The Apocalypse of St. John
20 June 1908, Nuremberg
At the close of our last lecture we were able to point out what the specifically Christian and the later Christian-Rosicrucian initiation first gives us in a great and significant symbol. We have indicated the meaning of this symbol, this initiation picture which is also described as the Son of Man who has the seven stars in his right hand and the sharp two-edged sword in his mouth. We saw that this initiation enables a person to have a certain high degree of vision while within his “I” and astral body and outside the physical and etheric bodies. We shall now consider all this still more closely.
Initiation enables a person to attain that which can only be observed with spiritual vision, with spiritual eyes, which is only clear to super-sensible perception, and only in this way can this be really seen and known. Now one of the first and most important things a candidate for the Christian initiation has to know is the development of humanity in our period, so that he may understand the tasks of man to a higher degree. All that higher knowledge and higher perfection gives to man is connected with the question: What am I and what is my task in this age? The answering of this question is of great importance.
Every stage of initiation leads to a higher standpoint of human observation. Even in the first lecture we were able to point out that man progresses step by step, first to what we call the imaginative world, where in the Christian sense he comes to know the seven seals, then to what we call inspired knowledge, when he hears the “trumpets.” and finally to a still higher stage where he is able to understand the true significance and nature of the spiritual beings, the stage of the so-called vials of wrath. But let us now turn our attention to one particular stage of initiation. Let us imagine that the pupil has reached the stage of initiation where he experiences what was described at the close of our last lecture. We shall imagine him just on the border, between the most ethereal beings of our physical world and the one above it, the astral world, where he is permitted to stand as if on a high peak and look down. What can the pupil see from this first pinnacle of initiation?
In spirit he sees all that has happened since the Atlantean flood destroyed ancient Atlantis and the post-Atlantean man came into existence. He sees how cultural periods follow one another up to the time when our epoch also will come to an end and give place to a new one. Ancient Atlantis came to an end through the waters of the Atlantean flood. Our epoch will come to an end through what we call the War of All against All, by frightful devastating moral entanglements.
We divide this fifth epoch, from the Atlantean flood to the mighty war of All against All, into seven consecutive ages of civilization, as shown in the diagram below.
At one end we imagine the great Atlantean Flood, at the other the great world war, and we divide this into seven sub-ages, seven periods of civilization. The whole epoch containing these seven sub-ages is again the seventh part of a longer period; so that you have to imagine seven such parts as our epoch between Flood and War, two after the great war and four before the flood. Our epoch, the post-Atlantean, is then the fifth great epoch.
When the pupil rises to a still higher pinnacle of initiation he surveys these seven epochs, each with its seven sub-divisions; he sees them when he arrives at the boundary of the astral and of the spiritual or devachanic world. And so it goes on step by step; we shall see later what the still higher stages are.
Now we must bear in mind that the pupil is first able to rise to a peak at which the wide plain of the seven ages of civilization of the post-Atlantean epoch became visible as if from a mountain-top. We all know these seven cultural ages. We know that when the Atlantean flood had swept Atlantis away, the ancient Indian civilization came as the first, and that it was succeeded by the ancient Persian civilization. This was followed by the Assyrian-Babylonian-Chaldaic-Egyptian-Hebrew civilization, this by the fourth age of civilization, the Graeco-Latin, which was followed by the fifth, the one in which we are now living. The sixth, which will follow ours, will be in a certain sense the fruit of what we have to develop in the way of spiritual civilization. The seventh age of civilization will run its course before the War of All against All. Here we see this terrible devastation of civilization approaching, we see also the small group of people who have succeeded in taking the spiritual principle into themselves, and are rescued from the general destruction which comes through egoism.
As we have said, we are now living in the fifth of the sub-ages. Just as from the summit of a mountain, towns, villages and woods appear, so do the results of these ages of civilization appear from the pinnacle of initiation described. We perceive their significance. They represent what has taken place in our physical world as human civilization. For this reason we speak of ages of civilization, in contradistinction to races. All that is connected with the idea of race is still the remains of the epoch preceding our own, namely, the Atlantean. We are now living in the age of cultural epochs. Atlantis was the age in which seven great races developed one after another. Of course the fruits of this race development extend into our epoch, and for this reason races are still spoken of today, but they are really mixtures and are quite unlike those distinct races of the Atlantean epoch. To-day the idea of civilization has already superseded the idea of race. Hence we speak of the ancient Indian civilization, of which the civilization announced to us in the Vedas is only an echo. The ancient and sacred Indian civilization was the first dawn of the post-Atlantean civilization; it followed immediately upon the Atlantean epoch.
