Wonders of the World, Ordeals of the Soul, Revelations of the Spirit. Lecture 4 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 21, 1911:
Yesterday's lecture will have enabled you to see what I meant when I said at the outset of this course that the Greeks thought of the whole of Nature as permeated by Spirit; they had no such conception of nature as we have today. You will have realised this from the way I tried to show the position of the three great gods, Zeus, Poseidon and Pluto in Greek spiritual life. We see that we have to think of the microcosmic forces found in man's astral body as transplanted into cosmic space. If we think of the sovereign ruler of these powers, their controlling centre, as superpersonal, superhuman, we have what Greek feeling associated with the name Zeus. Similarly, if we think of the forces of our ether bodies transplanted into cosmic space, we have what the Greeks associated with Poseidon; if we think of the forces of our physical bodies as transplanted into space, we have what the Greeks associated with Pluto.
Now, it will certainly occur to you to ask: ‘What about the fourth member of our human being?’ For in our time we have of course to regard the whole man as consisting of physical, etheric, astral, and also of the ego or the ego-bearer. Now it is obvious that because this ego is in such a peculiar position in relation to the other members of the human being, the forces of the universe corresponding to the ego must also be in a peculiar position. One can say of the forces of the physical body that transplanted into the world of space they are governed by the central power of Pluto; similarly the forces of the ether body come into the sphere of Poseidon; and the forces of the astral body into the sphere of Zeus. But when we consider the ego itself, we find that it is closely bound up with all that is happening around us. Indeed with our egos we are right inside the world. Upon what goes on in the world around us our whole destiny, our happiness or unhappiness, depends. Very little reflection upon the matter leads us to feel that the forces of our ego must be very different from the forces of Pluto around us in space. Just as the destiny of the ego is closely connected with the environment, so too we must think of the forces of this ego as also connected with the divine-spiritual forces outside in space which are their counterpart, just as the other divine-spiritual forces correspond to soul-forces within us. Think how closely the experiences of our ego are bound up with our environment! How different our ego feels if we raise our eyes and allow it to plunge into the star-strewn heavens, or to gaze, at dawn or dusk, upon the rising or the setting Sun! How little can we detach our egos from all this! How intimately we are bound up with the macrocosm out there! With our egos we are as if emptied out into our environment. What radiates into us from without, the golden rays of the Sun, the majestic world of the stars, at one moment is something objective outside in the macrocosm, at another, an idea within the human soul, within the microcosm; in actual life we can scarcely distinguish between the two, they merge into one another. From the way the Greek had of experiencing the world and its wonders directly, we may expect him to think of the divinity who represented to him the ego-forces holding sway outside in space as far more closely related, far more closely bound up with the human being than the other gods — whom he really thought of as quite remote from human nature. Hence we find, as the representative of the ego-forces in the world outside, a divine figure with a certain affinity with human nature, so to say, one whose destiny, whose whole life, seems in a way quite human. That god is Dionysos. Just as we have to look upon Pluto as representing the forces of the physical body, Poseidon as representing the forces of the ether body, and Zeus as representing the forces of the astral body, transplanted into the universe, so we have to regard Dionysos as the macrocosmic representative of the soul-forces which live in our ego. The way in which the Greeks looked upon Dionysos, that figure which stands before our ego at last in such a remarkable way in the Mystery of Eleusis, will only become fully clear to us if first we learn a little about the way spiritual powers and spiritual beings in general work into our earthly existence, into the wonders which constitute our own human existence.
