Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Earthly and Cosmic Man
GA 133

4. The Forces of the Human Soul and Their Inspirers. Kalewala: The Epic of the Finns.

23 April 1912, Berlin

During the last few weeks, a number of friends from Germany have been with me on a visit to a field of theosophical work abroad—to Helsingfors, in Finland. A visit of this kind to a far-off field of work always brings a realisation of the unity of theosophical life all over the globe and also of its deep roots in the culture of the present day. It meant a great deal to me when our friends in Finland expressed the wish that I should speak to them about the venerable Finnish epic, “Kalewala.”1See also: The Connection of the Human Being with the Elemental World. Finland and the Kalewala. Lecture given at Dornach, 1914. Not yet published in English. As this wish was conveyed to me some time ago, I was able to occupy myself from the vantage-point of occultism, with this remarkable poem of the Finns—who are themselves, in many respects, a unique people. And this brought to the fore once again, things of which I have spoken on other occasions, here and also elsewhere. A very definite experience comes to us when, independently of everything men have hitherto known concerning the spiritual worlds and have, in their own way, expressed in words, we ourselves strive for deeper insight into those worlds and man's relationship to them, and ask: How are we to understand what is contained in the many folk-traditions that have been preserved through the centuries? How are we to apply to these recorded traditions the knowledge we have acquired concerning the super-sensible world? Although their language differs from that in which they have to be presented today, biblical and other records clearly based upon occult foundations, are expressions, issuing from ancient times and from manifold periods of human evolution, of wisdom and knowledge which it is possible for us to rediscover today. These ancient records present a new aspect and seem to be imbued with a new power when we realise that in and from those same worlds to which we aspire along the path to spiritual knowledge and to Initiation, great revelations have been given to the world in different epochs and in multifarious ways.

We may well feel that the venerable Finnish epic, “Kalewala,” has a special and unique occult significance. My own experience was very vivid and definite. This Finnish epic has been translated into every European language but it differs fundamentally and significantly from all other epic poems; no comparison with any of them is possible.

When my book Theosophy first appeared many years ago, independent observation of the spiritual world had led me to “member” the human soul into three: Sentient Soul, Mind or Intellectual Soul, Consciousness or Spiritual Soul. Knowledge of the threefold soul was acquired purely through occult research and occult observation directed to the spiritual world quite independently of any tradition. Occult research was the only source consulted. And now, because our friends in the Finnish Section desired me to speak of the occult meaning of the Kalewala, it was necessary to make the poem the subject of spiritual investigation.

It has been emphasised repeatedly that human consciousness and the life of soul were not always as they are today. In primeval times of the evolution of mankind our present mode of perception and thinking, our present relationship to the external world, simply did not exist; in those ancient times the human being was endowed with a natural, innate clairvoyance. Turning our gaze to past epochs in the evolutionary process, we come to a period starting about the year 600 B.C. when man's life of soul began to assume the form and character which were subsequently to lead to the much more abstract, scientific mode of thinking; before that time, vestiges and remains of the old clairvoyance, or memories of it at least, persisted among certain peoples for a very long time, among others for not so long. When we look back into the development of the peoples, we find in every case that consciousness as it is at present, developed only by very gradual stages. In very ancient times, normal human consciousness was imbued with a certain form of clairvoyance: and it was during the period of twilight denoting the disappearance of the old clairvoyance and the first beginnings of “modern” consciousness that the National Epics, the Folk-Epics came to birth.

It would, of course, have been absolutely impossible for men of primeval times to know anything about the threefoldness represented by Sentient Soul, Mind Soul, Consciousness Soul. But they possessed genuine clairvoyance, although it was dim and dream-like, lacking the light of intellect and reason in their present form. Before the dawning of the consciousness we know today, there were conditions, midway as it were between our waking and sleeping states, in which living memories arose of entirely different circumstances of life, when the relation of one human being to another was determined, not by anything like consciousness as it is at present, but by the old clairvoyance. And in their great Folk-Epics the peoples depicted the experiences which arose within them during the period when the old clairvoyance was dying away and present-day consciousness was beginning to dawn.

