"Mystery priests in pre-Christian times looked up to the Sun when they wanted to be united with Christ. But since the Mystery of Golgotha, Christ has been the Spirit of the Earth. We must now look for Christ the Sun Being in earthly life and in earthly work."
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, September 16, 1924:
Let us be aware today of the propitious karmic circumstance that brings us together during this period when, two years ago, the first Act of Consecration of Man was celebrated here. The main developments of our spiritual life here have followed a remarkable sequence: the Act of Consecration of Man two years ago, the burning of the Goetheanum, one year after that the laying of the foundation stone of the Anthroposophical Society, and now, after the second year, here we are again, this time to contemplate the Book of Revelation, as was your wish.
As I have been mentioning from the very beginning, there is a close connection between considering the Book of Revelation and what is encompassed by the Act of Consecration of Man, so that every day we spend considering the Book of Revelation is like a memorial celebration of what we made alive among us two years ago in order to bring into this life that which wanted to reveal itself out of the spiritual world as the present-day, modern cultus.
Taking the coincidence of events into account, it is perhaps fitting that today we should call up before us the point in the Book of Revelation that is most difficult of all to understand but which actually leads right into the heart of the Book and which is most intimately connected with the mystery of the Act of Consecration of Man because it is linked objectively with the Being of Christ. One can indeed only speak properly about this in connection with the Book of Revelation, for this Book bears so clearly the fundamental stamp of Christianity that we cannot possibly arrive at anything deviating from a Christian consideration by looking at what is naturally connected with this Revelation. I can assure you that what I shall have to say about the point we want to consider today will emerge in quite an astonishing way from the visions of the apocalyptist.
Since the beginning of the fifteenth century, dear friends, we have been living in the fifth post-Atlantean age, and within this we are at the beginning of the renewed struggle that Michael will have to conduct in everything that will be happening in the near future. From here we look back to the fourth post-Atlantean age, the one that immediately preceded our own.
We know that the fourth post-Atlantean age began around about the year 747 before the Mystery of Golgotha, so that the Mystery of Golgotha took place during that fourth post-Atlantean age. Although not exactly, because it actually occurred more or less during the first half of the fourth post-Atlantean age, one can say that, give or take the displacements that always affect events in world evolution, it can be regarded as having taken place in the middle of that age. So we can make a diagram of our spiritual evolution like this (Plate 4): Here is the fifth post-Atlantean age. It was preceded by the fourth, third, second, and first, right back to the Atlantean catastrophe, which essentially gave the final formation to the surface of our Earth, providing our Earth with—you could say—a new face.
Let us now look at the fourth period, the Atlantean period. It was preceded by what I have often called the Lemurian period of Earth evolution, and before that were those we call the second and the first period of Earth evolution. The three periods leading up to the Atlantean period are recapitulations: the first of the Saturn condition, the second of the Sun condition, and the third of the Moon condition. Not until the fourth, the Atlantean period, does something new come about. The three periods that precede it are repetitions, recapitulations at a higher level.
The fourth, the Atlantean period, represents something new. What occurred during the Atlantean period occurred while the Earth still had forms that were quite different from those that came later. Even in the middle of the Atlantean period the Earth did not have a solid crust of the kind familiar to us now. The geological dating posited for these things today is an illusion. The time when the Earth solidified out of a partially firm, partially fluid consistency lay in the Atlantean period. So the human race was quite different during the Atlantean period, for even in the middle of that period it did not have today’s rigid skeleton. The substance of which human beings were formed in those times was more like that of the lower animals, although their form was most noble. The substance, however, resembled the consistency of the jellyfish; it was soft, with some tendency to form cartilage.