Let us recall once more how man lived at a time which now lies more than eight or nine thousand years behind us. If we speak of the actual periods of time, then these figures hold good. The civilization of which we are now speaking was directly under the influence of the Atlantean flood, or the great glacial epoch, as it is called in modern science. The engulfing of Atlantis by the flood was a gradual process, and there then lived upon the earth a race of men of which a part had worked up to the highest stage of development possible to be attained. This was the ancient Indian people, a race which then dwelt in distant Asia, and lived more in the memory of the ancient past than in the present. The greatness and power of the civilization of which written descriptions such as the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita are only echoes, lies in the fact that the people lived in the memory of what they themselves had experienced in the Atlantean epoch. You will remember that in the first lecture of this course we said that most human beings of that epoch were capable of developing a certain dim kind of clairvoyance. They were not limited to the physical sense world; they lived among divine spiritual beings; they saw these divine spiritual beings around them. In the transition from the Atlantean to the post-Atlantean epoch man's vision was cut off from the spiritual, astral and etheric worlds and limited to this physical world. In the first post-Atlantean age of civilization men were possessed by a great longing for what their ancestors had seen in ancient Atlantis, on which, however, the door had closed. Our ancestors saw the ancient wisdom with their own spiritual eyes, though dimly. They lived among spirits, they had intercourse with gods and spirits. Such was the feeling of those who belonged to that ancient sacred Indian civilization; they longed with all their might to look back and see what their forefathers had seen, and of which the ancient wisdom spoke. And thus the land which had just appeared before the physical vision of man — the rocks of the earth, which had just become visible, which previously had been seen spiritually — all this external world seemed of less value to them than that which they could remember. All that the physical eyes could see was called Maya, the great illusion, the great deception, from which they longed to escape. And the most advanced souls in that first age could be raised to the stage of their ancestors by the method of initiation of which a few remnants remain in Yoga. From this proceeded a fundamental religious mood which may be expressed in the words, “That which surrounds us here in external sense-appearance is a worthless and vain deception, the real and true is above in the spiritual world which we have left.” The spiritual leaders of the people were those who could transpose themselves into the regions in which man formerly lived.
That was the first age of the post-Atlantean epoch. And all the ages of this epoch are characterized by the fact that man learned to understand the outer sensible reality more and more, so that he came to say: “What surrounds as here and is perceptible to our outer senses, is not to be considered as a mere appearance, it is a gift of the spiritual beings, and the gods have not given us senses to no purpose. That which forms the foundations on earth of a material world culture must gradually be recognized.”
What the ancient Indian looked upon as Maya, from which he fled, from which he longed to escape, was looked upon by those who belonged to the second age as their field of action, as some-thing upon which they had to work. Thus we pass to the ancient Persian age, which lies about five thousand years back, that age of civilization in which the earth around man at first seemed something hostile, but no longer — as formerly — an illusion from which he had to flee; he looked upon it as a field of work upon which he had to imprint his own spirit. The Persian considered the earth ruled in its material character by evil, by a power opposed to the good, by the god Ahriman. He controls it but the good god Ormuzd helps man, when man puts himself in his service. When he fulfils the will of Ormuzd he changes this world into arable land of the upper spiritual world, he imprints into the sensibly real world what he himself knows in the spirit. In the second age of civilization the physically real world, the sensibly real world, was a field of work. To the Indian the sense world was still an illusion or Maya; to the Persian it was indeed ruled by evil demons, but it was nevertheless a world out of which man had to drive the evil and bring in the good spiritual beings, the servants of Ormuzd, the god of Light.
