Ancient Myths, Their Meaning and Connection with Evolution
Dornach, 4th January 1918.
In the course of the public lectures lately given in Switzerland I have frequently remarked that knowledge, that way of thinking which prevails among the men of our time and has taken root in human souls, is not adapted to grasp the social-moral life. Present conditions can only be brought to a healthy state if men are able to come again to such a thinking, such a grasp of the universe, as will give what lives in the soul a direct link with reality.
I said that what prevails in the historical, the social, the ethical life is more or less dreamt, slept through by mankind, that in any case abstract ideas are not fitted to take hold of the impulses which must be active in the social life. I stated that in earlier times men were aided through older, what we call atavistic, knowledge, through myths. They brought to expression in the form of a myth what they thought concerning the world, what entered their vision of the world secrets. Myths — the contents of mythology — can be viewed in the most manifold ways, and in fact I pointed in these observations to a positively magnificent materialistic explanation of the myth by Dupuis. In other places we have repeatedly for years examined this or the other myth. However, the myth permits of many points of view and when something has been said about it, its content is far from being exhausted. Again and again from different standpoints different things may be asserted in regard to a myth. It would be very useful for the man of today if he made himself acquainted with the nature of that thinking which underlies the mode of thought found in the concepts of mythology. For the ideas which are formed about the origin of myths, the creation of mythology, belong indeed to the realm of the modern superficial judgment which is so widespread.
Deep truths are embedded in the myths, truths more concerned with reality than those which are expressed through modern natural science about this thing or the other. Physiological, biological truths about man are to be found in the myths, and the origin of what they express rests upon the consciousness of the connection of man as microcosm with the macrocosm. Especially can one realize — and this I shall deal with today and tomorrow — when one has in mind the nature of the thinking employed in the myths, how deeply, or actually how little deeply, one is concerned with reality in ordinary modern concepts. It is therefore useful to recollect sometimes how myths have been formed among neighbouring peoples of the pre-Christian ages. Neighbours to one another and much interconnected in their culture are the ancient Egyptians, the Greeks and the Israelites. Moreover, one can say that a great part of the thinking that still rules in the soul today is connected with the knowledge of the Egyptians, Greeks and Israelites as expressed by them in the form of myth.
The myth which I should first like to discuss — but as already said, from a certain standpoint — is the Osiris-Isis-Myth belonging to the Egyptian culture. I have already called your attention to the fact that the Osiris-Isis-Myth is also conceived by Dupuis as a mere priest lie, that the priests as far as they themselves were concerned, had meant nothing but astronomical, astronomical-astrological events, and had fabricated such a myth for the common people.
One can observe in an interesting way how the Greeks not only have a number of Gods connected with their own life, but how they have whole generations of Gods. The oldest God-generation was linked with Gaia and Uranus, the next generation with Chronos and Rhea, the Titans, and all that is related to them, and the third generation of Gods, the successors of the Titans — Zeus and the whole Zeus circle. We shall see how the construction of such God-myths springs from a special type of soul.
The Greeks, Israelites and Egyptians had different conceptions of their connection with the universe. Nevertheless there prevailed in all, as we shall shortly see, a deep relationship as regards other standpoints, as well as in reference to the one I shall take as a basis today. Of the Egyptians one must say that in the age when the Osiris-Isis-Myth arose as the representative for profounder truths, they developed a knowledge which had a longing to know the deeper foundations of the human soul. The Egyptians desired in this way to turn their gaze to that element in the human soul which lives not only between birth and death, but which passes through birth and death and also leads a life between death and a new birth. Even from external perception one can see how the Egyptians — in their preservation of mummies, in their peculiar death-ceremonies — turned the eye of the soul to that element in the soul which passes through the Gate of Death and in new form experiences new destinies when man treads ways that lie on the other side.
What is it in man that passes through the gate of death and that enters through birth into earthly existence? This question, more or less unconscious and unexpressed, underlay the thought and aspirations of the Egyptians. For it is this eternal-imperishable element — I have often already expressed it in another form — that is united in the Egyptian consciousness with the name of Osiris. Now, in order to have a foundation, let us consider the Osiris-Myth in its most important aspects, let us just consider it, as it has been preserved.
