Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The downfall of the adversaries of Christ: The Book of Revelation and the Work of the Priest. Lecture 11 of 18
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, September 15, 1924:
Let us put ourselves in the world into which the apocalyptist wants to place humanity through his description of the next age of the Earth. He describes his visions of spiritual worlds coming in and taking hold of the earthly human being. He describes three stages prior to this, and we must get to know these. Each of these three stages represents something that must fall down before human beings will be worthy enough and capable enough to take the spiritual world, in all purity, into their working, their thinking, and their feeling.
The first stage is the fall of Babylon—we shall for the moment use the apocalyptist’s terminology. The second stage is the fall of the Beast and his associate, the False Prophet, who spreads the teachings of the Beast. The third stage is the fall of the divine adversaries, as they are usually called, namely the downfall of Satan.
When we look at the future evolution of humanity with spiritual eyes we see these three stages very realistically, very concretely. In our century in particular, during which much will he decided regarding human evolution, there is every reason to direct the eyes of our soul toward these three downfalls. They will come upon us in a particular form after the time when Christ appears on the Earth for the first time in the ether body, in other words actually after Christ’s second appearance on the Earth. Humanity must prepare for this, so that human beings will be strong enough to go through this threefold downfall of the adversaries of the Christ-Impulse without endangering their development of soul.
We must not forget how accurate the apocalyptist is. Every time such a fall occurs he describes an angel coming down from the spiritual world, and we notice—and this is rather disconcerting for those who do not go more deeply into a spiritual understanding of the world—we notice that he depicts the angel as rejoicing at the great tortures, at the frightful things that then come about through the fall. It is important that we should understand this rejoicing.
First let us look at the three stages in the downfall of Christ’s adversaries, beginning with the one termed the fall of Babylon. We can call up before our soul the sum total of all the errors into which human beings can fall as a result of their human nature. What the apocalyptist calls the Babylonian temptation includes everything that takes human beings down below what is actually their spiritual standard.
The human being is only truly human—although of course this is not possible in every moment of his evolution, for he must first achieve it—when he has within him a complete harmony between the principle of the material and the principle of the spiritual, when the material does not rise up in emotions that are not under the control of the spirit. This is what is so important and we must understand it very thoroughly.
For even the apocalyptist would be unable to speak as he does if he had to presuppose that all feelings and passions and everything that comes from the will sphere and the center of the heart were entirely unjustifiable. In particular to call feelings and passions unjustified—this false kind of asceticism in itself arises from the emotions and passions. If someone does not feel strong enough to imbue his passions with spirit in such a way that he can place them at the service of good world evolution—then this is the very way in which he pays homage to his emotion of weakness. Even if such a person really wants the good evolution, if he allows his feeling and heart sphere to become impoverished he will pay homage to his weakness.
The apocalyptist is not concerned with banishing emotions or with banishing feelings and passions but with ensuring that they do not remain uncontrolled by the spirit. Everything emotional in human life, all the emotions, whether hefty or slight, that remain uncontrolled by the spirit, these are what the apocalyptist summarizes under the name of that city of Babylon in which people’s passions turned them away from the spirit—if I may stereotype the matter in this way. You need only translate the coarse expressions—which were not coarse in their time—into the language of our own time. In the old way of picturing things one did not use abstractions; one characterized things quite concretely; so this is the way the apocalyptist speaks about Babylon. But why Babylon?
In Babylon, or rather at the Mystery center of Babylon, there were very exalted Mysteries in which one could be initiated into the secrets of the supra-earthly cosmos, and in which one could learn about the secrets of the starry worlds and their spiritual content. The oldest priests in Babylon used the powers of dream-clairvoyance in a way that we would call mediumistic clairvoyance today. The wonderful teachings of old Babylon came into being through the use of this mediumistic path.
Today we can see that even mediums who seem suitable to mediate spiritual teachings—which is often done, only it ought to be under the guidance of initiates with the necessary insight—even such seemingly suitable mediums are susceptible to influences that are highly questionable morally. Because there is often a disproportion in mediums between what they reveal and what they are, they can often in the end not distinguish between truth and untruth; and this can intensify to an incapacity to separate what is moral from what is immoral.
You must understand what happens with a medium. A person becomes a medium—and this was the same with the Babylonian priests—when an external power draws the ‘I’ and astral body out of the physical and ether body. The moment the medium’s ‘I’ and astral body have been withdrawn from the physical and etheric body, another power enters into this ‘I’ and astral body. Depending on whether the initiator doing this has good or evil intent, whether he belongs to the left-hand or the right-hand path, this power will be either good or evil. In the time of ancient Babylon, excellent knowledge and revelations came about by this means. Later on, and today, there began to be a disadvantage: What happens when the medium re-enters the physical body?
