The Apocalypse of St. John
23 June 1908, Nuremberg
In material science it is customary — with the exception of a few circles who in modern times have come to a different explanation — to represent our present solar system as having developed out of a kind of nebula which embraced a space as far as the orbit of Neptune, that is, as far as the orbit of the outermost planet of our solar system. And then, it is supposed, through a condensing process, our sun and the planets moving round it gradually formed. As we have said, there are now a few exponents -who have a somewhat different view; but they too do not bring forward anything essential for us who take a spiritual view. So our sun and the planets circling round it are supposed to have formed themselves into globes. In connection with this a neat little comparison has always been made use of in the schools, and it is still employed to-day, to show by ocular demonstration how a whole planetary system can originate through rotation. Some oily liquid is taken, which, when placed in water takes a globular form. Then a small disc is cut and inserted through the equatorial line of this oily ball so that it is divided into two halves. This is then rotated by means of a pin stuck through the centre of the disc, and one sees at first one drop separate itself and circle as a separate body round the large globe, then a second and a third drop, and finally a large drop remains in the centre around which many smaller ones revolve. “A planetary system in miniature!” says the experimenter. Then he says: Why should not our solar system originate from that primeval nebula in this way, if we can now imitate it in this miniature solar system? Usually this comparison seems to be extremely illuminating and people now understand how once upon a time Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus, Mercury separated from that primeval nebula. But the whole affair, not only the comparison but the whole idea, proceeds from the emptiness of all present-day thinking, for the persons in question, otherwise quite learned men, who put for-ward this illustration in such an illuminating manner, forget only one thing, namely, that they themselves are present and turn the pin. Now self forgetfulness is very good in certain realms of life, but in this case, if the experimenter is forgotten, the most important thing is forgotten, for without him the drop of oil would never rotate at all. The learned person who believes in such a superstition — this superstition is called the Kant-Laplace system — should at least be logical in his thinking, he should at least presume that some sort of being must have sat on a gigantic stool in space at that time and set a gigantic axis in motion. But human thought has gradually become so accustomed to consider only the material, that the contradiction in such a comparison is no longer noticed. As a matter of fact, there is a certain truth in this so-called Kant-Laplace system, although the truth is different from the materialistic explanation of the matter. There is a certain truth in it because to spiritual vision everything contained in our present solar system actually appears as having proceeded from such a primeval nebula; only to him who can really investigate historically it is clear that the good in the Kant-Laplace hypothesis comes from occult traditions. This was forgotten when the word “occultism” became something of which one was afraid, as children are of the chimney-sweep. That which really took place did not happen without the influence of spiritual beings and powers. Matter can do nothing unless spiritual beings are behind it.
It would take us too far to-day if, linking on to what was said yesterday, we were to explain the whole of our solar system. Leaving the planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, etc., out of our present study, let us only keep in mind what is of special importance to human life and human evolution.
At one time there was, in fact, such a nebula; and in this all the parts of our solar system were as if dissolved. But, bound up with this nebula, so that they belonged to it, were all the beings mentioned in the course of our observations yesterday. For example, all the beings who passed through the human stage in the twenty-four Rounds were connected with this cosmic nebula. Other beings too were bound up with it. They all dwelt in this nebula which, if not thought of in connection with these beings, is a fantastic abstraction. In the way the materialistic chemist imagines this nebula, it is impossible; it exists only in thought, there is no reality. In reality, the nebula only exists because it is inhabited by a number of spiritual beings. For when this nebula again became visible, there were connected with it all the beings who once inhabited ancient Saturn, who then passed through the various stages of evolution through Sun and Moon right on up to Earth, when after a long intermediate pause the Earth-nebula arose, so to speak. The other beings also with whom we became acquainted on the Sun, were connected with this nebula. It is the whole choir of these beings, who filled the nebula, who produced the movements. For it is beings who create their field of work.
