World History in the Light of Anthroposophy
and as a Foundation for Knowledge of the Human Spirit
28 December 1923, Dornach
Among the mysteries of ancient times Ephesus holds a unique position. You will remember that in considering the part played by Alexander in the evolution of the West, I had to mention also this Mystery of Ephesus. Let us try to see wherein lies the peculiar importance of this Mystery.
We can only grasp the significance of the events of earlier and of more recent times when we understand and appreciate the great change that took place in the character of the Mysteries (which were in reality the source whence all the older civilisations sprang) in passing from the East to the West, and, in the first place, to Greece. This change was of the following nature.
When we look back into the older Mysteries of the East, we have everywhere the impression: The priests of the Mysteries are able, from their own vision, to reveal great and important truths to their pupils. The farther back we go in time, the more are these Wise Men or Priests in a position to call forth in the Mysteries the immediate presence of the Gods themselves, the Spiritual Beings who guide the worlds of the planets, who guide the events and phenomena of Earth. The Gods were actually there present.
The connection of the human being with the macrocosm was revealed in many different Mysteries in an equally sublime manner to that I pictured for you yesterday, in connection with the Mysteries of Hibernia and also with the teachings that Aristotle had still to give to Alexander the Great. An outstanding characteristic of all ancient Oriental Mysteries was that moral impulses were not sharply distinguished from natural impulses. When Aristotle points Alexander to the North-West, where the Spirits of the element of Water held dominion, it was not only a physical impulse that came from that quarter — as we to-day feel how the wind blows from the North-West and so forth — but with the physical came also moral impulses. The physical and the moral were one. This was possible, because through the knowledge that was given in these Mysteries — the Spirit of Nature was actually perceived in the Mysteries — man felt himself one with the whole of Nature. Here we have something in the relation of man to Nature, that was still living and present in the time that intervened between the life of Gilgamesh and the life of the individuality Gilgamesh became, who was also in close contact with the Mysteries, namely, with the Mystery of Ephesus. There was still alive in men of that time a vision and perception of the connection of the human being with the Spirit of Nature. This connection they perceived in the following way. Through all that the human being learned concerning the working of the elementary spirits in Nature, and the working of the Beings of Intelligence in the planetary processes, he was led to this conclusion: All around me I see displayed on every side the plant-world — the green shoots, the buds and blossoms and then the fruit. I see the annual plants in the meadows and on the country-side, that grow up in Spring-time and fade away again in Autumn. I see, too, the trees that go on growing for hundreds of years, forming a bark on the outside, hardening to wood and reaching downwards far and wide into the Earth with their roots. But all that I see out there — the annual herbs and flowers, the trees that take firm hold into the Earth — once upon a time, I, as man, have borne it all within me.
You know how to-day, when there is carbonic acid in the air, that has come about through the breathing of human beings, we can feel that we ourselves have breathed out the carbonic acid, we have breathed it into space. We have therefore still to-day this slight connection with the Cosmos. Through the airy part of our nature, through the air that gives rise to the breathing and other air-processes that go on in the human organism, we have a living connection with the great Universe, with the Macrocosm. The human being to-day can look upon his out-breathed breath, upon the carbonic acid that was in him and is now outside him. But just as we are able to-day to look upon the carbonic acid we have breathed out — we do not generally do so, but we could — so did the initiates of olden times look upon the whole plant-world. Those who had been initiated in the Oriental Mysteries, or had received the wisdom that streamed forth from the Oriental Mysteries, were able to say: I look back in the evolution of the world to an ancient Sun epoch. In that time I bore still within me the plants. Then afterwards I let them stream forth from me into the far circles of Earth existence. But as long as I bore the plants within me, while I was still that Adam Cadmon who embraced the whole Earth and the plant-world with it, so long was this whole plant-world watery-airy in substance. Then the human being separated off from himself this plant-world. Imagine that you were to become as big as the whole Earth, and then to separate off, to secrete, as it were, inwardly something plant-like in nature, and this plant-like substance were to go through metamorphoses in the watery element — coming to life, fading away, growing up, being changed, taking on different shapes and forms — and you will by this imagination call up again in your soul feelings and experiences that once lived in it. Those who received their education and training in the East at about the time of Gilgamesh were able to say to themselves that these things had once been so.