You see, the logic we have in the physical world by which we distinguish between untruth and truth is no use in the spiritual world. It is a complete mistake to believe that one can use in the spiritual world the concepts of untruth and truth that are current here in the physical world. There is nothing in the spiritual world that can be distinguished in this manner. There are beings who are good and others who are evil. You have to recognize them for what they are, for they do not tell you. But even the evil ones are true in their own way. This is difficult to understand, of course, just as everything we encounter on entering the spiritual world is difficult to understand. Here in the physical world we can state that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. In the spiritual world this could be the longest distance, with any other one being shorter. None of the logic we most certainly need here in the physical world is of any use in the spiritual world.
So a true initiate needs to have a special disposition of soul in order to see into the spiritual world. He must be fully responsible in the way he immediately works with physical concepts as soon as he returns to the physical world. A medium, however, is not capable of doing this because he or she does not enter the spiritual world consciously. When the medium returns, ‘I’ and astral body fill the physical and etheric body with a way of thinking that is appropriate for the spiritual world but which corrupts all moral feelings and sensations that are valid in the physical world. That is why a medium is corrupted with regard to truth and untruth, and this then works on in everything else.
We can say that in fact Babylon went through this process and that thus even the highest, most significant revelation from the spiritual world became terribly corrupted. What initially applies to the principle of spiritual revelation can also extend to include ordinary human life, so that strong corruption sets in. Having entered spiritual life in this way, a human being then becomes more immoral than he was previously as an ordinary person. That is why Babylon was taken to be the representative of moral corruption, and the expressions used in the Book of Revelation are simply the usual expressions by which corruption was described at that time.
Since that time the whole of humanity, in so far as it has carried on what lived in Babylon, has become a city of Babylon spread out across the whole world. This is what the apocalyptist is saying: The city of Babylon is to be found among all of mankind on Earth. It exists wherever human beings have fallen victim to the Babylonian temptation, and it is this attitude that must undergo its downfall before that final stage can come about of which the apocalyptist is speaking.
When we investigate what it is that is at work in ‘Babylonian corruption’ we find that it is the ahrimanic principle that is at work in this corruption. Ahriman is inside human beings, and he is a power who is close to the human being within the cosmos as a whole. He is in the emotions that are corrupted in this way.
The opposite pole to Ahriman is Lucifer. Ahriman lives in the things that must fall in Babylon, and these are the things to which Lucifer is opposed. What is the picture that arises for the apocalyptist when he sees this? It is the picture of the luciferic angels rejoicing. We must not gloss over this, my dear friends.
A good many worldviews have adopted the great error of thinking that the bad is necessarily the opposite of the best, for example that the evil principle down below is always met by the good coming from above. This is not the situation at all. In this chapter of the Book of Revelation (Rev. 19) the ahrimanic beings—Babylon—are down below, and the angels above who rejoice at the fall of Babylon are luciferic. It is the voice of Lucifer that gives tongue up above as a rejoicing of angels. The Christ-Principle always holds the balance between these two.
What the apocalyptist is saying here will only be understood when the threefold constitution of the world is properly comprehended. It is incomprehensible for ordinary human sentiment that pure, good spirits should shout for joy up there when down below such horrors come upon humanity as are portrayed here. But it is immediately understandable once you can see the shouts of delight as emanating from beings who had originally opposed the creation of a world in which human beings were to undergo their spiritual development. The luciferic beings want to maintain the whole of evolution at quite a different spiritual level. They do not want that union, that marriage, of spirit with matter that has come about in Earth existence. So they feel in their souls: Since that which Ahriman has taken hold of is now being thrown out of Earth existence we can he pleased that at least a part of Earth existence will not continue and will drop out of Earth evolution. So you see that in this connection the picture painted by the apocalyptist is an immensely honest portrayal of the cosmos.
The first downfall, the fall of Babylon, is the fall of errors which human beings have themselves brought about. Although these errors are influenced by the initiation principle, they are nonetheless human errors. When Babylon falls as the result of human error, a part of humanity is separated off from world evolution at a point in time which we shall discuss later. At present I simply want to look qualitatively at what is to come.
The second downfall is one in which not only human beings alone participate. Those actually affected by the fall of Babylon are human beings; it happens because of human error. In the fall of the Beast and of the False Prophet who represents the teachings of the Beast something supra-human, something spiritual, falls, not something human. Something falls that is not within the human kingdom. The Beast who breaks in on human communities falls and the one who proclaims the teachings of the Beast, the False Prophet, falls. What falls is something that can make human beings possessed. Unlike in the case of the medium, it is not the weakness of human nature that is the cause of the fall but something supra-human that brings about the impulse for evil in human beings.
