We shall now, dear friends, look at how in our time mighty revolutions of the future are already visible in seed form — although in one way this of course also points back to earlier earth experiences. We can imagine how what the Book of Revelation has to say about the woes and so on already plays a part especially in our time and how the consciousness soul can be caught up in this. (Rev. 8, 13; 9, 12; 11, 14)
We must make it clear to ourselves that the things I described in the interpretations I gave yesterday exercise an important influence on the whole formation of human evolution. We must take into consideration that these things which go on in what might be called the spiritual field are not much taken into account, or perhaps hardly at all, by our contemporaries; yet these things, even if they are today regarded as purely spiritual events, do have an immeasurably powerful effect that stretches far beyond human awareness. Yesterday, for example, I mentioned the way certain leading personalities in today's Eastern Europe bear within them thoughts that actually represent powers which ought to be at work in the cloud formations. In other words, what is going on in the heads of today's Russian leaders will — when the seeds have germinated and begun to sprout — one day come to represent something that will manifest as cloud events. So today's revolutionary upheavals in Russia will one day manifest as mighty, thunderous revolutions taking place above the heads of human beings.
We have now reached something that likewise belongs to the secrets of apocalyptic vision and which can clarify another passage in the Book of Revelation. We are coming closer to an actual interpretation of the mighty visions of the Book of Revelation and we are approaching what we ought to be quite clear about in our present human experience. When we look at the short span of time in which we are accustomed to observe life today without embarking on any ambitious, and mostly foolish, hypotheses about the beginning or ending of the earth, when we survey this span of time without calling on any spiritual vision to help us, we can say: Out there, nature runs its course. We see smaller natural events taking place throughout the seasons, and we see greater natural events such as earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, and so on. Side by side with these — and because of the brevity of the time span we are able to survey, we do not feel pressed to construct any connection between the two — side by side with these we have the course of history, events such as the Thirty Years’ War, Louis XIV and so on. Such events might follow one another or they might take place simultaneously, but no one feels the urge to construct a connection between the two sequences, the events in nature and the parallel events in history.
If we look at a longer span of time, however, we shall immediately see how misleading is this idea of events being merely parallel. When you look back from your present incarnation to an earlier one — although this remains theoretical today until it can be comprehended properly in the Imaginations given by a spiritual researcher — when you make repeated earth lives a reality and really experience this, then, when you look at a meadow or a wood you immediately get the impression of how different these are from what they were in your former incarnation. You notice this even if you are now in quite a different region, for everything on the earth is constantly changing, and wherever you were, the plant world, the animal world will have taken on quite a different character now. Initially you feel this the moment you sense something of a former incarnation and then look with an open mind at the natural world around you; you feel quite bewildered, even perplexed by this. You get a kind of inner feeling: What I see around me now has not arisen out of what was there at the time of the earlier incarnation, for the essence of what is here has come from quite somewhere else.
It is like this: The ordinary scientific view considers the natural world to be proceeding in a straight line. (See below and Plate 5) Here is the year 1924.
People imagine that what is growing in the meadow today has come into being out of the seeds of what grew there earlier on. They go back to 1260, to 895 and so on and imagine a straight line of seeds growing out of seeds growing out of seeds. But this was not so. I have often pointed out that the body you are wearing today is not the one you were wearing seven or eight years ago, except for a few enclosures. Some portions harden as life goes on — as I described in the other course [ Note 1 ] — but when you were a three-year-old child your body certainly contained nothing of what it contains now. The whole of its physical matter has been exchanged. In the same way nothing is left now of all the flowers that were once in the meadow. You must imagine it like this: What is meadow today has come down from spiritual worlds; what used to be meadow had also come down from spiritual worlds, and so on; and what was meadow centuries ago has passed away completely. There is the heredity of physical seeds, but there is also the fact that spiritual seeds from higher realms constantly take the place of what was there before.
You must grasp the fact that the meadow today was not the meadow in, say, the thirteenth century, for then another meadow was there, which has meanwhile died away. When you have grasped this you will be able to imagine the mission of snow, you will gain an idea of how snow is the bearer of what is continually dying away. Snow renews itself each year, and so does ice. And as nature constantly dies off in this entirely elementary form that lies in the dynamic of snow and ice formation, so is it constantly renewed again from above.
