Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, September 13, 1924:
Now that we have brought a number of elements together in order to delve further into the essence of the Book of Revelation, let us turn our attention to the Book itself. We shall begin by addressing some questions relating to the end, the goal of what the apocalyptist sees in his vision and wants to impart to humanity. You will see later why I have chosen to structure our considerations in this particular way.
What the apocalyptist gives us is what you might call a communication to humanity, a revelation to human beings, but a revelation that is very different in its essence from other communications not arising out of clairvoyance. So the apocalyptist points out that the event which enabled him to make his communication to humanity was a special one, a mighty enlightenment. The Book of Revelation is thus shown to be an event, a fact, belonging to the further development of Christianity.
The great starting point of Christian development on the Earth, which before it happened could only be foreseen and hoped for, is of course the Mystery of Golgotha itself. After this come the various facts that must come about if Christianity is to go on developing from the Mystery of Golgotha onwards through all time and eternity. One such fact is the content of the Book of Revelation. The apocalyptist is fully aware that he is not only telling others something that he himself has experienced and that will contribute to the development of his time; he knows that the very receiving and passing on of the content of the Book of Revelation is a fact in itself.
The important aspect that distinguishes Christianity from other religious creeds is that the old religions were teachings, whereas the essential aspect of Christianity is the deed of Golgotha, and this essential aspect must be followed by further deeds. It is therefore not a primary and fundamental priority that people should have the Gospels explained to them. What is essential is that Christianity should seek a real and genuine connection with the Mystery of Golgotha. Under the influence of intellectualism in recent times, Christianity has adopted intellectualistic forms of its own. This has even led to the famous statement that Jesus has no place in the Gospels. This would mean more or less that the content of the Gospels may be accepted as teachings while no account need be taken of the teacher from whom they stem. God the Father alone has a place in the Gospels, so it is said. This is tantamount to implying that the important thing about the Mystery of Golgotha was that Christ Jesus appeared and gave teachings about the Father. But this is not the essential aspect at all. The essential aspect is that the Deed was done on Golgotha, that Christ Jesus lived on the Earth and accomplished the Deed on Golgotha. The teachings are the accessories, they are secondary and inessential. Christianity must fight its way back to a recognition of this, and also to actually carrying it out.
So while he is receiving the revelation, the apocalyptist is aware that this fact has happened and that it is working further through him. This is what is important to him. What is it that continuously takes place through this? Looking at the make-up of the human being as it is today, we know that during the daytime he wears his four ‘garments’—physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ‘I’—in quite a normal way. When he sleeps, on the other hand, astral body and ‘I’ are outside the physical and etheric body; they are in the spiritual surroundings of the Earth that are there behind the phenomena we perceive with our physical senses. They are not as yet perceptible to the human being, for this is only possible through initiation. During sleep the human being leads a dim existence of which only a generalized sensation remains on awakening, or he sees dreams that rise up out of sleep in the way I have often described. Astral body and ‘I’ are in the spiritual world in such a way that they can have no impressions, no direct impressions, of Christ and his whole being.
If there were nothing more to this than what I have just described, the ‘I’ and astral body would enter into the spiritual world each night but would have no direct contact with Christ. But because the Mystery of Golgotha has taken place during the course of Earth evolution, when the ‘I’ and astral body returned to the physical realm of Earth each morning they would immediately have an impression of Christ, for Christ is present in the Earth’s aura. But this impression would remain dim. Just as the night-time impressions remain dim for the day, so would this impression of Christ existing within the physical and etheric body as they sleep only be perceptible in the way the state of sleep is perceptible to someone on waking up, and there would be no clear experience of Christ.
