Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 17, 1924:
Sunday, October 11, 2020
The Book of Revelation and the Work of the Priest. Lecture 13 of 18
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 17, 1924:
I have already shown that the Apocalypse is built up on the number principle — one of the occult principles — from a certain view point. Prom my explanations about the fundamental rhythmic numbers in the universe and in man earlier today you may have seen how deeply numbers are grounded in the universe, to the extent that they can disclose rhythmical things.
The buildup in accordance with numbers is quite natural with occult revelations which are written in the way that the Apocalypse of John is. According to the modern principle of initiation the visions that the Apocalypticer speaks about arise if one has Imaginations before one and Inspiration speaks into them. Then one sees the Imaginations spread out before one in a pictorial way and Inspirations speak through them. However, when this occurs one has a number principle whereby the number 7 is always the most perfect one for all occultists. This is practically a tenet of occultism: 7 is the most perfect number. The number principle enables one to follow things up. You shouldn't think that this number 7 has much content or that its content is very important for one. But it is of very great importance when one is listening to Inspirations. If one lives in the number seven one can understand Inspirations in many different ways. I will give you an example. Let's suppose someone feels that there are important spiritual backgrounds behind his own age. Of course most people around the world feel the spiritual backgrounds in their own time; this is only natural from a human point of view, but it is rather arbitrary nevertheless. For if I am an observer in 1924, the observation year is 1924, whereas if someone else is an observer in the year 1905, that is the observation year, and so on. However, if I am the observer at any time and I know what I'm observing, and I'm able to go 7 impressions back from any given impression, then according to the laws of the spiritual world whatever makes the seventh impression explains the first one, and the fourteenth one explains both of these. So this is really a methodic principle to find one's way into what something can tell one. Just as one has to know the language which someone is speaking in order to understand him, so the main thing is to be able to live in this number seven.
This is the way one has to look at these things. For this revelation of the number seven is very complicated. All kinds of things in the universe are arranged in accordance with the number seven, and to a lesser extent according to twelve and other numbers. One can follow up the events which explain things from every point through multiples of 7.
We can do this precisely in connection with the fact that we indicate such an important point yesterday, which really seems to be extremely important in our age where Michael is regulating things in the world. We pointed out that John's significant vision of the woman clothed with the sun, the dragon under her feet, giving birth to a little boy will appear to men in a particular form in the near future. Therewith we have gained an extremely important point of departure; and from this point of view an apocalypse, every apocalypse and especially John's Apocalypse is the most impressive if one grasps what one is standing in in this way.
When I tried to interpret the Apocalypse in Nuremberg in 1908 it was an entirely different time in the entire Anthroposophical movement. The main thing then was to interpret Anthroposophy by means of the Apocalypse, as it were. One can interpret a great deal through the Apocalypse, and the events in the world which it was important to mention at that time could already be seen in the Apocalypse. However, as I already mentioned a number of times, you should identify yourselves with the Apocalypse and realize that the Apocalypse describes a large number of events which proceed in accordance with multiples of seven. Since I pointed to the events which are connected with the woman clothed with the sun and the dragon under her feet, you will be able to tell in which Apocalyptic point of time we're living from the point of view of the experiences of the consciousness soul.
My lectures in 1908 dealt more with the evolution of mankind in general, and with the evolution of the astral body, but with respect to the consciousness soul which doesn't rim parallel with the other evolutionary processes, but pushes into them we're really living in the age of the trumpet sounds today.
We're standing at the beginning of the development of the consciousness soul, and we only hear the trumpet sounds if this consciousness soul elevates itself to the point where it can have supersensible visions, because people do not interpret what goes on down below in a supersensible way to day. The significant thing today is that people accept things indifferently and that they do not interpret them in a supersensible way. In Anthroposophical lectures I have often referred to a particular point in the 19th century in this connection, namely to the beginning of the 1840s. I said that the beginning of the forties is a significant incision into the development of the civilized world, from a spiritual viewpoint. It is the culmination of materialism, as it were. Everything that is connected with materialism was already decided in 1843/44. What happened after this until now is basically only an after effect of this, and everything that happens in the future will also be an after effect. This point in time at the beginning of the forties is really extremely important for what has happened to the civilized population of Europe and its American appendage, for the breaking in of Ahrimanic powers into human affairs was a tremendously intensive one. You can say: yes, but there were even worse events after the years 1843/44. However, this only seems to be the case. You have to remember that Ahriman is smarter than human beings. Ahriman did his most important work in 1843/44, and he arranged things in the way that he does this in accordance with his intelligence. This is the low point in the materialistic path, or the summit, if you prefer. Then men continued to go about their business, and the things they did later on are sometimes seemingly nastier, but they are not as terrible for the totality of human evolution. If one looks at them from a spiritual viewpoint, they are the after effects of what was projected at the beginning of the forties. The sixth angel began to blow his trumpet at the beginning of the forties and he will continue to sound until the events of which I spoke yesterday will begin at the end of the 20th century, when the seventh trumpet will begin to sound.
