"It is now necessary for human beings to unite their deepest inner being with the Christ in full consciousness, and for them to begin to understand apocalypse, revelation, in a new way."
Rudolf Steiner, September 6, 1924:
We shall first look more closely at the connection between the Act of Consecration of Man and what is meant by apocalypse, or revelation, before considering John’s Book of Revelation itself, and its significance for the present and future work of the priest.
Yesterday it was our task to point to three past ages in the Mysteries in so far as they sought to use what took place within the priest in order to transport him into an apocalyptic mood. We spoke of very ancient Mysteries in which the gods themselves descended in order to work in the Mysteries together with human beings. We also spoke of semi-ancient Mysteries in which the gods sent down their forces, so that by living in these divine forces human beings became able to work together with the gods in the cosmos.
I pointed out that the path began to lead in the opposite direction in the third age, that of the semi-new Mysteries. Here the human being shaped the forces, which he first had to develop himself, in such a way that they could lead up to the gods. We see how by intoning the magical Word in the ceremonial of the cultus—whether by speaking the magical Word into the smoke as mentioned yesterday, causing the Imagination to appear in the smoke through the Word, or whether the Word itself lived directly in the human being’s whole mood of soul—the human being sought the path to the divine, spiritual forces of the cosmos in such a way that it was in the Word that one saw the working of the divine spiritual world.
This developing of a specific religious sense by human beings—something that can only be described separately—was always paralleled by the necessary precondition for it: a particular form of Transubstantiation that was the focal point of the holy act of consecration of man. Priests today and in he near future are called upon to experience this Transubstantiation, and with it everything truly belonging to the work of the priest, in a new form. This will not easily be possible without a thorough understanding of what Transubstantiation and apocalypse consist of in real life in the four successive ages of human evolution.
We have seen the one aspect: The Act of Consecration of Man—including the Transubstantiation—is a deed conducted by a human being in collaboration with the divine, spiritual world. To work as a priest is impossible if there is no awareness of the fact that a human being can act in consort with the gods.
Let us look again at the oldest form of the act of consecration of man and the oldest form of bringing about the Transubstantiation. We see that the times when the gods find their way to human beings are those that represent the difference between what human beings can calculate as the sequence of the seasons in the course of the year and what takes place in the cosmos. The gods descended in those holy periods of time that were as though set aside, those holy periods into which human beings had to insert something because the course of the cosmos did not conform with their calculations. During those periods when human beings had to place themselves directly under the influence of the cosmos in order to carry out the Transubstantiation, they preserved something of the substances that were then transformed by the cosmos so that they would be able to use them to bring about the Transubstantiation in subsequent seasons.
The appropriate place for the priests and laypeople to be when the Transubstantiation was to be brought about was under the ground, in caves in the cliffs. In the times of the ancient Mysteries when full consciousness of the presence of the gods and the meaning of the Transubstantiation was developed, we see everywhere that people endeavored to hold the holy ceremony in rock temples, in subterranean temples.
The fact that they endeavored to do this is connected with the experiences the priests had during the Transubstantiation. In Transubstantiation the substantiality of earthly matter is transformed. Indeed, the overall process includes that of taking into one’s own body the substance that has undergone Transubstantiation, so that in this sense the last two main parts of the Act of Consecration of Man—the Transubstantiation and the Communion—form a unit, with the Gospel Reading and the Offertory being the preparation. If we regard the Transubstantiation and the Communion as a single priestly act in this way, a single act within the ceremonial of the cultus, we can point to the interpretation adopted by those in the most ancient Mysteries who were known as the ‘Fathers’. This was a degree attained in initiation, the degree of ‘Father’. This designation, ‘Father’, remains to this day the name of the priests in many confessions.
When celebrating the Transubstantiation in the subterranean temple, the rock temple, the priest experienced how his physical organism became one with the whole Earth. That is why temples in the rocks, subterranean temples, were used. Even when we live between birth and death in our ordinary earthly consciousness we must, after all, in reality feel ourselves to be one with the cosmos all around us. This is how it has been throughout the whole earthly evolution of humanity.
The air you now have inside your body was a moment ago outside it, and in another short moment it will be outside it again. The air inside your body forms a totality with the air outside your body. The whole phenomenon goes like this: There is an ocean of air, and when you breathe in, a part of this ocean of air is transformed into you. The air is inhaled, it seeps into every last cranny, entirely filling you and becoming a human form. This human form dissolves once more into the ocean of air when you breathe out. The aeriform human bring constantly comes into being and dies away again, only we are unaware that this is happening.
