Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

World History in the Light of Anthroposophy
and as a Foundation for Knowledge of the Human Spirit
GA 233

Lecture VIII

31 December 1923, Dornach

We stand to-day under the sign of a painful memory, and I want to place what we have to take for the theme of our lecture to-day into the sign of that painful memory. The lecture I was able to give exactly a year ago in our old Goetheanum,—those of you who were present will remember how it took its start from descriptions of Nature, of relationships that can be observed in Nature on Earth, and led from these up to the spiritual worlds and the revelations of the spiritual worlds in the writing of the stars. And you will remember how we were able then to bring the human heart, the human soul and spirit in their whole nature and being into close connection with what is found when one follows the path that leads away from the earthly into the distant stellar spaces, wherein the spiritual writes its Cosmic Script. And the words that I then wrote upon the blackboard, writing for the last time in the room that was so soon to be taken from us, bore within them this impulse and this purpose: to lift the human soul into spiritual heights.

So on that evening we were brought into direct and close touch with that to which our Goetheanum in its whole intention and character was devoted. And to-day you will allow me to speak to you again of these things, as it were in continuation of the lecture that was given here a year ago.

In the days preceding the burning of Ephesus, when men spoke of the Mysteries, provided they were men who had some understanding and feeling for them, they spoke of them somewhat in the following manner: Human knowledge, human wisdom has a home and a dwelling place in the Mysteries. And when in those olden times the Spiritual Guides of the Universe spoke of the Mysteries, when the Mysteries were spoken of in the super-sensible worlds—I may be permitted this expression, although of course it is only a figure of speech to describe how thought and influence streamed down from the super-sensible into the sensible worlds—when, therefore, the Mysteries were spoken of in the super-sensible worlds, then it was somewhat in the following way: ‘In the Mysteries men erect places where we Gods can find the men who do sacrifice and who understand us in the sacrifice.’

For in point of fact men of the old world, men of the old world who knew, were conscious that in the places of the Mysteries Gods meet with men; they knew how all that carries and sustains the world depends on what takes place between Gods and men in the sacred Mysteries.

But there is a word,—a word that has come down to us in history and that can speak powerfully to the human heart even in external historical tradition, but that speaks with peculiar force and earnestness when we see it shape itself out of strange and unparalleled events, when we see it written with eternal letters into the history of mankind, though the writing be only visible for a moment in the spirit. I declare to you that, wherever the eye of the spirit is turned to the deed of Herostratus, to the burning of Ephesus, then, in those flames of fire may be read the ancient word: The Jealousy of the Gods.

Among the many and diverse words that have come down to us from olden time, and that were in use in the life of olden times in the manner I have described,—among all the words in this physical world, this word is, I verily believe, one of the most awful: The Jealousy of the Gods. In those times the term God was applied to all beings of a super-sensible nature,—to every form of being that had no need to appear on Earth in a physical body. Many and varied kinds of Gods were differentiated. The Divine-Spiritual Beings who are most closely united with mankind, from Whom man in his innermost nature originated and by Whom he was launched into the stream of time, the same Beings Whom we recognise in the majesty of Nature and in her smallest manifestations, and Whom we discover too in that which lives in our own inmost selves,—these Divine-Spiritual Beings can never be jealous. Nevertheless in that ancient time the ‘Jealousy of the Gods’ was something very real to man. If we study the period of human development that led up to the time of Ephesus, we find that the more advanced members of the human race received into their being much of what the good Gods held out to them in the Mysteries. For it is true to say that an intimate relationship exists between good human hearts and the good Gods, and this intimate relationship was knit closer and closer in the Mysteries. And thus it came to pass that certain other divine Beings, Luciferic-Ahrimanic divine Beings were made aware, that man was being drawn nearer and nearer to the good Gods. And there arose a jealousy on the part of the Gods, a jealousy concerning man. Over and over again in human history we have to hear how a man who strives after the Spirit falls victim to a tragic destiny. In olden times such an event was spoken of as brought about by the Jealousy of the Gods.

The Greeks knew very well that this Jealousy of the Gods exists; they traced back to it much of what took place in the history of man. With the burning of Ephesus it was made manifest that further spiritual evolution was only possible if men became conscious that there are Gods—that is, super-sensible Beings—who are jealous of the further advance of man.

