The Apocalypse of St. John
30 June 1908, Nuremberg
Certain dread concerning the destiny of humanity in the future may come over one who enters with feelings into the thoughts which occupied us at the close of our last lecture. A picture of this future of humanity was brought before us which on the one hand was great and powerful, filling one with bliss, showing the future condition of the man who has understood the mission of our present age upon the earth, who has received the Christ-spirit and is thereby able to keep pace with the necessary spiritualization of our earth, a glorious blessed picture of those men who are called in exoteric Christianity the “Redeemed,” and, not quite appropriately, the “Elect.” But the opposite picture had also to be put before you, the picture of the abyss in which is found a humanity which was not in a position to receive the Christ-spirit, which remained in matter, which excluded itself, so to speak, from the spiritualizing process leading into the future; and this portion of humanity which has fallen away from the spiritualized earth, and, in a certain sense apart from it, advances towards a frightful fate. When the beast with the seven heads and ten horns glowers at us from the abyss, the beast led astray by the other frightful being, the two-horned beast, this picture gives rise to fear and horror, and many aright ask: “Is it not hard and unwise on the part of Providence to lead a number of men to such a frightful fate, and in a way, to condemn them to the abyss of evil?” And the question might arise, “Would it not have been more fitting for a wise Providence to have averted this frightful fate from the very beginning?”
In answer to these questions, we might, to begin with, say something abstract, theoretical — and it already signifies a great deal for one who can grasp this theoretical statement is his feeling: It is extremely wise that Providence has taken care that this terrible fate is possible for a number of men. For if it were impossible for man to sink into the abyss of evil, he would not have been able to attain what on the one hand we call love and on the other freedom; since to the occultist freedom is inseparably connected with the idea of love. It would be impossible for man to develop either love or freedom without the possibility of sailing down into the abyss. A man unable, of his own free decision, to choose good or evil, would be a being who would only be led on a leading-string to a good which must be attained of necessity and who had no power to choose the good of his own fully purified will, by the love which springs from freedom. If it were impossible for man to follow in the trail of the monster with the two horns, it would also be impossible for him to follow God out of his own individual love. It was in accordance with a wise Providence to give the possibility of freedom to the humanity which has been developing through our planetary system, and this possibility of freedom could be given on no other condition than that man himself has to make the free choice between good and evil.
But this is only an empty theory, you might say, and man rises but slowly to the point where he not only says this in words and accepts it in moments of speculation as a kind of explanation, but also experiences it in his feeling. Seldom does man now rise to the thought, “I thank thee, O wise Providence, that thou hast made it possible for me to bring thee a love which is not forced but springs up free in my own breast: that thou dost not force use to love thee, but that thou hast given me tine choice of following thee.” Nevertheless, man has to rise to this feeling if he wishes really to feel this theoretical explanation. We can, however, offer additional comfort, or, rather, another quieting assurance, from a clairvoyant observation of the world. For it was stated in our last lecture that at the present day, he alone has au almost unalterable tendency to the abyss who is already entangled in some way in the prongs of the two-horned beast, which leads men to the practice of black magic. Even for such as now fall into the arts of black magic it will still be possible to withdraw in the future. But those who do not come at all into any contact with black magic arts (and this is for the time being the case with most people), these may have nevertheless a certain tendency in the period following the War of All against All, towards final evil, but the possibility in the future of turning back again and following the good will be far greater than the compulsion unconditionally to follow evil.
From these lectures it may be seen that for those who now turn to a spiritual conception of the world, in order to live beyond the great War into the sixth epoch (which is represented by the opening of the seals), there is the possibility to receive the Christ-principle. They will be able to receive the spiritual elements which are laid down in the age signified by the community at Philadelphia, and in the near future they will manifest a strong tendency towards becoming spiritual. Those who turn to-day to a spiritual view receive a powerful disposition to enter upon the upward path. One must not fail to recognize how important it is even at the present time that a number of persons should not turn a deaf ear to the anthroposophical world conception, which is bringing to humanity in a fully conscious manner the first germs of spiritual life, whereas formerly this took place unconsciously. That is the important thing, that this portion of humanity should take with it the first conscious tendencies towards the upward movement.