We have to imagine that immediately after the completion of the Mystery of Golgotha on the Earth there were individuals who had experienced it and who were able to pass on to others the immediate experiences they had had of it. Christ himself also gave his disciples an esoteric schooling after his resurrection; he gave them many profound teachings. All this continued to spread during the first few decades after the Mystery of Golgotha. It would have had to come to an end at some point, and indeed we see how it gradually did draw to a close in certain circles. In the notorious writings of the Gnostics and in other older explanations by the first church fathers who were still the pupils of the apostles, or pupils of the apostles’ pupils, there were immense esoteric teachings about Christianity. These were rooted out, because the church wanted to be rid of something that was always a part of these teachings, namely: anything cosmic. Immensely significant things were destroyed by the church. They were destroyed—but by reading in the Akashic Record they will be restored down to the last dot on the i when the time is ripe.
So for outer history these great impressions would have drawn to a close—but just as this was threatening to happen the Book of Revelation came into being. And when this Revelation is rightly taken in—and indeed examples of this were provided by a number of individuals during the second stage after the Mystery of Golgotha—when this grand, prophetic vision of evolution is rightly taken in, which means when it has been taken into the astral body and especially into the ‘I’-organization, then ‘I’ and astral body will carry this Revelation—which, as I told you in the first lecture, comes directly from the spiritual world and is actually a kind of letter, a direct verbal Revelation including visions—then ‘I’ and astral body will carry it out into the world of the Earth’s aura when they are in the sleeping state. This means, dear friends, that all those who have taken the Book of Revelation into their inner understanding have gradually been enshrining it in the ether of the Earth’s aura, so that now the presence of Christ working on in the Earth’s aura provides this aura of the Earth with its fundamental keynote.
Each night when the astral body and ‘I’ are outside the physical and ether body, this Christ-Impulse influences initially the ether body of the human being in a profound manner. But on returning with his ‘I’ and astral body into his physical body in the morning, the human being is usually not capable of finding what there is of the Christ-Impulse in his etheric body.
As the pupils of John gradually take in the content of the Book of Revelation, the meaning of the words becomes enshrined in the ether of the Earth’s aura. So what is thus enshrined in the Earth’s aura—indeed what was already enshrined there through the great and significant impressions received from the divine, spiritual beings by the author of the Book of Revelation himself, or perhaps one should say by the one who received the Book of Revelation—all this works on the human being’s ether body between going to sleep and waking up. This means that those who have an inclination toward the Mystery of Golgotha can expose their ether body to the content of the Book of Revelation while they are in a state of sleep. This is a fact. Through a right disposition toward Christ one can generate a kind of sleeping state that enables what the content of the Book of Revelation has brought about in the Earth’s ether and what lies in earthly evolution through the coming of Christ into the Earth’s ether to become enshrined in one’s ether body. This is the actual process; this is the ongoing deed of the Book of Revelation.
In one’s work as a priest it can be quite possible to explain to someone requiring one’s help in that capacity: Christ entered into earthly evolution through the Mystery of Golgotha; in order to prepare human beings he first brought about what is given in the Gospels, so that in their astral body and in their ‘I’—you will have to use the kind of terminology comprehensible to your congregation—they can absorb the content of the Gospels; this prepares them to receive the Christ-Impulse into their ether body on waking up. The apocalyptist himself, however, by being placed within Christianity as it develops, becomes able to incorporate into the human ether body what he describes so concretely, that which is in the evolution of Christianity throughout the various ages right on into the future.
This brings an essentially new element into Earth evolution, in contrast to the teachings of the ancient Mysteries. What was it that the ancient Mysteries imparted to the initiate? They imparted that which can be seen when one surveys the spiritual essence of what has been present in the world for all eternity, that which can be seen when one finds the eternally working divine being in external physical forces. The initiate of the ancient Mysteries made no demands as to receiving anything else into his ether body except what came anyway as the result of initiation.
The Christian initiate goes further than this. He wants to take into his ether body what has only gradually come into being during the course of earthly evolution, everything connected with the Mystery of Golgotha and with Christ. The revelation of the apocalyptic Book thus contains the beginning of an initiation for Christendom. This revelation is a kind of early stage of an initiation not for individuals but for the whole of Christendom; and individuals can prepare themselves for participation in this.
