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The Mystery of Death
GA 159

9. The Relationship of the Human Being to the Realms of Nature and the Hierarchies—Spirits of the Ages and Folk-Souls—The Admonishing Voices of the Dead

13 May 1915, Prague

It is a grievous time in which we live, a time more of effective actions full of courage and sacrifices, on one side, a time of severe ordeals for the human souls, on the other side. To stimulate some sensations just in view of our destiny-burdened time may be my task at the end of these considerations. Since we are allowed to be together in such a time, we want to let culminate our sensations at the end of our considerations according to this time. I may start from something that can spread light just about various matters which speak significantly to our souls in this time.

Since we started considering the world spiritual-scientifically, we call the four members of our human nature: physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. We know that the ego or rather that in the human being which we name ego by which we express the ego which is the youngest, but is also for us the most significant member of the human being. If the human being only consisted of physical body, etheric body and astral body as the result of the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions, he would not be a human being. The human being is a human being because he received his ego from the spirits of the higher hierarchies during the earth evolution. He develops this ego in the course of his successive incarnations in different human communities, through peoples and periods, until the earth arrives at the goal of its development and the human being also arrives at his goal developing his ego. However, we also know that there are higher spiritual beings—we use for them the word “higher,”—who belong to the higher hierarchies which stand as it were above the human being. We speak of the hierarchy of the angels or angeloi, of the hierarchy of the archangels or archangeloi, the archai or spirits of the age and so on, upward rising. We call them with these names, we could use other names just as well, but the names are introduced in the West.

How have we to imagine, actually, these spiritual beings of the higher hierarchies in relation to the human being here on earth? We go out from the surroundings of the human being. We know, it is the mineral realm, the plant realm, the animal realm, and the human being has to consider the human realm as the highest after all he can observe. So that we can say: if we take the visible realms on earth, we have the realms of the minerals, the plants, the animals and that of the human beings. Above these realms, as it were, as a continuation upwards, the realms of the angeloi, the archangeloi, the archai et cetera appear. We can simply imagine that the realms are not closed with the human realm, but also extend farther upwards, only that the higher realms cannot be seen with the outer senses.

It could seem remarkable if we go upwards from the realms of nature to the realm of human beings that above the human realm invisibility begins at once. However, this will be remarkable only as long as one does not think that the animals do not see the human being in such a way as a human being sees the other. That is completely clear to somebody who is able to transport himself into the animal view. If the animals could speak, they would only speak of visible realms, of the mineral realm, the plant realm, and the animal realm. They would consider themselves as the highest visible realm. The fact that the animals see the human being like a human being sees the other is only a prejudice.

We are human beings of a supersensible, ghostly existence to the animals; and if the animals had only such a perception as we have it, they would not see the human beings, but they would be as invisible for them as the realm of angels for the human beings. Only because they have a certain kind of dreamy clairvoyance, the animals see the human being as a ghost, as a supersensible being. The human being can have no idea directly of the image which an animal has of him. In return, the animals see something also downwards, or properly speaking, perceive something downwards that the human being does not perceive any more. Since the animals perceive not only like the human being perceives the mineral world, but still perceive—the lower animals most intensely—something else. If an animal, for instance, a snail creeps on the ground, and then it perceives the whole peculiarity of the ground. This would disturb the human being perpetually if he, while he goes on the surface of the earth, perceived this in the same way as a snail or a tortoise. With the higher animals which have warm blood it is somewhat different, but just the lower animals really perceive the whole peculiarity of the ground on which they creep. They perceive the whole peculiarity of the air; they perceive everything that is round them in another way as the human being. The animal knows whether it is on a soil which is marshy, or whether it moves on a sandy soil, because it perceives the whole peculiarity of the soil. Namely this is as similar as we hear the things in our surroundings. The whole mineral world is infiltrated with forces which make it shake and which the human being does not perceive. The animal perceives this fine shaking, these forces in such a way that it feels something as sympathetic, something not. If the animal turns back, for example, from one soil type to the other, it is not so that the animal sees it like the human being, but because something is a little bit painful to it, because the fine movements go on reverberating in it, because it feels as if it belongs to it. This is a kind of instinctive hearing like a hearing of that which takes action in the ground or this is like smelling. So that we can say: the animal perceives an elemental realm, and the higher hierarchies begin already with the human being for it.—We are put in the middle in the world which we know as the external sensory world, the external realms of the sensory world, and the world of the higher hierarchies. We call the lower visible hierarchies the realms of nature; we call the invisible ones the higher hierarchies.

We also know that such a being of the higher hierarchies, for example, an angel, once also experienced the level of humanity. This took place, while the earth went through the old Moon evolution. There the human being was not yet a human being; for he had no ego; he was on the preparatory level of humanity only and had the astral body as his highest member. The beings who belong to the hierarchy of the angeloi went through their human level during the old Moon evolution. The spirits to whom we turn as the guarding spirits of the individual human being are these beings of the hierarchy of the angeloi. To each of them, as it were, a human being is assigned. “Spirits of your souls” are those who stand immediately in the hierarchy above the human being who really spread out their protecting wings, symbolically spoken, over the human beings namely over the individual human being.