The materialist says that man's life of soul has unfolded, by degrees, out of the material processes in the human organism—out of processes which are also to be found in lower forms of life. Spiritual Science, however, makes it clear that the elements of “soul-life” as they are in the animal would never have been able to give rise to the threefoldness of Sentient Soul, Mind Soul, Consciousness Soul, and that it is far more a matter of this inner trinity of the three “members” of the soul having flowed down from a spiritual world. Therefore when we look into the spiritual world we can speak of three down-flowing streams, with which three Beings in the spiritual worlds are connected, Beings who are the direct Inspirers of the Sentient Soul, the Mind Soul and the Consciousness Soul. We have to think of the Creators of these three manifestations of the life of soul in that super-sensible world with which, in primeval times, human beings were in direct communion.

We know that the moment our consciousness rises into the spiritual world, no matter whether this is the result of deliberate training, as will be the case today, or whether through the old clairvoyance, the human form becomes an “Imagination.” In those olden days, too, the soul attained to a form of Imagination, beholding in pictures the outpouring of the threefold human soul from the spiritual world. The Finnish epic tells of three Heroes. To begin with, these three Beings seem strange and remarkable in the highest degree; they have something superhuman about them and at the same time something that graduates into the genuinely human. But if we examine the matter more closely, and with occult means, it becomes apparent that these three figures, these three Heroes, are the Creators and Inspirers of the threefold powers of the soul in man. The Creator of the Sentient Soul is the figure to whom, in the Kalewala, the name of “Wainamoinen” is given; the Creator of the Mind Soul is “Ilmarinen,” and the Creator of the Consciousness Soul, “Lemminkainen.” And so in the National Epic of this remarkable people we find, in a form of Imagination springing from the original, ancient clairvoyance, what is rediscovered by modern spiritual research. The human being of today has the outer form we see before us, only because the foundations of this threefold life of soul were laid down in the course of evolution on Earth. (I indicated this in the public lectures given in the Berlin Architektenhaus: “The Origin of Man in the Light of Spiritual Science,” and “The Origin of the Animal World in the Light of Spiritual Science.”)24th and 18th January, 1912. Not yet published in English.

We must picture to ourselves that there was a time in the process of the Earth's development when neither human beings nor animals were in existence, when all that was present was a kind of undifferentiated “substance”; the beings who first detached themselves were those which have reached the animal stage. When all the animals were there, man was still waiting until other conditions of Earth-existence had set in and because he had waited for these other conditions, he was able to become the recipient of his present form. In other words: while the animals developed their various forms on the Earth, man remained in the spiritual world above; his development began only when the animals had already assumed their destined forms. The foundations of the threefold soul-Sentient Soul, Mind Soul, Consciousness Soul—were laid in man and it was then possible for him to enter Earth-existence in the external form in which he now lives.

With this in mind, we can say: Man, as the created being we know today, sent down the animal kingdom before him and then followed himself, when the Earth-conditions were such that he could bring to manifestation in outer form, the threefold life of soul that had been laid into his being. What does this really mean? Knowledge of these occult truths restores to the traditions of religion, which rest upon occult foundations, their ancient value and meaning. Man received Earth-substance into himself when he was able to recast, to remould it into his present form—a form able to receive the imprint of the threefold life of soul. Thus man elaborated Earth-substance according to the laws of his life of soul, made Earth-substance subject to the plan underlying his life of soul, and became Earth-Man; he fashioned Earth-substance after the model of the threefold, prototypal soul. Think of the Biblical picture of the moulding of the substance of Earth (not the “dust” but the substance of Earth) into Man. We now discern profound meaning in this Biblical conception upon which so much scorn has been poured by modern “enlightenment”—as it is called. For the passage points to the time when the animals, having descended at an earlier period, were already in existence and when, out of Earth-substance, the being who now stands before us as bodily Man, was fashioned, at a later stage, according to the model of the soul.