This opens the path along which the principle of Nature, of the Father, can be transcended. Basically all the old initiations took the form of Father initiations. One looked for nature and for the spirit in nature and was satisfied with that, for human beings were themselves part of that world of nature. But now Christ has been here on the Earth, and here he will remain. He has fulfilled his Deed on Golgotha and will remain here. One cannot take into oneself what happened through the Mystery of Golgotha merely by taking part in the old initiation. One must first raise oneself into a world of spirit that is different from the one that streamed through the ancient Mysteries. What streamed through the old Mysteries was merely the hope that the Mystery of Golgotha would one day stream through the new Mysteries. Now, however, the human being makes contact with the spirit not through nature but directly through Christ.
The old initiate always chose a roundabout route via nature. What the new initiate did—this was the view of many half or partially initiated individuals not in the first century but especially in later centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha—was to seek contact with the Spirit Being of the world via what had flowed into the world through Christ and through what is built on Christ.
This was how a new initiate viewed the Book of Revelation. What he saw in it made him say: Nature is one way of going into the spiritual world; the immense wisdom revealed in the Book of Revelation is the other way. It is a wonderful surprise and delight in spiritual research when one comes upon individuals—not in the first Christian century, but in later ones, from the second to the sixth—who say: Nature is great—they mean what the ancient world saw as nature—but that which is revealed out of the supersensible realm by the apocalyptist, or by the apocalyptists, is equally great or even greater; for nature leads to the Father, but what is revealed through the apocalyptists leads through the Son to the Spirit. Those were times when a path to the pure, immediate spirit was sought via the Book of Revelation.
This was at the same time a pointer toward the real change that must and will come about during the course of human evolution once human beings have made themselves worthy of it. In olden times there was a strong feeling of the human being having stemmed from the spiritual world but having to go through a development that would strongly bind him to what came toward him from the physical, sense-perceptible world. This link with the physical, sense-perceptible world was strongly felt, and the view was that humans had become sinning and sinful beings through their links with the material nature of the Earth.
A different age was to be prepared in contrast to this, and the apocalyptist foresaw and proclaimed it. He was searching for the picture, the right Imagination, in which to place this secret before human souls in imaginative pictures. So he enhanced and summarized a picture that was quite customary in the secret teachings of the Hebrews. This is what was shown by these secret teachings:
Souls come from the spiritual world; these souls coming from the spiritual world clothe themselves with what comes from the Earth; when they build houses for the most external tasks of the spirit, the result is cities—but when they build homes for the inner tasks of the human soul the result is the human body, built from bricks provided by the Earth.
The concept of building dwellings merged with the concept of building one’s body. This was a beautiful—a wonderfully beautiful—picture, for it is also quite practical. The body in which deeds were done and where soul processes and functions took place was a house, and the external house provided protection for all of this. There was this wonderful picture: If I build a house from earthly materials for my external activities, then the walls of the house, the house as a whole, provides a protection for what I do. This is merely an expanded—or you could say a hardened, more sclerotic—continuation of the first house the human being built: the first house, the one that contained the inner processes of soul, is his body. Having built his body, which is a house, he then builds a second house, which uses ingredients from the Earth as building materials. It was considered a perfectly everyday matter to regard the body as a house, and this house as the protective garment donned by the human being here in the physical, earthly world. What is formed out of the soul like this was regarded as the housebuilding done by the human being.
In olden times the human being did indeed grow very attached even externally to what he felt was his house. Here is a drawing of it [Plate 3, bottom right]:
This is the human being’s body with its skin. If he were to grow another skin for the external activities of his soul, it would be like a tent—only this tent does not grow of its own accord, for the human being makes it for himself.