Through a group of people dedicating themselves to-day to the foundation of a great brotherhood which will live over into the epoch of the seven seals, help will be provided for those others, who to-day still turn a deaf ear to the teachings of Spiritual Science. For the present, we have still to go through many incarnations of the present souls before the great War of All against All, and again up to the decisive point after the great War. And afterwards in the epoch of the seals we also have to go through many changes, and men will often have the opportunity to open their hearts to the spiritual world-conception, which is to-day flowing through the anthroposophical Movement. There will be many opportunities, and you must not imagine that future opportunities will only be such as they are to-day. The way in which we are able to make the spiritual view of the world known to others is still very feeble. Even if a man were now to speak in such a way that his voice were to sound forth directly like the fire of the spirit, that would be feeble as compared with the possibilities which will exist in later and more developed bodies in order to direct our fellow-men to this spiritual movement. When humanity as a whole will have developed higher and higher in future ages, there will be very different means through which the spiritual conception of the world will be able to penetrate into men's hearts, and the most fiery word to-day is small and weak compared with what will work in the future to give all souls the possibility of the spiritual conception of the world — all the souls now living in bodies in which no heart beats for this spiritual conception of the world.
We are at the beginning of the spiritual movement, and it will grow. It will require much obduracy and much hardness to close the heart and mind to the powerful impressions of the future. The souls now living in bodies which have the heart to hear and feel Anthroposophy, are now preparing them-selves to live in bodies in the future in which power will be given them to serve their fellow-creatures, who up to that time had been unable to feel this heart beat within them. We are only preparing for the preparers, as yet nothing more. The spiritual movement is to-day but a very small flame; in the future it will develop into a mighty spiritual fire.
When we bring this other picture before our minds, when we let it enter right into our feelings, then there will live in us a very different feeling and a very different possibility of knowledge concerning this fact. To-day it is what we call black magic into which men can, in a certain way, fall consciously or unconsciously. Those who are now living thoughtlessly, who are quite untouched by the spiritual conception of the world, who live in their comfortable everyday torpor and say, “What does it matter to me what these dreaming Anthroposophists say?” these have the least opportunity of coming into the circle of black magic. In their case they are now only neglecting the opportunity to help their fellow-men in the future in their efforts to attain the spiritual life. For themselves they have not yet lost touch. But those who to-day are beginning in an unjustifiable way to oppose the spiritual life, are really taking up into themselves in the very first beginnings the germs of some-thing one might call black magic. There are very few individuals to-day who have already fallen into black magic in the frightful sense in which this horrible art of humanity must really be spoken of.
This seductive being is of quite a different nature from man. It originates from other world periods; it has acquired the tendencies of other world periods and will feel deep satisfaction when it meets with beings such as those evil ones who have refused to take up inwardly the good which can flow from the earth. This being has been unable to receive anything from the earth; it has seen the earthly evolution come but has said, “I have not progressed with the earth in such a way that I can gain anything from earthly existence.” This being could only have got something from the earth by being able to gain the rulership at a certain moment, namely, when the Christ-principle descended to the earth. If the Christ-principle had then been strangled in the germ, if Christ had been overcome by the adversary, it would have been possible for the whole earth to succumb to the Sorath-principle. This, however, did not take place, and so this being has to be content with those who have not inclined towards the Christ-principle, who have remained embedded in matter; they in the future will form his cohorts.
Now in order to understand these hosts more clearly we must consider two ideas which in a certain sense may serve as a key to certain chapters of the Apocalypse. We must study the ideas of the “first death” and the “second death.” What is the first death and what is the second death of man, or of humanity? We must form a clear picture of the ideas which the writer of the Apocalypse connected with these words. To this end we must once more recall to mind the elementary truths concerning human existence.
Consider a human being of the present day. He lives in such a way that from morning when he awakes until evening when he falls asleep he consists of four principles: the physical body, etheric body, astral body and the “I.” We also know that during his earthly existence man works from his “I” upon the lower principles of his being, and that during the earth existence he must succeed in bringing the astral body under the control of the “I.” We know that the earth will be followed by its next incarnation, Jupiter. When main has reached Jupiter he will appear as a different being. The Jupiter-man will have thoroughly worked from his “I” upon his astral body; and when to-day we say, The earth-man who stands before us in the waking condition has developed physical body, etheric body, astral body and “I,” we must say of the Jupiter-man: he will have developed physical body, etheric body, astral body and “I” but he will have changed his astral body into spirit-self. He will live at a higher stage of consciousness, a stage which may be described as follows: The ancient dim-picture-consciousness of the Moon, which existed also in the first epochs of the earth-consciousness, will again be there with its pictures as clairvoyant consciousness, but it will be furnished with the human “I,” so that with this Jupiter-consciousness man will reflect as logically as he does now with his day-consciousness on the earth.