In the Kalewala it is wonderful to find this process presented, with great imaginative power, as the “forging” of a mysterious instrument called the “Sampo.” The most curious explanations have been given of this mysterious instrument, the “Sampo.” In reality it is the human ether-body, forged by the interworking of the three soul-members—it is the ether-body, the imprint of which is the physical body. All that is necessary here is to give indications, without entering more closely into details. The National Epic of Finland quite obviously derives from the memory of the Finnish people in which clairvoyant perceptions of ancient times had been retained; through these perceptions, some knowledge still persisted of the descent of man as a being of soul—a threefold soul—into the physical body. What is noteworthy in such a matter is that in the old heroic sagas of humanity,we again find the truths and knowledge acquired today of the spiritual worlds. The Kalewala is an example of what is to be found in many ancient records of importance to humanity and is, moreover, one that emerged from oblivion only in the nineteenth century! For it had been entirely forgotten and was compiled during the course of that century from folk-songs extant among the Finnish people.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, nothing had been written down of the Kalewala as we possess it today; the songs were heard from the people, had lived only among them. The simple fact is that in the nineteenth century a certain doctor, realised that the people sang of many interesting things, and set about collecting the songs. Then a compilation was made and they assumed fresh importance. They attracted considerable attention and were translated into all the European languages. Scholars then proceeded to give senseless explanations of them ... but all that really matters is that they are there, having lived among the people.

Approaching the matter with the spiritual knowledge in our possession today, it becomes apparent, if we are willing to recognise it, that in what had survived there among the people and was gathered from among them, there is occult content which can be rediscovered today, just as occult content can be rediscovered in Homer's Iliad, in the Odyssey, in the songs of the Niebelung and elsewhere. Only we must be willing to seek earnestly, not applying anything in the way of allegorical or symbolical interpretation but rather allowing what is actually there to make its own impression upon us. What we ourselves have found in the realm of occultism, shines forth in Imaginations deriving from times of hoary antiquity. But in this case there is something of particular interest, as I myself discovered. When the Kalewala came into my hands, I heard that the closing runes—which make allusion to a connection between the spiritual life of ancient Finland and Christianity—must obviously have been a later addition; for whereas all the rest bears the character of ancient Paganism, the closing runes introduce an essentially Christian element—but very delicately and lightly. And then, strangely enough, I discovered that this belongs fundamentally to the Kalewala, that the poem is inconceivable without these closing runes. This means that in its origin and life among the people, the Kalewala quite naturally culminated in a delicate reference to Christianity—and, it may be added, to the most impersonal, “non-Palestinian” Christianity that it is possible to imagine, hardly recognisable by Christian concepts as they now are! Here, therefore, it is clear that from the same primeval soul there issued something that could not have been born at the same time as Christian culture among the other peoples of Europe: for Christian culture arose long after clairvoyance had been able still to look back to those primeval ages when the threefold soul was “membered” into the human form. And so here, among the Finnish people, we have an indication of the link between the ancient clairvoyance and the influence subsequently brought into play by Christian culture. This is something quite remarkable and unique—perhaps nowhere else to be found on the Earth. It may be that the veneration in which the Kalewala is held in Finland has preserved this epic from the fate that has befallen the Iliad. I do not know if many of you are aware that scholarship first of all hacked the Iliad into fragments and then declared that it was not written by a man bearing the name of “Homer”—indeed that it was not the work of a single writer but was only put together from collected songs, later on. The Kalewala, of course, was actually a compilation, but nevertheless, it forms a complete whole, one coherent whole. Possibly, in the future, a few changes here and there may be necessary, but nevertheless it is complete in itself. And so we have before us here, gathered from the consciousness of the people, a number of occult Imaginations. If we follow the matter in the Akasha-Chronicle, we find that the Kalewala leads back to the ancient and sacred Mysteries of northern Europe, and that the truths it contains were inspired by the Initiates, given forth to the people and instilled into them.

Why have I been telling you these things?

Matters of which we have been hearing for years were also spoken of in Helsingfors and will be spoken of in other parts of Europe too. But the public lecture which I was able to give on the subject of the occult content of the Folk-Epics, with particular reference to the Kalewala, was something new, especially belonging to Finland. (9th April, 1914.) One then realised that the essence of Spiritual Science will more and more make itself felt over the whole Earth. For do we not all feel that with Spiritual Science we are at home in the spiritual life? We are everywhere at home, for Spiritual Science is the light which illumines the path to the Spirit trodden by mankind all over the Earth. It is an overpowering experience to rediscover through Spiritual Science, the real content of this collection of folk-poems which form themselves into one whole. We find how right on into the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries, the Folk-Soul became articulate in poetry, still possessing vital memories of the old clairvoyance once possessed by these unique Finnish peoples who to this day retain many customs and arts reminiscent of an ancient form of magic. And then we realise that Spiritual Science alone can lead to an understanding of these things, make them intelligible to us!