We are definitely in the midst pf the three woes. This is the second woe that civilized humanity is going through in the age of the consciousness soul, which was precede by the fifth trumpet back to 150 years earlier. And if we follow the trumpets back with respect to the seven-foldness of the consciousness soul, we arrive at a somewhat earlier point in time. The consciousness age begins in 1413 down below here on earth; but things have shifted, and. earlier times work into them. The trumpet sounds go back to about the age of the Crusades. In real occult centers one always looked upon this time of the Crusades up to our time as the age of the trumpet sounds, in ä certain sense. You will be able to connect the stages which are described in the Apocalypse' with outer events. For instance, when Copernicanism takes hold and when materialism sets in one third of the human beings are killed, that is, they stop developing their full spirituality. And the plague of locusts which is described in the Apocalypse is really very shocking.
Here one comes to something which one doesn't like to talk about, although of course it belongs to the things that priests must deal with. This plague of locusts is with us in a very prominent way from a purely consciousness standpoint. Of course such things should not be discussed when we speak in a theoretical way or when we speak to humanity in general, where cures for sick conditions can always occur. But if it's a question of priestly activities, then of course one must know with whom one is dealing, just as one has to know this for normal humanity.
As a rule, the people who call themselves liberals or democrats are very glad if they can point to evidence that the number of people in a particular region on earth is increasing tremendously. An increase in the population is something which is very much desired, especially by politically minded democratic and liberal people, and also by people who think that they are free thinkers and intellectuals.
Now first of all this is not quite correct, because the statistics are based on errors; people usually look at one part of the earth and they don't realize that the other parts of the earth were more densely populated in previous times than they are today. It is not quite correct; however, on the whole it is correct in the sense that there is a kind of a surplus of human beings who are already appearing in our time who have no egos, who are not really human. This is a terrible truth. They walk around and are not incarnations of an ego; they enter into the physical line of heredity and receive an etheric body and an astral body. In a certain way they are equipped with an Ahrimanic consciousness, and they look human if one doesn't look too closely, but they are not human beings in the full sense of the word.
This is a terrible truth, which is present, it's a truth, and when the Apocalypticer speaks about the plague of locusts during the trumpets epoch he is referring directly to human beings. Here again one can see how good the Apocalypticer's vision is, for such men in their astral body look exactly the way the Apocalypticer describes them — like etheric locusts with human faces. One definitely has to think about such supersensible things in this way, and priests must know about such things. For a priest is a minister. Hence he must also be able to find words for everything that happens in such a soul. They're not always bad souls; they can just be souls who get to the soul stage but are lacking an ego.
One will certainly realize this when one runs into these human beings. A priest has to know this, for after all there is fellowship among men with regard to such matters. People with normal souls suffer through their association with such persons who really go through the world like human locusts. The question can and must arise: How should one behave towards such human beings? It is often very difficult to relate to such people because they feel things deeply, they can feel things very deeply, but one notices that there is no real individuality in them. However, one must of course take care to keep the fact that they have no individualities from them, otherwise insanity will necessarily result. But even though one has to conceal this from them, it's a question of arranging things for such souls — after all they are souls, even though they're not spirits — in such a way that these people can develop in the company of others, that they can make connections with others and go along with them, as it were. These human beings display the nature and essence of human beings fairly closely until their 20th year. The intellectual or mind soul only emerges around age 20, and this makes it possible for the ego to live out its life on earth.
Anyone who says that one shouldn't act in a sympathetic way to such ego-less, individuality-less people, since they won't incarnate again and because they have no individuality — is very much mistaken. He would also have to say that one shouldn't behave in a sympathetic way towards children. One must decide what is really inside such men in each individual case. Sometimes such men contain posthumous souls, that is, posthumous with respect to the actual or normal human souls that arose at a particular time in evolution and which incarnate repeatedly as men. These are souls which remained behind, or they are souls which returned belatedly from other planets, to which almost all human beings went during a certain age. Such souls may be present in such human bodies. Thus we must consciously educate such men like permanent children.
All of this is really secreted in the Apocalypse. And if one takes these ideas in the Apocalypse that are given as Imaginations, they sometimes cut into one's heart in a terrible way. It's really horrible the way he talks about all kinds of suffering that will befall mankind on earth. with regard to our age we can only say that a great deal of this is already here as far as the spiritual aspects go.
Then of course there are mildly grand ideas like the angels who come down with incense and a censer. There's a reference to the smoke of incense. Then our gaze immediately falls upon a great deal which happened at the time of the Crusades. The trumpets go back to the Crusades. What we see in the sphere of the consciousness soul enters the consciousness soul of humanity during the Crusades epoch.
