The Apocalypse of St. John
22 June 1908, Nuremberg
Yesterday we saw how the human race will develop when our present epoch has run its course, how it will divide, so to speak, into two streams, into the good and the evil races, and how the secrets of this future are unsealed through the “seven seals” which are symbolically unloosed in the Apocalypse of John. After this general analysis concerning the manifestation in the outer physiognomy of what is being prepared in our epoch in the souls of men, one might well ask: How is it that the Apocalyptist describes the seals in such frightful pictures? We shall best answer this question if we now introduce an intermediate consideration into our whole study of the Apocalypse.
So far we have tried to confirm the statement that the Apocalypse of John represents an initiation, the Christian initiation, through which the future of humanity is revealed. We shall best understand what follows if we now look back and consider once more the past epochs of human evolution. We will do this to the extent which is necessary for the explanation of the Apocalypse. We know already the general outlines. We know that our earth, which forms the present dwelling-place of man, took its rise in the far-distant past, but that as earth it was the reincarnation of another planetary being usually called the old Moon or the Cosmos or Planet of Wisdom, in contradistinction from our present earth, which we designate as the Cosmos or Planet of Love. The Cosmos of Wisdom or the ancient Moon is again only the re-embodiment of a still earlier condition which we call the Sun-planet; that is not the present Sun, which is a fixed star, but the Sun-planet. And the Sun-planet is the reembodiment of ancient Saturn. We have therefore to distinguish four consecutive conditions of our planetary existence which we call Saturn, Sun, Moon and Earth.
We will now describe these four conditions so far as we need this for the explanation of the Apocalypse of John. When with spiritual vision we go back to the ancient Saturn existence, we come to a remarkable planet. This ancient Saturn is a heavenly body upon which is to be found nothing of our present minerals or solid earthly substances, no animals or plants, no water or fluid substances, no current of air or gas. If you were to imagine that with the present eyes — which did not then exist — you were somewhere in space and approached this Saturn, you would be able to see nothing of its first condition, for it did not yet shine. With your eyes you would have been unable to see anything of Saturn from outside in the first half of its existence. Had you approached it and penetrated into the space it filled, you would have felt somewhat as if you had crept into a heated oven, if you had then been able to use the present senses. You would only have been able to distinguish this globular space from the rest by its being warmer than its surroundings. Of all the conditions we now know, warmth is the only one we meet with on ancient Saturn; but it is a remarkable kind of warmth. You would not find it equally warm in all parts. In some parts it is warmer and in others colder, so that if you were to trace and connect the parts of equal warmth by lines, there would appear figures perceptible only through the difference in warmth. Every-thing is warmth, but organized, differentiated warmth. Were you to fly through the whole of Saturn in this way you would say, “There is indeed something present, but something which I can only perceive through the various degrees of warmth.” These differentiated conditions of warmth were all that existed of the present characteristics of our earth, and the first beginnings of the physical human body were expressed at that time in this warmth. That which then existed you still have within you to-day, only it has withdrawn from outer space and is within your being it is the warmth of your blood. If you were to construct figures from your blood-warmth you would have the echoes of that part of your physical body which existed on ancient Saturn. The warmth you now have in your blood is the first foundation of the physical body, the oldest part of it, so that you may also say: The whole of Saturn consisted of blood-warmth. You would be able to find something like the figures which could be drawn to-day, if you were to trace the various channels of your blood according to the different degrees of warmth. That is the physical existence of ancient Saturn. Of all the present physical substances it only possessed warmth, and of all the beings now peopling the earth there was only man, and of him there existed only the foundation of the physical body. Saturn consisted only of such foundations of physical human bodies formed out of warmth. Just as a blackberry is made up of separate little balls, so was Saturn composed at that time, but of human beings such as we have just described.
