Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, January 1, 1909:
The theme of the lecture today is of a profoundly occult character, the title — strange as it may seem to begin with — being: “Mephistopheles and Earthquakes”. We shall see that not only does the problem of the figure of Mephistopheles lead us into a deep realm of occultism but that the same applies to the problem of earthquakes if explained from the spiritual point of view. I have already spoken here and in several other places about the interior of the Earth and have also referred to the question of earthquakes. We shall now approach the subject of these most tragic happenings on the Earth's surface from yet another side.
The figure of Mephistopheles which will be our starting point today is familiar to you all from Goethe's Faust. You know that Mephistopheles is a being — we shall not enter today into the question of how far the poetic presentation tallies with the occult facts — a figure who appears in the drama as the seducer and tempter of Faust, who in a certain respect may be thought of as the representative of man aspiring to reach the heights of existence. In lectures on Goethe I have also indicated what spiritual vistas are revealed in the scene of the “Passage to the Mothers”, where Mephistopheles holds in his hand the key giving access to the dark, nether region where the Mothers dwell. Mephistopheles himself may not enter this region. He merely indicates that in this mysterious realm there is no difference between “below” and “above”:
“Sink then! I might as well say, Mount!
'Tis quite the same.”
We know too that in characterizing this region, Mephistopheles uses the word “Naught”, “Nothingness”. In a certain sense, therefore, he represents the spirit who in this “Naught” would be seeking something that is valueless to him. Faust answers as any true seeker today might answer a materialistic thinker: “In thy Naught I hope to find the All”.
Goethean research has made many attempts to find the clue to the figure of Mephistopheles. In other lectures I have said that the explanation of the name Mephistopheles is to be found in the Hebrew language, where “Mephiz” is the word used for one who obstructs, who corrupts, and “topel” for one who lies. We have therefore to think of this name as belonging to a being who brings corruption and hindrances to man and is a spirit of untruth, deception, and illusion.
It may occur to those who read the introduction to Faust, the “Prologue in Heaven”, thoughtfully, that it contains words which resound as it were across thousands of years. Goethe has let words spoken between the Lord and Job in the Book of Job re-echo at the beginning of Faust. In the Book of Job we read that Job is a good, upright, and pious man and of how the sons of the Lord of Light present themselves before Him. Among them is a certain enemy of the Light. In a conversation between the enemy of the Light and the supreme Lord, this enemy of the Light says that he has “gone to and fro in the Earth”, seeking and trying out many things. The Lord asks: “Knowest thou my servant Job?” and the enemy of the Light — for so we will call him — answers the Lord that Job is known to him and that he would assuredly be able to divert him from the Good and bring him to perdition. This spirit has to make two attempts to approach Job and he then lays hold of him through injuring his physical body. He indicates this expressly when he says to the Lord: “Seize his possessions and he will not fall; but touch his bone and his flesh and he will fall!” Who can fail to hear an echo of this in Faust when the Lord calls to Mephistopheles in the “Prologue in Heaven”: “Knowest thou Faust, my servant?” And then, in similar terms, we hear the retort of the spirit who in the Book of Job comes before the Lord, when Mephistopheles asserts that he can lead Faust gently on the way, that he can win him from the paths which lead to the Good. Here, then, we are listening to sounds striking together in unison across the ages.
When you are thinking about the figure of Mephistopheles, you may often have asked yourselves: Who is Mephistopheles, in reality? Grave mistakes are made here, mistakes which admittedly can be corrected only by deeper, occult insight. The name itself suggests that Mephistopheles is associated with the devil, or the idea of the devil, for the word “topel” is the same as “Teufel” — devil. But the other question — and here we come into a realm of serious fallacies which frequently occur in explanations of the figure of Mephistopheles — the other question is: Whether Mephistopheles can be identified with the spirit we know as Lucifer, who during and after the Lemurian epoch approached mankind together with his hosts and entrenched himself as it were in the evolutionary process. The prevailing tendency in Europe is to identify the figure of Mephistopheles as he appears in Goethe's Faust — but also in earlier folk literature (Folk Plays, Puppet Plays, and so forth) — with Lucifer. Mephistopheles is a familiar character everywhere, and the question is: Are he and his hosts identical with Lucifer and his hosts? In other words: Are the effects of the Mephistophelean influence upon man the same as those of Lucifer? — That is the question before us today.