It is this that gives the peculiar colouring to all history that follows the burning of Ephesus,—or I may also say, the birth of Alexander. And it is essential for a right understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. We have to see a world filled with the jealousy of certain kinds of Gods. Ever since a time that follows soon after the Persian War, the soul-atmosphere of the world was filled with the effects of this Jealousy of the Gods. And that which had to be done in the Macedonian time had to be done in the full consciousness that the Jealousy of the Gods pervades the spiritual atmosphere over the surface of the Earth. But it was done with courage and daring, and in spite of the misunderstandings of Gods and men.

Into this atmosphere, filled with the Jealousy of the Gods, sank then the Deed of Him Who was capable of the greatest Love that can exist in the world. We only see the Mystery of Golgotha in a true light, when we add to all else we have learned concerning it this picture: the dark bank of cloud that hung in olden time over Greece, Macedonia, Asia Minor, Northern Africa and Southern Europe, the dark cloud that is the expression of the Jealousy of the Gods. And then into this cloud-filled atmosphere we behold streaming down the warm and gentle rays of the Love that pours through the Mystery of Golgotha.

But when we come to our own time, then that which in earlier ages was—if I may put it so—an affair between Gods and men, must in this epoch of human freedom be played out below in the physical life of men. We can already describe how it is being so played out. In olden times, when men thought of the Mysteries, it was in this sense that they spoke of them:—In the Mysteries, they said, human knowledge, human wisdom has a home. And when the Mysteries were spoken of among the Gods, it was said: When we descend into the Mysteries, we find the sacrifice done by human beings, and in the sacrificing human being we are understood. The burning of Ephesus marks the beginning of the epoch that saw the gradual and complete disappearance of the Mysteries in their ancient form.

I have told you how the Mysteries were continued here and there—in a sublime manner, for example, in the Mysteries of Hibernia, where the Mystery of Golgotha was celebrated in the ritual at the very time when it was taking place physically over in Palestine. Men had knowledge of it not through physical but through spiritual means of communication. Notwithstanding these survivals, the real being of the Mysteries retreated more and more in the physical world. The external centres which were the meeting places for Gods and men lost more and more of their significance. By the time of the 13th and 14th centuries it had almost entirely gone. For whoever would find the way, for example, to the Holy Graal, must know how to tread spiritual paths. In the olden times, before the burning of Ephesus, man trod physical paths. In the Middle Ages it is spiritual paths that he must tread.

Spiritual paths above all were necessary from the 13th, 14th and especially the 15th century onwards, if one wanted to receive true Rosicrucian instruction. For the temples of the Rosicrucians were hidden from outer physical experience. Many a true Rosicrucian frequented these temples, it is true, but no outer physical eye of man could find them. None the less there were disciples who came to these old Rosicrucians; for in scattered places the true Rosicrucians could indeed be found. They were like hermits of wisdom and of consecrated human action. And any man who was able to perceive the language of the Gods in the gentle radiance of their eyes, would find them so. I am not speaking in mere pictures. I am relating a reality, and a reality which was of cardinal importance for that time. To find the Rosicrucian master the pupil must first attain the faculty to perceive the language of Heaven in the gentle light of the physical eye. Then it was possible to find here and there in Mid-Europe, in the 14th and 15th centuries, these remarkable men, living in the most simple and unpretentious manner—men who were God-inspired, connected in their inner life with the spiritual temples which did indeed exist, albeit the access to them was no less difficult than the access to the Holy Graal, as described in the well-known legend.

Observing in the spirit what took place between such a Rosicrucian master and his pupil, we can hear many a conversation, wherein is shown once again—though in a form that belongs to a more modern age—how the Wisdom of the Gods lives and moves upon Earth. For the instructions of these masters were essentially objective and concrete. There in his loneliness some Rosicrucian master was found by the pupil who had spared no pains to seek him out. Gazing into the gentle eyes of the master out of which spoke the language of the Gods, this pupil would receive in all humility an instruction somewhat as follows:—

Look, my son, at your own being! You carry about with you a body which your physical eyes can see. The centre of the Earth supplies this body with the forces which make it visible. This is your physical body.

But look around you at your environment on Earth. Behold the stones! They can exist on Earth by themselves, they are at home here. And if they have once assumed a certain form, they can preserve this form by virtue of the Earthly forces. Look at the crystal; it bears its form within it. The Earth enables it to keep the form which belongs to its own being. Your physical body cannot do that. When your soul leaves it, it is destroyed, dissolved in dust. The Earth has no power over your physical body. It has the power to form and also to maintain the transparent crystal mountains with their wonderful configuration; but the Earth has no power to maintain the form of your physical body, it must dissolve it in to dust. Your physical body is not of the Earth, it is of high spirituality. To Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones belongs the form and figure of your physical body. Not to the Earth, but to the highest spiritual powers which are accessible to men, does this physical body of yours belong. The Earth can destroy it, but never build it up.

