Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 11, 1924:
Before we go any further in our study of the Apocalypse we must add one more method to read it properly, which however is taken more from outside. Then the main thing is to apply what we read in the Apocalypse to our present time. In order to do this, we must first look at the spiritual foundations from which this Apocalypse arose. But I don't mean that one should do this by trying to explain a book through one's times in a trivial historical sense. This is not really applicable to writings like the Apocalypse which are conceived out of the spiritual world in the way I described. Nevertheless, it was created in the way that it could be created in its time in accordance with the spiritual conditions — not in accordance with external historical conditions, but in accordance with spiritual conditions. Let's take a look at this time.
Let's connect this time of the first Christian centuries with general world evolution in a spiritual way. The year 333 A.D. is an important year if we look at the evolution which occurs behind outer events. This year 333 is the point in time in which the ego shot into the intellectual or mind soul, which developed between the year 747 before the Mystery of Golgotha and the beginning of the age of the consciousness soul in the 15th century. This year 333 stands right in the middle. The intellectual and mind soul developed during this epoch and it played an important role in the development of the Greek mentality. It continued to work until the age of the consciousness soul began. The Mystery of Golgotha took place in this age of the development of the intellectual soul or hearty feelings soul.
Now we must realize that this shooting in of the ego into the intellectual and mind soul is something which is very important. One has to tell oneself that one understands things with the intellectual and feeling soul. But this bursting in of the ego which occurred around the year 333 nevertheless shook up the humanity which comes into consideration for the reception of spiritual influences; it really shook them up right down into the depths of their soul. Anyone who wants to participate in the spiritual life and to work along spiritual lines must see the outer facts of historical developments on their spiritual backgrounds.
Which major events must be looked at in the light of this ego-entry into man's soul at the time when it was occurring behind the illusions of outer events, as it were? It was here that the whole relation off divine beings to men started tó become uncertain, contested and misunderstood.
At this point vie have the significant dispute between Arius and Athanasius. Men started to become unsure of how they should think about the relation of the gods to the world and to human beings, etc., at the time when a somewhat unconscious question about how the divine ego lives in human nature arose from a lack of clarity which was present when the ego shot into the soul. The two views of Arius and Athanasius were sharply opposed to each other, and we see that Äthanasius' view gained the upper hand in western Europe whereas the view of Arius gradually lost favor.
Let's look at this contrast from a spiritual standpoint, because it is important that we do so if we really want to understand the inner meaning and the inner spirit of something like the Apocalypse. On the one hand Arius sees that man is climbing higher and higher, and that he's supposed to get ever closer to the divine, and on the other hand he sees the divine being. In addition to these great world principles he must also understand the Mystery of Golgotha and the nature of Christ. He wants to answer the question: How is the human or the divine nature contained in Christ? Should one look upon the Christ as a really divine being or not? And he basically answered this question with a no. He basically took the position that became the general position of a large part of the European population, namely, he put up a boundary between man and God, that is, he didn't really want to admit that God dwells in man, so he placed an abyss between God and man.
We must go back to the time of the first Christian developments in an unbiased way, which basically had nothing in common with the things that happened later when Christianity became decadent within Roman Catholicism. And this is why we should realize that it became necessary for the further evolution of mankind to decide the whole question in the way that Athanasius does, who sees a directly divine being in the Christ and who sees a really divine sun-spirit in Christ, even though this later receded into the background because of a disinclination to think of the Christ in a cosmological way. But it lay in Athanasius' whole mentality to look upon the Christ as a god who is really equal to the Father God.
This view continued to work on, although it lost its entire evolutionary thrust at the eighth council in Constantinople in 869. which basically cancelled the doctrine of this first council in Nicaea, because it declared that trichotomy is heretical. Therewith things began to degenerate. For this definitely cut off any possibility of growth into spirituality for the catholic church in later centuries.
It was definitely that shock which occurred within when the ego broke into the intellectual and feeling soul which colored this outer event and which gives the latter its real inner meaning. And if we continue to look at things in a historical way we, have to tell ourselves: After this year 333 came those times which broke away from the ancient Roman culture, especially in Europe. We see that the old Roman culture could basically not absorb Christianity, because öf what it had become. It is a marvelous picture which unrolls before us if we direct our gaze at this year 333.
This year also indicates the period in which Romanism was moved away from Rome and further over to the east. The Roman emperor who wants to appropriate Christianity flees from Rome and goes further east. We shouldn't look so much at the detrimental things and bad side-effects which arose in the council of Constantinople, — we should pay more attention to the fact that when Christianity hit Rome one had to flee from west to east. This is tremendously significant. When such an event is looked at from the spiritual world its importance is so obvious that the harmful effects which were caused by Byzantinism were relatively minor.
