Thursday, March 26, 2020
On Apocalyptic Writings
Lecture 1 of 3
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, October 10, 1904:
In the last lecture I spoke of the stages of man's development at which he becomes capable of speaking of an “apocalypse” and moreover, of proclaiming one himself. I said that the gaze of the seer must range over such vast epochs that he surveys the time before man began to pass through incarnations as an individual, as well as the epochs which preceded these journeys through births and deaths. I also said that before this vision is possible, the Chela (disciple) must have attained the third degree of Chelaship. This also applies to the Apocalypse of St. John. The vision of one who surveys the world in this way does not differ from that of other initiates. You must realize at the outset that such visions or higher experiences (or whatever they may be called) do not differ from each other. Strange as it may seem to one who is not an initiate, if for example, reference is made to the four Beasts, the account given by one initiate will not differ from that given by another. Two initiates will not give different accounts of the same thing. In order to give you a picture, I shall speak of what any initiate of this degree experiences in regard to the evolutionary path of mankind.
The initiate who communicated what is contained in the Apocalypse surveyed the epoch which preceded that of our present Root Race, surveyed the two human races preceding our own, surveyed the time when man first assumed his present form in the middle of the Lemurian Race, surveyed too the life that stretches beyond birth and death. Before that point of time in the middle of the Lemurian epoch, the constitution of man was quite different from that of the human being who stands before us today. I will start from a quite definite point. Man of the present day consists, as you know, of seven bodies: the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and four others. We are concerned here with the three lower bodies only. There is the physical body which is perceived with the ordinary senses, and then the etheric body which is not perceived by these senses. The etheric body can be perceived by those who have acquired the requisite faculty, by suggesting away the physical body of the human being concerned. They then see in space a “double” of the man. The color of this “double” is more or less that of peach blossom. Embedded as it were in this “double” is the astral body, a shining oval. When a human being dies today, the higher bodies, including the etheric body, rise out of the physical body. During the period immediately following death, the astral body is still united with the etheric body. After a few days the astral body leaves the etheric body and begins to traverse the path it must take between death and a new birth. The position of the etheric body today is only that of a mediator between the activity of the astral body and the physical body. In man's present earthly existence it is the physical body that is of the greatest significance for him. The physical brain is the instrument for man's highest spiritual activity. The etheric body is the mediator, the connecting link, between the activity of the higher bodies and the physical body. There was no dissolving of this connecting link in the first two Races, nor in the early part of the third Race.
In the so-called Polarian Race (the first Root Race) the etheric body was the most important. Man's whole body at that time consisted of fine etheric substance. Only later did the etheric body densify by permeating itself with physical matter. At the end of the first Root Race, man was not fettered to the ground as he is today. He hovered through the etheric earth, and his organs too, were etheric. He was an etheric being. By the time of Lemuria, through gradual densification, he took on physical corporeality. But even in the middle of the Lemurian epoch he was not as dense a being as he is today. At the beginning of the third Root Race (Lemurian), matter was just a little denser than that of cloud-formations over mountains today. It was into these “fire-clouds” that men incarnated at that time. Hence the beings who came as the highest Intelligences from other realms to the Earth to be teachers of men are called “Sons of the Fire-Mist.”
When the geologist takes us back to a certain age in the Earth's history when physical remains of human beings are no longer to be found, all physical traces are lost. This is because at a certain period man consisted of such fine, rarefied matter that no physical traces exist in the Earth's earlier strata.
In order to have an expression in our language for the transition from the fine, etheric matter to physical matter, of those beings who developed to physical density, the esotericist speaks of the Eagle stage of man. Physical man in that epoch is called the Eagle. In the language of esotericism, the Eagle is the man of the Lemurian Race who works his way from etheric matter into dense, solid matter.