We know when Lucifer approached man. We have studied the course of human evolution on Earth through the epoch when the Sun with its beings, and subsequently the Moon, separated from the Earth together with the forces that would have made further development for man impossible. And we have learned that at a time when man was still not ready for his astral body to become independent, Lucifer and his hosts approached him. The effect upon man was twofold. It was towards the end of the Lemurian epoch when, in his astral body, man was actually exposed to the influences issuing from Lucifer. If Lucifer had not approached, man would, it is true, have been protected from certain evils, but he would not have attained what must be accounted one of his greatest blessings.
The significance of Lucifer's influence becomes evident when we ask ourselves what would have transpired if since the Lemurian epoch there had been no Luciferic influence, if Lucifer and his hosts had remained separate and apart from man's evolution. Until the middle of the Atlantean epoch man would have evolved as a being who in every impulse of his astral body would have obeyed the influences of certain spiritual beings of a higher rank than himself; these beings would have retained their sway over him until the middle of the Atlantean epoch. If that had happened, man's faculties of perception and cognition would not have been directed to the material world until a much later period. During the Lemurian and early Atlantean epochs, no passions, no desires would have arisen from his sense perceptions; he would have confronted the world of sense as it were in a state of innocence, obedient in his every action to the impulses instilled into him by higher spiritual beings. The instincts prompting him to action would not have been of exactly the same nature as those of the higher animals today, but more spiritual. His every deed on Earth would have been prompted not by mere impulses but by a kind of spiritual instinct.
As things were, under the influence of Lucifer man came earlier to the stage where he said: This delights and attracts me, that is repellent to me! He reached the stage of following his own impulses earlier than would otherwise have been the case; he became an independent being, with a measure of inner freedom. The consequence was that he was detached in a certain way from the spiritual world. To put it concisely, one might say: Without this influence of Lucifer, man would have remained a spiritualized animal — an animal who would gradually have developed a form nobler and more beautiful than could have been developed by man under the influence of Lucifer. Man would have remained far more of an angelic being if Lucifer's influence had not taken effect in the Lemurian epoch; but on the other hand, the higher beings would have guided him as it were on leading-strings.
In the middle of the Atlantean epoch something would have befallen him suddenly: his eyes would have been fully opened, the tapestry of the whole material world of sense would have lain around him — but gazing upon it he would simultaneously have perceived the Divine-Spiritual, a Divine-Spiritual world behind every physical object. If, therefore, in his former state of dependence man had looked back into the bosom of the Divine whence he had proceeded, beholding the Gods of Light sending their radiance into his soul, guiding and leading him, something would have come about for him — this is not a mere picture but corresponds in a high degree with the reality — namely, that the world of sense in its entirety would have been outspread in transparency before him, revealing behind it those other Divine-Spiritual Beings who had taken the place of what had now been lost. One spiritual world would have closed behind him and a new spiritual world opened before him. Man would have remained a child in the hands of higher, Divine-Spiritual Beings; independence would not have been established in the human soul.
It did not happen so, because Lucifer had approached man and made part of the underlying spiritual world invisible to him. The personal instincts, passions, and desires which arose in the human astral body spread a cloud of darkness over the spiritual beings of the world out of which man is born and who would otherwise have remained perpetually visible to him.
Hence in those great centers of the Oracles in ancient Atlantis the initiates had expressly trained themselves to behold that part of the spiritual world which had been concealed as the result of Lucifer's influence. The aim of all the preparation undergone by the guardians and pupils of the ancient Oracles in the Atlantean Mysteries was to enable them to perceive that part of the spiritual world of light which in consequence of Lucifer's influence upon the astral body of man had withdrawn from his field of vision. And visible too were those figures seen by man in the various conditions of soul running parallel with initiation, figures which from a world of Light penetrate into our world decked in the raiment provided by the astral world. In the ancient Oracle centers the Atlantean initiate beheld in the spirit those figures who were in truth spiritual beings of a higher rank than he — beings who had not descended into the physical world and who had therefore remained invisible to ordinary sight when man's eyes were opened prematurely.