Much of what I am now about to say by way of parenthesis you will find in the little book I have just completed and which in essentials reproduces lectures that I gave a short time ago in Copenhagen. It is called The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind. I shall have to refer to certain passages in this little book which have a bearing upon our purpose in these lectures. First we have to reflect that humanity, as it evolves on the Earth, determining its own destiny, little by little shaping the epochs of its own civilization, is guided by beings whom we must call superhuman, beings not accessible to human sense-perception, but to be found in the main in a supersensible world, and attainable only to clairvoyant sight. If we turn to the category of beings concerned with the guidance of mankind which is nearest to man, we find those who in Eastern mysticism are called Dhyani, in Christian terminology Angels, Angeloi. We have often spoken of these superhuman beings of the first category, and you know the relationship in which they stand to us. We know that, under quite different conditions of life, they too were once human; that was during the Moon evolution, at the time when our present Earth was passing through its previous embodiment. At that time these angel beings, who today take part in the guidance of humanity, were themselves passing through their human stage; thus at the commencement of the present evolution of the Earth they had got so far that today they stand one stage higher than humanity; at the end of Earth evolution that part of humanity which reaches the goal of the present Earth evolution will be as far advanced as the angels were at the end of the Moon evolution. Hence these beings are particularly fitted to be responsible for this guidance at the point where it is nearest to man. They are at work within our human evolution.
Now we invariably find in evolution that one thing, one epoch, is never exactly like another, and when we say that the angels were the leaders nearest to men, that is not to be taken as of universal application. Thus no one should say ‘Then angels were leaders of humanity in the first post-Atlantean culture-epoch, in the Persian epoch, in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, and so on.’ To do so would be to think in a very abstract way. Things are not like that in the real world; there are all sorts of distinctions. As a matter of fact, there are only two post-Atlantean epochs in which the angels have the direct — and in a way, independent — guidance of humanity: the third, the Egypto-Chaldean, and our own, the fifth epoch. In the Egypto-Chaldean epoch it was angels who were the actual leaders of the epoch. How did they carry out their leadership?
On this point we may quote the Greek historian Herodotus. Once when the ancient Egyptians were asked who were their great leaders, they answered ‘the gods’. In the language of olden time ‘the gods’ meant these angelic beings, and the ancient Egyptians who were instructed in such things said quite seriously that at that time those who were the leaders of mankind were not normal men, but beings of a superhuman nature, beings who had already completed their human stage during the Moon evolution. But these leaders of humanity in the Egypto-Chaldean culture-epoch were unable to appear directly in human bodies. The physical bodies which we men have are an Earth product, wholly dependent upon earthly conditions of existence; and only beings who are going through their human evolution on the Earth — that is to say, only men — have a constitution of soul able to live out their lives in this sheath of the human physical body. Because the angels went through their human stage on the Moon, it is impossible for them to clothe themselves in such a sheath as the human physical body. Thus they could not descend into incarnation in physical, fleshly bodies. These leaders of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch did not tread the Earth in human form. There were however men gifted with clairvoyance who were susceptible to inspiration from the spiritual worlds. In moments when they were specially open to these inspirations they were able to see before them those guiding beings and to permeate themselves with their substance. These old clairvoyants offered up their bodies to the guiding beings; they said to them, as it were, ‘Behold my body; enter into it, permeate it with spirit, inspire it.’ Thus in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch there walked on Earth an ordinary man, but one who was clairvoyant; what he said and did and what he taught was spoken and enacted in him and through him as the instrument of a higher being, one who had completed his human development on the Moon. This was how the Egypto-Chaldean epoch was guided, and this guidance endeavored above all to direct humanity along the straight line of evolution, to further its unfettered development toward the goal of the Earth. Thus angels — angeloi — who had completed their human stage on the Moon, inspired the loftiest seers of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, and through their instrumentality became kings and priests, the leading personalities of the period.
