Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Apocalypse of St. John
GA 104

Lecture VII

24 June 1908, Nuremberg

For the modern man there always seems something hazardous in the prophecy of future events. We have already seen that in the seven seals we had to point out facts which are to come in the evolution of humanity, and as we unveil the Apocalypse of John, more and more we shall have to exercise this prophetic art. The question now is: What grounds are there for speaking at all of these things? We already referred in part at the beginning of our lectures to what lies at the basis of this. We said that at a certain stage of initiation the Initiate sees in the spiritual world that which descends later and becomes a physical event. But in the last two lectures we have shown that there is another basis for the prophetic art. We showed how man has developed out of spiritual spheres to his present existence. Now the future is in a certain sense a repetition of the past; not that the things of the past will happen again in the same way, but past events repeat themselves in a changed form.

In our last lectures we pointed out that in the ancient Atlantean epoch man had a kind of clairvoyance, and that, especially during his night condition, he consciously ascended into spiritual worlds; and we must clearly understand that the condition of a certain clairvoyance will be repeated in humanity. Between the Atlantean epoch and that which will come after the War of All against All we have our epoch, which we have described. In a certain way that which existed previously, that which was in the Atlantean epoch, will be repeated after our epoch, but there will be a very great difference. In the Atlantean epoch man had a dreamy, hazy, clairvoyant consciousness, and when he ascended into the higher worlds his clear self-consciousness faded and he then felt himself within the group-soul. After the great War of All against All man will again see into the higher worlds in a certain way. He will again have the former hazy clairvoyance, but in addition he will possess what he has gradually acquired in the external physical world.

Between the Atlantean flood and the great War of All against All man has had to renounce for a time the power to see into the spiritual world. He has had to content himself with seeing only what is around him in the physical world in the so-called waking consciousness. This is now the normal condition. But in its place it has become possible for him fully to develop his self-consciousness, his individual “I,” during this time, to feel himself within his skin as a separate “I”-personality, so to speak. This he has won. Now he also retains this individuality when he again rises into the higher spiritual worlds, and this ascent will be possible to him after the great War of All against All. But this ascent would not be possible if he had not taken part in that great cosmic event in the middle of our epoch which runs its course in the physical world, as was shown in the last lecture. Man would have been obliged to sink down into a kind of abyss had he not been preserved from it by the entry of Christ into our world. We must keep in mind that man has descended completely into the physical world in this epoch of ours.

Figure 1

Let us represent the physical plane by this line; above it what is called the spiritual, the heavenly world, and below it what is called the abyss. Man really reaches the line separating the spiritual world from the abyss in the fourth age, which we have described. We described the ancient Indian age, when man was still, on the whole, in the spiritual sphere. Previously he was above in the spiritual world. In Atlantis he still had a dim clairvoyance. He now comes down and reaches the line during the period of the Roman Empire. In this Empire man became fully conscious as an external sense-being, as a personality. That was at the time when the Roman idea of justice came into the world, when every one's aim was to be a separate personality, an individual citizen. Man had then reached the line. At this point it was possible either to return or sink below it. We have now, in fact, reached a point in human evolution—and all that I am saying is in accordance with the apocalyptic presentation—when in a certain way humanity is confronted by the need for a decision. We have already shown that in our age an enormous amount of mental and spiritual energy is used to provide for the lowest needs; we have shown how the telephone, telegraph, railway, steamboat and other things still to come have absorbed a tremendous amount of spiritual force; they are only used for the mere satisfaction of lower human needs. Man, however, has only a certain amount of spiritual force. Now consider the following: Man has used an enormous amount of spiritual force in order to invent and construct telephones, railways, steamboats and airships, in order to further external culture. This has to be so. It would have gone badly with humanity if this had not come about. This spiritual power has also been used for many other things. Only consider how all social connections have gradually been spun into an extremely fine intellectual web. What tremendous spiritual force has been expended so that one may now draw a cheque in America and cash it in Japan. An enormous amount of spiritual force has been absorbed in this activity. These forces had once to descend below the line of the physical plane, so to speak, which separates the spiritual kingdom from the abyss. For in a certain way man has actually already descended into the abyss, and one who studies the age from the standpoint of Spiritual Science can see by the most mundane phenomena how this goes on from decade to decade, how a certain point is always reached where the personality can still keep a hold on itself. If at this point it allows itself to sink down, the personality is lost, it is not rescued and lifted into the spiritual worlds.