And now, within this physical body dwells an etheric body. The day will come when your physical body will be received by the Earth for its destruction. Then will your etheric body dissolve in the wide expanse of the Cosmos. The far spaces of the Cosmos can indeed dissolve, but they again cannot build your etheric body. Only the divine spiritual Beings can build it up—the Beings of the hierarchy of Dynamis, Exusiai and Kyriotetes. To them you owe your etheric body.

With your physical body you unite the physical substances of the Earth. But that which is within you transforms these substances into something utterly different from all that is physically present in the environment of the physical body. Your etheric body brings into movement all that is fluid within you, all that is water within you. The saps and fluids in their circulation stand under the influence of your physical body. Behold your blood! It is the Exusiai, Dynamis and Kyriotetes who cause the blood to circulate as a fluid through your veins. It is only as a physical body that you are man; in the etheric body you are still animal, albeit an animal that is inspirited by the second Hierarchy.

What I have here gathered up into a very few words was the substance of a prolonged instruction given by that master in the gentle light of whose eyes the pupil discerned the language of Heaven. And then his attention was turned to the third member of the human being, which we call the astral body. And it was made clear to him that this astral body contains the impulse for the breathing—for all that is airy in the human organism, for all that pulsates as air within this body of ours. Now it is true that for a long time after man has passed through the gate of Death, the earthly nature strives as it were to make disturbances in the airy element, so much so that the clairvoyant vision can observe in the atmospheric phenomena of the Earth for many years, the noising of the astral bodies of the dead. Nevertheless the Earth with its encircling sphere can do no other in relation to the impulses of the astral body too than dissolve them. For these again can only be created by Beings of the third Hierarchy—the Archai, Archangeloi and Angeloi.

And then the master said,—and his words struck deep into the heart of his pupil: In your physical body, inasmuch as you receive within you the mineral kingdom and transform it, you belong to the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. In so far as you are an etheric body, you are like an animal. Here however you belong to the Spirits whom we designated as those of the second Hierarchy—the Kyriotetes, Exusiai, Dynamis. Inasmuch as you live and move in the fluid element, you belong not to the Earth but to this Hierarchy. And as you live and move in the airy element, you belong not to the Earth but to the Hierarchy of Archai, Archangeloi and Angeloi.

When the pupil had received this instruction in sufficient measure, he no longer felt that he belonged to the Earth. He felt forces proceeding from his physical, etheric and astral bodies which united him with the Hierarchies. For he felt how, through the mineral world, he is united with the first Hierarchy; through the water of the earth, with the second Hierarchy; and through the atmosphere, with the third Hierarchy. And it was plain to him that he is an inhabitant of Earth purely and solely on account of the element of warmth that he bears within him. In this way the Rosicrucian pupil came to the perception that the warmth, the physical warmth he has within him, is what makes him ‘man on earth.’ And he learned increasingly to feel how closely related warmth of soul and warmth of spirit are to physical warmth.

The man of later times gradually lost all knowledge of how his physical, etheric and astral content are connected—through the solid, the fluid and the aeriform—with the Divine. The Rosicrucian pupil however knew this well; he knew that what made him earthly was not these elements at all, but the element of warmth.

The moment the pupil of the Rosicrucian teacher perceived this secret of the connection of the element of warmth with his life on earth as earthly man, in that moment he knew how to link the human in him on to the spiritual.

Now the pupils who came to these often-time humble haunts where such Rosicrucian masters lived were prepared before-hand in a way that was frequently quite unsought by them and that appeared no less than marvellous in their eyes. An intimation would come to them, to one in one way, to another in another; often to all outward appearance it came by a mere chance. The intimation would be given to them: You must seek out a place where you may be able to bring your own spiritual nature into contact with the Spiritual of the Cosmos. And after the pupil had received the instruction of which I told you, then, yes then, he was able to say to the master: I go from you with the greatest comfort that could ever be to me on Earth. For in that you have shown to me how earthly man has his own proper element in warmth, you have opened to me the possibility to connect my physical nature with soul and spirit. The hard bones, the flowing blood, the airy breath,—into none of these do I bring my soul nature, but only into the element of warmth.

