Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse
Kristiania, May 18, 1909
We have seen that in our age we can write into our souls what will later appear in the human being externally. Just as seven successive cultural epochs can be listed in our time, so too, the seven ages of human evolution that will follow the war of all against all are portrayed to the writer of the Apocalypse, who can see into the future. He sees these seven ages in the seven seals. But he distinguishes clearly the first four ages. Every time a seal is opened one of the four horses with its rider appears to him.
The Apocalypse presents a clairvoyant vision of seven future ages. They are astral pictures of what one day will be. Human beings who will have taken in something of spiritual culture will have overcome their lower nature. They will then rule over the human instinctive nature. What human beings have overcome is expressed in the seal in the form of a horse. They will be victors over their lower nature through what they will have made of their souls. They will master their lower natures just as a rider masters a horse.
Everything we have experienced since the time of ancient India will appear again after the war of all against all. As epochs are repeated, the ancient Indian age will reappear first. Back then everything in the physical world appeared to the human being as illusion, as maya. At that time the soul became mature enough to achieve victory over everything in the sensible world. The fruit of this Indian age appears to the writer of the Apocalypse in the picture of the white horse. It is characteristic of the soul of the ancient Indian that the external world, material culture, appears as yet untouched by human hands. The rider with a bow is as innocent as bright sunlight. Like a conqueror he has earned the right, after the war of all against all, to be conqueror over his lower nature. But the lower nature is still present. The human being has grown together with it. This is portrayed in the second seal as the red rider. Here the soul no longer appears in a white garment of innocence. Thus, the victorious rider cannot serve as a picture of the human being in this age. He appears to us as one bringing the fruits of egotism. After the war of all against all he no longer appears in a white garment. Once again he takes peace away from the earth; once again he shows himself with a sword in the battle for existence.
Then we are shown the fruit of the third age, the Egypto-Chaldean culture, during which humankind learned to count and to calculate. The human being continued to descend deeper and deeper into matter, into the darkness of the lower nature. This is seen in the black horse with a rider holding scales. Weighing, measuring, and counting are expressed to the writer of the Apocalypse as a black horse, and the human soul is the rider with the scales. State institutions for the allocation of property according to intelligent social laws did not exist among human beings in the Persian culture. There were no such institutions in ancient India or ancient Persia. In ancient India, people still had faith in their Atlantean incarnations. In ancient Indian times, people saw their position in life as the consequence of what they had prepared in ancient Atlantis. They told themselves that they were in a certain caste because of the karma of humankind; they looked up to the higher castes and considered this to be a just arrangement according to the karma of individuals. But this division into castes was made increasingly impossible by the evolution of the human I. Distribution of property and goods began to be calculated chiefly through the use of intelligence in the Egypto-Chaldean age. Therefore, the fruit of this third age appears as the black horse and the rider with the scales, with which all thinking and human intelligence are weighed. In this way, what will appear as the fruit of our seven cultures after the war of all against all appears symbolically to the writer of the Apocalypse.
In the Greco-Latin culture, the fourth age conquered the beauty of the physical world. The Greeks idealized nature in their art; they beautified existence. How beautiful Greek sculpture and architecture appear to us in comparison to Egyptian art, to the Sphinx, to the Pyramids. But the Greeks became so fond of physical-sensible existence that the spiritual world became dark for them. Only through the event of Golgotha did light again penetrate into what for them had become absolute shadows. The soul had been completely thrown into chains in this fourth age. But the lower nature experienced a beautification; it received, so to speak, a cover of beauty and art. That is quite properly what is characteristic for the souls of this most beautiful age of the kingdom of earth. But for the souls themselves the fruit of this age means the same thing as death. From this age, which has given them mastery over external physical nature, the souls of human beings will reap the fewest fruits.
Then we come to the fifth age, when the Yahweh-Christ principle also illuminates souls between death and a new birth. Here souls become more alive. What happens in this fifth age? Through what a soul can assimilate through the Christ impulse, the astral body becomes brighter and more filled with light. We can imagine how an astral body that is permeated by the light of the I, that is totally illuminated by the I, appears when seen clairvoyantly. It appears to the writer of the Apocalypse after the war of all against all as a white garment. In the fifth age after the war of all against all, the soul will appear with an aura that is already illuminated by the light of Christ. [Gap in manuscript]
Those who already took up the Christ principle in the first era of Christianity suffered a great deal in terms of external physical martyrdom. But things are coming to a head in this fifth age. Through the Rosicrucian-Theosophical spiritual stream, the Christ impulse will be taken into selves that are increasingly selfless — and taken in with increasing understanding. Its followers will achieve, through spiritual development, ever higher stages of spiritual life.
But another stream sharply opposed to this is working, through a certain cultivation of the I, to drive the I constantly deeper into materialism. Its goal is that materialism should finally conquer the human personality. A result of this impulse is that all external, practical life is detached from the individual, becomes materialized. This happens, for example, through the activity of capital in joint stock companies, which is increasingly detached from any individual human personality. The personal diligence and hard work of individual human beings will become increasingly unimportant. Stocks or shares in companies are the path to materialization in this branch of practical human life.
We see materialism increasingly getting the upper hand. More and more the tendency will be that the spiritualized human personality will have to contradict the prevailing materialism. At the end of our age, this sharp opposition to materialism will appear as a humanity that has been outwardly vanquished. The people who will be put to death for the sake of the Word will have to suffer much. But they will be the most important cultural force after the war of all against all.
With the community at Philadelphia the sixth age will begin. Except for these spiritual human beings the rest of humankind will be entirely wrapped up in the social life, submerged in the materialism that will be constantly growing stronger. People will master the forces of nature to a high degree, as we have seen with wireless telegraphy and aeronautics. It is not without consequences whether the air is filled with spiritual thoughts or with thoughts of material needs. This will engulf our entire planet. We are looking into an age when humanity will intrude in large measure into air and light-filled space. What will be the fruits of this age? Seen in their true form it can be said that these electromagnetic waves will work back into the forces of the earth during a certain age. Then, according to good and evil, earthquakes and earth tremors will appear as the effects of human deeds. “When he opened the sixth seal I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth ...” (Rev. 6:12) When the feelings of human beings are carried into the air, they change all of nature and something like a meteor shower appears. In this way human beings unleash the forces of nature, but their achievements do not go unpunished. When we see this, it appears at the same time that humanity finds its own destruction within these unleashed forces of nature. But those who unite themselves with the spirit appear as the sealed human beings. Such people must take into themselves the teachings that concern the spirit and can reach humanity.
What human beings take into themselves as spiritual substance and teaching will be their soul and spiritual life blood in the future. It will be the light that will ray forth from them as spirit. The human being stands firmly as on two feet — one foot on the Atlantean, the other on the post-Atlantean culture, as it were: on water and on earth. But humankind must take in wisdom, like swallowing a book. This figure points toward the spiritual world, he gives the book to the writer of the Apocalypse. He is supposed to swallow it. It will be indigestible for the lower human being but like honey for the higher, when it is not read but swallowed. Human beings equipped with modern logical thinking who have also become clairvoyant through occult training can also experience what the writer of the Apocalypse described. They can see the visions of the writer of the Apocalypse in the Rosicrucian seals. The seal with the two pillars is portrayed in the tenth chapter of the Apocalypse.