Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 19, 1924:
We will now try to imagine how what is said about the woes, etc., in the Apocalypse often plays into our time, and how the consciousness soul can be taken hold of by this and how it of course points back to previous experiences on earth at a certain level, — germinally indicating tremendous upheavals in advance. We should realize that what I interpreted for you yesterday has an important influence on the overall shaping of human evolution.
We should consider that although the things that take place in the spiritual sphere are not taken into account very much by our contemporaries and by our age in general, they nevertheless have a very strong and much more extensive effect upon things than people think; people generally think that the effects of spiritual events are restricted to the spiritual sphere. For instance, when I said yesterday that certain leading personalities in eastern Europe are developing thoughts which really represent a force that should only be active in cloud formations, it indicates that what is going on in the heads of Russian leaders will someday be something that will appear as events in the clouds after it develops out of its present germinal condition. So that one can say that the current upheavals in Russia will later be tremendous stormy revolutions that will occur above the heads of men.
We're now coming to another secret of Apocalyptic vision that should explain a certain passage. Thereby we're getting ever closer to a real interpretation of the mighty visions in the Apocalypse. We're coming to what we with our present way of experiencing things should make clear to ourselves. If we look at life over the short span of time that people usually consider today without going back to the starting condition of the earth or to its final one through daring and usually foolish hypotheses, — if one surveys this without the aid of spiritual observations, one can say: Nature's processes take their course in the outer world; we see lesser natural events that occur over the years and we see greater events in nature such as earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions.
However, what we call historical events such as the 30 years' war, Louis XIV, etc., run alongside these, although we don't feel the need to connect the two series because we only have a limited overview of these events. They follow each other, and they occur simultaneously, and no one feels an urge to make a connection between the two series, because one thinks that they run parallel. However, one only has to look at a longer span of time and one will see that this parallel idea leads one astray. For if one looks back from the present life on earth to a previous one — which must of course be understood in a theoretical way as long as it is not grasped by the Imaginations which the spiritual investigator gives — if one brings repeated earth lives into one's real experience one gets the impression. One looks over a meadow and into the woods and one notices how different these things are from what they were during one's past incarnation on earth. One notices this even if one is far away from the place where one was last time. For everything on earth is changing continuously, and no matter where one was before, the plants and animals have taken on a very different character.
One feels this as soon as one becomes aware of, something from the previous incarnation and one then looks out into nature again in a free way. One feels that this is very astonishing and bewildering. One gets the inner feeling that what one sees in one's environment didn't come from what was there at the time of the previous incarnation, but that the main part of it originated elsewhere. It's like this: someone, with the customary scientific world view looks upon what happens in nature as a straight line. For instance, one has the years 343, 895, 1260, 1924. Then one thinks that what is growing on the meadow today came from the seeds of what grew before and so on back to 1260, 895, etc. One follows the generations of seeds from one to the next and one thinks of this as a straight line. But this is not so. At the moment I mentioned one discovers that this is not so. I have often pointed out that the body which one carries around today is not the same as the one, one had 7 to 8 years ago, with the exception of a few inclusions. Some things harden during the course of one's life as I mentioned in the other course but in any case none of the substances that are in your body now were in it when you were a three-year-old child; all of the physical matter has been exchanged.
Likewise, nothing of what was present in former ages is present, in the meadow with all its flowers. Instead one gets the idea that the present meadow came down from spiritual worlds, and that what was a meadow in previous times also came down from spiritual worlds, etc., and that what was a meadow centuries ago has perished completely. Spiritual seeds that come down from the upper regions are continuously replacing what existed previously, and it's not just a matter of physical seeds that are handed down by heredity.
Once one has grasped that what is a meadow today was not a meadow in, say, the 13th century, but that there was another meadow there which has perished in the meantime, one gets an idea of the mission of snow: It is I the bearer of a continual dying process. One gets more snow every year, and ice is continually renewed from above, as nature dies into this whole, elementary shaping process that is present in the dynamics of snow and ice| formation. This is the way things are in our time. However, this state of affairs will eventually change. We will say more about this shortly. However, I would first like to mention the following.