This is how it is in our time. But this, too, is a condition that is not entirely permanent. We shall speak about it in a moment, but first I still want to say the following: Once you discover this in looking out at the meadow — it is irrelevant whether you were incarnated in the same district before — and notice how it arises via snow and ice out of supra-earthly regions, you know that between the time of your last incarnation and today you yourself have played a part in making this meadow; you know that you yourself have played a part in creating what you have around you in your present incarnation, including the natural environment. First you notice this, and later you also notice that this, too, is a transitional condition. When they make a discovery about something going on in nature, scientists always assume it to be something that will last. But this is nonsense. In reality nothing remains. In reality everything changes, even the laws of nature. That is why even scientists in our time have come to regard only the most abstract laws as permanent. ‘There is a cause for every effect’. ‘Matter is constant’. Generalizations like this, which actually mean nothing, then come to be regarded as eternal laws of nature.
Today's condition showing us the earth as it changes — the burgeoning of summer that dissolves moisture into warmth, the wilting of winter that hardens moisture into ice and snow — is in its turn something that has not always existed and that will not always exist. Things will come into being that do not yet exist. Today we have the alternating condition, and I want you to establish this quite firmly and also to understand it firmly; we have the alternating condition: (Plate 5)
Oscillating between these two we have autumn and spring. Gradually this will even out. There will not be such a pronounced summer when moisture is entirely dissolved, nor will there be such a pronounced winter when moisture is hardened to ice and snow; an in-between condition will arise when moisture will have a different consistency, a rather more gelatinous one than in summer, but it will not entirely change into something else; it will remain the same. Ice and snow will then not look like they do today; they will look like a reflecting mass that is transparent, a transparent, reflecting mass that remains in summer and winter. This is the sea of glass, the advent of which is described by the apocalyptist in the Book of Revelation. (Rev. 15, 2)
It is a natural phenomenon that we comprehend through observing events in nature, and we have placed this in a temporal context. So now that we know that what is all around us actually stems from us, now that we know ourselves to be its co-creators, just as we work at creating the meadow into which our karma places us in this present incarnation — now that we know this, we must learn to extend it to include the great transformation of the earth as a whole. It is quite true. Through what they experience by way of intellectuality in the era of the consciousness soul human beings will contribute more and more through their inner dynamic to the creation of the sea of glass. Thus do human beings participate in the great events of the future. This is no mere parallelism, for it is a collaboration between what takes place in the human being and what takes place out there in nature.
You will now be in a position to understand something else, namely the following, about which we must be clear: When we enter into that divine condition which is in a state of balance, a state of ever-repeated balance between the luciferic and the ahrimanic, and when we grasp this in its deepest essence, we then realize — if we look correctly — that wherever the influence of Lucifer is not and wherever the influence of Ahriman is not, that is where there exists what comes from the progressive divine spirituality which is linked to the evolution of humanity. If, in the realms into which the luciferic constantly streams and into which the ahrimanic constantly streams, we look towards the divine that holds the balance, we find there pure love as the fundamental force of everything that streams continuously, forming the human being outwardly, and giving him soul and spirit inwardly. This fundamental force is pure love. In its substance and in its being, and in so far as it is the cosmos of the human being, the universe consists of pure love, it is nothing other than pure love. In the part of the divine that is associated with the human being we find nothing except pure love. This love is something inward; souls can experience it inwardly. It would never achieve an outward appearance if it did not first build itself a body out of the etheric element of light. When we observe the world in a genuinely occult manner we cannot help but say to ourselves: The ground of the world is the being of inward love appearing outwardly as light.
This is not something merely believed by those who can discern such things; it is knowledge objectively won: The universe, in so far as the human being is rooted in it, is the being of inward love appearing outwardly through light. It is being because it is to do with all the beings of the higher hierarchies who are carried by this love and who inwardly experience this love which, however, if we want to employ an abstract idea, appears as light. The outer appearance of beings is love, and the outer appearance of love is light. This has been emphasized over and over again in all the Mysteries; it is not mere belief, it is the truly won knowledge of every genuine occultist.
The fact is, however, that this is one stream in the universe, one stream which is, though, our particular concern as human beings, but nevertheless it is one stream. We can well imagine the age of materialism since the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth century, and also the culmination of materialism during the 1840s; we can well imagine the further ramifications of materialism after that with all that has been in human thought and action, with all those terribly destructive forces that have been raging in humanity since the middle of the nineteenth century, even though many still hardly notice it at all. Over all this weaves divine love unfolding in the light.