On the other hand it was surrounded by spiritual beings. Just as the earth is now enveloped in air, Saturn was enveloped in a spiritual atmosphere. Beings lived there who were at various stages of development, but they all needed this dwelling-place of Saturn at their stage of development at that time. It was necessary to them; they could not have done without this dwelling-place. There were those, for example, who also had seven principles, but not like the present man. The latter has his seven principles, which we call the Seven Spirits of God, in such a way that one begins with the physical body. With these beings it was not so. For example, there were beings who had an etheric body as their lowest principle. They had a physical body only by anchoring their etheric body, as it were, to the physical bodies of Saturn and so using these.
Thus as compared with our present earth this Saturn is in substance a very rarefied cosmic body; it did not possess any-thing like our air or gas; these would have been too gross for it. It possessed only warmth, and surrounding the warmth were spiritual beings. Now through the beings in its environment developing further, Saturn passed through various changes. One of these changes may easily be described by saying that in the middle of its development Saturn actually begins externally to light up; so that if one follows it, it appears at the beginning as a dark warmth-body, then it begins to glimmer, and towards the end sends forth a dim light into the world. This spiritual atmosphere around Saturn which contains various beings, contains amongst others a certain definite kind of beings in whom we are particularly interested. About the middle of the Saturn evolution these beings passed through the stage man is now passing through upon the earth. They are the Spirits of Personality. About the middle of the ancient Saturn period they have approximately reached the stage of development of man. You will, of course, not fall into the mistake of asking, “Did they then have bodies such as the present human beings? “It would be a great mistake to suppose that these men had human fleshly bodies. It is possible to pass through the human stage in the most varied forms, and these Spirits of Personality passed through their human stage on Saturn in such a way that to begin with they used as physical body that which was present in the atmosphere as warmth; that as ether body (which they did not yet possess) they used what was contained in the atmosphere; and lastly they also used what existed as astral substance; as yet they possessed nothing of this themselves. Essentially they had at that time an “I”-vehicle, an “I,” and this “I,” which was at the human stage, which lived exactly as the present human “I” upon the earth, passed at that time through these various stages of humanity upon Saturn in another form and un another way. Thus about the middle of the Saturn period we have the Spirits of Personality in this human stage. If one reckons in this way, that which I have just related is the middle stage of the Saturn evolution. There are three others which precede it and three others following it. These are called “Rounds” or “Epochs” of Saturn. If you imagine the whole evolution of Saturn you may picture it thus:
In the middle (X) are the Spirits of Personality. At each of the three preceding and the three following stages certain beings become man just as our earth can be divided into seven epochs, so too can the Saturn evolution — at every stage some beings or other, and it was always just when the time had come for them to be able to use what was on Saturn in order to pass through the human stage. Thus we have seven kinds of beings upon Saturn, who there passed through their human stage, who rose to the human stage, who therefore in the ensuing stages no longer need to develop this. The present man was not yet man upon Saturn. The beings who have become man upon Saturn — whose representatives are the Spirits of Personality — progress further and are to-day exalted above man, they have man within themselves, so to speak. They carry him within them as, for them, a past stage of evolution.
Now after Saturn had proceeded with its evolution for a certain length of time, the whole passed over into a spiritual sphere, into a condition not externally perceptible to senses like those of the present day. Then came the second embodiment of our earth, the Sun-planet. This was distinguished by the fact that comparatively early in its development it had progressed so far that it radiated light. This was because it consisted not only of warmth but because the warmth material had already condensed into gaseous, airy material. There was neither water nor solid substance; it consisted of an airy or gaseous mass. But it was already able to be a luminous body; it could have been seen by the present eye as a planet shining in space. When this planet had so far developed, it was possible for the etheric body to be membered into the first rudiments of the physical human body. Thus man now consisted of physical and ether body, while on Saturn he possessed only the first rudiments of the physical body. But he had not progressed far enough to have his own astral body. Human forms looked quite different from those of to-day. Man had the form of plant existence, for like a plant he possessed a physical body and an etheric body, but upon the Sun he looked quite different from our present plants. With this progress of development was connected the fact that a second kind of being appeared on the Sun. Upon Saturn there were only men, no other beings. It consisted only of men, as a blackberry consists of little berries. Now some of these human germs remained at the Saturn stage, they had not all reached as far as was possible. These backward beings coming from Saturn cannot therefore acquire an etheric body and must remain on the Sun merely with a physical body, thus they have only progressed as far as man upon Saturn. These beings who upon the Sun have merely the physical body are the first germs of our present animals, so that upon the Sun we have human germs with physical body and etheric body, and animal germs with physical body only.