But since Lucifer himself was an opponent of these worlds of Light, it was inevitable that he too should be visible to the initiates; and the hosts of Lucifer were visible to the Atlanteans who in their shadowy, clairvoyant consciousness, in the sleeping state and in conditions midway between sleeping and waking, could be transported into the spiritual world. When part of the world of Light was accessible to these Atlantean men, part of the world opposing the world of Light was also visible; the Luciferic hosts were visible — not Lucifer himself. These noble figures belonging to the world of light were as fascinating and splendid in their astral raiment as those of the opposing world of deception were fearsome and terrible.
Thus it was the influence of Lucifer in the evolution of humanity that made it possible for man to fall into error and evil but also to attain freedom. Had there been no Luciferic influence, the conditions I have been describing to you would have come about in the middle of the Atlantean epoch: the tapestry of the sense-world would have been outspread before man; the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms would have been materially visible to him; also the phenomena of nature and of the heavens, thunder, lightning, clouds, air — all would have been visible to external sight. But behind it all would have been the unmistakable presence of Divine-Spiritual Beings. Because Lucifer's influence had already taken effect in man's astral body, his physical body — at that time still transmutable — had been so prepared ever since the Lemurian epoch and on into the Atlantean that it could not become the direct instrument for the physical world of sense with the spiritual world visibly behind it. And so man could not immediately behold the physical sense-world in the form in which it would simultaneously have revealed itself to him as a spiritual world. The three lower kingdoms of nature lay around him; the physical world became a veil over the spiritual world. Man could not, nor can he to this day, see directly into the spiritual world.
But because man had passed through this evolution a different influence was able to assert itself in the middle of the Atlantean epoch — an influence from quite another side and not to be confused with that of Lucifer and his hosts. Although it was Lucifer who first made it possible for man to come under the sway of this other influence, although it was Lucifer who caused the human physical body to become denser than it would otherwise have become, nevertheless it was necessary for yet another influence to approach man in order to bring him completely into the material world of sense, in order to shut him off entirely from the spiritual world so that he was led to the illusion: There is no other world than the world of material existence outspread before me!
From the middle of the Atlantean epoch an opponent quite different in character from Lucifer approached man, namely the being who casts such mist and darkness around his faculties of perception that he makes no effort nor unfolds any urge to fathom the secrets of the world of sense. If you picture to yourselves that under Lucifer's influence the sense-world became like a veil, through the influence of this second being the physical world in its totality became like a dense rind, closing off the spiritual world. It was only the Atlantean initiates who were able, through the preparation they had undergone, to pierce this dense covering of the material, physical world.
The powers who approached man in order to obscure his vision of the other side of divine existence are brought to our notice for the first time in the teachings given to his followers and pupils by Zarathustra, the great leader of the ancient Persians. The mission of Zarathustra was to instill culture into a people who, unlike the ancient Indians, did not by nature yearn perpetually for the spiritual world. Zarathustra's mission was to impart to his people a culture directed to the world of sense, aiming at mastery of the material world through means dependent upon the efforts and labors of physical man. In the civilization of ancient Persia, therefore, man was less subject to the influence of Lucifer than to the influence of that being who since the middle of the Atlantean epoch had approached mankind, with the result that many of the initiates at that time had lapsed into the practice of a form of black magic; having been led astray by this tempter, they misused for the purposes of the physical-material world what was accessible to them from the spiritual world. The mighty influence of the forces of black magic which finally led to the destruction of Atlantis had its origin in the temptations of that being whom Zarathustra taught his people to know as Ahriman (“Angra Mainyu”), the Being who opposed the God of Light proclaimed by Zarathustra as “Ahura Mazdao”, the “Great Aura”.
These two figures — Lucifer and Ahriman — must be clearly distinguished from each other. For Lucifer is a being who detached himself from the spiritual hosts of heaven after the separation of the Sun, whereas Ahriman had already broken away before the separation of the Sun and is an embodiment of quite different powers. The result of Lucifer's influence in the Lemurian epoch was merely the corruption of the faculty, still possessed by man in the Atlantean epoch, to manipulate the forces of air and water. In the book entitled From the Akasha Chronicle you will have read that in Atlantean times the seminal forces in plant and animal were still at man's command and could be drawn forth just as the forces used in the form of steam for propelling machines can be extracted from mineral coal today. I have told you that when these forces are drawn forth they are connected in a mysterious way with the nature-forces in wind, weather, and the like; and if applied by man for purposes running counter to the divine purposes, these nature-forces are called into action against him.