One of the many signs of the great spiritual happenings of the near future may be indicated in the following way. Spiritual Science has taken us into the region of an entirely unknown tongue—for the Finnish language differs from all other European languages; externally, one understands nothing of it and it is like being transported into an absolutely strange land. What knowledge does Spiritual Science bring us? How does Spiritual Science enable us to speak with this people who, so far as the last centuries are concerned, have remained remote from the other peoples of Europe? We speak with them about what is holiest and most sacred to them and is now coming to life again so strongly that people are reaching out for the Kalewala and the eyes of the whole world of culture are turning to it. In what is the most sacred possession of a people, we learn to understand the speech of the Folk-Soul!

So, too, it can be the whole world over, when we realise what must be the very root—nerve of theosophical life. We are standing on the threshold of a new disclosure of spiritual truths. Attention has often been drawn to this, above all in my Rosicrucian Mystery Play, The Portal of Initiation. Reference is there made to the fact that times are approaching when the souls of men will become more and more open to receive revelations from the spiritual world which will break in upon them as a kind of natural experience. In the course of the next three thousand years, men will gradually “grow into” the spiritual world. Through Spiritual Science, however, we must learn to understand why, and to what extent this will come about.

In the first, very ancient period of the Post-Atlantean era, that of the Holy Rishis of India, culture “flowed” as it were, directly from and was inspired by the human ether-body; in the epoch of ancient Persia, culture was inspired by the Sentient Body, the Astral Body; in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch by the Sentient Soul; in the Graeco-Latin period by the Mind or Intellectual Soul; and in our own epoch by the Consciousness Soul. There will follow a form of culture inspired by the Spirit-Self, and so on. If you keep in your minds a picture of the whole course of Post-Atlantean culture, you will find as it were a descending curve until the time of the Graeco-Latin epoch. It is clearly perceptible, and permits of no denial, that this age represents the lowest point of man's descent to the physical plane; the most characteristic and remarkable feature of the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch is that spiritual life is all interwoven, intertwined, entangled with life on the physical plane. But in that same epoch comes the impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha—and necessarily so. You have only to think of what you already know in this connection. There is, however, something else of importance to remember. The actual course of human evolution comes to expression in manifold ways in the life of the individual. In the little book, The Education of the Child in the Light of Spiritual Science, it is said that up to the seventh year the development of the physical body is of primary importance: this phase corresponds, in the evolutionary process of mankind as a whole, to the period preceding the Atlantean catastrophe. The period of life between the seventh and the fourteenth years is a recapitulation—although veiled and obscured—of the culture connected with the ether-body which reached its highest glory in the epoch of ancient India. The period from the fourteenth to the twenty-first year of life is a recapitulation of the culture inspired by the astral body, corresponding to the epoch of ancient Persia. The Egypto-Chaldean period is reflected in the life of the individual human being from the twenty-first to the twenty-eighth year; and the Graeco-Latin epoch is reflected in the life of the individual between the twenty-eighth and thirty-fifth years. This is a very important period; for just as at that time Post-Atlantean humanity swung over from a descending to an ascending culture, so there can be a turning-point in the life of the individual between the twenty-eighth and thirty-fifth years. At the middle point of his earthly existence, the individual faces at one and the same time a descending and an ascending curve of life. After the thirty-fifth year he passes as it were into the period of outward decline, into a process of “withering.” In the individual human life at this time there must be something which corresponds with the swing-over from the descending to the ascending curve of culture. That the Mystery of Golgotha took place during this particular period of the life of Christ Jesus, between the twenty-eighth and thirty-fifth years, was not a matter of chance; it could not be otherwise, as those who know anything of these connections will realise. The Mystery of Golgotha could only be enacted during the period of life connected specifically with the development of the Mind Soul. Since the end of the Middle Ages we have passed into the period of the unfolding of the Consciousness Soul. This will last for a very long time; and then will come the period of the evolution of Spirit-Self.