For example, there were beings who needed a dwelling place quite different from that of man if they were to undergo the evolution suited to them. The men who lived upon the ancient Moon as the ancestors of the present men had only physical body, etheric and astral bodies. With these three members of their being they came out of the so-called pralaya again like a plant from the seed. Thus when the entire system began it was unsuitable for the beings who had brought with them the germs for the present man. Had the speed of development been maintained which our solar system had at the beginning when it came forth from the cosmic twilight, man would have been unable to find the path of his evolution. It would have been as if you were now to be born and then in a very short time become old. If the speed of evolution natal to the Sun had been maintained, man would have grown old quickly; he would be unable to take the slow course through the decades which he now actually does; after a short time he would have white hair, he would be old almost before he was a child.
But this was not to be. There were beings who needed a quicker tempo. These only went through a part of evolution with man, then they took out the heavenly body which now stands as the sun in the heavens and made it their dwelling place. They drew out the substance of the sun together with their own being. For the sun which sends its light to us to-day is inhabited by spiritual beings, just as our earth is. With every sunbeam descending to the earth come the actions of those spiritual beings who in the course of the evolutions of Saturn, Sun and Moon had progressed so far that they were able to participate in the rapid development taking place on the present sun. High, exalted beings were connected with this sun existence at the beginning of our earth development. These separated from the earth; and that which then remained you must imagine as if you had mixed together the present moon and earth in a great cauldron, and this mingled earth and moon circled round the sun for a time.
Thus before we reached the point described yesterday as human incarnation, we have first to recognize the separation of the sun from the earth, that is, the present earth plus the present moon. Upon the sun remained the beings who are the spiritual directors of earthly events. When they came over from the ancient Moon there were seven such beings; in Genesis they are called Elohim, Spirits of Light. For a time they went through their evolution together with the earth, then they drew forth the sun so that they could now work upon the earth from the sun. These Elohim, these Spirits of Light, were seven in number. Six of them united their existence with the actual cosmic sun, and one, known in the Old Testament as Jehovah, separated from them and remained at first united with the earth. He guided and directed the earthly evolution from within, while the others worked upon it from without. That was the position for a time. But after what was pointed out yesterday concerning the ancient Moon, you will understand that with the withdrawal of the sun was connected a condensation of all that emerged as earth plus moon. There came a period in the earth's evolution when not only the substance, but all beings, underwent a coarsening. For example, the beings who later became man, who at that time were very soft and delicate, underwent a coarsening through taking on horrible instincts. A coarsening of all life took place.
Evolution could not remain thus if man were to arise. A coarsening would have taken place, everything would have become more and more dense and the human beings would have stiffened into mummies, they would have become mummified. And there would very soon have been a planet upon which some-thing not exactly beautiful, but human-like mummies, statues would have collected. The earth would have become mummified. A different event had to take place. Through the government of Jehovah, as cosmic spirit, that which you now see as the moon as the burnt-out moon-dross in the heavens, was separated from the whole mass of earth plus moon. Not only were the grossest substances separated but also the grossest beings. Hence only through the withdrawal of the sun it was brought about that man did not proceed too quickly in his evolution, and through the withdrawal of the moon it was brought about that he did not develop towards a condition of drying up, densification, or mummification.
Thus the earth was separated from the whole mass, and now the course of human evolution was guided on the earth under the influence of these two heavenly bodies — that is, of course, of their beings, the six sun Spirits and the moon Spirit, who had separated himself for the salvation of man. And it was so guided that on the whole these two forces were balanced. Through the exit of both the sun-forces and the moon-forces, exactly the right tempo for human development was attained.
Now in order to understand this more clearly, imagine a man as if influenced only by the sun. You know that man goes through his evolution upon the earth in many, many incarnations. Man began with his first incarnation, then took on a new body over and over again, until he goes through his last incarnation. He passes through a series of incarnations, as a result of which he develops slowly and rises from one incarnation to the next. Men trod the surface of our earth as true spiritual infants. Since the separation of sun and moon from our earth they have risen to the present stage. All these souls will return in different bodies up to the end of the earth's evolution. Now if man were influenced by the sun alone he would have to pass through in a single incarnation all that he now goes through in so many. The right tempo comes into the many incarnations through the balancing of the forces between the sun and moon from without.