One would like to say that it is of tremendous importance that when Christianity or its outer form was touched by Romanism, it had to flee. Of course something then rises from the ground — from which Constantine fled towards the east with Christianity which was prepared for a long time in Roman territory, but which forces Christianity into outer, worldly forms when it matures. One should just think how significant it is that the Apocalypticer's prophetic eye sees that Christianity begins to assume ancient Roman forms at the moment when Rome decides to make Christianity its official religion. This is really the thing which becomes manifest.
On the one hand we have the spiritual dispute between Arius and Athanasius. On the other hand, we have ancient Rome which converts to Christianity but moves towards the east, while the form which remains behind in Rome takes on the shape of the Roman state and becomes the continuation of ancient Rome, even in its outer activities.
Now let's ignore certain things for a while for which we will have to give a deeper spiritual explanation later, and let's look at some historical things. The Apocalypticer's perception of this historical element is great and tremendous. He doesn't express it clearly, but he has it in his feelings and it's in the way his writing is composed, that is, he points out that the growth of what occurs in mankind and outside in history took 333 years from the Mystery of Golgotha, and that a strange, illusory development of Christianity then sets in. Christian Romanism is uprooted and goes over to the east, and Roman Christianity adapts itself completely to Roman forms. This is the soil which prepares something which again takes 333 years or until the year 666.
If you place what we said yesterday about the things which the Apocalypticer and other people who were inspired by the ancient mysteries gained from a contemplation of numbers before your soul, you will have to tell yourselves: this Apocalypticer looks at the additional 333 years during which Christianity has a deceptive outer appearance, so that it must develop in murky fogs in two directions; — it is driven eastward and it preserves the old element in the west which is like an Ahrimanic thing.
Something which had remained from the non-Christian, ancient Romanism prepares itself in the womb of earth evolution. What does this nonChristian Romanism consist of?
Now if we look into the mysteries we find that trichotomy or the holy number three had a profound significance in all of the greatest and most advanced ones. Let's take a look at what this meaning was. One thought about how a human being is born in the physical stream of heredity, approximately in the way that esoteric Hebraic teachings conceive of this. One imagined how this human being brings characteristics and capacities with him through heredity. One described the life of a human being as something which proceeds in a straight line and in which nothing important enters except what is oriented by hereditary impulses. The fathers in the ancient mysteries said: You originate from the physical forces of your parents, and the spiritual impulses of your physical parents are also at work in you. And these ideas continued to be taught in Hebraic esotericism and by the proponents of other esoteric doctrines.
However other people added something to this. In the mysteries which must be called the most advanced ones, one spoke of how the man who bears hereditary impulses and develops accordingly can also take in another impulse during his physical existence between birth and death, an impulse through which he lifts himself out of hereditary conditions, so that his soul finds its way out of them, namely, the Son impulse or Christ impulse. And one said: The impulses of heredity are in man and they constitute his straight line evolution between birth and death. They are from the Father, the Father who underlies everything. The impulses of the Son do not enter into hereditary forces, they must be taken up into the soul and elaborated by the soul; they must be able to expand the soul to such an extent that it can free itself from bodily and hereditary forces. They enter the freedom of man, in the way that one understood freedom in those times; they go into the freedom of the soul, where the latter is free from hereditary forces. They are the ones which permit man to be psychically reborn. They are the impulses which enable man to control himself during the life which is given him by the Father. And so one saw the father-man in all of these mysteries, the man who is the son of the Father and the brother of Christ and who controls himself. He gains control over that part of him which is free from the body in a certain respect, and he must bear a new realm in him which knows nothing about nature and which is a different order than nature is the realm of the Spirit.
If one were to talk about the Father God, not in the external, materialistic way in which one does this today but more like they do in Hebraic doctrine, one would be justified in speaking of effects of nature which are also spiritual effects, for spiritual activities are present in all activities of nature. The natural science which arose a while back and which is active today is merely a one-sided science of the Father. The science of the Son or the Christ is added to this; this is connected with the way man takes hold of himself and with the way man receives an impulse which he can only take in through the soul, and not through hereditary forces. The way he works his way into this is chaotic at first, without the activity and the power of laws. This activity is brought into him by the Spirit, so that according to the ancient mysteries we basically have two kingdoms the kingdom of nature or the kingdom of the Father, and the kingdom of the Spirit, and man is carried out of the kingdom of nature and into the kingdom of the Spirit by the Son or Christ.