It was with an infinite peace and rest that the pupils departed from their masters in those days. In their countenance was expressed the great comfort they had received, and from this look of peace developed gradually that mild and gentle gaze whence the language of Heaven can speak. And so we find in those earlier times and on into the first third of the fifteenth century a profound instruction of the soul being given in these humble and secluded haunts. It is indeed unknown as compared with the events of which external history relates. It went on none the less, and was an instruction that took deep hold of the entire human being, an instruction that made it possible for the human soul to link its own nature on to the sphere of the Cosmic-Spiritual.

This whole spiritual atmosphere has disappeared in the course of the later centuries. It is no longer present in our civilisation. An external, God-estranged civilisation has spread abroad over the countries that once upon a time saw such a civilisation as I have just described to you. We stand here to-day bearing within us the memory of many a scene like that I have described, although the memory can only be created in the Spirit in the astral light. And when we look back into the older times, that are so often pictured to us as times of darkness, and then turn our gaze upon our own times, a deep longing arises in our hearts. From out of the spiritual revelations that have been accessible to man since the last third of the nineteenth century, is born a longing to speak to men once more in a spiritual way. But to do so it is not enough to speak with abstract words; to speak spiritually demands the use of manifold signs and symbols; our speech has to be wide and comprehensive. Such a language, my dear friends, such a form of speech as needed to be found for the Spiritual Beings Who have to speak to modern humanity, was given to us in the forms of the Goetheanum that was destroyed by fire a year ago. In very truth, the forms were built and moulded to that end, that what was spoken from the platform in ideas should speak on further in them.

And so in a certain sense we may say that in the Goetheanum we had something that could awaken in an altogether new form a memory of the old.

When the pupil for initiation entered the Temple of Ephesus, his attention was directed to the statue of which I have spoken to you in these lectures, and the statue called to him in the language of the heart with these words: Unite yourself with the Cosmic Ether, and you will behold the earthly from out of the Ether heights.

Many a pupil at Ephesus did so behold the earthly from out of the Ether heights. And a certain race of the Gods was jealous. Centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha took place, brave men were already finding a way to meet this Jealousy of the Gods. They found a way to foster what had come down to them from ancient holier years of mankind's history and had worked powerfully in human evolution up to the time of the burning of Ephesus. True, it was dim now and feeble, but even in this enfeebled form it could still continue to work.

Had our Goetheanum been brought to completion, then as you entered from the West, your glance would have fallen on a Statue that bade man know himself in his cosmic nature, know himself as a being set between the powers of Lucifer and Ahriman, God-maintained in the midst in inner balance of being. And when you looked upon the forms of the columns and of the architrave, these forms spoke a language that was a continuation of the language which was spoken in words from the platform, where it was sought to express the spiritual in ideas. The sound of the words flowed on into the plastically moulded forms. And above in the dome were displayed the scenes which could bring before the eye of the soul the past evolution of mankind. Whoever looked upon this Goetheanum with feeling and understanding could find in it a memory of the Temple of Ephesus.

The memory, however, grew to be terribly painful. For in a manner not at all unlike that which befell Ephesus in earlier time, exactly at the moment in its evolution when the Goetheanum was ready to become the bearer of the renewal of spiritual life, in that very moment was flung into it the burning brand.

My dear friends, our pain was deep and indescribable. But we made the resolve to go forward, unhindered by this tragedy that had befallen us, to continue our work for the spiritual world. For we were able to say to ourselves in the depths of our own hearts: When we look upon the flames that rose from Ephesus, we behold written into the flames these words: The Jealousy of the Gods. That was a time when men were still unfree and must needs follow the Will of the good and the evil Gods. In our day men are marked out for freedom. A year ago, on New Year's Eve, we beheld the destroying flames. The red glow rose to Heaven. Tongues of flame, dark blue and reddish yellow, curled their way up through the general sea of fire. They came from the metal instruments concealed in the Goetheanum; the gigantic sea of fire glowed with all manner of changing colours. And as one gazed into this sea of flame with its swift lines and tongues of colour, one had perforce to read these words, words that spoke pain for the soul: The Jealousy of Man.

Thus are the words that speak from epoch to epoch in human evolution bound together in deepest calamity and unhappiness. In the time when man still looked up to the Gods in unfreedom, but had it as his task to make himself free, there was a word that was significant of the deepest unhappiness and grief to him. He beheld inscribed into the flames: The Jealousy of the Gods. And by a thread of spiritual evolution our own calamity is linked with this word. We live in a time when man has to find in himself the power of freedom, and now we behold inscribed in the flames another word: The Jealousy of Man. In Ephesus the statue of the Gods; here in the Goetheanum the statue of Man, the statue of the Representative of mankind, Christ Jesus. In Him, identifying ourselves in all humility with Him, we thought to attain to knowledge, even as once in their way, a way that is no longer fully understood by mankind to-day, the pupils of Ephesus attained to knowledge in Diana of Ephesus.