It is related of Osiris that at one time he ruled in Egypt. It is related that above all the Egyptians owed to him the suppression of cannibalism, that they owed to him the plough, agriculture, the preparation of food from the plant kingdom, the building of cities, certain legal ideas, astronomy, rhetoric, even a script and so on. It is then related that Osiris inaugurated not only among the Egyptians such beneficent arts and institutions but that he undertook journeys into other lands and there too spread similar useful arts. And in fact it was expressly stated that Osiris did not spread them by the sword but by persuasion.
Then it is further related that Typhon, the brother of Osiris, wanted to institute new things in opposition to what had proved beneficial for the Egyptians throughout centuries through the influence of Osiris. Typhon wanted to inaugurate all sorts of novelties. We should say today: after the institution of Osiris had existed for hundreds of years, Typhon made a revolution while Osiris was absent extending his institutions among other peoples. This differs a little from the latest example of revolution ... there something happened which newcomers brought about, not while the other was extending beneficent institutions among other nations ... But between Osiris and Typhon there took place what has been stated. Then, however, the myth proceeds:
Isis waited at home in Egypt. Isis, the consort of Osiris, did not permit the innovations to be really sweeping. That, however, had the effect of enraging Typhon, and as Osiris came back from his wanderings Typhon slew him and made away with the dead body. Isis had to search a long time for the corpse. She found the body at last in Phoenicia, and brought it back home to Egypt. Typhon now became angrier and tore the corpse in pieces. Isis collected the pieces and out of each piece, by means of spices and all sorts of other arts she made a being again which had the complete form of Osiris. She then gave to the priests of the land a third of the whole territory of Egypt, so that the tomb of Osiris should be kept a secret, but his service and worship all the more fostered.[See Egyptian Myths and Mysteries.]
The remarkable statement was then added to this myth, that Osiris now came up out of the underworld — when his worship had already been inaugurated in Egypt — and that he then occupied himself with the instruction of Horus, the son whom Isis had borne after the death of Osiris. Then it is related that Isis had the imprudence to release Typhon whom she had succeeded in imprisoning. Thereupon Horus, her son, became angry, tore the crown from her head and set cow-horns there instead and Typhon was defeated in two battles with the assistance of Hermes — that is the Roman Mercury, the Greek Hermes. A kind of Horus-cult, the cult of the son of Osiris and Isis was instituted.
The Greeks in some way or other heard of these Egyptian stories of world-mysteries. It is remarkable how in Greece they often spoke of the same being as was spoken of over in Egypt, or over in Phoenicia or Lydia, etc. These God-conceptions flowed into one another, as it were, and this is very characteristic and significant. When a Greek heard the name Osiris, he could picture something from it, he identified what the Egyptian understood under the name Osiris, with something of which he too had certain concepts. Although the name was different, what the Egyptian conceived of as Osiris was no stranger to the Greek. I ask you to take note of this. It is very significant.
We have the whole thing once more. Read the ‘Germania’ of Tacitus; there Tacitus also describes the Gods that he finds in the North a hundred years after the founding of Christianity, and he describes them with Roman names. He thus gives Roman names to the Gods whom he finds there. In spite of the fact that the Gods whom he found there had of course other names yet he recognized their being and could give them the Roman names. We find in the ‘Germania’ that he knew that in the North men had a God, that was the same God as Hercules and so on. That is very significant and it points to something very deep and of great meaning. It shows that in those ancient times there was a certain common consciousness concerning spiritual things. The Greek knew how to picture something of Osiris, independent of the Osiris-name, because he had something similar. What was concealed behind the name Osiris was not unfamiliar to him.