We can state, therefore, that all physical conditions on the Earth have changed since those times, and we now no longer have those radical metamorphoses, those radical transformations, that were still possible in the middle of the Atlantean period. In those times we were able at any moment to metamorphose our shape—which was made of soft material—and grow larger or smaller, adopt this or that form, depending on our inner state of soul. Every stirring of soul immediately impressed itself on our physical body. If someone in the middle of the Atlantean period wanted to take hold of an object that was situated at a distance, his will worked into his jelly-like organs in such a way that they were able to stretch the required distance. So the whole of physical life was different; physical processes followed quite different courses at any given moment. All physical processes, all transformations and metamorphoses, provided a picture of actual spiritual happenings at any moment.
This is no longer the case today. Today we look out and no longer see the spirit working in what happens out there, not even in the course of the seasons. Those rapid transformations that took place in old Atlantis left no room for doubt that this world contained the divine and the spiritual. Although the continent of Atlantis retained its shape in essence, it was nevertheless very mobile, and surrounded in every direction by weaving, viscous fluidity. You could not have called it semi-fluid, but it was viscous and was able to bear the bodies with their still very soft organs and also the plants that were at that time not yet anchored in the Earth; the plants hovered or glided in the soft, mobile substance of the Earth. So physical conditions were quite different then. You could say that sea and land were not yet separate in the way they became later; they still merged into one another. Those who were able to see these things clearly at that time spoke of the ocean—with its even greater capacity for expressing metamorphosis than the solid-fluid land adjacent to it—as being where the gods held sway. The gods were seen to hold sway all around the edge of Atlantis. There were no doubts about those gods who held sway, for spirit and soul were everywhere perceived as clearly as the physical. human beings saw soul and spirit in the physical realm.
A characteristic possessed by the fourth post-Atlantean age was that people then were able to see the gods holding sway in the play of the air, although this was no longer so strong in the centuries leading up to the fifth post-Atlantean age, but in Grecian times it was entirely obvious. In old Atlantis human beings saw the gods hold sway in the solid-fluid element. In the fourth post-Atlantean age the gods were seen to hold sway in the fluid-airy element of the clouds, in the twilight formations and so on. The consciousness people had in the fourth post-Atlantean age was not yet very clear, so there are no descriptions defining this exactly, but nevertheless this is how it was. Surely any unprejudiced observation can only arrive at this interpretation of those wonderful paintings of clouds in early Renaissance pictures, an interpretation that points to the feeling of how something spiritual is born out of them, of how the working of the divine spirit is felt to be in the airy clouds, in the airy-watery being of the air.
Human beings at that time did not turn their attention very much to the physical aspects of cloud formations. They looked for what the clouds would reveal to them. The feeling this gave them was wonderful, but it is difficult to reconstruct it for today’s consciousness. Even as late as the eighth or ninth post-Christian century, when people looked at the morning sky they saw before their soul the clouds shimmering in the dawn light and felt that there was something alive in the aurora, in the pink sky of morning; and the same was felt when the evening twilight came.
We can therefore say: In old Atlantis the spirit was seen physically. After Atlantis came the post-Atlantean period with its seven ages; and the recapitulation of what had happened in Atlantis, the recapitulation of what had happened physically in Atlantis, took place at the soul level in the fourth post-Atlantean age. The mighty upheavals I spoke about, the years AD 333 and 666, which are upheavals at the soul level in human evolution, these correspond to physical upheavals in old Atlantis. When they saw the revelations in the fluid-airy element, the seers of the Greco-Latin age felt that they were seeing in their soul something like a recapitulation of earlier conditions of Earth that had once taken place in the physical realm. They were aware of this, although somewhat dimly, as befitted the consciousness of that time.
Everything that lived in schools like that at Chartres, which I have been mentioning in the anthroposophical lectures, showed in its descriptions that the soul experiences of the Greco-Latin age were a recapitulation in soul of the more dense, physical experiences and events in Atlantis.
We are now in the era of the consciousness soul. Any direct soul experience of what happens in the airy-fluid element is extinguished. But through the kind of catastrophe with which the fifth, the post-Atlantean, period began, the further development of the consciousness soul of humanity is beginning to be prepared. As regards external civilization we are still somewhat bogged down in the chaos of this development of the consciousness soul.