When ancient Indian yogis did their breathing exercises consciously they were aware of what was happening. They did not feel separate from the Earth’s ocean of air; they felt at one with it; in every systole and diastole they felt a continuous coming into being and dying away of the aeriform human being. This can be felt quite easily merely by carrying out breathing exercises, only it is no longer an appropriate thing for people to do these days.
The human being in the physical world is not solely an earthly human being. He is an earthly human being when what we call the physical body is mainly at work in him, but he is also a fluid human being. The whole human being is filled with circulating fluid, so the earthly human being and the fluid human being work on each other and influence one another mutually. The fluid human being is mainly dependent on the ether body, for the forces of the ether body work less in what is solid and more in what is fluid.
In addition we also have within us the aeriform human being and the warmth human being. The aeriform human being who takes care of breathing is under the influences of the astral body, and the warmth human being is chiefly influenced by the working of the ‘I’-organization. You need only consider the different degrees of heat you find when you take the temperature of different parts of your body, externally or internally. Even this rather coarse method of measuring temperature shows the human being to be a differentiated warmth organism.
So we find all four elements in the human being: earth influenced by the physical body, water influenced by the ether body, air influenced by the astral body, and heat, fire, influenced by the ‘I’-organization.
What happened with the ancient ‘Fathers’ through the Transubstantiation combined with the Communion was that they felt their physical organization in its links with the Earth when they went down into the rock or subterranean temple in order to become one with this earthly evolution.
Everything people today think about the nature of their own being—they think ‘scientifically’, so they say—is in fact entirely wrong, or indeed nonsense, for actually we have to have quite different inner pictures of the human being. These inner pictures are what arose for the ancient ‘Fathers’ from the holy sacrifice for the consecration of man through a direct vision brought about by the Transubstantiation. They knew that we not only breathe air through our respiratory organs, but also ceaselessly take in all kinds of substances from the cosmos through our sense organs; through our hair, through our skin, all kinds of substances are ceaselessly absorbed from the cosmos. Just as someone breathing consciously feels the air being sucked into his respiratory organs, so did the priest in ancient times feel the substances from the silica-environment, in which he found himself in the subterranean temple of consecration, entering and filling his organization of nerves and senses. Just as the aeriform human being feels the air moving on when he breathes consciously, so do these substances fill the whole organism. The priests in ancient times knew that our system of metabolism and limbs receives nothing into its make-up from what we eat. Nothing of what we eat goes into our system of limbs and metabolism.
Substances are absorbed out of the cosmos. Today’s whole theory of nutrition is untrue. The ‘Father’, as he celebrated, felt what is eaten and transformed by the digestive system moving up from the metabolic human being into the human being of nerves and senses, especially the head. He knew: What I eat is transformed in me into the substance of my head and all that is connected with it; what builds the organs in me that take care of metabolism is absorbed from the cosmos through a more subtle form of breathing. He felt the substances of the cosmos being taken in from all sides through senses and nerves and then going on to constitute his system of metabolism and limbs. He felt the downward-streaming flow that originates from all the directions of the cosmos and streams into his organism from above downwards. And he felt how what we take in directly in the form of food is first transformed within our body before turning in the opposite direction and going to constitute our upper human being.
As he celebrated the Transubstantiation, the ‘Father’ had two streams within him, one flowing upwards, the other downwards. When he then proceeded to the Communion he knew, through having become conscious of his physical body in these streams, that he was linked to the cosmos. What he had just received through celebrating at the altar he incorporated into the downward- and upward-flowing streams within him; having become one with the Earth, he incorporated what he had prepared on the altar into the streams which belonged both to the Earth and to his body, he incorporated it into the divine on Earth, which is a mirror of the universe. He knew himself to be at one with the universe, with that which was outside of him. He knew that this Meal, of which he had partaken in this way, was a Meal being solemnized by his cosmic human being. Through what was flowing into the upward and the downward streams he felt burgeoning within himself the divine human being who was permitted to be a companion for the gods who had descended. He felt that he was being transformed into a divine human being, that he himself was being transubstantiated by the gods in his physical body. This was the moment at which he spoke from the deepest depths of his heart: I am not now the one who walks about in the physical world; I am the one in whom the god who has descended is living; I am the One whose name comprises all the sounds of speech, the One who was in the beginning, who is in the middle, and who shall be at the end. I am the Alpha and the Omega.