We come then to the hierarchy of the archangeloi. They also were human beings once. During the old Sun evolution the beings we call archangeloi today were on the human level. They were not so formed as the human beings today, of course not, they were formed quite differently, but they were on their human level in that time. We are not allowed to imagine that during the old Sun evolution the archangeloi looked as the human beings today, but concerning their development they were on their human level. The spirits of personality or spirits of the ages were on their human level during the old Saturn evolution.

Now, we pick out the spirits we call archangeloi. There we have such spirits as archangeloi who went through the human level during the old Sun evolution, ascended to the level of the angels during the Moon evolution, and today they have ascended to the level of the archangeloi. We leave these spiritual beings put before our souls at first, as it were, standing two levels above us; later we will come back to them. Then we have the spiritual beings who were human beings during the old Saturn evolution, today they are spirits of the ages, they are three levels above us. We let them put again. Now we want to look at our relation to these both types of spiritual beings.

When the human being goes through an incarnation, then stand above us the spirits we count to the hierarchy of the angels, then the spirits we count to the hierarchy of the archangeloi, and those we count to the hierarchy of the archai, spirits of the ages or spirits of personality. However, they also develop. Let us pick out the archai, the spirits of personality or spirits of the ages. We go through our incarnation, and then we go through the gate of death, come into a spiritual world after death, go through a certain purely spiritual development between death and a new birth and come to an earth existence by a new birth again. Now we can ask: what does this depend on that we move down to the earth again after a certain number of years? In public talks this question is often put. Then one can already give an answer from certain points of view, but intimately speaking in our branches we can give a more objective answer pointing to reality.

While we live here in the physical body, the spirit of the ages has a certain level of development. He does something that is connected with the development of the human beings on earth, and he experiences a development on his part. If this spirit of the ages has come in the course of a development so far that we all let flow into ourselves that which he has worked through on his part, then we are ripe, as it were, to come down to an earth incarnation. If he has advanced to a certain level and we have developed by the spiritual worlds up to a certain level, we can enter an earth development again. Let us understand well in this regard and refrain from our own development first of all. Let us look at the spirit of the ages developing in a very long period.

I may say the following. If we consider the development of the earthly humankind in such a way that we go back to the foundation of the ancient Rome, about eight hundred years before the Mystery of Golgotha, we find that there a certain spirit of the ages started his development. Another spirit of the ages was leading and steering the destiny of the earth before. This spirit of the ages who took over the leadership of the spiritual earthly development in those days was leading up to the 16th century. A spirit of the ages leads the destiny of the earth for such a period. Since the 16th century, another spirit of the ages is there. We deal with two spirits of the ages. The human being who was, for example, in the third century before the Mystery of Golgotha in any incarnation on the earth experienced that which this spirit of the ages caused for the earth. For the time after his death if this human being has died in the third century or also in the second century, the spirit of the ages can give him nothing at first. He gave him what he could give him. Now the spirit of the ages must go through a number of years again, until he is able to give something new to the human being. This human being comes again down to the earth who was between death and birth in a spiritual world, when the spirit can give him something new.

Now, however, it is arranged that way that the human being comes down several times on average, because the spirit of the ages is not able to give the human being everything that he could give him because of the imperfection of the human beings. That is why the human being comes down repeatedly in the time in which a spirit of the ages develops. But basically it depends on the fact that the spirits of the ages regulate the successive incarnations of the human beings. Now, however, the spirits of the ages regulate this whole course of the human destiny, as it were, by their subordinates. These are the archangels. Such archangels govern in subordinated positions for a much shorter time than the spirits of the ages.

While the spirits of the ages rule as long as I have stated just now, we can assume a spirit of the ages from the foundation of Rome up to the 16th century, the spirits we count to the hierarchy of the archangels rule only for three to four centuries. They alternate in such a way that about six or seven come one after the other, while a spirit of the ages is ruling. So that we have that archangel we call Oriphiel in the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. Then Anael, Zachariel, Raphael, Samael, Gabriel rule successively; and now since 1879 we have the government of that archangel we call Michael. So we have, if we look at the spiritual worlds, the higher government of the spirits of the ages and subordinate to them, the successive governments of archangels. Because the human being cannot take up everything that the spirit of the ages would give him, he does not take it directly from the hands of the spirit of the ages, but from the hands of the less powerful archangel. Keep in mind: our personal guardians belong to the hierarchy of the angeloi. Above them there are the spirits who regulate the interrelations of the human beings. Above them there are the archai or spirits of personality or spirits of the ages.

If I talk in such a way, it always concerns those beings who went through their development properly. But not all the spirits develop regularly. There are spiritual beings who were archai already during the Saturn evolution who lagged behind, however, on the level of the archai at that time, the level of humankind. They have not gone beyond their Saturn level during the earth development. They did not ascend to the level of the regular development. They maintained their human character, are supersensible Saturn beings on one side, however, are on the level of humankind. There are also beings of the hierarchy of the archai who stopped on the human level during the Sun evolution and stand there now in the supersensible world still as human beings. We term these beings that lagged behind the luciferic beings or ahrimanic beings with collective names. We cannot get involved in the difference between luciferic and ahrimanic beings today. These are spirits who lagged behind.