Side by side with these individualities there were yet others. One would have sought in vain for the leading individualities in human bodies. But there were others in a different position. They were angel beings in the lowest stage of Luciferic development, angel beings who had not completed their evolution on the Moon, who had not attained the goal of lunar humanity, thus beings who, when the Earth evolution began, were themselves not so far advanced as men will be at the end of Earth evolution, if they reach their full development. These beings too instilled their forces into the Egypto-Chaldean civilization; but just because they had not fully completed their human stage, they were able to tread the Earth in human fleshly bodies. They incarnated in human bodies and mixed with the rest as real men. Legends are to be found among all peoples of such individualities, not only in Chaldea and Egypt, but among all the peoples of that time; they tell us of men who dwelt on Earth, but who were really in their inner soul-nature backward angel beings from the Moon. It was these individualities that the Greeks were referring to when they spoke of their Heroes — for example, Cecrops and Cadmos. None of the great leaders of civilization were actually men (I am not now speaking of the ones who only inspired men, but of those who really dwelt among men in physical bodies); their human form was maya, they were in truth backward Moon beings. These individualities were the Heroes, superhuman beings who were in the lowest of the Luciferic ranks. What then was the actual task of these beings? It is wisely decreed in the plan of universal evolution that not only those beings who guide evolution along its line of direct advance have legitimate tasks; if man were only subject to the spiritual guidance of those normally developed beings, he would push forward in his evolution too swiftly, with too little weight, too little gravity. Evolution has need of hindrances in order that the right tempo can be maintained. Evolution needs a certain weight. The progressive forces gain strength only by meeting with resistance. Those beings who by the wise guidance of the world lagged behind during the Moon evolution have the task of imparting weight to evolution.
I said that it would be wrong if one were to apply what I have just described for the Egypto-Chaldean epoch to all the culture-epochs. Things were different in the Persian epoch. There it was not the angels who played the outstanding part in the guidance of humanity; there humanity was much more directly subject to the archangels or archangeloi. One may say that the Persian, the Zarathustra culture, was guided by archangels just as the Egypto-Chaldean culture was under the direct guidance of angels. And just as the Egyptian clairvoyant kings and priests were inspired by angels, so Zarathustra and his pupils were inspired by archangels, Amshaspands. If we go right back to the first post-Atlantean epoch, to the civilization of which we still get a faint echo in the Vedas, we come to the great teachers of India, who are called the Holy Rishis. The Holy Rishis were inspired by a still higher hierarchy: they were inspired by the Spirits of Personality, the Principalities, the Archai, who of course used the Archangels and the Angels as their instruments, but who at that time intervened far more directly than they did later.
Thus we have to record a continuous progress of humanity from the first post-Atlantean epoch through the succeeding epochs, inasmuch as ever lower ranks of hierarchies intervene in the spiritual guidance of mankind. First in the Indian epoch the highest rank, the Archai or Spirits of Personality, then in the Persian epoch the next lower hierarchy, the Archangels, and in the Egyptian epoch the beings who are next above man, the Angels. In the Greek period quite special conditions prevailed. At that time the leaders of humanity were the beings who, of all superhuman beings, had the greatest need themselves, so that those leaders of the Greco-Latin time gave men the greatest independence and freedom; for they were hoping to attain as much for themselves through their leadership as man could attain through them. Hence in Greco-Latin times we have the remarkable phenomenon that mankind seems to be thrown upon its own resources, seems to be self-sufficient. There has been no epoch of civilization since the Atlantean catastrophe during which man was thrown so entirely on his own resources, or in which so much depended upon his expressing his own peculiar self, as in the Greco-Latin time. Hence we see too how everything in this epoch tends to bring to expression in its purest form the human individuality. It could be said that this was so because the guiding hierarchies slackened the reins, because at this time men were most left to themselves.
In our own epoch, which follows the Greco-Latin time, we again find something very distinctive. Hence the same beings who were the leaders of humanity in the Egypto-Chaldean time intervene again. If in clairvoyant consciousness we lift ourselves into the presence of the leaders of humanity, the same beings appear to us as our spiritual leaders who were the leaders of the Egypto-Chaldean time, both those who at that time only inspired men, those Angels who had reached their full goal on the Moon, and also the Heroes, the leaders who took on fleshly form, that is to say, those who had not reached their full development on the Moon, the Luciferic beings. They all appear again. But we must bear in mind that they have all undergone a further development of their own. Just as man today is at another stage than he was in the ancient Egyptian time, so also with these Angels and Luciferic Angels. Their achievement in guiding humanity in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch raised them to a higher stage of evolution. If we turn with the eye of seership to the Akasha Chronicle and see how these leading beings looked during the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, we find that at that time they had reached a certain level of development. Now they emerge again from the twilight of existence and intervene anew in human evolution, having meanwhile reached a greater degree of perfection. But there is one difference.