Again it is the case that in the middle of the Sun period certain beings pass through the human stage. This the present man could not yet do. The spiritual beings around the Sun who then pass through the human stage are called the Fire Spirits, Archangels. To-day they are two stages above man. They bear man within themselves; they experienced in another form what man experiences now in his earthly existence. But the Sun also passes through seven stages, and at each stage there are beings who reach the human stage, so that again during the Sun period we have seven phases of development. If they go back into their own past, they see, as it were, a peculiar stage in their life, of which they may say, “At that time when beneath me there was no solid earth and no watery globe, I experienced what man experiences to-day. I can therefore feel and experience what man experiences upon the earth.” These beings can say this to-day. They understand it because they too have experienced what man now experiences during, his earthly life.
Then once again came a kind of intermediate condition in which to outer observation (if this had indeed been possible) the luminous planet gradually ceases to glow, then it disappears from a certain stage of clairvoyant observation and is only apparent to the highest spiritual vision. Then it again emerges in a new form of existence, to a third condition which we call the Moon condition. This is the third embodiment of our planet, the ancient Moon. This has now developed so far in the evolution of its substance that what formerly upon the Sun was merely gas has now condensed to water. Through the entry of the watery element, man — who gradually develops again like the plant from the seed — can receive the astral body; so that man now consists of three parts, the physical body, etheric and astral bodies. He is not yet really man, for he does not yet possess an “I” in these three bodies.
Certain beings always remain behind at every stage, there-fore the beings who remained behind upon the Sun, who were unable to attain to the Moon stage and who only passed through their Sun stage on the Moon, are now unable to incorporate the astral body; upon the Moon they consist only of physical and etheric body. These are especially those who already remained behind upon the Sun, but who in the meantime had developed so far that they could take up an etheric body. These are again the ancestors of our present animals. Those, however, which were not yet so far advanced upon the Moon that they could take up an etheric body, are the ancestors of still lower beings, the present plants. Thus upon the Moon we have three kingdoms, the human kingdom, consisting of physical body, ether body and astral body; the animal kingdom, consisting of physical body and etheric body; and the vegetable kingdom consisting only of physical body.
Again there are certain beings who about the middle of the Moon period pass through their human stage. They are the spirits who in the literature of spiritual science are usually called the Spirits of Twilight or Angels. They also carry man within them as memory. And again the Moon passes through seven such stages. At each stage there are beings who can pass through human existence. It is always the case that some beings hurry forward and others remain behind. Thus upon the Moon too we have seven grades of beings who had passed through their human stage when the Moon had finished its evolution.