We have now to answer the question: how does the human being conceive, here in his earthly incarnation, the influence of the spirits who have properly progressed, the spirits of the ages, the archai, and the archangeloi who are their servants? These beings are supersensible; the human being cannot get a relationship to them like to the sensory world. Hence, the human being does not know as a rule if he only relies on the sensory world that he has been put in a development which is directed by the archai and archangeloi above him. He does not know it; but these supersensible beings intervene in his whole nature. Also those spiritual beings we call folk-spirits who lead whole peoples are among the archangeloi, the archangels. And in so far as we have the people to which we belong to thank for that which we are, we have to look at that what the nation's being gives us as a gift of the corresponding being of the hierarchy of the archangeloi. It is the inspiration of the archangeloi which comes to us because we are put into a people. Now we only need to think what it means for the human being to be put into a people. In the people's being there flow mental qualities, but also customs; a certain configuration of the being flows into the human being. One cannot imagine at all that somebody would have become that who somebody is in an incarnation because of the gift of the folk-spirit, in reality of the gift of an archangel.

Except that we stand within a people and receive, inspired by an archangel, certain configurations of our whole being, we stand in the development of the whole humankind. There we are exposed to the intuitions into which the spirit of the ages of the hierarchy of the archai leads us. Imagine that we receive something today in our present spiritual culture that goes beyond any national differentiation; what we have because we live from the 19th to the 20th centuries what we would not have had if we had lived during the Roman or Greek times. We have the spirit of the ages to thank for this. You can strictly make a distinction between the gift of the spirit of the ages and the gift of the folk-spirit. If only this were there which is a regular development of the human being, of the angel, of the archangel or that of the spirit of the ages then we would receive, every individual human being, the gift always from our spirit of the ages and from our corresponding folk-spirit and would develop by means of this gift. The human beings on earth would develop side by side. All members of the different peoples would receive the gift of their folk-spirits in such a way, as if five pictures would hang completely differently from each other in a gallery which would show miscellaneous things, but which would not disturb each other in the slightest.

Thus individual human beings would receive the gift of their folk-spirits on earth side by side. They would not disturb each other if their development had proceeded regularly. But there are beings who lagged behind. Among the guiding archangeloi are those who began their development properly on the Sun and have become right archangeloi up to the earth evolution, but also those who stopped on the Sun level who are basically only on the level of human beings. These beings are on the same level as the folk-spirits, and, nevertheless, they lagged behind them, have the qualities of invisible supersensible human beings, not those of archangels. They make the same claims to the world like the archangeloi in a certain way, but they have not reached the level of the archangeloi on earth. Hence, they must work with the same forces as on the Sun. The result is that they do not seize the human beings as the archangels do directing them from above, but penetrate them as invisible human beings. They do not lead the human being from above, but go into the human nature. These spirits, who compete with the really leading folk-spirits, cause that the nations feud with each other, do not live in peace with each other.

The human being would not be tempted at all to identify his personality, his humanness with his nation, but he would look at the person as something that feeds him spiritually. However, he would not stand up as a fighter for his nation, not identify his person with it. The human being would not say, I am of this or that nationality, but: nationality is there, and I have to get my spiritual food indirectly via this nationality into which I have been born. But while the archangel stimulates him to think that way, the other comes who is on the level of humankind, actually, and is basically a luciferic spirit, and leads him into his nationality.

The result is that the archangel-like does not come down as a gift to the human being, but that the human being identifies himself with the nation like with a completely personal affair, and thereby this quarrel of the nationalities comes into being on the earth. That must absolutely be clear to us: because we were not only exposed to the influence of the leading archangel, but also to the influence of the retarded archangel, we identify ourselves with the nationality as we do on earth. That is just the spiritual-scientific feeling that we as human beings are able to rise above the only national to find access to the general humanness. Then we can be national in the most remarkable sense. As well as the one human being may do that or the other may do something different as art, and the former doing his art does not need to be the adversary of the other, one did not need to be the adversary of the other concerning nationality if there were no retarded archangels who cause the identification. One has to presuppose that if one generally speaks about the basis of the human development with reference to the national or other differentiations.

Concerning the spirit of the ages you will still see further details, in which way the luciferic element works into the regular element if we consider the following. A spirit of the ages works for a certain time. Since the 16th century a new spirit of the ages is there. This spirit of the ages has a particular task. He has the task to add the whole materialistic skill and understanding of the world to the former impulses of development. Hence, materialism made so big progress since the 16th century in the world. Therefore, we do not need to look at the materialistic understanding as something more inferior to the former kind of understanding if we identify ourselves not only unilaterally with it. What will somebody who looks at the matters that way say about the government of the different spirits of the ages? He says: we are now controlled by the particular spirit of the ages; before we were controlled by another spirit of the ages. The human beings had other ideas, other impulses then. If the human being now were able to be influenced by the properly developing spirits of the ages, he would say: we must now adapt ourselves to this spirit of the ages, while we penetrate more the laws of the evolution of the world, of the materialistic thinking. Then another spirit of the ages comes after a time; he causes another attitude of mind in the human thinking.

I emphasised it often that we as supporters of spiritual science must say: today we announce spiritual science using particular words, ideas and concepts, but it is not correct that we believe, that what we say today holds good for the whole earth future, but it changes. When two thousand years are over, our knowledge of spiritual science today is announced with other words, just as we talk differently than in the Greek epoch; nothing remains of the kind of our words. We do not rely on anything that externally remains but we know that one spirit of the ages replaces the other and that they all stand equally side by side.

