Wednesday, September 29, 2021
The Adversaries of Christ. The Book of Revelation and the Work of the Priest: Lecture 11 of 18
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 15, 1924:
Let's imagine that we are in the world into which the Apocalypticer wants to translate men during the next earthly period. He describes his visions of the breaking in of spiritual worlds and of how they will take possession of earthly human beings. He precedes this by three stages which we must become familiar with; three stages, — in a certain sense each of these represents something which must fall before mankind will become worthy and capable of obtaining the spiritual world in a pure form for their working, thinking and feeling.
The first stage is the fall of Babylon; we will call it this to begin with. The second stage is the fall of the beast and his companion the false prophet who spreads the teaching of the beast. The third stage is the fall of the divine counter powers which are usually called Satan. These three stages become quite objective and real in connection with the spiritual perception of future human evolution.
A great deal concerning human evolution will be decided in our century, and one has good reason to direct the eye of one's soul upon these three falls'. For they will break in upon us in a certain form; they will occur after the first appearance of Christ on earth in his etheric body, which is really his second appearance upon earth. And mankind will have to prepare itself and make itself strong enough in order to go through this threefold fall of the adversaries of the Christ impulse without endangering their soul development. We shouldn't forget how precise the Apocalypticer really is, for each time such a fall occurs he lets an angel come down from the spiritual worlds, and we notice something which can give someone who hasn't acquired a spiritual conception of the world a rather strange feeling. He lets the angel who comes down rejoice about the great suffering and terrible things which accompany this terrible fall, and it will be necessary for us to understand this rejoicing. But before we do that let's take a look at the three stages of the fall of the powers who oppose the Christ.
First comes what is called the fall of Babylon. Here we can place the sum of all the errors which men and mankind can fall into through their human nature before our souls. Everything which tends to drag human beings down below the spiritual level at which they really belong is included in what the Apocalypticer calls the Babylonian temptation.
Man is really only a human being — although of course he has to acquire this humanness first, and he can't just have it at every moment in his evolution — man is only truly human if there is a complete harmony between the material and spiritual principles in him, that is, if the material doesn't play up into emotions which are not controlled by the spiritual. This is the important thing and we must understand it quite well, for even the Apocalypticer could not speak the way he does if he assumed that passions, desires and everything which comes from the will sphere was quite unjustified right from the beginning. To say that this is unjustified — this ascetic striving in a false sense — also arises from the sphere of passions and desires, for someone who doesn't feel strong enough to permeate his passions from the spiritual side in such a way, that he places them in the service of good world evolution is indulgencing his weak emotions. He wants the good evolution, but he wants to impoverish it in this way and he wants to indulge his weakness. For the Apocalypticer it's not a question of tearing out emotions or of tearing out passions and desires, it's a question of their not remaining uncontrolled by the spiritual world.
Babylon is the city in which a falling away from spirituality through passions held sway in an almost stereotyped way at a certain period in its mystery development, and everything which represents emotions in human life, which remain out of control on a smaller or larger scale is summarized by this city. Here we should translate the strong, coarse expressions which were used at that time (they weren't coarse then) into our language. The people in ancient times didn't form abstract concepts, they always referred to concrete things, always pointed to something characteristic and looked at concrete things. And so the Apocalypticer speaks of Babylon. Why of Babylon?
Really deep mysteries existed in Babylon or in the mystery centers of Babylon in which one could be initiated into the secrets of the super-earthly cosmos, far out into star worlds, and in which one could learn about starry secrets concerning the star worlds and their spiritual content. The earliest priests in ancient Babylon used human powers of clairvoyance and dreams in a way which we would call mediumistic today; this was the case in ancient Babylon. A wonderful, ancient Babylonian teaching developed in this somewhat mediumistic way. However, as one can also see today, mediums — even though they are suited for spiritual mediations, and they are often used in this way, although the process must be controlled by discerning initiates — have very questionable moral characteristics. Mediums become morally degenerate, and because there is a certain discrepancy between what they reveal and what they are, they can eventually no longer distinguish between truth and lies. Here one gets into a region where morality and immorality are no longer distinct.
