Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse
GA 104a
Part Two

Lecture XII

Kristiania, May 21, 1909

We cannot discuss everything that could be said in connection with the Apocalypse, for then we would have to speak for years. In these lectures we can only give a kind of sketch, and some explanations that can help us understand this mighty work. Today we would still like to point out some particularly important things. We begin by returning to a specific question of human evolution.

Every age between the Atlantean catastrophe and the great war of all against all has its own unique task for our development. In a new incarnation a human being never has the same task as in the last one. From incarnation to incarnation new tasks approach us, and so this post-Atlantean evolutionary age has worked on human beings in a special way. The whole epoch of earth evolution exists to make human beings fit particularly to develop the human I. In the last third of the Atlantean age, human beings were first equipped to draw the I toward the physical head. That is, the I, the spiritual basis for the experience of self that was only like a seed at the time, was pulled “down” toward the physical body, specifically, toward the human head. But the most significant impulse to have an effect on the I came through the event of Golgotha. All the preceding epochs had already worked in that direction. When we look back at the last third of Atlantean evolution we see that a certain point in the etheric head and the physical head did not then coincide, whereas today the etheric body of the head is approximately the same as the physical head. Because of this, human beings gradually came to develop their I, their sense of self. The rest of Atlantean evolution was used to make the human being fit to be a proper bearer of the I. Even at the end of Atlantean culture the brain was entirely soft, more or less like that of a hydrocephalic today, as part of an atavistic inheritance. The physical brain could only become firm enough through the arrival of the etheric brain. Still, even when the etheric head had fully entered the physical head in the ancient Indian age, it was not yet possible for this head to be a perfect bearer of the I. For this reason the ancient Indians longed for the spiritual world and had to be educated so that the I could gradually develop in them.

To begin with, the human being consists of the four members: physical body, etheric body, astral body, and the I. However, if we wish to investigate post-Atlantean evolution more precisely, we must also consider the ninefold aspect of the human being. This is the difference between the oriental and the northern mystery teachings. The I works to transform the astral body into manas or spirit-self, the etheric body into budhi or life-spirit, and the physical body, through breathing, into atma. In other words, the I transforms the astral body, the etheric body, and the physical body. But before this can happen consciously, it must have taken place through higher beings.

Today the conscious transformation of these members occurs only in schools of initiation. For example, in the last third of the Atlantean age the physical body was transformed to the point that it could be a bearer of an I, but this occurred unconsciously. What was transformed in the astral body is called sentient soul, the etheric body transformed in this way is called the intellectual soul, and the physical body thus unconsciously transformed is the consciousness soul. And only when human beings have developed the consciousness soul can the spirit-self gradually—and at first, unconsciously—be woven into them.

In the cultural epochs of our earth evolution, manas is gradually being formed and slipped into the astral body. After it has been prepared in the last third of the Atlantean age, the consciousness soul must again be transformed by the Yahweh-Christ principle in the next cultural epoch.

In the ancient Indian age the etheric body was permeated by the I, which by then had moved into the human being. In the ancient Persian age the astral body was permeated by the I, in the Egyptian age the I permeated the sentient soul; in the Greco-Latin age the intellectual soul was permeated by the I, in our culture, the I permeates the consciousness soul. In the age of “Philadelphia” the I will permeate the spirit-self, or manas. Then the human beings who, through theosophical-spiritual teachings, have made themselves capable of recognizing Christ will be in a position to see him in a new form of existence—in his delicate etheric body—for he will come again.

The I will be educated through wisdom, through Theosophy, so that it receives manas or spirit-self and will be able to recognize Christ again. Theosophical teachings have been given to humankind not in order to agitate for Theosophy but rather because they were necessary.

In the age represented by the seven seals something like a shower of meteorites will occur, caused by increasing materialism, and some human beings will ascend to a spiritual state. What the spiritualized human beings have acquired through their efforts in our post-Atlantean age will completely permeate them within. When, in the age of the sixth seal, everything that the human being has in terms of sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul has been worked into the other members, human beings will have achieved the ability to create an external imprint of their inner life in their gesture, features, in their whole life. Because they have worked on their development they will be able, in the fourth, fifth, and sixth ages in the epoch of the seals, to use these three soul forces—the sentient, intellectual, and consciousness souls—to permeate and work on themselves in order to take in manas.

When the human being has gone through a cycle fully, so that nothing more remains to be done, this is characterized in occultism with a “0” or zero. Therefore, human beings will have permeated the three with four. For the next age, this permeation of the three with the four is expressed by multiplying three by four; they have gone through three cycles, that is through three zeros. This is expressed thus: twelve with three zeros: 12,000. “Then I saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not harn the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.’ And I heard the number of the sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed, out of every tribe of the sons of Israel, twelve thousand sealed out of the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand of the tribe of Reuben ...” (Rev. 7:2–5) Then the various groups of people who have matured will be united in the community of Philadelphia for mature brotherhood when every soul will feel for others. All those who have been separated out of the various groups can now be multiplied together because they will live within one another. Their life together will be such that they will not disturb one another, such that one soul will work into another soul in complete harmony. Twelve times 12,000 gives the number 144,000.

