Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Lectures to Priests: The Apocalypse
GA 346

Lecture XII

Dornach, 16 September 1924

Of course today we can remember that it is a favorable karmic situation that we are together again on the day when the first act of consecration of man could be performed here two years ago. We have a rather strange order in the main points in the development of the spiritual life here, as it were. The act of consecration of man two years ago, the burning of the Goetheanum, the laying of the foundation stone of the Anthroposophical society a year later and now after the second year we have gathered together here in order to look at the Apocalypse in accordance with your needs.

As I mentioned at the, beginning, a study of the Apocalypse is very closely connected with what is contained in the act of consecration of man; and therefore every day that we spend on the Apocalypse is really a memorial festival for what we permitted to live amongst us two years ago in order to bring what wanted to reveal itself from the spiritual world into this life as the present, modern cultic ritual.

With respect to the coincidence of events, it will perhaps be appropriate today that we will have a point in the Apocalypse before us which is very difficult to understand, but which really leads into the whole heart of the Apocalypse and which is connected most closely with the mystery of the act of consecration of man, because it is objectively connected with the being of Christ. It is really only possible to speak about this point in connection with the Apocalypse. For the Apocalypse bears the fundamental Christian character on its forehead to such an extent that there is no doubt that we cannot get anything out of what is connected with this Apocalypse in a natural way which deviates from the Christian viewpoint. And you may be assured that what I will have to say about this point which we want to discuss today arises in a very striking way from the views of the Apocalypticer.

We look around us at the turning point of our era and we find ourselves in the fifth post Atlantean period since the beginning of the 15th century, and in this period we have the beginning of a renewed battle which Michael will have to fight in connection with everything which has to happen in the near future, and we look back from there to the fourth post Atlantean period which immediately preceded our present one.

We know that this fourth post Atlantean age began about the year 747 before the Mystery of Golgotha, that the Mystery of Golgotha fell in this fourth post Atlantean age and that it can be placed approximately in the center of this age, if we take the slight displacements which always occur in world evolution into account. Thus we can make a schematic sketch of what is connected with our spiritual development as follows (drawing). So that we can say, the 5th post Atlantean age is here, and it was preceded by the fourth, third, second, first back to the Atlantean catastrophe, which as we know essentially transformed the shape of the earth's surface, and which gave a new face to our earth, as it were.

Now let's take a look at what this fourth Atlantean epoch is. It was preceded by what I have often called the Lemurian epoch in earth evolution, and then by what we can call the second and the first epochs in earth evolution. These first three epochs up to the Atlantean one are repetitions of the Saturn, Sun and Moon periods of evolution, respectively, whereas the fourth, Atlantean epoch is something new. The first three are definitely repetitions; it's true that they are repetitions on a higher level, but they are repetitions nevertheless.

The fourth or Atlantean epoch is something new. What happened during the Atlantean epoch occurred while the earth had forms which were quite different from the later ones. The earth's crust wasn't nearly as solid in the middle of the Atlantean epoch as it is today. The long geological periods of time which were presumably necessary for these events are illusions. The earth solidified from a relatively fluidic condition during the Atlantean epoch. The human race was quite different during the Atlantean period. It didn't have the present solid skeleton yet in the middle of the Atlantean epoch. As far as their material makeup is concerned men were more or less similar to lower animals. This doesn't apply to their form, for their forms were magnificent, but the substances were soft and cartilaginous and similar to those in jelly fish. Thus we can say that all physical conditions on earth have changed since that time and that the radical transformations which were still possible on the physical plane in the middle of the Atlantean epoch no longer occur.

It was even possible for men to make rapid metamorphoses, since the materials in their physical bodies were soft; so that depending on their inner soul life they became larger or smaller with various shapes; for every emotion immediately became imprinted in the physical body. In the middle of the Atlantean epoch, if someone wanted to grab something that was a little distance away, his will worked into his gelatinous organs so that they became quite long; so the way that shorter and longer range physical events and processes occurred was different then than it is today. There was an image of the real spiritual events in all physical processes, transformations and metamorphoses. This is not the case today. When we look outside today we don't perceive the working of the spirit in the course of the seasons or in other events anymore. When these rapid transformations occurred in the ancient Atlantean period men did not doubt that this world contained divine, spiritual things. Although the Atlantean continent was still quite mobile, it was beginning to get a fairly constant shape. It was enclosed by a kind of woven, dense fluid, and yet one can't call it semi-fluidic. It consisted of a viscous material which could support soft bodies and soft, mobile plants which floated or glided in this substance and were not yet attached to the ground. So the physical conditions were quite different.