Let us for a moment ignore the beings who at that time were Luciferic Angels, and turn our attention to the normal Angels, those who during the Egypto-Chaldean epoch directed evolution in the straight line of advance. During that epoch some of them reached the normal goal of their own development, but there were also among them a number who lagged behind. Thus there are some who, although they had attained their normal development on the Moon and thus entered into the evolution of our present Earth as Angels, nevertheless, during the Egypto-Chaldean epoch failed to achieve all that they could have achieved on Earth. At that point they lagged behind. Thus among those beings who were still in the line of normal development during the Egypto-Chaldean time there arose once more two classes, and there is really an enormous difference between these two classes of Angels. This difference has to do with the loftiest mystery of human evolution, and it is of paramount importance that we should understand it. I have already referred to it in the book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind. In order to give an account of this difference we have to introduce the name of Christ, the Christ who is so very closely bound up with the whole range of Earth evolution.
We know that as far as concerns Earth-development on the physical plane Christ was incarnated for three years in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. We know that that incarnation took place once for all, that there had been no previous incarnation, and that there will be no other like it. What the Christ did by dwelling for three years in a human body was necessary for human beings on the Earth, it was necessary for men as earthly beings of sense to have the Christ also among them once as an earthly being of sense. But in His essential nature the Christ is not restricted to His life for three years in the sheaths of Jesus of Nazareth; He is also the leader of all the beings of the higher hierarchies. He is an all-embracing, cosmic, universal being. Just as through the Mystery of Golgotha He entered intohuman evolution, so for the beings of the higher hierarchies, corresponding events took place. That means that as time went on Christ brought something about for all these beings of the higher hierarchies. How did this happen?
During the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, as I have already said, the Angels went through an evolution which has enabled them to take over the leadership of mankind today as more highly developed beings. What made it possible for them to reach a higher stage of evolution? It was because they themselves, while they were guiding human souls in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, became pupils of Christ in the spiritual, supersensible world. During the Egypto-Chaldean epoch Christ was the teacher of the Angels. His impulse flowed into them during that epoch, and it is because of this, because they have meanwhile been permeated by Christ, that they now appear at a higher stage of development. Thus if at the time when the Greco-Latin age begins we were to look at those beings who had been the spiritual leaders of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, we should say that by the beginning of the Greco-Latin age the most highly developed of them, those who were the best prepared to play a leading part in our fifth epoch, had received into themselves the Christ Impulse, which formerly they did not have, and that as Christ-filled beings they now influence mankind from the higher worlds. In the same way the Archangels, who when they acted as the inspirers of Zarathustra and his pupils had not yet been ‘Christened’, have meanwhile absorbed the Christ Impulse, and in the sixth culture-epoch, the epoch following our own, they will be the spiritual leaders of mankind. But in contradistinction to what they were in the Persian epoch, in the sixth epoch they will appear as Christ-filled beings. The Archai, the Spirits of Personality, who were the inspirers of the Holy Rishis in the Indian epoch, have also meanwhile absorbed the Christ Impulse, and they will be the spiritual leaders of the seventh post-Atlantean epoch. Then everything which was once proclaimed to mankind by the voice of the Holy Rishis will come to pass in great glory and majesty; but in the most advanced men of the seventh culture-epoch it will all be illuminated, inflamed, set on fire, by the Christ Impulse. The Holy Rishis will rise again in the splendor of the Christ Sun in the seventh culture-epoch of post-Atlantean humanity.Thus we see that for the beings of these four hierarchies—not only for man, but also for Angels, Archangels, and Archai — the Christ-event signifies the very highest experience of which we in our cosmic evolution can speak.