This may be illustrated by the most mundane things. I could prove it to you, for example, in the details of the development of banking affairs in the second half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps it is only for future historians to show clearly that a fundamental change then came about which we may describe by saying that in banking affairs the personality was gradually shattered. I should have to draw your attention to the time when the four Rothschild's went out into the world from Frankfurt, one to Vienna, another to Naples, the third to London, the fourth to Paris. The whole of banking affairs was then brought into a personal sphere by the personal talent directed to them. The personality immersed itself in finance. To-day you see banking affairs becoming impersonal, they are passing into joint stock companies; capital is no longer managed by a single personality. Capital begins to control itself. Purely objective forces are working in capital, and there are already forces in this realm which draw the will of the personality to themselves, so that the personality has become powerless. Thus with seeing eyes one can penetrate into these mundane things and one can see everywhere how humanity, as regards the personality, has descended to the lowest depth. Now the personality may save itself and ascend again. It can save itself, for example, by really learning to strengthen its inner soul-forces and depend upon itself and make itself independent of the objective forces of capital. But the personality may also throw itself into these forces, it may in a certain way sail into and plunge into the abyss by allowing itself to be ensnared by the forces active in capital. The most important point of time, when the human personality descends to the earth and would have to turn back again, is the point of time of the appearance of Christ Jesus on the earth. He gave to the earth the power which made it possible for man to rise again; and he rises to the extent to which he has fellowship with Christ Jesus. Humanity will ascend to the point where the understanding dawns of what this event signified, so that for a large part of humanity this Christ impulse becomes the innermost impulse of their being, from which they work in life. Men must learn to understand more and more what Paul said: It is not I who work; but Christ works in me.

Therefore if the impulse which descended to the physical world in the fourth age enters into the hearts of men, if it becomes the impulse behind their activity, then the ascent takes place, and all the souls who find this union with the Christ principle find the way upward. But all the souls who failed to find this union would have gradually to go down into the abyss. They would have gained the “I”; they would have attained egoism, but would not be in the position to rise up again with this “I” into the spiritual world. And the consequence to a man who makes no connection with the Christ principle would be that he disconnects himself from the spiritual ascent; instead of ascending he would descend and harden himself more and more in his “I.” Instead of finding in matter merely the opportunity to develop the “I” and then rise up again, he would only descend deeper and deeper into matter.

Yes, everything repeats itself. The possibility arose for man to enter our physical world. By surviving the Atlantean flood it has become possible for him to create and develop his present human countenance. This is really an image of the spiritual “I”-divinity dwelling in man. Towards the end of the Atlantean epoch the etheric body united with the physical; its forces drew into the physical head and thereby man received his present human countenance, in which the spirit of God is reflected.

Let us suppose that he were to deny that it was the spirit which has given him the human countenance; then he would not use the body as an opportunity to attain the “I”-consciousness and again spiritualize himself; but he would grow together with the body and love it so much that he would only feel himself at home in it. He would remain united with the body and go down into the abyss. And because of not having used the power of the spirit, the external shape would again come to resemble the previous form. The man who descends into the abyss would become animal-like. Thus humanity will realize what we have already indicated. Those who use the life in the body merely as an opportunity to gain the “I”-consciousness will descend into the abyss and form the evil race. They have turned away from the impulse of Christ Jesus, and from the ugliness of their souls they will again create the animal form man possessed in former times. The evil race, with their savage impulses, will dwell in animal form in the abyss. And when up above those who have spiritualized themselves, who have received the Christ principle, announce what they have to say regarding their union with the name, Christ Jesus—here below in the abyss will sound forth names of blasphemy and of hatred of that which brings about the spiritual transformation.