Somebody who is influenced by the retarded spirits of the ages of the Saturn and identifies himself with their influence says: at that time all the other human beings were silly; this was the nursery of humankind. We have advanced so far today; we have found completely valid truth for all future.—One becomes humbler, more modest in the field of spiritual science. Somebody who identifies himself with the spirit of the ages says: Copernicus found the right thing finally; something different was once believed. Now the human beings will say forever: the earth and the planets move in ellipses around the sun. The sun is in its centre.—Spiritual science already knows today that this is a one-sided teaching. It is very good for our materialistic time to imagine the world, but it is wrong. It is not true at all that the sun is in one focus of the ellipse and the earth moves around. It is, actually, a materialistically calculated apparent movement. In truth it is in such a way that the sun moves and the earth and the other planets run after it in a helical movement. Because certain positions originate in this helical movement, the earth stands once here, another time there. That appears as an ellipse. In truth it is another line. The time will come when the external science knows this, too.

One becomes more modest if one knows that truth is announced in a certain way for certain times. We never state as correct supporters of spiritual science: from now on into all future all human beings say, the human being consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. But the future speaks quite differently, because everything is developing. The ideas of yesterday are as justified as the ideas of today. We can be controlled not only by a spirit of the ages who leads us to believe that all previous knowledge was a pack of lies and we have advanced so wonderfully far. With reference to the spirit of the ages you see people possessed by the luciferic spirit saying: how wonderfully far we have advanced. How imperfect everything was what one thought and said about the world once. What we have found since the 16-century remains as eternal truth.

The folk-spirit is basically a complicated being on the whole. He is the regular folk-spirit who floats above us and if we only followed him we would follow in such a way that we take up his gifts because we are in his sphere. But he is impaired perpetually in his effectiveness by his luciferic companion who obsesses us and induces us to identify ourselves as individual human beings with the whole nationality. However, the individual human being does this differently. It is very important that one really sees that in the middle of Europe a people has to develop that has another relationship to its folk-spirit as the peoples have in the periphery of Europe. We have to learn this insight. What takes place under the surface of the human consciousness and what depends really on the spiritual beings of the higher hierarchies is extremely important.

The materialistically thinking human being regards it still an insanity if one says that such impulses go out from the spiritual beings like this is one in Central Europe who stimulates the unaware people to such a feeling towards the divine or—because in Central Europe Christ is working—to the Christ Impulse. So that the Central European human being learns to feel Christ in such a way as He speaks to the core of the soul. This came nowhere else into being as in Central Europe. Still during the Roman time of the Christian development one understood, for example, Christ as a being who came to earth and worked for the human beings. Indeed, the advanced human beings and partly those who thought already in such a way, as we think today who we are in the possession of spiritual science felt as Paul thought: “not I, but Christ in me.” However, it is a difference compared with a feeling as we find it with Master Eckhart, with Tauler, with Angelus Silesius and similar minds. How these spirits took up the Mystery of Golgotha. We only need to ask Angelus Silesius; and he answers us with the nice saying:

Were Christ born a thousand times in Bethlehem
And not in you, you would be lost forever.

It depends on the commiseration of the Mystery of Golgotha in the own soul. These Central European human beings tried to internally experience something that is an internal picture, an internal expression of the Mystery of Golgotha. And how wonderful is it when Angelus Silesius says once about death: everything that happens in me happens in the end because God is in me and carries out the matters in me. And if I die, I do not die, but, actually, God dies in me.—Imagine what a wonderfully intimate idea of immortality already is given when one says: God dies in me.—Since God is immortal, of course. If God dies in me, death is only apparent; then one feels like Angelus Silesius felt: God dies only apparently in me, because God cannot die. So is death not that it seems externally, it is only a fact of life. Because God cannot die—but dies in anyone,—one already feels immortality with it.

This most intimate being together with God whether one feels it as something divine or as something Christian was prepared for long times in the course of the Central European development. There the Central European folk-spirits worked, so that it found an external symbolic expression, a real symbolic expression. Except in Central Europe nowhere anybody says “ich,” if he means his own self, his own being. The whole development was led by the folk-spirit who manifests himself as a spirit of language in such a way that the own being was expressed with the word ICH. But ICH, “I-Ch,” is Jesus Christ. It lies in Jesus Christ. Because in “ICH” Christ Jesus is expressed in His initial letters, it is expressed allegorically what in the Central European spiritual being is as it is connected with the most intimate experience. Whenever somebody pronounces “Ich,” he pronounces the initial letters of “Jesus Christ.” If one turned the spiritual eyes only once to such matters which are really considered even today as fantastic, somebody would already think that the spirits of the higher hierarchies work unconsciously in the human development, and would then find something significant in the matters which one takes for granted today.

I want only to mention a really significant fact. One calls a certain group of European human beings Germanic people or Teutons. And while one speaks in Central Europe of Germanic people (“Germanen”), one includes England, Holland, Norway, Sweden and still others. One expands the concept of the Germanic people. I do not talk out of agitation, but out of that which is given in the language. The English do not speak of themselves as Germanic people, because they call only the Germans Germanic people. The German calls himself “deutsch,” and if he speaks of Germanic people, he encloses a bigger group of human beings. The English apply the term Germans only to the Germans, to those who are not like “him.” This is a tremendously significant fact. It is something that is in the deepest sense typical for the kind in which way on the one side and on the other the folk-spirit works; he works in Central Europe to embrace a bigger entity and the folk-spirit of the English people takes care to put away that and only to apply it to the other.