Why was it that certain beings lagged behind? It was because they rejected the Christ Impulse. Thus we now have one class, one category, of guiding beings who have accepted the Christ, but in the action upon our own epoch of another category, the backward Angelic beings, there is no trace of the Christ Impulse to be found. They have not been ‘Christened’. Whereas the Angels who since Egypto-Chaldean times have been filled with the Christ Impulse now imbue human evolution with forces which lead them upward to a spiritual life, the other beings, those who rejected the Christ Impulse, seek to give to humanity for their inspiration everything which we can call materialistic culture and materialistic science. Hence the confusion prevailing in our time between the inspiration derived from the purest Christ Impulse, which should guide humanity upward to spirituality — and it is to this which we devote ourselves when we follow strictly the goal of spiritual science — and the other inspirers, who have turned away from the Christ and are concerned to introduce the material element into human civilization. These two tendencies intermingle in our time. We can only understand our own epoch if we are aware that these two currents of spiritual leadership dominate it. So long as we cannot distinguish between them, and so long as we fanatically uphold one or the other of them, we are not in a position to understand clearly the course of our civilization. Today under the guidance of the Angels who have rejected the Christ Impulse we have a science which is quite abstract, entirely unspiritual. We have the urge to rise to spirituality because the other Angels whom I have described are gaining an ever stronger hold upon the guidance of humanity. All the great spiritual beings who lead humanity forward, whether as Angels, Archangels, or Archai, have at some time since Atlantis been open to the Christ Impulse, just as at the lowest level man was open to it through the Mystery of Golgotha. That is what the intervention of the Christ Impulse means in human evolution.
Of course we have to be quite clear that the beings who were pressing forward toward spirituality with the greatest intensity could not become incarnated in human physical bodies even in the Egypt-Chaldean epoch. Even less so can this happen in our own time. Even today we have to seek for the outstanding spiritual leaders of humanity in the spiritual world through the eye of seership, through spiritual-scientific knowledge; to expect to find the highest leaders of humanity, the really progressive authoritative leaders, incarnated in human bodies would be quite wrong. From the universal rule that the real, guiding individualities do not incarnate during Earth evolution in human bodies, the Christ in a certain respect forms an exception, since He was incarnated for three years in a human body. What is the reason for this? It is because the Christ being in all His forces, in all His impulses, is an essentially higher being than any of the individualities of the hierarchies we have described — an individuality even higher than the Archangels and the Archai, a being of whose full greatness we can only be dimly aware. These stronger forces and impulses enabled this individuality to fulfill a purpose that we shall come to understand more closely; they enabled Him to assume a human fleshly sheath as a sacrifice for three years. But something else is connected with this assumption of human bodily sheaths by the Christ which then led to the Mystery of Golgotha — something which it is important for us to understand.
It is only when we reflect upon this other factor that we are able to grasp not only the nature of Christ Himself, but also the nature of another figure, of whom we know that he plays a very considerable role in human evolution, a figure of whom we have already often treated in our lectures, but who can only gradually be fully characterized — I mean Lucifer. Let us consider these two individualities, Christ on the one hand and Lucifer on the other, and let us take to begin with only one characteristic of the Christ — that He once descended to Earth so far as to incarnate in a human physical body, that He dwelt for three years in such a body. What then is the consequence of the event which culminated on the physical plane in the Mystery of Golgotha?