However, the dawn of the Michael age should bring in some vision that will provide order for this chaos.
This vision will be as follows: No longer physically as in Atlantean times, no longer in the soul as in Greco-Latin times, but entirely spiritually, pictures will arise like memories in the human being, pictures that are somewhat like a mirage of thoughts, and this will happen particularly after the appearance of the Etheric Christ. Something like an inner mirage in pictures of a visionary nature will arise in the thoughts of human beings, and in the era of the consciousness soul these pictures will come in full consciousness. Just as the heat in the desert air creates a mirage, so will the human thought be carried in a way that leads to an understanding of what the airy-fiery element, the airy-warmth element, is.
We can put it this way: In Atlantean times the human being perceived the divine in the solid-fluid element, which means more in external, physical matter; in the fourth post-Atlantean age, the Greco-Latin age, the human being perceived the spirit in the wonderful formations of the fluid-airy element; and now, in the fifth post-Atlantean age, when it will be the consciousness soul that does the perceiving, we shall experience how more and more there will appear in our consciousness what is airy-fiery, airy warmth. This will cause what the Greeks experienced in soul, and what the inhabitants of Atlantis experienced in body, to appear to human beings now in mighty spiritual pictures.
So a time is coming in human evolution when visions will appear that are as clear as thoughts, visions about primeval Earth times and about the origin of the human being, and everything connected with these. Darwin’s view that attributed a lowly ancestry to the human being based entirely on a single line of reasoning will be superseded by inner visions, by the development of wonderful Imaginations that will arise out of inner human warmth linked with the breathing process, like vivid, colored visionary thoughts full of meaning. The human being will know what he once was through seeing something like a reflection of the Greco-Latin age, and then back beyond that of what was there in Atlantis.
You see, dear friends: This seeing concerns us very directly, for it will begin to happen in the next age of humanity. Because this seeing is so close to us we find ourselves looking into the heart of the apocalyptist. The seeing that is about to begin is what he describes in the picture of the woman clothed with the Sun with the dragon beneath her feet, and giving birth to a male child. (Rev. 12:1)
Through what is expressed in this picture many individuals will indeed become seers still in the course of this twentieth century. Much rays forth from this picture that will bring understanding to human beings. First of all it shines back into the Greco-Latin age, where at the soul level an understanding was prepared for the shape of this picture as it will appear in the near future. It has taken on all kinds of shapes: Isis with the child Horus, the mother of Christ with the Christ child; especially in the Greco-Latin age these things lived with wonderful profundity in many metamorphoses that are still preserved in tradition.
In the near future, human beings will look back to the kind of seeing that people had in the fourth post-Atlantean age when they saw this picture in the clouds, in the airy-fluid element. Looking back even further they will see what lived in the physical processes of Atlantis. This image of the woman clothed with the Sun giving birth to a male child, and having the dragon beneath her feet, will be seen as though through a kind of spiritual telescope, a kind of ocular pointing toward a long-distant past in which the earthly, physical element was linked with the supra-earthly, cosmic element. In those times there was a far more intimate contact between the Earth and the world of the planets and the world of the Sun.
As we know, during the period of Earth evolution when the ancient Saturn condition was being recapitulated there were many characteristics of Saturn in earthly existence, although in a denser form. During the second period of Earth evolution, which brought with it the recapitulation of the Old Sun condition, the Sun, which had still been bound to the Earth during Saturn, separated out from the Earth, and with it went all the beings belonging to the Sun. In the third period of Earth evolution, the Lemurian period, the Moon, too, departed from the Earth, so that this triad of Earth, Sun, and Moon became the reality for the subsequent Earth period. You can see in my book Occult Science how the planets came to be added as well. It is also necessary to look at all the processes I have described in connection with the return of human souls during the Atlantean period. These are Earth processes seen from the earthly perspective.