And when they looked abroad upon the meadows and beheld all the growth of green and flowers, then they said: We have separated the plants from ourselves, we have put them forth from us in an earlier stage of our evolution; and the Earth has received them. The Earth it is that has lent them root, and has given them their woody nature; the tree-nature in the world of plants comes from the Earth. But the whole plant-nature as such has been cast off, as it were, by the human being, and received by the Earth. In this way man felt an intimate and near relationship with everything of a plant-nature.
With the higher animals the human being did not feel a relationship of this kind. For he knew that he could only work his way rightly and come to his true place on the Earth by overcoming the animal form, by leaving the animals behind him in his evolution. The plants he took with him as far as the Earth; then gave them over to her that she might receive them into her bosom. For the plants he was upon Earth the Mediator of the Gods, the Mediator between the Gods and the Earth.
Men who had this great experience acquired a feeling that may be put quite simply in a few words. The human being comes hither to the Earth from the World-All. The question of number does not come into consideration; for, as I said yesterday, they were all and each within the other. That which afterwards becomes the plant-world separates off from man, the Earth receives it and gives it root. The human being felt as though he had folded the Earth about with a garment of plant growth, and as though the Earth were thankful for this enfolding and took from him the watery-airy plant element that he was able, as it were, to breathe on to her.
In entering into this experience men felt themselves intimately associated with the God, with the chief God of Mercury. Through the feeling: We have ourselves brought the plants on to the Earth, men came into a special relation with the God Mercury.
Towards the animals, on the other hand, man had a different feeling. He knew that he could not bring them with him to Earth, he had to cast them off, he had to make himself free from them, otherwise he would not be able to evolve his human form in the right way. He thrust the animals from him; they were pushed out of the way and had then to go through an evolution on their own account on a lower level than the level of humanity. Thus did the man of olden times — of the Gilgamesh time and later — feel himself placed between the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom. In relation to the plant kingdom he was the bearer, who bore the seed to the Earth and fructified the Earth with it, doing this as Mediator for the Gods. In relation to the animal kingdom he felt as though he had pushed it away from him, in order that he might become man without the encumbrance of the animals, who have consequently been stunted and retarded in their development.
The whole animal-worship of Egypt has to do with this perception. The deep fellow-feeling, too, with animals that we find in Asia is connected with it. It was a sublime conception of Nature that man had, feeling his relationship on the one hand with the plant world and on the other hand with the world of animals. In relation to the animal he had a feeling of emancipation. In relation to the plant he felt a near and intimate kinship. The plant world was to him a bit of himself, and he felt a sincere love for the Earth inasmuch as the Earth had received into herself the bit of humanity that gave rise to the plants, had let these take root in her, had even given of her own substance to clothe the trees in bark. There was always a moral element present when man took cognisance of the physical world around him. When he beheld the plants in the meadow, it was not only the natural growth that he perceived. In this growth he perceived and felt a moral relation to man. With the animal man felt again another moral relation: he had fought his way up beyond them.
Thus we find in the Mysteries over in the East a sublime conception of Nature and of Spirit in Nature. Later there were Mysteries in Greece, too, but with a much less real perception of Nature and of Spirit in Nature. The Greek Mysteries are grand and sublime, but they are essentially different from the Oriental Mysteries. It is characteristic of these that they do not tend to make man feel himself on the Earth, but that through them man feels himself a part of the Cosmos, a part of the World-All. In Greece, on the other hand, the character of the Mysteries had changed and the time was come when man began to feel himself united with the Earth. In the East the spiritual world itself was either seen or felt in the Mysteries. It is absolutely true to say that in the ancient Oriental Mysteries the Gods themselves appeared among the priests, who did sacrifice there and made prayers. The Mystery Temples were at the same time the earthly Guest Houses of the Gods, where the Gods bestowed upon men through the priests what they had to give them from the treasures of Heaven. In the Greek Mysteries appeared rather the images of the Gods, the pictures, as it were, the phantoms, — true and genuine, but phantoms none the less; no longer the Divine Beings, no longer the Realities, but phantoms. And so the Greek had a wholly different experience from the man who belonged to the ancient Oriental culture. The Greek had the feeling: There are indeed Gods, but for man it is only possible to have pictures of these Gods, just as we have in our memory pictures of past experiences, no longer the experiences themselves.
That was the fundamental feeling that took rise in the Greek Mysteries. The Greek felt that he had, as it were, memories of the Cosmos, not the appearance of the Cosmos itself, but pictures; pictures of the Gods, and not the Gods themselves. Pictures, too, of the events and processes on Saturn, Sun and Moon; no longer a living connection with what actually took place on Saturn, Sun and Moon, — the kind of living connection the human being has with his own childhood. The men of the Oriental civilisation had this real connection with Sun, Moon and Saturn, they had it from their Mysteries. But the Mysteries of the Greeks had a pictorial or image-character. There appeared in them the shadow-spirits of Divine-Spiritual Reality. And something else went with this as well that was very significant. For there was yet another difference between the Oriental Mysteries and the Greek.