That is something that one must keep well in mind in order to recognize that in spite of the difference of the separate myths, there existed a certain community of soul! One could sometimes wish that there might be as much common understanding among modern men as, let us say, between the Greeks and the Egyptians, so that the Greeks understood what the Egyptians expressed! A Greek would never have uttered so much nonsense about Egyptian conceptions as Woodrow Wilson is able to think in one week about European conceptions — if one can call it thinking! The Greeks related that Chronos had begotten a son by Rhea in an irregular way. Thus the Greeks speak of Chronos and Rhea — we shall see immediately how they fit into the Greek myth — and this irregular son, who was so begotten, was Osiris. So just think: the Greeks hear that the Egyptians have an Osiris, and the Greeks on their part relate of Osiris that he is the son of Chronos and Rhea, but not begotten in the right way, so incorrectly begotten that Helios, the Sun-God became so angry about the matter that he made Rhea barren.
Thus the Greeks find a certain relationship between their own conception of the Gods and the Egyptian conceptions. But again on the other hand, what the Egyptians in a certain sense formed as their highest concept of a God — the Osiris-concept — is connected among the Greeks with an irregular origin — from the Titan race — from Chronos and Rhea.
One grasps this externally in the first place — we shall have to grasp it much more deeply presently — if we are clear that the Egyptians sought to learn of the eternal part of the human soul. They sought to know about that which goes through births and deaths — but in order to know of this eternal part in life the Egyptians expressly turned the soul's gaze beyond death. To the people of Egypt through whom the Greeks learnt of Osiris, he is no longer the God of the living, but the God of the dead, the God who sits on the Throne of the World and passes judgment when man has gone through the gate of death, that is, the God whom man has to meet after death. At the same time, however, the Egyptian knew: the same God who judges men after death, has at one time ruled over the living.
As soon as one takes these ideas together, one is no longer inclined to agree with the Dupuis verdict that it was only a matter of star-events. These Dupuis judgments have much that is captivating, but on closer inspection they reveal themselves as very superficial. I have said that the Egyptians — in the age when the Greeks received from them the Osiris-concept — directed their mind above all to the human soul after death. This lay far from the Greek mind. To be sure, the Greeks spoke too of the human soul after death, but inasmuch as they spoke of their Gods, they did not really speak of the Osiris-nature of such Gods as primarily give judgment after death. The race to which Zeus belongs is a race of Gods for the living. Man preferably looked up to this world when he turned his mind's eye to the world to which man belongs between birth and death — a race of Gods for the living: Zeus, Hera, Pallas-Athene, Mars, Apollo, etc. But these Gods were, so to say, the last God-race for the Greeks. For the Greeks turned their gaze to three successive generations of Gods.
As you know, the oldest generation of Gods was around Uranus and Gaea or better said: Gaea and Uranus. They were the earliest divine pair with all the brothers and sisters and so on who belonged to them. From this divine pair were descended the Titans, to whom also Chronos and Rhea belonged, but above all Oceanus. As you know, through certain cruel regulations — so says the myth — Uranus had evoked the wrath of his spouse Gaea, so that she prevailed upon Chronos their son, to make his father on the world-throne, impotent, and we then have this rulership of the older Gods succeeded by that of the younger, Chronos and Rhea with all that belongs to it. You know too that in the Greek myth, Chronos had the somewhat unsympathetic, in many respects, characteristic of swallowing all his children as soon as they were born, which was not pleasant for the mother, Rhea. (I am calling attention to various features which we shall particularly need.) And you know too that she saved Zeus and brought him up to overthrow Chronos, just as Chronos overthrew Uranus, only in another way, so that then the new race of Gods arrives. And then we have Hera and Zeus with all that belongs to them with all the brothers and sisters, children and so on.
An important feature in the myth, which I must relate since we shall need it if we wish to regard the myth as foundation for all sorts of world-conceptions, is the following. Zeus, before he overcame the Titans and cast them into Tartarus, had prevailed on the Goddess Metis, the Goddess of cunning, to provide him with an emetic, so that all the children swallowed by Chronos could be brought again to the light of day, and be once more in existence. Thus Zeus could have his brothers and sisters again ... for they had been in the body of Chronos. Zeus himself alone had been rescued by his mother Rhea.