A person who thinks superficially might say at this point: Yes, but very many have lived who have experienced nothing of the Christ-impulse; why should not these have partaken in the impulse of Christ Jesus? This is objected from the materialistic side: Why should salvation only come with Christ Jesus? If persons who are not Anthroposophists say this, it is comprehensible; but if Anthroposophists say it, then it is incomprehensible; for they ought to know that man returns again and again, and the souls which lived in earlier times will return in new bodies in the period after the event of Christ, so that there are none who could not participate in the event of Christ Jesus. The above objection can only be made by one who does not believe in re-embodiment.

Thus we see how the division takes place. There will come a time when those who have striven for spiritualization will be capable of living in the spiritual world, a time when that which they have formerly acquired will be made manifest, when they will bear the name of Christ on their forehead because they learned to look up to Him. Now when the seal is opened man will have imaged in his outward figure what he bears inwardly in his heart. One who inwardly bears Christ in his soul will after the unsealing bear in his face the sign of Christ; his external form will be like Christ Jesus; but those who remain in the civilizations before the appearance of Christ Jesus will have to experience some-thing else. These four civilizations, the ancient Indian, Persian, Assyrian-Babylonian-Chaldean-Egyptian-Jewish and the Graeco-Latin were preparatory ages. The soul had to go through the bodies of these civilizations in order to prepare itself for the great event of the appearance of Christ Jesus on earth. During the period of preparation there were two great forces. The forces which brought men together were forces which had their material foundation in the blood. If men had simply been placed side by side in their present form, what was to develop in humanity would never have originated.

Prior to the earth the old Moon was the bearer of our creation. This old Moon was the Cosmos of Wisdom; our Earth is the Cosmos of Love. It is the mission of our Earth to bring men together in love. In the future, when the seventh trumpet has sounded and the earth has dissolved, when it has lost its physical substantiality and is changed into an astral heavenly body, then love, the force of love, will have flowed into the whole human race, into everything earthly. For this power of love must flow in as the earth-mission of humanity—just as you now see the power of wisdom in your environment. We have often drawn attention to that wonderful construction of the thigh-bone. This does not consist of a compact mass, but of many delicate lattice-like structures which are so wonderfully put together that the greater carrying capacity is attained with the expenditure of the smallest amount of material, such as no engineer of the present day can achieve. And if we were to examine everything we should find that the wisdom man has gained in the course of his earthly evolution was already contained in the earth.

How often have we been told in the course of lessons on history that man has made continual progress and that he has grown wiser and wiser! You will remember how these several stages were presented; for example, you were shown that at the beginning of modern times man arrived at the point where he invented gunpowder, paper from rags, wood-pulp, etc. You have experienced pleasure in seeing how mankind has ascended. By means of his intellect man has learned to make paper. One might suppose it was an original invention. But to one who contemplates the world in its totality this appears in a different light. The wasps could do this long before, for the wasp's nest is constructed of material which is exactly the same as paper. Thus thousands of years before in the nest of the wasp there already existed what man afterwards achieved through his subjective wisdom. Not the single wasp is able to make paper, but the group-soul, the ego which holds together the whole group of wasps. It possessed this knowledge long before man. And wherever you look, if you are not blind, you will find wisdom in everything.

Do not imagine that this wisdom had not to develop! The world was not always thus filled with wisdom. It was only during the Moon evolution that it gradually flowed into all that now surrounds us. During the Moon period, that which was all chaos was rearranged so as to acquire wisdom. If you could direct your gaze to the Moon evolution you would find every-thing chaotic, so to speak, but as yet no wisdom. Only in the course of the Moon evolution was wisdom poured into the various beings and creations, so that it was there by the time the Earth came forth from the twilight. All things are now filled with wisdom. And as man to-day looks into his environment and sees wisdom in everything, so will he, when he has reached Jupiter, see all the beings around him in a remarkable way. They will pour out something like the fragrance of blissful love. Love will stream forth from all things, and it is the mission of the earth-evolution to develop this love. Love will then flow through everything, just as wisdom is now in everything. And this love is poured into earthly evolution by man's gradually leaning to develop love.

He was not able to have spiritual love immediately, love had first to be implanted in him at the lowest stage. It had to have a material vehicle, namely, the blood-relationship. The first schooling was to exercise love in the realm of blood-relationship; the separated human beings were brought together through that which coursed through their veins being imbued with love. This was the preparatory school of love; it was, in fact, the great school of love. And the impulse which spiritualizes this love, which does not merely allow it to remain where it works physically, but imparts it to the soul, is the great Christ-impulse in the world.