The Jupiter-man therefore will possess spiritual vision of a certain degree. Part of the soul-world will lie open to him; the will perceive the pleasure and pain of those around him in pictures which will arise in his imaginative consciousness. He will there-fore live under entirely different moral conditions. Now imagine that as a Jupiter-man you have a human soul before you. The pain and pleasure of this soul will arise in pictures before you. The pictures of the pair of the other soul will distress you, and if you do not remove the other's pain it will be impossible for you to feel happy. The pictures of sorrow and suffering would torment the Jupiter-man with his exalted consciousness if he were to do nothing to alleviate this sorrow and thus at the same dine remove his own distressing pictures which are nothing but the expression of the sorrow around him! It will not be possible for one to feel pleasure or pain without others also feeling it.
Thus we see that man gains an entirely new state of consciousness in addition to his present “I”-consciousness. If we wish to understand the importance of this in evolution we must once more turn our attention to man when asleep.
During this condition the physical body and etheric body lie on the bed, and his “I” and astral body are outside. During the night (if we speak somewhat inexactly) he callously abandons his physical and etheric bodies. But through being able to liberate himself during the night from his physical and etheric bodies, through being able to live at night in the spiritual world, it is possible for man during this earthly existence to work transformingly from his “I” upon his astral body. How does he do this?
To describe this clearly let us take man in his waking state. Let us suppose that in addition to his professional work and duties he devotes a short time to higher considerations in order to make the great impulses his own which flow from John's Gospel, from the words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God ...” Let us suppose that he allows to rise within him the great pictures brought before him in John's Gospel, so that he is always filled by the thought: “At the beginning of our era a Being lived in Palestine whom I wish to follow. I will so order my life that everything may be approved by this Being; and I will consider myself as a man who has taken this personality as his ideal.” But we need not intolerantly think that John's Gospel alone may be taken. It is possible in many other ways to immerse oneself in something which can fill the soul with such pictures; and although in a certain way we must describe John's Gospel as the greatest revelation which has originated in humanity, which can exercise the most powerful effect, we may, however, say that others who devote themselves to the Vedanta wisdom or immerse themselves in the Bhagavad Gita or in the Dhammapada, will also have sufficient opportunities in following incarnations to come to the Christ-principle just through what they have thus acquired. Let us suppose that during the day a man fills his mind with pictures and ideas such as these, then his astral body is laid hold of by these thoughts, feelings and pictures, and they form forces in his astral body and produce various effects in it. Then when man withdraws from his physical and etheric bodies at night, these effects remain in the astral body, and he who during the day has been able to immerse himself in the pictures and feelings of John's Gospel has produced something in his astral body which during the night appears in it as a powerful effect. In this way man works to-day during the waking consciousness upon his astral body.
Only the Initiate can become conscious of these effects to-day, but men are gradually developing towards this consciousness. Those who reach the goal of the earth evolution will then have an astral body completely permeated by the “I,” and by the spiritual content which it will have formed. They will have this consciousness as a result, as a fruit of the earth evolution, and will carry it over into the Jupiter evolution. We might say that when the Earth period has thus come to an end man will have gained capacities which are symbolically represented by the building of the New Jerusalem. Man will then already look into that picture-world of Jupiter; the spirit-self will then be fully developed in him. That is the goal of the earth evolution. What, then, is man to gain in the course of his earthly evolution? What is the first goal? The transformation of the astral body. This astral body which to-day is always free of the physical and etheric bodies at night will appear in the future as a transformed portion of the human being. Mau brings into it what he gains on the earth; but this would not be sufficient for the earth evolution. Imagine that man were to come out of the physical body and etheric body every night and were to fill his astral body with what he had acquired during the day, but that the physical and etheric bodies were untouched by it. Man would then still not reach his earthly goal. Something else must take place; it must be possible for man during his earthly evolution to imprint, at least in the etheric body, what he has taken into himself. It is necessary for this etheric body also to receive effects from what man develops in his astral body. Man cannot yet of himself work into this etheric body. Upon Jupiter, when he has trans-formed his astral body, he will be able to work into this etheric body also, but to-day he cannot do this; he still needs helpers, so to speak. Upon Jupiter he will be capable of beginning the real work on the etheric body. Upon Venus he will work upon the physical body; this is the part most difficult to overcome. To-day he still has to leave both the physical and etheric bodies every night and emerge from them. But in order that the etheric body may receive its effects, so that man shall gradually learn to work into it, he needs a helper. And the helper who makes this possible is none other than Christ, while we designate the Being who helps man to work into the physical body as the Father. But man cannot work into his physical body before the helper conies who makes it possible to work into the etheric body. “No man cometh to the Father, but by me.” No one acquires the capacity of working into the physical body who has not gone through the Christ-principle. However, when he has reached the goal of earthly evolution, man will have the capacity — through being able to transform his astral body by his own power — to work upon the etheric body also. This he owes to the living presence of the Christ-principle on the earth. Had Christ not united him-self with the earth as a living being, had he not come into the aura of the earth, that which is developed in the astral body would not be communicated to the etheric body. From this we see that one who shuts himself up by turning away from the Christ-principle deprives himself of the possibility of working into his etheric body in the way that is necessary during earthly evolution.