To make the picture even clearer we could say the following: All those who will be affected by the fall of Babylon will have been corrupted by having striven for things for which their organization is not strong enough, things in connection with which their organization will have grown weak, so that they will have become corrupted. So in the fall of Babylon it is a matter of the human organization acting out of weakness. When the Beast and the False Prophet fall it is not like a medium having become corrupted through having grown weak. It is as though the spirit who has laid claim to the medium’s ‘I’ and astral body were to go—once the hypnosis has ceased—into the physical and etheric body and there make use of the human being’s physical body in order to get up to mischief on the Earth.
This is the exact picture given to us by the apocalyptist. A time will come—he wants to tell us—when we shall see human beings going about in the world who cannot tolerate what Christianity teaches, who take Christ into their souls but who cannot reach up to the exaltedness of Christ with their physical and etheric body and therefore succumb to other spirits—but not in full consciousness—so that they then fall into corruption. These are the first ones, those who are included in the fall of Babylon.
Others will also go about as human beings, but their lot will be that their human ‘I’ is not in them, so that one cannot address them as human beings because they are possessed by the Beast and by the False Prophet. This will come about after the fall of Babylon. After the fall of Babylon there will be people on the Earth who will be like wandering demons; ahrimanic powers will act directly in them.
Enough preconditions already exist for these things today. The seeds for all this have already been sown. For example we have seen the frightful incident in which, through a human being, Ahriman has been among us as a writer—perhaps not in the whole human being but through a temporary weakness of that human being. Nietzsche was a brilliant, splendid writer, but during the periods when he was writing The Antichrist and Ecce Homo the Nietzsche individuality was not in him. I know the Nietzsche individuality, I even described him in my book The Course of my Life. Directly through him Ahriman became an author, and Ahriman is a much more brilliant author than human beings.
The ahrimanic powers will interfere more and more, so that ahrimanic spirits will use human bodies for all kinds of actions. A time will come when Christians, on encountering some person or other, will seriously have to ask themselves: Is this a human being or is it a loose cloak for ahrimanic spirits? We shall have to add this to the distinctions we already make about people. So this will be the second downfall: the demonic Beast and his Prophet. They will themselves take possession of the bodies of human beings. But the Beast and his Prophet will be toppled. So first we have the fall of corrupted human beings and then the fall of certain corrupted spirits who are close to human beings. These spirits will fall as a result of the second downfall.
After this the Book of Revelation tells of a third downfall: the fall of Satan. Satan is an exalted being who, however, treads another path than those that can be trodden on the Earth. The Beast and the False Prophet are powers who seduce human beings, who have the will to tempt humanity on to the wrong paths both morally and intellectually. The power, dear friends, whom we mean when we talk of the fall of Satan, this power has quite other plans. He not only wants to throw humanity off course but he also wants to do this to the Earth as a whole. From the point of view of human beings and of the Earth this power is a terrible adversary of God.
But, you see, we can say hypothetically—for only in this way can we do so without falling into intellectual sin or more especially into spiritual sin—we can say the following. We can ask: If we do not look at this from the point of view of human, earthly evolution, if we consider it from other, higher viewpoints—what, then, is the position of this power of Satan over against other spirits in the cosmos?
It is not surprising that Michael, whose standpoint differs from that of human beings, has quite a different view about Satan. Human beings remain in the abstract and think that Satan is an evil power. But Satan is also an exalted power, even though he is in error as regards the directions that are suitable for the Earth. He is an exalted power. Michael, who has the degree of an archangel, does not have the rank of Satan, who has the degree of an archai. Michael is ‘only’ an archangel. From Michael’s point of view Satan is not a power to he despised but a power to be immensely feared, for Michael sees this power who belongs to the hierarchy of the archai as being more exalted than himself. Michael, however, has chosen to go in the direction that is the same as that of Earth evolution.
A very long time ago Michael decided to work in those planetary orbits that are preordained by the Sun existence. Satan is a power who for ever lies in wait in the cosmos. There is something eerie about the way Satan lies in wait. We can perceive this, dear friends, in those moments when we see a comet shooting across our sky, a comet that follows quite a different orbit from that of the planets.
If we draw it how Copernicus saw it—which is not quite right astronomically, but that is not relevant here—we have Sun, then Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars; these are the inner planets. The outer ones are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. If we draw it like this we have to imagine how comets have entirely irregular orbits over against the regular ones of the planets. The idea that these comets describe elongated ellipses is nonsense, but we need not go into that just now. Anyway, the orbits of the comets, in so far as they come within our planetary system, bear no relation to the orbits of the planets.