There is also something else we should add. Since the Mystery of Golgotha, dear friends, initiates who have understood cosmic secrets have regarded Christ as a Sun Being who was connected with the Sun prior to the Mystery of Golgotha. Mystery priests in pre-Christian times looked up to the Sun when they wanted to be united with Christ. But since the Mystery of Golgotha, Christ has been the Spirit of the Earth. We must now look for Christ the Sun Being in earthly life and in earthly work, whereas those who wanted to see and have communion with him prior to the Mystery of Golgotha had to raise themselves up to the Sun.
This Sun Spirit, who is rightly regarded as male in the way he came to the Earth—and there have indeed also been similar events in earlier ages, which I have often mentioned—is brilliantly described in the apocalyptist’s vision, that profound vision which appears with an immediacy almost tangible in the middle of the Atlantean period and stands there as a shining physical appearance.
After that moment in time the wise scholars of the Mysteries saw, when they looked up to the Sun, how Christ was developing and maturing there, up to the point when he became capable of going through the Mystery of Golgotha. What they saw when they looked toward that point in evolution during Atlantean times was a birth taking place out there in the cosmos inside the Sun.
Before seeing the birth of Christ as a male being in the Sun in the middle of the Atlantean period, the priests saw a female being in the Sun.
The important change that took place in the middle of the Atlantean period is that before the middle of that period the cosmic female was seen in the spiritual aura of the Sun: ‘the woman clothed with the Sun.’ Putting it this way corresponds exactly with what happened in the supra-earthly world, in the heavens: ‘The woman clothed with the Sun giving birth to a male child’. The apocalyptist rightly calls him a male child; and this is the same being who later went through the Mystery of Golgotha and who had earlier gone through other forms of existence.
What took place during that Atlantean period was a kind of birth, which was actually a complicated kind of metamorphosis. One saw how the Sun gave birth to what was male in it, to what was of the nature of a son.
But what does this mean for the Earth? In the middle of the Atlantean period there was of course quite a different feeling about what a Sun existence is. Nowadays the Sun is regarded as a conglomeration of craters and fiery masses; what today’s physicists describe is an abomination. But in those times the initiates saw what I have just described. They really saw the woman clothed with the Sun, with the dragon beneath her feet, and giving birth to a male child. Those who saw and understood such a thing said: For the heavens that is the birth of Christ; for us it is the birth of our ‘I’. They said this although the ‘I’ only entered into the human being much later.
Since that moment in the middle of Atlantis, evolution has meant that human beings have become ever more aware of their ‘I’. They were of course not as aware of it as we are today, but in a more elementary way they became ever more aware of it when the priests of the Mysteries showed them: The Sun kindles the ‘I’ in the human being. Through the birth shown by the apocalyptist in that picture, the ‘I’ was continuously kindled from the outside through the way the Sun worked, right up to the fourth post-Atlantean age, when the ‘I’ finally fully entered the human being. The human being, it was felt, belonged to the Sun. This was a feeling that entered deeply into human nature.
Having become such weaklings in our soul life today, we cannot imagine how the soul experiences of human beings surged and stormed in bygone ages. As a result of receiving the ‘I’ out of the cosmos, human beings on the Earth felt that everything in their earlier nature had become transformed. Earlier they had been dependent on their astral body, on what lived in the astral, and this worked in the soul-spirit in such a way that human beings in those times saw this picture: Here (Plate 4, left) is the human being, and above him is the Sun; the ‘I’ has not yet arrived, and what works down from the Sun is astral. The human being carried in him the astral body, which came from the Sun, the astral body that is not as yet governed by the ‘I’ and so still has animal-like, though more refined, emotions.
Let us now imagine something that I shall draw like a diagram (Plate 4, bottom left): Here is a picture of the Sun in oldest Atlantean times, filled with living, shining light bubbling and moving in the lower half of the Sun being; out of this, something is born in the upper part; the hint of a face was sensed here. Down below in the being of the Sun the human being felt the origin of all the emotions surging in his own astral body, but also of everything that gave him his soul and his spirit being.