Here lies the cause of the Atlantean flood and of the devastation wrought by the powers of nature which led to the disappearance of the whole continent of Atlantis. But even before that time, man had lost command over the forces of fire and the power to ally them with certain mysterious forces of the Earth. Power over the forces of fire and earth in a certain combination had already been withdrawn from man. But now — through the influence of Ahriman and his accomplices — he again acquired a certain mastery over the forces of fire and earth, with dire consequences. And much that is to be heard about the use of fire in ancient Persia is connected with what I am now telling you. Many forces that are applied in black magic and are connected with it lead to the result that man lays hold of forces of an entirely different nature and thus gains an influence over fire and earth, with terrible and devastating results. The practice of black magic by the descendants of the Atlanteans in ancient Persia would still have been effective had not the teachings of Zarathustra revealed how Ahriman, as an opposing power, ensnares man and clouds his vision of the spiritual reality behind the world of sense. Thus through Zarathustra and his followers influence was brought to bear upon a large part of Post-Atlantean civilization; on the one hand men were taught of the workings of the sublime God of Light to whom they may turn, and, on the other, of the malefic power of Ahriman and his hosts.
Ahriman works upon man in countless, infinitely diverse ways. — I have told you that the Event of the Mystery of Golgotha was a moment of supreme importance for the evolution of the world. The Christ appeared in the realm into which man enters after death, where Ahriman's influence was even mightier than in the world around man here on Earth between birth and death. In the realm of existence between death and rebirth, Ahriman's influences worked upon man with terrible, overwhelming power. And if nothing else had taken place, utter darkness would gradually have closed in upon man in the ‘realm of Shades’ — as it was correctly designated by the ancient Greeks. A condition of complete isolation, leading to the intensification of egoism, would have set in between death and rebirth; man would have been born into his new life as a gross and overweening egotist.
Hence it is more than a figure of speech to say that after the Event of Golgotha, at the moment when the blood flowed from the wounds, the Christ appeared in yonder world, in the realm of the Shades, and cast Ahriman into fetters. Although Ahriman's influence remained and is really the origin of all materialistic thinking on the part of man, although this influence can be paralyzed only if men receive into themselves the power emanating from the Mystery of Golgotha, nevertheless they can draw from that Event a power which enables them to find their way once again into the Divine-Spiritual world.
Thus it was to Ahriman that the faculty of human cognition was primarily directed. Ahriman was a being whose existence was divined by men, a being of whom they had some knowledge through the culture inaugurated by Zarathustra; and from there the knowledge of Ahriman spread among the other peoples and into their world of ideas. Ahriman with his hosts appears as a figure with the most diverse names among the civilized peoples. And owing to the peculiar conditions obtaining in the souls of the European peoples who had remained farthest in the rear of the migrations from West to East, who had been less affected than the others by what had transpired in the ancient Indian, ancient Persian, Egyptian, and even in the Greco-Latin civilizations — owing to these circumstances there prevailed among the European peoples from whom the Fifth Epoch of culture was to be born, an attitude of soul which regarded Ahriman alone as a figure of dread. And while many different names were adopted — as for example, “Mephistopheles” among the Hebrew people — in Europe the figure of Ahriman became the “Devil” in his various forms.
Obviously, therefore, we are gazing here into a concatenation of happenings in the spiritual worlds, and many a man who claims to be above medieval superstitions will do well to remember the words in Faust:
“The little folk ne'er scent the Devil
E'en though he have them by the collar”.
It is precisely because man closes his spiritual eyes to this influence that he succumbs to it so completely. Goethe's “Mephistopheles” is none other than the figure of Ahriman, and must not be confused with Lucifer. All the errors cropping up here and there in commentaries on Faust originate from this confusion — although it was indeed Lucifer who first paved the way for Ahriman's influence. In studying Ahriman one is therefore led back to an original influence of Lucifer, the nature of which can only become clear after long preparatory efforts have been made to understand this intimate connection.