Satan lies in wait for every comet that turns up. He wants to catch hold of it and use the direction of its momentum to disrupt the orbits of the planets and thus also of the Earth. This really is going on in the universe: the satanic forces are lying in wait with the intention of changing the whole planetary system. If they were to succeed, the planetary system in whose orbits human beings are supposed to live would be taken away from those divine, spiritual powers and sent off in quite other cosmic evolutionary directions.
Michael sees this intention as a terrible error, about which he has to say: It would be pointless for me even to harbor such an intention, since it would anyway be a hopeless project for a being in the hierarchy of the Archangeloi. Only beings in the hierarchy of the Archai would have sufficient strength to achieve such a thing. Among the orbits of the planets Michael works from the Sun and has become what occultism calls the archangel of the orbital periods, or the spirit of the planets. He decided long ago to continue with his work within the orbital periods. To remain with these orbital periods is an angelic decision.
At a specific time during the old Atlantean period it was possible to learn through the Mysteries into which the gods descended that the hosts of Archangeloi—which means such archangels as Oriphiel, Anael, Zachariel, and so on—reached the decision to remain within the predetermined orbits of the planets. This happened at a particular time.
But the mighty cohorts led by Satan have to this day failed to reach this decision. They are still striving to use every comet’s orbit to bring about a different configuration in the planetary system. We are here confronted with an adversary of Christ, one who wants not merely to corrupt single individuals, nor one who wants to corrupt a group of individuals, a human community, as do the Beast and the False Prophet. With Satan and his cohorts we are faced with endeavors to attack the Earth in its context within the planetary system as a whole. That is the third downfall in the Book of Revelation. In connection with the first two downfalls we are told about the rejoicing of the luciferic spiritual beings.
We too must foresee these things about which the apocalyptist tells us. The first stage, the fall of Babylon, will bring with it human beings who have gone astray and who show this even in their physical constitution, so that there can be no prospect of these human bodies, over which the ‘I’ and astral body have lost control, ever becoming usable again in the future. These bodies must be given up for lost, although not the ‘I’ and the astral body belonging to them, for these carry on along the paths of karma in humanity. In a certain period we shall see human beings going about with their bodies, human beings who have fallen prey to the Babylonian temptation and whose bodies have therefore fallen away from evolution. That is the fall of Babylon.
In the second stage there will be people going about of whom one will have to say—and this will be visible: In these people live the ahrimanic powers. Here Ahriman is directly involved. This is the Beast, the fall of the Beast and of the False Prophet of the Beast, who is not human but supra-human.
In the third stage it will be noticed that something about the laws of nature becomes inexplicable. It will be the greatest and most significant experience through which human beings will have to go in the future when they have to recognize that something inexplicable is going on in the laws of nature, that phenomena are occurring that do not fit in with the laws of nature. This will happen to a high degree, and it will not be merely a matter of miscalculating the position of a planet, so that it does not arrive at the position one has calculated.
Satan will succeed in taking his initial steps toward bringing disorder into the planetary system. Humanity will have to develop a strong spirituality to counteract this. The disorder that will come about can only be counteracted by the strong spirituality of human beings.
These are things, you see, that we must foresee today when we call up before our souls the future stages of earthly and human evolution. These are things we must see when the apocalyptist speaks to us. You must strive, dear friends, to place yourselves into this concurrence between what can be won from Anthroposophy and what the apocalyptist reveals to us.
Based on existing revelations we can today already say about comets that Satan is lying in wait in the universe in order to use the orbits of comets and put them in place of the cosmos. If you take this in through your anthroposophical understanding and can rediscover it in the Book of Revelation, then this rediscovery brings about something important, namely a kind of meeting in soul with the Book of Revelation and thus with the apocalyptist himself—yes, with the apocalyptist himself. This is important. It will be extraordinarily important for a priest who lives toward the future increasingly to develop a longing—at any time, whether he is on the Earth or not—to encounter the apocalyptist who saw into the future in this way after the Mystery of Golgotha.
The feeling must arise among the priests that the help that John, the creator of the Book of Revelation, can give those who want to work in a Christian way will be immensely important help, and it will be help that one needs. To walk in reality with John the apocalyptist will only be possible if we approach the Book of Revelation with the attitude of soul I have described. Then John will become our ally. He is, as we know, closely linked to Christ Jesus; he was initiated by Christ Jesus himself, he is an initiate of Christ Jesus. He is therefore an important ally, and to come to Christ through him is something immensely important.
A genuine understanding of the Book of Revelation leads deeply into the realm where one has the greatest conceivable prospect of encountering John and then the Christ himself. This is profoundly true, true in a way that we can only hope will work on in your soul and inmost heart. It is a truth that will draw the priest in a right way into the realm of the spirit. We shall continue from here tomorrow.