On the way his inner being took form, through his manner of feeling all these things, depended the degree to which he was actually able to participate in the secrets of the cosmos, in the divine working and creating in the cosmos, in the revelation of forces and substances and beings in the cosmos under the influence of divine, spiritual creativity. This was what it meant to do the work of the priest in the ancient Mysteries.
In the semi-ancient Mysteries the temples were no longer built underground—or if they were, this was done out of tradition no longer understood; the tradition lived on but the living content was lost. In the temples that had now risen to the surface of the Earth great importance was attached to everything to do with consecrated water, with ablutions and other celebrations involving water.
These traditions still live on in the way baptism is performed by immersion in water. What the priest celebrated had now less to do with the actual element and more with the fact that through the inner strength brought to bear on the celebration the fluid human being, the one in whom the forces of the ether body were at work, now became one with the universe. When the Transubstantiation was achieved at that time and when everything that preceded it and came after it had to do with the fluid element in one way or another, the human being again felt how the organization of the etheric body was working in him, temporally this time. Through the accomplishment of the Transubstantiation the human being felt how his growth from childhood onwards took shape under the influence of the fluid element, how it shaped itself more and more and how the ether body is at work in this streaming from the past via the present and on into the future.
Just as through their physical body the priests of ancient times felt themselves to be at one with the earthly element, so did the one who celebrated the Transubstantiation in the semi-ancient Mysteries of the second Mystery age feel at one with all that is watery in the whole cosmos. Within himself he felt the forces of growth of all living things germinating, sprouting, growing, and unfurling to become a developed organism, and then contracting again into a seed. In celebrating the Transubstantiation he felt this sprouting, budding, living, dying activity. At every moment he was able to say to himself: Now I know how beings arise in the world and how beings die in the world. The rising and falling forces of the etheric were active in him. You could say he sensed eternity in the holy Transubstantiation.
Taking Transubstantiation and Communion once again as a single act of consecration, a single celebration, the communicating priest knew that the substances transformed in the way described yesterday were merging with his etheric, fluid human being. He felt himself to be at one with all that preserves immortality, that comes into being and dies away again, that is born and dies in the universe. Birth and death drifted above the altar and downwards from the altar towards and among the throng of the faithful. Feelings of eternity streamed through one, and it was this being-streamed-through by feelings of eternity that took the place of what had happened of old, when there had been a feeling of being-at-one with the whole cosmos through the Earth.
When the third period came around, the human being was to experience consciously through the holy act of consecration how he became one with the airy element, and through the airy element with the cosmos.
Over in the Orient when an individual strove in solitude as a yogi he used a different method of becoming conscious of the stream of divine, spiritual, supersensible cosmic forces in inhalation and exhalation. He took a direct hold of the breath. In Western Asia and, even more so, further west in Europe, there was no direct taking hold of the undifferentiated breath; here the magical Word was intoned into the breath. Thus the breath, the air streaming into and out of the human being, was taken hold of in the magical Word, the cultic Word. In this way it came about that the upward effort of human forces toward divine forces was experienced, was revealed, either in what was spoken into the sacrificial smoke or directly through the intonation of the magical, cultic Word. One felt as though one were oneself intoning the magical, cultic Word, the words of the prayer. On the whole every prayer means the following. It means that the human being is endeavoring to rise up with his forces into the divine, spiritual region; there he meets with the gods. And when he there intones the Word it is no longer he who is speaking; it is the god who is speaking in the cultic Word, revealing himself in the airy element. Through his astral body the human being felt himself to be within what rules the forces of the air.
Consider now how tremendous, how strong was the transition from the semi-ancient Mysteries to the semi-new Mysteries, from the second to the third age. What the ancient ‘Fathers’ experienced was experienced in the physical body. It was an intensification of the activity of the physical body. What the Sun priest in the second age experienced was an intensification of the ether body, the fluid human body. What the priest in the third age experienced, when he intoned the cultic Word and felt the streaming of the divine, spiritual forces, was experienced in the astral body. For ordinary consciousness the astral body even then was only in the least part a mediator of consciousness. Only in the earlier times of the third age were the priests still able to sense in the magically spoken cultic Word: As I speak, the god is speaking in me. But this waned. In the way it works the astral body remained unknown by consciousness, which was on the increase all the time. For today’s consciousness it is entirely unknown. Therefore, little by little, the verbal content of the cultus became something that for the chosen meant the presence of the god, and for those not chosen merely an intonation of something that did not come into their consciousness.