The subtle difference between the two Beings must not be overlooked. The essential point is that, fundamentally speaking, Lucifer had brought man under the influence of the powers connected with air and water only, whereas it was Ahriman-Mephistopheles who has subjected him to the influence of far more deadly powers; and the civilizations immediately to come will see the appearance of many things connected with Ahriman's influence. Through this influence the seeker for the spirit who does not stand upon firm and sure foundations can readily fall prey to the most terrible illusion and deception. For Ahriman is a spirit who sets out to spread deception as to the true nature of the sense-world, especially as an expression of the spiritual world. When a man has a tendency to abnormal, somnambulistic states or through certain wrongful training awakens occult forces whereby egoism is intensified, then Ahriman or Mephistopheles has a ready influence precisely upon these occult forces, an influence that can soon become overwhelmingly powerful. Whereas Lucifer's influence can only bring it about that what confronts a man from the spiritual world (and this applies also to one who is receiving wrongful training) appears to him as an astral form visible to the astral body, the manifestations due to the influence of Ahriman are brought to light in that the evil influences on the physical body press through into the etheric body and then become visible as phantoms.
In the influences of Ahriman, therefore, we have to do with powers of a much lower nature than the influences of Lucifer. Lucifer's influences can never become as evil as the influences of Ahriman and of those beings who are connected with the powers of fire. The influence of Ahriman or Mephistopheles can bring it about that in order to attain occult knowledge a man is induced, for example, to undertake certain measures with his physical body. The method that consists in the use and misuse of the physical body is the most evil that can possibly be applied for the purpose of acquiring occult powers. It is a fact that in certain schools of black magic such practices are taught in abundance. One of the most terrible perversions to which man may be subject occurs when the forces of the physical body are taken as the starting-point for occult training.
It is not possible here to enter into closer detail than the indication that all machinations consisting in any way of a misuse of the forces of the physical body emanate from the influences of Ahriman; and because the effect of this penetrates into man's etheric body, it works as a world of phantoms that is nothing else than the garment of powers which drag man down to a level below that of true manhood. Nearly every ancient civilization — the Indian, the Persian, the Egyptian, the Greco-Latin — had its period of decadence; so too the Mysteries, when the Mystery traditions were no longer preserved in their purity. During these periods many of those who were either pupils of the initiates but unable to remain at their level or men to whom the secrets of the Mysteries had been unlawfully betrayed, had fallen into perverse and evil paths. Centers of black magic and its forces originated from these influences and have persisted to this day.
Ahriman is a spirit of lies, a spirit who conjures illusions before men, working together with his confederates in a spiritual world. Ahriman himself is no mirage — far from it! But what is conjured before men's eyes of spirit under his influence — that is mirage, illusion. When a man's desires and passions flow along evil paths and at the same time he lends himself in any way to occult practices, then the occult forces which are awakened penetrate into the etheric body and the most evil powers of corruption appear among the illusory images which may themselves often be majestic, awe-inspiring. Such is the terrible influence of Ahriman upon man.
From what has been said you can gather that through Christ's Coming, Ahriman has been cast into fetters — if this expression may be used — but only, of course, for those who endeavor unceasingly to fathom the Christ Mystery. And outside the forces streaming from the Christ Mystery, protection in the world against the influence of Ahriman will steadily diminish. In a certain sense — and many signs proclaim it — our epoch courts these influences of Ahriman. In certain occult teachings the hosts of Ahriman are also called the Asuras. These are of course the evil Asuras, who at a certain time fell away from the evolutionary path of the Asuras who endowed man with personality. It has already been indicated that these are spiritual beings who detached themselves from the evolution of the Earth before the separation of the Sun.
Up to now we have been describing merely the terrible influence that Ahriman can exercise upon a certain abnormal process of development, one that proceeds along occult paths. But in a certain respect the whole of mankind came under the influence of Ahriman during the second half of the Atlantean epoch. The whole Post-Atlantean epoch has within it, in a certain sense, the aftermath of Ahriman's influence — in one region of the Earth more, in another less. But Ahriman's influence has asserted itself everywhere and all the teachings given to the peoples by the ancient initiates concerning the Spirits of Light who are the opponents of Ahriman were given primarily in order to draw these peoples away from Ahriman's influence. It was a good, wisely led education of mankind.