In the Oriental Mysteries, if one wanted to know something of the sublime and tremendous experience that was possible in these Mysteries, one had always to wait until the right time. Some experience or other could perhaps only be found by making the appropriate sacrifice, the appropriate super-sensible ‘experiments’ as it were, in Autumn, — another only in Spring, another again at Midsummer, and another in the depth of Winter. Or again it might be that sacrifices were made to certain Gods at a time determined by a particular constellation of the Moon. At that special time the Gods would appear in the Mysteries, and men would come thither to be present at their manifestations. When the time had gone by one would have to wait, perhaps thirty years, until the opportunity should come again when those Divinities should once more reveal themselves in the Mysteries. All that related to Saturn, for example, could only enter the region of the Mysteries every thirty years; all that was concerned with the Moon about every eighteen years. And so on. The priests of the Oriental Mysteries were dependent on time, and also on place and on all manner of circumstances for receiving the sublime and tremendous knowledge and vision that came to them. Quite different manifestations were received deep in a mountain cave and high on the mountain top. Or again, the revelations were different, according as one was far inland in Asia or on the coast. Thus a certain dependence on place and time was characteristic of the Mysteries of the East.
In Greece the great and awful Realities had disappeared. Pictures there still were. And the pictures were dependent not on the time of year, on the course of the century, or on place; but men could have the pictures when they had performed this or that exercise, or had made this or that personal sacrifice. If a man had reached a certain stage of sacrifice and of personal ripeness, then for the very reason that he as a human being had attained thus far, he was able to have view of the shadows of the great world-events and of the great world-Beings.
That is the important change in the nature of the Mysteries that meets us when we pass from the ancient East to Greece. The ancient Oriental Mysteries were subject to the conditions of space and locality, whilst in the Greek Mysteries the human being himself came into consideration and what he brought to the Gods. The God, so to speak, came in his phantom or shadow-picture, when the human being, through the preparations he had undergone, had been made worthy to receive the God in phantom form. In this way the Mysteries of Greece prepared the road for modern humanity.
Now, the Mystery of Ephesus stood midway between the ancient Oriental Mysteries and the Greek Mysteries. It held a unique position. For in Ephesus those who attained to initiation were able still to experience something of the tremendous majestic truths of the ancient East. Their souls were still stirred with a deep inward experience of the connection of the human being with the Macrocosm and with the Divine-Spiritual Beings of the Macrocosm. In Ephesus men could still have sight of the super-earthly, and in no small measure. Self-identification with Artemis, with the Goddess of the Mystery of Ephesus, still brought to man a vivid sense of his relation to the kingdoms of nature. The plant world, so it taught him, is yours; the Earth has only received it from you. The animal world you have overcome. You have had to leave it behind. You must look back on the animals with the greatest possible compassion, they have had to remain behind on the road, in order that you might become Man. To feel oneself one with the Macrocosm: this was an experience that was still granted to the Initiate of Ephesus, he could still receive it straight from the Realities themselves.
At the same time, the Mysteries of Ephesus were, so to speak, the first to be turned westward. As such, they had already that independence of the seasons, or of the course of years and centuries; that independence too of place on Earth. In Ephesus the important things were the exercises that the human being went through, making himself ripe, by sacrifice and devotion, to approach the Gods. So that on the one hand, in the content of its Mystery truths, the Mystery of Ephesus harked back to the Ancient East, whilst on the other hand it was already directed to the development of man himself, and was thus adapted to the nature and character of the Greek. It was the very last of the Eastern Mysteries of the Greeks, where the great and ancient truths could still be brought near to men; for in the East generally the Mysteries had already become decadent.
It was in the Mysteries of the West that the ancient truths remained longest. The Mysteries of Hibernia still existed, centuries after the birth of Christianity. These Mysteries of Hibernia are nevertheless doubly secret and occult, for you must know that even in the so-called Akashic Records, it is by no means easy to search into the hidden mysteries of the statues of which I told you yesterday — the Sun Statue and the Moon Statue, the male and the female. To approach the pictures of the Oriental Mysteries and to call them forth out of the astral light is, comparatively speaking, easy for one who is trained in these things. But let anyone approach, or want to approach, the Mysteries of Hibernia in the astral light, and he will at first be dazed and stupefied. He will be beaten back. These Irish, these Hibernian Mysteries will not willingly let themselves be seen in the Akashic pictures, albeit they continued longest in their original purity.