Now in the life of the individual there is something irregular—magnificently irregular—about the appearance or awakening of the “ I,” the Ego. At some future time I will elaborate this but at the moment I can only indicate it. The regular course of things is the development of the physical body up to the seventh year, of the ether-body up to the fourteenth year, and so on, up to the twenty-eighth year. Then, and only then—if conditions took a regular, straight-forward course, would the “ I ” awaken in the Mind Soul; for only then does the external organisation of the human being contain the proper and suitable instrument for the “ I ”. But the “ I ” awakens, actually, at a very early period of childhood, quite independently of the external organisation—at that point of time to which, in later life, the memory reaches back. Why is it that the birth of the “ I ”, instead of occurring between the twenty-eighth and thirty-fifth years in accordance with the development of man's external organisation, actually occurs during the earliest years of childhood? It is because the Luciferic forces have brought about a certain displacement as between the inner and the outer man. The Luciferic forces are connected with “retardation” in time. The “ I ” within us is grounded upon Luciferic forces, upon remembrance of what has remained to us of our experiences in life. Lucifer emancipates the “ I ” which is thus made free and independent of the outer organisation. For a time it was necessary for man to be connected, externally, with something other than his “ I ” alone. To maintain his rightful place it was necessary to form a link with a Being who had lived during the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch, had reached his thirtieth year, and was then inspired by the Christ, by a Power which could not live on the Earth beyond the thirty-third year, but which in the thirty-third year passed through Death. To begin with, it was an external, historical link. What I have often described to you from the one side, I want you now to consider from the inner side. The human being remembers back to the point in his life when consciousness awakens; his remembrance stretches back to the birth of the “ I,” the Ego: for his actual entrance into Earth-existence is shrouded in sleep. Of what precedes the birth of the “ I ” we have to be told by our parents, by our elder brothers and sisters, by our seniors. Just as the memory of the human being now reaches back to the awakening of this Ego—the Luciferic Ego—so, later on, he will see, as in an Imagination, another Ego, another “ I ” before him. This will come about during the next three thousand years as a development of great significance in the evolution of humanity. In the future, man will remember that at a certain point of time in his childhood, the Luciferic “ I ” awakened; and he will also remember back to another point of time, when the “Christ-Ego” appears, in contrast to the Luciferic Ego. Instead of the one point, there will be two. The fact that this will arise as a memory will be the proof that the Christ-Event has not still to take place, but that it has already taken place. In short, just as a man at the present time remembers back to the awakening of the “ I ”, so, in time to come, the Imagination of the second “ I ” will be within his field of remembrance, enabling him to find the way to what we describe as the new Appearance or Manifestation of Christ.

The fact that man is growing onwards to new experiences, spiritual experiences of an entirely new kind, is something that must be understood in the light of Spiritual Science; for naturally, there must be preparation for these experiences. The human soul is moving towards new experiences. That is one thing that must be realised in Spiritual Science. The second is this. These new experiences are of such a nature that they will bring peace, concord and harmony upon the Earth and among men. And it will indeed be so! That is why it is such an overpowering experience to be able to understand the Folk-Spirit in another corner of the Earth. The poetry inspired by the Folk-Spirit is illumined by Spiritual Science—but we must be willing to steep ourselves in what actually springs from this Folk-Spirit, and interpolate nothing else.—That must be the attitude of a spiritual conception of the world.