But let us not forget that since that time the destiny of Ahriman has been interwoven in a certain sense with the destiny of humanity, and manifold happenings, of which the uninitiated can know nothing, keep the whole karma of humanity in perpetual connection with the karma of Ahriman. To understand what will now be said, we must realize that over and above the karma which belongs to every individual human being there is at every stage of existence a universal karmic law. All the categories of beings have their karma — the karma of the one differing from that of the other. But karma operates through every realm of existence and there are things in the karma of mankind, in the karma of a people, of a community, or other groups of human beings, which must be regarded as collective karma, so that in certain circumstances the individual can be drawn into the sway of the collective karma. It will not always be easy for one who cannot penetrate to the root of the matter to discern exactly where the influences of the powers concerned lie in the case of human beings overtaken by such a destiny. An individual within some community may well be entirely guiltless as far as his own karma is concerned; but because he stands within a field of collective karma, calamity may befall him. If, however, he is entirely guiltless, compensation will be made in later incarnations.
In the wider connection we must look not only at the karma of the past but also think of the karma of the future. A terrible fate may befall a whole group of human beings; the reason why just this group should suffer such a destiny is not to be discovered. Someone who might be capable of investigating the karma of an individual will in certain circumstances be unable to find anything at all that could have led to this tragic fate, for the threads of karma are extremely complicated. The cause of such karmic happenings may lie far, far away — but it is connected with these people nevertheless. And it may be that the whole group, while guiltless, has been overtaken by some collective karma which could not overtake those immediately guilty, because circumstances did not make this possible. In such cases the only thing that can be said is this: In the total karma of an individual, everything is ultimately balanced out, including what befalls him without guilt on his part; it is all inscribed in his karma and compensation in the fullest sense will be made in future time. — Therefore in considering the law of karma we must also take into account the karma of the future. Nor must it be forgotten that man is not an isolated being but that every individual has to share jointly in the collective karma of humanity. We must remember, too, that man, together with humanity, is connected with those hierarchies of beings who have not entered into the physical world and that he is also drawn into the karma of the hierarchies. In the destinies of mankind in the spiritual world a great deal appears the connections of which are not to be sought in the immediate circumstances, but the karmic consequences come to pass inevitably.
Since the second half of the Atlantean epoch, Ahriman's karma has been linked with the karma of mankind. Where, then, are the deeds of Ahriman, over and above what is wrought by him in the bodies of men in order to spread phantoms and illusion over the world of sense? Where are these other deeds?
Everything in the world has, as it were, two sides, one pertaining more to man as a spiritual being, the other to what has developed as the kingdoms of nature around him. The Earth is the arena of man's existence. To the eye of spirit this Earth is revealed as a combination of different layers or strata. The outermost stratum is called the “Mineral Earth” or “Mineral Stratum” because it contains only such substances as are to be found in the ground under our feet. This is the shallowest stratum, relatively speaking. Then begins the “Fluidic Earth”, the material constitution of which is entirely different from that of the “mineral” stratum above it. This second stratum is, as it were, endowed with inner life; and only because the solid, mineral stratum is spread over it are the inner forces of this second stratum held together. If they were released they would instantaneously disperse into cosmic space. This stratum, therefore, lies under tremendous pressure. A third stratum is the “Vapor Earth”. It is not a material vapor such as arises on the Earth's surface, but in this third stratum the substance itself is imbued with inner forces, comparable only with the passions, the inner urges and impulses of man. Whereas on the Earth it is only beings like animals and men who can unfold passions, this third stratum — just as the substances of the Earth are permeated by forces of magnetism and warmth — is permeated in a material sense with forces similar to those we know as human and animal passions and impulses. The fourth or “Form Stratum” is so designated because it contains the material and the forces of what are encountered in the mineral part of the Earth as entities cast into form. And the characteristic of the fifth stratum, or “Fertility Earth,” is that even as material it teems with infinite fertility. If you were to get hold of part of this stratum it would perpetually be sending forth new impulses, new sproutings; rampant fertility is the intrinsic quality of this stratum. Then we come to the sixth stratum, the “Fire Earth”, containing as “substances” within it forces that can bring about terrible havoc and destruction. It is actually into these forces that the primordial Fire has been banished.