Now you must remember, my dear friends, that the individuality who was in Alexander the Great had come into close contact with the Hibernian Mysteries during the Gilgamesh time, when he made his journey westward to the neighbourhood of the modern Burgenland. These Mysteries had lived in him, lived in him after a very ancient manner, for it was in the time when the West resounded still with powerful echoes of the Atlantean age. And now all this experience was carried over into the condition of human existence that runs its course between death and a new birth. Then later the two friends, Eabani and Gilgamesh, found themselves together again in life in Ephesus, and there they entered into a deeply conscious experience of what they had experienced formerly during the Gilgamesh time more or less unconsciously or sub-consciously, in connection with the Divine-Spiritual worlds.
Their life during this Ephesus time was comparatively peaceful, they were able to digest and ponder what they had received into their souls in more stormy days.
Let me remind you of what it was that passed over into Greece before these two appeared again in the decadence of the Greek epoch and the rise of the Macedonian. The Greece of olden time, the Greece that had spread abroad and embraced Ephesus also within its bounds, and had even penetrated right into Asia Minor, had still in her shadow-pictures the after-echo of the ancient time of the Gods. The connection of man with the spiritual world was still experienced, though in shadows. Greece was however gradually working herself free from the shadows; we may observe how step by step the Greek civilisation was wresting its way out of what we may call divine civilisation and taking on more and more the character of a purely earthly one.
My dear friends, it is only too true that the very most important things in the history of human evolution are simply passed over in the materialistic external history of to-day. Of extraordinary importance for the understanding of the whole Greek character and culture is this fact: that in the Greek civilisation we find no more than a shadow-picture, a phantom of the old Divine Presence wherein man had contact with the super-sensible worlds, for man was already gradually emerging out of this Divinity and learning to make use of his own individual and personal spiritual faculties. Step by step we can see this taking place. In the dramas of Æschylus we may see placed before us in an artistic picture the feeling that yet remained to man of the old time of the Gods. Scarcely however has Sophocles come forward when man begins to tear himself away from this conscious sense of union with Divine-Spiritual existence. And then something else appears that is coupled with a name which from one point of view we cannot over-estimate — but of course there are many points of view to be considered.
In the older Grecian time there was no need to make written history. Why was this? Because men had the living shadow of everything of importance that had happened in the past. History could be read in what came to view in the Mysteries. There one had the shadow-pictures, the living shadow-pictures. What was there then to write down as history?
But now came the time when the shadow pictures became submerged in the lower world, when human consciousness could no longer perceive them. Then came the impulse to make records. Herodotus, 1Herodotus of Halicarnassos, the first Greek historian, lived in the fifth century B.C. Wrote history of the Persian Wars. the first prose historian, appeared. And from this time onward, many could be named who followed him, the same impulse working in them all, — to tear mankind away from the Divine-Spiritual and to set him down in the purely earthly. Nevertheless, as long as Greek culture and civilisation lasted, there is a splendour and a light shed abroad over this earth-directed tendency, a light of which we shall hear to-morrow that it did not pass over to Rome nor to the Middle Ages. In Greece, a light was there. Of the shadow-pictures, even the fading shadow-pictures of the evening twilight of Greek civilisation, man still felt that they were divine in their origin.
In the midst of all this, like a haven of refuge where men found clear enlightenment concerning what was present, as it were in fragments, in Greek culture, — in the midst stood Ephesus. Heraclitus received instruction from Ephesus, as did many another great philosopher; Plato, too, and Pythagoras. Ephesus was the place where the old Oriental wisdom was preserved up to a certain point. And the two souls who dwelt later in Aristotle and Alexander the Great were in Ephesus a little after the time of Heraclitus and were able to receive there of the heritage from the old knowledge of the Oriental Mysteries that the Mystery of Ephesus still retained. Notably the soul of Alexander entered into an intimate union with the very Being of the Mysteries as far as it was living in the Mystery of Ephesus.
