that power of the air that revealed itself to man in Imaginations in earlier ages, so in man himself are the coarse dregs left behind. This had to come about since otherwise men could not have attained freedom and a full consciousness of the ego. But it is the dregs that have remained. In this way, however, all that the ancients meant by the divine, which as you can now readily realize, they connected in a roundabout way with the sexual essences, all this has been coarsened, not only in idea but also in reality. But it is there nevertheless; naturally not only in the one way, but in the other way too. The reproduction of mankind was in those olden times thought to be in direct connection with the micro-macrocosmic bond of mankind, as you have seen, but the whole social life of man on earth was in fact also thought to be in connection with this micro-macrocosmic bond. Numa Pompilus went to the Nymph Egeria to receive information from her as to how he should arrange social conditions in the Roman Kingdom. This, however, means nothing else than that he had let the star wisdom be imparted to him, had let the star-wisdom tell him how social conditions should be organized.

That which men reproduce on earth, and which is connected with successive generations, was to be placed in the service of what the stars have to say. As the individual man directed his life with his ordinary perceiving and thinking, according to the rising and setting of the sun, so the interconnections of mankind which later became ‘States’, were to be placed under the star-constellations as expressions of cosmic relationships.

In our language—and languages often contain memories of old conditions—we still have a remembrance of this connection in the fact that the relation of male and female is described by the word ‘Geschlecht’ (sex) and also the successive generations as ‘Geschlechter’ (races). It is one and the same word: the ‘Geschlecht’—the family, interconnected, blood relations—and then the relation of man and woman. And so is it too in other languages, and it all points to how man sought to find a recognizable connection with the macrocosm for what lay in his nature, in the deeper strata of his being.

These things have become coarsened in the direction we have discussed. Among other things that have remained behind is the attachment in longing and feeling to nationality, the clinging to the national, the chauvinistic impulse for the national; that is the lingering relic of what in older times could be thought of in quite different connections. But only when one looks into such things does one know the truth contained in them. What is expressed by the nationalistic longing? When man develops to excess this national feeling, this sentiment for the nation, what is living in it? Exactly the same as lives in the sexual, in the sexual in one way, in national sentiment in another. It is the sexual human being that lives his life through these two different poles. To be Chauvinistic, is, nothing else really than developing a sort of group-sexuality. One could say that where the sexual essences, in what they have left behind, grip men more, there is present more national Chauvinism; for it is the very force living in reproduction that comes to manifestation too in national sentiment. Hence the battle-cry of the so-called ‘Freedom of the Peoples or of the Nations’ is really only to be understood in its more intimate connections if one said—in a most respectable sense of course—‘The Call for the Re-establishment of the National in the Light of the Sex-Problem’. It is necessary to realize as one of the secrets of the time-impulse, the fact that the sexual problem is proclaimed in quite a special form over the earth today, without people having any idea of how out of their subconsciousness the sexual clothes itself in the words: ‘Freedom of the Peoples.’ And far more than men imagine are sexual impulses present in the catastrophic events of today, far more than men imagine! For the impulses to what is happening today lie, in fact, very, very deep.

Such truths must no longer in our present age be kept under lock and key. Certain Brotherhoods have been able to keep them under lock and key, because in the strictest sense of the word they have excluded women. Although joint work with women can nevertheless lead to all sorts of bad things, as has indeed constantly been shown today, yet the time has come in which right views, general views, on these matters must be spread among humanity. Ideas are nevertheless spread abroad which are impure, foolish, empty, inasmuch as from certain directions, without knowledge of the more intimate connections, all sorts of things are treated today as sexual problems. But you see how what here is pure, genuine, honourable truth comes in contact, on the one hand, with what can be the most impure, lowest way of thinking, as is shown from time to time in the outgrowths of Psycho-Analysis or similar things. You will always find, however, that what on the one hand, rightly understood, is profound truth, needs hardly to be altered at all in words, but only to be permeated with a low-minded type of thought, and it is simply a pernicious, stupid, objectionable conception.