These are the people who will constitute human society in the age of the sixth seal. The writer of the Apocalypse knows the secrets of all evolution, and he tells them in a language generally little understood. He does this because human beings will be able to develop their consciousness soul precisely through the exertion of energy required to penetrate such riddles. What today is presented as Theosophy is appropriate for the present age. In later ages an entirely different form of wisdom will be given. The souls who are preparing themselves by taking in Theosophy will take in new forms of wisdom in the next age. What is exoteric culture today was mystery wisdom in ancient times.

In all the ancient mysteries there was a last stage wherein the student experienced the mystery of Golgotha. Therefore, the coffin in which the student experienced the crucifixion, the laying in the grave—and out of which, experienced the resurrection—this coffin was given the shape of the cross. Since the mystery of Golgotha, this fact has become exoteric.

The conservative attitude has always been opposed to making the esoteric exoteric. Hence, Christ was seen as someone who makes the esoteric manifest. But when the time for it has come, the esoteric must always be made manifest. Had we been able to follow the writer of the Apocalypse to the place where he spoke to his disciples, we would be able to hear what is spoken to us today.

In the age when the sixth seal is broken the “people of twelve” will appear. The salvation of the “great whore of Babylon” will also occur in the sixth age. In this sixth age the earth will have repeated the Saturn, Sun, and Moon stages, as well as the earth condition itself and Jupiter-Earth. On Venus-Earth the earth will finally have the five rounds behind it. Then the sixth state will have come. Nevertheless, the Vulcan state for the chosen will not be present yet. For this reason we read [“And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come ...”] “... five are fallen ...” and the remnant that has maintained itself: “... one is ...” and the seventh: “the other has not yet come.” (Rev. 17:10) We see how we again find the messages of the writer of the Apocalypse in Theosophy.

But those who have proven themselves to be immature in the age of Venus-Earth, who have placed themselves under the rulership of Sorat, must now isolate themselves on a special sphere of earth while the other seven proceed downward and again upward. Thus the colony of Sorat falls away. The black magicians inhabit this eighth sphere, which goes to the left and away, and the beast gives a home to all that thus falls away: that is the eighth state. In this way we can find all the teachings of Theosophy in the Apocalypse.

The more humanity advances, the more energy is necessary in order to spiritualize those who have been left behind. For this reason those who are the most deeply initiated, Moses and Elijah, are called. Powerful forces are needed. Because they were already deeply initiated, they will be able in that distant future to stand so high that they will be able to work in a very special way. However, karma is a law to which all are subject; therefore, those who were initiated before the event of Golgotha must make up for the following.

The three and a half days required for initiation in ancient times were lost days in the initiates' development. Initiates had to leave their bodies during these three and a half days. Therefore, the I could not work on the transformation of its physical body, its etheric body, and its astral body. For this reason, in the future they must leave their physical body to the external world for three and a half days. Hence, we read, “For three days and a half ... gaze at their dead bodies.” (Rev. 11:9) Even the deeds that are sacrifices for humanity must find their cosmic compensation.

In this way spiritual seers have spoken to other spiritual seers through the millennia and we find all of this again even unto the names in the Apocalypse. As Paul said, “... it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20) This, too, we find again in the Apocalypse. The I is permeated by Christ. The one who can fructify the I with his name is the Christ: “... and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but he himself.” (Rev. 19:12)

We are also told that the earth will be spiritualized in the New Jerusalem. There will be no external sun present then; the corresponding spiritual beings will provide the light. We read, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it ...” (Rev. 21:23)

The writer of the Apocalypse always shows the evolution of humankind in pictures. He sees the leader who was first proclaimed as Vishva Karman, and then as Ahura Mazdao, and he points to him, to Christ.

In order to illuminate what is found in the Apocalypse, we must refer to the transformation of organs that are developed in human beings into other forms. They now have the ability to change their forms.

The heart muscle is distinguished from other muscles under our voluntary control by the fact that the heart is an involuntary muscle, and yet is striated in the same way as voluntary muscle. The heart is on the way to becoming an organ with entirely different functions. We see this indicated in the structure of the muscle.

What comes forth from the voice box will become increasingly powerful. What we speak forth in order to express our thoughts shapes the air—already now it forms it according to how we think. But the word will become increasingly powerful. One day the human being will create the human being's equal through the word that comes forth from the larynx. The one who has the sword coming forth from his mouth is an indication of the being who is the alpha and the omega.

The lamb, who will be the lord over the lower nature, forms one of the seals. Sorat is as if expelled in the eighth sphere by the woman who shows us another seal of the Rosicrucian. The seer can also see this in the spiritual world. In this way, these Rosicrucian seals have an awakening effect when we meditate upon them with understanding.

We have seen how we must understand ancient religious texts literally, taking them at their word. Theosophy is the only possible commentary for the Apocalypse and it should prepare the community of Philadelphia. It is therefore within the plan for the evolution of the earth that Theosophy exists. Therefore, at various locations on the earth, great individualities are at work to give Theosophy to those able to receive it.