One can say that sea and land were not as distinct then as they were later, that is, one passed over into the other. The people who saw the conditions at that time could say that the gods were working harder in the bordering ocean, where what was being transformed became more manifest than in the solid, fluidic land. One saw the gods at work all around Atlantis; no one doubted that these gods were at work; one perceived the spiritual and psychical everywhere, even in a physical way. One saw psychical and spiritual things in the physical world.

The peculiar thing about the earlier, Greek part of the fourth post Atlantean epoch was that one could clearly see the gods working in everything which goes on in the air; this became more indistinct in the centuries just before the fifth post Atlantean period. In ancient Atlantis one saw the gods at work in fluidic solids, and in the fourth post Atlantean age one saw them at work in the aeriform fluids in cloud formations, in the formation of twilight conditions, etc.

We don't find any descriptions of these things that are like definitions, for people's consciousness wasn't as clear yet, but they were there, because I'd like to know how an open-minded person can understand those wonderful paintings of clouds up to the early Renaissance where something spiritual is born out of the clouds in any other way than that one feels that there is a divine, spiritual activity in the aery cloud beings or in the aery, watery beings. You see, at that time men were constituted in such a way that they didn't look at the physical part of cloud formation, but they felt that something was being revealed through the clouds. This is a very beautiful feeling but it is very difficult to reconstruct for modern consciousness. When someone from even as late as the 8th and 9th centuries looked at the morning sky and saw how the twilight or the glimmering cloud formations at twilight stood before his soul, he really felt that the aurora or red dawn was alive; and he had the same feeling at dusk. The same applied to other things.

So that we can say that people saw the spirit in a physical way in ancient Atlantis. After Atlantis came the post Atlantean epoch with its seven ages. A repetition of the physical happenings in Atlantis at a soul level really occurred in the fourth post Atlantean age. The mighty upheavals of which I spoke: 333, 666, which are soul shocks in the evolution of mankind, definitely correspond to physical upheavals in the Atlantean epoch. And the seers in the Græco-Roman period definitely felt that when they saw something like soul revelations in fluidic, aeriform things, there was something in their souls which was a repetition of earlier earth conditions that occurred in the physical world. Only a dim awareness of this was present, for all consciousness was dimmer at that time.

As I recently mentioned in Anthroposophical lectures, the teachers at the school of Chartres and in other schools showed that the soul experiences of this Græco-Latin age were a psychical repetition of more condensed physical experiences and events in the Atlantean epoch.

And now we are in the consciousness age. The direct soul experiences in aeriform fluids have disappeared. One could say that the fifth post Atlantean age began through a kind of a catastrophe, and that this was a preparation for the further development of the consciousness soul of humanity. We're still in the chaos of this development of the consciousness soul to some extent with respect to our outer civilization. But the dawn of the Michael age will bring perception into this chaos.

This perception will consist of something like memories or Fata-Morgana mental formations which will arise in men in an entirely spiritual way—no longer in a physical way as in the Atlantean epoch, or in a psychical way as in the Græco-Roman age, but in a completely spiritual way—and this will begin after the appearance of the etheric Christ. Human thoughts will have a visionary character and will be like inner mirages, but they will be completely conscious in the age of the consciousness soul. Just as one sees a mirage in the desert which is brought about by the warm air, so men's thoughts will be carried by warmth and they will help men to understand aeriform-fiery and aeriform-warm things.

We can say that man perceives divine things in solids and fluids during the Atlantean epoch (of course this is more in outer, physical matter), that in the fourth post Atlantean or Græco-Roman age man perceives spiritual things in wonderful aeriform, fluidic formations, and that now in the fifth post Atlantean age men's consciousness souls will become aware of aeriform, fiery things and aeriform, warm things which will appear more and more. This will permit something to arise before men in mighty pictures which the Greeks experienced in a soul way and the inhabitants of Atlantis experienced in a physical way.

Thus a time is approaching in human evolution when visions which have the clarity of thought will arise concerning past times on earth and thereby concerning the origin of man and everything which is connected with this. The appearance of the Darwinistic view which gave man a lowly origin on the basis of mere inferences precedes the inner perception of evolution, the wonderful Imaginations which will arise from the inner warmth which is connected with man's breathing process; they will arise like concrete, significant, colored visionary thoughts. Man will know what he was when he looks into a kind of a reflection of the Græco-Roman age and then behind this into what existed in Atlantis. This perception that is of considerable interest for us because it will begin soon is something where we look right into the Apocalypticer's heart, because it is so close to us. For this kind of perception which is almost upon us is what he indicates in a picture: a woman clothed with the sun, a dragon under her feet, giving birth to a baby boy.