Dear friends, take some absolutely pure water, some crystal-clear water, and then take a dirty sponge, a sponge that has dirt in it. Put the sponge into the crystal-clear, crystal-pure water, dip it into the water and then squeeze it to let the water flow out again: now the water is dirty, muddied. You have let the dirty sponge absorb the crystal-clear water, you have squeezed it and the water has become dirty. How can the pure, crystal-clear water help flowing out dirty when the sponge is squeezed? How can the divine love springing up in the pure light help being taken up into the age of materialism like the clear water into the sponge filled with dirt? How can it then help becoming something different when it next appears? Here is the picture: Crystal-clear water, sucked up by the dirty sponge, becomes muddied, undrinkable water. Divine love appearing in the light, sucked up in the era of consciousness soul development by all those ingredients of evil that rage in humanity either latently or manifestly during this era of consciousness soul development, becomes divine wrath.
The secret of the next age is that divine love will appear in the form of divine wrath because of what happens within humanity. It will appear in the form of the divine wrath which will give protection from all material constructs that will arise as the result of the materialistic consciousness soul era; by causing those constructs to perish it will give protection against further damaging effects. Speaking of what appears to him, the apocalyptist tells of the pouring out of the phials of wrath in the next age. (Rev. 16, 1) This is what was spoken in the Mysteries in a sentence that was terribly shocking to the neophyte: In the sphere of illusion in human beings divine love will appear in the form of divine wrath.
There is a saying many thousands of years old that runs through the Mysteries; it lives prophetically in John's visions in the way the Book of Revelation describes first how the divine love is muddied and then what will have to take place as the necessary fulfilment of this having happened. That fulfilment will be the pouring out of the divine wrath in the age when — far more so than in ours — what human beings do will influence what happens in nature. For the parallelism that gives human beings the illusion that nature on the one hand and the human spirit and the human soul on the other go along side by side — this parallelism only exists in the middle ages of evolution, thus giving rise to that illusion. Even in the earlier and latter stages of a smaller period of evolution, for example the one lasting from the Atlantean catastrophe to the war of all against all, what goes on in human beings always exercises much influence on natural events. So it is no idle chatter to say that when, in the final stages of the Atlantean period, a large proportion of humanity was occupied with black magic, the consequences of human beings’ misdeeds in black magic led on to the natural disasters of the Atlantean catastrophe.
In the same way, many things that are happening at the moment will find their fulfilment in natural phenomena. One of these happenings will be that the Russian revolution — which also had many occult causes — will pour down on to the heads of human beings in storms of thunder and lightning that will last for whole summers. Other things that are accumulating as a cosmic element muddying the divine love will also appear in natural phenomena that we shall be able to interpret in no other way than as the transformation of divine love into divine wrath through the illusions human beings cherish.
What I have just said is how the saying I mentioned is formulated. Yet what the divine wrath pours out on to human beings is in truth still a revelation of divine love. For if at this time the divine love were seemingly to have mercy on the weakness of human beings, this would in reality be no true mercy. It would amount to turning a blind eye to all the consequences so richly deserved by human thoughts and deeds, which would be the most loveless act of all, since then humanity would truly perish. Only the pouring out of the divine wrath, which is nothing other than a metamorphosis of the divine love, can bring about the removal of all the damaging things humanity has created, which would otherwise remain unutterably damaging for its onward evolution. The saying written in the scriptures is so ancient that in Europe it is still very often spoken in its oriental form: In the realm of maya divine love appears as divine wrath.
Herewith we have seen another example showing how thoroughly the Book of Revelation is derived from the essential ingredients at work in the cosmos. The more we penetrate into it the more do we find everything in it that shows in the truest sense how much we can rely on it — if I may use an everyday expression. Basically it can be regarded as giving the priest knowledge of what happens in the course of human life in the world. Originally it was given to priests as the esoteric content of Christianity, side by side with the other things, which were exoteric.
Discussion of the questions handed in on 18 September 1924:
Rudolf Steiner: Regarding the Breviary, I did not give it to anyone personally, but only to the course itself. We must distinguish between the gatherings we still had in the Goetheanum and the later ones. One of them took place in the autumn of 1921 in the Great Hall of the Goetheanum and was attended by a large number of people of whom it could have been thought that they were interested in the movement for Christian renewal. Then, in September 1922, we had the more intimate gatherings to which you said that you would come after having prepared yourselves thoroughly and which then led to the actual inauguration of the movement when the first Act of Consecration was celebrated. These are two stages. There was no one at the second gathering who subsequently left; at that gathering all the participants received the vestments and were declared ordained priests. There were none who left this gathering, which was in the strictest sense the inaugural point of your work as priests. However, there were persons present at the first gathering who not only did not become priests but who, you say, are now actually hostile, genuinely hostile?