Thus we shall be able to characterize in another way the two kinds of men which we find at the end of the earth's evolution. We have those who have received the Christ-principle and thus transformed their astral body, and who have gained the help of Christ to transform the etheric body also. And we have the others who did not come to the Christ-principle; who also were unable to change anything in the etheric body, for they could not find the helper, Christ. Now let us look at the future of mankind. The earth spiritualizes itself, that is, man must lose completely something which he now un his physical existence considers as belonging to him. We can form an idea of what will then happen to man if we consider the ordinary course of his life after death. He loses the physical body at death. It is to this physical body that he owes the desires and inclinations which bind him to the ordinary life; and we have described what man experiences after death. Let us take a person who is fond of some particularly dainty food. During life he can enjoy this, but not after death. The desire, however, does not cease, for this is seated, not in the physical body but in the astral body, and as the physical instrument is absent it is impossible to gratify this desire. Such persons look down from kamaloca to the physical world which they have left; they see there all that could give them satisfaction, but they cannot enjoy it because they have no physical instrument for the purpose. Through this they experience a burning thirst. Thus it is with all desires that remain in man after death and are related to the physical world, because they can only be satisfied through physical instruments. This is the case every time after death; each time man sees his physical body fall away, and as something remains in him from this physical body it still urges him to the ordinary world of the physical plane, and until he has weaned himself from this in the spiritual world he lives in the fire of desire. Now imagine the last earthly incarnation before the spiritualization of the earth, the laying aside of the last physical body. Those who are now living on the earth will have progressed so far through the Christ-principle that, in a certain way, it will not be very difficult for than to lay aside the very last physical body; they will, however, be obliged to leave something, for all that can give pleasure from the objects of this earth will have disappeared once and for all from the spiritual earth. Think of the last death possible in our earth evolution, think of the laying aside of the last physical body. It is this last death of the incarnations which in the Apocalypse is called the first death, and those who have received the Christ-principle see this physical body as a sort of husk which falls away. The etheric body has now become important to them for, with the help of Christ, it has become so organized that it is for the time being adapted to the astral body and no longer desires and longs for what is below in the physical world. Only through all that has been brought into the etheric body through the help of Christ do men continue to live on in the spiritualized earth. Harmony has been produced between their astral and etheric bodies by the Christ-principle.
On the other hand there are those who have not received the Christ-principle. These do not possess this harmony. They too must lose the physical body, for there is no such thing in the spiritual earth. Everything physical must first be dissolved. It remains as desires for the physical, as the unpurified spiritual, as the spiritual hardened in matter. An etheric body remains which the Christ has not helped to be adapted to the astral body, but which is suited to the physical body. They are the souls who will feel hot fires of desire for physical sensuality; in the etheric body they will feel unappeasable, burning desire by reason of what they have had in the physical life and which they must now do without. Thus, in the next period, after the physical has melted away, we have men who live in an etheric body which harmonizes with the astral body, and we have others whose etheric body lives in discord because they desire what has fallen away with the physical body.
Then in the further stage of evolution there comes a condition where the spiritualizing of the earth has proceeded so far that there can no longer be even an etheric body. Those whose etheric body completely harmonizes with the astral body lay aside this etheric body without pain, for they remain in their astral body which is filled with the Christ-Being. They feel the laying aside of the etheric body as a necessity in evolution, for they feel within them the capacity to build it up again for them-selves because they have received Christ. Those, however, who in this etheric body desire what belongs to the past cannot retain this etheric body, when all becomes astral. It will be taken from them, it will be torn out of them, and they now perceive this as a second dying, as the “second death.”