And in fact the eyes of many human beings will be opened by this Imagination during the course of this century. Much understanding will radiate from this picture, and it is one which shines back into the Græco-Roman age where it was prepared at the soul level and brought into the shape in which it will appear in the near future, and where it took on a great variety of forms. There was Isis with the Horus child, and metamorphoses of this as the Christ-bearer with the Christ child, that lived in a wonderfully profound way precisely in the Græco-Roman age. They have been handed down through traditions.

In the near future men will look back at the way in which people saw such things in the clouds, that is, in aeriform-fluidic things during the fourth post Atlantean age. And they will also look back even further to what lived in physical, Atlantean events. It will be as if this picture of a sun-clad woman who gives birth to a little boy and who has a dragon under her feet was like the eyepiece of a spiritual telescope which points to something physical lying far back in the past which occurred between the earth and the planets and the sun sphere; earthly, physical things were connected much more closely with cosmic things at that time.

For you see, we know that when the ancient Saturn period was repeated, many of the events which were peculiar to ancient Saturn evolution occurred again during earth evolution, albeit in a condensed form. During the repetition of ancient Sun evolution in the second period, the sun separated from the earth with all the beings who belong to the sun, whereas it was still connected with the earth during the repetition of Saturn evolution. During the third, Lemurian period of earth evolution the moon separated also, so that the next earthly-reality is a trinity of earth, sun and moon. You will find a description of the way the planets were added to this in Occult Science. You can also find all the events which I described there which are connected with the return of human souls during the Atlantean period. These are earthly events which are seen from an earthly perspective.

Now let's add something else to this. Someone who grasps the world's secrets since the Mystery of Golgotha with initiation science will look upon the Christ as the sun being who was united with the sun before the Mystery of Golgotha. When the priests in the mysteries wanted to connect themselves with the Christ in pre-Christian times they looked up to the sun. Christ has become an earth spirit since the Mystery of Golgotha. We must look for Christ the sun spirit in earthly life and in earthly activities. Those who wanted to see him and commune with him before the Mystery of Golgotha had to raise themselves up to the sun.

However, this sun spirit which we must look upon as a male being when it came down to earth, is described in a brilliant way in the Apocalypticer s vision, through a vision that stands before us in an almost material form; similar events in earlier ages can also be described in this way, and I have often done so. It stands there as a splendid physical vision in the middle of the Atlantean epoch. After this point in time the wise men in the mysteries looked up to the sun, and they saw the Christ developing and becoming mature in the sun until he could go through the Mystery of Golgotha. However, when they looked back to this point in Atlantean evolution they saw a birth taking place outside in the cosmos in the sun.

For the priests who saw the Christ as a male being in the sun after his birth in the middle of the Atlantean period saw a female being in the sun before that. This is the important change that occurred in the middle of the Atlantean period. Before the middle of the Atlantean epoch one saw a cosmic woman in the sun's spiritual aura, the woman who was clothed with the sun. This woman who was clothed with the sun corresponded to what was happening in the heavens above the earth at that time, and as the Apocalypticer rightly describes it, she gives birth to a little boy, who is the same being that went through the Mystery, although it went through other forms beforehand. A kind of a birth which was really just a complicated metamorphosis took place at that time in the Atlantean period. One could see how the female sun gave birth to something that was male—to her son. Now what does this mean for the earth? Of course in the middle of the Atlantean period one felt much differently about something like the sun existence than one did later.

Today one looks upon the sun as if it were a collection of craters and burning masses; the present-day descriptions of this by physicists are really horrible. But at that time one saw something like what I just described: a real sun-woman with a dragon at her feet, giving birth to a little boy. The ones who saw something like this and understood it said: For the heavens this is the birth of Christ, and for us it is the birth of our ego.

Even though this ego only entered man's inner nature much later; since this point in the middle of Atlantis evolution occurred in such a way that although men were not as conscious of their ego in an elemental way as they are today, they became ever more conscious of it because the mysteries drew their attention to it. The sun enkindled the ego in man. And the sun's action continually enkindled the ego from outside through the birth which had happened along the lines of this Imagination, until the fourth post Atlantean age, when the ego entered into man. People felt this and they felt that man really belongs to the sun; this was a feeling which made a deep impression upon the human soul.