A former age could speak of ‘nations’, when one pictured ‘Nations’ in such a way that one nation had its guardian spirit in Orion, another in another star, and one knew that one's life was ruled from the star-constellations. One then appealed, as it were, to the ordering in the heavens. Today where there is no longer such ordering in the heavens, there is the appeal to the merely national, the Chauvinistic appeal to the merely national, that is to say, an asserting of an impulse, psycho-sexual in the most pronounced sense, a backward luciferic impulse.

If one would see clearly and plainly what is today, one must not shrink from the actual underlying truth. But one can also see from such things why people are so afraid of the truth. Just imagine if, in the outcry on the freedom of nations and so forth that is raised today, people were to hear ‘that comes from sexual impulses!’ One should just imagine that! One should picture for once the crowing cock ... I don't mean any special one, not simply Clemenceau ... one should picture all the declaimers on this theme ... and imagine that they had to realize that what they crow is after all the mating-voice of the cock, however finely it is decked out in national garments.

These are things which mankind must learn to know today, and which they do not want to hear, for, as you know, of things that are black it is asserted that they are white, and of those that are white, that they are black. The point is, that that ancient time of which I have spoken has come now to the fifth Post-Atlantean epoch in which abstraction has gradually developed. There where the boundary lies between the fourth and fifth Post-Atlantean epochs (you can read about this in my book The Riddles of Philosophy), there men strove with all their might over the intellectual value—so to say—of the abstract. Read afterwards in my The Riddles of Philosophy where I speak of the nominalism and realism of the Middle Ages. Abstraction had grown to such a pitch that they asked themselves: When I form a concept, has that any significance for the things outside, or is it only a name in my head? Today people no longer reflect on such things. Of what interest is it to people to know that men have tormented themselves in the Middle Ages, when the abstractive power of thought was felt, what role the so-called universals, the general ideas, play in the world! That one wrestled and strove about what role abstractions play! Nowadays one thinks no more about it; one has already become used to abstractions; one does not strive to get beyond the abstract impulse but, on the contrary, to get thoroughly within it. The conflict over ‘universals’—this ultimately came to the point where it was said: ‘Universals, General Ideas, are at first as certain Ideas in God: those are Universals ante rem; then the Ideas are in the objects: Universals in re; and then the Ideas are in our mind, our soul: post rem—Universals post rem.’ That was an expedient, in order to take up a stand on the question: is a man connected with reality when he thinks, when he only thinks ideas? They still felt something of how in ancient times men had been connected with reality. When they reached maturity they thought over, as it were, what as a child they had formerly perceived; they knew therefore that only then had the true human being entered in. One had to struggle desperately over the Universals, as to whether, when one thinks, there is still something of reality left in one's thought or whether it is entirely divorced from reality and has nothing to do with it. Since that time people have grown accustomed to take the universals, the abstractions, as abstractions, and are more or less completely cut off from reality in their consciousness.

Such a process is taking place continually on a small scale. Think for a moment: words which are the representatives of concepts, are originally in direct connection with what is seen. For instance, a small group of fighting men has one man at the head, they have this one man before them, they call him the foremost, the first, Fürst (Eng: Chief, Prince). There one has it linked directly with what is beheld, later it was set free, it became a word which denoted something without any sort of connection with a direct perception. Just think to how many words this applies! And the next step is that then certain words become privileged, that speech becomes monopolized, becomes the property of the State. Even in language certain things are developing in this direction, are they not? ... Take the simple case that someone has learnt a great deal, has become wise—let us say, without meaning anything foolish by it—he is a learned man. In a certain naive way one would then say: he is a ‘Doctor’. Here we have a connection with fact if we call someone ‘doctor’ who is seen to be learned. For it still has a certain significance when there is documentary evidence held by a Corporation which gives this recognition. But it loses the significance when it is monopolized ... Yet mankind is enthusiastic about such monopolizing nowadays. All possible words are to be monopolized. A man is not supposed merely through his gifts to be an ‘engineer’, but this must also become a recognized title from heaven knows where. And increasingly things are to be loosed from their connections. There you can see the abstraction-process on a small scale, but it is accomplished wholesale with infinite significance. A family has a father. What is the connection between the pater, who is the father of the family and the Pater, who is a priest? This tearing loose of what is contained in the word—I wanted to bring it forward as illustrating the abstraction-process taking place in humanity.