In the third age man comes still nearer to the external sensible reality. It is no longer merely a hostile power which he has to overcome. The Indian looked up to the stars and said: “All that is there, all that I can see with external eyes, is only Maya, illusion.” The Chaldean priests saw the orbits and positions of the stars and said: “When I observe the positions of the stars and follow their courses it becomes to me a script from which I know the will of the divine spiritual beings. From what I there see I recognize what the gods intend.” To them the physically sensible world was no longer Maya but, as the writing of a human being is the expression of his will, so that which was visible in the stars of heaven, which lived in the forces of nature, was to them a divine script. And with love they began to decipher nature. Thus arose the wonderful star-lore of which mankind to-day no longer has knowledge; for what is known as astrology has originated through a misunderstanding of the facts. In the writing of the stars a deep wisdom was revealed to the ancient Chaldean priest as Astrology, as secrets of what his eyes beheld. He considered this as the revelation of something inward and spiritual.
And what was the earth to the Egyptians? We need only point to the discovery of Geometry, when man learnt to divide the earth according to the laws of space, according to the rules of Geometry. The laws within Maya were investigated. In the ancient Persian civilization they ploughed up the earth, the Egyptians learnt to divide it according to the laws of space, they began to investigate the laws. Still more; they said: “The Gods have not left us a writing in the stars to no purpose, not for nothing have they announced their will to us in the laws of nature. If we wish to accomplish salvation through our own work, then in the arrangements we make here we must produce a copy of what we can discover from the stars.” If you could look back into the laboratories of the Egyptian initiates, you would find a different kind of work from that in the realm of science to-day. At that time the initiates were the scientists. They investigated the courses of the stars, they understood the laws of the position and the orbits of the stars and the influence of their aspects upon what took place below on the earth. They said: “When this or that constellation appears in the heavens, this or that must take place below in the life of the State, and when a different constellation arises, something else must take place. In a hundred years' time certain constellations of a different kind will appear,” so they said, “and then something corresponding to these must take place.” It was predetermined for thousands of years in advance what was to happen. In this way originated what are called the Sibylline books. That which is contained in them is not foolishness; after careful observations the initiates wrote down what was to happen for thousands of years, and their successors knew that this should be carried out, they did nothing which was not indicated in these books for thousands of years according to the courses of the stars. Let us say some law was to be made. They did not at that time vote, as is the case with us; they consulted the sacred books in which was written what should happen here on the earth, so that it might be a mirror of what is written in the stars. They carried out what was written in the books. When the Egyptian priest wrote those books he knew that his successors would carry into effect what was written, for they were convinced of the necessity of law.
Out of this third epoch of civilization developed the fourth. But a few remnants of this prophetic art of the Egyptians have been preserved, such a remnant can still be seen. When they wished to exercise this prophetic art in ancient Egypt, they divided the next age into seven parts and said: “The first must contain this, the second that, the third that,” etc., and this was the plan which succeeding generations carried out. That was the chief characteristic of the third age of civilization.
The fourth contained but faint echoes of it. You may still recognize these in the story of the origin of the ancient Roman civilization. Aeneas, the son of Anchises of Troy, a city which flourished in the third age, set out on his wanderings and came at length to Alba-longa. This name indicates a place where an ancient sacred priestly culture flourished; Alba-longa or the long Alba, the place from which a priestly culture, the culture of Rome was to proceed. We still see the remains of this in the vesture worn by a Catholic priest during the celebration of the Mass. A sevenfold age of culture was sketched out in advance by the priests. The reigns of the seven Roman kings were outlined beforehand. The historians of the nineteenth century have been the victims of a bad joke as regards these seven reigns. They came indeed to the idea that in the secular material sense there is no truth in the story of these Roman kings; but they were unable to discover what lay behind, namely, that this is really a sketch taken from the Sibylline books, of a civilization prophetically drawn out in advance according to the sacred number seven.
This is not the place to go into details regarding the several kings. You would be able to see how the several kings, Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, etc., correspond exactly to the consecutive cultural epochs according to the seven principles which present themselves in such different domains.