Now in order to understand the ancient Moon fully, we must mention something of importance which took place in the course of the old Moon evolution. When it began, or at least shortly after the beginning, it was a fluid globe. Had it developed further in this way throughout its seven stages it would not have been able to give man the right foundation for his further development. It was only fitted to be a preparatory stage for earthly humanity by dividing first into two planetary bodies. One of these was the forerunner of the present sun, and the other which separated was the forerunner of the present earth, but in such a way that you must imagine the earth mingled with the present moon, so that the present earth and moon were then one. Now imagine these two bodies, earth plus moon on the one hand and the sun on the other, separated from each other; the ancient Moon as a watery body and the ancient Sun on the way to becoming a fixed star. Something very essential was connected with this division. It was primarily the sun which brought about the separation and took with it the finest parts, the most etheric substances, while the grosser substances remained behind in the Moon, that is, the present earth plus the present moon. Hence the sun is composed of extremely fine substances, while the Moon becomes a much denser body, a watery mass. Through the sun taking with it the finest and most spiritual forces, it could now be the arena for much more highly developed beings. In fact, many of those high beings who were still able to bear the Saturn existence would have been hindered in their development if they had been bound to the Moon any longer. They needed a field of activity with the finest materials; only there could they develop. So they drew their field of action forth and developed further upon the sun. On the other hand, with the Moon, which had suffered a densification through the exit of the finer substances, there were connected those human germs which consisted of physical body, etheric body and astral body, and there were also the germs of the animals and plants. Now this ancient Moon had an extraordinary appearance. You would not yet ford anything like rocks or arable soil, although it already circled round its sun. Mineral substances did not yet exist. The principal part of this Moon, upon which these beings hopped about, so to speak, was a kind of mush, a kind of pulp or puree. The basic substance of the ancient Moon consisted of this puree, just as the basic substance of our earth consists of soil. In it were embedded masses, like, shall we say, wood and the bark of trees. If you were to climb a mountain to-day you would walk upon rocks. At that time you would have passed over a basis which, if it was solid, was something like a surface of wood substance. Instead of granite you would have found blocks which might be compared to wood. Of course this is speaking comparatively. Such was the basic substance and out of it came continually luxuriant growths. This was the lowest kingdom, the present mineral kingdom, which at that time lay between the present mineral and vegetable kingdoms. In a certain way it was alive. It continually produced luxuriant growths. It was not like it is now. If to-day there should be a deposit of soil which one wishes to be rid of, it must be carried away by external means. This substance of the ancient Moon died away — but not like separate plants — it died away and formed itself afresh. It was continually in inward living motion. The fundamental substance of the Moon was in a continuous state of decay and growth. And out of this foundation grew another kingdom. Through the exit of the Moon from the Sun the earlier kingdoms had changed. Upon the Sun they corresponded approximately to our kingdoms. Through the exit of the Moon the ancient plant kingdom was forced down about half a stage, and so were the other kingdoms, so that the next kingdom was a kind of animal-plant kingdom, but it grew out of the ground. The animal-plants grew out of the ground; they were in the form of plants, but when one took hold of them they had sensations, they squeaked, etc. They were actually half animal and half plant; plants inasmuch as they grew on the ground, most of them firmly rooted to the ground, and animals inasmuch as they had a certain capacity for sensation. And the kingdom which preceded the present human beings were human-animals, beings standing between the present man and the present animals; higher than the present apes, but not as high as the present human beings. That was approximately the form of our human ancestors upon the Moon.
Legends and myths have preserved these truths in a wonderful way. Think how a German legend has preserved the secret hidden behind all this. Certain beings always remain behind. Beings between the present plants and the present animals, which could only take root in a vegetable basis such as was the substance of the ancient Moon — these beings also remained behind, and on this account are incapable of thriving on the mineral ground of our present earth. Our present plants can grow in this, but those which stood between the plants and animals and which needed a living basis, cannot, if they have remained behind, grow in mineral soil. Mistletoe is such a plant. Hence it has to “sponge” upon the present plants because it is a backward being. It no longer has sensation, although the astral body enveloping mistletoe is quite different from that of other plants. The German legend perceived that mistletoe does not belong to our earth, that it is a stranger. In the god Baldur the legend recognizes the god of the earth-sun, the earth force. No being of the earth can approach him with hostile feelings. Hence also the god whom the German legend knew to be a straggler, namely, Loki, cannot kill Baldur with anything belonging to the earth; he has to kill him with a branch of mistletoe, because this is a stranger among the creations of the earth, and for this reason can serve the straggler, Loki, who is not related to the earth gods. Deep wisdom is hidden behind these legends, and in this legend of Baldur-Loki, this can be clearly traced. It can also be seen in the customs connected with the mistletoe. If you were to study these you would find that what is said about them proceeds from an ancient wisdom.
Then in the second half of the Moon-evolution came the time when the Sun-beings, as well as the beings who had remained behind upon the Moon., had attained what had to be attained during the old Moon period. And then the Sun and Moon united again; they came together and for a time continued their evolution as one body.