That will be obvious to the human beings gradually in a wonderful way which the language teaches as the outflow of the effective folk spirituality. Now one is little understood if one speaks about the different European peoples as I tried it some years before this war—not caused at all by the war—in the cycle The Mission of the Individual Folk-Souls in Connection with the Germanic-Nordic Mythology. This is understood in such a way, as if I wanted to express any value judgments. But I do not want to express value judgments, but only a characteristic. We can now characterise the West-European peoples expressing exactly what I expressed in this lecture cycle.

We know that the soul of the human being consists of the sentient soul, the intellectual soul or mind-soul and the consciousness-soul, and the ego which works in these three soul nuances. If we look at the Italian nation with its folk-spirit, we find the peculiarity that there the folk-spirit inspires the sentient soul. This is the typical of the Italian people, that the folk-spirit inspires the sentient soul. If now something is possessed by the luciferic folk-spirit, it is also the folk-spirit. Imagine that on one side the brilliant aspect of the Italian people is based on the fact that the sentient soul is inspired. Think of Dante, of all the great Italian artists. But this people also identify themselves, on the other hand, with something superhuman that lagged behind luciferically in all the passionate impulses of development which appear within the Italian people. I do not pronounce any value judgment, but I characterise it only.

We can see everywhere with the French people the folk-spirit inspiring the intellectual soul or mind-soul.

With the British people it is the consciousness-soul. The consciousness-soul is for the present human cycle that which connects the human being mostly with the external physical world. Hence, this nation which is inspired in the consciousness-soul is entrusted above all with the task of furthering the materialistic civilisation. No value judgment is expressed again, but it is characterised only that just the British nation has a vocation to get the consciousness-soul inspired. In so far as the individual human being belongs to his nation, in so far as he is inspired by the luciferic folk-spirit, he identifies himself with the purely materialistic civilisation of the present. We find this really in the British culture. Like the individual human being positions himself in the British nation, this comes out what is just the materialistic spirit of the British nation, this peculiar spirit who waged thirty-four wars of conquest from 1856 up to 1900 and made fifty-seven million people new British subjects, and who pretends to stand up for the liberty of single human groups in our time.

If we consider such a time like ours, we must absolutely be clear to us that just this time teaches people very much to feel like an admonition what one puts up now as the contrast of the single national groups of Europe or of a big part of the earth. The members of thirty-four nationalities—apart from minor tribal differences—are in war with each other. One should regard this as an admonition to refrain really from that which one has called history up to now. But this approach is used just for the time being still up to nonsense. We find it really driven up to nonsense what the individual nations of Europe reproach each other for everything. One weighs up the single external facts to discover the causes of this dreadful war. But just this war will teach people that one finds nothing in its external causes, but at most external symptoms of that which exists deeply hidden in the human groups by the guidance of advanced and retarded spiritual beings. The ordeals of this time force us to appeal to the spiritual subsoil in which the causes of the external events in the world can be found today.

From the most different sides one can show how in the subsoil of the consciousness that works which appears externally. I want to point, although most of the friends already know this example, once again to the fact that the whole map of Europe was determined towards the end of the Middle Ages by the Maid of Orleans who intervened in the war between England and France. Everybody who looks understanding at our external history has to recognise that the map of Europe would have turned out quite differently if at that time England had not been defeated by France because the Maid of Orleans intervened in the fight. But the Maid of Orleans was not a qualified strategist; she was no one who stood at the summit of education. She was a simple human child—a farmer girl. But the spirits of the higher hierarchies worked through her in the way as they had to work in this time. It has been absolutely necessary up to our time that these spirits worked in the subconscious because the human beings could not yet understand what must now be understood spiritual-scientifically.

The intervention of spiritual beings in the subconsciousness is often nicely expressed in legends. And rightly, not because of superstition, but because it really corresponds to facts, one set particular store by the time when the external world has withdrawn mostly from the year, the time from Christmas up to the sixth January. If one does not want to attain spiritual knowledge in the way, as we do today using the instructions given in How Does One Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds?, but in a more elementary way, one could be inspired in these thirteen nights. This is expressed, for example, very nicely in the Norwegian legend of Olaf Åsteson. This legend relates that Olaf Åsteson goes to the church before Christmas; that he falls asleep before the church and sleeps during thirteen nights. He wakes up at the Epiphany day and is really able to tell his experience. What he tells there figuratively in a clear, but primitive way corresponds to that we call the passage through the soul-world and the passage through the spirit-land. Olaf Åsteson experienced that in the time in which Christmas was rightly put. This makes it clear to us that the clairvoyance of a nature child could be developed best of all during these thirteen nights from Christmas till Epiphany.