Now, had only this one impulse of blood-brotherhood operated, human evolution would have taken a strange course throughout the whole of antiquity. The beings who were the guides of the ancient times, and above all Jehovah, led men together in love, so that they united in blood-relationship; but if men had been united only through blood-relationship before the appearance of Christ Jesus, then individual human beings would never have been able to progress to personality. The individual would have been emerged in the tribe. As it was, the individual did very much lose himself in the whole. The consciousness that one is an individual human being has only developed very gradually. In the Atlantean epoch there could be no question of a man feeling himself as an individual being, and this was also the case much later. People do not understand how names were given in ancient times, otherwise they would discover how men then felt. Think of the people of the Old Testament; in pre-Christian times they experienced their “I”—if they wished to feel it aright—by no means in their separate personality. Each one who thoroughly felt the impulse streaming from the Old Testament said: I and Father Abraham are one. For he felt that he was secure in this community which reached back to Abraham, whose blood flowed through all the generations down to the last. Hence he said: “I feel that I am not a lost member when I realize that my blood is the same as that of my Father Abraham.”

And they tried to follow the community back still further. They felt secure in the group-soul. They pointed to Noah, to Adam. It is no longer known what these names signify. It is not known that in those ancient times the consciousness of man was quite different from what it is to-day. A person can only remember with difficulty what happened in his childhood, and memory certainly stops at birth. In the time of the patriarchs a man remembered not only what he himself had experienced but what his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had experienced. This was in his memory, just as with you the remembrance of your childhood. He did not know that his life specially began with his birth. The memory reached back for hundreds of years. No name was given to the separate consciousness, for there would have been no meaning in it. As a person remembered the experiences of his father, grand-father, great-grandfather, etc., a common name included the whole chain. The names Adam or Noah signify the remembrance which passed through several generations. As far as the memory of the experience of Noah extended, the chain was called Noah; this was an inner man, a spiritual being, who lived through several generations. It would have been considered meaningless to give a name to the outer man.

Thus the name Adam applied to a spiritual being, and the individual human being was not yet aware of his “I.” He would have disappeared in such a community but for the impulses which continually attacked this merging in the community, and whose object was to tear man away from the blood-ties and bring him to independence. In his astral body nestled certain spiritual beings who gave him the impulse not to allow his consciousness to become submerged. These were the Lucifer beings. It was they who in the pre-Christian period worked against the unification and it is to them that man owes his independence, his developing personality. It is extremely important to understand that we owe to Jehovah that which strove to unite, and to the Lucifer spirits that which strove to separate. In the early ages of Christianity there was a saying which ran: “Christus verus Luciferus,” i.e. Christ is the true Light-bearer; for Lucifer means the Light-bearer. Why is Christ called the true Light-bearer? Because through him has now become justified what previously was not justified. Previously there was a tearing asunder; men were not mature enough to be independent. Through the “I”-impulse which they received through Christ Jesus they had progressed so far that in spite of the “I” they could develop love of one another. Thus that which Lucifer wished to give to humanity in anticipation, so to speak, when humanity was still not sufficiently mature, was brought to humanity by the true Light-bearer, Christ Jesus. He brought the impulse to independence, but he also brought the spiritual love which unites those who are not related by blood. Through him came the epoch when humanity matured to the point which Lucifer previously wished to bring about. This saying, “Christus verus Luciferus,” was later no longer understood. He alone who rightly understands it learns to know the first teachings of Christianity.