You must understand how mediums get into this condition. Someone is a medium if his ego and astral body are pulled out of his physical and etheric bodies by an external force, and this was also what happened at the time of the Babylonian priests. However, another power sits in this ego and astral body as soon as they have been pulled out of the medium's physical and etheric body. Depending on whether the initiate who brings this about has good or bad intentions and belongs to the left or the right, this can be a good power or an evil one. Excellent things came to light in this way in ancient Babylonian times, but the problem was with what occurred when the medium returned to his physical body. You see, one cannot get by in the spiritual world with the logic and discrimination between lies and truth which one has in the physical world. It is a complete error to think that one can use the concepts of lies and truth which one rightly uses in the physical world, in the spiritual world. There is nothing there which one could distinguish in such a way. Some of the beings there are good and others are evil. One has to know them through themselves, and in fact, they tell one the kind of being they are. Even the evil ones are truthful in their own way. Of course this is difficult to understand, just as it is difficult to understand what happens in the spiritual world as soon as one enters it. For instance, here in the physical world we say that a straight line is the shortest path between two points. However, in the spiritual world it is the longest distance between two points and every other one is shorter. So that we cannot apply anything which we have to use in the physical world to the spiritual world.
Hence a true initiate must have the right attitude of soul for the spiritual world, but he must also feel fully responsible for the fact that the moment he returns to. the physical world he has to work with physical concepts. A medium cannot do this because he doesn't leave his body consciously. When he comes back again his ego and astral body fill the physical and etheric bodies with a line of thought which is no doubt appropriate for the spiritual world, but it corrupts all moral feelings in the physical world. Hence mediums become corrupted, and the corruption with respect to truth and lies then' extends to other forms of corruption. Hence the fact is that Babylon went through this development from the greatest revelations of spiritual worlds to a terrible corruption; first with respect to the principle of spiritual revelation, and then also with respect to human life in general, so that the previous corruption in the spiritual sphere extended to the latter. This spiritual corruption is very powerful; so that someone becomes more immoral if he becomes corrupt after he has gone into spiritual realms than he did before with his ordinary human tendencies. This is why Babylon was considered to be a representative of moral corruption.
The expressions for corruption which we find here are ones which were in common use. The whole of humanity over the entire earth imitated the Babylonians and thereby became a kind of city of Babylon. And this is what the Apocalypticer means. The city of Babylon is to be found among mankind on earth; it exists wherever human beings have succumbed to the Babylonian temptation. It is this human attitude which must fall before that fin— al condition of which the Apocalypticer speaks can come. And if we investigate what is active in the Babylonian corruption, we find that the Ahrimanic principle is active in it everywhere. Ahriman is sitting in men, and he is a power who stands close to them in the whole world, as it were. He is in our emotions, which thereby degenerate. The Ahrimanic and Luciferic principles are opposite poles. The Ahrimanic element is present in what falls here, as for instance when Babylon falls, and it is opposed to the Luciferic element. What kind of an image must the Apocalypticer use when he sees this? The image of jubilating Luciferic, angelic sentiments. We must be aware of this.
It's a big mistake to look upon the worst world conceptions as the best ones, as for instance the idea about the evil principle being down below and the good principle being in everything which comes to meet it from above. This is not the actual state of affairs. The Ahrimanic principle is down below and one has the Luciferic principle above where the angels are rejoicing about the falls. The rejoicing one hears is the voice of Lucifer which accompanies the diving angels, for the actual Christ principle is the balance between the two.
One can only understand something like what the Apocalypticer is presenting if one understands this threefoldedness in the world's makeup in the right way. For anyone with ordinary human feelings it is completely incomprehensible why pure and good spirits would begin to scream for joy when the misery which is described here befalls other beings. This is of course immediately comprehensible if one sees it as the jubilant cries of those who were basically opposed to the creation of the world in which man experiences his spiritual development. They want to keep his whole evolution on a very different spiritual level. They didn't want that connection or marriage of the spirit with matter which took place in earthly existence. So that when what is grasped by Ahriman is eliminated from earthly existence, what they're really feeling in their souls is: we now have the satisfaction that one part of earth-existence will no longer be continued; it is falling during earth evolution he world view which speaks out of the images which the Apocalypticer describes for each fall is wonderfully honest in this respect.
Now the first one, the fall of Babylon, is all the errors men can fall into when they are also influenced by the initiation principle, it is human perversions. When. Babylon falls the remaining human, aberrations will be eliminated from further world evolution, at a point in time which we will discuss later. To begin with we will place coming events before our soul in a qualitative way.
The second thing is where man.is. no longer just involved by himself. The beings who fall with Babylon are men; it is human aberration. However, in the case of the fall of the beast; and; the false prophet who supports the teaching of the beast, what falls is something spiritual and superhuman, and not something human.