Because the Maid of Orleans was such a nature child, one could assume that she would have experienced the world in these thirteen nights in a sort of dreamy state of which she spoke when she led the French army against the English that she would have been inspired in these thirteen nights. This happened in a peculiar way. Every human being experiences a sleeping state, a state when the senses do not yet speak, namely in the body of the mother, before he sees the physical earth light. This is still a kind of sleeping state, and the ripest state is that during the last thirteen days before birth. This is the great thing and fills our souls with such amazement: the Maid of Orleans is born on the sixth January. She went through the inspiration actually in the thirteen nights, but before she opened her eyes to the earth light. That is why the sixth January is noted as the birthday of the Maid of Orleans intentionally in our calendar. We have to understand that in its big world-historical connection; since it can say to us how mysterious the connections are in the world and how mysterious forces work in the world. Mysterious powers worked in those days on the sixth January, because people gathered in the little village where the Maid of Orleans was born in the morning; where the animals themselves behaved so wonderfully. On this sixth January, an inspiration could be finished. In thirteen nights a being could be inspired which was disposed by its own karma. Of course, not everybody who is born on the sixth January is disposed, but karma has to coincide with the other conditions.

I wanted to give this example of the Maid of Orleans which shows us so surely how subterranean powers intervene in the historical development. Indeed, the materialistic development of the following centuries came then. It is completely comprehensible that this had to consider such tips to historical backgrounds as insanity. This does not harm; even it does not harm at all if today people still look at this spiritual science like insanity. This spiritual science will be accepted finally.

But such significant events, within which the human beings of the present time live and in which they themselves incarnated to take part in them in one or another way, do not always mean the same in the historical development. Today these destiny-burdened events mean an admonition to the human beings. Such a flood of literature has been written about this war, but in everything that appeared in books, pamphlets and so on we do not yet find this from which one has to assume, actually, that it is found and that it must be found bit by bit. One often hears: one can talk about the causes not really, maybe after the war, maybe people find the true causes of this war from documents only after decades and know who was to blame for it.—You can read this in every third newspaper. But that does not concern, it concerns that which one finds—and just as a result of this time—that the real causes are not to be seen in these external occasions, but that one has to look for the causes in the spiritual world. One will find that this war was the significant karma of materialism which must be experienced, so that the human beings take up a sum of convictions in them leading from materialism to spiritualism. Humankind must experience this ordeal.

What does happen basically today in such a distressing way round us?—We know, when the human being goes through the gate of death, he leaves his physical body behind in the physical world. He enters in the spiritual world with his etheric body, astral body and ego. He soon takes off the etheric body which is given to the remaining world. Then he goes with astral body and ego through the soul-land, through the spirit-land. But imagine now that today a big number of human beings goes through the gate of death in relatively short time and with a particular consciousness; that they take off etheric bodies which could have supplied, so to speak, their lives normally still for decades. If a human being dies between the twentieth and thirtieth years, he takes off an etheric body which could have supplied his physical body for sixty to seventy years. The forces are in the etheric body, because nothing gets lost also in the spiritual world. All human beings, who go today in the prime of life through the gate of death, hand over to the world etheric bodies which could still have maintained their lives for a long time. These forces are there in the spiritual world. How are they there, these forces?—I may give you an illustrative example of the significance of such a phenomenon which is taken from our circle itself.

Last autumn, a family belonging to our anthroposophical circle lost a little son, a dear boy of seven years. The external circumstances were exceptionally tragic ones. The father had been called up to the army as a German citizen; he just fell ill and was in the military hospital. One evening, even as a lecture took place in Dornach where our construction is built, somebody informed us that the little seven-year-old boy was missing. He had not come home since the evening. I have to mention that the family has settled down in Dornach as a gardener family. I had come from Germany to Switzerland shortly before. The boy had already met me before the construction and shaken my hand; it was a sunny very dear child. In that evening, we were informed that the boy was missing. Now one could imagine nothing else, as that a removal van, which had brought pieces of furniture for our members, had toppled over and fallen on the boy near the construction. You must also take into consideration that since countless years no removal van went at that place or since that time. You must think further: the boy lived with his mother who manages the garden. He was such a dear boy that he said to his mother when the father had to go; now he would muck in, because the father is not there any more.

That evening, he had been sent to the so-called canteen to get something for his mother. It was not far at all; it is only a short way between the canteen and the flat of the mother. On this short way is a crossroad, so that the removal van had to do a bend. Now the boy intended to leave, actually, ten minutes sooner, was detained by somebody who wanted to go with him. If he had left sooner and through the door through which he was used to leave, he would have passed the carriage sooner and on its left side, while he went now on the right. Because he left later, through another door and on the right side of the removal van, the carriage when it tipped over fell just on the boy. People had looked at this, also those who were busy with the horses. Nobody anticipated that the boy had got under the carriage. Then one said: The carriage is too heavy to lift it still this evening, tomorrow we do this.—Between five and six o'clock p. m. this had happened. We had definitely to lift the carriage a quarter past ten o'clock. At twelve o'clock it was lifted; and we recovered the dead child.

The first thing I would like to mention is that just such an example is suited to show how wrongly people think concerning life. I would like to give an often used comparison for this wrong thinking. Assuming, you see a person in some distance who goes along a riverside. Suddenly you see the person falling into the river. You run to that place and you find a stone at the same place. Of course, you say, the person tripped over the stone, fell into the water, and found his death that way. However, the matter can be completely different; it could be the other way round. The man could have experienced a heart failure. He fell into the water, because he was dead before; and he did not find his death, because he fell into the water. This mistake is done any minute, in the natural sciences in particular. One does not notice it, of course, if it is well hidden.