Modern man was gradually shaped during the period which followed the withdrawal of sun and moon; the first germs of the present-day man were then created. That was at a time when man moved upon this earth in quite a different way from that in which he moves now. You must not imagine that when the moon had just gone forth man moved upon this earth in a fleshly form as he does now. There appear again all the forms which had previously been there, as a repetition; and when the earth was liberated from the sun and moon it looked approximately like the old Moon, even softer. And if a being with eyes organized like those of the present day had looked at the earth he would not yet have been able to see man. On the other hand, certain other beings were there who were not sufficiently mature to await a later time. These had to take bodily form while the stage of evolution was still incomplete; so that some time after the moon's departure from the earth certain forms of the lower animals could already be seen physically condensed. Man had not yet descended, nor yet the higher mammals. Man was still a spirit being. He floated as a spirit round the earth and took into himself the finest substances from the environment of the earth. Then gradually he densified so far that he could descend to where the earth had already become solid and islands had formed.
Thus we see that the first human beings appeared comparatively late in the earth's evolution and at that time they had a very different constitution from the present human being. I cannot describe to you the forms of those men which first crystallized, so to speak, out of the spirit. Although you have already heard much that is difficult to believe, you would be greatly shocked if I were to describe to you the grotesque forms of the bodies in which your souls were then incarnated. You would not be able to bear such a description. However, at a later date, when these things which are only now beginning to come to the consciousness of man through Anthroposophy, when they more and more penetrate men's consciousness, this will have to be made known, and it will have a tremendous result, it will be extremely important to the whole life of man. For only when man learns how his body has developed, how the organs he now possesses have gradually developed out of entirely different forms, will he feel that remarkable relationship existing between the organs in the human body which to-day are apparently far apart. He will then see the correspondence between certain organs, for example, between the appendix and the windpipe, which in their earlier form grew together in those remarkably formed beings. All that to-day is man is the previous form unrolled as it were, the previous form unfolded in the most varied ways. Organs which to-day are separated formerly grew together. They have, however, kept their relationship, and very frequently this relationship is manifested in illnesses. It is seen that when a certain organ is diseased another one is of necessity involved. Hence those who really study medicine will have to make many discoveries, of which the present medical age, which is only a collection of notes, does not dream; then only will physicians really learn something about the true nature of man. All this is merely to point out how entirely different was man's earlier form.
The solid parts have only been built into this human form gradually. There were originally no bones in the human body, even when it had already descended. The bones were developed from soft cartilaginous structures which traversed the human body like cords. These in their turn originated from quite soft substances, and these soft substances from fluid substances, these from airy, the airy from etheric and the etheric from astral which had densified from spiritual substantiality. If you trace it back you will find that everything material has originated from the spiritual. Everything is in archetype in the spiritual world. It was only the Atlantean epoch that the bones, formerly merely indicated, actually developed in man.
We must now more closely examine Lemurian humanity in order the better to understand the writer of the Apocalypse. I need only indicate that following the first period, when the moon had separated from the earth and man descended, he was of a very different nature as regards his will power from what he became later. At that time the will of man worked magically — by his will he could work upon the growth of flowers. When he exerted his will he could make a flower shoot up quickly, a capacity which can only be acquired to-day by an abnormal process of development. Hence at that time the natural surroundings depended upon how the will of man was constituted. If it was good it worked soothingly upon the billowing waters, upon the storm and upon the fiery structures which were then all around, for the earth was to a great extent of a volcanic nature. Man worked soothingly upon all this through a good will and destructively through all evil will. Whole islands could be destroyed by evil will. Thus the human will was in complete correspondence with its environment. The tracts of land upon which man then lived were destroyed essentially by the evil will of man, and only a small part of mankind was saved (we have here to distinguish between race-development and soul-development) who lived on into the epoch which we may describe in so far as words can express clairvoyant perception.
After this catastrophe by fire we come to the Atlantean epoch when the human race developed essentially on a continent which now forms the bed of the Atlantic Ocean, between the present Europe and America. At that time man lived under very different physical conditions. At the beginning of the Atlantean epoch he was a structure which perceived in quite a different way from the present man; we have already indicated this in the first lecture and again later; to-day we shall again point out this different kind of vision of the man of that epoch. He still had a kind of spiritual vision, because the construction of his body was different from what it is now. The etheric body was not yet so firmly bound up with the physical body. The etheric body of the head extended far beyond the physical body. Only towards the last third of the Atlantean epoch did the projecting etheric body draw in and take the form of the present physical human head. Since the form of the ancient Atlantean was so very different from that of present man and his members so differently joined together, his whole life of consciousness, his whole soul life was also different. And here — if we wish to understand the Apocalyptist — we must touch upon a very important, but a very mysterious, chapter.