The consequence was that now the etheric and astral spheres of the Earth became substantially permeated by the Christ being. Whereas previously the being whom we know as Christ was not there, now the etheric and astral spheres have become permeated through and through by Him. This is hinted in the words spoken by Theodora in my Mystery Play The Portal of Initiation. Anyone who becomes clairvoyant in the manner of St. Paul sees into the etheric sphere of the Earth and perceives there the Christ — something which at an earlier time was not possible even for the most advanced clairvoyant, something which was first made possible by the Mystery of Golgotha. You know that it is actually in the twentieth century, actually in our own time, that a number of men will repeat this event of Damascus and recognize the Christ. Through their further development men will raise themselves ever more and more to a recognition of the etheric Christ. This shows you that it is an essential feature of the evolution of Christ that after the Mystery of Golgotha, search as we may in the physical realm, we shall not find the Christ substance as such incarnated there. Nevertheless the Earth is saturated by the Christ substance, because it reaches right down to the etheric sphere of the Earth, and will be able to be found there for all time, though it could never condense to the physical in a body of flesh. Today what is physical upon Earth is like a snail shell, which one day when the Earth has reached the goal of its evolution will fall away from the totality of human souls, just as the physical body now falls away from the individual soul at death. There will be a death of the Earth when it has reached the goal of its evolution. Just as today the individual soul throws off the physical body and enters a spiritual realm when man passes through the gate of death, so at the death of the Earth the totality of human souls will pass over into a spiritual sphere, and will cast off as dross, as husk, what today constitutes the physical element of the Earth. Where will be the Christ-substance when the Earth has undergone its earthly death? It will permeate the totality of human souls, who will rise out of the corpse of the Earth, out of the earthly dross. The Christ being, together with the totality of human souls, ascends further into the spiritual realms, in order later to come to the next incorporation of the Earth, which in spiritual science we call Jupiter. That is the essence of the Christ being, that in a wholly spiritualized form He continues to lead mankind in its development; He does not enter into any kind of physical manifestation, but for the time being remains close to the physical, but only until the death of the Earth; He remains close to the physical inasmuch as it is permeated by the etheric, but when the Earth has reached the goal of its evolution, the physical will be cast off as a corpse. Since the Mystery of Golgotha the Christ has retained absolutely nothing which could arouse in Him a desire to assume any kind of physical body. His renunciation of all physical substance is absolute.
That is the great secret connected with the Mystery of Golgotha, that by the sacrifice of His three years passed in a physical body, the Christ being brought it about that nothing of Him will be left behind in the Earth-husk which will fall away at the death of the Earth. Because, though the Christ does indeed permeate the Earth's physical substances, He does not since the Mystery of Golgotha unite Himself with them, nothing remains in His nature which could look back with longing toward the cast-off husk at the death of the Earth. This husk will be cast off, it will shine from afar like a star. It will be seen by beings then dwelling upon the outer planets as they gaze outward into the heavenly spaces.
Will not only the Christ and those belonging to Him, but all other Beings, cease to have any connection with this star which will be cast off as dross at the death of the Earth? Not at all. I have just been speaking, for instance, of those beings who rejected the Christ Impulse in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch. Some of them will go on rejecting Him. In certain circumstances even in time to come these beings may incarnate in physical bodies and walk the Earth as men. They will be the ones who will yearn in a way after the star cast off at the death of the Earth, which will radiate in splendor out there in space. After the death of the Earth all those souls who belong to the Christ will in the future admire this star, but they will not hanker after it, they will not say ‘That star is our home’. Neither these souls nor the souls of the beings of the higher hierarchies will yearn after this star, any more than souls on the Earth hanker after Mars. They raise their eyes to Mars, receive its beneficent influence, but they do not yearn after it.
What then would have happened if the Christ being had not entered into Earth evolution? There would have been a tremendous difference in the destiny of humanity. Suppose for a moment that the Christ had not entered human evolution; the Earth would still undergo death, human beings and the higher hierarchies would still continue their development in the spiritual worlds, but they would carry into those worlds the perpetual longing for that star which, as the husk of the Earth, would radiate with wondrous brilliance into the universe. Human beings without the Christ would look down from Jupiter with tragic longing toward the star formed of earthly dross, and not only would they admire it, but longingly they would say: ‘That is our home, it is grievous that we have to be here, grievous that we cannot be in our true home upon that star.’ That is the difference it would have made in the course of evolution if the Christ Impulse had not united itself with the Earth. To liberate men from the Earth, to make them free and independent for evolution that is to come in the future, that was the mission of Christ upon Earth. We see the immensity of the Christ-event: we see that it is because Christ has dwelt upon the Earth that humanity will become mature enough to evolve toward the future structure of our planet.