Here one finds that consciousnesses of individual personalities arise during the time of the Crusades and what is connected with this, who really had tremendously strong impressions from their experiences of the spiritual world. Here we really meet what I would like to call geniuses of piety. It's very important for us to realize that we meet geniuses of, religiousness there.
If we go further back, we find that for the consciousness sphere the period between the Mystery of Golgotha and the time of the Crusades and everything that is connected with this is a smaller epoch that corresponds to the opening of the seven seals. One can only understand this completely if one realizes the following. Just think of how many personalities arise during the time of the Crusades who direct almost all of their religiousness into their depths, into their intensity of feeling, into an inner mystical experience. This begins at that time, whereas previously one looked up into the whole universe when one wanted to perceive the divine world; the previous state of affairs also existed in tone-setting places, although there was a continual battle with the stream that proceeded from Rome. They had an understanding for the God who lives, weaves and works in the sensory phenomena to which they looked up. However, at some point everything was more or less directed within. The great geniuses of mysticism appear. Previously one received divine revelations through the perception of the universe; afterwards we have a feeling of the, inner kindling of light which the human heart can feel, so that divine things can be illuminated from within men.
The stages which the Apocalypse describes are also present here. We have the first, quiet, victorious advance, where the spreading out of Christianity depends on the victorious spirit and word, where Christianity spreads out in the sub-depths of the social life at that time. Then we have a second epoch, where the spread of, Christianity takes away a lot of what one could call peace from the world. Christianity participates quite a bit in the wars which take place in a second epoch. Then we see an epoch where a gradual dying out of the inner impulse of Christianity occurs, where Christianity becomes the state religion, which of course is a dying of the real Christian impulse. Then we have the period which corresponds to the fourth seal, when Islam breaks in in the way I described. And so it goes; seal after seal is opened, and then what occurs under the influence of significant religious geniuses and under the influence of the Crusades is something that one can observe if one follows up what really happened more exactly. In this respect all the history books are really a falsification of history.
Up till the Crusades the spread of Christianity in a good sense through the repeated efforts of countless members of monastic orders and also in a more external and bad sense, occurred through the direct inspiration of the Palestinian stories. Of course, the gospels were only referred to by priests and not by laymen, but the things that happened were definitely influenced by what the priests learned from the gospels. The priests had the gospels and the cultic rites; the cult gradually became something that reflected the supersensible world in a sensory way. The priests looked upon the sacrifice in the mass as a direct portal to the supersensible world, and therefore they looked up to the starry heavens less and less for their divine, spiritual inspiration. All of the wonderful prophecies and wisdom which I mentioned this morning in connection with ancient astrology and astrosophy disappeared almost entirely by the time of the Crusades.
During the time of the Crusades we suddenly see people appearing who travelled from east to west. Some of them are coming back from the Crusades, and others who came a little later had taken a deep interest in the secrets of the Orient. A large number of writings were brought from the east that were later lost or destroyed. They were definitely brought, but not many of them survived because people didn't watch their literary possessions as vigilantly then as one does today. However, the cosmic Christianity which they contained was handed down by word of mouth from about the time of the Crusades. People began to develop a deep interest in this at the time of the Crusades.
A kind of 7th seal is opened here. And one could say that things have really changed with regard to people's respect for written things. For instance, it's still uncertain at the moment, but if this Italian professor really did find handwritten things by Livius, you can imagine what a storm the Italian state will kick up in order to acquire them. And yet you wouldn't have to go back too far to get to a time when the state would have been quite indifferent to whether or not this or that had been found. This is something which has only developed rather recently.
I once witnessed a find like this. When I was at the Goethe and Schiller archives we received a letter by Goethe which looked rather odd; it was dirty and terribly torn. To us this was a real crime; that was no way to treat Goethe's letters. We tried to find out what was behind this. And we discovered that the letter had once been in the possession of Kuno Fischer, and he had simply sent Goethe's original letters to the printers with his notes and comments in the margins, without bothering to copy them. It was a bit miraculous that this letter had survived, since one generally doesn't keep manuscripts.
Thus it's not too surprising that the Christianity that was still alive in the Orient, or the orientalism that helped to explain Christianity were spread by the Crusades. What we would call cabalistic truths spread and a few people who might have known much more than Jakob Boehme lived at a time when no one thought that this was strange, whereas during Jakob Boehme's time the fact that someone like him existed created a sensation.
It is the time of the Crusades, where we want to point to what was going on in men's consciousnesses, and not so much to the outer events that are described in history books, — it's the time when the seal age gave way to the trumpet age. People with a little depth to them have always had a feeling about the time of the Crusades which made them say: Ah yes, the trumpet sounds; if I look at the thing from supersensible viewpoints it's really terrible what is going on there with respect to human souls. However, men on earth don't hear the trumpets, even though they're there.