This second death passes unnoticed over those who have made their etheric body harmonize with the astral body through the reception of the Christ-principle. The second death has no power over then. But the others feel the second death when they have to pass over into the future astral form. The condition of humanity will then be such that those who have reached the goal of evolution will have entirely permeated their astral body with Christ. They will be ready to pass over to Jupiter. Upon our earth they have made the plan of the Jupiter evolution. This is the plan which is called the New Jerusalem. They live in a new heaven and a new earth, that is, Jupiter. This new Jupiter will be accompanied by a satellite, composed of those who are excluded from the life in the spiritual, who have experienced the second death and are, therefore, unable to attain the Jupiter consciousness.
Thus we have such men as have pressed forward to the Jupiter consciousness, who have attained to spirit-self; and such beings as have thrust away the forces which would have given them this consciousness. They are those who only upon Jupiter have attained to the “I”-consciousness of the earth, who exist there, so to speak, as man now exists on the earth with his four members. But such a man can develop himself only on the earth, the earth alone has the environment, the ground, the air, the clouds, the plants, the minerals which are necessary to man if he wishes to gain what may be gained within the four members. Jupiter will be quite differently formed, it will be a new earth, soil, air, water, everything will be different. It will be impossible for beings who have only gained the earth consciousness to live a normal life; they will be backward beings.
But now comes something more for our comfort. Even on this Jupiter there is still a last possibility, through the strong powers which the advanced will have, to move those fallen beings to turn back and even to convert a number. Only with the Venus incarnation of the earth will conic the last decision, the unalterable decision. When we reflect upon all this, the thought we recently considered will be seen in a new light. It will no longer call forth anxiety and disquietude, but only the determination: “I will do everything necessary to fulfil the earth mission.”
When we consider all this in the right way, a mighty picture of the future of humanity opens up before us and we get some idea of all that was in the illuminated soul of the writer of the Apocalypse who wrote down what we, in a faltering way, can discover from a study of it. Every word of the writer, indeed every turn of expression, is significant. We must only try to understand it clearly. Thus, according to our last lecture, in 666 we are referred to the beast with the two horns, and then a remarkable statement is made, “Here is Wisdom! Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.” An apparent contradiction, but one of the many contradictions which are to be found in every occult work and exposition. You may be sure of one thing; that an exposition which runs so smoothly that the ordinary human intellect can find no contradiction is certainly not based on an occult foundation. Nothing in world-evolution is so shallow and trivial as that which the human intellect, the ordinary intelligence perceives as free from contradiction. One must penetrate more deeply into the substrata of human contemplation and then the contradictions will disappear. One who observes how a plant grows from root to fruit, how the green leaf changes into the petals, these into the stamens, etc., may say, “Here we have contradictory forms, the flower-leaf contradicts the stem-leaf.” But one who looks more deeply will see the unity, the deeper unity in the contradiction. So it is with what the intellect can see in the world. It is precisely in the deepest wisdom that it sees contradictions. Hence it must not disturb us when here in the Apocalypse we meet with an apparent contradiction: “Let him that hath understanding ponder over the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.”
We must once more consider by what means it may be possible for a man to be led astray by the two-horned beast. We have pointed out that since the middle of the Atlantean epoch man has slept through the higher spiritual development, so to speak. This sleep still exists at the present time. But it was necessary. If it had not entered in, that which we call the intellect would never have been developed. Man did not possess this before our epoch, he acted from other impulses. His pictures drove him to action, without reflection. He had lost this ancient gift of spiritual vision and in its place he has developed intellect and thereby descended into matter. This has drawn a veil over the spiritual world, but at the same time the intellect has been acquired. This may be a great hindrance to the spiritual development. At the very last it will be nothing else but this misguided intellect, this misguided intelligence, which can prevent man from coming to the Christ-principle; and if those who at last succumb to the two-horned beast could look back upon what has dealt them the worst blow they would say, “The tendency to descend into the abyss only came later, but that which darkened the Christ-principle for me was the intellect.” Let him who has this intellect reflect upon the number of the beast; for only through man having become man, that is to say, through his being gifted with this ego-intellect, can he succumb to the beast 666. For the number of the beast is at the same time the number of a man. And only one possessing intellect can perceive that this is so. It is the number of that man who has let himself be misled by his intellect. Deep truths such as these are concealed in these things.