And so we have three successive generations of Gods: Gaea-Uranus; Uranus overthrown through Gaea, because he was cruel, supplanted by the children, Chronos and Rhea; then Chronos overthrown again through Zeus, likewise at the instigation of Rhea. In the Zeus-circle we have the Gods who meet us where actual Greek history makes its appearance.
Now I should like to call special attention to a very significant feature of this. Greek mythology. It is not clearly enough stressed, in spite of being one of the most important features. Three successive races of Gods: these are thus the rulers of the macrocosm. But while Gaea and Uranus, Rhea and Chronos, Hera and Zeus are ruling, the human being, according to the Greek conception is already everywhere in existence. Man is already there without question. When therefore Chronos with Rhea had not yet reigned, when the rulers were still Gaea and Uranus, particularly, however, when Chronos reigned with Rhea and Zeus was not yet in possession of his emetic and so on, there were already men upon the earth, according to the view of the Greeks. And, what is more, as the Greeks related, they lived a happier life than in later times. The later human beings are the descendants of these earlier men. We must say then that the Greeks had this consciousness: up above rules Zeus, but we human beings descend from other forefathers who were not yet ruled over by Zeus. That is an important feature of the Grecian teaching of the Gods: that the Greek venerated his Zeus, his Hera, his Pallas-Athene, but was quite clear that they had not created him, what in general one calls ‘created’, but that men were there much earlier than the reign of these Gods. This is important concerning the Greek Gods.
That this is especially important for the Greek Gods can strike you when you compare the question with the Jewish teaching of the Gods. It is, of course, quite unthinkable that one would find the same feature in the Jewish teaching. You could not possibly imagine that according to the Old Testament men were pointed to ancestors who had not yet come under the rulership of Jahve and the Elohim. This therefore is something which differs radically in the Grecian teaching of the Gods. The Greek looks up to his Gods and knows: they indeed are ruling now, but they have nothing to do with what I call ‘creation’ of the human race.
This was absolutely impossible within the Old Testament conception. In the Old Testament those whom men looked upon as Gods were in the main far more concerned with the creation of man. In observing the course of world events it is very necessary to consider such things. The point is not merely to form concepts, the point is that one is able to form concepts that connect one with reality; the especially characteristic, the especially representative concepts, these are what one must have in mind.
And with this, we have considered an important feature of Greek mythology. Let us just examine it. When the Greek looked up to his Gods, they were not those of whom he had the consciousness: they have created me. For human beings were already there, as we have said, before these Gods had assumed their rulership. What these Gods were able to do was, for the Greeks, quite a respectable amount, but they could not produce for him a human race on a planet. That lay in the Greek consciousness: these Gods could not produce a human race.
Now, what actually were the Gods of the Zeus circle, the Olympian Gods, for the Greek consciousness? To form even an historical concept of what these Gods were — I mean now in the Greek consciousness, we have of course said various things about these Gods, but let us place ourselves into the Greek consciousness — what were they? Well, they were not beings which went about among men under ordinary circumstances. They dwelt in fact on Olympus, they dwelt in the clouds and so on. They paid only at times sympathetic or unsympathetic visits; Zeus in particular, as you know, sometimes paid sympathetic or unsympathetic visits into the human world. They were in a certain respect useful; but they also did things about which the modern man, who is somewhat more narrow-minded than the Greeks, would probably take the law into his own hands and involve such a Zeus in a divorce suit and so on. In any case, these Gods had a half-divine, half-human connection with men, and such beings, so it was thought, are not materialized in the flesh ... When Zeus wanted to conduct his affairs he took on all sorts of forms, did he not — a swan, golden rain, and so on; thus in ordinary life these Gods were not incarnated in the flesh. But on the other hand, if one looks deeper, one finds that the Greeks had the consciousness that these Gods were connected with men who lived in primeval times. Far more than looking up to the connection with the stars, as Dupuis supposed, the Greeks looked up to men of primeval times and brought the concept of the being of Zeus — please note exactly how I form the sentence, for that is the point — into connection with some ancient ruler of a long-past age. Please note that I have not said that the Greeks had the idea that what they meant by Zeus had been an ancient ruler; but I said: that which they pictured as Zeus they brought into connection with an ancient ruler who had once lived in long gone-by ages. For the kind of connection for Zeus and also for the other Gods was a somewhat complicated one.