Something which is outside of the human kingdom falls, namely, the beast who breaks in upon human communities, and the one who proclaims the teaching of this beast. Hence one is dealing with something which can take possession of' human beings where something superhuman is working directly in men with an evil impulse, and it's not a matter of a weak nature working, as in the case of a medium. We can add the following to make the Imagination even clearer. All those who will participate in the fall of Babylon will have become degenerate through the fact that they tried to do things which their organization couldn't stand; their organization became weak with respect to these things, and therefore they became corrupt. In the fall of Babylon man's organization acts out of weakness. In the fall of the beast and the false prophet it's not as if a medium became corrupt because he got weak, but it's as if the spirit which overpowers the ego and astral body of the medium during hypnosis would then go into his physical and etheric body and make use of the physical body in order to wreak havoc on earth through the human being.
This is exactly the idea which we encounter here in the Apocalypticer. He wants to say that a time will come when we will see human beings walking around on earth who couldn't stand what really, lay in the Christian annunciation who took the Christ into their souls, but who didn't get to the level of the Christ with their etheric and physical bodies, and therefore became corrupt and devoted to other spirits; but they didn't devote themselves to them with full consciousness, so that they became corrupt. These are the first ones, who are included in the fall of Babylon.
The other ones walk around like men, but their fate is that their human ego is not in them, so that one can no longer speak of them as human beings, for they are possessed by the beast and the false prophet. This will come after the fall of Babylon. There will be people walking around on earth who will be demons, for Ahrimanic powers will act in them directly.
Many of the preliminary conditions for all of these things already exist today; one could say that all of this is already present in a germinal form. After all we already have the terrible case where Ahriman appeared amongst us as an author, perhaps not through a human being entirely, but at least through the temporary weakness of a human being. Nietzsche was a wonderful and brilliant writer, but the Nietzsche individuality was not in him when he wrote the AntiChrist and Ecce Homo. I know this individuality in Nietzsche, and I even described it in my autobiography; but Ahriman becomes a direct author here, and Ahriman is a much more brilliant writer than Nietzsche.
Ahrimanic powers will intervene more and more and Ahrimanic spirits will also use human bodies for other things. A time will come when Christians will have to ask themselves seriously when they meet this or that human being: Is that really a human being or is it a very loose mantle for Ahrimanic spirits? In the future one will have to make this distinction in addition to the other ones one has to make today. This will be the second fall, and the beast and his herald will take possession of human bodies. Thereby these demons will have fallen. So first we have the fall of corrupt human beings and then the fall of certain corrupt spirits, who are close to men. These spirits take a tumble in the second fall.
Then we have the third fall, which is the fall of Satan in the Apocalypse. Here we have a very high being who does a different kind of work than the one which can be done on earth. The beast and the false prophet are powers who lead mankind astray; they want to steer men in the wrong direction in a moral and intellectual respect. However, the power which is meant in the fall of Satan wants something quite different. It wants to throw the whole earth off its course, and not just mankind. Seen from a human, earthly standpoint, this power is a terrible adversary of the Godhead.
One can only ask the following in a hypothetical way, and one can't look at it from the viewpoint of human or earthly evolution, if one doesn't want to commit an intellectual or spiritual sin. If one looks at it from other viewpoints, how does this satanic power in the universe compare with other spirits?
Now Michael has a different standpoint than human beings do, and it's no wonder that his opinion about Satan is quite different from that of men. Human beings tend to be rather abstract, and they think that Satan is an evil power. But he is also a great power from the viewpoints which are important for the earth, a great power that has gone astray. And archangel Michael does not have the rank of Satan, who is at the level of a principality or an archai; Michael is only an archangel. Satan is a very terrifying power from Michael's standpoint and not a despicable one, because he thinks that this power who belongs to the Archai is higher than he is. Except that Michael holds views which are in line with earth evolution.
With respect to everything which is connected with the orbits of the planets, Michael decided a long time ago to travel in the orbits which are prescribed by the sun's existence. Satan is a power who is continually lurking around in our cosmos. There is something sinister about this lurking of Satan. One can perceive this at the moments when one sees a comet shooting through our cosmos, with its different orbit (drawing).
If one draws it according to Copernicus which is not quite correct, although it doesn't make much difference here one has sun, Mercury, Venus, earth, Mars; those are the inner planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune — one can see that such comets have very irregular orbits with respect to these regular orbits. The view that these comets describe long ellipses is nonsense, but we don't have to go into that now. But in any case, the segments of the cometary orbits which lie within our planetary system do not agree with the planetary orbits at all.