Is there any instance of beings working on another planet who yearn after some other heavenly body as if it were their own true home? Yes, there are such cases; let us take one of them and compare him with the Christ. During the Moon evolution there were powerful beings, exalted beings, who however in a certain respect did not reach the goal of their Moon evolution. Among these exalted beings was a host under its own leader which, when the Moon evolution came to an end and the evolution of the Earth began, had not attained the goal of its own evolution. Now, this host of beings entered into Earth evolution, and participated in the guidance of humanity, but always with this tragic longing for a cosmic star which had been cast out of the Moon evolution in the way I have described in the book Occult Science. Within the spiritual evolution of the Earth are mighty, highly significant beings, with their leader, who, because they had to quit the Moon and go on to the Earth without having reached their full development, really feel this yearning for a star outside in the cosmos which they regard as their true home, but to which they cannot attain. These hosts are the hosts of Lucifer. Lucifer himself takes part in Earth evolution with the perpetual longing within him for his true home, for the star Venus outside in the cosmos. That is the salient feature of the Luciferic nature seen from the cosmic aspect. Clairvoyant consciousness comes to know just what the star of Venus is by entering into the soul of Lucifer, thus experiencing from the Earth Lucifer's tragic longing, like a wonderful cosmic nostalgia, for the star Phosphorus, Lucifer, or Venus. For what Lucifer cast off as a husk, what at the death of the Moon was cast out of the Luciferic beings, as the physical body is cast off by the human soul at death, shines down from heaven as Venus.
I have now put before you from the cosmic aspect something about our Earth and about its neighboring planet Venus. This was of course not experienced by the Greeks quite in the way I have expressed it, but it nevertheless lived in their sensations and feelings. When a Greek turned to the stars, especially when he turned to Venus, he sensed in his soul the inner connection between such a star and certain beings who inflame and inspire the earthly realm. When the ancient Greek felt what Lucifer was to the Earth, when he said to himself, as it were, ‘The Luciferic principle wafts through our earthly existence’, he looked up to the star Venus and said: ‘There is the wandering point in the heavenly spaces toward which Lucifer's longings perpetually tend’.
This gives you the Greek sense of one of the ‘wonders of the world’, and it brings out very clearly that the Greek was far from gazing into space as do our modern astronomers, describing Venus as a purely physical globe. What then was Venus to the Greek soul? It was that region of space which he came to identify by observing clairvoyantly the spiritual content of Lucifer's soul; for in the soul of Lucifer he detected the great longing which reaches out as a living bridge from the Earth to Venus. This longing which the Greek soul recognized as being Lucifer's, he also felt to belong to the substance of Venus. The Greek did not see just the physical planet, he saw something which had been severed from the Luciferic being, just as the physical body is severed from man when he goes through the gate of death, and as the corpse of the Earth will be severed when the Earth has reached the goal of her evolution. But there is this difference: the physical body of man is destined to disintegrate, whereas the body of a Lucifer is destined, when it falls away from the being of soul, to shine as a star in the heavenly spaces. In what I have just said about Venus, I have at the same time described what in the spiritual sense stars are. What are they to a quickened insight — those wonders of the world, those wonders of Nature — but the bodies of gods? What has gone forth into space from the bodies of the gods has become star. Looking up into the starry worlds, this is how the Greek saw the planets and the fixed stars. He said to himself: ‘The spiritual beings whom we revere as gods were once upon a time out there in space. They have undergone development. When they reached that point which for them corresponds with what for man during earthly existence is death, then their physical substance left them and became star.’