And now we come to one of those historical events of which people may think that they are mere chance, but which have their foundations deep down in the inner connections of the evolution of humanity. In order to gain an insight into the significance of this event, let us call to mind the following. We must remember that in the two souls who afterwards became Aristotle and Alexander the Great, there was living in the first place all that they had received in a far-off time in the past and had subsequently elaborated and pondered. And then there was also living in their souls the treasure of untold value that had come to them in Ephesus. We might say that the whole of Asia — in the form that it had assumed in Greece, and in Ephesus in particular — was living in these two, and more especially in the soul of Alexander the Great, that is to say, of him who afterwards became Alexander the Great.
Picture to yourselves the part played by this personality. I described him for you as he was in the Gilgamesh time; and now you must imagine how the knowledge that belonged to the ancient East and to Ephesus, a knowledge which we may also call a “beholding,” a “perceiving,” — this knowledge was called up again in the intercourse between Alexander the Great and Aristotle, in a new form. Picture this to yourselves; and then think what would have happened if Alexander, in his incarnation as Alexander, had come again into contact with the Mystery of Ephesus, bearing with him in his soul the gigantic document of the Mystery of Ephesus, for this majestic document of knowledge lived with extraordinary intensity in the souls of these two. If we can form a idea of this, we can rightly estimate the fact that on the day on which Alexander was born, Herostratus threw the flaming torch into the Sanctuary of Ephesus; on the very day on which Alexander was born, the Temple of Diana of Ephesus was treacherously burnt to the ground. It was gone, never to return. Its monumental document, with all that belonged to it, was no longer there. It existed only as a historical mission in the soul of Alexander and in his teacher Aristotle.
And now you must bring all this that was alive in the soul of Alexander into connection with what I said yesterday, when I showed you how the mission of Alexander the Great was inspired by an impulse coming from the configuration of the Earth. You will readily understand how that which in the East had been real revelation of the Divine-Spiritual was as it were extinguished with Ephesus. The other Mysteries were at bottom only Mysteries of decadence, where traditions were preserved, though it is true these traditions did still awaken clairvoyant powers in specially gifted natures. The splendour and the glory, the tremendous majesty of the olden time were gone. With Ephesus was finally put out the light that had come over from the East.
You will now be in a position to appreciate the resolve that Alexander made in his soul: to restore to the East what she had lost; to restore it at least in the form in which it was preserved in Greece, in the phantom or shadow-picture. Hence his idea of making an expedition into Asia, going as far as it was possible to go, in order to bring to the East once more — albeit in the shadow form in which it still existed in the Grecian culture — what she had lost.
And now we see what Alexander the Great is really doing, and doing in a most wonderful way, when he makes this expedition. He is not bent on the conquest of existing cultures, he is not trying to bring Hellenism to the East in any external sense. Wherever he goes, Alexander the Great not only adopts the customs of the land, but is able too to enter right into the minds and hearts of the human beings who are living there, and to think their thoughts. When he comes to Egypt, to Memphis, he is hailed as a saviour and deliverer from the spiritual fetters that have hitherto bound the people. He permeates the kingdom of Persia with a culture and civilisation which the Persians themselves could never have produced. He penetrates as far as India.
He conceives the plan of effecting a balance, a harmony between Hellenic and Oriental civilisations. On every hand he founds academies. The academies founded in Alexandria, in Northern Egypt, are the best known and have had the greatest significance for later times. Of the first importance however is the fact that all over Asia larger and smaller academies were founded, in which the works of Aristotle were preserved and studied for a long time to come. What Alexander began in this way continued to work for centuries in Asia Minor, repeating itself again and again as it were in feebler echoes. With one mighty stroke Alexander planted the Aristotelian Knowledge of Nature in Asia, even as far as India. His early death prevented his reaching Arabia, though that had been one of his chief aims. He went however as far east as India, and also into Egypt. Everywhere he implanted the spiritual Knowledge of Nature that he had received from Aristotle, establishing it in such a way that it could become fruitful for men. For everywhere he let the people feel it was something that was their own, — not a foreign element, a piece of Hellenism, that was being imposed upon them. Only a nature such as Alexander's, able to fire others with his own enthusiasm, could ever have accomplished what he did. For everywhere others came forward to carry on the work he had begun. In the years that followed, many more scholars went over from Greece. Apart from Edessa it was one academy in particular, that of Gondishapur, which received constant reinforcements from Greece for many centuries to come.