If you were to enter this ancient Atlantis, you would find that it was surrounded not by such pure air as the present earth but by air saturated with volumes of mist, with water. This air became clearer and more transparent the further Atlantis developed, but the mists were densest where the more advanced Atlantean civilization referred to developed. The thickest mists were there, and from these developed the foundations of the later civilizations. Atlantis was covered far and wide by those mists. A division of rain and sunshine such as we have to-day did not then exist. Hence in ancient Atlantis that which you know as the rainbow could not appear. You might search the whole of Atlantis and you would not find it. Only when the condensation of the water led to flooding, when the great flood spread itself over the earth, could the rainbow originate physically. And this is a point where from Spiritual Science you will gain the greatest respect for the religious records. For when you are told that after the flood, Noah, the representative of those who then saved the human race, sees the rainbow first appear, this is really an historical event. After the flood humanity saw the first rainbow; previously it was not physically possible. Here you will see how profound, how literally true the religious records are. To-day many are distressed when one says that the religious records are literally true. Many quote a saying which is true; it is quoted, however, by lazy people, not as a true statement but from indolence. It is the saying: “The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life.” From this they deduce the right to take no notice at all of what stands in the records, to have no longer the will to recognize what is actually there, for it is the “dead letter” they say. And so they like to let their spirit shine and concoct all sorts of fantasies. These persons may indeed be very clever in their explanations, but that is not the point; the point is that we ought really to see in the records what is contained in them. “The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life” has the same significance in mystical language as the saying of Goethe, “He who has not this, this dying and becoming, is but a sad guest upon the dark earth.” This saying does not mean: “If you wish to lead some one to a higher knowledge you must slay him,” but it means that just through the culture of the physical world man must uplift himself to spirituality. So also the letter is the body of the spirit, and we must first have and understand it, then we may say that we can find the spirit in it. The letter, the understood letter, must then die so that the spirit may be resurrected from it. This saying is not an injunction to fancy anything you please about what is contained in the religious records. When we recognize the true significance of this rainbow as we have represented it, something like deep respect for the religious records invades our soul, and we get an idea of how, through the deepening of the understanding by the teachings of Anthroposophy, man first attains to true and real feelings and advances to a true understanding of the religious records by an act of will.
We will now look back into ancient Atlantis. We have already said that man then lived in a different state of consciousness and that his memory was different from what it is now; but the difference is much more considerable. If we go far back not merely into the later period of Atlantis but to the beginning, we then find the human consciousness very different from that which we possess to-day.
Let us once more consider the present consciousness. During the day a person uses his senses. At night he goes to sleep. On the bed lie the physical body and the etheric body; the astral body and the “I” withdraw. The sphere of consciousness darkens. The man of to-day sees nothing and hears nothing. Then again in the morning when the astral body and the “I” re-enter the physical body and etheric body, physical objects again confront him. How was it in the early Atlantean epoch? Let us take the moment when in the morning man plunged into the physical body and etheric body; at that time he did not have a physical world around him such as we have to-day. All the present objects which are now seen with clear outlines were then seen as if surrounded with an aura, with coloured edges, quite indistinct. In ancient Atlantis the appearance was somewhat similar to what is now seen when in the evening there is a dense fog and you cannot see the street lamps clearly, but surrounded by coloured edges. Thus it was in early Atlantis. All objects were seen indistinctly, not with clear outlines and surfaces as to-day, everything was as if enveloped in coloured mist. Only gradually have clear outlines developed. Had we looked at a rose in the first portion of Atlantis it was as if a cloudy structure arose and in the middle something red. Only gradually did the external colour appear to be laid on the surface; only later did objects obtain sharp outlines.