In and from this stratum the realm of Ahriman operates — in a material sense. What manifests in the phenomena of outer nature, in air and water, in cloud formations, in lightning and thunder — all this is, so to speak, a last vestige on the Earth's surface of forces that were already connected with ancient Saturn and separated from the Earth together with the Sun. By what is working in these forces, the inner fire-forces of the Earth, are placed in the service of Ahriman. There he has the center of his activity; and whereas his spiritual influences make their way to the souls of men and lead them to error, we see how Ahriman — in a certain respect shackled — has certain foci for his activity in the interior of the Earth. Were we to understand the mysterious connections of what has come to pass on the Earth under Ahriman's influence and what Ahriman's own karma has become in consequence of this, we should recognize in the quakes and tremors of the Earth the connection between such grievous, tragic happenings in nature and the power that holds sway on the Earth. These manifestations are something that has remained since ancient times as a reaction on the Earth against the good beings of Light.
Thus forces allied with the beings who were thrust away from their connection with the Earth at the time when the good beings of Light established the beneficent phenomena around the Earth-globe are active, and in a certain sense we can recognize the echoings of these fire-forces, which in earlier times were withdrawn from man's control, in what is wrought by fire in such terrible manifestations of nature. Although the karma of Ahriman has been linked with that of humanity since the time of Atlantis, the suggestion should not arise that any guilt is to be attributed to those who are victims of what Ahriman's karma has evoked. Such happenings are connected with the collective karma of humanity in which the individual has also to share. The causes which produce their effects in particular localities as the workings of Ahriman's karma often lie somewhere else entirely. It is however these particular places which afford the necessary opportunity.
There we see a connection which seems to be like a relic of catastrophes undergone by humanity in the far distant past. The power to work upon fire, which man had formerly possessed, was withdrawn from him. Hence ancient Lemuria was brought to its destruction by the fire of the passions of men. The same fire that is now below was then above; it receded from the Earth's surface, and the same fire that issued as a kind of extract from the primordial fire is the inorganic, mineral fire of today. So too it was with the forces working through air and water which, again by way of the passions of men, led to the Atlantean catastrophes. These catastrophes were evoked by the collective karma of humanity, but a relic has remained, and this relic awakens the echoes of those earlier catastrophes. Our volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are nothing else than the echoes of these catastrophes.
But it should never so much as occur to anyone to attach an iota of guilt to the victim of such a calamity or to withhold compassion in the fullest measure. It must be absolutely clear to an anthroposophist that the karma of these individuals has nothing to do with the guilt to which the catastrophes are due and it should never occur to him to withhold help from anyone because — to put it trivially — he believes in karma and therefore assumes that this destiny was brought on by the man himself. Karma demands of us that we help human beings because we may be sure that our help means something that is written in their karma and will turn that karma in a more favorable direction. Understanding that is based upon the recognition of karma must necessarily lead to compassion; our compassion for the victims of such catastrophes will be all the greater, for our knowledge tells us that there is a collective karma of humanity from which the individual members have to suffer, that just as such happenings are brought about by humanity as one whole, so too must humanity be answerable for them; we must regard such a destiny as our own, and help not only out of a spontaneous impulse but because we know that we are involved in the karma of humanity and share the guilt incurred!
A question was handed to me this morning about earthquake catastrophes. The question runs as follows: “What is the occult explanation of earthquakes? Can they be foreseen? If particular catastrophes can be foreseen, why should it not be possible to give some warning beforehand? Such a warning might possibly be ineffective the first time but certainly not on another occasion.”
You may remember something of what was said at the end of the lecture on the interior of the Earth about the possibility of earthquakes. We will not consider that now but enter directly into this question. In reality it has two sides. The one is: Whether from the occult connections which can be discerned, earthquakes can be foreseen. The answer to this is that the knowledge of such matters belongs to the deepest realm of occult science. In respect of a particular event on the Earth, an event with roots as deeply laid as those described today, and connected with causes extending widely over the Earth — in respect of such an event it is absolutely correct to say that even in a particular case an indication of time can be given. It would certainly be possible for the occultist to give such an indication.
But the other side of the question is: whether it is permissible for such indications to be given. — For one who confronts the occult secrets from outside it will seem almost a matter of course that the answer will be “Yes!” And yet the truth is that in regard to such events it is actually only twice or three times in any one century — at the very most, twice or three times — that any prediction can be announced from the centers of initiation. For you must remember that these things are connected with the karma of humanity as a whole and if, for example, they were avoided in one instance they would inevitably occur in some other place and in a different form. The prediction itself would alter nothing. And just think what a terrible encroachment it would be into the karma of the Earth as a whole if human measures were adopted to prevent such happenings. The reaction would be so fearful, so violent, that only in very rare and exceptional cases would a high initiate, foreseeing an earthquake, be able to make use of his knowledge to help himself or those near him. With full knowledge he would have to face his end, as a matter of course! For these things that have been implicit in the karma of humanity for thousands and millions of years cannot be paralyzed by measures adopted during one brief period of evolution.