If we become aware that such views were still present in the Apocalypticer and in the souls of all the men of his time, it will enable us to look into his prophetic soul, which could survey the future in such broad strokes, in order to look at the way he looked at what poured over the Christianity which had become a semblance of itself in two directions around the year 666.
Here his prophetic eye fell upon that doctrine which had already arisen in the east in 666, and which goes back to that Muhammedanian mystery culture which knows nothing about the Son. This Islamic mystery culture doesn't know anything about the world structure to which I referred; it doesn't know about the two kingdoms, the realm of the Father and the realm of the Spirit; it only knows one rigid thing; only the Father exists for it, there is only one God. And everything else is his prophet — mainly Muhammed. This point of view makes Islam the polar opposite of Christianity. This viewpoint leads to the will to eliminate all freedom for all times to come, to the will for determinism, and this cannot be otherwise if one only thinks of the world in connection with the Father God.
However, the Apocalypticer feels that man cannot find himself like that. Man cannot be permeated by the Christ like that; he can't grasp his humanity if he only grasps this ancient teaching about the Father. The outer human form becomes Maya for a world conception which is so strongly closed off within; for man becomes man by taking hold of himself, by making Christ alive in himself and through the fact that he can fit himself into the spiritual order of things and into the realm of the spirit which is entirely free of nature. Thereby he becomes a man; but he doesn't become a man if he falls back into the view which only reckons with the Father God.
The Apocalypticer is basically saying that after the ego broke in mankind is in danger of going astray in the permeation of this ego which is pressing into humanity from 333 on, — that humanity is in danger of being confused in its permeation of this ego with the Son God or Christ. What threatens to keep man at the animal stage rises up after a period of time which is just as long as the first period after the Mystery of Golgotha, — 666 is the number of the beast.
The Apocalypticer had a decisive, inner vision of what threatens men. Christianity was made into a semblance of itself in two directions, or it would be better to say that it became obscured by fog. The year 666 marks the time of this inundation which threatens him. It is that significant year in the spiritual world when what exists in Arabism is introduced everywhere. He points to: this year 666 very clearly. People who can read in an apocalyptic way understand this quite well. For he foresaw the effect that the thing which was breaking in would have, and he called the number 666, the number of the beast.
Thus he basically anticipates everything which follows in an apocalyptic way. What follows is the streaming of Arabism towards Europe, whereupon Christianity becomes permeated by a teaching; which could only make men fail to see the humanity within them; where the Father dogma is converted into naturalism; whereby the latest view on evolution arose, which says that one must explain man by just following the sequence of animals down to the human being.
Wasn't the beast whose number is 666 still rising in Darwinism, where man couldn't comprehend that he is a human being but could only look upon himself as a beast? Don't we see these Ahrimanic resistances which are working against the Son God working further in the impregnation of Christianity with a materialistic form of the Father dogma? Isn't this still working into our time? As I have often pointed out, just take something out of recent theological developments such as Harnack's book about the nature of Christianity. One can put “Father” wherever he has the word Christ, for it is only a teaching about God and not a concrete Christ teaching. It is a denial of Christ's teaching, for a general Father God is put in the place of Christ; and no attempt is made to arrive at anything which is connected with Christology. The Apocalypticer sees this coming.
And when he sees this approaching it is already basically connected with something else which weighs upon his soul, namely, the difficulties with what one calls the transubstantiation for lack of a better word, although it doesn't really cover the spiritual elements which are involved. Now this difficulty, my dear friends you know yourselves how your souls struggled with the difficulties which are connected with transubstantiation when this Christian renewal was inaugurated; and many of you are still struggling with the difficulties which are involved in the understanding of this transubstantiation. Just think of how many hours we spent over there in that room where the Goetheanum fire started on discussions about transubstantiation; for the whole question of Son and Father is contained in transubstantiation. And one could say that some of that oppression which mankind felt in the dispute between Arianism and Athanasianism is also present in the dispute about transubstantiation which arose in the Middle Ages.
In fact, transubstantiation can only have a meaning if it is based on a real spiritual understanding of a Christology which tells one how Christ is connected with humanity and the earth. However, due to the breaking in of Arianism, the transubstantiation theory was always in danger of getting too close to the Father dogma, and it made people think that the metamorphosis of the substances which come into consideration for transubstantiation must be placed in the series of nature processes, that is, in the spiritual part of nature processes.