Then the evolutionary condition gradually darkened and passed through the purely spiritual condition usually called Pralaya, and then came the dawning of our Earth evolution. At first this dawning cosmic body contained not only our present earth substance; it consisted of what you would obtain if you were to mix together in a gigantic cauldron the substance of the present sun, earth and moon. That was approximately the condition at the beginning of the earth's evolution. This was first a kind of repetition of the Saturn condition and then of the Sun condition and then of the Moon condition.
Now the most important thing for us to realize is that man really only becomes man in the present sense in the middle of the Earth evolution. In the Earth period also we have to distinguish seven conditions. We are now in the fourth. Three have gone before and three will follow. It was in the fourth principal cycle that our present human race was to become man. Now, just as in all the Rounds upon Saturn, Sun and Moon, certain beings reached the human stage (upon Saturn the Asuras or Original Forces, upon the Sun the Archangels, and upon the Moon the Angels), there were always beings who remained behind. Upon the Moon there were also beings who could no longer reach the human stage, backward Angels, shall we say, who could only catch up their human stage upon the Earth planet during the first three Rounds. Man reached this stage at the fourth. We therefore say: Before man three other kinds of beings passed through the human stage upon the earth, and the fourth to pass through the human stage upon the earth is man himself. At that moment in cosmic evolution when man is about to become man, all the beings who have been able to pass through the human stage, throughout Saturn, Sun, Moon and the first three Rounds of the Earth, are beings who have more or less progressed beyond man. But they are all able to look back, as it were, and remember the stage at which they themselves passed through the human stage. They could look down upon the evolving human being and say, “He is now becoming something which we have already been, something which we can understand; although we passed through the stage under different circumstances.” For this reason they could guide and regulate his evolution from the spiritual world.
Let us enumerate how many of these beings there are who are able to look back at the human stage, who are able to under-stand evolving man. Seven from the Saturn evolution, plus seven from the Sun, plus seven from the Moon stage, plus three from the Earth; twenty-four beings in all. Twenty-four “Men” look down upon the present man. These are the beings whom for good reasons we have called the guides of evolution, the directors of time. Time is connected with evolution. They are the twenty-four Elders who meet us in the Apocalypse of John. They are the same beings who are described in the part relating to the secret of the seven seals. They are described as the real directors of history, the true Alpha and Omega. Thus we have also found the twenty-four Elders again here and you see how the Apocalyptist who wrote this important document has secreted in his pictures in a wonderful way what we ourselves are able to find from the study of the spiritual evolution of the world.
Now certain beings had remained behind at every stage; so that the backward Saturn beings came out upon the Sun as the first foundations of the present animal kingdom, and the backward Sun beings came out at the Moon stage as the first foundations of the present plant kingdom. Only upon the Earth did a stage of evolution appear as the mineral kingdom. We have stressed the fact that upon the Moon there was as yet no mineral kingdom, man had as yet no rocks to walk upon. At the time when present man began to pass through the human stage, the first mineral masses, the first crystals appeared in the planet which then stood at a stage between the substances of the ancient Moon and the present earthly substance. This was the moment when the mineral kingdom burst forth, and you find this bursting forth described in a very unique manner in the Apocalypse of John where he says: “Around the throne it was crystallized like a glassy sea.” This “glassy sea” is to indicate the bursting forth, the budding forth of the mineral kingdom in its primary form. Thus we see that this secret of cosmic evolution is also indicated in the Apocalypse of John. And from it we have also learnt to perceive that to this degree the writer wishes to present to us in his mighty pictures exactly what we are able to recognize in the development of the earth from the spirit life itself. But in this way the Apocalyptist has led us, at the beginning of his book, to the heights where man can see the pictures of the future stages of evolution.
We have now laid a good foundation to link up again with what we have already learnt about the first ages of the future evolution of humanity. In this digression we have now cast a glance into the past, to where man is ready to become man, where the mineral kingdom shoots forth. And now we shall see how human evolution proceeds further as far as to our own age and thence into the future. We shall find the connection with the secret of the seven seals and their unsealing, up to the outpouring of the vials of wrath.