This became increasingly the case with a great number of priests serving in the Catholic faith. The act of consecration of man, the Mass, turned gradually into something celebrated by the priest although he himself was no longer present in it. One cannot, however, celebrate with these intoned Words without the incorporation of air beings, or, in other words, without the presence of spirit. Nowhere is there anything materially shaped in which spirit does not immediately take up its abode. So if the act of consecration is celebrated with the true cultic Word, even by the most unworthy priest, there is always something spiritual present, though perhaps not his soul. Therefore whatever happens, the believers are present at a spiritual event if the liturgy is right.
Once this had become increasingly decadent in the final stage of the third age, the more rationally inclined denominations, the Protestant denominations, believed they could do without celebrating the cultus at all. There was no longer any awareness of the significance of the cultus, of the direct, real collaboration of human beings with the gods. This led to the times of inner experience in which we now live. The act of consecration of man, which brings the divine, spiritual life directly down to the Earth, has gradually become something incomprehensible. What ought to be experienced through it, namely apocalypse or revelation, has become incomprehensible.
Such, basically, were the experiences which those of you had had who came one day and said: There must be a Christian renewal. You experienced what lives in today’s civilization, what lives in today’s religious life; you experienced the religious life of all the denominations as having been separated off from the genuine, real spiritual world. You were looking for the way back to the genuine, real spiritual world.
We have now reached the pointer that will lead us straight into the depths of the Mysteries that are connected with the Book of Revelation: that the Transubstantiation in the first age is linked to experiences made with the physical body, in the second age to experiences made with the ether body, and in the third age to experiences made with the astral body. It will depend on you and on your inner experience of the working and weaving of the spirit in the world whether the Act of Consecration and whether the Book of Revelation will be taken hold of by the human ‘I’.
So a proper understanding of the task to be fulfilled through this movement for religious renewal will depend on what has to be done being directly seen as carrying out a task supersensibly allocated to us, a task that places what it does at the service of the supersensible powers. What you do must either peter out into nothingness — in which case it will have been merely a kind of inconvenience in the present evolution of the universe, if you fail to grasp the profound nature of your task — or you do grasp the profound nature of your task, you do feel this task to have been linked from the outset not with the work of human beings but with the work of the gods throughout the Earth’s evolution. You would then have to say to yourselves: We have been summoned to share in shaping the fourth Mystery age of human evolution on the Earth. Only if you have the courage, the strength, the seriousness, and the perseverance to find your way like this into your task, only then will you have placed your task at the service of those powers who permitted the content of that cultus to flow down directly out of the spiritual world when we were gathered here two years ago. Only then will that which you have taken on through the content of this cultus, a revelation out of the spiritual world which as such rayed down upon you, be real.
Then you will more and more feel and sense it to be true that the Christ first entered into earthly life through a cosmically real, telluric deed. The Mystery of Golgotha exists as a real deed. The time has now come for human beings to unite this with their ‘I’. The earlier way in which the Holy Supper was remembered was still immersed in the third Mystery age, the age when the astral body took in and ruled the effects of the cultus that were accomplished in the airy element. However, it is now necessary for human beings to unite their deepest inner being with the Christ in full consciousness, and for them to begin to understand apocalypse, revelation, in a new way.
How was revelation understood in the first Mystery age? It was experienced as the presence of the gods who exist at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, who are Alpha and Omega.
How was the presence of the divine powers understood in the second Mystery age? It was experienced in what resounded through the universe as the music of the spheres, in the cosmic Word streaming from heaven to Earth, the Word that has created everything, that is creating in everything, that is alive in everything. In that age people experienced in an instant what is at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. They experienced Alpha and Omega in the cosmic, universal Word. Whenever in these various ages mention was made of Alpha and Omega—using different sounds of speech, perhaps, although ones fairly similar to those of the Greek language—there was always the endeavor to recognize what is really contained in this Alpha and Omega, in this First and this Last.