Thus you see that the writer of the Apocalypse gives you a great deal when you reflect upon the various intimations we have given. He expresses many of the truths known to Spiritual Science. He gives what he promises. He leads man to the vision of what is to come; to the vision of the beings and powers which guide the world. He leads us to the spirit in the first seal, and to the form presented in the last seal. Here we see how the regular form of the New Jerusalem is revealed to him spiritually. The regularity of the New Jerusalem is indicated in the last chapter by its description as a cube. To describe all that is in this last picture would take us too far.
It is now necessary to point out for what purpose the Apocalypse was written. I should indeed have to say a great deal if I were to describe this in detail, but you cm at least take away with you one hint, one which we find at a certain part of the Apocalypse. The writer of the Apocalypse says: A time will come when that high degree of consciousness will actually have developed, when man will see the beings who direct the world, the beings represented by the Lamb and by the appearance of the Son of Man, with the flaming sword. We are referred to this in tones which contain within them that assurance of which we have spoken. The writer of the Apocalypse, who is a great seer, knows that in ancient times men were gifted with a dim clairvoyance. We have described this and have seen how at that time inns were the companions, so to speak, of beings in the spiritual world, and themselves saw the spiritual world. But who has lost this gift of seership? Who? We must now put this forward as an important question. We have seen that fundamentally it was lost by those men who were led to the physical plane, the physical life, when the second half of the Atlantean epoch began. Man looked upon the solid formation of our earth, upon the clearly outlined objects of our earth. The ancient clairvoyance disappeared; he became self-conscious, but the spiritual world was closed to him. The formations which un ancient times filled the air like an ocean of mist, disappeared; the air became clear, the ground distinct. Man descended to the visible earth. This took place comparatively late, it coincided with the attainment of the present intellect, the present self-consciousness of man. Now let us remember what has been said about this earth as well as about the great Event of Golgotha. If some one had observed the earth at that time from a distance with spiritual vision at the moment when the blood flowed from the wounds of the Redeemer, he would have perceived that its whole astral aura changed. The earth was then permeated by the Christ-force. Through this event the earth will be able to reunite with the sun. This power will grow. This is the power which preserves our etheric body from the second death. Christ becomes the Earth-spirit more and more, and the true Christian understands the words, “He who eats my bread treads me underfoot”; he considers the body of the earth as the body of Christ. The earth as a planetary body is the body of Christ; of course at present this is only at its beginning. Christ has still to become the Earth-spirit; He will smite himself fully with the earth, and when the earth later unites with the sun, the great Earth-spirit, Christ, will be the Sun-Spirit.
The body of the earth will be the body of Christ; and men must work upon this body. They began this when they entered upon the earth; they have worked upon this earth with their forces. In all traditions one can fund something which is little noticed because little understood. Thus, for example, in the Persian tradition we find that since the time men lost clairvoyant consciousness they have become beings who have pierced the earth. While they live in the phases which they pierce the earth — that is, while they work upon the earth — during this time when they pierce the body of Christ they do not see with clairvoyant consciousness the guiding powers and, above all, they do not see the Christ face to face. But the writer of the Apocalypse refers to the time when not only those who at that time had spiritual vision will see the spiritual, but when humanity will again have come to the stage where it is possible to see the Christ-Being himself. All will see him, including those who have pierced him, these who had to pass through a portion of their evolution in cultivating the earth, in the piercing of the earth, they will see the Christ. For these sayings are such that they lead those who gradually learn to unveil them deep into the imaginative world of the Mysteries, of the Apocalyptic language.