A great many people should be aware of this trumpet period, since we're living at the time of the 6th trumpet, and you know what the most important effects and characteristics of this trumpet are. We're told that a third part of the men are killed, as I mentioned. Of course this doesn't happen all at once. But this killing refers to the absence of an ego in those men who had already been prepared previously through their locust forms.
These are things which force priests to look more deeply into the structure of what actually occurs. After all, priests are supposed to be dealing with supersensible things. We are surrounded by supersensible things in all directions, and what one can observe in human beings through the fact that they have a physical body is only one segment of human life. As soon as we press into the supersensible world we see that people do things of which they are often not aware. It could be that it's in someone's karma to behave in a particular way towards another human being in this earth life; and one can sometimes not know what it does to the other person's life if he goes by him without paying any attention to him. Of course later on karma will exert much more force and the thing will be adjusted; but maybe it could have been adjusted in this lifetime already. Someone who should have had something to do with another human being in this life cannot be moved to do it and he passes him by. One doesn't necessarily have to notice this in outer life on the physical plane. No real objections to this can be made, since the person concerned has done all of his duties, from a conventional outer viewpoint, but perhaps he did something that can strike terribly deep wounds into something which is connected with world evolution. Then one cannot say that one is dealing with super-terrestrial things, but with supersensible things, for supersensible things are constantly happening on earth.
It will be necessary to understand the Apocalypse in a serious way, to the extent that the one whom I called the etheric Christ will make himself visible within humanity. Therefore, it was due to a very healthy feeling which came up out of your deepest sub-consciousness that you wanted to make the Apocalypse into the object of these studies. Perhaps you initially had a different idea about what I can give about the Apocalypse at this time, but that you wanted to hear something about the Apocalypse from me was definitely the voice of the times in your hearts. And one can say that the fact that the need arose in you to understand the Apocalypse shows that you have a certain relationship with John the Apocalypticer, since you priests belong together and have become united in such tendencies. Since this permeation with the spirit of the Apocalypse is very necessary for you, you will not find any contradiction in. the fact that one can find various sevenfold epochs, that one can really begin them anywhere and that one then discovers how things proceed; but if one cannot look upon the number principle as the methodic thing one won't find any connections in world evolution at all. Therewith we have really touched upon the productive side of the Apocalypse for our time.
Now we usually find other events sprinkled into the Apocalypse at the places where one set of seven goes over into the next one. that we run into here is very much in need of an explanation. If one only reads the Apocalypse in an external way one might think that there are so and so many numbers of human beings who have the seal of God on their foreheads in a particular epoch, so that they are among the fortunate ones who are rescued, or saved, or, however one wants to put it, whereas the others cannot be saved. This, is something which can be depressing if one reads the Apocalypse in a thoughtful way.
However, one should realize that there is always a difference between racial development and individual development in ancient writings. One should realize that no one felt at all depressed in earlier times when one said that so and so many will be saved in a particular race, whereas the others will be destroyed. No one included himself among these because one thought in a realistic way. It's just like today, where everyone is anxious to have his life insured.
Here one calculates how long one will probably live. Insurance companies don't accept people who will probably die soon because if they insured a lot of people who will soon die, their cash boxes would soon be empty. They want to have people who live a long time and make a lot of payments. Hence one must calculate the insured's probable life expectancy on the basis of past experience through probability calculus, which is a very interesting method of calculation. I have never found that anyone felt that he had to die at the moment he was supposed to according to the no doubt correct methods of the insurance companies. There's no such thing. One doesn't feel obliged to die. And this is based on a reality. As soon as one gets into numbers one is not grasping the stage of spiritüality at which a particular human individuality is.
When one says such things, one is touching upon a certain mystery and an occult secret. This is based on the fact that one thinks that if one has 1,2,3,4,5 individualities and one counts them and then uses the number — already in counting them — that this must also be of importance for the spiritual world. But it is not important in the same way. Numbers enter in at the moment when the spiritual world breaks through and becomes manifest. As for instance when it becomes manifest in the world year or in breathing, or wherever the spiritual world breaks through. So that if one ascends to a spiritual consciousness, one needs the number at the boundary or threshold into the spiritual world. One doesn't get further there if one doesn't have a number or something similar to a number. But once on has crossed the threshold and one wants to do something with numbers, nothing fits. Therefore, when an occult writer like the Apocalypticer speaks of racial development which takes place on earth, he can very well say that there are so and so many people in this category — and we v/ill see next time what these numbers mean — but a single human individuality cannot feel that he is affected by this, because these numbers refer to the development of races and not to human individualities. We will go into how all of this is possible the next time.