But there is still more to add.
It has been said already that this very subject is one of the most difficult of all in occult investigation. It is far easier to know something about the astral world, the devachanic world, even about the farthest planets, than about the interior of the Earth. Most things one hears are the purest trash, because, as I say, it is one of the most difficult subjects in occultism. The same is true of matters that are connected with these elemental catastrophes. And above all you must realize that clairvoyance is not a matter of just sitting down, inducing a particular condition, and then being able to say what is going on in the whole universe, up to the highest spheres. It is by no means so. To believe any such thing would be as “clever” as to say: “You have the faculty of perception in the physical world; but why was it that when 12 o'clock came and you were sitting in your room, you were neither astonished by nor did you see what happened outside by the River Spree at that hour?” There are hindrances to seership. If the seer in question had gone for a walk at 12 o'clock he would probably have seen what happened. It is not the case that all worlds are immediately disclosed through the mere resolve to induce in oneself the requisite condition. The seer has to find his way to the events and investigate them, and these investigations are of the most difficult kind because the hindrances are greatest. — And perhaps at this point something may be said about these hindrances.
If a man is able to walk about on his two legs, you can deprive him of this faculty not only by amputating his legs but also by shutting him up in a cell; then he can no longer walk about. In the same way there are hindrances to occult investigation, and in the domain of which we are speaking they are immensely powerful. I will tell you one of the main hindrances and in doing so introduce you to a mysterious relationship. The greatest hindrance to occult investigation in this domain is constituted by the methods and trend of modern materialistic science. The countless illusions and fallacies accumulating in materialistic science today, all the research that is not only futile but is prompted by the vanities of men — these are things which in their effects in the higher worlds make investigation into these manifestations and free vision in the higher world impossible, or to say the least, extremely difficult. Free vision is clouded as a result of the materialistic research pursued here on Earth. It is by no means easy to get to the root of these things.
But only wait for the time when spiritual science has become more widespread and when through its influence the materialistic superstitions prevailing in our world will be swept away! Once the nonsensical analogies and hypotheses leading to all kinds of conjectures about the interior of the Earth are cast aside, you will see that when spiritual science has itself been integrated into the karma of humanity, when it finds the way to men's souls and is able from there to overcome the opposing powers and materialistic superstitions, when further research can be made into all that is connected with the bitterest foe of mankind, that being who fetters man's vision within the world of sense — you will see that it will then be possible, even externally, to influence the karma of humanity in the sense that the dire results of such happenings may be alleviated.
The reason why the initiates must be silent about happenings connected with the great karma of humanity is to be found in the materialistic superstitions of men. Many scientific pursuits are in no way imbued with the Faustian striving for truth but prompted entirely by vanity and ambition. How much scientific research is promoted in the world simply because an individual is seeking for something that will be to his personal advantage!
If you sum up all these things you will realize the strength of the force that obstructs vision into the world behind the external phenomena of the material world. Not until this fog has been cleared away will the time come when, in respect of certain mysterious manifestations of nature emanating from the foes of mankind and trespassing deeply into human life, it will be possible for help — and then in no small measure — to be given to mankind. Until that time comes there is no such possibility.
I am well aware that these questions have been given a turn not always in the mind of the one who asks them. But it is often the fate of occult science to be obliged to formulate the questions in the right way before they can be correctly answered. Again do not take this to mean that the mysterious connection between earthquakes and the karma of humanity is a secret that cannot be investigated. It can be investigated, but there are reasons why only the most commonplace aspects of such questions can be presented to the world today. Let the knowledge reach mankind through spiritual science that there is a connection between the deeds of men and happenings in nature and then the time will come when these things can be answered in the way the question demands. Spiritual science may pass through many destinies; its influence may even be crippled, remaining within narrow and restricted circles. Nevertheless it will make its way through mankind, will be integrated into the karma of humanity, and then the possibility will be created for individuals themselves to have an effect upon the karma of humanity as a whole.