And all the questions which are connected with communion arise because one really says to oneself: How can what takes place in transubstantiation be grasped so that one can unite it with what one has in the way of a Father evolution of the world or of a working of the spirit through the laws of nature. This is not a matter of miracles here; this is mainly a matter of sacramentalism, which is not at all connected with the trivial question about miracles which gave people so much trouble in the 19th and already in the 18th century. The important thing here is to realize that one has the order of the Father and the order of the Spirit in the world. In between stands the Son, who raises the kingdom of nature to the kingdom of the spirit within the human sphere. If we place this before our soul, transubstantiation appears to us as something which we shouldn't look for in the wide order of nature, although it is nevertheless equipped with a reality, with a really spiritual reality, which one can speak of just as well as one can speak about a natural order. However, the Apocalypticer foresaw how difficult it would be for men to say that there is another order, a spiritual order besides the order of nature, since 666 plays into human evolution with such force.
One could say that Anthroposophy comes to the rescue here in a very modern way, and sheds light on precisely such a thing as transubstantiation. For Anthroposophy can help us to make the way man lives through repeated earth lives alive in us again, and also the way man has the impulses which lie in the hereditary line and which are connected with heredity, and with the Father force when he stands in the outer physical world with his actions. There man stands. There are the hereditary forces in the way he lives his life. There is a great deal in these hereditary forces which is connected with human destiny — if we only look at it in an external way — and which occurs through the Father forces that have been secreted into nature. The results of the previous earth life continuously play into man when he acts, so that as he acts he brings up the spirit into the physical corporeality which he has acquired in his present existence. The result of the previous earth life works in him; there are forces underlying this.
Imagine some human action. It can be looked at from two sides; from the point of view of the human being who is born from a mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, etc. But now look at the action from the other aspect. Forces are working in it which are an aftereffect of previous earth-lives. We have a completely different order here. This is why it can't be understood by any natural science, that is, by any Father science.
But it's possible to look at two things here which are essentially the same, even though they are accidentally different. On the one hand we see how karma or destiny as the result of previous earth lives develops out of the human being; we have a lawfulness there which is not a nature lawfulness at all, although it exists; and we look at the altar and at the way that transubstantiation takes place as a spiritual reality and in a way which is also not outwardly visible in the physical substances. The same laws hold sway in them. We can bring two things together here: the way that karma works and the way that transubstantiation takes place. Whoever understands the one can understand the other.
This is one of the mysteries which you must grasp in your new priesthood. This is one of the mysteries under whose light this priestly community must develop itself out of Anthroposophy. It is one of the inner reasons for this.
This also points to the tremendous difficulty which existed for an understanding of transubstantiation, because one couldn't understand the kind of a lawfulness which is present in human karma and which underlies transubstantiation. The ego which acquires freedom in physical life, which entered in 333 which wrapped Christianity in a fog in two directions, and made it flee towards the east on the one hand and into the ancient Romanism which could never be entirely Christian on the other, this year 333 and the entrance of the ego threw a shadow or a darkness over the connections between successive earth lives, and it had to throw it, because this lies within the evolution of mankind. What would have happened if this ego had not entered? Julian the Apostate would have won, although from the viewpoint of the ancient mysteries one should really call him the Confessor and not the Apostate. Of course the following is only a nebulous hypothesis, but it indicates what could have happened; if Julian had introduced teachings from the old mysteries, humanity might have received the ego which came in from spiritual worlds in such a way that one could have also understood the karma teaching with it. Mankind had to climb over higher walls in order to arrive at an understanding of Christianity, and not arrive at it as easily as they would have if Julian the Apostate had been victorious.
Thus humanity was exposed to the rising of the beast and to the consequences and results of 666. As I said, we will go into more of the inner details in the next few days. This is how the karma teaching was withheld from mankind and this is the way the transubstantiation dogma was placed into mankind, so that there is nothing analogous to it in men's world conceptions, for the closest analog for an understanding of the transubstantiation teaching is an understanding of the karma teaching. The force with which the destiny of a human being, is created in a next life out of successive lives is no force of nature, is no Father force, — it is a force of the Spirit which is mediated by the Son. It is the same force which is at work at the altar when the holy bread and wine are transformed.
And we must inscribe this deep into our souls; If we can understand this rightly, if we can lift our soul and mind and hearty feelings to the kind of spiritual impulses which work írom one earth life to the next, we also understand what happens at the altar in transubstantiation. For when someone looks at the holy bread and wine with his ordinary understanding and doesn't see what's happening at all, it's no different than when someone with a materialistic mind doesn't see anything in the destiny of a human being besides what proceeds from the forces of his muscles and his blood — I'm speaking of the spiritual forces of the muscles and blood and from hereditary statistics.
These are the connections which one must understand in order to arrive at a true understanding of the Apocalypse and the Apocalypticer. These connections lead directly into the present, from the impulses which one can read quite clearly in the Apocalypse.
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