The next phase, showing how the Sun was seen later, would have been like this (Plate 4, bottom middle): emerging more clearly, its face becoming more defined, and assuming the form of a woman. You see—not clearly yet—what is to be brought to the human being as the result of the ‘I’ taking charge. The space down below, writhing like an animal, grows smaller and smaller until finally the moment comes when the woman is in the Sun and gives birth to the male child; and beneath the feet of the woman is that which was formerly here (Plate 4); the woman in the Sun, giving birth to the ‘I’, showing the image of how the dragon may be controlled—the astral world of the earlier period that is now beneath her feet.
There in the Sun, at that time, the struggle began between Michael and the dragon. The consequence of this was—and it was perfectly apparent physically—that all things in the Sun gradually moved toward the earth and became earthly ingredients, earthly content, which ruled the human being in his unconscious while into his consciousness the ‘I’ entered more and more.
What took place cosmically in this way in the Atlantean period found its mythological counter-image in the Greco-Latin age. In the next age immediately following ours, human beings will be able to experience retrospectively the earlier picture of Isis with the Horus child that then became the picture of the Virgin with the Jesus child. Human beings will see in this picture the woman clothed with the Sun, and the dragon beneath her feet, the dragon that was thrown down to the earth by Michael that can no longer be found in the heavens.
This picture, which will change, will appear at the time when the dragon will be unbound and when what I described yesterday will come about. It is a fact that humanity will be experiencing a deepened vision of Earth’s primeval times and of the origins of humanity, and at the same time also an etheric vision of the Christ-Being, for during the age of Michael those events will occur which the apocalyptist hints at when he speaks of Michael throwing the dragon creature down to the Earth, where it works within the nature of the human being. Michael, however, will concern himself with that in human nature which he has thrown down as the dragon creature.
Dear friends, let us try to imagine vividly what this means. Let us look once again into the Atlantean period. The apocalyptist does so in advance of us. He has the vision of the woman clothed with the Sun, giving birth to the Jesus boy and having the dragon beneath her feet. This picture grows weaker and weaker as Atlantean times advance. At the end of the Atlantean period the new continents rise up out of the ocean, the continents that contain the forces through which human beings have fallen into the various errors of the post-Atlantean period. Out of the ocean rises the Beast with the seven heads (Rev. 13:1), and sevenfold land rises up out of the ocean, dragging down the human being through the vapors that arise spiritually from the Earth out of the human being’s emotions.
The apocalyptist also sees the Atlantean catastrophe in the form of this seven-headed Beast rising up out of the ocean, and this will reappear in the future when what he is indicating will occur again in the Michael age. The apocalyptist is speaking of entirely real happenings which are very much our concern with regard to the spiritual life of humanity. The content of this picture in particular is connected with the Being of Christ.
We are approaching an age when we shall once again see how the spirit lives in the earthly realm; we shall see how the spiritual processes at work in the Transubstantiation will once again be able to appear before the souls of human beings. Especially in the Transubstantiation there will appear the earthly reflection of what has taken place in heavenly regions in such a way that what has happened since the middle of the Atlantean period is but a small section of everything that is connected with the Being of Christ. Then one will understand how a metamorphosis such as that taking place in the Transubstantiation becomes possible when one regards what is today physical and chemical as merely an episode, and when one relates the Transubstantiation to something entirely other than what is seemingly material.
In this way let us deepen our commemoration of the first Act of Consecration of Man two years ago; this commemoration of what truly descended from heaven, shone down from heaven from the Atlantean period; this commemoration of what appeared in the clouds of the Greco-Latin age; of the Christ who walks on Earth and is grasped by human beings in their visions, of Christ who walks on the Earth etherically in our time and can be grasped by human beings in Imaginations, in visions. The Christ is present in the Transubstantiation and he will be more and more present to human beings.
The processes I have described today comprise the paths through which the Christ gradually entered into the happenings of Earth evolution.
Let us take this in as a kind of festive inner picture in memory of the first Act of Consecration of Man celebrated in the Goetheanum two years ago.