Hence you see that the physical world surrounding man was quite different in ancient Atlantis. It was also different when at night he rose out of his physical body when — shall we say — he went to sleep. Really it was not sleep in the present sense. However, the entire world of the misty physical formations remained below, and a spiritual world arose. Possessing no sharp outlines man lived within a spiritual world. Spiritual beings were his companions. In the first portion of the Atlantean epoch day and night alternated in such a way that when man plunged into his physical body he had only hazy, indistinct pictures of the physical world; but when at night he left the physical body he was able to live spiritually, although somewhat indistinctly, among spirits; he moved among spirits. And above all, man's entire life of feeling was also different in the Atlantean epoch. At that time when he went out of his physical body and etheric body, he did not feel fatigue and the need for rest. Neither did he find rest. He had to enter into the spiritual world; that was then his sphere of activity. On the other hand, when the morning came, he felt the need for rest and sought out his resting-place, which was his own body. There he lay peacefully. He crept into his own body and rested during the day.
Thus in the first period of Atlantis it was entirely different from what it is now. During the Atlantean epoch, man gradually passed from the very opposite conditions into those of the later period. This came about more and more as the etheric body was driven into the physical body. This occurred during the last third of the Atlantean epoch. Before this event man felt himself as a waking being above in the spiritual world; but as yet he did not say to himself “I,” he did not possess self-consciousness. When he withdrew from the physical body and etheric body in order to go into the brilliance of the night, he felt himself to be a member of the spirituality which was above, he felt himself safely hidden, so to speak, in his group-soul. It always became bright around him during the night; but he felt himself dependent. Just as our finger belongs to our “I,” so man felt that he belonged to the group-souls which are seen spiritually as the four heads of the Lion, Eagle, Bull and Man, described in the Apocalypse of John. Man felt himself transposed into one such group-soul. And only when, snail-like, he was in his bodily shell did he feel that he possessed something of his own. For the circumstance that man became an independent being resulted from his being able to envelop himself in his body. He had, however, to pay for this confinement in his body by the gradual obscuration of the spiritual world, until it completely withdrew. In its place the world which he saw below when he was in the physical body became brighter and clearer. In this way it gradually dawned upon him that he was an “I,” that he had self-consciousness within him. He learned to say “I” to himself.
If we wish to characterize what took place at that time we must imagine man creeping out of his “snail-shell,” as it were, into the spiritual world. There he is among spiritually divine beings. There resounds to him from without the name of what he is. One group heard the word which in the original language was the word for that group; another group heard a different word. Man could not name himself from within; his name sounded into him from without. When he thus crept out of the “snail-shell” of his body he knew what he was, because this knowledge was poured into his soul. Now when in his body he learned to perceive the physical environment, he learned to feel himself as “I,” he learned to feel within himself the divine power which previously was poured into him, he learned to feel God within him. The God nearest to him, who pointed to his “I,” he called Jehovah. This God was the “I”-leader, and man felt the power of this God arising within his “I.”
External events were connected with this. When the first Atlantean thus descended into his physical body and looked out into space, he did not see an actual rainbow; in the place where the sun later emerged, he saw something like a circle formed of colour; the sun did not yet penetrate in power, but acted through the mist; though hindered and held back by the fog, its forces influenced the earth. It appeared very gradually. All that we have described as the awakening of external consciousness was connected with the emergence of the sun from the mist. That which was up above where the other six spirits had their abode, who together with Jehovah had to guide the earth evolution, gradually emerged and shone down upon the earth in deeds.
What had taken place in man? When previously he rose out of his body, when it was night, so to speak, his soul and spirit entered into the inner astral brilliance to which the external sun is not necessary. This brilliance surrounded him. It was the same light which later shone down physically from the sun, from mighty spiritual beings. As he gradually enclosed himself in his physical consciousness, the door of inner vision was closed. Darkness surrounded him when at night he left his physical and etheric bodies and entered the spiritual world. To the extent to which he confined himself, to the same extent arose the external light which represents the deeds of the spiritual beings of the sun; the light of the spiritual beings shone externally upon the earth. Man prepared himself to look upon the external light as something material. The light shone in his then darkened inner being, but the light was not then comprehended by his darkness. This is a world-historical event. Man bought his self-consciousness at that time through spiritual darkening. In this way man grew out of the brilliance connected with the group-souls. But it was only the very first dawning of the individuality. It was a long, long time before he really grew possessed of it. The last portion of the Atlantean epoch passed away and the flood came.
