Wednesday, October 14, 2020
The Book of Revelation and the Work of the Priest. Lecture 16 of 18
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 20, 1924:
I would now like to go back to something so that we can proceed from there in our deliberations. I pointed out that one sees something strange today, namely, there is a strong longing for spirituality in the subconscious wishes of the human soul. What is experienced on the physical plane today in a superficial and external way is basically quite different from what is really present in the souls of present-day men.
Something rather surprising happened today that confirms this. A few days ago I told you about the strange form my lectures to the workmen is taking in terms of their content due to the questions that are being asked. As I mentioned, one can see from the desires which are developing there that one can speak to people out of the spirit of the Apocalypse today if one finds a suitable tone. Sven though one doesn't talk to them about the Apocalypse right away, one can speak out of its spirit just as we're doing here.
Now the rather surprising thing that happened is that I arrived at something that I had to tell you today, because it arises out of the whole context of our studies here. This morning when I gave my lecture to the workmen, when everything which we will now have to discuss stood before me quite clearly, a question was asked that made it necessary to present scientific things that I had intended to present to you today. Here one can see the presence of subterranean influences and one can see that what is happening here in a real, spiritual way through the fact that these lectures are being given, arouses longings over there that would otherwise not exist. That lecture over there would never have been given today if we had not been talking about the Apocalypse here. And yet the lecture over there was given in response to a question that I didn't know outwardly, but which was asked.
This shows that our time is being taken hold of by a spiritual life that is still present in most people's sub-consciousness, and this especially concerns priests who must investigate the extent to which an inclination to enter into spiritual things is emerging from souls. Now we will have to contemplate our topics here in the spirit of the Apocalypse. That is what we intended to do today, but I had to indicate a number of things this morning about the same matter from quite different viewpoints in response to a question. One has to take such things seriously, for they are important.
We should point out how much more intimate the terminology of the Apocalypticer is, for if you take everything that has been said so far you will realize that when the Apocalypticer how man stands in the whole world he basically looks upon the stars and the earth as a unity. He connects man's real nature with both the stars and the earth. We will now have to point to the real thing that the Apocalypticer is referring to when he speaks about the seven-headed beast, the two-horned beast and about beasts in general. Up till now we have looked for these real things by pointing to what man can experience inwardly. However, you will find that whenever the Apocalypticer speaks about fixed stars he is talking about the divine spirit, as people continued to do during the whole Middle Ages. Whenever he speaks about planets he's speaking of angelic intelligences or intelligences which, have a hierarchical, angelic character. But when he speaks about beasts he's also referring to something concrete like this. He lets human beings participate in the crystal heavens, fixed stars and planets but also in the whole development that underlies the beasts that are continuously being mentioned in the Apocalypse. Now what outer physical reality do these beasts correspond to?
Whenever the Apocalypticer refers to beasts, he's really speaking about the forces and activities of comets. Once you know about this terminology you will begin to understand a number of things that the Apocalypticer knew about the nature of comets, although mankind in general then forgot about these things. So let's take a look at the nature of comets in connection with the Apocalypse. I would like to present this as follows.
If one takes the Copernican solar system that one learns in school with its sun, Mercury, Venus, earth, Mars, asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn and also Uranus and Neptune, one finds that it has a calculable regularity. If one doesn't make serious errors in one's calculations and if one makes the appropriate corrections, one finds that all one has to do is to turn the telescope to the calculated spot, and one will find the body in one's instrument. These are calculable things. Then one also has the orbits of various comets in there. One can calculate the orbits of many comets and the calculation gives rather strange results that can almost drive one crazy if one simply takes them as they stand.
I will just give one example. It was 1773 and a famous astronomer by the name of Lalande said that he would give a lecture about comets at the Paris Academy. The rumor spread that he was going to prove that there would be a collision between a comet and the earth that very same year. According to his calculations the orbits of the comet and the earth would intersect and a collision was inevitable. Just imagine the atmosphere at the time; this rumor was going around in Paris in 1773 and there was a big surge in the number of miscarriages, premature births, and deaths among severely ill people, who were shocked by this rumor. Catholic priests were getting rich because everyone was running to confession, and they all wanted to have last rites because the world was coming to an end. This report caused a terrible panic in Paris in 1773, so that the police, who after all do have a mission, forbade this lecture, because it was too dangerous. Since the lecture could not be given and since it turned out that all the miscarriages and premature births were unnecessary, it's not clear how Lalande would have explained the absence of destructive effects, for the calculation was correct as far as the collision of the comet and the earth was concerned, but in effect it also predicted that the collision would displace large quantities of ocean water at the equator and produce tremendous floods on the masses of land between the north and south poles. This catastrophe did not occur, even though the calculation was correct.