Now that we have become such delicate souls with respect to our inner experiences, we have no idea how stormy and wild soul experiences, were in earlier times. The fact that man's ego was given to him from the cosmos made him feel that his nature had changed completely. Before that he had mainly been dependent upon what was in his astral body. What was in his astrality worked into his soul and spirit, so that during this ancient time man had the idea: He's standing here (drawing), the sun is up there, the ego is not there yet, but the astral works down from the sun. Man has his astral body from the sun, the astral body which is not controlled by the ego and which has somewhat refined emotions but nevertheless animalized ones in it. The man who had become an ego and who had previously had nothing but an astral body bubbling through him had become an entirely different human being. However, all of this came from the sun.

Let's place the picture of the sun as it was at the beginning of the Atlantean period before us in a somewhat schematic way. It was permeated by a lively luster, which bubbled through the lower half of the sun being. Something was born out of this above, and one felt that there was an indistinct face here. Man felt that the emotions that seethed in his own astral body and everything that gave him his spiritual and soul nature originated in the lower part of the sun being. In the next stage men saw the sun like this (drawing). Things develop more clearly here, the face becomes more distinct, the figure begins to look something like a woman, who is to bring man control through the ego. The space down here where the animal elements are wriggling becomes ever smaller. Finally, the time comes when the woman is present in the sun and gives birth to a little boy and now has what was previously further up here under her feet, where the ego-bearing woman in the picture on the sun demonstrates how one controls the dragon—the astral world of the previous epoch—which is now under her feet. The battle of Michael and the dragon began in the sun at that time, and in fact this brought it about—one saw this as a physical phenomenon—that everything which was in the sun slowly moved towards the earth and became an ingredient of the earth. It became an earth content which thereby controlled man in his sub-consciousness, whereas the ego entered ever more into his consciousness.

These cosmic, meteorological things that took place during the Atlantean epoch had their counter image in the Græco-Roman age when Isis with the Horus child became the Virgin with her Jesus boy. This will appear in a vision to those who look back in the next age which is almost upon us.

Man will see the sun-clad woman in this picture, who has the dragon under her feet that was thrown down to the earth by Michael, so that it cannot be found in the heavens anymore. This Imagination will appear in the age which will be followed by the one where the dragon is turned loose and where what I described to you yesterday will begin. It's a fact that deepened and extensive perception of past times on earth, man's origins and of the Christ being will soon arise in this Michael age. For Michael will concern himself with what the Apocalypticer points to and which will begin again in the Michaelic age, he will concern himself again with that draconic beast in human nature and in human evolution which he threw down.

Let's imagine what happens here in a vivid way. One will look back into the Atlantean epoch—the Apocalypticer does it in advance: he has the vision of the sun-clad woman who gives birth to the little Jesus boy and who has the dragon at her feet—, but this becomes fainter and fainter the closer we get to the end of Atlantean evolution. New continents rise out of the ocean at the end of Atlantean evolution the continents which now contain the forces through which the post Atlantean epoch entered into its various aberrations. The beast with the seven heads rises up from the sea. Sevenfold land rises up from the sea and pulls men down through the spiritual elements which evaporate from the earth into their emotions.

The Atlantean catastrophe appears to the Apocalypticer in the form of this seven headed beast which rises from the sea, and it will appear in the future when what the Apocalypticer is pointing to will begin again in the Michaelic age. The Apocalypticer is speaking of very real events which concern us a great deal, in connection with the spiritual life of humanity. And the content of this Imagination is connected with the being of Christ.

An age will soon come when men's souls will again see how the spirit lives in earthly things and therefore the spiritual processes in transubstantiation will also be visible to them. Then the earthly reflection of what has happened in heavenly regions will appear in transubstantiation so that what has occurred since the middle of the Atlantean epoch is a small section of everything which is connected with the being of Christ. One will understand how the kind of metamorphosis which takes place in transubstantiation is possible when one will see that the transubstantiation in what is physical and chemical at the moment—which is only a passing episode—is connected with something that is quite different than things which are apparently material.

Thus we can deepen our remembrance of the first act of consecration of man two years ago, this remembrance of the Christ who shone down from the heavens and really descended from the heavens during the Atlantean epoch, who appeared in the clouds in the Græco-Roman age and walked on earth, and who was understood by men in their visions, who is now walking on earth in an etheric form in our age, and is understood by men through visions and Imaginations. The Christ is present in transubstantiation and will be present for human beings more and more. The ways in which the Christ will gradually live in events during earth evolution are connected with the events that I described today. Let's take this in as a kind of festive idea today in memory of the first act of consecration of man which was celebrated in the Goetheanum two years ago.

Blackboard Drawing
Blackboard Drawing