The Lemurian Race is followed by the Atlantean Race. In this Atlantean Race man was, at first, endowed with a somewhat denser etheric body. At that time he was still able to control the living seed-forces of the plants. By means of the prana (life-force) of plants he propelled the airships in Atlantis described by Scott-Elliott. This shows us that in that epoch man had greater power over his etheric body (etheric “double”) than he has today. Later on, man will achieve mastery over the still higher bodies. This process, which is an actual and real process, is described by the Apocalyptist in detail. The second stage, where man still had mastery over his etheric body, is designated by the esoteric expression: the stage of the Lion Man. The Lion Man is a technical expression for the Atlantean. Then comes the man of the Fifth Root Race, the Aryan Race, who is designated by the word “Bull” because it is paramountly the physical forces that come to expression.
These three designations: Eagle, Lion, Bull, apply to definite and successive stages of the evolution of humanity. One who is initiated in certain Mystery schools learns to understand a certain language and script, in which those who have knowledge of the all-embracing truths express their experiences. It is a language which all initiates on the Earth write and speak, a symbolic language, a symbolic form of speech. Everyone who has learned it understands it, and when he finds a particular sign in ancient records he knows that it has a definite meaning. In the course of some of these lectures I shall speak of some of these signs, of the most elementary of them. A sign frequently used to designate these stages of human evolution is that of two interlacing triangles which together form a six-sided figure. Below lies a triangle which symbolizes the previous conditions. The three angles are not filled; they signify the three original conditions of man. In the middle is the real man. This enduring entity which passes through the incarnations remains through all the stages. That is what is designated as Man. So, here you have the four modes of being through which man becomes man in the course of his evolution. They are indicated in the two interlacing triangles. If you study this sign you will understand why these four Beasts are mentioned whenever an Apocalyptist is speaking about these stages of evolution. They also appear in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. In the Apocalypse of St. John they are described in a very special way.
An Apocalyptist pierces the veils which separate man from the regions in which he can behold those earlier stages of evolution. Other organs must develop in man before he can really see what has formerly happened on the Earth. The stages of evolution through which man has passed and which have become invisible to him, of which he is no longer conscious, must again become living reality to him. Thus in an Apocalyptist the etheric body must have been kindled to life, he must begin actually to see; his whole being must become an “eye.” Therefore the Apocalyptist must be able not only to transfer himself back into the stages of Eagle, of Lion, of Bull, but he must do so as a Seer. And at the third stage of initiation the Chela actually acquires this power of vision.
What I have here described is to be found in the fourth chapter of the Apocalypse of St. John. The Apocalypse describes not only the past stages of human evolution but the future stages as well. To understand these future stages a man must be able, as a seer, to use the forces of the etheric body and of the higher bodies which, in the course of evolution, have fallen into disuse. The man of the Fifth Root Race can only move freely, can only be conscious of himself, in the physical body. But he develops in such a way that later on he can become conscious in the higher bodies. In the present sub-race of the Fifth Root Race we have achieved a very deep development, namely that of the physical intellect. Our present sub-race (the fifth) will be followed by the sixth sub-race, and that again by the seventh. That will bring our Fifth Root Race to an end. It will be followed by another, higher Root Race, and that again by another. This evolution therefore consists in the fact that man learns more and more to use his higher bodies. We are moving toward a very definite goal, for we are on the way from the fifth to the Sixth Root Race. Man now uses his physical intellect for everything; he adopts a definite moral teaching, and a religion. This governs him because the physical intellect holds sway. The individual has inevitably to seek his well-being, his happiness, at the expense of others. An individual who strives for higher development endeavors to transcend, to rise above, the conditions of everyday life.
In occult schools, three words are used to characterize the New Age, the age of the new, later human race. In the domain of communal life, the word is “brotherhood,” brotherly love. That is why the Theosophical Society has taken Universal Brotherhood as the main principle in its declared objects, because it is the aim of the Theosophical Society to make preparations for life in the Sixth Race. Man will then feel happy only when happiness is not acquired at the expense of others. That is true morality.
Our science is materialistic. This will be different in the next sub-race. We are striving for a different form of science, namely for “pneumatology.” Teaching concerning the spirit, the spiritual, will be dominant in the new race.
And in the sphere of religion the ruling principle will be something that is not yet possible today, because the intellect lies in the way. Man will himself perceive the existence of a Divine World-Spirit. That is the free religious principle of the next race. Brotherly Love, Pneumatology, Self-Authority in religious matters: these three principles will characterize the future race, which is slowly being prepared within our own life. A Seventh Race will take on quite different forms of life, of which we will speak on another occasion.