As soon as one notices that the meadow out there came down from super-terrestrial spheres via snow and ice — and it makes no difference which region one was previously incarnated in — one knows: you helped to create this meadow in the time between your last incarnation and now. You helped to build up everything in nature that is around you in your present incarnation. That is something one notices. And then one also becomes aware that this is only a temporary state of affairs.
Scientists are always saying that the processes you find out in nature are something permanent. But this is really nonsense. In reality nothing out there remains. The fact is that everything changes including the laws of nature. That is why today's scientists have gotten to the point where they only look upon the most abstract laws of nature as permanent ones. Generalities like: Every effect has a cause. Matter is constant — that really say nothing are considered to be eternal laws of nature.
This alternation on earth between the greening summer which dissipates moisture into warmth and the withering winter that solidifies moisture into ice and snow, did not always exist, and a time is coming when it will no longer exist. Instead a condition will arise in which there will be something that doesn't exist today.
You see, we have the alternating states today — I would like to emphasize this and I would like it if you grasp this quite clearly — we have the present state of affairs: Firstly, summer, which evaporates watery things through warmth, and secondly winter, which uses cold to harden the same watery things into ice and snow. Fall and spring is a condition that oscillates between these two. All of this will gradually become evened out. Summer will no longer evaporate aqueous things as much, and winter won't harden them into ice and snow as much. Instead there'll be an intermediate condition where watery things will have a different consistency, namely a considerably thicker one than in the summer time, where it remains and doesn't just pass over into another one. Snow and ice will not look like they do today; they will look like a reflective, transparent mass that will remain in both summer and winter. This is the emergence of the “glassy sea” which the Apocalypticer refers to.
We have pointed to a natural phenomenon which we grasped through an observation of events in nature and we have placed it in tine. Now since we know that everything that is done around us really comes from us, and that we help to make the meadows on which our karma places us when we incarnate, we should also be able to extend this to the great transformation of the earth. And it is quite correct to say that men will contribute ever more towards the creation of the glassy sea through their inner dynamic qualities and through the intellectuality that they experience and develop in the consciousness soul age, so that men will work together on the great events of the future. Here you have a unified working of what occurs in men and of what takes place outside in nature and not just a parallelism.
Now you will also be able to understand something else, and that is the following. We should realize that when we come into the divine element that is connected with human evolution and into the state of equilibrium between the Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces that is continually being maintained, — if we grasp the real essence of this, then whenever we rim into this, when we rightly perceive what is not an influence from Lucifer and what is not an influence from Ahriman, that is, when we perceive what comes from this progressive, divine spirituality that is really connected with human evolution, — if we approach the divine element that keeps a balance between the realms where Luciferic elements are continuously flowing in and Ahrimanic things are continuously flowing in, we find that the basic force in everything that is streaming through here and which forms men outwardly, and which inwardly ensouls them and permeates them with spirit — is pure love. This fundamental force is pure love.
The universe consists of pure love, as far as its inner substance and being is concerned and in so far as it relates to human beings. It is nothing else; we don't find anything besides pure love in the divine things that are assigned to men. However, this love is an inner element and it can be experienced by souls in an inner way. It would never become outwardly manifest if it didn't create its body from the etheric elements that we know as light. If we really look at the world in an occult way, we get to the point where we tell ourselves: the fundamental essence of the world is inner love substantiality that becomes manifest outwardly as light.
That is not an opinion or a belief for someone who has an insight into these things; it is knowledge that was gained in a quite objective way. To the extent that man Is rooted in the universe, the latter is essentially love that becomes manifest outwardly as light. Essentially, because we have to do with all the essences or beings of the higher hierarchies who are carried by this love and who experience this love inwardly, which however becomes manifest as love, if we want to use an abstract idea. The outer sheen of beings is love and the outer sheen of love is light. That is something that one repeatedly emphasized in all the mysteries, and which is real knowledge that has been acquired by every true occultist, and it is not just an opinion or a belief.