We have therefore to comprehend this impulse in this way; we have to see how humanity was prepared for the standpoint it had to attain. Thus the Indian, Persian, Egyptian, Graeco-Latin periods were times of preparation pointing to the great Christ-event. But it is possible for man to harden himself, as it were. Let us imagine a person living at the time of Christ Jesus, and let us imagine that he could consciously decide what he wished to do. If Christ Jesus were to come he could say, “Oh, what was there previously is sufficient for me, I wish to know nothing, I will have no fellowship with Christ Jesus.” He would have in his soul the forces, the impulses, which could be acquired in the time before Christ Jesus, which could be gained through the Indian, Persian, Egyptian and Graeco-Latin civilizations. But in cosmic evolution a man ought only to have such impulses until a new one arrives. If he stands still, then he remains behind at this stage. We must not misunderstand historical development; we must not say that the same principle works in all civilizations, for it is not for nothing that one civilization is built up on another. Let us suppose some one wished to sleep through the Christian development. He would then live into the future until after the great War of All against All, but he would have nothing of the great love-principle of Christ which brings the Egos together, which makes communities of individuals. He would have everything which leads the Egos into the abyss. He would have the separating forces. This brings us to a consideration which may give rise to the question: Why does the unveiling of the first four seals provide such a comfortless picture? Because here come forth the men who wish to remain in these four preparatory civilizations in which is contained the old form of Lucifer that drives men asunder. Hence in the unveiling of the seals we are shown, too, how they got the form which they have acquired. They have slept through the event of Christ Jesus and are re-born in the forms which can be given them without the influence of the Christ-principle. Hence there appears again that which indicated the mere intelligence, the mere intellect; the horse appears four consecutive times. The old form of man appears which he obtains by receiving into himself the horse nature. This form appears at the opening of the seals.

And when the fifth seal is opened what is then brought to our notice? Those who in the preceding period have learned to understand the event of Christ Jesus! These are clothed in white garments, they have been passed by, figuratively they have been slain, they are those who are preserved for the spiritualization of the world. Thus it is the union with the Christ-principle which brings it about that men have these white garments and appear when the fifth seal is opened. Here we see a clear indication that the time when Christ appears is an important epoch for mankind; it is the epoch which brings it to pass that after the War of All against All the four ages may appear when those who have remained behind are tormented by the materiality which had proceeded with evolution and to which they have chained themselves; they are tormented by all the evils and torments of the coarsened, hardened materiality. Everything which is now described in the breaking of the seals represents nothing else than the descent into the abyss. While in the fifth seal we are only briefly directed to those who are chosen, we are shown for the rest those who remain in materiality, who go down into the abyss, who assume the forms which existed previously because they did not progress, because they have not acquired the power to transform these shapes.

You may form a picture of it; imagine that your human forms were to-day made of indiarubber; and within this rubber human body is your inner soul power which gives this rubber body its human form. Imagine that we take out the soul-force, then the rubber body would collapse. Men would receive animal forms. At the moment when you draw the soul out of this human body of rubber, man would manifest the animal form. What man has gained for himself is like something which he produces to-day by his own power. If you could observe what he formerly produced in the astral body you would see its likeness to the animal. It is really an inner force such as this which gives the rubber man the present form. Imagine that this power is removed, imagine man not fertilized by the Christ power; he springs back into the animal form. Thus it will happen to those who fall back. They will afterwards form a world beneath the present world, so to speak, a world of the abyss, where man will again have assumed animal shape.

Thus we learn to understand the direction evolution will actually take. That which is now prepared will come out again bit by bit in the future, just as that which was laid down in the Atlantean epoch has come out bit by bit in our epoch. I have said that in the last third of the Atlantean epoch a small colony was formed from which our civilizations have been derived, and from which the two following will also originate. It will be somewhat different in the next epoch which will succeed all these. There will not be a colony limited to one place, but from the general body of humanity will everywhere be recruited those who are mature enough to form the good, the noble, the beautiful side of the next civilization, after the War of All against All. This again is a progress as compared with the earlier Atlantean epoch when the colony developed in one small place, but with us there is the possibility that from all races of the world will be recruited those who really understand the call of the earth mission, who raise up Christ within themselves, who develop the principle of brotherly love over the whole earth; and indeed, in the true sense, not in the sense of the Christian confessions, but in the sense of the true esoteric Christianity which can proceed from every civilization. Those who understand this Christ-principle will be there in the period following the great War of All against All. After our present purely intellectual civilization, which is now developing in the direction of the abyss of intellect—and you will find that this is the case in every field of life—there will come a time when man will be the slave of the intelligence, the slave of the personality in which he will sink. To-day there is only one way of preserving the personality, and that is to spiritualize it. Those who develop the spiritual life will belong to the small band of the sealed from all nations and races, who will appear in white garments after the War of All against All.