Friedrich Rittelmeyer: For example Bruno Meyer, the chaplain for youth.
(Werner Klein spoke about the distribution of the Breviary saying that there was no proper control over where copies had ended up.)
Rudolf Steiner: Is there no way of finding out who was here in autumn 1921?
A participant: Yes, there is.
Rudolf Steiner: Surely no one else was given the Breviary?
Friedrich Doldinger: But the others passed copies on.
(The participants asked whether they might be given a preliminary meditation.)
Rudolf Steiner: A preliminary meditation would be the last resort. Before saying any more about this I want to touch on the other question you asked, which I think is important in connection with this one. The question is [reading from the note from Johannes Werner Klein] whether it is a good thing to continue placing the main emphasis on outreach or would it be preferable, in the interests of making better preparation for future tasks, to concentrate more on intensive work for the deepening of one's own personality? The connection between the two questions is not obvious, but it is there.
At all events in the present stage of your work as priests you should look for ways of not curtailing the outreach activity, as you call it. Your need for inner deepening is all too understandable, and the worries a number of you in the circle of priests have had since autumn 1922 in connection with ‘a deterioration of health in both body and soul’ are also understandable. All this is understandable. But please do not forget, dear friends, that things which can be done in all seriousness out of the spiritual world must be done up to a specific point also in connection with the outreach work. Until we have arrived at this point we have no right to withdraw into ourselves.
We have experienced terrible blows with a number of people in our movement, as you know; I have had to put up with a good deal of this kind of thing over the last few years. When the movement for university students was established I said to the founders who set it on its way: If you do such a thing, you must know that one is only permitted to do such a thing if one has enough strength to persevere regardless of whether one is successful or unsuccessful; it is necessary to persevere in treading the straight path up to a specific point. But this did not happen. Hence the serious set-back we are experiencing particularly as a result of the movement for students, for few things have caused us as much damage as that movement which has collapsed in on itself, or rather on the souls of its members. It has petered out completely. Its place has been taken by a kind of introspection of young souls, and this is the situation now. The movement for students as such has split entirely.
Of course this is not something that bears comparison with your movement, but this one aspect is valid here too: If we inaugurate a movement that draws its original impulse directly from the spiritual world, we must totally disregard success or failure, we must totally disregard what becomes of our efforts and not out of ourselves decide on a change of course.
A good many things are still likely to become very difficult. Regarding the deterioration of physical health, this is of course a matter of searching for ways and means of helping to replenish our physical forces. Those amongst you, however, who speak of a deterioration in the health of your soul must first ask yourselves very seriously: To what extent can that which flows from the living source of this religious movement filled with the Christ-Impulse help me, to what extent can this help my soul forces retain their strength at every moment?
Dear friends, one's soul forces must be maintained through what flows through the cultus and the teaching. As far as one's physical forces are concerned one must look for physical ways of maintaining them. But as to one's soul forces — it has to be said that finding out whether one is capable of deriving from this movement that which can maintain one's soul forces, however much one's physical forces have deteriorated, is almost like a test with which this priestly movement is being faced. We must not lose our courage, our inner intensity with regard to our concrete work, our clear pursuit of the priestly aims, and connected with this our firm footing on divine and human ground that bears up the soul firmly in the universe. If we did, this would prove that the part of us which should be the strongest is not strong enough. In fact, to put it like this is in itself incorrect, for it is strong enough. The deterioration of soul forces is therefore something that is connected to some kind of illusion, chiefly causes of depression coming from quite other quarters that dim the bright rays which emanate from this religious movement and which prevent any kind of deterioration of soul forces. Look about you and you will everywhere find these soul forces, even if you thought that they had deteriorated. They deteriorate because of some kind of influence playing in from outside, something to which one accords too much credit with regard to these soul forces and against which one does not sufficiently call up the springs of the spirit in defence. But this can change if one becomes fully aware of the lofty mission of this priestly profession.
In saying this I also mean to suggest that it is a prerequisite for being able even to think about doing something to restore the Breviary, which is endangered, to its original effectiveness. These two things, dear friends, must be seen together if, and this could happen by tomorrow, it turns out that you can achieve clarity about how to free the matter of the soul forces from all illusion — and I mean the soul forces, for the physical forces can be dealt with by our clinical-therapeutical institutions — so that the movement can retain the momentum it had from the beginning. Once this is settled, even if it proves impossible to retrieve all the copies of the Breviary, we can then turn our attention to doing something to restore what is damaged in it. More about this tomorrow.