The pain does not grow less when one beholds in the light of history what that New Year's Eve brought to us a year ago. When for the last time it was given to me to stand on the platform that was itself built in harmony with the whole Goetheanum, it was my intention and purpose to direct the gaze, the spiritual gaze of those present away from earthly realms to the ascent into the starry worlds where the Will and Wisdom, where the Light of the Spiritual Cosmos are brought to expression. I know well, sponsors were there present at that time,—spirits of those who in the Middle Ages taught their pupils in the manner I have described to you.

One hour after the last word had been spoken, I was summoned to the fire at the Goetheanum. At the fire of the Goetheanum we passed the whole of that New Year night.

One has but to speak these words, and thoughts unutterable surge up in all our hearts and souls. But whenever it has happened in the evolution of mankind that something sacred to that evolution has been torn away, then there have always been a few who have pledged themselves, after the dissolution of the physical, to continue the work in the Spirit, to which the physical was dedicated. And gathered here as we are in the moment that marks the anniversary of the tragic loss of our Goetheanum, we do well to remember that we shall bring our souls into the right attitude for this gathering when we pledge ourselves one and all to bear onward in the Spirit on the advancing wave of human progress that which was expressed in physical form and in physical image in the Goetheanum, and which has been torn away from physical sight by a deed like the deed of Herostratus. Our pain and grief cling to the old Goetheanum. But we shall only show ourselves worthy of having been permitted to build this Goetheanum, if we fulfil the task that yet remains to us, if we take to-day a solemn pledge, each one of us before the highest, the Divine, that he bears within his soul, a pledge to hold faithfully in remembrance the spiritual impulses that have had their outward expression in the Goetheanum that is gone. The Goetheanum could be taken from us: the spirit of the Goetheanum, if so be that in all sincerity we will to keep it, can never be taken from us. It will least of all be taken from us, if in this solemn hour, that is divided by but a short space of time from the actual moment a year ago, when the flames burst forth from our beloved Goetheanum,—if in this solemn hour we not only feel a renewal of our pain, but out of the very pain pledge ourselves to remain loyal to the Spirit to which we erected our Goetheanum, building it up through ten years of work. If this resolve wells up to-day in all sincerity from the depths of our hearts, if we are able to change the pain and grief into the impulse to action, then we shall also change the sorrowful event into blessing. The pain cannot thereby be made less, but it rests with us to find in the pain the urge to action, to action in the Spirit.

Even so let us look back upon the terrible flames of fire that filled us with such unutterable sadness, but let us at the same time feel how to-day, as we dedicate ourselves with solemn vow to the highest divine forces that are within us, a spiritual flame lights up in our hearts. Yea, and the flame in our hearts shall shed new light and warmth on all that was purposed and willed in the Goetheanum, on all that we are now resolved to carry forward on the advancing wave of human evolution.

Let us then, my dear friends, recall at this time and write deeper in our hearts the words that I was able to speak to you over there in the Goetheanum almost in the very same moment of time a year ago. On that night I spoke somewhat in the following words: We are at the eve of a New Year, we must go forward to meet an oncoming Cosmic New Year. If the Goetheanum were still standing, this demand and this call could in this moment be renewed. It is no longer standing. The same call can, however, be uttered again on this New Year's Eve, can be uttered, as I believe, with redoubled power just because the Goetheanum is no longer there. Let us carry over the soul of the Goetheanum into the Cosmic New Year, let us try to erect in the new Goetheanum a worthy memorial to the old!

May our hearts be thus knit to the old Goetheanum, which we had perforce to give over to the elements. And may our hearts be closely knit to the spirit and the soul of this Goetheanum. And with this solemn pledge to the highest and the best that is in us, we will carry our life over not only into the New Year, but into the Cosmic New Year, we will go forward into it, strong for action, upheld and guided in soul and spirit.

My dear friends, you received me by rising in memory of the old Goetheanum. Let us now rise in token that we pledge ourselves to continue working in the spirit of the Goetheanum with the best and highest forces that we have within us. So be it. Amen.

And we will hold to this our solemn pledge, we will be true to it as long as we are able, we will hold to it with our will,—for our will it is that unites these human souls of ours with the souls of the Gods. We will remain faithful to the spirit in which at a certain moment of our life we first sought the Spiritual Science of the Goetheanum.

And let us understand and know how to keep the promise we have made.