And now let us face facts.—What is the present position? Men have quarrelled, have fought and shed blood through the ages over religious opinions; but if the root-nerve of Spiritual Science is understood, there will be no more conflict in the future about particular religious opinions. Men's minds will be directed to the spiritual facts themselves, and differences of opinion on the various problems of religion will exist just as they exist in other spheres—but not in such a way as to lead to bloodshed and strife; for it will be recognised that the revelations given to the different peoples point back to vast and mighty wisdom. Men will find the foundation and ground of this wisdom and recognise the truths that are contained in the various religions. The Science of Comparative Religion has done far-reaching work in connection with the several religions and the points of resemblance to be found in them. Splendid results have been achieved—but what, in reality, is the attitude that is almost invariably adopted? The attitude, more or less clearly expressed, is that all the religions are false! The Science of Comparative Religion brings out the errors far more clearly than the truths contained in the religions. Spiritual Science, on the other hand, directs its attention to the truths, to the Initiation-Knowledge which they contain. To what does this lead? What, for instance, will be the attitude of a Christian to a Buddhist? The Christian will realise the sublimity and splendour of the Buddhist system; because Christianity itself will learn to understand Reincarnation and Karma, the Christian will recognise the greatness of this teaching of Buddhism. And he will have knowledge, too, of the existence of certain Individualities in world-evolution who rise from the rank of “Bodhisattva” to that of “Buddha.” The Christian will understand something which spiritual development alone can make clear to him, namely, that in the twenty-ninth year of his life, the son of King Suddhodana became the Buddha. The event could only take place at that particular age, as a study of Spiritual Science will show. These things are connected with what is said in the little book, The Education of the Child. With this knowledge the Christian will also realise that such a Being does not descend again to Earth in a physical body. Christians who are Theosophists, or, if you prefer, Theosophists who are Christians, do not regard these teachings of Buddhism as mythical fables, but, together with the Buddhists believe in the truth that in his twenty-ninth year the Bodhisattva became Buddha and will not return in a physical body. The Christian respects this belief; he believes what the Buddhist believes, is at home on the soil of Buddhism, does not regard it as childish phantasy. He knows that in the royal son of King Suddhodana there dwelt an Individuality who rose to such spiritual heights that he need never again descend into a physical body, but sends his influence in another way into the evolution of humanity. Understanding the truths contained in Buddhism, the Christian will never interfere in the spiritual life of a Buddhist in such a way as to alienate him from his religion.

And what will be the attitude to Christianity of a Buddhist who also happens to be a Theosophist? He will try to grasp what it signified when in a man known as Jesus of Nazareth, in the thirtieth year of his life, the “ I ” was replaced by the Being Whom the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch of culture called the “Christ,” and Who dwelt for three years in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. He will understand what is meant by saying that the “Substance” of Christ which passed through death with Christ Jesus has streamed over human culture; and he will try to understand that this life, from the Baptism by John in the Jordan to the Mystery of Golgotha, represents an event which took place once and once only in the evolution of mankind, and that like the Buddha, He who was once incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth can never again come down to the Earth. The Christian who is also a Theosophist understands that the Bodhisattva, having become Buddha, ascends into the spiritual worlds; the Buddhist who is also a Theosophist recognises those spiritual facts which form the essence of Christian belief, namely, that the Christ-Being descended into the body of Jesus of Nazareth, lived in that body for three years and passed through death; and that thereafter His power streams through the spiritual atmosphere of the Earth. Mutual understanding among the confessions of faith on the Earth and therewith mutual harmony—that is the essence and core of theosophical teaching. If the Christians were to say that an Individuality might appear as the reincarnated Buddha, it would be an absurdity, and the Buddhist peoples would rightly resist any such teaching being disseminated among them. Discord would inevitably arise in communities of Christians if they were informed that the Christ might incarnate again in the flesh. The task of Theosophy is to bring about mutual understanding between the religions on Earth which are founded upon Initiation. When this is understood, Theosophy* will live truly in the hearts of men; there will be no founding of new sects, no proclamations of new, physical prophets, for whom humanity no longer waits in that external sense. People will then learn to understand the Rosicrucian principle which has remained unbroken since the founding of Rosicrucianism, namely, that those who are charged with the task of teaching, may not previously speak to the outer world of their mission. Indeed it is a venerable rule in Rosicrucianism that a teacher of the Rosicrucian Order is never outwardly proclaimed as such by his contemporaries; the fact that he is such a teacher may not be spoken of until a hundred years after his death—not before—because only so can the impersonal element be preserved in a genuine spiritual movement.

Clear understanding of the fact that we are entering upon a phase of development in which the human soul will become more and more aware of the inflow of the Spiritual and thus of the super-sensible Christ-Event of which we may speak prophetically—and a clear realisation that Theosophy must always lead to an understanding of what is sacred and holy to each individual ... these are the two factors which make men true Theosophists within the Theosophical Movement. Indeed a man's very attitude to them can tell us whether he has or has not understood the task of Theosophy in the present age.