In Hebrew secret teachings this confluence of having command over the earthly realm and of taking in earthly ingredients for human development was viewed in a particular way. As far as the physical Earth is concerned, you have to admit that there is a North Pole and that a degree of coldness is concentrated there. This North Pole can be described quite physically as part of the geography of the Earth, something that belongs to the Earth and is an essential part of it. The Hebrew secret teachings also did this with regard to the soul activity in the forces of the Earth. Like the geographical North Pole, they saw another pole on the Earth where all culture was concentrated, in other words where the most perfect houses were gathered, and they regarded Jerusalem, the entirely physical city of Jerusalem, as this place. This was the pole where external culture was concentrated around the human soul; and the crowning glory of this city was Solomon’s Temple.
It then came to be felt that this aspect of the Earth’s evolution had come to an end. Those who understood something of the Hebrew secret teachings did not regard what happened after the Mystery of Golgotha, in the destruction of Jerusalem, as an external event brought about by the Romans. The Romans were merely the accomplices of the spiritual powers, carrying out on their behalf what was entirely the plan of those spiritual powers. The idea they had was that the old way of gathering ingredients from the Earth in order to build the human body as a house had come to an end. With Jerusalem’s attainment of its full greatness the substance, the material, from the Earth that could be used in building the human body as a house was exhausted.
Translated into the Christian way of thinking, this Hebrew secret teaching meant: The destruction of Jerusalem would have happened even if the Mystery of Golgotha had not taken place—but that which can become a new creation would not have been planted in this destruction of the being of man who creates with the help of the Rarth. The seed for an entirely new creation is laid in the Jerusalem that was doomed to perish. Mother Earth dies in Jerusalem; Daughter Earth lives in expectation of another seed. It is no longer the ingredients of the Earth that are taken to build bodies and the houses of the Old Jerusalem, which had stood as the crowning glory of all that takes place on Earth, for now the Earth rises up as a spiritual pole of the Old Jerusalem. One will no longer be capable of building something like the Old Jerusalem out of earthly ingredients. Instead the new era begins, for which the seed was sown by the Mystery of Golgotha. Now human beings receive from above what will envelop their inner being [Plate 3] more from the outside. The New City descends from above and pours itself out across the Earth: the New Jerusalem. The Old Jerusalem was made from the Earth and its substances: the New Jerusalem comes from heaven and its spiritual ingredients.
You will probably find such a picture rather strange in comparison with all the things that are normally thought these days and what you have learnt from these. What do people imagine the anatomical and physiological human being to be like? He eats, takes the substances of his food into his stomach, digests these, discards some of them, and replaces what needs replacing with the substances he takes in.
But this is not how things are at all. The human being is threefold and has in him a human being of nerves and senses, a rhythmical human being, and a human being of metabolism and limbs. None of the substances taken in through food enter the system of metabolism and limbs, for all of it goes into the system of nerves and senses. The system of nerves and senses absorbs the salts and other necessary substances that are always finely distributed in the air and light, and steers these toward the system of metabolism and limbs. The system of metabolism and limbs is nourished entirely from above downwards. It is quite untrue that this part of the human being receives the substances it needs directly from food. If earthly substances enter the system of metabolism and limbs, then the human being is ill. All the substances taken in and digested in food provide solely the organs belonging to the system of nerves and senses. The head in particular is built from earthly substances. The organs of metabolism and limbs, on the other hand, are built from heaven. And the rhythmical human being brings about balance in both directions. The human being does not eat the oxygen in the air, he inhales it. The way he takes in substances through his system of nerves and senses is coarser than the way he does this through his system of metabolism and limbs. What the human being needs for his system of metabolism and limbs is absorbed through an immensely delicate breathing process. Ordinary breathing is quite coarse by comparison. And what the human being does with oxygen—namely producing carbon dioxide—is once again something more delicate than what happens so that the foods passing through the stomach can supply the head. The transition takes place in the rhythmical human being.
This is the truth about the structure of the human organism and its processes. What anatomy and physiology teach today is nonsense in the face of the truth and comes about as a result of the materialistic outlook. As soon as you know something about this, you realize that what builds the human body comes not only from below—from the plant, mineral, and animal kingdoms of the Earth—but that what nourishes the organs which are often regarded as the coarser ones comes from above.