We can understand what happened here if we connect this incident with what happened to another comet, namely, the famous Biela comet. If one connects these two one arrives at the following. People were quite right to be very interested in the orbit of Biela's comet in 1832 and in all that can be predicted from calculations of the same. The appearance of this comet confirmed the calculations. The comet came so close to the earth that people said: this could get dangerous; for each time it comes back it's getting closer to the earth. And since Biela's comet came back every 6 or 7 years, people were particularly interested in its appearance in the mid 40's, for according to the calculations the comet was going to pass at a distance of thirteen times the radius of the moon's orbit around the earth, which is too close for comfort. The comet continued to get closer each time, although observers noted that it was getting fainter and fainter the closer it came. The 1860s were unfavorable for observations for the closer it got the fainter it got. However, when it was getting dangerously near the earth one discovered that it had split in two. And people were very curious about the decisive thing that was supposed to happen in 1872, because if the calculations were as accurate as for that other comet in 1773. something terrible would happen to the earth.
I was only a little boy in 1872, but I still remember quite well that pamphlets were distributed everywhere which said that the end of the world was at hand. A great deal was said and written about the earth's destruction at that time. I can't quote any statistics about the number of miscarriages and deaths and absolutions, but people certainly awaited this event with considerable anxiety. The big day came and I still remember how excited and expectant everyone was but 10 and behold the only thing that appeared was a very beautiful and magnificent meteor shower the comet didn't come back at all. It was a wonderful shower of meteors; as if a nocturnal fire in the sky was falling down to earth in many scintillating sparks. The comet had split up even more into a lot of small fragments which could be absorbed by the earth's atmosphere and which became connected with the earth; it had taken a course whereby it could be absorbed by the earth.
Now an astronomer by the name of Littrow wrote a very interesting paper back then; you should really read it, it is very interesting. He made very nice calculations, and taking everything into consideration he said that nothing too serious could happen through the near miss in 1872, but that if the comet stayed together his calculations showed that a real catastrophe would occur in 1933. That's right: 1933. That's right.
That is, if the comet had remained the way it was, there would have been a real catastrophe in 1933, for all the oceans would have flooded the earth in such a way that all creatures on earth would have perished. But it broke up into particles before then and was absorbed by the earth; the earth feeds on this world substance. So there will be no collision in 1933 — it's not too far away; but what the earth has absorbed will come up from the earth then as a spiritual reflection. What the earth has absorbed becomes spiritualized by other substances, and the spiritual elements rise up. The earth digests the comets and the spiritual elements rise up. That is why spiritualized, cometary things in the earth rise up from time to time.
Now this has a deep significance in the world context. I have often mentioned the odd things that transpired when railroad trains were first introduced. When people suggested that the post master in Berlin should have a railroad built, he said that he was already dispatching two coaches a week, and they were practically empty, so why bother building a railroad. And when people asked the medical board in Nuremberg whether it would be all right to build a railroad from Nuremberg to Fuerth, they said that this would not be advisable, because people's nerves would suffer terribly from it; people shouldn't be exposed to this for their body and soul would be deleteriously affected. However, if people did feel compelled to give in to this foolishness, the medical advisory board said, they should at least put up high wooden partitions on either side of the tracks so that the. farmers would not get brain concussions.
That was the verdiet of the learned board in Nuremberg at that time. One laughs about that today because one thinks: people were really narrow-minded back then. However, as I've often mentioned, I can't get too mirthful about this because the learned board was. right, if one goes by the state of scientific knowledge at the time. Although people don't go by what science knows too much. However, given the state of the art at that time, the experts had to say: people will ruin their nerves if they ride in railroad trains. That is even true to a' certain extent. If you compare present-day human nerves with earlier ones, you will see that the Nuremberg doctors were not entirely wrong. For I have always heard that people from Nuremberg never hang anyone until they get their hands on him. And Dr. Rittelmeyer will agree that they won't use a science that they don't already have.
So those scientists were only saying what they knew, and they would have been right — if comets didn't exist. People wouldn't be able to endure the demands that are made upon their physical bodies by their astral bodies, if these astral bodies which constitute the bestial element in man weren't being continuously corrected and healed by the absorbed cometary substances that are radiated back to the surface of the earth, and that have an equilibrating effect upon human capacities. So you see that man is placed into the universe in a strange way in this respect.