How was revelation, apocalypse, understood in the third Mystery age? It was understood in that the human being unfolded the as yet only semi-conscious cultic Word. When the human being intoned this semi-conscious cultic Word and this then transubstantiated itself—which I shall illustrate in a moment—that is when apocalypse, revelation, was perceived during the third age. Perhaps one of you, or perhaps most of you, have had a day when you were receptive with your senses and your soul to impressions from the outside world. Perhaps you heard some music and then went to sleep still under the impression of this music, and then woke up again in the midst of your sleep. Maybe you then felt as though you were living in a billowing, but a transformed billowing, of the symphony you had heard during the day. This is how it was for the priests during the third Mystery age. What happened to them can be compared with the ordinary experience I have just described. They celebrated the act of consecration with the cultic Word, experiencing how the god became present in it. They had sent the cultic Word aloft, and the god had streamed into the cultic Word. They departed from the holy act of consecration in the mood in which it is fitting to depart from it. They experienced in what had undergone transubstantiation not only the human cultic Word in which the divine spirit had become present; they experienced also how what they had spoken had become transubstantiated, transformed. They experienced streaming toward them the supersensible echo of what they themselves had intoned in the liturgy of the Mass, transformed now, and bringing revelation, apocalypse, to them. As a return gift for the appropriately celebrated act of consecration the god revealed apocalypse. This is how apocalypse was sensed in the third Mystery age.
The individual who felt himself to have been made a priest through Christ Jesus himself, the writer of the Book of Revelation with which we shall be concerning ourselves, was the first to sense something that hardly any or only a very few others ever experienced again. He sensed how the apocalyptic content became absorbed into his own ‘I’. For it was the astral body that absorbed the echo I spoke about, when the god gave the apocalyptic content as a return gift for the Word.
The one who wrote John’s Book of Revelation felt his fully conscious ‘I’ to be at one with the content he wrote down in that Book. From the long-since extinguished consecration service of Ephesus came the inspiring stimulus for that priest, the author of the Book of Revelation, who felt himself to have been anointed by none other than Christ Jesus. He felt himself to be within a continuous celebration of the ancient, holy act of consecration. In feeling his ‘I’ to be entirely filled with the meaning of the act of consecration he now also felt entirely filled with the apocalyptic content.
The Book of Revelation is spoken out of John as, in ordinary consciousness, only the little word ‘I’ can be spoken out of the human being. When we say ‘I’ we express the whole of our inner being with this sequence of sounds. This cannot denote anything other than the single, individual human being, who is, however, richly filled with content. The content of the Book of Revelation is a rich content.
If we take everything that religious feeling and deepening can give the soul, if all illumination energetically striven for, all endeavor to comprehend the supersensible, is allowed to work in the human spirit, if we allow ourselves to be enthused by a contemplation of the three past Mystery ages, if what lived in the first, second, and third Mystery age can become for us a living inspirer for the fourth, and if we let the power of God’s spirit work in our soul in the way that is once again possible today, then shall we experience that quantitatively here is not only one Revelation but as many Revelations as there are human ‘I’s devoted to God, speaking from individual priests to Christ, who is to be found anew through this movement for Christian renewal.
In quality the Book of Revelation is unique, but quantitatively it can become the content of every individual priest’s soul. Conversely, the soul of every individual who celebrates the Act of Consecration of Man can become a priestly soul by preparing to identify the ‘I’ with the content of the Book of Revelation. As human beings we are ‘I’s; we become priests in the modern sense of the word if the Book of Revelation is not merely written in the Gospel, and also if the Book of Revelation is not only within our hearts as a finished piece of writing, but if the ‘I’ becomes aware of the fact that in every moment of life it can through its own act of creation bring forth a reproduction of the Book of Revelation.
The following perhaps somewhat pedantic or philistine picture will help you to understand what I mean: Someone writes down the content of a book. The book is sent to the printers where it is printed. Then a given number of copies, each one separate although the content is identical, is sent out into the world. It is a unique thing to which your attention is drawn at the beginning of the Book of Revelation, a unique thing that was revealed to John by Christ himself. For this is ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ received by his servant John. (Rev.1:1) The content is unique, but it is reproduced when each one himself or herself brings it forth out of the wisdom of the supersensible worlds.
This is what it means to understand the Revelation of John. In the deeper sense of the words it also means understanding that the Christ has consecrated us and thus made us priests. You have felt what it means when the apocalyptist says that Christ himself has anointed him a priest. Becoming anointed as a priest takes place when one feels how the content of the Book of Revelation came into being in John. Becoming anointed takes place when one feels how the content of the Book of Revelation came into being in John, as soon as one feels: These human beings of today want to become priests through creating within themselves the experience of the ‘I’ itself in the Revelation. If the ‘I’ becomes apocalyptic, then it becomes priestly.
More of this tomorrow.