We will examine the words a little, so that we can form an idea of what really underlies them. Let us suppose that at some time a personality had lived in Thrace, a region in Northern Greece, on whom the Zeus-concept was fastened. Now the Greek, even the quite ordinary Greek was quite clear: I do not, as it were, venerate this ancestor, nor do I venerate the single individuality which has lived in this ancestor, nevertheless I venerate something which had some connection with this ancient forefather, this ancient king in Thrace, or in Epirus. The Greek had in fact this idea: There was once such a king in whose whole being not only his own individuality had lived, but the individuality of a super-sensible being; this had expressed itself, had lived upon the earth, by once descending into a human being. The Zeus-concept was not made earthly in this way, it was brought into connection with an ancient ruler, who at one time had furnished the garment — or let us say — the dwelling place for this Zeus-being. Thus the Greek differentiated essentially that which he conceived of as Zeus from the human individuality which had lived in the body to which the Zeus-concept was referred. But the Zeus-rulership, the rule of Zeus and the Gods, took its starting point, as it were, from the fact that Zeus had descended, had lived in a human being, had found his centre there in order to work in the being of man — but who then went on working no longer as an ordinary man but in fact as an ‘Olympian’. And it was the same in the case of the other Greek Gods.
Why did the Greek form this conception — that there was once a ruler who was possessed, so to say, by Zeus, but that now there is no longer a ruler who can be possessed by Zeus, but that Zeus only rules as a super-sensible being — why did the Greek form this concept? Because the Greek knew that human evolution had progressed, that it had changed. In other words, the Greek knew that there were ancient times when human beings could have Imaginations in a particularly outstanding degree. A certain clairvoyance naturally remained for some few, but the authority of the Imaginations, that disappeared: the beings who can still have real Imaginations, these can only hold sway for the life that man knows between birth and death, in super-sensible worlds.
This is the essence of what the Greeks pictured to themselves concerning their Gods: there were Beings who could imagine. But the time is past when such Beings as can ‘imagine’, can enter into human bodies. For human bodies are no longer adapted to Imaginations. So said the Greeks to themselves: we are governed by a race of Beings who can have Imaginations, while we no longer can have them. The Greek had a quite unsentimental concept of his Gods. It would moreover have been rather difficult to be sentimental over Zeus. Yet the Greek said to himself quietly (I shall again elaborate the matter somewhat, one must add detail when one wants to be quite clear), “We men are going through a definite evolution; we have developed from atavistic clairvoyance in Intuition, Inspiration, Imagination; now we must have ordinary objective thinking. But the Gods have not ventured upon it, they have remained in their imaginative consciousness, otherwise they would have to be men and wander about here in the flesh. It did not suit them (so thought the Greeks in their unsentimental way of regarding the Gods) to pass over to objective thinking, so they have not descended to the earth, but kept to their imaginative consciousness. In this way, however, they rule over us, for they have more power, as it were, since the Imaginative concept, when it is utilized fully, is more powerful than the objective concept.”
From this, however, you see that the Greeks looked back to a time when man's forming of concepts, his observation and perception were different, and that this looking back went hand in hand with the ideas they formed of the Gods. Thus they looked back to Zeus, Hera, and said: These are ruling over us now, at one time we were also as they are, but we have developed further and have become weaker. Therefore they can rule over us, they have remained as it was at that time. A certain Luciferic character, as we should say today, was given to their Gods by the Greeks. And those Beings who had remained at the Imagination stage — this developed in the Greek consciousness — these were themselves successors of these Beings who remained at the Inspiration stage. Hera and Zeus remained behind at Imagination, Rhea and Chronos at Inspiration, Gaea and Uranus at Intuition.