And so this Satan lies in wait in order to catch every comet that comes along, and to use its momental inertia so that — when he has collected enough comets — he can throw the planets out of their orbits, and the earth with them. This situation exists in the universe; Satanic powers are continually lying in wait so that they can transform the entire planetary system. Thereby this planetary system would be taken away from the divine, spiritual powers in whose footsteps men should be walking, and it would be taken into quite different directions of world evolution. This intention is a terrible mistake from Michael's point of view, but an intention about which Michael would have to say: I couldn't even do it, for it would be impossible for a being who is in the archangel class to do something like that. Only beings who are in the archai class might have enough forces to carry out something along these lines. Michael — who decided to move in the sun's orbit a long time ago, and who therefore (in the sense of the Ptolemaic system) has become what is known in occultism as an archangel of the rotation of time for the planets and has decided to remain entirely within the orbital periods.
The angels had to decide to remain in these scheduled orbits at some point. In a certain epoch of Atlantean evolution the gods descended into the mystery centers, and one could really perceive that the hosts of archangels which include Oriphiel, Anael, Zachariel and so on, resolved to move within the prescribed planetary orbits. So this came about at a certain time.
However, the mighty hosts which are led by Satan have not made this decision up to the present time and they're still trying to use every cometary orbit in order to give a different configuration to the entire planetary system. Here one is dealing with an adversary of Christ who not only wants to corrupt individual human beings, and who doesn't just want to corrupt groups of human beings like the beast and the false prophet, but we have to do with Satan and his hosts and with direct attacks upon the earth's connection with the planetary system, as it were. This will have to be the third fall. In both of these last two falls we again have the rejoicing of the Luciferic kind of spiritual beings.
One must foresee these things. For the first stage, the Babylonian stage, will have straying human beings who have drawn an aberration into themselves through their physical constitution, so that there is no hope that anything particularly good will become of these walking human bodies over which the ego and astral body have entirely lost control. These bodies must be given up for lost although perhaps not the ego and astral body which belong to them. The former will then go on as such along the karmic paths of humanity. At a particular point in time we see certain men walking around in their bodies, who are men who have succumbed to the Babylonian temptation and whose bodies and what is in them fall out of evolution: the fall of Babylon.
The second thing is that human beings will walk around — one will be able to see this — of whom one will have to say that Ahrimanic power's, are living in them. Here Ahriman is acting directly; this is the beast; the fall of the beast and of the false prophet of the beast, who is a superhuman being and not a man.
The third thing is that one will notice that something about the laws of nature is becoming unexplainable. This will be the greatest and most important experience that people will be able to have, when they notice that something is becoming unexplainable about natural laws and that phenomena are not taking place in accordance with the laws of nature. It will often happen that one will have something which is not merely an erroneous calculation, but is calculated correctly, let's say that a planet should be in a certain place, but.it doesn't get there.
Satan will make some first successful attempts to bring disorder into the planetary system. Mankind will have to develop a very strong spirituality in order to counteract this. For the disorder that can be brought about in this way will and can only be harmonized through the strong spirituality of human beings. These are the things which we can foresee today if we place future stages of human and earth evolution before our soul. This is what we see again when the Apocalypticer speaks to us. You should try to feel your way into this coincidence'• with what can really be gained from Anthroposophy or can gradually be disclosed through Anthroposophy.
For one will be able to speak of comets and one can already speak about them today to the effect that Satan is lying in wait for them in the cosmos, and that he wants to use their orbits to replace cosmos with chaos. For if you take what can be gained through Anthroposophic understanding into yourself and you can discover it again in the Apocalypse, there is something important about this rediscovery. A kind of soul encounter with the Apocalypse and therewith the Apocalypticer himself is present in this; that is important, — thereby with the Apocalypticer himself. For this will be very important, that the priest who is living into the future should increasingly get the longing to meet the Apocalypticer who looked into the future in this way after the Mystery of Golgotha, — the Apocalypticer at any time, regardless of whether he is living on earth or not.
For priests must get the feeling that the help that can come from John, the creator of the Apocalypse, to the one who wants to work in a Christian way that this help is an extremely important one, and one that one needs. However, we will only really be able to accompany John the Apocalypticer if we approach the Apocalypse with the attitude of soul that I described. Then John becomes our ally, and after all he is closely connected with Christ Jesus, he was initiated by Christ Jesus himself, he is an initiate of Christ Jesus. Therefore, he is an important ally. It is tremendously important to come to the Christ through him.
It is really true that a real understanding of the Apocalypse leads deep down into the region where one has the greatest imaginable prospects of meeting John and then the Christ himself. There is a deep truth connected with this and a truth which one can hope will have a very deep aftereffect upon your thinking and feeling, for it is a real priests' truth, that is, a truth which draws a priest into the spiritual realm in a legitimate way. We will continue with this tomorrow.