In the third age man had been able gradually to penetrate Maya with the human mind. This was completed in the fourth age of civilization, the Graeco-Latin, when in the wonderful works of art man produced a perfect image of himself in the outer material world, and portrayed in the drama of Aeschylus, pictures of human fate. Observe on the other hand how in the Egyptian civilization men still sought the will of the Gods. The conquest of matter such as we see in the Greek age signifies another stage, in which man made a step further in love of material existence; and finally in the Roman age he completely entered into the physical world. One who understands this knows also that in this age we must recognize the full appearance of the principle of personality. Hence in Rome first appears what we call the conception of justice, and man as “a citizen.” Only a confused science is able to trace jurisprudence back to all sorts of previous ages. What was previously understood as equity was something quite different. The old law is much more correctly described in the Old Testament in the Ten Commandments. What God commanded belonged to the ancient idea of law. It is absurd in our age to try to trace back the ideas of law to Hamurabi, etc. True equity and the idea of man as a citizen, was first actualized in Rome. In Greece the citizen was still a member of the municipal body. An Athenian or a Spartan counted for much more as an Athenian or a Spartan than as an individual. He felt himself part of the municipality. It was in Rome that the individual first became a citizen; only then had he reached this stage. This could be proved in detail. What we now call a testament or will did not exist in this sense before Roman times. A will or testament in its present meaning first originated at that time, because only then did the separate human being become determinative in his egoistic will, so as to impose his will upon his successors. Previously other impulses than the personal will were present which held the whole together. Thus it could be shown by many examples how man then entered into the physical world as an individual being.
We are now living in the fifth age, when culture has descended even below the level of man. We are living in an age when man is actually the slave of outer conditions., In Greece the mind was employed to spiritualize matter; we see spiritualized matter in the form of an Apollo or a figure of Zeus, in the dramas of a Sophocles, etc.; there man has emerged as far as to the physical plane but has not yet descended below the level of man. Even in Rome this was still the case. The deep descent below the sphere of the human has only just come about. In our age the mind has become the slave of matter. An enormous amount of mental energy has been used in our age to penetrate the natural forces in the outer world for the purpose of making this outer world as comfortable a place as possible for man. Let us compare our age with former ones. In those ancient times man beheld the vast writing of the gods in the stars; but with what primitive means were the attainments of the civilization of that age, the Pyramids, the Sphinxes, produced? How did man in those days procure his food? Think of all the conveniences of civilization man has achieved up to the present day. What an enormous amount of spiritual energy has been expended to invent and build the steam engine, to think out the railway, the telegraph, telephone, etc.! An enormous force of intellect had to be used to invent and construct these purely material conveniences of civilization — and to what end are they used? Does it make any essential difference to the spiritual life, where in an ancient civilization a man crushed his grain between two stones, for which naturally very little mental power was needed, or whether to-day we are able to telegraph to America and obtain thence great quantities of grain and to grand it into flour by means of ingeniously constructed machinery? The whole apparatus is set into motion simply for the stomach. Try to realize what an enormous amount of spiritual life-force is put into purely material culture. Spiritual culture has not yet been advanced very much by these external means. For example, the telegraph is very seldom used in anthroposophical affairs. If you were to make a statistical comparison between that which is used for the material culture and that which benefits the spiritual life, you would understand that the spirit has plunged below the human level and has become the slave of the material life. Thus we have a decidedly descending path of culture, up to our age, the fifth age of civilization, and it would have descended ever more and more deeply. For this reason humanity had to be preserved by a new impulse from slipping completely into matter. The earth-being has never before descended so deeply. A stronger impulse, in fact, the strongest, had to come to the earth. This was the appearance of Christ Jesus, who gave the impulse to new spiritual life. We owe to the mighty impulse which came through Christ Jesus such upward impelling forces as existed in the spiritual life during the descent. There were always spiritual impulses present in this descent into matter. Christian life is only now gradually beginning to develop. In the future it will rise to a transcendent glory, because only then will humanity understand the Gospels. When these are fully understood it will be seen what an enormous amount of spiritual life they contain. The more they are disseminated in their true form, the more will it be possible for humanity, in spite of all material culture, to develop a spiritual life and rise again into spiritual worlds.