Christianity was born in the fourth sub-race. This sub-race was preceded by the third. In certain time-cycles what has already transpired is recapitulated. The first three sub-races recapitulate, briefly, the stages of Eagle, Lion, and Bull. These were preparatory races, whereas the real task of the race emerged in the fourth sub-race, which is designated by the expression Man, or God becomes Man. Christianity arose in the fourth sub-race. The fifth sub-race, our present one, began about the middle of the Middle Ages. It is what we call, speaking in the widest sense, the Germanic sub-race. It separated out from the so-called Latin Race. This term was taken to include everything into which the stream of Christianity flowed and which developed gradually in the spiritual life of Europe. This fourth sub-race was preceded by the three other sub-races in which the earlier were briefly recapitulated.
In the Apocalypse these seven conditions or stages are designated by the seven “Churches” or Communities. The Communities are the representatives of the seven sub-races. The words spoken to the Communities of Ephesus, Smyrna, and so on are directed to the different sub-races. Members of the various races are still living in the world; members of the first sub-race of the Fifth Root Race still survive. The Indian people belong, fundamentally, to this sub-race.
The original Indian peoples brought the culture of Thought to expression in the very highest sense. The highest sublimation of Thought came to expression in ancient India. This first sub-race recapitulated, briefly, the development of Lemurian man, who was a man of “feeling.” The members of our present race (Aryan) are men of “thinking.”
Memory developed for the first time in Atlantis. The Lemurian had no memory. In the first sub-race (Indian), man did indeed think, but his thinking was a kind of feeling, and what he thought comes to expression in the old Vedic civilization. You read Vedic literature aright if, as you read, you get the impression that thought is basking in a wonder-world of feeling. In civilizations where memory comes more to the help of the thoughts, where outer customs then retain this memory-culture in the worship of ancient heroes, where the memory of a great inventor, or discoverer, or king is established as a principle of the moral life, where long lists of names and data are compiled: in these civilizations there arose the rudiments of the Calendar. Much was noted down in the early races by the ancient Indians and the Persian Magi. And from these memoranda arose the first beginnings of the Calendar.
The men of today have developed from these early sub-races. Man has progressed to the fifth sub-race because he has realized that the Divine is within himself, because he has understood the Apocalyptic progression.
But the first sub-race, which becomes articulate in the Vedas, could also most easily succumb to error. Feeling was not yet strong enough to enable Thought to become inward in the real sense. And so in Indian Culture two aspects are apparent. On the one side we have the sublime ideas of spiritual Divinities contained in ancient Vedic Culture, that wondrous religion of which those who do not really know it can form no conception; neither can they form any conception of the profundities of the Vedanta. All this is spiritual teaching of a purity and clarity of which it is said in Europe, and rightly said, that every time one plunges into these depths, having schooled oneself to remain still and tranquil in soul, they are ever and again a source of new wonderment. The wonderment that may be aroused by our modern life fades into nothingness in the face of what ancient Indian Culture has to offer. But on the other side, the Indian peoples lapsed into idolatry in its very crudest form. What is usually to be found in books on ancient Indian Culture is a jumble of ideas of gods and religious conceptions, and gives no true picture. Sharp distinction must be made between the idolatry prevailing among the people and the sublime, majestic spirit-world of the Brahmans. The great light-sides of the life of humanity always have their shadow-sides. Then in whose nation or race there have been individuals of high spiritual development have often themselves persisted in clinging to externalities.
In the Letter to the Community of Ephesus, the Apocalypse tries to give a picture of these phenomena. On the one side there are those who have kept their “first love,” and on the other, those who have abandoned the works of their “first love” and have fallen to a lower level. The Nicolaitanes are referred to as those who regard external things as man's one and only goal. Monumental words must be addressed to those who live in such a Community.
I wished only to show how events of world importance are touched upon in this passage of the Letter to the Community of Ephesus which stands as the representative of these conditions. Quotation from Rev. 2:1-7: Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labors, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil, and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars; And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.