That was also the case concerning this child. The karma of this child had run off. The removal van went there because of the child. The spiritual beings who exist behind the secret arranged the matter in such a way that the child could find its death. The boy was seven years old. The rather youthful etheric body would have supplied life for many decades, its forces were there. Now, I will always confess what it means that since some time our Dornach construction is embedded in the enlarged etheric body of the little boy Theodor Faiss. The etheric body is increased—it grows after death,—and the etheric body of this little seven-year-old Theo forms something like an aura of the construction since that time. If one deals with the construction, if one needs to find ideas for the construction which put himself rightly in the spiritual world, since the death of this boy he knows that he is co-inspired by the etheric body which is involved in the aura of the construction, the etheric body of the little Theo Faiss.

Of course, no longing to appear original could inveigle me into denying that a lot is co-inspired by that which contributed to the construction since that time, because the aura of this etheric body is round the construction, and one has, as it were, this help that this unused etheric strength works in favour of the construction. Imagine which important internal facts are behind the external facts: a family moves their residence near to the construction. There is a boy, especially gifted by his soul-being; he sacrifices his etheric body, so that the construction is wrapped up in the strength of this etheric body. There we have such an example at which we see that unused sacrificed etheric bodies have their task in the world.

There only that begins basically which should flow as the sentient content from our spiritual science. That one knows, the human being consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego, that one goes through different lives on earth—one knows that in theory, it does not matter really. But it matters that which is inserted in our real experience by these views. One tries to bring life also into our movement and to overcome the difference between the living and the dead not only theoretically by teaching, but by life. When recently a very dear assistant, Fritz Mitscher, was snatched away from us just in his thirtieth year, and I had to hold the address at the cremation in Basel, an important word consisted in the fact that I turned to this soul, I would like to say, begged him to continue working among us after death. For we do not only need the so-called living, but we need the cooperation of those who have gone through the gate of death. They will co-operate in a double way. On one side, a big number of etheric bodies co-operate in the next time which the human beings have taken off going through the gate of death in the destiny-burdened events.

Youthful unused etheric bodies form a big aura in which we live. On the other side are the individualities themselves who work on from their etheric bodies. We can look at the unused etheric body at the example of the little Theo Faiss where the etheric body becomes the inspirator for something that was achieved in the construction. I would look at the individuality of Fritz Mitscher in my address. It is the task of our spiritual science to feel how the abyss between life and death is filled. It must become conscious content of our earth times not only to know in theory, but to penetrate vividly that which the dead are to us like the living that the dead give something like the youthful, unused etheric bodies. In these etheric bodies, which belonged to the human beings who have now found their death as a result of the big destiny-burdened events, the echoes live of everything that is felt if one considers death as a sacrifice for the events demanded by this time—more or less consciously. This goes into these etheric bodies.

Looking for death, or properly speaking, foreseeing death and nevertheless knowing that this death has a meaning, this will be the case with the numerous human beings going through the gate of death in the present. One can be a materialist; if one exists in such a way, one may say: folk-souls, folk-spirits are only names for something that in the abstract holds together a group of human beings of the same language and the same characteristics. Speaking of folk-spirits as of real beings is a weirdie.—Some people going now through the gate of death may speak that way according to the words; because they go through death they agree unconsciously to that which spiritual science has to say that a folk-soul, a folk-spirit is a real being. For what would it mean if folk-spirits, folk-souls were not real beings and the human beings stand on all sides in this bloody war?

Provided a materialistic world creation it would be impossible to imagine that. If the individual human being sacrifices himself for the folk-spirit, if the folk-spirit is a real being to him, it has the deepest sense that such events have befallen the human beings. Thus we will feel the next time in which many unspent etheric bodies float in the spiritual atmosphere admonishing everybody that there is something spiritual. These etheric bodies are good assistants in future to deepen the human world view spiritually. The human beings have only to feel the dead calling in their souls. When again peace holds sway over the fields on which now the dreadful events take place, the human beings who live then will work much better if they hear the voices of the dead. But this is meant not only symbolically. The unspent etheric bodies are calling. The world cannot exist in future without the human beings feeling their connection with the spiritual world. Humankind of the future would turn out lifeless if it were not able to hear the admonitions of the dead.

In physics, everybody admits that energy does not get lost; one speaks of the transformation of energy. That also applies to the spiritual realm. The forces the unused etheric body carries through the gate of death do not disappear; they will be there. They can be taken up in the souls of the future, and these souls can receive strength and confidence for their spiritual work from the connection with the soul leftovers which remained from unused etheric bodies.

Beside many things this war can say to us, it is for us as supporters of spiritual science above all that we already look up in spirit at the atmosphere of the unused etheric bodies. However, here below souls have to be who have a feeling for the admonitions of the dead. It belongs to our task as supporters of spiritual science to bring about that. We must already find a spiritual point of view also towards such events, not the point of view of an abstract thinking. But we must really imagine the future population of the earth in such a way that below souls exist who are in the physical bodies, and from above forces of unused etheric bodies work; and that these souls below can say: we have no doubts that better times come for the spiritual cognition, because the unused etheric bodies help us with their forces.—If we take this specifically, not in the abstract, we have understood something of the admonitions which this destiny-burdened time can give us in particular as supporters of spiritual science. It must take place that way, because real effects in the human development are necessary. We would have to work on for long times if we had to intellectually convince people of that which the spiritual-scientific world view wants to give. With the Maid of Orleans a subconscious initiation took place. In the future, spirituality works in another way in the human development. The unused etheric bodies support us and also those who as individualities want to work on the physical plane.