The post-Atlantean epoch began. The ancient Indian civilization passed away. True self-consciousness had not yet developed. Then came the Persian and Babylonian-Egyptian ages. Man gradually matured so as to develop self-consciousness within him. At length came the fourth age. At this stage something of tremendous importance took place for which all that had gone before was the preparation. Imagine yourself now uplifted from the earth to a distant star and gifted with spiritual vision, looking down to the earth from that distant star. You would then see that this earth as physical body is not only physical body, but that an etheric body and an astral body belong to it, just as with man. The earth has all this too. You would see the earth surrounded by its aura and from that star you would be able to follow the development of the earth's aura for thousands of years. You would see this earth surrounded by all sorts of colours; in the centre the physical kernel and around it the aura floating in various forms and colours; and in this spiritual atmosphere of the earth you would see the most varied structures. You would see these colours and forms change in various ways in the course of thousands of years; but there would come a moment, a moment of great importance, when the whole aura assumes a different form and colour. Seen from outside the earth then appears in a new light; and this takes place extremely quickly, so that one has to say: From this moment a fundamental trans-formation of the earth has taken place; its aura has changed completely. When is this? It is the moment when upon Golgotha the blood flowed from the wounds of the Redeemer. This moment is an extremely important one, the most important moment in the whole of the earth's evolution! The moment when the blood flows from the wounds of the Redeemer is the same as that in which the aura of the earth shapes itself anew. An entirely new power enters in, the power which gives the most important impulse to the earth's evolution, for which all that we have considered up to now was only the preparation.
To the chemist the blood of Golgotha is the same as any other blood; but in reality it is quite different. It signifies that the substance of the blood flows down to the earth, and that the spirit corresponding to it fills the aura of the earth with new impulses and new forces which have significance for the future evolution of humanity. From there the forces which change the earth stream forth, from there they stream through man. Only a small part of what flowed in at that moment has been realized up to now. Ever more and more man will learn to understand what the earth has become through that moment of Golgotha, and what man can develop towards in that consciousness which he has gained since Atlantis. What, then, has man gained since Atlantis? Two things: the “I”-consciousness and the faculty of sight in the external world. That which previously was open to him, the spiritual world, has been closed. Truly these earlier men saw what the later myths relate — Woden, Mercury, Jupiter, Zeus. They saw all these beings at night; they were then among them. This door to the spiritual beings has closed. In its place man gained the world now surrounding him. The spirits have withdrawn from him; all that he was able to see at that time has disappeared. Formerly he saw the Divine when he slipped out of the snail-shell of his physical body. He had now to see the Divine within the body if it were to appear before him. This means nothing else than that we must receive the Divine in bodily visible shape because human consciousness has become adapted to physical vision, and for this reason the Divine Itself had to assume bodily physical form. Therefore the Divine appeared once on the earth in a fleshly body. It had to appear in this form because man had advanced to this stage of perception it had to be presented in this way to his perception so that he could understand it. And all the appearances which had previously taken place at other stages of evolution had to be united in that greatest event in the earth's history, which will throw light on the whole future and which we shall now unveil from the Apocalypse; in that event which physically looks as if drops of blood stream down to the earth, but spiritually as if something rises up which changes the aura of the earth. The force which then flowed in will work together with the earth throughout the whole future. The earth-soul, the spirit of the whole earth, was then inoculated with something new. The Christ principle united with the earth at that time and the earth has become the body of this Christ principle. So that the statement is literally true, “He who eats my bread treads me underfoot.” When man eats the bread of the earth he eats the body of the earth and this is the body of the earth-spirit which, as the Christ-Spirit, since the event on Golgotha, is united with the earth. And man walks upon the earth-body, he treads this body underfoot. All can be understood literally if only we are able first of all to comprehend the text in the right way.
To such a man as the writer of John's Gospel, all that he knew, all that he could grasp with spiritual vision, was a summons to understand the greatest event in the earth's evolution. Of all that he was able to stream through spiritual vision he said, “I must use it in order to understand Christ and His work.” It was the intention of the writer of the Apocalypse to use all his occult knowledge in order to explain the Event of Golgotha. Whatever he could learn from occult science was regarded by him as a road to wisdom, helping him to understand this event which he has placed before us in such a wonderful way, and regarding which we shall see what it signified for him.