And in the case of ideas it is much more mischievous than in language; people often make use of concepts without having the least idea of their connection with what is perceived. Sometimes people then search for the real observation, become comic, frightfully comic in this search! Only remember how there is a whole literature today about the cross-sign, which is really a universal sign, spread over the world. Most amusing is all the learnedness applied to it! This sign


is traced back to this

Cross in a Circle

That was supposed to have been the cross of former times.

Sometimes they then trace that back by saying: only the parts have been left, the swastika and so on. Yes, it is frightfully

Cross in a Circle with Embedded Swastika

clever what has been written about it, quite immensely clever, the way ‘cleverness’ has been applied to such things. I do not wish at all to go in for detailed criticism. But to know what is true, cleverness is not enough. One ought, of course, to know that the cross-sign means nothing else than that the human being takes his stand, stretches out his arms and then he is the cross. From above downwards goes a stream of existence that binds man with the macrocosm, and through the outstretched hands too. And the Cross is the sign for Man.

And when you find distinguishing marks of the Assyrian kings or of the Egyptian kings, medallions, for instance, then they are medallions with the cross-sign.

Double Cross in Circle

And two other signs (the cross on the medallion is one sign that ancient kings had) were, for instance, these.

Two Other Signs

The star in the sign is generally made in such a way that one does not immediately recognize the pentagram in it—or is it even a hexagram;—however, that is not the point.

Specially clever people have said: that is the Sun, that is the Cross, that is the moon, that is the star. But the deeper meaning lies precisely in the fact that it is man, the microcosm, who is compounded of sun and moon. You see from this ordinary cross-sign, how the concept has been separated from the real object. The direct perception is this, the sign is this: man in the form of a cross. People today know so little of how to connect the object with the sign, that, as I have said, an immensely clever literature exists which seeks to find out how this sign is connected with what it wants to express. And so one could write quite clever articles over the most everyday words without discovering how these things, these words, were connected with the realities.

Humanity had to go through the period of abstractions. We know that today we are no longer in the sign of Aries, in which the Sun stood at the beginning of Spring when the transition took place from the old Imaginative time, of which echoes still lingered, to the age of abstractions. We have entered the age of Pisces. A special characteristic of this age is that man receives the force for abstract ideas out of the macrocosm. Man receives this force today from the macrocosm. But in the meantime man does not know how he is to unite the abstract ideas again with reality. They must be united again with reality.

I said at the beginning of the lecture that in this fifth Post-Atlantean epoch there must be a kind of recapitulation of the time in the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch when one looked back to the ancient Osiris-age, when Imaginations were in existence. The reverse, as it were, must take place: man must find the way back again to the Imaginations. One could say in another form: Osiris must become alive again, we must find ways and means to bring Osiris to life. I have spoken very concretely in these studies by saying that we must find forms of experience which are common to the dead and the living. Since Osiris was slain he has been with the dead; he will remain with the dead, but he will have to come again among the living, when there are concerns which are common to the dead and the living for the social life of men.

This brings us to the fact that people must understand something which it is above all necessary for our time to understand: how will Osiris be revivified? How can Osiris come to new life? How does man approach again life and experience in the Imaginative consciousness?

We will speak of this tomorrow—how he is to rise again, and how the resurrection is to be brought about. Tomorrow's considerations shall have then, as their subject, the Imaginative consciousness.