You see, the Greek examined his own soul, and he brought his generations of Gods into connection with the evolution of mankind and the different states of consciousness. This he felt, this he perceived. The eldest Gods, Gaea and Uranus, were Beings whose whole inner relation to the world was ordered by the fact that they had an intuitive consciousness. They wanted to remain at the stage of Intuition; and those at the stage of Inspiration set themselves against them. And again the inspiring Beings wished to remain at Inspiration; and those living in the Imaginative consciousness set themselves against them. The Intuitive were thus overthrown through the Inspiring, the Inspiring through the Imagining. We live as human beings and above us the Imaginings. Now you know that in the Prometheus myth, the Greek already desired to find some kind of instrument against the Imagining.
Gaea-Uranus = Intuition
Rhea-Chronos = Inspiration
Hera-Zeus = Imagination
The Greeks graded their Gods in such a way that in this gradation they showed how they looked back to earlier states of consciousness of that being who has at the same time evolved as humanity. The Greeks showed how they connected this with their retrospect of the Gods. Just think how deeply significant this is for the understanding of the Greek consciousness! Thus the Greek in looking back to his generations of the Gods looked back to the past in the mental life. He connected the ancient Intuitional Beings with Gaea, the Earth, and Uranus, the Heavens, and connected the Inspirational Gods with Rhea and Chronos. They still perceived what Gaea and Uranus were. Rhea and Chronos are described as Titans — What are they actually?
Now for some centuries mankind has lost practically all consciousness of what lies at the foundation of all this.
Let me remind you that you know how a few hundred years ago the human being was brought into connection with three fundamental elements. You can still find this knowledge in Jacob Boehme and Paracelsus, even up to the time of Saint Martin. Jacob Boehme still gives: Sal == Salt; Mercur == Quicksilver; Sulphur == Sulphur. In the Middle Ages one said:
What was understood was not the same but yet had something to do with what the Greek meant when he spoke of Uranus-Gaea, or Gaea-Uranus; Rhea-Chronos; Hera-Zeus. For you see Chronos drove Uranus from World-rulership, Gaea became — shall we say — as good as widow. For what did she become? She became what is ‘Earth’ — not the ordinary earth which we find outside, but the earth that man carries in himself, i.e. — Salt. Could man — this was known to the investigator of nature in the Middle Ages — make use consciously of the salt that existed in him, then he would have Intuition. Thus the process which has sunk down deep into the nature of man was a more living one in the old Gaea-Uranus time.
A younger process which has also entered deep down into human nature is that which can be described as the Rhea-Chronos-process. The Greeks said: the power of Rhea was once widespread, and ‘Chronos’ represented the forces that confronted Rhea. Chronos was overthrown. What has been left? Well, just as from Uranus-Gaea the dead salt has been left, so from Chronos-Rhea, the fluid, Mercury, has been left; the fluid in man that can take a drop formation; that has remained behind. But neither can man make conscious use of this; it has sunk into unconscious depths.
Today, of course, that is long past and in the time of the Greeks it was already gone by, for the Greeks said to themselves: the time of Zeus upon earth was in hoary primeval ages, but at that time man could make use of the Sulphur to be found in him. Were man able to make use consciously of his Salt, he would be able to use Intuition in an atavistic way. If he could consciously make use of his Mercury, his fluid element, he would be able to use Inspiration, and Imagination if he could use his Sulphur — not in that transmitted sense, but in the actual sense as the Alchemists of the Middle Ages still understood it, when they spoke of the ‘philosophical sulphur’. Today there is also a philosophical sulphur 1Schwefel (Sulphur) has also a slang meaning of ‘hot air’. Trans. Professors of philosophy manufacture it in vast quantities, but this is not what the Alchemists understood by it. They understood an imaginative consciousness, an atavistic Imagining, which was connected with the use of this active sulphur in man. Human beings, so said the Greeks, and their priests of the Mysteries also said so, for the mysteries of Salt, Mercury and Sulphur are ancient; human beings, through their evolution have overcome atavism, making use of sulphur atavistically. But Zeus and his circle have withdrawn into the super-sensible and avail themselves of the Sulphur processes: hence Zeus can hurl his lightning. If man, like Zeus, could hurl lightning, that is, if he could transform the sulphur through Imagination into reality, if he could inwardly and consciously hurl lightning, then he would use Imagination atavistically. That is what the Greeks wished to say when they said of Zeus that he could hurl lightning.