Stars are the bodies of gods, gods whose souls work on in the world in another way, independently of those bodies— just as Lucifer became independent of his body and continues to work in our Earth evolution. To grasp this is to have a spiritualized conception of Nature and of the world. This of course has nothing in common with the wishy-washy pantheism which gives out that all Nature is permeated with a uniform divinity. Such a statement is inadequate; stars cannot simply be defined in this abstract way, as bodies through which the gods manifest themselves; when one looks up to those far-distant worlds one has to understand that the stars are bodies which the gods have abandoned, having progressed to other stages of evolution. But in this we find the difference between all the planetary gods and the Christ. As I have explained, the Christ leaves no such physical star at the death of the Earth, no residue still unspiritualized, but passes over entirely into the spiritual world, and as spirit goes over with the human soul into the Jupiter existence. That is one of the essential differences between the planetary spirits and the Christ-Spirit. It is of supreme importance to bear this distinction in mind, for it shows that the whole meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha would be lost if, after that event, He whom we rightly call the Christ could once more incarnate in a physical body. For if, after the Mystery of Golgotha, the Spirit to whom we rightly give the name of Christ were again to incarnate in a physical body, this physical substance would furnish the first germ to which other substance would attach itself to form a star which in the future would remain behind, and the profound significance, the profound purpose, of the Mystery of Golgotha would fail to be attained. The Christ would only have to incarnate in some physical body to belie Himself, and to annull the Mystery of Golgotha. He would then create a point of attraction of a material nature to which other material would attach itself. There would then have to be other incarnations of the same being. In this way a star would be created toward which man would yearn for all time. Such a nostalgia may not be brought about by the Christ being. Hence after the Mystery of Golgotha no one is justified in associating any incarnation in a body of flesh with the name of Christ. To do so implies either an abuse of the name of Christ, or a complete lack of comprehension of the Mystery of Golgotha.
It is extremely important that these things should be understood. For only so is it possible to bring the universal nature of the Christ into a right relationship to human evolution. The forces which will be produced in a part of the human soul through the obliteration of the longing for the Earth, these forces, like all others, have to be strengthened by opposition. Hence it must necessarily be brought about by the wise guidance of the world that again beings are left behind who, as was the case with the leading Angels of the Egypto-Chaldean time, with the Archangels of the Persian epoch, and the leading Archai of the Indian epoch, do not permeate themselves with the Christ Impulse, and therefore will continue to guide evolution without it. In future evolution they will be the element through which there will still admittedly be a certain longing and even a certain union with what as planetary residuum, as stars, will be out there in the universe and will be seen from Jupiter, just as our Venus, our Mars, and our Jupiter are seen from the Earth. Thus it is really a different stream of humanity and a different stream of the higher hierarchies which will continue to hanker after the influence exerted upon the humanity of Jupiter from its future planetary neighbors. One must clearly distinguish these two things; then the greatest truth will throw light upon the lesser ones. Everywhere these two streams intermingle. Everywhere we see the progressing Christ being, Who will guide men upward to a higher vision of Himself; on the other hand we see the forces of hindrance, to which we must not give the name of the Christ, forces which even incarnate in human bodies; they too can acquire knowledge of the Christ, but they cannot acquire a Christ Impulse such as have the Angels who completed their evolution in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch; they are beings who even in future times will be able to descend to fleshly embodiment.
We must clearly distinguish the one from the other. All the materialistic thought of our time comes from the Spirits who hinder, who hold progress back. To expect the salvation of mankind solely from individualities who could in the future incarnate in the flesh is a thought which comes from these Spirits of hindrance, for it is a materialistic principle. It deflects men from their upward course toward the vision of the spiritual. It concentrates their attention upon individualities incarnated in physical bodies upon whom they rely just because they can be seen by the physical senses.
Pre-Christian Greece had no clear insight into all that I have been saying about the Christ, because the Mystery of Golgotha had not yet taken place; but it had a spiritual perception of Lucifer and of his connection with the planet Venus, and of the connection of other gods with other stars. All these sensations and feelings which the Greeks derived from an archetypal wisdom are a preparation for the ideas, the feelings, the impulses of soul which awoke in the informed Greek when the name Dionysos was spoken. Hence what has been said today has been a necessary preparation to enable us tomorrow to enter into those wonders of the world, those marvels of Nature, of which the Greeks thought when they spoke of Dionysos. This will serve to build a bridge to something which concerns man more closely; this will lead us to his inner nature, to the ordeals of his soul.
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