Let's look at Biela's comet of 1872. Fire falls from heaven; the earth absorbs it, so that someone who can percelve these things spiritually sees that something comes up again and influences man's astral body in a favorable or unfavorable way. Some comets have a therapeutic effect upon men's nerves, and others which the earth absorbs unleash wild astral forces in man when, they press upwards again.
Thus the Apocalypticer looks at cometary phenomena and he lets them run parallel with the descriptions of his beasts. He compares them with seven-headed beasts because at that time the latter were much more closely connected with physical conditions, and a comet that was split into seven parts was a heavenly expression of what occurred on the earth. Likewise, the two-horned beast referred to a comet with two tails.
Wild superstitions were connected with comets, and they prevented people from knowing much about them, except that one calculated their orbits and one was bothered by their erratic manifestations, etc. Once in a while someone with a good head like Hegel pointed to other connections between cometary things and earthly things. Hegel occasionally treated himself to a bubbly glass of wine, and he quite rightly observed that good and bad wine years are connected with comets. Now just consider the matter in its large, cosmic connections. Just consider that the earth consumes cometary substances and ejects them again in a spiritualized form. This becomes united with human astral bodies in a good way or a bad one. The cometary essence that we see in the sky at a certain time is up there. Where is it after this particular time?
In a lecture in Paris in 1906, I pointed out that cometary substances contain compounds of carbon and nitrogen or cyanogen. This was before anyone else had mentioned anything about it, although scientists later confirmed it through spectral analysis. That is rather significant, because the cyanides that are distributed in the earth in trace amounts are used to purify astral bodies. An indispensable cosmic doctor is at work in the cosmos and he carries out such therapies more or less continuously.
Just consider that a comet that one sees at a particular time becomes atomized in the way that I described and comes down from the heavens as a rain of fire; later it is in the ground, still later it goes from the soil into the roots, stems, leaves and flowers of plants. We eat the cometary bolts and the ferments that are given to the earth by the cosmos in our daily bread.
The Apocalypticer looks at the phenomena and he sees that favorable spiritual effects arise from one comet and unfavorable ones from another. A beast, or a comet in a cosmic sense, frees itself from its imprisonment in the earth. The beast gets out» this means something for human evolution. And so one will point to very intense realities if one wants to indicate large, important points in the evolution of the earth and mankind.
The earth and everything that exists on it might I have perished in 1933 if another wise arrangement weren't there that can't be calculated, so that the calculations may not always be correct if the comets have taken on the other form. From the Apocalypticer s viewpoint one would say: Before men can grasp the etheric Christ in the right way, mankind must first meet and deal with the beast who will rise up in1933.
That is spoken from an Apocalyptic viewpoint. Here a spiritual view is united with an observation of nature. The basic spiritual character of what is present in the universe becomes clear here. If you consider the farmers in 1872 who stood outdoors and observed this rain of light and you add the spiritual knowledge that is available about this, which I have outlined here, and if you compare this with some of the descriptions in the Apocalypse you will see that it agrees word for word and that the Apocalypse refers to real events in nature.
This justifies one in saying that the Apocalypse is a book with seven seals. One has to unseal it in this way so that one finds out what is meant. It doesn't seem much wiser to me to ask why the Apocalypticer wrote something that has seals than to ask why we seal our letters when we mail them. We seal them so that people for whom they weren't intended will not read them. The same goes for the Apocalypticer. He wanted the Apocalypse to be read by people who are qualified to do so and who know how to open the seals. No one knows how to open them if he isn't competent in a certain sense, that is, if he doesn't, as it were, get a knife from the spiritual powers to cut the scroll open.
So this shower of light was there in the 1870s. The comet's activity was much more spiritual in 1872 when it was supposed to came back, than in its previous appearance's; it was almost entirely a Spiritual activity. The comet has poured down upon the earth as a shower of luminous meteors ever since, and the earth absorbs them. And Michael approached the earth and began to rule it in a shower of golden light at the end of the seventies. Here you have events in nature that are really spiritual events, or spiritual events that are strong enough to be nature events. You will only arrive at a real insight into the way that the world is designed if you see that all natural events become spiritual events, and that all spiritual occurrences have the intensity of natural occurrences. Then you will connect moral things with natural things in evolution and you will no longer say that faith should be the only content of religious life and you will be more inclined to make knowledge the content of religious life. That is something you can gain through a more intensive study of the Apocalypse.
We will probably be able to conclude these studies tomorrow or the day after.