Now that which develops from age to age in the post-Atlantean epoch is represented by the writer of the Apocalypse as being expressed in small communities. These small communities, divided in space in the external world, represent to him these cultural epochs. When he speaks of the community or Church at Ephesus he intends the following: “I assume that at Ephesus there was a community which accepted Christianity in a certain sense; but as everything develops only gradually, there is always something remaining from each cultural epoch. In Ephesus we have indeed a school of initiates, but the Christian teaching is there coloured in such a way that we can still recognize every-where the ancient Indian civilization.” He wishes to show us the First Post-Atlantean Age. Hence this first age he represented by the community at Ephesus, and that which is to be announced is to be communicated by letter to the community at Ephesus. We must represent it approximately thus: The character of that remote Indian age of civilization of course remained; it continued in various streams of culture. We find something of this character in the community at Ephesus, which comprehended Christianity in such a way that it was still determined by the typical character of the ancient Indian civilization.
Thus in each of these letters we have a representative of one of the seven post-Atlantean ages of civilization. In each letter it is said: “Ye are so and so. This and that side of your nature is in accordance with Christianity, but the rest must become different.” The writer of the Apocalypse says to each cultural epoch what may be retained, and what no longer harmonizes and should become different.
Let us see whether the seven consecutive letters really contain something corresponding with the character of the seven consecutive cultural epochs. Let us try to understand what the tenor of these letters would have to be if they were to correspond with what has just been said. The writer thinks: In Ephesus is a community, a church; it has accepted Christianity but colours it with the tone of the first cultural epoch — strange to external_ life, not filled with love for that which is the real task of post-Atlantean humanity. The one who directs this letter to the community is satisfied that they had put away the worship of gross sensuality and turned to the spiritual life. We know what the writer of the Apocalypse means from the circumstance that Ephesus was the place where the Mysteries of the chaste Diana were cultivated; he indicates that the turning away from matter specially flourished there, the renunciation of the sensual life and the turning to the spiritual; but, “I have this against thee, that thou hast left thy first love,” the love which the first post-Atlantean site should have, which expresses itself in looking upon the earth as the field in which the divine seed must be sown.
How, then, does he who dictates this letter characterize him-self? He describes himself as the forerunner of Christ Jesus, as the leader of the first cultural epoch. Christ Jesus speaks as if through this leader or master of the first age of civilization, that age when the initiates looked up to the spiritual world. He says of himself that he holds the seven stars in his right hand and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are nothing else than symbols for the seven higher spiritual beings who are the leaders of the great ages of civilization. And of the seven candle-sticks we are expressly told that they are spiritual beings who cannot be seen in the sense world. Reference is also made to these in clear words in the Yoga initiation; but he also shows that man never works according to evolution if he hates external works, if he ceases to love external works. The community at Ephesus forsook the love for external works. So it is quite rightly said in the Apocalypse, “Thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitanes.” “Nicolaitanes” is nothing else than a designation for those who express life merely in a material sense. In the time referred to in this letter there was a sect called the Nicolaitanes, who considered the external fleshly sensual life of primary importance. “This you shall not do,” says the one who inspires the first letter. “But do not forsake the first love,” says he also, “for inasmuch as you love the external world you vivify it, you exalt it to spiritual life.” “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear; to him that overcometh will I give to eat not merely of the perishable tree, but of the tree of life.” That is, he will be able to spiritualize the life of the senses and so elevate it to the altar of the spiritual life.
The representative of the second age of civilization is the community or church at Smyrna. The leader of humanity addresses this one through his second ancestor, the inspirer and master of the ancient Persian civilization. The mental attitude of the ancient Persian was as follows: “There was once the God of Light who had an enemy, external matter, the dark Ahriman. At first I was united with the Spirit of Light, who first was there. Then I was membered into the world of matter, into which the backward and hostile power, Ahriman, instilled himself; and now, in conjunction with the Spirit of Light, I shall work upon matter and embody the spirit in it. Then, after the evil Deity has been conquered, the good Deity, the Spirit of Light, will reappear.” “I am the first and the last, who is killed in material life and made alive again in the spiritual resurrection.” So we read in the second letter, “I am the First and the Last, Which is, and Which was, and Which is to come, He who has become alive again” (Rev. I, 8). It would lead too far to go through every sentence in this way, but we must consider more closely the sentence which describes minutely how a person stands as a member of the community at Smyrna when he transforms it into the Christian principle. There we read that man gives life to dead matter, that he spiritualizes it. He is not destroyed by it. If he were, then death would be an event loading him to a spiritual life in which the results of this earthly life could have no place. Let us take a person who has not lived his life in such a way that he can gather its true fruits. He takes no fruits with him into the spiritual life. But only from these fruits can he live in the spiritual world. If, therefore, he brought with him no fruits he would experience the “second death.” By working in this earthly field he is saved from the “second death.” “He who hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Rev. ii. 11).
