Wherever we, as human beings, have striven for knowledge, whether as mystics or realists or in any way at all, the acquisition of self-knowledge has been demanded of us. But as has been repeatedly emphasized on other occasions, self-knowledge is by no means as easy to achieve as many people believe — anthroposophists sometimes among them. The anthroposophist should be constantly aware of the hindrances he will encounter in his efforts. But the acquisition of self-knowledge is absolutely essential if we are to reach a worthy goal in world-existence and if our actions are to be worthy of us as members of humanity.
Let us ask ourselves the question: Why is the achievement of self-knowledge so difficult? Man is very a complicated being. If we mean to speak truly of his inner life, his life of soul, we shall not begin by regarding it as something simple and elementary. We shall rather have the patience and perseverance, the will, to penetrate more deeply into the marvellous creation of the Divine-Spiritual Powers known to us as Man.
Before we investigate the nature of self-knowledge, two aspects of the life of the human soul may present themselves to us. Just as the magnet has North and South poles, just as light and darkness are present in the world, so there are two poles in man's life of soul. These two poles become evident when we observe a person placed in two contrasting situations. Suppose we are watching someone who is entirely absorbed in the contemplation of some strikingly beautiful and impressive natural phenomenon. We see how still he is standing, moving neither hand nor foot, never turning his eyes away from the spectacle presented to him, and we are aware that inwardly he is picturing his environment. That is one situation. Another is the following: a man is walking along the street and feels that someone has insulted him. Without thinking, he is roused to anger and gives vent to it by striking the person who insulted him. We are there witnessing a manifestation of forces springing from anger, a manifestation of impulses of will, and it is easy to imagine that if the action had been preceded by thought no blow need have been struck.
In only a few decades from now it will happen, particularly to those who are young — already preparation is being made for this — that some individual here or there has certain experiences. If he has sharpened his vision through having assimilated Anthroposophy, he may become aware that suddenly someone has come near to help him, to make him alert to this or that. The truth is that Christ has come to him, although he believes that what he saw is a physical man. He will come to realize that what he saw was a supersensible being, because it immediately vanishes.
Many a human being will have this experience when sitting silent in his room, heavy-hearted and oppressed, not knowing which way to turn. The door will open, and the etheric Christ will appear and speak words of consolation to him. The Christ will become a living Comforter to men.
However strange it may as yet seem, it is true nevertheless that many a time when people — even in considerable numbers — are sitting together, not knowing what to do, and waiting, they will see the Etheric Christ. He will Himself be there, will confer with them, will make His voice heard in such gatherings. These times are approaching, and the positive, constructive element now described will take real effect in the evolution of mankind.
And the chemical force that undergoes a transformation in the process of Earth evolution is magnetism.
Yet a third force will become active; and if electricity seems to work wonders today, this third force will affect civilization in a still more miraculous way. The more of this force we employ, the faster the Earth will tend to become a corpse and its spiritual part prepare for the Jupiter embodiment. Forces have to be applied for the purpose of destruction, in order that man may become free of the Earth and that the Earth's body may fall away.
As long as the Earth was involved in progressive evolution, no such destruction took place, for the great achievements of electricity can only serve a decaying Earth. Strange as this sounds, it must gradually become known. By understanding the process of evolution we shall learn to assess our culture at its true value. We shall also learn that it is necessary for the Earth to be destroyed, for otherwise the spiritual could not become free. We shall also learn to value what is positive, namely the penetration of spiritual forces into our existence on Earth.
Thus we realize what a tremendous advance was signified by the fact that Christ lived for three years on the Earth in a human body specially prepared in order that He might be visible to physical eyes. Through what came to pass during those three years men have been made ready to behold the Christ who will move among them in an etheric body, who will participate in earthly life as truly and effectively as did the Physical Christ in Palestine.
If men observe such happenings with undimmed senses they will know that there is an etheric body that will move about in the physical world, but is the only etheric body able to work in the physical world as a human physical body works. It will differ from a physical body in this respect only, that it can be in two, three, nay even in a hundred, a thousand places at the same time. This is possible only for an etheric, not for a physical form.
What will be accomplished in humanity through this further advance is that the two poles of which I have spoken, the intellectual and the moral, will more and more become one; they will merge into unity. This will come about because in the course of the next millennia men will become aware of the presence of the Etheric Christ in the world; more and more they will be influenced in waking life too by the direct working of the Good from the spiritual world. Whereas at the present time the will is asleep by day, and man is only able to influence it indirectly through thought, in the course of the next millennia, through the power which from our time onwards is working in us under the aegis of Christ, it will come about that the deeds of men in waking consciousness too can be directly productive of Good.
And the Maitreya Buddha himself, as transformed Bodhisattva, speaking in powerful words of which no adequate idea can be given at the present time, will proclaim the great secrets of existence. He will speak in a language that has first be created, for no human being today could formulate words such as those in which the Maitreya Buddha will address humanity. The reason why men cannot be addressed in this way at the present time is that the physical instrument for this form of speech does not yet exist. The teachings of the Enlightened One will not stream into men as teachings only, but will pour moral impulses into their souls. Words such as will then be spoken cannot yet be uttered by a physical larynx; in our time they can be present only in the spiritual worlds.
The evil astral world is the province of Lucifer, the evil Lower Devachan the province of Ahriman, and the evil Higher Devachan the province of the Asuras.
When chemical action is driven down beneath the physical plane — into the evil Devachanic world — magnetism arises.
When light is thrust down into the sub-material — that is to say, a stage deeper than the material world — electricity arises.
If what lives in the Harmony of the Spheres is thrust down farther still, into the province of the Asuras, an even more terrible force — which it will not be possible to keep hidden very much longer — is generated. It can only be hoped that when this force comes to be known — a force we must conceive as being far, far stronger than the most violent electrical discharge — it can only be hoped that before some discoverer gives this force into the hands of humankind, men will no longer have anything unmoral left in them.
Answer: As the residue of the Moon-evolution we have our present moon which circles around the Earth. Similarly there will be a residue of the Earth which will circle around Jupiter. Then these residues will gradually dissolve into the universal ether. On Venus there will no longer be any residue. Venus will manifest, to begin with, as pure Warmth, then it will become Light, and then pass over into the spiritual world. The residue left behind by the Earth will be like a corpse. This is a path along which man must not accompany the Earth, for he would thereby be exposed to dreadful torments. But there are Beings who accompany this corpse, since they themselves will by that means develop to a higher stage.
Astral World: the province of Lucifer
Higher Devachan: the province of the Asuras