It is sometimes strange what people can understand also today. On account of the given example you will admit that at the time of the Maid of Orleans the strategists, the generals did not bring about that which was brought about. I have sometimes given another example: when at a determining hour the army of Constantine marched against Rome, these were not also the generals who brought about the victory and defeated the five times stronger army of Maxentius who led his armies before the gates of Rome against Constantine. Constantine followed not his generals, but a dream that said to him, he should make his armies carry the monogram of Christ. Dreams and Sibylline oracles brought the armies together at a particular place and decided everything in those days. However, because Constantine was victorious, the map of Europe got its corresponding appearance. Who steered the events in those days taking place under the threshold of consciousness? It was the Christ Impulse, but the Christ Impulse, as it was real, not as human beings understood it.

We do not get to know the Christ Impulse listening to the squabbling of the theologians. The Christ Impulse did not work in that which the human beings accomplished consciously which the human beings understood; but it worked in joining together the events with Constantine and Maxentius, and later again with the Maid of Orleans. Also in this time one experiences something, even in little facts. You can compare the little thing with the big one sometimes.

An excellent philosopher wrote a longer article about the spiritual-scientific world view represented by me some years ago in a South German monthly magazine. This article had a big effect; it was written in an opposing way, infiltrated with many a benevolent judgment about theosophy on the whole, even some acknowledging notes. For example, I got the advice instead of using my talents for such matters to find out finally whether Mickiewicz1Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855), Polish poet, stood up for the liberation of the Polish people from the Russian rule. is really the reincarnation of the Maid of Orleans and so on. Nevertheless, on the whole, the article was very suitable to show how our spiritual-scientific world view has to be regarded so that an inadequate impression was aroused.

The philosopher who had written the article was regarded as a great Platonist, as a great logician. He himself said that he devoted himself to no other task than to announce the truth, and, therefore, he would be able to know the truth. The editor of the magazine seemed to be very satisfied to publish such authoritative an article about this spiritual science. This was already some years ago. Then the war came. The person concerned does not belong to those who sympathise with Central Europe, but he sympathises in determined way with England and France and even with those who also fight on the side of England and France. Now what happens? He writes a number of letters to the same man, the editor of the magazine. This editor of the mentioned magazine also publishes these letters because they are too typical, in another magazine, the South German Monthly Magazine. He even reminds of the fact that he is the same man—it is Karl Muth—who publishes the magazine Hochland and printed the article about the “Steinerean theosophy,” as he says. In these letters, a West-European minded person rants at the Central European population as much as he can do. Among other things, this man explains: black people are free aristocrats compared to people who do not know anything they are fighting for. One had to compare the British Empire with Central Europe, the former were established like the Catholic Church by God and would never have done anything but what is according to the divine world order.

Printing this letter is a matter of course. The mentioned editor adds to this: in whole Central Europe nobody could be found except in madhouses who could support such a view.—Now the dear Mr. Muth admits that the man whom he had chosen to let him loose on our spiritual-scientific world view is ready, actually, for the lunatic asylum. Of such a quality are the objections generally which are raised against our spiritual-scientific world view. Only Mr. Muth would already have had to know in those days that the man is ready for the lunatic asylum. But he needed the admonition of the war. His view had to be challenged only by that which he could easily see now. Some people who are ready for the lunatic asylum walk around and criticise our world view, only it does not come to the fore so absurdly.

I said that this example shows that the reason which people have today would limp for a long time if it concerns the spiritual-scientific world view and that one must say: not only the living but also the dead are necessary that a certain quantity of spirituality comes into the world. Those belong to the best helpers who had to stand up with their souls and lives for the course of our present destiny-burdened events. That is why we would want that such considerations remain not only something theoretical in the souls, but become a deeply honest feeling, the feeling that we may bear witness of spiritual science in such a way that we know attentively that there are admonishing voices in the spiritual world saying to us: let us dead be a landmark of the spiritual deepening which must come to the human beings, because we have gone through this death with consciousness—not for our matter, but for that which is independent from us, so that we have thereby confirmed the confession of something that goes beyond the individual material human life.

If among the supporters of spiritual science those are who anticipate, feel or know the serious murmur of the dead, then something real is achieved that has to be achieved by spiritual science in the feelings of the human souls; in other words, if souls are inspired by spiritual science who know to turn their senses to the realm of spirits, because a lot is said to the human beings from the realm of spirits in the times to come.

It is this that I wanted to suggest to you for your feelings, because the circumstances were such that we can be together just in this time also in a branch meeting. One would want that at such meetings not only a knowledge as a germ is given, but that that which is spoken in such meetings would work like a living germ which is planted in the ground of the feeling soul. What you carry on from such a consideration, this is the central issue.

That is why we want to close these considerations, while we think of that which might be assigned to us from the destiny-burdened events of this time:

From the courage of the fighters,
From the blood of the battles,
From the grief of the bereaved,
From the nation's sacrifices
Will grow up the fruits of spirit
If souls aware of spirit turn
Their senses to the spirit-land.