Now we shall pass on to the community at Pergamos. It is the representative of the age when humanity came down more and more to the physical plane, when man saw in the starry script something that his spirit could understand, something that was given him in the third age of civilization. Man works by means of that which is within him. Through his having an inner being he can investigate the outer world. Only because he was gifted with a soul could he investigate the courses of the stars and invent geometry. This was called “exploration by the word,” and is expressed in the Apocalypse by the “ sword of my mouth.” Hence the one who caused this letter to be written, points out that the power of this age is an incisive word, a sharp two-edged sword. It is the Hermes word of the old priests, the word by which the powers of nature and the stars were explored in the old sense. That was the civilization gained primarily by means of the inner astral soul-forces of man in the physical world. If it were still achieved in that old form, it would verily be a two-edged sword, for then wisdom would be perilously near the edge between white and black magic, between that which leads to blessedness and that which ends in destruction. Therefore he says he well knows that where the representatives of this age dwell, there also is Satan's seat. This indicates all that could lead astray from the really great purposes of evolution; and the teaching of Balaam is none other than the teaching of the black magicians. For that is the teaching of the devourers of the people. The devourers of the people, the destroyers of the people, are the black magicians who work only in the service of their own personality and therefore destroy all brotherhood, they devour everything which lives in the people. But the good side in this civilization consists in man's beginning to purify and transform his astral body. This is called the “hidden manna.” That which is merely for the world, transformed into the food of the gods, that which is only for the egotistical man transformed into the divine, is called the “hidden manna.” All the symbols here indicate that man purifies his soul so as to make himself into the pure vehicle of Manas or the Spirit Self. To this end, however, it is still necessary to pass through the fourth age of civilization, for then the Saviour appears, Christ Jesus himself.
The community at Thyatira. Here he announces himself as the “Son of God,” who has “eyes like flames of fire and feet like brass.” He now announces himself as the Son of God. He is now the leader of the fourth age of civilization, when man has descended to the physical plane, when he has created his image even in the media of external culture. The period has now come when the Deity himself becomes man, becomes flesh, becomes person; the age in which man descended to the stage of personality, where in the sculptures of the Greeks the individualized Deity appears as personality, where in the Roman citizen personality comes into the world. At the same time this age had to receive an impulse through the Divine appearing in human form. Man, who had descended, could only be saved through God Himself appearing as man. The “I Am” or the “I” in the astral body had to receive the impulse of Christ Jesus. That which previously only existed as a germ, the “I” or the “I Am,” was to appear in history in the outer world. The Son of God may therefore, as the leader of the future, say, “And all the churches shall know the ‘I Am,’ which searches the minds and hearts” (Rev. ii. 23). Stress is here laid upon the “I Am,” upon the fourth principle of the human being. “As I have received from my Father; and I will give him the morning star” (Rev. ii. 28). What does the morning star mean? We know that the earth passes through the conditions of Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. That is the way it is usually expressed, and it is quite correct. But I have already pointed out that the Earth-evolution is divided into the Mars period and the Mercury period on account of the mysterious connection existing in the first half of the earth-evolution between the earth and Mars, and in the second half between the earth and Mercury, so that in the place of Earth (the fourth period of evolution) we some-times put Mars and Mercury. We say that the earth in its evolution passes through Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus. And the most potent stellar force in the second half of the earth is seen in Mercury. Mercury is the star representing the directional force, the upward tendency in which man must be enveloped. Here I come to a point where a little secret, so to say, must be unveiled, one which may only be divulged at this point. The teachers of spiritual wisdom have always had what might be called a mask for those who would only have misused it, especially in bygone times. They did not express themselves directly, but presented something which was intended to conceal the true state of affairs. Now the esotericism of the Middle Ages resorted to drastic measures and called Mercury Venus, and Venus Mercury. In truth if we wish to speak esoteric-ally, as the writer of the Apocalypse has done, we must speak of Mercury as the morning star. By the morning star he meant Mercury. “I have given the direction upwards to thine ‘I’ or ego, to the morning star, to Mercury.” You may still find in certain books of the Middle Ages which describe the true state of affairs, that the outer stars of our planetary system are enumerated thus: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth, and then comes, not as it is now, Venus, Mercury, but the reverse, Mercury, Venus. Therefore it says here, “Even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star” (Rev. ii. 27, 28).