What, then, did the Apocalyptist wish to write, what did he wish to represent? This question will be answered if we briefly refer to the origin of the Apocalypse. Where do we first fund what is written down in the Apocalypse? If you could look back into the Mysteries of ancient Greece, into the Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries, if you could go back into the Mysteries of ancient Egypt, Chaldea, Persia and India, you would find the Apocalypse everywhere. It existed, it was there. It was not written down, but lived from one generation of priests to another, through the generations of the Initiators, where the memory was so vivid that one could master such abundant material. Memory even in much later times was far better than ours; we need only remember the singers of the Iliad, how they went about and sang their songs from memory. It is comparatively not long ago, that memory has deteriorated so much. In the Mysteries these truths were not written down, but they lived from generation to generation of the Initiators. Why was the Apocalypse written? It was intended to serve as an instruction for those who brought the pupils into Initiation. At that time the one who was to be initiated was led out of the physical body and remained as if dead. But when he had been led out, the Initiator enabled him to see in his etheric body that which later through the Christ-impulse he would be able to see spiritually in the physical body. Thus the ancient Initiates were the prophets who could point to Christ; and they did so. They were able to do this, because Christ is shown in this Apocalypse as due to appear in the future. The Mystery of Golgotha had never yet taken place where a person in the physical body could set forth the whole drama of Initiation historically. Where then could the possibility of this Event of Golgotha be comprehended? At a certain stage the Initiates had comprehended it outside their body. That which took place on Golgotha had taken place before in another consciousness. There might have been thousands there, and yet the Event of Golgotha could have passed by them unnoticed. What would it have been to them? The death of an ordinary condemned person! It was only possible to understand what took place on Golgotha where the contents of the Mysteries were known. The Initiators could say, You can understand the one whom we have shown you during the three and a half days, whom the prophets announced to you, if you use the means which the Mysteries can give you. The Apocalyptist had received the tradition of the Mysteries orally; he said, “If I am permeated with what can be experienced in the Mysteries, Christ appears to me.” Thus the Apocalypse was nothing new; but its application to the unique Event of Golgotha was something new. The essential thing was that for those who have ears to hear it was possible, with the help of what is in the Apocalypse of John, to penetrate gradually to the true understanding of the Event of Golgotha. This was the intention of the writer of the Apocalypse. He received the Apocalypse from the ancient Mysteries; it is an ancient sacred book of humanity and has only been presented externally to humanity by the disciple whom the Lord loved and to whom he bequeathed the task of announcing his true form. He is to remain until Christ comes; so that those who have a more illuminated consciousness will be able to understand him. He is the great teacher of the true Event of Golgotha. He has given to man the means by which he can really understand the Event of Golgotha. At the beginning of the Apocalypse the writer says (I have tried to translate the first few words in such a way that they convey the true meaning): “This is the revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto his servant, to show in brief what must needs come to pass. This is put in symbols and sent through an angel to his servant John, who wrote these things.” He wishes to describe it in brief; what does this mean? It means in other words: “If I were to describe in detail all that will take place from now up to the goal of the earth evolution, I. should have to write a very great deal, but I will show it to you in a short sketch.” This the translators who could not penetrate into the spirit of the Apocalypse have translated as “to show what must shortly come to pass.” They thought that what is described in the Apocalypse was to happen in the near future. But it ought to read: “I will briefly describe what will take place.” The original text fully admits of the true interpretation I have tried to give in the introduction to Seals and Columns.
We have said much in these lectures concerning this ancient sacred record of the human race, much concerning the secrets which the Lord imparted to humanity by the disciple whom he loved. You may have learnt from this that the Apocalypse is a profound book full of wisdom, and have perhaps many tines during these considerations been troubled because much in it is so difficult to understand. Now I should like to say one thing at the close of our studies. All that I have been able to say to you corresponds exactly to the intentions of the writer of the Apocalypse, and was always taught in this way in the schools which have kept to the intention of the writer of the Apocalypse. But it is by no means all that could be said and one can go much deeper into the truths, into the foundations of the Apocalypse. And if we were to penetrate fully into all the depths, what I have been able to say to you would seem only like a first superficial presentation. It cannot be done in any other way, we can at first give only a superficial presentation. One must go through this. One has to begin with the elementary things, and then, when one has gone a little further, greater depths will be found. For below the surface there is a very great deal of which we have been only able to unveil a very little. If you go further along the path which in a certain way you have begun by turning your attention to the exposition of the Apocalypse of John, you will gradually penetrate into the depths of the spiritual life. You will come into depths which cannot possibly be expressed to-day, because they could not be brought into consciousness, because no one has yet ears to hear. The ears must first be prepared to hear, by such explanations as have now been given. Then they will gradually be there, cars able to hear the Word which flows at such profound depths through the Apocalypse. If you have been able to receive a little of what could be imparted, you must be aware that only the most superficial things could be given, and of these only a few observations. May it give you the impulse to penetrate more and more deeply into what can only be surmised through these lectures. If I were to say only what can be said about the surface, I should have to lecture for still many, many weeks. These lectures could only be a stimulus for further study, and those who feel the impulse to penetrate more deeply into the Apocalypse will have received them in the right way.