It was known, even by Saint Martin, that with the Sulphur of the Alchemists something different is meant from the ordinary earthly sulphur, of which one could at most say — excuse the plain speaking — it is the excrement of that which was understood by Saint Martin and those before him as the real sulphur, which they also called the ‘philosophical sulphur’. And Saint Martin still speaks of how thunder and lightning are really connected with the processes of the macrocosmic, or one could say the cosmic sulphur. Today, indeed, many a physical-natural scientific explanation creeps into science, which is also a sulphur, 2See former note. Trans. but not exactly a ‘philosophical sulphur’. Yet, remember that the really clever people of today are, of course, far beyond talking of sulphur processes in the cosmos when thunder and lightning arise; for lightning and thunder arise, as you can read in elementary books on physics, through some sort of friction processes in the clouds — don't they? Anything really rational one cannot find in what is said about lightning and thunder; for the wet clouds in their mutual action are supposed to create the electricity which comes about through thunder and lightning! But if an electrical experiment is made in the schoolroom each apparatus is most carefully dried, for the least dampness prevents any electricity from arising. The clouds up there, however, are apparently not wet! The teacher can do nothing with an electric machine which is damp, which indeed is not completely dry, but at the same time he explains that the wet clouds are supposed to be connected with the creation of electricity. Yes, indeed such things get thoroughly mixed up, don't they! I wanted, however, only to say that in Saint Martin there was still a consciousness that this element of which the Greeks dreamt when they spoke of Hera and Zeus, had something to do with lightning and thunder.
You see, even superficial ideas can indicate to us that certain nature processes, the Salt, Mercury, Sulphur-processes, but in their older sense — are connected with what the Greeks possessed in their mythology. Let us hold that fact to begin with. We must have such fundamental concepts in order to pass over in the right way to our own time.
Thus the Greeks looked back to generations of Gods, to conditions that had ceased to exist, but that in earlier ages were also perceptible to man. They connected what lived in their Gods with what we call processes of nature. Mythology was therefore at the same time a sort of natural science. And the more one learns to know mythology, the deeper is the natural science one finds in it, only a different one, which is at the same time a science of the Soul. This is how the Greeks thought, and how the Egyptians too conceived of their Osiris, who once had ruled but who was now in the underworld.
Do you notice how different the things are and yet how they are all to be traced back to a common type? If the Greeks refer to earlier ages when such a being as Zeus, who in their own time could live only supersensibly, could even incorporate in a man, so could the Egyptians also point to an older age when Osiris or Osirises — the number is not the point — ruled, when they had descended into human beings, when they were present. But that time has gone by ... now (in the Egyptian Osiris-culture) one can no longer look to a human being on the physical plane if one wants to find Osiris, one must look to the world which man enters when he goes through the portal of death. Osirises are no more in the world where human beings live, but man meets them after death. Thus the Egyptian too looked back to an ancient time in the sense of the change of human consciousness, when he distinguished between the Osiris who could once wander the Earth, and the Osiris who can now no longer wander the Earth, who only belongs to the Kingdom of death.
If we confine ourselves today to the two mythologies and tomorrow touch briefly upon the Old Testament teachings before we draw any conclusions, we can make the following statement: We observe from the whole way in which Greek and Egyptian stood to their Gods, that at the same time there was expressed in this consciousness a remembrance of the ancient times of atavistic clairvoyance. They have vanished, they are no more there. With the destinies which the human being has gone through together with his Gods — whether with Zeus or Chronos in Greece, or with Osiris in Egypt, man was describing to himself at the same time this knowledge: If I look farther back, I was related as a human being to the macrocosm in a different way from how I am now. This relation has altered.
To look back in this way to earlier ages when the Gods walked among men, had a distinct reality for these ancient peoples, since they knew that the human being stood as microcosm to macrocosm in a different way from in their own time. The old atavistic clairvoyance actually faded away in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. This was what it was sought to express through the Greek mythology, what it was also sought to express through the Osiris-mythology of the Egyptians.