A marvellous feat was thus performed! The light that had come over from the East, — extinguished in Ephesus by the flaming torch of Herostratus, — this light, or rather its phantom shadow, now shone back again from Greece, and continued so to shine until the dramatic moment when beneath the tyranny of Rome 2Justinian, Byzantine Emperor from 527–565, son of a peasant, sent an edict to Athens in 529 forbidding the teaching of philosophy and law. Thereupon the last seven Athenian philosophers left the Roman Empire and emigrated to Persia. the Schools of the Greek philosophers were ultimately closed. In the 6th century A.D. the last of the Greek philosophers fled away to the academy of Gondishapur.
In all this we see two elements interworking; one that had gone, so to speak, in advance, and one that had remained behind. The mission of Alexander was founded, more or less unconsciously, upon this fact: the waves of civilisation had advanced in Greece in a Luciferian manner, whilst in Asia they had remained behind in an Ahrimanic manner. In Ephesus was the balance. And Alexander, on the day of whose birth the physical Ephesus had fallen, resolved to found a spiritual Ephesus that should send its Sun-rays far out to East and West. It was in very truth this purpose that lay at the root of all he undertook: to found a spiritual Ephesus, reaching out across Asia Minor eastward to India, covering also Egyptian Africa and the East of Europe.
It is not really possible to understand the spiritual evolution of Western humanity unless we can see it on this background. For soon after the attempt had been made to spread abroad in the world the ancient and venerated Ephesus, so that what had once been present in Ephesus might now be preserved in Alexandria, — be it only in a faltering hand instead of in large shining letters — soon after this second blooming of the flower of Ephesus, an altogether new power began to assert itself, the power of Rome. Rome, and all the word implies, is a new world, a world that has nothing to do with the shadow-pictures of Greece, and suffers man to keep no more than memories of these olden times. We can study no graver or more important incision in history than this. After the burning of Ephesus, through the instrumentality of Alexander the plan is laid for the founding of a spiritual Ephesus; and this spiritual Ephesus is then pushed back by the new power that is asserting itself in the West, first as Rome, later under the name of Christianity, and so on. And we only understand the evolution of mankind aright when we say: We, with our way of comprehending things through the intellect, with our way of accomplishing things by means of our will, we with our feelings and moods can look back as far as ancient Rome. Thus far we can look back with full understanding. But we cannot look back to Greece, neither can we look back to the East. There we must look in Imaginations. Spiritual vision is needed there. Yes, we can look South, as we go back along the stream of evolution; we can look South with the ordinary prosaic understanding, but not East. When we look East, we have to look in Imaginations. We have to see standing in the background the mighty Mystery Temples of primeval post-Atlantean Asia, where the Wise Men, the Priests, made plain to each one of their pupils his connection with the Divine-Spiritual of the Cosmos, and where was to be found a civilisation that could be received from the Mysteries in the Gilgamesh time, as I have described to you. We have to see these wonderful Temples scattered over Asia; and in the foreground Ephesus, preserving still within its Mystery much that had faded away in the other Temples of the East, whilst at the same time it had already itself made the transition and become Greek in character. For in Ephesus, man no longer needed to wait for the constellations of the stars or for the right time of year, nor to wait until he himself had attained a certain age, before he could receive the revelations of the Gods. In Ephesus, if he were ripe for it, he might offer up sacrifices and perform certain exercises that enabled him so to approach the Gods that they drew graciously near to him.
It was in this world that stands before you in this picture that the two personalities of whom we have spoken were trained and prepared, in the time of Heraclitus. And now, in 356 A.D. on the birth-day of Alexander the Great, we behold the flames of fire burst forth from the Temple of Ephesus.
Alexander the Great is born, and finds his teacher Aristotle. And it is as though from out of the ascending flames of Ephesus a mighty voice went forth for those who were able to hear it: Found a spiritual Ephesus far and wide over the Earth, and let the old physical Ephesus stand in men's memory as its centre, as its midmost point.
Thus we have before us this picture of ancient Asia with her Mystery centres, and in the foreground Ephesus and her pupils in the Mysteries. We see Ephesus in flames, and a little later we see the expeditions of Alexander that carried over into the East what Greece had to give for the progress of mankind, so that there came into Asia in picture-form what she had lost in its reality.
Looking across to the East and letting our imagination be fired by the tremendous events that we see taking place, we are able to view in a true light that ancient chapter in man's history, — for it needs to be grasped with the imagination. And then we see gradually rise up in the foreground the Roman world, the world of the Middle Ages, the world that continues down to our own time.
All other divisions of history into periods — ancient, medieval and modern, or however else they may be designated — give rise to false conceptions. But if you will study deeply and intently the picture that I have here set before you, it will give you a true insight into the hidden workings that run through European history down to the present day.