Knowing this, one will be able to see quite clearly that up to the time when Jerusalem perished there was a kind of surfeit of nourishment from below. Then, with the Mystery of Golgotha, what comes from above begins gradually to assume importance.
Although people have reversed these facts in the manner described, what happens today is that development comes about in many ways as a result of the old nutrition from below being replaced by nutrition from above, which is now more important. This causes the human form to change. Our head is no longer like the heads of old. The human head in ancient times had a forehead that sloped back more. [Plate 3]
The forehead today is more domed; the outer part of the brain has become more important. This is the actual change, for the part of the brain that is becoming more important is more akin to the organs of digestion than the part that lies beneath it. The peripheral part of the brain is becoming more similar to the organs of digestion than are the more delicate tissues in the middle part of the brain, i.e. the continuation of the sensory nerves toward the center of the head. The organs of metabolism, in particular, are nourished from above.
One can really look into these things down to the tiniest detail if one is willing to say about certain things what the apocalyptist says: Here is wisdom. In the ordinary knowledge that lives among people there is not wisdom but darkness. What people today call the results of science is, in fact, the result of Kali Yuga, the utmost darkening of human mentality. This should be regarded as a secret and not talked about on every street corner, for esoteric things are things that remain within a specific circle.
The growth of the New Jerusalem has been ongoing since the Mystery of Golgotha. When the human being has entirely fulfilled his time on Earth he will have reached the stage in which he not only weaves the heavenly substance into his own body through his senses, but in which he extends the heavenly substance through what we call spiritual knowledge and art into what will be the external city, the further extension of his body in the sense I have been talking about. The Old Jerusalem was built from below upwards; the New Jerusalem will be built in all reality from above downwards.
This is the immense perspective arising out of a more than gigantic vision experienced by the apocalyptist. The mighty vision he saw told him: Everything human beings have succeeded in building has risen upwards out of the Earth, and this was concentrated in the Old Jerusalem; but it has now come to an end. He saw the rising up and the melting down of the Old Jerusalem, and he saw the city of man, the New Jerusalem, descending from above, from spiritual worlds.
This is the aim, the final goal, of the revelation in the Book of Revelation. It contains truly Christian paths for humanity and Christian aims for humanity as well. In endeavoring to understand them we arrive at certain peculiarities in the Book of Revelation about which a good many individuals have inklings but which they cannot quite understand. Someone making serious efforts to understand the Book of Revelation cannot help saying: What can I do to enter into such a picture of the Old and the New Jerusalem? How can I get inside it? I cannot simply go on talking about these pictures which initially have no content comprehensible to me; I must somehow get inside the content.
In order to enter into the content we need a cosmology and a view of the human being that is given only by a new worldview such as Anthroposophy, by true insight into the spiritual world. We come to Anthroposophy through the Book of Revelation because we need the means provided by Anthroposophy in order to understand the Book of Revelation, because we notice: John received the Book of Revelation from regions where Anthroposophy dwelt before descending to human beings.
If one wants to understand the Book of Revelation honestly and earnestly one has to understand it anthroposophically. This is most obvious in connection with the final goal, the New Jerusalem. You must understand the secrets of how the human being is structured from above and from below, but not only as if this were an external science. Then you can expand your comprehension to include the entire activity that human beings carry out on the Earth, an activity that is directed from below upwards and then changes into one that goes from above downwards. The building of the Old Jerusalem will be transformed into the spiritual building of the New Jerusalem, which will be built from above downwards. People must work their way into something that is constructed spiritually. They must not merely see the Book of Revelation as something symbolic or theoretical that speaks in pictures, which is the habit of the Biblical exegetists. They must see it in a way that allows the spirit to be every bit as real as the physical Earth has been for thousands of years.
We must hold firmly to the following: The Book of Revelation does not contain pictures, it contains indications of wholly concrete facts, indications of what will actually happen and not merely pictorial hints of what will happen. This is most important. It is thus that we must feel and find our way into the Book of Revelation. More of this tomorrow.