And now we have come to our own epoch, the one to which we belong and have to ask: Is this Revelation fulfilled right into our own age? Were it to be fulfilled, he who has spoken through the four preceding ages would have to speak to us, and we should have to learn to understand his voice and become familiar with our task for the spiritual life. If there is to be a spiritual movement and if it is to understand the mysteries of the universe, then, in so far as it is to agree with the Revelation of John, it must fulfil what the speaker, this great Inspirer, demands of this age. What does he demand and who is he? Can we know him? Let us try. (Rev. iii. 1): “And unto the Angel of the Church in Sardis write.” (We must feel that we ourselves are spoken to here.) “These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars.” What are the seven Spirits and the seven stars?
In accordance with the concept of the writer of the Apocalypse, man as we know him is an outer expression of the seven human principles we have enumerated. These are the principle of the physical body, of which the external physical body is the expression, the principle of the life body whose expression is the etheric body, the principle of the astral body. This last when transformed yields Spirit Self, the transformed etheric body, Life Spirit, and the transformed physical body, Spirit Man; in the centre is the “I”-principle. These are the seven spiritual constituents in which the divine nature of man is displayed as in the members of a leader. According to the technical expression used in occultism these seven principles are called the seven Spirits of God in man. And the seven stars are those from which we understand what man is to-day and what he is to become in the future. The consecutive stars of the incarnations of the earth, Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan, are the seven stars which make the evolution of man comprehensible. Saturn gave to man the plan for his physical body, the Sun that of his etheric body, the Moon that of his astral body, and the Earth has given him the “I” or Ego. The next three — Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan — develop the spiritual being of man. If we understand the call of the spirit who has these seven stars and the seven Spirits of God, the sevenfold nature of man in his hand, then we shall be studying Anthroposophy in the sense of the writer of the Apocalypse. To study Anthroposophy is to know that the writer is here referring to the fifth age of human evolution in the post-Atlantean epoch, to know that in our age, when man has descended most deeply into matter, we are again to ascend to spiritual life by following the great individuality who gives for our guidance the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, in order that we may rightly proceed on our path.
And if we follow this path we shall bring into the sixth age the true spiritual life of wisdom and of love. The spiritual wisdom we have acquired will become the impulse of love in the sixth age, which is represented by the community expressing itself even in its name, the community of brotherly love, or Philadelphia. All these names are carefully chosen. Man will develop his “I” to the necessary height, so that he will become independent and in freedom show love towards all other beings in the sixth age, which is represented by the community at Philadelphia. In this way the spiritual life of the sixth age will be prepared. We shall then have found the individual “I” within us in a higher degree, so that no external power can any longer play upon us if we do not wish it; so that we can close and no one without our will can open, and if we open no opposing power can close. These are the Keys of David. For this reason he who inspires the letter says that he has the key of David: And to the Angel of the community in Philadelphia write: These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth. ... Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. iii. 7) — the “I” that has found itself within itself.
In the seventh age those who have found this spiritual life will flock around the great Leader; it will unite them around this great Leader. They will already belong so far to the spiritual life that they will be distinguished from those who have fallen away, who are lukewarm, “neither cold nor hot.” The little flock which has found spirituality will understand him who may then say, when he makes himself known, “I am he who contains in himself the true final Being towards which everything is steering.” For this final Being is described by the word, Amen. “And unto the Angel of the church of Laodicea write: Thus saith the Amen, he who in his being presents the nature of the end” (Rev. iii. 14).
So we see that in the Apocalypse of John is presented the contents of an initiation. Even the first stage of this initiation, where we see the inner progress of the seven post-Atlantean ages, where we still see the spirit of the physical plane, shows us that we are dealing with an initiation of the Will. For this book can inspire our will at the present time when we know that we ought to listen to the inspirers who teach us, when we learn to under-stand what the seven stars and the seven Spirits of God signify, when we learn that we ought to carry the spiritual knowledge into the future.