We are now beginning to comprehend the spiritual world from our immediately present intellectual civilization. It is the aim of true Anthroposophy, from out of the present intellectual standards, to comprehend the spiritual world, and to gather together those who can understand the call to spiritualize the world. These will not form a separate colony but will be gathered from every nation and will gradually pass into the sixth age, that is to say, not yet beyond the great War, but primarily into the sixth age, for necessities still exist which are connected with old race ties. In our epoch, races and civilizations are still inter-mingled. The true idea of race has lost its meaning but it still plays a certain part. It is quite impossible at present for every mission to be carried out equally by every people. Certain nations are predestined to carry out a particular mission.

The nations which to-day are the vehicles of Western civilization were chosen to lead the fifth age to its zenith; they were the nations who were to develop the intellect. Hence wherever this civilization extends we have predominantly the civilization of the intellect, which is still not yet finished. This intelligence will spread still further, people will exercise still more of their spiritual forces in order to satisfy their bodily needs; to slay one another they will employ much greater spiritual forces before the great War of All against All. Many discoveries will be made in order to be able the better to carry on war, an endless amount of intelligence will be exercised in order to satisfy the lower impulses. But in the midst of it something is being prepared, with which certain nations of the East, the Northern part of the East, are gifted. Certain nations are preparing to emerge from a certain dullness and bring in a spiritual impulse with mighty force, an impulse which will be the opposite pole to intelligence. Before the sixth age of civilization, represented by the Community of Philadelphia, we shall experience something like a mighty marriage of peoples, a marriage between intelligence and intellect and spirituality. At the present time we are only experiencing the dawn of this marriage and no one should understand what is here said as a song of praise to our age; for one does not sing songs of praise to the sun when there are only the first signs of dawn. But we find remarkable phenomena when we compare East and West, when we look into the depths and foundations of the different nations.

Do not let us look upon this as a desire to take sides. These lectures, which are intended to be objective, are far, far removed from any party spirit. But you may compare objectively that which is attained as science and philosophy in the European West with that which appeared in the East, let us say in Tolstoi. One does not need to be a follower of Tolstoi, but one thing is true; in a book such as Tolstoi's about life you may read one page, if you understand how to read it, and compare it with whole libraries in Western Europe. And you may then say the following: In Western Europe one acquires spiritual culture with the intellect; certain ideas are put together out of details which are intended to make the world comprehensible, and the achievements of Western European civilization in this respect will never be surpassed. But if you understand such a book as Tolstoi's Concerning Life, you will often find condensed into ten lines what, in these Western European libraries, it takes thirty volumes to say. Tolstoi says something with elemental force, and in a few lines of his there is the same amount of energy as is assembled in thirty such volumes. Here one must be able to judge what comes forth from the depths of the spirit, what has a spiritual foundation and what has not. Just as overripe civilizations contain some-thing that is drying up and withering, so do rising civilizations contain within them fresh life and new energy. Tolstoi is a premature flower of such a civilization, one that came far too soon to be fully developed. Hence he has all the faults of an untimely birth. His grotesque und unfounded presentations of many Western European things, all that he brings forward in the way of foolish judgment, show that great personalities have the faults of their virtues and that great cleverness has the folly of its wisdom.

This is only mentioned as a symptom of the future age when the spirituality of the East will unite with the intellectuality of the West. From this union will proceed the age of Philadelphia. All those will participate in this marriage who take into themselves the impulse of Christ Jesus and they will form the great brotherhood which will survive the great War, which will experience enmity and persecution, but will provide the foundation for the good race. After this great War has brought out the animal nature in those who have remained in the old forms, the good race will arise, and this race will carry over into the future that which is to be the spiritually elevated culture of that future epoch. We shall also have the experience that in our epoch, between the great Atlantean flood and the great War of All against All, in the age represented by the community at Philadelphia, a colony is being formed, the members of which will not emigrate but will be everywhere; so that everywhere there will be some who are working in the sense of the community of Philadelphia, in the sense of the binding together of humanity, in the sense of the Christ-principle.