Now the fact is that this is one stream in the universe, and it is important to us as human beings, but it is only one stream. If we look at the age of materialism since the 15th, 16th, 17th centuries, at the climax of materialism during the 40's of the 19th century and at the development of materialism afterwards with everything that people think and do and with all the terribly destructive forces that have been raging in humanity since the middle of the 19th century, although many people haven't even really noticed them yet, — we can well imagine that divine love which unfolds in light weaves above all of this.
However, if you take some very clean water, some absolutely crystal clear water and dip a dirty sponge in it and squeeze it, and let the water run out again, you will see that it is cloudy and dirty. You have let the dirty sponge suck up the crystal clear water and you have squeezed it out again and it has become dirty water. The crystal clear, pure water can't help it that it flows out as dirty water when one squeezes the sponge. And the divine love that is springing up in pure light can't help it that it is being absorbed by the age of materialism, by a sponge that is permeated by impurities and that it thereby becomes something quite different when it reemerges. So when crystal clear water is absorbed by a dirty sponge it becomes cloudy, undrinkable water, and by analogy we can imagine that when divine love that appears in light is sucked up by all the evil ingredients that are latently or openly raging in humanity, it becomes divine wrath.
The secret of the next age is that divine love will appear in the form of divine wrath through what happens in humanity. It will appear in the form of the divine wrath that will stop the harmful effects of the materialistic arrangements that are arising in our materialistic, consciousness age by destroying them. Proceeding from what appears to the Apocalypticer in pictures, he speaks of the pouring out of the vials of wrath in the next age. That is something that was expressed in the mysteries in a sentence that had a terribly shocking effect upon the neophytes: Divine love appears in the form of divine wrath in the sphere of human illusions.
That is a statement that was handed down in the mysteries many millennia ago and it lives in a prophetic way in John's visions in the Apocalypse. He describes how divine love becomes sullied through the preceding events and what will have to happen as the necessary fulfillment of the preceding, namely, the pouring out of divine wrath in an age when men's actions will have a much greater effect upon events in nature than they do today. For the parallelism that gives men the illusory idea that nature and man's soul and spirit run side by side, only applies in the middle parts of evolutionary periods. 3ven in the smaller evolutions such as the present period between the Atlantean catastrophe and the war of all against all, men had a greater influence upon events in nature at the beginning and end of these periods through what went on in them. Hence it is not just a fable that a large part of humanity was using black magic on a large scale near the end of the Atlantean period of evolution. The consequence of the crimes that men committed through their dealings with black magic was the events in nature that brought about the Atlantean catastrophe.
Therefore, many things that are happening now will give rise to later events in nature. One of these is the Russian revolution, which also had many occult causes; its storms of thunder and lightning will pour out over the heads of men all summer long for years to come. Other world elements that are gathering in our time are clouding the gods' love, and will appear as events in nature that we can only look upon as a transformation of divine love into divine wrath through the illusions of men.
Looked at from a real and true point of view, the divine wrath that is poured out over men is still a manifestation of divine love, and that is why the sentence was formulated in the way that I gave it. If divine love would become weak and if it would seemingly take pity on men in this age, it would be no real compassion, for it would ignore the necessary consequences of human thoughts and actions. That would be very loveless, for then humanity would become corrupt. The deleterious things that men did and that would have an unspeakably harmful effect on further human evolution can only be eliminated by the outpouring of divine wrath, which is a metamorphosis of divine love. This sentence in the manuscripts is so old that it is often stated in its oriental form in Europe, so that one says: In the region of maya divine love becomes manifest as divine wrath. Here again one can see how completely the Apocalypse is taken from the really active ingredients in the world. The deeper one goes into it the more one realizes that one can really rely on this Apocalypse; although that is a rather trivial way of putting it. It is basically something that tells priests what is happening in the course of human and world evolution. It was originally given to priests as the really esoteric part of Christianity in addition to the other part that was exoteric.
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